If there was any candidate more appropriate for the IQ assessment program and the ECT neuro-stimulation mapping experiment, it was 10234, otherwise known as Jacob Liberman. No other Jewish prisoner in the camp was as slow in the head, clumsy in the walk and unaware of what the camps were really about.
“What do you want me for in the hospital building?” the mascot misfit asked the stone-faced guard as he skipped across the compound a beat in front of his gun barrel. “I’m not sick, unless the doctor says I am, of course. Because, after all, he should know, he’s the doctor.”
“Schnell….Schnell!!!” the guard barked out, frustrated at Jacob’s smile, widening with every scream, kick or boot heel delivered. “Schnell, Dumpkoff Juden!!!” the command as Jacob was pushed into the door, and pulled in behind it.
Jacob’s compadres knew what Block 12 was all about. The stench of burnt flesh in the air. The cold edge to even the warmest of mornings. The gray sky that never completely rained, nor completely cleared up. The omnipresent sound of the most deadly kind of quiet. The taste of salt on the parched tongues of prisoners who lived in moments of terror that lasted for days, sometimes weeks.
The blackness seemed to be centered around a hidden building in a secret Camp known only to the Highest Level of the SS command. No ordinary prisoners were kept here. Only the best guinea pigs the Concentration Camps could produce, for the deadliest of biological experiments.
“Jacob is going to be famous one day,” Hershell Menuind commented as he hobbled from the barracks to the barbed wire fence, one step on his one good leg and the next on the other one–the ‘special’ limb which had been used to test the latest five wound healing agents which were intended to make the Block 12 doctors and Reichman Pharmaceuticals big money after the War, no matter who won. Four of the concoctions had burned holes through the skin, into the muscle, exposing necrotic bone. But one of the test ointments worked, earning Hershell a photograph that would be published in some scientific journal some day, and survival for the next round of trials. “Make the data look good, Jacob! Make the logic fit whatever they want to see!” he screamed out in Yiddish across the wire, knowing fully well that he was too ‘important’ to shoot, for the moment.
Hershell’s advise was well intended, but fell on deaf ears. Jacob barely knew what data was, and still thought the Camp was a holiday resort, the uniforms being clown outfits, the shaved heads part of a new fashion craze, the Star of David on his blood and urine-stained coat a token of respect. Hershell had an IQ of 146, and envied Jacob’s point score of 50. To be intelligent was to know too much. To be ignorant was to know nothing. And ‘nothing’ was what life was really all about for ALL the inmates in Block 12. Little did Hershell know that Jacob would be the most interesting enemy, and ally, the Nazis ever had.
When Jacob stood in front of Professor Doctor Heinrick Deiter, he was a textbook example of a Jew, according to the Aryan biology books. “Cranial circumference seventeen percent below average”, the physician calculated with the tape measure, the assistant noting the size of the brain inside with the craniotomy chart. The rest of the physical exam gave the expected results. Eyes set back with visual assessment index eight percent below normal, ocular reflexes subnormal, withdrawal time on finger pinch delayed, response to auditory stimulus slow, but as for testicular size…
“A pair of melons,” the Assistant noted as he wrapped the cold measuring cord around Jacob’s family jewels. “And probably never used,” he mused. “Unless it was with the farm goat.”
Jacob nodded ‘yes’ and smiled. As the town idiot in his home village on the Polish-German frontier, it was his job to make everyone else feel good about themselves, and superior to SOMEone. It was a dirty and thankless job, but someone had to do it.
But Heinrick Deiter was interested in more than just a good laugh. A double doctorate in medicine and physiology, he had the good of the world in mind. An avid reader of Chekov, he had a mind as well as a brain, and a secret desire to cure the body and soul of humanity, as did the Russian writer-physician. Or maybe it was about getting that Chairmanship at the Max Plank Institute that he missed out on when the War started. Or maybe it was just the biological fascination about it all. So many scientists had been swayed from their original intentions in Block 12. Still, this was about Jacob, for now, a prize candidate for the most revolutionary surgery ever performed.
