The Titular Devil, With Hand

The Titular Devil, With Hand

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vernichtung Treatment Part One

Thought you guys might like to see this...I might write it up as a book one day. It's a film treatment, based on my researches into the exploits of WWII SS prosecutor Konrad Morgen, who discovered the Final Solution and decided to put an end to it, by jailing the perps for stuff they were guilty of under Nazi law, i.e. black marketeering...needless to say, my version is heavily fictionalized (and how!) but it would make a cool book. To my knowledge, no one's ever written a horror novel like this...


Occupied Poland, 1943--- Sturmbannfuehrer KONRAD JAEGER, an SS internal affairs investigator, follows a trail of official corruption into a secret experimental camp, stumbling upon the Nazi genocide system--- and supernatural horror. One by one, the camp staff are being devoured by a ravenous insatiable force; as JAEGER struggles to uncover the secrets of the Poniatowa camp, he find himself in a terrifying confrontation with a sadistic extermination specialist and the ancient evil that he has unleashed….

As the story begins, two UKRAINIAN GUARDS at Poniatowa, clad in rubber disinfection suits, are checking an experimental gas-chamber where a test has just been concluded. They peer through a porthole in the door, and are mystified to see a beautiful nude WOMAN lying alone on the floor of the "shower," near the drain. She appears to be breathing; they enter the chamber.

As they approach, she rises; taking off their helmets, they get very close to her before they notice that she seems to be composed of tiny bubbles, colored like a human body…
Flashes of iridescence pass over the foam, which suddenly turns a deep shiny black---the "WOMAN" slithers into the FIRST UKRAINIAN'S suit through the neck hole. The rubber swells out; as dark vapor rises from the collar, the man screams and flails in the center of the room.
The SECOND UKRAINIAN backs across the gas-chamber, accidentally knocking the hatch shut, locking himself in; he can only watch helpless as his companion dashes from side to side of the chamber, howling, striking the walls, huge gouts of black foam and vapor gushing from his suit at each impact. At last he collapses, the foam eating at his face, his head sinking lower and lower into his suit as though the body beneath is disintegrating. Finally his face dips from sight; the suit slumps over, and a tide of foam washes out, flooding towards the drain at first---then changing course, towards the SECOND UKRAINIAN.
The man turns, pounding on the door, screaming for help--- no one comes. He turns again, sees the foam rising up in front of him, assuming a human shape once more.
"You," he says, staring at the face. Then the thing washes onto him, into his suit, and he slides down the hatch. As he's devoured, a series of horrible images explode into his mind, scores of maddened naked people, all being eaten away by black foam----it's as if their collective death agonies are being visited upon him, all in one excrutiating burst----
The story shifts to a residence outside the Buchenwald Concentration Camp; as lightning flashes in the sky, SS Judge-Advocate KONRAD JAEGER knocks on the door of KARL OTTO KOCH, a former Buchenwald Commandant, who has been summoned from his present post for interrogation. KOCH appears, a formidible arrogant presence, but JAEGER isn't cowed, arresting him at gunpoint and bringing him to the camp.
The following morning, as JAEGER is heading to the interrogation, he's met by KARL FREITAG, an eager young Obersturmfuehrer who's been sent by JAEGER'S Kripo superiors to assist him in the investigation. As JAEGER looks over FREITAG'S orders, FREITAG launches sinto an ardent declaration of why he transfered to JAEGER'S commission----he regards the camp system as a blight on the honor of Germany, a breeding-ground for criminality of every sort; JAEGER obviously agrees, but silences him impatiently, then asks him if he'd like to observe the questioning of KOCH. FREITAG is delighted---JAEGER has quite a reputation, and FREITAG is eager to see the master at work.
KOCH is brought into the chamber, full of bluster. But JAEGER is more than equal to the task. Tall and thin, soft-spoken but extremely intimidating, he lays out his case, demonstrating that the court has plenty of evidence of black marketeering, as well as the unauthorized killing of prisoners. KOCH seems unimpressed. Then JAEGER produces his trump card---proof that KOCH'S wife ILSE has been carrying on a long-standing affair with KOCH'S successor at Buchenwald, Herman Florstedt. Bit by bit, excrutiatingly, JAEGER pries a confession from KOCH, persuading him that he must incriminate himself if he is going to bring down his wife and Florstedt. By the end, KOCH is reduced to a blubbering mass.
FREITAG is most impressed. Dining with JAEGER that night at the Elephant Hotel in Weimar, he learns where JAEGER intends to go next--- a sub-camp of Maidanek, in Poland. JAEGER has heard of a very suspicious event---a large Jewish wedding, attended by SS guards, at another Maidanek sub-camp, called Poniatowa.
The scene shifts back to Poniatowa. The sun has set; a party of inmates sent out to gather fire-wood is returning from the surrounding forest under guard by Ukrainians and a German OBERSCHUTZE. As the Ukrainians drive the Jews back in through a small gate, the OBERSCHUTZE notices a SENTRY smoking and stops to bum a cigarette from him. The SENTRY directs his attention to the MACHINE-GUNNER in the tower above, who tosses a pack down.
