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Nothing Remains (edited)
Everything changed with the glint of the rising sun. My family was gone, my friends were gone, and nothing would ever be the same. There was a mix-up with the escape.Everyone left at night to walk to the train. They didn't notice that I was missing. I am a heavy sleeper and that killed me in the end. I woke up alone, scared, and cold. I realized my family was gone as I walked from house to house terrified. I went back home and started a fire, as they had turned off the heat. By this time I realized they had left without me, I didn't know why, and it hurt. All of my friends had already left. This was adding insult to injury. I was left alone, at 13, with no one to turn to. If I went to officials, I would be turned into the Germans. All I could do was wait.
I lived like a hermit for a month until they came. They pounded on the door and I answered hoping for some pity. They came in yelling for my parents, but I explained what happened. This made them angrier. They grabbed my arm and dragged me out where they threw me against a cold, hard brick wall. There was only one other person with me and I had only met her once, as she was the oldest person in my neighborhood. After what felt like days they came back and led us out. The walk was about a mile to an old train with other warn out people. They had clearly walked for miles from other cities. With me on that train, were one fifth of the Jews left in Denmark, and we were packed into a space the size of my living room.
It was almost five long hours until we arrived at the concentration camp. I learned it was called Thereseinstadt and I was more than lucky to be taken here instead of one of the horrible death camps like Aushwitz. We were marched inside and lined up in a courtyard area. A Nazi soldier came out from a building and begun yelling in German. I wasn't the best at German and had a hard time understanding words when he was faraway. What I did understand horrified me. If I messed up, caused trouble, or was disliked, I would be deported. After hearing about Aushwitz in the train I did not want this to happen. Like many, I made it my priority to be a good citizen of Thereseinstadt Concentration Camp.
Living conditions were terrible. I couldn't understand why anyone would say I was lucky. The food was flavorless and only given in dimunitive portions. We were made to work where we didn't want to, and stuffed into tiny rooms with at least 10 other people. People who came from other camps seemed happy here, yet I was miserable. The only good things about the camp was the art. We were allowed to sing while we worked. We were allowed to draw with charcoal on the indurated cement. We were even allowed to dance, although it wasn't taken happily with the Nazi soldiers. Every day that passed left me exhausted, frail, and hungry. Four of the men in my room were sick, worrying me and the others. I watched three men from my room get shot on my 14th birthday. As time wore on, more men died and were replaced. If I could recall the every death I saw a day, I would never sleep. During my time at Thereseinstadt I saw hundreds of corpses, but by good fortune never became one.
After three months of Thereseinstadt, I became more troublesome by the day. I had been threatened at least ten times by the soldiers to quit the trouble, but I never did. Things I did were small at first: singing too loudly, dancing too happily. After a year they became bigger. I was beinning to take my luck for granted. I fought people in my room, worked slowly, and sang when not allowed. Finally, after almost two years in Thereseinstadt I pushed myself over the edge. At night I snuck out of my room and into the eating room, where I found crumbs and preparations for the next day. I stole a roll of fresh bread from the kitchen and stuffed it in my shirt. As a snuck back to my room a vagrant cat leaped out at me, startling me into a fence. Alarms went off immediately. They could of brutally killed me on the spot; instead, they sent me to Aushwitz.
The train ride was cold and miserable. There were about a hundred of us crammed into a tiny cart; built to fit only half of us. Three people died during the trip. I couldn't tell if some people were dead or sleeping.I was lucky to have a corner and window nearby. I slept for the majority of the ride. When I woke up we were somewhere in Poland. I noticed that people were cheering outside. I wondered why, then realized they were cheering for our deaths. What was happening to the world? Cheering for war, cheering for pain, for murder, for slaves. Soon the cheering people were gone and the train was slowing down. They led us out and started shoving the dead out. The first thing I saw at Aushwitz was a large sign that read "arbeit macht frei." That meant "work sets you free." Thereseinstadt had the same sign, I knew this was a lie.
The German soldiers led us to a fork in the path. Soldiers went down the line asking for name and special skills. I was 16 and had no experience in anything much. The Nazi got to me and asked. I told him I was 17, I figured an extra year wouldn't hurt. When he heard this he didn't even ask for my skills but pointed me to the left. I figured that was good because they were in the opposite direction of the buildings with great chimneys and curling smoke.
When we got inside, they lined us up in a large fenced area and told us that we were at Aushwitz Labor Camp and we would be working to be set free. We would be assigned jobs and sections right away. I was assigned Sonderkommando for my job. For four months I would have to do this job I did not know about. I recognized the word as special work unit, but that was all I knew. I was told to go to the other side of the camp early in the morning. I got pitying looks from several prisoners with me . I wondered how bad this job could possibly be.
I started my new job and it worse than I had ever imagined. My job was shoveling in the crematorium. Everyday my fellow workers were killed in the crematorium for no reason but the soldiers wanting to. There was almost no way I would last four months in this horrid place. Everyday got worse and at two weeks I wondered how long I had. Everyday I lived in fear of being murdered or burned alive. I was already starving and sick. My days were filled with people like me. Infants, teens, elders, all being led to the same place for the same fate. It was unfair and unjust. I wondered how the soldiers could go through with it so casually. Yet I was still alive.
I somehow made it through four months, the end of my job assignment . No one how I knew had made it so long. Why did I? I was led back the the main building of Aushwitz-Birkneu, as if this was normal. I was led into a room with two older woman. The soldier left. The taller one spoke first, “You know where you're going, I suppose” I did not. They explained to me that I was headed to the crematorium in only a few moments. This was shocking. The end of my life was just given to me and I couldn't do anything. But I knew I would die here. I knew it was coming fast. So I accepted it sadly.
The woman looked at each other and whispered momentarily. She went to the side of the room and stuck her hand into the wall. I gasped at first, as the wall looked perfectly normal to me. She piled out a black fruit. She walked over and placed it in my hand. Take this she said and use it wisely. As I opened my hand I realized with a shock that the item I was holding was grenade. I frantically searched for the pin and found it safely intact. That was a relief. I looked at the girls and nodded. They helped me hide the grenade under my now very long hair. Soon after, a Nazi came and collected me. In line to go to the crematorium I was thinking about how I would pull this off. I spotted two muscular men and recruited them to help me. I figured I would just throw the grenade when we got inside.