There is another ghost who resides at my house, though I don't often mention him. He and I are like oil and water; we just don't mix. There are rare times when I enjoy his presence and there are times where I wish he'd simply go away. This doesn't mean he's a harmful spirit. In fact, he's rather benign. It's just his opinions I don't like. See, Nick was part of the SS during WWII. I'm a Polish Jew. You can probably see why we fight so much.
Anyway, Nick is one of the voices of history that often goes unheard. He had an eventful life, even though he doesn't necessarily think so himself. He wasn't a famous, he wasn't a movie star, he didn't do anything glamorous. Nevertheless, he experienced life, the greatest thing on earth. That's something impressive in and of itself. For the duration of this story, I'll be narrating, though quotes from Nick's running commentary will be included.
Nikolaus Bernard Schaefer was born August 11th, 1913 (or 1918, I'm dyslexic) in Germany to a middle or upper class family. He can't remember his parents that well, but he knows his dad held a job that required him to travel far away for long periods of time. Nick described his dad as "a born businessman with all the traits and physical features that go with it." He had thin brown hair and a walrus-like mustache. Nick's mother was a plump blonde woman who often looked sad or displeased. Neither of his parents were emotionally available for their son. Nick was kept in an upstairs bedroom for the majority of his life with a governess to watch over him. "Parents never actually did the parenting. It was always left to someone else." he'd remark.
Despite being neglected by his parents, they always found some way to keep their son busy: church, music lessons, sports, after-school tutoring. His childhood, his life was never truly his to live. It was all decided by his parents. "I was basically their pedigreed show dog," Nick said, "they had me trained in almost every social art you could think of: polite conversation, piano, singing, dance. We weren't a family; we didn't love each other. We were a collective group of people all bound by my father's job. We played the part of a loving family in public, but behind closed doors, we couldn't have been more miserable."
Nikolaus's teen years were a time of great change for him. Nick's dad started to take him along on business trips whenever he had breaks from school. They traveled to a lot of places, most of which he can't remember. Only one place stands out in his memory: Poland. That was the place where he met two Roma (gypsy) boys named Adam and Abel. It was a strange encounter for Nikolaus, mostly because he had never seen a gypsy before. In fact, he had never seen anybody who wasn't white. Despite their obvious cultural differences, the three boys quickly became friends. Adam and Abel had a younger sister called Nadya who was several years younger than them. She was like most little sisters: she always wanted to do what her older brothers were doing. Sadly, she was excluded from most of the fun.
Time passed and Nikolaus soon found himself in high school. He was a fantastic student who loved to learn. His favorite subject was science, but he knew he was destined for the military. His parents had been preparing him for the armed forces since the day he was born. During his high school years, Nick admitted to having a crush on a friend's sister. "She was uniquely beautiful. Her name was Leisl and she had red hair. I sometimes called her Herbstlaub, though over time it got shortened to Herbst. It meant "autumn," in obvious reference to her coloring. I was an immature boy lost in puppy love, though it wasn't entirely in vain. I kissed her twice, once behind the school and once on her doorstep after walking her home."
Nick also claims that some of his friends were men who would later become infamous for their war crimes in WWII: Klaus Barbie and Rolf Günther. "Rolf and I got along quite well. He was the quiet type though, soft-spoken in a polite way. He and his brother Hans were both like that. Klaus on the other hand, he had something unsettling about him that I never could pin down. Behind his arrogant smile was a disturbing lust for blood, for violence. You could see it in his eyes."
Nick went to college, then worked as a police officer for a short time before becoming a member of the Schutzstaffel, Hitler's SS. He went on a few "gypsy round-ups" before being sent to a military base to work as a tank mechanic. He was promoted to working at Auschwitz after repairing a broken radio and received an important message.
At Auschwitz, Nikolaus was sort of like a health inspector. He made sure that all the regulations were being followed, no prisoners were being tortured, and that the workers were doing their job. His unique position gave him a sort of authority around the camp. All he had to do was submit a few negative reports and the offending individual would be removed. Nick's time at Auschwitz was pretty mundane up until the summer of 1942.
It was an unusually hot day, though the first signs of a thunderstorm lingered in the air. A new trainload of prisoners were due to arrive and Nick was to go through the long and tedious process of sorting the good from the bad. The shipment was full of stragglers, mostly the social dissidents from Southeast Europe and camps like Dachau. As the train pulled into the camp, the prisoners were released and given instructions to form into a single-file line over the loudspeakers. Attendants stood with growling dogs, ready to apprehend anyone who tried to escape. Nick's attention was elsewhere. There was a woman in the crowd that looked familiar.
