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Europa Europa: Solomon's Diary (short story)

Posted on July 18, 2009 at 1:10 AM

Dear Diary

Tonight was my bartmitzva, or at least it should have been. Tonight I should be singing and dancing and being happy. Tonight I should have become a man. But tonight they attacked. Krystallnacht it was christened, when the Nazi’s came to our homes and businesses with rocks and fire. They cursed our God and set our shops alight. “Hail Hitler!” they screamed over and over and over. But the main thing I remember was the sounds of smashing glass. I could not escape it. Even now it echoes in my head, “Smash! Smash!! SMASH!!!” It is late now, and my family is all in bed, but I doubt any of them are asleep. My sister Bertha is dead. Kids on the street beat her to death. She was taking the garbage out; doing my chores. I should be dead now, not her. We fear it will only get worse from now. So my parents have decided to take us to Poland. They say it is best to keep safe, away from the Nazi’s. At least until Hitler changes his mind about the Jews, we’re really not so bad.

 

* * *

Dear Diary

I must leave once again. We have been living happily in Lodz, Poland – just above a movie house – for over a week now. It is nice here; quiet, peaceful. Basil, the cashier, is very kind to me. She lets me see movies for free. I want to be an actor when I grow up. But the German’s have invaded Poland, and we’ve been told they will be in Lodz in a day or so. So my brother Isaak and I will go east. My parents will stay in Lodz with my older brother David, who has returned home from the Polish army after being denied a weapon. It seems everyone is against us. I want to stay and be with my family, but Jewish law commands children to respect the wishes of their parents. Also … I am scared. I cower to think what the Nazi’s will do to me if I am captured. We leave tomorrow morning.

 

* * *

Dear Diary

We never made it out of Poland. The morning we left everything was quiet, the streets were empty, and we could feel the German’s closing in. By the time we reached the river it was dark. Me, Isaak, and a number of other Jews boarded a boat to cross over to the other side. But a guard came out to warn us that the Russians had invaded the other half of Poland. We had heard of the Bolsheviks; the Russian Revolution; and the terrors of communism. At least Germany allowed the practice of religion. All of a sudden everyone wanted to turn back. In a fit of panic the boat was over turned and everyone was dumped into the water. In all the confusion Isaak and I were separated. I was rescued by a Russian soldier and taken ashore. I was then taken to Grodno, a Russian orphanage, where I have been staying for the past several weeks. I received a letter from my family yesterday, explaining where they are and how they are holding up. It seems all the Jews have been rounded up and put in a place called the ghetto. I am glad. Perhaps they will find peace there, among the other Jews. I have joined the Young Pioneers and am receiving lessons from Inna, a Russian schoolteacher. I am learning a lot about communism, and, though I have always been taught to ignore socialist beliefs, I am intrigued by its ideas, and can’t help but respect its motives. It seems fair, and honest. But I must honour my Jewish heritage; I still praise the Sabbath day.

 

* * *

Dear Diary

Once again I am abandoned, or at least that’s how it feels. It was good for a while; I lived in Grodno for at least two years. But then, during a lesson, we were attacked by German fighter plains. The class was forced to evacuate, but in all the confusion I was left behind … to rot on the streets. I can still remember the last thing I heard before the city was bombed. “Communism is beautiful,” Inna had said. It was a strange thing to say, but it stuck with me. I don’t know why. Anyway, I have returned to Germany. I was picked up by German troops while lying next to the road. And so, and I am not proud of this, I posed as a pureblood German. What else was I to do? They would kill me without question had they known of my Jewish origins. In fact they almost did, I am going to have to watch myself if I want to keep my head. The only reason I did was for my translating skills. Stalin’s son was also caught by the German’s, but refused to talk. Due to my knowledge of the Russian language I proved useful in translating. The German’s then decided to keep me around. So I was taken to the commander, and it was decided that I was to stay with the Wehrmarcht. There has been some close calls, and my Jewish origins were almost realized when Zenek, a student from the Grodno orphanage, called me a Jew in front of the other officers. I slapped him and he fled. The German’s ran him over in a car, killing him. A young boy died because of me. He may have been nasty and rude, but he was still just a boy. Did he deserve death so I wasn’t caught? I am beginning to feel guilt for neglecting my beliefs. I had a strange dream a few nights ago: Hitler and Stalin were dancing together, while my father lay on his hands and knees. It was like he was slipping away, along with everything I believed in. I am careful when I shower and go to the toilet, so as not to reveal to the other soldiers that I am circumcised. Yesterday was my birthday (the same date as Hitler). I turned 16. I was called before Captain Von Lerernau. A nice man, but he said something very disturbing to me, “Our enemies are not the English, or the French, or even the Russians. They are the Jews. This is our Jewish War; our Holy War.” I was very frightened by these words. But I have now learnt that the Jews will be sent to Madagascar or Siberia. Hopefully they will be safe there. Hopefully my family will be safe. I am going out with the German’s as a soldier-in-training today; I hope I won’t have to fight.

 

* * *

Dear Diary

I think I saw my mother today. I decided to visit the Ghetto to search for my family, and thought I saw a glimpse of my mother being beaten on the streets. Oh God how I miss my family. I am now part of the Hitler Youth, which I don’t mind. I am becoming a good soldier. I think my stay with the Wehrmarcht helped develop my fighting skills. Still, I so yearn to be Jewish again. I met a gay actor named Robert in the Wehrmarcht. He too had to hide his identity from the Nazi’s. It was so good to find someone who understood what I was going through. He told me how hard it was to pretend to be someone he wasn’t. And I was finally able to open up about my Jewish heritage. We talked about many things, and become good friends. Until one day in the trenches there was a spray of enemy gunfire. Robert was killed … and I was alone again. That’s when Captain Von Lerenau offered to adopt me, and send me to the Hitler Youth. Everyone in the Hitler Youth was given a copy of Mien Kumpf and swore allegiance to Hitler. It is a frightening book to read. It delves into the twisted views and beliefs of Nazism. I’ve made some new friends, and I’ve become good mates with my roommate Gerd. I’ve also become involved with a German girl named Leni. I have to be much more careful about my Jewish origins in the Hitler Youth. I tried to create foreskin, but failed miserably. I almost got caught during a physical examination, but managed to fake a toothache and weasel out of it. I am feeling more and more like a traitor for neglecting my religion and I feel like I have lost my family forever. I dreamt about them last night. They were having Passover and I tried to speak to them … but they ignored me. I have bayonet practice in an hour so I better get ready. I fear this war will never end, and sooner or later I will be caught.

 

* * *

Dear Diary

The war is over! Isaak and I are reunited! The war ended about two weeks ago. The Russians and the Allies moved into Berlin and demanded the unconditional surrender of Germany. The war ended and the Jews were liberated at last. Or at least what was left of them. I was fending of a ground attack by the Soviets when I decided to surrender. My life was spared and I was taken to a checkpoint where Jews had been freed from the concentration camps. The Russians did not believe I was a Jew, and were about to kill me right there and then. But a familiar voice sounded out through the crowd. It was Isaak. He had survived. Which is more than I can say for the rest of my family. Isaak told me about how they were killed off by the Nazi’s in the ghettos, and in concentration camps. Isaak and I are the only two Perel’s left. But at least it’s over. It is so good to be myself again. Isaak and I have been staying up and talking for hours each night. Just talking. We have decided to migrate to Palestine, and then maybe to America. But it doesn’t really matter; we are free at last. Free to dress and to speak and think what we want. Free to live in peace.

Categories: WRITING, Short Stories

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