Saturday, March 26, 2011

What if?

You live in a semi-rural area. The closest big town is the county seat and is a ghost of what what it was once. The population is 82% white, 10% black, the rest a mix of stranded Latinos and wanders from other countries who have little restaurants and businesses.

The area was hard hit by the first wave of the economic meltdown but life, on the surface, is still good. You know people who are hurting, you can see the empty storefronts from when money flowed, but you think it will all come back. Then the second wave of the meltdown hits. Perhaps triggered by gas prices. Perhaps by the bankruptcy of European states. Perhaps both.

Your area, which was struggling, cuts services to the bone, perhaps deeper. Money gets tight and the number of people who actually have little or nothing to eat, forget about cable, increase.

Your state elections place a right wing group who wrap themselves in the flag and the cross into power. The economic situation continues to worsen.

Two years later.

You and your elderly wife own a nice parcel of farmland. You did your time in Vietnam and lost your belief in God. Your neighbor wants a big chunk of that land. He is the brother of the county power broker. He offers you half what you paid. You say "No."

You start getting denied service at certain businesses. Your wife has a friend who calls and asks if it is true you sometimes let homeless people camp down by your creek. The same people who may be involved in _________. The local pastor of the church that has grown tremendously in the last five years comes by and invites you to join. You refuse.

Two months later you and your wife are found dead. The Sheriff raids the creek camp. Four months later your parcel, because you have no heirs or a valid will goes to auction. Who gets it for next to nothing?

Dat Le, the owner of the one profitable restaurant in town is approached for a campaign contribution. He does not pay. His 17 year old daughter is abducted and raped. The investigation goes nowhere. Dat joins the church and tithes. His daughter commits suicide two years later.

The woman who owned the one art gallery in town and is know as a liberal has a fatal car wreck.

You are a Christian and a member, one of ten, of the local Catholic church. You and the other nine are getting pressured to join the super church. What do you do?

The local Latinos have been confined to a small area. A ghetto. They are illegal and are kept there until the feds show up. The feds are never notified. They work in the fields. What do you do?

I am a Christian. My version of one. That is perfectly legal still in the USA. The USA has a separation of church and state. What happens when the state becomes the church? Or the state no longer can enforce the separation?

I am on cordial terms with someone. She is a placid, funny older woman who has since retired. I mentioned one day that XXXX would not make a good President. She got extremely angry. In the blink of an eye I became the enemy. That kind of angry is restrained only by tenuous, invisible bonds that are far more fragile, because they are artificial, than you ever want to know.

The hate, the anger, the desire to profit at your expense, the blind need to destroy is out there. Surviving a major change only starts with canned goods. That only gets you to the first step on a very long road.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The End of the Story

I hope you enjoyed it.

Next I am going to work on AA IV so it can go out. After that? I want to finish "The Chosen" and "The Mover." I am also thinking of doing another Gardener story.

Please leave a review if you have read any of my books. AA I is out there now and some people are less than happy with it. From the comments they believe I have besmirched the name of Jesus and other sins. For that they going to punish me with 1 Star reviews. The reviewer who said I had pimples too has been removed by Amazon. I don't.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 15b - by Nova

The place had smelled relatively good until the last five minutes or so when a distinctive smell began to scent the air. Our tour guide looked at us with slitted eyes. Damn, I know that smell. We all did. It was Bialystok all over again. I wondered how they did it here. I doubted they burned a building down every day with Jews inside. He stopped. Ahead of was a red brick building with stacks that went up quite a distance. The stacks all looked like they were built as part of the roof and one was smoking, the smoke was getting darker as we watched, illuminated in the camp lights which kept the place lit up. Then it belched fire.

He pointed the building out to us. “That’s where we have been processing most of the people you brought in today.” Dieter looked at him quizzically, and the little shit let lose with another high pitched giggle. “We gas them, then we toast them.” He started spewing out statistics “You see we lead them into the chamber in groups of a hundred. Come on I will show you. Dieter was not looking well and surprisingly neither was Hans. Sarge looked at them, and then me. I shrugged. He grinned.

We followed him towards the chamber. “Oh look! They are cleaning it out for the next batch. We walked closer and looked in the door. The room faintly smelled of shit, urine and a faint hint of almonds or something very close to it. The bodies were everywhere, lying on the floor. Women, children, and old people, all together, all blue in the face, and very dead.

There were more blue stripes working here. They were busy opening and examining the mouths of the dead and extracting any gold teeth. “Damn just like Poland back in 1940,” I said. Dieter was wide eyed. I was surprised. He had seen something like this before, and more than once. Why would this bother him now? Our tour guide continued “We tell them they are coming here to take showers for delousing purposes and then we shut the doors and gas them. Then they go up in the elevator and into the crematoria." No maniacal chuckle this time. I noticed while he was talking to us his eyes had not strayed from the lithesome nude body of a young Jewish girl of perhaps eighteen who was laid out ten feet in front of us. The evil little shit unconsciously licked his lips, twice. I just shook my head.

Dieter had already walked out and was staring at the chimney stack which was steadily smoking. With the smoke came that unmistakable odor along with little flecks of ash falling like snow. I had walked out behind him. The rest had joined us followed by our tour guide. In a dreamy distracted voice he continued his spiel “Yes, we cremate them. Most of the Jews you brought in will be gone by the time we eat dinner. You are going to eat dinner aren’t you?” Dieter just stared at him. “Yeah sure, what’s on the menu.” said Hans. Dietrich was clearly disappointed. He curtly told us to follow him and lead us back to the barracks. “Dinner is at five, listen for the bell to ring. It’s three buildings down from you on the right” and briskly walked out.

