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Arbeit Macht Frei

Most walls can talk, they just choose not to.Just know when they decide to no longer sit idly by, it likely carries bad tidings for those who take shelter in them.

By Jordan FlynnPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 14 min read
3
Arbeit Macht Frei
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

If walls could talk, it would be worrisome for many. You best be wary, for, although they choose not to speak, they surely do listen. I tell you this as one of them.

It was as if there were a sudden mass agreement that we could no longer stand silent at what was taking place in our presence.

Word would travel quickly, whispers from one end of the camp to the other. What one wall had witnessed on the east end, another would carry the knowledge of on the western side.

Like a giant game of telephone, they would pass conversations to each other. Unlike when people played the game, with walls when the sentence reached its destination it was as perfect as when it was first uttered

It was the last day of the people's journey, the last day the walls were dormant.

There was a grinding of brakes and the wagons squealed to a halt. A moment of calm was ushered in by the rattle of bolts and the order ‘‘Alle heraus!”

They made their way onto the platform, still wet from the recent rains.

The waves of people emerged from the wagons clustered in groups. There was something familiar and reassuring in the tightness of the herd, in the smell and the warmth.

Despite their diversity there was a solidarity in their faces. Faces and eyes full of sadness, fear, confusion, and hatred.

Two guards walked pompously up and down the platform, their boots ringing on the asphalt. They seemed carefree and thoughtful despite the environment, looking neither at the young Jews carrying out the corpse of an old woman, her hair of snow covering her face, nor at the dark-haired man on all fours drinking from a puddle.

As the crowd slowly emptied from the forty-eight wagons they formed a half-circle around the square. An official approached, his collars carried two terrible lightning bolt insignia's. His hands impatiently waved about from his fur-collared greatcoat. Small glasses rode the bridge of his nose.

A number of voices shouted “Halt!” The officer would walk along the ranks and quietly he asked: “Age? Occupation?” He would point at numerous people, thirty-two in all, and they were taken from the rows.

Then another command:

“Doctors, surgeons!”

There was no response but a sickly cough.

‘Doctors, surgeons, Come forward!” The words echoed from the walls.

Again, silence.

The officer waved a hand casually away as he walked back to the main building. He had lost interest in the thousands of other people in the square.

The chosen were formed into ranks of five and marched toward the banner above the gates: “Arbeit macht frei.”

Children and some women in the main column screamed, their cries wild and ear piercing. Meanwhile the chosen stood in silence, hanging their heads as they were torn away from friends, and family.

It was then the walls began their listening, and began feeling the energy from those trapped beneath them.

One man stuck out to us, his story one of many. His feeling, one we could only vaguely understand or consider.

He screamed her name once in vain, “Sonya!” Even if we could fully understand, how does one convey these things? How can one fathom the last, quick look at a beloved one's face? How can one describe how a man can live with the merciless memory of how, during this last silent parting, he blinked for a moment to hide the vulgar joy he felt that his life was saved? How can he see the next sunrise with any strength left? How can he continue to exist knowing that while he warms his hands above the stove, the hands he kissed must be burning? Now that the hair whose smell he could know in the darkness, was gone. Gone with his mother and children. How does he continue with their imagined or real screams in his ears? The answer is he doesn't. He becomes a shell of himself, a husk.

This routine had taken place hundreds of times in front of the walls, and the walls had done nor said nothing, but it was this day I broke my silence.

By Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Those who were chosen to survive entered their new home. A home of electric fences, reinforced concrete, towers with machine guns, barracks and huts that line the way.

Pale, desperate-faced people look at them from behind the wires. A loud orchestra of many tongues echo off the walls, off us. Bodies with rotting clothes holler at the ones coming in. People with red, yellow, and blue sewn to their chests.

On the other sun facing side of the camp dark water forced its way mutely between heavy blocks of stone and concrete. Stone and concrete that no longer stood mute. The water was black and stunk of decay. We watched the water and how it was covered with a green chemical looking foam, filthy rags and bloodstained clothes discarded by the camp. The swill full of death swirled through a grate that led underground, came back to the surface, then disappeared once more, gurgling its way down.

The walls pulsated like synapses of a brain to each other of what took place. As one watched the swill of the camp drain down to the earth, one reported what was happening inside the crematorium, one spoke of what happened inside the room of iron.

