December 9, 1942
I wake up from the sounds of whistles blowing and German soldiers screaming at us to move. Next to my bed I look through my window, a small peep hole in the wall. It was still dark outside. Like my hair and clothes, my sense of time no longer exists. I hear screams and gunfire. I struggle quickly through the crowd of people to get outside. I knew what had happened. I just didn't know to whom. Iscrambled into line with the others. In front of us lying on the ground was my best friend. His name was Mark.I met him the day we arrived at the camp. We shared a bunk. With such little space, it was no surprise we quickly became close friends. He was a brave man; never ending the day with his head held low. At night as we struggled to keep warm and fall asleep, he would tell me stories of his family and home. He was married with a little girl. She was seven years old. They were his hope and motivation to live.
Every night he would tell me of his plans to escape. He took to monitoring and memorizing the change of guard, the movement of the spotlights, and the location of the bum spot in the electric fence. Even as I struggled to stay awake to hear him, I always made an effort to listen and remember everything he told me. He was a wise man. My guess is he used to be an educator of some sort. I remember all of this as I watch him lie on the ground, his mouth filled and overflowing with his own blood and saliva. His clothes were torn revealing his ribs and bony arms along with black and blue spots.His eyes were half shut and I could see they've rolled into the back of his head. Maybe now he can see his dreams more clearly. At least I hope so.
My heart ached. I looked around and no doubteveryone was exhausted. Lack of sleep and starvation will do that to you. An officer walked up and down our lines looking for anyone weak or tired enough to make an example out of. His black boots crunched hard against the snow. His tall muscular frame towered over all of us. He walked with perfect posture with his hands held behind his back. I got the feeling he was attempting to show his authority and lack of fear he had of us.We are, after all, the reason for the Motherland's problems; or soI read somewhere.
As he paced back and forth we stood silent, fearing we'd end up lying next to our kin. And then he stops. He turns and stands face to face with me. I could see his breath in the air. Very steady unlike mine shaking violently in the windlike the rest of my body. The officer couldn't have been older than his early twenties. Blonde hair and brown eyes to go along with the scowl on his perfect slender face. For the few second swe stared at each other, I couldn't help but see all of his perfections. His cheeks were just slightly rosy from the bitter winter air. His slender nose flowed immaculately into his full lips.His skin resembled the snow he walked on. I thought only God himself could send this angelic figure to be my death. How divinely cruel of him.He was beautiful even for a Nazi. Evil and damnable as a human being, but still beautiful. If only I could hear him speak and watch him move again. It has been said that if you ask, you shall receive, and by God did I.
"Now off to work you worthless Jews!" He screamed in German. His dark eyes pierced right through mine down into the very depths of me. I was completely immobile. The officer cocked his head to the side with a confused expression. It was almost puppy-like. He stepped towards me stopping only inches from my sunken face. I could've sworn it was the Devil himself whispering to me when he spoke. His voice soothed and terrified me simultaneously. "What's the matter, my good man? Do you not hear well? I believe I just told you to get to work." I still couldn't move. I was too cold and too scared. I froze right in front of this irredeemable creature.
"Speak! What is the matter with you?!"
"I'm sorry, sir. There is nothing wrong with me. The air is just so cold. It makes it hard to move, sir."
He leaned in close to my ear. His breath warmed my skin when he spoke. If that moment could only last. Being so close to something so majestic made me feel closer to my creator than I ever have before. The holy Eucharist couldn't even compare to this moment.
"Let me help you then." He whispers.
I felt relief for the first time since I was brought here. I thought maybe this beautiful creation sent to earth solely for my torment and satisfaction would deliver me from my pain. I was wrong. He grabbed me by the neck and kneed me in the groin. I dropped immediately to the ground in agonizing pain. The next thing I feel is his boot beating against my chest and my back. He punched me trying to hit my face but I shielded myself from his blows. And then he stops. He grabs my shirt and faces me to him. I have a flashback of my father doing the same thing when I was a little boy. The young officer glared at me with the same eyes as my father, full of anger and hate. He begins to shoutand mock me.
"Are you done being incompetent you pathetic piece of garbage? Are you still too cold? Would you like for me to get you some warm milk, little babe? Here, let me help you."
At that, he drops me to the ground and begins ripping my jacket off along with my shirt. Now fully exposed to the cruel environment, I feel the wind bite harshly at my skin. I try to curl into a ball to keep myself warm, only to be kicked again. My ribs were poking through my translucent body and felt the full force of his boot heel.How could my angel do this to me? It was at that point, I fully believed my God had sent him to this world himself to be my own personal anguish and death. I can't understand how a being so fair, could cause so much harm. And not just to me, but to everyone around him. He was created to kill; to demolish and destroy anything that did not liken him. What cruelty to see such beauty defaced by evil. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing at this point. The hunger, cold, pain, and heartache were too much. I couldn't bear itanymore. Like a child, I begged my angel of death to kill me. Instead he picked me up and shoved me in the direction of my work station.
"There! Now you have no choice but to move or you will surely die!"
If I had ever heard such menacing laughter in my life, his voice was it. I felt like Eve at that moment; Intrigued and mystified by this enigmatic animal. Aesthetics greater than that of Athena herself along with words of promise and hope were gone in a flash, and replaced by the demon living within it. I walk as fast as I could to my work station. They had me digging these giant holes. Their purpose? I don't know.The wind picked up as the day went on. Many of us fell and weren't able to work. Soldiers came and took them away. I saw them leading the fallen to a building with a sign that said "SHOWERS" in German. I've heard about the "showers". Anyone that's ever walked in there has never come out. I had a feeling inside that told me I would never see them again. Despite the cold and thehunger pains,I shoveled slowly, but I made sure to keep moving. I did not want to die in this hell. I remember what Mark had told me about the lights and fence, and I was determined now more than ever to escape. If I didn't try tonight, I'd be dead in a day or two.
