War has broken out globally as of 1939 and Germany is now
owned by the terror of the Nazis. Minority groups such as the Jewish,
disabled, homosexuals, religious who are targeted for violence.
Excluding them from most luxuries and with many more horrors to come.
remember the last I heard from my father. They were harsh and cold but I
now realize how right he was. How true those words were.
stupid boy! You heartless, brainless, naive little boy! You can't even
be considering this!'
'Father, I have to. The next time they crash
down out door, they'll kill you and me. I have to join them. I have no
choice, they're forcing me.'
'I refuse to believe that my son
harbours thoughtless, murderous Nazi views! You imbecile! You are no son
'Father, you best not air your views out so freely. It
could be dangerous to speak out against the power. Anyone could be
'I hope they hear! I hope every bloody Nazi hears! I
hope Hitler on his highness of power hears!'
'Father… please - hush
for your life depends on it. Overcome your stubbornness.'
What?! You are not mine; I never had you, boy! Get out of my house!'
'Out! Get your things and leave, filthy Nazi!'
never imagined myself being here. In a van with dozens of other Jews
cramped in. It's like I'm dreaming, or worse, having a nightmare. I
remember every detail from every minute of what events led up to me
being forced from where I feel safe. I was in the medical room with the
other Jewish nurses.
Suddenly our doctor runs in and starts to yell.
We normally speak in German as we are expected to but he screams out in
Hebrew – which we all of course understand. He breathlessly yelps that
we're being 'stolen', that we must make sure we poison out patients
before running to hide. We don't know why we must but we daren't
question him. We rush about, searching for all the deadly substances we
can. Drugs, pills, liquids. We hand them to the head nurse who uses her
hand that isn't shaking so much to mix them all, the spoon rattling the
bowl as she shivers. That's when we heard the first gun shots. My heart
leaps. Simultaneously, we all know what is happening. We all know who is
The head nurse hands us each a tiny glass full of what looks
like liquor. But we know better. I head towards one of the old beds
where an old woman lies, so small, so innocent. She is shivering in the
fear which binds her to keep her eyes closed at all times. I start to
recite the Jewish death prayer under my breath. As I do, I hear the
other the nurses mumbling in Hebrew. They are too. The head nurse
watches us and urges us to sing louder and clearer so that G-d Himself
can hear us. We sing as we pour the poison down our patient's throats.
We would rather mercifully kill our own people than have them brutally
slaughtered by the enemy. I turn my head around. There is no more
breathing from any of the patients. Our work is done. And the door is
They pour in, the soldiers, guns pointed at the
patients, bounding up the small stairs. It takes a couple of minutes for
them to realize what we've done. The leading soldier gives the head
nurse a dark, cold look. She stands her ground, disguising a content,
smug look on her face as best she can. We have defied them. They cannot
harm our sickened people anymore. But they can harm us.
jump into action; they grab each one of us nurses and throw us against
the walls, inspecting us. The one that grabbed me seizes my face and
pokes about my teeth. He studies my eyes and ears. He then checks my
body; prodding my legs, checking my waist and feeling my muscles. I know
how this works.
The unhealthy, imperfect ones are left behind.
The approved ones are taken away.
The soldier pulls me by the
wrist and forces me to go back down with him. Two other nurses are also
shoved along the floor, unwilling to leave. The head nurse and other two
remaining nurses are backed up into a corner. They are too old to be
allowed to live.
We are hustled on the street outside, guns
forced into our backs, one wrong move resulting in the trigger going
off. I open my eyes wide and they reveal Hell.
dragged along the floor, desperately trying to stay clung onto their
mothers. Men being made to stagger over to a separate group from the
women. I understand now. Men to the left, women to the right. Behind the
riot, buildings burst into flames, making ash of precious possessions,
leaving memories in rubble. The gun shots are never-ending, deafening
and killing my thoughts that are clear. The bodies collapse at my feet
as I am marched forward. My fellow nurses have disappeared, lost in the
crowd, and I am left with the one soldier, guiding me maliciously to the
back of the women's group. I want to close my eyes and pretend that a
hideous nightmare has infected my mind and clouded my judgement, clouded
reality. But it hasn't. This is as real as anything. It's cold, harsh
reality. It's death in it's most vile design. And it's not going away.
The screams still echo. The little boys still shriek when they are torn
away from their mothers as soldiers dump them with the other males.
is Hell. The devil's work. Death to all of G-d's chosen people.
where is He now?
