A SEA OF RED:

The streets were ablaze with Nazi flags. An ocean of scarlet, every way you looked. And even as a Jewish kid who didn’t know any better, I thought it was beautiful. Inspiring. It was like I was drowning in this sea of German pride and anger and emotion.

 

A TANK WITH THE STAR OF DAVID

I could see a tank coming, a big olive-colored monster roaring up the road between the barracks. When I first saw the tanks coming I was sure that this was it, that the Germans were here to blow us all up.

Where I expected to see a white and black German cross, as on every tank I’d ever seen, there was the Jewish star of David, scrawled in chalk on the side of this tall, frightful machine.

 

FEAR OF FREEDOM

Now I was free. And very much alone. There were thousands of people around me, of course. But when I looked into the future, staring out from the camp that day at the green, endless world down the hill, I had no idea of what I was going to do, or where I was going to go. I had no idea of who I was. 

 

NOT MY SOUL

I had died in many ways, even though the mind and body of what was once called Heinz Oster were still operating: still thinking here in my head, still beating here in my heart, still breathing in my chest. I realized, as much as a 16-year-old could, that the Nazis had abused my body, but that I had never quite surrendered my self. 

 

ONE NIGHT IN PARIS

One French girl sidled up to me and in a very sexy voice made what one might call an indecent proposition. I was startled and flustered, and mostly out of shock and surprise, I called her the French word I had learned for whore. Which, I soon learned, also meant “pig.” The next thing I knew I was in the hands of the Gendarmes, who dragged me off to the local police station, protesting all the way in bad French. Believe me, the last thing I wanted was to find myself a prisoner again. 

 

THAT IMPOSSIBLE STATUE

When you arrive in New York on a broken-down ship and you see the Statue of Liberty: well, it’s an experience that words just can't convey. I don’t care how many people have tried to say it, but when you see that impossible statue, with that torch held up in the air, everything changes. 

Inside The Kindness of the Hangman