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As he roughly drags me home I find myself wondering how in the world I am going to tell my family we’ve been found?! Should I just come out and tell them or will the sight of a German Soldier with their oldest son be enough to show them the horrifying news that no Jewish family wants to hear at this time. They have found us. As the officer shoves me forward onto my front porch I can hear my father and mother speaking of the hard day and my younger siblings chatting about silly nonsense. The clashing of forks and spoons against plates shows how late I’ve been out of the house. They have already eaten dinner without me. The German officer grunts and shifts uncomfortably. I think to myself, how many times Father has already gotten onto me about being caught?! He doesn’t realize how hard it is for me to just stay at home and be still. Maybe, just maybe this officer won’t go in with me, but I doubt it....
Dreading the next few minutes I walk into the living room where the laughter and chatter of my three siblings cease immediately. My two younger sisters, Adline and Alese, grab my brother Reza and whimper at the sight of a German Soldier. It seems like decades before my father finally stands up and in an unsteady voice says “I understand that you will relocate my family and I promise we will come without a fight. Please can you spare us just a few minutes to pack and tell each other last minute things?”
“Yes. Hurry though. The next...train is leaving soon and you will be on it,” said the officer in a brutal, dark voice. His voice was as hard as hail on a car. As my family rushes around trying to pack everything they think we might need Alese scampers up to me and asks “Alois, why are they taking us away from our home? Are we getting a new house?”
“In Bogdanovka, Ukraine we have a new ruler my sweet Alese. They do not like Jewish people. They are taking us to a new place but it will never be our home. It is…..it is just a temporary living place,” I say in a soothing voice. I find myself almost in tears at the thought of losing Alese. Grabbing her in my arms I squeeze her until she finally releases me, kisses my hand and skips away. How I will miss her innocence when they separate women and men. She and Adline will go with mother while Reza and I will go with Father. I know it is a terrible thought but I hope that they might die first so they will not go through much suffering. From the rumors around town many people say that these camps are made to use us, and when we are too weak to do anything, kill us.
Everybody is ready to go so we follow the Nazi outside and in the frigid night air we walk to the train station. (It seems to like a million miles to the train station.) Nobody attempts to talk so we walk in reticence besides the shuffling of our feet. One thing I keep thinking about is how much I am going to miss my home. For instants the way it always smells like Mother in the morning and how the nights that I spend in my room are always so quiet and calm. Also I love the way that my mother makes sure that our home is the best it can be. I am ashamed to think that I was so ungrateful for my home. I will never ever be ungrateful again! I can smell the vile, repulsive train station before we get there. When we finally get there they tell us to lie on the ground face forward. One second I’m conscience the next I feel a heavy object hit my head and I go out cold.
When I finally wake up I find myself in the same position. The rough Earth patch I was laying on looks as if it is ashes. Not thinking much of this I crawl over to Mother. Cradling her face I realize her favorite earrings are gone. After checking myself, I find that my favorite necklace and my grandfather’s last present to me, his hunting knife, are both gone. After pondering over the mysterious event for a few minutes I come to the conclusion that the Germans must have taken all our jewelry! How dare they?! Father finally rises and I tell him my theory. He tells me that it seems as if I am correct. A German officer strolls toward us and orders us into a cargo car. Despite our protests the German officer crowds us into the car and slams the door shut. Right before they shut the door I caught the slightest glimpse of my sweet Alese screaming as an officer hit her.
The dark was a hole that went all the way to the center of the Earth. Nobody talked but many people coughed and choked inside the car. Luckily being the last people in the car Father and I were closest to the edge and had a plentiful air supply. I did get cold at nights but Father always holds me spreading his warmth into me. I cried many nights because I finally realized that I might never see my sweet Alese again. I miss her so much! She was one of my only small joys and now she might be gone! Resolutely I told myself that I would see her again no matter what! With a new sense of purpose I realized that I should always try to help others just like I am going to try to help Alese! Wow….about thirteen hours in a stuffy cargo car with a few dead people can do some good I guess!
