Piper Hiem sat among hundreds of other young girls at the dinner table of Kloster Indersdorf Children's Home on the 13th of April 1946. Her small, boney body was settled comfortably as she looked at the sandwich situated in front of her and the half empty cup of milk. She smiled at the warmth the bread gave off as she bit into the soft, fluffy surface and the flavor of the sweet berry jam. Piper had learned through the harshest conditions not to take anything for granted especially food. The young teenager grimaced as she thought back to her days as a carefree five-year- old that lived with her parents, three sisters, and infant brother in Amsterdam, Holland, before her nightmare started.

The Hiem family was seated around an elegant dinning table in their
home in the center of Amsterdam. Isaac Hiem was seated at the head of
the table leading his family in prayer. The table sported potatoes,
beans, and a small roast. Glasses were half full with milk. His wife,
Hannah Hiem, sat beside their one-year-old son Jacob with Piper seated
on her right. The radiant child sat obediently with a permanent smile
pasted across her soft face. Her two older sisters, Anna and Lina were
seated across from her and her three-year-old sister Heather sat on
the other side of her father. The family exchanged pleasant talk with
one another and laughter filled the room.

Piper sat back with tears in her eyes. How she missed her mama and papa and even her annoying siblings. She finished her meal half-heartedly and pushed herself away from the table keeping her head down while she made her way to her sleeping quarters. She climbed under the welcoming blankets and pushed her head into her pillow willing herself not to cry.

Piper Hiem walked down a deserted Amsterdam street being held tight in
her mother's protective embrace. The curious eight-year-old peered
through a smashed shop window at the empty space within. There was
dust collected on the floor and a sign was painted on the door. Piper
gasped when she recognized the symbol; it was the same star that was
sewn to all her clothing articles. She looked down at her old worn
coat with the little yellow star sticking out on it like a sore thumb.
Piper hated wearing the star; it let people know she was Jewish and
prevented her from going to certain places and riding in streetcars.
Piper and Hannah passed a young couple strolling along and each of
them held a little toddler. Piper waved at them with a smile but was
greeted with angry shouts. "Get out of here you filthy Jew! You are
not wanted here!" Hannah quickly picked Piper up and pressed her
precious baby's face into her warm shoulder. The young child could not
comprehend how people could hold such hatred towards her family.

Piper turned over in her bed and wiped at her eyes. She focused her eyes to the ceiling trying to count the cracks to get her mind off the emotional memories that were running her into overdrive. Suddenly from outside a little girl screamed after falling and injuring her delicate knee. Piper jumped with surprise and was brought back to the time in her life when things went from terrible to completely horrific.

The Hiem children were hidden away by their parents' Dutch friends the
Neilson's. The compassionate couple allowed the terrified children to
stay in a spare bedroom in their house on the other side of Amsterdam
than the Jewish Quarter. Piper lay still at the foot of the bed
clutching her stomach in great pain from starvation. The Neilson's had
no ration coupons to supply food for the young hideaways so Piper
hadn't eaten a single crumb for over a week and a half nor had she
moved off of the bed except for an occasional visit to the w.c.
Piper's little sister was curled up against her whimpering from her
excruciating pain. Piper reached out and stroked her hair trying to
quite her though she shared her sister's pain. Suddenly a crash was
heard down stairs along with Mrs. Neilson's screams. Angry voices were
heard shouting at the women downstairs and footsteps thundered up the
steps and through the halls. Piper froze with fear as the doorknob
turned and the door was thrown open against the wall revealing a
soldier. When Piper saw the awful swastika pinned to the soldier's
uniform fear flashed in her eyes and she gripped her little sister
tight and felt Anna and Lina move closer; the green police had found
them.

Piper squeezed her eyes shut and curled the blankets around her trying to block out the images of the green police forcing them out of the house and beating her sisters and her. She counted to twenty to make them disappear but it didn't work and the gruesome visuals continued to torture her broken soul.

Piper Hiem sat in a women's barracks at the Bergen-Belsen
concentration camp. She was completely miserable and fought with all
she had to hang on to a strand of life, the only idea keeping her
going was he thought of seeing her family again. Hugging her father
and kissing her mother's cheek, playing house with her sisters and
watching Jacob learn to walk. Those images kept her in a place where
the tiniest ray of hope slipped through a miniscule crack in the wall
that kept her trapped in misery and despair. Her head was swarming
with lice and she had horrible dysentery. The women in her barracks
were all sick with deadly diseases such as typhoid that was spreading
like a wild fire through the camp. Piper had no idea how long she had
been at Bergen-Belsen. It seemed like she had been there her whole
life and there was nothing before coming there and nothing after it.
All of the sudden she thought she heard the sound of the alarm but she
was too ill to gather strength to move herself outside. Piper's world
went black as she passed out from malnutrition and the intense pain of
her medical condition.

Piper smirked a tiny bit at that last memory for she recalled when she awakened she saw the face of an Allie soldier bent over her. It was then when she got the most wonderful news of her life. He had said, "It is all right, I won't harm you. You have been liberated."
Nancy Aline, Piper's best friend, rushed into the room, dragging Piper out of the bed. "Come on, Piper. They want to take our pictures to help our families find us if they survived."
Piper followed Nancy willing, the prospect of any member of her family still being alive and to be reunited with them drove her on and rid her of her memories for the time being.
When the two girls reached the dining area where the pictures were being taken a nun took Piper over to stand in front of a white sheet that was hung up for a background. She handed Piper a slate and chalk and told her to write her last and first name so people could identify her. Piper grabbed the chalk and wrote as neatly as possible Hiem Piper so that her family would defiantly be able to read her name and come find her.
Piper stood with her feet together holding the sign in front of her. Her smile was wide and true, as the nun got ready to take the picture. This might be it. I might finally find them again. The nun pressed the camera's button.

FLASH

An elderly woman sat in her car staring at a picture of her sixteen- year-old self and drew a shuddery breath. She gripped the car door handle and pushed it open and was met by her daughter who grabbed her hand. She grabbed her cane and hobbled through the entrance of the Dachau concentration camp. After strenuous research she had found out from a survivor that the fate of her entire family had taken place here at Dachau. Her mother, three sisters, and brother went gassed at their arrival and her father met his fate through starvation. The old woman grabbed onto her daughter and looked back down at the pictures in her hand and looked at the one in the very back of the little pile. The picture showed a happy family of seven seated for a family portrait in 1934. Piper Hiem smiled and looked back up to see where she was going. After decades of avoiding closure with her past, Piper Hiem was ready to move on with her future with her daughter and soon-to-be-born grandchild, to reach renewal. She took her first steps into the Dachau camp to understand where her whole family had been extinguished.