62 BLUE SKY
Langner tried to remember when he was a child. He was
afraid on some level-afraid that he would now not have time
to become a good person. His thoughts drifted to Anna. She
almost convinced him that he still possessed the seeds of
goodness. That was not to be. He would die wondering if he
could ever become good again like when he was a young boy.
He cried softly as he fully realized now that he would never
see Anna again.
At the appointed time, Langner heard the footsteps on the
stairwell and then the ominous screech of the rusty door
“Is there anyone you would like me to contact?” said
Langner, inhaling the cigarette smoke deep into his lungs, held his breath, and replied, “How is Anna?”
Kravetz: “What makes you think I would know?”
Langner: You ask so many questions about her. She’s with
you now. I am glad. She needs someone who understands
what she went through. You now know. I loved her in my
own way so much as I am capable of any love, which I really
am not. She was a light to me in an inscrutable bleakness and
will be to my last breath. Don’t let her wonder her whole life
what happened to me. Tell her how it happened and that I
was happy that it was a man who was close to her, a Jewish
man, who brought justice to me, a Jewish man I have come
to respect. Tell her this please. Will you do this?
Kravetz: I will tell her exactly what you said.
Langner: And now sir, I am ready. Please consider that,
when you remember my horrible deeds, that there was also
something left in me that could’ve been good, that I had
some very small spark left in me, pitiful though it was, that I
at least tried in the end-a miserable attempt for which I
apologize-to have righted things. May I die without chains?
Kravetz freed the sergeant and suggested that Langner
accompany him up the stairs where there was still daylight.
He gave Langner a large brown paper package he had
brought. “Here, put this on. I’ll return in ten minutes.”
After Kravetz left, Langner looked curiously at the paper
bundle. “What could this be? A surprise for my death day,”
he said ironically. “Let’s see what we have here.” He pulled at
the string that tied the package together. And there they
were: the black tunic, black pants, black dress boots and black
peaked cap worn by a Scharführer, a staff sergeant of the
Allgemeine-SS Standarte, a regiment that had been based in
Upper Silesia. He fingered the familiar silver-colored death’s
head beneath the eagle on the front of the cap. “Why must he
do this? The final insult, the final dose of reality, the final
humiliation. He knows I tried to forget this, to get beyond
this. I thought I had. But he is right. I cannot.”
When Kravetz returned, Langner was in full dress
uniform: “Yes my good Jewish man. I had almost forgotten
what it felt like. I would so like to see the blue sky once more.
Kravetz nodded his head toward the rusty iron-plated
Langner turned and looked briefly at his cell for the last
time, then ascended the stairs, struggling upwards as his
bones ached from old beatings and arthritis, his aged and
diseased body emaciated from months of darkness and
starvation, bitten by rats, ravaged by sores and haunted by
spiritual crisis. Each step up was an intense effort. Kravetz
finally had to guide him as he extended his arm and shoulder.
They ascended together arm in arm in silence.
The brightness as he opened the door temporarily blinded
Langner as he sheltered his eyes with his arm. His eyes ached.
But he was glad to see the outside world again. He wondered
how much it had changed. He walked silently to the center of
the destroyed building, carefully stepping over rubble where,
looking up above through the torn rafters, broken floors, and
hanging plaster chunks, he could see the deep blue sky
through the large gaping holes in the roof. The sky was so
blue, he thought, smiling.
They halted at a clear area of the rubble where the sun still bathed the broken bricks, large white plaster chunks and shards of glass in a warm glow. Langner closed his eyes and turned his face upwards toward the warmth. “What do you think about Kravetz when you look up to such a blue sky on such a fine day?” Kravetz stood behind Langner, arm extended, the black luger pointed to the rear of Langner’s head just above the nape of his neck, the gun hand trembling more than slightly. Kravetz looked up to the sky, his cheeks moist now from the silent tears. “Why do I feel this way about this butcher?” he thought bitterly.“I think about my mother,” Kravetz said.
“Your mother?” Langner said. “Yes. That’s very nice. Can you tell me why, Kravetz?”
“My mother was always there to protect me when I was a
baby, when I played with sticks and things beneath the blue
sky. I felt warm, protected, loved.”
“Yes, yes, I remember. I did too. My mother loved me
too. Thank you Kravetz,” said Langner.
The sergeant continued staring up at the azure sky as
Kravetz squeezed the trigger, pouring the force of a single
blast into his head. Kravetz recalled the earthworms and the
glorious spring day when Langner executed the inmates on a
work detail.“Justice to the butcher,” he whispered to
Langner’s slumped-over body. “Justice to you, Sergeant Otto
Kravetz penned a note. He left it in the sergeant’s
greatcoat. It stated:
“I, Otto Langner, an SS camp guard at Oswiecium (Auschwitz), Poland, was found guilty of monstrous crimes against humanity for which, as the blue sky is my witness, I am truly sorry.”
Categories: Comrade Anna