Berlin, November 10, 1938
The sky outside was dark with very little light and cold air blowing across the streets of Berlin. It was a not a good time to enjoy the early winter that was blooming in, or the pale brown leaves that has withered off, stripping the beautiful trees. The assassination of German embassy official Ernst vom Rath in Paris has evoked mixed responses among the German fraternity. Herschel Grynszpan , a Polish Jew shot the german diplomat in Paris, avenging his parents’ exile. The streets were lined with mobs raising anti-jewish slogans marching towards Schoneberg, a small town in Berlin.
Schoneberg was the home for most German speaking Jews and Eva was one among them. Her skirt‘s cream color faded and was torn portraying the condition of their race. The thumping sound of her shoes reverberated room’s recess. A wooden tub brimming with hot water was held by Eva, to cleanse her ailing husband, Benny. The sight of Benny toiling at the hands of unknown fever made her lament and wail all day. They were left with rotten bread and rat eaten cheese to survive. It was a duel between the rats and the grief stricken Jews.
In the last couple of days, there was nothing they could find to abate their hunger. The fever was vigorous; creating shock waves in Eva’s mind. Very little strength was left in her to brood; all she could do to pacify Benny’s pain was to give a towel bath. Eve sat beside him, looking into Benny’s eyes. She couldn’t stand the sight of this, once joyous eyes that made her smile; ones that locked with her when they made love, was grim in the sockets.
Sudden burst of window panes shook Eva, there was a large piece of mortar on the wooden floor. Eva watched in horror, the mobs raiding Jewish homes, shoving the furniture to the streets and torching them. Fear and panic quickly arose in her, when a group of mob calling themselves as Hitler youth came running towards her home. The door of her home came in pieces, after a thunderous assault. German soldiers with swastika emblem embedded in their notorious black uniform were climbing the stairs. Eva knew that not much could be done; she just sat beside Benny, holding his arms.
Eva’s eyes had tears ebbing, with her voice strained to utter a word. The footsteps were echoing the walls, soon they would be here. She leaned towards Benny, when her lips moist with tears met Benny’s, gunshots in her room made her deaf almost. Three soldiers and a Storm Leader belonging to Schutzstaffel with MG-42’s hung to their shoulders walked in. Heinz Wagner, Storm Leader a thin man with the eyes of an eagle and nose of a fox slowly walked towards Benny. He pulled a chair towards Benny and Eva and sat across them. He made a brief glance at Benny while stripping his gloves.
“Are we interrupting your romance my young lady?? “ said Wagner. “Gentlemen, lets witness a beautiful love story between Jewish pigs”
The soldiers laughed in mockery, while one of them was busy searching the drawers looking for valuables. He was pulling out the clothes out of the wardrobe and piling them in the floor.
Wagner had his hands hugging him, “It seems your husband is not strong enough to please you, in better words, comfort you. You can find solace in me.” said Wagner.
Eva was furious with her blood shot eyes deprived of sleep, she sat on chair crossing her legs and twisting her palms. She watched Benny, as a tear drop ran across his pale cheek.
“Do you think your husband will disagree to this??? It’s disgusting to watch your husband like this!!! Why don’t we send him to a beautiful place, so that we can have some fun? “ Wagner was stroking the bridge of his nose.
Eva raised her head, to say something, but she couldn’t utter a word because of her parched throat. She was weeping profoundly, knowing that soon both would be killed. All her dreams of a happy life in a distant place with beautiful landscapes were shattered.
“Such a beautiful lady shouldn’t cry. It’s time to say goodbye to him. Let’s make it neat and clean.” Said Wagner. He rose from his chair, took his Walther P 38 aiming at Benny. “Do you mind joining me, lady???”
Eva fell on Wagner’s legs pleading for mercy. Wagner never seemed to bother the young woman’s plea. While she was begging, Wagner pulled the trigger, showering Benny with bullets. She watched her husband’s lifeless body, with blood gushing out from every bullet hole.
“oops... He’s gone” Wagner laughed, soon every soldier joined him in appreciating his sadistic behavior. “My deepest condolences for your losses”.
The soldiers came behind her, leaving no place to move with their MG-42’s pointing at her. She was stepping back, as Wagner came towards her. “I m no demon to fear, I m your master to teach you tricks; tricks that can appease you” said Wagner with a half smile.
Wagner brought his arms to Eva’s shoulders, slowly untying the knot of her dress. Until then she was a mute spectator watching all the blood and gory. She spat on Wagner, surprising all men. Wagner was shocked to find himself insulted by a Jewish woman. The soldier behind her slapped her face, throwing herself down.
Wagner came rushing towards the soldier who had assaulted her, “Officer, she is mine. I need to teach her some manners and she has to understand, what happens if a Jew spits on Fuherer’s men. Does it make sense, my young fellow?”
