It was barely past midnight. He lay on his back under a woolen blanket, and in the dark she could just make out his thin nose, heavy brows, and mustache. She didn't have to see more. She had seen enough of his ugly face in the newspapers, when he received the Order of Merit from the Kaiser.
She wanted to spit on him, but she would do that afterward.
This so-called hero of Germany was nothing more than an obscene mass murderer. She knew by heart what he had once said about his brutality in suppressing native African resistance to German occupation in Africa. As she looked over his sleeping body to find the perfect place to thrust the knife, she repeated it to herself: "I wipe out rebellious tribes with streams of blood and streams of money. Only following this cleansing can something new emerge." She had read and reread that passage in disbelief that such evil could exist in a civilized man's heart.
Because of his reputation for success, in 1904 the Kaiser sent him to German Southwest Africa to suppress a rebellion of the Herero tribe. His ten thousand well-armed German soldiers did more than defeat the poorly armed warriors. They killed Herero whether armed or not, sometimes whole families, and drove the rest into the Kalahari Desert. And then they poisoned the wells.
She remembered very well one more thing: his extermination order. She looked at this butcher who was breathing his last and, again drawing on her special talent for remembering her theater lines, she repeated the order to herself, her imagined voice a low growl. "All the Herero must leave the land. If they refuse, then I will force them to do it with the big guns. Any Herero found within German borders, with or without a gun, will be shot. No prisoners will be taken. This is my decision for the Herero people."
All this was evil enough. But what drove her here was what he said about women and children: To receive women and children, most of them ill, is a serious danger to the German troops. And to feed them is an impossibility. I find it appropriate that the nation perishes instead of infecting our soldiers.
His orders were carried out. Out of about eighty thousand Herero, no more than fifteen thousand survived. And it was not only the Herero. He also had murdered the rebellious Nama, killing over ten thousand of them-more than half the tribe. He had the rest incarcerated in concentration camps, where many more died slowly of disease and mistreatment.
Yes, she thought, you are the Kaiser's hero. But not a hero for all Germans. Not for me.
She found the spot. Positioning herself, she spread her legs, raising the bayonet above his body with two hands. She hesitated, marveling at the power she now had over this famous general's life. Then her eyes narrowed to slits and she compressed her lips into a thin line as she tightened her grip on the bayonet.
With all her strength, she plunged it straight down, through the blanket and into his heart.
He gasped. His eyes jerked open and his body heaved, his feet drumming against the mattress. Then he fell back. He was still as his final breath rattled out of him. His eyes remained open. Staring into the flames of hell, she thought.
She put her finger on the carotid vein in his throat to feel for a heartbeat. Satisfied there was none, she tried to withdraw her bayonet, but it was stuck in his sternum. She had to climb onto the bed and put her knee on his stomach to get the leverage to wiggle it out. She cleaned it on the sheet.
Standing beside the bed again, she reached into the pocket of her black pants and took out the note she'd prepared for him. She leaned over him and pinned the note to his nostril with one of the pins she had used to keep her hair in place under her black cap.
Then she spit on him.
As she left by the way she'd slipped in, she took one last look over her shoulder at his body. "Goodbye. Nice meeting you, General von Trotha. I guess we will never meet again."
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