The following piece is published as part of our TLM Young Writers series, a dedicated section of The London Magazine‘s website which showcases the work of exceptional young talent aged between 13-21, from the UK and beyond.

Elliott Kalt

Ten Bodies

…….Abraham Jacob readjusted his position again with a resigned sigh, the cold steel train supports beneath him creaking unhappily with his movements. Next to him, his wife Sheindele blew into her cupped hands as a nearby SS officer tightened his jacket, carefully avoiding the gaze of his elderly captives.
…….Three coughs broke through the icy silence of the Aushwitz-Birkenau ramp. Ten heads wearily revolved around stiff necks to fixate on the origin of the noise. The offender, Henryk, glanced around before returning to sulking, a handkerchief covering his newly bare face. The officer was cleaning the razor. No one spoke. Henryk had always taken great pride in his beard, often holding Abraham in silent contempt over his struggles to grow a beard of his own. Abraham felt a sick sense of satisfaction.
…….In front of Henryk sat Samuel, eyes barely focusing on the faint wisps of smoke in the distance. His glasses had been broken during the transit. Without them, he seemed naked and no longer had the air of wisdom that had clung to him since his election as mayor. His face remained a grim mask.
…….Abraham looked briefly at the sole officer watching over them before turning to Samuel.
…….“Samuel. Do not mourn for others while you still share the same fate.”
…….Samuel turned to him and looked at a point just above his right ear for a minute before finally speaking.
…….“It’s not my fate that concerns me, but that of David.”
…….Abraham raised his head to the sky and let out a sigh, the mist creating an ethereal cloud of water vapour that quickly dissipated into nothingness. In the distance, the pillars of smoke grew darker.
…….Sheindele spoke for the first time since they had left their ghetto: “Why do they bother with us? We are old. They gain nothing from this.”
…….Abraham looked to the SS officer. He was idly watching over them, impassively listening to their conversation. Their gazes wandered into each other and held conference, one defeated and the other bored. Eventually the officer spoke.
…….“You Jews are the reason we lost the Great War. Do not act surprised when we seek revenge.”
…….Abraham looked away.
…….Henryk coughed twice.
…….Samuel spoke: “Can you tell us how it is done?”
…….The officer stood still as the evening light filtered through the silent trees, their bare limbs reaching out towards the sky. He glanced at his watch. A shadow appeared in the distance.
…….The shadow materialized into a new SS officer, conversing with the other in hushed tones. Abraham thought back to his schooling. He regretted not having paid more attention to his German teacher.
…….“… too many …. wait for special treatment … ”
…….Abraham’s star fell.
…….The officers looked up.
…….“Do not remove the star.”
…….The shadow pulled away and disappeared in a field of barbed wire.
…….Night fell. Two new soldiers came. Twenty shoes moved to form a line as the dying light shrouded them in a halo of fire.
…….“Do not take your luggage.”
…….Ten bags dropped to the ground. The line advanced, followed closely by black leather boots. The gravel crunched in a crisp staccato of discordant notes, playing a song of regret and resignation. They could smell the smoke now, an oppressive and abrasive scent that would have activated instincts of fear deep inside of Abraham. Would have.
…….Abraham thought of David. Could they condemn him for what he had done? Certainly. But he could not bring himself to hate his son. David, his son, the one that had knocked away the wooden board covering the entrance to the wine cellar. The wine cellar that housed a table and eleven cots. A simple task for safety.
…….So much trouble to find a German family to hide them. The Krauses. It had seemed so very lucky, back then, to meet them. They certainly did not view it the same way. They would be at home, if not for him. If not for David.
…….They entered a room.
…….The door shut.
…….Henryk coughed once.
…….Ten bodies fell.


Elliott Kalt is 17 years old and is a senior at the French American School of New York.



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