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The Nazi Boy
I remember almost nothing of that day now. I have no idea why that Jew killed my parents; all I know is that there were debts unpaid. All I was told was that a Jew had killed them. “All Jews are evil.” I was told. I believed it. Maybe I should have just cast it off my back. Maybe then, I would have not been a murderer. Maybe I would not be here.
I was born in Bavaria, Germany. September 14, 1922. Son of Marissa and Matthias Pfaff. My mother was a common housewife but my father a well-known pharmacist. When I was six, they were killed. I have never learnt who did the deed, just that it was a Jew.
I had heard a loud argument, that fateful day, when I was playing outside in the backyard. I heard my mother screaming, but it wasn’t scolding, or mad. It was a terrified, blood-curling scream. I raced around the house, into the parlour. My father was yelling, screaming things that were usually forbidden to ears and mouths, except in the most crude of people. The neighbours found me, hours later, in deep shock, in the fetal position. They took me away, bringing me to the only place they could think care for me at that young, vital age. It was during the depression, when no one had extra food, time or money to raise another child.
That night, and for the rest of my unfortunate childhood, I lived in the orphanage. In the orphanage, there was never enough to eat, or clean water. We got some of each, but just enough to keep us going so that we could work. It was brutal, but maybe it was what kept us alive through the war. The girls cleaned, cooked, sewed and we boys were beaten near daily, even though we worked hard in the factories preparing ammunition, weapons, uniforms or building shops and houses for the rich and wealthy partons that hired us out for cents a day.
Every day, for ten or eleven years, I was almost always beaten, starved and forced to work in the factories. Every night, I had nightmares. In one, I would walk into a large room, and there would be inches of blood, limbs and bodies, with a large pile of the same in the center of the room. Once in a while I would have a dream, with my mother’s voice singing sweet, low tunes and lullabies, rocking me on her chair. It was one of the few things I could remember about her, and kept me sane.
My job in the factories was that I assembled the guns. They intrigued me. I loved the smoothness of the hilt, the sharp click of the trigger. I wondered why someone would use it, why someone would need so many. I’d heard of a great adventure coming, and was taught to look up to Fuher Hitler as an authority figure, like a dad or uncle. I didn’t want a new dad. I just wanted what I’d had left of mine.
Finally, I understood why someone needed them. That night, when we all ate our single, small bowl of potage, an announcement was made. They said for anyone who was sixteen or older to stand up. I was seventeen, and it was January 1939. I stood up. We were applauded greatly, and said we were to partake in a grand adventure, save our country and win medals, honour and pride.
They soon rounded us up. There were about eighteen boys, all I knew from either meals or work. Before we could register what was happening, we were in the backs of two trucks, split into two groups. They told us what was happening, and in a rather bland way. We were going to be soldiers. We were to serve Herr Hitler and fight the Jewish devil.
We were brought to a large building, where they had us write our names on papers and answer questions. Then we all swore an oath. I wondered about them, and the wording. Had I known what we were getting into, I would have blatantly refused. We were given uniforms, a small mess kit, emergency rations and lo and behold, a smooth-hilted, sharp-triggered gun. They gave us ammunition to go with it, and showed us how to use it. They told me one thing, “Use this, and kill the Jews.” I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Maybe I was pleased; maybe I would be able to kill the Jew that killed my parents.
We stayed in dorm-like rooms that night. It was very late and dark, but not much worse than the orphanage. I didn’t get any sleep, though. Emotions were running through me like a freight train. One moment, I was excited for going to war, the next I was worried. What if one of us was killed by the devils? It was not a good thought. In the barrack was a soldier going back to the lines after a rare leave. “Don’t go.” He warned me. “Run away, go anywhere. Just don’t stay there. It’s a living hell.” I considered his words, then brushed them off.
The next morning the bugler had us tumbling off the cold, hard beds before sun’s rays even touched earth. The boys around me groaned, even at the orphanage we could sleep ‘till sun-up. We were marched outside after dressing and grabbing our issued supplies. After falling in, I was told I was to work in the Warsaw ghetto, in Poland. Everyone was assigned to platoons and companies, to be sent all through the land.
