Monthly Archives: March 2012

Pole Hanging

Some years ago I visited the site of Dachau concentration camp. The photograph below was on display. It shows  prisoners being punished by pole hanging.  Prisoners were handcuffed behind their backs and then they were hung from a hook for one or two hours. This would be what the American Government would call a stress position [but definitely not torture].

This was such a common punishment at Dachau that a room was devoted to it with hooks along walls and on support pillars.

Pole hanging appears to have been used in many  Nazi concentration camps. This photograph shows poles at a camp near Berlin.

Pole Hanging Sachsenhausen

When I visited Dachau recently all references to pole hanging had disappeared.  The photographs and exhibits in the camp museum appear to have been sanitised over the years.


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Executions in pre revolutionary china – part 2

The condemned man is standing on a pile of stones or planks. Each day one is removed. He can postpone death by standing on tiptoe but eventually he can no longer support his weight and he will suffocate.


After the revolution.

Public execution of a Qing Dynasty official after the Xinhai Revolution, c1911.

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Sati Hands

Beside one of the gates to the Junagarh Fort, Bikaner District, Rajasthan are the hand prints of women who committed sati when their husbands died in battle while defending the fort.

In other cases hand prints were made by wives and mistresses  before throwing themselves [or being thrown] on the funeral pyre of their husband or master.  When Maharajah Ajit Singh died in 1731, six of his wives and 58 concubines died on his funeral pyre.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur.

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African holocaust – King Leopold’s Belgian Congo

After the Berlin Conference of 1884 the 905,000 square miles of the Belgian Congo [now the Democratic Republic of the Congo ] became the personal   property of King Leopold II of Belgium. His genocidal exploitation of the territory, particularly the rubber trade, caused many deaths and much suffering. Murder and mutilation were common.

Failure to meet the rubber collection quotas was punishable by death. The Force Publique were required to provide a hand of their victims as proof when they had shot and killed someone, as it was believed that they would otherwise use the munitions for hunting food. As a consequence, the rubber quotas were in part paid off in chopped-off hands. Sometimes the hands were collected by the soldiers of the Force Publique, sometimes by the villages themselves. There were even small wars where villages attacked neighbouring villages to gather hands, since their rubber quotas were too unrealistic to fill.

One junior white officer described a raid to punish a village that had protested. The white officer in command ‘ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades … and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross.’ After seeing a Congolese person killed for the first time, a Danish missionary wrote: ‘The soldier said “Don’t take this to heart so much. They kill us if we don’t bring the rubber. The Commissioner has promised us if we have plenty of hands he will shorten our service.”‘

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