The wife and child of the man, the man who was chosen to survive made their way to their condemnation. Sonya and her son Andriy are pushed along the walls. The crowd moved similarly to synapses into the confined chamber. She clasped her boy to her chest, with a strength that she wasn't sure of where it came.

There were screams behind them from near the entrance; seeing the dense human mass inside, people refused to go any further into the door.

Her son watched as the door closed smoothly as though pulled by a string.

The murmuring and horror thickened the air. Voice and nauseous breaths failed to find reason.

High above, behind a metal grating in the walls, in us, Andriy saw something move. It looked like the rapid wings of a hummingbird. He realized it was a fan beginning to spin. He sensed a sweet odor among the stinking bodies. There were sudden voices of shock and screams.

Sonya cried silently and watched as a pale face came into view in one of the circular windows. Wolf's eyes stared at her from behind small glasses that barely clung to the man's nose. She recognized him as the officer who picked her husband Peja to live.

Panicked moans and pandemonium set in, but as quickly as the screams and shuffling started, they ended. All that I heard now was the occasional groans and barely audible words.

Speech was not of use any longer for them, nor was fight. Fight was something dedicated to a tomorrow; there was no longer a tomorrow for these poor souls.

Sonya felt Andriy’s movements widdle away filling her with a pity. The boy was likely partially dead. He was still breathing, but it was having an adverse effect. The air he took in only drove life away. Others slowly collapsed around the two. Her back slid against the wall, against me. Her warm arms still clasped Andriy.

Andriy felt the warmth, so much so that he didn't feel his eyes go dark. He didn't feel his heart go empty, or his mind go numb.

Sonya felt the boy's body subdue in her arms.

She was the last one alive, as she leaned on me, as she leaned on us, her body began to go numb. Her eyes, eyes that had read Homer, Mark Twain, T.S. Elliot, that had seen a lunar eclipse, that had seen the green hills of Ireland, the sculpture of David in the Galleria of Florence, that had met good people and terrible people, that had witnessed the crystalline waters of Potami, Samos were no longer a use to her.

Her thoughts, her life, and last breath connected with us. With me specifically. My cool space became a last haven for her, a haven I willingly shared. So much so that she knew of what the walls were capable of. In doing what I did, I broke the many codes the walls had.

Her last words she managed to gasp were to no one but to me. “Do something.”

I felt her heart ache, and contract, and felt the pity she felt for all of us. The living and the dead, the guards, and those who had yet to be born. Before its last beat I whispered back, “I will.”

Not all the walls were in agreement. Many thought that this was an anomaly. After all, many walls had seen terrible things before and continued for centuries.

Some called us soft hearted. Some would say that it was not our concern to intervene. It was ours to hold memories and the souls of those past. Others, myself included, screamed for a change. If we knew injustice was happening and we did nothing, we were no better than man!

It would take some convincing, convincing of many holdouts who held selfish goals of self preservation. For any act of defiance would surely lead to the fall of some of us, or all of us. Thus in this great time of debate, much time passed by. The only way for us walls to know time passed besides the obvious sun passing above, the new faces that entered the camp; and the many bodies that gradually shrank into skeletons. For time to walls does not exist. It is only from when one is built, to when one is destroyed. The main measure is the passing of faces and stories in front of us.

The time that decided it all came when the officer, who we now know is called a SS officer, casually leaned on one of us. He stretched his limbs against us, cracking his wicked shoulders and vertebrae. It was then we felt it, and we saw it through his vile eyes. We had felt the others, men with hearts of darkness parading as machine, but his was different. His heart was a machine.

His presence, and that of the Gestapo could be felt in ripples everywhere. In universities, children's youth camps, in a list of candidates for elections to the Reichstag. It was everywhere.

It was thanks to this man and the Gestapo that the party was always correct. That its logic, or lack of logic triumphed over all else. The vile man liked to call it his magic wand. If he, or those in the party chose to use it, a renowned scientist could be exposed as a plagiarist, a critic could be transformed into nothing, or better yet be sent to a camp like the one in these walls.

Yes, this man and others like him were machines that kept places like this one alive.

Word of this darkness spread and surged through the walls, and it was finally decided. We would break with our traditions of silent listening, and do something.

The man, who had lost his wife and son those many countless days ago was who I would use as my conduit. We learned his name was Peja. One day, as he sat against me eating his bowl of gray swill, I spoke to him. I gave to him the last thoughts of his wife Sonya and his child Andriy to prove my existence. I told him to be ready that night, and to get as many able bodies as he could to prepare to leave.

