A True Story
Published by Alexander Hope at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 Alexander Hope
FRIDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 30, 1938 “FOUR-POWER PEACE PACT
SIGNED” Sudetenland Given to Hitler Compromise Plan Adopted at Munich Calls for
Nazi Troops to Begin Occupying Czech Territory Tomorrow. MUNICH, Sept. 30,
(Friday) (UP) Britain, France, Germany and Italy early today signed a compromise
agreement for surrender of Czechoslovakia which, if it refuses to accept the terms, must
face Germany without any help from France or Great Britain.
While a little Austrian psychopath bullies Czechoslovakia and creates disorder in the
Sudetenland, Berlin is tranquil. Citizens can attend anyone of three hundred and fifty
theaters or browse through twelve thousand periodicals. Life is good in Germany unless
you are a Jew or four-year-old Sandra Schmidt. Sandra sits on a hard, wooden bench.
This is her punishment; the hard wooden bench. It is always, "Sandra, go sit on the hard
wooden bench for an hour." The wooden bench in her father's room has soft pillows. Big
soft pillows with pretty pictures of ducks. The other big soft pillows with duck pictures
fill the house. They are in every room. Her father stole them from the company he works
But, her wooden bench has no big soft pillows with pictures of ducks. Her hard
wooden bench has no pillows at all. Her feet do not touch the ground so her back hurts
and her legs begin to cramp for what seems like hours. She has just learned to tell time,
but it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t wear a watch. Her father has a box full of pretty
watches. She doesn’t own a watch because her father refuses to give her one even though
it is one of many items he carries in his product line. The line that takes him all over
Germany and keeps him from ever being home.
If she did have a watch, it will only verify what she already knows; she is fed-up
with sitting on this bench. She knows that time is longer for a child than for an adult; her
father told her it is because if a child is one year old and is told to wait a year for
something to happen—a birthday or something—that year, that long year that the child
waits, is equal to the time the child already lived—one hundred percent—the child lives a
lifetime for that birthday to come; but if an old man is told to wait a year—for a job
promotion or something—and the old man is already sixty years old; then the old man
only waits one of sixty lifetime; not an only lifetime like the child must wait; not an only
lifetime, Sandra thinks. Her father explained the time thing to her mother once, while he
was sitting at her mother’s bedside, in the dark bedroom, at the back of the house. Her
mother didn’t understand or maybe it was the medication she was on or maybe her
mother was just bored from listening to her know-it-all husband go on and on with one
piece of information after another; but Sandra thinks she understands the time thing
because it seems she’s already spent a year on the hard bench.
Sandra knows she is too young to hate, but if she was sitting on this hard bench
when she is old, say like twelve, she would hate him with all her heart and soul. Her
father, Herbert Schmidt, told her to sit on the hard, wooden bench, at the front of the
house, and watch the flowers grow. Her father, Herbert Schmidt, thinks his daughter,
Sandra Schmidt, is stupid; flowers no longer grow in her mother’s garden. There are all
kinds of flowers in the garden that her mother planted when she was not so ill. Her father
begrudgingly kept them watered while her mother was alive, so if her mother ever came
back home; and of course her father gives information about the flowers, “Sandra, see
this is a Tulip, and this is a Rose and this is a blah, blah, blah,” he says. But now, the
flowers are dying—you can still see the colors in them and tell the different flowers, but
they are dying; the flowers haven’t been watered —since her mother died; and Sandra
knows they won’t be watered ever again; it is her father’s protest against God and every
living thing left on earth.
Little, beautiful, Sandra sits and watches and watches and sits, and in her young
mind she knows she is being lied to; flowers don’t grow fast enough for even a child with
perfect twenty twenty eyesight to see them grow especially if they are not watered for
many days. Why did God make flowers so they need water? They should be able to get
water from the ground. Then these flowers can grow without a hateful father watering
When her father comes, to find a larger suitcase, she murmurs, “You can’t see the
flowers grow. You just lied to me to keep me sitting on this hard bench. No one can see
flowers grow especially if you never water them.”
“I always water them,” her father says, “I’ve just been very busy and sad and
angry. Besides, you can see flowers grow. You can see them grow if you sit very quietly
and don’t say a word, and if you’ve been a good girl. You have been a good girl, haven’t
“Yes! I’ve been a good girl!” Sandra says. “I’m always a good girl. Grandma says
I’m the goodest girl in the whole wide world.”
“I’m glad your grandmother thinks so,” he says as he carries an empty suitcase
toward the back of the house. “Because you’re going to be with her for a long, long
She is always a good girl; even when other children act like fools, Sandra is a
good girl. She once took a pair of pretty earrings from her mother’s jewel box; her father
beat her with his belt so hard that big old welts stayed on her tiny legs for weeks or
maybe even months and he beat her mother just as hard for trying to stop him from
beating Sandra. But she is a good girl. But what has it gotten her: her beautiful mother
died; yes, little Sandra knows she died even though everybody wants to tell her she is just
away for a while—Sandra knows her precious mother died and went to Heaven. Went to
Heaven, to be with the Angels, because God needs her for something; some important
chore. God must need her more than Sandra needs her, Sandra thinks; but no matter how
hard and long Sandra racks her tiny brain, and she has lots of time to rack her tiny brain
on the hard bench, Sandra can think of no reason that makes it more important for a
mother to be with God then to be with a lonely, frightened daughter; a daughter who is
now left with only a very frightening, but very well informed, monster: her father.
Sandra is wearing her black dress; the one her father brought home for the
funeral. The dress, made with a full skirt and little dark-red flowers along the hem,
Sandra thinks should be all black, no flowers, because flowers appear too happy for a
funeral day. She has a big, big pain in her heart because her heart is broken and no one
can ever fix it or put it back together again. Her mother died slowly, very slowly over a
long period of time, especially time measured by a child who was always waiting for her
mother to get well and come back home and hold her and hug her. Her mother was home
from the clinic several times before Death took her, but she is always (was always) in bed
or on a cot in the garden with all the beautiful flowers.
Her mother was like the flowers; beautiful. The most beautiful mother ever.
Sandra is certain that beautiful people are not supposed to die or even get ill; beauty is
some kind of protection against illness; maybe beauty is a special gift from God; if there
is a God. Her father says there is no God: that there can’t be or his wife would still be
alive and taking care of him; but her mother always told her to pray and pray and pray
and all her prayers will be answered; but Sandra prayed for months and months that her
mother gets well and comes home, and that her mother takes her shopping for a new
dress to wear to Grandma’s house where they can both go to be away from her father,
Nobody likes Herbert, she thinks. That’s why he’s such a poor salesman.
Somehow Herbert sold her mother on being his wife. How’d he do that? Sandra thinks.
Her mother was so, so beautiful. Her mother never looked like she was dying; but her
mother and Sandra never played or danced or took walks together like other mothers and
daughters did across the city and in the parks and at the schools where Sandra was always
without a mother. The other children will laugh at her or worse: they will feel sorry for
her and bring her cookies baked by mothers who feel sorry for her; or they will invite her
to mother-and-daughter things and their mothers will try to act like her mother but none
of them can be her mother.
