Author Topic: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man  (Read 4067 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« on: July 27, 2014, 02:38:17 PM »
Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man

by Benjamin Sonnenberg.

“The Buchenwald Man” is original to Pseudopod. “Some events are so truly evil that they can never be avenged. That being said, it is important to continue to learn about the past, evil and all, as studying history is what helps us to separate ourselves from animals. ”

BENJAMIN SONNENBERG will be attending Towson University next fall, where I will be majoring in history, with the goal of becoming a history teacher and writer..

Your reader – Dave Robison – is on a mission to have his narrations permeate all of cyberspace until every PLAY button clicked produces the sultry tones of his buttery man-voice. To that end, he has achieved an Escape Artist’s narration trifecta, narrating tales for Escape Pod, Pseudopod and Podcastle, as well as countless other audio fiction podcasts and a few audiobooks. He’s also performed in several FullCast productions, most recently for Gail Carriger’s Crudrat. Dave is the founder and co-host of the newly re-launched Roundtable Podcast where writers and authors brainstorm story ideas in their endless quest for literary gold. You can find the archives and all the latest episodes at RoundtablePodcast.com. You can him on Twitter @WritersPodcast and on Facebook at roundtablepodcast. He’s also working with on a shared-world collaborative novel with Colin F. Barnes (author of the Techxorcist series), Sarah Chorn (headmistress at the Bookworm Blues review site), and Alasdair Stuart (this generation’s incarnation of Spider Jerusalem). The novel is titled CHASING THE DEVIL: MEMOIRS OF A RELUCTANT PIRATE and will be serialized beginning in early 2015. Learn more at TheShatteredWorlds.com.



“After about two hours of lifting,slamming, grinding, and pulling, a body was found under the rocks. Stan was near the soldier who found it. The soldier had seen bodies before, they all had, and quite calmly yelled out to the corporal: “Yeah, there’s a foot here!”
Twenty men, including Stan and the corporal, immediately rushed over to oversee the excavation. There was a twisted, bleached white foot sticking out from the rubble. No one said anything about it. Instead, a few men jumped forward and grabbed the leg, while others used picks to tear away at stone that held the rest of the body down. Soon enough, and all at once, the bricks gave way and the body came free and into clear view.
It was a girl, about seventeen. It was a little difficult to tell, however, because her face had caved in quite badly. A few broken shards of teeth were lodged in her forehead, and both eye sockets were empty. Dust caked up inside the holes. The girl had been a blonde, and her hair was still tied into a fishtail. As they pulled it out, the body twisted and flopped loosely, allowing some of the dust and gravel to spill out of the eye sockets.
Stan did not shudder at this, and was surprised to see the same reaction in the others. Had he really thought he was alone in this chill? No, he was different from the others. They all had been inside the camp; this was nothing. They had seen ten-year-olds, even babies,piled in heaps like charcoal. This was nothing.”





Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?

adrianh

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2014, 03:35:08 AM »
The language, sense of place, and the reading were all well done, but it didn't move me.

I think, in some regards, it's because it wasn't horrific enough. Various grandparents and relations fought in both world wars and they came home with tales, rarely told, that are far, far worse than the story of a GI who snaps after seeing horrors. They came back, in many ways, with lifetimes ruined. With injuries both physical and psychological that never heal. And none of them dealt directly with the results of the concentration camps — just the horrors of "normal" warfare.

The small horror of the civilian being killed next to the giant horror of the camp just didn't work for me.

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2014, 08:35:22 AM »
Similar reaction to adrianh. 

After the story, Alasdair said that there were two equally valid interpretations--that the GI snapped and killed a civilian, or that he killed something that was preying on the victims (or something along that line).  It seemed pretty clear-cut to be the former to me--was there some ambiguity that I missed? 

SpareInch

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2014, 10:00:38 AM »
I too found this one dark, but not horrific. I think because it didn't say anything new to me.

Yes, this is a subject that we can never truly understand, but there are only so many times you can be bowled over by a narrative which doesn't go much beyond, "I saw this, and it gave me PTS."

I mean, it DID give these soldiers PTS, but I thought this story failed to really give any impression of just how bad their suffering must have been.
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blazingrebel

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2014, 04:10:04 AM »

What gave me the creeps about this one was the GI was the only character who could not accept facts as easily as his peers did.

The feeling of alienation probably went hand in hand with his mental health in that he can only bottle everything up until it eventually explodes like it does.

I have had similar feelings (however not to the scale of the GI) when at times in my life I have witnessed an event, and the horror to learn it has only seemed to have affected me more than my peers. You feel as though no one has your back.

For me this story touched on those fears in a great unique way.

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2014, 04:30:59 AM »
I clearly found this more compelling than did those who have commented, above.

