Striped Ones in the Shadows

July 26, 2016

I died on December 28, 1943 in Nazi Germany. I tell this story from my barren graveyard, where upon innumerable days I lay and ponder meaninglessly about my last hours and things I could never change. My story is quite frank and depressing.
I encourage you to feel sorry for me. I don’t mind your pity; I feed on it. Anyway, it all started on September 5, 1943 at 7:36 am…
It was just another usual day for me as I climbed out of bed. When I looked in the mirror, I admired myself in my black uniform with its combed down, neat fabric. I grabbed my hat and bid my wife goodbye.
“Good morning, officer,” Gerhard, my fellow companion and SS Officer politely greeted me.
I nodded toward him and smiled. My black boots plunged in the muddy ground as I made my way to the little shelter of the Jews.
“Get up!” I hollered. My voice mixed in with the screaming commands of the other officers. The Jews’ tired, sagging eyes blinked rapidly in the face of their tormentors, us. It’s funny how I now think about all these delicate details now.
The males climbed out of bed, barely differentiating from skeletons. I shuddered in disgust.
“Get to work, now!”
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Hurry up!”
I also had never though how almost every vulgar word, command, and scream was repeated every single day. The walking pajamas were bending down in the merciless Earth, swooping up dirt, grime, and the deceased. I still remember the day perfectly. The sights, the voices and…oh, god – the smells. The relentless odor…
I coughed and wheezed, attempting to cover my nose up. The smell was repulsive.
“Need a handkerchief, Dan?” Gerhard smirked.
“Yes, it’s completely nauseating!” I growled. A Jew looked at me, frowning deeply and giving me a pointed look.
“It’s the atrocious smell of Death, my friend.” Gerhard patted me on the back before going back to scream orders.
As I walking through to escape for a glass of cold fresh water, I came upon one of the little boys. My eyes narrowed. He was kneeling down as I stomped toward him.
“Hey!” I shouted. 
He squinted at me. The boy had the most beautiful, innocent eyes… Though, I kept myself from being distracted.

“I…I,” he stuttered. “I was daydreaming,” he said finally.
“About what?” I smirked. “I’m in the mood to be entertained.”
“I wish I was one of you, Mr. Officer,” he said quietly. Then, he started to cry.
I laughed loudly. “And I wish I was a Jew,” I spat out, sarcastically.

After a long day in the concentration camp, I stopped by a café. I had caught on to hacking coughs.
“Some tea with a teaspoon of sugar and a dash of honey, please.”
“Daddy,” I heard someone say. The voice belonged to a little girl with small blond pigtails. “Who are those people over there?”
The father frowned. “Oh, those thing?” he hesitated. “Those are not people.”
Someone, suddenly, tugged at my uniform sleeve. “Officer Dan!” a child squealed.
I smiled at the kids from the Cul-de-sac. “Albert, Heinz, Eva,” I nodded toward them.
“Oooh, do the Heil Hitler thing!” Eva said.
“Yeah, he does it the best!” they agreed.
With my arms stretched out like I had known to do so many times, I said “Heil Hitler.
They giggled. “Hiel Hitler.”

The night of September 4th was quite uneasy. It was raining and thundering outside, making it quite difficult to fall asleep. Is that screams in the distance? It sounded like blood-curling shrieks. My bed was surprisingly uncomfortable – it felt as hard as a rock. I twisted and turned and my body hit something hard. I opened my eyes in the dark. What is happening? Did I drink something…? My breaths started to come quick and short. I had begun to feel claustrophobic while screaming internally. Heat was boiling inside of my body.
I couldn’t move; I was trapped. Something heavy was lying on my chest as it ached.
“Get up!” someone yelled. What? Wait a second
I opened my eyes. This is a dream, calm down. “I said get up!”
Suddenly, I was hauled out of my bed. I stared ahead of me. Before me, there was a tiny bunk where I realized 10 people at once were climbing out. I gasped. Oh, no – I’m one of them. The realization hit me like a shock wave, taking me too long to recover.
“Did you hear me, kid?” I looked up to see a SS Officer glaring at me. Hey, that’s me! Please tell me this is a dream. I stared at hands, which were discolored and full of dirt. As my eyes traveled down to see myself in striped clothing that sagged form all sides.
In an instant, I was pushed forward into a group.
“These can go,” I recognized that voice as Gerhard’s. Thank God…
“Gerhard!” I said, gratefully. Everyone turned around and stared at me. My voice came out all squeaky. I gasped.
“Get on the train!”
I stumbled on the ground and an officer screamed at me. This is not happening. I wobbled as I got on the train. There was barely enough space to breathe. I elbowed the men around me and gasped for air.
“I can’t breathe!” I hissed. The Jews towered over me, ignoring as I, once again, was confined. The train lurched forward and I felt bones crushing into my side.
I touched my arm. Yes, this is real – no doubt. I gulped. This is what it feels like to be one of them.
I wish I was one of you, Officer.
And I wish I was a Jew. I stood on the train, petrified. I tapped the person in front of me.
“Where are we going?” I whispered, my voice hoarse. He looked at me sadly.                                                 “I heard it was Auschwitz.” My heart leaped in shock.
“No!” I yelled. “You guys don’t understand, I am an SS Officer. Everyone listen to me, I…” I stopped in despair. Leaning against the chests and arms of the thin towers above me, I closed my eyes trying to take this all in as best as I could. But who could? “I don’t even belong here,” I said quietly. “I’m not even a Jew.”
“I don’t belong here, either,” the man in front of me said. I frowned at him. “I’m a human.” And so I went along on the train to Auschwitz before dying of unspoken horrors.

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