Sandra strokes Greta, her doll. Sometimes Greta speaks to her but only in a
whisper. Sandra knows dolls can’t speak, but Greta started talking to her, in her mind,
when there was only her father to talk to her and he wouldn’t. Fathers are like that.
Fathers have more important things to do than to talk to little girls. They have to talk to
grownups all day long, so when they get home to their lonely, little daughters, they have
no more to say. But dolls, like Greta, are supposed to talk to little girls; that is their job; a
job given to them by God or a big, old ragdoll in the sky. Somehow she knows that if
there is a God a good and gracious God that God would create dolls like Greta just so
lonely, little girls can have someone to talk to; someone to tell their dreams to; someone
to hold them. God would make a special doll for a child like Sandra who now has no
Sandra really never had a mother at least not as long as she can remember. Greta
is a special doll but Greta is tired of talking; they talked it over and over so many times
and it appears that Greta agrees with everything Sandra says; either Sandra is a genius or
Greta is just being nice or maybe being practical because Sandra can throw her out
anytime she wants or worse; Sandra can just leave her in the closed toy box. She would
never leave Greta in a closed toy box because that’s how Sandra lives; in a closed toy
box. This house has lots of toys but she never gets to go out. Her father just closes the lid
and gives the key to his nasty old mother. One good thing about leaving her father (there
are many other good things) is leaving his nasty mother and maybe Sandra will never
ever have to see her again.
When a half hour passes, and none of the flowers grow even a fingertip or half a
fingertip or anything at all, Sandra goes to look for her father. The house is spooky-quiet
but she fortify herself, straightens her shoulders, and then moves to the bottom of the
staircase and looks up: the first room is a guestroom with nothing in it so it looks real,
real spooky. Sandra knows her father won’t be in that room because it is the room her
mother used when she came home and it is isolated from the rest of the house. And the
next room is the master bedroom and Sandra is never allowed in that room because
maybe her father might be in his under shorts and undershirt and no decent young lady is
supposed to see her father in his under shorts and undershirt.
She is trying not to cry, trying not to make her father scream at her again, because
his screams are becoming louder and scarier than ever especially to a little four-year-old
girl. In her mind, she knows that the funeral means her mother finally died: that’s what
her father says, “Well she finally died.” Sandra knows that sounds wrong. But that’s what
he says and he keeps saying it to anyone who wants to listen. She heard many people say
the same…like they all wanted her mother to die, or get well; one or the other. Berta
Schmidt had been dying for as long as Sandra could remember—for her age, she can
remember pretty good especially anything to do with her mother.
Her beautiful mother contracted T.B. and was sent to some kind of clinic for
beautiful mothers who suffer from TB. Sandra never visited her mother when she was in
the T.B. Clinic. The clinic was very famous. Davos. And it was in Switzerland. The
doctors at the clinic believed that the high altitude of the Alps created the fresh air needed
by the patients. They were to take in the fresh air and make the air cure their T.B. But
Sandra’s beautiful mother breathed in the air for a long, long time and the air didn’t cure
anything. And for all anybody knows, the mountain air made her mother get worse.
The clinic was new and modern. Her father’s insurance paid for some of the care
but a major part was paid by her grandfather who visited her mother often. He always
came back and told Sandra that her mother was getting better and that she sent her love to
Sandra and grandmother and all her friends; but Sandra could look at her grandfather’s
sad face and know that things were not going well. The week before her mother died,
Sandra’s grandfather told her that her mother was coming home and would be at the table
for Sandra’s fifth birthday party, but he lied, but it was a good lie because it was done to
make a little girl feel good, if just for a while. Her grandfather told good lies; but her
father told bad lies.
“He squeezes their money until it squeaks,” Grandpa said.
“We should bring her back to Germany,” her father said to her grandfather.
“She will not get well; she will have no chance if we bring her back here,”
grandfather said. “No one ever survives in a German T.B. Clinic. They should be called
terminal clinics; designed like Hitler’s concentration camps. In fact you probably have a
better chance in one of Hitler’s camps. Four of my friends have died in the last six years,
because they stayed in German clinics.”
“This is not your decision. I’m her husband. I’m the one suffering the financial
“She’s my daughter. I will pay the bill. You keep your money and use it for
Sandra,” grandfather said.
“What will people say if I don’t pay something,” Herbert said. “My customers
will all call me a cheap bastard, an uncaring husband.” He rubs his forehead. “What will
“Don’t worry what people say. I’m going to pay the money to keep her in the best
clinic in Europe. You do what you want, but you are not bringing her back to Germany. I
will use all my power to stop you. Don’t even think of going against me!”
Sandra’s beautiful mother cried, at each visit, about not being able to see her
beloved Sandra and she begged to see her once more before she died, but the doctors said
Sandra would get the T.B. if she made the trip.
Sandra’s father says her mother caught T.B. cleaning rich peoples houses; he says
it came from the dust and germs. She would not have gotten T.B. if she just stayed at
home and nurtured Sandra and him. There is less dust and no germs in their house, I
meant, so he says. But her mother wanted more things than her father could provide; he
provided just the basics; no new cloths, no new cars, no new house. So she worked for
the rich people but still there were no new cloths, no new cars, no new house, because she
gave all her money to Herbert so he could deposit it all in his business bank account so
the busybody banker would tell everyone in the city how rich Herbert was. If Sandra ever
cleans other people’s houses for money, she will never give all the money to some stupid
man to put in the bank to impress other people.
Sandra’s mother didn’t give all her money to Herbert; she secreted away just
enough to carry her daughter to the shopping district and buy her an ice cream and a tiny
necklace that Sandra hid under the neckband of her jumper. Her mother caught T.B. from
the lady where she worked; this lady had contagious T. B. and didn’t mind if she gave it
to any of her employees.
All the young ladies of the city want to become employees of a rich person’s
household to get training for household chores they will do at their own homes or to use
if and when they get married. Sandra’s mother, thanks to grandfather’s connections, was
accepted in the house of a Jewish Brewery owner, Sandra’s father says the Jews own
It is an honor to work at the Brewer’s house. The house is mammoth and takes
much work; but there are many employees but most of them had coughing spells, and
when Sandra’s mother started to cough, and she thought nothing of it until it appeared
that Sandra had caught T.B. and the doctor announced that Sandra’s mother gave it to
Sandra, her dying child. Sandra was isolated in the house but her mother was sent away
and little, heartbroken Sandra stayed in bed until she became well because she never had
more than a winter cold.
Her wicked grandmother, Herbert’s mother, looked after Sandra while Herbert
traveled and sold merchandise. Her good grandmother and grandfather came each Sunday
to visit and to bring a nurse with medication that was purported to cure the deadly
disease. After eighteen months, Sandra was pronounced healthy again but her mother was
dying in some far away clinic. All because she worked for a Jew or so Sandra’s father
said. But Grandpa said, “I work with lots of Jews; not one of them ever gave me cause to
think they were anything but loving people.”
But the evening paper had a different story about Jews and the Jewish Brewer. As
it turned out; the lady of the Jewish Brewery house infected two of the employees, under
her charge, two other than Sandra’s mother: the Brewer and his wife left the country
before they could be held responsible for three deaths. The Nazis announced that the
Jewish brewer did it because he knew his wife was dying and he wanted to use the
disease to murder as many Germans as possible before his wife withered away and died.
