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Date Posted: 15:09:23 12/09/09 Wed
Author: Fel
Subject: In here, please>>>>>>
In reply to: Fel 's message, "Brand new work" on 14:59:54 12/09/09 Wed

Excerpt from Look Upon The Ash
by Shauna Tevels
copyright 2009.
Posted for critiquing purposes only and does not constitute publication.



Heinrich opened the wide french doors opening out onto the balcony. The stench of the camp assaulted his nose immediately.

“Dear God, Wilhelm! What’s that awful smell?”

“You’ll get used to it after a while. Living in such close proximity with them, the stench permeates everything.” Wilhelm put his arm around Heinrich’s shoulder and turned him back into the room. He grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it shut behind him.

“How can you live so close to them? Doesn’t it bother you to have rats and vermin living so near to good, upstanding Germans?”

Wilhelm smiled. “Of course it bothers me, little brother. I must make sure that all of these men and women are working for the good of our country. If it wasn’t for that I’m sure that I would have given the order to have them all shot down the moment that they step off the trains.”

Heinrich grinned. He was exceptionally proud of his older brother the Kommandant. For years, Wilhelm was more of a father to Heinrich than their own father who spent his time managing his clothing factory and sleeping with all of the girls who worked at the shop. It was Wilhelm who taught Heinrich how to shoot a gun at age eleven, and it was Wilhelm who explained to him why the Jewish people were a growing problem. When Heinrich was finally old enough to join the army, when he turned seventeen, Wilhelm made the recommendation for the boy to be an SS officer. Now that Heinrich was nineteen, he had been transferred from service in Russia to his brother’s camp in Poland.

Heinrich had not seen his brother for three years. Phone calls and letters were all that he was able to do. Now that Heinrich got a good look at him under the lights from the numerous lamps around the room, he saw that Wilhelm had changed. The once jovial, friendly face, now showed hard lines of distrust and anger. Eyes that were once open and clear blue were now cold steel blue-grey. No laugh lines showed around his mouth or crinkled the skin around his eyes. His blond hair was thinning on the top which necessitated combing his hair back over his skull instead of to the side like Heinrich had always remembered it.

Wilhelm directed Heinrich into an arm chair, while he poured them both a liberal glass of wine. Wilhelm gave Heinrich his drink as he moved to sit on the arm of the chair opposite him. They sipped their wine companionably for a minute, before Wilhelm blew out his breath in a large gust, and looked Heinrich straight in the eyes.

“Look, Heinrich....God! I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a total fool!” Wilhelm ran his left hand through his hair and tried again. “Heinrich, this place isn’t like the front lines. The people here aren’t trying to kill you at every step. Here we just watch them to make sure they are doing their jobs and that things run smoothly.”

“You can’t honestly think, Will, that I don’t know what the difference is? It is what they had me doing up there.” Heinrich stared at his brother for a long minute, waiting until their eyes met again. “You don’t know what it is like there. You can’t know what a relief it is to be away from all of that.”

“Yes. Well. Don’t worry about it anymore, Heinrich. You are safe here and I won’t let you be transferred over to another front unit.” Wilhelm clapped a hand down on Heinrich’s shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. “ I am sure that Elsa will be happy to see you here. Ever since I got the telegram that you were coming here I have scarcely stopped telling her about it.”

“Are the children here, too?” Heinrich asked, looking forward to seeing his nephew and new niece, not to mention his sister-in-law.

“Josef is with Mama and Papa and Kate is here with us since she still needs her mother.”

“Of course. Can I see them now?”

“I think Elsa took Kate outside for a walk just before you came. But you can see them when they come back in, naturally.”

Heinrich smiled and took a long drink of his wine. The chair he was sitting in felt remarkably good to him, after the long train, truck and car rides he had just gone through. He had assumed that he would have been given leave to visit his parents before having to report for duty with his brother. Instead he was told to report directly for duty. Perhaps he would be allowed to see their parents if they came for a visit with young Josef.

“You look like you’re about to fall asleep right there in that chair.”

“I feel like I could do just that.” Heinrich said, setting his glass down on the little side table next to his chair, and stretching his arms up over his head, let out a loud yawn as his shoulder joints gave a loud pop.

Wilhelm laughed and set his own glass down next to Heinrich’s. “Come. Let me show you where you will be staying.” He lead Heinrich down the hall to where their jackets and Heinrich’s gear had been left by the door in the foyer. As Heinrich was gathering up his belongings, Wilhelm checked his pistol and put it into its holster before putting on his coat and hat. “You never know when you might need it, little brother.”

Heinrich nodded and followed out the door.

The guards saluted and swung open the gate in the chain-link fence. The fence was topped with four layers of barbed wire. Seventeen watchtowers were spaced at intervals all around the camp. The sun was setting below the tops of the trees in the distance. Spotlights illuminated the muddy ground as they trudged through the southern end of the camp. As they walked, Wilhelm pointed out the tall smoke stack where flame, ash, and smoke were clearly visible in the failing light. Ash fell like snow all around them as they walked through.

“That is where you will be Heinrich. In charge of the guards at the crematorium. Some of them can be lazy shits if you don’t watch them like a hawk.”

They arrived at a low stone building with light glowing through some of the windows. Smoke furled from the chimney stack at the far right end of the house. Wilhelm knocked twice at the plain wooden door. The door opened to reveal the surprised faces of three men sitting at a table in the center of the room, playing cards. The man who opened the door held it open further and snapped a salute to his commander.

“Heil Hitler! Herr Kommandant, we weren’t expecting you this evening. Please.” He gestured for Heinrich and Wilhelm to enter.

“Hans. Gunter. Hermann. Friedrich. Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Hauptsturmfuhrer Heinrich von Keiter. He just arrived today from the Finland-Russian front.” Wilhelm stopped speaking briefly, to glance at the senior among them, Gunter. Wilhelm’s look made it clear. No one was to ask too many questions about the newcomer or to glory in the realization that the Kommandant’s brother was their newest bunkmate. “Heinrich, you’ll be on the first shift in the morning. I’ll show you where you’ll be stationed then. Gentlemen, have a pleasant evening.”

With that the Kommandant gave a little bow to the men and left their company, shutting the door quietly behind him.

“You can have the room in the back. No one’s used that room, that I know of. It’s probably colder than hell back there, but coming from where you did, it will feel pretty good!” Gunter said in a gruff, raspy voice. His blonde hair was thin, cut short against his scalp. Heavy bristle graced his neck, chin and cheeks. The bristle had large streaks of grey amongst the blonde. “We wear the dark grey uniforms here. You have a pair, yes?”

“Yes, I’ve got mine. Thank you. I’ve had a long day traveling here. I’ll see you all tomorrow. Good night.” Heinrich turned and carried his belongings down the corridor on his right. He passed two open doors leading to rooms used by the others. The last door was closed. Tentatively he tried the handle. The door opened with a loud creak. A blast of cold air assaulted him immediately.

The room, which was barely large enough to hold a bed and chest of drawers, had both windows opened wide. Heinrich hurriedly closed them both. He lit a match from the pack he carried in his pocket, and lit the small lamp on top of the chest. A cast-iron wood stove stood in the corner between the two windows. Looking at the stove, Heinrich could tell that it had not been used for quite some time. No soot stains covered the walls, nor did any come off on his hand when he brushed it along the grate inside. The wood basket next to the stove was empty. With a sigh he picked up the basket and went out into the hallway. He stood still for a moment to let his eyes readjust to the brighter light. As he got closer to the large central room where the other four men were, he could start to hear what they were talking about.

“Don’t know why we need another one.”

“Kommandant’s brother. Doesn’t look a thing like him. Same color hair. Same complexion. Hell, most of us have blond hair. I don’t know about those two, but I burn something fierce when I am outside.”

“You’d burn in the crematorium, that’s for sure! Even from the other side of the room, with the doors closed.”

“Do you need something, Heinrich?” All of the other conversations stopped immediately. They did not know how much he overheard or what his reaction might be.

“Just need some firewood. You were right Gunter. You don’t mind if I call you that, right? It is just about as cold back there as I have been for the past year.”

“Help yourself to the wood. We try to keep a large stack in here. Just break down one of the chunks into kindling, and you should get a good fire going.” Gunter paused for a moment and looked at the others. “We’re all of the same rank here Heinrich, so we’re informal when we are off duty. On duty is another matter. It wouldn’t be proper to show such behavior while working.”

Heinrich nodded and moved off to the wood pile by the fireplace. He grabbed several large chunks of wood as well as some smaller ones before heading back to his room. Once there, it took him several tries to get a fire started in the grate. When it finally lit and he carefully fed the flame with fresh wood, the room warmed up quickly. He opened one of the windows a fraction from the top to let the smoke out.

As his head hit the pillow a few minutes later, he could not believe how comfortable the lumpy mattress and thin cotton sheets felt to his body.

The day was cold, wet and grey. Rather fitting, Heinrich thought, considering the uniform he was wearing and the overall appearance of the camp during the daylight hours. There was no grass on the ground, only puddles of mud. Out of the leaden sky came big powdery flakes of snow. The snow clung wetly to the wool on his coat and hat.

“Did you sleep well, Heinrich?”

“Yes, I did. That mattress has to be the best thing I’ve felt in years.” Wilhelm laughed and clapped Heinrich’s shoulder.

“Let’s get our day started then, hm?” Wilhelm gestured for Heinrich to follow him through the grounds. They walked together at a brisk pace. Heinrich saw a train pulling into the stop right outside of the main gate of the camp. Hundreds of people were herded out of the cars carrying their few belongings with them. Men and women were separated into two different groups. Men in long white coats, doctors Heinrich guessed, sorted the group further. Both groups went into the building that Wilhelm was leading him towards.

They reached a door in the side of the building. The door was unmarked and rather plain in appearance. Wilhelm stopped right before the door, and motioned to Heinrich to open it. Heinrich grasped the handle on the door and pushed. The door was surprisingly light, and it made a loud thunking sound as it hit the brick wall on the other side.

Wilhelm guided Heinrich down a short corridor. Heinrich thought that they were at the very base of the chimney stack, or at least very close to it. They came to another door at the end of the corridor. This one appeared to be made of heavy iron. Heinrich thought he could feel intense heat radiating out from the door.

“Well Heinrich. This is where you will be. In there. The heat is too much for me, otherwise I would take you in myself, but you’ll understand when you get in there. You will be watching the Jewish scum. They load the bodies into the crematorium, where they burn until they become ashes. The bodies are all naked, but make sure they don’t try to take anything that anyone else missed on inspection.” Wilhelm mopped his brow with his handkerchief, and gave Heinrich a quick smile. “You’ll do fine. Right now we don’t have anyone watching them in there. You’ll quickly see how everything is done. Good luck.”

Wilhelm shook Heinrich’s hand, and turned to leave.
Heinrich took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and faced the imposing door in front of him.

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[> [> This way, Fel >>>>> -- Page, 18:03:57 12/09/09 Wed

Before I even start to critique your piece, I have to say something you're probably not going to want to hear. If this is your first chapter, I'm afraid you're not going to keep any readers past the first couple of paragraphs.

Since Heinrich appears to be the main character, I assume he's eventually going to redeem himself. However, starting the book with him as a Nazi in charge of a crematorium at a concentration camp blows any chance you have of the reader feeling anything empathy with him, no matter what he may do later.

