The Corporal and the Corporal’s Mother


“And how is the life of my camp guard?” Trudi asked, ladling his plate full of spätzel in thick gravy. “Have they seen fit to promote you?”

He grimaced, touched the unadorned shoulder tab of his tunic. “Do you see any pips, Mother? Any gold braid? No, you don’t. I am a gefreiter still and always. There is no promotion in my future.”

He was not as irritated as he made himself sound. It was to change the subject more than anything.

He did not want to tell her about the new, larger camp.

Especially not what it was for.


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    • J Hardy Carroll

      The logistics for supporting a camp as large as Birkenau were a huge challenge to the Germans. Most of the guards and workers were civilian conscripts unfit for combat service. It is difficult to imagine how a normal, moral human being would react to finding themselves in that situation where they are complicit in the systematized murder of thousands of suffering people every day. Would they be forced to become as callous as men who work at a slaughterhouse, seeing these suffering humans as little more than cattle? And after the war, what then? What reconciliation would they find, what peace? On the eve of an election where one of the leading candidates shares many of the philosophies with Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich, this is proof that history does not sometimes repeat itself. It often does. Thanks for the comment and the photo prompt.

  1. Mike

    Such a telling piece, about the evil which takes over individual human beings or gefreiters as they ‘gave way’ to the control of more powerful individuals.

  2. gahlearner

    Ever since I was a child I asked myself, what would I have done and couldn’t answer. I thought this could never happen again. Now I see vicious nationalism with fascist tendencies rear its head everywhere, it’s not only the Germans any longer. And I have my answer. These ideas, the disregard for the life of others, the looking away, not wanting to know–alive and kicking. BTW, it’s Spätzle, not Spätzel.

  3. jellico84

    Oh, that is eerie. Left me both wanting and not wanting to read more. More questions than answers, but then, some questions should never have answers.

  4. d3athlily

    This reminded me very much of “The Reader” but with him showing more agency by working to remain away from the atrocities. Still, it is terrible. Well done!

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