Snow in Germany

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Here's a fictional story I wrote for school as a "Winter Theme". Please comment and thanks for reading!

**I am currently trying to rethink the plot a bit and edit out Hitler himself, as it is quite unlikely he would bother himself with suck an inconsequential boy as Fritz. Please excuse the error for now, and thanks to arun for his comment!**

Submitted: May 29, 2011

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Submitted: May 29, 2011

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Snow in Germany

It was snowing in Germany, big, white flakes falling, attempting to hide the horrors surrounding us. However, try as they might, the lacy veil hid none of the pain and the sorrow within all of us, only boys, sleeping together in the harsh and frozen world of pain that surrounded us. Covering the blood and dirt of our haphazard camp was easy and inconsequential for the snow. Yet the snow, beautiful as it was, could not hide the pain in our hearts.

Snow reminded me of home. Home where Mama, Father, Cindy, Jake, and Lucy were. Home where snow was beautiful and fun, where the people were kind and the time we had together was taken for granted. Now, I regretted my foolish belief that we would always be together. There, in the snow, cold and shivering in my cot, the snow was no longer beautiful. It meant harsh conditions as we trekked across the land, off towards the next town. Even worse though, was the company. The boys in my troop were not bad. No, we were simply trained and taught to live our lives as we were told. Following orders was a simple mindset in war. If you were a Nazi, you listened to your commanders- even if you were told to kill, which we were not often told to do. Even to the point of murder, we obeyed.

The first time I shot a gun was barely hours after an officer had rapped upon the door of my house, demanded to see me, and had hastily escorted me to a training camp. “It’s the newest phase of WWII”, they told me, “And we need more men.” I was barely a boy, only eleven then, and there I was, holding a shiny silver gun, drawn and ready to fire. I was told to aim at the target, a cut-out picture of a man, and pull the trigger. As the bullet tore into the man’s chest, hitting right where a real man’s heart would be, my own heart pounded in my chest, turning my stomach, and giving my head a spin.

Snapping out of my daydream as my tent-mates began to rise, I stretched and stood, already dreading the long day ahead. We were off to a small town, by Germany’s standards, one often overlooked, that my commander had been ordered to search after a tip-off of a community of Jews living in a family’s house. The town, called Rothenburg, was a ways away, and we were to be marching by dawn. We ate a fast breakfast, and I went off to find Eric, my best friend.

We had met that first day, both of us snatched from our haven-like homes. Terrified and wary, I never expected to make a friend- until I met Eric. Sadly smiling, he had walked from table to table, meeting the ‘new’ boys. When he came to my table, however, his smile turned real. He held my gaze and watched me practice. Even though I despised the shooting, Eric seemed to enjoy my every success and was set on congratulating me for every ‘dead’ target. Even though his love of death sent me a red flag, I, in my desperation, chose to ignore it. From then on, Eric and I had been friends, sharing mutual brother-like affection for each other.

Marching a way a few minutes after dawn, we started with a quick pace but not many worries, since there weren’t any other forces around. As minutes stretched to hours, we trudged along, until we finally could see the lights of the houses. We camped overnight just outside of the city, and waited until the late morning of the next day to enter the town. As Eric and I headed over to our assigned corner post, laughing and taunting the little children playing outside, I felt hurt, imagining the face of the very boy I had just thrown an ice ball as my brother’s. Eric, on the other hand, who had no siblings, seemed to be enjoying himself very much. Finally, reaching the corner, he stopped, and I once again could breathe easily.

As night began to fall, the commander called us in and our troop of twelve marched up to a small house in the middle of a neighborhood. Eric and I, a few of the first to arrive, knocked on the door. A shaking mother and her husband stood in the doorway, a young child on the steps. Stepping over the threshold and looking into their eyes, I could sense the utter terror in their hearts. Just as it always had, their fear scared me, too. Two by two, with not a word wasted, we strode towards the stairs, boots clomping all the way. As we reached the bottom step the man cried out.

“No! You can’t sirs; the upstairs is for family only.” He dashed in front of us all, lastly Eric and I, the leaders of the pack. “Really, sirs, you must learn some respect. I beg of you to not bother with my house and leave my family be. Please, be gon---“

His last word was cut short as I saw Eric lift his gun, aim, and pull the trigger. Just following protocol, he didn’t seem to notice. But I saw in the woman’s eyes and felt in my heart a burning rage fringed with deep despair. My best friend- a killer.

§

I dragged my feet along the stairs, my heart heavy. I knew there were people up here; people a man had died to save. Sure enough, after peeking in a guest bedroom, a hidden door led to a small, concealed room with a family of Jews. The walls were dirty, covered in the stench of fear. A man, seemingly the father, was sick and pale, his face drawn and his eyes dark. The commander called from the back of the line, “Fritz, shoot the useless one.”

