And Then Put Out the Light


This is my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for January 30. The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt. Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create. The photo prompt this week comes from Ted Strutz, who writes some fine stories of his own as well as taking interesting photographs. My story this week, minus the translation of the prayer, weighs in at 99 words.

Copyright Ted Strutz

Copyright Ted Strutz

“Where are we going, Uncle Josef?” Boris asked.

“To the cottage on the hill. The men want us to take showers.”

“I don’t want to take a shower.”

“Hush now. Be a good boy. Take off your clothes.”

“What do the signs say?”

“They say that boys need to take showers.”

“What about my clothes? What if someone takes them?”

“No one will take them.”

Boris and Uncle Josef followed the others into a crowded room. The lights went out. Men screamed. Before silence fell, Boris heard Uncle Josef singing, “Shir la-ma-alos, esö aynai el he-hörim, may-ayin yovo ez-ri.”*

*“I will lift up my eyes unto the hills. From where will my help come?”

Author’s note: Yesterday marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The photo prompt this week brought to mind the words of Othello, “Put out the light, and then put out the light.” I chose to combine these into my story about a boy in the gas chambers. To read more you can click here.

Advertisements

48 thoughts on “And Then Put Out the Light

  1. Dear Marie Gail,

    As soon as ‘shower’ was mentioned, I knew. Oddly enough I didn’t feel compelled to write a Holocaust story. I’m glad you did and did it so well. Telling it through the innocent eyes of a child whose life is about to be cut short leaves us feeling hollow. This one will linger.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you, Rochelle. This was a tough one for me to write, and the required research is not something I’m itching to repeat any time soon. I was nervous about the Hebrew, especially when I realized that I didn’t have the necessary skills or equipment to enter the prayer in Hebrew characters. I’m glad it worked for you.

      Peace,
      Marie Gail

  2. Wow. And Othello is one of my favourites — that line, where he murders Desdemona… what an excellent use of the reference. This story chilled me.

  3. Oh .. realization came gradually, and yes that was a story that could be told from that image. I think we will have a big variation here. Still how gently the young would go.. and Dylan Thomas comes to mind:

    “Do not go gently into that good night”

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you, Bjorn. I had to play just a little with history to make this readable. The truth is that few men in the gas chambers appear to have been as peace-filled as Uncle Josef, but I couldn’t tell the other version. Follow the link above if you want an even more heart-rending account from a former SS officer.

      Thanks so much for your comments.

      Kind regards,
      Marie Gail

  4. Sandra says:

    That link is horrific Marie-Gail. As a child I remember reading about these atrocities – though I don’t know whether it was with or without my parents’ knowledge. We try to protect our children from these truths these days; yet as the saying goes, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Powerful story – well done.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you, Sandra. I think previous generations were more willing to expose children to the realities of life earlier on–for better or worse. I have been encouraging my sister to take all three of her bi-racial children over the age of five to see Selma. I know it will be disturbing, but I would rather they see it now and learn with loving family to embrace them than to come up against the horrors when we are not here to hold them.

      Thanks for reading.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  5. MrBinks says:

    Oh so… harsh. Uncomfortable reading, so job done.

    Nicely done.

  6. Good for you for writing on this. The media are talking a lot about needing to keep remembering when the last survivors pass away. Pieces like this will help.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you, Patrick. During a trip to Houston this fall, I met an amazing survivor from Poland. He came to the U.S. at the age of 19 with only $2 and the clothes on his back. The Holocaust Museum there is doing a great job of making sure that the memories are kept alive. The horrors are so awful that I cannot look at it for long, and I’m surprised that I even managed to compose this little story. You are right, though, we must tell these tales so that the world will never forget.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  7. Well done piece. I think EVERYONE should learn about the holocaust, uncomfortable or not. Although I fear it will not keep such horrible things from happening. You did a lovely job.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, Alicia. I can’t promise that education will put an end to the horrible things people do to others, but I believe it will help the decent people in the world begin to hold the indecent folks accountable for their action. I have recently been discouraged by our lack of progress with racism in the U.S. Then I went to see Selma, a well-written, acted and directed historical film. It showed me clearly that although we have far to go, at least people look at the problem today instead of denying the way we did only 50 years ago. This is progress.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  8. I knew some people would write about that with this prompt. Yours is the first story I have read. You have set the bar high with this one.