When we finally reached our concentration camp we were heavily guarded and escorted to some waiting rooms. An ugly, fat, old man stumbled in and shouted an order for us all to undress and get in alphabetical order single file. He then left abruptly and an odd looking fellow walked in wearing stripped looking pajamas. He carried a tattoo machine and sat at a table in the center of the dark room. The old fellow that Father and I had just moments before nicknamed Grumpy came back in and proceeded to the tattoo man. Yelling loudly Grumpy ordered the first person in line to come and stand next to the tattoo man. As quickly as he could the tattoo man gave this first person in line a tattoo. It went on and on like this until it was my turn. I slowly stalked up to the table and looking away I tried not to scream as the six numbers where carved into my rough dark skin. 23548 was my name now. Grumpy explained that since there were so many Jews and undesirables we received numbers and that is how we were addressed. When someone calls your number you say “Yes, sir?” and looked down. You never, ever, look at an officer in the face. Oh, and you must take punishment willingly you mustn’t resist! Father looked at me and I nodded to show my understanding but I mean seriously who in their right mind is going to take punishment willingly? Anyways many German men came in and dropped clothes, and clothes, and mountains of clothes in the middle of the floor after everyone had their tattoo. We were all allowed to pairs of clothes. One pair was for wearing and then when that pair was being washed you wore the other pair. Now they brought a man who looked like a barber. We went one at a time and you had your head shaved down all the way. I watched as my long, strong brown hair fell to the floor and decided it was for the best. Now in ‘proper uniform’ as one of the guards called it, we were assigned a bunk and one pair of shoes. It was dinner time by now and we all received a spoonful of soup, a little bread, and three beans. Our concentration camp did have an upside to it though! The women were here! My sweet Alese, Adline, and Reza are all here so in a way it does still feel like home. We are allowed 15 minutes to eat and we are permitted to talk to the women, not touch them but you may talk to them. It was dark by now and so we made our farewells to the rest of our family and reunited with Reza Father, Reza and I went to our bunk and tried to get some sleep.
The next morning we learned our daily chores and my favorite one was making dinner because I was with Alese alone! Alese and I talked about escaping and finally after three weeks of hard labor, many beatings, and barely any food our plan came into action. It was a night when we knew the guard on duty was half blind. After finishing our cleaning chores and no one else was out I stalked out of the kitchen up to the guard and hit him on the head with a big stick. I grabbed Alese and ran. We got out the front door and ran for the side gate. Jumping over the fence Alese and I kept running until we came upon a little hole in the ground. Dropping down to rest I left Alese and walked around what might be our little campsite for the night until I heard a whisper. It was faint and croaky and I thought it sounded like a small kid in need of help. Sticking to my resolution I took hold of Alese and we searched for the owner of the voice until finally we found a young middle aged man who was in perfectly fine health. He looked up smiled at us.
“Please it is alright; do not scream. I am here to help you, hurry come with me. I have a small cottage about five minutes up from here,” said the man in an American accent.
“Alright we will come with you but only under the circumstances that you promise to not give us back to the Germans,” I said with as much confidence I could muster.
“Of course, I will not turn you in. Come with me I will help you,” he said in a hushed voice.
So we trudged quietly along the forest with a complete stranger until we came to an old cottage with many Jewish people around and an entire camp behind the cottage. Trusting the man almost completely now Alese and I followed him inside.
“My name is Mr. Michael but you may call me Fred. I have a hide out as you can see for Jews who have escaped the German camp,” he said in a cherry, bouncy voice.
“Will you permit us to stay here?” I asked using a soft but happy voice.
“Well of course! I have been watching you Alois. You help many people. I like those kinds of people! You are welcome to stay here with your sister as long as you like!” He exclaimed.
“Thank you, sir! I have been trying to help others and I would love to help out around here!”I enthusiastically said.
“Why thank you very much for the offer Alois! I will see what I can find for you to do!” he said happily.
Alese and I found an actual home here. We were warmly welcomed and everybody helped out with each other helping me to keep my resolution! After awhile it wasn’t even a resolution it was just my way of life. I try to help people a lot of the time now! Alese wants followed in my footsteps, so to speak, and wants to be a nurse! Even thought the concentration camp was horrible sometimes good things come out of bad things.
My sister and I were welcomed into a new place. Even though we have never known what happened to any of our parents or friends at the concentration camp we are happy. When you look at the good things in life you just might realize your life isn't as bad as you might have though. the bright side might be anything. My bright side is my Alese.