Sandra finds her father in her room packing the last of her things. He is crying and
rubbing his tears on his sleeve. He turns when he hears her enter.
“Sandra! I told you to stay on the bench,” he says and wipes his eyes again on his
rough coat sleeve. “You never listen. Just like your mother. Just the same. She never
listened and now her God punishes her and you and me. Because she never listens to her
husband. It is a Commandment that a wife must listen to her husband. God brought the
Jews into our life so they would take customers and your mother from me.” He wipes his
eyes again. “Or maybe the Communists are right; there is no God.” He picks up the bags
and carries them to the front of the tiny house.
He goes back and kicks one of Sandra’s toys under the bed. It is one of her
favorite toys bought by her loving mother on their last trip to town; the last trip before her
mother was taken to the T.B. asylum. “Sandra!” her father says, “Do you realize how
wicked your mother was to leave us all alone? With no one to take care of us? I can’t take
care of us. I must travel in order to put food on the table. Your wicked, wicked mother
didn’t think of that when she worked herself to death. Did she! Did she!” He brings the
third piece of tattered luggage to the front of the house. With Sandra following, he returns
to her room. “Do you want to take anything else?”
Sandra motions toward the bed, “I want the baby clown…under there.” She points
under the bed.
Her father lets a long sight escape from between his pursed lips. He grabs
Sandra’s tiny hand and jerks her toward the front of the house. “Go sit in the car until I’m
ready!” Herbert is still crying. Is he crying for her mother or is he crying for himself?
Most everything in Herbert’s life is about him; everything and everyone else is a big
inconvenience. His wife has been a major inconvenience. Now, Sandra is a major
inconvenience. He will foist her off on his dead wife’s father: and good riddance. He will
visit her a couple times a year so people won’t talk; say he is a ruthless bastard or
something like that. He isn’t ruthless; he is just practical. He doesn’t have the time or the
money to raise Sandra…properly. The old man has lots of money; he can raise Sandra in
the proper manner. The old man can be there with her. When Herbert is settled in with a
new wife, he can bring Sandra back to the city. That is another thing: the city is becoming
too dangerous. The British will come. They will bomb and bomb and bomb. They will
bomb the cities; the British won’t waste their precious bombs on the countryside; they
will bomb the cities; Sandra will be safer with her grandfather in the countryside. But in
his mind he knows he is a coward. His most important task, now, is to decide which side
he should take or if his best chance of survival is to take no side at all: remain neutral.
Sandra walks slowly toward the overused sedan. She can see her hazy reflection
in the dirty automobile door; even make-out the giant tears racing down her beautiful
face, silently. The dirty reflection makes her beautiful face look like a photograph that
has been stomped on by a “jackboot”, a jackboot worn by her hateful father. Her
beautiful mother is gone: gone from overwork, so her father says, gone as God’s
punishment, so her father says. Maybe her mother died to escape her father; to escape her
father’s pessimism; his hate of everybody and everything. Now Sandra has a chance to
escape the hateful little man, she will go to the place she loves most and be with the
people she loves most; the place where her mother brought her to see where her
grandmother and grandfather lived. In a village, not a dirty city; maybe if her mother
lived in a village, her grandmother’s village, maybe her mother would still be alive, still
be able to comfort her and protect her from her father. Now, Sandra has a chance to
escape the hateful little man; but first she will have to endure the verbal barrage her father
will spew on her tiny shoulders, as he drives her to her safe haven.
Grandma and Grandpa will be waiting for her; waiting with open arms. They
won’t shout and holler at her unless she does something very, very wrong, she will have
to almost burn the house down to have them punish her or swat her, they won’t follow
her around the house and talk about what a bad mother Berta Schmidt has been; how she
only thinks of herself and never thinks about her daughter and husband, only herself;
that’s why she worked herself to death. Maybe Sandra’s father should work a little harder
—why not. Men are supposed to do that: work so hard that their women don’t need to
work; so their women can stay home and love their daughters. Daughters with beautiful
faces, beautiful long blond hair, and beautiful, shinning, tearful, blue eyes. Sandra knows
it is a bad place to be: in a car, moving rapidly down the highway: there is no place to go;
no place to run; no place to hide.
She sits and listens to the hours of hate her father chews up and spits out toward
the dirty, rain-spotted windshield. “Sandra, you are too young to realize that what I’m
doing is a very brave thing,” her father says.” I’m giving you up to your grandma. She
can give you a better life. I can’t raise you with no woman around. No woman to teach
you how to become a good person and properly serve your husband. Not like your
mother; she wanted only to serve other people. You will be raised properly. Your
grandma will teach you how to sew and cook and clean, and you must only use that
knowledge to serve your own family not others.”
He stares at boxcars traveling along rusty tracks that parallel the road. The
boxcars have either red or yellow tags pasted at angles on the front upper right corners.
He heard from a Nazi acquaintance that the yellow tags signify those boxcars headed for
work camps and the red tags head for…he really doesn’t care where they head for. It is
not his affair. What if Hitler is killing Jews; Herbert can’t stop it. So why let it concern
him. He works with lots of Jews; they all try to screw him but no more than the Gypsies.
Rumor is that Hitler gasses Gypsies also. If he plays his cards right, he can take over
some of the Jew businesses. The big mercantile in Frankfort will make someone a
millionaire or damn near. And after the war, who is going to own everything that belongs
to the Saperstein brothers; or are they Jewish? Who is going to win the war? Maybe the
Americans will enter it. His brother is in New York. A smart thing to do is maybe send a
letter that says he is, has been, and always will be against the Nazis and the Commies.
But what if the Nazis get the letter? For now he will need to play both sides; he must be
looked on as a friend of whoever wins. And this time he will marry rich
His wife was a beauty, but her beauty was of no use to him; they were never
together. They made love once a month before she was poisoned with TB. He could
never bring himself to touch her after the TB took hold. It made him ill to think of
touching her and her maybe coughing in his face and giving him the hideous disease. He
went to Vera the Gypsy and paid her to fulfill his fantasies once a month. But for many
months he’s been flirting with Marie the Mayor’s daughter. She’s beautiful but not of
age; in fact many years from being of age. But she will boast a huge dowry when she
turns eighteen and marries. So for now he will play the grieving widower; he is grieving
but his grief is for his misfortune not his dead wife’s misfortune. First he must get rid of
Sandra is grateful for her father’s silent treatment; this treatment lasts but a
moment and then he begins to tell her all the things her Grandma and Grandpa have done
wrong, and how her Grandpa thinks he is such a big cheese when all he is is some tiny
mouse. Her ears ach; she keeps wondering just how far it is to Grandma’s. The time,
when she went there with her mother, it was a very short ride; but she didn’t ride with
anyone in the car spewing out hatred. She grits her teeth. She tries to think of her mother
over the sound of her father shouting. Her mother is like the most beautiful angel, in fact,
no angel is as beautiful; and no matter what her father says, there is a Heaven and her
mother is there sitting at the side of God waiting for God to give an order for her to go
back to earth and give love to her little girl.