I was given basic training with a new division and squadron. After I had learnt Drill, Machine Ops, and Gunning Tech, My new Squadron was sent to guard the Ghetto, under Colonel Fusich. We were packed onto a train six months after I left the orphanage. It wasn’t hard to make a transfer, really. Besides the minor things, the orphanage and military were run almost the exact same. There were boys and men from cities, people of wealth and lushness who struggled to stay awake, and complained regularly about the training.
than eleven, but clearly Jewish. The boy was no older, even younger, maybe, but not Jewish at all. The animal-eyed kid didn’t even look related to the girl The trip to the ghetto was rough, but we had enough to eat and a good-sized cabin. More than I had some other places. It didn’t take long before we arrived, and marched off the train. It was like stepping into the city market when there were fresh meats to be sold. Chaos, Jews were all running around, trying to get what food they could. We were shown to the barracks where I received my official orders. I was willing to follow orders, as had my entire life. My job was now to patrol the perimeter of the ghetto, shooting any escapees on sight. Not a hard job.
My life soon settled into predictable routine. My mornings consisted of standing outside the fence. My afternoons were the same. A ten-minute break at noon for a bite to eat, and at 1900 hours another guard came to relive me. All day long I cradled a M6-14 in my arms. The best gun. One I had assembled so often, I wondered if I had done this one. I knew every curve and flintlock. This went on for half a year. I soon knew many people on the other side of the wall by face and nick-name, many of them crude.
January 1940, I saw two children trying to escape, sliding under the chain-linked fence. I stopped them at gunpoint, ready to shoot. It didn’t take long to look them over, there was nothing but skin and bones to them. The girl could be no older at all. He looked like a Gypsy. He had a bright, yellow stone around his neck, which aroused my curiosity. “We were just going to find food.” The girl said, fear-stricken. It was a wonder she was able to say anything. Even out of my hatred for their kind, I pitied them. I knew what it was like to be hungry, and desperate. I considered what I could do, and the consequences for that. I studied them for a long time. Easily scared into coming back, hey would be. “You may go, but only an hour. And only in this end of Warsaw. If you try to escape, you will be shot. Clear?” They nodded quickly, then scurried off as I looked around to see if anyone had seen us converse. No one had. I wondered how they understood me. Didn’t they only speak gibberish, yet I spoke the best and cleanliest of languages, which no Jew-dog knows?
The pair was soon back, pockets laden with what seemed to be stolen goods. I somehow knew they would only take form those who could afford it. They didn’t seem to be the uncaring type that would have no empathy. I looked around for my fellow guards, but I could see none. They slipped through the chain-link fence, but not before slipping me a piece of polish sausage. This went on twice a week for a near month. They slipped out at a signal, and then came back and went in, like child ghosts. I assumed they shared the food with their families. I hoped they had families.
Eventually, like many other days, a train came into camp. I was ordered to help round up those inside the ghetto, bringing them into the square. Already a crowd was gathering. I complied, banging on doors and marching the occupants out to the square roughly, with my fellow guards. Everyone was scared, and children were crying. I was glad. Now they started to know how I felt when they committed their crime. I was only eighteen when I took part in this crime against humanity. I didn’t know better. Who was there to ever teach me right and wrong?
At my last house, I just barged in. There were two familiar faces. It was the pair from the fence, along with two men and a woman. I assumed two to be married, be the father and mother, another of a different relation. All were living in one room, along with the evidence of several other families. I looked around, now unsure. “You…. You’ve got to go to the square.” I choked out. They nodded, scarred silly. “Why the square?” The boy asked curiously. “Hush!” The lady shushed him, then talking in Yiddish rapidly. He was blessed, in St. Mary’s eyes. He didn’t know about the death trains. The adults and girl though, obviously did. I led them to the square, but not at gunpoint like the others. They went more willingly than most. The girl looked at me like I was a monster. Maybe I was. Maybe, as I look back, they realised they would die, and soon. I was leading them to their death. They had no chance of survival. I didn’t give them one. Should I have let them go? Maybe. Or maybe they would have suffered an even worse death at the hands of bored soldiers.
The ghetto was soon emptied, and I was sent else-where, as what point was it to have soldiers guarding an empty camp?
May 23, 1940, I was sent to the front lines at Boulogne, near Belgium. It was pure hell. Bombs flying, bullets whizzing. I operated my guns as commanded. It was cold, and so wet in the trenches, I got just enough to eat and usually fell asleep sitting up, or even right behind my gun. Lice and rats were every day things. I often wished I could just die. I thought about deserting as I watched the men around me fall at the hands of the allies. I kept to myself, it was too dangerous to talk. I could get attached, and if they died, I would be alone again. Not that I could hear anyone over the fire.
