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  • Aalina

    Aalina Dohm woke with a start as the train rattled over the points,
    she readjusted the heavy scarf which had slipped while she slept and cleared
    a small patch of condensation from the window. She had chosen the seat
    with care, in the semi-darkness of a missing light bulb she felt safe.
    The drizzle of misty rain in the short November twilight restricted her
    view, but not long now surely, the odd American soldier on the passing
    stations told her she was in the American zone of her stolen country.
    She shivered and drew her coat closer around her, moved her body on the
    wooden slat seat for more comfort.
    Aalina allowed her eyes to close again.
    Bayreuth so beautiful in that spring of 1936, the linden trees on the
    Konigsallee were dressed in baby green leaves, Wagner at the
    Festspielhaus, fever-eyed and lost in the towering finale of the Parsifal, so
    proud in her uniform of the Jungmadelbund.
    Now it was over, lost in the towering acres of rubble that had once been the cities of her homeland,
    but she would not join the ranks of the deluded and their sterile dreams of a fourth Reich.

    The train was slowing; she looked again out the window as the sign
    Bahnhof Bayreuth came into view. She stood up and reached for the
    suitcase on the rack above her, steadied herself as the final brakes were
    applied, made her way down the centre aisle and out to the platform.
    Following the memorised instructions she found the small hotel a short
    distance from the Bahnhof. She booked in for a single night,
    refused the evening meal, climbed the stairs to her room and locked the door.

    Aalina Dohm rose early, washed in the small sink, packed her night
    Clothes and carried her suitcase down to the dining room and ordered coffee
    and rolls.
    Later at the reception desk, she had to wait while a travelling
    salesman argued loudly with an unimpressed clerk, when he left Aalina
    paid the bill and went out to the pale sunshine of the Tuesday morning.
    The large house lay in a side street off the Fursetzer Strasser, its faded
    barouche fascia was in keeping with the rest of the houses in the small
    street which, by some miracle, had entirely escaped the carpet bombing
    of the final months of the war.
    She climbed the three steps and rang the bell.

    "Aalina Dohm, I believe I'm expected," she told the uniformed maid, who nodded and held the door open for her.
    She was shown into a large study where a tall man rose to meet her from behind a walnut desk.
    Aalina judged him to be in his middle forties, a handsome man whose features were those which improved with age.
    "Fraulein Dohm?" he held out his hand in welcome and ushered her to a chair in front of the imposing desk.
    He resumed his seat opened a drawer and took out a folder.
    "A few questions, but first may I have your papers."
    Aalina reached in her bag and handed them to him.
    "Ah yes, there very good, excellent in fact, the work of our Willie in
    Mannheim I think. Well now Aalina, or would you prefer Gerta?"
    "As you wish, Aalina Dohm or Gerta Heinz, just a name."
    She didn't answer.
    "You were born in Berlin on March the third 1921."
    "March the sixth." Aalina corrected him.
    "Of course." he smiled. "I see you were trained at Ravensbruck with Irma Grese."
    "No, I had left before Irma arrived. She is---was, two years younger than me."
    "But you knew her at Auschwitz-Birkenau?
    Aalina nodded.
    "You helped her with the selection process
    "No, my duties were confined to the medical compound. Is all this really necessary? she asked.
    "We have to be convinced you are who you claim to be."
    "And if I'm not?”
    "Then you will never leave here Aalina, but don't let that worry you,
    I am reasonably sure that you are Gerta Heinz.
    Just a few more questions; what was your relationship with Dr Josef Mengele?”
    "I was his medical assistant" she answered.
    "You assisted him in the medical experiments?”
    "Many were carried out without anaesthetic I understand."
    "They were only Jews."
    "Quite; well Aalina everything is ready for you, I must say it seems a pity to change such a beautiful face."
    Aalina smiled at the compliment.
    "If I am to survive, it is necessary."
    In the upstairs room, she undressed and put on the gown provided for her.
    A young woman wearing a nurse's uniform entered carrying a steel
    kidney bowl.
    "If you will lie down please, I will give you your pre-med."
    The injection was fast acting; she felt heaviness in her limbs after only a
    few minutes. Lifted onto a stretcher trolley, she was wheeled through the
    white swing doors at the end of the corridor.
    Aalina lay on the operating table under the intense overhead lighting, a
    small man with his back to her, busied himself at a small table. He turned
    and leant over her, his lower face was masked but the eyes were smiling.
    She read the name tag on the white coat, Dr Joshua Aaron Cohen.
    "You're are a Jew'" the words were uttered in a shocked slur
    "Yes Aalina we are all Jews here, we took over the house from your
    comrades three weeks ago and you are our first patient, welcome"
    Aalina tried to move her arms and failed.
    "There now, no need to be afraid, I am here to give you what you came
    for, to change your features and with the benefit of anaesthetic something
    that you denied to the children, but then they of course were only Jews.
    Let me see."
    His gloved finger traced the line of her lips.
    "A little wider here I think, the ears and nose will have to go and we
    originally intended to remove the eyes but then that would have denied
    you the pleasure of gazing at your new face in the mirror."
    He turned, picked up the hypodermic tapping the glass. He lifted her arm.
    "Now sleep my Liebling, tomorrow you will be a new woman