I would suggest starting your book way, way before he gets to this point. Go back to his childhood, and give us a chance to like him. Show his distant father, and the worship Heinrich has for his older brother. Show how he wants to emulate Wilhelm, and how he thinks everything Wilhelm does is beyond reproach. Then, with rise of Hitler, you can show Heinrich getting swept up in that, following in Wilhelm's footsteps. But you're going to have to show us that Heinrich isn't comfortable with all of that. He'll have to have moments of doubts, feelings of horror when he hears some of the things that are happening. By the time he arrives at the camp in Poland, he's going to have to have some grave misgivings about what his brother is doing, and about his own part in it, or there's no way a reader is ever going to root for him to rise above it. You're going to have a hard row to hoe getting readers to care about a Nazi. If the reader doesn't feel sorry for him being stuck in the situation in which he finds himself, doesn't feel his repugnance at what's he's being told to do, then it won't fly. If you start the book off with this chapter, then readers are going to hate Heinrich right off the bat, and you've lost them.

Now. If you're still with me and don't hate me (and I hope you don't! *G*), I'd like to know what kind of crit you want on your writing. Do you prefer a hard crit, a more middle-of-the-road crit, or just general overall impressions? Let me know, and I'll get back to you!

Hugs,
Page

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[> [> [> Hi Page!! -- Fel, 22:16:48 12/09/09 Wed

Ok. I don't hate you, Page *g*. Yes, Heinrich is my main character. Now, my two beta readers so far, have liked my first chapter the way it is, the fact that they are related to me may have something to do with it! *g*

Asking readers to feel something for a Nazi officer is a long shot in itself, but, he does completely redeem himself in the end. I will play around with some possibilities in my head first and see if I can find a better way to start the novel off.

As for the type of crit I would like to get, a hard crit at this point would be very usefull. Middle of the road and general impressions are also very appreciated.

Thanks Page!!

Fel

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[> [> Hey Fel! Some comments >>> -- Esther, 17:18:48 12/10/09 Thu

You remember the drill right? These are my own thoughts and opinions and you are welcome to use what you find useful and to toss the rest.


Excerpt from Look Upon The Ash
by Shauna Tevels
copyright 2009.
Posted for critiquing purposes only and does not constitute publication.



Heinrich opened the wide french doors opening out onto the balcony. The stench of the camp assaulted his nose immediately.

So does he cover his nose with anything, make a face, gag or anything else to show how bad the stench was?

“Dear God, Wilhelm! What’s that awful smell?”

“You’ll get used to it after a while. Living in such close proximity with them, the stench permeates everything.” Wilhelm put his arm around Heinrich’s shoulder and turned him back into the room. He grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it shut behind
him.

Who is them? Perhaps I would know if this is not the beginning of the chapter, and perhaps you want me to question…

“How can you live so close to them? Doesn’t it bother you to have rats and vermin living so near to good, upstanding Germans?”

Uh oh. I do believe I got it. And given your title, which is excellent, kinda prophetic and foreboding all at once, now that I understand btw, I immediately changed the image in my mind to one where they are wearing uniforms, and the walls are white washed with dirt smudges and I have the distinct impression of things running under the hand of Hitler. Heck, I heard the sound of their boots as they marched across the floor. My stomach actually churned here.

So…where does that leave me as a reader. Quite unsettled to be honest. And these kind of stories, war stories I guess, do not generally appeal to me. But I have to admit in this case, I’ve never read one composed as fiction taking on the POV of a soldier on the ultimately losing side.

From a writers perspective, this is a time period where the atrocities committed are abhorrent and is of a subject matter that is quite…delicate to put it the only way I can think of. But just because something is unpleasant, that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. The fact it’s coming from the POV of a soldier…whom I hope is not the typical Nazi stereotype…I have to applaud your effort in writing something that has all the potential to be very draining. Sentiments regarding this are still strong and not forgotten. This has all the potential to be an emotional read that will stay with the reader for a long time. A worthy endeavour to be sure because life isn’t all fluff and happy ever afters.


Wilhelm smiled. “Of course it bothers me, little brother. I must make sure that all of these men and women are working for the good of our country. If it wasn’t for that I’m sure that I would have given the order to have them all shot down the moment that they step off the trains.”

working for the good of our country? Kinda expresses a certain sentiment

Heinrich grinned. He was exceptionally proud of his older brother the Kommandant. For years, Wilhelm was more of a father to Heinrich than their own father who spent his time managing his clothing factory and sleeping with all of the girls who worked at the shop. It was Wilhelm who taught Heinrich how to shoot a gun at age eleven, and it was Wilhelm who explained to him why the Jewish people were a growing problem. When Heinrich was finally old enough to join the army, when he turned seventeen, Wilhelm made the recommendation for the boy to be an SS officer. Now that Heinrich was nineteen, he had been transferred from service in Russia to his brother’s camp in Poland.

So from this, I get that Heinrich held his brother in almost awe. Kinda the he can do no wrong, what he thinks must be right way. And now, I’m not trying to influence your story in any way, but my hope as a reader is that he’ll get over that and understand Wilhelm is wrong. Not a bad hook that. And even there it has emotion behind it, because Wilhelm is his brother and that means I’ll be sad about how the war tore the family apart.

Heinrich had not seen his brother for three years. Phone calls and letters were all that he was able to do. Now that Heinrich got a good look at him under the lights from the numerous lamps around the room, he saw that Wilhelm had changed. The once jovial, friendly face, now showed hard lines of distrust and anger. Eyes that were once open and clear blue were now cold steel blue-grey. No laugh lines showed around his mouth or crinkled the skin around his eyes. His blond hair was thinning on the top which necessitated combing his hair back over his skull instead of to the side like Heinrich had always remembered it.

An excellent paragraph. Not only does it demonstrate how Wilhelm’s duties as Kommandant are changing him it suggests, if I’m correct in my hope I mentioned, that do carry out those duties is draining him of his self. Responsibility is not wearing on him very well.

Wilhelm directed Heinrich into an arm chair, while he poured them both a liberal glass of wine. Wilhelm gave Heinrich his drink as he moved to sit on the arm of the chair opposite him. They sipped their wine companionably for a minute, before Wilhelm blew out his breath in a large gust, and looked Heinrich straight in the eyes.

“Look, Heinrich....God! I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a total fool!” Wilhelm ran his left hand through his hair and tried again. “Heinrich, this place isn’t like the front lines. The people here aren’t trying to kill you at every step. Here we just watch them to make sure they are doing their jobs and that things run smoothly.”

So if no one is trying to kill him, why the distrust and anger? I’m thinking Wilhelm doesn’t like what he does either. Or I’m hoping.

“You can’t honestly think, Will, that I don’t know what the difference is? It is what they had me doing up there.” Heinrich stared at his brother for a long minute, waiting until their eyes met again. “You don’t know what it is like there. You can’t know what a relief it is to be away from all of that.”

“Yes. Well. Don’t worry about it anymore, Heinrich. You are safe here and I won’t let you be transferred over to another front unit.” Wilhelm clapped a hand down on Heinrich’s shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. “ I am sure that Elsa will be happy to see you here. Ever since I got the telegram that you were coming here I have scarcely stopped telling her about it.”

“Are the children here, too?” Heinrich asked, looking forward to seeing his nephew and new niece, not to mention his sister-in-law.

“Josef is with Mama and Papa and Kate is here with us since she still needs her mother.”

“Of course. Can I see them now?”

“I think Elsa took Kate outside for a walk just before you came. But you can see them when they come back in, naturally.”

Heinrich smiled and took a long drink of his wine. The chair he was sitting in felt remarkably good to him, after the long train, truck and car rides he had just gone through. He had assumed that he would have been given leave to visit his parents before having to report for duty with his brother. Instead he was told to report directly for duty. Perhaps he would be allowed to see their parents if they came for a visit with young Josef.

“You look like you’re about to fall asleep right there in that chair.”

“I feel like I could do just that.” Heinrich said, setting his glass down on the little side table next to his chair, and stretching his arms up over his head, let out a loud yawn as his shoulder joints gave a loud pop.

Wilhelm laughed and set his own glass down next to Heinrich’s. “Come. Let me show you where you will be staying.” He lead Heinrich down the hall to where their jackets and Heinrich’s gear had been left by the door in the foyer. As Heinrich was gathering up his belongings, Wilhelm checked his pistol and put it into its holster before putting on his coat and hat. “You never know when you might need it, little brother.”

lead s/b led

And his checking his pistol tells me things are not as simple as he suggested.


Heinrich nodded and followed out the door.

The guards saluted and swung open the gate in the chain-link fence. The fence was topped with four layers of barbed wire. Seventeen watchtowers were spaced at intervals all around the camp. The sun was setting below the tops of the trees in the distance. Spotlights illuminated the muddy ground as they trudged through the southern end of the camp. As they walked, Wilhelm pointed out the tall smoke stack where flame, ash, and smoke were clearly visible in the failing light. Ash fell like snow all around them as they walked through.

Very vivid descriptions! Well done. I cringe when I think what that ash is though…

“That is where you will be Heinrich. In charge of the guards at the crematorium. Some of them can be lazy shits if you don’t watch them like a hawk.”

Huh? From the front lines to a position that held authority? At nineteen and only two years experience?

Wilhelm strikes me as someone who doesn’t respect anyone very much.


They arrived at a low stone building with light glowing through some of the windows. Smoke furled from the chimney stack at the far right end of the house. Wilhelm knocked twice at the plain wooden door. The door opened to reveal the surprised faces of three men sitting at a table in the center of the room, playing cards. The man who opened the door held it open further and snapped a salute to his commander.

Just surprise? I have these notions that fear even amongst the guards would be reasonable emotion, esp. with an officer of authority showing up at the door out of the blue. I guess the distrust aspect.

“Heil Hitler! Herr Kommandant, we weren’t expecting you this evening. Please.” He gestured for Heinrich and Wilhelm to enter.

“Hans. Gunter. Hermann. Friedrich. Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Hauptsturmfuhrer Heinrich von Keiter. He just arrived today from the Finland-Russian front.” Wilhelm stopped speaking briefly, to glance at the senior among them, Gunter. Wilhelm’s look made it clear. No one was to ask too many questions about the newcomer or to glory in the realization that the Kommandant’s brother was their newest bunkmate. “Heinrich, you’ll be on the first shift in the morning. I’ll show you where you’ll be stationed then. Gentlemen, have a pleasant evening.”

For me, this enhances the fear I’d think they feel, because one look is enough to quell any questions and/or prevent mentioning Heinrich is the Kommandant’s brother

With that the Kommandant gave a little bow to the men and left their company, shutting the door quietly behind him.

“You can have the room in the back. No one’s used that room, that I know of. It’s probably colder than hell back there, but coming from where you did, it will feel pretty good!” Gunter said in a gruff, raspy voice. His blonde hair was thin, cut short against his scalp. Heavy bristle graced his neck, chin and cheeks. The bristle had large streaks of grey amongst the blonde. “We wear the dark grey uniforms here. You have a pair, yes?”

“Yes, I’ve got mine. Thank you. I’ve had a long day traveling here. I’ll see you all tomorrow. Good night.” Heinrich turned and carried his belongings down the corridor on his right. He passed two open doors leading to rooms used by the others. The last door was closed. Tentatively he tried the handle. The door opened with a loud creak. A blast of cold air assaulted him immediately.

The room, which was barely large enough to hold a bed and chest of drawers, had both windows opened wide. Heinrich hurriedly closed them both. He lit a match from the pack he carried in his pocket, and lit the small lamp on top of the chest. A cast-iron wood stove stood in the corner between the two windows. Looking at the stove, Heinrich could tell that it had not been used for quite some time. No soot stains covered the walls, nor did any come off on his hand when he brushed it along the grate inside. The wood basket next to the stove was empty. With a sigh he picked up the basket and went out into the hallway. He stood still for a moment to let his eyes readjust to the brighter light. As he got closer to the large central room where the other four men were, he could start to hear what they were talking about.