“Alright now that was fun.” Hans said.
“Yeah right” was Sarges reply. “Stay here, I will be back in a few minutes,” and disappeared.
“Damn Lothar, what’s up with him?”
Lothar just shrugged “Dunno, probably going to see what else is available.”
“Skat anyone?” I asked. My answer was groans from everyone. “Damn Willi, you owe me at least a million marks by now.”
“Yeah right, try turning that around Hans.”
We settled in, figuring to play a couple hands, eat, then clean our weapons and call it a night. At least that was what I figured the plan was going to be. I was idly considering slipping out and finding that Corporal later on. Perhaps he would be more interesting as he died. No, I really doubted that, his type was to shallow to understand, let alone give back any energy in a meaningful way. All though, at this point the idea of killing just for the hell of it was beginning to have some appeal. Especially when I felt like I was going to be doing the world a favor by removing people like him from it.

We had run through a couple hands when to everyone’s amazement Sarge reappeared with a burlap bag that clinked as it dangled from his hand and a couple loves of bread in another bag. Hans face instantly let up. “Yeah lads, I figure we owe ourselves a good drunk. I bet the Lieutenant is already telling everyone who will listen how tough combat is. First we clean our weapons, we eat, and then we drink.” He pointed at me, “Since you don’t drink, you get to answer any calls for shit details. Which I don’t think are going to get anymore shittier than what we already have drawn.” We played until we heard the bell.

Dinner was good. These guys definitely ate well. When we entered we were welcomed by the men eating and they were very adamant in having us join them. We sat down at a large bench style table covered in white cloth that had enough room for most of us. The rest of the squad found places to sit at the other tables. Our new hosts were all in their late thirties or older which was not surprising as camp guard was not considered physically strenuous duty.

None of them had any decorations. I keep empathizing this for a reason. By 1942, a mans ribbons and medals provided you with an instant resume of his background and competency in the practice of war. You could also determine if they were National Socialists by the wearing of the SA Sports Badge which was different than the regular Sports Badge. If you had been in Russia for the winter of 1941 you had the “Frozen meat award of the eastern front medal” also known as the ‘Ostfront’ award. Most men wore the long ribbon that came with the award sewn to the lapel of the tunic and threaded into a button hole. The Iron Cross Second Class was worn the same way, and often you would see both, with the frozen meat ribbon the most prominently displayed. Many considered it a more prestigious award than the Iron Cross Second Class, even though millions were given out. If you were wearing it in 1944 it let everyone know that not only were you a veteran, but a lucky one, because most of those who had qualified for the award were now under the ground. The Iron Cross First Class was the desired bravery award. Pinned to your left pocket it made a definite statement. We also had the Infantry Assault badge.

Then there was the Close Combat Badge which came in bronze, silver, and gold. Each color corresponded to how many days you had been in close combat. With the gold got you a leave back in the old Reich, the Iron Cross First Class and the fried egg or German Cross. Of course if you got too loaded up on medals you became a target for every sniper in the vicinity. Then there was the Knights Cross which also came in several flavors. This award also came with a leave and a handshake from Adolf himself.

Our group all had the Iron Cross Second Class, the Ostfront, and the Infantry Assault, and all of us old timers had the Wound Badge in black for more than one wound but less than three. Since frostbite counted as a wound it was relatively easy to be awarded one if you had spent the previous winter in Russia. I was hoping to make it all the way to victory with out collecting the next highest grade. Sarge and the officers also had the War Merit with Swords award which was given for shooting a lot of civilians at close range.

We sat down and ate like kings. We had sauerbraten, cabbage, potato dumplings, bread, and beer. It was real German beer too which impressed Hans as he considered any beer not made in Germany to be horse piss. Even as we ate I was wondering how to grab some bread to put in my bread bag for later without attracting any notice. We didn’t talk much at first as we were too busy stuffing our faces. Mostly we answered questions with a muffled grunt which seemed to amuse them. I think they actually enjoyed watching us pack it away.

I could hear snatches of conversation from other tables along with the questions our new comrades were asking us. It was when we finished and the beer began to flow that it became interesting. The snatches I heard where mostly about problems with the burn rate on crematoria three, and the usual bitching about how they were working too much, and how someone else’s group had it easy. The rest was about music, the war, and the usual questions about what we had seen, and where we had been. One of them mentioned that the group we had brought in had mostly gone up in smoke or “poof” as he put it which everyone thought was very funny. I heard someone else talking about how worthless the last loads of Russians had been for labor as they had died too quickly. I excused myself. I didn’t drink, so hanging out with a group of guys who were obviously dedicated to getting themselves shitfaced was not anything I was interested in

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 15 - by Nova

We had once again been moved and we were now in Rzeszow and using it as our new operating base. Sarge came looking for us bearing what he called “the good news” and this time he actually thought it was. Sarge had strange ideas about what constituted "good news" and I always winced mentally when he showed up with his shit job smile and "good news" on his lips.

We had been picked for what was considered by our superiors as a good duty assignment. They may have thought so, but most of us never would have volunteered for it. Most of us by then knew better then to volunteer for anything. The only thing good about it I could see was that it was a change. We, meaning our squad, including Sarge and the Lieutenant had been assigned. We were to proceed to Krakow where we would be providing train security for a load of Jews being transported to Auschwitz.

We were driven to Krakow the next day were upon our arrival the Lieutenant went to check in with the local authorities. Here, that meant the local Schutzpolizei commander, as Krakow rated its own garrison. They had what we considered pretty soft duty. They were the town’s local law enforcement which meant they were more likely to be walking a beat, rattling doors, and checking papers than getting shot at. Nice, safe, and cushy, so of course we looked down on them. They found us a suddenly vacant house to stay in, and arranged for us to draw dinner from their mess.

The Lieutenant, the local police commander, and the head of the Gestapo there spent the night getting drunk. Hans, Lothar, and Sarge disappeared with the local police sergeant who had served with Sarge somewhere, sometime, or knew somebody who had. I didn’t quite figure it out and didn’t really care. The rest of us stretched out on the floor because Hans, before he left, had claimed the one decent bed. I didn’t care, back then I could sleep on the floor and wake up feeling rested.

