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WARNING: LONG POST AHEAD. PART FICTIONAL, PART HISTORICAL.
I held Mummy’s hand tightly. For one, I was meeting her after so long! Almost six years. I’d almost forgotten what she looked like. So I wasn’t going to let go of her hand for even a moment! And two, the short Man had just entered our court room. Instantly, I felt Mummy stiffen. Some of the men and women who were seated with us stood up from their seats as the Man took his place in the witness stand. A couple of middle-aged men – like my Daddy – shuddered and began to hurl curses at him. The Man looked around the room, at all of us, his eyes betraying no emotion. The crowd quietened down immediately.
‘Ok let’s get down to business. We don’t have much time’ – the Judge announced in His booming voice. This wasn’t the typical court room one would see in the Movies. There was no sound of ‘Order Order’ or the symbolic Tap of what-looked-like-a-hammer!
This was a different court room. In a different world. One that was miles and miles above where we used to live earlier. Mummy says she arrived here five years ago. But she isn’t too sure. Papa reached here two days back and I just about landed. And boy oh boy, you can imagine how excited I was, to have both my Mummy AND Papa with me at the same time. It has been so long since we were together.
I digress! So, our court room was a nice airy hall, with high ornate ceilings and French-windows. Pretty curtains kept in place with gold-plated tie-backs.
Outside was a long table loaded with fresh fruit and drinks. I was waiting for the trial to get over, so I could run out. I was famished. Judge, of all the people, should know! They never gave us enough to eat. They didn’t even let us cry. You know where, right? At Auschwitz.
‘So, Führer. Here are the broad charges against you.. ’ Judge’s voice boomed again.
1- ‘Conspiring against peace
2- War crimes
3- Crimes against humanity’. ‘And, remember, everyone present here is the Prosecution!’
Now, I did not understand any of this. ‘Papa.. what is happening?’ I whispered. ‘Shhhh…that’s the Baddie.. he’s going to be punished today!’ he muttered hurriedly.
The Man called ‘Führer’ remained motionless. The crowd in the room was anxious. Still, there was pin-drop silence.
Suddenly, somebody threw a shoe at The Man. Then, there was another. And another. In a few moments, it was raining shoes! One infact hit me on the head. Mummy quickly covered her hands over me to keep me safe. Oh! How nice it felt to be protected by her again. I had been so lonely until now.. I had missed her so much.. at Auschwitz.
‘Stop!! Stop that right now!’ Judge yelled. ‘You’re behaving no better than … er..quiet, people!’ Judge cut short His words. The last of the shoes fell short of reaching the witness stand. The crowd quietened down again and waited breathlessly, for the Man to speak.
The Man rose from his seat. A swift but calculated movement. He scanned the faces of the people in our room. A shiver ran down my spine. Who was HE???? I wondered. Short and unimpressive to look at. But one who triggered such an extreme reaction by throwing just one glance!
The Man cleared his throat. Quite obviously, he was his own Defence lawyer as well! ‘My people…’ he spoke firmly .. ‘My people.. you call me an irrational madman. A Villain. A murderer’
A cloud of silence descended onto the room.
‘What appears to you as Crime.. for hundreds and thousands of soldiers and comrades defending our Fatherland, was in truth (long pause) – JUSTICE’
A loud murmur ran amongst the crowd. I felt a little afraid.
The Man continued, ‘God knows that I wanted peace!’ Führer looked knowingly at Judge. Judge pretended to have not noticed at all.
‘GOD knows that I wanted peace!’ Führer emphasised loudly. The crowd began to murmur again.
‘Is this your idea of peace?! You started World War II. You planned it. Waged war. Destroyed a whole generation! You swine!’ – an elderly man shouted from the bench behind me. I looked up at Papa. He was staring at the Man, his eyes shining with anger.
‘War??’ Führer’s voice boomed now. ’War??? Germany, our Fatherland, was forced to fight or starve. Soviet was about to attack us. The Communists would have taken over our nation. If we did not stop THEM at the right time, this disease called Communism would have plagued the whole of Europe. What I did – (pause) What I did – was PROTECT my Fatherland. OUR Fatherland.’ He said angrily.
