A good NaziPublished
I always thought of myself as a good Nazi.
In those days, we all needed to believe in something.
We once saw ourselves as the Holy Roman Empire, feared -- we thought -- throughout the world.
We once marched through Europe in grand majesty -- too proud perhaps.
So many others sought to destroy us, and eventually did.
My father never recovered from the humiliation he felt when the emperor surrendered in 1918.
Better death by mustard gas, he said, than the slow death he suffered later, his mind becoming twisted with rage before the end.
I saw Hitler as our salvation, a man with ideas, a man who could bring back to the fatherland the pride my father saw ooze away.
I put on the uniform and the arm ban because it made me feel important, as if I belonged once more to a noble institution.
I did not hate Jews the way many others around me did, though I admit deep down I believed as my father had that the Jews had caused us to lose the Great War.
For this reason, I thought Hitler was right in making them pay and later putting them in places by themselves where we could be assured they would not become the cause of our losing another war.
I had heard about the death camps, of course.
But most of us dismissed them as mere rumor.
No one, we thought, could possibly do the kind of things the reports said Hitlerís people were doing.
Again, deep inside, I felt the vague wish that the reports were true.
This was an unreasonable urge, a need for revenge on the crimes my father believed the Jews committed.
I never killed a Jew with my own hands.
When I turned in Jews who tried to pass as Christians, I thought I was being a good citizen, a righteous person, one who had respect for the law.
I saw Jews as taking jobs good Germans needed, though I also knew that no German would stoop so low or work so hard for so little.
When Hitler asked me to go to war, I did.
I truly believed the Poles, the Russians, the French, the British and yes, even the Americans, sought to do us harm, trying to terrorize our people into changing our way of life.
They wanted what we had, I thought. So I fought hard to keep them from getting it.
I grew as desperate as other Germans when the war turned sour. Yet I did not know the Jews, gypsies and others we put onto trains went into ovens. I cheered on guards who shot those who sought to escape, only because I believed those escaping would work against our laws.
All these years later, I still see the faces of the dying in my dreams, the ones who went into the train cars and never came back, the ones our guards had to shoot when the prisoners tried to escape.
I see the flies gathering over the eyes of the dead and the expressions of adults and children who see their own doom ahead.
I heard in my head at night, the cry of the dying children, hunger echoing in the distance like wounded dogs.
I wake to the sound, shuddering and shaking.
I always thought of myself as a good Nazi, when I now know there is no such thing.