We all have to decide how much sin we can live with. The sin, my sin, was that I stood idly by and let it happen.
He put down the papers, baffled. Already this soldier knew that what he was reading was out of place in Ravensbrück. He wondered what the rest of it contained. As he flicked through the paper, endless and seemingly ludicrous possibilities filled his mind. He continued.
Of course, nothing within my power could have prevented such a torrent of hate and intolerance flood through the lives of many I knew. It was like watching the frozen Pilica burst its banks as it melted in the spring time. It was accepted that it would happen but no-one took action to prevent it. If failing to prevent something is a sin, does that make one just as guilty as those who committed it? Whatever the answer, my penance is now due and I am paying for it. Harshly.
I saw bodies strewn along the streets like garbage. Some crushed, others mangled beyond definition. Most were riddled with bullet holes or the markings of rage fuelled beatings. Women wearing their very best but defiled by stains of blood. Blood had dried and clotted in their hair and was smeared across their faces. Blood, not singularly from their own bodies, but sometimes of the small child clasped to their chest. Respected members of the community; my teachers, doctors, the mayor, lawyers, family members, rounded up and shot.
There was no one left to collect their bodies, so in most cases this was a task that fell to the rats.
When placed in the gutter, together with the rubble of once standing buildings and the shards of concrete left on the roads, people are all the same. They are all reduced to nothing; just as the falling bombs had reduced once towering buildings to nothing. In death, we are all equal.
I became a sinner the day the troops occupied Lodz. Of course, before that my lack of tact irritated many around me. It amused me to watch my papa’s rounded cheeks turn a vivid scarlet when my defiant antics infuriated him. So too did his ears, the more I antagonised him. My muma would sigh; partly in frustration and partly in resignation for she knew my actions perfectly;
“Katya,” she would say. “Your father is too old for teasing. Leave him bekochany, dear. I’m sure your professors are much more tolerant of you, but that is not to be said in the home. Ci są hodowane ale nie uprawiane, you are cultured but not cultivated. Just because you are fortunate enough to be educated, makes you no better than me.Kochany, go see to your brothers.”
My mother could barely read, and could not write. My father, the same. They worked hard and saved all their wages to create a better life for their children. But they were entranced by the Marxist manifesto which had somehow filtered into their minds. They believed that although they had suffered a hard life, this new system promised an equality that would provide new opportunities to further their children. But that was before the arrival of the God-forsaken Nazis.
My parents, my country, although misguided, did not deserve what happened to them. The Nazis, they hated us. For nothing else I believe, would justify such torture. So many I knew were brutally persecuted for being Polish. It would almost be laughable if it were not for the many I knew who died for it. They were hunted, like deer in the wintertime, like it was a sport. The police units would intrude into houses, take the men for labour, shoot the women and children, or else send them to the camps. Before I was sent toRavensbrück, all this I was concious of. When I arrived here, it was confirmed.