Saturday, 17 November 2018

Burgundy

By Lynn Clement

 Burgundy
The thing I most liked about Sherrington Woods was the colour in the fading sun of late autumn. Copper and dun woven together to lay a patterned carpet along our path. The early mornings, when Jack had waved his spiky fingers, crisping the edges of each rustic leaf. Where white webs that were woven overnight, wrapped themselves round our faces, sticky and clinging and complex. It makes me shiver now. But it was the surprise of the hoary headed mushrooms, unexpectedly emerging through the earth in the damp shade of the leaden oak, which reminds me of you. And what was.

‘Hello Jessy, how are you?’ A voice interrupts my thoughts.

‘I’m good David,’ I reply.

‘I’m loving your painting Jessy, it’s really taking shape now.’

‘Yes,’ I say.

David means well, but he doesn’t understand. No one will ever understand.

‘Do you have all the colours that you need?’ He asks.

‘Sure,’ I give.

Red is red, is red; I think - except when it’s scarlet.

I need David to leave me alone now. He usually does, wafting off to go and help some other deserving soul. I have to get this bit right. His eyes dart around the room, he does this all the time. Today there are only four of us, so he shouldn’t be so uptight. Lauren is sick. And that’s the truth. Unfortunately that means he’ll have more time for me.

Yellow and red makes orange, like fire. The story of our relationship really. You mellow yellow and me blood red. Then you turned grey. Fungus like. Sucking the colour out of me.

I bought a cherry red hair dye, just like in that photo you secreted in your bedside drawer. The one with the scarlet lipstick kiss on it.

But you didn’t like it. ‘It’s not you,’ you said. It’s not her, you meant. So I went back to black, and made vermillion lines on my arms instead.

‘Does the pallet knife help with the texture, Jessy?’ David again from across the room.

‘Yes, thank you,’

The broad blade spreads the thick claret colour across the sienna, just like it did that day. Oozing and mingling and pooling on the orange and brown, rusty splashed carpet.

I can see David approaching from the corner of my eye and I know what he’s going to say.

‘Oh, you’ve spoiled your painting, Jessy,’ – just as I’d anticipated, so I lift the knife.

He hits the red button, and they come for me.

I’ll start the painting again, next time I’m allowed out.

Sherrington Woods was so lovely.



Friday, 16 November 2018

A Summer Morning in 1976

 Alex Womack

freshly made tea

The young woman in the small bare room was waiting. Out of the window was a bright sky. Another great day. People talked of drought.  She’d been on a late the day before and this was an early start, but she had the weekend off and it was easy enough sitting with this old fellow. 
 
He’d been in some sort of institution most of his life. He allowed the attendant to wash, shave and brush him; dress him, do his shirt buttons, help with the waistcoat. He’d appear for meals and eat cautiously.  Just enough.  He was thin, likely the weight he’d been when, chivvied by pals, jingoism or patriotism, he joined up.

He inhabited dull routine day after day. Come bedtime, pyjamas buttoned tidily, the night staff tucked him in tightly. Sometimes his thready voice cried out of dreams. They gave him the sedative he was written up for and he’d settle back into a flinching sleep. Like he was now: muttering and wincing slightly.  

His story was that he had no story. Card after card in various hand-writing and inks summed up his life with the repeated word ‘Neurasthenia’.  Now it was ending and she was to sit with him until it was over.  

He was one of the men, a ghost of one, whose nerves were wrecked by war.  She remembered war poems she’d done at school and that book by Vera Brittain.

His soft thin hair gave his head a vagueness. His skin was blue-white, pale and smooth over bone.  His fingers had stopped fretting with the sheet now and the troubled whispers were fainter.

She daydreamed about going to Mike and Gill’s with her boyfriend. Somehow take one of the kittens home on the bike.

Something brought her attention back.  Silence. He’d gone. 

Although he was unknowable, she felt sad for him, his lack of life, his long years of distress.  
He would miss a beautiful summer, another in the decades of lost summers.

 



Thursday, 15 November 2018

A Walk in the Snow


by Michal Reibenbach 

hot chocolate

When I was a young girl my family was poor so that enjoyable outings were virtually non-existent. One winter vacation, after a few days of falling heavily, the snow had finally ceased. I was outside in our front garden endeavoring to build a snowman, when my stepmother Andrea came trudging by, accompanied by the neighbor’s au-pair. 


“We’re on our way up the hill. Do you want to join us?” asked Elka the au-pair, exuberating positive energy. 

Andrea scowled at this suggestion, for she’d wanted Elka’s company all to herself. 

I turned to her hopefully, “Please can I come along, please!?”

“Well I don’t know,” said Andrea, “I hadn’t planned on you joining us.”

 Elka quickly tried to persuade her, “Oh do let her come with us, she won’t be any trouble.” 

 “Well alright,” conceded Andrea, “But you’ll have to go and put your coat and boots on first, and what’s more you mustn’t bother us.” 

I obediently rushed indoors, struggled into my coat and boots then grabbed hold of my gloves and hat; before dashing out again, so that we were soon on our way. Behind our cottage, with only a small field separating it from our place, rose the awe-inspiring Bluebell Hill. It was far too steep to climb vertically, and so there was a path which wound itself snake-like up the hill’s side through an evergreen thicket. It turned sharply up to the left before turning sharply up to the right, and so forth until it reached the hill’s summit about an hour walks distance later. The three of us plodded along through the fresh snow, while on both sides we were enclosed by trees, which were laden down with white glittering snow-crystals. Andrea and Elka ascended the path ahead of me. They clung closely together to help each other along, while all the while chatting animatedly. Occasionally they would laugh and squeal with delight, for they found the snow invigorating; and also the feeling of adventure it evoked! I trudged along about five yards behind them, for I was being careful not to bother them. At the same time, however, I was also thoroughly enjoying myself; and I was thankful that I’d been allowed to join them. Eventually, Andrea and Elka arrived at the end of the path leading to the hill’s summit, and there they stopped short and stared out ahead in stunned silence. I soon caught up with them and curiously peered over in the direction in which they were staring. 

