A Century Between

A Century Between

A Story by R J Fuller

Sorrow knows no bounds. In essence, we are all capable of the same tragedy and the same generosity

Only trees could be seen thru the thin slit on the wall of the car. They had been traveling for days, crammed in the boxcar with barely enough air, going to where, they could not imagine. 
Michael held his spot all this time, literally sleeping while standing up, more like passing out from exhaustion and having nowhere to fall, so he could see where they were going, but again, there was nothing to be seen. Just trees and woods. The sky was clear, but there was nothing to be seen. Just trees. 
Michael hoped Ana and Josef were not afraid. They were huddled in an earlier car, about three or four ahead of him. He wanted to be brave for Ana, but all he could do now was want her to be brave. 
In the equally crowded car, Ana was huddled along with Josef. When they were loaded into the car, she sought to stand near Rabbi Goldstein. She wasn't sure why now. She thought he could at least make her feel safe, but now the rabbi was not looking well. She worried about him, but she was also concerned if she let go of Josef's hand, she'd lose him in the throng of people. She now looked at the rabbi again and put her hand to his face. He looked to her and nodded, reaching up to hold her hand. 
Eventually, the train did stop, but Michael could sense there was no relief in reaching their apparent destination. He watched through the narrow opening as uniformed men with dogs approached the first car, pounding on the side, throwing open the door and ordering at gunpoint those trapped within to exit immediately. Denied food and proper rest for days, now they were expected to leap and hurry where told. In the distance, Michael could see small buildings and fencing and very black smoke coming from a far off locale, as tho something were burning. 
"Rabbi," Ana said as loud as she could, trying to slide her hand around Goldstein's shoulders, "we have stopped. We are getting out now." With her other hand, she clenched Josef's palm. She had really never let him go. They listened ominously in the stagnatingly hot boxcar to yelling, screaming, dogs barking, hits and strikes on the sides of the cars, being unable to see in the darkness from their location.  
From his vantage point, Michael watched as another car was opened, then another, with the people only briefly finding momentary satisfaction in the fresh air. The guards yelled at the elderly, at the women, striking, hitting whoever they pleased. The dogs growling and barking at those deemed not moving fast enough. 
Michael watched anxiously for Ana, hoping she would be well and he would see her emerge soon. Another door thrust open with the unfortunate occupants pouring out. Michael couldn't see this car. They were closer to him. He just barely managed to see the women and crying children make their way across the grassy area toward where instructed. 
Rabbi Goldstein flinched when the sides of the car was struck. They yells were loud and threatening. Ana feared she would lose Josef, and she feared for the rabbi as well. She listened in the dark to the door unlatching and braced herself for when the blinding sunlight would next come through the opening. 
Michael watched the guards who had previously been screaming at those within each car suddenly grow quiet. The dogs continued to bark and growl. Michael looked to the other Jews who had been ordered out of the cars as they scrambled along to go where forced and they too had all but stopped. The guards who had been yelling at them had grown silent and motionless as well. All that was heard was the distant voices of those off toward the buildings and fencing. Many of those in the car with Michael were asking, what is it? What has happened? 
That was when Michael heard a roaring yell and observed scores of young black men erupt from the earlier car, just dive out onto the guards who couldn't envision what it was they were seeing. Some guards tried in vain to shoot the black men to no avail. If one or two men went down, there were numerous others to come up behind them and take out the guard. The dogs did no good against the black men at all. 
Jewish people screamed and raced to get away. The black men moved with speed and strength, attacking any and all white people, guard and prisoner. Michael watched as a few Jewish men tried to direct the Africans who they should attack; the men in the heavy coats. 
A young Jewish fellow approached Michael's car and opened it, so they could get out. As the outside came more into view, Michael could only wonder where did these Africans come from? They were all barely clothed, which worked for them as it was almost mid-summer and the day was warm. As he drew closer to the exit, he now saw there were black women in the car as well. None of these had been loaded into cars when they left the station to come here. He was certain of that. So where did they come from? Michael reached in and summoned for the young women to leave the train. He assisted one young woman in making her way to the ground, as others gradually followed. She spoke to him, but he couldn't understand a word she said. The fellow who opened the car to let Michael out was an old acquaintance and summoned Michael forth. 
"Michael," he cried out. "We've got to help them, for whatever reason they are here." 
Michael looked at the smail girl and raced away from her.
"My-kull," she repeated.  
Jews did all they could to direct the African warriors to strike the SS guards. Some were successful, some were not. Eventually, there were those who managed to point out to the angry black natives that more armed guard were coming from the camp. Some of the black men charged toward the men on their own. The guards fired, striking black man or Jew. 