“Nothing I have done should give God the right to take my wife from me. God
knows how hard I work. I’m a good neighbor. I go to church as much as any one who
comes to the Sunday morning service. Two years ago, I even served as one of the layman
on the Church’s council for the war. This is another reason I’m being brave; I would like
to be with you, but that would mean keeping you in the city—the cities will be the most
dangerous place. Moving you to the countryside should keep you from harm’s way.
When the British come, and the British will definitely come, you will be away from it all.
The British will land on the coast. You will be too far into the interior for any one, British
or German, to worry about you.” The engine sputters. Her father’s attention shifts to the
many gauges on the dashboard of the trashy car.
“Daddy,” Sandra whispers, “I got to go to the bathroom!”
“I told you to go before we left,” he says.
“I did. But, now, I need to go again.”
“Well, you wouldn’t need to go,” he says, “if you were a boy.”
“Well, I’m not a boy, and I need to go real badly.” Her father looks around at the
deserted land that borders the crumbling road. “If you were a boy,” he says, “you could
go right out there.” He jabs his finger at the knee-high dying weeds that line the rails.
“Mama told me that men are pigs for doing that.” They drive another half-hour
until Sandra thinks she will burst and wet the cloth seat of her father’s pride and joy (she
should be his pride and joy), but then he steers the bucket of bolts into a tiny gas station
at an intersection just miles from her grandmother’s village.
“I am only stopping because I need gas.” He steps from the car and looks back at
her. “We are almost there,” he says. “You just sit there until we arrive at your Grandma’s
house. It is more lady-like to do your business at a private home not at a place on the road
“But, I need to go so badly,” she says. “Please!”
He throws up his hands. “Okay! Go! But you best be finished when I’m finished
getting the gas and ready to go.” He doesn’t come around and open the door for her even
though he knows she will struggle to open it by herself.
Sandra grasps the thin door handle in both of her small hands. She jerks down
hard. The door springs open and pulls her from the high-clearance automobile. She slips
down the running board and skins her bare knees. She begins to weep silently, so as not
to alert her father, as she walks by herself toward the laboratory shed at the back of the
gas station. Her mother told her to never go anywhere by herself. That in these days and
times there are bad men who want to harm a beautiful, little girl-child like her. But
Sandra moves toward the shadows of the back shed. The only bad man she can see in the
area is her father. Sandra closes the shed door but she doesn’t do her business. The shed
is filthy and it smells bad. Real damp smelling like dirty, wet socks; and the shed is
spooky. You can’t see into the corners; you can’t see into the many shadows where bad
men might be lurking waiting for her to lift the bottom of her dress. Sandra shouldn’t go
anywhere by herself; her mother is right. But now her mother won’t be with her to tell her
not to be frightened.
Her father is not concerned…or he wouldn’t let his little girl go to some dark,
smelly shed to do her business by herself…he would lead her by her hand and peek into
the shed to make sure no bad men or monsters lurk in the shadows. And then he would
wait for her until she is finished. He would say, “Sandra? You okay, in there?” and wait
for her answer. But here she is with all the bad men and monsters waiting for her to lift
her dress bottom. Sandra darts out the door and runs smack in to a tall, thin stranger.
“Hey!” the stranger says. “What’s a child like you doing back here by yourself?
Where’s your mother?”
Sandra’s heart jumps into her throat. This is the man her mother warned her
about. She should tell the man that her mother is in Heaven, watching over her, and that
he will be severely punished if he harms a little girl and that her father doesn’t mind if a
tall, thin man harms her. But instead she runs the wrong direction and stops dead at the
rusty railroad tracks. One of the boxcars, that passed along side Herbert’s tattered car
earlier, is burning. The flames dart toward the dusty sky. Hundreds of ordinary people
huddle in the center of a farmer’s field. Policemen with guns stand at the gates of the
field. Sandra thinks what odd transportation. Her father will know why hundreds of
mothers and fathers and their children use such a strange way to get from the city to the
village. She turns and runs back past the stranger to her father and grabs onto one of her
“Sandra,” he says, “that was quick. You didn’t need to go very badly. Get back in
the car. No more stops.”
She pulls herself up on the running board and into the car. Her doll just sits and
looks at her. Greta knows something is wrong. Sandra always tells her doll all her secrets,
but she neglected to tell Greta that her beloved mother left them both and is now in
Heaven. Greta will not be able to take the news. Greta is only a doll and dolls are not
brave. Sandra must be brave for both of them.
Her father slides into the driver’s seat and sits on one on Greta’s arms; he grabs
the doll and pulls; the arm pulls lose from Greta; stuffing spills out onto the seat; he
throws the tattered doll into the back seat. Sandra screams and scrambles into the back;
she retrieves Greta and begins to cry. Her father turns. “Sandra! Forget that stupid doll.
I’ll get you a new one the next time I come back to your Grandma’s.”
“I don’t want a new one,” she says. “You will just hurt it too.”
At her grandmother’s, Sandra is hugged and kissed by all the relatives; they cry
about her mother’s death two days ago. But when her grandfather picks her up and carries
her toward the house, Sandra knows she is home. When her father comes to say he is
leaving, that he will be back for the funeral (which he sloughed off on Grandma), Sandra
doesn’t care. She doesn’t care if he comes back for the funeral or not; she doesn’t care if
he ever comes back. When she starts up the stairs with Grandpa, she sees the little,
beautiful girl from next door; Lena peeks around her mother and watches Sandra’s every
move. Lena is her age and temperament. This is the first day of a life-long friendship
(they come to know each other’s every thought and mood) they are together most days
from early morning until their shadows lengthen into the late afternoon.
Berta Schmidt is buried in the little village’s hillside cemetery. Sandra is in the
funeral procession that follows the coffin to the cemetery up the steep hill. All the
relatives come back to Grandma’s house for coffee and cake and everyone wants to hug
Sandra and she becomes more and more annoyed all Sandra wants to do is sit on her
Her father approaches, “My poor, little angel, come to your father.”
Sandra nods and buries her face in her grandmother’s neck.
“Sandra! Come when your father calls,” he says. Then he reaches out and grabs
Sandra under her tiny arms. Sandra slaps his face. He drops her back in her
grandmother’s lap and storms from the house. “She is just as hateful as her mother!” he
She pushes off from Grandma’s lap, gets to her feet, her heart feels like it has
been hit with one of her Grandpa’s hammers; though it isn’t Grandpa, wheeling the
hammer, but it’s her own hateful father. Her stomach is churning and feels like it did the
time she ate some bad lamb at her aunt’s house. Her head throbs like an extremely bright
light flashes from her father’s eyes and now settles in her brain. She staggers toward the
door where her father exits. She is coughing and before she reaches the doorway, she
vomits on her grandmother’s striped wallpaper. She holds no sense of herself as a person;
her father has destroyed her with his words but more so with his flight; he abandons her
for good, this time; she looses her identity as his daughter; her identity shifts to Grandma;
she becomes her Grandma’s daughter. “Hey!” she screams. “Hey, we don’t care. Do you
hear me? Do you hear me? We don’t care what you say! Grandma and me…we don’t
care. Hey!” She stops at the doorway.
Sandra’s grandmother runs a cloth across Sandra’s mouth and pats her head.
