No One Can Know - Submit Your First Short Story Today

No One Can Know – Submit Your First Short Story Today

Submit your first short story for 2019 today!

Here we go. 2019 has started with a bang and at last, January is over. I think this was the longest January in the history of all Januaries.

Welcome to all the new writers who have joined the challenge. I hope you will all have a wonderful year with us. And welcome back to the writers who will be attempting this for the second and third year. Here’s to #12/12.

Well done to everyone who made it. I am proud of you.

I will accept and approve posts for No One Can Know (Word count: 1500 words) from 30 January 2019, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00), until 31 January 2018, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00) on  Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world.

Please submit your story on

  1. Log in.
  2. Submit (Top right).
  3. Complete the form.
  4. Select the correct category: Prompt 1: No one can know.
  5. Do not select any other category.
  6. Your story must be 1500 words. I won’t approve stories under 1450 or over 1550 words.
  7. Submit for approval.
  8. Read and comment on four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.


  1. This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you to focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
  2. Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
  3. Our next prompt is at the end of this post.

A few more points:

  1. I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
  2. NO hate speech. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
  3. Be careful of profanity.
  4. I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up.

Can I still join?

You can join the 12 Short Story Challenge in any month. So, if you start in June, that will be month one for you and then May 2019 will be month 12. Sign up on

Here is my short story:

The Trial by Mia Botha 

Prompt: No one can know | Word count: 1500 words | Genre: Historical WW2

Warning: This is a story about Auschwitz and the atrocities committed there.

I watch you in the wooden box. Calm. Controlled. You adjust your sleeves, the only indication that you are nervous. You are surrounded by guards. Young men in stark white helmets. Young men, following orders. Were you ever like them? A young man simply doing what you were told?

I am in the gallery. I don’t know if you have seen me or even know that I am here. Your suit is dark grey and your shirt well starched. Are these services they offer in prison?  

The sound in the room is overwhelming. The thick buzz of voices pulsing against the wood panels on the walls. I shift in my seat. I clutch my bag. I am terrified. I don’t know why I came. It’s too hot. I am wearing my only good dress. A Red Cross-find that is not made for bustling, airless courtrooms.

The judges file in, the noise reaches a climax and dies down as they are seated. Sombre, black-clad and stooped under the weight of their obligations. The formalities are dealt with. The gavel crashes and it begins.

A man takes the stage, it’s not really a stage, but it all feels theatrical. The snap of his blazer, the tap of his heels. He steps up to the podium, adjusts the microphone and addresses you. His American twang is filled with loathing and outrage. “Please state your name for the court.”

The mere request sounds accusatory.

You lean forward, back straight, “I am Jürgen Schneider”

Your accent hums, your voice smooth over the rough German.

The American glares at you. “And please tell the court what rank you held and where you were stationed during the war?”   

You lean closer again, “I was a SS-Unterscharführer, stationed at Auschwitz for the duration of the war, during the last two years I had been appointed Blockführer.”

The American shakes his head, outraged at the well-known facts that are listed in the documents before him. “And as a Blockführer you had very specific duties, did you not?”

“I did.” You nod.

I remember the first time I saw you in your uniform. You looked so different from the young boy I met in Paris. The one with the easy smile and soft blue eyes. I wish time had stopped there. That the war had never started. That our families stayed in Paris, on holiday, forever. That you were never sent to the Hitler Youth, that I was never sent to the Ghetto.  I wish that we were never sent to Auschwitz. How cruel was fate to reunite us like that?

“And these duties of yours included active participation in the selection process of Jews?”

The noise rises again as the crowd is swept up by the American, whipped into a frenzy by his questions.

“Ja. I was involved in the selection process.”

Your voice doesn’t falter. I close my eyes. I remember stepping out of the cattle cart and into the light. It was grey and overcast, but after the unrelenting darkness I was blinded. An announcement was repeated over and over. “Two rows. Men to left. Women to the right.” Blinking, I stumbled after the women to take my place. I still clutched my valise and wore my own clothes. I was in line when you marched past. You looked at me, narrowed your eyes, and snapped your head back towards the officer by your side. You took your place at the front of the line and began your job. When we were face-to-face you nodded, and I was led off to the left. I only learned later what happened to those were sent to the right. 