At first, I only saw that on top of the hill there was a woodland of trees that were not evergreens. The trees looked strangely naked without their leaves; snow was sprinkled on their branches and they cast spindly shadows on the snow-covered ground. Then finally I noticed what they were gaping at. Under the trees, two squirrels were chasing each other about, and as they did so they leaped up and down in the snow. Suddenly they scurried up one of the trees and disappeared out of sight. Now that the squirrels had scampered away, the stillness and the quiet all around us felt very profound. The complete absence of other people was strange, and I mulled over as to how the hill had taken on a frost like quality so that it had been so utterly transformed. When “wearing its summer clothes” Bluebell Hill was so green, and grown over by an abundance of wildflowers. While in the spring the undergrowth was covered in bluebells, and the hill was vibrant with people coming and going. Now from where we stood spellbound, it almost felt as if we were on a visit to another planet. 

After a few minutes of us being thus transfixed, Andrea broke the silence, “Weren’t those squirrels most awfully sweet? But now I’m getting very cold,” she said as she rubbed her gloved hands up and down on her arms. 

“I also feel freezing cold, let’s go back,” said Elka. 

Obviously trekking down the hill was much easier than climbing up it, and therefore was even more fun. When Andrea and I eventually arrived back at our cottage and were discarding our wet clothes in the kitchen, she turned to me with sparkling eyes. “That was absolutely wonderful, seeing those adorable squirrels. The climb was strenuous work, but the snow was marvelous, so invigorating!” 

“Yes, it was,” I agreed eagerly, for I reveled in her attention, and was thrilled that she was including me, permitting me into a small niche of her world. 

Once we’d finished spreading out our wet garments over a couple of chair-backs, “Andrea said, “Anna, go off to your room now.” 

I felt saddened by this statement since it made me understand that she was tidying me away so that I wouldn’t clutter up her life. I didn’t blame her for in my precociousness, I realized that she was probably much too young to be burdened with a stepdaughter; in addition, I knew that our life of poverty was hard on her. I went off to my room feeling quite pleased with my day; after all, Elka had stood up for me, and Andrea had been considerate. Above all, I’d enjoyed the walk in the snow, and the sight of the squirrels playing around in it tremendously.


Ultimately, if one doesn’t have very much in one’s life, even a little outing in the snow can be a special event. The memory of that track up Bluebell Hill would remain in my heart and in my memory forever.    

About the autho

The author is a paraplegic as the result of a car accident.
She has two sons and six grandchildren.
She lives in Jerusalem.
                                              
                                                                

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Debt Collector



by Mark Kodama

Camp coffee 

                        I am a Nazi hunter of some fame.
                        If I whisper it, you will know my name.
                        I brought hundreds to justice in my career.
When they heard my footsteps they shook in fear.
Justice for me is giving each his due.
This is what it means for man and every Jew.
My most infamous catch over the years,
Was the Final Solution’s overseer.
I never did win the Nobel Peace Prize
I was never ready to compromise,
Since I am a Holocaust survivor;
I will not let others forget ever,
Peace prize panels love saints and martyrs,
But avenging angels never.
I was born in Galacia, Poland
Surrounded by more powerful lands.
Our country was invaded seven times,
The last time by the masters of the Rhine.

I was taken, registered, and held in a
Nazi concentration camp.  My neighbors
Were shot in the sandpit.
With every death I died too bit by bit.
Ninety-eight of my relatives were killed dead.
Many murdered by the SS death’s heads.
I remember the dead; I always will.
I can feel their suffering even still.
Six million died in Hitler’s furnaces.
And I am their surviving conscience.
The world will not forget after I perish.
This story from my book The Sunflower
Is about a dying young solider of the SS.
And how he asked me for my forgiveness.
I silently refused I must confess.
Did I do right?  I ask you this.

A.    The Work Detail

Our Russian SS guards led us from camp
We marched to the sound of their obscene songs.
In rows of threes, in columns of sixteen long.
We halted at the crossroad where we rested.
            Next to a freshly dug grave yard, with rows
            Of the newly interred, battalions
            Of our masters, dead German soldiers,
And we the living their abject slaves.
A sunflower was planted on each mound.
Their long stalks rising from the ground.

Every sunflower turned toward the sun
As butterflies moved from flower to flower.
Whispering to the souls of the dead and gone.
Now devoid of any earthly power.
Our guards told us it was time to move on.
Our Russians guards again led us in song.
We came to the church on Janowska Street
Made of stone cold red brick and stone.
My God why hath thou forsaken us?
Are you on leave; why are we alone?
When we reached the church we turned left.
The God of Abraham was deaf to our pleas.

                        We arrived at my old technical high school
                        Where we were once savagely beaten by Poles.
                        At the time they seemed so vicious and cruel
Now we are both enslaved, share the same hole.
My school was now a makeshift hospital,
For German soldiers wounded in battle,
Youths who were so recently full of life,
Now dying and maimed men on the brink of death.

