SCENE 7: In a prisoner hospital block

Characters required (by order of appearance)

ETTA

ANTON

LUCIEN (A little Gypsy boy around ETTA and ANTON'S age, brought in solely for the purpose of creating a future cadaver for MENGELE'S studies)

HANS-RUDOLF (One of HOESS'S children, having facilely escaped from the house on the outskirts of the concentration camp that shelters the Kommandant and his family. He is the same age as ETTA, ANTON and LUCIEN)

HOESS

MENGELE

[Open on a dark stage]

MENGELE'S VOICE (Offstage)

December fifteenth, nineteen forty-three. Dear Irene. I did something today.

[Half the stage illuminates, partly divulging the interior of an SS medical barrack to the audience]

Something unspeakable.

[The other half lights up, fully revealing the gloomy and subdued climate of the dreary, scantly decorated and crumbling block. There are a few hospital beds here and there. All seems empty sans the voice of MENGELE]

Something horribly… unspeakable, Irene.

[The superficially flattened sheets of two side-by-side beds in the middle begin to stir, an anomalous occurrence in the psychotic lunacy of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Out of the lumpy sheets submerges the heads of ETTA and ANTON, ETTA in the bed to the left and ANTON in the bed to the right]

ETTA

[Turns her diminutive self to ANTON] I found you.

ANTON

[Lionhearted enough to find the audacity to speak since the beginning of the play] But I wasn't even hiding from you!

ETTA

[Splays her arms before her on the rank, soiled bedspread she's immersed herself in] Yes, you were. You're always hiding from me.

ANTON

You always lose at hide-and-seek, anyway. So don't try and cheat.

ETTA

[Pause as she evaluates her brother] … You were just hiding from Uncle, right?

ANTON

[Quiet as his face pales] No, I wasn't.

ETTA

Were too.

ANTON

[Starkly, in a tone with unmitigated fear] Was not!

ETTA

[Again with adult-like concern] Yes, you were. Don't lie to me, Anton.

[ANTON cannot find anymore bravado within himself and only crawls over the bedsheets and sits atop them, blankly drawing his legs up to his chest with a glassy-eyed, unresponsive look]

ETTA

Uncle's been really nice to me. But why are you always so scared when he comes to draw blood and stuff from us? It doesn't hurt that bad. Needles are seldom scary. And afterward, Uncle gives us candy.

ANTON

[Quaking tremulously with ire and racking tears; says in a shaking voice] How can you be so stupid, Etta? Ever since we came here, he's been a demon. He's not a nice man. He's… he's… laden with… sinisterly nefariousness!

ETTA

[Rolling her eyes] Ooooh. Don't hurt yourself with words that big, Anton.

ANTON

[Glares vituperatively at ETTA] You're nothing but a big fat meanie! Stupid Uncle's spite is rubbing off on you!

ETTA

[Rolling up the extremely short sleeves of her blue-and-white striped prisoner attire as if she's vying to pick a fight] Come and get it, you dumb ninny!

ANTON

[Inserting his fingers into his ears and waggling the extraneous free ones whilst sticking out his tongue, making a childish "nyeh" sound, calling ETTA'S bluff] I bet you won't even try to beat me up!

ETTA

I'll prove your dummy theory wrong! [Challengingly curling her finger up at him] I'll clean your clock so much that you'd be able to see your face in it! [Coils to lunge at ANTON, but not before a tiny voice intrudes in on their sibling quarrel, emitting from Offstage Left]

LUCIEN'S VOICE

Um, hallo?

[ETTA and ANTON whip their heads toward Stage Left, a short lacunal interval of silence following LUCIEN'S words. A minute spotlight irradiates Stage Left, and timidly, LUCIEN toddles onstage, hugging a stuffed bear to his chest. He pauses midway between Center Stage and Stage Left to gaze up at the twins, who are staring at him with renewed interest]

LUCIEN

[Inserting his thumb into his mouth and sucking, his buggish eyes fixated with awe on ETTA and ANTON, probably stunned there are other children; in a small voice as he speaks around his thumb] Who are you?

ANTON

[Rudely demanding] Who are you?

ETTA

Ignore Anton. He's a fool. I'm Etta. We're twins. What's your name?

LUCIEN

[Quiet and prosaic] … Lucien.

ETTA

Where are you from?

LUCIEN

[Moving his body back and forth in an insecure manner most children use] Austria. The doctor said I was a Gypsy.

ETTA

Really? I've never seen a Gypsy before. [Studying LUCIEN with her calculating eyes] Maybe that's because Anton and I are Jewish. We're from Russia.

