Just finished, have not corrected grammar except for a few cases. I know very little about the army and not that much WW II so I cover up my lack of knowledge with it being a "personal" letter. Also the division was made up as being fake and I hope there's no Non-US division of the same name.
Prisoner 8956, Rückkehr unerwünscht
From the archives of the Ministry of Defense, Letter of Captain A. Arthur to B.Gen. J. Barth, Commander of the 118th Infantry Division
I am writing this letter, sir, in order to fullfill my duty to you as my Superior, in giving you a full and unabridged account of the events you will find summarised within the official report that is even now making it's way to your desk. I have always been an honest man, and so I feel it is my duty to tell you that the report you have no doubt recieved by now is written for the peace of mind of the Staff, and to ensure that our unit as a whole would be spared certain unpleasent consequences if all the events of recent days were to be handed down through official channels.
However, I feel it is honourable, sir, for me to take responsibility and make peace with my conscience in giving you an account of what realy took place within the last few days, and more specificaly hours, during which we have accomplished, according to plan, the liberation of D_ camp, just outside of B_ in East Thuringia. I take full responsibility for my words and should you chose not to believe them, then I most humbly wish you to forget this letter had ever been written and write down everything within it due to the stress of battle, a point of view I hope to one day share.
On April 10th, according to the plan agreed upon by the Division staff, our group split from the main forces, moving towards T_ camp, and instead advanced further to the East, to a more rural and less populated area where our information suggested the presence of a smaller Camp, connected to T_ camp but mostly autonomous in it's own handling. There were only the vaguest hints as to it's exact location, as the dense foliage and the fact that the camp had apparently never completed it's construction, seemed to have made it of little importance during the process of information retrieval then the much more imposing T_ camp. The group sent to the camp was one hundred and forty men, me having the job of commander.
We arrived on the 11th after a long trek through the unkept woods unto a clearing in pale moonlight. The camp consisted of a smaller building up front and five long thin buildings in the background, with barbed wire hastily flapping in the wind where a hurried escape had taken place, and most of the fence had fallen apart before we had arrived. We assumed that most of the prisoners found within would be dead or worse and that there was very little fighting ahead of us. Still, we cautiously waited till dawn for any sign of movement or activity before we advanced within. The inside of the fence was littered with all manner of garbage, bits of fallen debris, old rusty construction materials and clothes. There was not a single guard in sight. The three barracks, which were unlocked, contained ten bodies of the sort one will find within these places, and ten survivors. Most were German, though they spoke to us in such tones that they were very hard to understand, being very weak and barely audible.
The care for these people was handed over to J. O'Brien, and I cannot express with words how he is handling these people, and how much he takes personal interest in them and their situation. He is extremely cautious but very effective in his treatment and I can find no fault in his actions, or words enough to praise them.
This is, however, the point where my words will diverge from the official report.
On that first day we made a thorough search of the barracks, finding only prisoners, and the smallish building in the front of the camp. This,apart from serving as the headquarters, was apparently a "medial facility" of some kind, though their idea of medicine is something I do not ever wish to understand. Inside we found telephones ripped from walls and masses of torn and burn files lying on the ground. I have seen what was written in those documents that escaped such oblivion, and it almost makes me wish they hadn't. More importantly however we found a door that was barricaded and locked from the outside. After a bit of trouble forcing our way, we entered a room that was by far the biggest in the entire camp. There were a few rows of chairs and tables and filling cabinets and desks here, many with faint streaks of blood still visible. On the ground, right in front of a pile of rubbish blocking off yet another door we found the corpse of a man, dressed in a doctor's outfit. He was a man of about forty five, thin, with short black hair. On his right temple was a gaping hole, and in his right hand was the reason, a small revolver of a typical kind. The man clutched at the revolver and had a terrified look on his blackened face.
