The Little Red House by David Kehoe

EXTRACT FOR
The Little Red House

(David Kehoe)


Chapter 1

I close the grey, weatherworn door and slide the wrought iron bolt. The murmurs, like the gentle ripple of a bubbling brook, have already begun to sweep across the unsuspecting entombed inside. I scamper to the side of the red brick house as the soldier peals the lid from the shinning silver canister and take up station on top of the small steps pushed tight to the wall. He hands me the canister. In a sudden shower of hailstones, the white crystal pellets fall through the small hatch in the gable wall. I wait.
An instant of silence chills me to the core – I ignore it of course. Such feelings are for the weak, those destined not to survive.
The screaming begins. An eruption of wails and deafening please. I gesture to the soldier as he fumbles with a pack of cigarettes. Reluctantly he tosses one, followed by a box of matches. He doesn’t want to touch me. I wonder if it is because I am a Jew or perhaps he noticed the poison had brushed my hand as it tumbled onto the heads of the unfortunates corralled like trapped vermin.
Hunched against the wall I can feel the first fall to the smooth white of the interior. The old women perhaps or maybe the children, too young to have the sense to hold their breath.
The soldier has moved from the house, distancing himself from the suffocating cries and the futile calls for mercy. He kicks at a corn poppy with the toe of his boot growing from a patch of low cut grass. The bright, vibrant petals float to the ground like a splash of freshly spilled blood in a slow moving dream. He raises his boot to trample the spilt flower, but thinks better of it. I fight a grin as he pulls hard on his cigarette – as if the sparing of the poppy would somehow shield him to the persistent screams rising in a hideous crescendo from the little house behind me. It would not. Nothing would. It will remain with him, as it remains with me – forever. An inescapable reminder of the daily massacre carried out with orderly calm and assuredness. This haunting is the executioner’s sentence.
You would think this the worst of it. That nothing could surpass in revulsion the horror of looking into the eyes of mother and child as you walk them to their death. But I am told by some that walking among the warm corpses, as they stare back with vacuous eyes and open mouths, is to them, the most tormenting of all.
But not for me. The time when the dead can cause me a moment’s concern has long since passed. Caring for others is so far removed from me I wonder if it ever was any different. If at some point I too was filled with tears or feelings of regret. I think not. But I cannot rid myself of the screams that creep at night like ghastly specters into my head. I try not to listen, assure myself they are nothing more than echoes of a dead past. The last resonance of the thousands I have killed clinging onto life. These ghosts cannot hurt me. No one in this place can hurt me. Save, that is, for a boot to my body or a bullet to my head and even that I do not shrink from. I am hurt beyond all comfort. Burdened beyond forgiveness. I am beyond redemption.
The cries are a mere whisper now and the soldier has returned. He tosses another cigarette and together we sit, waiting for the silence to once again embrace us. When our smoke has finished so too has all life inside the old cottage. I open the door and breathe in the heat of the panicked, lying in twisted heaps. Four hundred crammed into a tiny space, all naked, all dead.
I fight against the figures clicking in my head. It does not serve you well to remember numbers here. 400 plus the 400 this morning plus the 800 yesterday, plus the same for the last five days, multiplied by the fifty weeks since I was picked for this work duty. Almost 100,000! I wonder if in the history of the world has anyone murdered as many as I? I think not. But for this afternoon my tally is four hundred.
Four hundred and one... including me.