I think we did see the effects of PTS: the image of the girl pulled from the rubble was, at least in my mind, quite horrific, yet the men were entirely unfazed. And, to add to the horror, Stan knew that he *should* be feeling something -- he explicitly recognised that he had lost his humanity, that it had been torn away from him by his experiences.

Perhaps I missed something, but I found the repeated references to parapsychology in the outro a bit of a non sequitur. I really enjoy the horror genre, and perhaps not primarily as a form of entertainment but rather because the responses it elicits, I think, provide important and fascinating insights into the human psyche. Horror fiction has real value. There is real value in thinking seriously about ghouls and ghosts, in an effort to understand ourselves. Whereas parapsychology -- the pseudoscientific study of ghouls and ghosts -- has zero value, as far as I can see. I do not see parapsychology as the scientific equivalent of horror fiction. Fiction is fiction, science is science, neither claims to do the work of the other.  Parapsychology is make-believe masquerading as science, it's a waste of time and resources.

Yes, ghouls and ghosts are worthy of empirical, scientific study, because they are real-world phenomena insofar as they manifest in our minds and our culture. But that falls within the remit of proper, rigorous disciplines like psychology and anthropology: a world away from ESP, astrology and homeopathy.


SpareInch

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2014, 04:42:41 AM »

What gave me the creeps about this one was the GI was the only character who could not accept facts as easily as his peers did.

The feeling of alienation probably went hand in hand with his mental health in that he can only bottle everything up until it eventually explodes like it does.

I have had similar feelings (however not to the scale of the GI) when at times in my life I have witnessed an event, and the horror to learn it has only seemed to have affected me more than my peers. You feel as though no one has your back.

For me this story touched on those fears in a great unique way.

It's absolutely true that the response of the soldier was just what you'd expect, especially given that he has not established a support network among his comrades. I just think that the story itself belongs in a publication for War Stories, rather than Horror Stories.

It failed to convey the Horror.

I was also a little wary when the protagonist's Judaism was introduced, but by the end of the story, I was satisfied that the feared 'They can't understand because they aren't Jewish' angle didn't appear. I find it insulting and counterproductive when that opinion rears it's ugly head in discussions of this topic.
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blazingrebel

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2014, 05:57:53 AM »
That's true. It could also be an example how certain genres are pretty much intertwined. I remember my lecture in University telling me Sci Fi and Fantasy were not really genres because they cross too much with other genres.

I don't agree with that notion, but whats great about this piece and you are right, it can read like a war story, however with no troupes you would find in some war genre such as the eventual identified sense of purpose the soldiers usually have of "why" they fight. Or sense of union they have with their comrades. Both are absent here. However the writer can convey a sense of realism regarding the whole episode that makes it so believable.

On a side note. I also don't completely agree with the notion that the Nazi regime was a one in a million freak evilness that probably wont likely happen again.

I think its something we must be in constant alert to watch out for, especially in our own governments as it can easily happen again.

It shows what a non questioning conformist, totalitarianism regime with aesthetic ideals on race can provide the slippy sloop of such horrors.

Being Australian Iam ever alert to the slippy slope my own society is on with certain issues to what we do to the people who cross our boarders seeking asylum and what lengths we will go to control who comes in.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2014, 06:40:51 AM by blazingrebel »

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Re:
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2014, 02:40:27 PM »
Horror, this had in abundance. Supernatural horror, I don't think so, but that's a larger discussion, I think.

Completely unrelated, though - a note to the author: I live about 3 miles from Towson University, so if you ever feel the need for Escapodian company, feel free to PM/FB/@ me!

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2014, 08:59:24 PM »
It had its moments of horror.  When the soldier touched the bony, stick-like survivors, I could easily visualize it.  At the end of the story, I couldn't figure out the scavenger's fate.  The elderly woman appeared to be similar in character to Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children.  (for more information, go to http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2014/06/26/madness-and-the-prolonged-war/).  I wonder what the elderly woman in this Pseudopod episode would have said to the soldier? ???
"What can do that to a man?  Lightning... napalm? No, some people just explode [sic]. Natural causes".  Source: Repo Man.

albionmoonlight

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Re: Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2014, 10:33:49 AM »
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History Podcast is currently doing a series on the horrors of the front in WWI.

This story made me think of that.  For all of the extremely inventive supernatural horror out there, it is still, to me, kind of shocking and sickening just how much non-supernatural horror man is capable of inflicting on man.

I've been blessed/lucky/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that I have never had to experience anything like a war zone.  And I honestly wonder if I would be able to take it.  When I really try to put your head around what people have to live with in these situations, I am kind of amazed that most of them don't just have their minds shut down.

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Re:
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2014, 05:34:04 PM »
<3 hardcore history. I'm not even a history buff, but DC makes it interesting.