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Numbers: My Only Proof This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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In third grade we were assigned a biography project. This assignment was famous at my school, and we'd all been thinking about our topics since kindergarten. The posters would cover the halls midway through the year for everyone to admire. I always saw a bunch for Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. I wanted to do someone different.

Maybe I shouldn't have.

I spent several months reading and googling and gathering all the information available on Anne Frank, born June 29, 1929. (Whenever the clock turns 9:29, I instantly see her face.) She hid in an attic, shielded by a fake bookcase door, dubbed “the annex.” (A local clothing store with that name gives me the chills.) She was eventually discovered and shipped to Auschwitz. It is there that she was stripped of her name and, in exchange, given a number that she wore tattooed to her forearm for the rest of her short life.

This information is programmed into my mind. This information makes me live in fear of history repeating itself. That's when I coined my mantra: This is America. It could never happen in America. But, my God, it haunts me here.

I still shiver at the mention of Anne's name, or Auschwitz or the Holocaust or Hitler; my heart plummets to my stomach at the sound of those words. Soon after the project I watched, for the umpteenth time, “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Story line: Find the Ark of the Covenant ­before the Nazis do. I shook in fear of the swastika and buried my face in my sofa ­pillow.

That night, I dreamt that below my sister's dresser was a hatch that brought me to a concentration camp in my house. I'm in America, I told myself when I woke up. We're free here, so it can't happen here. It won't happen here.

I feared these nightmares. One day in Hebrew School we were watching “The Devil's Arithmetic,” a graphic, gruesome film on the topic. That night I cried for hours, too scared to sleep. I also refused to enter the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., for fear of the nightmares it might have brought.

I tried to keep my distance from the topic for a while, but it followed me everywhere. I went to my Hebrew school to find that Irving Roth, a survivor of Auschwitz who now lives in my area, was speaking to us. He shared his story and showed us his number tattoo.

I was almost 13, and it was time to decide on my Bat Mitzvah project. Three years later, my heart veered me toward the same subject. I would adopt a survivor, I decided. I would learn Mary Blank's story so I could share with future generations how at age nine she hid from the Nazis by posing as a Christian child. Would I be able to give up Judaism if my life depended on it? No way. The day after my Bat Mitzvah, I went to Hebrew school of my own accord for the first time. The day after my Bat Mitzvah I felt Jewish for the first time.

It won't happen here. It'll never happen here.

I entered ninth grade with much trepidation. I walked through the foreign halls with only a pinch of confidence. I knew it was the first year that really mattered and that I would need to be conscious of balancing my grades and clubs and social life. With all this pressure, I was relieved and comforted to have English class, my favorite subject, begin my day. But nothing's perfect.

Just three weeks into the school year my teacher announced that we would be reading Night by Elie Wiesel. She also assigned our first project. We were to do a group Powerpoint on one aspect of the novel to learn more about that period. Good thing I was already an expert.

One boy was ecstatic that he could use a swastika as a background for his group's slide – every slide, in fact. At first I thought nothing of it. I didn't become a cynic until after this experience.

The boys spoke about the Nazi party's viewpoint. It was innocuous, fact-filled. Except for one slide. “Hitler thought the Jews were a poisonous race that needed to be exterminated,” it read in 20-point font. “He is right,” was written below in six-point font. My skin grew hot. My heart plummeted. My eyes welled up. Beeeeeep, beeeeep. Fire drill. When we got back, the offensive text was gone.

It was obvious who had reported the incident, and no one held back their opinion on how they felt about me doing that.

“It was a joke,” they snapped.

“It was funny,” they claimed.

“Stop getting people in trouble,” my boyfriend yelled.

“You stinking Jew,” my friends screamed.

Stabs to my heart.

“You weren't there. You're not affected by it.”

Look at my arm. There's a number there. I don't care if you can't see it. I am branded with a permanent reminder, despite being born 40 years after the Holocaust. Prejudice does happen here. I might not have lived through it, but the Holocaust changed me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 23 comments. Post your own!

ramfthomas4This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
today at 8:31 pm:
Prejudice is the side effect of a cowardly heart.
 
