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Mr. and Mrs. Schafer gazed up at their new home. The roses were certainly not well groomed, and the paint was chipping off. The woodwork left something to be desired. Mr. Schafer entered the house immediately, finding his new office. Mrs. Schafer sighed with discontent, and looked down at her young daughter, who had not stopped crying since they had gotten there.
“Rosalinde,” she said, in an effort to calm her daughter. “Let’s go pick out your new room.” Mrs. Schafer took her daughter’s hand and guided her into the new foyer. No marble staircases, no marble pillars. Just a plain wooden staircase.
Rosalinde glanced up at her mother and shook her head. She could not believe her mother had forced her into moving here. It was ugly, and certainly not as pristine as their old home. The old house made her feel like a doll, a princess. But this house, this house was just drab; No fancy curtains, no china on the table, no pink comforter on her bed! “Mommy,” she started slowly, “Why are we here?”
Mrs. Schafer hoped she would never ask. Explaining decisions to a daughter, only 7, was a hard thing. She wouldn’t be able to understand. But Rosalinde was smart, and she knew when her mother was making up false answers just to please her.
“Because Daddy was told by his boss that he needed to move here for work.”
“What is Daddy’s job?” Rosalinde questioned, for she really was never told.
A tear formed in Mrs. Schafer’s eyes. Mrs. Schafer had never told anyone of Mr. Schafer’s work. It was too dangerous. Mrs. Schafer looked around, making sure no one could hear. She bent down to her knees, and looked Rosalinde in the eyes. “Your Daddy works for a very important man. His name is Mr. Hitler.”
“Is Mr. Hitler a nice man?” Rosalinde asked.
Mrs. Schafer swallowed hard. She thought back to the time when Rosalinde’s best friend, Jacob, was taken away by Hitler’s guards just because he was Jewish. Mrs. Schafer hated the work of Mr. Hitler. She found it disgusting, terrible, and mean. But her husband worked for Mr. Hitler, and at a time like this, that was the safest job to have. Mrs. Schafer didn’t argue. “Yes Rosalinde, Mr. Hitler is a very nice man. You may get to meet him now that we live here. Daddy says that he may come to visit sometime.”
Rosalinde smiled, she was excited to meet Mr. Hitler.
Mr. Schafer trembled at the thought of his new workplace, an extermination camp. Mr. Schafer had never been one to agree with Mr. Hitler’s ideas, but he decided that he would do what Mr. Hitler told him, in an effort not to be killed.
The telephone rang. “Hello?” Mr. Schafer answered.
“Hello Mr. Schafer. This is Adolf calling. Are you alone?”
Mr. Schafer’s heart skipped a beat, his eyes widened. He had never spoken to Mr. Hitler directly. Was he in trouble? What was going to happen? “Yes, yes I am alone.” Mr. Schafer responded.
“Very well. I wanted to inform you of your duties at the Auschwitz camp. Now that you have made your move from Germany to Poland I expect that you and your family have no contact with friends and extended family living in Germany. This is a job I left for my most trusted follower, Mr. Schafer.”
Mr. Schafer eased himself into his new office chair, for he was suddenly light-headed. He never knew that this job would include leaving his family and friends in Germany behind.
“Anyways, back to your duties,” Mr. Hitler continued. “You will be working in the gassing chambers. Auschwitz is the most divine concentration camp. You will be in charge of gassing around 850 people each day.”
Mr. Schaffer shuddered at the sense of pride in Mr. Hitler’s voice. Tears filled his eyes. He didn’t know if he had it in him to kill hundreds of innocent people each day. Mr. Schafer took out a piece of notebook paper. “850 times 7,” He murmured to himself, “That’s 5,950 innocent people each week.” Mr. Schafer hunched over, feeling as if he was going to throw up. “That sounds terrific Mr. Hitler.”
“Thank you Mr. Schafer. When you get to the camp, speak to Mr. Astor. He will show you the way.”
Mr. Schafer hung up the telephone. He took out the handkerchief from his left uniform pocket. He glanced down at his left arm. The swastika band squeezing his bicep caught his eye. How he wished he could rip it off, tearing the band to shreds. He took a deep breath, sneezed into his handkerchief and then proceeded to lower his face into his hands.
