Dr. J. Michael Keating, like many other psychiatrists have noticed a similarity in the nightmares of their patients, which all detail the experiences of Nazi death camp victims. The dreams relive the childhoods of Polish or Czech victims, their arrests, deportation to Auschwitz, and eventual gassing. Dr. Keating discovers an over-riding common thread in all their dreams—the presence of a man known as 'The Little Angel"—an assistant to Dr. Mengele, a Nazi physician known as the "Angel of Death" in Auschwitz. The man's real name is Hirsh Dukor, known to be as great a sadist as Mengele himself.
When Dr. Keating investigates the enigma, he is pulled into a worldwide phenomena that appears to be bringing the collective unconscious of Third Reich back to life. He shares his fear with a respected colleague, Isabella Mussina, who is also aware of the possible reality of the phenomenon. When she examines a psychologically damaged CIA assassin named Harford Nichols, she discovers a truth that terrifies her as well as Keating.
There are horrors in the world that must be remembered. There are evil men and women in our history that should never fall fade to become the butt of jokes, or vague notions. In Night of Broken Souls master storyteller Thomas F. Monteleone brings those ancient evils back to haunt his pages. He will not let you forget. – David Niall Wilson
"With his episodic style, Monteleone allows the reader just enough information and terror to keep the ropes of fascination tight. Night of Broken Souls offers the immediacy of a news flash while rendering a horror that deeply threatens one's psyche. The ‘seductive and poisonous logic of evil’ can, the author intimates, entrap any of us. Call it what you like, but this is the kind of horror that stays with the reader. Slickly entertaining as it is, it indelibly etches itself onto ones' soul."–horroronline.com
"Tapping into fears about rising neo-Nazi activity around the world, Monteleone (The Blood of the Lamb) presents a story peppered with harrowing images. The book starts off strong, interweaving chilling past-life scenes with present-time reports of mysterious deaths around the world in which tiny, tattooed numbers suddenly appear on the victims' wrists. The stories of the prey and their predator keep pace to provide an engaging ride."–Publishers Weekly
"Engaging and fast-paced . . . an absorbing thriller."–West Coast Review of Books
"Swift, strongly meshed plot elements speed you through an ingenious gripper!"–Kirkus Reviews
"Ultra frightening. Monteleone demonstrates with this one why he has previously won the Bram Stoker Award."–Midwest Review Book Review
Michael leaned back in his chair when certain his patient, Rodney McGuire was fully under. McGuire had proved willing and susceptible, requiring very little time to accept standard methods of hypnotic suggestion and follow-through. Gradually, like walking through a minefield, Michael guided him backward through time and the entwined corridors of dream and memory. There was little resistance and Michael had the feeling almost right away that he was no longer talking to Rodney McGuire, but rather someone named Goldberg.
"Now, Rodney, I need you to tell me a few things about your surroundings. Where you are. What you see. Can you do that?"
"Yes . . ." His voice sounded calm, controlled.
"Where are you?"
"I am on a train platform. It is raining. There are thousands of people crowded around us. Everywhere there are soldiers with their rifles pointed at us. We are waiting for the sonderzüge—the 'special' trains."
There was something about the cadence of McGuire words, the rhythm of his speech that had changed. His grammar. It was subtle at first, almost imperceptible, then quite drastic. Rodney spoke more formally, is diction more carefully constructed.
"Is this what you see in your dream?" said Michael. "Is this part of the nightmare?"
"What's your name?"
"When I am dreaming?" The question posed a subtle distinction, an indication of careful thinking. "Or when I am in the dream?"
Michael grasped his meaning. "When you are in the dream, that is—when you are the 'other person.' When you are the brother of Youssef Goldberg."
"I am Youssef's brother." The voice was strong, confident.
"What is your name?" said Michael.
"My name is Avram. Avram Goldberg." As McGuire spoke, Michael could detect a change in pronunciation. Slight, at first, then more obvious, an accent was beginning to color the words.
"Where is this train platform? Do you have a location, a name?"
McGuire nodded slowly. "Yes, we are in the small city of Leipzig, the Deustchland. It is late in the year of 1941."
"Tell me what is happening to you," said Michael.
I am with my father, who had been a textile importer before the Nazis closed and burned our shop, and my brother, Youssef."
"What's your father's name?"
"What about your mother?"
"She died several years earlier. After Krystallnacht, there were also riots in some of the smaller cities like Leipzig. She was killed by a young brown-shirt who struck her in the head with a brick." Rodney McGuire was definitely speaking English with an accent now. German—itself flavored with hints of Eastern Europe.
