WORLD OF HORROR, FACE OF HOPE
By Jonathan Urban
Copyright March 22, 2000
(NOTE: Since I do not speak Jewish or German, the text with means they are speaking those dialects)
October 3, 1944
In a small Jewish province, controlled by denizens of Nazi troops, a young boy walked around the crumbling debris that used to be a store of some sort. His mother would be worried about him soon, if he did not get back in time for dinner. He just stood in the store looking around.
The friends he had were no longer around--moved with their families to special camps that the Nazis took them to. He wished his family would be chosen for such an honor--as the Nazis propaganda made known--and then he might see his friends again and everything would be back like it was before the war.
"Ben, come get ready for supper," his mom said sternly. He was late getting back and she was no doubt worried. "Where have you been--wait--let me guess...that old store that's falling apart?" She read the expression on Ben's seven-year-old face. He had dark short hair, hazel eyes, and olive skin. His mother was in her thirties, yet the creases around her eyes and mouth showed years of worry and despair. She too, had dark hair, shoulder length, and dark eyes. She stood at about five foot two inches.
Ben sat and ate. His family consisted of him, his mother Rachel, and his two twin sisters Sara and Beth--which favored their mother quite a bit with hair, eye, and skin color. However, they were only four years old. The food was good as always, though not as much available as there was before the war. Ben looked at his little sisters. They were playing with each other at the table--well, actually pulling each other's hair. He knew his mom was about to raise her voice--but then a loud knock at the door got her attention.
"Sara, Beth--be good now," she said as she went to the door.
She unlocked the door. Before her stood three Nazis soldiers. They studied her for a moment, then shoved her back inside her house. Ben got up--but stopped dead in his tracks when he heard them shout.
"Tell your children to stay where they are woman." She barely understood the German, but nonetheless knew what they were saying.
"Ben, stay there with your sisters and be quiet," she managed a half-smile.
"You have received your papers, no." The soldier stated rather than asked.
She shook her head. Ben did not know what they were talking about. He just saw his mother turn as white as a ghost and feint. The soldier picked her up off the floor by the arm. He looked at her sternly.
"And you disobeyed this directive?" This time he asked, though knew the answer.
She said, "...Yes..."
The German held her with one hand, pulled out his pistol with the other and put it to her head. He pulled the trigger and she dropped to the floor in a pool of blood. The two girls ran to their bedrooms screaming, while Ben just stood there--frozen in the spot he had been standing. He wanted to scream too, but couldn't.
"Bring the boy and the girls." The soldier ordered.
The camp life wasn't that bad Ben tried to tell himself. He did afterall get to see some of his friends again. Though they were so weak and skinny, he wondered what had happened. His sisters had made friends with some of the other little girls. He didn't try to make new friends--he actually kept to himself and thought a lot about his mother.
The anger that built up in him was too much sometimes. The other day he got mad and threw rocks at a soldier and ran away before the soldier could identify who did it. He enjoyed causing pain to those who had killed his mother.
Today he sat on some bags of dirt, looking up to the sky and tuning out the world around him. A soldier was walking by and noticed Ben. "Boy, what are you doing?" Ben jumped off the bags and grabbed a rock and threw it at the soldier.
"Leave me alone," Ben ran, but the soldier grabbed him and picked him up.
"Why did you do that?"
Two other soldiers walked over to join the one holding Ben. "We witnessed it Colonel--the boy should be shot immediately."
"No--leave him to me." Ben was scared. What little he could interpret, he knew he was in serious trouble. He shouldn't have done it--now who would look after his little sisters?
The Colonel carried Ben to a building. Inside he sat the boy down and closed the door, dismissing his officer. He looked sternly at the Ben, "Do you know the penalty for striking an officer?" He spoke in the boy's Jewish dialect so that he could understand.
"Yes sir..." Ben looked down at the floor.
"And yet, you did it...why?" The Colonel was most curious.
Ben looked up, "Because you killed my mother!" The Colonel sat back and now understood fully.
"I did not kill your mother." The Colonel said. "Other soldiers may have, but we are at war and have very strict orders."
Ben looked back down. He began to cry. The Colonel looked at the boy, and saw himself for an instant in the boy's eyes. He knew how the soldiers could act like animals--sometimes their actions even appalled him.
"I am sorry about your mother, what is your name?" The Colonel looked compassionately at Ben.
"Ben, I do not agree with all of the policies of the Fuhrer...at times, I wonder what has become of humanity as I watch my soldiers take pleasure in hurting the weak and old. We are not all like those soldiers who killed your mother."
The words gave Ben little comfort. "Why did my mother have to die?"
The Colonel looked up. "She didn't...let me see what I can do to get you somewhere safe." The Colonel felt his heart thinking for him--the action he was about to take would end his career and probably his life.
"But my sisters are here too!"
"I will see to it that both you and your sisters are able to leave. Now go back outside and wait."
Minutes passed...then hours... It was night and the camp was eerily lit by fires and spotlights. Ben sat with the other boys, for he knew soon they would be escorted in for bedtime. He wondered what had happened to the Colonel, for he had not heard from him.
It was time for bed and a group of boys were led to their bunks. Before Ben could enter the barrack, he felt a tug at his arm. It was the Colonel, with Ben's sisters next to him. "Ben, we must go now," the Colonel whispered.
The Colonel led Ben and his sisters to his office. Inside he explained what was going to happen. Some other Jewish children were being transported to another camp, so that they would be separated from their parents. He would explain to his soldiers that Ben and his sisters would accompany him in his escort to the camp as models of complete obedience for the other Jewish children to see. The time was upon them and he led them out to the car and his escort. "Now Ben, be quiet and do as we planned--and watch after your sisters."
The plan was quite simple, though dangerous. As soon as they crossed the border, the Colonel would stop his car and distract his men as the three children ran for their freedom. He told them to run and never look back and to find a family nearby to help them hide. It wasn't the best plan, but it was the only one.
They soon crossed the border and the Colonel like clockwork had his car stop. He got out and motioned for the accompanying soldiers to come over to him. Meanwhile, the children left the car and ran. Ben ran like he had never run before, with his two sisters right by his side. He heard the Colonel shouting at his men, and then all of a sudden heard gunfire coming in his direction, not far from his sisters and himself.
The Colonel shouted, "Ben run and don't look back!" However, Ben did pause and look back and saw the Colonel fall to the ground--victim of a gunshot from his soldiers, but not before he took the two of them with him. Ben started running again and soon, he and his sisters disappeared...
The Colonel lay in a pool of blood, half-conscious, and mumbling, "Only...through the eyes...of a child...have I seen a world of horror...and a face of hope...Ben forgive us..." The Colonel closed his eyes and the world of horror was no more.