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Daughter of Isla Koch
“Ms. Koch, I am here to help you. You must trust me by telling me the truth,” the woman leaned forward, looking into my eyes. When I said nothing, she inhaled a deep breath through her narrow nose. Her name tag read “Susan” in black letters, standing out against her stiff blue suit.
“Ms. Koch, I need you to tell me what you know about your mother,” she said, her brown eyes drawn to my fidgety hands. We sat in silence as I glared at the woman across the table. Her thin, lipstick coated lips seemed to smirk as she boldly stared back at me, challenging my glare.
Unable to look at her any longer, I looked at my hands as I tried to grasp the right words; words to make her stop questioning me, to make her understand. Tucking my dark hair behind my ear, I took a deep breath and looked at Susan.
“My mother was a Nazi,” I whispered, now looking at the corner of the room where a crack had formed. “She was an officer at Buchenwald.”
Susan nodded, looking down at her tablet of paper. “Was your mother married?” she asked.
“And he is your father?” she questioned, glancing over the top of her reading glasses. I closed my eyes, feeling my chest squeeze as I moved my hands to grip the edge of the steel chair. “Ms. Koch, is he your father?” she asked again, more sternly. I opened my eyes and rubbed my hands on my skirt, trying to steady my beating heart. Once again the small space was filled with silence. “Ms. Koch, I need you to answer my questions for the investigation. Your participation will only help you,” she said kindly, placing her notepad back on the table. When I still didn’t say anything, she sighed once more through her nose, pushing away a stray hair that had fallen into her face. “Ma’am, is Karl Otto Koch your father?”
“What do you think?” I snapped, finding myself glaring at her once more.
“What do you think?” I asked again, irritated. I glowered at her, making her cast her eyes nervously to the table. Once again we sat in silence, as I looked up at the ceiling in exasperation.
“Ma’am…” she stuttered, still unable to look at me. “I know this must be hard---“
“Hard?” I whispered, interrupting her, my voice deadly. “You have no right to be telling me what’s hard.”
“I’m sorry ma’am---“
“No,” I cut in, my voice rising. “You have the nerve to tell me that you know what hard is. You have no idea. You sit me down, telling me you’re doing some kind of research, and demand answers like you are better than everyone else. Well let me tell you something, you’re not. You want to talk to me, but really all you want is to hear about is what a monster my mother was,” I stood, my chair screeching across the tile floor. My hands shook as I glared at Susan, her form becoming blurred as tears threatened to spill onto my face.
“You have no idea. Do you know what it’s like to have amother who is known to be the 'B**** of Buchenwald'? Who supposedly made lamp shades out of the skin of the people she massacred?” I asked, my face wet with tears. “I am her blood. I carry her demented blood inside of my veins. I have to live with her traits sketched permanently across my face. Even my name is said in pure disgust,” I sobbed, as I sank back down into the chair. I distantly heard a chair screech across the floor, and felt arms come around me.
I registered that it was Susan, and gratefully gave into her embrace, feeling my sobs wrack my body.
“Shhh….Shhh…” she soothed, stroking my hair. For an instant, I felt the motherly love that I had lacked my whole life, a feeling that seemed to warm my icy insides.
After I finally got a grip with my emotions, I leaned back, sniffling and wiping my eyes. Embarrassed, I whispered, “Thank you.”
“I’ll be right back,” she said, giving me one last hug. She stood and walked to the door, her heels tapping loudly in across the tile. She quietly left the room, leaving the room in a cold silence as I sniffled and focused on my emotions. Almost immediately, Susan came back, carrying a box of tissues.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, giving me the box. “You’re right, I have no idea,” she admitted, looking into my eyes sincerely.
Setting the box down on the table, I pulled out a single tissue and wiped my eyes. “No, it’s not your fault. I just get so overwhelmed sometimes,” I admitted, stopping to blow my nose. To my surprise, Susan took a tissue too, and I noticed her red, puffy eyes. My heart squeezed as I realized she had been crying with me, for me. A kindness I could never repay.
“Karl Koch was not my father. SandorBarna is,” I said, giving into Susan’s interrogation.
“What?” she asked, shocked.
“Sandor Barna is my father, not Karl Koch,” I repeated.
“Sandor Barna?” she repeated, writing the name down on her notepad when I nodded. “Barna is a Jewish name…”
“But… “ she stared at her notepad, utterly shocked.
“My father was killed at Buchenwald in 1944. I was 3 years old at the time,” I explained, slightly amused by her shocked expression.
“This is remarkable…” she gasped, still shocked.
“Now, may I ask why I’m here?” I said in a business-like tone. Susan, who was scribbling notes down on her notepad, looked up at me. Obviously undecided, she pursed her lips, looking quizzically at her notes she had just written.
Finally, she revealed what she knew, “Your mother is still alive.” The words floored me, as I felt the edges of my vision slowly becoming blurry.
“No…” I heard myself whisper as everything went black.
“Amalia,” said a voice on my right. The noise seemed to intensify my growing headache.
I was laying down, underneath a thin blanket, with a wash cloth resting on my forehead. Groaning, I didn’t want to open my eyes.
“Amalia,” the voice said again, and a hand gently touched my shoulder. I finally opened my eyes to find Susan kneeling next to me, her face lined with worry. Everything came back to me in a rush, and I felt my stomach churn. Making a sickly noise, Susan grabbed a bucket beside the bed and quickly handed it to me. I vomited while Susan rubbed my back and held my hair, trying to comfort me.
After I had finished, Susan took the bucket away from me and washed it in the bathroom on the left side of the room. The walls were painted a light green and cabinets lined the wall next to the door. The whole room was inviting and comfortable. Next to my bed was Susan’s wooden chair and a book lying open on the ground next to her notepad. How long had she been here with me?
“Susan, how long have I been passed out?” I asked over the sound of running water she was using to wash the bucket. She told me an hour and I immediately felt guilty.
Coming out the door of the bathroom, she walked back to her chair and sat down. “Don’t feel bad,” she rushed, reading my mind. “You need to rest. Can I get you anything? Are you thirsty? Hungary? “ I shook my head quickly, not wanting to think about food or anything inside of me while my stomach continued to turn uncomfortably. “I’m sorry for shocking you. I shouldn’t have told you so suddenly, that was stupid.”
“No, I asked you to tell me. It’s not your fault,” I said, taking her hand. We sat and talked for a while about he book she was reading, and about the scene I had caused. I was beginning to like Susan and I hoped that we would be friends after this interrogation was over.
Thinking of this, I decided to ask her more about my mother. “Susan… my mother committed suicide three years ago. Why do you think she’s still alive?”
“She was found working at a school in Germany by a parent who recognized her. She was turned in and is now in prison at Landsberg.”
“That’s impossible. She’s dead,” I argued, utterly shocked.
“That’s what we all thought, but apparently it had been staged. Amalia, we need your help. I need you to tell me all that you know,” she looked at me intensely. For once, I looked back without anger, ready to tell her what I knew and about my childhood with a mother who had furniture made out of flesh.