"Avram, when you're in the dream, what happens?"
"The soldiers have spent the last three days gathering all of us together. Every Jew in the city. We are being relocated so that we can better work for the Fatherland. We are pushed into boxcars and cattlecars, so many that there is no room to anything but stand against each other. We are pressed together like fish in a tin. We ride for so many hours, day and night, that people begin to grow faint or sick. The stench of urine and feces is overpowering. I am embarrassed as I pee myself the first time, but it becomes a common occurrence for everyone in the car. After days of this, no one cares anymore. Our friends and neighbors would probably kill us for a sip of pond water or a chair.
"Finally, we arrive at small town called Buchenwald, where everyone falls from the cars like an endless stream of vermin. The soldiers use their bayoneted rifles to prod us into open-bed trucks. I watch my poor father; he suffers from arthritis in both knees as he struggles to keep up with the crowd. Youssef and I help carry him along, but we are so weak ourselves, we can hardly move. The train ride has sapped our strength, even though we are both young men in our twenties.
"A teen-aged boy wearing a long grey scarf refuses to climb into the truck in front of us. He cries out that he will not go anywhere without his grandfather, who has fallen under the gate of the truck and now struggles to regain his footing. The Shutztstaffel soldiers on each side of the truck scream at the boy to be silent and move to the front of the truck. But the boy stands defiant, and continues to cry out for his grandfather. A SS trooper moves quickly, thrusting his bayonet forward and up, so that it enters the boy's eye socket and exits the back of his skull. The other soldiers laugh and cheer as the boy momentarily dances on the end of the rifle like a hideous marionette, a galvanic response to sudden brain-death. Another soldier drags the boy's horrified grandfather to his feet, shoves a luger into the old man's mouth and pulls the trigger.
"The spray of exploding tissue slaps me and Avram across the face, we are so close. But I am afraid to wipe away the wet fragments of brain and scalp.
"The soldier drops the old man's body to the roadway and exclaims loudly that the jew-boy did not want to go anywhere without his grandfather. And now they are together, he says. All the soldiers laugh and applaud their appreciation of the soldier's wit. And the rest of us begin moving more quickly, more efficiently, into the trucks."
Rodney McGuire recited his story with a cold, unimpassioned precision. He was a human tape recorder in playback mode, nothing more. He sat there, opposite Michael with none of the speech mannerisms or nuances that had marked him earlier as a black, urban cabbie. So unnerving was his performance, that it truly chilled Michael, convincing him that he was listening to another person. If Rodney McGuire were the most accomplished actor in Manhattan, he couldn't have pulled off a moare compelling and charismatic performance. The rhythm of his sentences; the accented English, spoken with exactly the correct amount of residual Teutonic influence; the casual use of German words that did not translate directly.
Michael knew this no acting job. Although he didn't understand the process, he knew he was listening to the story of a young man who was killed by the Nazis more fifty years ago . . .
. . . and the young man was telling the tale himself.
"Avram," he said softly. "Why did you stop?"
"I sensed you wanted me to do so."
"Do you have more to tell me? More of the dream?"
"Yes," said McGuire.
"You were talking about the trucks," said Michael. "Where did they take you?"
"We climb into the backs of the flatbeds very quickly, and we are packed in so tightly, it is a reminder of the boxcars. My brother and I are near the railing, and we watch the landscape scroll past us. We leave the station and pass through the town of Buchenwald, where the people line up to watch us pass, as though watching a parade. Some of them are yelling at us, calling us Judenschweinhunds, or even worse deprecations. Some of the villagers hurl more than insults—picking up offal from the streets, rotten garbage, or even stones.
"Finally we arrive at the labor camp. It is a gigantic compound, wrapped in endless layers of barbed-wire fencing, broken up only by the imposing bulk of guard towers. As our truck is admitted inside the first set of gates, into a space between sections of fencing—a no-man's-land—I noticed that the towers are bristling with machine guns and helmeted soldiers who are keeping us in their sights.
"A second gate opens and we enter the concentration camp. There are several large buildings in the center which are well-appointed, and house all the troops and the officers. The trucks veer off to the right and bring us to an installation of bleak, low-roofed barracks. As I look at the endless rows of buildings, I see blank, skull-like faces appear in some of the doorways, then quickly disappear. Everything is gray and weathered.