“Now, now, Sandra,” her grandmother says, “Calm down. Let’s go back into the house.”
“Grandma why does he hate me, so?”
“He doesn’t hate you, Sandra; he hates himself.”
Now the tears begin to run down Sandra’s cheeks. She can no longer stop the
flow. Can no longer pretend she possesses a father like the other fathers of her friends
and cousins and the children in the storybooks. Her voice goes horse and she clings to her
grandmother as they re-enter the house full of silent relatives.
Her grandmother takes her up the stairs to her new room and puts her on the oh-
so-soft bed. She sits beside Sandra and strokes her hair. “Sandra, child, your father is a
troubled man.” Grandma says. “He blames all his ills on the world and everyone in it. Or
he blames God. He blames anyone and anything so he won’t have to blame himself for
his problems and failures.”
“But he hates me,” Sandra says, “and I hate him. A little girl shouldn’t hate her
“No she shouldn’t and she doesn’t. You don’t hate him or anyone. You’re too
young to hate anyone.”
“I should hate the Devil,” Sandra says.
“Yes you should hate the Devil.”
“And I should hate the tall man at the toilet shed,” Sandra says.
“What tall man?” She takes Sandra’s shoulders and turns her; they sit eye to eye.
“What tall man?”
“When we came here, I had to do my business real badly. Father said I should be
like a boy and do it along the road. But finally he stopped at that station before the
cemetery. He told me to hurry while he got some gas. I went by myself to the back of the
station. Mama told me to never go by myself. But I really had to do my business. So I
opened the shed door. It smelled like Papa’s dirty socks even worse,” Sandra puts her
thumb and fingers to her nose. “It was so scary. I went in but I knew that there were
monsters and bad men waiting in the shadows to watch me lift the bottom of my skirt so I
could do my business. But it was too scary so I ran out of the stinky shed and bang right
into the tall man.”
“Did the tall man hurt you?” Grandma said.
“He scared me.”
“Did he touch you?”
“Just to stop me from banging into him,” Sandra says.
“You are to never go anywhere without me, “Grandma says, “from this moment
on. You go nowhere without me…you understand?”
“And I will give a piece of my mind to your father.”
Sandra has lost her mother and now her father and now she is lost. Sandra’s aunt
and Sandra go every day to the cemetery to water the many flowers that surround the
grave of her mother, but Sandra is lost, maybe lost just for now, and maybe lost forever.
. FRIDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 1, 1939 GERMAN ARMY INVADES POLAND
Battles Rage Along Border Cities Bombed as Fuehrer Orders Troops to “Meet Force
With Force” on Frontier; Harbor Blockaded and Neutral Ships Warned. WARSAW, Sept.
1. (U.P.) Germans bombed Warsaw at 9a.m. today (11p.m. Thursday) (P.S.T.)
Simultaneously the Polish government announced today that Germans had bombed five
other places, including the railroad station at Czew and the town of Rypnic, as well as the
town of Putzk near Czew. The Warsaw Foreign Office immediately charged Germany
with aggression against Poland. BERLIN, Sept. 1. (Friday) (AP) The German army was
ordered to “meet force with force,” and Poland was declared dangerous territory for
foreigners and the seat of the Jewish International Conspiracy at 5:30 a.m. today 8:30
p.m. Thursday, P.S.T.)
THURSDAY MORNING, JULY 11, 1940 BRITISH GRIMLY WAIT START OF
BLITZKRIEG Swarms of Enemy Planes Routed in Raid. Believed Prelude to Threatened
Invasion; 37 German Aircraft Shot Down or Disabled LONDON, July 11 (Thursday)
(A.P.) England, on guard and ready, watched through the dawn today without any
indication along the coastal no man’s land of Nazi invasion which Commons was warned
last night might come at daybreak. SUNDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 29, 1942 REDS
KILL 10,000 IN NEW NAZI ROUT Russians Put Five German divisions to Flight in
Northern Drive. MOSCOW, Nov. 29 (Sunday) (A.P.) The Russians announced today that
a surprise offensive on the northwest front had killed 10,000 German troops.
The Germans fight a lost war; there is a funeral every week for some cousin or another;
some close to Sandra’s heart and many who she only met once or twice or never but
knows of them from stories told her by her grandparents. The war is stupid when you
think of the results, Sandra thinks. You dress young, handsome men up in beautiful
uniforms and teach them how to march perfectly in rows and then you march them
directly toward death. Nothing is worth that: no amount of land or payback for past
grievances; nothing is worth that. At the last funeral, that Sandra attends, the cousin, who
was slaughtered, is represented by a closed casket; he is only twenty-two years of age but
his body is so damaged by a Russian mortar that they can’t put enough of him together to
allow an open casket. The women cannot stop crying. The ones left behind suffer the
most. Sandra suffered so, when her mother died; and now mothers all over Germany were
suffering. Sandra prays each night that the war will stop but it just goes on and on as
another cousin dies.
There will be no cousins left at the rate they are dying. Or when you go to a
family gathering, all the young men have sustained injuries: Kurt without a leg, his
brother without an arm and a hand, the Burger’s son is blind, and others are deaf or
insane. Nothing is worth this. Sandra hears some of it from her grandparents. But then
Lena’s father says that Hitler is a genius and that he will not put Germany in a bad
position as far as the war is concerned, or as far as anything is concerned; but he thinks
that Hitler needs to put more effort into the Jew Problem here at home and in the
international community; Jews hoard all the capital of the world: they own all the banks
or at least ninety percent of them around the world. They also are behind most of the
publishing houses around the world so most of the information the world population
reads is tainted by the Jewish view of the world. And they own most of the movie
production companies and the distribution companies that distribute those films and the
theatres that show the films.
Sandra and Lena listen and listen and begin to agree that Jews cause all the
trouble; but the fact is that Lena and Sandra don’t know what a Jew is or what they look
like or sound like. Unless those were Jews Sandra saw behind the shed when the boxcar
burned. Lena’s father describes them as little, fat, big-nosed people who (like the French)
never wash. But many Germans are little, fat, and big-nosed. So Lena and Sandra decide
that they will just ask whomever they meet if they are a Jew.
“Hey mister,” Lena shouts. “Are you a Jew?”
“Do I look like a Jew?” The little man says.
“What does a Jew look like,” Lena says.
“Just look for a target on their back.” The little man says.
They walk a little further toward school and stop another man. “Are you a Jew,”
they ask in unison.
“Are you with the Gestapo?” the man says. “I think not; you’re just very rude
children trying to cause trouble. Get along home.” The man rolls his fruit cart uphill
toward the center of the village.
“We’re not going home,” Sandra shouts after the man.
“We’re going to school!” They both shout in unison.
Lena and Sandra listen to both sides of the Jew Problem but they concentrate on
more pressing issues: finally, they get to go to kindergarten. They go hand in hand. Their
clothing is almost identical and they both have pierced ears holding tiny earrings: Lena
wears little blue earrings and Sandra wears red hearts on her earrings.
“Stop,” Sandra says as she lets loose of Lena’s hand. “We are never going to be
apart, you know?”
“I know,” Lena says.
Sandra reaches up and takes the earrings from Lena’s ears. She puts them into
“What are you doing?” Lena says.
