SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!

Ah do not own Magneto, nor mutants nor the Holocaust. Magneto and mutants belong to Marvel comics. The Holocaust belongs to history and to all of us. God save us.

Rated PG-13 for some really, really *awful* images and concepts. Beware.

Dancing Ashes

A Tale by Dannell Lites

I saw you at the demonstration yesterday, protesting the American Nazi Party rally in your peaceful upper-class suburb of Skokie, Illinois. You were quite fierce in your determination and most impressive with your air of scholarly dignity. You carry your years well. Almost as well as I. Yes, most impressive. But you did not fool me.

I remember you.

Do you remember me?

The frightened little Jew-boy with the Aryan blue eyes and the strange colored hair?

I kept the ovens of Auschwitz running for you with my clever Jew hands. I opened the "shower" doors for you and did not scream even in my nightmares. I stripped the bodies of the dead and cut their hair for you. I whored my body to you for a slender chance at more life. And you let me live.

That was a mistake.

No, most likely you do not remember me. There was nothing special about me, then. Why should you recall one among a crowd of over a million souls who died under your benign "protection"? If you do not recognize the terrified boy Erik, it is of no real concern to me. He is long dead. Like all his family and the comfortable, safe world he knew. He does not matter.

No, I am here to introduce you to someone else. Someone you helped create.

Yes, I remember you.

And I'm not frightened any longer.

Did you think I would forget you?

Oh no.

I have tracked you across the years and three continents to remind you of your past. Of who you truly are. I has taken me some time, for I've had many other things to occupy me of late and you are a clever man. Most clever. Who would have thought it, after all? The perfect hiding place, was it not? But no longer. For I have found you, now. The spirits of the dead haunt me, call out to me and I will answer them. Watching you, now, I bow my head and smile.

The truly amazing thing is that no one who was left at Auschwitz after it was liberated recognized you. I was gone by then, of course. Magda and I fled before the Allies arrived. But you didn't did you? You tattooed a number on your forearm, and blended with the survivors, disguised like a wolf among the sheep. All the others fled, leaving behind them warehouses full of shorn hair, lampshades made of tanned human skin, shoes, eyeglasses, and one entire warehouse full of worn, pitiful rag dolls.

The US Army made a complete count. They are almost as methodical as you Germans. There were ten thousand three hundred eighty one such dolls. Did the men who counted them see ten thousand frightened and confused little girls like my small sister Anya, I wonder? Warehouse after warehouse full of useful things. All that was left of us save the ashes dancing in the skies over the crematoria at Birkenau.

The US Army was most helpful and sympathetic, weren't they? In their stunned horror they did not ask many questions, I imagine. I understand that they were the ones who began you on your journey to Eratz Israel. It angers me to know that you were likely there at the same time as I. That we stood upon the same earth, walked under the same sky. You cannot imagine how much it angers me.

But you'll find out.

I plan to demonstrate it for you.

Yes, I have searched long and hard for you. Perhaps it's not so suprising that you went undiscovered. After all, you were only a guard. A lieutenant doing his duty to the Vaterland. Not very important at all.

But I remember you.

You liked me, didn't you? I ... amused ... you; kept you entertained during those long, boring off duty hours when you had nothing better to do than ... indulge ... yourself. I remember everything about you.

I recall the harsh, acrid smell of the good, warming schnapps on your breath in the cold winter morning and the sting of your hands on my face. The feel of your jackboot on my neck. Your truncheon on the flesh of my back and thighs.

But now, at last, here in this quiet, wealthy slice of American suburbia called Skokie, I have found you. Here in this most unlikely of places, a synagogue. I listen as you raise your strong, resonant voice in the "Shema Ysreal" and the congregation murmurs its reply.

"Thanks be to God!"

If I still believed in God, I would have much to thank Him for. But I do not. I used to believe. My grandfather was Rabbi; a Talmudic scholar. When I was a boy I sat for hours, listening to him speak. Whenever anyone has a problem, they always came to Rebbe Itzak to solve it. And he always did. He believed. When he shielded my eyes from the sight of the bullets and tried to sheild me with his body ... he believed. But I do not. Not now. You took that away from me. Like everything else.

You really do have a wonderful voice. It fits the role you play quite well. Does it amuse you, I wonder? I recall your sense of humor vividly and ... yes, I think it does. Your little jest at God and the world. You were always a bitter man and this has the taste of brine about it, galling and stinging.

I am waiting for you here in this darkened office where you have left your worldly things for the moment. Your briefcase, your topcoat. It's a cold November evening outside. Here, you will divest yourself of the yarmulke, your Rabbi's talioth and the tefillim you defile with your touch. It *is* appropriate, I suppose. Rabbi means "teacher" ... and oh! Oh, the things you taught me ...

I have not forgotten.

I have never forgotten.

The service ends and I can hear your soft footsteps approaching, now. The hurried sound tells me you are eager to leave. But no.

Not just yet.

I have brought you a gift. I wonder if you will recognize it? It's really quite unmistakable. You liked the tattoo so well you had it made into a lampshade after its owner perished. I remember it well. The lampshade you had made from the skin of his back sat on the night stand by your bed all during your stay at Auschwitz. You were quite proud of it. In the dimness, I can see your hand reach out and absently turn on the light of your one-time treasure with which I have replaced the ordinary lamp that once sat there.

Ah! I see you do recognize it. How splendid.

"Gut Shabbes, Oberluetant Mueller," I greet you.

To your credit, you don't even try to run.

The End

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

This is, of course, a work of fiction. There is no Oberleutnant Mueller and no Erik Magnus Lenhsherr. There *was* however an Auschwitz concentration camp. And the story of the warehouses with their stores of human hair, shoes, eyeglasses, dental gold, and rag dolls is quite real.

So are the lampshades made of tanned human skin.

Dannell Lites