Dusk thickens; as the men at the gate joke about female inmates, the MACHINE-GUNNER, looking towards the totenlager, or extermination sub-camp, notices an odd phenomenon---a shadowy patch on the ground, perhaps even a stain; a second dark patch opens, closer to the tower. He calls to the men below, asking:
"You see those spots?"
He's answered by a spate of coughing from beneath.
"Maybe you'd better lay off the smokes," he cries. "Toss 'em back up---"
Coughs become gurgling. He looks over the rail. The SENTRY and the OBERSCHUTZE are nowhere to be seen, although one of those dark patches has apparently formed beneath the tower, the edge of it just crawling out into view…
The MACHINE-GUNNER goes to the center of the platform, looking through the ladder-hole. The other men are sinking into the bubbling black ground, their heads and upper bodies collapsing even as he watches….In the twilight, he makes out long black tendrils climbing the uprights of the ladder toward him.
Screaming, he rushes to his MG-42, thinking to summon help by firing off a burst; but tendrils of black foam are already crawling over the the rail, onto his gun.
He rushes to another side of the platform and looks over the rail there, can see only grass, no sign of the spreading blackness---he throws himself over the side. As the earth rushes up at him, he sees a black spot blossoming beneath him, and splashes deep into tarry muck. He fights to the surface, once, twice; then he sinks. The last we see of him is his twitching hand, covered in black foam, the fingers dropping away from it just before it slips from view.
We return to JAEGER and FREITAG, who are on their way to Maidanek by car. FREITAG asks JAEGER how he came to launch his campaign. JAEGER tells how he tried to combat theft and plunder in the Polish Generalgouvernement, achieving considerable success at first. But then he went after a special commando, recruited from SS prisons, called the Dirlewanger Brigade; upon discovering that Dirlewanger and his men injected Jewish women with strychnine and boiled them down for soap, JAEGER demanded the arrest of the entire unit. But he only succeeded in getting them all transferred to the eastern front, where he himself was soon sent---the Dirlewanger commando, it turned out, was one of Himmler's pet projects. Arriving in the Caucasus mountains on the eve of the German surrender at Stalingrad, Jaeger survived four months of hellish winter combat, driven by a burning desire to return and resume his crusade. Himmler, hoping JAEGER had learned his lesson, brought him back when a shortage of SS criminal investigators had developed. But JAEGER's resolve had only been hardened; FREITAG senses a ferocious determination in the man beside him.
They arrive at Chelmska Street, an old airport that's been turned into a Maidanek sub-camp. Waiting outside for them is one of the men they have been sent to investigate, the Inspector of Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, and Poniatowa, Sturmbannfueher CHRISTIAN WIRTH.
To JAEGER's amazement, WIRTH volunteers eagerly to show him everything; he explains that the Jewish wedding was permitted under his system, in which certain Jewish inmates, thinking they'll profit by the destruction of their fellow inmates, work for the Nazis before they too are exterminated.
JAEGER is puzzled; WIRTH clarifies. All the Jews of Europe are being murdered, many of them with Wirth's own carbon-monoxide technique, which was first invented to kill mental defectives back in the thirties.
Even though JAEGER has thought he's seen, in DIRLEWANGER, the depths of SS depravity, he can't believe what WIRTH is telling him; gleefully, proud of his work, boasting that he's Hitler's chief Jew Killer, WIRTH shows JAEGER and FREITAG the contents of the Chelmska street camp---all the loot that's being taken from the victims at his four vernichtungslagers, or extermination camps.
Looking at the piles of shoes, toys, watches, glasses, JAEGER is forced into unwilling belief; delighted by his horror, WIRTH shows him his orders, which come directly from the office of Martin Bormann, Hitler's Chief of Staff. Then WIRTH promises to take the commission to Poniatowa.
The scene shifts back there, to the house of FRANZ STANGL, WIRTH'S hand-picked commandant. STANGL'S wife HELENA is terribly drunk and the two are quarrelling. News has arrived that JAEGER'S commission is on the way.
"You have to tell them," HELENA says.
"About what?" STANGL asks.
"Those men."
"They deserted."
She shakes her head. "He took them."
"You know perfectly well. He's going to kill us all."
"Wirth promised---"
"Wirth isn't going to do anything. He's going to try and keep this filthy place open. What about our children, Franz? What about them?"
In another room, their young son JOACHIM and daughter HANNAH are listening; as the argument intensifies, STANGL strikes HELENA, who begins to shriek, and a NANNY takes the children outside.
"We'll go to the zoo," she says.
"We always go to the zoo," JOACHIM replies.
Ignoring this protest, the NANNY takes them anyway, even though it's getting dark. Maintained for the children of the SS, the zoo is a small compound behind the officer's housing, watched over by a Ukrainian named DIMITRI; as the nanny and the children come up, he's drinking in his shed, but stops to give the kids some feed for the animals. There are number of enclosures, with ducks, rabbits, goats, and sheep; a cage holds a demoralized black bear. The children remark that he always seems so sad, and that they don't like to look at him; the NANNY advises them to feed the ducks, as they always do.
