Epilogue: How Dark The Heavens

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This material, copyright 1990 by Sidney Iwens, is excerpted from hisprize-winning book “How Dark the Heavens”. This material may not bereprinted or reproduced in any form without the expressed written permission of Sidney Iwens.

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We were liberated. After nearly four years the miraculous happened, ourtormentors were gone. But at Camp Allach there were no sounds of jubilation,no shouts of joy. We, the remnant, who in spite of everything, outlastedthose who were to destroy us, were barely alive. Enfeebled, half-crazed fromhunger, we held on to life by a thin thread. Indeed, in many cases that thinthread snapped the following days, as the death rate in camp continued unabated.

That very first day, some of us walked out of camp in search of food. Notmany people lived in the area, but when I and two other fellows found ahouse and walked inside, the people cowered in alarm at the sight of us.Theystared at us, and their faces expressing disgust mixed with fear, keptrepeating, “We didn’t know . . .we didn’t know anything. . .” But we onlywanted bread. . . we walked out. The American soldiers tried to be helpful,but the war was still going on and they had neither the resources nor thepersonnel to do much for us. Though well-intended, the meal of macaroni andchunks of fat meat, which was prepared for us the second day afterliberation, was a disaster. The heavy meal made people very sick and thedying went on at a fast pace.

After a few days, I too became ill. I felt very weak and could barely musterenough strength to crawl out of the block. Hour after hour we’d lie in along row next to the building, hoping that the pleasant spring sun wouldbring us back our health. And then, because disease was so rampant here, Iyet again experienced a quarantine, our camp was closed up. Armed Americansoldiers were patrolling outside the fence and no one was allowed to leave.

The days went by and I did not feel any better. A few times I consideredgoing to the camp hospital for help, but had been told by those who’d beenthere that not much could be done there for us anyway, and so I didn’t go.

Although it seemed to take a long time for me to recuperate, eventually Istarted feeling stronger. After more weeks passed, I decided to get awayfrom Allach where there was still so much death and disease. Of course, Iwas eager to start searching for Golda immediately. I knew she’d been alivein Stutthof last fall. However, a lot could have happened since then. Andwhat of Max and all the friends? Who of them was still alive?

The escape from camp was dangerous. I heard that one of the men had beenwounded by a guard while trying to get out. I crawled through the wirefencein the darkness of night and found a clump of bushes a short distance away,where I lay waiting for the night curfew to end.

The hours of waiting went by slowly. While lying among the tangled branches,I kept thinking of all those countless times when I’d been lying concealed,heart pounding away, pulse racing, knowing full well that discovery meantcertain death. It was different now. I knew that even if I were discovered,my life wouldn’t be threatened, there was even somewhat ofa tinglingsensation in the perceived danger. Yet I felt a touch of bitterness, it hadbeen weeks since our liberation, and still. . . . But suddenly I noticed thesky in the East starting to brighten, soon it would be morning, a brightsunny morning . . . and I was free. I will find Golda. And I could feelexhilaration swelling up in me. . . .I could see myself reaching the roadjust a few hundred feet away and walking toward the city, the big city ofMunich, and beyond Munich there was the wide, beautiful world . . . full ofmystery and unfamiliar joys . . . and yes, I was free.

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