The Commandant's Son - Chapter One
Chapter One - The Nightmare and The Past
I had the dream again last night... the one where I murder you. The one where my father and family are standing behind me, looking over my shoulder, breathing down my neck – watching and waiting for their anger and hate to overflow onto me, then pour out onto you from my blood-stained hands. My father screams at me to hurry up - that you are the enemy and must die. In a moment of confusion and chaos, I lift the gun and point it at your face. The gun goes off and everything goes black. All that is left is silence. At first, I think I am alone. But as my eyes adjust to the darkness I make out shapes and figures. I am lying in a shallow grave built by human hands. I am injured and blood is seeping from my face as I try to cry for help but there is no sound. I pull my arms out from under me and push my body up with my hands. It is then that I feel flesh beneath my fingertips. I am lying on a mound of dead bodies and as I turn my head, your face falls next to mine, our blood pooling together on my skin. You are expressionless. You are motionless. You are no more.
I always wake up screaming and sweating after the nightmare. This morning I was also crying. I can’t remember the last time there were tears in my eyes. I had to touch my face to make sure they were really tears and not sweat. If I had to guess the last time I cried, it was the day my family moved. I looked back over my shoulder as we were driving away from our farm and there you were, right where you should have been at that time on that particular day. It was Saturday, June 10th 1944. It was 5:00 in the evening, our scheduled meeting time. But I did not come. You were crouched down, drawing in the dirt. Your pale bony arms looked like a dirty rag doll's and your uniform was tattered and shredded. You were filthy from head to toe but there was still a peaceful look on your beautiful face. I wonder how long you waited for me that day beyond the fence? Did you get in trouble this time? How many times did you come back before you realized I wasn't going to come? A year younger than myself but at 13 you were much older in spirit. I believe it was the reason you were chosen to go to the “right” line and not the left. Left meant immediate death. Those that were selected for the right had to face a long, slow, torturous, and impending end.
I knew nothing of life yet, let alone the horrible things you had already had to face: ridicule, dehumanization, torture, starvation, survival, disease, separation, and loneliness. I would trade my life for yours in heartbeat. I would trade these dark days without you to be in the grave along side you. I now realize what you were trying to teach me all those many years ago . . . we were the same. I couldn’t see it then, immersed as I was in my father’s culture. I saw German and Jew. You saw boy and girl. I saw rules and Reich. You saw peace and yearned for freedom.
I have thought of you every day since I left. Your angelic face was what I noticed the very first time we met. Your cheeks were sunken in and your breath smelled like rotting flesh. But what I remember the most - and this is what continues to haunt me in my dreams - are your eyes…your beautiful eyes that sparkled with light from deep within you. A light that even the Nazi’s with all their hate and murderous hands could not tear out of you, no matter how hard they tried. I am writing my thoughts now to your memory because I can’t live with this secret any longer. I am sorry I could not save you. I am sorry I did nothing. I am sorry my father’s plans interfered with your dreams and changed your destiny forever. My father, Rudolf Hoss - the first Commandant of Auschwitz and the mastermind of a “systematic killing process.” I was just a cowardly boy and could not bring myself to tell you that was why I lived so close to the killing factory. I played in my yard for years oblivious to the knowledge that babies, children, women, and men were dying daily by the thousands less than a mile away from my nursery. My home was Auschwitz, but this was not your home. I now know that it was your personal hell. “Arbeit Macht Frei" - work makes you free - was the sign that hung above the entrance to your burial ground. Of course, it was only an attempt to calm your fears as you stepped off the train, so you wouldn’t realize that you and all your loved ones were going to be executed… eventually... one way or another. Once Hitler’s reality was fully realized, it would be too late. Everyone was too late.