“Rosalinde, go play outside and meet the neighbors. Maybe you will find some children your age.” Mrs. Schafer said, hoping her daughter would agree.
Rosalinde shrugged her shoulders and put on her jacket. Although it was only 4 o’clock, the nighttime chill was staring to kick in. She pranced out the door, embracing the cool air that greeted her. Rosalinde didn’t want to meet the neighbors, she would rather explore. And hence, off she went. Down the street she meandered, passing house after house. No other children were playing outside. So, she kept going.
Finally, she reached a dead end. A gate with a large sign on it blocked the path. Rosalinde read aloud, “AUSCHWITZ CAMP. PERMITTED PERSONS ONLY.” Rosalinde furrowed her brow, for she had no idea what this meant. The only word she could comprehend was camp. “Camp?” She questioned. “How fun!” Rosalinde looked to her left. Another sign hung on a fence. “WORK WILL MAKE YOU FREE.” Rosalinde shrugged. She didn’t even try to comprehend this one.
Rosalinde slipped through the holes in the gate and kept wandering down the street. Soon, she reached a fence lined with people. There were adults and children, all in the same tarnished striped pajamas. They yelled out to Rosalinde. Faint yells, for they had no strength in them. “Help us! Help us young child!”
Rosalinde tilted her head in confusion. What did they need help with? “OH!” She thought. They needed help playing capture the flag! Rosalinde looked right and left. Everywhere she looked there were people along the fence, trying to catch her attention. But a certain boy caught her eye. He looked about her age. He was very skinny, and his cheeks extremely white. He almost looked as if he was sick. But it was something about his deep brown eyes that mesmerized her. She almost recognized them. So familiar, he seemed. She strolled up to the little boy. “Do you want me to help you find the flag?”
The little boy sighed. “No, we want to get out. Mr. Hitler is going to...” He looked up at Rosalinde’s bouncy blonde curls, her crystal blue eyes, and her blushing cheeks. He burst out in tears.
Rosalinde was puzzled. “What is he going to do? Win the game?”
The little boy sniffled. “Rosalinde?!”
Rosalinde froze. How did this boy know her name? She closed her eyes in order to think. Nothing came to her.
“Rosalinde! It’s me, Jacob!”
Rosalinde opened her eyes, wide. “Jacob!” Tears and smiles enveloped her face. She couldn’t tell if she was happy or sad, or maybe another emotion. Rosalinde had not seen Jacob in 3 months since he had disappeared. No one told her why.
“Rosalinde,” he said. “I need your help. Mr. Hitler is going to.. he is going to.. um...” Jacob looked strained. He took a deep breath, “Kill me.”
Rosalinde knew what this meant, although she couldn’t fully decipher the concept. She thought back to earlier in the day. “Yes Rosalinde, Mr. Hitler is a very nice man...” Rosalinde sighed, she knew it was too good to be true. She stuttered. “Uhh, umm, uhh, well, what do you want me to do?”
Jacob spoke calmly and with a purpose. “I need you to get me to your side of the fence.”
Mrs. Schafer had just finished cooking dinner. Chicken and dumplings. It was Rosalinde’s favorite. Mrs. Schafer hoped it would make up for the big move. She set the table and served the chicken.
Mrs. Schafer bundled up in her scarf and walked outside to get Rosalinde. “Rosalinde!” She called, “Dinner time!” No response. “Rosalinde!” she called again. No answer. Mrs. Schafer started to worry, it was getting dark now. Frantically, she ran down the street, knocking on all of the neighbors doors. But they all had the same answer.
“I’m sorry ma’am we haven’t seen her.”
Mrs. Schafer collapsed in the street. Her heart throbbing, and her eyes watering.
She sat there for a good hour, waiting, listening, watching. Rosalinde was no where to be found. And then, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse; two young children running up the street, hand in hand. “Rosalinde?!” She called, one last time.
“Mommy!” Rosalinde responded.
Mrs. Schafer trembled to her feet, running up to the two children. “Jacob!” She gasped. Mrs. Schafer was astounded, she never thought she would see him again.
Rosalinde and Jacob embraced Mrs. Schafer. A hug so tight, that Mrs. Schafer almost couldn’t breathe.
And then, Mrs. Schafer realized the danger the two were in. “Let’s go eat dinner.” She said quickly, whisking the two children into the safety of their new home.