But while they're doing that, the bear begins to roar, and hurl itself against the bars of its cage; the children and the NANNY hurry back over, along with DIMITRI. Looking through the bars, they can see that the bear is covered with some sort of foamy black substance; as the creature tries to thrust its face between two of the bars, its hide peels back, and the thing's denuded skull thrusts through. The children start screaming.
DIMITRI'S got a pistol, and he shoots the tormented beast; as the body slumps, he looks past it, sees black foam bubbling out of the drain in the middle of the cage. He tells the children and the NANNY to run, just as black foam crawls from the cage and up over his boots, slipping down inside. He tries to run, but his lower legs break off after a few steps. He flounders forward on his stomach, but a mass of black foam crests over him from behind, then washes back with him, towards the cage…
Moments later, STANGL and a group of German SS come running up, but find no trace of DIMITRI or the bear----inside the cage, we see a last trailing bit of black foam sliding back down into the drain.
At the Stangl house, HELENA is kneeling, arms about her trembling daughter, who's staring blankly. Across the room, the son is screaming at the top of his lungs, as HELENA cries, "Joachim, shhh! Shhh!"
Back in Lublin, WIRTH's caravan departs from Chelmska street. Driving along beside a rail-line, the cars head out into a strange patch of remote near-desert. JAEGER asks FREITAG if he ever read Ostmann's History of the Mongols---it's one of Himmler's favorite books, and he sent copies of it to all the SS chiefs, promoting his notion that Germans should draw inspiration from Genghis Khan. JAEGER goes on to tell FREITAG how this very area marked the furthest advance of the Mongol horde that invaded Poland; according to most historians, the Mongols, after defeating a force of Teutonic Knights at Leignitz, returned to central Asia upon the death of the Khan, there to pick a new leader. But Ostmann was willing to entertain an alternate theory---that the Mongols, who used germ warfare as a seige tactic, had concocted a virulent new plague, and that it had broken out in their ranks, forcing them to flee….
In the center of the sandy plain rises a large rounded hill, whose summit is crowned by a thick stand of tall pines, the only trees for miles. Road and railway ascend this prominence; at the top, directly in the center of the woods, lies the camp, hemmed in by row upon row of anti-tank obstacles, dense layers of barbed wire wrapped about and strung between them; looming out of the fog, the camp has the look of a gigantic grey spider's nest. The road and the rail-line enter the camp through the same huge gate, which is heavily fortified by machine-gun towers.
WIRTH introduces the commission to STANGL; STANGL tries to speak to WIRTH, but WIRTH is too anxious to begin the tour. Leading the commission through the camp, he explains that there are very few Germans, that most of his men are Ukrainian SS auxiliaries; the "permanent" prisoner population is also very small, just large enough to perform certain tasks for the staff---virtually all prisoners are exterminated upon arrival. He shows JAEGER the Lazarett, a phony hospital where permanent inmates are killed when they've outlived their usefulness; moving on to the latrines, he explains how prisoners are each allotted two minutes, whereupon they're rousted out by a grotesquely-costumed, alarm-clock bearing prisoner called the SCHEISSMEISTER, whom WIRTH introduces to JAEGER with great ceremony.
WIRTH takes the commission through the building where cavity searches are carried out, then through a barbed-wire gauntlet into the totenlager, where the gassings are performed. Passing through a tabernacle-veil looted from a synagogue (upon which is written, "This is the doorway to God, the righteous man will pass through"), WIRTH leads the way to the gas-chamber complex. Before the commission passes inside, JAEGER sees a fire being lit in another part of the camp, and a huge billow of black smoke going up; WIRTH explains that a late shipment from Minsk is being disposed on his roasters, giant grilles made of railway rails, upon which the dead Jews are cremated.
"Disposing of the bodies, you see, that's the real problem," WIRTH says. "Killing the Yids, that's nothing. But getting rid of them---a real headache. There's a camp up at Auschwitz, run by an untalented disciple of mine---they've got these fancy ovens, but they just don't work. Break down all the time. But I have a good, simple solution."
He ushers JAEGER and his companions inside one of the gas-chamber buildings. There are a number of chambers; WIRTH has JAEGER look through a porthole. It's dark inside, but JAEGER sees a number of faces---suddenly light bursts in from behind the victims, and they keel backwards---the rear door of the chamber tilts down to form a ramp, whereby the corpses are removed from the chamber.
Seething with hatred for the creator of this hideous system, JAEGER is brought outside to view the bodies burning on WIRTH's roaster---he can barely contain himself. WIRTH gloats over him, telling him that he's unassailable---since he has those letters from Hitler, he's free to act as he pleases.
