ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the June 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from ZB on Dreamwidth, [personal profile] mirrorofsmoke, [personal profile] chanter_greenie, [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron, [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] ng_moonmoth, and [personal profile] serpentine. It also fills the "punishment" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Dr. Infanta thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains imagery which may disturb some readers. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It takes place during and after World War II. Thus it features genocide, discrimination, extreme violence, death and destruction, killing captive Nazis via superpower, jailbreaking, erotic art, orphaning, traumatic rage, war trials, extrajudicial execution, and other mayhem. Please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding if this is something you want to read.


"We Must Bear Witness"


Alicia of all people
knew this was coming,
for she who lit the spark
of the first world war
foresaw the second.

It was better than if
there had been only one
and burned the world to ash,
but despite her best efforts
there was ash aplenty.

She ghosted through
the battlefield that Europe
had become, sometimes as
a soldier, more often as a spy.

Her Guardians did what they
could to keep her safe, but she
insisted on doing her own work.

When Germany disbarred
all the Jewish lawyers, Alicia
went about and spoke to them.

"Keep a record of whatever
you see," she told them.

"But we can't practice law anymore,
the Nazis have seen to that,"
said Wilhelm Dickmann.

"Do it anyway," Alicia said.
"The Nazis will not last forever.
We must bear witness for
the dead and the living."

"They are taking away
the radios, the cameras,
the typewriters -- even
the pens and pencils,"
Wilhelm protested.

"Then use your head,"
Alicia snapped. "I will
find a smuggler to replace
the lost materials when I can."

It took her a while, because
such things were in high demand,
but Alicia had resources that
were even more precious.

She traded healing and
slipped people a little youth
siphoned from captured Nazis.

Alicia met Harman Hanstein
while a Nazi soldier was trying
to pull his pants off to determine
whether the man was a Jew.

He was not; he was Roma;
but the Nazi never got that far.

Alicia stripped the lifeyears
out of the soldier and asked
his victim, "How would you like
an extra decade of life and a camera?
I have Jewish contacts already, and I
could really use a Roma view."

"The things I've seen," he said,
"they could burn the paper."

"If they do, we'll switch to glass plates,"
Alicia said. "It hasn't been that long
since those were the standard."

Harman was staring at her.
Perhaps he meant it metaphorically.

Then again, you never knew what
scientists would do, and the Germans
were brewing up something savage.

She scared him, but Harman
took the camera anyway.

In Paris, Alicia found
a French woman who
loved other women and
cut her hair short as a man.

A pang went through her,
remembering Jeanne d'Arc,
but that was a long time ago.

Alicia broke Claude Olivier out of jail
and then dispatched the pursuit
with great enthusiasm while
the young woman cringed away
from the angry Nazi soldiers.

"Don't just stand there and take it,"
Alicia advised her. "Arm yourself."

"With what?" Claude said.
"The Nazis have confiscated
every weapon in Paris!"

Alicia gave her a fountain pen
and a notebook. "A woman
with a pen in her hand is
the mightiest of warriors."

Claude was no writer,
but she could draw.

Alicia's Guardians tried
to keep her from seeing
the pictures, but Alicia
had seen it all before.

At first Claude simply drew
nude women with their bodies
entangled in ecstasy, but as she
gained more skill, she began
to draw portraits as well.

"In case they don't make it,"
she said, handing Alicia a batch.
"Someone should know they existed."

"I will remember," Alicia promised.

Other times Claude slipped the pictures
of girls fucking girls into the Nazi tents
just to piss them off, and once, they fell
to fighting each other because one of them
thought it was hot instead of horrifying.

That was never going to stop being funny.

Alicia slipped through Europe and
did what she could to help, but she
saw the damage -- not just the dead and
the walking wounded, but also how much
it hurt people to erase themselves
in hopes of escaping the hate.

If they would not speak,
then she would not either.

For now. She would remember,
and someday, it would all come out.
Alicia had all the time in the world to wait.

She met Wray Heppenheimer, who
introduced himself as a scholar
although he was self-taught.

He rode a clever little trolley
because his legs didn't work, with
a stack of newspapers for sale
balanced across his lap.

He was already distributing
anti-Nazi tracts on the sly.

"If you'd like to expand your range,
I think I can uncurl your hands
a bit," Alicia said to him.

"What kind of range?" he said.

"Ugly photographs, and
pretty pictures of girls doing
naughty things," she said.

"Are you a doctor, that you
think you can fix my hands?"
Wray asked in a teasing tone.

