Today's Reading

"Where's Brasse?"

"In the darkroom," answered Tadek Brodka, who was preparing the equipment for the morning's work.

Walter crossed the room quickly and knocked on the door to the laboratory. He didn't want to barge in while the red light was on; he would have ruined his favorite prisoner's work. Only when he received permission to enter did he open the door.

"Good morning, Herr Brasse. How are you today?"

The photographer smiled at him. "As well as ever, Herr Oberscharführer. How can I help you?"

Walter held up the roll of film, then put it down on a table. "Here's some more work for you. When do you think you can develop it and get it printed?"

Brasse looked at the reel. "I'll start today, as soon as we've finished the registrations. May I ask what it is?"

Walter shrugged his shoulders. "Some pictures I took yesterday as I was going around the camp. But they're very important to me, and they're for my superiors. Do you understand?"

The photographer understood perfectly. These pictures were not destined for Walter's personal album; they would be seen by the highest-ranking officers in the camp. He must work on them with the greatest of care.

"Don't worry. Your prints will be perfect."

After this brief exchange, Walter had left and Brasse had gone back to his usual tasks. He had worked on the reel in the afternoon, and his prediction was confirmed. He produced perfect prints and even cropped some of them to improve the Oberscharführer's mediocre framing. And now here he was, looking at this woman's face, allowing her gaze to fix upon him.

Her eyes were crying without shedding tears. The deep, black pupils were full of terror and despair, wide open, staring. Lower down, the curve of her lips betrayed how afraid the woman was. She'd seen something—a dead body perhaps, or corpses being piled one on top of the other.

Brasse realized immediately where and when the picture had been taken.

The gas chamber. The woman was at the entrance to the gas chamber. Perhaps she had watched the heavy doors opening or closing and had seen inside, where they were clearing up after the previous load. All this showed in her eyes: the fear, the horror, and the tremendous realization that everything was about to end. That she would be next.

Brasse shuddered.

He'd already seen many people die in the camp, but he had never seen eyes like this woman's: the eyes of someone alive but who, in a matter of moments, would meet their death. The eyes of someone who was watching the doors of hell open in front of them.

He moved away hastily and rushed to switch off the light. The darkroom fell back into a reddish gloom. The windows were closed, and he felt secure. As long as he was in there, nothing could happen to him.

He calmed down gradually and set about the day's work, registering prisoners for the Identification Service. He didn't want to fall behind.

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