JAEGER asks him if he has explicit authorization to let inmates enrich themselves and conduct lavish weddings; WIRTH replies that his superiors are well aware of his methods, and that the inmates have only temporary custody of loot that passes sooner or later to the Germans, either in exchange, or when the inmates are gassed. JAEGER asks if he realizes that letting his staff attend such weddings as guests constitutes fraternization. Wirth replies that the guards attended as guards, not guests, maintaining security.
JAEGER says he must conduct a full inquiry, citing his authority from Himmler as head of the Special ZBV Court, and tells WIRTH he's staying. WIRTH replies that he expected nothing less.
After JAEGER and his men are shown to the guest quarters, STANGL asks WIRTH why he allowed JAEGER into the camp. WIRTH lists his reasons. First, JAEGER has authorization, and would've gotten in eventually. Secondly, WIRTH wants everyone in the SS to know about the exterminations---both to spread the news of his achievements, and to turn everyone else into accessories. Thirdly, since WIRTH'S system is on the verge of being shut down---several of his camps are about to be razed---he wants to make sure that his rivals at Auschwitz will receive a visit from JAEGER.
WIRTH then asks what STANGL was so agitated about earlier. STANGL tells him of the disappearance of DIMITRI and the bear at the zoo.
"That's five men so far," STANGL says.
WIRTH shakes his head. "Two men and three Ukrainians."
"You know what my wife says?" STANGL asks.
"What?" WIRTH replies.
"She says it's Zevi."
"Does she?" WIRTH asks. "Wouldn't that be something?" He shows an uneasy smile.
We cut to the workshop of locksmith SOLOMON SCHIFRIN. He, his daughter JUDITH, and several other inmates---- jewellers, tailors, shoemakers, etc.---- are discussing the arrival of the special commission.
"What if they question us?" JUDITH asks.
"Tell them nothing," her father replies.
"We could bring Wirth down," she says.
"This investigation's just for show. A fig-leaf. They're all Nazis. And besides. Do we need some SS judge poking around when we're planning a revolt?"
"Did you make the duplicate?" one of the other men asks.
SCHIFRIN holds up a key. "Do you have the uniforms?" he asks the tailors.
"Almost done," one replies.
We cut to the main gate as the sun is going down; a tanker truck pulls in, loaded with liquid disinfectant. A SCHARFUEHRER informs the DRIVER that's he's to take the truck to the experimental camp, which is a fenced--off subsection within the totenlager, and climbs onto the running board. They head in to a building that looks like a smaller version of the gas-chamber block. At the SCHARFUEHRER'S instruction, the DRIVER'S COMPANION runs a hose to a large tank outside the building.
"What do you need all this disinfectant for?" the DRIVER asks the SCHARFUEHRER.
"Disinfection," the SCHARFUEHRER laughs.
"What's in this building?" the DRIVER asks. "More showers?" He gives the SCHARFUEHRER a knowing look. "I thought you fellows were shutting down."
"Just getting started," the other man says. He looks right, then left, then nods towards the unfinished building. "Experimental chamber. New design. We're running a lot of experiments these days, you know----?"
They hear a shout, then a gurgling sound; the DRIVER'S COMPANION comes staggering into view from behind the truck, something black crawling up into his mouth, his stomach terribly bloated; as the DRIVER and the SCHARFUEHRER watch in astonishment, the man pulls a bayonet from his belt, and jabs the side of the truck's fuel-tank with it. Then he lights a match.
The DRIVER rushes him, knocks him over---the other man's whole body suddenly collapses beneath him. The DRIVER hurls himself up onto his knees, looking at the bubbling mass below him. Then the foam crawls up his thighs, over his stomach, and up into his mouth.
The DRIVER rises, pulls out a lighter and starts to click it. The SCHARFUEHRER pulls his gun, shoots him once in the belly---as black foam spurts from the bullet-hole, the DRIVER falls, and the lighter ignites the pooling petrol from the tank. There's a huge blue blast and a great thud; the SCHARFUEHRER steps back, hair singed away. Then the gas-tank goes, and he hurtles backwards, completely enveloped in flames.
In the officer's mess, JAEGER and FREITAG are having dinner as all Hell breaks loose in the camp; Germans and Ukrainians go dashing towards the totenlager. JAEGER isn't allowed inside this time, but he can see through the gate that some sort of separate facility is burning; after the fire's put out, he asks WIRTH and STANGL what that section of the camp is for. But they don't answer his question. He tries to insinuate himself into the investigation of the incident; WIRTH says it's a security matter, not criminal, and starts to investigate in his own way, assembling the inmates and shooting them at random until one talks.
JAEGER tries to intervene; WIRTH asserts his authorization to deal with the prisoners any way he sees fit. JAEGER has no choice but to back down.
Observing this exchange are SCHIFRIN and his daughter---JUDITH is very nearly shot by Wirth, who's distracted by another prisoner at the last instant.
JAEGER and FREITAG retire for the night, to the sound of intermittent pistol shots.