Chapter 2

The truck has come, carrying more Sonderkommandos, inmates like me that grease the wheels of the killing machine this place has become. The door of the Little Red House is open, towards me, built that way so it is unobstructed by the fallen bodies. I look across the silent, still, mounds of death, a macabre embrace of fallen remains and tangled limbs. Some eyes are open, starring into the nothingness of the chamber, as if stunned into a petrified state by the horror and disbelief of what was happening.
Without order or coercion, we begin loading the bodies onto the back of the open truck. The men first, few as they are, then the women. The tailgate is bolted, enabling us to pile the bodies of the children on top. We spread them evenly over the remains of their mothers and their grandparents so none will fall to the ground as they begin their final journey. I climb to the top of the heaped carcasses as if they are the last few rocks of a newly conquered mountain and, to the exasperation of my fellow prisoners, sit.
Two by two, we lay the bodies out and strip them of their rings and chains. We force the mouths open and remove gold teeth and any hidden jewelry, under the watchful eye of the S.S. They are laid head to toe before the open furnace. I push at an older inmate beside me.
“Fool,” I shout, receiving a glance from the guard. “Big with small. They burn quicker.”
My workmate glares at me with something resembling contempt. I lift a body into my arms, the smallest of the morning’s kill and look into the face of the young child, not yet five. Her eyes are open as if searching my own for a remnant of remorse – she would find none, if she were alive. I feel the unspoken words of repugnance at my actions from my fellow inmates as I place her on the table beside the rotund man and give the nod to resume the burning. He would not have lasted long in this place. Too old. Too fat.
“Wait,” I call again. This time the soldier removes his weapon from his shoulder, it is not wise to draw attention to yourself here, but my motive is not one of hostility and I know he will relent.
I walk towards the large body lying on the slab. The furnace door is like an open mouth warming my face and the hair on the pale skin of my arm. From a wrinkled roll of flesh, I remove a thick gold chain, holding it high into the air as if a prized pelt from a successful hunt, smiling gleefully to the guard as I do so. I drop it into the container of battered gold teeth and stolen rings and return to load the next of the bodies onto the waiting tables.
The furnaces burn night and day. 54 bodies an hour I calculate. The Little Red House murders 800, six days a week, The Little White House even more. The ovens roar twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to keep up.
I shake myself from counting – figures are the enemy of the executioner. I am ordered to take the proceeds of the crematorium to the sorting house, a place called ‘Canada’, named so because it was, much like the country, a place of unknown wealth. The soldiers’ attention is loosened on me as a roller pulled by two prisoners passes. It is now as I fall behind the soldiers, that I place my hand inside the box, remove a ring and slip it into my mouth. My actions go unnoticed – I will live another day.
The warehouse is a hive of activity with only the occasional barking orders from the guards ringing out over the constant chime of the clicking and clunking of metal. The lucky few sit at long wide tables, straddled each side by benches, separating gold from silver, ruby from emerald, genuine from fake. They are a healthy brood, these women. Water is available, so too food, albeit appropriated from the suitcases and bags of the new arrivals. They are the prettiest of girls, with full round faces, their hair allowed to grow out to a natural length, and sex here is not uncommon between inmate and guard.
I can feel the stare of someone bore into the side of my face. I pretend not to notice, not to care. I glance quickly. She is sitting before a pile of spoons and blinks through her one good eye. Her ravaged face brings no comfort to me and draws no sympathy – though it was me that caused her disfigurement. A guard walks behind her. I flinch, but it is not the one that did this terrible deed.
I leave that place and the hating gaze for Block11. I pause at the top of the steps then pass through the dark oak doors, eyes down, so as not to draw attention from the two guards sharing a smoke in the hallway, and scurry to the office at the rear.
I knock and am called inside. I remove the ring from my mouth and outstretch my hand. The officer stares at me. His face remains cold, only a flicker of his eyes tell me he is aware I am there, even though he is looking right at me.
They have beautiful eyes, these Aryans, I will give them that. Hard, clear, unrepentant. Eyes of blue cobalt steal. Cold, empty, judging. Eyes of the superior race.
I know he will not touch the ring, not without washing it first. He motions for me to put it on the table. I do so, relieved that it is gone. He throws a pack of cigarettes and a few biscuits onto the table and I make for the door.
“How does it feel? To steal from your own, from the dead?”
He has never asked anything of the sort before. Save for the few direct orders and the occasional slap, he has never addressed me.
“Feel?!” I reply, slightly confused by the question. “I feel . . . nothing.”
He grins a wicked smile and I am gone. I walk quickly, shuffling past the soldiers, again my head down. There was a time I would have looked up through the gaps in the brown, polished banisters of the staircase, hoping to catch a glimpse of a woman. One dressed properly, not the worn, ragged garb of an inmate, but the soft, perfumed clothes of an everyday woman with bright, colorful dresses, scarlet and pearl perhaps, or lace and silk. But not now. The prostitutes housed upstairs have nothing for me.
I leave Block 11 and am passed by two men in white overcoats. They are talking in German, too low for me to make out, but their tone is one of indignation. As I pass the courtyard a man calls out for help. He is dressed as I am, in stripes, his left arm rolled passed his elbow. He is in the last throws of life.
I stop to watch him and light one of my newly acquired cigarettes. His voice is chocked as he calls once more. Nothing can be done for him, so, I do nothing! Just watch. That is the way here, die and be gone. For a moment I am envious he is to leave this place. I fight a sudden urge to hold him, ease his suffering as he draws his last breath. Then with a gurgle, he is dead. Dead, without the comfort of a friendly face or a kind word. I finish my cigarette, place a biscuit in my mouth and leave.

