A new name


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Reflections of an old man

My name is Friedrich Stahlmann, but this is not the name that I go by now. Everyone who knows me now, knows me as Fred Stallman. Even my wife, my beautiful Agatha; she only know Fred Stallman. My children, my grandchildren; they all only know themselves as Stallmans. Generations of Stahlmanns, living my lie. Because there is no Friedrich Stahlmann anymore. If, as the young ones say these days, you "googled" the name Friedrich Stahlmann, you will not find much. Some very old articles from before the war, mentions in science journals. You might even come across the phrase "a lesser Nazi," and you might read how the preeminent scientist "served five years" before being "acquitted"; leaving prison, never to be seen again. Some speculated he threw himself in the Isen which ran near his boyhood home. It didn't really matter now... In 1951, Friedrich Stahlmann vanished. 


But I get confused. It is so hard now. The end is approaching, and my memories... Beh! 


So here I am, Fred Stallman, 99. Resident of Collingwood Court Nursing Centre. Oh, it’s very nice. My daughter picked it out, after her mother died, and they did not know what to do with me. I have a single bed which is far too soft, apricot wall paper, and a view of the car park. Beh. Its as good as anywhere else they could have stuck me. And there are many friendly faces here, we have regular outings. Trips to the cinema. Live music in the common room. The nurses encourage us to "mingle", but I like to keep to myself. I try to avoid the other residents. They mean well I am sure, but so often they want to talk about the past. Some think they may have seen me before. They squint at me, mentally trying to peel back the wrinkles, knowing they have seen me somewhere, once, long ago.


 "Was I in the war?" I have to chuckle. This battalion? That battalion? Was in this battle? Was in that forest/jungle/desert? Did I serve under so and so? So many questions! As if I were nothing but rat in a hole, like them! Eating this "bully beef" in a can like a dog. If they only knew! That once I dined at the Kehlsteinhaus with the Führer himself. But you can't say that. You can't say that you sat five seats from Hilter, that we ate trout and drank wine and enjoyed the view, while we discussed the future of the German people... People take that sort of thing so badly.


 But I was no Nazi, nichts da! That word. So evil. Still evil. I have had to give up my life because of that word. I was just a scientist. A scientist trying to perfect the human race. What is more noble than that? I dedicate my life to creating a perfection. I should be remembered as the father of the human race, but instead I have to give it all up; give up my family, my country, hide all my life, because of one little word. And why? Because a powerful man, the most powerful man, took an interest in my work. Who would not be flattered? Who would not do their best to please and pamper such a man? He was charismatic. It doesn't come across in the films, all grainy, the black and white flickering, and of course when you know what came after, all the terrible truths about the war...Beh! But for me, at that time, as a young scientist... Ich bin verblüfft, it was an amazing moment! Hilter is interested in my field of eugenics? He wants me to work for him? Ich bin geschmeichelt! Who is not flattered by such an honour? And the pomp and ceremony around the man - mein gott, it is very hard not to be swept up in this! You cannot imagine. He was treated like a god. I could not believe how lucky I was to have such a patron. 


My father died in the war. The first one. I never knew him. It was my mother who raised me. I was the youngest of 6 children, and it was a very hard life for her. In Germany after the war, we were so poor. Everyone was poor. But I had brains. I worked hard at school, I won scholarships to further my education. I had a natural ability in the sciences, and I buried myself in my education to block out the sadness of the world around me. Growing up, after the war, there was so much trauma everywhere. medical science could help these people - or at least - future generations. Perhaps I could not help the people I saw around me, but I could create a human who was immune to the ailments that I plagued the society of my youth. Science was looking at many areas - immunizations, drugs, etc. Beh! I could create a perfect human using science that would not need these immunizations and drugs. There would be no need for these things if man himself were impervious to disease in the first place, I could eradicate these mental disabilities, breed out deformity... And there would be no wars to cause such injuries - if only the elite remained. My kind of perfect world, a Utopian society that I had helped to bring to reality. And then powerful people started to have the same ideas... It was schicksal! Fate. But I was no Nazi. I was just a scientist. 


I still believe it was an honourable field of science. I was helping human evolution towards a perfect future. I envisioned a future world of healthy beautiful people, free from disease. Strong, active people; ja! Call it a master race if you will. And, Adolf Hilter was also interested in this master race idea. Many powerful people were interested - and not just in Germany. All over the world, governments were looking for ways to better the lives of their people - is this not what a government is for? And my work was to develop ways to breed out disease, breed out mental illness, breed out deformity, ja? Many countries sterilized their mental patients, their blind, their deaf, their disabled... We thought it was for the greater good! There was none of this "political correctness" that there is now! 


I was granted a free hand to conduct my experiments. I cannot say that I agree totally with the horrible things that happened - but I was blind to the extent of which the Führer was willing to push things. I was in my lab. I was hard at work. I did not know what was happening in the outside world. I was too busy. Perfection was within my reach. It was a glorious time. I was so busy. I was achieving my dream!


 I was given a beautiful apartment in Schönhauser Allee in Berlin - a tree lined street, original art works on my walls, dinner and dancing every night... This was war? It makes me laugh when I think of that time. My father died in a trench in the Battle of Passchendaele - a no body and now I spent my war enjoying the company of the most powerful men in Europe? This is what an education can do, I told myself. And I would pass this on. I would educate man. I would better the human race! What is more noble? 


But mein gott; it did not last. Beh, most of you know what happened next. Berlin fell. Hilter killed himself. The remaining Nazis were rounded up. Nurenmberg. Many were executed. Imprisoned... Blah, blah, blah. You can read the history books for the "facts". But I was no Nazi. I was just a scientist. I just did what I was told. I had no power! But still, I was sent to gefängnis. The jail. Five years, and then I am "acquitted". This word. Acquitted. In Germany we say "Freigesprochen". What good does it do me? My career was fatzen! Ruined! Kaputt! My field of work falls away beneath my feet. I am disgraced. Schande! I am weltschmerz - world weary. Even if I could return to my work, the entire branch of science is destroyed by its association with the Nazi party. No one wants to know me. Just another gauner fresh out of the prison. I wear rags. I eat rotten food. I sleep in doorways. I walk and I walk for days, weeks; I walk out into the countryside. South; towards the Isen, near where I was born. But I do not visit my family - are the even alive? I do not know. I long to visit my mother, my brothers, but I dare not. I get work on farms, doing the work I avoided as a boy, hard work, manual work. I earn money, not much, but enough for a new life across the sea. 


And enough for a new name. 


But my time is nearly up and I grow weary of life. To be a member of this most enttäuschend species, this most disappointing animal, when I could have guided man to such a glorious future of perfection - Beh! Man was offered an opportunity, and it was thrown back in my face. And now I live in this "home" where I see nothing but imperfections. Blemishes. Cancers. Limps. Mental disorders. We are crammed in like sardines to pickle in each other’s diseases. 


But I continue on... I shall die of nothing but disappointment.

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