November 18, 2016

The only words they ever bothered to share with us were yelled, angrily, as though we were the inconvenience. As though their families were dying, and they were locked away for their beliefs, and we were the cruel ones. As though when they stormed into the bunkers at three in morning, shouting at as to “Get up! Get in line!” it was our fault.
But then, what wasn't our fault?
In the camps, I wasn't Lina. I didn't have a father or a mother, I didn't have a home, I didn't have friends. I was a dirty, emaciated face and a tattooed number. I was a slave, a scapegoat, a prisoner. I was nothing.
Another night of interrupted sleep, standing in the snow for hours on end until my whole body was numb. Role call. As if any of us could escape from this hell. Our captors went around, constantly reminding us that work was liberation, but we all knew what that meant; the only liberation we would ever receive was death. And until then, the best scenario for everyone was to be invisible. Don't start rebellions, don't question the guards. Especially don't think about your family. Just try to survive.
They yelled at us again, this time instructing us to get food, an old piece of bread and dirty water that was more detrimental than dehydration. And then it was time for work. They'd send us off to different locations for forced manual labor, the only time in the day that I could think, that I could go on autopilot and not have to focus on doing everything right to avoid torture.
And that was life at Auschwitz.
During work time it was safe to remember things, to think freely about family and what life may have been like had none of this happened. I could be at home: safe, loved, protected. My mother could be cooking and my father could be reading. I could be studying, a necessary chore that I would now give anything to do. We were so happy before, we could've been so happy now.
But my parents were dead. My father was  sent to a different camp, and news travelled that everyone was killed on arrival. As soon as we arrived at Auschwitz, they took me from my mother. Only “abled bodies” could pass the inspection, and that was not her. And I was left alone.
We got back to the bunkers and did another line up. Got more food. Tried again to not cause trouble. Went to bed. Average night.
But around dawn, they woke us. They were angrier than usual, screaming about thieves and liars. If you moved too slow you were shoved, and if you fell you were kicked. We were rushing to get out of the bunkers, scrambling over each other in desperate attempt to not be the last one. I ran so quickly that I forgot my shoes, and my body instantly froze upon stepping on the snowy ground. My breath drifted in front of my face and up into the night as everyone assembled themselves, shaking with teeth chattering. Suddenly, he stepped out, the kapo, the leader of our bunk.
“One of you has stolen,” he yelled, broken German shining through a Polish accent. He was cruel, a man solely in charge of punishment and torture. He thought himself a nazi, but I knew they would kill him with just as little mercy as the rest of us.
“One of you has taken a bread ration that did not belong to you,” he continued, assuring us that we would all be dead if no one confessed soon. But who would? We were survivors after all, no one was stupid enough to claim a crime as their own.
Then the guards began striking out with the ends of their guns, aiming randomly, just hoping to hurt someone. Many of the girls began to cry, but not me. I did not take the bread, and I could not allow myself to think about my feet. All I could do was pray that they let us inside soon.
An hour passed, then another. Two women had been beaten, one for each silent hour. But still, no one spoke.
After the third woman fell to the ground, blood and tears frozen to her face, a girl younger than me confessed. Her name was Irene, and she, like me, was identifiable only by a number and a yellow star patched to her uniform. She must have been thin to begin with, but months of starvation had led her to become a walking corpse, a child ravaged by dysentery. She had simply wanted a little more bread. They acted as though she was a murderer.
They dragged her in front of where we were all lined up, and forced her to the ground. Irene begged and cried, wishing only for an extension of the sorrowful life we all shared. Instead of listening to her pleas, and doing something humane for once, they shot her.
The kapo gathered up eight women to bring Irene and the three others away from our bunks, then sent us back. My feet were blue with cold, and I couldn't feel my fingertips.
Irene could've been my friend in a different life. In a perfect world where people aren't prosecuted simply for their beliefs, a world without Adolf Hitler. A world where numbers were just that, and stars belonged in the sky. Instead, she was killed over a piece of bread.
Since the first time I had been in Auschwitz, I cried myself to sleep. The next morning, I got up, got in line, and went to get breakfast. An almost average day, except that morning I snuck two pieces of bread away. As I bit into the second, I thought of Irene, my mother, and my father. And at work, I almost smiled. We walked back to be met with our kapo shouting at us, and all I could think was “See you soon.”

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