It is night. Save for the furnace all work in this place has ceased. I have a new bunkmate, a boy, sixteen I would guess. He is crying.
“Shut up,” I tell him. “Shut up or I will shut you up.”
He wipes his eyes and lies on the hard wooden bed, still sobbing. He is cold and shivering. I look up, where before I could see the eaves of the barracks, above me now is another row of three inmates, above them another three. He is still weeping, still shaking from the cold spring evening.
“I sleep to the outside,” I tell him and move him to the center. At least huddled between two, his shivering may stop. It does not. I surprise myself and place my arm around him, cup his head in my hand. His tears flow once more.
“Save your strength. You will need it all and more to live through tomorrow.” I pull him tight to me and surprised myself even more. I too begin to weep.

The Little Red House by David Kehoe

EXTRACT FOR
The Little Red House

(David Kehoe)


Chapter 1

I close the grey, weatherworn door and slide the wrought iron bolt. The murmurs, like the gentle ripple of a bubbling brook, have already begun to sweep across the unsuspecting entombed inside. I scamper to the side of the red brick house as the soldier peals the lid from the shinning silver canister and take up station on top of the small steps pushed tight to the wall. He hands me the canister. In a sudden shower of hailstones, the white crystal pellets fall through the small hatch in the gable wall. I wait.
An instant of silence chills me to the core – I ignore it of course. Such feelings are for the weak, those destined not to survive.
The screaming begins. An eruption of wails and deafening please. I gesture to the soldier as he fumbles with a pack of cigarettes. Reluctantly he tosses one, followed by a box of matches. He doesn’t want to touch me. I wonder if it is because I am a Jew or perhaps he noticed the poison had brushed my hand as it tumbled onto the heads of the unfortunates corralled like trapped vermin.
Hunched against the wall I can feel the first fall to the smooth white of the interior. The old women perhaps or maybe the children, too young to have the sense to hold their breath.
The soldier has moved from the house, distancing himself from the suffocating cries and the futile calls for mercy. He kicks at a corn poppy with the toe of his boot growing from a patch of low cut grass. The bright, vibrant petals float to the ground like a splash of freshly spilled blood in a slow moving dream. He raises his boot to trample the spilt flower, but thinks better of it. I fight a grin as he pulls hard on his cigarette – as if the sparing of the poppy would somehow shield him to the persistent screams rising in a hideous crescendo from the little house behind me. It would not. Nothing would. It will remain with him, as it remains with me – forever. An inescapable reminder of the daily massacre carried out with orderly calm and assuredness. This haunting is the executioner’s sentence.
You would think this the worst of it. That nothing could surpass in revulsion the horror of looking into the eyes of mother and child as you walk them to their death. But I am told by some that walking among the warm corpses, as they stare back with vacuous eyes and open mouths, is to them, the most tormenting of all.
But not for me. The time when the dead can cause me a moment’s concern has long since passed. Caring for others is so far removed from me I wonder if it ever was any different. If at some point I too was filled with tears or feelings of regret. I think not. But I cannot rid myself of the screams that creep at night like ghastly specters into my head. I try not to listen, assure myself they are nothing more than echoes of a dead past. The last resonance of the thousands I have killed clinging onto life. These ghosts cannot hurt me. No one in this place can hurt me. Save, that is, for a boot to my body or a bullet to my head and even that I do not shrink from. I am hurt beyond all comfort. Burdened beyond forgiveness. I am beyond redemption.
The cries are a mere whisper now and the soldier has returned. He tosses another cigarette and together we sit, waiting for the silence to once again embrace us. When our smoke has finished so too has all life inside the old cottage. I open the door and breathe in the heat of the panicked, lying in twisted heaps. Four hundred crammed into a tiny space, all naked, all dead.
I fight against the figures clicking in my head. It does not serve you well to remember numbers here. 400 plus the 400 this morning plus the 800 yesterday, plus the same for the last five days, multiplied by the fifty weeks since I was picked for this work duty. Almost 100,000! I wonder if in the history of the world has anyone murdered as many as I? I think not. But for this afternoon my tally is four hundred.
Four hundred and one... including me.