Why would the windows be open in a room that is obviously not used?

“Don’t know why we need another one.”

“Kommandant’s brother. Doesn’t look a thing like him. Same color hair. Same complexion. Hell, most of us have blond hair. I don’t know about those two, but I burn something fierce when I am outside.”

“You’d burn in the crematorium, that’s for sure! Even from the other side of the room, with the doors closed.”

“Do you need something, Heinrich?” All of the other conversations stopped immediately. They did not know how much he overheard or what his reaction might be.

“Just need some firewood. You were right Gunter. You don’t mind if I call you that, right? It is just about as cold back there as I have been for the past year.”

“Help yourself to the wood. We try to keep a large stack in here. Just break down one of the chunks into kindling, and you should get a good fire going.” Gunter paused for a moment and looked at the others. “We’re all of the same rank here Heinrich, so we’re informal when we are off duty. On duty is another matter. It wouldn’t be proper to show such behavior while working.”

Hmmmmm Do they know Heinrich is in charge of the guards at the crematorium? What rank are the others? Or Heinrich for that matter?

Heinrich nodded and moved off to the wood pile by the fireplace. He grabbed several large chunks of wood as well as some smaller ones before heading back to his room. Once there, it took him several tries to get a fire started in the grate. When it finally lit and he carefully fed the flame with fresh wood, the room warmed up quickly. He opened one of the windows a fraction from the top to let the smoke out.

As his head hit the pillow a few minutes later, he could not believe how comfortable the lumpy mattress and thin cotton sheets felt to his body.

The day was cold, wet and grey. Rather fitting, Heinrich thought, considering the uniform he was wearing and the overall appearance of the camp during the daylight hours. There was no grass on the ground, only puddles of mud. Out of the leaden sky came big powdery flakes of snow. The snow clung wetly to the wool on his coat and hat.

Here’s one of those things that give me hope. Considering the uniform he was wearing. Is this a subtle hint that all is not as acceptable to him as he’d like to believe?

And I suggest a way to indicate this paragraph is a new day so as to help with flow


“Did you sleep well, Heinrich?”

“Yes, I did. That mattress has to be the best thing I’ve felt in years.” Wilhelm laughed and clapped Heinrich’s shoulder.

“Let’s get our day started then, hm?” Wilhelm gestured for Heinrich to follow him through the grounds. They walked together at a brisk pace. Heinrich saw a train pulling into the stop right outside of the main gate of the camp. Hundreds of people were herded out of the cars carrying their few belongings with them. Men and women were separated into two different groups. Men in long white coats, doctors Heinrich guessed, sorted the group further. Both groups went into the building that Wilhelm was leading him towards.

Stomach churned again. What those people must have felt…

I’m also sensing something amiss here. Doctors Heinrich guessed. Does he not know what happens at the camp? Or does he believe the people on the trains were transported there to work for the good of a country whose people thought them rats and vermin?


They reached a door in the side of the building. The door was unmarked and rather plain in appearance. Wilhelm stopped right before the door, and motioned to Heinrich to open it. Heinrich grasped the handle on the door and pushed. The door was surprisingly light, and it made a loud thunking sound as it hit the brick wall on the other side.

Wilhelm guided Heinrich down a short corridor. Heinrich thought that they were at the very base of the chimney stack, or at least very close to it. They came to another door at the end of the corridor. This one appeared to be made of heavy iron. Heinrich thought he could feel intense heat radiating out from the door.

“Well Heinrich. This is where you will be. In there. The heat is too much for me, otherwise I would take you in myself, but you’ll understand when you get in there. You will be watching the Jewish scum. They load the bodies into the crematorium, where they burn until they become ashes. The bodies are all naked, but make sure they don’t try to take anything that anyone else missed on inspection.” Wilhelm mopped his brow with his handkerchief, and gave Heinrich a quick smile. “You’ll do fine. Right now we don’t have anyone watching them in there. You’ll quickly see how everything is done. Good luck.”

So the ‘scum’ loads their own dead into the crematorium? Bodies, those are the dead, and the ‘scum’ try to take things in with them or they try to hide things while still alive and those things are not found until they are dead and inspected and perhaps not until the ‘scum’ deal with the bodies themselves allowing them to possess something they shouldn’t? Needs to be more clear. Or I do…

Wilhelm shook Heinrich’s hand, and turned to leave.
Heinrich took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and faced the imposing door in front of him.

Well.

Okay, as a beginning of a story, I think you’ve started laying down the foundation for what is to come. The emotional tie is there for me, and I’m curious what you intend to do with this. But I also don’t hold any illusions that this is going to be anything like an easy read and will need to feel something for Heinrich in order to have that desire to continue. If you want to start here, at a concentration camp with your MC being a soldier in charge of the guards at the crematorium, I think you’re going to have to give an indication that he’s not all as fine and dandy with it as he let’s on right from the get-go. Refering to people as rats and vermin does not leave me with a favourable impression. Witnessing him guessing that men in white coats were doctors makes me see him as innocent of what the camp’s purpose is. Acknowledging that his brothers actions the last three years have left him changed also is. Does he question what horrors Wilhelm has seen, done, or been responsible for that sit heavy on his shoulders? Is Heinrich aware of any? Can he imagine himself doing them as well? When it’s his turn, could he separate the men from the women, the husbands from the wives, the children from their parents? As a reader, I cannot see myself feeling empathy towards a character who believes/enforces the teachings of Hitler. Our presumptions do have the potential to get in the way, so the sooner they are addressed the better. IMHO

Now you mentioned this bit is in the first chapter, and so it is possible that this isn’t the first scene in your book, but it’s awful darn close. Starting here makes it harder for you to grab the compassion of the readers right off the top, true, but I also like the fact that you dropped me right into the business at hand. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen the images and heard some stories about what happened. We know where it’s going. I could be wrong, but I think your purpose is to show us what it was like for the other side, and if so, I think you need to address the issue and make the reader understand how those that grew up with Hitler’s teachings had a reason to believe them, and just as possible, no reason to not believe them. And for those who dared question? Fear, the threat of death to their families if they didn’t go along, etc would be enough of a sway for those that were not zealots - those too, were realities among the times. If you’re going to show if from the other side, you need to show it as it was. However unpleasant it is. For instance, you mentioned the stench. But I don’t recall any sounds. Was it a hushed silence like something was waiting to happen or the silence born of fear?

But even if I’m wrong, and it’s quite possible…the subject matter is a tough one. And it’s going to be just as tough to get me to grow fond of Heinrich. At least at the beginning I do not know enough about him to sway me either way. And seriously, if I was to pick up this kind of book in the first place, I’d have my own expectations before I turned the first page. That expectation isn't that wars happen because one side believes they are wrong. There is always a different perception. Human nature, now that is what makes a man what he is. Heinrich’s potential is what you give him and your reader here. Give me hope, and I’ll keep reading to see if he triumphs. Show me his carrying out his duties without qualm and/or with enthusiasm of a true believer in the ways of the regime, and it doesn’t matter what I’ve seen before. You’ll have lost me. And that can happen at any place in the book, not just at the beginning.

If I’ve made any sense at all, and this does indeed take place after we see him on his way to his next posting, I think you need to be open with his thoughts as he traveled to the camp, the sights he saw and his reaction to them, the smells and how it affected him, etc. The front lines would be different than the rural communities he passed by. He would have been exposed to the happenings around the county, perhaps for the first time. Perhaps something could happen that makes him question the whys of it. For example, say he saw a gentle farmer shot where he stood, in front of wife and children, for no more reason than the last group of soldiers took the last of their food. Would he see the inhumanity behind it when the soldiers laughed at the wife crying over his body? Would they allow her to grieve or would they have rape on their minds? As nasty as it is to say/contemplate, something gruesome needs to lead off your beginning that shows Heinrich’s character. Would he attempt to stop the inevitable death or rape? Or turn a blind eye and deny what’s before him. When he gets to the camp does he question what kind of place he’s in that jokes about the heat of the crematorium burning his skin as casually as someone might mention getting sunburned? Or does he just think the lumpy mattress feels good and goes to sleep with no trepidation about what the next day will bring? As tired as he was, would any of the things he witnessed give him nightmares? Or did he really sleep well? For myself, I’d like to see something that shows what he’s made of, the redeeming quality he possesses, so that by the time he gets to the camp and stands by that imposing door at the end of this scene, he questions what’s he’s doing there and I’ll be willing to walk through it with him. So, yeah, I believe we need to be in his head if we are to want to take this journey with him. And for the record, I’m going with Heinrich being a spy, just to add a bit of intrigue. *G*

Other than that, this was well written. And I can’t say how great it is to see your writing again. Welcome back!

Hugs

Esther

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[> [> [> Some answers>>>>> -- Fel, 13:25:43 12/14/09 Mon

>You remember the drill right? These are my own
>thoughts and opinions and you are welcome to use what
>you find useful and to toss the rest.

>
>
>Excerpt from Look Upon The Ash
>by Shauna Tevels
>copyright 2009.
>Posted for critiquing purposes only and does not
>constitute publication.
>
>
>
>Heinrich opened the wide french doors opening out onto
>the balcony. The stench of the camp assaulted his nose
>immediately.
>
>So does he cover his nose with anything, make a
>face, gag or anything else to show how bad the stench
>was?


Good point!! He probably should do something like that, for the stench was really bad, according to him anyways.
>
>“Dear God, Wilhelm! What’s that awful smell?”
>
>“You’ll get used to it after a while. Living in such
>close proximity with them, the stench permeates
>everything.” Wilhelm put his arm around Heinrich’s
>shoulder and turned him back into the room. He grabbed
>the handle of the door and pulled it shut behind
>him.
>
>Who is them? Perhaps I would know if this is not
>the beginning of the chapter, and perhaps you want me
>to question…

>
>“How can you live so close to them? Doesn’t it bother
>you to have rats and vermin living so near to good,
>upstanding Germans?”
>
>Uh oh. I do believe I got it. And given your
>title, which is excellent, kinda prophetic and
>foreboding all at once, now that I understand btw, I
>immediately changed the image in my mind to one where
>they are wearing uniforms, and the walls are white
>washed with dirt smudges and I have the distinct
>impression of things running under the hand of Hitler.
> Heck, I heard the sound of their boots as they
>marched across the floor. My stomach actually churned
>here.
>
>So…where does that leave me as a reader. Quite
>unsettled to be honest. And these kind of stories,
>war stories I guess, do not generally appeal to me.
>But I have to admit in this case, I’ve never read one
>composed as fiction taking on the POV of a soldier on
>the ultimately losing side.

