Hope and Freedom - complete

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Mon Aug 31, 2009 6:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Hope and Freedom - complete

Thankyou for the bunny food JB. Please excuse any historical inaccuracies I make.

- X -

It’s cold. That’s all of the details that I allow myself to register, because as soon as I open my eyes I know that all of the horrors will come flooding back. I must block my mind to it. I mustn’t think about the past, or the future, just these blessed few moments when I can keep my eyes shut and not think about that other world. This isn’t real, none of this can be, it can’t be happening to me. If I just shut my eyes long enough, and pray hard enough, I’ll wake up in bed at home.

The warm sheets will envelop me, and the feathers in my pillow will be soft enough to sink under me, and the only worry I’ll have will be what clothes to wear. Breakfast will be waiting for me on the table when I come down, one of the maids to bring me orange juice as soon as I order it. I can smell the sausages wafting through the house now, my mouth is watering so badly, because of the desperately dull ache in my stomach, which has almost grown used to being empty now.

There is a voice shouting outside, but it is only Wolfram, calling me lazy and telling me to get up. He’s just applied to join the Army, to fight for the principles we all believe in so much. One true race, pure, all inferiors left behind. He is prepared to fight and die for that belief, and I admire him so much; not that I’ll tell him, he’d only use it to tease me more. There it is again, that voice, calling me out of bed. It’s worked, my prayers have been answered, he’s standing right at the foot of my bed, about to start laughing.

For a foolish time I believed that I would cease to feel pain, that there would come a time when I would be immune to it. That hope was what got me through at the start, but day after day of the numbing drudgery still failed to bring me to that state, and I’ve given up on it now. I believe all of the guards’ promises, that the last thing I feel on this Earth shall be pain, and I will revel in it, enjoy it, because it will mean the end. My sufferings, I like to think, will be over, though I’m even starting to believe what they say about this being only the start.

The hard concrete of the floor jars me awake, but even as the agony from the broken bones in my body registers I block it out of my mind. You never cry in front of them, not until you can’t help it anymore, you never give them the satisfaction they crave until they force it out of you. Even when a heavy, steel ended boot brings fresh pain I don’t cry out, though the tears sting my eyes. Physical suffering means nothing anymore.

I can feel the draft from where I am lying, curled up, waiting to be dragged into a standing position. It’s been torturing me all night, waking me up at odd intervals so I can hear the others screaming, and the guards laughing, or calling out to each other. Once I heard a baby wailing, but I put my pillow over my head. You can’t think about the others in here, only yourself, your survival.

Stupidly, I had thought that I’d figured out the rules to their bizarre morning ritual at last, but it appears I was wrong. My head thuds into the wall to prove it, a raucous laugh above me from whoever had just kicked me again. Silently, I struggle into the standing position they demand of me so that they can inspect me. I have no clothes, one of the other inmates stole them off me yesterday, so they throw a suit at me. It’s indistinguishable from the last.

It appears that there weren’t enough rations for breakfast this morning. I follow the coarse German desperately, until the last syllable, hoping that this will all just be a joke and they will laugh at the crestfallen faces about them. It’s amazing what hope can survive in the bleakest of circumstances, when you look simply from one meal to the next as they only real way of counting time. But a blinding light has filled the tiny wooden hut and I’m being prodded in the back.

The work of the day must commence.

Author:  JB [ Mon Aug 31, 2009 6:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

That's so good, Ariel. I'm lost for words if you've written that since I posted this afternoon.

What a chilling ending.

Author:  Lesley [ Mon Aug 31, 2009 6:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

Very chilling.


Thank you

Author:  Sugar [ Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom


I'm struggling with the context though. Why would Thekla be in a camp?

Author:  Lesley [ Tue Sep 01, 2009 6:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

Sugar wrote:

I'm struggling with the context though. Why would Thekla be in a camp?

There was a discussion on another thread (Peace League one I think) about those Austrian and German girls that could have been at risk once War had started. One of the things mentioned was those girls who may have had Jewish ancestry. Although Thekla's Father was the most Prussian of Prussians, her Mother was his second wife and may have had a remote ancster that was Jewish. The Jewish count descent via the matriarchal line so Thekla would have been classed as a Jew. :cry:

Author:  leahbelle [ Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

What a horrible situation for Thekla to be in. Thanks, Ariel. That was so well written that I could imagine myself being there with Thekla.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Tue Sep 01, 2009 5:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

Thankyou for all of your comments. All will be explained, Sugar, though Lesley has put it in a nutshell. I'm sorry this is such a dark piece of writing.