LUCIEN

[Detaches the thumb from his mouth, now merely staring] You can speak German?

ETTA

Yes. Mama taught us. [Glances at ANTON] Do you know where Mama is, Anton? Uncle said we'd get to see her, but it's been… how long?

ANTON

I… I don't know. We don't get to know the date that often, remember?

ETTA

… A long time, I guess. [Back to LUCIEN] Which doctor sent you here? Was it that fat, smelly guy with the glasses and who looks like a balding monk? I don't like him. He's scary.

LUCIEN

[Still apprehensive] No… he had hair. Brown hair. And he was nice to me.

ETTA

Did he say his name?

LUCIEN

Y-yes… Doktor Mengele.

ETTA

[Sunny disposition] Uncle! [The exclamation makes ANTON go even more wraithlike] Don't worry, Lucien! Uncle will take good care of you. You get to live here in this hospital place with us. Won't that be fun?

[LUCIEN tilts his head to the side with curiousness, but does not say anything further. As soon as he does this, there is a pitter-pattering of cherubic footsteps Offstage Left. There is a resonating "oof" noise emitted from HANS-RUDOLF before he trips onstage from nearly precisely where LUCIEN entered. A spotlight illuminates the upper half of his body protruding from the curtains as he lies facedown on the stage, grumbling before he gets up and scuttles over to LUCIEN, ETTA and ANTON before screeching to a halt and beholding them with wonder but studiousness]

HANS-RUDOLF

[Cutting his eyes first to LUCIEN, then to ETTA and ANTON] Whoa. Who are you?

ANTON

[Exasperated by all these uninvited entrances] Who are you?

ETTA

[Sighs heavily in mock chagrin to ANTON'S hostility] Ignore Anton. He's still a fool. I'm Etta. [Points to ANTON] That oaf is my twin brother. [Surveys HANS-RUDOLF'S bourgeois clothing and now feels it's appropriate to pose ANTON'S question] I apologize for asking, but… you aren't a prisoner, right?

HANS-RUDOLF

[Baffled] Prisoner? Why would I be a prisoner? Are you a prisoner?

ETTA

We all are. [Gestures to the bulk of the three] Our clothes are worse than yours. And we aren't as plump.

HANS-RUDOLF

[Draws back one step, petrified] I-I don't know who you are… My father just comes to work in this big place every day, and I followed him in the shadows to see where he goes. A-and I saw many people, all sickly and pasty and bony. I just wanted to know!

ETTA

[Scornfully shakes her head] My, you are dense, aren't you? This is Auschwitz. People that did bad things are sent here.

HANS-RUDOLF

[Ogles all three with morbid astonishment] You all did something bad?

ETTA

[Sheepishly scratches the back of her head] I think so… I don't know. I wonder what I did wrong sometimes. Maybe I shouldn't have tied Anton's shoelaces together last year.

ANTON

[Infuriated] No, we didn't do anything wrong! Just because we're Jews, we were taken from our homes and thrown in the ghetto to be punished! That's what Mother always said to Father. And then we were shoved onto trains and taken here. Etta, you and I live in this hospital and we're treated… okay… but what about the other prisoners? Remember? At the transport? What about Mother? We haven't seen her yet. Where do you think she's gone?

ETTA

[Irascibly turns to him] Mama is fine! Uncle told me so yesterday! He said they're all living in a place like this with good food and clean beds!

ANTON

[Snarls] He's not telling the truth, I bet.

ETTA

[Screams] I TRUST HIM MORE THAN YOU!

[LUCIEN and HANS-RUDOLF gasp in unison, and ANTON shrivels back, looking destroyed. ETTA claps a hand over her mouth, eyes wide and full of remorse. But their collective surprise is interrupted by HOESS'S voice, Offstage Right]

HOESS'S VOICE

Hans-Rudolf! Hans-Rudolf, where are you? Your mother is going to be furious with you!

HANS-RUDOLF

[Frantic as he flails his head about to try and find the origin of his father's voice] Oh no, Father!

ETTA

[Maturely derisive] What did you do? And your name is Hans-Rudolf? That's a…

ANTON

[Acting on his childish whims] Really dopey name.

HANS-RUDOLF

[Contravening the crack about his name] I snuck out of the home while Mother was watching me to come and explore! Mother must've told him I was missing! [Eyeballs his three companions frenetically] Help me, please!

ETTA

[Folds her arms over the breadth of her tiny chest and cocks an eyebrow cynically at HANS-RUDOLF, looking as cold and critical as possible] You're a stupid little German boy. Your father is probably one of the bad ones, too. Not like Uncle. Why should we even help you?