The next morning we had breakfast and began the process. I didn't expect anything different from the usual roundup except we probably weren't going to make any money. There were far too many eyes an agencies represented here. The Jew leadership had been told to have 2,000 people waiting at 05:30 a.m. and they did. During the process of checking them in we didn’t have much to do. This was definitely appreciated by Hans who was nursing what looked like a brutal hangover.

At 07:45 a.m. we got the word to begin loading them into the empty cars of the train that had arrived late the previous night. The Jews were being held directly outside the station. The Security Police would release a hundred at a time to the loading platform. The local Schutzpolizei were handling the perimeter security on their side of the train station. We provided it for the other side, while a mixed bag of Gestapo and SD supervised the actual loading with help from the Jewish police from the ghetto.

The first group of a hundred was flushed through the doors leading to the platform where we stood. We watched as they quickly packed the hundred Jews into a car and then local labor hired for the job would nail shut the doors. The train, with a big commotion of squealing wheels and plumes of steam would ease forward until the next boxcar was at the platform. It was hot, very hot, and we could already hear the Jews in the first boxcar yelling for water and help. Very annoying people these Jews could be.

Of course the carpenters ran out of nails early on which delayed everything. We stood around until someone found more nails and we had most of the boxcars loaded around 4:00 pm. We all agreed that if this had been Germany we would have been done by lunchtime. By the time we did finish the Jews who had been loaded first were beginning to quiet down a little. Sometime during all this the little devils had been busy breaking out of their cars which didn't help in us getting it done and moving on.

Lothar, two of the new guys, and a couple of Jewish Police were guarding the side of the train that was on the opposite side of the platform. Occasionally a shot or two would ring out from there. About every two hours or so, the men who were nailing the Jews in would have to stop what they were doing, and go fix an opening in one of the cars that the Jews had created in their attempt to escape.

I was relieved and told to go around and make sure everything was okay with Lothar. I took one of the Jewish police with me. Lothar was tired and pissed. I asked him how he was doing and if he needed anything.

“Hell yes! I need a pack of smokes, something real to drink, water, and some bread."
I laughed, “Okay, so how are you really doing.”
“This is crap Willi. It’s fucking hot on this side and these assholes are like rats. All they do is chew, chew, and chew at the wood. They just won’t fucking shut up or quit their gnawing.”
I just shook my head.
“How is it on your side?”
“A lot better than this that’s for sure.” I took of my hat and wiped my face. “Your right, it’s at least ten degrees hotter on this side. Any idea when we will be done Willi?”
“I don’t know Lothar, maybe two, three hours at this rate.”
“Damn. Well at least by then the sun will start going down.”

All during our conversation there was a steady background buzz of moans and cries from the boxcars. It had been going on all day and after awhile I didn’t hear it anymore except when it dropped significantly in volume. “Hey Lothar, what happened to them?” Over on the far side of the railroad tracks about thirty feet from were we were standing there were five nude male bodies laid out in a row.

“How come they’re nude? You got bored and decided play hide the sausage?"
“Fuck you Willi,” he said tiredly. They are all naked in there.
“Huh?” I looked at him quizzically.
“It’s the heat idiot, they strip to stay cool.”
“Ah. I knew that.”
He shook his head disgustedly. “Go! And don’t forget the cigarettes” he yelled at my back as I walked away. I found Sarge who had one of the Jewish police run smokes and a couple of bottles over to Lothar. We also began rotating the men over on his side.

As the day slipped away I began hoping the local Schutzpolizei who would post some guards and we would be able to go back to our room, take a shower, and get some sleep but alas it was not to be. There was a schedule to be met and rolling stock was in high demand. Plus letting them sit there on the track would mean they would be gnawing and running all night. If we were moving, it would be a lot harder for them to escape from the boxcars.

We got the signal to go, boarded the train, and started slowly moving. The moving slowly part turned out to be a problem. The little devils wouldn’t quit trying to escape. We were riding in the caboose and it got dark outside when the sun finally disappeared. If you have never lived out in the country you can not imagine how dark it got out there. It didn’t help that moon was new so it was not producing any light at all. Our little Jewish rats hadn’t stopped their gnawing and were beginning to escape again.

This was not a good thing as it made the Lieutenant very pissed. He had no desire to be held responsible for any successful escapes. We tried shooting at them but we missed consistently. When the morning sun came up it made a big difference in our accuracy, plus we finally began rolling fast enough that gravity was taking more of a toll on them than we were. I don't know how many we lost but no one seemed upset about it so I guess it was no big deal.

We have not yet been to a concentration camp and we had no idea what to expect. Well, that’s not true. We knew what they were being used for, and what happened to the Jews, and who ever else was unfortunate enough to catch a ride on one these trains. We knew it, but we really didn’t dwell on it, no reason to. Looking back it was just another part of our world. As remarkable to us as visiting a steel mill in another state would be for a steelworker. They just used different methods to produce the same results.

Auschwitz was considered a good destination by our superiors. Of course the officer quarters, and the entertainments provided in them were far superior than what was provided to the enlisted. For many the quality of the food alone was worth the trip. Of course nobody really mentioned the environment that surrounded the officer housing.

We arrived around 8:00 am. I had watched the fields and woods pass by for the last hour as we had run out of ammunition shortly after sunrise. I was puzzled by the houses. Some of them had purple stripes painted on them. I asked, but nobody knew what it meant. We all agreed it had to a recognition sign of some sort. I never did find out why that was done.

The train was routed off to a spur and stopped outside the entrance to the camp. We stepped out yawning and stretching. It was a beautiful morning. Dieter asked Sarge, “We going to get fed here?” Sarge looked over at the Lieutenant who nodded. “Yeah, we will get fed.” The Lieutenant told us “Alright, I have to report in to the receiving officer. Sarge will get you fed and a reissue on ammo. Don’t stray too far until I find out when we are leaving.” He began walking towards two SS men who were headed towards us. Behind them were a group of scraggly looking fellows in blue and white striped uniforms. Their scragglyness was in stark contrast to the SS men who were immaculate in their grey uniforms. Their boots gleamed in the morning sun as mine hadn’t for quite a while now.

