Never Forget

Never Forget

A Story by A.R. Freeman
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I'm writing a short story for my L.A. class and it has to be about a historic event from a new perspective. I chose the Holocaust from the POV of a tree. Here's what I have so far:

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 It was daytime, but the sky was a deathly-gray and sat without a word. The only sound was the whirl of snow, rushing and landing all across my branches. I shivered softly as snowflakes landed on me and sent bursts of chills up my trunk. I watched the snowflakes and followed their path as they flitted and darted; swirled in and around each other. Almost as if they were mocking the prisoners they fell on.

The prisoners were a herd unified by stripes; hunched over and digging. Shivering more than myself, they shrugged off the flakes and continued their work. Shoulders and arms moved in quasi-synchronization, with pale foreheads sculpted with wrinkles, eyes that were dim, and lips that let sneezes slip from them.  It seemed amazing that they could even move; could even lift a finger. Their gaunt limbs were nothing but bone, almost the width of my branches. Some were young and brittle with age, short and awkwardly tall, strong and weakening.

 I shifted my roots and noticed what they were digging. A huge pit.  The prisoners stood on one side of it, with a line of guns on the other. Guns clenched between the hands of men who were contrasting against the white, wearing uniforms of black.

Soon, the prisoners stopped when they heard a command. The voice they obeyed was dripping with a German accent. Some prisoners still held their tools and some let them slip and slide down their leg. From there they stood still. And they waited for what to do next. One of the prisoners, old and wise-eyed, almost seemed to know what he and the others were preparing themselves for. I watched him mouth something; a prayer maybe. Then he straightened his back, held his head up, and balled his fists. It seemed he would let whatever would happen go on and would take it with courage.

That’s when the guns came alive. They took on lives of their own and fired. Bangs and booms shot through the air and knocked the life from every body across from them. Instantly the prisoners fell to their knees, on their faces, clutching their chests, crying, screaming out in pain. Some even bawled out the names of loved ones and asked where God was. Blood erupted from their skeletal bodies, leaving them to fall in the pit they made or to be knocked down wherever they stood. The sky was left even more speechless than before.

An hour passed by. A white quilt had formed over my trunk and over the pit, which was filled to the brim with bodies now. They were all stripped of their clothing and were now just a pile of mangled arms, legs and rib cages. I knew I would never forget that knowing old man, who hadn’t even gasped when shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It had just rained and the air was veiled with mist. Little droplets of water hovered in the air and some made their way down on my wrapped-up leaves. I was watching a pair of birds soar through the haziness. Like they were performing an intricate dance, they dashed and swooped everywhere, knocking the droplets around. Suddenly, a sound tore through the air. Its harshness chased the pair away. The rhythmic, whistling noise caught me off guard too and I arched over in my bark to follow it.

A train materialized through the fog and clanked down a path of railroad. It slid through a gate that sat between a long, brick building with a tower perched on top. The machine then rolled into a stop at a platform, letting out a monstrous whistle. Soon, a few camp prisoners took the cue and jumped aboard the train. It looked like they were carrying flashlights and sticks

Moments later, the cargo of the train poured out from all the compartments. They used their hands to shield their faces from the sticks. They were Jews most likely. It looked like they didn’t have anything with them, except the clothes on their backs. Some held hands, ran fingers through each other’s hair, and looked scared by their uncertain future. Some even had eyes intense with rebellion. It seemed for them, they’d already been through enough. But, they soon found they were too vulnerable to protect themselves from the guns, held by SS officers. So, they inched forward off the train platform with defeat. As soon as they came off, they were separated.

From my distance, I was able to pick up a phrase: “Men to the left. Women to the right.” The officer who said it used his hands for emphasis and soon the bedlam began. Mothers screamed and ran to their sons, fathers grasped their daughters. Couples were pulled apart and children whimpered with confused tears. Others fell in prayer position and some pressed fingers on each other’s cheeks and said they’d see one another again. Shots were then fired and were aimed at those who didn’t follow the order quickly enough.

Control returned and the groups formed lines of five on command. Then the selection started. A man surrounded by officers and dressed in a white coat came out. He carried a baton in hand. He walked up and down the rows, asking each prisoner questions and then poked and probed their bodies with his instrument. He then pointed for them to either go to the left or right. I saw the trend and knew one way was for the fit and another for the unfit. The ones who were fit were sent to a set of barracks; while the unfit were sent to another building that looked like it was on fire. Flashes of the mass murder I saw during the winter went through me and I knew the unfit would face the same fate. But in a different way.  I tried to overcome any emotions, since I knew it wouldn’t matter. These new victims would be gone soon anyways.