The soldier mumbled, “Yes Sir!!! Hail Hitler “
“Now arrest her and deport to Dachau Camp.” said Wagner, still couldn’t believe the fact that, the embarrassment he faced among his sub ordinates.
Eva was motionless, watching the corpse of Benny, while the soldiers set ablaze the clothes that was lying in the floor. The flames were consuming the blood soaked sheets in which Benny’s corpse lay. “Nice time to enjoy the warmth in this bitter cold” laughed mockingly Wagner.
Journey to Dachau
The Truck was barely covered with a tarpaulin, which seemed to dance to the tunes of severe cold winds blowing across the mountains. The tires crushed the twigs covered in early snow and followed the marks of the trucks to reach its destination. A German soldier was busy smoking his cigar behind the wheel of the truck. He was accompanied by another one, sleeping through most of the journey. The truck had mostly Jews, political prisoners and homosexuals.
Eva sat with her knees close to her chest, arms hugging it, to soothe her body from cold. The loss of her husband was a shock and the manner in which it was staged felt her numb. The grief and anger remained inseparable, while her physical condition left her helpless. A young boy dressed in black robes looked pathetic for his age and was sobbing. The sickening surrounding forced him to empty his guts wetting the dress of Eva The pungent odor and nausea stuck Eva, making her dizzy. There was hardly any space to move around, she could feel the breath of other women in her back.
The truck entered the massive camp, whose perimeter had been fenced with barb wires to a height of 40ft. Two queues were formed, one for women and children and the other one for men. Storm Leader, Wagner was sitting near the Nazi doctor, who was busy making notes on paper. The Doctor was a short bald man, with wrinkles near his eyes and rimmed glass for his sunken eyes. The medical examination began with the men’s queue, the doctor wrote the name followed by a number. Each prisoner will soon have the number tattooed and addressed by the same.
After an hour’s wait, fit and unhealthy guys were separated. Eva stood in the women’s queue, with grief and agony tearing her apart. She wondered if she happened to pass the test, she ought to work in camps till her end. The sight of Wagner brought more chills; it was like choosing between two devils. Her queue started moving in a bright pace, she was surprised. Their queue was made to move to a different place without any medical examination.
Eva was relieved temporarily, to avoid Wagner. While she crossed Storm leader, she found him staring her between his occasional sips of brandy. She never saw or understood what Wagner was whispering to the Nazi Doctor.
The queue then started moving towards a shallow pit, whose periphery was covered in black soot. The horror struck them; when they came close to reveal the exact details of the black soot. The pit was dumped with human hair which appeared to be black soot. Women started to weep visualizing the things that are likely to occur. The children joined their mothers in crying, without the slightest knowledge. Eva watched in horror when a German soldier shot a woman who refused to shave her hair. Within an hour, everyone was shaved and tattooed with specific numbers. Eva looked at her new identity that was imprinted in her left arm above her elbow, no 8.
Eva was lying down, with her face touching the cold floor. Her eye lashes moved, when a squeaking noise came imposing. A rodent was buzzing near her cuts in her elbow. The door to the cell opened, allowing a rush of cold air to enter. With all her might she adjusted her vision, to make out the silhouette of the figure standing at the entrance. The thin figure was removing its gloves, while slowly walking in. When she saw Wagner, Benny’s death struck her like a storm.
“Well, Good Morning young lady! How is our hospitality? Hope you enjoy the little companions!!! Guard” shouted Wagner.
The German soldier came running with a chair for Wagner, and stood in the corner with his MG-42.
“Our last meeting wasn’t good lady. Oh! I m sorry you have a new tag to be addressed right now. No.8 !!! “ laughed Wagner, with the sound echoing in the small space. Eva was staring at the rodent that was moving in a bizarre way.
“ I should ve stuck to my Fuherer’s words, Women needs to be confined in kitchen and be treated as child bearing machines,. “ I know you wouldn’t have much time to sleep yesterday; this is your first sleepless night here. There are many more nights to follow this. “ said Wagner with a half smile.
Eva never uttered a word with her eyes closed; she balled both her fists, bringing her legs together like a fetus in a womb. The silence made Wagner lose his temper. He rose from the chair and started to leave.
“Don’t let her close her eyes again. If you fail, I ll castrate you .Do I make myself clear??” barked Wagner.
“Yes Sir!!! Hail Hitler “ shouted the soldier.
With every sleepless night that passed, Eva’s stubbornness got abated. The depression and anxiety was consuming her, moving inside the cell like a mad dog. When she tried to bring down her eyes, the soldier would kick in her stomach, making her coil like serpent. It was after the fifth successive night, she began shouting with increased hyper activity. She made bizarre actions and finally fell down. After several kicks she didn’t move.
Wagner instructed the soldier to transfer Eva to women’s camp the very same day. Two Jewish prisoners held her in a stretcher, which was more of a thick steel plate with rusted edges. Eva didn’t know that she was experiencing her sleep after several days of insomnia. No fellow prisoner came near her, fearing the punishment they would face. She lay like a dead meat with her chest moving up and down to prove her existence.
