June 15, 2011
How did I get here? What did I do wrong? Am I being punished, or is fate just cruel? I reach out with numb fingers, searching for some comfort in the death that surrounds me. I feel nothing, but the cold press of corpse stacked upon corpse. I can just see the soldiers, some with tears cutting deep lines through the grime upon their cheeks, others merely with grim expressions, as they search out the dead from this frozen wasteland. As far as I can see I am the only living among them, the only one missed by the fatal bullets. I am still run through in what feels like dozens of places, but none are kind enough to end my torment. Though I have long since lost faith in God I find myself praying for him to call my soul home, for I do in fact wish I were dead.

In the haze of my pain I see once more the flames of Auschwitz. I walk again with my wife and beautiful daughter, Elaina. Her new green winter coat dirty, her golden curls tangled and frizzy. We have been in our car for days. Food was scarce to begin with and by now we are all famished. Many believed we were being moved for our own protection. There had been many riots in our town lately. Many Jews were injured, one house sent up in flames. But there were mumblings about the car that these “Nazis” meant only to bring about our destruction. Staring up at those soaring flames I could do not but believe them. This was not some cozy bonfire. It was a wild fire contained by some unknown force, beautiful in its wicked cruelty. As we approached we were separated, men the left women and children to the right. I tried to stay with my family, but was jabbed to the left side with the barrel of a guard’s gun. I looked into the tear streaked face of my wife as I was forced away. I heard the high voice of Elaina calling for her father, “Papa! Papa!” I just saw my wife lean down to shush her before I was swallowed up by the crowd of men.

We didn’t walk for long. Too soon I saw the crematorium looming in front of me. We moved toward the line of people up by the edge of the fire pit. I saw the women shake as they waited to be shot and tossed over the side like useless baggage. To my relief I saw no children among them. Maybe my dear Elaina would live after all. I hoped that after this war she would still remember her two parents with fondness. I hoped that this memory would not plague her happier thoughts of our family. That’s when I saw it, the grizzly image that I shall never forget, the sight that haunts me even now, so close to my grave. I saw the children lined up at the edge away from their mothers. I watched as each child was taken and tossed off the side without even the mercy of a gunshot first. I witnessed in what I now wish had been my last moments the slight swish of a green winter coat and the bounce of frizzy golden curls and the scream of my dearest child, my first born, my Elaina.

I am plagued by thoughts of her now, memories of her smiling face. In my mind I call out to her as she called out to me, “Elaina! Elaina! My darling, forgive me my sin! Elaina, my dearest daughter, if only it had been me and not you, my child, my joy, my precious Elaina. Forgive your poor father.”

“Sir!” Someone yells, “Sir! We have a live one. One survived!” A thud sounds beside me and a face swims into view, a young soldier, American I think. He’s one of the criers. “Sir, are you all right? Of course you’re not all right! You will be though. We’ll make sure of it. Can someone help me?” Another thud sounds and my battered body is being lifted. I am nearly too far gone to feel the pain. One of the men yells for a medic. They set me down of something warm and comforting. I realize with a shock that it is a blanket, a blanket! What kindness is this? I have not felt the touch of a true blanket since I left home. Another man enters and begins his work immediately. He orders a soldier to get some food and water. Again I am left wondering at the charity of these soldiers. The only soldiers I’ve met have shown nothing but cruelty to myself and my people. They have not let us eat in many days. Our water came from snow. Food is precious, so why are these men sharing.

I am fed and given a drink, not nearly enough of either, but it should hold me over for a while. I am so tired. I wish nothing, but to sleep. The doctor gives me some medicine and soon I am dreaming.

When I wake again it is to the bright lights of a hospital. A nurse informs me that I have been in a coma for several months. I am surprised when this news does not upset me. What do a few months matter after all else has been taken from me? A few weeks later an excited young nurse enters. I am told that a family in America wishes to sponsor me. They have paid for a ticket to their country and would like me to work as their gardener. All act as if this is a great kindness. I see it as what it truly is, a way of trapping me disguised as charity. Where else do I have to go?

A week later I receive a letter from my sponsors. In it they enclosed a family portrait. Beside two young parents sits a little girl, hair a mess of yellow curls. I stare at the child for a moment and then, slipping the photo into my jacket pocket, I vow to myself never to let anything harm that girl as long as I live. I will be more than just a gardener; I will be a protector. I turn on my heel and head off to catch my boat and meet these wealthy young Americans and their young daughter, an angel in my eyes, knowing that I am forgiven. For how else could this child come to be named Ellen?

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Clear_Skies said...
Oct. 28, 2011 at 11:51 am
This... is amazing. I was in tears by the end.
Karatepanda911 said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 5:01 pm

This is Amazing


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