"We are ordered from the trucks and separated into groups of men or women. There are no children with us. They had been culled out of the herd back at the Buchenwald train station. Then the separate groups are filed into separate, empty barracks, and I notice that they have no doors in the thresholds, no glass in the windows. A cold, damp wind races through their interiors like greyhounds on the hunt. Inside, I see nothing but bunked-pallets, stacked so tightly one atop the other that a man could barely squeeze into his bed. There is no room for tables, chairs or any kind of accessory or decoration, and I know that I am looking at my home for what may well be the rest of my life.
"I hear my father whimpering and sobbing as Youssef helps him down the aisle of bunks. They are walking behind me, but I do not dare turn around. Soldiers with rifles seem to be everywhere and their orders rain down upon from every direction. It is impossible to comply with everything that is being heaped on us, and someone is getting slapped or beaten almost constantly. We are told that we have been brought here to perform labor for the vermacht, and that we will die if we do not do our work well.
"We are told to put any belongings we are still carrying in the bunks assigned to us, memorize the number stenciled on the sideboard, then return to a cinder-paved courtyard formed by the quadrangle of four long-sided barracks. When we assemble in the quad, we are ordered to take off all our clothes and stand naked while we are inspected by officers and several doctors in white coats. Several of the men are singled out because of physical imperfections—boils, rashes, deformed hands or limbs, goiters, tumors, and other unnatural growths. Others are removed from our ranks because of advanced age.
"When someone is removed from our ranks, he moved back to the area of the trucks, forced to kneel down, and wait for a SS officer to put a bullet through his skull. The executions are performed without ceremony or the slightest hesitation. The soldiers give no indication that they have even the smallest fleck of emotion or care regarding their acts. The sounds of machinery and shouted orders are underlined by the occasional, random concussions of automatic pistols, and I inwardly cringe and mentally say a prayer for the dead for each life extinguished around us.
"The doctors are looking long at my father before nodding and moving along to the next man. I am worried that he may change his mind, deciding that the old man is too frail-looking, and come back to re-assign him to the end of an SS man's luger.
"But he does not, and finally the demeaning ordeal is finished. We are ordered to stand together while a detail of sonderkommandos drag a huge fire hose close-by, and turn its cold spray upon us. The nozzle-force of the stream is like being hit by sledgehammer and my skin is turning blue from bruises and the almost-freezing temperature of the water.
"Afterwards, we drag ourselves wet and naked, with cinders sticking to us like baking flour, into the drafty barracks. The only things we are allowed to carry are our shoes and stockings. On our bunks, I am surprised to find that our suitcases have been replaced by sets of clothing that resemble gray and black striped pajamas. The material is a coarse fiber like burlap. Heavy, but abrasive. On the back of the shirt are the letters KL, and on the breast pocket, a star of David, formed by a yellow triangle overlaying an opposed white one.
"The SS officer enters our barracks holding a leather riding crop. He announces that we have been detained at this work camp because we have been convicted of 'race violations,' and that we will be given the chance to work off the penalties of crimes in the camp. He launches into what will become a familiar litany of rules in Buchenwald. Rules that will determine who is going to survive and who is going to die.
"We listen well."
Rodney McGuire paused for a moment, and Michael wondered if it was for dramatic effect. The patient cleared his throat. "I am sorry. I am thirsty."
Moving to his wet bar, Michael poured a glass of mineral water into a tumbler, gave it to McGuire. After sipping it carefully, he cradled the glass in his lap and continued:
"For three months, each day is a carbon sheet of the day previous. We are awakened by a klaxon before dawn—a hideous screeching sound, and marched into the quadrangle where other prisoners feed us a piece of hard bread and warm water. It was a time for joy if one of us found a piece of boiled soup-bone in his bowl. Then we walk into the quarries where some of us excavate stone for bridges and bunkers, while the rest perform repetitive tasks of punishment. I watch a group of older men push a huge boulder up a steep hill, only to have the SS send it back down with a few kicks of their boots. Over and over, like wretches out of Greek myth, the men work until they drop. The soldiers are always looking for prisoners to fail in their work so they use their bayonets or their pistols. Some of us are killed every day. And every Sunday, we are assembled to watch someone hanged for a bogus crime.
"My poor father dies after only three months. He worked the latrines, wading through the troughs of excrement hour after hour, keeping them clear, from becoming clogged. Eventually he grew sick from the filth and he died one afternoon in the rain, consumed by delirium and fever.
