Wed, 13th Jul 2011 | DavidLoweBBCRadio | Created on: originalshorts.com | 5,493 Views, 2 Nods.


THIS extract from my recently published New Age thriller "Redeeming Factor" - written under my pen-name of Lewis Adler - takes you from the very beginning of the story to a pivotal moment in the plot. "Redeeming Factor" is available in e-book form only for download to Amazon-Kindle (UK and USA); iBookstore for Apple iPad (UK and USA)and very soon from Sony (USA only)and Barnes & Noble "Nook" (USA only)at less than £1 (GBP)or around $1 (US).

To read the detailed "Redeeming Factor" synopsis and study the cover in close-up, please click on the following link:-


Notes: The following extract is exclusive to Noddleit.com, but remains the property of the author. It must not be copied in print, audio or any other form without the express permission of Lewis Adler.


OKAY to throw it now, Carl?''

Ja, ja, any time you like, Willie. And make it count soldier.''

For a fleeting moment, in the chilled stillness of that moonless night in December 1943, a flaming torch arced towards a carefully stacked pile of logs, branches and wooden off-cuts. To Carl, the sound the torch made on its short, cartwheeling flight reminded him of the urgent slapping of a startled pigeon's wings. But this was neither the time nor the place to discuss such things openly. Nevertheless, he still found it a curiously comforting sound that brought with it an all-too-brief respite from the horrors that surrounded him and his colleagues.
Clattering into the pile of wood close to ground level, the flame from the torch quickly took hold.

More torches now,'' urged Carl impatiently.

Moments later, several more rained down onto the stack and, soon, the winter solstice pyre was blazing from base to summit; sending orange sheets and sparks flying into the starlit blackness above, only to be snuffed-out by the freezing night air.

Almost imperceptibly at first, through the loud crackling of the inferno, a lone male voice could be heard humming the old German carol 'Oh Tannenbaum' 'Oh Christmas Tree'. As the man's singing grew in confidence, he was joined by others around the roaring pyre, and their combined voices rose, not so much in observance of the Christmas of Bethlehem, the three wise men and the shepherds tending their flock, but of ancient Germanic winter solstice traditions.

This pagan practice of bringing light and heat to the depths of winter in the form of a ritual pyre was heightened further when Carl called-out, Okay, okay, ready for the wreaths now. And make sure you aim them accurately.''

On his command, four members of the group tossed laurel and holly wreaths at the pyre and they were quickly consumed by the flames. At the same time, the whole gathering joined together to sing 'Night of Clear Stars'; a much newer German carol than 'Oh Tannenbaum'. However, in common with its older cousin, 'Night of Clear Stars' resonated with pagan expression and, likewise, enjoyed the unquestioned approval of the Nazi hierarchy.

Gradually, the raging flames subsided along with the singing and Carl stepped closer to the blaze with a long taper in his hand. Shielding the side of his face from the searing heat with one arm, he extended the other towards the glowing embers at the base of the pyre. The taper ignited spontaneously and the sudden flare of light from it cast a yellow tint across the silver SS insignia and braid attached to the lapels and epaulettes of his uniform.

Oberscharfuhrer (Senior Squad Leader) Carl Meissner was 26 years old. A towering 1.93 metres tall, he was of slender, athletic build, upright and square shouldered with deep-set grey-blue eyes. However, his surprisingly fair complexion belied his true age, giving him a fresh-faced boyish look. The same was true of his youthful-looking light brown hair, which was not only greased and parted to the left of his crown, but also neatly combed flat, and smartly cropped at the back and sides of his head. But for one minor detail, he was the epitome of Aryan masculinity as defined by Nazi doctrine. The minor detail was that he had suffered two severe wounds to his left arm during the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Nevertheless, he'd regained much of the use of that arm through a mixture of dogged determination coupled with a strict routine of physical exercises. The result was incredible strength in both arms. But there was one drawback. He was left with the inability to fully rotate the left elbow and wrist. Consequently, his battlefield days were over. Opting for a non-combatant's role, he'd been posted to the Majdanek Concentration Camp on the south-eastern outskirts of the Polish city of Lublin.

Carl had suffered his injury while he was sheltering from small arms fire close to the outer corner of a brick-built barn. Thinking he was completely protected by the wall, the young Unterscharfuhrer (Junior Squad Leader) was issuing instructions to the members of his squad with a wave of his arm when a rifle round slammed into the brickwork next to him. The remains of the round embedded itself in his upper left forearm, while simultaneously a jagged chunk of brick sliced across his inner left wrist, leaving a gaping wound that exposed the tendons. Luckily for him the tendons were not too seriously damaged, otherwise his military career would have been cut short. Now, a little over four years later, his self-imposed regime of recuperation had served him well. All that remained of the wounds was a neat oval scar the size of a thumbprint some five centimetres forward of his elbow joint, where the spent round had penetrated. While, across his left wrist, the brick fragment had carved an ugly diamond-shaped weal, the smoothness of which, endowed the scar tissue with a curious translucent quality.
Being the longest-serving non-commissioned officer at the Majdanek Concentration Camp, Carl had attended an early December meeting with the camp's commandant, Martin Schwartz, during which he'd made an unusual request. Much to Carl's surprise, his request had met with Schwartz' approval so, without delay, the young Oberscharfuhrer had set about organising a Christmas-cum-midwinter solstice celebration for some of his fellow NCOs and the camp's Aufseherin its female Overseers.

