K.W.4: Chapter 8, Return to the Factory

[As you continue to read my great-aunt’s memoir, I’d like to remind you that in the United States today, we have a prison camp in Tornillo, Texas where approximately 2,500 migrant children are being held. This prison camp is being run by adults who have not been properly vetted by the FBI for working with minors. And the private company that runs the camp has been paid approximately 144 million US tax dollars to do so. The company has said that they will close on January 15, 2019 and find homes for all the children, but the Department of Health and Human Services has not confirmed this. We’ll see.

I’m not saying that the conditions are the same as what happened during Nazi Germany, but I am saying that there’s a high potential for ugliness beyond the incarceration of children in tents in the desert, which is bad enough.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday season. I’m grateful to each one of my readers, and hope that you will continue to follow along into the new year.]


At night, when we leave the factory, it’s black outside.

A funny little electric car accompanies us, following behind with the sound of bells and flooding us with light as bright as the sun. Two guards have hoisted themselves up on the car with big empty canisters of soup that we ate for lunch to take them back to camp. I’m tired, and everything feels surreal. Marching with me, lined up five by five, are all my friends from K.W.4, and those from K.W.3 who’d worked one hour more than the rest of us prisoners. I look for the missing cameras since our procession seems to me like a grotesque scene in a movie. The light that whitens our hair lights up the leaves in the trees that sway over our heads like streamers for 14thof July celebrations. And the mastodon spools lined up along the edge of the road seem to taunt our burlesque procession.  Are they here for the funereal masquerade?

The car follows us without the Queen of Queens. It’s not yet Carnival. Our shoes, what’s left of them, slap against the mud. Our legs are naked and carry us, despite ourselves, despite our fatigue and imaginations that runs wild.

As our column turns, the bell rings again. Is this the bell that the lepers rang during the middle ages? What historical reenactment are we filming? A soldier holding an electric lamp at chest level counts us (for the third time since we left the factory) and the soldiers survey us with a few random slaps.

Another stop. A heavy door shuts again and the deserted streets of this Berlin neighborhood slip past. The demolished homes are like cardboard cut-outs. A sudden whistle holds up the column – it’s the little train, ready to depart with its lights flashing yellow in the night. We make out the rush of workers, travelers, the departure… real lives are still being lived? But there’s not a single guard dog. The tramways are stopped. Some colorless shadows pass by. They are other humans, not deportees.

Christiane, who’s almost always silent, speaks up, “Look at the little train. Isn’t it sweet?” Her childish face lights up… Then she lowers her head. Everything returns to silence. The prison camp’s gate opens and we run for our pittance, for our mattresses, for sleep.

If roll-call doesn’t keep us up, if the beatings don’t make our poor suffering bodies ache even more, Christiane can sleep with an angelic smile and dream of the pretty little train.


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