War stories don't normally appeal to me either, I go for historical fiction, yes, but not war stories in general.
>
>From a writers perspective, this is a time period
>where the atrocities committed are abhorrent and is of
>a subject matter that is quite…delicate to put it the
>only way I can think of. But just because something
>is unpleasant, that doesn’t mean that it should be
>ignored. The fact it’s coming from the POV of a
>soldier…whom I hope is not the typical Nazi
>stereotype…I have to applaud your effort in writing
>something that has all the potential to be very
>draining. Sentiments regarding this are still strong
>and not forgotten. This has all the potential to be
>an emotional read that will stay with the reader for a
>long time. A worthy endeavour to be sure because
>life isn’t all fluff and happy ever afters.
>


Writing this story has been very emotionally draining for certain scenes. The story came to me while my parents and I were on summer vacation in August. We were sitting around our campfire and Heinrich just started talking to me. And you are quite right now that I think about it, I have never read a WWII story where a Nazi soldier was the main character either. So it should be quite interesting if this book ever gets to a mainstream audience.
>
>Wilhelm smiled. “Of course it bothers me, little
>brother. I must make sure that all of these men and
>women are working for the good of our country. If it
>wasn’t for that I’m sure that I would have given the
>order to have them all shot down the moment that they
>step off the trains.”
>
>working for the good of our country? Kinda
>expresses a certain sentiment

>
>Heinrich grinned. He was exceptionally proud of his
>older brother the Kommandant. For years, Wilhelm was
>more of a father to Heinrich than their own father who
>spent his time managing his clothing factory and
>sleeping with all of the girls who worked at the shop.
>It was Wilhelm who taught Heinrich how to shoot a gun
>at age eleven, and it was Wilhelm who explained to him
>why the Jewish people were a growing problem. When
>Heinrich was finally old enough to join the army, when
>he turned seventeen, Wilhelm made the recommendation
>for the boy to be an SS officer. Now that Heinrich was
>nineteen, he had been transferred from service in
>Russia to his brother’s camp in Poland.
>
>So from this, I get that Heinrich held his brother
>in almost awe. Kinda the he can do no wrong, what he
>thinks must be right way. And now, I’m not trying to
>influence your story in any way, but my hope as a
>reader is that he’ll get over that and understand
>Wilhelm is wrong. Not a bad hook that. And even
>there it has emotion behind it, because Wilhelm is his
>brother and that means I’ll be sad about how the war
>tore the family apart.


You got it ma'am. You figured it right out. Yes Heinrich does indeed figure out that Wilhelm has been wrong about many things. But that comes a little later in the story.
>
>Heinrich had not seen his brother for three years.
>Phone calls and letters were all that he was able to
>do. Now that Heinrich got a good look at him under the
>lights from the numerous lamps around the room, he saw
>that Wilhelm had changed. The once jovial, friendly
>face, now showed hard lines of distrust and anger.
>Eyes that were once open and clear blue were now cold
>steel blue-grey. No laugh lines showed around his
>mouth or crinkled the skin around his eyes. His blond
>hair was thinning on the top which necessitated
>combing his hair back over his skull instead of to the
>side like Heinrich had always remembered it.
>
>An excellent paragraph. Not only does it
>demonstrate how Wilhelm’s duties as Kommandant are
>changing him it suggests, if I’m correct in my hope I
>mentioned, that do carry out those duties is draining
>him of his self. Responsibility is not wearing on him
>very well.


Thank you!
>
>Wilhelm directed Heinrich into an arm chair, while he
>poured them both a liberal glass of wine. Wilhelm gave
>Heinrich his drink as he moved to sit on the arm of
>the chair opposite him. They sipped their wine
>companionably for a minute, before Wilhelm blew out
>his breath in a large gust, and looked Heinrich
>straight in the eyes.
>
>“Look, Heinrich....God! I don’t know how to say this
>without sounding like a total fool!” Wilhelm ran his
>left hand through his hair and tried again. “Heinrich,
>this place isn’t like the front lines. The people here
>aren’t trying to kill you at every step. Here we just
>watch them to make sure they are doing their jobs and
>that things run smoothly.”
>
>So if no one is trying to kill him, why the
>distrust and anger? I’m thinking Wilhelm doesn’t like
>what he does either. Or I’m hoping.


You know I don't really know what Wilhelm feels about his job. He doesn't talk to me too much, not about feelings anyways.
>
>“You can’t honestly think, Will, that I don’t know
>what the difference is? It is what they had me doing
>up there.” Heinrich stared at his brother for a long
>minute, waiting until their eyes met again. “You don’t
>know what it is like there. You can’t know what a
>relief it is to be away from all of that.”
>
>“Yes. Well. Don’t worry about it anymore, Heinrich.
>You are safe here and I won’t let you be transferred
>over to another front unit.” Wilhelm clapped a hand
>down on Heinrich’s shoulder and gave him a gentle
>squeeze. “ I am sure that Elsa will be happy to see
>you here. Ever since I got the telegram that you were
>coming here I have scarcely stopped telling her about
>it.”
>
>“Are the children here, too?” Heinrich asked, looking
>forward to seeing his nephew and new niece, not to
>mention his sister-in-law.
>
>“Josef is with Mama and Papa and Kate is here with us
>since she still needs her mother.”
>
>“Of course. Can I see them now?”
>
>“I think Elsa took Kate outside for a walk just before
>you came. But you can see them when they come back in,
>naturally.”
>
>Heinrich smiled and took a long drink of his wine. The
>chair he was sitting in felt remarkably good to him,
>after the long train, truck and car rides he had just
>gone through. He had assumed that he would have been
>given leave to visit his parents before having to
>report for duty with his brother. Instead he was told
>to report directly for duty. Perhaps he would be
>allowed to see their parents if they came for a visit
>with young Josef.
>
>“You look like you’re about to fall asleep right there
>in that chair.”
>
>“I feel like I could do just that.” Heinrich said,
>setting his glass down on the little side table next
>to his chair, and stretching his arms up over his
>head, let out a loud yawn as his shoulder joints gave
>a loud pop.
>
>Wilhelm laughed and set his own glass down next to
>Heinrich’s. “Come. Let me show you where you will be
>staying.” He lead Heinrich down the hall to where
>their jackets and Heinrich’s gear had been left by the
>door in the foyer. As Heinrich was gathering up his
>belongings, Wilhelm checked his pistol and put it into
>its holster before putting on his coat and hat. “You
>never know when you might need it, little brother.”
>
>lead s/b led
>
>And his checking his pistol tells me things are not as
>simple as he suggested.

>
>Heinrich nodded and followed out the door.
>
>The guards saluted and swung open the gate in the
>chain-link fence. The fence was topped with four
>layers of barbed wire. Seventeen watchtowers were
>spaced at intervals all around the camp. The sun was
>setting below the tops of the trees in the distance.
>Spotlights illuminated the muddy ground as they
>trudged through the southern end of the camp. As they
>walked, Wilhelm pointed out the tall smoke stack where
>flame, ash, and smoke were clearly visible in the
>failing light. Ash fell like snow all around them as
>they walked through.
>
>Very vivid descriptions! Well done. I cringe when
>I think what that ash is though…


I had an image from Stephen Spielberg's Schindler's List in my mind when I wrote this scene.
>
>“That is where you will be Heinrich. In charge of the
>guards at the crematorium. Some of them can be lazy
>shits if you don’t watch them like a hawk.”
>
>Huh? From the front lines to a position that held
>authority? At nineteen and only two years experience?
>
>Wilhelm strikes me as someone who doesn’t respect
>anyone very much.


Heinrich started out as a Lieutenant and then he was promoted to a captain's rank. This is all based on the U.S. system, so I'm not quite sure what it would be in different areas. My dad says that field promotions like this would be quite normal during war time. He was never in a war, but his father, my grandfather, was a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps.

So anyways, yes it was possible for Heinrich to get to a position of authority so young. And you are quite right about Wilhelm.

>
>They arrived at a low stone building with light
>glowing through some of the windows. Smoke furled from
>the chimney stack at the far right end of the house.
>Wilhelm knocked twice at the plain wooden door. The
>door opened to reveal the surprised faces of three men
>sitting at a table in the center of the room, playing
>cards. The man who opened the door held it open
>further and snapped a salute to his commander.
>
>Just surprise? I have these notions that fear even
>amongst the guards would be reasonable emotion, esp.
>with an officer of authority showing up at the door
>out of the blue. I guess the distrust aspect.

>
>“Heil Hitler! Herr Kommandant, we weren’t expecting
>you this evening. Please.” He gestured for Heinrich
>and Wilhelm to enter.
>
>“Hans. Gunter. Hermann. Friedrich. Gentlemen, I would
>like to introduce you to Hauptsturmfuhrer Heinrich von
>Keiter. He just arrived today from the Finland-Russian
>front.” Wilhelm stopped speaking briefly, to glance at
>the senior among them, Gunter. Wilhelm’s look made it
>clear. No one was to ask too many questions about the
>newcomer or to glory in the realization that the
>Kommandant’s brother was their newest bunkmate.
>“Heinrich, you’ll be on the first shift in the
>morning. I’ll show you where you’ll be stationed then.
>Gentlemen, have a pleasant evening.”
>
>For me, this enhances the fear I’d think they feel,
>because one look is enough to quell any questions
>and/or prevent mentioning Heinrich is the Kommandant’s
>brother

>
>With that the Kommandant gave a little bow to the men
>and left their company, shutting the door quietly
>behind him.
>
>“You can have the room in the back. No one’s used that
>room, that I know of. It’s probably colder than hell
>back there, but coming from where you did, it will
>feel pretty good!” Gunter said in a gruff, raspy
>voice. His blonde hair was thin, cut short against his
>scalp. Heavy bristle graced his neck, chin and cheeks.
>The bristle had large streaks of grey amongst the
>blonde. “We wear the dark grey uniforms here. You have
>a pair, yes?”
>
>“Yes, I’ve got mine. Thank you. I’ve had a long day
>traveling here. I’ll see you all tomorrow. Good
>night.” Heinrich turned and carried his belongings
>down the corridor on his right. He passed two open
>doors leading to rooms used by the others. The last
>door was closed. Tentatively he tried the handle. The
>door opened with a loud creak. A blast of cold air
>assaulted him immediately.
>
>The room, which was barely large enough to hold a bed
>and chest of drawers, had both windows opened wide.
>Heinrich hurriedly closed them both. He lit a match
>from the pack he carried in his pocket, and lit the
>small lamp on top of the chest. A cast-iron wood stove
>stood in the corner between the two windows. Looking
>at the stove, Heinrich could tell that it had not been
>used for quite some time. No soot stains covered the
>walls, nor did any come off on his hand when he
>brushed it along the grate inside. The wood basket
>next to the stove was empty. With a sigh he picked up
>the basket and went out into the hallway. He stood
>still for a moment to let his eyes readjust to the
>brighter light. As he got closer to the large central
>room where the other four men were, he could start to
>hear what they were talking about.
>
>Why would the windows be open in a room that is
>obviously not used?


Heinrich told me the window was open, but really, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever does it? I'll change that.
>
>“Don’t know why we need another one.”
>
>“Kommandant’s brother. Doesn’t look a thing like him.
>Same color hair. Same complexion. Hell, most of us
>have blond hair. I don’t know about those two, but I
>burn something fierce when I am outside.”
>
>“You’d burn in the crematorium, that’s for sure! Even
>from the other side of the room, with the doors
>closed.”
>
>“Do you need something, Heinrich?” All of the other
>conversations stopped immediately. They did not know
>how much he overheard or what his reaction might be.
>
>“Just need some firewood. You were right Gunter. You
>don’t mind if I call you that, right? It is just about
>as cold back there as I have been for the past year.”
>
>“Help yourself to the wood. We try to keep a large
>stack in here. Just break down one of the chunks into
>kindling, and you should get a good fire going.”
>Gunter paused for a moment and looked at the others.
>“We’re all of the same rank here Heinrich, so we’re
>informal when we are off duty. On duty is another
>matter. It wouldn’t be proper to show such behavior
>while working.”
>
>Hmmmmm Do they know Heinrich is in charge of the
>guards at the crematorium? What rank are the others?
>Or Heinrich for that matter?