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LaChouette said...
Aug. 15 at 3:51 pm:
This is very well- written and very powerful. Keep up the good work!
 
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RayynbowThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 13 at 12:37 am:
Wow, this is interesting to see your perspective! It's one that I've never really considered before. I hope that you were able to talk to someone about how you feel about this instead of keeping it to yourself and explain to your friends how you feel.
 
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Ray_AidenThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 12 at 4:29 pm:
Very well written, keep up the great work.
 
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thatgirlyouknow said...
Aug. 11 at 8:11 pm:
I can relate to how you're feeling so much. In midle school, we read The Dairy of Anne Frank and had a holocaust survivor come to our school. I was very moved, yet disturbed learning about it. I felt grateful for my life, but scared that something like that could happen. Just like you we read Night in my lit class Freshman year, and that a book that has made a permanent impact on my life. I will never forget it. I cried every time I read it, and had nightmares and trouble sleeping. After rea... (more »)
 
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imalwayswrite53This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 2 at 9:31 pm:
well written although the ending falls a little flat, keep up the good work :)
 
Alana W. This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 2 at 11:29 pm :
Thank you! I agree with your criticism, but, well, editors do as they please, and sometimes the author doesn't have a say in the matter......that's life, though!
 
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PhiliaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 2 at 3:01 pm:
Drilled with strong emotions, the article sends a strong message of how even today, when we proudly proclaim of being a global village, prejudices do exist. Ideals but moreover mindset needs to be changed. Good work!
 
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Mark. said...
Jul. 30 at 7:25 pm:
Such wonderful writing :)
 
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JRayeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 25 at 8:20 pm:
Absolutely amazing peice! I believe every word, and that this came straight from your heart. Your voice was loud and strong and heard! Never stop writting, you have a gift! (And side-note, never stop standing up for what you beileve in, no matter what anybody says :)
 
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Alana W. This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 20 at 12:50 am:
Thanks, everyone, for all of your positive comments on my writing; it is very motivational.  I also appreciate that you all support my message, and I beg you to share this with as many people as you can to spread this awareness as much as we can. This is not ancient history--this is still a problem.
 
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Brandon M. This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 17 at 12:15 pm:
Incredibly well-written
 
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bepinThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 13 at 7:46 pm:
this is amazing. i loved this soo much
 
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IlovemeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 12 at 6:45 am:
To my favourites..
 
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LuciDavis said...
Jul. 11 at 8:27 pm:
This has got to be the most emotional piece of writing I have ever read on this website or anywhere for that matter. It breaks my heart to see how affected people were by such a tragedy. This was beautiful writing and this deserves to be read by many more. Well done!
 
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pensiveThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 7 at 6:08 pm:
This was powerful! I think it's disgusting when people make jokes like that. It's NOT okay to say a whole group of people should be killed on the basis of who they worship.
 
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Songbird said...
Jul. 7 at 9:47 am:
Your story made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I am not Jewish but I am a teacher and continue to be concerned when we allow comments or "jokes" and don't stand up and say that it is wrong.  Where do people think that prejudice and discrimation come from?  It doesn't start with something like the Holocaust, it starts with "jokes" and language that allow people to treat others differently; it happens gradually over time.  Thank you for s... (more »)
 
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TheaterGirlThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 4 at 12:59 pm:
very similar to me! i almost transfered schoos because of the anit-semitism at my school. Its horrible that these people think so badly of us just because of our religion.
 
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ramfthomas4This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 2 at 7:02 pm:
that was amazing. i hate when people don't take the Holocaust seriously or refer to it as ancient history.  persecution is just around the corner, no matter who you are.  love is the only fix. <3  
 
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ramfthomas4This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 2 at 7:00 pm:
oh my gosh that was wonderful.  i'm not jewish, but i have studied many of the horrific things that happened to the Jews, and i hate it when people take the Holocaust lightly. <3
 
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