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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Max

Sarah Cohen-Scali

Roaring Brook Press

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1


 


I don’t know yet what my name will be. Outside, they can’t decide between Max and Heinrich. Max, like Max Sollmann, the director of the Home where I’ll soon be arriving. Or Heinrich, in honor of Heinrich Himmler, who first thought up the idea of my conception and those of my future buddies.


My personal preference would be Heinrich. I have a lot of respect for Herr Sollmann, but you should always aim for the top when it comes to hierarchy. Herr Himmler is more important than Herr Sollmann. He is no less than the Führer’s right-hand man.


But who cares anyway; they’re not going to ask my opinion.


It’s April 19, 1936. Nearly midnight.


I should have been born yesterday, but that’s not what I wanted. The date didn’t suit me. So I’ve stayed put. Motionless. Rigid. Of course that means a lot of pain for my mother, but she’s a brave woman, and she’s putting up with the delay without complaint. I’m sure she approves of my tactic.


My wish, the first of my future life, is to come into the world on April 20. Because that’s the Führer’s birthday. If I’m born on April 20, I will be blessed by the Germanic gods and seen as the firstborn of the master race. The Aryan race that will henceforth rule the world.


Right now, as I speak to you, I’m in my mother’s womb and my birth is imminent. Only a few minutes to go. But you’ve no idea how nervous I am! My stomach is in knots. Even though I’ve got no cause for concern, I worry that the down on my little newborn head, and my hair when it grows in later, won’t be blond enough. Because I absolutely must have blond hair. Platinum blond. The fairest possible, without the slightest trace of brown. As for my eyes, I’m desperate for them to be blue. A clear blue, like pure clean water that you can’t gaze into without the feeling of drowning. I want to be big and strong … Oh, I’m expressing myself badly. That sounds so flat and dull; I just can’t find the right words. But that’s normal. I’m not quite the finished product yet. I’m only a baby. I’d be better off reciting the words of the Führer. I heard one of his speeches a few months ago, when I was still a tiny fetus, but his voice resonated so powerfully that it reached me here inside. I shivered with pleasure and that’s precisely when I gave my first kick in my mother’s womb—to communicate my joy.


Our beloved Führer proclaimed: We must build a new world! The young German of the future must be lean and supple, as swift as a greyhound, as tough as leather, and as hard as Krupp’s steel!


So that’s exactly what I want to be: Supple. Lean. Swift. Hard. Tough. I’ll bite rather than suck on the nipple. I’ll yell rather than babble. I’ll hate rather than love. I’ll fight rather than pray. Oh, my Führer, I don’t want to disappoint you! I won’t let you down. In fact, I’d better pull myself together. Why should I worry? It’s ridiculous, unwarranted—it’s obvious that I’m going to look like Mother.


Let me tell you about Mother. Tall. Blond. She ties her beautiful golden hair either at the nape or in a crown of plaits. She never wears makeup. Makeup is only good for Oriental women, whose coal-black eyes are like cockroaches! Disgusting. Makeup is only good for whores. (I’m not frightened of saying words like that, even if I’m a baby. It’s pointless not to speak frankly to a baby, even if the words are crude; baby talk only weakens the child by rendering it timid.) Let’s get back to Mother and her hair: it’s dead straight; she’s never used dye or those products that make fake curls—they’re for whores! She doesn’t smoke, because that harms fertility, and she has broad hips. She’s not like those women who just pick at their food in order to stay thin. Anyway, on the eve of war that would be stupid, because supplies will be scarce one day, so we have to make the most of things while we can.


Mother wears a brown skirt and a white blouse. She never wears heels. Thanks to her large pelvis, she’s had no problems carrying me. She has to rest now, but she used to love working here in the Steinhöring Home on the outskirts of Munich. She helped with setting up and decorating our nurseries. Because, as you are no doubt aware, I’m not the only baby who will be delivered here. There are hundreds and hundreds of us on the way; the program was set up a long time ago. Hundreds will turn into thousands, thousands into millions. We’ll form an army!


Mother’s expansive hips will make my task easier: I’ll have no problem getting out, forging the way for my future half brothers and sisters. Mother promised our Führer that she would produce a child a year for him.


