We Too Will Survive This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
     I watch as his childhood comes to an end. Tears fall from my eyelashes. I feel his 13-year-old body stiffen, yet he manages to remain at attention. I see the dust gently rising from the ground, gathering at the perfectly aligned ankles of the long lines. He shivers. The cold wind whips. He stares at his father, standing to the side and separated from the group. The blinding headlights finally come to a stop. I hear myself gasp. The yelling of the guards escalates. My nostrils are filling with the smell of burning that takes place only three units away. The stars continue to twinkle in the smoky night sky, almost mocking in their brightness. Father and son lock eyes. The boy knows. I taste the boy's sudden tears as they mix with my own.

More gun shots are fired. People are sliding away, succumbing to death. The father turns his attention to his son. I hear him breathe deeply. The dogs bark. It's time to say good-bye. His words must be carefully chosen. The words from his mouth race through my head; words I, the future generation, know by heart.

"Mein kind (my child), I have three things to say to you, so listen well. I don't know what this world will come to and I don't know where we are going. I don't know what is going to become of us." The father tells the son three lessons of life. Time freezes. They are alone in the world, existing apart from the realities of the monstrous bestiality around them. The shrieking hysteria is muted. The moment has come. These words will keep the child alive while 20,000 others are killed daily. I am afraid to breathe. These words are not only the lessons of my grandfather's life, but the secrets of my own.

"Keep yourself clean. Stay healthy and strong. Take care, do not get sick." Papa continues, Be a human being. Don't let them make an animal out of you." The child nods as he glances at the numbers etched in his arm. Finally, the young father whispers, "Whoever lives through this Gehenom (hell) goes home and waits for the other. We will all meet at home." Survival is no longer a question. He has to get home.

With these words, the father is taken away. The boy catches his eyes as he disappears into the dark truck. The boy is alone. I hear his teeth chattering. Suddenly, he turns and looks directly at me. His expression changes. His gaze shifts to the moon overhead. Determination. The sobbing is stifled. Mustering all his strength, the child stands straight and tall. He will survive.

My great-grandfather's words that night have been embedded in my mind for as long as I can remember. Standing in the Birkenau extermination camp, my great-grandfather told my grandfather how to live. Fifty-nine years later, we are living the American Dream, yet we strive to attain these same values.

Those final words not only guide me in my life but serve as great lessons universally. We tell ourselves that the world is so different from that June night in 1944. Perhaps it was, for a while.

On September 11, 2001 America's freedom was attacked. Terrorists attacked our belief in the value of each human being. Again, children turned to adults with questioning eyes, and adults looked up to that same smoky sky. For the first time, our parents were powerless, their pale faces our equal in witness to evil. Another little boy watched as his daddy kissed his mother good-bye for the last time. Another child waved as her mom left the house that Tuesday morning on her way to work.

My great-grandfather's lessons of the Holocaust can now guide a new generation. Children watched closely as Americans took care of each other. They watched as thousands of volunteers cleared every inch of Ground Zero. We searched for our loved ones, we searched for strangers. Everybody was treated with respect. The terrorists did not make animals out of us. We are unified. We are determined to see our dreams fulfilled; our goals realized. We will not give up our values, or our way of life. We, too, will survive.

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






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback