Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Uncle Wally: POW (WWII)

Uncle Wally was in a concentration camp, during WWII, he talked briefly about it, and so I shall simplify the routine as mildly as I can for the reader; it was not an exterminating center.  But a place to break the human spirit. Such camps have ceased to exist, but there are many more that has taken its place. From Iraq, to Afghanistan, Russia, the Philippines, the POW’s of the IS, Iran, China, and so forth.

       Private Wally and his platoon had landed on the shores of Normandy, they tried to make it over to where the fighting was going on, he was captured, along with the majority of his platoon, 44-men, and taken to a concentration camp by train into Germany. He was given a number, let’s say it was #905, because it was just past nine o’ clock in the morning when he was captured.
       He noticed there was a crematorium, for those who lost spirit and became a bag of bones; the trucks took a trip down there with bodies every so often, not daily, but weekly. What he saw the first days was a miserable heap of half-dead, the dying and starving men, and when he sniffed the air, on the first day he arrived, he smelt roast beef, a tall soldier with horn-rimmed glasses came to his side, pulled him out of line, he was called the Strohshineider, he showed a bored expression, “You’ll be in barrack 18,” then he hesitated, muttered to the side of his ear, “we can handle this differently,  we have meat and nourishing food, would  you like to come with me, you and a few of your friends, you hand pick them out for me, and…” no one in the line  said a word, someone coughed slightly this broke up the Strohshineider’s concentration: Wally recognized a few of his friends,  they shook their heads ‘no’, he didn’t know what they already found out but it was a signal that they didn’t want to be picked out as volunteers for this meal, but he didn’t know why. The Strohshineider snapped “Well?”
       Wally said, “I’m not hungry sir.”
       “Get back into line,” he commanded, after giving him an elbow to his ribs as a warning. It was not an excessively vicious elbow stab, but it bent him over. Uncle Wally straightened himself out. The Strohshineider smiled.
       “I’m okay,” Wally told the comrade to right and left in line, although standing straight was difficult.  Then the Strohshineider picked out three full-grown men who had become skeletonized, “Take down their numbers,” he told a soldier to his right, and have them report for dinner, after you clean them up.  Those three stood frozen as if an avalanche had fallen on top of them. They knew their time was up. Wally grinned. He was hungry, did he make the right decision?  Without interest these three went into the tumult, the abyss that everyone else resisted.  
      ‘Was there a way to escape,’ went through Wally’s mind? Standing in line looking here and there. Electrically charged wires everywhere. A triple strand of barbed wire circled the outer rim of the camp.  Said the soldier next to him, in a whisper, “We talk only in the fog, when in line usually we don’t, and nearly below a whisper if we do. And never when the wind is blowing against us,” today it was not blowing at all. The voice came from behind hm. “Don’t turn about please.” Said the same voice. “I’m in barrack 18 too, my number is #806, no need for name here!”
       “Will those three come back?” questioned Wally to whomever would listen, and never moving his body, lest he draw attention.
       “No one ever does,” said an unfamiliar voice.
       Now Private Wally checked out the watchtowers, a glance here and there, “It’s dangerous to spy on the towers as you’re doing,” said a voice.
       “Why?” asked Wally. No one answered. “Are we supposed to just stand here and stare at each other?” Had someone answered him it would have been more bearable, but no one did.
       “Why me,” he asked himself, “fighting the enemy would be better than this!”
       “Move them to the barracks” said the Strohshineider, in a matter-of-fact tone to the soldiers guarding the prisoners.
       Said Wally, in trek, “There isn’t any gas chambers here, right?” to the soldier beside him he was speaking but a voice from somewhere said: “If they give you a towel and tell you to take a bath, then you need to worry!” and a few of the soldiers shook their heads, as if it was a bad joke, “No,” said another soldier, “not here but if they take you elsewhere, who knows?”

 No: 1103/ 7-28-2015

Note: the story is based on Historical Fiction, in other words, the author is filling in gaps, gaps that his Uncle Wally never filled, but who lived it. Wally lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, lived to the ripe old age of 85; he was a survivor.