By the Point of a Finger

Berlin, September 1939

The war had started. The nightmare that every one dreamed of had actually happened. Egon sat on the window seat staring at the large Hitler Youth banner that hung on the opposite side of the street when the phone rang.
“Hello,” he could hear his mother, Annora, answer. He leaped to his feet and ran to meet her hoping it was one of his friends. All of his friends were gone; mother said they went to stay with relatives where it was safer, though somehow Egon found that hard to believe.
“Why hasn’t your son entered the program, Mrs. Adel?” the voice was familiar.
“I beg your pardon?”
“We will burn the house down,” the voice grew louder as her shaking hand hung it up. Egon stood mesmerized until his mother looked at him with partial fear.
“Who was that?”
“I don’t know, they hung up,” she lied slightly shrugging her shoulders.
“Again?” he was confused. “Why?”
“I think someone is playing tricks on us,” she bent down on one knee stroking his cheek.
“Why would they play tricks on us?”
“Sometimes tricks make people happy and in war there’s not much to be happy about,” she stood back up satisfied with her explanation. She turned to walk away when Egon inquired, “Why doesn’t the trick make you happy?”

She paused, bit her lip, and sighed quickly before answering, “Because it’s not all that funny.” Egon shrugged his shoulders and scampered away. Annora wondered how much longer she would be able to watch her son play with toys rather than weapons. She prayed that it would be just one more day.

Mr. Adel was sitting at his desk when his office door opened. He looked up to see Balder von Shirach standing sternly with his arms crossed. Mr. Adel arose from his seat and offered one to Mr. Shirach but he refused. “Why hasn’t your son entered the program, Mr. Adel?”
“What program?”
“Don’t be stupid, Hitler Youth,” Mr. Shirach gave a slight laugh of disbelief.
“We never received an application.”
“Every family in Germany received an application; you might want to ask your wife what she did with them. While you are filling them out you should remind her of her place…you have three weeks,” Mr. Shirach was very frank and loud. Mr. Adel packed his brief case and exited the office.

Egon could see his father’s car pulling up the long empty street. With excitement he raced down the stairs and waited for him to walk in. Mr. Adel swung the door open, pushed Egon out of his way and marched straight for the kitchen. Annora looked up from the pie she was making and saw him standing in the entry way.
“You are home early,” she said with a smile.
“Egon, go to your room,” Mr. Adel spoke directly.
“But I want to see you.”
“You can see me later, now go!” Trembling, Egon raced to the stairs, but he did not go up them. “Where are the applications, Annora?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Where are the bloody Hitler Youth applications,” his fist slammed the counter as his voice intensified.
“He’s not going, Franz,” Annora shook her head as she continued with her pie. Franz approached her hastily. Her eyes widened as she backed away.
“Annora, where are the applications?”
“No, Franz! Grown men go through less training than that, he could die in there.”
“We could all die or be jailed for treason if he doesn’t go,” he stopped pursuing her. “He is going to become a solider for his country, a man,” Franz’s sentence was interrupted.
“He is nine years old, Franz! He is not meant to be a man, but a child!”
“He’s going! Where are the applications?” When she did not answer he began ripping through all the draws and cupboards, pulling everything to the ground. He approached the corner cupboard and knocked a porcelain doll to the ground. It shattered and reveled the applications stuffed within. Franz looked at the applications then at Annora. He picked the papers off the floor and shook them in her face saying, “This is for the betterment of Germany! This is for the Fuhrer!”
“I hate the Fuhrer! I hate Germany,” before Annora could say anymore Franz’s hand smacked hard against the side of her face. She could feel his fingerprints reddening. The force caused her head to swing around and when she opened her eyes she saw Egon standing in the doorway. She swept him up in her arms and said solemnly, “He’s not going.”

Three weeks later, on the morn of Egon’s tenth birthday cars with Nazi flags pulled up the empty foggy street. The doorbell rang. Annora tightened her robe and opened it.
“Mrs. Adel, we are here,” Annora tried to slam the door back in their faces but they pushed their way through.
“Egon! Run!” she shouted, consequently they had already caught him. The guards dragged Egon kicking and screaming. Annora struggled to be free from another guard. Mr. Shirach stood standing beside the car door waving at the men to hurry up. Annora fought her way out of the guard’s arms and darted after Egon. Mr. Shirach intercepted her, “It is best for everyone.” Annora spit in his face. Mr. Shirach pushed her to the ground, saluted to Hitler and drove off in his car with Egon banging on the back window. Annora hastened to her feet, even if she ran fast, it would not be fast enough. She hung her head and cried. When she turned to go back into the house she saw Franz standing at the corner of the street; as proud as could be. Annora would die a short month later from a broken heart…

