The Age of Exterminations (V): Suicide as a Weapon of Mass Destruction
Reposted from “The Seneca Effect”
Regina Lisso, 21 years old German girl, photographed in 1945 after killing herself by ingesting a cyanide capsule. She was unlucky enough to find herself in the crosshairs of a major propaganda effort where the Allied and the German governments collaborated to convince Germans to commit suicide. It is hard to convince people to kill themselves, but we cannot exclude that it could be tried again in some indirect forms.
This is the 5th part (one, two, three, and four) of a series dedicated to exploring a dark area of human behavior: mass exterminations. Here, I examine perhaps the darkest part of it: when the victims can be convinced to submit to be killed or even to kill themselves by lies and propaganda.
During the last two years of WW2, the German and the Allied governments found themselves in an unholy alliance. Both wanted the Germans to fight like cornered rats up to the very last moment, but for different reasons. The Germans were trying to postpone their defeat, the Allies wanted the destruction of Germany’s military and industrial base. You can find this story told in some detail in my book “Before Collapse” (1).
A side effect of this weird bipartisan effort was the rise of perhaps the first psyop in history that tried to convince an enemy population to commit mass suicide. In 1945, the British printed and distributed in Germany a propaganda postcard written in German and supposedly issued by the Nazi government. It provided detailed instructions on how to hang oneself (postcard “H. 1321”) (2). Even more weirdly, the Germans collaborated with the allies in pushing German civilians to commit suicide. Possibly, they were possessed by a mystic intoxication about glorious death but, more likely, the German government reasoned that mass suicide was an easy way to get rid of unproductive people, mostly women. The result was the wide distribution of cyanide capsules to the population. One of those cyanide capsules was used by Regina Lisso, a 21-year-old girl who had no reason to die, but who was caught in the madness of the propaganda storm (5). Other Germans used different methods: hanging, drowning, guns, and more.
Nevertheless, induced suicide as a weapon of mass extermination turned out to be scarcely effective. There are no reliable estimates of the total number of victims in Germany, mainly because of the chaos of the last months of the war, but also because everyone wanted to keep a veil of silence on the story after that the war was over. From what we know, it seems that a few tens of thousands chose to kill themselves. Not a negligible number, but only a minor fraction of the German population, at that time over 60 million.
The poor results of the joint Allied/German suicide psyop in 1945 do not demonstrate that much larger effects cannot be obtained. In history, there have been cases where the casualty rate was 100%. An example is the fall of the fortress of Masada in 73 AD, where the Jewish defenders chose to kill themselves and their families rather than surrender to the Romans. A modern example is when, in 1978, more than 900 followers of the religious leader Jim Jones killed themselves in an apparent case of mass poisoning.
In both cases, there were no survivors left to tell how exactly things went, but it is clear that, in Masada, the defenders killed each other rather than committing suicide. In the case of Jones’ followers, it may well be that many of the victims, if not all of them, were gunned down rather than poisoned (3). It seems to be easier to convince people to engage in a consensual suicide pact rather than killing themselves directly. It is perhaps because they hope to have a chance to escape death at the last moment. It happened at the siege of Jotapata (Yodfat) in 67 AD when the commander of the Jewish forces (Ben-Matityahu, later known as “Flavius Josephus”) escaped the suicide pact of the defenders and defected to the Romans.
So, psyops cannot turn suicide into a weapon of mass extermination. Even in the worst situations, rather than killing themselves, people will engage in desperate attempts at fighting back, like the Japanese kamikaze pilots, or the Native Americans in the 19th century with their cult of the ghost shirt. Nevertheless, there could be creative possibilities for a “soft” elimination of large numbers of consenting people. One way could be not letting them know what’s going on. Alternatively, they could be convinced to kill themselves in ways that they don’t recognize as “suicide.” Both methods require deception, but that’s not a problem: deception is part and parcel of the very concept of “Propaganda.”
We all know the story of people quietly walking into gassing chambers after having been told that they were going to have a shower. It is an example of the strategy of deception used in Nazi Germany to eliminate that fraction of the population defined as “Lebensunwertes Leben,” ‘’life unworthy of life.’’ It included not only Jews and other ethnic minorities, but also “Aryan” German citizens affected by malformations or just considered a burden for the state.
