Muselmann (pl. Muselmänner, the German version of Musulman, meaning Muslim) was a slang term used among captives of World War II Nazi concentration camps to refer to those suffering from a combination of starvation (known also as "hunger disease") and exhaustion and who were resigned to their impending death. The Muselmann prisoners exhibited severe emaciation and physical weakness, an apathetic listlessness regarding their own fate, and unresponsiveness to their surroundings owing to the barbaric treatment by the Nazis and prisoner functionaries. Some scholars argue that the term possibly comes from the Muselmann's inability to stand for any time due to the loss of leg muscle, thus spending much of the time in a prone position, recalling the position of the Musulman (Muslim) during prayers. It has also been suggested by Giorgio Agamben that the term hails from the Islamic fatalism which characterizes Sunnite orthodoxy, i.e. the idea that there are no such things as causality but that God performs every occurrence in the world, meaning that everything including men simply undergoes the workings of God and does not act on its own. Muselmann would then be the darkest interpretation of this fatalism.


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