                        We were taken to the main building
                        Built in the neoclassical style,
                        Where I trained as an architect.
                        It now seemed like a many years ago.
                        Putrid smell of rotting flesh filled the air,
                        We loaded severed gangrenous body parts
                        Onto garbage trucks waiting in the square.
                        Bloody pus stained bandages arrived in bins,
                        As nurses and orderlies scurried about,
                        The aftermath of Hitler’s assault on Stalin’s redoubt.

                        Wounded German soldiers watched the men work.
                        As the Russinas smoked their cigarettes on the grass.
                        One convalescing soldier called us “Jewish swine.”
                        He blamed us for his wound.
And he said we would die soon.

B.      The Death Room

                        A Red Cross nurse asked if I was a Jew.
                        I said “yes” and followed her into the hospital.
                        I was a mere slave.  What else could I do?
                        She turned to see if I was behind her.
                        The nurse then brought me to the death room.
                        She told me: “Wait here until I call you.”
                        The nurse came out of the dark room again.
She grabbed me by my arm and pushed me in.
A severely injured man lay in the bed next
To the night stand. The nurse bent over the bed
And whispered something into the man’s ear
The man quietly replied. The nurse said: “Stay here.”
She touched my hand and she left me with the man.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkened room,
I could see his head swathed in white gauze
With openings for his nose, mouth and ear.
The broken man whispered: “Please come nearer.”
I sat at the edge of the white bed.
“Please come a little nearer” he croaked again.
“Talking loud is exhausting” he said.
His white gauze dripped with yellow stains.

                        “I do not have much longer to live,” he said.
                        “I’m resigned to death.  I do not fear.”
                        The yellow stains grew and spread.
                        “The end is near.  I want to die in peace.”
                        “Before I pass away, I would like to tell
                        You what happened to me on that day,
                        An experience that is still haunting me.”
                        He was breathing heavily, staring at me.

                        “I asked one of the sisters,” he said.
                        To bring a Jewish prisoner to me.”
                        His ghost white hands rested on the bedspread.
                        “She knows how it is with me.
                        I am in a death chamber I know.
                        The hopeless cases die alone.”

His mother’s letter fell to the ground
I picked up the letter, and put it back in his hands.
“Thank you,” he said, as he drew the letter to him.

“My name is Karl S.”
I joined the SS as a volunteer.
Of course when you hear the word SS . . .”
He swallowed hard; cleared his throat.
“I have to tell you something dreadful
Something . . . horrible.
                        “It has been a year since the crime.
Has a year gone by?”
                        Then his hand grabbed mine.
                        “ Yes, a year since I . . .
                        I must tell this horrible deed to you
Because you are a Jew.

“I was not born a murderer,” he said.
I’m only twenty-one.  And in my death bed.
I am much too young.
I know what you’re thinking,” he said.
                        “And I understand.

                        “My father, a factory manager, was a Social Democrat,
                        My mother brought me up Catholic,
                        I was the parish priest’s favorite.
                        But I joined the Hitler Youth.
                        In the Hitler Youth, I made many friends.
                        In the Hitler Youth, I had many comrades.

                        “When the war began, I joined the SS.
                        The last words from my father were prophetic.
                        ‘They are taking our son away from us,
Nothing good will come of it.’”
                        He clutched the glass of water.
                        And returned it to the night stand.

                        “My mother must never know of my deed.
                        She must not lose her image of her good son.
                        That’s what she always called me.
                        I was her only child – her only one.”
                        At this point, I wanted to get away.
                        But Karl grabbed my arm; I stayed.

                        “Last spring we prepared for great things,”
Karl said.  “Each of us must be a man.
To be ready for what war would bring.
There was no place for a humanitarian.”
A fly flew around the dying man.
I waived it away with my hand.

“Trucks delivered us to the front lines.
Wheat fields stretched as far as the eyes could see.
As we left the dead and dying Russian soldiers behind.
We heard the wounded scream.
One of our soldiers spat at them.
And said: ‘No pity for Ivan.’
The fighting was brutal.  We gave no quarter.
Death was all over – everywhere.
We shot their wounded; took no prisoners.
It was a hellish Gotterdammerung over there.”           
                        After Karl sipped his water, he took a deep breath.
                        He then said: “Everywhere there was death.”

C.     The Burning House

“We arrived at Dnepopetrovsk on a warm summer’s day.
 Just abandoned by the Russian Army in haste.
Two children wept over their dead mother where she lay,
What was left of the city was turned to waste.
Suddenly we heard an explosion and we looked up.
A whole block of houses had just blown up.
We were taken by truck to another part of the city.
There were 200 Jews under guard at the square.
Old men, women and children.  I felt pity.
We could feel their stares.
You could see in their eyes – fear.
We walked toward them – we drew near.

“A truck arrived with cans filled with gasoline,
Which we carried into the three-story house.
We knew there would an explosive blast.
We doused the floor with gas.
Then there arrived another truck.
We pushed the Jews inside and
Locked the doors.  We posted
A machine gun outside.”
I tried to leave.  But Karl said:
“You must hear the rest.

“We were told all was ready.
We threw our grenades into the house.
Explosion followed explosion
The house went up in a ball of fire.  
 
“My God!” Karl said and began to shiver.
“We heard the screams and saw the flames
As the fires spread from floor to floor.
After my crimes I was not the same.”
I tried to loose my hand.
But Karl grabbed for it again.

“P. . . p . . . please . . . please . . . don’t go away.
Karl said with a stammer.  “I have more to say.
His hand was moist and he sweat some more.
I knew how it would end.
I had heard this story again and again.