My life drastically changed December 8th, 1940. I was now nineteen. I was on the front lines when the bomb hit my part of the trenches. I lost my left leg. I knew it then; I could feel the open wound, my life-blood flowing out. It hurt worse than hell and I screamed bloody murder until there was no voice left in my throat. Hours passed, the flow of blood stopped and staunched itself. Stretcher-bearers passed me by, thinking I was as good as dead. As one pair passed, I was able to bang an object-what it was, I will never know- and they stopped, placing me on the stretcher none too gently. I wish now I didn’t, but I passed out from the loss of blood, and sheer exhaustion.
I awoke some time later, soaking wet. A nurse had thrown water over me, she said to wake me, but I could smell alcohol on her breath. Both feet were gone.
I was in much worse shape than I thought. Both feet had been lost. My left to the bomb and my right to frostbite. My left leg was just above the knee, and my right at the ankle.
I was sent to a military hospital in Berlin, in which I spent years.
While I was there, I recuperated and learnt how to take care of myself, confined to a wheel-chair. I was discharged in 1945, after the war ended. We Germans, I was amazed to learn, had lost to the Allied powers.
Before my discharge, it had been arranged I would receive a pension of a good sum from the military, even though there was hardly any economy, it was law. It was also arranged that I would stay in a boarding home in the countryside, about two hours train ride out of Berlin.
It was a nice place, the boarding house. Not too large, but not cramping its occupants. There was an elderly man living down the hall. He asked me about some of my war experiences, so I told him about the young pair in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was surprised, and asked me why I let them out. I simply said, “It seemed the right thing to do. They were hungry.”
I lived at the boarding house for many years. I had heard that the Death camps and Ghettos had been discovered, and the world was shocked. The Leauge of Nations was putting out arrest warrants for anyone who had been involved for crimes against humanity. I stayed low. There were near no records of me, a mere orphan that had been conscripted.
It was 1955, ten years after the war ended when I decided to emigrate from Germany to Canada. I filled out my papers, which were quite simple since I had learned a trade. I became a secretary, learning how to type and support myself, even though I was wheel chair bound. I had also learned English well.
The trip overseas on the ship was uneventful and the ship itself was clean and bright. When I arrived, I was wheeled down to the immigration offices. My papers claimed me a Swede, and I had learnt enough of their language to pass. The government gave me status as a Canadian citizen gladly. February 1956, I became an official citizen of Canada. I was now 34.
I settled in Toronto, having secured a job as secretary at a Government affairs office downtown. I tried to forget my past, recreate one, replacing the bad with any good memories of my childhood I can conjure. That little girl’s face haunted me to no end. I knew her fate. She would have been led to the gas chambers straight away.
1967, eleven years after becoming a citizen, some papers were unearthed in Germany. They were the enlistment papers of 18 orphan boys from Berlin. One set of documents, including my entire service record, including the one about me working at the Ghetto, was about me.
The United Nations council brought me for crimes against humanity, for my part in the Ghetto. The trials went quickly, and I had pleaded guilty. I knew that I was, and there was no point in defending myself. Really, I had no choice if I wanted to go and fight or not, but I still had those unyielding stares in my mind. All that was left of them were the haunting looks in my mind that I will never forget.
I was on trial for two accounts; Crimes against Humanity, and I ashamed to say that I had also forged and lied on my entry papers. The Jury quickly came to a decision, but the judge let me off easy. Maybe he knew that knowing what I had taken part in was enough.
I had a fine, and lost my government job, but I had saved enough away in savings and another pension had been offered, and I had accepted. I was sent to York Regional Federal Prison for the Disabled and Handicapped. It was bland there, but I was the only one there for my kind of crimes. That wasn’t something to be proud of.
Five years can change a person. It changed me. I saw things… My cellmate had passed away from old age. His body stayed there, all night, covered in his own refuse and vomit. There was nothing I could do, and his body wasn’t removed until the next morning, once it had stunk up the entire cellblock.
That made me think about life in the Ghettos and Death camps. I wondered if that was how most died and were left to rot.
February 8, 1973, I was released from prison. I had managed to secure a handicap-friendly apartment in Muskoka, far away from Toronto. I had enough to live on in the bank for many years to come, and any unrest about my arrest that had reached up North had settled. I lived there, in peace once again. I saw many people come and go, always looking for faces I know I’ll never, ever forget. Innocent children.