Sandra takes the earrings from her own ears. “We’re going to trade earrings as a
badge that we will always be together.” She puts her earrings in Lena’s ears. Then
reaches down and takes Lena’s earrings from her hand and puts the little blue earrings in
her own ears. “Now, I have a badge and you have a badge.”
Lena smiles, takes Sandra’s hand, and they start back toward school.
“I did not approve of her giving away her earrings,” Sandra’s grandmother says to
“Well, she didn’t give them away,” Lena’s mother says. “She traded them for
Lena’s. Sandra got the better deal, I must say.”
“I think not,” Grandma says. “Those little blue nothings cannot be worth half as
much as the intricate workmanship of the red hearts.”
But Lena and Sandra insist the trade stay. And stay it did; for a lifetime. They
hold hands as they skip up wooden stairs to Sandra’s bedroom. “I thought school would
be more fun,” Lena says.
“It was fun, but I thought we would learn some new things,” Sandra says.
“Everything the stupid teacher tries to teach us we learned when we were four. The class
is supposed to be for five year olds not four year olds.”
“But Sandra,” Lena says, “most the kids didn’t know their numbers or their
“That’s okay; we’ll just be the smartest kids in the class with very little work. And
in art, I can out-draw anyone.”
“You can’t out-draw me!”
“Of course I can,” Sandra says. “Here, take this pencil and we will both draw a
factory and show my Grandma and see who she thinks draws best.”
“Your grandmother will choose you,” Lena says. “Besides, you’re cheating: I’ve
never seen a factory, but you saw one in the city before you came here. Why do you want
“Okay, okay, let’s draw a garden and we’ll show Fred the bus driver; he will
“Fred the bus driver is an idiot,” Lena says. “My mother says he’s retarded and
only got the bus driving job because he’s the principal’s nephew. He’s old but acts like
he’s about twelve years old.”
“The poor guy will be dead or wounded as soon as they put him in a uniform,”
“I don’t think they allow retarded old people to be killed.”
“They’re the first to be killed at the concentration camps. My Grandpa says.”
“My father says that’s a bunch of crap,” Lena says. “No concentration camps
exist in Germany.”
“Did you say ‘bunch of crap’?” Sandra whispers and then giggles. “I should wash
your mouth out with laundry soap.”
They both giggle and put their hands over their mouths. “Well, who do you want
to judge our drawings?” Sandra says.
“Your Grandma will do fine.”
They both settle down on the floor; both lying on their bellies. The two giggle and
draw but hide their drawing from the other and giggle and draw, and they spend the next
hours drawing gardens of flowers on some scrap wrapping paper that Sandra retrieves
from under her bed where she stuffed it after her last birthday. They do the drawings in
pencil with no colors; but any fool can see the different shades of flowers in both the
drawings. And any fool can recognize the backs of Lena’s and Sandra’s houses with the
sheds and trees in the backgrounds. Both the drawings depict the gardens well. Both
show much talent; but Sandra’s is best. They tumble down the stairs trying to beat each
other to Grandma.
“Hold it!” Sandra’s grandmother says. She takes off her apron and dries her hands
on it and walks to the stairs, “you two trying to kill each other?”
“Grandma,” Sandra says as she waives her drawing in front of her grandmother’s
dodging face. “Who’s drawing is best?”
“Look at mine! Look at mine!” Lena says. She pushes her drawing ahead of
Sandra’s grandmother takes both drawings from the wrestling girls and walks
over to the kitchen table. She pauses and with a huge sigh spreads the drawings across the
table’s surface. Like a professional critic, she takes out her glasses and taps them on her
teeth then puts the reading glasses on the bridge of her nose. She leans over Lena’s
picture and gazes down then rubs her forehead and reaches down and slowly slides a
chair back from the table and sits down. “Oh, my, they are both so original, so artistic;
it’s so hard to choose. What prize will you win if I choose you?” she says to Lena.
Sandra pushes past Lena. “You can’t choose her,” Sandra says. “You can’t. You
only looked at hers.”
“I didn’t choose Lena’s. I was just asking what the prize was.” Her grandmother
says. “I just thought you should get a prize if you win.” She walks to the cabinet and
reaches high up on the top. She pulls down a tin canister, extracts two small chunks of
fudge and then hands each girl a chunk. “You both did a great job; I can’t decide so you
each win a prize.”
Sandra and Lena both smile and put the whole chunks of fudge in each other’s
mouth and then grab their drawings from the kitchen table and walk hand and hand in
circles around the large house while chomping on the mouthfuls of fudge and finally run
back up the stairs to Sandra’s room.
The house is a nice, solid, two-story, brick house. All three bedrooms are upstairs
with a bathroom that is never ever used for baths. Her grandmother always heats the
water on the stove and then Sandra is bathed in the kitchen. The reason for this is, there is
no central heating in the house and every room is warmed separately with a stove.
Anytime anyone takes a bath upstairs, the hot water heater needs a fire in the firebox. It is
a lot of work. Too much work for Sandra’s grandfather. “That’s too much work just for a
little girl to take a bath,” Grandpa says. “Just ask your Grandma to heat some water in the
kitchen. And try to stop getting so dirty,” he laughs.
“But, Grandpa, I like the upstairs tub,” Sandra says. “I’ll help you bring the wood.
“We’ll do it this Saturday, when I’m not so tired,” her grandfather says.
Once a month, the whole family takes a bath upstairs after Grandpa prepares the
firebox; but the daily sponge baths are always in the kitchen. The kitchen is large and
comfortable and always warm. All the meals are taken on the large table in the kitchen.
Grandma cooks on a wood stove and sometimes uses coal, but coal is not always
available or is very difficult to get because the “war effort” is consuming everything.
Sandra is growing tired of the war effort. She wants it to get back to when there was
enough to eat; enough of the good things to eat. She wonders why there is always
Sandra and her Grandma and Grandpa listen to the radio every night in an
intimate living room. Why is the rest of the world fighting Germany (Germans are good
people) why did the rest of the world not just leave Germans be? Maybe the world is
jealous of the beautiful German people? Sandra thinks. But her Grandpa tells her that
most of the trouble has been started by the German leader, Adolf Hitler. He is trying to
get back territory that belonged to the German people centuries ago.
“Why did the other people steal the land from the Germans?” Sandra asks.
“They were German people also, but they wanted to be separate from Germany,”
her grandfather says.
“Why did they want to be separate from us?” Sandra says. Sandra doesn’t hear
her grandfather’s answer because she is wondering why the rest of the world doesn’t
understand something as simple as wanting land back that was taken from you. Maybe
Germany waited too long. Maybe they should have taken it back right away.
“How long did the other Germans have this territory?” Sandra says.
“Hundreds of years in some cases; thousands of years in other cases,” her
“Why didn’t’ they take I back right away?”
“Germany wasn’t strong enough,” he says.
“Is Germany strong enough, now?”
“No, I don’t think so,” he says.
“Then why is Mr. Hitler having the war?” Sandra says.
“Because Mr. Hitler is insane.”
“What does insane mean?” Sandra says.
“Nuts, bonkers, out of his mind,” he says.
“Is he retarded like Old Fred the Bus Driver?”
