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My name is Annabelle
February 4, 1943,
My father stood in front of me, his sky blue eyes I once knew clouded over with the emptiness that comes with tragedy. His face was worn with age but always even at a stark age of 43 his eyes glowed with the happiness that only shows in a child. Since we came to Warsaw his eyes had gradually faded, to that of an old man. He was no longer the man who held my hand as a child, he was no longer the man who sang me to sleep when mama was ill and I didn't understand the concept of illness and death.
His withered hands held mine, he was trying to be gentle but there was a fierceness to him, one that I couldn't explain, even as I think back now, my mind is blank. He smiled at me but it was sad and oh so careful, a smile you give to someone oh so close to the edge and you actually believe will jump. His hard eyes glazed into mine 'Annabelle" he said with a kindness a pleading I hadn't heard in years, and didn't match the fierce yet empty look in his eyes. "My precious Annabelle" He took a deep breath as his hands began to shake gently. I said “It’s ok papa", as I began to run my thumb over his knuckles as gently and soothingly as I could accomplish, with him still griping my hands in his. Maybe it was impossible for him to show emotion anymore. Emotions were a weakness here. I thought to myself “I would never blame him for being empty; even I sense the emptiness that shows in my eyes”.
A single tear fell down his cheek, and for a second I saw the wall fall, his pain and anguish showed through and then faded, like thousands of candles being lit and then blown out at once; leaving the wall of emptiness in place once again. I knew then that it wasn’t impossible, we were just all hiding. Hiding from ourselves because if we didn’t our emotions would surely eat us all whole. He quickly wiped the tear away and acted as if nothing had happened. He closed doors, put up walls and then added barbed wire just to make sure it would never happen again. The beams would fall again, maybe not today or tomorrow but weeks or years from now they would fall and crumble only next time I didn’t know if he would be able to rebuild.
He finally composed himself enough to reach inside of his small bag to pull out a revolver and a small box of bullets. His large hands shook as he set them in my small ones but as soon as he did I felt more composed, I felt ready to defend myself and my own. I was now a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB) and I would not be taken alive.
February 5, 1943,
Peter had drops of sweat working there way down the side of his face and neck. He held a rifle and was pointing it squarely towards Mirowski square; he let the breath out of his body and then pulled the trigger. It hit the stone right next to a SS’s head. He crouched to the ground as we flattened ourselves to the building’s rooftop. We heard gunshots and then silence, my heart hammered in my chest with excitement and adrenalin. Peter cursed the lord’s name silently. I held my own revolver in my hands, the small box of bullets was hidden under several layers of clothing since it was close to freezing outside. We sat up slowly and peered over the edge of the building, only a few homeless German people remained. He motioned towards the makeshift latter on the opposite side of the rooftop and we climbed down quickly and quietly.
He was only a few years older than myself, but had been part of the ZOB, weeks compared to my days. His mother had recently been taken to Treblinka. She was much older than my father, in her mid sixties and had a bad lung. She left with a note saying she could not pull the trigger for herself so she would have Hitler do it personally. It killed a piece of him; we had to hand feed him for days. He woke finally after three days; he picked up a gun and killed several SS on the very building we were on. No one has spoken of her since; we’re afraid he would do something rash and get himself killed.
Instead he keeps himself busy being the youngest leader of one of our 22 ZOB groups. We get shipments of guns and other weapons periodically from anti-Nazi poles outside the ghetto. We all have the same goal, to stay alive and when we did die, for it to not be by the hand of a Nazi.
We walked back to my room silently; I think we both needed the silence. We walked by a plaque that was put up soon after I had been brought here. It read, “I ask nothing of the Jews except that they all disappear”, it was Hans Frank, the Nazi Gauleiter or governor who said these words. Until then most of us believed Poland was being overrun by the Germans, but no, we were in league with them. That killed a piece of us all, as Peter’s mother killed a piece of him. On that day we knew we were almost completely alone.
We had heard many rumors of Americans and Russians coming to appease us, but most believed them untrue. Why would they help us? Why would they dirty there hand’s in something they didn’t need to?
In 1937 when I was eleven I had also believed my mother could never die. She was wonderful and beautiful, and yet she is dead. I personally believe the rumors, we just had to keep fighting until they reached us, and then we could all go to the free country. My mother had wanted to go there before she got sick. I hope I haven’t made the same mistake twice.
I looked over at Peter and he had a secretive grin on his face, I kicked him in the shin, “What’s so funny”, I asked, and felt a grin form on my face as his spread into a full blown smile.
February 7, 1943,
It was the gunshots and screams that woke me up this morning. I quickly reached for my gun under my pillow and ran outside. It was snowing, and fluffy white flakes stuck to my hair and ends of my eyelashes. There was a still form laying in the snow some 30 feet from me, but in the moons translucent glow I could see the pool of blood spreading from the figure, Slow tendrils curling outward looking for the life it had lost. I slowly walked to the body, scanning the area for more dead and there murderers. I saw none.