“There was a man,” he said, “on the second floor.
He was holding a child in his arms.
His clothes were on fire.
He could not protect his child from harm.
As he jumped from the second story window
We shot him full of holes.
A few seconds later, the child’s mother
Jumped from the window too.
                        One burning person jumped after another.
                        “Oh God . . . we shot them too.
                        Karl lifted his hand to cover his blind eyes.
                        I shall never forget the child with black hair and dark eyes.”

                        Karl was silent for a moment before starting again.
“Yes . . . I see them plain before my eyes.
I can see the child, father and mother.
I can never forget.  It haunts me still.  I . . . 
                        I could see everything as if I was there.
I could hear everything as if I was there.
That night we drank our rations of Brandy.
And sang songs to forget,
But at the night the dead we did see,
In our dreams they still visit.
The massacre, we were told, was in revenge
For the Russians killing thirty of our men.”

The next morning our platoon leader scolded us.
“’You and your sensitive feelings.
You cannot go on like this.
A Jew is not a human being.
They are the cause of our misfortune.
One must be hard.  This is war.

“When the war turned south we went there.
The fighting was bitter and hard; hand to hand.
We assaulted their trenches; killed them in their lair.
We took a lot of casualties; lost many good men.
Their artillery shells fell like rain.
We drank from flasks of Brandy to keep sane.

“We were ordered to leave our trenches,
And begin our assault;
I fixed bayonet and stepped on our benches
Our platoon left our redoubt.
As we launched into our attack
I was stopped in my tracks.

“Suddenly the dead souls of the burning family.
The father and mother, child in hand.
Had come to greet me
In no man’s land.
A shell exploded in front of me.
And I could not see.

“I nearly lost my life in that hellish place.
Shrapnel from the shell
Tore away my face
And stopped me still.
When I awoke I could no longer see,
My body no longer my own.

“The surgeon said I was lucky to be alive
But even now I am really dead
I was unlucky to survive,
To live my dark painful days in this bed.
I just want to be with my mother
Instead of traveling from one hospital to another.

“I know what my father would say,”
Karl S. said with a sigh.
“But my mother would say . . .
She would see me with other eyes.
At least those Jews died fast.
My pain lingers and lasts.”

I stood up to go.
But his hand held me tight.
So I stayed even though
I wanted to take flight.
“My pains,” Karl said, “from my body are a curse.
“But the pains of my conscience are much worse.”
Not a day goes by
Without my thinking of that family,”
Karl continued. “I long to die,
I wish to end my misery.
When I was a boy I believed in God’s commandments.
I still hold those sentiments.”

“I cannot die . . . without coming clean.
I must therefore confess
About where I’ve been.
But what sort of confession is this?”
Karl said referring to my silence.
In this confession there was true repentance.

Karl then sat up and put his hands together to pray.
“What I told you was terrible I know.
I want to die in peace,” he did say.
What I told you was horrible even though . . .
I longed to confess to a Jew.
And now I’m talking to you .

“I now ask for your forgiveness
I know it is much to ask from you.
But without your answer, I cannot die in peace.”
Silence filled room.  But I could not do anything.
I was helpless.  So I left in silence.
I fled down the flight of stairs
And felt a heavy gloom,
And I made my way into the open air.
I could not give my forgiveness.
I ask you again.  Was I right to do this?

D.     The Camp

When I returned to camp, our home in hell,
I searched for my friends Josek and Arthur,
For I was still under Karl S.’s spell.
I wanted to meet my friends to confer.
Did they think I did things the right way?
I wanted to hear what they had to say.

I told them about Karl S. and,
How he asked me to forgive him,
And then how I left him in silence.
In his death room, dark and dim.
A smile appeared on Josek’s face.
Arthur said: “One less!”

Josek said: “You were right not to forgive him.”
You can only forgive for a wrong done to you.
If you pardoned him that would be a sin.
Only the victims could forgive that dying man.
You had no say; you have no hand.”

“I believe in life after death in a better place.
What would you say to the dead,
When they came to your face to face?
You would have that guilt on your head.
You did right; I would have done the same.
I would have told him directly without any shame.”

I replied: “You make it sound so simple, so easy,
Probably because your faith is so strong.
The man was truly repentant and sorry,
I could argue this for hours long.
I saw he was really in torment.”

Josek replied: “That was only a part of his punishment.”

I said: “Karl’s repentance was voluntary
He looked upon me as a representative of the Jews
Whom he could no longer reach or see.
Or in any way talk to.
He was not born a murderer
The Nazis made him into a killer.”

“A superman has asked a subhuman,”
To do something superhuman,” Arthur said.
“If you had forgiven him, you would never
Had forgiven yourself.  All of your days.”

“Arthur,” I replied, “ But I failed.
Failed to carry out the last wish of a dying man.
I gave him no answer to his final question.”

Arthur replied: “There are requests that one cannot answer.
He should have asked for a priest
Of his own church.”

The next day, the nurse looked for me.
She tried to give me Karl’s possessions.
But I refused despite her plea.
The nurse said it was his dying wish.
I insisted they be returned to his mother
And so I returned to work with the others.

E.     Frau S.

I miraculously survived the Holocaust,
But my friends Arthur and Josek did not,
Arthur contract typhus and was lost,
Josek stricken with fever was shot,
Many times, I barely escaped death,
Only by luck and by a hair breadth.
                        I survived the mass executions and starvations,
The gas chambers crematoriums operated full tilt,
Despite the Red Army Invasion.
Hitler’s minions tried to cover their guilt.
Crimes so monstrous and terrible
So as to be almost unbelievable.