When the Assistant looked into Deiter’s eyes, even he knew the plan. Jacob just sat on his chair, gazing down at the cockroaches on the floor and the crabs in his crotch, singing happy tunes to them in a language that only he could understand.
“A brain transplant, Doctor?” the Assistant asked.
“Central Nervous System rewiring,” Deiter’s reply, staring into Jacob’s blank eyes.
“You are going to turn a Jewish idiot into a Jewish genius!” the Assistant mused. “Just like Albert Einstein.”
“No!” Deiter admonished. “Professor Einstein is a visionary, not a genius.”
“And such treasonous talk will get us BOTH put on the other side of the fence, Doctor.”
“Yes, I know.” Deiter gazed downward, letting his mouth do the talking, but his head do the real thinking. “Albert Einstein WAS one of the most brilliant physicists in the world, and then he because a dangerous one when he challenged the rightful authority of the democratically-elected Third Reich. Is that not so?”
Deiter had been lying so long to save his skin that he was beginning to believe the lies about the Noble German Experiment himself. Or so he let everyone around him believe. Yet, Jacob knew better.
“Doctor. What can I do to please you?” Jacob offered. “You are a good man, an honest man, a smart man. Can I ever become a smart man?”
“All things are possible with determination,” Deiter commented, quoting, to his best recollection, “Mein Kampf”. But though they may have been the Fuhrur’s words, they were also his own convictions. As to what those things would be, Deiter alone knew, and he wouldn’t tell anyone, even Jacob.
The equation on the paper in the ledger locked in the draw was hand scribbled in Ancient Greek, “Compassion + Intelligence=Superman.” Deiter’s childhood friends were Plato, Emannuel Kant and Spinoza, and “The Republic” always promised that the Philosopher King would be the best ruler for ANY State. Notes Deiter had put down in all manner of languages in his private diary showed all manners and experimentation of thought, and theory. “A system is only as vicious, kind, or effective as its Ruler,” read one. “There IS a superior race, and the Nordic brain IS the most developed in the world, as we know it,” another postulated. “Intelligence of the heart is a capacity far more powerful, and everlasting, than quickness of the mind,” a quip that occurred to him on the spur of the moment, jotted down between breaks while tending to wounded soldiers on the Eastern Front who begged for death, even though he tried to give them life.
But medical treatments now were about Prisoner Jacob Liberman, not Professor Heinrick Deiter. It was about technology as well.
“You really think that electrocuting this idiot’s brain is going to make him smarter?” the Assistant inquired as Deiter sedated Jacob with hypnosis and anaesthetized him with his last jar of ether, the one to be used only on the Lutheran or Catholic prisoner-subjects.
“We won’t know until we try, yet again,” Deiter’s hopeful reply as his patient faded into stage three level anesthesia, pupils centrally located, trusting the doctor from the side of consciousness where pain is merely experience, not agony. He removed a new batch of specially-prepared electrodes hidden, this time, in a chocolate rabbit.
“We are supposed to be taking brain samples from these people, or burning some of them out to see if these subjects can walk, talk or fornicate, not mix one part of the brain with another, Herr Doctor.”
“Do you want to be part of history, or merely remain one of its victims,” Dieter shot back as he drilled the holes into Jacob’s skull, large enough to insert the implants, small enough to go undetected beneath the half-inch lawn of matted hair which was allowed to grow in over the last two months. “I want to be part of something important, that works!”
“I want to live through this War, and see if we can actually win.”
“And I want what we do in this War to mean something, whether we win or lose.”
“And, Herr Doctor, putting batteries into this idiot’s head and turning him into someone who can think will make this War mean something?”
“We may actually be able to win it, IF we are successful, and discrete.”