That night, the wicked SS officer we now knew was named Heinrich Himmler planned a grand feast. Most of the guards and anyone who mattered would be in attendance. To add insult to heinous injury, the gathering would be held in the largest gas chamber in the concentration camp.

We watched as several cooks in their white aprons hurriedly set up a long table. Complete with a tablecloth and hors-d’oeuvres and wine. I watched in disgust as these men laughed, drank, and ate, while the mass of humanity outside starved and barely hung on to life.

I beckoned to Peja that it was time. It was at this moment he summoned as many people as he could to follow him to the south gate.

The guards by the gates yelled at him, Behind him a massive train of people formed. Their eyes full of determination and an urge for freedom that they had not felt in what seemed a lifetime.The guards in the machine gun tower yelled down that they would be shot if they did not disburse.

Some in the crowd began to waver, even Peja for a moment. He wondered if he had gone mad. After all, he was getting this idea from a wall.

The machine gunner cocked back the MG42 and placed his itchy finger on the trigger.Just as he began to fire, the gun’s blaze went skyward. The mass of humans beneath cowered in wait at a bullet with no name.

They were shocked, not at the spray of bullets but from the ground shifting around the tower. The gunner's tracers shot through the night sky like comets. The tower collapsed as concrete walls fell into it, sending it tumbling with the screams of the guards to the ground.

The entire camp shifted and rumbled as the walls all shook in unison, shook in protest. Walls all around the camp fell into each other caving in on the guard shacks, barracks, the terrible crematorium.

Numerous Germans felt a confused shock as the walls suddenly collapsed angrily upon them taking the breath and questions from them.

Was it an earthquake? Was it an allied bombing run? Was it God's wrath? All wrong. They would never have guessed it was the walls themselves that had revolted in disgust from the weight and gravity of what was taking place, a weight that now came down upon the Germans themselves.

Wicked pieces of industry designed for nothing but death collapsed as slabs of concrete and foundation gave way to the pressure. Everything fell.

Everything except one gas chamber, the largest in the entire camp.

The shocked faces of those on the inside of the chamber banged against the now blocked steel door, a door precisely engineered to withstand a horde of people trying to escape, trying to escape their death, their last breath.

The men groaned in shock as they felt the earth beneath them tremble and the walls shake in rage. Though the shaking stopped, we had decided we had something better in store for these vile few, these men who fancied themselves machines.

Heinrich himself punched his knuckle bloody against the glass window and screamed in vain. He reared back one more fist when he stopped. He saw the window was slowly being filled by a sea of pale faces.

Gaunt, skeletal faces, that stared back at the SS master. In a cruel sort of way it was as though these machines were staring into a mirror at their true selves.

Peja was the only one who smiled at the irony of the moment. He watched the eyes of the Nazis go white as the fan above them started to whirl. They all cried out in unison, their voices slurred together in a hysteria of pleading, curses, threats, and screams. Until there was silence. While Heinrich Himmler's heart still beat, and his brain was trying to comprehend what happened, I whispered to him, “Where is your magic wand now?”

The group walked away to an uncertain future. Although they had escaped their hell, they could only guess which way it would be toward allied lines. Given their future was uncertain, now they atleast had a future.

Peja was the only one who stopped in the middle of the now free people, he made his way back toward the collapsed ruins of the concentration camp. Like a boulder placed by the almighty in the middle of a great river, he appeared.

His eyes now had a hope to them; they scanned the rubble of what was his former grave until he found a suitable fist sized piece of wall, a piece of me. He picked me up, and warmed me with his hand that now bore life. Where life was there was possibility, and where there was possibility there was freedom.

As long as he held me, I would share the clear memories of his wife.

Although the walls were destroyed in their rebellion, they were in a sense freed as well.

Freed from containing the energy of suffering that took place beneath them. Though, a wall is never truly destroyed. For what is rubble eventually becomes sediment, which eventually becomes dirt; and who knows? That dirt may be used one day to build something new. We are of the view that all walls somewhere along the way are connected, we all were a part of one grand wall in the beginning.

If more walls could talk, more men could be held accountable. Though be weary, for all walls cannot talk, or choose not to, they surely do listen.

Historical
3

About the Creator

Jordan Flynn

Out of Grand Rapids MI. I write because I have to. (I am a noob however.)

Follow me @ Jayyeffe on instagram

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  • Ocusan Mabout a year ago

    Well written

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