"Actually I am," she said.
"I studied in Italy. I can't
fix your hands all the way,
but I can make them better."

"What have I got to lose?"
he said, holding out the right
which was nearly curled in a ball.

Alicia couldn't get the gnarled joints
quite straight, but his hand opened
and closed now, and it didn't hurt.

Wray was more than happy
to pass pictures in return.

Alicia wove together a net
of contacts across as much of
Europe as she could reach.

She couldn't be everywhere,
but they could help each other.

When Alicia realized that Claude
dreamed of becoming a lawyer
despite the Germans forbidding it,
she introduced the young woman
to Wilhelm and suggested that
Claude study law with him.

They got on like a house on fire.

Alicia met an American soldier
whose voice held a whisper of
the Carpathian Mountains and
whose heart held a love of law.

Ben Ferencz helped her to
funnel evidence back to America,
and her Guardians liked him
because he was so responsible.

To Alicia, he was just the guy who
wouldn't give her all his chocolate.

When the Nazis came too close
to Wilhelm, she called him and said,
"Hello, I understand that you are going
on your vacation tomorrow. I just heard
the latest weather report. The weather will
change radically in the morning, so it would be
advisable to take the earliest possible flight out.”

Wilhelm sensibly grabbed his sister and
their father and fled Berlin at once.

Hopefully the network would get
their family somewhere safe. Alicia
couldn't take more time than that;
her hands were already full.

And then there was Hanka.

A fierce battle forced Alicia
into the meager medical tents of
the Polish underground army.

No sooner had she finished
healing the last of the casualties
than one of the orderlies whispered,
"It's true. You can do it too."

"I can do many things,"
Alicia said. "What can you do?"

"This," said Hanka,
and laid her hand over
a badly broken knee that
Alicia had ignored in favor of
patching up punctured lungs.

Pale light spilled out from under
her fingers, and Alicia could
sense the bones knitting.

"You have a great gift,"
said Alicia. "You must have
saved many lives with it."

"Some," said Hanka, "but
it makes me so hungry,
and there's so little food."

Alicia collared one of the doctors
and said, "Feed her as much
as she can eat, and she'll heal
as much as she can."

It took some fast talking --
and another demonstration --
but in the end, Hanka got
the expanded rations and
the Polish underground army
got the full benefit of a healer.

They began calling her
Hanka Biała, White Hannah.

Alicia wove her into the network
as a courier, smuggling records of
atrocities committed by Nazi scientists.

Then the Germans set off
the Sterbenfeld device, and
Alicia lost all of her Guardians,
and she went a bit mad for a while.

She cut a bloody swath through Europe,
and after she had done enough damage
to ensure the end of the war, then she
took her new friend Aidan (who was
in even worse shape) and retreated to
Canada in the care of a retired Guardian.

Alicia had a few years to calm down
and begin to regroup. It wasn't easy,
but she had lost everything before
and knew how to handle it.

When word of the war trials
began to get around, she
revived her network and
collected the news.

Wilhelm had indeed made it
to America, where he was
working as a lawyer again, and
he was happy to help Alicia
begin organizing the evidence.

Harman's photographs
made their way to her,
not all of them, but enough.

Some had stories jotted on the back,
others names and dates, some blank.

Claude's pictures came too, so many faces
noted as dead. Some of the pages were dotted
with tearstains, while one had been crumpled and
then smoothed out again. A photo showed
the Tomb of the Unknown Lesbian.

Claude herself had become a lawyer
and gotten involved in the trials.
That, too, was justice.

Alicia heard a rumor that Wray
was dead, but couldn't confirm it.
All kinds of people were dead,
and the damn Nazis had killed
every "cripple" they could.

Hanka Biała had only almost
died in the Warsaw Uprising,
smuggled out at the last minute by
one of Alicia's allies and -- against
all expectation -- a German soldier
whose life Hanka had saved earlier.

When Alicia found out that Ben
had been pushing hard to bring
the Nazis to justice, she pulled strings
to get him assigned as a prosecutor.

"I need to go back to Europe,"
she told Aidan. "Just for a little while.
I need to see this with my own eyes."

"Why?" he mumbled, his mouth
still not fully recovered from
his injuries in the war. "You
don' need t'do this t'yourself."

"Not for myself," Alicia said gently.
“For the dead and the living,
we must bear witness.”

Aidan couldn't argue with that.

So she went to see the trial
of the Einsatzgruppen, who had
murdered thousands of people.

