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A short story by Eddie King

Nuremberg, Germany

Friday, November 16, 1945

Captain David Stone got off the cargo plane at twelve ten p.m. He didn't like to fly. The Earth went too far away. But a summons had come to him in Berlin. He'd packed his duffel bag, boarded the plane and spent most of the short flight begging his stomach to behave. A Jeep and a driver, Corporal Johnson, waited for him. The damp cold bit into David. The six two blond should have dressed better for the weather. His topcoat was thin compared to Corporal Johnson's heavy padded jacket. The slacks of David's dress uniform couldn't complete with Johnson's heavy fatigues.

The Jeep bounced in and out of a bottomless pothole. David pinched up a handful of flesh and muscle on his left hip and pressed his palm down. He couldn't calm the shots of pain birthed by the jolting Jeep. His face puckered into a deep wince.

Johnson noticed. “Something wrong, sir?”

David shook his head. “It'll pass.”

“Combat wound?”

“Not quite. I was in Stalag 33 for eight months. One of the guards, he's dead now, walloped me with a Louisville slugger one morning at roll call. Right on the hip socket. My leg bone kind of grinds in the socket now.”

“Why'd he hit you?”

“I'm a Jew.”

The January 2 RAF bombing of Nuremberg, once one of Europe's gems, had shredded the city. Rubble spilled into rubble. Great blocks and little bits mingled onto broken roads and mud heaps. The grand Palace of Justice still stood, damaged but useable with a little rehabilitation. Not many buildings were. Men, women, children, ragged, gaunt with hunger, roamed among the heaps of debris, looking to salvage anything that could be sold or traded for a piece of bread. Some of them rushed toward David's Jeep, pleading with outstretched hands. Some knelt and wept and wailed. David, his face locked in distaste and disgust, pretended he didn't see them. He couldn't help feeling, as Johnson eased the Jeep through the mob, that these citizens of Nuremberg had gotten what they justly deserved. The favored city of the Nazi party. The willing host of the party's early and continuing rallies. How often had they welcomed theirprecious Fuehrer with cheers and anthems of praise? If enough of them, early on, had said “No, no more” could they have prevented the years of horror? David thought so. Americans through their history had said no a few times with measurable success.

Dozens of GIs, up and down and all around, hustled to complete repairs to plumbing and electrical lines. The trial would begin on Monday. The world would be watching, listening, reading all about it. Newsreel crews, radio broadcasters and newspapermen had already descended, their suggestions and requests urging and irritating the laboring GIs. Johnson parked the Jeep where it wouldn't irk anyone.

“Thank goodness,” David said. “No steps to climb.”

“Colonel Mason's office is on the second floor, sir.”


“Doesn't work. Needs parts.”


“Yes sir.”

David tried not to count the steps of the grand staircase as he went upward. Johnson stayed with him most of the way and David nodded his gratitude. If his hip gave up, he'd go down hard. A few steps from the top, Johnson said, “Left hallway. Halfway down. I'll come back. Just call the motor pool.”

“Thank you, Corporal Johnson.”

Built like the tank he once rode, Colonel Mason looked rumpled. His office matched the man. Pure army-on-the-move. Everything olive green metal. He watched David limp across the room. They shook hands. “I'm sorry, Captain. I forgot about your injury. I should have come down.”

David shrugged. “ I get where I need to go, sir. But I wouldn't turn down a little painkiller.”

Mason grinned. “Fifty fifty coffee and brandy okay?”

“Yes, sir, please, sir.”

Mason poured. “You're wondering why you're here, so, right to it. We're coming up short on trilingual translators. English, German, Yiddish. I know you're scheduled to go home the end of December and this trial will run a little longer than that. So, this is strictly voluntary.”

David massaged his cheeks and forehead. He couldn't do what Mason wanted. This trial opened a new frontier in world politics. In jurisprudence. But he couldn'tparticipate in it and he had to explain that to a Christian. He cleared his throat. “I have to turn you down, sir. Time isn't a factor. I hope to complete my rabbinical studies and translating here would be against the laws given us in Leviticus. I would be condemned for committing an egregious sin. I'd never be a rabbi.”

“I don't understand, Captain.”

