WHEN WE ELIMINATE THE WASTE, WE MAKE GERMANY VICTORIOUS!

     “Come down here, both of you, now!”

     “Please!” begged the man as he sank to his knees. “Let my son go. He’s only a child!”

     “Shut up, you filthy vermin!” the officer sneered. He cracked his pistol over the man’s head and knocked him to the ground. The boy froze, and his eyes remained fixed on his father. Two gunshots split remorselessly in the air. Virginio released his grip and slid down the wall of the car as he watched the man and his child fall to their deaths—the little boy’s tears now turned to blood. The German’s devilish laugh broke the silence as he spat in disgust on the bodies, “Useless parasites.” He gazed triumphantly on the young soldier, who looked stunned as he stared at the lifeless forms on the ground.

    “You see that, boy?” The officer’s lips curled into a smile. “When we eliminate waste, we make Germany victorious!” The young soldier failed to respond. “Why are you standing there? Start at the end and check every car.”

    The boy hesitated, afraid of what would now be expected of him if he came face-to-face with the enemy.

    “Go!” the officer sharply said.

    Reluctantly, the young soldier went to inspect the cars. Walking to the end of the train felt like the longest trek of his life as a flurry of dark thoughts paralyzed him with fear. Although he had his orders, seeing the man and his son fall to their death, unarmed, and with desperation in their eyes, left him covered in shame. A wife had lost her husband—a mother, her child. 

    With each shuffle of his boots, the boy could hear his mother’s voice the day the Führer enlisted him. “My son, every life matters. We are not all cut from the same cloth. I did not raise you to become one of them. You are my hero of peace and strength. Let kindness be your guide.” He remembered her hand lovingly caressing his face, but he was a German soldier—a title that forced him to raise a proud Nazi salute and obey the single-minded mandate of his superiors. 

    Refusal to comply was not an option. He prayed with every daunting step that the cars were empty. The young soldier wanted to honor his mother’s pride, but he was prepared to stand or fall for his country.

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