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Dear Franz

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The girl leaned back, sobbed loudly and wiped her forehead. She was shivering as if from fever yet the girl was healthy. For a minute or two she sat quietly, then turned back to the table, clutched the pencil and, trembling with her whole body, began scraping unsteady, dancing letters.

“Dear Franz,
This is my last night. Our last night. My blouse is sticking to my back. Cold sweat is running down my neck. My whole body is shaking; my throat feels like an iron clasp has been secured tightly around it, making it impossible to breath. My hand is shaking and so wet that I can’t get a stern grip on the pencil. Fear is eating me up from inside.
At this time tomorrow I will be dead. We will be dead. I sit here in my cell, but all I can see is the stand. It does not matter whether I keep my eyes closed or tightly shut. All I see is that rope, waiting for me. And you turning away from me.”

She stopped, threw her pencil down and banged her fists on the hard surface. She kept bashing them until there was no energy left, and they flopped down weakly onto the desk. The hands ached but the girl didn’t feel the pain. She picked up the pencil.

“When a soldier is thrust into war, he hopes that he will live. One in a hundred, in a thousand, but he will be lucky, he will live. Up to the very moment when the bullet hits him, and perhaps even after, he hopes. I have no hope left in me. I know that every breath I’m taking is counted.
When I joined the resistance I accepted the possibility that I may die. But I never thought that I would die hated by my enemies and despised by my friends -that in the last minute of my existence I will be alone. Alone, knowing that my friends will die because of me and there is nothing I can do to make it right.
When I was younger I liked stories about knights in shining armour and damsels in distress. Joan of Arc, who died an excruciating death, was my idol. She died as a hero. I will die despised and deserted by my friends.”

The girl felt as if she was looking at the letter through someone else’s glasses. It was fuzzy and blurred. Her eyes were wet and sore. She began writing again, her eyes aching at the strain.

“With this letter I will lose the love of the last person who cares about me. No one will calm me in my last moment, and when I die, no one will mourn me or put flowers on my grave.
I saw the officer removing the poker from the oven. It glowed in his eyes. And when he thrust it on my arm I couldn’t do anything. It burned through my skin, turning it a charcoal black. The pain cut through it, a pain I’ve never felt before. I couldn’t see or hear anything except my own agony. I fell onto the floor in a heap clutching my injured arm to my chest, rocking to and fro like a distressed child. He seized my throat, pushing me against the floor. The room suddenly shrunk to the size if the red dot, dancing in my torturer’s eyes.

It was then when I told him. I told him, chocking through my own sobs and mucus and blood, about handing out the pamphlets, about our anti-Nazi group. My hair was out of my ponytail. My face was blotchy red, covered in tears, blood, and mucus. I told him about the Jewish boy we fed and clothed. I told him everything he wanted to know and even more. I poured out all the information I had, screaming and begging him not to hurt me. His hand released my throat and I crumpled back onto the floor, feeling wretched and miserable, drained of strength, hope and faith.

Later, I tried to comfort myself that I did all I could. But that is a lie. I now realise that he barely touched me. At least, in comparison to what happens to other prisoners. I could have borne it. I made my choice when I joined you in the resistance, that if I was caught, I would sooner die than betray you.

I never gave much thought to what happens after death. But now death is at my window. I can see its blurry, dark figure. Will I go to hell? And what is hell? These questions will be answered soon. Too soon. I feel worthless and pathetic, as though I haven’t left the interrogation room and I am still laying on the floor, my hair snarled and my clothes torn, smelling of burnt flesh.
I’ve lost every bit of dignity and hope I possess. I’m not Joan of Arc. I don’t forgive myself. Now I see that it wasn’t fear that drove me to betrayal, but selfishness. The selfish desire to save myself, even at the cost of your life. I don’t deserve your support when I die. I’m sorry that I have to hurt you by telling you that the person you trusted and cared for betrayed you.
Annette”

The door opened. A woman in a green-grey dress stepped in. The girl froze. She tried to get up but stumbled and nearly fell. She managed to grab the table. Then, with an effort, she straightened up, spread her shoulders and walked out of the cell.



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