This is a very difficult fic for me to write, but I am writing it with a purpose in mind. It will become more apparent in the final chapter.
Yes. I have done my research. This is the first of many parts, but I am taking my time writing it. You really don't understand how difficult this is for me to write. I hope you read with an open mind.
"I don't like this!"
Matthew Williams turned and stared at his father, frowning as the Frenchman begged with his eyes for him to stay. He had stated his dislike about the situation already about 20 times in the last five minutes, but the Canadian refused to deter from their plan. Rumors of some kind of camp trickled out of the Germany, but there was no way to be sure without confirmation. This mission was dangerous: go to Germany and try to find out what was actually going on. Massive amounts of people disappeared by the day in Eastern Europe according to Ivan, people who weren't even soldiers. It worried all of the Nation People. A nation was its people and countries like Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia had drastically become weak and weaker over the last couple years.
The plan was set. Since the other Allies were essential to the fighting, Matthew volunteered himself. With blond hair, violet eyes, knew enough German to get by, and couldn't die, he felt like he was perfect for the job.
Now Matthew stood in the woods with Francis, Arthur, and Alfred on the border of France and Germany. Dressed in a stolen German uniform, he readjusted the pack on his back and smiled to his family.
"Papa," he spoke softly hugging Francis, "I'm going to be okay. I can take care of myself."
Francis held on to his son a few extra moments, kissing his cheek. Voice strangled and holding back tears, he nodded, "I know."
Arthur patted Matt's shoulder before hugging him uncharacteristically, "Keep your head low, lad, and don't stir up trouble."
Alfred launched himself at the Canadian hugging him so tight that Matt thought he would snap in half, "Come back, okay! For once, I don't want to be the Hero and have to come save you."
"I promise, Al. I'm coming back guys!" Slinging the German rifle on his shoulder—it was much heavier than what he was used to—he add softly, "I love you all. I'll be back in a few weeks."
Murmuring their goodbyes back, the three of them watch Matthew Williams cross into enemy territory alone.
The first few days were fairly smooth. Matthew didn't talk to anyone, was able to steal a car to cross the country faster. In the towns, no one questioned him. But the further and further he drove to German territory, the more unsettled he became. He quickly realized when he passed through cities that the dialect of the German language was changing. Some places had a thicker accent or mixed with Swiss or Austrian. It sunk to a point where he couldn't make out the words of those around him, and Matthew realized how much trouble he truly was in. He had made it close to Hamburg, wishing he could enjoy the scenery. Germany truly was a beautiful country, which sadden him they were enemies. If the Allies kept advancing, all this would probably be bombed. Matt etched all the sights into his memory, and continued on.
One afternoon in the second week of his mission, Matthew passed into the town square and flopped on the fountain's edge. It had been quite a long day. Car running out of gas, he walked the rest of the way to the city. Tipping his head down, trying not to draw attention to himself, Matt unfolded his map and studied it. Another day of driving—three days if he walked—and Matt would be in Hamburg. He needed to switch clothes soon. His military outfit drew too much attention. Already four soldiers asked where his platoon and higher commanding officers were. Luckily, Ivan made him fake papers to get by and taught him in German how to answer those questions. Ivan also taught him how to say, "I'm on leave due to injury," to not be bothered either.
So it didn't surprise him while he rested on the fountain that a soldier, an officer for that matter, tapped him on the shoulder. Like all the others, he asked Matt for his papers and rank.
"Ja!" Matt saluted the officer and held out his papers. Unlike the other soldiers, his next question was not about why he wasn't with his platoon.
Instead, the officer raised a critical eyebrow and studying the Canadian still saluting him. Flipping the papers around so Matt could see them, he pointed to the name of the officer written in.
" Third Officer Hans Obuch? From Hamburg?" he asked his accent thick but Matt could just make it out. "He gave you permission?"
"Ja," Matt swallowed the lump in his throat, hating the beads of sweat starting to form on his temples.
The man chuckled reading over the papers once more. Holding them up in front of Matt's face, he shredded them down the center and threw them at the Canadian. The officer pulled out his pistol and aimed it between Matt's eyes.
In simple German for Matt to understand, he chuckled, "My name is Hans Obuch. I am a third officer from Hamburg. And I don't know you."
Matt remembered the screaming. Lots of screaming as he was forced to his knees and other officers seemed to appear from the air. Arms handcuffed behind him, he was rendered useless and stripped of all his weapons. Within minutes, he was thrown into the back of a prison truck, stinking of fear and urine, riding off to God knew where.
