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Undertaken

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Chapter Four

Time has really flown by. I remember a quote from an author saying, “Flowers have time to reblossom, but human beings are never young again.” I am now of the age of twenty-one, and I have seen my country collapse before the enemy’s eyes for five long years. Today is April 31, 1945, the morning after our Führer committed his revolting suicide. Mother was crying by her bedside all night after Franz had brought the information to her. We feared that the Germans would search for my father and take him to trial. There are rumors of Erich Rothbauer being taken to Nuremberg this morning, but my family does not know the bottom line for sure. This morning has been such an unbalanced morning, for my family will be fleeing to Austria, leaving everything my father has tried to develop. His home, his army, and if Mother turns her back, his family also.
At last, there came the sound we have been waiting for. The horns blared, sirens resounded, and clamors of the people deafened as if it was the end of the world. This was the day my world had come crumbling down like an avalanche, strong and powerful but suddenly, its foundation became weak and unsteady. Babies were abandoned in the streets, animals wandered about the vicinity as the owners, mothers, fathers, and workers begged for one more chance at the gates. Many were shouting my surname, but the words slurred as I glowered down by the gateway. “Help us!” they’d shout. I don't care what happens anymore. It doesn't matter how much they hate my father. I didn't do anything. After all, it wasn't my dilemma, it was my father’s.
"Annaliese, it's time,” Claudia’s voice was shaky as she approached me.
Oh, like I've never heard that before. Time for what? I'd shriek in my head. No, stop telling me it's time; I know what I have to do.
I was raised to believe that an old world is coming to pass, and a new world will undertake common man by replacing farmland with furnaces and judging humans as nothing more than animals. Perhaps this wasn’t so.
That evening, my family escaped through the back kitchen door, hauling our possessions on our bare backs. We couldn’t bring much because we had to get to Austria safely. For weeks, we had walked through the mountains on the borderline of Germany and the Czechoslovakia. Almost into Austria, we traveled past a group of Jews that looked like they had been freed from a concentration camp. Their bones pierced through their shirts and their legs wobbled as they inched toward the opposite direction. We moved quickly, not wanting to catch them in the eye.
“Annaliese! Oh, God, is that really her?” A Jewish man looked at me and my heart skipped a beat. A familiar voice had brought me to my senses.
“Daniel?” I croaked.
He came to me and observed my facial features. He said nothing for a moment and tilted his head as he gently pressed his palm on my shoulder. “No, Daniel’s gone. I am his brother; I know you.”
I wanted to weep and fall to my knees. All along, this was Kalev, which I had not seen before Daniel had last spoken to me.
“I know nothing of him. We didn’t go to the same labor camp because he would have been six years younger than me,” Kalev continued.
“What about your father and mother? What was it like?”
“Annaliese, we need to go,” Franz interrupted as he firmly tugged me on the forearm. He looked at Kalev with merciless eyes.
Kalev ignored Franz and continued. “Gas chamber for my father. I have no information based on my mother.” I could’ve said his eyes began to swell, but I could not remember.
“Take this.” Kalev handed me a small photograph of Daniel as a child, no older than ten years old, which he kept hidden in his shirt. “Keep it. I know how close you both once were.”
I tried to give it back, but he continued to refuse. “His presence will always stay with me.” He smiled lightly.
We both wished each other good luck and bid farewell, as we parted on our journey called life.
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