“Lashon hara. Evil tongue. The law forbids us from speaking or listening to derogatory speech about another person. Even if what's said is true. We're also forbidden to hate or bear grudge or seek vengeance. Leviticus 19:16, 17, 18. The only permissible exception would be if it's done to prevent life threatening harm. But these Nazis are impotent now. They can no longer cause harm.”

Mason put his arms on his desk and leaned forward. “You understand how important this trial is? Hitler, with great and grave deliberation, and malice aforethought, decided to destroy whole nations. To decimate entire ethnic groups. These men aided and abetted him every step of the way. This trial isn't about vengeance. It's meant to send a message to future warmakers that crimes against humanity will not be tolerated. And if they choose to do so, world justice, international law with due process, will drop a heavy hammer on them. No more mea culpa on bended knee all is forgiven and the world moves along until the next time.”

“I understand that, sir, but the laws of man can't take precedence over the laws of God. Not for me.”

“We need you, David. I said this is voluntary. See if you can find a way.”

“Yes, sir.”

Johnson drove David to the tent city by the railroad, showed him his quarters, and said he'd be available if David needed anything. David locked his mind down. He didn't want to be here. He didn't want to see these Nazi relics and remnants. Mason said he needed him. But as far back as his family could trace its history, its sons had always been rabbis. He left his duffel bag on his bunk. He had to find a rabbi to talk to. He headed for the center of town, his brain stuck in neutral. A complaining horn and a squeal of tires shook him out of his reverie. The Jeep had stopped inches from him. The driver got out. A major.

“Captain, I could have killed you. Walking in the middle of the street. Are you lost?”

David saluted. “No, sir. Yes, sir. Do you know where I can find a rabbi? Or a wise Jew?”

The major grinned. “No rabbis here. I'm a Jew but I don't know about wise. Aaron Gold psychiatrist.”

“David Stone.”

“You need to talk? Hop in. It's always good to talk about serious things over a meal.”

Chicken and mashed potatoes. Not bad. Real coffee. David told Aaron his problem.

Aaron said, “ You need to see something.”

They drove back to the Palace of Justice. Aaron led David to a small office with a movie screen and projector. “We're editing these films into one piece to be presented as evidence. Try to hang on to your lunch.”

Dachau. Auschwitz. Treblinka. The names flashed, large and white, every few minutes and, in between, the truth. Dead bodies. Bulldozers pushing mountains of dead bodies into deep pits. Living skeletons. Starved, diseased. Men with no fingers on their hands no ears on their heads. A close-up of a woman with a broken mouth.

Aaron said, “The guards took her teeth for the gold fillings.”

David saw the ovens still filled with ashes. Human ashes. On the rags the survivors wore, a yellow star of David, dirty dark. His chest burned. The movie went blurry and he realized it was because his eyes filled with tears. “The survivors?”

“Refugee camps. A lot more will die. But many are aided by the Haganah. Here, at the end. Jews from Palestine. They're pushing for re-settlement there. A Jewish state. A real nation. Of warriors. In our ancient Homeland.”

David shook his head. “A dream.”

“We'll do it.”

David saw the tall, proud men moving through a refugee camp. Wearing a different uniform. A Star of David clean, bright, blue and white, on their shirt sleeves above crossed rifles. Warriors.

Aaron said,”This,” he waved at the movie screen “Must never happen again. Not to Jews. Not to any people. After these films are shown, once the world knows the truth, I don't think a rabbinical court would judge you for participating in the trial. To'elet. Righteous reason.”

David sat silent, unmoving his mind opening to something he couldn't define until...until… He stood up. “Thank you, Aaron.”

“You've made a decision.”


Mason rose as David entered his office. “You climbed all those steps again. You could have phoned.”

David shrugged. “I'll do it. Translate.”

“You found a way around your law?”

“Maybe. Doesn't matter anymore. I won't be going home to be a rabbi. I'm told there's a new breed of Jew pushing out their own frontiers. When the trial's over, I'll be going to Palestine, to join the Haganah. To fight for a Jewish state. To fight for Israel.”

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Very well written, Eddie. I could picture the whole episode and it captured the feelings and starkness, as well as the hope, of the end of the war. I look forward to future installments!
posted by Abby (Brown) Glann