After the war, after my liberation,
I worked for a commission
charged with the investigation
of Nazi criminal violations.
I hoped it would restore
My faith in justice.

In 1946, I went on a picnic with friends
In Austria, near Litz.
A sunflower field brought back memories of Karl S.
I made up my mind to see his mother.
I wanted to know the boy.

I traveled to Stuttgart, reduced to rubble.
Where I found Karl’s mother
Living in the remains of her abode,
Living in the lower floors.
I said “Are you Frau Maria S?
She simply answered “Yes.”

Karl’s mother bade me to come in
I ambled down the broken stairs,
What was left in ruins.
I saw Karl’s photograph and stared.
There was the young man.
Around the corner was a black band.

That’s my son Karl,” Frau S said.
He was killed in the war.
“I know,” I said.
“She was my only son,” she offered.
“He was a good dear boy.
So many young men are dead.” 

“There is so much suffering today,”
She said.  “And I am left alone.
Please sit down and stay.”
I said:  “I bring you greetings from your son.”
She said “Is this true?
“Did he know you?”
 
“It’s nearly four years since he died.
Tell me when did you see him.”
I never saw him, I lied.
A wounded man passed a note for him
In a train window
I found your address and so . . .”

Frau S. handed me the same bundle
The nurse tried to give to me.
“His watch, notebook and other triffles.”
She handed the bundle to me to see.
“Nurses wrote his letters to me,”
She said.  “He was so devoted to me.”
 
I approached her son’s picture again.
She said: “Take it down if you please.”
I asked “Is that a uniform?
“Yes, the photograph I would like to see.
“Karl was sixteen,” she said, “When he joined the Hitler Youth.
My husband did not like it. “

“My husband was a social democrat.
He said Hitler in power would lead to disaster,
His words were prophetic.
Hitler did lead us to disaster.
What happened to us
Was punishment from God.

“My husband was killed in his factory
During a bombing run almost a year
After we lost our son
Frau S. picked up the picture of her son,
She took the photograph into her hand.”
Her eyes began to fill with tears for son,
“Karl was such a handsome son,” she said:
“Our son was such a fine young man.
But the Hitler Youth changed him,
And he turned away from religion.

“In our family the Nazis created a divide.
When Karl volunteered for the SS,
My husband was horrified.

My husband said: “’They took the Jews away,
Including our family doctor.  And
They have even taken our son from us.’
The Nazis said they would be resettled,
In their own province,
Among their own people.
Later I heard about the SS,
Their cruelty and brutality,
Their ideology and inhumanity.”

Suddenly, she looked at me anew.
She said, “You are not a German.
“No,” I replied.  “I’m a Jew.”
She said: “We lived with the Jews
In peace.  We are not responsible
For their fate.  We did not hate.”

I said: “That’s what they say now.
But no German can ignore his responsibility
One must reap what they sow.
Germans must find who is the guilty
And who is not guilty.
And the non-guilty
Must not associate with the guilty.”

Frau S. said: “So many dreadful things happened.
I can well believe what people said.
But one thing for certain,
Though Karl is now dead,
As certain as the day is long,
Karl never did anything wrong.”

I left Frau S. that day      
Without revealing the truth
About what Karl had to say,
The young man of Hitler’s Youth.
I left the good woman in the ruins of her home
With memories of the goodness of her son.

I refused Karl S’s request for forgiveness.
Did I do right?  I ask you this.


The Debt Collector’s Tale
The Debt

A.        The Accused

Every person must pay his debts.
If you wrongs another person,
You must pay that obligation too.
Justice is giving each man his due.
I often hear how weary people are
About hearing of the holocaust,
Anti-Semitism, persecution
And oppression.  I never tire of the telling.
For these evils will visit us again
If we let ourselves forget.
This is the story of Adolph Eichmann,
His crimes against humanity,
His wages of sin and how
He paid his debt at the end
Of a hangman’s rope.

Adolph Eichmann wanted to be a success.
His German parents moved to Lintz, Austria,
Home of Adolph Hitler, where his father
Worked for an electric and tramway company.
His father later bought a mining company.
Adolph’s mother died when he was ten.
His new stepmother was half Jewish.
Adolph did poorly in school, the only
One of his five siblings to fail to complete
High school. His stepmother’s Jewish cousin
Found him a job as a traveling salesman.
After initial success, Eichmann his job.

On January 30, 1933, President Hindenburg
Appointed Adolph Hitler Chancellor of Germany,
In the same year, Eichmann joined the Nazi Party
And the SS.  For Eichmann,  Hitler embodied success.
“[Hitler] may have been wrong,” Eichmann said.
“But one thing is beyond dispute: the man
Worked his way up from lance corporal
To Fuhrer of a people of almost 80 million.
His success showed me I should
Ssubordinate myself to this man.
Hitler made many promises and lifted
The spirits of the defeated nation.”

Eichmann’s “luck” was about to turn.
In March 1935, Eichmann married Vera.
He was promoted to corporal in the SS.
His friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner encouraged
Eichmann to join the SS security services.
He was hired and swore an oath of secrecy.
When the Nazis took power, they banned
Jews from serving in government.
Hitler, the Bavarian corporal, wanted to destroy
The ancient and great people
As part of his 1,000-year Aryan Empire.

Eichmann became a “Jewish specialist.”
            He studied the Jewish organizations
            And learned Yiddish.  Eichmann had
            Nothing against Jews. But he wanted
            To be a part of a movement, a part of history
             Of the 437,000 German Jewish citizens,
            Two hundred fifty thousand
            Left the country from 1933 to 1939.
            Eichmann was promoted to lieutenant.