The Assistant leaned back, his large, grubby fingers clenching his Sergeant stripes, eager to trade them in for something…more. He watched as Deiter inserted the carefully-designed batteries into Jacob’s head. He gloated as each of them hit a bleeder or two before finding their mark. He remembered all the prisoners before who had died, or gone insane, during the days when Deiter was trying to find the right locations for the devises that would draw nerves to grow from one part of the brain to another. He recalled the Professor Doctor trying to explain to him that the basis of his theory was to connect parts of the brain that normally don’t talk to each other. He contemplated what ‘the universal perspective’ must have been about, a brain that takes in all sorts of information and puts it where Nature wants it to go. He mused at Deiter’s futile attempts to find the part of the brain that dealt with ‘intelligence of the heart”. He wondered why Jacob was Deiter’s prize, and perhaps favorite, patient, afforded every courtesy possible to a Jewish prisoner with an IQ barely higher than a shovel or a drunken cockroach. He admonished the physician-gone-scientist with one more warning.
“If this one fails, and the Commandant finds out about it, you go to the ovens, not me, Herr Doctor, Sir.”
“This one will not fail,” Deiter promised as the last devise went into the Jacob’s skull, gazing at his eyes, still seeming to trust the physician at the deepest levels of anesthesia. “No, this devise will make Jacob into a new man, me into an accomplished one, and you, my friend, into a rich one.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What is your name?”
“In this Camp, we have no names. We don’t exist. In case the War is lost, it’s easier to lose oneself behind the Allied or the Russian lines. Only the stupid ones here use their real names, Doctor Deiter.”
Deiter smiled, put a dressing over Jacob’s head, and tore off his shirt. “A smart man can be a rich man if he wants to be, right?” he asked the guard.
“If he keeps his wealth secret, anyone can be a rich man.”
“Are you a rich man, Sergeant with no name?”
The Assistant smirked to himself. “Some gold fillings from their teeth, the jewelry I got from their briefcases, a good price for their hair from a black market wig maker in Munich. I am doing alright.”
“Jacob can help you do better. When he gets up, he will be able to make you a rich man. One who doesn’t have to be cruel to get what he wants.”
“You’ll spoil all my fun,” the Sergeant smirked.
“Do you want to get rich or have fun!” Deiter shot back in a loud whisper that shocked the Assistant.
The double-doctorate physician-scientists hands shook in a sweat soaked clenched fist, his eyes breathing out something never seem before. Professor Doctor Deiter was colorful, indignant, egotistical, and the most self-righteous intellectual son of a bitch you could ever encounter, but this emotion? This threatening rage? This ultimatum that dared only the brave to speak boldly, and forced the meek to fade away into nothingness.
“Do you want to get rich, or have fun!!!” Deiter repeated, grabbing the Sergeant by the collar.
“What is your plan THIS time?” the Assistant who had been with Deiter through so many failures and successes asked.
“We let him live, see what happens.”
“After you have destroyed parts of his brain with those little cameras you put into his head,” the “I see nothing” reply.
“Yes…It’s a shame we couldn’t put in something that would make his brain grow, something that would take simple thoughts from isolated parts of the brain and merge them together in a way that even intelligent people don’t do. It’s a shame that we don’t do anything more than the Commandant’s orders here. It’s a shame that we—”
“—Never tell the truth to each other, or ourselves,” the Assistant offered in a sobering tone.
Deiter knew above all people what it cost to defy official orders from lower command in the service of unofficial higher command, but this was 1943, and everyone, even Hitler, knew the War was already over. It was just a matter of time, now. Adolf wanted the War to continue so that the Allies would pay. The only plague worse than Hitler was Stalin, and once the Russian Bear learned to fight back after the siege of Stalingrad, there was no stopping its hunger for vengeance, or its greed for power.
“I want you to do something for me, Sergeant with no name,” Deiter requested.
“If I can.”
“Give Jacob two weeks. If he doesn’t make you rich, and me famous, I will go the gas chamber with him myself.”
“And if I don’t decide to cover up the paperwork, as one last favor, again?”
“I’ll kill you myself, in ways that will drive you insane long before the time of dying.”
“Your science against my gun?” the Sergeant mused.
“My science MADE your gun,” Deiter threatened. “And ultimately, will have to destroy it.”
The Sergeant knew it was business this time—a final transaction that had to work according to a timetable only known to Deiter, but, somehow, very connected to Block 12, and the gloriously-disintegrating world around it.
MJ Politis, Ph.D., D.V.M., H.B.A.R.P. (human being, aspiring Rennaisance person)