Just

Benjamin Kaufman

 

The typewriter sits in front of me idling. It doesn’t care what’s written on it, a machine devoid of emotion that fulfills its simple purpose. If only I could be that indifferent. The assignment was given to me weeks ago but I haven’t been able to put my fingers to the keys. How do you fix something so evil and how do you write about it? A machine…that’s what I have to be.

 

Since December 1941, ninety seven thousand have been processed by the three vehicles in service, with no major incidents. In light of the observations made so far, the following changes are needed:

 

The words roll away from me to the page. My arms feel heavy as I try to keep them poised to type. The red band burns through my uniform sleeve, the swastika a glowing coal branding me. I force my fingers to move, to get this over with. I don’t want to continue… I don’t want to be part of the ninety seven thousand. They force too many people into each death cart to be shipped away and slaughtered, that’s why the front axel keeps breaking, but I can’t say that. A machine…be a machine.

 

The vans normal load is usually nine per square yard. In Saurer vehicles, which are more spacious, maximum use of space is impossible, not because of chance of overload, but because loading to full would effect the vehicles stability.

 

I never wanted this. I went to university to be a real engineer. I wanted to help my country by giving it the means to support it self. I wanted railroads that would stretch to its borders and new shipping vessels to strengthen her core. What I got were U-boat projects and trains of horror that expand their blood soaked tracks beyond every horizon. I feel sick…I don’t want to be here anymore.

 

In fact, the balance is automatically restored, because the merchandise aboard displays during the operation a natural tendency to the rear doors, and is mainly found lying there at the end of the operation.

 

My hands shake, my chest is tight and it is hard to take breath. Almost done, keep going…

 

So the front axel is not overloaded.

 

My hands drag away, my head sinks…tears fall to the keys.

 

_____________

 

Twenty two days after I sent in that report I still have problems eating but at least I can almost sleep through the night…almost. The project I am working on could be considered clean in comparison. I’m helping design an arms factory outside of the camp. I force myself to think that the weapons produced are being used to protect our borders and cities from forces more terrifying than our own, but with every day that illusion is harder to hold onto. I see the trains arrive from my office window and the hordes of people disappear through the gates. The trains are never late; someone must have read my report, like clock work they arrive when I take my lunch. I’ve lost fifteen pounds.

Fordon Helmer, my assistant is diligently working on the other side of our office. He seems most eager to see the factory operational. I just want to be finished and move on to my next assignment, somewhere away from the camp.

I have noticed that some of our assistants are very awkward around me. Maybe they can sense the rot inside me.

 

Should give it to them as well? Infect them with this pain; with this unrelenting pressure forcing air from my chest. It would be easy. Simply tell them what the camps purpose is and watch their sanity hemorrhage from every pore. I can’t help but smile at the thought. As if everyone in this world isn’t insane. The smile catches Helmers’ eye.

“A smile? I haven’t seen one of those from you in a long time.” I just grunt in reply and shrug my shoulders. I know I can’t talk to him about my thoughts; he was a Hitler youth not two years ago. Helmer glances over my shoulder as the door to our office opens. He abruptly stands and salutes. I begin to follow suit instinctively when a gruff voice says, “No need to get up Lieutenant, I just need to have a word with you.” I relax and thank god it is just Captain Eberstark.

“Captain I didn’t expect to see you today. Our progress report isn’t ready yet.”

“It’s the filth’s fault sir, if they work any slower I’ll be a general by the time we are done,” Helmer said.

Captain Eberstark waived his hand in dismissal and gestured to the door. “Helmer go check on things, I need a word with the Lieutenant.”

“Yes sir,” Helmer replied and left the room.

“That boy tries a little to hard don’t you think,” Captain Eberstark said once Jenkins was out of earshot.

“To what do I owe the honor sir?”

“Temporary reassignment.”

“Sir?”

“They are having a small problem in the camp and your name was recommended to fix it. Apparently the higher ups appreciated your last assignment. From what I understand if your team can work the problem out this project will be put on hold.”

I don’t want to think about that camp. “Why would an arms factory be affected by a prisoner of war camp sir?”

“Well Lieutenant I honestly don’t know. I don’t really care to know either. No doubt you will be brought into the fold for this project but when you come back I don’t want to hear about it is that understood?”
“Yes sir,” I feel the blood drain from my head and I would fall over if I wasn’t already sitting.