            In 1935, Germany passed the Nuremburg Laws
            Stripping Jews of their citizenship and
            Banning marriage between Germans and Jews.
            When Germany annexed Austria in 1938,
            Eichmann went to Vienna. Eichmann worked
            With local Jewish leaders to encourage emigration
            And to negotiate surrender of their property.
            He was always polite but insistent.
            Eichmann consolidating all the departments
            Into one building so all could be approved at one time.
            About 150,000 Austrian Jews left in one year,
            Making millions of marks for Germany to fund
            Its  economic “miracle.” Eichmann
            Set up a similar system in Prague.  Eichmann
            Was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

            On November 9 and 10, 1938, German
            Paramilitary forces and civilians launched
            Kristallnacht or Night of the Broken Glass,
            Destroying Jewish homes, synagogues and
            Businesses. One hundred Jews were murdered
            And many more attacked and beaten.
            Authorities imprisoned thirty thousand Jewish men.
            Eichmann was charged with supervising
            Kristallnacht in Vienna.  The experienced
            Transformed him. 

            On September 1, 1939, Germany launched
            Its BlitzkriegI attack on its neighbor Poland.
            Despite a heroic defense, Poland quickly
            Fell to the Germans attacking from the West
            And Russians from the East.  Tanks fought
            Against Polish horsemen as Stuka dive bombings
            Rained bombs on civilians.  As war became
            More remote, suffering became more intense.
            Poland would lose 20 percent of its people.
            The Germans changed the policy regarding Jews
            From emigration to deportation.  In 1940, France
            Fell in seven weeks after the Germans invaded
            Holland and Belgium, outflanking the Maginot Line.
            Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Security Service,
            Charged Eichmann with shipping European Jews
            To Poland.  Sixty-three thousand Jews were moved
            Under appalling conditions by train to Poland,
            A third dying in transport. Eichmann proposed
            Deporting Jews to Madagascar. but after
            The RAF pilots defeated the Luftwaffe
            In the Battle of Britain that the plan
            Was no longer possible.

            In June, 1941, Germany launched
            Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of Russia.
            Four million Germans and allies crossed
            The steppes of Russia, many to their deaths.
            The Fatherland vs. Mother Russia.  Twenty million
            Russians would die in Furherdamarung.
            The Eisenstadtgruppen murdered 1,250,000 Jews
            And many communists, shooting noncombatants
            - Men, women and children –  and burying them,
            Many still alive in trenches.  On July 31, 1941,
            Heydrich received a letter from Reichsfuhrer
            Hermann Goering commissioning him
            To draft a plan, “a final solution to the Jewish question.”
            In September, Heydrich told Eichmann
            “The Fuhrer ordered the extermination of the Jews.”
            Eichmann and Rudolph Hoss, Commandant of Auschwitz,
            Discussed the details about gassing victims.
            “I became physically weak,” Eichmann said.
            “And it left behind a certain inner trembling.”

            On January 20, 1942, top leaders gathered together,
            At the Wannsee Conference in a Berlin suburb
            To implement the “Final Solution.”
            Eichmann kept the minutes of the meeting.
            Heydrich charged Eichmann with coordinating
            The efforts of the different agencies.
            Hitler initially planned to kill all Jews
            After the Germans defeated the Russians.
            On December 7, 1941, the Japanese
            Bombed Pearl Harbor.  Four days later,
            Germany declared war on the United States.
            After the Americans entered the war
            And the Germans were unable to take
            Moscow, Hitler changed his plans.
            Now he wanted the killings to begin
            Immediately.  Six death camps were built.

            To Eichmann’s surprise, the conference attendees
            All enthusiastically endorsed Hitler’s plans.
            At the end of the conference, Heydrich, Eichmann
            And Gestapo Chief Heinrich Muller smoked cigars
            And drank brandies together in front of a fire.
            “At that moment, I had a Pontius Pilate feeling,
            For I felt free of all guilt,” Eichmann said.
            “Who was I to judge?  Who was I to have my own
            Thoughts on this matter?” Eichmann was only doing
            His duty and following his orders and the law.

            At Kulm, the Germans used mobile trucks
            Disguised as Red Cross ambulances to gas victims.
            They herded the victims into a large room.
            And made them strip and forced them into the trucks
            As they drove away, the victims shrieked.
            The truck drove to an open ditch where workers
            Unloaded the corpses.  A man extracted teeth with pliers.
            A physician told Eichmann to look into
            The inside of a gas truck through a peephole.
            “I refused to do that.  I could not do that.
            I had to disappear.”
           
            Eichmann gathered information on Jewish groups,
            Visited ghettos, seized the property and transported
            His victims to death camps.  In occupied countries,
            Jews registered with authorities and wore yellow badges.
            Eichmann used the Jewish Councils and policemen
            To roundup the Jews.  Eichmann transported
            One million Jews from Europe to Poland for execution.
            Eichmann sent Jewish leaders who helped him
            To Theresienstadt where they survived the war.

