The Beginning of our End

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


1933; the year that the worst nightmare of every European Jew came to power. I hadn’t been born yet. My father had just lost his job as a teacher. My mother was 6 months pregnant with me and in very delicate condition, but yet, my parents decided to flee from Frankfurt while there was still some time left. Germany just wasn’t safe for us anymore as it was getting harder and harder to pursue day-to-day survival. With the introduction of the so-called 'Aryan paragraphs', German Jews had become the targets of systematic repression. Therefore, during a midsummer night of the year 1933, my parents left their dingy apartment in the Frankfurter Judengasse bound for my mother’s cousin’s house in Zurich, with only some valuables and the clothes on their back, so as to not arouse unwanted suspicion. Even though they had left Frankfurt with high hopes that they would smuggle themselves out of the country before receiving any unwanted attention, the constant decline of my mother’s already poor health kept my parents on the edge throughout their journey to Konstanz; a small town in the south-west corner of Germany, bordering Switzerland. The closer they got to the border, the weaker my mother got, and during the few last moments of their journey, she had to lean on my father for support. After travelling relentlessly for 4 days, my parents could finally see the other side of the border. They were much closer to complete and utter freedom than they had ever been before and just for a moment they really did let themselves believe that they were secure at last. But that moment was engulfed by a loud, “thud” and then entirely washed away by a flow of blood as my mother collapsed on the ground with a hand on her belly, the other one still holding my father’s, shrieking in pain. A shrill cry rose up into the air and another one faded away, confirming the arrival of a newborn girl and a departure. Looking down at the newly dead and the newly born, my father’s shoulder shook with grief as constant sobs wracked his body. He picked me off the ground, but he barely looked at me. Instead he kept turning his head back and forth, looking back at all the way that he had travelled and looking forward through the border; he was at a crossroads, not even remotely aware about which way to advance on. Strangers from the street started to gather around the scene out of sheer curiosity, and watched with a mixture of excitement and horror, the spectacle; how heaving a new life into the world of the living, catapulted another life into the world of the dead.

 

11 years later:

I spent the first 10 years of my life with my father in a small, dingy apartment in the Frankfurter Judengasse, where the windows barely let any light in and the floorboards creaked. My life was very similar to any average 11 year old’s when I stayed inside. But every time I left my apartment, I was forced to acknowledge how confined my life and my whole world was. It started within some rogue barbed wire and ended in there as well. As times progressed, our living conditions inside the ghetto worsened. German Jews were being persecuted daily. More and more relatives and friends were going missing. People were being taken to unknown destinations without their consent. But life inside the ghetto went on. I went to a school established inside the ghetto and my father worked full time as a mason. We ate just enough to suppress our hunger and made our income. My father and I kept each other company. We had already learned how to live with each other, only with each other; as if a third person barely ever existed at all. He read me bedtime stories and tucked me into bed every night. Even though occasionally we felt imprisoned inside the ghetto, we made many great memories in our apartment. On July 14th 1994, the eve of my 11th birthday, my father surprised me with a polaroid camera. After receiving the camera, I danced around our living room in joy, and my father captured every moment of it and then developed the photos. My father never cried in front of me and I never cried in front of him, but on that day he kept choking back sobs while we looked at my photos. After we were done, he silently got up from the sofa, went inside his study room and came back with a photograph, while I sat there, clueless, but too afraid to ask the wrong questions. He handed me the photograph and then retired to his study room without another word. I turned the photograph, a face just like mine smiled back at me. We both had the same pale blue eyes, similar button noses and coal black dark locks that touched our waist. Everyone who had known my mother always told me that I looked just like her. On that day, I found out that nothing about that statement was an exaggeration. My eyes started welling up and I suddenly felt a knot forming in my chest. I quickly rushed off to my room and hid the photograph under my pillow. There was no way I was going to let myself tear up; today was not my day to cry. On July 15th, 1994, my 11th birthday and my mother’s death anniversary, the Jewish community of the Frankfurter Judengasse received terrible news. All residents were ordered to evacuate out of their houses by 12:00 p.m. in the afternoon. They were only allowed to bring with them a small bag. “Sukie! Quick, hurry. Gather what you want to pack. I need to go to the neighbor's house and grab something”. I had no clue what clothes to pack. There was a giant yellow star on every  single dress  and sweater I owned. While I was still thinking about  clothing, my father ran in through the door with some clothing for boys and a pair of scissors. “Sukie in order for us to stay together you have to be”........ I finished for him, “A boy”. I took the pair of scissors from my father's hand and started cutting my straight black locks. The hair that  used to hang  below my  waist  now rested behind my ears and sat  at the back of my neck. I traded all my dresses for a black sweater, a pair of shorts and a pair of glasses. I was a dead ringer for any boy in my school. “Sachiel! We’ll call you Sachiel from now on,” my father muttered under his breath, not looking at me but at the floor. My eyes welled up with tears when I saw what he was looking at. My long black locks that once were a part of my identity now lay strewn all across the floor, lifeless. I felt ashamed of what I had just done. I think my father was also ashamed of what had asked me of, because he barely looked at me the rest of the time we were in our apartment, until suddenly we heard a loud knock on our wooden door. I quickly packed my camera, my school books and my mother’s photograph in my bag.

 

When we reached downstairs, surly men in shiny military uniforms held us by our collars and shoved us into lines. An order was given out over the microphone for men and women to separate and form lines. My father held my hand and we stood behind hundreds of other boys and men, while we witnessed children being separated from their parents all around us. One by one, all the lines started marching towards an unknown destination, leaving behind everything we thought belonged to us until that point. Ethnic cleansing in Germany had just begun……….

 


Submitted: January 25, 2018

© Copyright 2021 SaiykaC. All rights reserved.

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