In the morning, WIRTH and STANGL inspect the wreckage of the disinfection truck and the experimental block---and ruminate on the lack of bodies. Declaring that the experiments are Poniatowa's only real reason for being anymore, WIRTH tells STANGL to rebuild the block as quickly as possible, and says he'll order more disinfectant.
Elsewhere, JAEGER and FREITAG begin their inquiries. Camp staff and inmates prove most unco-operative. People have a vague recollection of the wedding, but no one will admit to attending. The SS-men who were there have deserted, and everyone in the wedding party was apparently gassed. JAEGER can't even learn the names of the bride and groom.
Eventually he goes to SCHIFRIN's workshop. The locksmith's memory proves very cloudy. JAEGER presses him; SCHIFRIN remains unforthcoming. Suddenly FREITAG, who's been growing steadily more and more impatient, bursts into the conversation, making an impassioned appeal for co-operation, saying it's SCHIFRIN's only chance to bring WIRTH down.
"You're our saviors, is that it?" SCHIFRIN asks. "Two SS judges?"
"We're not all like Wirth," FREITAG replies.
"Your hearts bleed for Jews?"
At that JAEGER breaks in, saying: "I'm not particularly interested in Jews one way or the other. But Wirth---and scum like him--- are corrupting my country. Turning my fellow Germans into thieves and murderers. I'm not asking you to love me---God knows I don't love you. But we have a common interest---bringing Wirth---and his system--- down."
SCHIFRIN is silent. JAEGER and FREITAG take their leave. JUDITH has been listening, and approaches her father once again about helping them. He silences her with a glare.
Displeased with FREITAG'S intrusion, JAEGER sends him to interrogate the SCHEISSMEISTER. The fellow's clearly a lunatic; he asks FREITAG if they've figured out what's been eating the guards.
"I've seen it, you know," the SCHEISSMEISTER says. "It comes up in big black spots, and when it goes back down, all the grass is gone."
He points out several denuded patches of ground near the latrines. Uninterested in this, not knowing that several guards have disappeared, FREITAG asks him about the wedding. The SCHEISSMEISTER says he wasn't invited---he never gets invited to anything.
"Everyone thinks I'm an idiot," he goes on. "But I listen pretty closely. They talk to each other when they're on the toilets sometimes, and I hear everything. They're planning this thing right now, and I'm not included in it either…"
"What thing?" FREITAG asks.
Suddenly the SCHEISSMEISTER clams up. "Nothing," he says. "I'm just a shithouse bat. What do I know?"
In another part of the camp, JAEGER has found a storage facility where valuables from the slaughtered inmates are held; it's all-but empty at the moment, since the Jews of Poland have largely been exterminated, and the camp's on the verge of being closed down. Under close questioning from JAEGER, the GUARD mentions that there's another, smaller building, where are the choicest stuff's held---as far as he knows, the loot in there is never delivered to Chelmska street. JAEGER asks him about security; the GUARD says that the locks on both buildings are changed all the time---by SCHIFRIN.
Another structure soon draws JAEGER'S attention; he's astonished to learn that the camp's armory is a small shed secured only by a single padlock. The ARMORY GUARD remarks on the foolishness of the arrangement---it's especially crazy, he says, given what just happened at Treblinka. He goes on to inform JAEGER that inmates at Treblinka procured a duplicate key to the weapons shed, and staged a mass escape. The man says he's suggested to Stangl that arrangements should be changed, but Stangl hasn't done anything.
"Have ever had your locksmith duplicate any keys for you?" JAEGER asks.
"I had a key break off in the lock," the ARMORY GUARD says. "I told my superiors---they handled it. But Schifrin must've made the duplicate. They gave him the master, I suppose. I complained, but---"
JAEGER nods and goes looking for FREITAG. They meet and compare notes. JAEGER is most intrigued with what FREITAG has told him about the SCHEISSMEISTER, and goes to speak to him himself. Using simple interrogation tricks, JAEGER manages to get the SCHEISSMEISTER to admit he's heard a revolt is brewing.
"But that's not your real problem," the SCHEISSMEISTER says. "Have you figured out what's eating the guards?"
"Eating the guards?" JAEGER asks.
"You'd better leave, I'm telling you. You people have been doing some very bad things here, and you should all get out."
"Is that so?"
"If you won't listen, I won't accept any responsibility," the SCHEISSMEISTER says.
That evening, STANGL and WIRTH are drinking in STANGL'S office. We hear snoring from a room in the back.
"If something happens to the children, my wife will never forgive me," STANGL says.
"And what's going to happen to your children?' WIRTH asks.
"They said the bear was covered with black foam," STANGL answers. "Black foam, just like in the tests."
"What are you saying? That it's developed a will of its own?"
"My wife says---"
"Your wife." WIRTH snorts contemptuously, then listens to the snoring. "Who's that sawing the wood?"
"Miroslawa," STANGL replies.
"Why don't you have a bit more Vodka, wake Miroslawa up--- or don't---fuck her, and get a good night's sleep?" He stands. "I'm off."
He leaves the command-post.