Our attention shifted to the huge pile of rubbish the man was lying in front of. It consisted of tables, desks, coat hangers and most everything else. Behind it we could see a thick, metal door with a lock on it, and a glass window at eye's height. As the men got around to clearing it away, my eyes fell on something. It was a file that lay half opened on the table next to the dead man. Many pages had been torn or ripped and it wasn't easy piecing it together properly, but what I was able to make out was that this was the personal file of a prisoner, of unknown name, and the number 8956. The notes on the man were surprisingly scarce, though it did contain the formula of "Rückkehr unerwünscht", which is indeed a polite, non aggresive way of sending a man and his whole kin to death.
The file contained medical notes, signed by a Georg Backe, "leading physician" of the Camp. It began while noticing the seeming good condition of the "patient", especialy for his age (which was guessed to be between 67 and 70) and his general thinness. The man then begins to list off a series of "identification marks" of a "degenerate species", such as an "overly swarthy skin colour, even among his kind", "lenghty, crooked nose", "general shape of the skull" and other such "observations". Then came notes of a nature I am not fully capable of analysing, being a butcher by trade, and then a note at the end, relating to the man's selection for an experiment of Dr. Backe. The doctor seems to have constructed a pressure chamber of some kind, and has been using the inmates of the camp for private experimentation, as has been the case in many camps as far as is known thus far.
It seems that the experiment was cancelled at the last moment and the old man was sent as part of a workforce to help dig a ditch in the north side of the camp, due to a sudden death of several workers selected for the job and a lack of any better replacement. The doctor then notes that the man was capable of keeping up the work at a satisfactory pace, without getting tired or slowing down much. Dr. Backe seems to have taken an interest in the man then, as the notes from that point on become far longer and far more frequent and the tone shifts from medical document to a collection of personal observations, almost a diary. I will attempt to translate these entries to the best of my knowledge.
On January 10th he notes that "The man seems to feel no discomfort even during beatings by the guards, has no qualms about handling dead bodies, and is capable to putting the not-yet malnourished inmates almost to shame with his preserverance. The Commander told me that the man could be cleared for the experiment when the repairs to the North Fence are complete, however I am considering postponing the date of the experiment to gather further data on the subject."
On January 18th he writes :"The man, for how little food he is getting, has so far shown no signs of malnourishment, and his somewhat feeble but still discernable arm muscles have lost nothing of their strength. Sometimes he leaves most of the meagre meals allowed to the inmates completely unoutched (not that I blame him) and goes about his work just the same !"
On January 27th: "The man seems to be an imbecile. I tried communicating with him but could not persuade him to talk. I tried promising almost anything possible, and quite a few things impossible, like freedom, and yet he still refuses to talk. I'll talk to Captain Hans, he'll sort him out good and then we'll see him trying to ignore my well meaning inquiries."
January 28th: "Hans Shröder's "intervention" does not seem to have had much of an impact, the man went about his business and did his work just the same as before. Hans seems to be losing his touch is the rumour floating about and I can see he's waiting for the next opportunity to debunk that."
February 3rd: "We are down one inmate and one Hans Shröder. The inmate became the target of Shröder's outbreak after his attempts to subdue the patient "8956" have proven in vain. He seems to have taken the whole thing rather personal, and got drunk before duty and shot a worker, one of the few strong workers left, when aiming at the old man. They subdued him and the Commander is having him transferred."
February 18th: "We got hit today, though it mostly took out the eternaly unfinished fifth barrack. This means the whole business with the fence is going to start over and I am anxious to get the old man in my hands again for a few more in depth tests."
March 1st:" Finaly, the thing is done and I can resume my experiments. As I took the old man in today and began the whole dreary business of measuring, I found, surprisingly, no change from the figures I had set down when he arrived. I assume there is something wrong with my equipment as this can't realy be the case."
March 3rd:"My previous observations of the man's imbecility become more and more true every day. During the whole day, he just sits there as I run all my tests in preparation for the "main event" and no amount of poking will even bring him to twitch. I at first judged him to be between 67 and 70, though I am half convinced the man is closer to 75, which makes his extraordinary performance all the more unusual."
