I was a pilot for the Soviet Air Force
I shot down too many Messerschmitt’s of course.
My planes number posted to the control panels of the Luftwaffe
Their pilots desperate to break this Russian agraffe.
So I was shot down over Bavaria near the Czech border
But not before I shot up a few “Gerties” in short order.
Now I am a guest in the Flossenburg camp
I was a Russian officer but now I look like a tramp.
Wooden shoes, ragged clothes in the rain and the snow
Unto the quarries in Flossenburg every day I must go.
It’s 40 degrees and raining, the wind is blowing
My feet through my shoes are showing.
I swing the big German hammer upon the quarry blocks
It sings to me as it smashes through the rocks.
In my sleep I hear it ring.
The blisters on my hands have turned to callus a half inch thick
I thank God for this physiological trick.
My feet are so cold I cannot feel my toes
The wind and rain whistle through the holes in my clothes.
I am so thirsty I try to drink the rain
I can only catch a few drops in vain.
The SS detail officer laughs at me
He pulls out his silver whiskey flask for me to see.
A Wehrmacht sergeant looks at me and shakes his head
There’s someplace else he’d rather be instead.
I see the sadness in his eyes
I know he doesn’t believe the Third Rich’s lies.
In another time we would have been friends
Instead he stands his post and pretends.
To believe in Hitler’s manifesto
But the war came to him and he must go.
I see him holding a picture of his little girl and wife
The tears down his cheeks tinted in strife.
A large and gentle man with a square face who stands
In a quarry of human wretchedness who understands.
The value of human life
The value of his wife.
The uselessness of strife
The German obsession of violence en rife.
The camp officers feed us Russians food that’s unfit to eat
Of runny broth and tough and rotten meat.
I have become a shadow of my former self
I can’t even remember how to be myself.
My hands shake when I put them to my face
I have become my own disgrace.
My captor won’t even allow me human dignity
But my soul to them I shield with impunity.
The Wehrmacht sergeant got me an extra blanket one night
He managed to give it to me out of the other guards’ sight.
I gave it to Alexsei who is dying they say.
The camp doctor looked at him today.
He came back to his bed with a new red tattoo
This is a special one with a new hue.
13-C it says bright and clear
It’s the camp brand of death I fear.
It’s the “Mark of Ascension” that’s what the Jews say
Anyone that can’t work is put to death this way.
Alexsei was gone when I woke up today
I never saw him again he’s gone away.
I didn’t have to go to the quarry today
It seems all the officers got sick there they say.
I saw a Polish woman shot in front of a child today
They just let her lie where she’d fallen that way.
You wouldn’t believe the horrors I’ve seen
You wouldn’t believe where I have been.
You wouldn’t believe man’s inhumanity to man
Sometimes it’s more than I can possibly stand.
I love people in this camp that I don’t even know
It’s the spirit of the human soul that ties us together so.
A little of me dies when one of them does
For those that are and those that were.
It’s the 23rd of April 1945
It’s a fine spring morning and I’m still alive.
There’s something in the air I’ve not felt before
It feels like freedom on this wind is bore.
I feel the ground under my feet shaking
I feel the very soil of this wretched place quaking.
Tanks of the 2nd Cavalry in an armored column approaching
Upon this hell hole encroaching.
The Jews are at the fence yelling and singing
I see Americans dismounting standing and staring.
They’ve not seen anything like us before.
The tattered, the lost and abused forever more.
One soldier fell to his knees and shook his head and cried
For all the lost souls that tried.
To live and were denied
From all the pleading, tear filled eyes.
Germany’s abomination unto man
This legacy from a maniacal clan.
Started from just one man
Through a populous who were too lazy to think outran.
All common sense and all decency.
All of what it takes to be human of this recency.
Paid for with the blood of millions innocent souls.
At the expense of The Third Rich’s impossible goals.
And so I watched as an American tank pulled through the gate.
The tank commander ran over the wire that cut, the wire that ate.
The fingers of prisoners that it kept within.
And he got down from his tank and we stood there in front of him.
He shook his head and looked at me.
And from the corners of his eyes I could see.
Tears, and he said unto me, “I’m sorry for you.”
And P-51 Mustangs barrel-rolled overflew.
The Flossenburg Camp this day.
And the camp commandant came out to surrender.
His salute to the commander his attempt at tender.
The American slapped him across the face did render.
Blood from his nose and knocked him to the ground
And the other guards to him gathered round.
Except for one
The big sergeant now smiling, now done.
He removed his uniform jacket and stood before the American
So I spoke to the commander of the good things done by this man.
And he told the sergeant to go home and gave him a pat on the back
Today I saw humanity triumph over war one man to another this pact.
The Americans came in, and gave us food
And they were sensitive to our mood.
They gave us more blankets than we could use
I saw one old Jewish man get a new pair of shoes.
And he wept
And some others slept.
The sleep of relief
The reprieve of grief.
My name is Anatoly Magnovska.
And I was a prisoner in Flossenburg.
And I lived to see my persecutors hanged.
And I am an officer of the Soviet Air force.
And I will never forget the American officer that cried when he saw me.
And I will never forget his kindness that we all got to see.
I will never forget Alexsei and his red 13-C.
And I thank God for being inside of me.