You’re Too Early

soldier hitler group

Hitler (far right, seated) with his army comrades of the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (c. 1914–18) – Found at Wikipedia

“Confess, Adolphus. We know you’re an anti-Semite. We know what horrors you are going to commit.”

“Please, Fräulein. I’m blind. I’m supposed to be in hospital. Who are you? Where have you brought me? I’ve done nothing. I’m just a wounded soldier.”

“Rivkah. Leave him in his cell. I need to speak with you.”

She stood suddenly and spun away from the shoddy bed with the terrified soldier upon it.

“In a minute, Barak. I’m busy.”

“Now, Rivkah. We’ve made a terrible mistake and you’re about to make another.”

“Fräulein, who is that with you? What language are you speaking?”

“Fine.” She scowled at her older brother and stormed toward the open door to the dilapidated prison. Barak slammed the door and then secured the rusty lock.

“Wait,” the young Austrian called through the door. “Don’t leave me.”

“We have him, Barak. What more do we need?”

“The experiment didn’t work I’m telling you. We went back too far, too early in history.”

“So what? If we kill him now, then it never happened. The universe resets and millions will live who originally died.”

“You don’t know that.”

“He’s a fanatic!”

“Rivkah, he’s twenty-nine years old, barely older than we are. You told me he was blinded by mustard gas and recovering in a Pasewalk hospital when we took him.”

“At least Dr. Braunstein’s machine brought us to the right place for his final disposition.”

“An abandoned prison on a God-forsaken island in the Adriatic which had been used by the Yugoslavians to incarcerate political dissidents? This is where we were supposed to bring the most dangerous man in the world, but we arrived twenty years too early on that side of the conduit. How is he supposed to confess to what he hasn’t done yet?”

“Abba is still dead, Barak. So is Zeyde and Bubbe, our Uncles, Aunts, cousins. Six million Jews were slaughtered because of this pig. He deserves to die.”

She was only twenty-four years old. When they were very young, their mother had gotten the both of them out of Germany just in time, but their father stayed behind to try to help others. In the end, he couldn’t help anyone, least of all himself.

“Yes, he deserves to die, but only after he has committed his crimes. We were supposed to go back and bring him forward to stand trial in Israel, just like Eichmann.”

“No, Barak. That was something you thought up on your own. Dr. Braunstein was very clear that his device would work once, maybe twice, and if it did work, we had just one duty to the Jewish people and that is to exterminate one of the most notorious butchers in all of history.”

The young Mossad agent realized bringing his sister into the experiment was a mistake, but she was a historian. She knew where to find their target and when, how to locate him when he’d be alone and unprotected so they could bring him back. She also could speak German much better than he could.

“We have to send him back, sister. Braunstein said if it didn’t work the first time, he might be able to adjust his device for a more accurate fix on the correct coordinates.”

“He also said it might not work at all or just work once. If we send him back now, we could lose everything. Barak, we have lost everything. If we kill him, we can get it all back. Braunstein showed us his equations. He proved that time would reset itself and history would be rewritten.”

“Neither of us have been very good at advanced mathematics and you didn’t understand the gibberish he wrote on his laboratory blackboard anymore than I did. We trusted him because he lived through it. Like Wiesenthal, he’s a survivor who wants to bring the guilty to punishment.”

“Our prisoner is a murderer six million times over. Kill him now and we save Abba and so many others. How can you not want that?”

“I do more than anything, but if we kill him now before he’s committed his crimes, then we become just like him.”

“We’ll never be like him and you know it, Barak. Now are you through?”

“Why did you want him to confess, Rivkah?”

“What?”

“You told him to confess. I heard you. What did you expect him to confess to? Being patriotic? Being a bad painter? Having been homeless?”

“Being an anti-Semite…”

“Which is reprehensible but does not carry a death sentence.”

“What he did twenty years later does.”

“The blind man lying on that filthy mattress on the other side of this door hasn’t done any of that yet, not from his point of view.”

“But it’s 1960 now and he did it, brother. He did it and didn’t die until it was too late. Now let me go back in there and finish the job. Dr. Braunstein said he wasn’t sure how long he could keep the conduit powered. If the electricity to the experiment fails, we will all be sent to our origin points, him to 1918 Germany and us back to Israel.”

“We’ll go in together, Rivkah.”

“Alright. But when I shoot him, do not try to stop me.” She gripped the butt of the American Colt Python revolver in the holster at her side and then pointedly stared at the Uzi suspended from her brother’s shoulder by a leather strap.

Barak produced the key and unlocked the cell door.

“Who is there? Is that you, Fräulein? Is the man with you?”

“We are both here, Corporal.” Rivkah switched back from Hebrew to German.

“Am I a prisoner? Have I been captured.”

“In a manner of speaking. We know of your crimes. You have to be punished.”

“But I haven’t done anything.”

“Oh you will, Adolf. We know you will.”

“Rivkah.” There was warning in his voice. Telling him what he will do and then sending him back might be worse than killing him now.

“There’s too much at stake. You are a soldier now, but…”

“Be quiet, Rivkah.”