The ritual pyre was just the beginning of those celebrations. Cupping his hand around the taper's flame, he beckoned with a nod of his head to those standing nearest to him. And by doing so, he signalled that it was time to light the candles he had distributed earlier to each person in the group.

Ah, I see you're first in the queue Fraulein Strobl,'' he laughed.
Slightly embarrassed by Carl's very public announcement, Overseer Leyna Strobl smiled and stepped forward; then, as the combined flames of candle and taper flared in intensity, her attractive features were illuminated in the glow. At the age of just 24, the brown of her expressive eyes, her high cheek bones, the slightly upturned nose and soft complexion gave the impression of belonging to a supremely confident woman in her later twenties. The same could be said for her delicate Cupid's bow mouth which turned-up slightly at the corners to give her oval face the merest hint of a permanent grin. Leyna's crowning glory, though, was her beautiful dark brown hair which cascaded in gentle, shimmering waves onto her shoulders and accentuated her above average height. She was, in all respects, an elegant and attractive young lady, made all the more so by a barely discernible, yet appealing, squint in her left eye. Since arriving at Majdanek with the first batch of Aufseherin in October 1942, Leyna had struck-up a very close friendship with Carl.

So close in fact, she discreetly caressed his cupped hand, smiled longingly at him and whispered facetiously, Thank you Herr Meissner,'' as she stepped aside to allow another member of the pyre-side group to put a flame to their candle.

When all the candles were lit, everyone in the gathering strolled slowly away from the still smouldering pyre, protecting their candle flames with their free hands and chatting quietly to each other. By then, that day's fresh sprinkling of snow had frosted over, so every footfall was accompanied by the distinctive creaking sound of snow being tightly compacted into the perfect impression of each passing boot or heavy shoe. Twenty metres further on, the leading members of the group stepped onto the comparative firmness of the camp's main driveway and, from there, they made straight towards the dark outlines of the SS barrack huts. A pale electric light streamed from the windows and doorway of the hut nearest the camp's perimeter fence and, as the group of NCOs and Overseers approached it, a male figure stepped into view to usher them inside. It was Hauptscharfuhrer (Head Squad Leader) Otto Weigel, Carl Meissner's immediate superior. Clicking his heels and bowing his head slightly, Weigel pointed into the warm and inviting interior.

Welcome, my friends and colleagues. The spruce tree is waiting to be illuminated, and there's plenty of food and drinks to follow.''

A murmur of approval and laughter from the group quickly gave way to the tapping of numerous snow covered boots and shoes on the barrack hut threshold as, one by one, the NCOs and Overseers stepped into the welcoming glow of the long barrack room. In the left hand corner, at the far end of the hut, stood a magnificent two metre twenty Christmas tree festooned with unlit candles and small wrapped gifts of assorted confectionery. In the opposite corner, three trestle tables were arranged in an L-shape and draped with white linen to form a bar and servery. Behind the bar a sturdy wooden rack had been assembled, upon which seven casks of ale rested. At one end of the bar, stood a number of bottles of Schnapps, plus a large pewter bowl filled to the brim with Gluhwein ... mulled-wine. Positioned between the bowl and the bottles of Schnapps a plentiful supply of glassware and steins sat sparkling in the reflected light of the numerous candle flames. Much of the rest of the space on the surface of the bar was taken up with china bowls for the soup that was gently simmering in a huge pot on a nearby stove, plus several loaves of bread, butter, assorted cutlery and a variety of Bavarian cheeses and sausages. A scattering of tables and chairs lined both sides of the barrack room, except for the space halfway along the hut's right hand side in which stood an upright piano and stool.

Despite limited resources, Carl and a small number of Overseers had succeeded in creating an agreeable seasonal home from home for their colleagues, most of whom made a special point of thanking him for his team's efforts. Eventually the group gravitated towards the Christmas tree, still holding their candles. Otto Weigel waited patiently for them to assemble before calling for silence.

