This is the first diary entry, of a prisoner in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. She is completely fictictious. Her name is Katarzyna, she is 19 and polish, and she sort of represents the unheard voices of the young women in the camps. Not the heroes that you hear about, just the ordinary prisoner, the unheard stories. And this is part of hers.
We all have to decide, how much sin we can live with. The sin, my sin, was that I didn’t commit the crime. But that I stood idly by and let it happen.
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 banks of the frozen Pilica burst its banks as it melted in the spring time. It was accepted that it would happen, but none ever took action to prevent it. By not preventing a sin, does that make one just as guilty as those who committed it? Whatever the answer is, my penance is now due and I am paying for it- harshly.
I saw bodies laid out along the streets, like an item of trash that no one was willing to throw away. Bodies, some crushed, others mangled beyond definition. Most were sporting bullet holes or the markings of rage fuelled beatings. Women clad in their very best were defiled by stains of blood. Blood which had dried and clotted in their hair and smeared across their face. Blood from not singularly their own bodies, but sometimes of the small child clasped to their chest. Respected members of the community, my teachers, doctors, the mayor, lawyers, and 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, forged by 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 and infallible buildings to nothing. In death, all are equal.
I suppose, I became a sinner the day the troops occupied Lodz. Of course before that my untactful even insulting manner irked 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 follow suit, the more I antagonized him. My muma would say, sighing part in frustration part resignation for she knew my actions perfectly;
“Katya, your father is too old for teasing; leave him be kochany, dear. I’m sure, your professors are much more tolerant of you, but that is not to be said for 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 that had somehow distilled into their minds. They believed, that although they suffered a hard life, this new socialism promised an equality that would inherently further their children. But that was before the arrival of the God forsaken Nazis.
My parents, my nation, although some misguided, did not deserve what happened to them. The Nazis, they hated us. For nothing else in my mind, and I have considered this over and over, constitutes such torture ! So many I knew were brutally persecuted, for being a Pole. For being a POLE ! It is almost 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 to Ravensbruck, all this I was concious of. When I arrived here, it was confirmed.
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. She mustered a look of stern disapproval through her frantic tears. This motherly disapproval, was in no way comparable to the reprimands from the rifle of the brownshit. This I learnt when I watched them shoot her. As I watched my muma bleed out into her faded woollen skirt, I spat in the face of the despotic brownshirt. My hatred boiled 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 mumas corpse to lay in the gutter.
Like my mumas, I now see bodies no longer lain with some respect, trying to retain what little dignity that death had provided. Rather, they are discarded as spoils of war. Starved corpses, stacked like firewood, if they were lucky. Most were not even corpses, but ashes that blanket the city. When you die here death does not grant equality. Death grants peace. Death grants some of the dignity that has been stripped from you, destroyed. It breaks the soul. Stripped away, like skinning a person alive, so that all that’s left is the raw insides. Exposed. Except, this agony is not comparable to any violent action. Living in this Hell hole, is worse than death.
I am nineteen and I have seen things that I am sure, are worse than any battle hardened bastard ever will. I have seen women tortured beyond recognition, without even a finger being placed on them! I have seen women who have had their children murdered in cold blood right in front of them. Drowned, strangled or slowly starved to death. Then they’ve had to watch their corpse’s burn. As they scream, you can hear her soul being crippled. These women are doubled over in agony, writhing on the ground in devastation. Screaming incomprehensible pleas of help, but not managing once to complete a sentence. They choke on their own despair. As the guards walk off, we would run to pick up and move the woman in hysterics on the icy ground. But all we bring back to the barracks are her physical remains. For each woman, her soul, her heart, her inner being is destroyed.
One would hold on to me with a vice like grip. As a small child clutches its mumas hand for comfort, so too did this woman. Holding onto my arms and hands as if this grasp would keep her anchored to her body. So she did not plunge and loose herself into a sea of black grief. A black grief that seemed to drown us all. At night, when we all lay on the hay that provided scant protection between the wooden slabs underneath us, although it didn’t seem possible it becomes worse. The vicious dogs bark, and there is always commotion, from the officers, guards and laborers. You can almost hear the electrical currents charging through the wire fences. No one really sleeps here. The body and mind ache, as if bruised.
The other women, Oszchra, Weronika, Ada, Doroata, Franciszka, Halina, along with the many others who died or are dying as I write this, have all lost their children here. On more than one occasion have they lain screaming in their bunks, screaming their names. Ozschra’s youngest daughter shared my name. When she died, the hysterical screaming of my name over and over again, unnerved me in every way possible. It caused the painful memories dulled by the horrors of this Hell to resurface with new ferociousness.
As Elisze, god rest her soul, and I walked home from our lecture, a pack of German troops leisurely followed. They gave little regard to me, but rather had their eyes set on Elisze. They began to taunt her and grab at her in places not appropriate for a stranger. I walked faster, and as the troops followed us, they gathered around Elisze. I walked on, and immediately heard Elisze’s voice calling out my name. Her tone was desperate, and grew more so with every step I took away from her. As her frenzied screams grew louder and dire, I walked faster. I heard the commotion, boots shuffling along the pavement. I could hear that the troops were getting frustrated with her resistance.
“HALT DEN MUND MÄDCHEN, SHUT YOUR MOUTH GIRL”.
That’s all the German I could make out before I had the chance to think twice about what i was doing.
I never turned around, I had no need to. For as soon as I stepped into the gutter to cross the road, I heard the dissonant sound of a rifle shot.
Given that I was not one of the fortunate ones to be placed along the gutter, my indefinite death is promised. Not by the chance of falling bombs, or collapsing buildings. But by the pigs that are, but some insane power, titling themselves as Kinder der Gotter. Children of the Gods.