Printed from WriteWords -


by  DJC

Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2006
Word Count: 443
Summary: My flash for this week.

The winter had been harsh, even by Polish standards. The wind swept off the plain and into the camp. You needed bodies in the way, otherwise the wind would cut you in two. Those at the edge stood less chance. It was the old and the weak who ended up there, like sticks holding up a tent of meagre comfort. The trick was to get there early, to push your way to the front, so that the others had to gather around you. It was a case of working out the tricks, in order to survive.

Rudie had been at the camp for six months. His wife and son had been taken as soon as they’d arrived. He thought of them less and less now.

That morning, Rudie had woken from a dream in which he had been with his family. Anna-Lise was making pancakes. Alex was playing the piano, his slim fingers drifting over the keys, filling the room with Chopin. Rudie was in his armchair, reading the paper. Then he woke, in his cot, stiff with cold. He pushed the dream away before he’d even opened his eyes. He could not carry something like that into the camp. It would be fatal. He’d seen men fall apart with the weight of their dreams.

They gathered in the yard. The SS officers milled around, smoking. One took hold of a young girl’s hair. He dragged her away from the group and stood her beside him. She looked terrified. Rudie had seen this girl arrive, two days before. She was pretty. Some families, when they’d known they were being taken to a camp, would chop off the hair of their daughters, or worse, so they were made less attractive. It seldom worked.

The SS commandant’s voice drifted out over the group. Rudie understood none of what he said, but it made no difference. You were either alive or dead here, or at different stages in between. Words meant little, in whatever language.

As if from nowhere, a hand gripped Rudie’s arm and dragged him from the group. He looked up to see an officer staring at him. The officer spat in his face but said nothing. It was a mistake to look an officer in the eye. For a moment Rudie had forgotten himself. He cursed his stupidity.

He was lined up facing the others. He was told to kneel down. He felt something cold press into the back of his neck. He thought of his wife and son.

Then there was laughter, and he was kicked to the ground. They liked to do this, sometimes. Pretend. To them it was a game.