‘Papa, who is he?? What exactly did he DO?’ I asked again, excited and curious. Before Papa could reply, The Man continued.
‘When I was 24, I left my hometown Vienna, to avoid mandatory military service in the Austrian army. My heart and soul belonged to Germany – the most superior nation. 1914 – I still remember the day – we had gathered in the Plaza to celebrate the German proclamation of World War I ! For me, as for every German, there now began the greatest and most unforgettable time of my earthly existence. Compared to the events of this gigantic struggle, everything past receded to shallow nothingness!’
The crowd shuffled impatiently.
‘Do you even remember how we lost the war? Defeated, broken, bruised and bankrupt. We had nothing. Our economy was in ruins. The British, French and American armies had ousted us. And beyond the obvious, do YOU – who accuse me of being a criminal – know the REAL cause of our destruction?’
Führer paused and looked around, fire burning in his eyes. Many of the grown-ups shifted their gaze to the ground, as if they did not have the courage to meet his. I thought it very strange. Papa said HE was the ‘baddie’, and here, my friends and family couldn’t lift their gaze to meet his?!
‘Our REAL enemy – was the group of ‘November Criminals’’. The audience looked a little baffled. ‘Ah! For those of you who choose to be ignorant – they were the German politicians who signed the armistice negotiations with the Allies in November 1918. Specifically, the Jews and Marxists, who undermined and SABOTAGED our efforts in the war. They were the REAL back-stabbers who led to our defeat’.
At this, some of the elderly men shook their head sadly. I wasn’t sure if they were in agreement with him, or desperate to hear something else!
‘Hear the TRUTH, my people’ – the Man continued. ‘This is YOUR history! The German Empire was abdicated. The German Republic was formed. A new nation, born in political and social turmoil. Remember 1919 – the Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles, and forced our Fatherland to accept all responsibility for causing the War. They took away YOUR money, land, and restricted YOUR troops, missiles and military aircraft. THEY HUMILIATED YOUR NATION’
I watched in admiration, as The Orator spoke. There was something very powerful radiating from his persona. I was almost in awe of him! I suspect many of others in the audience felt the same way!
‘They DESTROYED and HUMILIATED US in front of the entire world’, he continued dramatically, but paused to cough. Nobody offered him water to drink. ‘Do you think we should have accepted such humiliation??? NEVER! It was OUR RESPONSIBILITY to break the shackles of the Treaty and RE-ASSUME OUR PLACE IN THE WORLD. Germany had to be re-born. Re-built, through a powerful Nationalist government. We had to punish the November Criminals and Jewish Marxists.’ He coughed again. His earlier arrogance was still visible. But his posture now showed that he had slouched a little.
‘What you call WAR was in reality, the only way to peace and prosperity in Europe! Our Nation – Germany – was and IS the true Leader – the supreme power – and it was MY responsibility and yours too – to help restore Germany its real status’
‘But war is never a solution, Führer!’ – cried an angry young man from the audience. ‘You STARTED World War II – you caused HAVOC – you destroyed MILLIONS of lives!’ Some of the women in the group started to cry, and shout ‘You are a KILLER.. KILLER!’
Führer looked around in the direction of the man who had asked the question. We could not discern the expression on his face. He squinted his eyes to get a clearer view of the young man. The young man shrank back. ‘Young man! If your neighbour plundered your home and raped your woman – what would you do? (pause) Sit back and watch? Or fight tooth and nail?’
The man kept silent. ‘Answer, young man’ Führer thundered. The man looked perplexed.
‘You KNOW what you would have done. You would have attacked. Killed and plundered. To ensure you avenge the injustice done to you. That is exactly what I did too! I also vowed to vanquish the Anti-Race called Jews!’
The audience turned to look at each other, bewildered.
‘We were ruined from the Outside. And from the INSIDE. ’ but before Führer could complete, there were loud shouts from the Audience. Führer waited patiently for the shouts to die. Judge looked around. I felt a little sad for Him. Having to deal with a tough character in the Stand. And with a bunch of ‘wronged’ outside the stand!
