I wrote this piece to show a perspective of a young man who has just joined the german army at the time of world war two (1939 – 1945). He is very proud to serve Germany as he has always aspired to be part of the army. However he soon discovers the nature of the horrors the nazi’s are commiting against people they don’t think are equal to them (jews, gypsies, communists). He realises he is working in a concentration camp and his perception changes to feeling betrayed by Germany and the army, therefore oposes to the actions they are taking (mass gassing and shootings in camps). I want the reader to feel the ‘betrayal’ of when he finds out about what they really do and how when you are so focused on becoming something that has a perception of being great, maybe it isn’t so great.
To Aspire to Betray
Today is the day. The one day I have been looking forward to for a long time. My birthday, but that’s not the important part. 18 years I’ve come, my next step to join the German Army to serve my country. No greater privilege exists to me than to serve Germany. I was born in the capital, Berlin and grew up there, so I know everything there is to know about Germany. Army generals walked through town back in the day, smart and proper, I stared at them in awe. Positioned in strict sequence, wearing minimal but striking green. Thinking of those memories makes me smile. Friendly blends of orange and pink stream in my windows, forces my eyes open. 8.47am, the clock blinks. 13 minutes until my appointment at military base. Rushing out the door, dancing with the wind, I bike to town.
Just as the clock strikes 9am, a women comes out, dressed in a murky green uniform with the swastika plastered over her clothes shouts “Jones, Edward? Come in here please.” Her voice alerts my ears suddenly making me feel nervous. Trembling I walk in, observing that the room matches the lady. Nazi decor hides every piece of green wall paint. I sit down on a dreary green chair, and the lady looks me up and down. “We’ve reviewed your application, and are pleased to announce that you have been accepted to be part of the army.” Spitefully she curls her lip but excitement fills me like a cup of warm soup on a freezing night, I did it! I wonder what happens now, do I get a gun? Do I live with heaps of others in trenches? However, she soon crumples my desire to go on the field. “You see Edward, everyone has to work hard to get to the top ranks. You just turned 18, you need some experience and training to go into the field. I have a starting job for you, a personal assistant to the senior sergeant at one of the working holiday camps we provide for some types of people.” She exaggerated the word types. “Just some paperwork, only for a short amount of time. You start next Monday.” She has point, even though I hate to admit it. To be trained is better than not to be trained. At least I’ll be able to talk to some of these higher ranked people, and talk about their experiences. I’m sure they will have lots to say, what could be more thrilling than being in the army?
Next Monday, I’m walking into a holiday working camp. This place is strange. The main gate, separates me from the rest of the world with high barbed wire towers. Why is barbed wire needed? The people come here voluntarily, I’ve been told by the lady at the office. Small buildings line up here, all arranged in rows like a dormitory in boarding school. Odd vibes hang over me, it’s ever so silent, all I can hear are my own footsteps, echoing throughout the camp. Knocking 3 short taps on a exhausted wooden door, a tall, buff army general meets my feet. Without words he ushers me in. “Edward is it?” His voice is just as powerful as his stance. “Yea – ah, that’s me.” Looking around at the room, it’s just like the lady and her office, the swastika plasters everything. A kid has been let loose with his favourite stamp. Dull and boring clouds are the sky today, reflecting the job. Staring at the pile of disarray on the floor, this is going to be a long day.
Two weeks have passed since I’ve been here doing my paperwork job. The sergeant who I have forgotten his name doesn’t spend much time here in the office. He just makes a few phone calls here and there but spends most of his time around the camp, making sure everyone’s okay I guess. However what I saw the other day blocks my mind. I was leaving to go home, and I saw a little boy hunched by the barbed wire fence, weeping. Dressed in some sort of dirty blue and white striped pyjamas, he looks up at me with deep fear in his eyes, like he’s afraid of me. My instincts tell me to help him, but he immediately stands up and runs towards the dormitory type rooms, soon vanishing into the night. He runs towards some sort of warehouse building, which sometimes has billowing black smoke pouring from its chimney. What’s burning? Why did he run away? Why was he dressed in strange clothes and crying? Snapping back to reality I try to forget the little boy I saw. My watch flashes 4.59pm. Nearly time to go.
I ended up having to stay an extra hour to repaint the front door. Gosh, this walk from the office to the front gate is truly depressing. Darkness crawls out along with silence, yet strangely I hear some footsteps that aren’t my own. I decide to have a bit of fun and investigate, hopefully no one will see me. Heading towards the warehouse building, I notice this camp is huge! The same odd dormitory buildings are a familiar occurrence. I go closer to see them and I’m appalled. These aren’t buildings, they barely count as shacks! Beds are just one blanket and a straw pillow. People can’t surely live in these conditions, these are horrid. Rats scatter the place like leaves fallen from a tree, they are everywhere. Rat stench is unbearable. I’ve seen enough for now. More footsteps and muffled voices appear. I move and find myself right by the warehouse and know I shouldn’t be here. Billowing black smoke puffs out of the chimney. I observe it, it’s not that type of smoke where it’s light and airy, fading away. It’s dark and there is lot’s of it. I notice what looks like some sort of concealed void out the back of the warehouse, yet another odd thing in this camp. I can’t help but focus on this void, there’s a door opened at the back, with some people carrying out what looks like a person. The person isn’t moving and is wearing striped pyjamas. Dread fills my stomach, but my body forces my feet to walk closer to see who the people are. I feel as though I’ve been shot in the stomach with betrayal. Swastikas plaster the person’s arm, like it was the wallpaper and the ladies uniform. I can’t think properly, what are the soldiers, German soldiers that are supposed to be on the same side as me unloading dead bodies from the warehouse? Pinching myself hard I run as fast as my legs can take me away from this place, flying past the warehouse, the shacks, the barbed wire all the way home.
As I walk into the camp again the next morning, I contemplate quitting. Or at least, I’m going to inform the sergeant of what I saw. This uniform doesn’t mean anything to me now. “Sir, I need to inform you of something I saw last night, in private”. His expression hasn’t changed, but when has it ever? He ushers me inside and words spill out of my mouth like a burst tap, the German soldiers, the dead bodies, the warehouse door, the shacks. Maybe I’ve been dreaming. Yet he just chuckles at my words. “Hate to inform you Edward, you ain’t dreaming. What you saw was true, the bodies, the swastika, the warehouse, didn’t you see the smoke?” Of course. The smoke. The billowing black clouds of smoke, puffing from the chimney. “What was the smoke for Edward? Come on, you’re a smart boy, I’ll leave you to work it out, I don’t want you oblivious to what goes on in the camp, even though you’re young. Your part of it after all, you’re a nazi. Those types of people don’t deserve to live with us.” Of course. The boy in the striped pyjamas was crying because of what happens in the warehouse. Of course the lady exaggerated the word “types”. Black smoke isn’t normal. Overwhelming emotions make me feel sick, I don’t know what to do. One thing I know is I’m not serving an army doing that to people. I move forward towards him, staring at the sargent as hard as I can, I’m piercing his eyes. Wracked with anger I fumble to pick up the sergeants secretly stashed gun under the right hand draw in his dresser where I’m sitting. But I can’t do it, I can’t shoot him. I can’t become like them, taking people’s lives just for hatred and cruelty. The gun drops itself out of my hands. I urge myself to stop piercing his eyes and walk away.