Chapter 2

The truck has come, carrying more Sonderkommandos, inmates like me that grease the wheels of the killing machine this place has become. The door of the Little Red House is open, towards me, built that way so it is unobstructed by the fallen bodies. I look across the silent, still, mounds of death, a macabre embrace of fallen remains and tangled limbs. Some eyes are open, starring into the nothingness of the chamber, as if stunned into a petrified state by the horror and disbelief of what was happening.
Without order or coercion, we begin loading the bodies onto the back of the open truck. The men first, few as they are, then the women. The tailgate is bolted, enabling us to pile the bodies of the children on top. We spread them evenly over the remains of their mothers and their grandparents so none will fall to the ground as they begin their final journey. I climb to the top of the heaped carcasses as if they are the last few rocks of a newly conquered mountain and, to the exasperation of my fellow prisoners, sit.
Two by two, we lay the bodies out and strip them of their rings and chains. We force the mouths open and remove gold teeth and any hidden jewelry, under the watchful eye of the S.S. They are laid head to toe before the open furnace. I push at an older inmate beside me.
“Fool,” I shout, receiving a glance from the guard. “Big with small. They burn quicker.”
My workmate glares at me with something resembling contempt. I lift a body into my arms, the smallest of the morning’s kill and look into the face of the young child, not yet five. Her eyes are open as if searching my own for a remnant of remorse – she would find none, if she were alive. I feel the unspoken words of repugnance at my actions from my fellow inmates as I place her on the table beside the rotund man and give the nod to resume the burning. He would not have lasted long in this place. Too old. Too fat.
“Wait,” I call again. This time the soldier removes his weapon from his shoulder, it is not wise to draw attention to yourself here, but my motive is not one of hostility and I know he will relent.
I walk towards the large body lying on the slab. The furnace door is like an open mouth warming my face and the hair on the pale skin of my arm. From a wrinkled roll of flesh, I remove a thick gold chain, holding it high into the air as if a prized pelt from a successful hunt, smiling gleefully to the guard as I do so. I drop it into the container of battered gold teeth and stolen rings and return to load the next of the bodies onto the waiting tables.
The furnaces burn night and day. 54 bodies an hour I calculate. The Little Red House murders 800, six days a week, The Little White House even more. The ovens roar twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to keep up.
I shake myself from counting – figures are the enemy of the executioner. I am ordered to take the proceeds of the crematorium to the sorting house, a place called ‘Canada’, named so because it was, much like the country, a place of unknown wealth. The soldiers’ attention is loosened on me as a roller pulled by two prisoners passes. It is now as I fall behind the soldiers, that I place my hand inside the box, remove a ring and slip it into my mouth. My actions go unnoticed – I will live another day.
The warehouse is a hive of activity with only the occasional barking orders from the guards ringing out over the constant chime of the clicking and clunking of metal. The lucky few sit at long wide tables, straddled each side by benches, separating gold from silver, ruby from emerald, genuine from fake. They are a healthy brood, these women. Water is available, so too food, albeit appropriated from the suitcases and bags of the new arrivals. They are the prettiest of girls, with full round faces, their hair allowed to grow out to a natural length, and sex here is not uncommon between inmate and guard.
I can feel the stare of someone bore into the side of my face. I pretend not to notice, not to care. I glance quickly. She is sitting before a pile of spoons and blinks through her one good eye. Her ravaged face brings no comfort to me and draws no sympathy – though it was me that caused her disfigurement. A guard walks behind her. I flinch, but it is not the one that did this terrible deed.
I leave that place and the hating gaze for Block11. I pause at the top of the steps then pass through the dark oak doors, eyes down, so as not to draw attention from the two guards sharing a smoke in the hallway, and scurry to the office at the rear.
I knock and am called inside. I remove the ring from my mouth and outstretch my hand. The officer stares at me. His face remains cold, only a flicker of his eyes tell me he is aware I am there, even though he is looking right at me.
They have beautiful eyes, these Aryans, I will give them that. Hard, clear, unrepentant. Eyes of blue cobalt steal. Cold, empty, judging. Eyes of the superior race.
I know he will not touch the ring, not without washing it first. He motions for me to put it on the table. I do so, relieved that it is gone. He throws a pack of cigarettes and a few biscuits onto the table and I make for the door.
“How does it feel? To steal from your own, from the dead?”
He has never asked anything of the sort before. Save for the few direct orders and the occasional slap, he has never addressed me.
“Feel?!” I reply, slightly confused by the question. “I feel . . . nothing.”
He grins a wicked smile and I am gone. I walk quickly, shuffling past the soldiers, again my head down. There was a time I would have looked up through the gaps in the brown, polished banisters of the staircase, hoping to catch a glimpse of a woman. One dressed properly, not the worn, ragged garb of an inmate, but the soft, perfumed clothes of an everyday woman with bright, colorful dresses, scarlet and pearl perhaps, or lace and silk. But not now. The prostitutes housed upstairs have nothing for me.
I leave Block 11 and am passed by two men in white overcoats. They are talking in German, too low for me to make out, but their tone is one of indignation. As I pass the courtyard a man calls out for help. He is dressed as I am, in stripes, his left arm rolled passed his elbow. He is in the last throws of life.
I stop to watch him and light one of my newly acquired cigarettes. His voice is chocked as he calls once more. Nothing can be done for him, so, I do nothing! Just watch. That is the way here, die and be gone. For a moment I am envious he is to leave this place. I fight a sudden urge to hold him, ease his suffering as he draws his last breath. Then with a gurgle, he is dead. Dead, without the comfort of a friendly face or a kind word. I finish my cigarette, place a biscuit in my mouth and leave.

