I was made in Pakistan in 1927. I came to Germany before Hitler had his hands around the throat of the country. But fascism is never far from the surface and even back then the seeds were spouting thick black stems, choking the air. I arrived in a leather satchel, brown, used and dirty. A man had bought me from a sports shop in Pakistan while visiting a friend and had traveled back to Germany by steamer.
Like many Germans, the family eventually succumbed to the Nazi party and in time my owner became the Gauleiter for Dusseldorf. I saw little action, being taken out on windless days then replaced and forgotten. When the Fuhrer himself visited Dusseldorf, he was so impressed with my owners running of the local branch of the Nazi party that he asked his aide to invite him to help run Treblinka concentration camp in Poland. Not wanting to leave his family behind, he broke the news to them over spaetzle.
I was brought along to Treblinka by the eldest daughter, Annie, who had a remarkable inability to pack lightly. So while her sister and two brothers took simple knapsacks with enough clothes and toys to last them what they thought was to be a few weeks holiday, Annie carried two heavy leather suitcases to the Volkswagen that was waiting for them at 7am on a cold Tuesday morning in 1943. A concentration camp is more like a small village than a single building. Dependent on the size of the camp, a large number of Nazi officers can be stationed there. While the people being held and killed at these camps live in awful, subhuman conditions, the officers expect a certain degree of luxury, and thus a place like Treblinka came equipped with movie theaters, shops and, most importantly to me, gymnasiums.
It was at one of these gymnasiums that I came to be in the hands of Annie once more. She had taken me to play with one of her new friends, an officers son named Rolf. He was a little fat child, covered in early acne and snot where snot should not have been. There were only two badminton rackets at Treblinka, the other being a much lighter affair with nylon strings. This had been brought by an SS officer named Gustav Holzheimer. I disliked this racket immensely, it made a silly swishing noise when going through the air and was almost always the choice of whoever got first pick. On this particular day Annie and Rolf were playing badminton in the gymnasium. The roof was corrugated metal and it was raining, meaning that because of the distance between the two children, neither could hear the other, despite Rolf’s shrill voice.
The rain was bringing down a new kind of madness to Treblinka. It had been pouring for three weeks now, with no cessation. This had caused many problems with the Nazi’s ideas and tempers were frayed. Annie was in the process of serving to Rolf when two officers came in, shouting and swearing, and took the rackets from the children. The booking system of the gym was almost non-existent and there was no way two grown adults were going to sit and wait for two pissy children to stop playing badminton. Myself and the other modern racket found ourselves tossed to one side and forgotten about. Rolf and Annie ran off into the rain to find the warm comfort of their parents embrace and the officers began to kick a cheap leather football around the gym hall, waiting for more Nazis to arrive and make the teams. Annie was so shaken she forgot all about me, in the way eleven year old girls are want to do, and I was eventually thrown in a large pile of firewood under a dark green tarpaulin.
Here I stayed for several weeks, lodged politely in between a plank of pine and one of the vertical pieces from an old cattle feeder. One day the news broke that Heinrich Himmler himself was to visit the camp to make sure Hitlers final solution was progressing to a level the Fuhrer would be content with. I was taken, along with whatever other wood could be carried in the arms of a young SS officer, and thrown next to an ornate but clearly makeshift fireplace in the office of Theodore van Eupen, head of forced labor and the man responsible for making sure Himmler’s stay was warm and welcoming.
As Himmler and van Eupen paced around the camp, ensuring the conditions were adequate for the Germans and despicable for the Jews, I warmed myself by the fire, lit by the same young officer that had taken me from the pile of kindling. My grain felt good. I softened slightly, my strings beginning to sag in the warmth. The spitting and crackling of the fire stirred something on an atomic level within me. It was the same noise that the bottom of a tree trunk made when a high wind pushed it to the ground. Suddenly, in walked van Eupen and Himmler, full of good cheer and clearly satisfied with what they had seen.
Van Eupen turned to the young officer stood upright in the corner of the room and dismissed him, then turned to the fire and placed myself and several other smaller pieces of wood directly onto the grate. Himmler cleared his throat;
„Alles ist in ordnung?“
„Sehr gut. Hast du eine zigarre?“
„Naturlich, der Herr“
Van Eupen passed Himmler a cigar and he rose and walked towards the fire. He bent to light the cigar on the embers below me and as he did one of my strings, already weakened from the earlier warmth, split from the wood and propelled itself directly into Himmlers eye, striking true and deep, tearing a strip one millimetre wide and thirteen millimetres long directly through the eyeball.
Stuart Buck is an author, artist and handsome man living in the Rocky Mountains with his wife, dogs and imagination. He also runs the fictional newspaper The Bear Creek Gazette. You can find him on Twitter @stuartmbuck