STANGL goes into the back room and lifts the blanket off the cot, looking at MIROSLAWA, who's wearing a filmy slip. He nudges her, tries to wake her up. He shrugs, turns her over on her belly, and starts to strip.
There's a knock outside---STANGL pulls on his bathrobe and goes outside---an underling has a question.
Back on the cot, MIROSLAWA'S face is turned towards the window---we see black bubbling fluid crawl up onto the sill, then slide down the wall next to the cot.
STANGL comes back in. MIROSLAWA'S covered up by the blanket again, lying on her back---she's moving undulantly beneath her sheet. STANGL pulls the blanket back, takes off his robe, and lies down on her. She writhes beneath him for a few moments; then her eyes fly open, her jaws gape, and she seizes him behind the head and forces his mouth down onto hers----we can't quite tell what's happening, but she seems to be vomiting something into him. She begins to collapse beneath him; he sags, merging with her as they both disintegrate…
The next morning, JAEGER learns that STANGL has disappeared; Wirth has taken command of the camp. JAEGER asks him whether or not there have been any other mysterious disappearances; Wirth denies it. But when JAEGER and FREITAG ask other staff-members, they find them badly rattled and willing to talk---five Germans and three Ukrainians have disappeared, and one of STANGL'S men suggests that JAEGER talk to HELENA. Jaeger sends FREITAG instead, telling FREITAG he's going to have another chat with SCHIFRIN.
FREITAG goes to STANGL'S house. HELENA and the NANNY are packing---HELENA tells FREITAG that he's come too late, that her husband's dead, that nothing matters except saving the children, getting them away from the camp. FREITAG asks her how she knows her husband is dead---she just laughs at him. FREITAG asks her about the incident in the zoo---sounding crazier than the SCHEISSMEISTER, she tells what her children saw. FREITAG is skeptical, but the NANNY supports Mrs. Stangl, and when FREITAG is still not convinced, the daughter starts shrieking at him and cursing him---in the corner, JOACHIM, who's been catatonically silent up till this point begins to howl. FREITAG retreats from the house.
JAEGER goes to SCHIFRIN'S workshop, asks him if he knew about the Treblinka uprising. SCHIFRIN says no---JAEGER doesn't believe him. He forges ahead, describing how the gunshed was unlocked by a duplicate key, which must've been provided by the camp locksmith, who would've been, in all likelihood, an inmate, since Treblinka is one of Wirth's camps, and they all, apparently, are run pretty much the same. SCHIFRIN tries to keep calm, but JAEGER can tell he's deeply alarmed---JAEGER goes on to say that he has a reliable informant who says that a revolt is being planned at Poniatowa. JAEGER tells SCHIFRIN that he's pretty sure that SCHIFRIN'S made a duplicate key; SCHIFRIN denies it. JAEGER tells him that he'll inform WIRTH---unless SCHIFRIN tells him about the wedding, and the shed that held the pick of the loot.
SCHIFRIN asks: "Isn't your duty---as an SS officer--- to tell Wirth in any case?"
JAEGER replies: "It's my duty as a German to stop the exterminations. And another mass escape would only help to discredit Wirth."
"Then I think you won't tell him," SCHIFRIN replies.
JAEGER smiles. "Well then. If you trust me so much, why not co-operate?"
"Give me a day," SCHIFRIN answers.
When JAEGER leaves, SCHIFRIN tells JUDITH that he's not going to help him, and that he intends to go ahead with the uprising, which is planned for that evening. But JUDITH is impressed with JAEGER and FREITAG, and argues that bringing down the extermination system is a worthier goal than mere escape. Her father will have none of this.
She goes out to find JAEGER, encounters FREITAG instead---she asks him if he's ever heard of JAKOB ZEVI. FREITAG says no---she tells him that ZEVI was the groom at that wedding, and that he was the leader of a heterodox Jewish sect in Lublin. He claimed to be the reincarnation of both Shabbetai Zevi and Jakob Frank, 17th century mystics; he also hinted, broadly, that he was the Messiah. Wielding apparently supernatural powers, he collected five hundred or so followers, but infuriated the Orthodox Jewish elders in Lublin, who had come to the conclusion that ZEVI'S miraculous abilities were Satanic in origin. As the breach between himself and other Jews widened, he had himself and his disciples baptized Catholic. But he was more heterodox as a Catholic than he had been as a Jew, and was excommunicated on the eve of the Nazi invasion. A large number of his followers were killed in Lublin early in the occupation, and the rest were ultimately packed off to Poniatowa with their leader.
But ZEVI's reputation as a miracle-worker preceded him; WIRTH told him that he and his people would be spared if he could show him something. ZEVI responded with a convincing display of clairvoyance; and Wirth saw immediately that ZEVI represented a tremendous opportunity. The permanent inmate population shunned ZEVI and his cult for the most part, even though he attempted to recruit them; JUDITH's father had long conversations with the would-be Messiah, deciding he was a very evil man. But ZEVI put together an(apparently)excellent relationship with WIRTH---choice loot skimmed from the gassing victims was sold in Switzerland, and the proceeds invested on the Zurich stock market, with ZEVI using his powers to choose the issues. WIRTH made a tremendous amount of money---and when he had enough, he had ZEVI and all his followers gassed, apparently using a new technique that WIRTH had developed.