I sit in the
Kommandant's office, expectantly waiting for my fellow men to decide to
turn up. The most irresponsible of Privates will spend their days drunk
and useless. The only reason they are not dismissed from their duties
immediately is due to their fathers being in high places, pulling
strings. They laze about doing as they please without consequences.
is far from fair but the hierarchy concept is undeniable, especially in
the military. However, I am Aleif Franke, son the of the great Herr
Kommandant Franke. I could easily become a drunkard and a whoring
layabout if it wasn't against my nature entirely. And so is all of this.
The SS life. I was not born to kill. I barely made it past training as I
could not be weaker than I already am. What made me pass was my
father's words. If I cannot be a son then I must become a soldier. My
willpower dragged me along, my longing to become someone grew and that
is what made me good enough to join them. But overall, I knew that the
price would have been high if I refused.
They must be good at
their work. Death. Varying medals and awards are hung upon the walls and
staked into shelves. I wonder what on earth they could stand for. But I
know. The laws they enforced upon Jews, homosexuals, the disabled and
other minority groups always beg to be broken and when we punish the
criminals, pride is our reward. Honour. I hope that I cannot only
understand the meaning but experience the concept of it. To have honour.
To be honoured. That's the most attractive aspect of a person. If they
have achieved honour then happiness is expected to sidle with it, the
pieces of yourself coming together to become the perfect German.
perfect German is the perfect human; blonde-haired, blue-eyed and
always tall. The perfect German is violent and possesses no mercy inside
of his heart because his heart consists of his love for Germany and
nothing else. The perfect German is not me.
I am blonde but I
have deep brown eyes, the colour of leaves that dance at the end of
Autumn. I am not short but my fellow Privates are so tall that they
tower above me, shrinking my worthiness of being in the master race even
more. I do not harbour any wishes of violence towards any innocents. I
do love my country but I do not love the Nazi rule in which it is under.
My people were greatly burned after the Great War and was shunned by
other countries and branded with debuts of war. When someone stands up
and swears that they can make us great once more, what can we do but
reply 'Hiel'? We wanted our country to have respect again. We wanted to
stand tall again.
But things started to change. Jews were banned
from most places; schools, libraries, swimming pools and any other
luxuries were forbidden to them. Many gay bars were shut down and we are
supposed to report any same-sex behaviour to the Gestapo in order to
rid our country of homosexuals. The disabled are also turned away.
Gypsies are run out of towns. And why?
They are not perfect
So, even though I cannot change my eye colour or height,
I can become a solider. I will become a soldier and belong.
can't breathe. I'm cramped, pushing myself as far into a corner as I
possibly can. Where am I? That's the problem. I don't know.
were forced out of the van and onto a dark platform. A train station.
The rain beat down as hard as we cry now, tears of water hammered from
the skies and poured form our hearts. More vans arrived after, full to
the brim of more people. The children scrambled onto their feet, the
youngest of them clutching onto adults whether they knew them or not. I
notice guards set out around area, eyes blank and dead, guns close and
loaded. So we can't escape. A small girl, no more than 3 or 4, ran
across the platform and bumped into me. She fell onto her behind, the
tiny red coat caked in mud. Her eyes did not water but they blinked, the
beautiful greens darting around, trying to become familiar with the
scenery. Before I could bend to scoop her up, she herself got up by
using am old gentleman's trouser as a ladder. He glances down and
notices her. Swooping down, he bends to pick her up cradles her in his
arms, stroking her silky, short hair.
'Is she with you?' I ask.
he replies, 'but she is mine.' He turns his head to scan the area. 'You
all are.' He touches the gold star pinned onto the girl's coat sleeve.
They're rounding up Jews. Herding us as animals to the
slaughter. Are we going to be slaughtered? We already have rules
restricting us and binding us so our lost humanity is nothing more than a
memory. We are barely subhuman to them. The Nazis. The ones who enforce
the laws, the ones who hate us. They must be doing this to us. What
other party of people would be sick enough to? My people. My beautiful
people. I know what the old gentleman means. They belong to me, my
responsibility. I want to save them all, make a break for it, runaway
until we can't possibly go any further, until we are so tired that our
lungs are raw from the lack of breath and until we collapse. As far away
as we can go.
But they are watching. The soldiers, still there,
lined up and unblinking. They are barely moving, barely breathing in at
all, as if made of tin. I often wonder if they are machines. It's as if
they have been programmed to hurt, their emotions hollowed out and
conscience burned away. They call us creatures but they are hardly human
themselves. As I contemplate this, a train pulls up. A slow-moving
contraption chugging at a steady pace out of the lingering dark mist. I
don't know where it is going to take us or what will happen. But then I
notice other people, on the opposite platform. Non-Jews, Germans. Nazi
Germans. The children staring smugly at us, using their fingers to
gesture across their throats. Beheading. Murder. Death. And what is that
they are mouthing?
