Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
This is a story I wrote in 10th grade for school in 40 minutes so forgive any mistakes.
I stared past the smoking barrel of my gun and at the sight of a mother falling down, a baby in her hand and a bloody bullet hole in her back. My legs seemed to be glued to the ground I continued to stare in awe at what I had done while my buddies joked around.
“Hey Eckhard! Finish the baby as well!”
“I don’t think he’s going to do it man. Let’s wake him.”
Another shot signalled the end of the baby’s crying. I closed my eyes.
I was born on April 27, 1924, a time where many Germans hated their leaders. Ten years earlier, my family was told to surrender to the Americans and let them do what they pleased to us, even though we were winning the war. The results were disastrous. I was born into a family that no longer had the money to buy even a loaf of bread. We instead were forced to steal, lowering our position in society.
A part of life is having an enemy. Whether it’s a behavior you have or a person you hate, everybody has an enemy. For us Germans, our enemy was the Jew. Jews had been a pain for centuries. This reasoning was why my family, along with countless others, voted Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party into power. He was a strong man who convinced us that we could rise back up to the top of Europe and that the only reason why we were where we were was because of the filthy Jews. A year later, when President von Hindenburg was killed in a fire, millions of Germans enthusiastically backed Hitler, the new Fürher. He now could act without anybody stopping him. Around ten years later, the war broke out and seeing how we had already taken over France within a year, I joined the military at the age of seventeen.
Training was brutal, though it really did help. We were to wake up really early (around five in the morning, I think, but no one had a clock or watch) and then run three miles without stopping. Our sergeant had fought for the German Empire thirty years ago in the Great War and impressed the tactics he had observed and used on us. About six months later, I was on the battlefield, marching toward the Soviet Union. Although we had been allies, we needed more Lebensraum, or living space, since our superior race needed to reproduce.
My initial successes on the battlefield had felt great. We marched through much of the Soviet Union when der Führer decided to have some troops stop fighting and instead work on his pogrom. My company was in charge of some Jews in Kiev, Reichskommissariat Ukraine, or better known as the RKU. Our job was simple-herd all Jews or those who looked like them into the trains until the trains had refueled. We were told that the amount of space didn’t matter as the Jews had ways to make small spaces fit large populations due to dark magic. Although I was unhappy that I couldn’t fight on the front lines, I was happy that I was at least working on the pogrom and contributing to the growth of my nation. That all changed on one faithful day.
Near the end of 1942, my friends and I were still on Jew duty, but we were close to completing our jobs here with the Jews. I was escorting a Jewish family of five with a ridiculously slow pace. No matter how much we threatened them, they continued at a very leisurely pace The Jews had bought themselves enough time to live until the next train ride. I turned to my friends to see if they had any idea what to do with the Jews until the next train when the three males began to run and the mother just simply turned to watch. All my previous frustration and anger at the pace they had been walking earlier took over and I fired my gun.
I opened my eyes, and I saw the three Jewish men staring at the mother and the baby, shivering from the cold or the sight I don’t know. I had taken a life. Three more shots rang out and they collapsed. Taking lives wasn’t new-other soldiers and I had done this all the time, it was what one did during war. However, on the battlefield, one never actually saw the body since the enemies were so far away. But actually seeing the body, all the hopes and dreams gone, made my point of view change drastically.
We marched towards Stalingrad to join the rest of the troops. I had been taken off Jew duty, though the murder I had committed was all I could think about the entire way. All I saw were bodies and explosions. German, Soviet, Finnish. Families and loners alike shared the same end-death. Before long, the sound of artillery fire and the ground shaking became common and I was on the battlefield. It was January 22, 1943, and the siege had not been going well for us. We had been starving the Russians for more than six months but the Soviets refused to concede. Our food blockade was not enough. We had lost many men here, which was why the generals had some troops leave their posts in other fronts and come to Stalingrad. Even with defeat nearing, Hitler refused to retreat.
Whenever I slept, I could only dream of pain and heartbreak. Jews were people too. All this blood shed for what? How could we decide what made a race superior? What was the criteria based on? When on the field, I fired in the air in purpose to make sure I didn’t hit anyone.
On the second of February, 1943, we were told to retreat by our superiors. Some, including me, decided to stay behind. However, while the others were going to fight to their deaths in the name of the Nazis, I was going to surrender myself to the Soviets and tell the Soviets all of the atrocities that Germans had been doing to the Jews. If it meant saving the Jews while condemning myself to prison, I was perfectly fine taking my punishment. As the last of the other German troops retreated, I snuck away from the others and circumvented the city until I found a couple of Soviet children. The kids were familiar with us since we’d been feeding them throughout the siege in exchange for water. I walked to an installation of soldiers with my arms up and I was immediately searched. I entered a building that was home to Georgy Zhukov, a high ranking Soviet officer. If I was a model German soldier, I would have pulled a gun out and shot him immediately, sacrificing myself for the German cause. But I wasn’t. I was a man, full of repentance, who wanted to make sure the atrocities my people were doing to the innocent Jews and other minorities would be stopped. Zhukov took a look at me and asked for a translator. Once the man came in, he was the medium through which I communicated to the general.
After a little back and forth communication through the translator, I was led out of the camp with the translator. I looked around and saw much of the same sights I had seen when marching here.
“This is your doing” The translator was spoke bitterly.
“Huh?” I was confused. I didn’t fight here-I had made that point very clear earlier.
“You destroyed our city, killed our people, hurt us. I hope you get what you deserve.” In a daze, I didn’t speak until I stepped into a shed. I was motioned to a chair. I sat down and was strapped up with electrodes attached to different parts of my body. This machine, I was told through broken German, used my brain waves and activity to give them a much better picture of what exactly was happening. Damn, I thought. The Soviets are much more advanced than we are. The general motioned for me to begin to speak. As I began to detail my experiences and what I had watched, I began to feel discomfort, as if electricity was being zapped into me. That’s probably supposed to happen. It’s likely experimental technology. I continued to speak until the electricity began to hurt.
“It’s hurting a bit!” I called out. My army training had taught me to take a lot of pain but the amount of pain I was in was starting to increase a little too much. The Soviets’ response was to send someone to smash me in the face with a shovel. When my head stopped ringing, I realized that the Soviets honestly didn’t care about what we did to Jews. They also hated Jews, though not on the same level as we did. They did, however, hate us Germans for what we had been doing to their country for the past two, three years. The Soviets pressed a button on their dashboard and then left me to endure the increasing intensity of the shock. I stared at the sky and begged forgiveness, not to a god or Hitler, but to the mother and the baby I had killed. My body began to shake and I screamed in not only pain, but in regret of all the decisions I had made that hurt people that never hurt me personally but had suppose hurt a man I called an idol. I was disgusted at myself.
As the pain increased, it got brighter and I saw the mother, holding her baby, watching me. I’m there! I wanted to yell. I’m going to join you! I’m sorry! I screamed, and everything turned bright.
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