In Germany, regular medical doctors used barbiturates to kill children and gas chambers to get rid of adults. Neither the victims nor their families were told of what was being done. Officially, the victims were hospitalized in order to receive some kind of medical treatment, and, later on, families received notice that, unfortunately, their relatives had not survived the attempt to cure them. The number of ethnic Germans killed in this way is estimated as around 300,000. Much smaller than that of the Jews and other ethnic groups, but still not negligible.
These deaths were not suicides, but there was a certain element of voluntary acceptance of the procedure and it is hard to think that people would not at least suspect what was going on. The human mind is pliant, and probably everyone, including the victims, was doing their best to believe that it was all done for the sake of their health. Hence, they offered no resistance and even collaborated with their exterminators.
In our times, we have methods to get rid of people with their consent that were not available in Nazi Germany. In terms of “substance abuse,” we have a wide choice of substances that shorten one’s life expectancy and that are willingly ingested by people. In some cases, they are forbidden, although obtainable illegally (heroin, cocaine, and others). Some are marketed but advertised with severe limitations (alcohol and tobacco). In other cases, they are heavily advertised and widely available (junk food). We need also to mention that some medical treatments are widely recommended as good for your health, but nobody really knows if they really are (4) and in some cases, it is discovered only later that they are very bad. Maybe you remember the case of Thalidomide, but there are many more in the history of medicine. Surely, there will be more cases in the future.
Although effective, these substances are slow and messy ways to get rid of people and they may generate negative side effects in terms of diffuse criminality and handicapped people that are expensive to care for. For instance, cocaine taken every day will shorten a person’s life by about 10 years, too slow to be interesting for would-be exterminators. It is at least unlikely that the diffusion of heavy drugs in our society is the result of an evil plan of extermination, although some agencies of the deep state may well have a role in their supply and distribution.
At this point, the question is whether the stress on our society could accumulate to a level in which we would start doing the things that were done in Germany during the Nazi period, that is to exterminate people singled out for some physical factor, religious belief, or ideology. And there is no doubt that our society is heavily stressed although, probably not so heavily as Germany was in 1945 (not yet, at least).
Of course, the reaction to this hypothesis normally comes with the sentence “It can’t happen here” and clearly, we are not seeing our government distributing cyanide capsules to the population. Nor we have evidence that the government is giving orders to doctors to kill their patients. But a basic rule in history is that if something happened once, it may happen again.
So, never underestimate what psyops can accomplish, nor how evil the people in power can be! And if they were to start reasoning like the German government did in 1945, they have a number of options that we can only hope will never be put into practice.
(1) All traces of the infamous “H.1321” postcard exhorting the Germans to commit suicide seem to have disappeared from the Web, but it can still be found at the “wayback machine”
H.1321 (and H.1380). This card, produced in March 1945, is entitled “Instructions for suicide by hanging.” Seven suggestions are listed. The text is written in a ponderous and unusual style of German that required frequent use of a dictionary. The text starts on the back of the card (all text, no image) and is printed in red giving the impression of being typewritten.
“If you want to avoid useless suffering pay attention to the following instructions:
1.) Choose a strong cord, about the strength of a clothes-line. A thin one cuts and hurts.
2.) Tie the knot of the bow in a way that the bow will not tighten the cord. The cord must go unhindered through the bow.
3.) Grease the bow and cord well to achieve a sleek fastening of the noose.
4.) Avoid getting strangled before jumping, or you will have to struggle longer.
5.) Secure a full jump. This guarantees a break of the neck instead of getting strangled. Climb a chair or a table and fix the noose high enough (use a hook in the ceiling or wall), so that your feet will hang free after the jump.
6.) Put the neck through the noose. Make sure that the knot and bow are behind the neck, not in front of the throat.
7.) Jump courageously. If you want to be sure, then jump as high and bold as you can to fall down near your jumping location,”
The rest of the message appears on the front of the postcard, typed vertically at the left side.
“as if you wanted to make a joyful jump from the diving board into the water. The stronger the leap, the safer the break of the neck.
The Horst Wessel standard is calling!