Michael looked to the next car, as he had yet to see Ana appear. Was he mistaken and she had actually been put in a car after him? He ran to the following car, unfastened the lock and opened the door. This was the second car filled with African natives. They saw their own marching over and attacking the white men, so they likewise joined in. Michael fell to the wayside and stared in disbelief at how many there were in the car. Even as the Germans had guns, there just seemed to be more black men to take them on. 
And all the while, Michael looked for Ana. Where was she? Where was Josef? 
In the stagnating darkness, Ana watched for the door to open, but there was no large train door to be slid out of the way, a small door opened, light coming through. A figure stepped in and she heard what sounded like English. 
"Bloody 'ell." 
The door closed again and she heard the lock being re-applied. The Jews stood in the dark, motionless. What was going on? Then the door opened once more. The fellow at the door instructed everyone to come out.  
They waited for the mulling crowd to exit the door, much smaller now than the one they had previously entered on the train car. When it was their time, Ana helped Rabbi Goldstein to move along, but he, like she and many of the others, suddenly had an invigorating energy spurt to see where they truly were being taken. Ana still held to Josef's hand and led him with her. 
"Ana," Josef said. "Ana, they are saying we are on a boat. How did the train get on a boat?"
Ana didn't answer, but proceeded through the door after the rabbi and followed by Josef. They ventured up the wooden steps to discover they were indeed on a small sailing vessel. 
They all wandered about, confused about what had happened. Many of the persons around them spoke English, but there were those who spoke German, Polish, Hungarian as well. 
"Where are we?" one man on the boat asked. 
"How did you get here?" someone on the dock inquired. 
The deck was growing crowded, so the occupants began making their way down the designated ramp and walking about on shore. 
"Ana, where are we?" Josef asked. 
"I don't know," she replied. Even in the bright sun and much warmer climate, Rabbi Goldstein seemed to be doing better. A woman approached them and asked in Dutch where they were from. Rabbi Goldstein told her, then asked where they were. 
"How can this be?" Rabbi Goldstein spoke aloud. He looked around to all those who had been with him and saw they were bewildered and confused as well. 
Josef had pulled away from Ana and hurried over to retrieve a newspaper. He brought it back to Ana and Rabbi Goldstein. They could make out the date and the month, but the year was unmistakable. 
It was 1843.  
"Rabbi Goldstein," another passenger from the ship asked, "what shall we do?"
"What shall we do?" Rabbi Goldstein said with a tearful smile, "we celebrate! We are in America. We can go where we please." He sat on a step outside a business. Already there were authorities coming forward to find out what had happened, but it didn't matter. All they would find was the jubilation of many happy refugees from a hundred years in the future. 
"What did you do with the cargo?" an obese man was bellowing. "I was expecting nearly 180 African negras ready to go to auction, and you bring back European colonists?" 
Rabbi Goldstein began instructing many of the people to not say anything about what had happened to them. 
"Don't tell anyone we are from the future. Spread the word. Don't tell anyone," he said. "We must sort out what we will do on our own, but without unnecessary attention." 
Josef stood looking at the newspaper, trying to figure out what much of it was about. He mainly tried figuring out prices for food, but the irony there was nearly all of them still had their money with them. In many instances, they were all but millionaires. 
"What do we know about America in 1843? Anyone?" Rabbi Goldstein asked. 
"They were about to have a war over the negro slaves," Josef said. 
With that, Rabbi Goldstein and Ana looked in the direction of a black man being beaten. In fact, there were several black men being huddled like dogs with an overseer's whip lashing at them. 
"Rabbi Goldstein," Ana asked. "What shall we do?" 
The old man observed the uplifted hands trying to avert the sting of the cracking whip. 
"Do?" he said quietly. "We will do what we must."
"Ana, Rabbi Goldstein," Josef said, having somewhat studied the newspaper, "we are in America, 1843. If we journey back to the homeland, we can prevent many of the factors that fell into play to bring about Herr Hitler and the Third Reich. We can stop them. We know who they are and what they will do before they are even born!" 
"Josef, we mustn't," Ana said, almost instinctively, but then she too felt they should not miss such an opportunity. 
"Ana, we must," Josef said. "Some of the others are wanting to go back to Germany as well and do what we can before it even starts up." 
"Josef, why must you? You might end up back in 1943 while crossing the ocean. You should try to stay here in America for just a little while," Ana reasoned. 
Josef looked at her with wide, brown eyes. He looked at the newspaper again, then back to Ana. 
"In over forty years, I will be almost seventy years old when Adolf Hitler is born," he said calmly. "His father is alive now as a boy of about ten. If I must, I will do what need be done."
"Josef, please," Rabbi Goldstein said patiently, "let us see where we are and what we can do here." 