It is night. Save for the furnace all work in this place has ceased. I have a new bunkmate, a boy, sixteen I would guess. He is crying.
“Shut up,” I tell him. “Shut up or I will shut you up.”
He wipes his eyes and lies on the hard wooden bed, still sobbing. He is cold and shivering. I look up, where before I could see the eaves of the barracks, above me now is another row of three inmates, above them another three. He is still weeping, still shaking from the cold spring evening.
“I sleep to the outside,” I tell him and move him to the center. At least huddled between two, his shivering may stop. It does not. I surprise myself and place my arm around him, cup his head in my hand. His tears flow once more.
“Save your strength. You will need it all and more to live through tomorrow.” I pull him tight to me and surprised myself even more. I too begin to weep.

EXTRACT FOR
The Little Red House

(David Kehoe)


Chapter 1

I close the grey, weatherworn door and slide the wrought iron bolt. The murmurs, like the gentle ripple of a bubbling brook, have already begun to sweep across the unsuspecting entombed inside. I scamper to the side of the red brick house as the soldier peals the lid from the shinning silver canister and take up station on top of the small steps pushed tight to the wall. He hands me the canister. In a sudden shower of hailstones, the white crystal pellets fall through the small hatch in the gable wall. I wait.
An instant of silence chills me to the core – I ignore it of course. Such feelings are for the weak, those destined not to survive.
The screaming begins. An eruption of wails and deafening please. I gesture to the soldier as he fumbles with a pack of cigarettes. Reluctantly he tosses one, followed by a box of matches. He doesn’t want to touch me. I wonder if it is because I am a Jew or perhaps he noticed the poison had brushed my hand as it tumbled onto the heads of the unfortunates corralled like trapped vermin.
Hunched against the wall I can feel the first fall to the smooth white of the interior. The old women perhaps or maybe the children, too young to have the sense to hold their breath.
The soldier has moved from the house, distancing himself from the suffocating cries and the futile calls for mercy. He kicks at a corn poppy with the toe of his boot growing from a patch of low cut grass. The bright, vibrant petals float to the ground like a splash of freshly spilled blood in a slow moving dream. He raises his boot to trample the spilt flower, but thinks better of it. I fight a grin as he pulls hard on his cigarette – as if the sparing of the poppy would somehow shield him to the persistent screams rising in a hideous crescendo from the little house behind me. It would not. Nothing would. It will remain with him, as it remains with me – forever. An inescapable reminder of the daily massacre carried out with orderly calm and assuredness. This haunting is the executioner’s sentence.
You would think this the worst of it. That nothing could surpass in revulsion the horror of looking into the eyes of mother and child as you walk them to their death. But I am told by some that walking among the warm corpses, as they stare back with vacuous eyes and open mouths, is to them, the most tormenting of all.
But not for me. The time when the dead can cause me a moment’s concern has long since passed. Caring for others is so far removed from me I wonder if it ever was any different. If at some point I too was filled with tears or feelings of regret. I think not. But I cannot rid myself of the screams that creep at night like ghastly specters into my head. I try not to listen, assure myself they are nothing more than echoes of a dead past. The last resonance of the thousands I have killed clinging onto life. These ghosts cannot hurt me. No one in this place can hurt me. Save, that is, for a boot to my body or a bullet to my head and even that I do not shrink from. I am hurt beyond all comfort. Burdened beyond forgiveness. I am beyond redemption.
The cries are a mere whisper now and the soldier has returned. He tosses another cigarette and together we sit, waiting for the silence to once again embrace us. When our smoke has finished so too has all life inside the old cottage. I open the door and breathe in the heat of the panicked, lying in twisted heaps. Four hundred crammed into a tiny space, all naked, all dead.
I fight against the figures clicking in my head. It does not serve you well to remember numbers here. 400 plus the 400 this morning plus the 800 yesterday, plus the same for the last five days, multiplied by the fifty weeks since I was picked for this work duty. Almost 100,000! I wonder if in the history of the world has anyone murdered as many as I? I think not. But for this afternoon my tally is four hundred.
Four hundred and one... including me.