Berlin, December 1941

Egon was a part of intense training for weeks on end, from morning to night, sun up to sun down. He looked around the dull echoing building and tried to imagine Christmas decorations, but he had nearly forgotten what Christmas decorations looked like. He was staring out the window rather than eating when one of the other boys whispered, “Pst, you better eat, he’s coming.” The boy could barely be heard with all the food in his mouth. The food was disgusting, was it any wonder why Egon refused to eat it? Soon Egon saw who the boy was referring to… Mr. Shirach.
“Boy, why don’t you eat,” he bellowed.
“It tastes terrible,” Egon stated.
“A soldier never complains!” Mr. Shirach was nearly screaming as he threw his hand upside the back of Egon’s head causing it to land in his food. “Now, eat!”
Egon could not shovel the food in fast enough as he watched Mr. Shirach march away. The boy sitting next to him could see the tears swell up in Egon’s eyes.
“I know it’s hard but you can’t cry, don’t cry,” he affirmed for the protection of everyone at the table.

After breakfast the boys received the news that they were going on a hike despite the fact that there was practically a blizzard going on. Egon put on his coat and hat and gloves. He walked outside with all the other boys and heard Mr. Shirach say, “You will be going up the mountain and then back down again! Anyone who stops will be left behind! Anyone who does not make it back before dinner will not eat! Go!”
That only gave them eleven hours. While on this dangerous pilgrimage Egon had started to fall behind. He was one of the youngest boys there, he was not as strong as the rest and no one was going to help him. On the way back down the mountain Egon saw a boy lying on the ground. He raced over to him and saw it was one of his friends, Randle.
“Randle what are you doing here, I thought you went to stay with your grandmother,” questioned Egon.
“We were trying to escape Berlin but we were caught and the soldiers took me away,” Randle replied shivering.
“They took me away too.”
“I am so cold…”
“We’re all cold. Come, let’s go,” Egon helped Randle to his feet and escorted him the rest of the way.


Berlin, May 1943

It was graduation day for Egon. Some would say that that was a wonderful day, but not this time. Franz, Egon’s father, was there to witness his son’s achievement as well as the surprise that befell upon both of them…
“Mr. Adel, your son has shown great excellence and we are proud to enlist him into the German Army. Congratulations son, Heil Hitler!” Mr. Shirach saluted and then disappeared among the many people there.
“Egon, I am so proud of you,” Franz said with his hand on Egon’s shoulder. “You are a part of the Army now!”
“I don’t want to be…” Egon tore himself from his father and walked away from the scene. Franz fallowed him and asked, “Well, what do you want?”
“I don’t know I never really had a lot of options to begin with!”
“Egon, I’d like for you to work with me,” Franz stated.
“I’d rather be in the front lines.”
“I am the Commandant of a labor camp called Auschwitz III Monowitz. All I do is run the camp, make sure buildings are built on schedule, make sure that the prisoners get their food, cloths and medicine, it is a fairly easy job. I want to protect you from this war as much as possible, please work with me,” Franz was insistent and convincing.
“Fine.”
Little did Egon know just how much his agreement would change his life…


Poland, Auschwitz III Monowitz, September 1943

The temperature was starting to go down. It was getting colder. So far Egon had done just what he thought his father had done, but he had not seen the camp for himself. Never saw a prisoner, never did any work but paper work. He put his signature where he was told and that was that. Though after a while he wondered how he could truly help someone if he did not know the extent of their need. He was beginning to feel less of a soldier and more of a social toy.
“Father, I want to work in the camp,” Egon was beginning to sound more like a man; he had just celebrated his fourteenth birthday.
"No you don’t.”
“I am tired of sitting at a desk; I want to do something for Germany.”
“You are doing something, you are signing papers, placing orders, you are the one who makes things happen,” Franz pointed his finger at Egon with false pride.
“I want to know for sure that what I am ordering is going to the prisoners,” Egon spoke with much eagerness. Franz’s expression altered from impatience to controlling.
“Egon, you see, a lot of the orders you place, the items do not go to our camp, but to others, “he lied.
“Then I will go to these other camps.”
“Egon, I tell you what, if you want to do something for Germany then you be at the station tomorrow morning,” Franz smiled as he exited the small office.