HANS-RUDOLF

[Exasperated; whiny and querulous] But you're a child, too!

ETTA

[Not breaking character] Am not.

HANS-RUDOLF

Are too!

ANTON

You're… vindictive, Etta.

[Silence as all three stare incredulously at ANTON, especially ETTA, who's come across a word she finally doesn't know]

ETTA

… What's that mean?

ANTON

[Shrugs his shoulders] I don't know. I heard one of the nurses say that word yesterday, so I wanted to try it out.

LUCIEN

[Pulling his thumb from his mouth in a long, stringlike ooze of saliva. Wiping his finger on his striped pants, he clutches his stuffed bear with one hand to partially eclipse his face and points to an untenanted bed to ANTON'S left; demurely] … You should hide in that, Hans-Rudolf.

HANS-RUDOLF

[Stares with shock at LUCIEN, as if floored that the young man can talk. But then a wan smile surfaces on his lips, warming his semblance up even slightly] Okay. That's a good idea. Thanks… um…

LUCIEN

Lucien.

HANS-RUDOLF

Okay, Lucien. I hope we can be friends. [Cuts a glance at ETTA and ANTON] I hope I can be friends with you, too. [Scrambles over to the empty bed and shimmies his way underneath the covers into hiding]

ANTON

[Rolls his eyes; under his breath] Humph.

ETTA

[Disdainful of his snide grunt; quietly so HANS-RUDOLF won't hear] Be nice, Anton.

[Their portion of the stage bedims. Bootfalls accompanied by frazzled mumbling fill the imaginary corridor Offstage Right, and HOESS enters from this way, illuminated by a spotlight and looking harried with inquietude. He is trailed not far behind by MENGELE. HOESS is wringing his hands and expressing his fear about HANS-RUDOLF'S vanishing indirectly to the doctor, who is trying as hard as he can to even paint a veneer of concern. HOESS begins to bemoan upon his and MENGELE'S entrance as if halfway through a barrage]

HOESS

[Appearing strained and making wild hand gestures as he walks] … And then Hedwig calls the office in a stewing state, sounding like she's going to head to a bridge and take a plunge. I ask her what's wrong, and she says, "I took my eyes off Hans-Rudolf to tend to the flowers! Just for five minutes, Rudolf! And when I turned back around, he was gone!"

MENGELE

[Vapid but trying to camouflage that as much as he can] Yes, I see.

HOESS

[Stops abruptly halfway between Center Stage and Stage Right, acting distressed] So then I have to stop everything and try and comfort her as she bursts into tears over the telephone. I'm shushing her and the office staff is giving me odd looks, and then, out of the blue, she howls, "Desert everything and find your son!" As if it's my responsibility! As if I was the one who lost sight of him in the first place!

MENGELE

[Mien unchanging, but he still rolls his eyes to keep up the façade of interest]Women.

HOESS

Of course, she completely neglected to remember that we have two younger children beyond him, so she needed to straighten up her motherly bearing and supervise them! I told her this, obviously.

MENGELE

[Echoing] Oh, obviously.

HOESS

But instead of heeding me, she just snaps, "And why don't you find that brutal shark of a doctor––Mengele, or something––and make him help you?" And then she hangs up, leaving the whole culpability on me!

MENGELE

[Jarred, blinking with shock] … Shark?

HOESS

[Ignoring him] Maybe he followed me to work. My first thought was, "Well, maybe he's at one of the multiple prisoner hospital blocks Mengele oversees because he wants to play with the child prisoners." So here I am. [Tipping his head at MENGELE with panic] So do you think he might be here?

[Stunned silence with HOESS'S bulging eyes affixed on a very put-down MENGELE]

MENGELE

… Your wife called me a shark.

[Stage suddenly lights up entirely]

ETTA

[Butts in on their conversation] Sir, if you're looking for your son, he's in there. [Points to the bed as HOESS turns his head to find the culprit of the voice]

HOESS

[Strides over to the bed stiffly and throws the covers aside, shooting daggers with his eyes at the writhing and guilty HANS-RUDOLF] Young man, you should be ashamed of yourself! You've whipped your mother into a frenzy! [Grabs the boy by his ear and drags the yowling HANS-RUDOLF out of the bed and onto the floor] Explain yourself!

HANS-RUDOLF

[Bawling fat, babyish tears] I'm sorry, Father! I just wanted to see where you went to work every day!