"My brother, Youssef, is so different. So very strong and proud. The Nazis never break him. He takes everything they throw at him, and he earns the grudging respect of the guards. The officers select him to be reassigned as a sonderkommando in a camp in Poland called Lodz. He comes to me the day he will board the special train and says he is going to escape, and when he does, he will kill his captors. He is smiling and he is still strong. Somehow, he has grown bigger and more angry on the diet of bird suet, bread mold, and warm water. I look at him, and I know that he is telling me the truth, and I know he will do as he says. I watch him climb into the flatbed truck and stand proudly like a piece of sculpture, and I know I will never see him in this lifetime ever again.
"But I do see him, months later.
"In a dream, as I lay twisting on my naked pallet, half-frozen and suffering from dysentery, I see Youssef standing in the doorway. He is wearing a heather-tweed business suit with a vest and a maroon bow-tie, and he looks more robust and vital than ever. He tells me that he killed his guards on the train to Lodz, then waited until the train reached the trestle over the Odra River. Leaping into the water, he swam to the northern bank and did not stop running until he reached Miedzyzdroje on the Baltic Sea. After stealing a small fishing boat, he drifted north to the coastal village of Nysted in Denmark and freedom. From there he connected with a resistance group who found him a job in a hydroelectric plant. He remained there until war's end. He told me he could not come back for me, and I told him I understood, that I loved him, and that God had allowed him to escape so he could carry the family name. Youssef nodded, and told me his first son would bear the name of Avram.
"I smiled. In that way, I too, would escape the camp."
Rodney McGuire paused to sip from his water glass. Michael inhaled slowly and glanced at his notes—so many things to cross-check. An excitement burned in him, and he'd never felt so alive, so challenged to justify himself and his existence. His patient's tale was so full of compassion and pain, and told with such control and eloquence, Michael felt moved to tears, but he knew this wasn't the reason he'd been given this message. The time for grieving had long ago passed.
Looking up at patient, who sat stolidly with eyes closed, Michael spoke to him softly: "Is that how it ends?"
"No," said McGuire. "It ends with my death. As we drag ourselves into the Spring of 1942, I hear rumors of news camps being built and others being transformed. They are called Das Vernichtungslagers— the annihilation camps, and we hear the names on the lips of the guards. Sobibor. Belzec. Birkenau. Majdanek. Treblinka. We hear these names until they become talismans able to instill instant terror in us. They are mythic places of infinite darkness and pain. I know this in my heart.
"Finally the morning comes that I am yanked from my pallet by SS men, and taken to the sonderzüges. With a group of my comrades, who have become by this time my only family, we are stuffed into a cattlecar. I hear the door slide shut with a fatal thud, and I am rocketed through the night and fog. Days pass in a delirious blur until the doors open at a siding, Beyond the tracks and the platform, I see the stacks of factories rising up like posts to fence-in the iron dawn.
"I am led from the train and stripped naked. As my flesh ripples and turns blue from the cold air, I see a handsome man in a white coat approach me, look at me with seeming disinterest. He turns and says something I cannot hear to a SS man on his left, then repeats it to a sonderkommando on his left who is carrying a clipboard and a pencil. The prisoner is doing something I have never seen a prisoner do—he is smiling openly, almost laughing—and I see that he has a gold tooth in his mouth. Sallow-cheeked and deep-socketed eyes, the man looks like a ghoul, a skull-faced ghoul.
"I have heard of this man. He is a legend among prisoners, and carries a legend's name: Der Klein Engel—The Little Angel."
Michael's breath caught in his chest.
And for an instant, his entire body seemed to stop like a seized engine.
The Little Angel.
As Michael tried to compose himself, McGuire continued speaking in the voice-not-his-voice:
"I look into his face and I see my own. The one beneath my flesh. My real and final face.
"I am moved off to the left and herded into a long line of naked men, Ahead of me, I see double doors of steel, swinging open to accept us into a darkened underground chamber. Far above us, the smokestacks billow and there is the smell of burning suet in the air. I am so weak, I am carried along by brothers in pain.
"When we are prodded into the dark, cold room, I only faintly aware of the clang of the doors sealing us in, the serpent-hiss of heavy vapor that settles over us like mist. All around me, people begin to scream and their cries become a unified chorale of agony. There is a furious beating of limbs and gurgling of lungs. The rattles of death dance all around me—die totentanz. I open my mouth and my eyes, looking up like a child at the kiss of a spring rain, relieved at last to be free."