At nine o’clock the next morning there was to be an arrival of three thousand new prisoners. As he was told, Egon went to the station and waited.
“Are you ready to see some action boy?” asked the General as he made his way around the corner.
“I suppose so. What exactly will I be doing?”
“Well son, you are going to be doing what we call ‘the selection process’. Basically, what you do is you pick out the sick people and tell them to go left, that way they can go to the hospital. You tell the healthy people to go right that way they can get settled into their new home and start working. Usually the children and the elderly go left because they are in need of the most care, alright,” Egon believed the General, he was the General. “Look, here they come, remember, right and left, that’s it.”

Egon watched as the other soldiers opened up the cattle car doors to reveal well dressed families startled with fear. Through the speakers Egon could hear the orders, “Leave all your luggage it will be reunited with you later. Line up and prepare for the selection process!” the voice repeated it in several different languages.

Egon Stood on a crate and one-by-one checked the prisoners and gave the orders, “Right, right, left, left, right, left, left, right,” not knowing what he was really doing. A mother held her baby girl in her arms and refused to let her go.
“It is best for the baby to go to the hospital ma’am.” Egon reassured her to the best of his unknowledgeable ability that she would see her baby again. A young man was in line, he was holding his arm.
“What is wrong with your arm?”
“Nothing,” the man answered quickly.
“Is it broken?” Egon asked reaching out to it.
“No!” the man jerked it away.
“Now listen, I am going to send you left that way you can get your arm fixed. You cannot work with a broken arm. Left!” Egon smiled at him as he walked away. By the end of the day, after all three thousand prisoners had been through the process, Egon calculated that close to two thousand went to the hospital…
“You were great today, Egon,” called one of the soldiers.
“Thanks.”
“I really loved how well you lied to that mother,” he laughed.
“Lied? What do you mean?” Egon was confused. The soldiers looked at each other then walked away.

Egon entered his father’s office, “Where did those prisoners go,” his face was stained with tears.
“Are you crying?”
“Where did the prisoners go?”
"Wherever it is you sent them,” Franz arose from his seat.
“Are all two thousand of them dead?”
“Yes,” Franz held no remorse or emotion in his tone. Egon’s breath became rapid he began sweating and pacing back and forth through the room. “You were the one who wanted to do something to help Germany win the war.”
“That’s not war, it’s murder!”
“You did it…”


Poland, Auschwitz III Monowitz, January 27, 1945
Liberation

Many of the soldiers and prisoners were gone. The Soviet Union forces were on their way. You could feel it. Every one was running around like mad men. It was the first time Egon saw his father afraid. Soldiers were shooting anyone who fell down, stopped walking or were going to slow for them. They were running late, every one was supposed to be evacuated days ago. Many people did leave but Franz, Egon and others were going to be a part of the last convoy to leave. It sounded like thunder. Franz and Egon turned and saw the Soviet Union tanks rolling over the hill’s crest. Panic came over Franz. Russian soldiers charged upon the camp capturing what German soldiers were left, Egon included. Franz tried to run away but was shot down like a dog; his body fell into the electric fence. Egon cringed as he watched.

Moscow, March 1945
The Trial

The courtroom was filled with fully dressed men in uniform; that did not make Egon feel more confident about a good outcome.
“Mr. Adel did you or did you not participate in the mass murder of over eleven million persons,” asked the attorney forcefully.
“I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“How could you not know,” the attorney was becoming aggressive.
“My General lied to me. He said that they would be going to a hospital, not a gas chamber,” Egon’s voice cracked.
“So did you or did you not participate in the mass murder of over eleven million persons, yes or no?”

After a moment of silence Egon answered, “Yes.”
A slight commotion came over the audience. “Order!” said the Judge. “Mr. Adel, did you willingly participate in these murders or were they forced upon you,” continued the Judge.
“I didn’t clap my hands about it, but I didn’t say no either,” for Egon there was no point in trying to hide what he had done or what he hadn’t.
“You are therefore found guilty for murder and are to be executed immediately. Court is adjourned.” The loud pound of the gavel made reality that much more of a nightmare for Egon. He was marched outside and lined up with others against a cold stone wall. The executioner went down the line one-by-one with his hand held gun as a preacher followed in prayer. Only then did Egon wonder, ‘Is this how the Jews felt, trapped, already dead?’ When the executioner stood before him he finally understood how much of an impact he had made. If he pointed right that person lived and if he pointed left that person died. And now it was his turn because the Almighty Judge pointed at him…





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