The face of a Jew in my head
I make up a face for the Jew in my head, whose hair makes up my bed and my socks.
I know it is more than one Jew, but I ache for a face to comfort me.
It is so cold here under the Atlantic � American or British ships constantly on the prowl in their search for us.
We slither silently along the bottom.
I am always scared and cold and lonely.
Even a Jew�s face is better than no face at all.
This is something I know none of the others trapped inside this hull understand.
They tell me to love the fatherland.
They tell me I must hate Jews � or gypsies or Soviets or any others listed on the list of enemies the Fuehrer issues.
But how do I hate the man or woman who keeps me warm?
The Americans have a saying about walking in another man�s shoes, and here I walk in their socks and sleep on their heads.
How can I hate them?
How can I not wonder about them?
Was this a good man?
Did he raise good sons?
Sometimes in my dreams I call out names I have never heard in waking, Jews names, dead names.
And those around me who hear me warn me to keep silent or else.
I am puzzled as to why I say these things and helpless to stop them.
And sometimes in this close place, I feel the hair smother me, bad air filling the chamber around me not with the expended breath of my fellow sailors, but the last breath of Jews I have never seen.
I tell myself the war won�t last forever and I will not spend the rest of my life locked in this chamber filled with heartless men.
Someway, I will go home again to where I can walk again side by side with strangers and not feel hatred.
And I won�t need to make up a face or name.
Or have nameless ghosts haunting me in my sleep.
Then, the Americans or British find us, bomb us and our world rattles and leaks, air growing staler and staler with each breath.
Until we all cry or pray or close our eyes, no longer supermen, perhaps no longer even men, but boys calling for the comfort of our mothers or our wives.
And I�m so scared I don�t know who to cry to any more or to what God I should pray.
So all that comes out of my mouth is the name I make up for that person I never saw, the man, woman or child whose hair keeps me warm at night.
If any of the others hear me they are too scared to say
What is in a name when you wait for death?
Is this space of metal like that space where those Jews died?
Did those Jews feel then as I feel now?
Once the attack ends, we all become good Germans again.
I tell myself these people here are my kind, while my ghosts are not.
If we die � here in this ship, we die with honor, not like dogs.
I tell myself I am a hero, a man, a good German.
Yet when no one can here me, I still call out my Jew�s name, snuggling deep into the warmth of his hair, feeling something more growing inside of me that is neither German nor Jew.