The others are also captains, like Heinrich. They won't necessarily know where he is posted, but after a few days they do figure it out through process of elimination where he must be.
>
>Heinrich nodded and moved off to the wood pile by the
>fireplace. He grabbed several large chunks of wood as
>well as some smaller ones before heading back to his
>room. Once there, it took him several tries to get a
>fire started in the grate. When it finally lit and he
>carefully fed the flame with fresh wood, the room
>warmed up quickly. He opened one of the windows a
>fraction from the top to let the smoke out.
>
>As his head hit the pillow a few minutes later, he
>could not believe how comfortable the lumpy mattress
>and thin cotton sheets felt to his body.
>
>The day was cold, wet and grey. Rather fitting,
>Heinrich thought, considering the uniform he was
>wearing and the overall appearance of the camp during
>the daylight hours. There was no grass on the ground,
>only puddles of mud. Out of the leaden sky came big
>powdery flakes of snow. The snow clung wetly to the
>wool on his coat and hat.
>
>Here’s one of those things that give me hope.
>Considering the uniform he was wearing. Is this a
>subtle hint that all is not as acceptable to him as
>he’d like to believe?
>
>And I suggest a way to indicate this paragraph is a
>new day so as to help with flow


Yes indeed. He is not comfortable at all in his new setting, but he doesn't really want to admit that yet. In my Word Perfect document, I have a page break to show the beginning of a new day. I probably should have put more spaces between the paragraph here so that it would be readily apparent to you too.

>
>“Did you sleep well, Heinrich?”
>
>“Yes, I did. That mattress has to be the best thing
>I’ve felt in years.” Wilhelm laughed and clapped
>Heinrich’s shoulder.
>
>“Let’s get our day started then, hm?” Wilhelm gestured
>for Heinrich to follow him through the grounds. They
>walked together at a brisk pace. Heinrich saw a train
>pulling into the stop right outside of the main gate
>of the camp. Hundreds of people were herded out of the
>cars carrying their few belongings with them. Men and
>women were separated into two different groups. Men in
>long white coats, doctors Heinrich guessed, sorted the
>group further. Both groups went into the building that
>Wilhelm was leading him towards.
>
>Stomach churned again. What those people must have
>felt…
>
>I’m also sensing something amiss here. Doctors
>Heinrich guessed. Does he not know what happens at
>the camp? Or does he believe the people on the
>trains were transported there to work for the good of
>a country whose people thought them rats and vermin?
>


Heinrich is very naive. He did not know exactly what went on in the camp, he assumed it was a work camp like the other camps and not a death camp.
>
>They reached a door in the side of the building. The
>door was unmarked and rather plain in appearance.
>Wilhelm stopped right before the door, and motioned to
>Heinrich to open it. Heinrich grasped the handle on
>the door and pushed. The door was surprisingly light,
>and it made a loud thunking sound as it hit the brick
>wall on the other side.
>
>Wilhelm guided Heinrich down a short corridor.
>Heinrich thought that they were at the very base of
>the chimney stack, or at least very close to it. They
>came to another door at the end of the corridor. This
>one appeared to be made of heavy iron. Heinrich
>thought he could feel intense heat radiating out from
>the door.
>
>“Well Heinrich. This is where you will be. In there.
>The heat is too much for me, otherwise I would take
>you in myself, but you’ll understand when you get in
>there. You will be watching the Jewish scum. They load
>the bodies into the crematorium, where they burn until
>they become ashes. The bodies are all naked, but make
>sure they don’t try to take anything that anyone else
>missed on inspection.” Wilhelm mopped his brow with
>his handkerchief, and gave Heinrich a quick smile.
>“You’ll do fine. Right now we don’t have anyone
>watching them in there. You’ll quickly see how
>everything is done. Good luck.”
>
>So the ‘scum’ loads their own dead into the
>crematorium? Bodies, those are the dead, and the
>‘scum’ try to take things in with them or they try to
>hide things while still alive and those things are not
>found until they are dead and inspected and perhaps
>not until the ‘scum’ deal with the bodies themselves
>allowing them to possess something they shouldn’t?
>Needs to be more clear. Or I do…


Yes, Jewish prisoners were promised extra food and better conditions if they would take the job of loading the bodies into the kilns. After about a month or so, they would be sent into the gas chambers too. The Nazi's didn't want anyone around who had seen what was being done. I'll clean up that paragraph a bit to not make it so confusing.
>
>Wilhelm shook Heinrich’s hand, and turned to leave.
>Heinrich took a deep breath, squared his shoulders,
>and faced the imposing door in front of him.
>
>Well.
>
>Okay, as a beginning of a story, I think you’ve
>started laying down the foundation for what is to
>come. The emotional tie is there for me, and I’m
>curious what you intend to do with this. But I also
>don’t hold any illusions that this is going to be
>anything like an easy read and will need to feel
>something for Heinrich in order to have that desire to
>continue. If you want to start here, at a
>concentration camp with your MC being a soldier in
>charge of the guards at the crematorium, I think
>you’re going to have to give an indication that he’s
>not all as fine and dandy with it as he let’s on right
>from the get-go. Refering to people as rats and
>vermin does not leave me with a favourable impression.
> Witnessing him guessing that men in white coats were
>doctors makes me see him as innocent of what the
>camp’s purpose is. Acknowledging that his brothers
>actions the last three years have left him changed
>also is. Does he question what horrors Wilhelm has
>seen, done, or been responsible for that sit heavy on
>his shoulders? Is Heinrich aware of any? Can he
>imagine himself doing them as well? When it’s his
>turn, could he separate the men from the women, the
>husbands from the wives, the children from their
>parents? As a reader, I cannot see myself feeling
>empathy towards a character who believes/enforces the
>teachings of Hitler. Our presumptions do have the
>potential to get in the way, so the sooner they are
>addressed the better. IMHO
>
>Now you mentioned this bit is in the first chapter,
>and so it is possible that this isn’t the first scene
>in your book, but it’s awful darn close. Starting
>here makes it harder for you to grab the compassion of
>the readers right off the top, true, but I also like
>the fact that you dropped me right into the business
>at hand. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen the images and
>heard some stories about what happened. We know where
>it’s going. I could be wrong, but I think your
>purpose is to show us what it was like for the other
>side, and if so, I think you need to address the issue
>and make the reader understand how those that grew up
>with Hitler’s teachings had a reason to believe them,
>and just as possible, no reason to not believe them.
>And for those who dared question? Fear, the threat of
>death to their families if they didn’t go along, etc
>would be enough of a sway for those that were not
>zealots - those too, were realities among the times.
>If you’re going to show if from the other side, you
>need to show it as it was. However unpleasant it is.
>For instance, you mentioned the stench. But I don’t
>recall any sounds. Was it a hushed silence like
>something was waiting to happen or the silence born of
>fear?
>
>But even if I’m wrong, and it’s quite possible…the
>subject matter is a tough one. And it’s going to be
>just as tough to get me to grow fond of Heinrich. At
>least at the beginning I do not know enough about him
>to sway me either way. And seriously, if I was to
>pick up this kind of book in the first place, I’d have
>my own expectations before I turned the first page.
>That expectation isn't that wars happen because one
>side believes they are wrong. There is always a
>different perception. Human nature, now that is what
>makes a man what he is. Heinrich’s potential is what
>you give him and your reader here. Give me hope, and
>I’ll keep reading to see if he triumphs. Show me his
>carrying out his duties without qualm and/or with
>enthusiasm of a true believer in the ways of the
>regime, and it doesn’t matter what I’ve seen before.
>You’ll have lost me. And that can happen at any place
>in the book, not just at the beginning.
>
>If I’ve made any sense at all, and this does indeed
>take place after we see him on his way to his next
>posting, I think you need to be open with his thoughts
>as he traveled to the camp, the sights he saw and his
>reaction to them, the smells and how it affected him,
>etc. The front lines would be different than the
>rural communities he passed by. He would have been
>exposed to the happenings around the county, perhaps
>for the first time. Perhaps something could happen
>that makes him question the whys of it. For example,
>say he saw a gentle farmer shot where he stood, in
>front of wife and children, for no more reason than
>the last group of soldiers took the last of their
>food. Would he see the inhumanity behind it when the
>soldiers laughed at the wife crying over his body?
>Would they allow her to grieve or would they have rape
>on their minds? As nasty as it is to say/contemplate,
>something gruesome needs to lead off your beginning
>that shows Heinrich’s character. Would he attempt to
>stop the inevitable death or rape? Or turn a blind
>eye and deny what’s before him. When he gets to the
>camp does he question what kind of place he’s in that
>jokes about the heat of the crematorium burning his
>skin as casually as someone might mention getting
>sunburned? Or does he just think the lumpy mattress
>feels good and goes to sleep with no trepidation about
>what the next day will bring? As tired as he was,
>would any of the things he witnessed give him
>nightmares? Or did he really sleep well? For myself,
>I’d like to see something that shows what he’s made
>of, the redeeming quality he possesses, so that by the
>time he gets to the camp and stands by that imposing
>door at the end of this scene, he questions what’s
>he’s doing there and I’ll be willing to walk through
>it with him. So, yeah, I believe we need to be in his
>head if we are to want to take this journey with him.
>And for the record, I’m going with Heinrich being a
>spy, just to add a bit of intrigue. *G*
>
>Other than that, this was well written. And I can’t
>say how great it is to see your writing again.
>Welcome back!
>
>Hugs
>
>Esther



Thank you so very much Esther!! Your comments have been very helpfull in getting me to see where I needed to fix up a few things. I'm currently playing around with a new opening that will show Heinrich on his way to the camp from the front lines. I will also put more of Heinrich's misgivings about his new post in the camp.

Thanks again for all of your help!!

Fel

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[> [> all that Esther said >>> -- dea, 14:07:31 12/11/09 Fri

and a bit more. something that comes to me as perhaps not quite accurate is the way of speaking and behaving. they sound a bit too American to me. and it seems to me that they touch too much. as far as i know, Germans are colder, even in their family relations. and they are in the military, what enhances the coldness. i think you should research about the use of the language and expressions of that period.

the other thing is background. it does not seem that they come from the military aristocracy in Germany, who were not very fond of Hitler. their father was in the industry/sales business, so i guess middle class. something tells me, but i’m not sure, that the access to the SS was not so easy to such young soldiers without political influence.

recently i watched the rerun of this movie, i think it’s called “The Poet”, where a German soldier falls in love with a Jewish girl, and this turns his initial discomfort with what Hitler was doing to his country, to Poland, to Russia, to the Jews, gypsies and other “minorities” targeted by the Reich, into treason and murder. heroism, on “this side”. that’s a good example of how a somewhat romantic notion of war and patriotism can be smashed by reality when there’s a sense of humanity in the character.

as for impressions… i confess, i stopped reading by the time they began to talk about family. sorry. thanks to Esther i read it through, with her comments. something feels wrong, actually from the first lines of dialogue. this is the phrase that shocked me the most:

“How can you live so close to them? Doesn’t it bother you to have rats and vermin living so near to good, upstanding Germans?”

but probably not for the reason one might think. of course that was the idea behind it, that was the message conveyed in speeches. but in day-to-day life, and officially, they were referred as “them” – Wilhelm is right on that – or “the problem”, “the load”, “the cargo”. impersonally. like a nuisance. eventually, like a business, an industry. systematic, efficient.

the way i see it: Heinrich joined the army following his brother, and with this romantic notion of war. he goes to the front and sees the reality of the battlefield.

about the “Jews issue”, you have two choices: either you follow the version in which for some time most of the people did not know what was going on in “working camps”; or you follow the version – maybe more than a version, considering the evidence in film – that the local population used to watch the early extermination of Jews as part of a Sunday walk, with children and dogs, when it was made with shots to the heads and burying in mass graves, long before there were gas chambers and crematoria.

yet, you might choose to have the issue not affect him so much, because he’s young and brave. if he doesn’t know, and he’s really naïve, the remark about “rats and vermin” would be misplaced. and he would be totally shocked when he found out about his new task. he would wonder if he had made the right choice, that running a “working camp” was not vacations in the country as he might have imagined. and he would be shocked to realise that Wilhelm is changed but not only in appearance. what does he do next? does he accept the idea? does he embrace it? or does he go numb and go with the flow of events? does he go crazy? is there redemption, or he goes beyond redemption? is he the hero or the villain? i mean, what is the relevance of the story you’re trying to tell?

i see a lot more tension in their reunion, not all that amicability. Heinrich does not recognise his brother. Wilhelm is tense and cold. is he happy to be in the camp? is he happy that his little brother is there? how does he feel about “introducing” his little brother to that reality? afraid of his reaction, afraid of losing his respect, his love? proud?

if they are both all right with everything, then there’s not need for comments about the smell and the rats and vermin at all. i mean, it should be completely matter-of-factly, so why comment?

sorry, i did not mean to go so far, but i can give you that, you have opened a can of worms here. as usual, feel free to ignore me. :)

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[> [> [> Thanks dea !!>>>> -- Fel, 13:40:55 12/14/09 Mon

>and a bit more. something that comes to me as perhaps
>not quite accurate is the way of speaking and
>behaving. they sound a bit too American to me. and it
>seems to me that they touch too much. as far as i
>know, Germans are colder, even in their family
>relations. and they are in the military, what enhances
>the coldness. i think you should research about the
>use of the language and expressions of that period.

