by Professor Q
I do not seek absolution, Lord, because I do not deserve it.
|My Lord Jesus, Son of God, Savior of Man, this was not the job I chose.
I never meant to line them up, to press them together until sunlight died between them, their bony limbs creaking with the pressure. I never meant to lie to them, to watch them strip naked until their cracked, bruised, broken skin greeted the world in all its abscessed profusion. I never intended to be the one pulling the lever, locking the door, sealing them in. I never thought to steal back my promises, a chance to sluice the dirt and blood and fear from their skin even for a short time. I never planned to give them instead gas and miasmic death.
I did not mean to be a murderer. But it seems I have become one.
My name is Friedrich. In the language of our people, this means peaceful ruler. So it seems I have become a traitor, as well. To my parents, who gave me this name in hopes I might one day live up to it. To myself, for sinking into such depravity. To Germany, for not having the courage to stand up to this monstrous, truculent regime despite the fear in my heart.
My Lord Jesus, there is nothing I can say or do which will cleanse my soul of this sin. I hear them at night. I hear them screaming; I hear them scratching at the door, their desiccated limbs too tired to pound. And then the silence, oh Deliverer. I hear the silence. I have not slept well in months. I do not deserve to sleep.
I am not the one forced to open the door. I do not have to shovel their bodies into a pit or into the ovens. There are others who do that. I'd like to think more odious others, but their tongues are not coated with lies; they do not flip the switch. They do not commit the sin, day in and day out. That is my job, and it is not the job I chose.
They say Auschwitz is not even the worst of the camps. They say others are worse. I do not believe it. We are all sinners. We are all base creatures, touched by depravity, twisted into grotesques by our choices.
I know this makes no difference, Lord, but we were suffering. The people of my village were starving, and we were frightened. Our countryside was a graveyard, a spiraling tale of death writ into the very Earth. The air, they said, would never be clean again; it was forever corrupted by the gasses of the Great War, the War to End All Wars. We had lost a generation, and we were frightened. My Lord, I confess I believed You had turned Your back on us; that we would be a Sodom or Gomorrah in this new age.
And then he came.
The enemies were punishing us, he said, for daring to rise above their pitiful hopes for our nation. For daring to possess even the smallest piece of Imperial greatness. We in the villages didn't care about Imperial hopes; we just wanted to eat, and to be proud of our nation. But following the war, “with the stranglehold of Allied reparations upon us”, we believed him.
Stupidly, we believed the lies, and we took them to heart. Germany could be great again, he told us. In his passion, he spun for us a world in which we were supreme, and in which no one would ever need suffer again. There would be food, and there would be clean air and water, and the fear that had stalked us, and the misery, would leave our fertile lands forever. Never again would a German child mewl into the darkness, crying out for a Father or Brother that wasn't there, or for a bite of food that no one could provide.
I remember reading his book—Mein Kampf—to my family, and their adoring stares as they heard the words only I could read, so naïve and frightened and unlearned, and I saw the promise burgeoning in their eyes for the first time. I was so young, a babe in arms when Germany fell to its enemies, but they remembered; they knew a time when Germany had been strong. Where my love came from youthful ambition and untutored, unbridled promise, they truly understood, they had lived, the abjection. And his words stirred in them all the hope it had stirred in me. They mirrored me with their worship, with their adulation; they mirrored me, and it thrived. Their hope stirred in me a sort of filial defensiveness; I became determined to free them from their despondency. Seeing their hope invigorated mine, and together our ungoverned worship soared; our fears diminished and our wills bent to his inexorable authority.
I believed him. And more, I adored him. I believed him our savior come amongst us, and that Germany would truly be the Roman Empire come to Earth once more. A Kingdom, my Lord Jesus, of which you could be proud.
I would do anything for him.
When he spoke of our enemies—of the Jews and the Poles and the Greeks and Gypsies—I did not stop for even the merest second to think about what he was saying. I was his and I was Germany's, and I would do anything, Savior, to make my land—my home—safe once more. Great once more. And so I tuned out his calls for annihilation, I ignored the niggling doubts and subsumed myself within the overwhelming force of his promise. I deafened my ears and my soul to the depravities of which he spoke with such bellicose glee. Such was my hope for glory that I hardened my heart to these people; in my fervor, I called for their imprisonment. I called for their deaths. I, practically a babe and still in school, donned the blood red Swastika of the Party. And my family, who'd scrimped and saved that I might attend a University, cried for joy when they saw me. Not yet twenty, but a hero to the village; a hero for Germany.
I did not remember a time when Germany had been great; my life had known only fear. And now I was a hero. Hitler had been my deliverer; he had been my hope, and now I would know greatness. I had been freed. Germany had been freed.
