The Last Word

April 26, 2011
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“Inge,” Mutter called, “get out of bed, it is time to go!” she bellowed. It was 7:54 AM on a chilly Saturday morning, and I had to get up to go to Jungmadel, the Nazi youth club. I thought about going back to sleep, just for five more minutes, but decided against it. I didn’t want to drive my mother crazy, at least for today.

“Coming, Mutter!” I yelled back. I rolled out of bed and took my time getting ready. In twenty minutes, I was being ushered out the door by my frantic mother. I ate a quick breakfast of toast on the way to one of my friend, Zara’s house. Eva would be there too, waiting with an eager face and her usual happy-go-lucky attitude. As babies, the three of us had practically taken our first steps and uttered our first words together. Ever since I could remember, Eva, Zara, and I had walked to Jungmadel together. I saw them in the distance now, waving and giggling.

As I walked toward my friends, I took in my neighborhood, as if for the first time. I noticed things I usually would not notice, like how every house, every yard, even every one of its resident families seemed identical. This was a place for the rich, the Aryans. It was free of all the other races that spoil the name of the Empire and the Fuhrer. I was proud to live in this prosperous neighborhood and held my head high as I knew I was a good, loyal German. We were told if we ever spot any Jews, Gypsies, or any other race that was responsible for the downfall of our dear country, we were to report them immediately.

“Hey Inge,” Eva sang out, interrupting my thoughts. We hugged and did the routine salute of “Heil Hitler.” We soon were engaged in an excited discussion about our plans for the weekend, and especially about how we looked forward to tomorrow morning when Hitler would be on the radio to speak to us. Eva doesn’t usually say much when it comes to Hitler and politics, but I felt today she was unusually silent. I asked her once to make sure she was feeling well, and did not question her further. As we reached the Jungmadel, the three of us split to go to our different rooms.
* * * * *
After I got back home, I hastily finished my chores so I could head over to Eva’s. She was an only child, but her parents always acted like I was their second daughter. They were always kind to me and were ready to help me with anything. I trusted Eva’s mother much more than my own; it was much easier to talk to her. Also the fact that my mother is always nagging me about being a good German, made me want to push her away as well.
I wanted to be a loyal German, I did love the Fuhrer, and I was trying my best to help out my country as best as I could, but it was never enough for my mother. She was always trying to get me in another Nazi sponsored class, or get to go to another silly, fancy event where adults would stand around discussing the world’s issues. Now that I was fifteen, Mutter wanted me to “behave like a proper German lady,” but I never quite understood her. Nevertheless, she seldom gave me a chance to speak, and went on nagging me about doing this or that, or to get off my lazy bum and get some work done.
Having a good talk with Eva was usually my way to unwind from all the tension of the whole week. Of my two freunde, Eva understood me the most, and also was the better listener. Zara liked to talk, a lot, but Eva would hear me out and always support me, and maybe add a couple words of solace at the end. She had advice for any problem I went to her with. She always seemed to know the right thing to say and when to say it.
I knocked on the front door and waited. The house was peculiarly quiet today. Suddenly, the door clicked open, and I was shocked to see a stranger’s face. He had brown hair and brown eyes—which could only mean one thing—he was a Jew. I couldn’t think of what to do, I just stood there and gaped, engulfed in chock.
His deep voice pulled me out of my stupor. “I am sorry to startle you. You must be Inge, please come in,” he requested, appearing calm, but his voice betrayed his panic.

“Who are you?” I screamed at him, “What are you doing at Eva’s house? How do you know my name?”

“Please calm down. Come in and sit down, I will explain everything,” What choice did I have but to listen? The barbaric Jew might have hurt me if I didn’t.I hesitantly followed him into the living room and took the seat farthest away from him.

“My name is Adel,” he explained, “I escaped from the inhumane Nazi ghettos they built for my people, Jews.” At that moment, I thought about running, or screaming for help. Maybe a neighbor would hear me and help me out.

Instead I blurted out, “That doesn’t explain why you are here, at my friend’s house. I have to report you!” I made a move to rush out the door, but he grabbed my hand. “How dare you touch someone of the Aryan race? This is not acceptable, let me go at once!”

“No! Please don’t,” he begged, “just listen to me, I will explain myself.” I tried to move, but I was locked under his steady gaze. His honey-golden eyes had certain intensity in them that I wasn’t used to. I struggled to free my hand from his tight grasp, but he stayed firm. Finally I gave in, knowing it was not going to any good.

He told me Eva’s family was a part of the underground resistance and were harboring and helping Jews to safety. Naturally I told him this was impossible—Eva was a loyal German, and she could not have betrayed the Fatherland and the Fuhrer. Then I thought back to recent walks to and from school and Jungmadel, and realized Eva had been awfully quiet. She had lost her sunshiny attitude and seemed like she was in another world these days. How could I have not realized my best friend had something going on? It was so obvious; I can’t believe I missed all the signs. I still didn’t completely trust this boy, Adel, but something about him kept me glued to the chair all evening as I sat there listening to him go on about the work camps and the horrible situations he had been faced with. There was a sadness in his face I did not understand, it was as if you could see all the hardships in his life on display.

