missabnormal: (FSaT)
[personal profile] missabnormal
In which Hadassah/Stella is saved from being sent to Dachau.

*Yamini, Ruki, Kala, and Wolfgang are waiting in the theatre. Finally, missabnormal enters with another person: a woman in a red jumpsuit and brown hair. She is none other than Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch.*



missabnormal: Sorry about the wait. I had to make sure Ms. Maximoff arrived here safely. *gestures to everyone* Everyone, this is Wanda Maximoff, your new co-sporker for this project. Ms. Maximoff, this is Yamini, Ruki, Kala, and Wolfgang, our co-sporkers for this project.

Yamini: Please tell me this isn't Eleanor & Park.

missabnormal: No... it's actually a lot worse. This is the romance novel between a Jewish concentration camp prisoner and a Nazi officer that literally no one asked for. This is Kate Breslin's For Such a Time.

*Yamini's jaw drops open in shock, Ruki's eyes widen in shock, Wolfgang does a spittake, and Kala looks up from her book, stunned. Wanda stares at missabnormal in shock*

Wanda: *sits down* That actually exists?

missabnormal: Yes. And if it wasn't enough of an insult, the author is Christian!

Yamini: That's messed up.

Ruki: Who thought it would be a good idea to use a horrific genocide as the backdrop of a romance?

Wolfgang: And here I thought Holocaust denial was horrible enough. *wipes his mouth*

Kala: What is wrong with people? Please tell me this wasn't well-received.

missabnormal: It wasn't well-received among Jewish communities, of course. Didn't stop it from being nominated for a RITA award. *sighs* Well, enough about that, let's just get started.

We start off with a quote from the Book of Esther: "Esther also was taken to the king's palace..." from Esther 2:8. The date of the first chapter is February 14th, 1944.

The chapter starts out with a statement of, "[the] stench was unmistakeable", as the smell seeps through the walls of a two-story chalet and wakes up Hadassah, who is referred to as Stella right now. It's dawn right now and "[the] burning had begun". She looks out the window "at the endless mantle of snow punctuated by clusters of bare-limbed trees, a handful of farmhouses, and St. Jakob's onion-shaped cupola in the distance". As it turns out, the smell is coming from the Krematorium at Dachau concentration camp.

Okay, so far, it's pretty descriptive. I can almost see this happening. But then we get this.

She imagined the tiny charred flakes, soaring high, borne off to God Forsaken...


YOUR CHRISTIANITY IS SHOWING: 1

Wanda: Look, I'm ethnically Roma, but my father is a Jewish Holocaust survivor, so I have some understanding of Judaism. God in Judaism isn't as straightforward as some people think. And if she were Jewish, she should be writing God as 'G-d'. Judaism has no formal or mandatory beliefs whatsoever.

missabnormal: You're right.

Wanda: *reads on* Stella is struck with nausea and wonders how she can even feel anything, and she turns away from the window "to stare at the austere whitewashed walls that hemmed her in". This room is Stella's "makeshift prison for untold days". She wonders why she was singled out from execution.

As she looks around the room, she recalls how someone named 'Uncle Morty' "once said that a person's possessions spoke much about them". Oh, and by the way, Uncle Morty is actually Mordecai from the Book of Esther, who is Hadassah/Esther's cousin.

However, Stella believes that the lack of possessions revealed more, as the room is practically empty. "She'd simply been locked away upstairs in an empty room, the fabled Rapunzel in her tower. Except for the hair...".

*frowns* I hardly think a fairy tale can capture the level of horror that surrounds the Holocaust, or the plight of the prisoners in concentration camps.

Yamini: *reads* Stella hears the sound of a car approaching the chalet, specifically, a black Mercedes, and "[the] disjointed white cross of the Hakenkreuz emblazoned its door". *scowls* You mean the swastika? I'm not North Indian, but the fact that an important symbol has been corrupted so horribly just makes me so mad.

Kala: *nods in agreement, looking frustrated* I'll say.

Yamini: So the Nazis are referred to as "Jew Killers", which does make them sound pretty threatening. This makes Stella recall what happened, specifically how "[the] gritty-faced Kapo--a Jew trusted by the Nazis to guard their Block of prisoners at Dachau--had stuffed her into the blue dress".

*raises an eyebrow* Can someone explain what a Kapo is? I never learned that term in my History class.