Already, many of those who disembarked the ship were moving about into the area, among the shops and dwellings, seeing where they could go in this new land. 
"Who do you seek, Ana?" Rabbi Goldstein asked. "You are looking for your beloved Michael, aren't you?"
"He has not journeyed with us," she said, disappointed. "I had hoped he might." 
The screams of a young slave being whipped yet again, a different fellow from the previous group, came to their attention. 
"Stop that," Rabbi Goldstein said, approaching the attacker with no hesitation. The man stopped and looked at the old timer drawing near. 
"Rabbi Goldstein, please," Ana said, "remain calm. Don't over-exert yourself," and no sooner had she said this than she looked around for Josef. 
"Josef? Josef!" she cried, but the young teen had departed her presence. She looked to the nearby boats at the dock, but didn't see the dark-haired lad. He was nowhere to be seen. 
He'll catch a ship back to Austria, to Germany and find what he must do, she thought, before her attention returned once more to Rabbi Goldstein assisting the young slave to his feet. 
The African warriors sailed through every advancement of SS soldiers that came near them, showing the unfortunate guards no mercy. Michael and a few others tried to show the natives how to use the guns, but they would need more practice and for now, putting a stop to the tragedy of the camp came first. The gates were opened and all throughout the camp, the black men ran with every understanding they could comprehend that the  big coats were the enemies and had to be dealt with, if any of them hoped to survive. Jewish men armed with the guns of dead guards took out those in the towers, and then they made their way to the barracks of the prisoners. 
Once the doors were opened, many of the Africans could only stare at the truly sad state of those within. They seemed frozen at what they beheld of the ghastly human corpses who stirred about. 
"Go, go!" Michael told the dark natives, insisting they continue with their killing of all guards, catching them completely by surprise as they were doing. Michael still wasn't sure how these people came to be here, but he was glad they were on his side, for now, anyway. 
The African women who had made their way into the camp were equally horrified by the Jewish prisoners and sought to assist them as best they could, if nothing more aiding the Jewish women who had just arrived on the train. 
A Jewish man with a gun came running up to Michael. 
"Nearly all the SS are dead. Some tried escaping into the woods, but they were gunned down. The . . . the things they were doing to people here, . . . " he began. 
Oblivious to what the man spoke of, Michael was focused on only one thing; escape. 
"The only way we can leave is back on the train," he told the fellow. "I know we'll hate doing it, but we'll have to get back in the cars and make our way far away from this camp, then we'll escape into the country side. We have to hurry before any word of something wrong occurring here reaches outside."
"Do we have someone to operate the train?" an elderly man asked. 
"I know how to run a train. I was an engineer before, . . . I was sent here," a man said. 
"That's good," Michael declared, "and if we still have the conductor, we can force him to aid us, if necessary." 
"If he is still alive," the man said with a chuckle, "but I will not need his help." 
"Allright, let's do what we can with everyone we can. We must hurry," Michael ordered, a bit unsure how he became this leader among them. 
"Michael," an elderly woman asked, "what about the negro Africans? Will we take them as well?"
Michael looked about at the valiant warriors who had eliminated their enemy. He recognized the large one who now strolled hear him.
"We, . . . must . . . leave," he began, looking around and taking up a coat from a dead SS. "Others," he said to the black man. 
The African observed the white people not of the big coats making their way out the gate. 
"Others!" Michael said, pointing at the coat. 
The tall native nodded with some vague understanding. He turned and called to those of his people around them and began speaking to them. Some of them came running toward them to hear what he had to say. 
Michael watched as he spoke, there were a couple of responses, then he turned back to Michael. He nodded to Michael and then turned from him to take off into the German countryside. 
"No, you," Michael started, "you can't," but nearly the entire horde of Africans followed suit, again, perhaps only a handful of black women assisting with the prisoners. 
Michael watched them all run down a dirt path and disappear into the surrounding woods. 
"I guess you'll fight your own battle, then," he said quietly to himself. 
He looked around now to see the parade heading to the train. He gave one final glance at the now vacated camp, save for the dead soldiers and black men who perished fighting them. For whatever reason, there seemed to be a dead prisoner visible in several locations as well. 
What the Nazis will think when they find this camp in this condition, he thought to himself. He turned and made his way out the gate and in the opposite direction back toward the train. Reluctantly, people were making their way back into the cars, but some of them wanted to keep a door open. That was their choice, which everyone understood. 
Michael gave a final look. Still no sign of Ana and Josef. He wondered where they might be? Were they sent to Africa in place of these dark natives? How on Earth would he ever find out? He had no way of doing so. He climbed into a car as the train started up and totally by chance, this one would have the door closed. That was just as well, he thought, if it made these passengers nervous to see the land moving around them. He made his way amongst the people and at a far wall, he sat and pulled his knees up, crossing his arms in front of him. Then he put his head on his arms to rest, closing his eyes into the darkness. 