I don't know too much about how Germans are supposed to act or talk, but I shall do some more research into getting them to act more like Germans and less like me, an American.
>
>the other thing is background. it does not seem that
>they come from the military aristocracy in Germany,
>who were not very fond of Hitler. their father was in
>the industry/sales business, so i guess middle class.
>something tells me, but i’m not sure, that the access
>to the SS was not so easy to such young soldiers
>without political influence.

Right. I was thinking that Wilhelm could have gotten Heinrich into the SS with his influence as a Kommandant and being a somewhat prominent Nazi officer. I'll do some more research into this matter.
>
>recently i watched the rerun of this movie, i think
>it’s called “The Poet”, where a German soldier falls
>in love with a Jewish girl, and this turns his initial
>discomfort with what Hitler was doing to his country,
>to Poland, to Russia, to the Jews, gypsies and other
>“minorities” targeted by the Reich, into treason and
>murder. heroism, on “this side”. that’s a good example
>of how a somewhat romantic notion of war and
>patriotism can be smashed by reality when there’s a
>sense of humanity in the character.

Yes. Heinrich's notion of the romance of war had already been pretty shaken up, but it is further destroyed by what he witnesses at the camp.
>
>as for impressions… i confess, i stopped reading by
>the time they began to talk about family. sorry.
>thanks to Esther i read it through, with her comments.
>something feels wrong, actually from the first lines
>of dialogue. this is the phrase that shocked me the
>most:
>
>“How can you live so close to them? Doesn’t it
>bother you to have rats and vermin living so near to
>good, upstanding Germans?”

>
>but probably not for the reason one might think. of
>course that was the idea behind it, that was the
>message conveyed in speeches. but in day-to-day life,
>and officially, they were referred as “them” – Wilhelm
>is right on that – or “the problem”, “the load”, “the
>cargo”. impersonally. like a nuisance. eventually,
>like a business, an industry. systematic, efficient.

I probably should have posed a question before putting this story up here, asking if everyone would be okay with me having a story about Nazi's and death camps posted. I'm glad you stuck out reading it. I'll change how Heinrich and Wilhelm talk about their Jewish prisoners, then.
>
>the way i see it: Heinrich joined the army following
>his brother, and with this romantic notion of war. he
>goes to the front and sees the reality of the
>battlefield.
>
>about the “Jews issue”, you have two choices: either
>you follow the version in which for some time most of
>the people did not know what was going on in “working
>camps”; or you follow the version – maybe more than a
>version, considering the evidence in film – that the
>local population used to watch the early extermination
>of Jews as part of a Sunday walk, with children and
>dogs, when it was made with shots to the heads and
>burying in mass graves, long before there were gas
>chambers and crematoria.
>
>yet, you might choose to have the issue not affect him
>so much, because he’s young and brave. if he doesn’t
>know, and he’s really naïve, the remark about “rats
>and vermin” would be misplaced. and he would be
>totally shocked when he found out about his new task.
>he would wonder if he had made the right choice, that
>running a “working camp” was not vacations in the
>country as he might have imagined. and he would be
>shocked to realise that Wilhelm is changed but not
>only in appearance. what does he do next? does he
>accept the idea? does he embrace it? or does he go
>numb and go with the flow of events? does he go crazy?
>is there redemption, or he goes beyond redemption? is
>he the hero or the villain? i mean, what is the
>relevance of the story you’re trying to tell?
>
>i see a lot more tension in their reunion, not all
>that amicability. Heinrich does not recognise his
>brother. Wilhelm is tense and cold. is he happy to be
>in the camp? is he happy that his little brother is
>there? how does he feel about “introducing” his little
>brother to that reality? afraid of his reaction,
>afraid of losing his respect, his love? proud?
>
>if they are both all right with everything, then
>there’s not need for comments about the smell and the
>rats and vermin at all. i mean, it should be
>completely matter-of-factly, so why comment?
>
>sorry, i did not mean to go so far, but i can give you
>that, you have opened a can of worms here. as usual,
>feel free to ignore me. :)

I don't mind at all dea!! I just never even thought about how other people would read some of my word choices here. I guess because I have a historical view point, of just portraying an event in history, no matter how disturbing it really is, that it may not be quite as shocking to me. Am I disturbed by what really did happen? You bet I am. I imagine that soon the emotional drain of writing about this will get to me and I'll have to take a break from this for a while. But for right now, I seem to be okay.

Thank you so much for your comments! I really appreciate it.

Fel

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[> [> My impressions -- Debi, 10:25:22 12/13/09 Sun

I haven't really read anyone else's comments yet, so if I sound redundant, ignore me ;-). Take what helps you, leave the rest.

>Excerpt from Look Upon The Ash
>by Shauna Tevels
>copyright 2009.
>Posted for critiquing purposes only and does not
>constitute publication.
>
>
>
>Heinrich opened the wide french doors opening out onto
>the balcony. The stench of the camp assaulted his
>nose immediately.
>
> “Dear God, Wilhelm! What’s that awful smell?”
>
> “You’ll get used to it after a while. Living in such
>close proximity with them, the stench permeates
>everything.” Wilhelm put his arm around Heinrich’s
>shoulder and turned him back into the room. He
>grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it shut
>behind him.
>
> “How can you live so close to them? Doesn’t it
>bother you to have rats and vermin living so near to
>good, upstanding Germans?”
>
> Wilhelm smiled. “Of course it bothers me, little
>brother. I must make sure that all of these men and
>women are working for the good of our country. If it
>wasn’t for that I’m sure that I would have given the
>order to have them all shot down the moment that they
>step off the trains.”

Wow, that's powerful, made even more so by the casual dismissal from Wilhelm. The fact that they are referring to human beings with such casual contempt...*shudder*


> Heinrich grinned. He was exceptionally proud of his
>older brother the Kommandant. For years, Wilhelm was
>more of a father to Heinrich than their own father who
>spent his time managing his clothing factory and
>sleeping with all of the girls who worked at the shop.
> It was Wilhelm who taught Heinrich how to shoot a gun
>at age eleven, and it was Wilhelm who explained to him
>why the Jewish people were a growing problem. When
>Heinrich was finally old enough to join the army, when
>he turned seventeen, Wilhelm made the recommendation
>for the boy to be an SS officer. Now that Heinrich
>was nineteen, he had been transferred from service in
>Russia to his brother’s camp in Poland.

Did they make SS officers this young? I don't know, I'm curious. Or is he the Nazi equivalent of an ensign or something? Still an officer but lowest ranking among them?

> Heinrich had not seen his brother for three years.
>Phone calls and letters were all that he was able to
>do. Now that Heinrich got a good look at him under
>the lights from the numerous lamps around the room, he
>saw that Wilhelm had changed. The once jovial,
>friendly face, now showed hard lines of distrust and
>anger. Eyes that were once open and clear blue were
>now cold steel blue-grey. No laugh lines showed
>around his mouth or crinkled the skin around his eyes.
> His blond hair was thinning on the top which
>necessitated combing his hair back over his skull
>instead of to the side like Heinrich had always
>remembered it.

Would Heinrich take a moment to wonder why his brother had become so hardened? Might there have been a hint from past letters, or rumors among the ranks to clue himin? Or did this come as a surprise to see him like this?
>
> Wilhelm directed Heinrich into an arm chair, while he
>poured them both a liberal glass of wine. Wilhelm
>gave Heinrich his drink as he moved to sit on the arm
>of the chair opposite him. They sipped their wine The use of the word 'wine' twice so close together made me pause for a second.
>companionably for a minute, before Wilhelm blew out
>his breath in a large gust, and looked Heinrich
>straight in the eyes.
>
> “Look, Heinrich....God! I don’t know how to say this
>without sounding like a total fool!” Wilhelm ran his
>left hand through his hair and tried again.
>“Heinrich, this place isn’t like the front lines. The
>people here aren’t trying to kill you at every step.
>Here we just watch them to make sure they are doing
>their jobs and that things run smoothly.”
>
> “You can’t honestly think, Will, that I don’t know
>what the difference is? It is what they had me doing
>up there.” Heinrich stared at his brother for a long
>minute, waiting until their eyes met again. “You don’t
>know what it is like there. You can’t know what a
>relief it is to be away from all of that.”
>
> “Yes. Well. Don’t worry about it anymore, Heinrich.
> You are safe here and I won’t let you be transferred
>over to another front unit.” Wilhelm clapped a hand
>down on Heinrich’s shoulder and gave him a gentle
>squeeze. “ I am sure that Elsa will be happy to see
>you here. Ever since I got the telegram that you were
>coming here I have scarcely stopped telling her about
>it.”
>
> “Are the children here, too?” Heinrich asked, looking
>forward to seeing his nephew and new niece, not to
>mention his sister-in-law.
>
> “Josef is with Mama and Papa and Kate is here with us
>since she still needs her mother.”
>
> “Of course. Can I see them now?”
>
> “I think Elsa took Kate outside for a walk just
>before you came. But you can see them when they come
>back in, naturally.”