- X -

Naturally I can’t stop for more than a few seconds at a time without drawing attention to myself, but it is one of those odd coincidences of life that as I walk back to the tiny wooden hut I laughingly call home now I can see the sunset. It’s often the best part of the day for me, the snatched few seconds of that glorious act of nature which combines to send joy and dread down my spine at the same time.

My own sun must set soon, I know that. Everybody in here can only live so long, and my time will come. When you first arrive they promise they will take everything from you, and for a long time I believed them. As they stripped me, first of the fancy things I never needed, and then of basic things like dignity, and trust in humankind, I began to think they would truly leave me with nothing but life. But I’ve learnt that even in the most depraved of situations hope still exists, and they will never take that from me.

Now it’s been chipped down to a simple hope that my end will be quick, and soon. I’ve concluded that whatever waits for me on the other side of life, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as this. They’ve brought Hell to Earth and made it worse, and they’ve subjected the most innocent to it. The Devil now holds the world in his hands, and he will soon destroy all of humankind. I only hope that I never live to see it happen.

My eyes fix rigidly on the dying rays of the sun, turning the normally dull grey sky a beautiful combination of reds and golds. Occasionally the thought will come that it reminds me of my time in the Alps, in school, but it is one I quickly push away. To remember even that, relatively speaking, happy period is to admit that there was a time before this, and that is something I cannot do. But it is still a better thought than the conscious admittance of what my senses refuse to acknowledge.

They take everything they possibly can from you in here. They take normality, worship, even good health from you. They leave you wretched, broken, a living image of everything they supposed you to be in the first place. And they keep taking. Even in death they cannot leave you alone, but they subject your body to the most horrific of conditions. Now they’ve dug – or, rather, made poor souls like us dig – huge pits, which they fill with dead bodies to be burnt. Even in release, and freedom, they can still take your final dignity from you.

This body I inhabit, which causes me so much pain, and brings them new ways to torture me, will end up in that stinking pit soon. I discreetly cross myself as I pass; I can’t be too overt, I will get another beating if they think I’m doing something so obviously religious, but they cannot stop my silent prayers. I pray for all those who have suffered and will suffer in here – old or young, rich or poor, Christian or otherwise, I pray for them and for their souls. I know that He cannot make them suffer any more, I have faith in Him.

Only a few guards patrol us as we walk back, we are trusted to be good now. One of them is a man I know better than anybody else here, a man called Hermann. He watched me from the very beginning, and did everything he could to make my life a misery – he was always the first to beat me, to degrade and humiliate me. I think he knows that in another time he would have been trying to win my hand in marriage, I see a look of frustration in his eyes sometimes and I know. I sense. I’ve got good at that in here.

He’s got a new sport, ever since a few months back. My body tenses as we reach a certain point of the palisade. I’ve been counting the boards, and we’ve reached the thirty-fourth. It is always here, every night, ritualistically. A tap on my shoulder. I stand out of line, refusing to tremble, looking straight ahead, not acknowledging what must come. If I don’t ever think about it, it never happens. Of course, this never happens; men and women are kept strictly segregated, only they’re running out of bodies now. So they’ve given us some of the male guards – Nazi prisoners themselves, but better prisoners than ourselves, allowed a certain amount of power. Hermann is one of them.

I used to find it interesting to see the power being played out between them, this odd gamble of how far you could go. I can feel no sympathy for them, they are betraying us as surely as everybody else who sits by and does nothing, doesn’t try to stop our suffering. They are just as bad as those who actively make it happen, and I hate them all. But recently I’ve been able to focus my hate on Hermann in particular, which, in its own ironic way, makes it rather a fair exchange. He gets my body, I get to keep my emotions.

One of the games they thought up was to experiment on us, to see how far they could corrupt nature, until it was as warped as themselves. Women, of course, were the best target, because we hold the key to their perfect Aryan race. If a woman isn’t pure, how can her children be? And nobody in this forsaken place is pure. I wasn’t spared – youthful, fit, I was the ideal candidate. I never think about what happened, but Hermann likes to remind me that I’ll never pass on my Jewish scum to some devil who’ll suckle off me. Before they took me, he could never have done what he does now. Technically he shouldn’t, no guard should. It would mean being physically intimate with the undesirable, the sub-human, something which would revolt any good Nazi follower. The men in here are admired, thought heroes, just for getting this close to us.