HOESS

[So angry his face reddens] Why, I ought to punish you right this instant! [Raises a vitriolic hand, intending to strike his son]

[ETTA gasps and covers her mouth in horror, ANTON cringes, and MENGELE tapers his eyes at the Kommandant, but neither of the three make a motion to stop him. Without preamble, LUCIEN drops his toy and scurries over to HOESS, grasping the bicep of his arm, digging his heels into the ground and making small wheezing noises of effort]

LUCIEN

[In a strong monotone as he pulls, speaking loudly over the cacophonous roar of HANS-RUDOLF'S crying] Please, sir.

HOESS

[Irefully lets HANS-RUDOLF go and his body flies around to LUCIEN, his tiny prevention. HANS-RUDOLF scrabbles to get up, holding his ear and whimpering] How dare you try and stop me from punishing my son, you stupid Gypsy! [Tries to shake the boy from his arm] Unhand me!

LUCIEN

[Through the jostling] He didn't mean anything, sir. He was just exploring.

HOESS

Exploring? Exploring? [Deafening baritone-deep boom] My children will never be stained with your disgusting hands! Oh, no, little one, they will not! I would never allow this!

[Stage dims again, with HOESS viciously shaking LUCIEN, but the latter hangs on like a barnacle. The actors may feel free to ad-lib here, HOESS delivering more accosting of the Gypsies to LUCIEN and LUCIEN still weakly defending the sobbing HANS-RUDOLF. Instead, a solitary spotlight lights up MENGELE'S stationary position between Stage Right and Center Stage, where HOESS brought him to a standstill before. MENGELE begins toward the arguing pair, walking with a savory lope, as if he's trying to bide time. When he finally reaches LUCIEN hanging onto the wiggling arm of HOESS––who is crouching––he stands and stares blandly at the two. HOESS pauses his cursing to look up at MENGELE]

HOESS

Mengele! Help me get this runt off my arm!

LUCIEN

[Notices MENGELE as well] Convince him to let Hans-Rudolf go, Uncle Mengele. I don't want him to get hurt. Please, Uncle. Please.

[But MENGELE does not respond to either of them and only desultorily reaches into the interior breast pocket of his lab coat like a businessman grasping for cigarettes squirreled away inside his jacket. Lethargically, he reveals his pistol, just as before with the Jewess during selections two scenes earlier. HOESS ceases joggling LUCIEN as alarmed understanding sparks in his eyes, although LUCIEN does not know what the contraption in the doctor's hand is. However, ETTA and ANTON seem to perceive it's a gun, for they both shudder and flinch at the macerating weapon. HANS-RUDOLF is no longer crying and shares in ETTA and ANTON'S reactions]

HOESS

… Mengele? What are you scheming––

MENGELE

[Cocks the pistol and raises it level with HOESS and LUCIEN; says in an ominous, very peevish-sounding voice] You're both... aggravating… me.

HOESS

[His comportment stricken with sheer alarm; shouts] Mengele, NO!

[As HOESS belts this word, the stage goes black. There is a gunshot mere seconds after the reverberating "No." After a few moments, a spotlight comes up on ETTA and ANTON. ANTON'S eyes are enormous, like platters and his bottom lip quivering. ETTA lets out a barely perceptible mewl and closes her eyes, her body shaking with convulsions of crying. The spotlight disappears, leaving the stage dark again. The spotlight comes back on once more, this time illuminating HOESS with HANS-RUDOLF in his arms, clinging to his son and burying the boy's face into the crook between his shoulder and neck]

HOESS

[Over and over, the same mantra escapes his ashen lips. His eyes are identical to ANTON'S, large and frightened, and he holds onto his son as to not let him see the debacle the audience cannot see themselves; says in a raspy tone, gasping with complete fear] Don't look, don't look, don't look, don't look, Hans-Rudolf. Just… just stay here. Stay here with Father. Please. Don't look.

[The spotlight dematerializes. It reappears over LUCIEN'S abandoned teddy bear, lying insipidly on the darkened floor. For a few seconds, the stuffed toy is the only object on the stage visible. However, footsteps manifest themselves, drawing close to the teddy bear. Finally, MENGELE walks into the spotlight, his white lab coat splattered with bright red blood. He stares down bitterly at the teddy bear before bending over to pick it up. Once the toy is in his hands, he turns it over, inspecting the bear. With an icy glower of hauteur, he inserts his finger into the neck of the poorly sewn teddy bear, and with a sharp, fluid upward jerk, rips the head off the teddy bear in a storm of stuffing and fabric. MENGELE lets the ripped stuffed animal fall from his hands as he walks from where he came, gruesomely calm. The spotlight stays on the torn teddy bear, not eschewing]

MENGELE'S VOICE (Offstage)

Forgive me, Irene.

[The spotlight disappears]

Forgive me.

[Curtain closes. End of Scene 7]