A New Bond
The camp’s wall had dark patches with spongy appearance. The damp and moist conditions prevailing inside nurtured fungi. The women and children hardly remembered when they had their last meal, except for a few pieces of stale bread after a big fight among them. The boy in black robes sat near Eva, watching her staring at a small pebble.
“What’s your name?? “ asked the boy.
“ Eva.. Eva Benny” said Eva, without realizing Benny is no more. She started to cry silently.
“ why are you crying?? Is your mommy dead? “ said the boy.
“No. it was my husband, they killed my husband. Where’s your mother?” Said Eva, controlling her tears.
“I never knew my parents. Born and raised in the street s of Berlin. “ said the boy.
“What’s your name?” asked Eva.
“ I don’t know. Some call me Paul, the old hag near the town used to call me Alfred. You can call me as you like” said the boy with a sheepish smile.
“Aren’t you well, Alfred? You puked on me, when we came here. What happened?” asked Eva.
“It must be the porridge. Many told me not to have it, because of the dead rodent floating in it. I couldn’t bear my hunger, so I drank.” Said Alfred.
“Holy mother! Never do that again, Alfred” said Eva, closing her mouth with her palms.
“Yesterday the soldiers shoved you inside, did they hurt you? I tried to wake you, but you never moved” said Alfred.
“They hate us… we’re Jews!!!” whispered Eva.
“ Are they bad??? You sound nice and kind. Then why they fight us?” asked Alfred.
“ If I knew the answer, probably I could have saved Benny” said Eva.
The shrill sound of the siren reverberated the walls of the camp. The time for the guards to swap their positions and also the prisoners in the camp to stop their chit chat. A lone soldier would move across the camp, to look for prisoners who loved a bit of talk and play. Before the sound of siren could dampen, the prisoners were ready to lie down in cold concrete floors.
“Shall I sleep near you? “ asked Alfred with his eyes so desperate.
“Yes dear!” said Eva, with a small smile that hung in her lips after a long time. Eva slept in peace with Alfred’s arms around her.
The Night Ends
Most of the time, Eva was assigned the job of dragging out corpses from the gas chamber to the pits for burial. She thought she was lucky to survive so long and wondered what made them to keep her alive. Women and children were used for experiments conducted by Nazi doctors for their new inventions. As feared, the Germans have planned to Zyklon pellets in their military combat. Naked women and children were ushered into a large room that housed fake shower heads on the walls. When the doors shut, a Nazi would pour Zyklon-B pellets into an opening (in the roof or through a window) which would turn into poison gas once it contacts air.
The gas killed them slowly while they were battling for a pocket of air to breathe. Alfred spent most of the time in pushing the bodies to the pit. Alfred loved to play pebbles with Eva, trying to muster life into her. She giggled rarely, whenever Alfred tried to do some slap stick comedies. They shared a bond, just like the one between a mother and a child.
With days getting shorter during winter, this lasted very little. Alfred wandered in his torn boots, in shallow pits collecting pebbles. His loitering was disturbed by a soft moan. The sound that escaped from the lonely cell, that stood rooted across the pit. He slipped the pebbles in his trousers and ran towards the abandoned cell. As he came closer, the moaning grew intense. Beads of perspiration lined on his forehead despite the bitter cold. The fingers became numb while trying to hold his nerve.
He peeped in, with his fingers holding the edges of the wooden frame of the cell. Wagner lay top on Eva, with her dress torn apart exposing her privates’. Her arms were fastened to the wooden logs piled inside the cell. Wagner lay half naked with his trousers and holster housing his Walther lying side by side. With each thrust, she groaned in pain. The sight of Eva’s suffering at the hands of a beast brought fear and guilt in Alfred. Wagner lost himself in the physical pleasure without realizing the presence of Alfred.
Horror struck Eva when she found Alfred holding Wagner’s Walther in his trembling hands. Eva shouted “No!” to stop Alfred from marching towards this unmatched duel. Wagner was caught in a whirl surprise to see the little punk holding his gun.
“You little devil, that’s not a toy! I don’t see find any courage left in you! Drop the bloody gun, you bastard!!!” barked Wagner. Before Wagner opened his mouth, a loud ringing sound escaped from the Walther, splashing blood and pieces of Wagner’s brain on Eva’s face. Eva sat dumbstruck watching Alfred ‘s body shaking in panic. She knew guards will be soon all over the place, leaving no place to escape. Eva pulled Alfred to her, placed his head in her bosom and cried silently.
“No matter what happens, don’t move away from me” mumbled Eva. Alfred nodded in approval. “Let me tell you a story, which has no pain and agony,……..”. Eva’s story slowly echoed in the graves of the children, while the soldiers came marching in.
and many others who have been helpful in drafting this .