Josef Mengele

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Dante feels change
a soundless wisp of cool
that brings a darker
shade of dark
dimming then dousing
the horizon flares
until there seems no horizon
only the crusty path
bereft of harpies’ howls.
Gone the slithers in this sedge
which reeks of frozen rot
the stench entrenched
with each new step
until…just there…
a maw of cave
black “o” of mouth
in silent scream.

As if by force of unseen hands
he’s pulled within a hall of ice
echoing hollow jackboot sounds.

Ahead a bold blue light…
Bathed in its tepid glow
he feels within a colder cold:
he cannot turn and leave.

He enters a domed chamber
with walls of frozen faces…
countless sets of twins
their mouths open in oval “o’s”
shouting down their pain.

Dante wishes for the hated heat
to warm this chill,
the sudden sight of evil
a uniformed figure encased
in a slab of ice…
SS bolts on collar
jackboots gleaming
shined by spit
dark tunic, crisp epauletes…

“Pilgrim, stand still in my presence!
Heil Hitler! Long live the Reichland!
Do not defile my service.
I did as duty calls.
My subjects were specimens
used for scientific knowledge.”

“You were the Angel of Death at Auschwitz,”
    says Dante.
“I will not say your name for fear that
God will strike me down with bolts more real
than those upon your collar.”

You stood at the death camp trains.
Sorted life and death with the flick
    of a thumb.
Gas for the old and weak.
Scalpel for twins and dwarfs.
You sterilized nuns!
Dissected living babies!”

“Be silent, Pilgrim!
You wander through life with wishes.
I lived three decades
outwitting those who pursued me.
Died an old man in the sea.
Had God wanted me dead
    at the hands of those Jews
he would have guided
    the noses of their hounds.”

Dante feels words from the walls
    and speaks them:
“God wanted you to run like prey
through jungles, bereft of peace.
He consigned you here
even lower than your Fuhrer.
There is only one other
encased in ice in this Inferno
and he is lower still
the ultimate fallen angel
whose face I pray I do not see
for yours breeds fear beyond
    my faith.”

Dante retreats
from the Wall of Dead
then braves the tunnel
which seems now part
    of his bones
so cold is he within his cloak.

Josef Mengele was a German (SS) officer and physician in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He was notorious for selecting victims that were to be killed in the gas chambers and for performing unscientific and often deadly human experiments on prisoners. After the war, he fled to South America where he evaded capture for the rest of his life.

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