At FREITAG'S insistence, JUDITH repeats the story to JAEGER. JAEGER says that he actually met ZEVI once, in Lublin---Dirlewanger's men had been shooting members of ZEVI's sect, and JAEGER had put a stop to it.
JAEGER goes directly to WIRTH'S quarters. WIRTH won't discuss ZEVI with him, says only that he wasn't the groom at the wedding, and that he was gassed. JAEGER asks him about his new technique, has the impression that WIRTH would actually like to describe it---but that he's holding back for some reason.
Afterwards, JAEGER and FREITAG head off towards the officer's mess. It's just about closing time, but JAEGER says that it'll be practically deserted, just the way he likes it.
They enter the hall. Inside, several of the ceiling-lights are sputtering. Two men sit slumped over the tables near the back; in the kitchen, something is flaming, but no cooks are visible.
Suddenly the two men jerk upright on their benches, heads hanging slack; they rise to their feet and stagger towards JAEGER and FREITAG with a bizarre marionette-like motion. As they approach, JAEGER sees something which appears to be a dark glistening fluid, crawling up into their mouths. JAEGER tells them to halt, draws his pistol. But before he can shoot, the men simply collapse upon themselves---there's a horrible splashing noise, but there are a number of benches and tables between the men and our protagonists---we don't see what happened when the two struck the floor.
JAEGER and FREITAG begin to back towards the door; off to the side, we see a stream of black foam shooting along the baseboard, then along the bottom of the hall's front wall, puddling in front of the door, blocking the threshold. JAEGER and FREITAG back towards the kitchen.
The foam crawls after them, then disappears off to the side, under the tables.
We hear a moan. Out from the kichen staggers a cook, one lower arm reduced to black dripping bone. He starts up the center aisle towards the door; a dark bubbling tide washes across his legs from under the tables, and he sinks down into it as though he's descending into a hole---after a few moments, it becomes clear that the wooden floor's been eaten through, and that the foam is pouring through, under the building.
JAEGER and FREITAG rush back through the kitchen, start down the back steps----rising up from under the stair, a black pillar takes shape, assumes the form of a man. JAEGER thinks he knows the face from somewhere, but can't quite place it----the thing leans towards him, studying him. JAEGER becomes aware that black pillars have risen on both sides of the steps as well, and are also leaning towards him.
Suddenly he recognizes the faces.
"Zevi," he says, and realizes that thing has decided to spare him, gratitude, perhaps, for his intervention in Lublin.
The faces turn towards FREITAG, but JAEGER places himself in front of his underling.
All three pillars collapse. A flood of black foam pours out from under the building and sweeps away into the night.
JAEGER pulls his pistol and starts firing into the air. Germans and Ukrainians converge on him...
At one of the inmate barracks, SCHIFRIN'S men---a number of them dressed in phony German uniforms provided by the camp tailors--- have gathered, and are awaiting the go-ahead from their leader when the commotion breaks out by the officer's mess.
At the gate to the inmate lager, a convoy of trucks has arrived; one of the vehicles has brought a fresh supply of disinfectant. The guards hold them up until they can find out what's going on over by the mess-halls.
WIRTH comes running up to JAEGER and FREITAG---they tell him what they've seen, and JAEGER demands ferociously that WIRTH tell him everything. WIRTH agrees to talk, takes JAEGER back to his quarters---and tries to shoot him. JAEGER disarms him, points his own pistol straight at WIRTH'S face. WIRTH'S shouts bring several SS-men, but, absolutely terrified, they back JAEGER. Handcuffed to his own bed, WIRTH has no choice but to reveal the deepest secrets of the Poniatowa camp.
"Have you ever read Ostmann's History of the Mongols?" he begins.
Looking out the window in the barracks, SCHIFRIN realizes he can't see any SS anymore; he ventures outside, discovers that the guards seem to have abandoned the inner barbed-wire enclosure, and are all over by the mess-halls and the staff barracks.
Back at WIRTH'S quarters, WIRTH is explaining how the corpses from the gas-chambers were originally just buried, in mass graves; when the order came down to close WIRTH'S camps, it became necessary to dig up the bodies and destroy them. And so, starting in March of '43, the holes were opened again; but in the process, WIRTH'S men uncovered an ancient burial, apparently medieval---hundreds of suits of disarticulated armor, an occasional skeleton. A historian confirmed the remains were probably Mongol---Poniatowa was, after all, one of the furthermost points of Mongol penetration into Poland. JAEGER recalls the story of the plague that drove the Mongols back into their homeland---WIRTH nods, saying:
"One of our laborers came down with it first---hard to believe it still had any bite after seven hundred years. But it ate him alive in a matter of hours. I think the Mongols concocted the plague, then it broke out in their own ranks. At first, they tried to bury their dead---maybe they were still hoping to use the plague, to make a repository for themselves… things spun out of control. They had to flee.
