SHORT STORIES

Train to Kruppstadt



She stood there at the platform, a German girl with blue eyes

Men wearing black with cold eyes and a dead expression in their faces

Were standing one feet apart from another waiting with folded hands

They looked like priests but priests don't usually carry rifles or caps with swastikas and skulls

An exhausted mother and her unwashed daughter held hands a few feet apart from her

The mother was trembling and it was the daughter that was comforting her by holding her hand and squeezing it, her eyes sending words of comfort

She squeezed the handle of her suitcase so tight that her hands became numb and then she would have to consciously loosen her grip until the grip would tighten again and after a minute loosen

The sound of a cuckoo was heard coming from the Czech forests

The railings began to whistle like a far-away kettle and

The train arrived to the Bohemian village

She entered with the skull-loving men and the trembling mother plus comforting child

She stayed close to them sensing that they were the only humans left on that platform and the train was filled with more swastika zombies

Except there was a peasant in the cabin who was muttering in Czech to himself (although it could have been Slovak or Greek or Chinese or Tagalog or Hawaiian Pidgin for all she knew)

The swastika zombies were laughing mechanically at the man but she could not sense any humour or joy in their barking

A younger Nazi kicked the Czech man in the kidneys

Jetzt mal leise hier, du eckliger Jude!

The mother began shaking more violently and her daughter pressed her hands

Slowly, the train began to leave the platform and the Bohemian village

She had left her school group behind now for sure

They had come here as a group because Essen was being bombed

Because in Essen they had Krupp and he made weapons and bombs for the Germans and so the Americans and the French and the British we're all interested in bombing that bomb-making city into bits. So they had come here, a bunch of girls between the age of 12 and 14 and one teacher, Frau Koch. But she had become so homesick that she had told them she would return to her mum and dad. Frau Koch couldn't even say no because there were another 15 kids she had to take care of and now she was on a train back to Essen

Ihre Fahrkarte, bitte

A sturdy man with a thick mane of hair stood beside here, his gloved hands stretched out palms up

Ihre Fahrkarte, bitte, Fräulein

She gave it to him. Ms Koch had paid for the ticket herself

The man looked at the ticket long and hardy

His eyes diminishing in size as he looked for a fault

Wohin gehen Sie?

Essen she said, her words almost dying in the stale air

Kruppstadt he muttered almost to himself

Wordlessly, he gave it back to her and beckoned the mother to do the same

The mother gave him two tickets with trembling hands

The man looked at them and gave them back to her, the woman even smiled now

Ihr Ausweis, bitte

The smiled drowned and the woman looked at him with pleading eyes

Ihr Ausweis, bitte

The woman gasped and was about to cry as she took out her identification papers and handed it to them

The man took them and inspected them carefully

With a grimace he handed her back the papers

He moved on, not even bothering to pretend to inspect the papers of the the men in black

As soon as he left the cabin, the woman broke down in tears and bit furiously down into her palms, not allowing herself to cry out loud

The daughter put a hand on her shoulder, not in a compassionate way so much as in a stoical way as her eyes said to me So ist das Leben....Such is life.


The German girl drifted off for an hour or two and would have slept more except she was woken up by the sound of a distant scream and the sound of curtains flapping in the wind

As she opened her eyes she saw it was night, but what a bright night!

An orange blow seemed to radiate from somewhere behind them

The back of the train was on fire and men in black were going in and out of carriages

A woman with a howling baby appeared from the back

Both their faces had been burned and melted as they rushed past her like ghosts in a fevered dream

The Czech man who had been babbling earlier, now laid on his side very still, a thick pool of black substance around him

The men who served Hitler kept knocking against him, tripping and cursing

The Nazi boy who had kicked the Czech man sat crying to himself in the corner.


The fire kept burning all night

The mother's child began to cry with with gulps of air breaking through the tears

The mother's arms had stopped trembling as they held her daughter to her bosom

With a strength reserved by mothers for their children

She saw the girl beside her alone with eyes that were dying

So she adopted her that night, becoming a much needed mother for two girls

As she held them war orphans in her arms

With a strength reserved by mothers for their children, both childbeared and adopted.



When dawn arrived the girls were sleeping and mother, too

The back of the train had been reduced to soot but only a child's bonfire remained stubbornly burning, leaving a tail of smoke behind

Nazis and captured Jews laid tired beside each other, their bodies covered in soot and their hatred and fear forgotten temporarily

Wach auf, Kleine said the mother to Essen girl in broken German

Dein Zuhause...Essen

Kruppstadt mumbled the girl in her sleep

Nein, Essen....dein Zuhause said the calm woman who was not German to the German girl

The Essen girl looked into the mother's eyes and they both laid there arm in arm for a few minutes, then the girl got up and looked for a brush in her brush-free suitcase

The woman smiled as she took out her own brush and began brushing the girls hair with it

The other girl had woken up now and all three women enjoyed a light-filled cabin all to themselves as the German girl's hair was brushed by a Jewish lady

The train began to slow down and a sign bearing the words Essen Hbf appeared in Germanic letters

The girl got up to leave, took her suitcase and looked at her two friends

Danke sehr she told them

They both nodded and the German girl got off the train

She stood at the platform for a long time looking at the two women staring back at her from behind cabin windows

So many words were said between them, so much left unsaid, too, and when the train left it left a trail of smoke behind and the girl began to walk to her parent's house, in 1944.