Hermann knows he is safe, though. There are a line of bruises across my back which match exactly the pattern of the wooden boards making up the wall of the hut he leads me behind. I’m not the only one, nor the last, there are other women lead out of the line as we walk home, but we all turn away. They’ve even turned me into the very thing I despise most. Nobody else will see anything, this will never have happened.

Every night I refuse to shut my eyes, to turn my head away, to give him any indication that he has mastered me through fear and disgust. I simply stare into the middle distance and make myself go numb inside.

Author:  Sugar [ Tue Sep 01, 2009 7:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

Lesley wrote:
Sugar wrote:

I'm struggling with the context though. Why would Thekla be in a camp?

There was a discussion on another thread (Peace League one I think) about those Austrian and German girls that could have been at risk once War had started. One of the things mentioned was those girls who may have had Jewish ancestry. Although Thekla's Father was the most Prussian of Prussians, her Mother was his second wife and may have had a remote ancster that was Jewish. The Jewish count descent via the matriarchal line so Thekla would have been classed as a Jew. :cry:

Thanks for the explanation Lesley. Makes more sense now and is even more chilling.

Author:  Abi [ Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

:cry: Poor Thekla. Thanks Ariel.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

Tonight is one of the nights I wake up, covered in sweat despite the temperature – which, if it wasn’t for the number of bodies they pack into each small space, would be below zero. It happens quite often, regaining consciousness to find myself almost inextricably tangled in the sheets, screaming for my mother, those around me shifting uncomfortably and muttering in their own sleep. It’s difficult to sleep in here at first, but soon enough the backdrop of cries and loud lamentations becomes soothing somehow. While there’s noise, there’s other people surviving in this, alive, you aren’t alone.

Mother was taken as soon as we arrived. They separated us, we later learnt into those strong enough to work and those not. I remember the dread in my heart as I saw my mother being guided away from me, forced to stand among old men coughing and wheezing, and young children with the same flu she’d caught on the journey. More than half of them were in that group. I started to scream at them, ordering them to let us stay together, begging them not to tear us apart. But there was nothing I could do against them by myself, I should have just kept quiet. From then on I was singled out, the feisty one, the one who needed to be kept under control.

When I was brought in they took all of my possessions away, even my picture of my mother. All I have left of her is the last glimpse I got as I was lead away, old and frail, her hair knotted on the back of her head but wispy, flyaway. Her eyes were wild and uncomprehending, her body bent and broken where she had protected me throughout the journey. I don’t allow myself to think before that time, I can’t bear to compare the youthful, energetic woman who raised me to the shell I said goodbye to.

At least she never suffered as I have, she never had to see me go through this. The last time I saw a mirror I had just been prepared to go into the camp. My head was bare, except for the blood trickling down it from various places, my eyes wide and confused, cheeks hollowed through weeks of starvation on the journey. I cried then, not for myself, or everything I’d been through, but for what my father would say if he could see me now. I always loved him so much, more than anyone else in the world. He used to bounce me on his knee as a child, and laugh, and say that I was such a daddy’s girl.

It would be easy to blame my mother, to say that if she’d told us about her Jewish grandfather before we might have had the chance of escape. My father would have got us out of the country somehow, used his connections and his wealth and his power. He might even have come with us. But even if she had, she knew that Wolfram would have stopped us. Right at the start he was indoctrinated by their Nazi ideology, he was one of the first to go and sign up – after all, father was the Prussian of Prussians, he had nothing to fear. I remember vividly the look on his face when he heard mother confess. Suddenly we weren’t his family, I wasn’t the little sister he used to chase around the garden. We were simply Jews.

One guard, an old friend of Wolfram’s who stopped working here many months ago, told me that he and father had changed their names after we were taken, to avoid having to be associated with us. I can understand that; the need for self-preservation will drive some people to anything, even to lying about knowing those closest to them. I can forgive them that. But I will never forgive Wolfram for betraying us at first, for making sure we couldn’t even try and escape. I’ll never forgive him for still believing in this madness after he has seen that it is so untrue.