(2) From Ugo Bardi’s book “Before Collapse”
By September 1943, after the surrender of Italy, it must have been clear to everybody on both sides that the Allies had won the war, it was only a question of time for them to finish the job. So, what could have prevented the German government from following the example of Italy and surrender, maybe ousting Hitler as the Italian government had done with Mussolini? We do not know whether some members of the German leadership considered this strategy but it seems clear that the Allies did not encourage them. One month after Italy surrendered, in October 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, signed a document known as the “Moscow Declaration.” Among other things, it stated that:
“At the time of granting of any armistice to any government which may be set up in Germany, those German officers and men and members of the Nazi party who have been responsible for or have taken a consenting part in the above atrocities, massacres and executions will be sent back to the countries in which their abominable deeds were done … and judged on the spot by the peoples whom they have outraged. … most assuredly the three Allied powers will pursue them to the uttermost ends of the earth and will deliver them to their accusors in order that justice may be done. … <else> they will be punished by joint decision of the government of the Allies.”
What was the purpose of broadcasting this document that threatened the extermination of the German leadership, knowing that it would have been read by the Germans, too? The Allies seemed to want to make sure that the German leaders understood that there was no space to negotiate an armistice. The only way out left to the German military was to take the situation in their own hands to get rid of the leaders that the Allied had vowed to punish. That was probably the reason for the assassination attempt carried out against Adolf Hitler on June 20th, 1944. It failed, and we will never know if it would have shortened the war.
Perhaps as a reaction to the events in Germany, on September 21, 1944 the Allies publicly diffused a plan for post-war Germany that had been approved at the Quebec Conference by the British and American governments. The plan, known as the “Morgenthau Plan,” was proposed by Henry Morgenthau Jr. secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Among other things, it called for the complete destruction of Germany’s industrial infrastructure and the transformation of Germany into a purely agricultural society at a nearly Medieval technology level. If carried out as stated, the plan would have killed millions of Germans since the German agriculture, alone, would have been unable to sustain the German population of the time.
Unlike the Moscow declaration that aimed at punishing German leaders, the Morgenthau plan called for the punishment of the whole German population. Again, the proponents could not have been unaware that their plan was visible to the Germans and that the German government would have used it as a propaganda tool. President Roosevelt’s son-in-law Lt. Colonel John Boettiger stated that the Morgenthau Plan was “worth thirty divisions to the Germans.” The general upheaval against the plan among the US leadership led President Roosevelt to disavow it. But it may have been one of the reasons that led the Germans to fight to the bitter end.
(3) The story of the “mass suicide” in Jonestown is far from being clear. There were no survivors so that the interpretation of what actually happened is mainly based on a tape with the last speech of Jim Jones, where we hear him exhorting his adepts to kill themselves. This is one of the first cases where a catastrophic event is explained on the basis of the near-miraculous survival of a tape where the evil guy of the story accuses himself to be the perpetrator. Another suspicious detail is that we know that the victims of cyanide poisoning normally die gasping for air, face-up, with their mouth open in a characteristic “grin” that you can see in the pictures of Regina Lisso. Instead, in Jonestown, nearly everyone died face down, and in none of the very few photos we have where we can see the face of the dead we can detect the typical features of people dying of cyanide poisoning. Very few autopsies were performed and it is likely that we’ll never know exactly how these people actually died, but the hypothesis that they were gunned down cannot be excluded.
(4) The complexity of modern medicine is so high that even medical doctors may be at loss at understanding what they are recommending. For instance, a large number of Americans are taking statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs, and their use of statins is aggressively promoted. But is there evidence that statins significantly increase people’s life expectancy? None at all, and statins have non-negligible side effects. So, why are people taking statins? Because their doctors told them so. And who told that to the doctors? At best, they read some scientific papers in a hurry and they got the impression that statins are a good thing. Or maybe they were convinced by the advertising of statin producers. Possibly, they know that statins are ineffective, but they won’t take the risk of not prescribing them. In short, people take statins because everyone takes them. Fortunately, at least, there is no evidence that statins kill.
(5) A commenter raised the question of whether Regina Lisso was really dead, since she looks relaxed, even beautiful in death. It is correct to doubt about anything that comes from a government and that picture was taken by a photographer working for the US army. But the setting, the posture, and all the details in the photo look just right. There are not so many photos of the bodies of people who killed themselves using cyanide in Germany, but in most cases we see them lying face up, their mouth open, sometimes just a little, very much in the same posture of Regina Lisso. It also makes sense that it was a real photograph because the idea that a young and beautiful girl had killed herself to escape her “liberators,” the US army, had no propaganda value for the Allies.
Regina Lisso committed suicide together with her mother and her father, and the three of them are shown in several photographs easily found on the Web.