Sarge growled “Straighten up, you look like freaking Ukrainians.” The SS officers approached us while carrying on a one sided conversation with the Lieutenant. Behind them the striped suits were ripping off the wood that had been nailed to the doors. SS men, some with dogs, had surrounded the train. It was obvious they had done this before. The two SS men stopped when they reached Sarge. One was a Captain, the other was a Master Sergeant. The Captain had a riding crop instead of a grenade tucked into his belt. He stood there staring at us while the Master Sergeant stood about a pace behind him.

Our Lieutenant finally realized what he was supposed to be doing. “Captain Dorfmann, may I present the men for you inspection?”
“No. No inspection is necessary. That’s quite all right, Lieutenant. But I would like to say a few words to them.”
“Of course Captain,” he clicked his heels, nodded, and took a step back. “Good afternoon men. I can see by your uniforms,” meaning our decorations, “That you are not new to this. I am aware that men such as yourselves have performed admirably the difficult tasks that have been assigned to you. You will be staying here for the night. Your train is needed to transport articles of importance back to the Reich. We will make your stay here as comfortable as possible. Anything you see in your stay will remain amongst yourselves of course. Master Sergeant Wagner will see to your needs including the replenishment of your supplies. He ended with the obligatory salute for SS officers “Heil Hitler.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 13b - by Nova

While we were in Bochum we found out we were now part of Police Regiment 13 as the I battalion. Our sister battalion was attached as the II battalion of the regiment. The III hadn’t been announced, and it wasn’t until later that we found out that it was going to be a Ukrainian battalion with German officers and NCOs. Manpower was starting to get scarce apparently.

Of course we had a ceremony to mark the occasion though it was briefer than the one that had celebrated our departure. We still had a big wig show up. This time it was Daleuge, the General in charge of the Police. He was big enough to send the brass into a tizzy but being a Lance Corporal this time around was enough to get me out of most of the really crappy work details. There was no escaping the parade and inspection and it was hot that day. Hot enough that we had one of the new guys pass out. He must have forgotten the secret for standing for hours in one these ceremonies, never lock your knees.

By the end of the third month I was ready to go back to Poland. I was probably the only ‘old hand’ that was. The new guys were all excited about it. They reminded me of us not all that long ago. Even in 1942 everyone thought the war would be over soon and we weren’t going to be on the losing side. The people in Bochum certainly believed it. Then again it was not a good idea to voice any other opinion. No one would have to my face. I was in the police after all.

Before we had left for our second deployment we took the squad shopping. This time we made sure everyone bought extra socks, gloves, and long underwear; even though we had to use our own funds. I found a tailor and had a bunch of Russian socks made for me. No more expecting the army to come up with what we needed. Sarge also came around collecting money for a liquor fund. We were going to ship our own supply of liquor with us. I didn’t drink but I knew I could always trade my share for something else. My weakness was chocolate and I made sure to bring my own personal supply of good German chocolate.

We left from the same station. No bands or family this time and all our comrades were already in the east. The train station had taken minor bomb damage, which I found disturbing. I noticed no one paid attention to it. It was obvious to me that they weren’t seeing it on purpose. Perhaps, because to see it would be to acknowledge it, and by acknowledging it they would be admitting that perhaps the war might not going as well as they were being told.

We first went to Warsaw where we stayed briefly. We went by the old house but it was now occupied by three Wehrmacht officers. They weren’t in but our old housekeeper was. She was delighted to see us and even invited us in for few moments. She wanted to pump us for information about the war. Her son was with General Paulus and the 6th Army somewhere near Stalingrad. We didn’t know anything about that theater other than what everyone heard in the news which disappointed her.

I was amazed how often people thought we might know their loved ones. Time after time in Bochum a civilian would casually ask me if I knew their son, father, uncle, or husband. They just didn’t grasp how big Russia was. Moscow in their minds was just a day’s ride from Leningrad. It was like they thought we all lined up on the front within yelling distant of each other. As if we were just one big happy army standing around waving to each other and killing Russians.

While we were in Warsaw we did we did have a visit from Reichsfuhrer of the SS and Police, Heinrich Himmler. This was a major big deal. He was there because he wanted to congratulate us on how well we had performed our duties and to talk about the difficult times still ahead of us. He also went on at great length about us being part of the SS, as we were now SS Police Regiment 13. It was about the fourth time someone had told us that we now belonged to a new regiment. This was different though because we were now SS. Except we weren’t. No runes or uniform changes for us. Supposedly we were going to get new identification papers but I wasn’t holding my breath. The only good thing that I saw was our supply situation improved dramatically.

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 12b - by Nova

Nobody slept well that night, including me, and I welcomed the first rays of the morning sun. Not only for the light, but for the imaginary heat that I tried to convince myself that came with it. I got my heat but not in the way I preferred. The first round of incoming rode those rays of light straight down into our trench areas. Jesus that was amazing. One moment I am sitting there watching the sun come up, the next minute I am lying on the floor of bunker curled in the fetal position screaming one long drawn out “sssshhhhiiiiiiittttttttttttttt!.” That was until a chunk of dirt from our bunker ceiling shook loose and dropped into my wide open screaming mouth. It didn’t taste very good. I was coughing and spitting it out as dirt continued to rain down from the bunker walls on me. ‘Just one god please. Make it a direct hit that kills me.’

I became conscious enough of the world outside my own personal hell to see Hans and Gunter, the regular army guy who had been temporarily assigned to our hole, curled up next to me. I watched as a close round shook the ground hard enough that I saw air between their bodies and the hard packed dirt floor. It was getting hard for me to breathe for some reason. I knew I should be standing up and looking out to see if Ivan was coming but I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to move, I just wanted the noise to stop. The never ending noise.

