Consider this: In the technologies of punishment and rehabilitation, there seems to have been a constant preoccupation with the handling of stone: from the shameful, even if purposeful, use of the stone as a form of punishment in the chain gangs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century United States to the torturous and useless engagement with stone in Dachau in 1933. The big stone roller that the prisoners were made to roll endlessly within the confines of the camp, back and forth over the stone paths, for no apparent reason, was called by the Nazis “the Jew-and-big-shot” roller, where Jew and “big-shot” stand for the communist and the intellectual (Marcuse 2001: 26). On Makrónisos and Yáros, on the British political prisons on the Andaman Islands, on Tito’s post-Stalinist concentration camps on Goli Otok and Sveti Grgur, as in Dachau, the mindless, useless, and repetitive handling of stone became the syntagmatic modality of both punishment and resistance. The constant repetition of the Sisyphean act of needlessly and mindlessly carrying stone sought to obliterate the political consciousness of the prisoner, emptying his conscience, as if time did not exist, as if time were endless, as if the carrying of stone were the syntax of the prisoner’s life. The order was always very clear: take those rocks from up there and bring them down here. When the transport was done, the order was reversed: take the stones from down here and move them up there.
This would take place all day long, in the heat of summer or the cold of winter, always under a relentless wind, without water, without rest, without shoes, in tattered clothes on tattered bodies. At some point the torture acquired a target: make embankments for the tents. The tents were large enough for ten people but were occupied by 30, 40, or sometimes 50. Some had cots, most had nothing, as if the lack of objects would teach the Leftists the value of property, would infuse in them the merits of our “Western, democratic values.”
Neni Panourgia, Stones (papers, humans)