"Oh no," Matt panted shuffling to the back, fighting to keep his balance. Throwing himself with all his might, the doors dented from his Nation Person strength but didn't break. Sprawling back on the floor, unable to rise from his arms behind him, Matt laid in the filth and thought of his family. Francis' singing as he cooked, Arthur's stories over tea, Alfred's silly inventions that he shared with Matt. Eyes burning, Matt squeezed his eyes tight as tears streaked past his temples. Unlike in America, he doubted he would get one phone call in jail.
Matt recalled his unreasonably short trial, if one could even call it a 'trial.' The majority of the time had been spent with a German judge taking one look at him, calling him a spy, and shooing him out the door. Trying his best, the Canadian pleaded in German to speak with Ludwig Weilschmidt or his older brother Gilbert. Of course these humans wouldn't know who Germany or Prussia was. Only the top of the nation's leaders had relations to the Nation People. Matthew truly was left alone.
Another rough truck ride later, Matthew was dumped at a train station. Hundreds, maybe even over a thousand people, waited on the platform, soldiers surrounding them. Shoved into one of the lines, ordered to wait, the Canadian stole the chance to take in his surroundings. The Allies had no reports of anything like this. Everyone had patches sewn on every article of clothing, though Matt just had a pinned on uninverted red triangle added to his jacket. At first, he believed it was just a sign he was a prisoner, but as he took in the surroundings, he noticed other colors on different people. Many of them didn't have triangles, but the Star of David. Were the Jewish? Several didn't have patches yet, but Matt had a feeling they would soon.
Three hours passed, and Matt shivered lightly. Being from Canada, the cold didn't affect him as much, but since no one was allowed to sit, everyone stood in the frigid wind. Already he had seen at least twenty people collapse and be drug away. With so many people in his line of vision, Matt couldn't follow them with his eyes, but every time, he heard gunshots. The imagination filled in the rest. Chewing on his cheek, Matt thought things through since there wasn't much else to do. What was going here? What could the Germans possibly do with all these people? No one in his vicinity was a soldier, which followed the original reports for the Allies. But something felt drastically off. The people disappearing were from countries like Poland. Every person around Matthew spoke German. Could this be a resistance group against the Nazi Party? No, far too many children in the crowd. Maybe they were relocating these families to safety?
"That's dumb," Matt whispered to himself in French, "They wouldn't shoot the people who collapsed. Something is going on here."
"Yes," muttered the gentleman beside him, answering Matt back in French. A human in his 40s, he smiled comfortingly at Matt, his French almost fluent. He shook his head, not in disapproval but more as to notion around them subtly, "You must not be from around here to not recognize this. Most Frenchmen wouldn't be caught dead in a German uniform. You must be a POW."
"I guess so. I was-"
Both men pursed their lips as three guards marched by, brandishing their guns. Their beady eyes gazed over Matt and his new acquaintance, silently daring them to speak. The short staring stalemate broke within moments as another man passed out further down the train platform. Hustling to retrieve him, the guards left them once more.
Slowly exhaling, Matt side glanced at the man once more. He was smiling. The Canadian shook his head, ignoring the nearby gunshot, "How come you seem so happy?"
The man chuckled quietly, shifting his weight and cramming his hands deeper in his pockets, "Sometimes you have to smile to keep yourself from crying."
"You know where we're going don't you?"
"You're really are not from around here are you, Frenchie?"
His eyes widened, the man's smile grew sadder, "I am truly sorry then. So sorry-"
"Why, what's going on?"
"You're so young. So far away from home."
"Where are we going?"
"Hopefully? Hopefully what!?"
"Dachau. I hope it is Dachau."
Matt's heart throbbed in his ears as the man spoke, fear creeping into the gentleman's deep voice. He turned his face away from Matt, hiding trying to hide his true feelings.
Licking his lips, Matt stuttered, "What's… Dachau?"
Gritting his teeth, Matt clenched his fists, his fear jumping to anger at the lack of answers. He resisted all urges to slap the man. Inhaling slowly to regain composure, he asked slow and calm, "And what is in this town?"
Eyes hooding over, the man barely muttered, "Die Vernichtungslager."
Shoved forward by an appearing guard, Matt grimaced moving his legs, the muscles whining from their still state. Shooting a glance over his shoulder, the man had that damn smile on his lips and waved to him.
"Goodbye, Frenchie! I pray we meet again!"
