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Yesterday Jurg looked upon the glass that had been shattered by an anonymous fist. He was befuddled; the glass fell outside his house, not inside. Having been a Nazi during World War II, an American by birth, he was more than used to inflicting fear. He had overseen the labor and the torture and the death of maybe hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust, never quite sure how to feel. But he had never quite gotten the grasp of feeling fear.
He had always admired Adolf Hitler. His first thought every morning when he awoke with a start was how to serve his people, anything short of death. Garbing himself in uniform and standing in front of the mirror, even now in his old age, he smiled and nodded in the upmost pride of his slim-cut figure and his chiseled chin. His wife, before she left him without any warning, had shook her head “no” as she watched this, actually seeing him for the slumped over old man that he had become.
He, many nights, dreamt of the old days back when he oversaw the Jews at Dachau, a hateful scowl with two eyebrows drawn into one fixated on the sixteen-year-old youths who more resembled eighty-five-year-old men. He wasn’t prejudice against the Jews in general at that time; he was prejudice only against the enemies of state, those who threatened to fall the perfect utopia that provided more than was needed to those who mattered.
Now as an old man, alone, he cleaned the blood that he saw off of his dagger, the one from when he was a young man. He had escaped the falling Nazi bastion by only the skin of his teeth. He now lived in the land of his enemies, trying to plan much like the unsuccessful drunken author of a dying novel, how to avenge the love of his life – he had moved with his family to Berlin when he was eleven years old, and lost his virginity, his innocence to it.
He cleaned the blood off of his dagger with a woolen handkerchief that had been worn at the edges. But no matter how hard Jurg scrubbed back and forth, back and forth the blood would only smear and expand, dripping and beginning to form an ocean. Each drop fell like cold November rain upon his tired combat boots. This didn’t bother him; he had seen blood before and without a doubt he would see it again. When he shook his head as if to fix his sweaty, matting hair (that miraculously wasn’t balding) all of the blood disappeared from his vision, but it wouldn’t disappear.
One would call Jurg agoraphobic, but he saw himself as better than the world and everything in it. When he ate, he didn’t. He had been so screwed up by the war, although he didn’t know this and never did, that he saw things that weren’t there. These things were so palpable as if his whole life were a dream, and his body believed everything that his mind contorted from the dead air before him. If he saw himself eating steak, his body took up all of the nutrients. If he saw blood, it was there. There would always be crimson watermarks on the wooden floors to him, even if others didn’t see it. Hitler would always be heiled, even if others didn’t see it. Because they all would in time. Every last enemy of the state would perish, every last saint of the state would be resurrected and he would be on a pedestal, one of God’s right-hand men.
But he could never get to sleep at night. He slept during the day, almost nocturnal because he heard screams and gunfire. He could never move, knowing that he, was the last of his kind. Or so he thought. He was the last one, the last child of the light, the last soldier of everything correct and holy, and he would have to be the one to carry on the torch. All enemies of the state, even should they come to power, were still enemies of the state and if that were the case he would have to be the one to lead the charge.
He held his knife, prepared to fight because with the concoction of his mind going and his adrenaline at full charge shrieking through his veins, he had forgotten where he had put his pistol, with which he had shot so many Jews in the back.
He knew that the German juggernaut would never allow those ally scum to pass through, break into his fortress. He was full confident in the night, the night, oh sweet dear Mother Night! He was wrong. But like most right-wingers in America at this point (he never watched the news so he didn’t know) he didn’t admit he was wrong although there was actual proof. He heard a window smash, and the screaming became louder.
He prepared to fight to the death, because if he couldn’t carry on the message and save all the future generations, who would? He held his hand out in front of him with the knife firmly grasped. He saw his hand in front of him from the days of the war; he saw a muscular hand, heavily calloused and perfectly beige, as an Aryan’s hand should be. He waited for the attack, but he started to figure that it would never come when the voices went away, as usual, when the dawn ceased its slumber.
He stared outside into the unforgiving winter frowning, scolding with the whipping morning wind chill. He expected to see the impromptu battlefield littered with the bodies of both saint and scrap metal, but chuckled in half-amusement and half-shock when he noticed that aside from a few fallen branches, everything was pristine.
He didn’t take his chances unguarded, though, when he traversed down the steps into his kitchen. He found the window shattered, the window that was the size of a large glass door. It had once the potential to be a travesty, but he decided against it when his wife did, one who had been kin to a Nazi fighter pilot.
It was a nasty shatter, too. But what disturbed him the most was that the glass was broken to the outside. Something wasn’t trying to get in; something had successfully gotten out. But what could have gotten out in this fashion? Only a human could have and there weren’t any save for Jurg…unless…
No, he thought. They would never keep the Jews in a place like his house. A warehouse-sized bastion would be more like it, with electric fences and everything. Certainly not a place like this. It wouldn’t have made sense.
That was yesterday. Now he heard the battle playing again in his memory, as if he were constipated but a little too afraid to try to push it out of his mind. He heard the shrill screams of agony and animosity breaking through the decaying wood of his house. And then he heard a loud SNAP! It sounded like some sort of tree was giving up the ghost. He would have kept the thought of it as a tree doing such, if he didn’t feel his whole house vibrate.