In response, she drew the Colt and aimed it at Adolf Hitler’s chest. The look on his face changed from puzzlement and fright to terror as he heard the sound of her drawing back the hammer.

“No! Please! I beg you. Don’t do this. I’ve done nothing.”

“Your last chance, Herr Hitler. Confess. I want to hear you say it.”

“Say what? I’ve done nothing. I swear. I’m not a good man but I’ve done nothing to deserve death. Why would you kill me? I’m just a Corporal, a soldier, I’m blind. Please spare me.”

“Listen to him, Rivkah. Everything he’s saying is the truth. This is who and what he is right now.”

“This is our now, Barak.”

hitler soldier

Adolf Hitler as a soldier during World War I (1914–1918) – Found at Wikipedia

“What are you saying to the man, Fräulein? I don’t understand the language you’re speaking now.”

“But not for him. Not yet. Please, Rivkah. I’m begging you.”

“Begging, Barak? You’re begging for his life? Him? Have you lost your mind?”

“No, Rivkah. I’m not begging for his life. I’m begging for yours. This is not who you are. It’s not who we are. You do not fight injustice with injustice. If Hashem has given us this gift, perhaps pulling the trigger is not what He intended it for.”

“Where was Hashem when Papa died in the gas chambers?”

“Vengeance is Mine and recompense. That is Hashem.”

Her hands were trembling. Rivkah stared into the bandaged face of a blinded soldier not yet turned thirty. He was shaking and crying. He didn’t want to die. Neither did six million innocent men, women, and children during the Holocaust.

She pulled on the trigger just as time and space around them froze and then faded to black.

I wrote this story in response to the Daily Writing prompt Confess hosted at The Daily Post. The challenge instructions say that all the writer has to do is publish a post on their own blog based on the prompt and include a link to the challenge source so the pingback will appear.

The word “confess” on the one hand isn’t much to go on and on the other hand is an exceptionally wide field. Who should have to confess, what should the confession be about, and what are the consequences?

At first, I thought I’d set this in the American south in the mid-1960s and have a white police officer beat a confession of a murder out of an African-American man, a murder the white cop actually committed, but I couldn’t see a positive outcome to the story (not that this story is particularly positive).

Then for some reason, I thought of time travel and Adolf Hitler. I thought about famed Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal and the 1960 trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel.

What if two people in 1960, an Israeli Mossad agent and his historian sister, both Jews who lost their Father and many other relatives in the Holocaust, became acquainted with a survivor of the death camps who was also a brilliant and eccentric physicist? What if this physicist created a highly experimental form of time travel, one that could send these two people back to capture Adolf Hitler and take them to their present and an abandoned prison and labor camp on Goli Otok (Barren Island) off the coast of the nation now known as Croatia?

And what if instead of taking you to 1938 to capture Hitler, you arrive twenty years earlier when he was still a common soldier in the German army during the First World War?

Your time is limited. Once the experiment loses power, everyone goes back to their original time and place and your chance to change history is lost perhaps forever.

What would you do? Would you kill a blinded and helpless twenty-nine year old Adolf Hitler if it meant the chance of stopping the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust?

I suppose most people would think they could pull the trigger, but it’s not that simple. Yes, you might stop one of the greatest atrocities in human history, but to do that, you have to murder an innocent man in cold blood because in 1918 the worst you could accuse Hitler of is anti-Semitism.

He can’t even confess to his crimes because from his point of view, he hasn’t committed them yet.

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3 thoughts on “You’re Too Early

  1. The morality of arresting someone who has not yet committed a murder that is known with certainty will be committed by that person was examined in the film “Minority Report”, even without any time travel technology, unless precognition is deemed a variation of time travel. But this story could invoke additional questions about what other time ripples might result from removing this man too soon. What beneficial effects might be lost from his interactions during the subsequent years? Even his expressions of antisemitism might have been sufficiently ugly to turn someone else away from it. Who knows but if that someone else might take Herr Hitler’s place if he were removed too soon? Alternatively, what if Jewish compassion at a vulnerable point could have changed the course of Hitler’s thinking, so that he never would commit his future crimes? That theme appeared in a television pilot “Rewind”. So many unknown possibilities challenge the morality of preventive execution.

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    • My protagonists were from 1960. They had been born in Germany in the late 1930s and barely got out in time. They moved to the U.S. and eventually to Israel. Eichmann had just been tried so everything was fresh in their minds when they stumbled on the opportunity to capture Hitler.

      Barak’s plan to try Hitler wouldn’t have worked since the transfer is temporary. Once the experiment loses power, everyone goes back to their original time and location. If Rivkah could kill Hitler, according to the theory I set forth in this “universe,” time would “reset” and a new history would be created, although Braunstein, Barak, and Rivkah would have remembered the old history. However the moral implications became a tremendous struggle. Could Rivkah and Barak had affected Hitler sufficiently that his 1918 self would start making different decisions? My guess is that this incident, while bewildering to Hitler, wouldn’t have been enough to change the course of history. He wouldn’t have understood the level of compassion they were exercising in sparing his life.

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