I think I quit screaming, probably because I got hoarse and it hurt, and sometime later I remember wishing whoever was whimpering would just stop as it wasn’t helping things. Then I realized it was me that was whimpering. I snuck a peak at Gunter, who had his hands over his ears screaming, or at least his mouth was open and it looked like he was. It was just too noisy to hear. Hans was still curled up on the floor of the bunker, one hand was scratching at the ground. That was interesting. I watched his hand clawing and digging at the dirt floor and not making a lot of progress. The floor was too hard packed but he kept trying and every one of his fingers were bleeding at the tip.

When it stopped, it was amazing, never has quiet seemed quite as loud as it did in those first few minutes. I croaked “Hans.” All he did was meow like a cat in reply. It was really funny. I started laughing and found I couldn’t stop. I wanted to stop because it hurt but I just couldn’t. I just laid there laughing hysterically until Gunter who had been through this before kicked me in the head. Even with my helmet on I felt that.

“Shut the fuck up! Get up you assholes! They’re coming.”

Who was coming didn’t need to be named. It was like a switch had been thrown for me and Hans. The sound of treads crunching through the snow and the rumble of engines was like a bucket of ice water in our faces. Already I could hear the crack of the 88 firing and machine guns opening up. I popped up and took a look, Jesus Christ! They were everywhere! This wasn’t a probe, this was the real deal.
I had to scramble to find my rifle because the concussions from the blasts had moved it at least three feet from where I had left it Gunter was already firing and Hans was joining him.

Gunter was yelling “Grenades! Get me some grenades! We had a few set out for just this occasion but it was not going to be anywhere near enough for what was coming. I found the boxes, grabbed a handful, and dropped some in front of him. I slapped Hans on the shoulder and pointed where I had dropped them. He looked down, the Mauser not leaving his shoulder, and nodded. Damn they were getting close. Close enough to see their faces, which was way to freaking close.

I took the rest of the grenades and set them where I could easily reach them. Muscle memory from training took over. Yank the igniter, hold, and throw. Yank the igniter, hold a second more than last time, and throw. I wasn’t even watching them land. I had already moved on to the next target. Hans had grabbed my rifle and I threw him my extra cartridges. Gunter dropped to the bottom of the bunker. A head shot, he was gone. Hans and I kept throwing grenades until we were out and they were still coming. I couldn’t hear the machine gun that was on our right anymore. Hans had dropped his rifle and was now using his Lugar.

A tank was staring straight at us, the main gun was huge. Its machine gun was spitting a steady stream of rounds. Wham! The 88 was still alive! The tank blew up with a tremendous bang. There were four more tanks behind that one. This was not good. A main gun round from one of them hit far to close to our vision slits. All of a sudden there was only half a bunker, the rest had collapsed. Damn, my ears were ringing. I yelled at Hans trying to tell him we had to go but my throat was too dry. He had figured that out also and tried talking but he couldn’t. He just pointed and mouthed “Go!” Together we bailed out and rolled into the trench behind the bunker. About thirty yards away was a tank at an angle from us busy hosing down the machine gun bunker to our right. Ivan was beginning to breach the line right in front of us.

We raced down the trench, me in the lead, heading for the second trench line where we hoped we would find someone still alive. That’s when an Ivan dropped in front us screaming. From over my shoulder Hans shot him the mouth, the muzzle blast deafening me. If his hand had been six inches lower I would have lost hearing in that ear. I don’t think his body had hit the ground before I was running over the top of him. I still had my rifle, Hans had left his behind. I could hear Ivan’s yelling there stupid war cry and the sound of tank treads. It sounded like the 88 had been hit as I wasn’t hearing its crack anymore. When did it stop? Five minutes ago? An hour? Hell I didn’t know. I did know to keep moving. A grenade exploded next to us, the trench giving us just enough shelter to avoid the blast except now my ear hurt as did my face. I was bleeding. I could tell by the look in Hans eyes it was a lot, but neither of us was going to stop.

We hit the second line and nobody was there. I could hear firing. A German machine gun was still functioning somewhere ahead of us. We were out of the main trench area and headed towards the rear when we ran into Sarge. “Where do you think you two are going?" He shoved me backwards. “Man the fucking trenches. We got artillery coming in.” Lothar was with him and he was not looking good. The barrage must have been hell for him. He was shaking, the front of his trousers stained with urine. “Now goddamnit!” He shoved me again, this time into Hans knocking us both backwards. Stumbling we fell into the nearest trench just as all hell broke loose again. It may have been our artillery but it didn’t make it anymore pleasant. Sarge popped up from the same trench, he must have jumped as we fell in, and snapped off a round, dropping back to the bottom where we were. He looked over at me and grinned. Funny but that smile didn’t look so bad now.

We all curled up in the bottom of trench. God I hope they don’t fire short I remember thinking. Who ever was acting as the artillery fire observer must have been pretty good as I am still alive. The rounds dropped right in front of us and walked all the way out to about a thousand yards in front of what had been our front line. It was a short barrage but effective, although not effective enough because some of the Ivan’s had lived through it. This was Adolf’s type of warfare, artillery and trenches. No wonder the vets from the first war were so crazy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 12 - by Nova

We arrived in Borisov were assigned to as Division reserves in the rear while they figured out what to do with us. No one seemed interested in us or had made any accommodations available so we found shelter in some empty peasant huts. Here we waited for the word on what was next.

The huts we quickly found out had been previously used to house the division’s casualties before they were transported back to the rear area hospitals. There were used bandages and other medical trash strewn about inside. A grim reminder of what we had to look forward to in the very near future. I was not happy about it. I think I would have run out the door screaming if I had seen a couple of wooden clackity arms laying there mixed in with the used bandages and packaging.