Sleep isn’t easy to find tonight. There is a woman in the hut opposite screaming for her child, probably long since dead, or taken so that she will never see it again. She isn’t the only one. Mothers look at me and mutter how lucky I am not to have felt their pain. They think it was a mercy I should never have children. Old women stare me down during the work hours, talking about their own children, grandchildren, some of them not Jewish at all, who hadn't done anything against the Nazi regime, who they have caused to be put through this. I haven’t brought anyone with me, I don’t have anyone left to be responsible for, to care about. They think me fortunate.

The woman on the bunk below me told me one evening that she has two sons, who she still believes are with their father in here somewhere. We don’t often share stories, it makes it too personal when they take you, but occasionally one of us will mention something. I never talk, I’d have nothing to say. Sometimes I think about betraying Wolfram, like he betrayed us, telling these strangers about how my own brother let this happen to me. I know they would unite with me against the tyranny which has brought us here, but I can’t do it. I am a better person than him.

Dawn is starting to creep in now, bringing with it a new day, a day of hope that it might be the last. Even though I crave the end so badly, cannot wait for it to come, panic still grips me when I think that this might be the last time I lie in this bunk, breathe in the fresh morning air, wait for the coming of the guards. Terror can still take hold, even now. My hands start to shake. Freedom is almost more terrible than the existence I’m in, because freedom brings with it the unknown.

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

Poor Thekla - this is chilling.

Author:  JB [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

Ariel, this is such powerful writing.

Thekla is being so brave and so generous towards her father.

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 6:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom

I just wanted to say thankyou to anyone who has read this - it has been the most difficult piece of writing I've ever done, and to know that even just a few people are reading it is so special. Thankyou. I hope I've done it justice.

- X -

Months later, that dreaded, hoped for moment comes. The guards always come earlier if some of you are being taken to the Showers, and it’s still grey outside when the door is opened today. Mist hangs over the other buildings, the sun rays haven’t even started their ascent into the sky yet. It’s the same when they collect you in the outside world, as early as possible, so you’re befuddled and can’t fight back. Always early.

The whole hut sits up in its beds, watching warily. It’s surprising what people are prepared to go through for one more day on earth; I’d suffer another day of torture to be able to see the sunset again as I walk back. But it isn’t to be. They beckon first at one or two of the oldest among us, and my heart goes into my throat. I would never send someone to that end instead of myself, but if they’re just going ahead of me…

The finger falls on the end of my bed.

My first instinct is to cry out, to argue, to beg and plead not to be taken, to be allowed another chance, but the lump in my throat stops me. I’m amused to recognise it as fear – after all this time, all the hope that I’d be freed from this, I’m scared to meet my end. But as I’m jumping off my bed, shuffling into line, a woman, middle aged, with dark blue eyes filled with tears, reaches out and holds my hand for just a second. She reminds me of my mother, and I stiffen involuntarily. It’s been so many months since anyone touched me kindly, and the simple act of compassion nearly breaks me altogether.

I know what it means, though. It means not to give in, to let them see that you’re scared, but to go with dignity and not to let them beat you at the last. Whatever they’ve done to you before this, to walk to a certain death with your head held high means they’ll never quite conquer you, and it’s something we all aspire to, an unspoken ambition among us.

The walk across the courtyard is the longest I’ll ever know. We stop at other huts, collect other sleep numbed women, old and young, new and old, seemingly at random. There is no method to what they do. I’m sandwiched between two old women, who limp along, barely able to stand up by themselves. One nearly stumbles and has to be caught; it is plainly obvious that she is starving to death. A small act of mercy.

My breath catches in my throat as we approach the place it will happen. A simple building, ugly, just large enough to hold us all. Instinctively, I hold my head higher; perhaps my mother knew too, entered this very building also determined not to break down but to show that she wasn’t ashamed of what she was. I hope so. And I hope I am making her proud – I can feel her, walking next to me, giving me strength. She’s waiting nearby, to hold me again, this is my final test.

At the doorway stand two guards, counting us in. The queue of people has stopped as we shuffle forwards a little bit every few seconds, agonisingly slowly. At last the sun is beginning to rise in the sky, dissipating the mist and filling the world with warmth. A dog barks in the distance, and there are some muffled shouts. The grey is getting lighter. I stand and take in everything I can, so that when I’m stood there, waiting for eternity, my last thoughts can be of the outside world, of nature, of anything but what awaits me now.