As for my father, it’s a bit tricky to say much about him. I don’t know who he is. I’ve never heard his voice. I don’t know him and I’ll never know him. That’s what it’s like for the children of the future. Our one and only spiritual father is the Führer. My biological father only met my mother once. One night. To conceive me. I know he’s a Sturmbannführer of the Waffen-SS, meaning he’s a major. Two ranks to go and he’ll be a colonel. It’ll be easy once the war gets started: he’ll kill lots of enemies and be awarded a higher rank.


I hope I’ll have a nice black uniform like him one day.


In the beginning, without knowing what to expect, my mother applied to be a Schwester—a Sister. She wrote a letter and they summoned her to the offices on Herzog-Max-Strasse, where she underwent a series of examinations. They weighed her. They measured her. Standing. Sitting. Squatting. Leaning forward. Leaning backward. They studied the shape of her skull and measured it, as well as the height of her forehead, the placement of her eyes and how wide apart they were set. They measured the length, width, and angle of her nose. The length of her arms, her legs, her torso. They measured the distance between her lips and her chin, between her cheekbones and her nose. They measured the back of her head, her neck. The doctors called out number after number and their secretaries recorded them. Then the secretaries did additions, subtractions, multiplications, and wrote down the results. They also recorded the color of Mother’s skin, hair, and eyes: white, blond, blue. Anyway, Mother wouldn’t have been allowed into the offices if she had dark skin and brown hair and eyes. But the doctors also checked the color of her pubic hair, which was as blond as the rest of her hair, not overly lush, and sprouting in the right direction.


Next Mother was sent to the Doktorinnen, who took off her clothes. They studied her all over with a magnifying glass. Everywhere. Even inside her. Especially inside her. Right where her future partner’s penis would go. To make me, yes, me. Alles in Ordnung! they pronounced.


Mother was declared “perfectly suited for selection.” That’s top marks! Others were not so lucky; they only received “average suitability,” and others, well, they got “not at all suitable.” The latter were “relocated.” Watch out, that’s a code word! It doesn’t mean they were relocated elsewhere. No, it means they were exterminated.


Garbage! Get out! Gone!


There are swearwords and there are code words. You can use both with me as much as you like. The first kind don’t shock me, and I know the hidden meaning of the second. Well, not all of them; I’ll need to learn a whole lot more as I grow up. I’ll also learn code names. Code names are extremely important. The program for the years ahead, established by our Führer, is riddled with them. Here’s an example: for the time being, my buddies and I have to be born in the utmost secrecy. Nobody knows the real meaning of Lebensborn, the code name of our program. I’ll tell you, but don’t tell anyone else. It means “the fountain of life.”


A programmed life, regulated according to precise parameters set up in advance. A life that feeds on death. Getting back to Mother. She wasn’t over the line yet. It’s very difficult to become a talented Sister. It’s not handed out on a plate. Even though Mother got through the first part of the test with flying colors, the second part was still to come: she had to assemble all the documentary proof that she belonged to the Nordic race, and present it to the fertility advisers in another office, the RuSHA (the SS Race and Settlement Main Office). She provided them with papers proving that her ancestors had been German since 1750, that they were in perfect health, and that not a single drop of Slavic blood flowed through their veins. And especially not Jewish blood … So here we are!


I’m a bit worried about the last point. Papers are all very well, but when you haven’t got the guy in front of you, how can you be sure? What I mean is that, if, for example, my great-great-great-great-grandfather had the unfortunate idea of sleeping with a Jewish woman, could a drop of this inferior creature’s blood, given the mysteries of genetics, reappear in my blood and contaminate it? That would be a disaster! How would I know? How? Impossible.


The only thing I know for sure is that I’m a boy. Yes, at least there’s no doubt about that—the little bump at the base of my belly is proof. My penis: I’m male. I’m so happy I’m not a girl. When girls become women they have to obey the rules of the three Ks: Kinder, Küche, Kirche—children, cooking, church. Whereas I prefer the K of Krupp: tanks, cannons, guns, war …


Enough of that! Let’s banish depressing thoughts. It’s impossible for me to have Jewish blood in my veins. I’ve got nothing to worry about.


Because of my father.