But I could not shoot, nor could I move. This man was innocent, sick, and about to be killed for having caught a cold. I could not pull the trigger. Before I could react, though, Eric did it for me. For the second time that night, my best friend murdered a man.

§

That night was a daze for me, filled with fear and resentment from my fellow soldiers. No one wanted to stand alongside a man that did not fight. Now I was at the head office, in trouble for defying orders. It was unthinkable to defy orders to kill a Jew- it was they that we were fighting against, after all. They were the ones we were set on killing in the first place.

I knew that what we were doing was wrong. I refused to fight any longer. I was as useless as the man they had suggested I murder- perhaps even more so. It was common knowledge, for both me and the men whom I had disobeyed. By Nazi terms, I had not only defied one man’s orders, but several men’s- my commander, his commander, and so on, until, eventually; I had actually defied Fürer Hitler himself. Unnerved as I was, I still stood strong in my belief that I could no longer kill, or even fight, for that matter. The woman whose husband had died and I shared a sorrow that was impossible to describe. To see my best friend take the life of an innocent man, only trying to protect more innocent men, was sickening. Who cares if the men he was protecting were Jews? I knew then that being Jewish was a trivial matter, one that didn’t need to result in death. Killing was cruel, not matter what the reason. I could not kill a man- it was as if that man was my father, just like the children hurt by the ice balls were my brothers and sisters. I could not be a soldier.

Startling me from my thoughts, who was to walk in, but the Fürer himself. Cowering in my seat, I glanced from wall to wall, anywhere but the man who had torn my life apart. Eyes shining like daggers glared into me, as other officials marched into the room and sat in chairs behind mine. Resentment was heavy in the air, but finding courage, I finally looked up and the Fürer began to speak.

“Boy, your service has been much less than satisfactory. Do you have anything to say for yourself, young man?”

I looked back down again, mumbling.

“Speak up, boy!”

“Sir, I can no longer fight. It… it is not within me.”

“Boy, you don’t make the decisions. That is up to me. For your insolence, you will receive a punishment. Gentlemen, what shall it be?”

“Whipping…”

“Gas Chamber…”

“Re-entry into ranks…”

The buzzes of voices around me made my head throb as they picked out my torturous punishment.

“Calm down, calm down, gentlemen. I have decided as follows: He will serve one whipping session, and spend the night in jail. Then we shall re-evaluate. You are dismissed.”

One of the officials grabbed my arm and pulled me outside, to the side of the building. Once there, I realized there was a set of chains, one set clamped to the wall, with loose portions ending with cuffs that led to where the prisoner would stand.

That prisoner was me. I was strapped down, and the attendant standing by was handed a whip.

“Give him forty good thrashings.” And then the official was gone.

I stood in the chains, my thin uniform giving me no protection from the wind, the cold, or what was yet to come. The attendant picked up the whip, the leather whistling through the air, and CRACK! Instant, overwhelming, and excruciating pain was everywhere. It was horror.

Forty thrashings later and I was spent, and, for lack of a better word, thoroughly whipped. A night in a jail cell just might be the kind of thing I need to get back to work, I thought deliriously.

Another official came with handcuffs to drag my limp body into the cell. Nearly dead on my feet, I slumped in the corner, almost ready to burst into tears. I sat there for hours on end, crying. The hard cold walls, like merciless guards, told stories of pain and suffering of other men who had shared the same fate as I.

Yet as the night passed, I realized I couldn’t stay in jail all night. There was no way that I could return to the ranks. Just as I had told the Fürer, I could no longer fight. It was not within me to kill any man, hurt any person, or cause pain to another human like me. Jew or Christian, black or white, German or Polish, they were all the same to me. Each child had the face of my siblings, or the face of another man’s brothers and sisters. Each man and woman were my parents, or the parents of a child that surely loved them as much as I loved mine. I could not kill my own family.

§

I sat in my dark prison, formulating a plan of escape. I knew that it was my only option- if I did not escape or could not fight for the war, there was no use for me and I would eventually be disposed of. As the night wore on, though, the only way out became apparent.