            Meatnime, the war began to turn.  The German Sixth Army
            Was surrounded and destroyed at Stalingrad.  Allied planes
            Bombed German cities and the British and Americans
            Defeated the German Army in North Africa.
            In June 1942, Czechoslovakia commandos
            Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik assassinated
            The fanatic Reinhard Heydrich in Prague.
            Operation Anthropoid was planned and
            Executed by the Czech Government
            In exile in England with the assistance
            Of British intelligence.  Kubis and Gabcik
            Were flown from England and dropped
            By parachute near Prague.  The two young
            Commandos ambushed Heydrich and his driver
            As they drove to Heydrich office at Prague Castle.
            After Garbcik’s Sten gun jammed, Kubis
            Threw a powerful explosive, mortally
            Wounding the reichsfuhrer.  Violent reprisals
            Followed in which 5,000 Czechs were murdered
            And the small village of Lidice wiped off
            The map.  Kubis and Gabcik and five of
            Their comrades were killed in a six-hour
            Gun battle with the SS and local police.       
             A great funeral was held in Berlin where
            Hitler praised him as the “best of the Nazis.”
            After the assassination of Heydrich, even
            The highest Nazi officials feared for their lives.

            In February 1943, the Red Army in largest
            And most decisive battle of the war
            Captured  the vaunted and undefeated
            6th Army after seven-months of ruthless
            Street-to-street hand to hand fighting
            On the city by the Volga River.
            By the end of the battle, the city
            Was rubble with 2 milllion
            Killed, wounded and captured
            In the bloodiest battle of a bloody war.

            In April 1943, Jews in Warsaw ghetto
            Led by young Mordecai Anielewicz rose
            Against the Germans.  Prewar Warsaw –
            With its 400,000 Jews – was the second largest Jewish city
            In the world, second to New York City.  Nearly 400,000
            Jews – men, women and children – were herded
            Into a small ghetto, surrounded by a brick wall.
            Thousands died of starvation and disease, their
            Naked bodies buried in mass, unmarked graves.
            Starting in July 22, 1942, 300,000 Jews
            Were deported to death camps or murdered
            Outright over the next seven weeks.
            On April 19, the eve of Passover, the Nazis
            Launched a final assault against the ghetto.
            Jewish freedom fighters, armed with small arms,
            Grenades and Molotov cocktails, used bunkers
            And passageways, turned back German tanks,
            Sappers, cannons, flame throwers and crack
             SS units.  For ten days, the rebels repeatedly
            Drove the Germans off, killing one hundred fifty
            Battle hardened soldiers and destroying a tank
            And two armored vehicles.  Almost all of the
            Freedom fighters – young men and women –
            Perished in the desperate fighting.  The Germans
            Set fire or blew up all the buildings.  Fourteen
            Thousand Jews were killed in the fighting.  On May 15,
            The German Commander, Gen. Shoop reported:
            “The Jewish quarter in Warsaw is no longer.”
            In fact, the bravery of the Resistance fighters
            Would be remembered by the world forever.

            In March 1944, Germany invaded its ally Hungary
            As the Russian Army closed in.  Eichmann was sent
            To Hungary to arrest and transport Hungarian Jews
            To death camps.  Hungary had become a haven
            For European Jews. Admiral Horthy, the head of state,
            Had long resisted Nazi attempts to kill Jews
            In his country.  In two months, the number of Jews
            In Hungary increased from 500,000 to 800,000.
            One forty-seven trains carried 434,351 Hungarian
            Jews to Auschwitz.  On October 15, 1944, Admiral Horthy,
            Announced Hungary’s withdraw from the war.
             Horthy was immediately replaced by pro-German
            Facists.  Eichmann was opposed by the 32-year-old
            Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved
            More than 100,000 Jews.  Wallenberg, supported
            By the Americans, created protective passports,
            Schutzpasses, which granted Swedish citizenships
            To those that possessed them.  Wallenberg gave them to
            Jews awaiting transport at deportation centers
            And even to prisoners in trains.  The diplomat
            Braved German weapons, oftentimes stepping
            Between solider and intended victim and dodging
            Shots fired at him while he distributed passports.
            Wallenberg brought the people to forty safe houses
            Where they were given sanctuary. Eichmann and
            Wallenberg met several times. At one point,
             Eichmann angrily said: “You are a Jew lover
            Who receives all his dirty dollars from Roosevelt.”
            Afterward, Eichmann unsuccessfully tried to kill
            Wallenberg.  In November, Eichmann forced
            Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews on a death march
            From Budapest to Vienna.  Wallenberg tried
            To block his efforts at every turn. By December,
            The Russian Army closed in on Budapest and,
            Eichmann and             Wallenberg met for a final time.
            Wallenberg warned Eichmann that Nazism
            Was over. Eichmann said:  “I never believed
            In all of Hitler’s ideology but it has given me
            A good career, A good life.”  He said he was
            Doomed but determined to complete his mission.
            A few days later, Eichmann left Budapest.
            After the Russians captured Budapest, the Russians
            Kidnapped Wallenberg who disappeared.
            There is a 2000-year-old passage in the Talmud
            That says: “When you save one life, you save the world.”
            Raoul Wallenberg saved 100,000 lives.
            One person can make a difference.

            One family that Wallenberg did not save
            Was the family of my friend Ellie Wiesel.
            In 1944, after the Germans invaded Hungary,
            Wiesel, then 15-years-old, and his family
            Were taken by train to Auschwitz and
            Then Buchenwald.  The doors of the crowded
            Cattle that held 80 deportees were nailed shut.
            One woman, Cassandra-like, went insane,
            Repeatedly hallucinated, screaming she saw fires.
            Young men in the cattle car repeatedly beat her
            To silence her.  When they arrived at Auschwitz,
            Indeed, large fires belched from the tall
            Chimney of the crematorium.  Death and
            Burnt flesh filled the air.  They saw bodies
            Thrown in trenches, separated by adults
            And children.  At Auschwitz, his mother
            And three sisters were taken away
            at the train station never to be seen again.