The one thing that was always certain in Russia was that the weather would really suck. The wind had really picked up in the last few days and it cut like a knife through our woolen greatcoats. None of our clothing was up to a Russian winter. You had to find a sheltered place from the wind to take a dump or you ran a real chance of freezing your balls off. Constipation became a good thing.

I was able to stop some of the wind from cutting through my greatcoat by layering my body next to the skin with newspaper, using it to create paper long underwear. This was something I had learned as a child. After making sure I had scrounged up all the available newspaper in the battalion, covered my body, and made sure I had sufficient reserve. I told the rest of the squad about it. None of them had heard of it which somehow did not surprise me. I generously gave up my remaining supply of paper to the squad in the spirit of true National Socialism.

I was showing them how to wrap the paper around the chest and tuck in the undershirt to help hold it in place. Straight faced I pointed out to Hans how I had made sure the photo of the Fuhrer that I had found covered my heart. I told him “With the Fuhrer covering my heart, nothing can hurt me!” He agreed, replying “Perhaps so, to bad you don’t actually have a heart.” After the laughing had died down I sorted through the newspapers until I came across a photo of Himmler. That didn’t take long. “Here, Hans I will wear this on my ass and we can watch you kiss it.” He was offended, but he laughed as did the others. “It’s alright Hans” I told him as we heard the whistle blowing outside summoning us to assemble. “I understand true love.” His only reply was to jab me with the barrel of his rifle hard as we went out the door.

We grabbed our gear and left the hut in answer to the summons of the whistle which was barely audible over the sound of artillery rounds passing over head. What ever had set them off must not have amounted to anything because the rounds quickly stopped. It did not dawn on me then that the reason the barrage was over so quickly was because we were short of rounds for the big guns. Although it wouldn’t have surprised me, as everything else was in short supply here except for Russians.

We meet our guide who was going to take us up to our new positions. We were assigned to the left flank of the 21st Infantry Division. On our left flank was the 234th Infantry Regiment, although they seemed awfully far off once we were settled in. There was a reason for that, they were. Our company was filling a gap between the two infantry units and we had a frontage of nine hundred yards. We were reinforcing an under strength company from the 21st Division who took the forward positions. That’s how I found out that a total of two companies had been assigned an area that normally would require at least a regiment.

We were to dumb to know it but we had been blessed with an 88 gun and its crew who were dug into the center of our assigned area. Our trenches and foxholes had already been dug by the men who had previously occupied these positions and they had left them a mess. We were bitching about it when Sarge came back from his meeting with the top brass.

Our top brass was two Lieutenants, a Captain from the 312th Regiment, and 6 NCOs’. He must have heard us because he said “Hey assholes, the reason there is a mess is because when they left they were dead.”

“Hmmm” I replied, “I guess that means they weren’t in the mood to clean up.”

“No shit dumbass” was Sarges reply.

Han’s was my partner in the foxhole. He glared at me when Sarge headed for us like it was my fault. Sarge squatted down on his heels to bring himself closer to us. “Alright here’s the story. Supposedly this is a quiet sector, which is why we are here.” I immediately thought “if it is so safe why are there so many empty dead man dug holes?” I didn’t bother voicing it. He continued with “Try to stay warm, and one of you needs to be awake at all time. The recognition word is springtime. Chow may be delivered in an hour but don’t count on it. Questions?” He waited a second before bringing his ham of a fist down on the top of Han’s helmet causing his knees to buckle. His parting comment was “Don’t fuck up” and he was gone. We watched him leave, bent double, and moving fast to the next foxhole which I thought was also to far away.

I waited until he had moved out of earshot and looked at Hans. “Hey Hansie”
I waited a beat “I think Sarge wants you.”
“Fuck you.” was his reply. There was a moment of silence as we both looked around at the desolate snow covered landscape that we now owned.
“Hey Willi”
“Yeah? What?”
He spoke softly “Do you think the Russians will come?” I swallowed my first reply when I saw how round his eyes were. “No, we’ll be fine Hansie. Shit, if they do come all we need to do is just hunker down here and pick them off. I mean c’mon it’s not like we haven’t shot Russians before.” He nodded, we left unspoken that all the Russians we had shot so far had been unarmed.

Years later I was at a picnic and the host had brought several Styrofoam coolers to keep the food cold. I was sitting by myself at the picnic table watching his kids destroy the top of one of them. The sound the Styrofoam made as it was broken up sent me on a flashback to this very night and place. The snow that night was like Styrofoam. It was firm, and crunched with that same rigid squeaky sound the Styrofoam did when you walked on it.

We spent the next few days shivering, trying to sleep, bitching, and talking about food because they sure weren’t getting any up to us. Every once in awhile Sarge or the Lieutenant would make the rounds, stopping for a five or ten minutes to listen to us bitch and moan. Then they would tell us “No news was good news.” Like that was going to make us feel better. Later on in the war it would be great news but we were still far too green to appreciate the quiet.

During the day I would stand watch, Hans would scurry to the nearest holes, talk to the guys in them, and bring back more news about nothing. We would relieve each other so we could relieve ourselves in hole that was converted from a fighting position some distance away. It doesn’t sound very sanitary but everything froze and I had no intentions of being here when it thawed.

We were beginning to think everyone else was going to see action when the flares burst in the midnight sky. I had the watch, and I was stunned not only by the brightness of the light, but also by the dark shapes they illuminated out on the snow fields in front of us. I must have been dozing because with the flares came the sound of tracked vehicles which I should have heard earlier. Thank god someone was awake. The dark shape of the tanks were becoming clearer every second I stood there gawking. Hansies head popped up next to me “Holy shit!” We both looked at each and then back at the approaching Red army. “Shit. Shit. Shit!” He popped back down into the hole and was groping for his rifle. That reminded me of what I was supposed to be doing.