'You're going to die!'
, strong, healthy. Exactly what we're looking for.' My superior
officer, Adad Philips, looks me up and down.
Even though I've known
him all through school as we grew up together, I am still permitted to
call him sir in formal situations. It feels…strange.
'I beg you to
forgive me if you perceive my curiosity as troublesome but I was under
the impression that my role in the military would be more… dangerous.'
Guarding the Kommandant's house wasn't in mind when I signed up to
become a solider.
'Anything could happen, enemies intruding and such.
You'll keep order within the household. Attend meetings of great
confidentiality. Meet important personnel. An essential part of the war
effort is keeping hierarchy in order.'
I'm unconvinced but I take it
in. He rants on about responsibility and duty to my country and so on.
What I should do and what I shouldn't. When he's finished we walk
outside of his office which is located in a building by the Kommandant's
house. The front garden is perfect with the flowers in full bloom, all
kinds scenting the air with sweet smells. A lonely swing clings to a
branch of a tree, towering way above out heads, and the paper-thin
leaves shading us from the beating heat of the sun. It would have been
an even prettier view if a Volkswagen wasn't parked right in the middle
of the drive. Philips clicks the front door open and gestures for me to
get into the passenger's seat.
'Sir? Where are we going?'
work, Franke. Come along, we haven't much time until we have to be
there.' So I clamber in and shuffle across to my seat. Philips takes the
driver's seat and revs the engine up, causing me to jump. He laughs.
Franke! Such a delicate boy! I can't wait to see you become a man.'
already 22 and Philips is only a few months older than me but I
understand. He means for me to mature. I still act as if I am a child;
naive and inquisitive. I long to become like Philips: sophisticated and
popular and respected. Hopefully, someday, I will. He chats to me as we
drive along out of town and into the country side.
It's as if a war
isn't even being fought. He just talks about his life now, the parts of
his career that is allowed to, he reminisces with me as we reflect upon
memories of childhood pranks, how he used to call me Small (an
unfortunate reference to my height) and he even goes on to openly
discuss his personal life.
'Amelia and I have been engaged for a few
years already but we aren't ready to make it official yet. I've promised
that we'll marry at the end of the war; not long then!' He chuckles.
'How about you, Small? Got a lady in your life?'
I can feel myself
going bright red.
'Of course not!' I have barely even danced with a
woman, let alone had a relationship with one.
Philips rolls his eyes. 'I've seen you at dances. They stand and eye you
up and down but you prefer to down a few drinks by yourself.'
Wolf!' I joke and howl out of the window.
'Stop fooling around! He
punches me on the arm but he's already bursting out into laughter.
We arrive in a field, just a few of miles from the
small town where the Kommandant's house is. The grass reaches
hip-height, waving about in the cool breeze. Trees stand tall and
surrounded the area, blocking the view of the town from the miles away.
However, I'm not focusing on that. My eyes are locked on the barbed wire
running across the entire acre, containing huts, hundreds of them and
piles of some kind of pyjama-suit heaped on top of each other, numbers
sewn onto the sleeves.
That's what shocks me to the core.
is this place?'
'It's a camp, Franke.'
'Who for?' Philips turns
and gives me a look that confirmed to me that he was tired of my
'So naive. It's a camp for scum, my boy. It's here so we
can keep the worthless subhuman beasts of the world away from civil
people. This is a camp for Jews.'
I won't him see. I won't show it.
But I can feel myself hyperventilating. The world around me spins and
blurs as my eyes tear up. Jews… my God. I'm German, I'm perfect, and
they are below me. But should they be locked up? I take a little step
forward but my knees have suddenly become weak and I nearly fall. I bend
over, trying to cut my tears off and to calm down.
'I say, are you
alright?' Philips rushes over.
'I… I…' I look up. 'They must have
fertilised the field. The smell makes me faint.' I lie. He can't know
what I think. He can't. He pulls me to his side so I can stand.
can't smell anything.'
'I have a sensitive sense of smell' I sniff.
We both simultaneously realize that we are both nearly embracing: his
arm around my shoulders and the other hooked around my waist. Our faces
are so close to each other that I can feel the warmth of his breath; I
can see his eyes soften. I quickly shrug his arms off of me and walk
forward. 'So, if this is a camp, where are the inmates?' I ask shakily.
first lot are due to arrive in a few short hours,' he replies, also
awkwardly straightening up before catching up with me. 'That's your
first job. To direct them into the camp. Stand by the sidelines, make
sure every one gets in.'
'What happens to them after they get in?'
places his arm around my shoulders and pushes his face close to mine.
He whispers to me in my ear.
'Curiosity killed the cat, Franke.'