Wolfgang: 
A Kapo was a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps who was assigned by the SS to supervise forced labour or carry out administrative tasks. They're called 'Funktionshäftling' in German. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, 'Kapo' is an abbreviation of the German word 'Kameradschaftpolizei', like how 'Nazi' is an abbreviation of 'Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei' and how 'Gestapo' is an abbreviation of 'Geheime Staatspolizei'. 

Yamini: I did not know that. *continues reading* So the driver is described to be wearing "the black uniform of the Schutzstaffel", aka the uniform designed by none other than Hugo Boss. He gets out of the car and opens up the passenger door, allowing a tall and broad-shouldered man to get out. "His presence evoked every aspect of authority. Dominance. Even the cane he gripped in his right hand failed to diminish his aura of power".

The man looks up at the window, which freaks out Stella. His face is described as being "a canvas of strength--rock-hard features fortified with asperity, amplified by the grim line at his mouth and the tautness of his squared jaw. Features much accustomed to pain. More in giving it than receiving it, she decided".

Hey, have you even seen photos of Nazi officers, commandants, and the like? They all look like they're about to murder you in cold blood. Hell, just look up Josef Mengele or even Adolf Hitler, they look like they'll kill you without even blinking.

Ruki: The man watches Stella as he hands his cane to the driver before heading to the chalet. Stella begins to panic as she hears the housekeeper greet the Nazi officer, and wonders whether the man is a doctor, as "[she'd] heard about medical experiments performed on prisoners". She continues panicking as she hears someone climb the stairs. However, it wasn't the Nazi officer but "[the] stout, ruddy-cheeked Hausfrau", which means a German housewife.

The Hausfrau tells Stella that she has an important visitor and to come downstairs, but Stella doesn't register the order immediately. This prompts the Hausfrau to ask, "'Are you deaf, Jude? I said come with me!'", which makes Stella follow her as the Hausfrau says how "'[their] kind brings nothing but trouble'".

As Stella goes downstairs, she lulls herself into a languid state in order to fight her panicking, but it breaks when she steps on a nail, forcing her to stop. The Hausfrau gets angry and commands her to move, which prompts Stella to glare at her and make her tremble in fear momentarily. Finally, Stella comes face-to-face with the Nazi officer, who removes his hat to show his face.

Wanda: Please don't tell me this becomes love at first sight.

Ruki: Well, Stella is surprised "to see that, up close, he was nearer in age to her own twenty-three years". The officer has "thick russet hair, shot through with gold" and green eyes. He greets her with, "'good morning, Fräulein'". *raises an eyebrow* Did Nazi officers really greet Jewish women like that?

missabnormal: I highly doubt it. They'd probably be more polite to German women- wait a minute. Stella has the ideal 'Aryan' complexion! And this man doesn't think that she's Jewish! *shakes head* Yep, it's already getting this.

A MATCH MADE IN THERESIENSTADT:
 1

Ruki: The man asks Stella if she's feeling better, and she tries not to panic as "she glanced from his arrogant face to the imposing grip on her wrist". The officer then tells Stella that she's safe, which internally angers her. She wonders "[how] often had that word been used, that promise given and broken at Dachau?".

He then wipes some snowflakes away from her skin, and Stella momentarily wonders if he is going to beat her or criticize her. However, he doesn't do anything and "[even] his touch felt surprisingly gentle" as he takes Stella's hand and examines the bruises on her knuckles and joints. This makes Stella surprised as "[the] heat she could feel through his leather glove made him seem almost... human".

Yamini: *stunned* Wow. She actually went there.

Kala: *astonished* And in only the first chapter!

Wanda: *angered* Nazis are inhumane. They've experimented on humans, gleefully killed many of us Roma with Porajmos, and inflicted the Holocaust of the Jewish people! Don't try and get me to sympathize with the people who put my father in a concentration camp and exterminated a good number of my people!

Kala: *reads* So the man introduces himself as Colonel Aric von Schmidt, the SS Kommandant to the transit camp at Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia.

Wolfgang: Theresienstadt held more than 150,000 people for months or even years before sending them via rail to their deaths at Treblinka and Auschwitz extermination camps in German-occupied Poland. 

As for the camp commandants at Theresienstadt, there were only three: Siegfried Seidl from November 1941 to July 1943 before being reassigned at Bergen-Belsen, Anton Burger from July 1943 to February 1944 before replacing the head of the Sicherheitsdienst in Athens, and Karl Rahm from February 1944 to May 1945. 