He stopped talking for a minute, letting me absorb his words. I took a moment to take in his soft features. He had an angular nose, shabby brown hair, and a faded scar that ran from his left ear to his collarbone. The most prominent features that contradicted his otherwise serene face were his striking eyes. They were light brown and looked like liquid gold when sunlight hit them. His cheek bones jutted out from under his eyes and he had a clear jaw line. He had strong, muscular arms and body. I had to admit, he was attractive, for a Jewish boy anyway. He looked around my age, maybe a year older. It was hard to believe all the wisdom that already shone in his weary eyes.

Finally I broke the silence, “Why did you let me in? Weren’t you afraid I would turn you in?”

Adel muttered a response, “Eva gave me instructions to let you in. She said you were a dear friend, and you could be trusted,” he added, “I hope she was right.” He gave me an inquisitive look as if he was trying to judge whether I could be trusted.

I still had not decided, and I shifted uneasily in the chair when the door swung open. The sight of me and Adel sitting together in her living room made Eva’s jaw drop.

“Inge, oh my goodness, I was going to tell you, but I didn’t know how…” she blubbered. Seeing the hurt in Eva’s eyes, and after hearing the Adel’s story, I would have been a monster to turn my best friend’s family in. I ran up to Eva and hugged her to calm her down. She hid her face in my jacket and started crying.
“Eva, look at me,” I held her face in my hands. “It is going to be fine. I am not going to report you or Adel to the authorities. I think I understand now that what the Fuhrer is doing might not be for the better of human kind.”
* * * * *

I kept going to Eva’s house every single evening after school and had long talks with Adel. He told heart breaking stories every day about what was being done with the Jews. It hurt me to think that a boy as sweet as him should be treated like a slave and have endured so much pain. I didn’t realize it then, but over the three short weeks I had been visiting him, I fell in love with Adel.

“I had a little sister, Sophie. She was only seven years old and it already looked like she had wrinkles,” he confessed one lazy Sunday afternoon. “They made us work all day long, and would only give us one stale piece of bread for supper.”

“Where is she, your baby sister?” I asked softly. His expression hardened and I felt him become tense.

“I had to leave her in the camp when I ran away,” he said, “I didn’t want to risk both of getting caught because the penalty is immediate death,” he retorted with venom in his voice. He didn’t look like he was finished, so I waited. “Just a week ago, I received news that she has left this world. They don’t know what she died of.” I wiped off a single tear that rolled down his taut cheek. Anger, hatred, and misery were intermixed in his mesmerizing eyes.

“I am very sorry to hear that Adel,” I held him close and allowed him to let out his sorrow. “You are not alone in this meine liebe. I was not aware of the cruel acts of hatred that are being implied on lovable people. I will stay by your side and fight to make it right.”
* * * * *

The next day I went to school feeling content about last night’s discussion with Adel and even more excited to talk to him today. It had been almost two months since I had met him, and Eva had informed me it was his birthday today. I had made my grandmother’s special chocolate cake for him and had gotten him a book as a present. I could not wait to see his eyes light up as they do each time I come to see him.

I stopped my bouncy walk abruptly. I realized I had left my journal on my desk. It contained all the information about Adel. It had deep confessions about my feelings for him, and information about how he escaped the Nazi work camp. It told the story from beginning to present of how we met at Eva’s and how our friendship had progressed into something more. Afraid I was too late and my mother had found the journal already, I rushed home after school.

I ran through the front door and briefly greeted my father and brother in the kitchen. “Mother, I am home!” I went around the whole house searching for her and finally got to my room. My journal was not on my desk anymore. I looked in the little pocket under my bed where I usually hid it. It was not there either. I turned my whole room upside down in hope of still finding the cursed journal, but it had disappeared. Mother was not home either.

By the time I reached Eva’s house, I was breathless from running, and shivering from the freezing temperatures of mid-December. I rapped on the door so hard I felt the skin on my knuckles tear and give way to warm blood, but I did not notice the pain. When no one answered for ten whole minutes, I got worried. I checked the back door, and was relieved to find it unlocked. I ran to the attic, where Adel was staying.

There she was. My mother was standing in front of Adel with fifteen inch hunting knife raised in the air, when she realized she had company. I gawked in horror.

“How could you dishonor your family like this Inge?” she snarled. “I don’t want to turn him in because that would mean turning you in as well. Your father and I have worked so hard to ensure respect among our society, and cannot chance all of that. I am doing this for the good of our country. How could…” she ranted on about what a disappointment I was. All the while Adel was motioning for me to get out.

“No, I will not leave you! I love you,” I cried, ignoring my mother’s threatening looks.

“Inge, leave right now! There is nothing you can do to help me, and I don’t want you to see me die. Go!” Adel barked. He looked at me with a somber expression and added, “Ich werde dich immer lieben.” I will always love you. Mother was nearing him step by step.

“Mother, no! Don’t kill him, he is—”
Mother raised her knife one last time, and I tried to get in front of it, but Adel pushed me away and took the blow in his chest. Next thing I knew, there was blood splattered all over me. That was the last time I ever saw my mother.
* * * * *

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