    • storydivamg says:

      Dear Dawn,
      Thank you. It must have seemed more apparent to others than to me–but that may just have to do with the fact that I can hardly look at written materials dealing with the Holocaust, much less write them. I originally planned to go down another path, but I couldn’t seem to shake the memorials from yesterday.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  9. Very touching, very moving. One cannot comprehend the horror. Thanks, MG.

  10. Wow, MG, this is a great story and really hard-hitting. My dawning realization came at the appropriate place, just before the lights went out and the screaming started. Love the addition of the Hebrew song.
    -David

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks, David. I appreciate hearing about the reader’s experience. Of course, the addition of the Hebrew prayer at death is a concoction of my own, but after reading of the crushing press that so often happened inside the chambers, I had to give little Boris one final gift–an uncle whose faith would hold them both.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  11. Nan Falkner says:

    Dear Marie Gail, My parents talked to us about WWII and the holocaust. Such a sad, pathetic excuse for human beings that could do something like that to another person. Hitler was evil and the terrorists today are just as bad if not worse. Well written! Evil is Evil. Nan 🙂

    • storydivamg says:

      We learned a lot about humanity in the years following WWII. The Hitler Youth was a powerful brain-washing organization that few could resist. Some people are truly evil. Most are dumb sheep. I do hope we manage to evolve some day.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  12. Appropriate and moving, and very well written.
    Claire

  13. The word shower was a dead give away to me too. Yet it made for tension as I continued reading and prepared me for the devastating ending. Sad sad story but a good story.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Joy. Whether or not the shower gave away the ending for a reader, I hope the story showed the experience through the eyes of someone you might not have considered before–at least not in this light. Happy to hear that you enjoyed the read, even though “enjoy” in this case doesn’t involve any sort of happy ending.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

      • I think I used the wrong word. I read a lot of books about the Holocaust not so much because I enjoy them but because I am still aghast at the whole thing and it touches an emotion inside of me that cannot be explained. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. So in this case, enjoy means you wrote it very well and I felt the emotion that one needs to feel when they read something like this.

  14. draliman says:

    Very sad, poignant story. The way they’re all chatting together, unaware of what is waiting for them (or the uncle suspects but is trying to keep the child calm).

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you. Yes, I am sure many adults in these situations had their suspicions. It is amazing what a person will sacrifice for a child. In the end, I hope that Uncle Josef had a more peaceful time of it because of his self-control and sacrifice.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  15. Sarah Ann says:

    Very well told – factual and full of feeling. I was immediately reminded of the film, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

  16. adamjasonp says:

    Ooh, man, this is really chilling.  Good work.

  17. Very moving. I knew the story as soon as soon as I heard showers. It is a history that lives with us and very fitting topic for the prompt this week given it is Holocaust Rememberance Day.

  18. a very powerful story, well told through the child’s eyes. Excellent work

  19. erinleary says:

    Thank you for remembering. I almost used the prompt in a concentration camp setting, but didn’t know about the Memorial Day. Yours was perfect.

  20. Margaret says:

    A horrible reality. Josef and Boris are wonderful vehicles for telling the story. Josef’s love and faith are touchingly shown. I love the Othello reference too.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you, Margaret. I fell in love with Boris and Josef in the time it took to right this story. Hence the tender ending. I couldn’t crush young Boris’ spirit even though the demise of the two was inevitable.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  21. It’s a terrible thing to say, but faced with accounts of such atrocity, it’s easy to forget the personal side. This brings it home in an immensely affecting way.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks so much, Etienne. I appreciate your read and the kind words. I’ve been dreadfully lax in getting to other blogs this week, but I truly appreciate you and others who come and read and leave a note.

      All my best,
      Marie Gail

  22. This story was indeed chilling, Marie Gail. What happened to the people, especially the children, who weren’t gassed was just as horrible. One of the things that made it so surreal was the methodic, inhuman way it was carried out. Such evil! You made it seem real. Well done. — Suzanne

  23. tedstrutz says:

    Oh man… I wanted to stop reading after the second line. That was a good story, and what a tie in with the time. I’ll never look at that kiln the same. Good one.

Comments, compliments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s