Zero

ZERO

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!!!

AAAAAAHH!!!! Good Lord, woman! You scared me half to death!

I scared you?

Well, yeah! You came out of nowhere and screamed at me! Oh yeah, my uniform… Please, relax, calm down… and please lower that pitchfork- I’m not going to harm you. I’m no longer with the German army- I’ve deserted. I don’t want to harm anybody… Do you know what I wanted to do?

Um… no, I can’t rightly say that I have the slightest idea.

I wanted to go to college. I didn’t want to invade any other countries, but they drafted me. I wanted to study physics. I loved it, found it fascinating, especially the revolutionary work of Einstein. But I got scoffed at for this.

Really? Gee, seems like a perfectly fine ambition to me.

No, they said I should want only to serve my country, above all else. I shouldn’t have my head in the clouds, with this “Jew science”… and that was the first major red flag to me. Hey, if this is science we’re talking about, the laws governing the physical world, then you should be able to discredit a theory purely on technical grounds- find some flaw in the methodology, get different results from experiments, et cetera. But to say that a scientific principle is wrong, for no reason other than that the person proposing it happens to be of a certain ethnic background, just doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense!

And then I realized, that absolutely nothing else they were saying made any sense either. All Hitler ever really did, was make blanket statements and declarations, very passionately.

But being passionate doesn’t make you right, it just makes you someone with passion. And nor does being in a position of power make you right- that only makes you powerful. Only actually being right, makes you right.

Oh I listened to those deranged speeches of his, straining to find some semblance of reason in them, but he never provides anything even remotely close to a coherent argument to back up what he puts forth. Sure, people make no sense all the time… there were drunks in my neighborhood who debated with parked cars late at night. But the lunatic fantasies of this one particular individual- and the all too many people that have idiotically decided to follow along with all this b.s.- are putting MY life on the line, and the lives of millions of people. And they’d call ME the traitor? Being patriotic means wanting what’s best for your country, and Hitler isn’t leading us to glory, he’s leading us to oblivion. And then the blasted dolt had to go and decide to take on the Soviets…

Huh… You know, it’s a bit strange to me honestly, to hear that regarded as if it was a bad thing. I’ll confess, I prayed that this would happen. I certainly agree with you, that attacking Russia was pure folly, and now it’s only a matter of time until Hitler is defeated, but I see this eventual defeat as something very desirable.

Oh, but I fear though that it’s going to be a total bloodbath… there’ll be a heaping ton of deaths from the combat, on both the German and the Russian sides, in having happened what you hoped for.

There’s a lot of death already.

Well, true, I suppose you could look at it that way. And they’d call me a coward, that I ran away? That I’m too selfish and afraid to fight? I swear to God, if there was an actual, legitimate threat to my country- say, for example, we were invaded like how we’re doing now to other countries- I’d volunteer to fight in a heartbeat. But if you’re going to march me off to my possible death, then you damn well better give a more solid justification for it than what the fuckwad Führer ever did. And do those who would accuse me of taking the coward’s way out, ever consider that if I’m spotted again by any of my ex-fellow soldiers, I could be instantly shot?

Yeah… welcome to my world.

What?

Mister, I’ll let you in on something… I am of that “certain ethnic background”, that’s made me pretty familiar with this situation myself, with a head start on you by a few years. Hence my extreme reaction when I first saw you.

Wow, really? A Jew? How on Earth have you survived?

Through sheer miracles, is how. If an SS goon’s gun hadn’t been out of bullets, I wouldn’t be standing here today. At that moment, when an empty gun, and a swift strategic kick, allowed me to get away from him, I felt so much joy- to have cheated death! But eventually, it really spooked me, and weighed down on me, the thought of those soulless psychos out there, hell-bent on killing me, and all of us. And then I was hearing that people weren’t always just getting shot… sometimes they were beaten to death, sometimes they were torn apart by their dogs… This overwhelming gloom fell on me, and I got to thinking that it was no longer a question of whether I’d die, but how. Most of all I just wanted to get as much distance as possible between myself and those sadistic monsters, so, I decided to take my chances with escaping from the ghetto. This of course was extremely risky, because if caught, it was certain death. Saul, one of my brothers, bless his heart, I could tell that my despair was making him upset too. So he tried to encourage me, telling me that he wasn’t so convinced that there was no chance at all for us at survival. I don’t know if he really believed this himself or if he was just saying that to cheer me up, but in any event he felt that my chances would be better if I didn’t go alone, so he told me that if I was going to try to escape, then he would go with me. Well, amazingly, we did manage to sneak out undetected… and then about a week later the entire population of the ghetto was taken out and massacred… gone were the halcyon days of them just picking us off one at a time, now they had ramped up with the operations. And this happened just a few days ago… and so that’s where you come into the picture, isn’t it? To kill that many people at once, they wanted some help, so they coordinated with you regular army folks, right?

Yes, that is why I was brought here, but I didn’t participate in it! As I said, I had no grand illusions about the war to begin with, but this was the final straw. In the end, this is what we’re fighting for? This is what it’s all about? To gun down innocent civilians en masse, young and old, in cold blood? That was when I decided to go AWOL, because there was absolutely no way in hell that I was going to be any part of this, any longer! Oh, dear… so, you’ve just lost your whole family?

All of my immediate family, yes, except for my brother Saul. I have some extended family elsewhere who may still be alive, but I don’t know at this point.

Oh… I’m so, so very sorry, beyond my ability to express it. I can’t even begin to comprehend what this must be like for you. If I were to suddenly lose that much of my family, I think I might become so distraught, I’d barely be able to function.

I know there are no good words for a situation like this, but I appreciate you saying what you did.

AH, AHEM! Pardon me if I’m interrupting anything, RENATA, but may I have a word with you, like, NOW?

I take it that’s your brother?

Yes. Saul, it’s OK- he’s OK. We can use our real names with him.

Karl.

Karl- with Karl. He knows. He’s no threat- he deserted the German army. So, yeah, you should wear some different clothes now… Saul, could you please get Karl a set of clothes?

Get him clothes? You mean, as in, the only other clothes I have in the whole world now, except for what I’m wearing? Those clothes?

Well he can’t exactly wear my clothes, can he? And I think he’d be better off not wearing that uniform anymore. Oh, and could you also bring him some food, too?

FOOD? Like, the meager portions that we were given after busting our asses on this farm for twelve hours today? Might that be the food you’re referring to, that you wish for us to share with him?

Yeah, of course that food, what other food have we got? I imagine he must be very hungry.

Ooookaaaay… and then after I bring this man some clothes, and some food, he’s going to go off on his merry way again, right?

Oh, yes. I think we would all agree that would be for the best. You, sir, are a true übermensch. Please try your damnedest to stay alive.

Thanks. You do the same.

FIN

Copyright © 2016 by Sandra Goldstein.