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black book

How to Take an Ordinary Man and Turn Him into a Killer

“A country is not just what is does, but what it tolerates.” – Kurt Tucholsky

When I asked my friend, Adi, if she was scared about being in the IDF, and what that meant to her, she said simply and with innocent poise: “my people took care of me and now it’s time to take care of mine.”


People get used to killing – conditioning conditions through orders, alcohol or asking Ukrainians. 


Dear Mommy and Children,

            Want to learn how to take an ordinary man and turn him into a killer? To disobey orders, you become a coward, a traitor, weak, then no one wants to be associated with, friends with, or even just with them. Bravery, on the other hand, is not recognized in this situation.

            The horrors, they (try to) command us to, such as torturing, separating, lying, stealing, raping, slaughtering, starving, condemning, murdering (etc.) Jews are supposed to come as as natural as eating breakfast in the morning. Deception is the most important thing. I don’t think I’ll ever wipe the smell/stench of their burning bodies from my nose and lungs.  I can taste their lives gone in my throat. Their screams echo, ringing through my ears, tearing through my brain.  We read their letters and they write their loved ones telling them they’ll see them soon, and my heart breaks because I’m the one that will put a bullet in their brains, their children’s, to send their naked starving bodies into the showers that drown them with chemical gas eroding millions of them away because if I don’t, I’m a coward and then just as bad as the enemy, the poor, slimy, rat Jews. And then I loose you and my future and yours.  We pack them like cattle in boxes and deceive them with numbers for baggage and property, but once they pass go through these damn iron gates, they do not, but I know their doomed fate.  When will these people get to rest? Why am I meant to feel as a coward for not wanting to hate these PEOPLE?! They are people!! Not animals, as we act and treat them. That they are meant to be forgotten. Possessions, family, food, familiarities, basic human necessities, stripped away as meant to feel like the animals they are.  Still, they remain. Still, they write letters to loves ones. Still, they speak Yiddish and preach the words of their god in Hebrew.  Still, they laugh and love even through their tears and hunger. How strong they remain.  Just one of them is stronger, mightier, more, human and better than the entire Nazi following.  We take their names and exchange them for numbers. If they forget their “new” name, we are expected to shoot them dead immediately, as they now, even more so, don’t deserve to live.  Most of my “comrades” enjoy this task.  They take pride in eliminating another rat scum devil. AND STILL, through this, they survive, and with the hope of peace and reuniting with their family.

            I can see their morals slipping. Parents and children steal from each other, they cannot be rabbits, they must be wolves.  This may be the only place where luck exists, as it is a land/place/jungle/hell with no laws.  They eat snow for water.  We do not call, treat, or think of them as humans and now, even within family, on cannot recognize another.  Their knees look like knobs from a tree, but cannot hold up their bodies that are merely twigs.  We bulldoze them like garbage, trash into ditches and away, just to burn, to rot. We don’t even feed them to the dogs because they are all contaminated, mangy rats, plus the dogs can barely sniff them out as they are barely bones and skin. I look at the faces of my comrades and they have become hardened, oblivious, as they still laugh and joke and fuck their wives and kiss their children’s clean blonde Aryan heads.  I don’t know how they can go on. I see the shame Hitler intended for these poor star bearing folks, sinking into their souls, and they are starting to believe the lies and degradation and humility.  They couldn’t even swallow or digest food if they were to get some.  Their bodies wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do with it. One day their names will paint the walls so their kin and kin of kin may remember them despite Hitler and the Nazi’s/Hate’s efforts.

            The eighth day of the week is for imagination. Another love, compression of compassion comes from the horror. 

            Still they pray, still they hope, still they believe in god and good. They will rebuild. Their city will stand, layering and layering, reaching higher and higher into heavens on earth. Their building tops will glow and glisten in the sun. The same sun that didn’t come to save them when they were huddled into bunk beds and gutters and prostitution rings. Oh how lucky the pretty ones are. My group called me a faggot in so many words when I wouldn’t fuck the this pretty little jew they’d been passing around. I pretended I was so disgusted by them as a race, as a whole, that I wouldn’t even want to stick my dick in one in fear of contamination. They laughed and applauded my commitment to the cause. Hitler even heard about it and couldn’t have given me a bigger, warming hug and a nice slice of apple strudel for my dedication and true belief. It took all I had not to vomit, to lunge and pull his throat and lungs, connected to everything, down to his spleen and toenails out by the clenches of my fist from his neck. Instead I “grinned and bared it.” Just like the Jews. Except, they couldn’t even grin at most points; their bodies and minds and hearts had forgotten how.

They will find a way to survive, to resurrect, to remember. True beauty is only fully revealed once everything you’ve known is shattered and broken.  Barracks of stone and wood and pillars. Candles burn strong to remember to see the light, despite all that is and was lost. Still they, we survive. 

I’ll be home soon,




“I happened to find a pencil and was writing out of a whim, out of nostalgia, in a dream.”     –Primo Levi

Today, I touch the cobblestones and bunk beds and trains and carts and rocks and can feel their ashes and blood and footsteps and whispers on my fingertips.  They are all still here. Haunting, reminding us, to move forward, to see past the matte prism and onto the glowing, beaming, building, layered, complicated world.

Boker Tov, y’all.

Micaela Silberstein