“To be specific, you had to choose which Jews were sent to the gas chambers and which Jews were chosen for hard labour?” The American is frantic now. “Am I right? Did you get to play God?”

You remain silent for a moment, and then you nod. Your “Ja” is much softer this time.

“Well, the only reason we are here is because some kind, Jewish soul, who chooses to remain anonymous,” he says this a little louder than is necessary, “has written on your behalf, imploring us to spare your life.”

It was days before I saw you again. By that time my hair was gone, I was wearing the smock they gave us in the showers. A string of numbers etched into my arm. I was cold and I was hungry, not as cold or as hungry as I would be later, but still, it was a shock. I had finished at my work station and I was limping back towards the barracks. All I wanted was to sleep. You grabbed me and pulled me behind a wall. I kept my eyes on your face. I did not want to see your uniform. You didn’t say anything. You gave me a loaf of bread. I ate it all. Right there. I remember thinking later that night as my bed mates writhed in hunger that in Paris you gave me gold jewellery, a slim ring to remember you by, but that happiness was nothing compared to the loaf of bread you gave me that first time.

“The letter speaks highly of you. Stating that you saved the writer’s life on several occasions and contrived to save many of her friends and acquaintances who were also in the camp. Is this true?”

He waits for you to answer, but you stare ahead.

“According to your duties as Blockführer you were at times in charge of up to a thousand Jewish inmates. You were responsible for daily attendance, supervising of the work details, distributing rations and lastly, you were responsible for the gas chambers. Your task, as Blockführer, was to gas the prisoners with the heinous Zyklon B, right?”

You don’t answer him, but he doesn’t need you to.

 “And now you expect us to believe an anonymous letter stating that you saved this young woman by giving her bread and warm clothes, that you saved her friends by transferring them to lighter duties, that you yourself smuggled medicine out to the sick inmates? Did you do that?”

“I did it all.” Your voice is clear, but once the words have escaped you slump. Defeated at last.

You came whenever you could. You brought what you could. It kept us, me, alive. I craved the taste of your lips when you were away. I hated myself for that. I hated myself for getting lost in you and then seeing the ash and snowflakes dance a merry dance and land on your Nazi coat.

“Why don’t you tell us who this young woman is? There is no record of your involvement anywhere. No record of her. No one can tell us if this really happened.”  

You don’t answer him, but he asks again.

“Telling anyone about her at the time would have drawn attention to her. Attention was death. My rank made it so. Telling anyone about her today will make her a traitor to her people. A fate that I think, for her, would be worse than death.”

I shrink into my seat. I feel naked, exposed, shamed, but then I see you again, marching up and down that line. Choosing, sorting, selecting. My love for you is a war inside of me.      

“Why this woman then? Why out of all the hundreds, the thousands, no, the millions of Jews you could have saved, did you choose this one?”

You blink and clear your throat. “We knew each other before the war.” It comes out like a whisper.

“Excuse me, say that again.”

You say it again, louder this time.

I think of the time, it was months later and even colder, that you had given me socks.  They were too big, men’s socks, but they were warm. It was after my terror had given way to fury. The fury battled with exhaustion and hunger. You were so pleased that I was wearing the socks. It made me angry. I took them off and threw them in your face before stomping off with freezing feet. When I got back to the barracks that night your socks were hidden under my mattress. I didn’t take them off again.

“This is truly preposterous, your honour.” The American turns to the judges. “This man offers no proof of his so-called humanity other than a so-called acquaintance. We have plenty of evidence that says he is guilty of horrendous crimes.”

He turns back to you.

“This is the last time I’m asking: is there anyone who can corroborate what this letter claims?”

You look up at me for the first time. I gasp. You knew I was here all along.

“No, there is no one.”

The American claps his big beefy hands once. “Well, there you have it then: guilty.”

The room erupts. People shout. A gavel smashes, a futile call to order. You are to be hanged. Applause and cheers flood the room. I clap.     

Here is the second prompt for the 2019 challenge:

Top Tip: Find out more about our Writing Courses. If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Mia Botha

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Shaun Thompson

    Powerful stuff. Very engaging characters and a storyline that skillfully reveals the conflicting facets of the human condition.

Comments are now closed.