“Old Fred is not retarded; he’s just a little slow,” her grandfather says.
“Is Mr. Hitler a little slow like Old Fred?”
“No, Mr. Hitler is certifiably retarded!” He looks over at Sandra’s grandmother
who frowns. “But you must not tell anyone what I said, especially Lena.”
“Why not: If it is true?” Sandra says.
“In these times, I have found silence is the best truth,” he says and looks over at
his wife. “Sandra if you love me you’ll not say anything about what is discussed in this
“I do love you Grandpa; I promise,” Sandra says. Sandra wonders why God
doesn’t intervene on behalf of Germany and help this retarded Hitler defeat the Russians
and the British and the Americans who blockade merchant ships from bringing goods to
Germany; starve the German people. Why do the Americans do such a thing? Why
deprive the German people of food and the other necessities. She listens to all the tragic
news on the radio in the small living room.
The “good living room” is locked most of the time. On Christmas it will be
opened and the stove will be lit and then the Christmas Child will bring all the presents.
The family will sing carols and eat cookies and Grandpa will sip a glass of wine and
some times when he is not looking Sandra will take a sip. The room is nicely furnished,
with a sofa and a couple of overstuffed chairs and a small table; but Grandma never
serves food in the “good living room”, and Sandra is instructed where to put her feet
(certainly not on the sofa.) There is a cabinet with all of Grandma’s fine belongings,
including the good china and flower vases all of which Sandra is not to touch under any
“What if the house is burning?” Sandra asks her grandmother.
“You leave the house if it is burning.” Her grandmother says.
“What if the house is flooding?” she says.
“You leave the house if it is flooding.” Her grandmother says and looks up from
“What if the Nazis come to take our stuff?” Sandra whispers.
“Then, together we will unlock the door to the good room and gather all my
precious china and vases and run with them to a safe place,” her Grandma says.
“Okay, so then there is a circumstance when I can touch the china?” Her Grandma
laughs and swats Sandra’s backside.
Like all her neighbors houses, the walls of Grandma’s house are covered with
flowered, striped, and patterned wallpaper. “Germans do not use paint on the inside of
their houses,” Grandma says. “Paint is for the outside.”
The stairs that go to the upstairs are of old wood, which squeaks and moans when
Sandra attempts to sneak up or down them. Sandra watches and listens from the shadows
at the top of those squeaky stairs.
Sometimes Lena will sneak up to Sandra’s room when both should be in their
own houses in their own rooms; studying. There, in the tiny room, Lena tells Sandra of
all the things she heard in her house and Sandra tells Lena of all she’s heard except that
her Grandpa thinks Mr. Hitler is retarded. It seems odd to both of them that the
information is so different and to such a degree. Sandra repeats what she heard about how
the Germans lost in Russia and Lena tells her that the Germans entered Moscow and will
soon topple the Red Communist and thereby slowdown the Jewish International
Conspiracy to spread Communism and Socialism to Germany and the rest of the world.
Lena says Hitler and a few of his friends fight Stalin and the Jews over the Communist
“What is Communism?” Sandra says.
“I don’t know. I think it’s where everybody shares things.” Lena says.
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Sandra says.
“My father says it’s bad because the greedy Jews just use Communism and
Socialism to fool all of us and then take over all the assets of the world.”
“Assets?” Sandra asks.
“I think it’s stuff.”
“I don’t understand. So we don’t own our toys and stuff.”
“I think toys can be okay to own but houses and tractors belong to everybody.”
Lena says and itches the tip of her nose.
“Do you notice that you rub the tip of your nose when you think,” Sandra rubs her
forehead. “So you mean you can use any tractor. That will mean only the best tractors get
used. It will cause lots of fights.”
“My father says both Communism and Socialism exist for stupid people,” Lena
“They are both the same thing, right?” Sandra asks.
“Communism and Socialism? Socialism is where the government steals all the
stuff so the world can change to Communism,” Lena says.
“And the Jews thought of this?”
“And the Jews did this,” Sandra says as she slides from her bed to the thick rug on
her bedroom floor.
“Yeah, the Jews did it.”
“So that’s the Jew Problem?” Sandra says.
“Yeah, that’s the Jew Problem.”
“And Mr. Hitler is trying to stop it?”
“Yeah, he’s trying to stop it,” Lena says. “But he’s not called Mr. Hitler; it’s
Chancellor Hitler or something.”
Ninety-nine percent of the Germans back Hitler because he says he will solve “the
Jewish Problem”, now that Sandra knows what the Jewish Problem is, she knows never
to tell her very best friend, Lena, that the blond haired, blue-eyed, aristocratic little girl
who lives next door and is at Lena’s door early each morning, is involved in a Jewish
The family finds out about the “half-Jew” thing when Sandra’s father, Herbert
Schmidt, decides to remarry. His choice is a beautiful but selfish young thing he has been
waiting for for a long time. To get married, Herbert (who looks more Jewish than many
of the citizens who spend the last days of their lives riding to work camps and death
camps inside urine-soaked boxcars) must prove he is not Jewish. Herbert is a bastard; not
a bad-guy type bastard. Like in, “you bastard, you!” Herbert’s father and mother did not
marry. Records show that his father is a Jew.
Herbert never knew of any of this. “Mother! What have you done?” Herbert asks.
“I’ve done nothing,” his mother says.
“You’ve destroyed my life!” he shouts.
“I was not married. I just had you. So I put a man’s name on the papers.”
“You put a Jew’s name on the papers!”
“I didn’t know there would be a Jew Problem,” his mother says. “If I knew there
would be a Jew Problem, do you think I would put his name on the papers? I just put the
richest man’s name on the papers.”
“And you’re going to confess it to God and the world that I am a bastard! I’ll be
“Better than you going to a death camp. I did the best I could as an unmarried
mother. I will do anything to save you.”
They go to the judge and only by the grace of God does the judge show mercy on
Herbert and declare that he “is not and never was a Jew.” But the damage is already done
to Sandra. The word leaks out about her father’s trial and her paternal grandmother’s
confessions. Now Sandra is probably a Jew and surely the granddaughter of a whore.
Only Lena stands by her. Only Lena says it doesn’t matter.
“But Lena, I am not a Jew. Look at me. Do I look like a Jew?” Sandra says.
“I don’t mind if you’re a Jew,” Lena says.
“I am not a Jew. It was all a mistake, you know that sometimes, in life, mistakes
happen?” Sandra says. “The judge said my father is not a Jew. Fact he said ‘he is not and
never was a Jew’ so stop saying you don’t mind. Of course you wouldn’t want to be
friends with a Jew.”
“If the Jew is you,” Lena says. “If the Jew is you? I’m a poet and don’t you know
“Sandra, get in here,” Grandma calls, “and tell Lena to cart herself home before
her mother comes looking for her and looking to give her a whipping.”
“Yes, Grandma I’m coming.” Sandra says.“But Lena never gets a whipping.”
“Yes I do,” Lena says. “I get lots more whippings than you”
“I never get whippings,” Sandra says.
“Yes you do! Remember, you told me about the time your father grabbed you,
threw you against the wall, and started whipping on you, remember?”