I nearly scream in horror as I reach the door; the man on one side, waiting to count me in, I recognise him despite the large blonde beard he has grown, and the long hair flopping over his face. I could never forget that face, the face that used to let me into his bed to curl me back to sleep after a nightmare, the face that used to protect me, play games with me, make me laugh. I could never, ever forget Wolfram.

Our glances meet in blank recognition, but neither face shows it. In that second I hold the power of revenge in my hands. All I have to do is say it, two simple words, and I could turn everything around. It wouldn’t save me, but it would bring Wolfram down with me, drag him into the murky pits of the hell I’ve endured. He would do it, if he was the one being lead into that building, we both know he would. But I don’t. I relish staring him down, and not saying anything, not dragging myself to his level but rising above it. In the end, I, the Jew, the lesser being, was the better one.

His hand touches my shoulder briefly to count me in, and he pushes me slightly to get me past. He can’t look at me again, even though I’ve raised myself to my full height, am holding myself erect. I am unconquerable. I shall meet death, and I shall do so gladly, because I am being freed from the bonds of this world to the hope of peace and mercy. It is a better fate than his, but that is between him and his conscience, and my only hope is that he can live with himself. I start to feel his eyes boring into my shoulders, and I like to think he is promising that if he could save me he would. But I am the worst of the worst, the scum of the earth, the unredeemable.

I am Thekla von Stift.

And even as the echoes of my footsteps die away, I do not look back at my brother.

Author:  Lesley [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 6:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Rest in Peace Thekla

Thank you Ariel - a really chilling and powerful piece of writing.

Author:  Tara [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 7:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

I've only just found this, Ariel - what an incredibly powerful piece of writing. I need to go and assimilate it quietly. Thekla was so impressive in her strength and wholeness, despite what was happening to her. Thank you, that must have been really hard to write.

Author:  janetbrown23 [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 7:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thank you for a most disturbing and thought provoking drabble.

Author:  PaulineS [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 7:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

May your God be with you Thelka, and may you rest in peace.

Thank you Ariel

Author:  Abi [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 8:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

That was such a powerful portrait of Thekla. Her strength, even in her greatest weakness, was extraordinary. Thanks Ariel, that was really moving.

Author:  Mrs Redboots [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 8:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thank you.

Author:  shesings [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 8:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Just so moving - and so frightening because the mindset which can destroy other human beings in the name of a cause, without pity, without conscience and, indeed, with pride, seems to be endemic in the human race

Author:  Sugar [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Speechless. :cry:

Author:  Alison H [ Wed Sep 02, 2009 11:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thank you - that must have been very hard to write.

Author:  Fiona Mc [ Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thanks Ariel. I have just read it all and it's left me speechless. It's an amazing story and poor Thekla for being betrayed by her own brother

Author:  Emma A [ Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

I do admire this Thekla so much, Ariel, for her refusal to be degraded, however badly she is being and has been treated, and for her refusal to betray her brother as he had her. I had tears in my eyes after reading that last post.


Author:  abbeybufo [ Thu Sep 03, 2009 2:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Chilling and compelling - and beautifully written! Thank you, Ariel.

Author:  JB [ Thu Sep 03, 2009 6:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

That was an amazing piece of writing, Ariel.

I cried at the last instalment.

Author:  stuffs [ Sun Sep 20, 2009 5:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete


Author:  Smile :) [ Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thanks Ariel that must have been really hard for you to write.

Author:  Matilda [ Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

That was very moving

Thank you

Author:  Carolyn P [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thank you, that was very...hard.

Author:  Liz K [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

What a story!

Thank you.

Author:  shazwales [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 10:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thank you that was a very moving and chilling piece of writing.

Author:  Chris [ Fri Oct 09, 2009 1:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

I don't think 'enjoy' is the right word for this, but it is certainly a very powerful piece of writing and you are dragged inexorably along with Thekla to the end. Very frightening and sad, what people can do to each other.


Author:  crystaltips [ Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Wow........just, wow

Author:  brie [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 8:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

there is really nothing I can say. That was powerful. Beautifully written and yet so terrible. Thank you.

Author:  Luisa [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 6:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

how did I miss this?
Thank you

Author:  Millie [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Thank You Ariel.

Author:  Billie [ Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Wow Ariel, that was so chilling and heartbreaking... very well written. I don't have words to do it justice.

Author:  Jools [ Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hope and Freedom - complete

Brilliant Ariel - you are a wonderful writer!

All times are UTC + 1 hour
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group