It was a crisp summer night, warm and rejuvenating. The waxing moon had shone so brightly it put the stars to shame. The hearth crackled and cackled, flames dancing as though knew something I didn't. Mother had invited our Aunt Beth and Grandma over. Uncle Stein was off fighting in the war. I was excited, mind seeking praise and tongue longing the taste of Grandma's cinnamon cookies. I proudly donned my Youth and Beauty uniform, a pretty white blouse, blue pleated skirt, and a silky blue scarf. Youth and Beauty was a special branch of the Hitler Youth that lovely girls get to join once they're twelve. I walked out into the living room. Aunt Beth's face took on the look of a sour lemon when she saw me. I, confused and hurt, turned on my heel and walked back into my room. I pondered over why Aunt Beth, a kindred spirit that once doted on me like I was the daughter of God Himself, would act so hostile to me. If her face hadn't stayed the same, I would have been convinced that this was a different woman with the same name.
Someone in the living room shouted a rude word. It was followed by my name. Unable to help myself, I pressed my ear against my door. Barely making out the words, I was shocked to learn that they were talking about me! "...sure Anne will listen to us. The child is her age. They will connect instantly."
"Bah!," scoffed a gruff voice, that she recognized as her Grandma's, "she has been spending too much time with that accursed club of hers."
"Let's give her a chance," the calm, assured voice of Aunt Beth stated.
"Bethany, you do realize that chance could cost us all of our lives?" Cost us our lives? Why were they talking as if they were going to die?
"It would be immoral for us not to do so," Aunt Beth's voice broke my thoughts. There was a long pause. If there was something Grandma valued above jewels and gold, not that we had much of that anyway, it was morals.
"Let us tell her," Grandma's often paranoid mind settled.
"Anne! Come out here to meet your grandma and aunt!"
Settling my confused face into what I hoped was a warm and pleasurable expression, I made my way into the living room. "Hello Aunt Beth, Grandma," I smiled. A hello was mumbled back. "We have something to tell you, sweetie," my mother announced. I kept my face carefully composed, as if I didn't hear anything they had just discussed. "We are going to have a girl live at our house for some time. She was the granddaughter of one of Grandma's good friends. She is just a little older than you, so you shall have a marvelous time together!" she finished excitedly.
"You forgot to tell her the most important part. The girl is jewish, and we expect you to keep your prejudices to yourself," Grandma addressed me somewhat heatedly. A Jew! Was my family mad? Why would we choose to become contaminated?
"Why is she staying with us?" I asked, acid dripping from my tongue, "were her parents jailed for being drug-dealers and thieves?"
Anyone standing outside the room would have thought some sort of explosion had taken place. Five minutes later, I emerged, loose tendrils framing from my plump cheeks that were decorated with tears. I raced the next few blocks and only slowed down when my panting lungs overpowered my will. At long last, I made it to the Youth and Beauty meeting and recreation house. I walked in, desperate to find Jill, our troop leader. Finally catching a glint of her golden hair, I streaked after her. Panting, I told her everything I had just learned. After whispering soothing words of consolation and assurance in my ear, she immediately went to inform the authorities.
From that moment on, I lived in the barracks that many Youth and Beauty members stayed at. One surprising afternoon, American soldiers came to retrieve us. We went without protest, afraid they would hurt us if we struggled. After a few days in the camp the Americans set up for us, we were shown the truth. Photo after photo flashed before my eyes. I saw the shapes and outline, frightened of what I would see if I truly analyzed the pictures. They are lying, I told myself firmly, none of this was real. I continued to delude and lie to myself until one horrifying picture caught my eye. My mother and aunt were lying mangled in a pile of corpses, about to be cremated. I, Anne Brandt, had murdered my family.