I wanted to punch him, to smash that smarmy, false-penitent expression off his face. I spit at him through the bars. “What gives you the right to be sorry?”
“You don’t want me to be sorry? To regret what I did?”
“So that what? I can forgive you and you can die in peace? My wife didn’t die in peace or her parents or my parents or any of the thousands of people under your charge.” If it wasn’t for the bars protecting him, I would have choked him. “You herded us like animals! You fed us slops and garbage and sent droves off to the gas chambers, for years! And now, now you’re sorry?”
“Yes,” he said, head bowed.
I stormed off and spent a sleepless night wrestling with thoughts and images that would not die. I returned to his cell at daybreak and sat watching him until he awoke.
“I cannot forgive you,” I said. “Not today, at least. But tell me, why did you do it?”
“I was young and needed a job,” he began. “I started at a desk, but I was diligent and got promoted. After that . . .”
We talked all day. There were millions of bricks in that edifice of hate between us but with those two words, “I’m sorry”, a few bricks had fallen. As the day went on, they continued to fall.