Officers really kept their families nearby like this? Wow. Did they live in the camp or in a house nearby? This is probably explained elsewhere and Heinrich might not know, since it is from his POV. Ignore my babbling ;-)

> Heinrich smiled and took a long drink of his wine.
>The chair he was sitting in felt remarkably good to
>him, after the long train, truck and car rides he had
>just gone through. He had assumed that he would have
>been given leave to visit his parents before having to
>report for duty with his brother. Instead he was told
>to report directly for duty. Perhaps he would be
>allowed to see their parents if they came for a visit
>with young Josef.
>
> “You look like you’re about to fall asleep right
>there in that chair.”
>
> “I feel like I could do just that.” Heinrich said,
>setting his glass down on the little side table next
>to his chair, and stretching his arms up over his
>head, let out a loud yawn as his shoulder joints gave
>a loud pop.
>
> Wilhelm laughed and set his own glass down next to
>Heinrich’s. “Come. Let me show you where you will be
>staying.” He lead Heinrich down the hall to where
>their jackets and Heinrich’s gear had been left by the
>door in the foyer. As Heinrich was gathering up his
>belongings, Wilhelm checked his pistol and put it into
>its holster before putting on his coat and hat. “You
>never know when you might need it, little brother.”
>
> Heinrich nodded and followed 'Wilhelm'? 'his brother'? out the door.
>
> The guards saluted and swung open the gate in the
>chain-link fence. The fence was topped with four
>layers of barbed wire. Seventeen watchtowers were
>spaced at intervals all around the camp. The sun was
>setting below the tops of the trees in the distance.
>Spotlights illuminated the muddy ground as they
>trudged through the southern end of the camp. As
>they walked, Wilhelm pointed out the tall smoke stack
>where flame, ash, and smoke were clearly visible in
>the failing light. Ash fell like snow all around them
>as they walked through.
>
> “That is where you will be Heinrich. In charge of
>the guards at the crematorium. Some of them can be
>lazy shits if you don’t watch them like a hawk.”
>
> They arrived at a low stone building with light
>glowing through some of the windows. Smoke furled
>from the chimney stack at the far right end of the
>house. Wilhelm knocked twice at the plain wooden
>door. The door opened to reveal the surprised faces
>of three men sitting at a table in the center of the
>room, playing cards. The man who opened the door held
>it open further and snapped a salute to his commander.
>
>
> “Heil Hitler! Herr Kommandant, we weren’t expecting
>you this evening. Please.” He gestured for Heinrich
>and Wilhelm to enter.
>
> “Hans. Gunter. Hermann. Friedrich. Gentlemen, I
>would like to introduce you to Hauptsturmfuhrer
>Heinrich von Keiter. He just arrived today from the
>Finland-Russian front.” Wilhelm stopped speaking
>briefly, to glance at the senior among them, Gunter.
>Wilhelm’s look made it clear. No one was to ask too
>many questions about the newcomer or to glory in the
>realization that the Kommandant’s brother was their
>newest bunkmate. “Heinrich, you’ll be on the first
>shift in the morning. I’ll show you where you’ll be
>stationed then. Gentlemen, have a pleasant evening.”
>
> With that the Kommandant gave a little bow to the men
>and left their company, shutting the door quietly
>behind him.
>
> “You can have the room in the back. No one’s used
>that room, that I know of. It’s probably colder than
>hell back there, but coming from where you did, it
>will feel pretty good!” Gunter said in a gruff, raspy
>voice. His blonde hair was thin, cut short against
>his scalp. Heavy bristle graced his neck, chin and
>cheeks. The bristle had large streaks of grey amongst
>the blonde. “We wear the dark grey uniforms here.
>You have a pair, yes?”
>
> “Yes, I’ve got mine. Thank you. I’ve had a long day
>traveling here. I’ll see you all tomorrow. Good
>night.” Heinrich turned and carried his belongings
>down the corridor on his right. He passed two open
>doors leading to rooms used by the others. The last
>door was closed. Tentatively he tried the handle.
>The door opened with a loud creak. A blast of cold
>air assaulted him immediately.
>
> The room, which was barely large enough to hold a bed
>and chest of drawers, had both windows opened wide.
>Heinrich hurriedly closed them both. He lit a match
>from the pack he carried in his pocket, and lit the
>small lamp on top of the chest. A cast-iron wood
>stove stood in the corner between the two windows.
>Looking at the stove, Heinrich could tell that it had
>not been used for quite some time. No soot stains
>covered the walls, nor did any come off on his hand
>when he brushed it along the grate inside. The wood
>basket next to the stove was empty. With a sigh he
>picked up the basket and went out into the hallway.
>He stood still for a moment to let his eyes readjust
>to the brighter light. As he got closer to the large
>central room where the other four men were, he could
>start to hear what they were talking about. 'start to hear' seems a little awkward to me. 'Could just hear', 'was able to hear', 'able to make out', maybe?
>
> “Don’t know why we need another one.”
>
> “Kommandant’s brother. Doesn’t look a thing like
>him. Same color hair. Same complexion. Hell, most
>of us have blond hair. I don’t know about those two,
>but I burn something fierce when I am outside.”
>
> “You’d burn in the crematorium, that’s for sure!
>Even from the other side of the room, with the doors
>closed.”
>
> “Do you need something, Heinrich?” All of the other
>conversations stopped immediately. They did not know
>how much he overheard or what his reaction might be.
>
> “Just need some firewood. You were right Gunter.
>You don’t mind if I call you that, right? It is just
>about as cold back there as I have been for the past
>year.”
>
> “Help yourself to the wood. We try to keep a large
>stack in here. Just break down one of the chunks into
>kindling, and you should get a good fire going.”
>Gunter paused for a moment and looked at the others.
>“We’re all of the same rank here Heinrich, so we’re
>informal when we are off duty. On duty is another
>matter. It wouldn’t be proper to show such behavior
>while working.”
>
> Heinrich nodded and moved off to the wood pile by the
>fireplace. He grabbed several large chunks of wood as
>well as some smaller ones before heading back to his
>room. Once there, it took him several tries to get a
>fire started in the grate. When it finally lit and he
>carefully fed the flame with fresh wood, the room
>warmed up quickly. He opened one of the windows a
>fraction from the top to let the smoke out. Doesn't it have a chimney/stovepipe? Or is it leaky?
>
> As his head hit the pillow a few minutes later, he
>could not believe how comfortable the lumpy mattress
>and thin cotton sheets felt to his body.
>
> The day was cold, wet and grey. Rather fitting,
>Heinrich thought, considering the uniform he was
>wearing and the overall appearance of the camp during
>the daylight hours. There was no grass on the ground,
>only puddles of mud. Out of the leaden sky came big
>powdery flakes of snow. The snow clung wetly to the
>wool on his coat and hat.
>
> “Did you sleep well, Heinrich?”
>
> “Yes, I did. That mattress has to be the best thing
>I’ve felt in years.” Wilhelm laughed and clapped
>Heinrich’s shoulder.
>
> “Let’s get our day started then, hm?” Wilhelm
>gestured for Heinrich to follow him through the
>grounds. They walked together at a brisk pace.
>Heinrich saw a train pulling into the stop right
>outside of the main gate of the camp. Hundreds of
>people were herded out of the cars carrying their few
>belongings with them. Men and women were separated
>into two different groups. Men in long white coats,
>doctors Heinrich guessed, sorted the group further.
>Both groups went into the building that Wilhelm was
>leading him towards.
>
> They reached a door in the side of the building. The
>door was unmarked and rather plain in appearance.
>Wilhelm stopped right before the door, and motioned to
>Heinrich to open it. Heinrich grasped the handle on
>the door and pushed. The door was surprisingly light,
>and it made a loud thunking sound as it hit the brick
>wall on the other side.
>
> Wilhelm guided Heinrich down a short corridor.
>Heinrich thought that they were at the very base of
>the chimney stack, or at least very close to it. They
>came to another door at the end of the corridor. This
>one appeared to be made of heavy iron. Heinrich
>thought he could feel intense heat radiating out from
>the door.
>
> “Well Heinrich. This is where you will be. In
>there. The heat is too much for me, otherwise I would
>take you in myself, but you’ll understand when you get
>in there. You will be watching the Jewish scum. They
>load the bodies into the crematorium, where they burn
>until they become ashes. The bodies are all naked,
>but make sure they don’t try to take anything that
>anyone else missed on inspection.” Wilhelm mopped his
>brow with his handkerchief, and gave Heinrich a quick
>smile. “You’ll do fine. Right now we don’t have
>anyone watching them in there. You’ll quickly see how
>everything is done. Good luck.”
>
> Wilhelm shook Heinrich’s hand, and turned to leave.
>Heinrich took a deep breath, squared his shoulders,
>and faced the imposing door in front of him.

I like this beginning. I think it's pretty brave to make a Nazi officer your main character. I know you've said he does redeem himself, I'm anxious to find out how. The characters are well-defined. Heinrich shows some weariness or more than just body after his stint on the front, and Wilhelm seems rather tired himself. He is a strong leader it seems, but he does loves his brother. I'll be interested to read more of this story.
Thanks for sharing!
Debi

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[> [> [> Re: My impressions -- Fel, 13:57:53 12/14/09 Mon

>I haven't really read anyone else's comments yet, so
>if I sound redundant, ignore me ;-). Take what helps
>you, leave the rest.
>
>>Excerpt from Look Upon The Ash
>>by Shauna Tevels
>>copyright 2009.
>>Posted for critiquing purposes only and does not
>>constitute publication.
>>
>>
>>
>>Heinrich opened the wide french doors opening out onto
>>the balcony. The stench of the camp assaulted his
>>nose immediately.
>>
>> “Dear God, Wilhelm! What’s that awful smell?”
>>
>> “You’ll get used to it after a while. Living in such
>>close proximity with them, the stench permeates
>>everything.” Wilhelm put his arm around Heinrich’s
>>shoulder and turned him back into the room. He
>>grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it shut
>>behind him.
>>
>> “How can you live so close to them? Doesn’t it
>>bother you to have rats and vermin living so near to
>>good, upstanding Germans?”
>>
>> Wilhelm smiled. “Of course it bothers me, little
>>brother. I must make sure that all of these men and
>>women are working for the good of our country. If it
>>wasn’t for that I’m sure that I would have given the
>>order to have them all shot down the moment that they
>>step off the trains.”
>
>Wow, that's powerful, made even more so by the
>casual dismissal from Wilhelm. The fact that they are
>referring to human beings with such casual
>contempt...*shudder*
>


Yeah. When I first heard them talk like this in my head, I was wondering if I could even attempt at writing something so foreign to my way of thinking.
>
>> Heinrich grinned. He was exceptionally proud of his
>>older brother the Kommandant. For years, Wilhelm was
>>more of a father to Heinrich than their own father who
>>spent his time managing his clothing factory and
>>sleeping with all of the girls who worked at the shop.
>> It was Wilhelm who taught Heinrich how to shoot a gun
>>at age eleven, and it was Wilhelm who explained to him
>>why the Jewish people were a growing problem. When
>>Heinrich was finally old enough to join the army, when
>>he turned seventeen, Wilhelm made the recommendation
>>for the boy to be an SS officer. Now that Heinrich
>>was nineteen, he had been transferred from service in
>>Russia to his brother’s camp in Poland.
>
>Did they make SS officers this young? I don't know,
>I'm curious. Or is he the Nazi equivalent of an ensign
>or something? Still an officer but lowest ranking
>among them?


Heinrich would be the U.S. equivalent of a captain at this point. I'll have to do some more research to see if his age is way too young for this. I'm thinking that I might be a year or two off, but I could be wrong.
>
>> Heinrich had not seen his brother for three years.
>>Phone calls and letters were all that he was able to
>>do. Now that Heinrich got a good look at him under
>>the lights from the numerous lamps around the room, he
>>saw that Wilhelm had changed. The once jovial,
>>friendly face, now showed hard lines of distrust and
>>anger. Eyes that were once open and clear blue were
>>now cold steel blue-grey. No laugh lines showed
>>around his mouth or crinkled the skin around his eyes.
>> His blond hair was thinning on the top which
>>necessitated combing his hair back over his skull
>>instead of to the side like Heinrich had always
>>remembered it.
>
>Would Heinrich take a moment to wonder why his
>brother had become so hardened? Might there have been
>a hint from past letters, or rumors among the ranks to
>clue himin? Or did this come as a surprise to see him
>like this?


With Heinrich being on the front, it was very hit or miss on whether or not he got any letters or mail, so seeing his brother like this was a shock to him.
>>
>> Wilhelm directed Heinrich into an arm chair, while he
>>poured them both a liberal glass of wine. Wilhelm
>>gave Heinrich his drink as he moved to sit on the arm
>>of the chair opposite him. They sipped their wine
>The use of the word 'wine' twice so close together
>made me pause for a second.