I reached the body and slowly taped it with my boot. I sleep fully clothed with shoes for just these types of occasions. It moaned and I realized it was still alive. It was too small to be a man, maybe a small woman or child. I fell to my knees and rolled the child over. He was at most 8 or nine years old. I recognized him as Ezekiel; he lived a floor above us with his mother and three sisters. I immediately began searching for his wounds as my father had taught me. He had two gun shot wounds, one to the upper chest and one to the stomach. I began shushing him when he began to whimper; if they heard him still alive they would come and kill us both. I began to pick him up into my arms; he couldn’t have been more than 60 pounds. He hissed and bit his lip, I think he understood what would happen if he cried out. He gripped my arm as we made the slow way back to our home.
I finally reached the door after what seemed like hours when I knew it had only been minutes. I had to sit him down to open the door, I was too frightened to call out for help. I opened the door and pulled him inside; I let it close behind me and took a deep breath. He was breathing unevenly now taking a big gasp and then several small ones almost in a pattern.
I finally let myself scream for help. The first one down the stairs was Sarah, Ezekiel’s older sister. She was maybe a year older than me, maybe a year less. She gasped and began to have hysterics over him. She fell to her knees and bent over her head against his stomach getting crimson in her golden curls. Her screams brought more and more people; I sat quietly on the floor and watched as people carried him up to his apartment. I think I was in shock, I was numb and didn’t notice when peter grabbed my arm, until he dug his nails into my flesh and bent in front of me. I blinked several times before I could focus on his face; he was saying something and said it several times before I realized it was him asking if I was all right. I slowly nodded my head and he me helped stand me up.
There was blood all over my clothes but I couldn’t put my finger on why it mattered. I reached for my gun which had been sitting on the floor next to me; just the smoothness in my hand helped me concentrate. Peter kept steady on my arm and led me upstairs to my room. It was empty; everyone was concentrating on the tragedy at hand a floor above us. I heard crying distantly and shuffling above us.
I took a deep breath and focused on the way the wood paneling fit together. Peter dropped my arm and went to find new clothes after he realized I wasn’t going to be sick or faint. I suddenly heard a scream and the crying got louder, turning into sobs of despair almost shrieks. I knew that Ezekiel was dead. I felt bad for the family but I was almost happy for Ezekiel. He was out of this place and safe. I only regretted not knowing his murderer so I could kill them.
February 8, 1943,
I dreamt of Ezekiel last night. He was bleeding from his mouth and his eyes. His hand reached out to me but I couldn’t get to him, I saw his eyes and even under all the blood they were pleading. There were thousands of Nazi’s in between me and him but I could hear him screaming my name over and over. Then the screaming stopped and a stream of blood fell out of his mouth into the snow, in it my mother’s golden locked the Nazi’s took the day we came to Warsaw shined. The snow became a wave of blood reaching far above my head and I knew I was going to die. I finally woke up to my father shaking my shoulder, turns out I was screaming for Ezekiel.
Spring is near; you can almost feel it coming. The birds have started returning, a blue raven sat on my window sill this afternoon. Even through the bars and wood it gave me a sense of hope. I killed my first SS officer yesterday. His hair was a pale blond, his eyes the color of dull milkweed. I watched as his mouth formed a small O and the life fade from his eyes. I knew my face was as empty as I felt; I was hiding the triumph and wave of power I was feeling. I rode that power and enjoyed it, turning to Peter I let it show in my eyes. He gave me a disbelieving almost scared look before pulling me into his arms and laughing. It sounded fake even to me; I knew I had frightened him. I think I would have frightened death and the devil himself, if they had seen me in that moment. Revenge is as sweet as the lightest candy.
April 19, 1943,
The early spring morning air was filled with smoke and death. Bodies littered the streets, calling for loved ones or oblivious in death. The Nazi’s had come to the camp early this morning, before even the sun had showed its waking head. They pounded on doors, warning us of death if we didn’t come outside and surrender. Some did go. I watched from my window as families were taken to the Unschlog Plate, where they organized them to go to Treblinka and other death camps.
When the streets were cleared we took our positions. We had directed plans and orders given to each of us. We had several underground pathways and hidden rooms now among the streets of Warsaw, this is where we hid our families and those we were close too. We gave this option to all Jews, nomads and unwanted peoples, most turned us down saying that we were delirious, we had just dug there grave for them. Those who were hidden we knew were safe and most on there way outside the 10 ft walls of Warsaw.
We heard gunshots in the distance and strange whooshing sounds that I couldn’t place. I was placed on Smocza st. only a few blocks away from the train station. Soon after the shots and whooshing sounds I heard distant screams. I suddenly saw a building go into flames no more than 2 streets away, the flames reached towards the sky and god. I knew then what the sound was, flame throwers. The screams got louder as more and more building burst into flame, we were not prepared for this.
I saw strange shapes fall from the buildings and realized that they were people. I didn’t feel bad, I knew we had given them all a chance, there death was there own. Someone gave the signal as several solders turned the corner with packs on there backs containing the fire that was to be used to kill us. We immediately shot; two of them went down before more turned the corner and began to shoot back at us. We dropped to the rooftop as bullets flew in the air above us. We ended up killing over a dozen Germans and wounding 5 times as many.
I’m now hiding in an underground tunnel that leads into the Cemetery under Okopowa st. We have only 8 candles left but, were waiting until nightfall to make our escape. I can still hear screams above us.