As I continued working, I talked to my friend David. Our conversations always consisted of whispers. The thought of being caught and killed was too terrifying. We would talk about life before thiswar and how much fun we used to have: sharing drinks with friends, dancing, and football in the streets. I suppose that's what kept us going, the thought of going back to our normal lives; going back to the freedom we used to have. I hear a train whistle and look over by the main gate, I could see one approaching us in the distance.I recognized it because it was the same one I had ridden on. It was the same train where through a small hole in the cargo,I saw the words that would haunt me for the rest of my life. Overlooking the camp was a sign that said "Auschwitz. Work Will Make You Free". I didn't know it then, but now I realized the truth in those words.
"They have no idea what they're getting themselves into." I said to myself. The officers herded the Jews out of the train carts. It reminded me of home, of when my brother would herd the sheep into the fields. I continued my work until I heard someone cry for help. It was a little girl.I instantly thought of Mark's daughter. Maybe this is what she looked like.The officer in charge shouted at her to shut up. She continued to cry and he hit her. Her mother tried to get through the soldiers that stood in the way of her and her baby. The woman spoke in a language he didn't know, but I did. She begged him to let her child go. He didn't listen. The officer grabbed the child and pulled out his gun. Everyone suddenly stopped what they were doing and grew silent. The child began to shake and her mother helplessly fell to her knees and begged him not to pull the trigger. I watched in horror and thought o fall of the lives that had been taken in just my time here.The sight of the Jews being led to their death, the sight of my best friend and mentor choking on his own blood rotting on the ground made me realize that no one was going to leave this camp alive. We were all going to die. In that moment I decided that enough innocent blood had been spilt and I wasn't about to let this poorchild suffer like the rest of us.
I threw down my shovel and ran toward the soldier. I ran as fast as I could and didn't stop until I had reached him. I was consumed with hatred and grief. I jumped on top of him pulling him to the ground and smashed his head into the frozen rock. I screamed at him to die. Soldiers tried to pull me off, but I fought back. Then there it was. I felt a sharp pain in my back, it felt warm and wet. The world around me turned into a haze. Everything became out of focus as I sat on the mess I created. Red blurred into the white snow. It looked almost like a painting. I was so focus on the colors I didn't see the fist coming at me. I heard a crack and knew my nose was not where it should be. Other officers joined in. The only coherent thought I could clearly see was my memory of fighting with the other boys in the school yard. It was me versus them, just like it was now. I guess nothing really changes with age.
I was dying. I had to be. Officers picked me up and carried me away. I felt nothing but pain. Everything was so hazy. I could feel the wind blowing beneath me, making my damp back cold. I could see what looked like a barb wired fence. I recognized it. It was the bum spot in the electric fence. This had to be a joke. We're they going to let me go? No. What a foolish thought. No one ever left. Were they taking me back to work? It wouldn't surprise me. Instead they threw me into one of the holes like an old worn out shoe. I know this earth. I helped dig it. My eyes were permanently closed now. I hadn't any strength left to keep them open. I expected to land on hard ground, only it was soft instead. I could feel theair getting colder and the sky grew dark which told me it was night. How long had it been? Did I pass out? I had no idea.The air smelled of rotten earth; or was it of death? I felt around for something to hold on to as if it could be my last hope of something, anything.
Only it didn't bring me hope. What I felt wasn't a silver lining of any sort. Instead I found myself holding the hand of a child. I could tell because it felt so little in mine. I now figured out why they had me dig these holes. Now I was certain it was the smell of death in the air. It seemed like an eternity as I lied there. I had suffered an immense amount of pain, ridicule, humiliation, and grief. I wanted nothing more than to die right in that hole with everyone else around me. I wanted to hold tight to that tiny hand as I passed on. Maybe my body could act as some kind of comfort for them, letting them know they're not alone here in death and in the afterlife. Maybe it was me who needed that comfort. I close my eyes and waited for my heart and lungs to give out.Then I heard something; footsteps maybe? Whatever it was, it was getting closer. That's when I heard it; my name. I opened my eyes as much as they would allow.
"Whose there?" I struggled. The footsteps were getting closer.
"Hello?" Maybe it was my angel coming to deliver me to Satan's doorstep. I tried to see who was there. Hell, tried to see anything at all. Again my name was called. I recognize that voice.
"David? Is that you?"
"Yes, I'm here and we're leaving. I can't believe you're still alive! Thank God!"
He jumped into the hole and put his coat over me. "You know how to get out of here. I can help carry you, but you have to lead us out. Can you do that?" His voice was panicked. Can you blame him? Even if David was a bigger and stronger man, the chances of us escaping in my condition is slim to none. I lied there a moment thinking of my options. I stay here and die in this hole along with the others around me, or I can stick it to Der Feuer himself and take my chances of escaping. I never was one to go along with the crowd. I regained what strength I had left and sat up. David's jacket was enormous on my shrunken frame. Of all the nights and all the people to find and run away with, it had to be one to aid me perfectly. David had the strength to carry us both, but I had the knowledge of freedom. Circumstances like that don't just happen. I gave the tiny hand one last squeeze as a promise to fight and make it out alive.
"Alright David. Let's get the hell out of here."