‘All that I strived for is right here – in my 25-Points – read it!
This is what we BELIEVED in : COMMON GOOD BEFORE INDIVIDUAL GOOD. Is that so wrong?!!
- I wanted the union of all Germans in a Great Germany on the basis of the principle of self-determination of all peoples.
- That the German people have rights equal to those of other nations.
- Those who are not citizens must live in Germany as foreigners and must be subject to the law of aliens.
- If it should not be possible to feed the whole population, then aliens (non-citizens) must be expelled from the Reich
- That all unearned income, and all income that does not arise from work, be abolished!
- That ruthless war be waged against those who work to the injury of the common welfare. Traitors, usurers, profiteers, etc., are to be punished with death, regardless of creed or race.
Go on! Read the rest of my 25-Points here!!’
With that he threw a bunch of pamphlets onto the nearest desk. Nobody dared to pick one up.
‘This is the demand of any true patriot! You accuse me of WAR! All I wanted was peace! In my way’.
‘But what about the atrocities committed by the Nazi army? Do you have no regrets whatsoever?!’ a frail-looking woman asked in a thin voice.
Führer glared at her. ‘Nazi philosophy by no means believes in an equality of races, but along with their difference it recognizes their higher or lesser value and feels itself obligated to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe’. (Mein Kampf)
‘But what you did was not mere sub-ordination, but complete destruction! You tried to annihilate an entire race of people called Jews! You are inhuman – you Murderer of Millions!! You called us THE PROBLEM. Your ‘FINAL SOLUTION’ was to EXTERMINATE us, like a pack of rats?!! You threw us into concentration camps like Auschwitz‘ Papa suddenly shouted.
Führer turned to us. Papa looked livid. Mama held on to me very tightly.
‘Every manifestation of human culture, every product of art, science and technical skill, which we see before our eyes today, is almost exclusively the product of Aryan creative power. (Mein Kampf) We – the German people – had a duty to control the world! The anti-Race did not deserve to live!’. At this point, I thought I saw Führer flinching slightly. ‘The JEWS threatened our civilization!’ Angry murmurs rose in the audience.
Führer did not pause. ‘A mere 1% of our population – the Jews tried to take over our Nation using money power – they controlled politics, business and the markets. They were lazy, adulterous profiteers who tried to make our race impure!’
‘That is unfair!’ shouted a woman from the last bench. ‘Every human has the right to live. The Nazis snatched that right from us! They rounded us up into trains that had no windows. They herded us into concentration camps. They crammed us into unhygienic rooms. With no water, no food. No air, even. They took us away from our men. They did not even spare our children!!’
Führer surprisingly remained silent.
‘You orchestrated mass murder of millions of innocent Jews! You gassed us in chambers! You starved us, beat us, murdered us! You experimented on our children like they were guinea pigs. You HUNG THEM FROM WALLS!!’
I turned to Papa in shock. Memories of my days at Auschwitz camp came flooding back to me. I had blocked them out quite successfully until now. I remembered the train all too well. My family and I were pushed into a dark compartment. Papa was torn away from us. Mama hugged me so tightly I could almost not breathe. The very thought of it made me want to take a deep breath. The Nazi soldiers would never give us enough to eat. There were no games to play. Nothing to read. All we had to do was work. And wait. Wait for our turn to enter the big showering chamber. The chamber of No Return!
I thought of the dark bunks into which they crammed us every night! I used to be afraid of going to sleep, for I might die of suffocation!!
‘You separated us from our children! You destroyed our lives!’ an old man now shouted.
Führer did not reply. He stared quite blankly.
‘Do you even KNOW what it is like to lose someone you love? You cold-hearted sinner!’ – shouted another woman.
Führer nodded slowly. ‘I do. I do know, what it is like. To have never been loved. My father… (pause) my father beat me into a coma. He attacked me – with both words and hands! The scar he left has lasted me a lifetime. He made me feel I was unworthy of living’
The audience was livid. Was Führer making this up? Was he trying to garner sympathy? They automatically looked towards Judge. He nodded. So it was true.