Again with his knife in hand he straightened his back, set for combat until he smelled something so foul that it caused him to swoon. It was some sort of heavy arsenic. Knowing the faint scent of it but now taking the full blow, he hit the floor without any dignity. He slouched over like a limp potato bag, and woke up bruised.
He woke up to a barren river of dried blood streaming from his nose, into his greying stubble. This, behold, was true. He was not hallucinating like he did the rest of his wasted life. What was in his imagination, however, was that there was a lingering of the gas from the chambers he utilized on men, women, and children alike. Not that he knew, mind you, that it was inside his head.
Looking up from his pathetic state of both body and mind his jaw hit the floor with a resounding horror as he gazed up to see the number “6,000,000”. The number was scrawled, as if by a knife or a sharp hand of fingernails. Now, the former Nazi officer gazed at the number and realized that this had to have been a dream. He wasn’t sure what he was seeing until he heard his name being called from downstairs in a frail, fragile voice of a child.
He recognized the child’s voice. It seemed unisex, as he didn’t know whether the child was a boy or a girl but he knew the child all the same. He had his knife ready, because he knew the excrement had officially hit the cooling system. He had killed the child once without regret and wasn’t afraid to do it again, if he could just get his head around what the heck was going on.
Leaving the room he was greeted by countless stony faces, all of which were lacerated in one way or another, either by emotion or by cremation. Their heads were all shaven, they were all wearing striped pajamas with numbers on their breast pockets. Some of them wore rags over their heads, as if to hide some sort of shame. They were all gripped in a repose of solemnity. Jurg’s staircase was a rather thin one. But despite the fact that there were two rows of people he had killed lining it up – he recognized many of the faces – he had more than enough room to spare. Upon reaching the bottom of the staircase, he followed the pointing fingers of his victims, leading him to his living room. Standing there, garbed with a noose as he was hung upon, was the child. He was ghastly pale, a certain shade of dead.
“May the trial commence?” The child asked, pulling out of his pocket a knife.
All of the ghosts stamped their feet in eerie unison to confirm the start. The child allowed a small satirical smirk to spread slowly across its young face.
“Now, Jurg Hiebner, you are charged with fine treason against humanity this day. You are now being judged by only some of those lives to which you have put an end. The amount of lives you were responsible for was a rounded six million, deaths either by gas chamber, or by firing squad, or by noose, or by neglect or whatever have you. All lives ended in that filthy Holocaust are on your hands.”
Proudly looking into the child’s face, Jurg nodded with utmost gusto.
The child continued. “Therefore, as punishment for your crimes, you are now to be sentenced to death.”
As the child said this, men with bones that jutted in all the wrong places firmly gripped Jurg, who was unable to escape if he tried. He was too shocked to try.
The child walked up to him, twirling the knife slightly in his hand and humming some sort of little tune. He was smiling but it was not a happy smile. It was a justified sense of finality, the Nazi understood. Now only a foot from death, Jurg started to wonder if he had made the right choice by not letting go of his past.
And it was with an unforgiving hand, scarred by all of the injustice that had been caused by Jurg’s own, that the child repeatedly stabbed him. It’s ironic, thought Jurg, that it felt as if he were being stabbed six million times.
It was on liberation day, the American troops had come to finally release the Jews from the Dachau concentration camp. Jurg refused to go down without a fight. He was sprinting, charging at full throttle toward a young American soldier with a large nose and very Jewish looking features, he thought.
The American soldier had defeated him, grabbing his dagger which was stained with the blood of who knows how many Jews who had taken advantage of the situation and tried to escape. The American soldier grabbed Jurg’s dagger and wrestled it out of his hand.
Getting it out of Jurg’s hand, the soldier stabbed him again, and again, and again. It’s ironic, Jurg thought, that it felt as if he were being stabbed six million times.
One would think that his life would have flashed before his eyes. But what flashed instead, was what he thought his life would be. He realized many a night that this war would never leave him. Although he didn’t outwardly hate the Jews in general, it was because he hated his enemies of state so much that he refused to go with original instinct and force-converted himself as if putty in the Nazi Regime’s hands.
It was in Dachau, alone with the knife in his chest that mingled Jewish blood with his own, that he finally gave up the ghost. He heard the screaming and the gunfire, knowing his comrades were dying and that soon he would be facing judgment day alongside them.
The American soldier stood at the foot of the gallows at the heart of the Dachau concentration camp. He held a cigarette between his teeth, trying not to cry as he stared at the lifeless body of a little child.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, right?” said the American soldier to himself. He removed his helmet from his head, his hair matted.
It was on the American soldier’s death day that he stared into his helmet again. What came to mind was the little child hanging from a noose, so lightweight and blowing in the wind. What also came to mind was that German soldier he had killed, lying there with his eyes dumbly open, taking in the nothingness above, as if begging for the heaven he thought he deserved.
The heaven the liberator only hoped that he deserved, closing his eyes.