Twas once a Time, But Never Again
It is difficult to explain to people who were not there. I've had people ask me "Why didn't you just leave?" Leave ? Why?
At first, it was just rumors. We had many German friends. Our children played together. We lived in a small village called Nacbar. We knew that Hitler was anti-Jew, but he was also anti-gypsy, and anti-homosexual. Plus, we had lived in Nacbar for many years, and had no problems. Of course the Jews in town would secretly talk about the rumors, but they seemed too horrendous to take seriously. Every once in a while we would see German military vehicles drive through town. Often they would wave.
The thought of leaving our home, and everything we had worked for, over just rumors seemed like an over reaction. The first hint I got that perhaps we should worry, came when our good German friend told us they were approached by a military person, and asked how many Jews lived in Nacbar. This worried all of us a great deal. Surely these hideous things we were hearing couldn't be true. We had many German friends. It was just hysteria.
At least that what we thought until Krystal Nacht, later known as Krystal Night. I will always remember that night. It was November 9th, of 1938. Every Jew in Nacbar was terrified. Why? Why would they turn on us? We were human beings, like them. We had children. We worked, and shared our food. Only a person who was there can understand the terror that crept into our small village. My friend Hans came running up to me.

"The Germans are in town", he exclaimed. They said anyone caught harboring, helping, or warning Jews would be executed.
It happened that quickly. People who had been friends for years were suddenly our enemies, not to be trusted. In a frantic, I gathered my wife and children together and told them we had to go, immediately. We quickly packed a few articles of clothing, then began running to the out skirts of town. We headed for Han's house, hoping he would hide us in his barn.
Han's was standing outside when myself, wife and three children arrived.

"Hans, thank God we made it", I said hugging him tightly.
The look in his eyes told me something was not right.

"I'm sorry, Leon. God forgive me, but you must leave...right now. The Germans have huge trucks, and they are loading them now. They are saying everyone will be safe, if they co-operate. You must turn around and go back. They have given their word they are taking you to a comfortable camp, until the war is over."
My mind was reeling. What should I believe? A holding camp makes sense. The atrocities we have heard about can't be true. As I stood there trying to decide what to do, I could see a huge dust cloud caused by the oncoming German trucks. I had a split second to decide how best to protect my family. Something in my gut told me to run...not to trust the Germans. I grabbed my smallest child, and told them to follow me. I ran as fast and as hard as my body could take me. I headed for the nearby woods behind Han's property. Once there I kept everyone still, while I watched the truck pull up to Han's house. I could see them.
I watched in horror as I saw Hans point to the woods. There was no place to go. Hans was only the first of many betrayals. The truck was filled with old friends, most all were silent, unsure what was about to happen. The guards were not mean. They were just firm, and in control. They kept assuring us that we would be together, and taken care of. This kept us from panic. Among us was a young man named Tadus. Tadus was a rebellious youth. 

He began telling everyone the German's were lying, that he heard they were taking us to Auschwitz. This sent terror through everyone. Without warning he leapt from the truck, and began running toward a thick forest about 100 yards away. The truck slammed on the brakes, and within seconds a steady volley of gunfire followed. Everyone sat silent. Soon the canvass covering on the back of the truck flew open. They threw Tadus's dead body in with us, to remind us what would happen to anyone who tried to escape.
We were all taking to the Warsaw ghetto. You ask why we did not fight back? Many believed the German's promise of worker farms. We did not want to believe in man's inhumanity. After all, we were Germans. We shed our blood for the Fatherland, like any true German. Once in Warsaw, there was no doubt of the evil intent that awaited us. Hundreds of us rose up, with our smuggled guns and any other weapon we could find. Hundreds of Jew's fought off two thousand German's, with their tanks and superior weapons. We did not go down without a fight. In the end, the German's set fire to every building in the ghetto. It is there my wife and small children died.
Holding hands, we leaped from the rooftop to our death. Where were you when we chose this horrendous death? Ships filled with my brother and sister Jew's were turned away from Cuba, the US, and other countries. The ship St Louis was filled with almost a thousand Jews was turned away, and sent back to Germany to face certain death. I am dead. 

My beautiful wife and children lay within feet of me. My name does not matter. Your name is all that matters. You went about your life with no concern for your fellow human beings. I have come back to tell you, you did not learn. You go to church, read your papers, attend your soccer games, and at this very minute, all over the world the genocide continues. In the jungles of Africa, in the mountains of Tibet, in the sands of Darfur, in a dozen far away places...entire races of people are being slaughtered. 

You fool yourself if you dream of peace. As long as there is man, there will be war. You think it can't happen to you?
My children died because you were afraid, because while you dream of peace, man dreams of evil. How will you be remembered? I am dead, because I believed in the goodness of man. I too am to blame.

They asked "How could you not fight back? Why didn't you run and hide?" After all, they were black like you, only Muslim. We heard the rumors of our villages being burnt to the ground, our women being ganged raped. We waited on Countries that never came, but only filed sanctions. Was I wrong? Why did I wait until the Janjaweed, on their camels, attacked our homes? We were black Africans. We had lived there for Centuries. We were farmers, not we waited and hoped. We ran to the jungle. We could see the carnage from where we hid, and then my little son ran out in sight. They raped my wife and daughter in front of me...then killed me in dumped my body in the well. My name is not important. I am but one in hundreds of thousands that have been slaughtered. Why didn't you come? You promised. I am dead because I believed in the goodness of man.

"Why did you not flee from the mountains? Didn't you believe the rumors? My name does not matter. I am dead, along with my wife and four children. I died because I believed......

lauralee   lauralee wrote
on 4/24/2010 12:47:26 AM
'often they would wave.' this line hit me somewhere near the heart, but somewhere surrounded by grey matter, as well....

Short Story
writing Rain
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Sometimes man's cruelty overwhelms the mind, leaving you not knowing what to do, or how to do it. We are all to blame.