_____________

 

Two days later I find myself walking through the camp with armed guards escorting me. As if they need to is all I can think as I see the people walking around, so thin their fragile frames barely hold themselves up. I am lead to an open yard with a tall brick wall surrounding three sides. The brick looks darker than normal. The guards tell me I am to wait here for Commandant Hoss to arrive. Ten minutes pass and I see a similar group to my own approach us. At the center is shorter man with brown receding hair and a stern expression. I salute and wait for reply.

“This is the area I want you to deal with Lieutenant,” Commandant Hoss says, ignoring my salute. “I have been told you are adept at dealing with situations such as this and will complete the task swiftly. What do you think?”

“Well sir, I’m not sure what I’m looking at?”

“What you’re looking at? This is a killing field Lieutenant. Anyone can see that. What do you think that factory you’ve been building is for?”

He was right, I knew what I was in immediately but didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t know that my work was intended to fuel this area, and that knowledge came as a sledge to my mind. I imagined something physically breaking inside me and was afraid that they would notice. Hide it, bury it. “So what is the problem then sir?”

“Well as I said anyone can tell what this area is. It has caused a lot of trouble for us when we process the undesirables. Even though we find them inferior and unfit to work their numbers prove inconvenient.”

There numbers prove inconvenient? The words swim through me and I realize why the bricks are darker than normal. How much blood would it take to stain brick? Don’t think about it, bury it.

“Are you looking for a way to hide it or a new means to process?” The Commandant fixes a stair on me. I fear that my emotions have been reflected in my speech.

“Are you ok Lieutenant?”

“Yes sir, fine sir,” I immediately reply. I search for a way to redeem myself. I look around to divert the attention.

 

“Well you already have three walls sir, so why not close it off? That would isolate the area.”

“That is a thought.” The Commandant looked at the walls as if imagining it. “Yes that might be the way. Now for the means Lieutenant, ammunition is proving too expensive, we need to look else where. What do you recommend?”

NO! I will not choose how to kill people, I mean, I can’t… I feel the words forming in my mouth. I am about to object and say this is wrong, when I remember where I am. I am standing on a killing field, one more death would be nothing here. What can I do? I can make it more humane. How? Painless.

“We could use gas sir. If we are enclosing the area it could hold it in for as long as you would need.”

“Gas? Hmmm. Yes, I like it. Plus I hear that gas can be terribly painful.” The Commandant laughed heartedly at that and I felt my bowels move. I thought gas was painless. “What do you think these prisoners might consider a luxury Lieutenant? What do they need?”

I was taken off guard by this question, not really sure what to make of it. “Well they look like they could use more food?”

“No that isn’t any good what else?

I turned and looked at those that were standing near the fences. They looked beaten, hope is what I thought they really needed. Practical, think practical.

“I think they would value a shower a lot sir.”

“That is perfect! We can disguise the building as a new shower house and pump in the gas through the shower heads. Oh that works out well. Plus they will disrobe themselves willingly which saves my men the dissatisfaction of sifting through their cloths for hidden items. I bet they would even build it themselves. They would be excited to.” The joy on this man’s face was grotesque. This was what man had become. Some twisted bag of manifested disgust that wanted to corrupt the would with its bile. “Lieutenant you are a godsend, make it so.”

_____________

 

The typewriter sits in front of me idling. The evil machine and all of its apathy clack, clack, clacking contentedly. Indifference…be indifferent? I am not a machine.

To alleviate the situation that has risen in the Auschwitz camp it has become advisable to find a new means of processing undesirables. There have been several incidents of subjects becoming agitated once processing begins and as such the grounds need to be remodeled.

 

This system of genocide has almost solely been created by me and I must say that it has become efficient. If nothing else it is efficient, terribly efficient, from train to shower in less than a day. It is my misshapen child that no one ever wants but has to be responsible for. I put my cigarette out on the discarded red armband and light another. My limbs feel lighter but my head still hurts.

To rid the death camps of your filth we must do it in a shower. Yes a shower. Let the life leak down the drains and dribble down your nice uniform. Pressed and starched, ready in the morning. Toss the remains in a fifteen foot hole.

 

My arms slack for a moment and I rub my eyes. The Light from the desk lamp makes them ache. I set my cigarette down in the ashtray next to my holstered pistol.

 

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