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Historical Fiction Drama Thriller

Where I come from, men and women become afraid as soon as they saw me. You may think my face is grotesque or has a frightening appearance, but nothing could be farther from the truth. My name is Franz Heinz, and I am a Nazi soldier stationed at Dachau, Germany.

It was the spring of 1942, when I received my orders stationing me here, and I couldn’t have been happier. Like most of my comrades, I sighed a breath of relief when the scourge of duty assignment was absent from my orders: Auschwitz. Though I personally didn’t know anyone stationed there, rumors of the horrors committed there flew around like flies circling a dead carcass. Human experimentation, torture, even assembly line executions were just a few of the stories told. Madness, I thought. There were no limits to one’s imagination. We’re the Third Reich, I kept repeating to myself. How could such things exist in our new world order? But when I arrived in Dachau, I discovered such nightmares not only existed but thrived.

 When I drove through the front gates, hundreds of prisoners were wandering aimlessly throughout the compound. Shaven heads, attired in ragged striped clothes, skin covered skeletons paced the grounds in worn out slippers. If the men and women weren’t separated, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart.

As my first impression burnt an indelible image in my mind, I was escorted to the compound headquarters, and as soon as I entered, I was personally greeted by the Commandant, Alexander Piorkowski. “Corporal Heinz,” he blurted out. “Welcome to Dachau Concentration Camp.” He shook my hand and waved towards the window. “So, tell me, what do you think of our little operation?”

What could I tell him? He was my commanding officer and deserved my respect. So, I withheld my personal thoughts and replied, “For such a small camp, there are quite a few prisoners here.”

Commandant Piorkowski pointed out the window and laughed. “That? That’s nothing! Half of the swine are out in the factories supporting our war efforts. By the time the sun sets, you’ll see how full barns are.”

Like most of my comrades, I never considered Jews to be even close to my equal, but still I was shocked to hear them being called pigs. Fearing my disgust for his remark may appear on my face, I turned my eyes towards the window and the blank faces beyond. As I watched the walking corpses stroll by, I heard myself ask the commander, “If half of the prisoners are away, what are the rest of the prisoners doing out there?”

“For the moment, they’re wasting resources. But before long, we’ll find a use for them. Either that or send them away. Don’t get too used to their faces Corporal, you won’t be seeing them for long.”

It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said it that brought chills down my back. How could someone think so little about human life, even Jewish ones? At the time I thought Commandant Piorkowski was going to be my only problem, but I soon found out he was only the beginning.

As soon as I was dismissed from the commandant’s office, I was carted to personnel. It was there I found an elderly woman sitting behind desk topped with countless files. Her gray hair was tied tightly in a bun, pulling the wrinkles on her face, and her wire frame glasses were thick as a soda bottle. She peered at my name tag then shuffled through her folders. In a blink of an eye, she was squinting at my file and telling me my assignment.

“You’re assigned to prisoner detail,” she began. “You’ll be assessing the prisoners’ wellbeing, seeing if they’re fit for work. You’ll be responsible for assigning their tasks and if you find anyone incapable of working, you’ll report them to me. Any questions?”

Only one question came to mind. “What happens to those who can’t work?”

“It’s not your concern, but if you really need to know, they’ll be transferred out of here to some place more accommodating. Auschwitz for example.”

Little did I dare to ask any further questions after hearing that dreaded word. Left speechless, I accepted my orders and reported for duty. The sergeant in charge escorted me to three barracks and filled me in.

“These are your buildings, corporal. At the moment, you’ll find around a dozen Jews wandering around, but by the time the sun goes down, there’ll be approximately one hundred people in each one. Tomorrow morning, you’ll sort them out and send them on their way to work. Those who are left, get their numbers, and turn them in for processing. We don’t need any useless pigs running about.”

Again, that reference to pigs. Is it a compound slogan to mark Jews to lessen their worth? If so, why would something like that be necessary? We all know what their place is in society. It’s to serve the Third Reich and bring order to the world, then step aside, and these concentration camps help them to do their duty in serving our government. Order was maintained and was precise. Or so I thought.

Then the sergeant excused himself leaving me alone in the compound. As I stood there, a shaven head prisoner would come into view, but when our eyes met, they would scurry away in the shadows. Fear was written on their faces, ever to haunt my mind. At that moment, I decided I would do what I could to eradicate their dread.

That evening, when everyone came back from work, I called the barrack leaders in for a meeting. “Good evening,” I began. “I am Corporal Heinz, your new barracks commander. There’s no need for me to repeat the rules you already know or the dangers of nonproduction. So, my speech is going to be short. I am here to help you. If you want the infirmed to survive, you’ll listen very carefully. Each morning after I take rollcall and when you go to work, you’ll take one or two of the elderly with you. Once you arrive at the factories, you’ll be responsible for setting the elderly free. I’m not stupid. I know you have an underground network ready and willing to help you when they can. Now, I’m giving you the opportunity to do so. Heed my words, for I will never repeat them again.” And just like that, the meeting was over.

As the weeks passed by, the volume of people left behind diminished. At first, I thought at least the sergeant in charge would ask what had happened, but it turned out no one really cared, as long as the prisoner count added up, and as each night passed, I ensured it did.

Spring turned into Summer and the prisoners who once had shunned me, now greet me every moment they see me. the other guards were curious as to why this would happen, but they never asked me. They just assumed I held some threat over them if they should disrespect me. in truth, I’m glad they never did, for I was a terrible liar.

As Summer drew to an end, the camp had unexpected visitors. A group of SS soldiers made a surprise inspection and before the week was out, Commandant Piorkowski was relieved off his command and a new commander took his place. Taking bribes from the factory owners may have lined your pockets but crossing the Gestapo could put you six feet under the ground.

Changes of command came and went during my time at Dachau, but it never deterred me from my vow. Though lost in history, I have saved hundreds of souls from certain death, and if the truth may be told, I’m certain others have followed my footsteps.

September 23, 2022 18:51

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1 comment

Howard Seeley
13:53 Sep 26, 2022

A shimmer of light can only be viewed in the shadows. Enjoy!


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