I laughed in malicious delight come the kristallnacht. In fact, I believed it was your righteous condemnation upon the unworthy, upon the traitors and the unrepentant. So I laughed the righteous laugh of the possessed and called for more blood. Oh Lord Christ, I look back at those times and I wonder who that man was. I wonder how a simple...peasant, for lack of a better word, could be twisted into a savage behemoth of hate and fear and violence. I wonder what Hitler did to us.
And then I remember, my Lord Jesus, that Hitler did nothing but give us an outlet for our disappointments. For our terrors and our hungers and our pains. Every murder, every act of berserker ambition, was a choice made in our own hearts. Hitler just provided us the excuse, gave us the permission we sought to give free reign to our depravities, gave us the lie with which to assuage our crooked souls.
Jesus, Redeemer of Man, this is the job I chose. I chose this.
I choose every day to lock starved and haggard innocents into a room. I choose to throw the lock and flip the switch, freeing death to stalk amongst them. I choose to listen to their screams and the sound of the scratching at the door until silence descends upon them forever.
The difference now, Lord Jesus, is that I close my eyes and I feel the weight of my sin upon my shoulders. The difference now is the rending of my soul to bits every time I choose once more to kill. And instead of glorifying Germany, I know in my heart that we are defaming it forever. That we have damned our entire nation, our entire peoples, to Hell. And I am unsure, Judge of Man, if we will ever be redeemed.
I do not blame Hitler. Others will, for all time, throughout all of history. I save my blame for myself, for my choices, for my willful conceit and self-deluding lies. I somehow awoke one day to realize that I had become Herr Frankenstein's monster, and Hitler had waved the flames of hatred before my eyes. I looked around me and saw only horror; I saw only a bacchanal of fear and degradation, fevered arousal and pitched repletion. I saw only the depths of human viciousness, and our willingness to paint another with our personal sins.
I looked down at myself and saw what I had become, Lord, and it disgusted me. For I had willingly allowed myself to be swayed. I'd reclined, supine, and allowed the wool to be pulled over my eyes.
I still do not know what awoke me. I do not know what freed me from the stranglehold of Hitler's fearful charisma. I think perhaps it was the sound of the scratching, the sleepless nights, and the eyes of my victims. Oh, the eyes of those broken creatures, shuffling, ambling into the darkness of the chamber. So...hopeless. They were more than half dead already; only their bodies were left standing, some unwilling strength of bone and sinew keeping them tethered to this world. But when they entered, and when I threw the door, they turned. And, in that instant before the darkness took them, I saw that they knew. They knew, and they begged. They begged, oh Messiah, for me to change my mind. One last surge of hope, before I stole it from them forever.
The begging took its toll, I think. And the scratching. And the long, arduous, sleepless nights, the guilt picking at my devotion. Their hopelessness...it gnawed at me. I saw it, and it reminded me so keenly of my family. Thoughts pricked at my conscience, plaguing me. Hope had become a commodity in Germany, and to feed my loved ones, I had stolen it from these people. I had drained it drop by drop, switch by switch, murder by inglorious murder. For a time, I was able to conquer these pangs of humanity, but as their hope disappeared, so too did my devotion. And finally, one morning, I woke and I was Friedrich once more. I was free of the monster I had been, and I blinked into the morning light with fresh eyes. And the despair that gripped my soul...I knew, in that moment, what I had done. And what I had lost in the delirium of Hitler's phantasmagoria of murder and blood.
That was when the plan began.
Savior of Man, today I choose something new. Today I meet you, and though I know you will turn your face from mine and damn me to the fiery depths of Hell, I meet you knowing I have done something worthy.
Today I will not lock the door. Today I will not throw the switch. Today I will open the gates and I will run, and I will watch them run with me. I don't know, my Lord Christ, whether any will get away. I pray with my whole being that at least one will escape, that at least one will make it to the forest and to freedom. Most will die, Lord, this I know. But I pray that a death of their choosing is better than a lie and a gas-filled room. I pray it is a better death than scratching at the door as the air is stolen from their lungs and they slip, choking and terrified, into oblivion.
This, Judger of Souls, is my confession. I write it because I do not require a Priest to absolve me, though I doubt he would if he could. I do not seek absolution, because I do not deserve it. I only hope that someone will read this and take heart; I hope only that someone, somewhere, will see what is happening to Germany and know that at least one person fought back. That one person chose something new, if only for a brief moment. I hope, most of all, that you steel my soul against the fear. For I am terrified, my Lord Jesus. And though I do not doubt my purpose; I confess it frightens me nonetheless.
I ask only that you give me the strength to do what I must do.
There. I am finished. This is the end, Lord Christ. It is time now, to throw the gates. My pistol is loaded; no matter what happens, I will be dead by dawn. I will not allow myself to be taken and killed as a traitor. I hope you will forgive me my pride, but I will not be punished for the one crime I have not committed.
I pray I see you soon. I know I will not.
This is the job I choose.
Post Edit Word Count, following my First Place Win in the April 2013 round of "What a Character! : Official WDC Contest" : 2196