Chapter 2

The truck has come, carrying more Sonderkommandos, inmates like me that grease the wheels of the killing machine this place has become. The door of the Little Red House is open, towards me, built that way so it is unobstructed by the fallen bodies. I look across the silent, still, mounds of death, a macabre embrace of fallen remains and tangled limbs. Some eyes are open, starring into the nothingness of the chamber, as if stunned into a petrified state by the horror and disbelief of what was happening.
Without order or coercion, we begin loading the bodies onto the back of the open truck. The men first, few as they are, then the women. The tailgate is bolted, enabling us to pile the bodies of the children on top. We spread them evenly over the remains of their mothers and their grandparents so none will fall to the ground as they begin their final journey. I climb to the top of the heaped carcasses as if they are the last few rocks of a newly conquered mountain and, to the exasperation of my fellow prisoners, sit.
Two by two, we lay the bodies out and strip them of their rings and chains. We force the mouths open and remove gold teeth and any hidden jewelry, under the watchful eye of the S.S. They are laid head to toe before the open furnace. I push at an older inmate beside me.
“Fool,” I shout, receiving a glance from the guard. “Big with small. They burn quicker.”
My workmate glares at me with something resembling contempt. I lift a body into my arms, the smallest of the morning’s kill and look into the face of the young child, not yet five. Her eyes are open as if searching my own for a remnant of remorse – she would find none, if she were alive. I feel the unspoken words of repugnance at my actions from my fellow inmates as I place her on the table beside the rotund man and give the nod to resume the burning. He would not have lasted long in this place. Too old. Too fat.
“Wait,” I call again. This time the soldier removes his weapon from his shoulder, it is not wise to draw attention to yourself here, but my motive is not one of hostility and I know he will relent.
I walk towards the large body lying on the slab. The furnace door is like an open mouth warming my face and the hair on the pale skin of my arm. From a wrinkled roll of flesh, I remove a thick gold chain, holding it high into the air as if a prized pelt from a successful hunt, smiling gleefully to the guard as I do so. I drop it into the container of battered gold teeth and stolen rings and return to load the next of the bodies onto the waiting tables.
The furnaces burn night and day. 54 bodies an hour I calculate. The Little Red House murders 800, six days a week, The Little White House even more. The ovens roar twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to keep up.
I shake myself from counting – figures are the enemy of the executioner. I am ordered to take the proceeds of the crematorium to the sorting house, a place called ‘Canada’, named so because it was, much like the country, a place of unknown wealth. The soldiers’ attention is loosened on me as a roller pulled by two prisoners passes. It is now as I fall behind the soldiers, that I place my hand inside the box, remove a ring and slip it into my mouth. My actions go unnoticed – I will live another day.
The warehouse is a hive of activity with only the occasional barking orders from the guards ringing out over the constant chime of the clicking and clunking of metal. The lucky few sit at long wide tables, straddled each side by benches, separating gold from silver, ruby from emerald, genuine from fake. They are a healthy brood, these women. Water is available, so too food, albeit appropriated from the suitcases and bags of the new arrivals. They are the prettiest of girls, with full round faces, their hair allowed to grow out to a natural length, and sex here is not uncommon between inmate and guard.
