Franz Stangl’s Letter to His
Wife from Düsseldorf Prison
I apologize for being their wind vane—pointing east or slashing air with a riding crop as they came off trains. Sometimes I swung it in my hand to watch them unhinge. Guards here swing batons like that.
I apologize for wearing white—a dove amongst pigeons. These guards—ravens—thrive off decay. Here, cornflowers rot slowly in vases, but I preferred the speed of herbicide.
I apologize for adrenaline, sun, wind. I enjoyed suitcases full of jellies and cookies. I also enjoyed the numbing of senses. I never liked the smell of compost. I never liked touching rose petals. I held on tight to stems, avoided thorns, and kept petals fresh.
Overtime, whiteness loses its richness; skin loses its elasticity. Without nourishment, the surface erodes, reveals what it covers. Now that everyone sees my filthy hands, this cage gets smaller every day, and bars obstruct faces on the other side. I apologize for having been there and being here.
27. June 1971
* Franz Stangl was the commandant of Sobibor from April 1942 until August 1942 and was also the commandant of Treblinka from September 1, 1942 until August 1943. Under his command, Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews. He died of a heart attack in Düsseldorf Prison on June 28, 1971.
Liz says, I haven’t ever learned to play the clarinet, but when it’s played well, it sounds very human to me.
In our dream band, on klezmer clarinet:
Liz Marlow’s debut chapbook, They Become Stars, was the winner of the 2019 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition. Additionally, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best Small Fictions, B O D Y, Nimrod International Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She is the founding editor of Minyan Magazine. You can read her work at lizmarlow.com.