That brings me to the third part of Mother’s examination. After being checked out by the fertility experts and after passing the genealogy test, she had to send in a photograph of herself in a bathing suit. The doctors studied the photograph (I think they took even more measurements) and put it alongside other photographs—of SS officers, also in bathing suits—in order to work out the best combinations, the best sexual partners. Imagine you had a stallion and you wanted to breed it: Aren’t you going to choose the best-performing mare to get the best result? How do Hitler’s favorite Krupp factories make those cannons, which will soon be turned on our enemies and annihilate them? With top-quality steel, of course. And just as the best steel is made with the best materials, so I had to be the product of the union of the finest bodies. That’s why the doctors studying the photographs chose my father. Blond, blue eyes, tall, lean … You know the drill.


If even a microscopic drop of Jewish blood had tried to emerge, I’m sure my father would have dealt with it on the night he was set up with my mother, here, in Steinhöring, in a different building from the one where I will be born.


Right, now I must tell you about Steinhöring. I like telling you all this; it passes the time, and as I talk we’re getting closer to midnight, to April 20, to my birth.


The Home used to be an asylum. An asylum for mentally retarded people, imbeciles, idiots, in fact, all those useless people that society subsidizes. Parasites. They were “relocated.” (No point in repeating myself, you remember what that means, don’t you?) Then there was a huge redesign and the asylum was transformed. It had to be a radical renovation, a total change that reflected the difference between the old and the new residents. The old ones represented the country’s shame, the new ones its pride.


First of all they disinfected the premises. Then they set up living rooms, dining rooms, birthing rooms, visiting rooms, treatment rooms, dormitories for the new mothers, nurseries for the babies, verandas. They had to knock down walls, erect partitions, and construct a brick wall around the park and plant tall trees so spying eyes couldn’t see us. It was a huge project that came together quickly, thanks to a large number of laborers who worked for nothing: prisoners from Dachau—a camp that imprisons Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and political opponents of our Führer and his regime. (Unfortunately some of these people still exist. But soon they’ll be gone, “relocated” like the others.) They worked night and day, without a break, and built our Home, as well as the building I mentioned earlier, the one where the couples go for their meetings, their sexual intercourse.


It’s a smaller building. Inside there’s a music room, a dining room—usually the selected couples have dinner together before doing what they have to do—and bedrooms. The bedrooms are not as inviting as the dormitories in the Home. That’s intentional. No unnecessary furniture: only a bed and a table, that’s all. A large window: it’s very bright in there. Very cold, too, so that the sexual act doesn’t last too long. And so that if the individuals happen to like each other—which isn’t always the case—they won’t get a taste for what they’re doing. Apparently, some girls try to get out of there at the last minute, when they realize what is expected of a Sister. What on earth were they thinking? That they would get to choose their partner and live happily ever after? How naïve. How cowardly. We have to make the most of these men while they’re alive. A lot of them are going to die fighting for their country. The birthrate will decrease. And we don’t want a population of oldies in Germany. So we have to stay focused, take action. Hence our special program.


From now on, the sexual act is a patriotic duty. So our country can be guided out of darkness into light. The sexual act (I remind you that I’m not frightened of words and I already know a lot) can no longer be about personal pleasure. Even if it’s difficult, even if it’s painful, it’s an obligation, a sacred task, destined for a higher purpose.


I think Mother had a hard time when she and my father did it.


I don’t think she knew what the code word “Sister” really meant.


I think she was about to give up and try to get out of there, too. But my future father and I urged her on. My father made her drink a good slug of schnapps to warm her up, so she’d relax and do the right thing. I was still only a small inner voice, an abstract notion in my mother’s mind, but I urged her on: “You have to do it, Mother! You have to! For National Socialism! For the Reich! For the thousand-year Reich! For the future!” So she kept her eyes glued to the portrait of the Führer hanging in the bright, cold room. She gritted her teeth and hung in there.


She did it.


I’m here.


And now that it’s after midnight, I’m off.


I’m getting out fast. As fast as possible! I want to be the first in our Home to be born on April 20. I already have a few rivals in the birthing rooms. I have to get out before them, even if it’s only a matter of seconds.


Cheer me on!


Wish for what I told you: I must be blond. I must have blue eyes. I must be sharp.


Lean.


Hard.


Tough.


Made of Krupp’s steel.


I am the child of the future. The child conceived outside the law. Without love. Without God. With nothing but force and fury.


Heil Hitler!


 


Text copyright © 2012 by Sarah Cohen-Scali


Translation copyright © 2017 by Penny Hueston