There were the Nazi records of
their own atrocities, yes, but there
were also Harman's photographs and
Claude's sketches, and some postcards
that Wray had managed to mail somehow.

Alicia watched the trial with relish as
Ben ripped the defense apart.

When one of the Nazis tried
to escape and was found dead
with a fountain pen through his eye,

nobody complained at all.

* * *

Notes:

"On September 25 1938, at around 2am, Berlin lawyer Wilhelm Dickmann got a phone call. “Hello, I understand that you are going on your vaction tomorrow. I just heard the latest weather report. The weather will change radically in the morning, so it would be advisable to take the earliest possible flight out.” The caller, who Dickmann didn’t recognise, then hung up.
That night Dickmann bid farewell to his sister and father — who he would never see again — and fled, first to Copenhagen, and then New York. After a number of odd jobs, Dickmann re-qualified as a US lawyer, and joined the US army. As an American officer, Dickmann — now using the name William Dickman — returned to his hometown of Berlin in 1945. Two years later, as a staff member of the American high commissioner general Lucius Clay, he wrote the Control Council Law No. 26 that decreed the dissolution of Prussia."
-- Lawyers Without Rights

Harman Hanstein -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and black hair. His heritage is Roma and he lives in Poland. His appearance can be mistaken for Jewish, a source of considerable distress to him. During World War II, he was captured by Nazis, then rescued by Dr. Infanta. She gave him a camera, and he took pictures to chronicle the war from a Roma perspective.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Photographer, Expert (+4) Traveler, Good (+2) Nimble
Poor (-2) Looks Jewish

Claude Olivier -- She has fair skin with freckles, brown eyes, and short brown hair with red highlights. Her heritage is French and she lives in Paris. She is a lesbian and active in the women's underground. During World War II, she was jailed for loving other women, but Dr. Infanta broke her out and gave her some art supplies. Claude began drawing lesbian erotica, and later, portraits of lesbians. Most did not survive the war. Later she established the Tomb of the Unknown Lesbian in Paris to memorialize a corpse discovered there after the war, identifiable only by the black triangle on her prisoner uniform.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Lesbian, Good (+2) Artist, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Passing for Straight

Wray Heppenheimer -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. A congenital condition has left him with small crumpled legs, a twisted torso, and hands that barely open. It was only somewhat responsive to Healing from Dr. Infanta, but she managed to make his hands work better. His heritage is German. During World War II, he smuggled anti-Nazi materials including war photos and lesbian art. Rumor says that he died during the war; the Nazis sought to kill everyone who was not able-bodied.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Courage, Expert (+4) Scholar, Good (+2) Newspaper Vendor
Poor (-2) Congenital Deformity

Ben Ferencz was just 27 years old when in 1947 he became the chief prosecutor in one of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials after World War II. Now he is 96 years old and the only one of those prosecutors still alive. [...] Ben Ferencz says the Einsatzgruppen killed over 1 million people. He found their top secret reports with dates and other details about the massacres. “The Nazis were so sure they would win the war they kept record of all their atrocities. I had their daily reports and knew exactly, which unit was in charge, how many Jews they killed and who the commanding officer was,” he says.
-- 96-Year-Old Ben Ferencz Tried Nazi Mass Murderers And Still Dreams About World Peace

"Anna Zakrzewska (24 December 1925 — 11 August 1944) served with the Polish underground army as a courier and a medical orderly. She was killed in the course of desperate combat during the Warsaw Uprising." In Terramagne, she also had Healing.
-- Anna Zakrzewska

* * *

"For the dead and the living, we must bear witness."
Elie Wiesel

(These links are heinous.)
World War II included acts of genocide and other war crimes. Mad scientists conducted evil experiments and designed terrible weapons.

Jewish lawyers were disbarred, some abused and murdered, in Germany.

Roma and Sinti were also oppressed.

Gay men, and to a lesser extent lesbians, were persecuted.

(These links are explicit.)
Here is an example of tribadism such as shown in Claude's art, and this is a woman's portrait.

The Tomb of the Unknown Lesbian includes a crypt and a pleurant statue in Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris. It is modeled after the concept of the "tomb of the unknown soldier," of which there are numerous examples.

Disabled people were murdered in droves. This program extended beyond the Nazis into civilian institutions.

Nazi war trials were rather more successful in Terramagne than here, partly due to Granny Whammy and Dr. Infanta.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-25 08:06 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Would that we had had such heroes.

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