Night swept into morning and I started to stretch my branches. I was happy to see some dew-covered leaves had unraveled during the night. The air was less clouded with moisture, so I leaned over towards the camp. I saw the new arrivals from yesterday were now just another addition of stripes. Then I was struck by their skin and hair. Their forearms were tattooed with a number and their hair was cut short. So short, it felt like the new prisoners had an androgynous look and I couldn’t tell the women from men. Then I remembered the victims who were sent to the “burning” building. I straightened my trunk back up and looked away. How could I forget?

 

 

 

 

 

The sun, with the clouds behind it, seemed like an egg-yolk sizzling against the blue sky. My fresh leaves tried their best to withstand the heat, but I ignored it. I was too busy taking in the summery beauty of the day.  Mosquitoes floated in lazy groups and the grass was greener than ever. Everything felt crisp and vibrant. But some things never changed. Down at the camp, the SS officers were on patrol again. Walking about and making sure things were going their way.

They fascinated me sometimes. The way they could march so in step, how they could carry so much power and control. But I also found it hard to believe someone could live with instigating hell on earth. It seemed easy for some. Easy for the ones who carried high shoulders and seemed to lust for authority. Who’d do whatever it took to get it. The ones who pleasured in insulting the prisoners, with hints of smiles in their voices.

But there were those who did it for pride. For their Führer.  They were they ones who walked with restrained stiffness and who puffed their chests. To them, the prisoners weren’t the enemy. But their blood was. To spill it would honor their country.

But I could never forget the SS officers who did it for protection. The ones who were lacking in confidence when they marched and whose eyes drooped with remorse. They held a charade so no one else would know. Know that they didn’t want to be a part of this. The thoughts of staying true and becoming something else became intertwined in their minds.

I was still watching the camp, when I spotted an alley. An officer was walking back and forth in front of a row of prisoners. Little wisps of dust rose whenever he took a step. I could only pick up this of what he said: “Which one of you filthy pigs stole from the kitchen?” The SS officer held a gun, with the butt tapping against his right palm. The accused prisoners just stood with their heads towards the ground, hands behind their backs. One of them was a small boy. He had an ethereal, otherworldly face. He started to sway nervously and his eyes flew in all different directions. The officer noticed from the corner of his eye. He stopped his pacing, took one stride, and landed in front of the boy. He curled his lip and asked “Did you?” The boy’s alien-esque eyes grew and he nodded. The officer took his gun and shot him.

It was amazing what the Jews went through here. And not even just them. There were Gypsies and homosexuals, socialists and communists, the disabled and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. All were victims here.

The boy’s dead body laid still and the sun’s heat intensified.

 

 

 

 

 

An autumn rain of leaves drifted to the ground. There were flashes off cranberry-reds, pumpkin-oranges and golden yellows. They all fell and created ponds of leaves, but were soon swept away by a gust off wind. My branches shook from the wind and I held up my trunk against the blow. Everything was at peace. Suddenly I was puzzled by something that disturbed the calmness.

Prisoners and all were marching out of the camp. All I heard were commands of “Fall in, now!” and “Keep up, keep up!” When they were shouted, they all had a sense of urgency. The prisoners obeyed. They looked worse than ever. They were smudged with dirt, held stomachs of famishment, and were incredibly skinny. Like they couldn’t get away fast enough, the officers ordered the prisoners to start running. So they did. Starting off as stumbling, a stampede was worked up and sped by. An elderly man in the middle of the stampede was huffing irregularly. Strands of white hair falling back in place, he stopped. Breaths shortening and slowing, he fell. The others didn’t have a second thought and trampled him. Their feet left tracks on the man’s back. Giving up long ago, it was all about survival now.

Others died the same way as the elderly man. Others were shot if they couldn’t keep up and were added to the casualties. Soon they were all gone. The camp was empty and as bare as my branches. Returning thoughts of the past year raced all around me.

Some hours later, tanks arrived at the entrance to the camp. I would never forget them.

© 2009 A.R. Freeman


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A.R. Freeman
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Added on February 14, 2009
Last Updated on February 18, 2009
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Author

A.R. Freeman
A.R. Freeman

Hampton, VA



About
I'm a pretty chill, laid-back teen who's taking writing seriously for the first time. My dream job would be to work as a journalist for a major newspaper or magazine. Ummm, I love writing different ty.. more..

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