My friends and comrades, you have celebrated the solstice in the way our forefathers did for thousands of years, by gathering around a winter solstice pyre. You have also paid your respects to our fallen warriors by committing wreaths of remembrance to the pyre's flames. Then, from those same flames you have each brought a lighted candle with which to ignite the candles on this Solstice tree. I now invite you to light at least one solstice tree candle each, not only in memory of our fallen comrades, but also in honour of our Fuhrer, our Fatherland and those of our loved ones who cannot be with us tonight. Each of you may also help yourself to one of the small gifts. Heil Hitler!''

Five minutes later, the Solstice tree glimmered with the light of dozens of small candles and the barrack room buzzed with a happy mix of conversation and laughter. There was a little music too, thanks to one of the most junior NCOs who, following the lighting of the solstice tree candles had made straight for the piano. Soon after seating himself and running his fingers over the keys for the first time, he'd been joined by four colleagues. They leaned lazily against the instrument's sturdy edges, steins in hand, humming and singing, as the pianist skilfully played a medley of some of the most popular German wartime songs. At the same time, the remainder of the twenty-eight men and women present queued noisily for a glass of mulled wine or Schnapps or a stein of beer or, in some cases, all three.

Seated at a table on the opposite side of the hut from the singalong, Carl and Leyna surveyed the happy scene and toasted each other with a clink of their mulled-wine glasses.

Carl, you're a miracle worker,'' observed Leyna. It's good to see everybody looking so relaxed''.

Carl, smiled and winked in response, then clinked her glass a second time. However, his outwardly jovial reaction to her words concealed an uncomfortable truth. In the twenty-three months following his posting to the Majdanek concentration camp, the young Schutzstaffel NCO had not only witnessed, but occasionally he'd been party to, a number of acts of gratuitous violence against the camp's internees. Bullying, beatings, torture, summary executions and mass murder; such events were now commonplace and they had begun to play on his conscience.
The turning point had come for him nearly two months earlier. On November 3, 1943, the Majdanek concentration camp had been the scene of an unprecedented day-long killing spree during which more than 18,400 internees died. During the final few days of October a number of pits were dug within the confines of the camp. Then, from dawn to darkness on November 3, internees were made to strip and then lie in the pits where they were raked by automatic weapons fire. When one group of internees had been cruelly dispatched, a fresh group was forced to strip, after which they were harried to the pit-side and made to lie face down on top of the bodies of the earlier group. They too were then shot without mercy. On that fateful November day, and for five days beforehand, Carl had been recovering from a heavy chest cold. Under strict orders from the camp's doctor, he'd been confined to his barrack and advised that he shouldn't move. Despite an overpowering drowsiness caused by the prescribed cough linctus, he clearly recalled the camp's loudspeaker system blaring-out jazz recordings at full volume all day long.

He later learned of the mass-killings from several of his fellow NCOs who'd explained that the jazz music was intended to drown the noise of the gunfire and the screams. Carl kept his opinions to himself but, in his heart, he didn't believe the accounts he heard about the events of November 3. So, as soon as he was fully recovered, he made a lone inspection of the pits. He was appalled to discover that all the reports he'd been given were true and, to his disgust, he realised efforts were being made to cover-up the atrocity. Approaching one of the pits, he witnessed bodies being loaded on handcarts for transfer to the crematorium just thirty metres away. On inspecting the other pits, he discovered more horrific evidence of the slaughter that had taken place. At each pit he viewed, he was greeted by the hideous sight of grey and lifeless limbs, torsos and other body parts protruding grotesquely through a thin sprinkling of soil. At last, muttering under his breath, he tried to come to terms with what he was witnessing.
This is madness: utter madness. What possible justification can be made for such barbarity?''

In contrast to these nightmarish scenes, Carl's SS training and his experiences on the battlefield had been every bit as hard and harsh as he'd expected. At first-hand, and with sickening regularity, in battle conditions he had witnessed gruesome sudden death and torture, endured deprivation and bullying, and he'd taken lives, all in the name of war. But this was different, and the abject horror of those battlefield experiences was now paling into insignificance when set against the levels of mindless cruelty at Majdanek. Inevitably, he had become brutalised by the camp's sadistic regime and, as each week passed, he was dwelling more and more on his own deeds and wondering whether he was losing control.

Soaking-up the barrack room's festive mood one more time, he instinctively knew that the light-hearted bonhomie that greeted his eyes was merely a brief escape; a macabre and temporary illusion for all those present. Tomorrow would predictably bring another catalogue of unpleasant experiences experiences that, over recent months, had not only brutalised him, but also some of his NCO colleagues. However, they rarely, if ever, admitted it to one another. But the signs were there and those, like Carl, who were most affected, fought hard to conceal their true feelings during every waking hour.

Now, surveying once more the high-spirited activity around him, the still youthful Oberscharfuhrer grew weary of all the pretence and machismo. In that moment, he wished the bird's wings he'd heard in his mind's ear a little earlier could carry him back to the front line again.

The next couple of chapters will appear here shortly.

Many Thanks.


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