Truth Or Lie?

By Marlene B. Samuels

“Mom, what happened to your breast?” the girl asked periodically when she was a child. She became ever more persistent as she was maturing and gaining a natural awareness of her own female attributes.

“The S.S. guards caught me stealing food,” her mother answered each time, without the slightest variation. “They beat me viciously and Dorothea Bintz — the most sadistic S.S. woman of them all — got me right across my left breast with a pry-bar. It severed my nipple and part of that breast.”

Decades passed. Her mother died far too young, her brutal truths buried with her.

My parents in Germany, post liberation. 1946.
My mother often hid the top part of her body in photos, a subconscious self-protective stance.  

The girl, about the same age as her mother had been when she died, visited her brother, four years older than she. Her brother was their mother’s confidant. Always, the girl envied their special relationship.

“You know about Mom, right?” he asked her during their visit.

“So what, exactly, about mom are you referring to?”

“That she was experimented on in the camps. That’s the reason she was missing part of her left breast.”

The girl gasped. “Are you sure? I don’t believe it. Why didn’t I ever hear about it?”

“Maybe she didn’t want you to know,” he said. “Why do you think she was so deformed? Any way, what did she tell you happened to her?” the girl’s brother asked.

“That she was beaten by that sadistic S.S. guard, Bintz. She caught Mom stealing food when the women inmates were unloading a supply barge.”

“You do realize Mom lied to you, right?” the brother asked.

The girl suddenly felt sick to her stomach, as though she might vomit. She was simultaneously shocked and devastated. But then a new feeling emerged: anger. She was furious that her mother had lied to her for so many years. The girl began to share those new feelings with her brother.

He remained quiet for a few minutes, enveloped by a calmness with which she was unfamiliar.

“I have three children and you have two, right? So what would you have told your kids if you had endured such inhumanity, such unbelievable atrocities? Do you think, for one second, you would have told them truth?” he asked.

“Never! Not in a million years!” she said, recognizing yet another feeling was emerging—new understanding.

© 2021 Marlene B. Samuels

Marlene Samuels earned her Ph.D. from University of Chicago where she serves on the Advisory Council to the Graduate School, Social Sciences Division. A research sociologist and instructor, Marlene is conducting research, with partner Pat LaPointe, for their anthology about female-to-female relational aggression. Marlene edited and coauthored The Seamstress: A Memoir of Survival, is author of When Digital Isn’t Real: Fact Finding Off-Line for Serious Writers, and is completing her book, Ask Mr. Hitler: A Memoir Told In Short Story. Marlene’s essays and stories have been published widely including in Lilith Magazine, Our Echo, Story Circle Network Anthologies, Iowa Summer Writers’ Anthology and others. Marlene divides her time between Chicago and Sun Valley, Idaho with her amazing, emotionally-supportive Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Ted and George. 

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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