Let me tell you something. Those three commandants were notorious for what they did to the prisoners at Theresienstadt. Seidl was responsible for thousands of people being murdered and mistreated, Burger ordered the entire camp of 40,000 people to stand outside in freezing weather during a census, leading to the deaths of 300 prisoners from hypothermia, and Rahm was in charge of mass deportations of Jewish prisoners to Auschwitz. Rahm also beat prisoners himself and oversaw torture sessions. 

So not only is Breslin replacing someone in history with a fictional character, she is making an SS Kommandant, the ones who sent Jewish prisoners to extermination camps and tortured prisoners, a romantic hero. *shakes his head, sighing* This is seriously messed up.

Kala: *stunned* I didn't know any of that. *sighs* Some people, I swear...

So Aric had been informed that someone on the train to Dachau had been unaccounted for. He didn't put her on the train because of an inconsistency in her papers. Even though "[they] state that she's Aryan", and she's referred to as Fräulein Muller. Aric now wants to know why she was stamped as 'Jude'.

Stella is now upset because her false identification papers didn't save her, as she had been working in the labour camp for several months. Aric then grows impatient and snaps at her, causing her to panic, saying that the Gestapo stamped them at the checkpoint. It's implied that one of the members of the Gestapo tried to do something to her. However, Aric stops her and tells her that she's safe at the house of his cousin.

Stella doesn't feel relieved, which is understandable, to be honest. She cannot remember what happened that night, and has no recollection of Aric, so she asks him why he saved her. He tells her that he knows "the Gestapo's breed of men, so [he] can fill in the blanks" before saying that Stella isn't "the first to fall victim to their pranks". *raises an eyebrow* I highly doubt that what they've done can even be called 'pranks'.

Wanda: *disbelieving* 'Their pranks'? Do you even know what the Gestapo did, Breslin? They carried out mass murders of thousands of civilians in Nazi-occupied countries to get rid of any political opposition, and they killed people suspected of being Jewish! They were responsible for the deaths of millions of people, declared as an official criminal organization at the Nuremberg Trials, but you know what else makes them so terrifying? They enjoyed doing the twisted things they did! You cannot call their actions 'pranks'! That's like saying the Holocaust was mildly disturbing!

Kala: Stella is also upset when Aric calls what she went through as 'pranks', and asks him what he plans to do with her. He responds with, "[fatten] you up like a Christmas Gänsebraten, for a start". What is 'Gänsebraten'?

Wolfgang: It's roast goose. We eat it during Christmas in Germany.

Kala: I see. 

Wolfgang: I'll have a turn now. *reads* Stella wonders if he's toying with her, and remembers how Morty told her that her beauty would save her, since her blonde hair and blue eyes are rare among Jewish people. *frowns* You're really going there, Breslin? So what, only people with blond hair and blue eyes are beautiful? Did you forget that Hitler claimed that blue eyes and blond hair were the ideal characteristics of the Aryan race, and that the Nordic people were considered 'the purest'? You're basically saying that Jewish people with their common physical characteristics aren't beautiful or even worth saving because they don't look Aryan.

Hitler described Jewish people, Roma people, and Slavs as 'Untermensch', which means 'subhuman'! I... I'm just amazed at this. I cannot believe that this Nazi officer is willing to save Stella simply because she looks Aryan.

*sighs* And then it gets worse. Stella believes that her uncle was wrong and that "[beauty] was dangerous, a liability for someone desperate to remain obscure in a crowd, inconspicuous to the eyes of soldiers"

Yamini: *stunned* Wow, way to promote rape culture, Breslin! People won't stop paying attention to you? Oh, it's because you're beautiful! *angry* What the hell is wrong with you?!

Wolfgang: So Stella quips back, "Christmas goose or fatted calf, both meet the same end, do they not, Herr Kommandant?". Upon realizing her snarky comment, Stella becomes fearful that Aric might beat her for her insolence but he calls for the Hausfrau, now known as Frau Gertz, to get Stella a coat, for she and Aric are leaving.

After she returns with a coat, Aric asks Stella if she has shoes, sounding impatient. *sarcastic* I can see why he's the romantic hero. *disgusted* Stella recalls how her shoes and clothes had been taken away at Dachau before being hit with an onslaught of memories. Aric then snaps at her to answer, so Stella tells him that they're gone before she collapses.

Aric lifts her up in his arms, asking his cousin if she fed her. Frau Gertz says that Stella had eaten enough food for three people, threw up, and refused to eat anything but broth. After a brief argument about Stella not being properly taken care of, Stella gets Frau Gertz's coat and shoes before leaving with Aric in the car.