I shouldered my KAR 98 and did a quick scan. We had a little hollowed out ledge where we stored extra ammo and grenades just for this situation. We had laid it all out a few days after we arrived on the advice of the real infantry soldiers who were up front. After we got it done we looked at it and talked about how ready we were for at least an hour.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 11d - by Nova

So we began our trek through hell to hell. In the morning it was often twenty below or more and the horses we had pulling the troikas were not happy. So unhappy were they that they died. All of them. That made the villagers very unhappy as they took the places of the horses. They may have been subhuman but they knew how to dress for the weather. Felt boots, layered clothes, and the socks. The socks were the big secret. They didn’t wear them. Instead they wore squares of cloth that they folded around their feet inside the boots. I had befriended the Grandma of the clan whose house we occupied by looking the other way when it came to food rations and who got what and how much. I also liked playing chess with her son who had a paralyzed leg.

I liked her. She made a great soup called borscht out of beets that I really liked. She also introduced me to sunflower seeds. I got pretty good at cracking the shells with my teeth, extracting the meat with my tongue, and then spitting the shell out. She was ancient. At that point in my life anyone over thirty was old so she must have been at least sixty. It was hard to tell an Ukrainians’ age, poor dental care, hard work, children, and the sun aged the Ukrainian women far faster than their German counterpart.

She noticed me one day sitting in front of the stove scraping the dead skin and blisters off my toes. Before I could stop her she grabbed my ratty socks and threw them into the fire. That quickly produced a smell that was almost as nasty as was emanating from my feet. I looked at her amazed. I was sucking in wind to expel in a bellow of rage when she held up hand and said “Stop!” In German. She went over to a small wooden chest and pulled out two squares of cloth made of wool and felt mixed material. She knelt down in front of me and wrapped my foot in one. She didn’t speak much German, and I didn’t speak Ukrainian, but with a pidgin mix of the both I understood she was telling me this was the Ukrainian way. Since I didn’t see any Ukrainians sitting around in front of the fire watching their toes die, I decided to pay attention. She showed me how to wrap my feet correctly using the cloth and smiled at me.

She smiled even bigger when I demonstrated that I understood and wrapped the other foot as she had shown me and put my boots back on. The smile was either my reward for figuring it out quickly, or for putting my boots back on and stopping the stench.

Frost bite was something we learned a lot about that winter. The results are not particularly appealing. Light cases of it will turn your fingers or toes, or if you’re really lucky like a guy in the other platoon, your nose grey. Grey because the cold has frozen and damaged the flesh. You also get really nice blisters that look like warts. Good blisters popped clean. Bad blisters, when popped, bleed.

If the frostbite is really bad the skin turns black. If it stays black it can be cut away because the flesh is dead. There was nothing like sitting in a smoky Ukrainian shack watching Hans getting two of his toes chopped off for amusement. That’s what happens when you don’t have a radio or books. Minor surgery on other people becomes entertaining.

We arrived in Borisov seven days later. The last two days were the worst as we ran out of food. We had underestimated how many calories we would burn walking in that cold. As the food ran out the cold felt even worse. The next winter we made sure we carried extra tins of lard to eat. Anything with a lot fat in it, that is what the body needed in weather like that. Drinking alcohol was a major mistake. Stefan the company drunk died that way. The alcohol may feel like it is warming you up inside, especially if you’re standing watch outside, but that is a lie. The bottle he took with him to keep him warm killed him.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 10b - by Nova

The battalion continued moving towards Brest which was our next destination but before we reached it life changed again for us. We were on the road, very close to the beginning of the great Pripet swamp, and the bugs had become ferocious, when the Captain pulled our Lieutenant aside for a meeting. When the meeting was over, the Lieutenant had Sarge found and brought to him. Of course this didn’t go unnoticed by us.

“It looks like were getting another shit detail.” Hans remarked to Dieter and I.

We were standing in the shade of a building, bitching about the quality of the food we were getting, which was abysmal, and the bugs, which were biting the hell out of any exposed skin they found.

In order to eat decently we were raiding the local peasant’s houses and farms. Then we had to have them cook it, because we were clueless on how to take a live chicken and turn it into something edible. I learned how to get chicken eggs out of a nest one day when we were out scrounging up food and was surprised at how grubby the eggs looked. Even more surprising was getting pecked by a chicken as I was reaching under her trying to find the egg. It didn’t hurt as much as it startled the hell out of me. Dieter about fell over from laughing so hard when he saw me jump.

Hans was right and wrong about the meeting. We were getting detailed to a SD special operations group which wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We could have been assigned to a POW camp, stuck with processing Bolsheviks and Jews, like a platoon from 2nd company. We didn’t mind the assignment because it meant minimal discipline and work for us. Hans liked it because drinking was considered part of the job. Dieter, I don’t know why. Maybe because he had too? Maybe because he wasn’t smart enough to care?

We were never officially part of an Einsatzgruppen although we were to work with one numerous times over the next few months. I don’t remember hearing the word “Einsatzgruppen” used in the context of what we were doing. I did hear "Sonder or Special." It was usually explained to us that we being temporarily assigned to the SD as a work or special detail. We all knew what that meant, more of the same, which was killing Jews. After we were volunteered for the first job we found that whenever they needed police troops from our battalion for "special duty" we got the call.

We would be detached from our company, and then transported by truck to where ever the SD unit we were reporting to was currently working from. Usually it was a small town that was off the main rail lines. Sometimes after we met up with them, we would then continue to travel with them for a few weeks until we were released and sent back to rejoin the company which almost always was never where we had left it.

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 10a - by Nova

Zabludow had a huge wooden synagogue that was really amazing to look at. Years later I saw photos of pagodas in Asia, and was reminded of Zabludow because the synagogue looked just like one.

The town market square had a statue of Lenin but someone had shot his head off. Probably one of the Wehrmacht infantry units passing through had taken the time to blow his head off because nothing we carried would have done that kind of damage.

