The last aktion I ever witnessed was that of my own family. As the brownshirts barged through our front door, they grabbed my brothers and Papa and forced them outside. My muma was hysterical, and as I tried to hold her hand, she snatched her arm away from me. They had their guns poised as they violently screamed orders at my family. I followed my muma’s actions as she raised her hands above her head in surrender. She mustered a look of stern disapproval through her frantic tears. Her motherly disapproval was in no way comparable to the reprimands from the rifle of the brownshirt. This I learnt when I watched them shoot her. The gunshot made me jump. I felt sick as I saw my muma’s arms drop as she fell to her knees. I screamed her name.
As I watched my muma bleed out into her faded woolen skirt, my shock gave way to revulsion and I spat in the face of the despotic brownshirt. My hatred boiled through my blood and it coursed through my veins with vicious ferocity. He grabbed me by the hair and dragged me down the street. His gruff hands grabbed my lace collar and the seams on it ripped as he heaved me up into the back of the truck. Through my indignant fury, I did not miss seeing a stranger drag my muma’s corpse to lie in the gutter.
I now see bodies no longer lain with some respect, trying to retain what little dignity death could provide. Rather, they are discarded as spoils of war. Some corpses were stacked like firewood, if they were lucky. Most were not even corpses, but ashes that blanketed the city. When you die here death grants peace. Death grants some of the dignity that has been stripped from you.
This soldier had seen prisoners before. Shorn, starved and half naked. They had sores on their faces, hollow sunken cheeks and sunken eye sockets. The movements of their lungs were clearly visible under the grey skin pulled painfully tight over their protruding ribcages. But never once had he thought of them as having families. Maybe it was because he assumed they were all dead or dying. Or maybe it softened the blow that was seeing innocent civilians die. Because if they were nothing to begin with, then perhaps their death was less significant.