The guard passed into the Canadian's line of vision for a second. Craning his neck, Matt sighed. The man was gone.
Slamming the butt of his rifle into his back, the guard barked at him in what Matt assumed was to tell him to hurry. Biting back the pain, the Canadian turned his eyes forward. The train had arrived.
His group, ushered by the guards, filed into the train cars—wait what? Matt pushed up to his tip toes to confirm what he saw. Cattle cars! They were stripped cattle cars! The people in front of him stumbled up the platform, vanishing into the darkness within the car.
"Oh my god… what have I gotten myself into?"
Matt barely remembered how he got into the cattle car. The two women in front of him had cried, their husbands comforting them. The guards came. Then the fight broke out. Panic erupted on the platform, the nearest hundred people closest to him breaking, screaming, running, escaping. Blurs of people, tears, blood swept before his eyes. Gun shots rang out, showering those around him. His feet moving, he dove for shelter to escape the chaos. Suddenly, a slam rang out and Matthew Williams was thrown into darkness.
Mistakenly on instinct, the Canadian had sprinted into one of the cattle cars. Shoulder to shoulder with those around him, the air was already stifling within minutes, musty breaths clamming up his skin. The growing familiar sound of weeping held no comfort for him. Why did he have the sickening suspicion everyone knew where they were going but him?
The train lurched forward, throwing almost everyone to their feet. Matt slammed into the wall but caught himself. In the darkness, he groped helping those around him back up, but the Canadian was jostled to the back wall, trapped, unable to move. Flopping his head back, closing his eyes, the vibrations of the train rattling down his spine as it picked up speed to his unknown destination. Some bright plan this had been, but once he escaped wherever he was going, the Allies would love to hear about this. How awful was it that the Germans shipped their people around in such unsanitary conditions! Nothing could be worse than this, right? The ever tidy Arthur would squirm!
Arthur… Matt's eyes barely opened thinking of his father figure. Had Matt been a good enough child to his parent? Either of his parents? He knew Francis doted on him every moment, but Arthur? It wasn't in the Englishman's nature to openly admit feelings, but Matt knew. Every ruffle of the hair that Arthur gave… pat on the shoulder… tiny, rare smile was an indication of his love for Matt. Though it wasn't as lavish as the Frenchman's words and oaths of forever loving and making love in fields of roses, Matt knew it was Arthur's way of saying he cared for him.
A thick, pungent scent snapped Matt from his thoughts as the tiniest of breezes caught it. Glancing down to his feet, his lip curled in disgust. An empty pail lay on the ground. Though the contents had been empty, some remains stuck to the side. Matt gagged, realizing that it was human waste. That couldn't be the only form of a toilet in this car, could it? Not for all these people!? The Canadian squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the scent. This situation… it began to climb drastically into something bigger. This was cruel. The entire situation was cruel. Even though he was a young nation, he still couldn't fathom the gravity of the circumstance.
Suddenly, Matt opened his eyes. Glancing down once more, he had heard the faintest of whines. A young girl, no older than six shifted from foot to foot, squeezing her knees together. She stared at the bucket, then her eyes darted to the adults around her in fear they would watch her use it. Poor child. Gently pressing two people forward, Matt stepped in front of the little girl, his back to her. Another gentleman beside him also turned his back to her, his shoulder touching the Canadian's in a human screen. The two men nodded to each other in appreciation. Matt turned his eyes towards the ceiling trying to block out any noises as well.
A couple minutes later, Matt felt his jacket shift as the little girl tugged on it. Meeting her eyes, she beamed up to him, her soft brown curls bouncing as the train jolted them around. They stared at each other for several moments before she wrapped her arms around his knees.
"Danke!" she spoke in German so softly that he almost didn't catch it. Matt's heart softened and scooped her up into his arms. Awkwardly shuffling back to his spot by the wall, he rubbed her back, and she shivered against him. The cattle car, far colder than the platform at the train station, was no place for such a small child. Getting an idea, Matt placed her back on the floor—the girl protested for a few seconds with a quivering lip—and he shrugged off his coat. Wrapping her up in it, the sleeves swallowing her, Matt picked her up once more and held her close to him.
"Danke," she muttered again.
Thinking through his sentence to make sure he didn't misspeak, Matt question, "Wo ist deine Mutter?"
"Meine Mutter ist tot."
Poor child, Matt sighed for the umpteenth time. So young to lose someone as important as her mother…
"Wo ist dein Vater?"
"Mein Vater ist tot."