Finally, as he reached the middle of the line, Nick saw her again. It was Nadya, Adam and Abel's little sister! The head officer took one look at her and told her to go to the opposite line. She was headed for the gas chamber. Nikolaus stepped forward and asked the head officer to reconsider his choice. They spoke for a while and made an agreement. Nadya was allowed to live, but with a price. When the sorting was over, Nikolaus led Nadya to a different part of the camp. She was sprayed with insecticide and taken to a tall building. "This place is meant for death Nadja," Nick explained, "the work... It will kill you. The experiments will kill you. The people will kill you. As long as you're up here, you will be safe."
Nadya found out that she was placed in "Das KZ Bordell." (The camp brothel). She was allowed to wear civilian clothes, she received better food, and she worked a few hours in a garment repair shop during the early portion of the day. From about noon until 10 PM, she had..."things" to do. Nikolaus was her most frequent visitor, though most of his visits weren't for my services. He was content with my companionship. One memorable event was when he brought me a gift. He had fixed a radio so that it would play music and smuggled it to me as a gift. My little room soon became a hiding place (of sorts) for Nikolaus. Whenever he had free time (or even when he didn't) he would come and visit.
As one could imagine, somewhere along the line, Nikolaus fell in love with her. I daresay she returned the sentiment. However, it was quickly destroyed upon hearing a vicious lie (or rather half-truth) from one of the other brothel girls. Nikolaus had been caught doing "things" with three other women when he was supposed to be away on business. Nikolaus explained it to me (some 90 years later!) with a tinge of embarrassment. At that time, Hitler was promoting unmarried women to get pregnant and have healthy Ayrian babies for the Fatherland. There was a program where unwed women could be impregnated by SS men (who were screened for a vast assortment of genetic problems prior to acceptance into the party). Nikolaus was chosen by a few women and well... The rest is history.
Upon hearing that lie, Nadya's heart was broken. She was convinced that he didn't love her because she was a Romani, a social dissident. In turn, she became very cold toward him. They fought a lot from that point on. Finally, everything came to a boil. Nadya was working in the garment shop when Nikolaus came in for routine inspection. He was making very snide comments toward her and the quality of her work and she finally had enough. She called him a long string of profane words in Russian, threw something at him, and told him she had found someone new (a lie). He snapped. Nikolaus came after her and struck her hard across the face. She fell to the floor, but he grabbed a handful of her hair and drug her across the shop to throw her outside. Nadya landed hard on the ground and tried to get to her feet, but Nick had already grabbed his gun and had it aimed at her head.
"Stop! Stop! What are you doing?!" an unfamiliar voice called. Nikolaus looked up to see a lower ranking soldier named Kristopher running toward him. "Get a hold of yourself man! We are low on supplies. We can't afford to waste any! Wait until tomorrow, when the gas-wagons come!" Nikolaus could agree with that logic. He resolved to wait until tomorrow to "personally escort" Nadya to her death. That night, Kristopher helped Nadya escape.
(I know it sounds unrealistic, but before you scoff, there were actually a LOT of escapes from Auschwitz, probably due to the fact that the prison was so large, the death toll was so high, and nobody really payed attention to the prisoners. From what I've read, there were about 300 escapes that are known of and many more that probably aren't.)
Nick was never the same after this incident. His eyes finally opened and he saw the world for what it really was, not what he had been taught to see. He could no longer stand the thought of what atrocities he was committing; leading people, living, breathing human beings to their death, but he couldn't break away or else he'd be killed as well. So, he turned to alcohol to drown his misery. His drinking problem eventually got so bad that he was released from his job before the war was over. Nick spent the remainder of his life in a drunken stupor.
Kris and Nadya's escape from Auschwitz was successful. They had settled in Belgium near the end of the war. Kris proposed on May 7, 1945 and he and Nadya were married in December. They had twin boys named Alexandre and Bernard who were nicknamed Xander and Xerxes. Life was peaceful for them; they lived off the land as Nadya's Roma ancestors had. Nikolaus died in November of 1970 as an alcoholic dishonored veteran. He was never tried at Nuremberg. Kris died in 1981 of a sudden heart attack, leaving Nadya heartbroken. She later died in 1990 from pneumonia.
In the present day, Kristopher is now known as Shea and hasn't changed much since his last life. Nadja incarnated as a young Jewish woman named Kayla who wrote this story and is thankful to have Nikolaus as her spirit guide, even though they don't always see eye-to-eye.