Surely, before the Nazi Headquarters were stationed here, there must have been another use for this shack. Sniffing the air, though my nose was clogged from tears, I recognized a familiar smell- beer. I knew the smell from having spent many a night sitting with men taking conservative sips, careful not to hamper themselves in the days to come. If the smell is so pungent, I wondered, there must be some very near. Which meant there were certainly glass bottles nearby, probably already reduced to shards, the alcohol soaking into the ground, from the strength of the smell. Shards of glass were about as strong as knives, and nearly as useful, especially for cutting things... like rope. Scuttling around like a crab, I reached behind me, straining for what I could sense was there. I gasped as my hand landed on something sharp, but the pain quickly went away as my delight took over. Here, in my hand, was my ticket to freedom. I grabbed as much as I could, and began sawing away at the ropes behind my back. Each time I sawed back and forth, I flinched in anticipation of a nick or slice on my hand. Luckily, though I did hurt myself a few times, I managed to stifle my gasps enough that I could be sure that no one heard me through the thick door.

Finally, my hands were free and I brought them to my face to survey the damage. To my surprise, there was not much blood, only slight nicks and paper-cut deep scratches. I hurriedly set about sawing through the rope on my feet. Once they were free, I stood carefully, nearly falling as my head spun in circles. As the spinning slowed, I started puzzling the next challenge, a simple 4-pin key-opened lock. Back when I was a little boy, we had contests to see who could open the locks to their houses the fastest. There was no need for keys then- we knew how to open the doors without them. Later, in training for war, we were given in-depth training on opening locks to houses- from the inside and out. The reasoning behind it all was that if we were captured as a Prisoner of War, we could escape. I suppose they never factored in the chance that they themselves might want to lock us away from the rest of the world.

I quickly picked the lock and rested my ear on the door. Hearing no footsteps outside, I assumed they thought I was too helpless to escape. It was a fair assumption, too, as it had taken all my willpower not to collapse, despite the excitement of looming freedom.

Slowly opening the door, I peered outside into the eerie gloom. No one was guarding my shack, but I double- and triple-checked before I stepped one foot outside the door. Sprinting just like I was trained to do, I darted from bush to tree, slinking through the shadows and blending with the darkness. This is when my training becomes most useful, I smirked. How ironic that it's against the men who taught all this to me.

I crouched a mile from the outskirts of the nearest town as dawn rose. The sun shone beautifully over the horizon, casting a pink glow over the land I had covered through the night. If I had crossed about 5 miles during the night as I suspected, I should be safe for a day. No officer would expect a whipped man to be able to run and hide as far from his camp as I was. By then, though, I was sure I couldn't go any farther. As hurt as I was, though, I realized, sitting there in excruciating pain from the stress on my body, that the only option was to go home. Home was where my mother would help me, nurse me back to health, and my whole family could protect me. But I wasn't sure I could make it.

I allowed myself an hour of rest. As soon as time was up, I stood, slowly, careful not to become dizzy again. I slowly trekked towards the town that lay before me, sure it would tell me the great distance I would have to travel to get home. But as I drew nearer, something felt remotely familiar, almost as if I knew this place but had not visited for a long time. As time drew on, however, this proved to be true. Here, where I was walking, was the nearest 'mega' town to my hometown, Nuremberg. My family would come here to buy specific things for Christmas and special occasions.

Overjoyed to be so close to home, I began mapping out my travel route. There was no possibility that I could make the trip in one day, but perhaps I could in three, if I moved fast and well. Simply put, I could not give in to the pain until I was safe at home.

I traveled for the next few days, drinking from the puddles I found along the way, hoping the unpleasant rain that seemed to follow me would wash away my tracks. The days seemed like years, for I longed to see my family again. It had been to long- would they recognize me? Would they know who I was?

On the eve of the third day, I entered my hometown. I had combed down my hair and washed off unpleasant mud spots that morning, hoping to look like an authoritative soldier once again, one not to be bothered with. I strode into town, keeping my head held high, hoping the darkness and my feeble attempt of disguise would give me a small amount of cover.

I made it to the street where I lived, where I grew up, where memories flowed from every corner and doorstep, before I saw another soldier. He glanced my way, a suspicious frown on his face, but after seeing my uniform, focused back on his post, though seemingly not satisfied. I watched him carefully for an hour, though it seemed like a day, until he moved on to another street. I scurried up to my front door and knocked.

Feet padding down the stairs came do the door, and there stood my father, shaking, a gun in his hand. As opened the door, though, tears came to his eyes and he dropped his weapon on the floor. He pulled me inside, enveloped me in his arms, and sobbed. My mother came bounding down the stairs. She stopped on the landing, staring, and then she too burst into tears.

I stood there, safe, knowing I was loved, knowing that this was where I needed to be. Home was safe, where I was loved, cared for, and would always be. As we closed the door, behind us, I caught a glimpse of the world outside transforming into a world of white once more, and I realized that finally, snow could be beautiful and fun again.


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