March 5th:" I tried a few "sinkings" and a couple of shocks to try and provoke a response but I find his breathing and heartbeat barely increase in speed afterwards. His nerves must be either extremely well trained or extremely dulled."
March 8th:"I am not so sure about, well, anything I wrote up to now, realy. The man (I hate calling him that but I can't be bothered to memorise his number) seems even older then I assumed on the 3rd, for one, and for another he seems to act as one who'se mind is somewhere "high up". I suspect he may not pay attention to me due to the fact he's ignoring me, which I find unbelieavable. I assume this is a case of a far more serious mental illness then I had previously guessed."
March 11th:"Finaly I decided to throw caution to the wind and start with the experiment proper tommorow. Let's see him stare out blankly into space now eh ?"
March 12th:"It's all quite baffling. I know the chamber works, I've seen it work on two dozen seperate ocations since it got finished in August and yet when I put Him inside and started, I could see no reaction on his part for a whole half hour. I had not gone too high just yet, out of fear that the thing might have been dammaged in the recent air raid. I'll have someone look it over."
March 14th:" I spent all of yesterday with the one technician at hand, looking at it from every possible angle and yes, the thing must deffinitely work ! I asked the Commander for permission to use another man as a test subject but he refussed, he seems to not find a whole lot of use to the machine and I can't realy see the use in him being around, impeding progress but what can one do ? In addition,the Man was called off as there was a break in of the soldier barrack's wall and the Commander needed all competent hands he could get.."
March 26th:"I don't understand. By all accounts he should be dead. I let him in there three hours and nothing. I put it as high as I dared and watched and he didn't even flinch. I was tempted, tempted to punch a hole in there and watch but this is not the time to destroy priceless equipment !"
The next entry is written in a shaky hand and is much harder to decipher.
April 1st:"The commander started to ready our leave, as things aren't boding well at the moment. He sent out a gas car, one of the ones we had left over from T_ and let it ride around the camp for three shifts, each of fifteen minutes. The first two shipments were carried out without problem. And then the third, when they opened the door, He came out. I don't understand I don't I the commander was so shaken he ordered the man sent to the barracks and only ordered him shot an hour ago. It's dark so they'll do it in the morning. God I hope"
The final two entries are written in a hurried manner, and their lack of coherency or proper grammar suggest some sort of mania came over Dr. Backe as he wrote them.
April 2nd:"Three rounds. He stands there. He stares. The commander takes his gun he shoots him at point blank nothing he still stares I"
Then on the next page, undated:"They tried everything they shot him till there were no bullets left and he still stood there, so I took him and showed him into the chamber and put it on full. And then I broke a hole in it. And nothing. NOTHING. We're all afraid, we locked him in there and barricaded the door and a man shot himself and I'm all alone here the commander rode off and the officers and everyone, there are people in the camps I can hear them but I can't get out they blocked me in when they ran I tried pushing till I fell and I cried and called God to forgive me and then THEN there came a low mocking laugh from the chamber I got to my feet I climbed ontop the table I look and I listen and I hear the sound dying it is like grating glass like sand running through your fingers I ask what did you say and I hear it again laughing mocking horrible horrible it sounds so dry so dry I hang there and I look through the window and see him and then I ask him who are you and he says "Cartaphilus". I climb down and I cry I know that if God can punish man to such extent I am afraid to die I don't want to and yet I don't want to hear that voice that voice sounds like a man dried no one should ever be that old"
Then, suddenly, in a fine, perfectly legible line is written:
"My only hope is that he and I will never meet again."
As I finished reading through these and translating them (much more roughly) in my head, my boys had managed to clear away the barricade and we saw the door, with a lock on and a huge hole on the side of it. We pried it open and out came a man dressed in a black, dirt covered outfit that blew in rags, a wooden stick as a cane, with long white beard and hair, and a sunken, wrinkled face, went past us, into the yard and then was over the fallen fence and dissapeared into the forest.
I am a Christian, General Barth, but I find I share Dr. Backe's worries. "If god can punish a man to such extent….."
A. Alfred, Captain, 118th Infantry Division