Did he sleep? He didn't know. Maybe it had all been a dream. Next thing he knew, he was standing again, back at the front wall where he'd stood before and looking out between the slender gaps, he was about to see trees, however briefly he glimpsed them before, now he was seeing them again. What had happened? 
Once again, the train came to a stop, followed by the yelling, the pounding on the cars, the dogs barking. Michael all but recognized some of the guards, recollecting seeing them as they died at the hands of the Africans. He looked in the distance, and there was the small camp, with its wired fencing. 
And the black billowing smoke. 
Once again, the terrified people were ordered out, shoved, hit, pushed in the direction of the camp. Michael waited to see if a car would contain the black warriors again, but none appeared. What happened? 
He turned to look at the young face with big brown eyes. 
"Josef!" he cried, grabbing Josef by his shoulders. "You are here!"
"Michael," Josef nearly cried, "the train. We weren't on the train. We were in America!" 
"Josef, what are you saying? Where's Ana?"
"One minute we were on the train, then we were on a ship, in America," Josef said, tears forming in his eyes. The yells and barking dogs grew louder outside. 
"We were in America in a slave ship, one hundred years ago, in America," Josef continued. 
"A slave ship?" Michael puzzled. "The Americans . . . had slaves. Of course." 
Michael looked at Josef and thought of the valiant warriors who had defeated these SS. Had, then hadn't. 
"It was a hundred years ago, Michael. We left Ana and Rabbi Goldstein in America, to return to Germany and stop the Third Reich before they were even born."
"Rabbi Goldstein?" Michael asked, "was he, . . . go on." 
"We found their parents, Michael. Hitler's father, Himmler's parents. We murdered them, me and some others who are . . . " Josef looked about at a couple of equally horrified expressions he immediately recognized. 
"You killed their parents?" Michael asked. 
"Yes," Josef sobbed with the realization of what took place. 
"Then," Michael began, staring off at nothing in particular, "they were not in Germany to form the Third Reich," then he looked to Josef. 
"Josef," he started, "then we were not on the train so you could be traded out with the African prisoners in America, if the Third Reich did not come into existence to bring us here in the first place, so that meant you weren't able to travel to Germany in the mid-eighteen-hundreds and murder Hitler's father, putting the Third Reich back into play and us . . . . . " Michael looked around to see the crowd of Jews on the car had gorwn smaller and smaller. Soon he and Josef would disembark, but this time, there seemed to be no Africans to save them. Now they were at the mercy of the SS. 
"Josef," Michael said, turning back to him, "where's Ana? Where is she?" 
Michael hurried to the door, leading Josef with him. 
"I don't know, Michael. The last time I saw her was when I left her in America."
Michael leapt from the car and hurried past the guard. Josef followed and was struck in the shoulder. 
"Michael, what are they doing to us?"
Michael looked around and saw not a hint of Ana or Rabbi Goldstein. Why did they not return? Josef did. So why not them? 
Because, he thought to himself as he walked up the hillside, venturing back to the camp he and his African allies had liberated just moments ago, he boarded the train again, and whatever happened to him before, when he perished, Josef died as an old man in Germany. Ana and Rabbi Goldstein were in America, removed from the system. 
I should have run into the woods, Michael thought to himself. We all should have fled into the woods, instead of boarding the train again. We should have taken off into the countryside, just as . . . ! 
Michael looked ahead and wondered what might be the possibility? 
In another destiny, in another time, an elderly man protested. 
"No, Ana, I will not have a slave," Rabbi Goldstein railed. 
"I know, Rabbi, but she will help out of kindness, not out of our ownership."
Rabbi Goldstein looked at the young slave girl standing over the baby's crib. He frowned. 
"We have become too much like these surroundings," he moaned. "Have we forgotten where we came from?"
"How could we?" Ana said as she turned and approached the crib, removing the baby from it. She handed the infant to the young slave so she could see how to hold it properly. The girl only smiled. 
"We have never struck a slave, Rabbi Goldstein, nor will we," Ana stated. She smiled approvingly at the way the slave girl held the infant.  
The girl spoke a bit, in a language Ana did not comprehend, then finished up with one word in broken English; "My-kell."
Ana looked at the girl holding the baby. She gestured at his hair, seemingly calling a resemblance to someone she had met before. 

© 2021 R J Fuller

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Added on May 13, 2021
Last Updated on May 13, 2021
Tags: slaves, Jews, concentration camp, train, soldiers, warriors, African