Stella worries that he will shoot her when she sees him reaching into his coat, but it turns out to be a red wig. It's a disguise to make her less suspicious, since her head was shaved at Dachau. As Stella puts on the wig, Aric tells her that she'll be able to cross the Czech border but then adds that the colour doesn't suit her. *raises an eyebrow* Why is Breslin trying to show a Nazi officer as having basic human compassion?

missabnormal: Time for this count!

NOT ALL NAZIS™: 1

Wolfgang: So they then drive through "Germany's lower wine country", which I have to guess as being either Baden or Württemberg. Eventually, they stop at Regensburg, a town by the Danube river, at a Gasthaus, which is a German-style tavern with a bar and hotel rooms for rent. After asking the driver to go inside and get three lunches, Aric starts asking Stella questions.

missabnormal: Apparently, Stella's papers state that she's from Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol in western Austria. Aric tells her that he comes from an Austrian town called Thaur, saying that he knew of a family by the name of Muller and asks if Stella is related to them.

Stella shakes her head and mentally curses Morty for choosing Innsbruck as her place of birth on her fake papers. Well, it's not like he knew that a Nazi commandant would come from Innsbruck. She responds by saying that Muller is a common name, to which he asks if her family is still there. Stella shakes her head again and he grows impatient, this time grabbing her chin and making her look at him before commanding her to speak.

And this guy is a romantic hero... why? Hey, if you're trying to make it like Schindler's List, it's not working! Why? Because Schindler's List was based on a real person, and while he started employing Jewish people in his factory for selfish reasons, he had a change of heart and genuinely wanted to save their lives!

Wanda: Stella continues to lie and tells Aric that her parents died so she was raised by their closest friends who were Jewish. Aric does not get mad or violent, he just looks curious. So he asks if she had attended school at Innsbruck since her papers mentioned that she did clerical work.

Apparently, Stella didn't go to school past the age of thirteen, after the Nuremberg law forbade Jewish people from receiving an education. So instead, she was taught by a retired schoolteacher who lived upstairs in her old apartment in Mannheim. The teacher apparently taught Stella the basics of bookkeeping and clerical skills.

Honestly, I find it kind of hard to believe that a gentile schoolteacher in Nazi Germany has no qualms about teaching a Jewish girl. Sure, there were some German people opposed to Hitler's regime, but this just seems too convenient. But I digress.

Aric asks Stella how well she can type, to which she responds that she can type well and she knows shorthand and general accounting. And guess what? "He seemed genuinely pleased". This disturbs Stella, who "wanted nothing personal between them"

Their driver, known as Sergeant Grossman, comes back with their food packages. Stella notices that "his left wrist bore no hand", and is instead a hook. *raises an eyebrow* How is Grossman able to be a part of the Nazi party if he has no left hand? I thought that Nazis killed disabled people? *sighs*

Aric offers Stella a lunch package, but Stella refuses. And of course, this angers him, so he all but growls at her to eat. He tells her, "[not] did [her] bones cut into [him] while [he] carried [her], but [she] weighs less than a pair of [his] boots". *annoyed* Okay, even if Aric wasn't a Nazi, how the hell am I supposed to be convinced that he is a romantic hero? He doesn't listen to Stella, forces her to eat, disrespects her personal space... why is he portrayed as a romantic hero and a love interest?

How much longer of this is there?!

missabnormal: The chapter's almost done.

Wanda: So Stella starts to eat and wonders about those who suffered. She then wonders what Aric really wants with her and why he took her away from Dachau. Stella asks Aric what her future is, to which he responds with,

"That depends on you, Fräulein." His smile was enigmatic. "Can you act as well as you type?"

And with that, we're done this chapter.

missabnormal: This is just the calm before the storm, believe me.

Yamini: There... There are no words for this. I'll bet people like Anne Frank and Philipp Auerbach are rolling in their graves right now.

Ruki: I didn't think that someone would actually do this. What goes through a person's mind when they come up with something like this?

Kala: Just the very idea of a Nazi being portrayed as a love interest is too much.

Wolfgang: And it's only going to get worse... I'm already afraid.

Wanda: My father and Pietro would be furious to see this, and Steve Rogers would be horrified.

missabnormal: Yes, folks. This is only the beginning. As I said before, be very, very afraid. We'll see you all in chapter 2.

Counts

LA BELLE JUIVE: 0
A MATCH MADE IN THERESIENSTADT: 1
NOT ALL NAZIS™: 1
YOUR CHRISTIANITY IS SHOWING: 1

Total: 3
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