"But their loss was my gain. I saw immediately that I had a chance to get back into play---yes, cyanide gas was better than my system. But I'd found something that killed and liquefied at the same time---disposal of the bodies is the big thing, and here was a possible solution.
"I sent for a germ warfare specialist---we ran some tests on prisoners, tried to see if we couldn't breed a better bug. We succeeded almost immediately---it was almost as if the germ was becoming wide awake after its long sleep. We developed an aerosol for introduction into the shower chambers---in half a hour, it could dissolve 200 people completely, send them right down the drains. We treated the waste with disinfectant, of course--- had to make sure the stuff was neutralized before we released it into the nearest river. But we kept some of the liquefied remains in a holding tank, to use as a repository for future experiments…"
"Why didn't you show me any of this?" JAEGER asks. "I'd have thought you would've been proud…"
"I was," WIRTH replies. "I am. But… things were going wrong. It was obvious to me we had a terrible problem. When everyone started talking about Zevi, I knew it was true immediately, knew it in my guts, but I didn't want to admit it---"
"Zevi?" JAEGER asks.
"An inmate. Would-be Messiah. Very strange powers---"
"I've heard."
"Well, it's him. Him and His followers, in that black soup."
"I know."
"You believe me?"
"I saw him once in Lublin," JAEGER says. "Saved his life. I saw him again, not a half an hour ago---saw his face…"
"I believe it," Wirth said. "He claimed his powers were from God. Most of the other Jews thought they came from the Devil. Myself, I didn't know, and I didn't care---"
"So long as you could make money with him," JAEGER says.
"I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about," WIRTH answers.
"You used this camp to enrich yourself---"
"You're expecting me to admit to such a thing? You want to cause a scandal, is that it? Raise a stink? Well, I'm not going to co-operate. Whatever my personal flaws, I believe in National Socialism, and the struggle against our blood enemies. I've found a solution to a very thorny problem here, and I'm going to see that it's adopted throughout the whole system. So what if we're having teething problems? Must I let myself be paralyzed by the antics of some damn dead Jew? If we're just going to bow down after we kill them, what's the point of gassing them?"
We return to SCHIFRIN and his confederates; they leave the barracks and make for the gunshed. There's only one man standing guard there---he shoots one of the inmates, but the rest attack him with improvised knives and pieces of wood filled with nails. Once the guard's down, SCHIFRIN opens the shed, and his men get rifles, submachine-guns, and ammo. As the rest of the inmates pour from the barracks and follow at a distance, SCHIFRIN'S troop, led by the men in German uniforms, approach the main gate and engage in a wild firefight with the tower guards, hoping not only to break through, but to steal vehicles.
As the gunfire starts, JAEGER and FREITAG leave WIRTH handcuffed to the bed in his room and go to see what's happening. The SS outside are all heading towards the gate.
We see WIRTH trying to free himself, attempting to detach the bar that his cuffs are fastened to; as he works feverishly, his "teething problem" washes down silently through a window behind him, slides beneath the bed; a crawling puddle appears on WIRTH'S side, and out of it rises a human form. WIRTH looks back to see JAKOB ZEVI sitting on the bed beside him. The two stare at each other, ZEVI smiling, iridescence shimmering over the myriad tiny bubbles that make up his face; resigning himself to his fate, WIRTH smiles back at him.
"I'm not afraid of you," he says. "I wasn't impressed when you were alive, and I'm not impressed now. For all your powers, you're a weakling at heart. A subhuman…"
ZEVI reaches out, touches him on the cheek with a fingertip. Black foam swiftly eats a small hole in WIRTH'S cheek. WIRTH trembles, but his smile only widens.
"You think you're a killer?" he demands. "What are your credentials, Jew? How many of my men have you killed? Ten, fifteen? You're nothing. I've killed a million or more or your kind…"
ZEVI reaches out and grasps WIRTH'S free hand, which instantly begins to bubble and disintegrate. But WIRTH only screams:
"You have no right! This is my work! My camp! The plague? It's mine! I uncovered it, and I'll be damned if I'll let some filthy Jew take it away from me…"
ZEVI puts out both his hands, embraces him; more and more foam pours into the room. As WIRTH is eaten alive, ZEVI pours the full agony of everyone who'se been liquidated with WIRTH'S technique into the Nazi's mind.
But as WIRTH experiences the collective torments of his victims, he's delighted; the thought that he's inflicted so much pain on blood enemies of his race fills him with glee.
"Thank you," he whispers to ZEVI. "My life…consummated…"
Shocked by WIRTH'S reaction, ZEVI flinches back, the foam withdrawing from WIRTH'S partially-devoured body. But WIRTH'S cuffed wrist has been eaten through, and he manages to hurl himself into the retreating mass. We see ZEVI trying to wrench himself out of the foam, his face working and grimacing, then shifting, changing…

No comments:

Post a Comment