On my desktop, I’ve been in the habit of saving thousands of pictures from the internet. I have loaded them into a screensaver so that each one dissolves into the next, after a few seconds. Most of them have been collected because they elicit some kind of emotional response from the viewer, or at least from me.
They may be beautiful, awe inspiring, humorous, sexy, cute, etc.
One is particularly horrific, but for some reason I saved it, and have left it on there. Out of the thousands of images in this screensaver, it seems to show up like a bad penny when I have left the computer running for any length of time.
It is apparently from World War Two, and I remember reading some of the background behind it.
Fuzzy, and in black & white, we are shown a large pit piled with dozens of dead bodies. On the rim of the pit kneels a man in a shabby overcoat, hands tied behind his back. An SS Officer stands over him and holds a gun to his head. The most disturbing things for me about this image? The man’s face at the moment of his death. You would expect a countenance contorted with fear, but what you see is him looking at the camera with a blank expression, seeming to ask “Why?” Then there is the cold and sneering face of his executioner that reminds us of what we, as a species, are capable of.
Someone had to have taken that picture, and that leads to another disturbing thought. Why was it taken? As a trophy? As a proof of body count? As a warning? In those days, there were no cellphones, so it couldn’t have been taken covertly.
Why have I kept it? If it was through prurience, please forgive me. But, I do not think so. I was not searching for something of this nature, and it shocked me on first viewing. I keep it as a reminder of our baser instincts, and of the need to be personally more kind to those around us. I have seen a soul about to be lost, and the emptiness within its eyes.