            Wiesel and his father were taken to a work camp
            Where they worked under harsh and cruel
            Conditions and starved.  They were guarded
            By other inmates which included Poles and Jews.
            Periodically, the sick and the weak were culled out
            And executed.  Three inmates who were found with
            Weapons including a child were hung in front of
            The other prisoners.  The child was so light that it took
            Him hours to slowly die.  When the Red Army
            Neared the camp, the Germans made the prisoners
            Move the next camp, oftentimes, running in the snow
            Without food.  Those that could not keep up
            Were shot by SS troops.  At the new camp.
            Wiesel watched his father dying of dysentery.
            No words can really ever describe
            The fear, the hunger, the suffering, the inhumanity.
            But we try nonetheless.

            On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed at Normandy
            Beach in France and then after breaking out,
            Raced across France.  In July 1944, a group
            Of German military officers led by Col. Claus
            Von Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler with a bomb
            And overthrow the Nazi government.  The conspiracy
            Which included Gen. Ludwig Beck, Admiral Wilhem
            Canaris and Gen. Hans Oster, the latter two of
            German military intelligence, centered in Berlin
            Reduced to rubble by allied bombing.

            On July 20, 1944, Count Stauffenberg
            Planted a bomb in Hitler’s headquarters
            Wolfsschanze in East Prussia.  Four died
            In the blast but Hitler survived, suffering
            Only minor injuries.  The coup attempt
            Collapsed and Stauffenberg was shot
            And many conspirators killed themselves
            Or were hung, some with piano wire.

            As the war came to an end, Eichmann
            Was sent to Romania to save 10,000
            Ethnic Germans from capture by Soviet troops.
            As Hungary collapsed, Eichmann was
            Recalled to Berlin.  Eichmann, like many
            Of the Golden Pheasants – Goring, Himmler
            And Kaltenbrunner – who demanded Germans
            To fight to the death, fled Berlin as the Russians
            Attacked the city.  How could such weak
            Men become so powerful?

             As the Red Army moved through Poland,
            East Prussia, Pomerania, eleven million
            German refugees fled west.  Russian tank
            Crews machine gunned the fleeing refugees
            And ran over them crushing them under
            Their tracks.  Two million women and girls
            Were raped, often times gang raped.  Prisoners
            Were summarily executed or sent to Russia
            As slave laborers.  Berlin – already severely
            Damaged by allied bombing - was reduced to
            Rubble and ash.  Fighting was deseperate.
            The Red Army lost 30,000 men trying to
            Take Seelow Heights.  World War I veterans
            And boys were sent into battle, untrained and
            Unarmed.  The SS shot and hung and man
            Or boy suspected of retreated or deserted.
            On April 30, 1945, Hitler and his wife
            Eva Braun killed themselves in their bunker.
            Gobbels and his wife Magda also killed
            Themselves after murdering their six
            Young children.  Seven million Germans
            Died during the war.   As the war ended,
            Eichmann was captured by the Americans.
            When they discovered his identity, Eichmann
            Was tipped off and escaped his work detail.
            In 1950, Eichmann escaped to Argentina
            Under the assumed name Ricardo Klement.

            B.        His Capture

            After the war, I lived a few blocks away
            From the Eichmann family in Linz.  In 1952,
            The family disappeared.  A year later,
            We discovered that Eichmann livede
            In Buenos Aires. In 1957, German authorities
            Independently tracked Eichmann to Buenos Aires.
            A young woman was dating Eichmann’s son
            Nick.  Her father reported this information to
            German authorities. The information was passed
            On to Israel who sent agents to Argentina to find
            Eichmann.  I had private investigators
            Photograph one of Eichmann’s brothers
            At their father’s funeral to help identify him.
            Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
            Sent agents to Argentina.

            On May 11, 1960 Mossad agents captured
            Eichmann as he was walking from the bus stop
            To his home.  Three agents wrestled Eichmann
            To the ground before packing him into a car
            And driving him to a safe house.  One agent
            Began to interrogate him:
            “What is your name?
            “Ricardo Klement.”
            “So what is your real name?
            “Otto Heninger.
            “Were your SS numbers 45226 and 63752?”
            “Then tell me your real name?”
            “Adolph Eichmann.”

            Mossad agents kept Eichmann for nine days
            At a safe house in Buenos Aries. Eichmann
            Was flown by plane to Israel for trial
            Eichmann was kept at a fortified police station
            For nine months awaiting trial.  I helped
            Prosecutors prepare their trial.

            C.        The Trial

            On April 11, 1961, the trial began. I was there.
            It is the first time I sas Eichmann.  He was
            Standing  in the dock behind bullet proof glass
            And between two prison guards.  Dressed in
            A cheap blue suit, he appeared a cardboard figure,
            A colorless bureaucrat, empty and two-dimensional.
            He appeared to not resemble the monster
            Of my imagination, dressed in an SS uniform,
            Responsible for the deaths of six million Jews.
            Eichmann had been indicted on
            Fifteen criminal charges, including
            Crimes against humanity, war crimes,
            Crimes against the Jewish people and conspiracy.
            On December 12, 1961, the three-judge
            Panel found Eichmann innocent of ever
            Personally killing anyone but guilty
            Of crimes against humanity, war crimes
            And conspiracy. He was sentenced to death.
            On June 1, 1962, Eichmann was hung.
            I am generally against the death penalty.
            Perhaps it would have been better
            If Eichmann spent the rest of his life
            In prison.  But then again, maybe
            His was a special case.