The market square itself was divided into a big one and little one. The little one was for the Jews, and the big one was for everyone else. There wasn’t much else to the town, anyways, other than the stench. They had a tannery and an oil factory inside the city limits which produced an amazing stink. We didn’t stay long there, just long enough to burn the synagogue and part of the town down. The Lieutenant was right. They didn’t have a fire department, and the wide streets did help keep the fire from spreading.

It burned very quickly. The wood was old and very dry. Hans made a very good point when he mentioned “We are really doing these old fools a favor.” He said this as we were standing there watching it burn while the local Jews were wailing and carrying on like we had just shot their children. Hell, we didn’t even burn anyone alive in it, probably because there were no SS or SD personnel around to tell us too. At that point we hadn’t really progressed far enough that burning people on our own initiative was given serious consideration.

He continued “Really, look at how fast this went up in flames. What if they where holding a service in there? They would have been toast. Now they can rebuild it, and this time build it right. I laughed. “Come on Hans. The only thing these Jews are going to be allowed to build is a larger train station so they can be shipped somewhere else faster.” I thought about what I had just said, and added “If their lucky.” Hans just shook his head and took another pull on his bottle.

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 10 - by Nova

When I returned to the lager nothing was said about what had happened earlier that morning by the guys. I am sure they thought I had become overwhelmed at seeing the crispy corpses, and I wasn’t going to dissuade them of course. We spent the next few days in Bialystok organizing Jews. What this meant was emptying the part of the city set aside for the ghetto and then filling it up with its new occupants.

The next few days were spent doing more of the same work we had done before in Poland. Evicting Jews, moving Jews, watching Jews, and then going back for more Jews. I thought we might end up getting billeted here, providing security for the gates, perhaps patrolling the boundaries until they built real walls. It was not to be. The army was still moving east. We were needed elsewhere, a lot of elsewhere's as it turned out.

We left Bialystock but we didn’t go far. We traveled southeast to Zabludow which took two days. Zabludow was where I began to see the change in the people and the architecture of the towns. The European influence was waning. The one thing that wasn’t changing was the number of Jews as they were everywhere. I remember talking to Hans about it. We were both amazed. “Can you believe all the Jews around here Hans? No wonder the Fuhrer said this was the breeding ground of the Jewish Bolshevik conspiracy. Because it looks like that all they do is breed.”

He laughed, looked around, spit, and told me “Yeah, if our job is going to be killing Jews than I will be retired before we clean out half of them.”

We were standing around by the truck which had brought us in. “Look at these streets, they’re wider than a boulevard back home.” They were too. The Lieutenant, who was standing next to us, surprised me by asking us “Do you know why the streets are so wide?”

We both replied “No sir.”

“Because the entire town is made of wood and the assholes don’t have a fire

We must have looked puzzled.

“It’s a firebreak. If a block catches fire the street is wide enough that only that block burns.”

“Ah, thank you sir.”

We then moved away from him so we could continue talking without having him listen in. Of course Sarge showed up and we ended up having to unload trucks.

Diary of a Serial Killer - Chapter 9b - by Nova

The Jews were poking around in the rubble which still had to be uncomfortably hot. The big dome that had been in the center had come crashing down into the rubble while the iron beams that had held it up stayed intact with some twisting of their original shape. I looked up at the fire blackened girders and thought it looked like a giant black spider crouching there in the remains of its nest.

A large cart was parked near the ruble, but not to close as the heat and smoke still being generated by the smoldering rubble would have spooked the horses. They were not happy about being there anyways and were restless, stamping their feet and nickering. I figured the Jews had been dragooned into going through the rubble, to search for, and recover any valuables, as everyone knew the Jews hid gold and silver in large amounts in their synagogues.

We strolled over just as a couple Jews came out the rubble carrying a black bundle. It was suspended in a blanket that they held at each end. They were crying, the path of the tears clearly outlined on their soot covered faces. They walked up to the cart, carefully lowering the blanket in, then one of them let go of his side, so the bundle rolled out the blanket, pieces of black ash flaking off as it came to rest on top of the others in the cart.

“Oh Jesus” said Dieter, “Oh my fucking Jesus.” Yeah, that was a fairly accurate description of the only person who might be able to change what we were looking at. The black bundles were the charred remains of the Jews who had been burnt alive last night. Only up close were they recognizable as human. On some of the blackened bodies lying in the cart I could see the white glint of teeth and bone. The bodies had their legs pulled up, making them appear to be kneeling, their hands were raised up in supplication to a god who must have been busy elsewhere.

Hans whispered “It looks their praying.” Suddenly I was angry with all of them. They were so fucking dumb! What the hell did they expect? Especially considering what had we had been doing in Poland. This was nothing new, just the same old shit only a little rawer.

“Yes Hans, all Jews become good Catholics when faced with being roasted alive.”

“Really?” Dieter asked surprised.

I just nodded my head "Yes." I knew I couldn’t stay there for a minute more or I would lose control of myself. I could feel the anger rising inside. This was the bad anger. The red hot, stabbing, irrational killing kind of anger. In a matter of seconds it would overwhelm the walls I had so carefully constructed over the years to contain it. Then it would sweep through me washing away the facade I had built up over the years. I had to walk away, get away at once while I could. I turned away from them and began walking. I could hear Hans calling to me “Willie! Willie! Come back.” I didn’t even turn around. Instead I broke into a run, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ the voice inside my head was screaming. I passed the Sergeant who had warned us to wear our masks. He began laughing, the laughter quickly dying when he saw my face as I went past him. He turned away from me.

I kept going until I got to my bike. I mounted it and began pumping the pedals hard to build up speed. I pedaled, uncaring and unseeing, forcing the bad anger back down. If I was going to be angry, the cold anger was best. With the cold anger I could read situations, weigh my options, and react correctly. The cold anger helped me survive. The red anger was my childhood enemy. Listening to it had taken me to the institution run by the Premonstratensian order where I learned that I was filled with sin. They taught me, with their punishments, that if I wished to survive then I must keep the red anger hidden.