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First Night

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"His heart beat is fading." A hushed whisper runs out the corners of lips I cannot see and my sons silent tears fall onto my old wrinkled hands. How I want to love him, to reach out to him and tell him that I love him. It's no rumor that your life flashes before you when you're. In these fleeting final moments my life comes up like the projector at the Mr. Tomeshewsky's picture house.
It's my first Rosh Hashannah, my mother's loving hand guides my chubby one into a golden bowl of honey. I am fifteen years old, it is my first kiss with Rifka the flower seller's daughter. I am on a train. Try as I might this memory will not fly by like the pleasant ones.
This night burns in my mind hotter than the hottest peice of metal could force it to. That was the night I forgot what it meant to be treated fairly, the night I turned from a son of the commandments to less than a streetrat, that was the night I forgot the taste of fresh air. The train weels schreech and gurgle on the tracks making their final stop.
Tired pair after tired pair of legs push themselves onto the ground to read three words. Arbeit Macht Frei. There was no welcome to our new home, quite the opposite in fact. We were greeted with bats and clubs that hit me hardest I've ever been hit. Of all my time in Auchwitz the worst pain was that night. We were not yet accostomed to such hatred, we did not yet think it normal to see children on fire, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
A tall SS man with looks not unlike my fathers dug his club into the small of my back repeatedly as we were separated into groups of girls and boys and told to strip. There were at least a hundred of us. Tall and short, old and young, Jews and Gypsies all in that room together. I was taught that this was immodest, and even sinful. A pool of cherry red blood began to flow out of a gunshot wound in a young boys chest. His eyes that once flowed blue like a river in June froze like broken glass.
We were herded from room to room to be cut, washed and examined. Fathers clung to their sons, brothers clung to brothers and the misers clung to their gold watches. In this process called selection not a single group remained together when the Nazi's were finished.
My feet ached with the beginnings of frostbite and still I forced them to move, one after another into the crowded barrack. Our hay beds smelled of blood, urine, and pus. No smell however was more scarring than that of our brothers, or neighbors and our friends being washed away in the cooking fire of that night. That endless night.
There was a recently shaven Rabbi praying next to an orphan crying, next to a father mourning, next to an ant looking for food, next to a person looking for food, next to a boy, next to a man next to a recently shaven Rabbi praying.
Though many were talking the room was dead silent. Although I saw them clear as day I was not sure anyone was in that barrack with me. I was not sure I was even there myself.
Then comes the liberation. A second later I am married, a father, a grandfather, a survivor. The steady beeps of my monitor become further and further apart, my sons tears come closer together. Then there is nothing; there is silence; there is night.





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