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Numbers

I saw them in the little light provided through the cracks of the poorly constructed warehouse. Instructed to do this, all of our freedoms revoked. Huddled together, our naked bodies touched in spite of our embarrassment; we sought the warmth we all once knew.

16285.
69573.
47264.

The numbers went on as I closed my eyes wishing I were anywhere but there. The floor was cold and stung my bare, bleeding feet. I ran my fingers over my arm, feeling the numbers inscribed into my decaying flesh. My body rotting from the outside in- tainted by the marks of his barrel, my skin ripped, bruised and blistered.

“Red...Red, come inside, it’s time for dinner!” screamed my mother. Her body shook tremendously as she yelled my name. “It’s going to get cold!”

The door swung open and the only memory left of my mother vanished. Fear replaced my thoughts, and stiffened my body. The flood of light burned my unadjusted eyes, allowing me to see what can’t be forgotten.

“GET IN,” ordered the soldier. He was intimidating, muscular and lionesque as he whipped the boy into our huddled crowd. I watched as he smashed the end of his club into the child’s face, blood replacing the tears that once streamed down his cheeks. His hands gripped his face and the boy fell quiet, revealing the swastika carved into the back of his delicate arm.

The soldier backed away, slamming the entry shut, trapping us back into darkness. I moved closer to the boy who was no more than eight years old. His body tensed and I outstretched my arm which he willingly grabbed. His touch was gentle and I felt the gashes that cut deep into his skin. He yelped and I released my grasp, careful not to hurt his crusted wounds. I pulled him close, feeling his destroyed face upon my naked skin.

“What’s your name?”

“M…Milosh,” he said tentatively. “Where’s my mommy?”

My stomach dropped and I instantly felt nausea climb its way up my throat. The scent was fresh in my mind and burned my nose. I shook my thoughts, remembering being torn from my family. I envisioned the smoke and instantly smelled the flesh being burned off the ones I loved.

“She’s on her way. She will be here soon,” I lied.

A weak smile returned to his blood dried face and the impressionable child saw truth in my begging eyes. I held him tight and a sense of hope was restored to my fragile frame.
The pipes hissed and my attention was brought to the many shower heads that lined the walls. The water would be cold, so we braced ourselves for what was to come. Milosh squeezed my hand, afraid of everything his short life had allowed him to know.

“What’s happening?”

“We’re taking a shower. This is what we do every day at this time. The water will be cold so don’t be afraid when it touches your skin, it will be alright. You will get use to it in a little while. I won’t leave you.”

“LET’S GO, FASTER! YOU DIRTY JEWS,” screamed the soldier. “You’re lucky you even get the luxury of bathing!” I shook my head, disregarding what had been said the day before.


My gaze was fixed on Milosh and I saw the fear on his face, wishing I could make it better. “Okay,” he said. He stood in front of me like I did to my mother, clinging onto her legs in fear of everyone and thing around me. In the instant, I had felt as if I aged ten years, forcing myself to be brave for the child I did not know.
The heads leaked and puddles began to form on the ground around us. The room was quiet except for the hushed shivers which rippled through the chattering teeth. Drip, drop, drip, drop, chatter…

The pipe let out one last hiss and we heard the door bolt from the outside- WHAM! The wood slider locked into place, securing our presence. I jumped, startled by the noise and listened closer. The sounds were new and unfamiliar, bringing a pit to my stomach. Milosh’s grip grew tighter, and I sensed he felt it too.

After what felt like hours of waiting, the base of the shower rattled, quaking strong vibrations throughout the ground. I braced myself as the currents traveled through my body.

“Here it comes,” I said to Milosh, “in a few minutes we will be clean and sent out the back doors to the grounds.”

“Red, time for your bath! Come my child, the water is hot and ready for you!

Milosh just stared, his eyes wide, begging for the mother whom was now in ashes. I picked him up and he brought his arms around my neck, resting his head upon my shoulder. He closed his eyes and I saw instantaneously.

It looked thick and yellow as it crept out the shower heads, casting a haze throughout the warehouse. I felt his tears run onto my shoulder and looked down to find his silent face gasping for air. My lungs burned and I too struggled, feeling the blisters igniting through my body. Others ornamented the floor, their bodies decorated in their excrements.

I laid Milosh down, feeling too weak to carry his twenty-pound body. I tried to ease the pain which smoldered within my chest, my heart pounded and rung through my ears. My legs too feeble to stand, I sat next to Milosh and grabbed his limp hand. Closing my eyes, I hoped to ignore the fire which rippled through my body.

With no savior in sight, I drew a deep breath and joined Milosh in our silent freedom from Auschwitz.





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