I can feel the stare of someone bore into the side of my face. I pretend not to notice, not to care. I glance quickly. She is sitting before a pile of spoons and blinks through her one good eye. Her ravaged face brings no comfort to me and draws no sympathy – though it was me that caused her disfigurement. A guard walks behind her. I flinch, but it is not the one that did this terrible deed.
I leave that place and the hating gaze for Block11. I pause at the top of the steps then pass through the dark oak doors, eyes down, so as not to draw attention from the two guards sharing a smoke in the hallway, and scurry to the office at the rear.
I knock and am called inside. I remove the ring from my mouth and outstretch my hand. The officer stares at me. His face remains cold, only a flicker of his eyes tell me he is aware I am there, even though he is looking right at me.
They have beautiful eyes, these Aryans, I will give them that. Hard, clear, unrepentant. Eyes of blue cobalt steal. Cold, empty, judging. Eyes of the superior race.
I know he will not touch the ring, not without washing it first. He motions for me to put it on the table. I do so, relieved that it is gone. He throws a pack of cigarettes and a few biscuits onto the table and I make for the door.
“How does it feel? To steal from your own, from the dead?”
He has never asked anything of the sort before. Save for the few direct orders and the occasional slap, he has never addressed me.
“Feel?!” I reply, slightly confused by the question. “I feel . . . nothing.”
He grins a wicked smile and I am gone. I walk quickly, shuffling past the soldiers, again my head down. There was a time I would have looked up through the gaps in the brown, polished banisters of the staircase, hoping to catch a glimpse of a woman. One dressed properly, not the worn, ragged garb of an inmate, but the soft, perfumed clothes of an everyday woman with bright, colorful dresses, scarlet and pearl perhaps, or lace and silk. But not now. The prostitutes housed upstairs have nothing for me.
I leave Block 11 and am passed by two men in white overcoats. They are talking in German, too low for me to make out, but their tone is one of indignation. As I pass the courtyard a man calls out for help. He is dressed as I am, in stripes, his left arm rolled passed his elbow. He is in the last throws of life.
I stop to watch him and light one of my newly acquired cigarettes. His voice is chocked as he calls once more. Nothing can be done for him, so, I do nothing! Just watch. That is the way here, die and be gone. For a moment I am envious he is to leave this place. I fight a sudden urge to hold him, ease his suffering as he draws his last breath. Then with a gurgle, he is dead. Dead, without the comfort of a friendly face or a kind word. I finish my cigarette, place a biscuit in my mouth and leave.

It is night. Save for the furnace all work in this place has ceased. I have a new bunkmate, a boy, sixteen I would guess. He is crying.
“Shut up,” I tell him. “Shut up or I will shut you up.”
He wipes his eyes and lies on the hard wooden bed, still sobbing. He is cold and shivering. I look up, where before I could see the eaves of the barracks, above me now is another row of three inmates, above them another three. He is still weeping, still shaking from the cold spring evening.
“I sleep to the outside,” I tell him and move him to the center. At least huddled between two, his shivering may stop. It does not. I surprise myself and place my arm around him, cup his head in my hand. His tears flow once more.
“Save your strength. You will need it all and more to live through tomorrow.” I pull him tight to me and surprised myself even more. I too begin to weep.