"Oh God," Matt's heart ached for her and held her tighter, nuzzling into her curls. She must have been so scared to be separated from her parents, and now it seemed like she would be alone. No. No, he refused to let this happen to this girl.
Matt shifted her in his arms so she could see him, "Wie heißt du?"
"Ich heiße Heidi."
"Heidi!" Matt beamed down at her, "Das ist eine Gute Namen!"
Brother? Yeah, Matt could be her big brother. Wrapping her arms around his neck, Heidi settled against him. The vibrations of the train pulsing through his body quickly lulled her into a sleep.
Three long days, and they were still traveling across the German country side. Matt's muscles screamed at him every time he shifted or moved or helped the other men in the train car move the bodies to a corner. The cold, lack of water, and suffocation had claimed many in the car, but as sad as it was, they had more room to sit. Matt realized how much he really loved sitting.
Heidi sat between his legs, the Canadian's arms firmly wrapped around her waist. The entire trip, if she wasn't in his arms, he held her hand, and never wandered off more than a few feet from his view. Matt stared down at her. Such a sweet girl, bright too, though her cuteness was being snubbed as she gnawed on his leather belt. It had been an old trick that Francis taught him back during the Great War. Pure leather belts could be consumed. Since he was a nation and couldn't die—though that didn't mean his hunger pains could easily be ignored—Matt gave the belt to the child to chew on. As he watched, his mind wondered. He had never truly cared for any children before even though he adored them. Was this what Francis and Arthur had gone through? Worrying if their little ones would make it. Wondering if they were hungry or cold or could have enough decent privacy to even urinate. He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to fight off his throbbing temples. Of course his parents had worries for him and Alfred, but probably nothing like this.
But however dark the situation seemed, Heidi remained in good spirits. She had even taught him a children's song in German about—from Matt had gathered— a baby crocodile who lived in Egypt named Schnappi. In return, he taught her songs in French and English. Most of the remaining passengers learned Matt was from Canada, and those of them who could speak French helped translate for him. Small kind gestures warmed his heart. These people, no matter the dire situation, sang with Heidi and him scrounging together as much hope as they could muster.
"Bruder," Heidi tugged on his shirt snapping him from his thoughts, "Wir sind langsamer."
She was right. The train was slowing down. Scooping her up in his arms, silence fell among the car. All the passengers clutched their remaining family, friends, anyone who they bonded with and waited as the train stopped.
They had arrived.
Wherever they were.
Doors flying open, soldiers rushed in bearing their guns shoving everyone from the car. Matt crinkled his nose stepping out into the air. It wasn't as fresh as he had imagined during the ride. Sharp and pungent, the scent sickened him. Something was burning and his gut told him he didn't want to know. Eyes darting around, there were two long fences on either side of him separated by the train tracks. In front of him, men toiled and worked behind the fences in the snow. Matt gawked at them in fear, shielding Heidi's face. Some of the men he stared at were like walking, living skeletons.
"Where the hell are we?" he breathed out, lips trembling in the chilled wind. What kind of Hell had they stepped into?
Shoved forward, the Canadian fell into a queue following the tracks towards a towering smoking building. It wasn't a very long line, the soldiers had already gone through the other cattle cars. The soldiers quickly divided up the families, men shoved one way while their sobbing wives passed off the other. Then they were divided again. The younger children and elderly were separated from people closer to Matt's human age. Then the group was led off towards the smoking building.
Good, Matt thought, at least they'll take Heidi inside to warm up.
Tilting her chin up, Matt tried his best in very broken German to comfort her, "Heidi, listen. You do what the soldiers say. Be a good girl. Don't get in trouble."
"Okay, Bruder," she whimpered wiping her tear filled eyes, "And then we can be together?"
"Yes." Matt glared at the approaching soldiers, whose eyes were stuck on the girl in his arms.
Matthew Williams remembered hugging the girl that one last time. She had kissed his cheek and told him in German that she loved him. He had said he loved her back, and promised they would sing Schnappi again soon. Matthew Williams had willingly handed the girl to the soldier and even smiled and waved her off. Passing through the gates, he had watched her through the fences, hoping that the soldiers would at least give her a warm meal in that smoking building. Their eyes had met one last time before Matt stepped into the inspection building.
Mathew Williams had sobbed later, clawing at his arms realizing his terrible mistake. Mathew Williams had not realized he had entered the gates of Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
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(Yes I know Schnappi was written in 2005. I personally enjoy the song very much)