The Best of Friends

When Justin Hamilton suggested that we join the Youth Fellowship of America, it seemed like a good idea. "Come on, Brian. What do you think? We could meet new people."

“Maybe you’re right, Justin. What about you, David, what do you think?"

David Feldman looked up at us. David was my best friend. We’ve lived next door to each other for as long as I can remember. We have a lot in common. We even have the same birthday, Christmas Eve. We invite him for Christmas dinner and I visit him during Passover.

We were sitting in the basement apartment of David's house. David's grandfather, Mr. Feldman, had been living there since his wife died three years ago. We were waiting for him to come back from the nursing home. He often visits with the older people there.

Everyone loved Mr. Feldman, especially Justin, David and I. He doesn’t mind us hanging around. We can talk to him about anything and he always gives us advice. He always tells stories about Germany, where he grew up.

He was twelve years old when the Nazis came for him, his family, and his friends. Some were shot, others were sent to ghettos where they died of sickness and starvation.

Later, those who survived were taken, by cattle car, to concentration camps. Isaac

Feldman was a prisoner at a camp called Auschwitz, outside Germany, where everyone

in his family died.

"What do they do at this club?" David asked.

"Don't know," Justin said.

"Why don’t we check it out," I said. “We don't have to stay."

Justin and I thought it was a good idea. David didn’t like visiting a place he knew nothing about, but he went along. We promised him we would leave if there were any trouble.

According to the ad on the school bulletin board, the Youth Fellowship met every other Saturday afternoon at 4:00. It promised to be fun and informative. They held the meetings in a small house, just across the border from our town. It was close enough to ride our bikes there.

It took us only twenty minutes. The house looked just like the picture in the ad. The address above the door was big enough to see from the street. When Justin rang the bell, an older man answered.

"Hello, my name is Mr. Rudolph Hermann," he said, with an accent that sounded like Mr. Feldman’s. I wondered if he was the same age. “Are you here to join our group?" We nodded and Mr. Hermann smiled. "Come in," he said.

The house wasn’t big. A kitchen, a living room, and a small office were downstairs. The upstairs rooms were roped off. A "DO NOT ENTER" sign hung from the rope.

Mr. Hermann showed us into the living room. A large black couch stood against the back wall. A few soft chairs dotted the floor. Several folding chairs formed a small circle in the center of the room.

Other fourteen-year-old kids were there, girls and boys. Some of them we knew, most of them were strangers. A group of boys and girls sat in a circle on the floor, ignoring the chairs. David, Justin, and I decided to join the group on the floor. We sat and introduced ourselves.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Hermann to return. He asked for our attention and explained that we were going to watch a movie.

"Please sit anywhere you like," he said, "I'm sure you will enjoy it. It's about a hero of mine." He turned the lights off.

What happened next seemed like a bad dream. The subject of the movie, Mr. Hermann told us, was Adolf Hitler. He was one of the founders of the Nazi Party, the same group that had come for Mr. Feldman and his family when he was a boy in Germany.

Justin looked around, uncomfortable. He looked at David, who sat there shaking his head. David looked back at Justin.

"I'm sorry, David, " Justin said, "I didn't know."

David looked at Brian. “You promised we’d leave if anything went wrong.â€