But Führer was not finished yet. ‘UNWORTHY of living, do you understand? Just like YOU!’ he was raging with anger again.
‘I DID NOT have an easy life! Unlike you prosperous bunch of profiteering Jews! I slaved for my daily survival.’
I wanted to be a Priest!’ The audience smirked.‘I wanted to become an Artist!’
‘But it was people like YOU who decided I was not fit for such fine arts. It was people like YOU who drove me into an alternate life.
I was unloved. Rejected. Scorned. But I believed. In MYSELF. In my NATION. In my purpose of life. Which was to restore glory to my Fatherland – Germany!’
‘We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany’ (Mein Kampf)
The audience spoke in hushed tones. The Man obviously believed in whatever it is he had just said! Our friends here however did not know how to respond. To drive home the point, that killing of an innocent was not justified in any event!
At this point, I felt like I had to say something. I raised my hand. Nobody noticed.
‘Er.. Excuse me, Mr. Führer!’ I said quietly. Even Papa did not hear me. I took a deep breath, and stood up on my bench.
‘Excuse me, Mr. Führer!’ I screamed. A couple of heads turned around to face me. The Man too, finally spotted me. And suddenly there was complete silence.
I was now very nervous. But I had to tell HIM something. Rather, ASK him something that had been nagging my mind ever since I entered the room this morning.
‘Sit down!’ Papa hushed me.
‘Mr. Führer! I actually do not understand WHAT you did, or WHY everybody here is angry with you. But I have to show you something.’
People threw questioning looks at me. I felt very conscious. But I had to do what a boy had to do!
I took my shirt off. My trousers too. The audience let out a collective gasp. I was a mere collection of bones. My eyes were almost hollow. My thin shoulders hung loosely by my side. My head was shaved. It had been, for a very long time. A number was tattooed. That had been my new name at Auschwitz.
Papa’s eyes filled with tears.
The audience turned back to glare furiously at The Man.
‘Mr. Führer, all my friends at Auschwitz look just like me. Actually, I do not remember what I looked like earlier. You know, before I reached Auschwitz. Mama says I was a very handsome boy. She cries whenever she sees me now
Hot tears rolled down faces in the audience.
‘Mama she says she should have ‘killed me’ a long time ago, so that I need not have become like this’.
Mama had started to shake silently. I knew she was crying again. I felt sad for her.
I turned around to show Führer my back. It was striped. Every stripe, a reminder of someone’s anger. Every bluish-black patch, a souvenir of hatred and violence.
Führer looked like he was rooted to the spot. This time, he did not even try to respond.
‘Mr. Führer’ I continued – ‘I love the way you talk. I know Mama will be angry with me. But actually, I think I admire you. I want to be a soldier, just like you’
Führer blinked his eyes just once, as if taking in all this was an effort for him. Most of the audience were now crying. They were probably all thinking of their children. Most of the children were here anyway, in this court room, far above the skies. But some of them were still trapped down there. They were alive, of course, but from here, they looked like zombies.
‘I feel bad for you, Mr. Führer. Your father hated you. Mine has always loved me J Mama says your Mama died very young, so you were all alone. I am sure, you just as lonely as I was, when the Soldiers dragged my Mama away into the Gas Chamber. But Mr.Führer, you were so brave!!’
The Man continued to stare at me. I was not sure if it was in disbelief, or in gratitude, for being the only one to have understood him. His eyes looked vacant. Like he was in shock, because something had hit him hard.
‘But Mr. Führer – I just want to know one thing – Were YOU the one who killed my Mama?’
The Man stared at me. Unable to reply.
‘You killed Papa too?’
He opened his mouth to talk, but words did not come out.
‘Were YOU the one who did THIS to me?’ I pointed to my visible rib bones that stuck out through the frail, almost charred skin.
Someone in the audience started to clap. In a few seconds, the entire audience was clapping their hands wildly.
The Man himself hung his head down in shame.
Judge miraculously produced a tiny hammer, and said ‘The verdict is there – for all to see!’
HE pointed to Adoph Hitler, who had tightly shut his eyes and refused to meet my gaze any longer.