Okay. I'll get rid of one of the wine's there.
>>companionably for a minute, before Wilhelm blew out
>>his breath in a large gust, and looked Heinrich
>>straight in the eyes.
>>
>> “Look, Heinrich....God! I don’t know how to say this
>>without sounding like a total fool!” Wilhelm ran his
>>left hand through his hair and tried again.
>>“Heinrich, this place isn’t like the front lines. The
>>people here aren’t trying to kill you at every step.
>>Here we just watch them to make sure they are doing
>>their jobs and that things run smoothly.”
>>
>> “You can’t honestly think, Will, that I don’t know
>>what the difference is? It is what they had me doing
>>up there.” Heinrich stared at his brother for a long
>>minute, waiting until their eyes met again. “You don’t
>>know what it is like there. You can’t know what a
>>relief it is to be away from all of that.”
>>
>> “Yes. Well. Don’t worry about it anymore, Heinrich.
>> You are safe here and I won’t let you be transferred
>>over to another front unit.” Wilhelm clapped a hand
>>down on Heinrich’s shoulder and gave him a gentle
>>squeeze. “ I am sure that Elsa will be happy to see
>>you here. Ever since I got the telegram that you were
>>coming here I have scarcely stopped telling her about
>>it.”
>>
>> “Are the children here, too?” Heinrich asked, looking
>>forward to seeing his nephew and new niece, not to
>>mention his sister-in-law.
>>
>> “Josef is with Mama and Papa and Kate is here with us
>>since she still needs her mother.”
>>
>> “Of course. Can I see them now?”
>>
>> “I think Elsa took Kate outside for a walk just
>>before you came. But you can see them when they come
>>back in, naturally.”
>
> Officers really kept their families nearby like
>this? Wow. Did they live in the camp or in a house
>nearby? This is probably explained elsewhere and
>Heinrich might not know, since it is from his POV.
>Ignore my babbling ;-)


Yes, the Kommandant would have his house either right inside the camp or right outside the gates. Wilhelm's house is right outside. Babbling is good. I tend to babble quite frequently myself :)
>
>> Heinrich smiled and took a long drink of his wine.
>>The chair he was sitting in felt remarkably good to
>>him, after the long train, truck and car rides he had
>>just gone through. He had assumed that he would have
>>been given leave to visit his parents before having to
>>report for duty with his brother. Instead he was told
>>to report directly for duty. Perhaps he would be
>>allowed to see their parents if they came for a visit
>>with young Josef.
>>
>> “You look like you’re about to fall asleep right
>>there in that chair.”
>>
>> “I feel like I could do just that.” Heinrich said,
>>setting his glass down on the little side table next
>>to his chair, and stretching his arms up over his
>>head, let out a loud yawn as his shoulder joints gave
>>a loud pop.
>>
>> Wilhelm laughed and set his own glass down next to
>>Heinrich’s. “Come. Let me show you where you will be
>>staying.” He lead Heinrich down the hall to where
>>their jackets and Heinrich’s gear had been left by the
>>door in the foyer. As Heinrich was gathering up his
>>belongings, Wilhelm checked his pistol and put it into
>>its holster before putting on his coat and hat. “You
>>never know when you might need it, little brother.”
>>
>> Heinrich nodded and followed 'Wilhelm'? 'his
>brother'?
out the door.
>>
>> The guards saluted and swung open the gate in the
>>chain-link fence. >link exist then? of was it some other kind of fencing
>mesh?

Not a silly question at all. I'm not sure if chain link was in use then. I'll have to look that up.



The fence was topped with four
>>layers of barbed wire. Seventeen watchtowers were
>>spaced at intervals all around the camp. The sun was
>>setting below the tops of the trees in the distance.
>>Spotlights illuminated the muddy ground as they
>>trudged through the southern end of the camp. As
>>they walked, Wilhelm pointed out the tall smoke stack
>>where flame, ash, and smoke were clearly visible in
>>the failing light. Ash fell like snow all around them
>>as they walked through.
>>
>> “That is where you will be Heinrich. In charge of
>>the guards at the crematorium. Some of them can be
>>lazy shits if you don’t watch them like a hawk.”
>>
>> They arrived at a low stone building with light
>>glowing through some of the windows. Smoke furled
>>from the chimney stack at the far right end of the
>>house. Wilhelm knocked twice at the plain wooden
>>door. The door opened to reveal the surprised faces
>>of three men sitting at a table in the center of the
>>room, playing cards. The man who opened the door held
>>it open further and snapped a salute to his commander.
>>
>>
>> “Heil Hitler! Herr Kommandant, we weren’t expecting
>>you this evening. Please.” He gestured for Heinrich
>>and Wilhelm to enter.
>>
>> “Hans. Gunter. Hermann. Friedrich. Gentlemen, I
>>would like to introduce you to Hauptsturmfuhrer
>>Heinrich von Keiter. He just arrived today from the
>>Finland-Russian front.” Wilhelm stopped speaking
>>briefly, to glance at the senior among them, Gunter.
>>Wilhelm’s look made it clear. No one was to ask too
>>many questions about the newcomer or to glory in the
>>realization that the Kommandant’s brother was their
>>newest bunkmate. “Heinrich, you’ll be on the first
>>shift in the morning. I’ll show you where you’ll be
>>stationed then. Gentlemen, have a pleasant evening.”
>
>>
>> With that the Kommandant gave a little bow to the men
>>and left their company, shutting the door quietly
>>behind him.
>>
>> “You can have the room in the back. No one’s used
>>that room, that I know of. It’s probably colder than
>>hell back there, but coming from where you did, it
>>will feel pretty good!” Gunter said in a gruff, raspy
>>voice. His blonde hair was thin, cut short against
>>his scalp. Heavy bristle graced his neck, chin and
>>cheeks. The bristle had large streaks of grey amongst
>>the blonde. “We wear the dark grey uniforms here.
>>You have a pair, yes?”
>>
>> “Yes, I’ve got mine. Thank you. I’ve had a long day
>>traveling here. I’ll see you all tomorrow. Good
>>night.” Heinrich turned and carried his belongings
>>down the corridor on his right. He passed two open
>>doors leading to rooms used by the others. The last
>>door was closed. Tentatively he tried the handle.
>>The door opened with a loud creak. A blast of cold
>>air assaulted him immediately.
>>
>> The room, which was barely large enough to hold a bed
>>and chest of drawers, had both windows opened wide.
>>Heinrich hurriedly closed them both. He lit a match
>>from the pack he carried in his pocket, and lit the
>>small lamp on top of the chest. A cast-iron wood
>>stove stood in the corner between the two windows.
>>Looking at the stove, Heinrich could tell that it had
>>not been used for quite some time. No soot stains
>>covered the walls, nor did any come off on his hand
>>when he brushed it along the grate inside. The wood
>>basket next to the stove was empty. With a sigh he
>>picked up the basket and went out into the hallway.
>>He stood still for a moment to let his eyes readjust
>>to the brighter light. As he got closer to the large
>>central room where the other four men were, he could
>>start to hear what they were talking about.
>'start to hear' seems a little awkward to me. 'Could
>just hear', 'was able to hear', 'able to make out',
>maybe?


Yes that would make more sense wouldn't it? I'll change that.
>>
>> “Don’t know why we need another one.”
>>
>> “Kommandant’s brother. Doesn’t look a thing like
>>him. Same color hair. Same complexion. Hell, most
>>of us have blond hair. I don’t know about those two,
>>but I burn something fierce when I am outside.”
>>
>> “You’d burn in the crematorium, that’s for sure!
>>Even from the other side of the room, with the doors
>>closed.”
>>
>> “Do you need something, Heinrich?” All of the other
>>conversations stopped immediately. They did not know
>>how much he overheard or what his reaction might be.
>>
>> “Just need some firewood. You were right Gunter.
>>You don’t mind if I call you that, right? It is just
>>about as cold back there as I have been for the past
>>year.”
>>
>> “Help yourself to the wood. We try to keep a large
>>stack in here. Just break down one of the chunks into
>>kindling, and you should get a good fire going.”
>>Gunter paused for a moment and looked at the others.
>>“We’re all of the same rank here Heinrich, so we’re
>>informal when we are off duty. On duty is another
>>matter. It wouldn’t be proper to show such behavior
>>while working.”
>>
>> Heinrich nodded and moved off to the wood pile by the
>>fireplace. He grabbed several large chunks of wood as
>>well as some smaller ones before heading back to his
>>room. Once there, it took him several tries to get a
>>fire started in the grate. When it finally lit and he
>>carefully fed the flame with fresh wood, the room
>>warmed up quickly. He opened one of the windows a
>>fraction from the top to let the smoke out.
>Doesn't it have a chimney/stovepipe? Or is it
>leaky?


Good grief. It does have a stove pipe to the outside. Sorry!! No more open window. :)
>>
>> As his head hit the pillow a few minutes later, he
>>could not believe how comfortable the lumpy mattress
>>and thin cotton sheets felt to his body.
>>
>> The day was cold, wet and grey. Rather fitting,
>>Heinrich thought, considering the uniform he was
>>wearing and the overall appearance of the camp during
>>the daylight hours. There was no grass on the ground,
>>only puddles of mud. Out of the leaden sky came big
>>powdery flakes of snow. The snow clung wetly to the
>>wool on his coat and hat.
>>
>> “Did you sleep well, Heinrich?”
>>
>> “Yes, I did. That mattress has to be the best thing
>>I’ve felt in years.” Wilhelm laughed and clapped
>>Heinrich’s shoulder.
>>
>> “Let’s get our day started then, hm?” Wilhelm
>>gestured for Heinrich to follow him through the
>>grounds. They walked together at a brisk pace.
>>Heinrich saw a train pulling into the stop right
>>outside of the main gate of the camp. Hundreds of
>>people were herded out of the cars carrying their few
>>belongings with them. Men and women were separated
>>into two different groups. Men in long white coats,
>>doctors Heinrich guessed, sorted the group further.
>>Both groups went into the building that Wilhelm was
>>leading him towards.
>>
>> They reached a door in the side of the building. The
>>door was unmarked and rather plain in appearance.
>>Wilhelm stopped right before the door, and motioned to
>>Heinrich to open it. Heinrich grasped the handle on
>>the door and pushed. The door was surprisingly light,
>>and it made a loud thunking sound as it hit the brick
>>wall on the other side.
>>
>> Wilhelm guided Heinrich down a short corridor.
>>Heinrich thought that they were at the very base of
>>the chimney stack, or at least very close to it. They
>>came to another door at the end of the corridor. This
>>one appeared to be made of heavy iron. Heinrich
>>thought he could feel intense heat radiating out from
>>the door.
>>
>> “Well Heinrich. This is where you will be. In
>>there. The heat is too much for me, otherwise I would
>>take you in myself, but you’ll understand when you get
>>in there. You will be watching the Jewish scum. They
>>load the bodies into the crematorium, where they burn
>>until they become ashes. The bodies are all naked,
>>but make sure they don’t try to take anything that
>>anyone else missed on inspection.” Wilhelm mopped his
>>brow with his handkerchief, and gave Heinrich a quick
>>smile. “You’ll do fine. Right now we don’t have
>>anyone watching them in there. You’ll quickly see how
>>everything is done. Good luck.”
>>
>> Wilhelm shook Heinrich’s hand, and turned to leave.
>>Heinrich took a deep breath, squared his shoulders,
>>and faced the imposing door in front of him.
>
> I like this beginning. I think it's pretty brave
>to make a Nazi officer your main character. I know
>you've said he does redeem himself, I'm anxious to
>find out how. The characters are well-defined.
>Heinrich shows some weariness or more than just body
>after his stint on the front, and Wilhelm seems rather
>tired himself. He is a strong leader it seems, but he
>does loves his brother. I'll be interested to read
>more of this story.
>Thanks for sharing!
>Debi
>


Thank you Debi!! I appreciate all of your comments. And thank you for reading!

Fel

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