By Meryl Healy
My wavy red curls lie in a pile on the floor; my bloody gold crown lies in a small wooden bowl, and my new brown loafers were ripped from me—in the same way that the bastard Nazis took Mama and Papa. My forearm is crimson and throbbing from the filthy needle used to brand me with a number. My feet are blistered from the size-to-small, wooden shoes rubbing against my skin. They told me that I am no longer Rachel. I am nothing. I am alone.
I arrived at Auschwitz the day before. Children, screaming and kicking, were torn from their mother’s locked arms, and shoved towards a desolate, asylum like building. Its evil stacks were choking black clouds of putrid smelling smoke. I watched the winding lines of crying children enter the building, yet– I never saw them leave. Shivering uncontrollably, my belly cramping, and my head spinning from chaos, I anxiously awaited my fate.
I was ripped from the hundred others crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into the dingy cattle car. We traveled for two days, standing, with no food, water, or toilets. The stench of human waste was nauseating; the air, suffocating. The German soldiers marched over to our line and began jabbing us with their glove wrapped canes, directing us like we were dogs. I was assigned to a winding line of graying, leather-skinned women. My eyes carefully scanned the solemn faces, looking for my precious Mama. Just then a strong hand gripped my arm. I looked up and the soldier’s steel blue eyes locked with mine. He pulled me away from the aged women, and pushed me into a line filled with much younger and capable women. Releasing his gloved fingers from my flesh, he leaned in and whispered, “Stay here.” As his warm breath traveled into my ear, my heart began to pound, for only he and I knew of the passionate and forbidden love affair that we engaged in over the past 6 months. If the Germans knew that Arrick touched a filthy, worthless Jew, it would surely mean a torturous end for both of us.
The soldiers jabbed the butt of their guns to the right, directing the older women, one by one, until they disappeared into the belly of the same smoking beast that the children entered. The air was maniacal with echoes of screaming, crying, and pleading. Tears began to tumble down my cheeks. I quickly pulled my tattered sleeve over my trembling hand to erase the signs of weakness. Here, at this death camp, weakness meant certain death.
Before life as we knew it came to an abrupt halt, my life was good. Momma was a talented seamstress and Papa was an accomplished musician. From the time I was a small girl, he taught me to play violin. The Nazis forced me to play in the Orchestra of Auschwitz. Our grotesquely cheerful music accompanied the workers as they marched in step, through the gates. Arrick would often prop himself against the back wall, polished boots slightly apart, his clenched fists resting on his pistol belt, and his lips pursed in an irresistible boyish grin. Even in this hellish place, I longed for his touch. As we were herded out of the room, Arrick leaned in, so that his skin brushed lightly against mine.
Hours turned into days, days to months and months to years. Prisoners morphed into walking skeletons; their cheeks sunken, their eyes bulging, and their skin just a thin shroud over breaking bones. Men and woman were dying from starvation, freezing to death, and becoming devoured with disease. The Kommando worked us 12 hours a day, sick or not, with no rest. They hurled bits of bread at us, like we were caged zoo animals. Arrick would sneak extra food into my pocket, which kept me physically strong. Sometimes, he would hide me under a barrack, gently hold my chin in his hand, and pour warm cabbage soup into my mouth so that I would stay hydrated. When Arrick knew it was safe, he would pull my chin forward and with gentle kisses, remove the drops of soup dripping from my numbed, cracked lips. Our liaisons were short, as we knew the horrible fate we would both face should we be caught.
Once, when the evil Himmler arrived and ordered a meeting of the soldiers, Arrick was left to guard my barrack. He slammed the wooden door open, grabbed me by the arm, and pushed me towards the door, ordering me outside. Surely, this was a show for the others. When we were outside, he led me into a blackened, narrow alleyway. His strong hands pressed my small shoulders against the knotted wall, and he kissed me for what seemed like an eternity. I wanted him in the way that I used to have him back home; my body was silently screaming with desire.
Over the next year, although part of me wanted to die; I refused to surrender to the emotional and physical torture I was forced to endure. My last months at Auschwitz were the most grueling. The Nazi’s became even more aggressive with us. Sometimes, Arrick had to stand idly by and bear witness to my brutal beatings. Between blows, I would raise my eyes to catch a glimpse of Arrick, his fists were tight, his teeth were clenched and veins were erupting from his neck. He wanted to die, not being able to protect me; which gave me more reason to live.
It was late October, 1944, when Hitler ordered the gas chambers dismantled, due to a revolt in one of the crematoriums. The scene was dizzying. Soldiers moved about like a colony of a million ants with a mission. Arrick and I had lost touch for three months now. The SS was constantly moving soldiers from one camp to another. Without Arrick’s help, my bones protruded from beneath my bruised skin. My heart was heavy with sorrow.
Just a few months later the Red Army would begin rescuing the wandering, lost souls, who survived the wicked horrors which over one million succumbed to. As I trudged behind the thousands towards freedom, my blistered feet slipped on the sharp pebbles in the dirt. Occasionally, I lifted my saddened eyes hoping to find my Arrick. When we finally exited the spiral-barbed wire gates of hell, I turned to glance back, my eyes blurred with tears, and I wondered–Would I ever see my German lover again?
Category: Fiction, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student