Sandra laughs and nods her head back and forth. “Oh, I didn’t mean anything
about him. He used to push me and shove me and use his belt on me. From now on when
we talk about things and I am smiling and laughing, you will know I’m not thinking
about nasty Herbert, the monster who calls himself my father. I was just saying I never
get a whipping from Grandma and Grandpa.”
“Oh, I know that,” Lena says, “They will never beat you. They love you too
much. Go see if they love you enough to let you go with mother, and me tomorrow, to
see a movie.
Sandra likes Lena and her Mom, so does Grandma, but Grandma doesn’t trust
Lena’s father. He is a brown shirt and asks Sandra and everyone a lot of question: if they
know any Jews. If they know anybody who know Jews. If they know anyone who
sympathized with the Jews. Lena says her father (who she loves) has proof that the Jews
were slowly taking over Germany and the world until Hitler came along. Hitler was not
afraid of the evil people who killed Christ and then said that they are God’s chosen
people and then acted like they were the chosen people and better than anybody else and
so they rationalized (what ever that means) that they deserved everything and took over
all the banks first and then every other business. Sandra doesn’t think that Jews own
Grandpa’s markets. But maybe they own them in secret. But in their search, Lena and
Sandra never find anyone who will admit they are a Jew or that they have ever met a Jew.
So Sandra thinks that the Jew Problem is not a problem at all. How can it be a problem if
no one in the village has ever met a Jew or knows anyone who has met a Jew. She gives
her opinion to Lena and Lena thinks it’s very logical that there must not be a Jew
Problem in the village.
But Lena’s father tells her that the people of the village are all liars. They lie
because they are Jews or because they are hiding Jews or a Jew controls their job. He tells
his daughter the secrets of spotting a Jew: they have very shifty eye and are unable to
look a good German in the eyes. They never wear nice clothes because they hoard their
ill-gotten money and never buy anything retail or new. They are penny pinchers (Sandra
and Lena take a penny, pinch it, and try to figure out what the term penny pincher
means.) The girls are thinking of just taking someone at random and make him or her the
village’s token Jew just so they, like Lena’s father, will have someone to hate, someone
who otherwise is an out and out monster even without being a Jew. They decide it will be
the fat neighbor-lady who lives across from the bakery.
When Sandra tells her Grandma what they have done, her Grandma scolds Sandra
and says it is a dangerous time to have a friend who is the daughter of a brown shirt. A
brown shirt who holds meetings every other night. A brown shirt who recruits children as
young as twelve.
“Father, I know about the Jews,” Lena says.
“What about the Jews,” her father says.
“You Nazis are working on a problem that is not a problem. There are no Jews in
“What makes you think there are no Jews in Germany?” he says.
“Sandra and I asked everybody,” Lena says, “And not one was a Jew or knew a
“They’ve all been rounder up. Six million Jews have been rounded up.”
“What do you mean, ‘rounded up’?”
“The brown shirts have been part of a program that rounds up Jews and takes
them to work camps so they can’t disrupt the economy and further the Communist
“We have work camps that house six million Jews?”
“Yes,” he says but looks away from his daughter.
“Where are these camps?” Lena asks.
“You ask too many questions,” her mother says.
“That’s okay,” her father says. “I can answer her without revealing too much. The
camps are located across Germany and in other countries.”
“Do Jews disrupt the economies of other countries?” Lena says.
“They disrupt business everywhere they go.”
Lena cannot wait to tell Sandra why they cannot find any Jews in the village. She
tosses and turns all night long because she always feels great when she has more
information than her best friend Sandra. The next morning, on the way to school, Lena
tells Sandra about the camps, “.and they hold six million Jews”
“They can’t,” Sandra says.
“They can’t, what,” Lena says.
“They can’t have enough camps in Germany to hold that many Jews.”
“My father should know.”
“He should know but he must not, because they can’t have that many camps or
everybody would know; not just your father.”
“You can have six camps that hold one million each. No big deal.”
“It’s a big deal to hold a million people in a major city,” Sandra says.
“So hold five hundred thousand in each camp. Besides they’re not just in
“Germany can not afford to feed that many people.”
“What are you saying?”
“They must get rid of the Jews.” Sandra says.
“You mean kill them?”
“Of course not, silly. You can’t kill that many people. They must be deporting
“You’re so smart. Of course they send the Jews back to their country. What
country do Jews come from?”
“I don’t think Jews have a country,” Sandra says.
They take each other’s hands and skip toward school. Happy to know that the Jew
Problem is so simple. The Jews disrupt everything so the Nazis simply pack them up and
export them to other countries. Why the other countries take them must be because the
other countries need cheap labor. And maybe the Jews are smarter than the current help.
But one good thing is that there is no logic for killing them. Maybe that’s why Hitler took
over Poland so he would have somewhere to send the troublesome Jews.
SATURDAY MORNING, AUGUST 26, 1944 THREE VICTORIES WON IN FRANCE
French and Yanks in Paris force Nazis to Surrender Battle in Streets Won but Sniping
Continues; DeGaulle Entry Cheered. LONDON, Aug, 26 (Saturday) (U.P.) Allied troops
and frenzied civilians, battling shoulder to shoulder in crowded, bullet-swept streets,
smashed the organized German resistance in Paris yesterday, forcing the commander of
the Nazi garrison to surrender. Scattered sniping continued through the night but these
disorganized units were swiftly being liquidated. Troyes, 130 Miles From German
Frontier, Falls: Yanks May Be in Reims. SUPREME HEADQUARTERS ALLIED
EXPEDITIONARY FORCE, Aug. 26 (Saturday) three resounding victories have been
won along the 200-mile long front in Northern France.
Then it happens. Grandpa, who is the director of a big food market chain, holds open job
positions where the Nazis want to place their friends. But Grandpa doesn‘t cooperate.
The Nazis come for him in the middle of the night. Sandra sits on the top stair and stares
through the ornate banisters. They call for her grandfather to come out of the house. But
he says no chance. A policeman kicks and kicks at the door until it splinters and slams
open. The policeman charges in first with the Nazis behind; but before the policeman can
get to Sandra‘s grandfather, her grandfather‘s German Shepherd, Alf, attacks the
policeman and bites into the screaming policeman‘s arms and legs. The Nazis step back
and watch as the bleeding policeman flails at the German Shepherd. He pulls free and
springs out the damaged front door.
The antagonists leave as Sandra‘s grandfather pats Alf s head. Alf prances around
the room then comes back and licks his master‘s hand. Alf sits wagging his tale and
looking from Grandpa to Grandma and then up the stairs toward Sandra. He knows I am
watching his fantastic performance, she thinks. But when Alf looks toward Sandra‘s
grandmother, her grandmother begins to holler and shake her finger at the cowering Alf.
“Now, look what you‘ve done you bad dog.” Grandma says. “The Nazis will
come back and shoot both of you and maybe even Sandra and me.”
Sandra‘s grandfather walks over and looks at the splintered door. “They won‘t.
Grandpa says. “They know I know friends in high places.”
“Who, name your friends in high places? How will they get you out of this?”
Grandma says. “Alf almost killed that policeman. I think he is the schoolmaster‘s son.
You best run. We all should run.”
Her grandfather pulls away the splintered wood and attempts to close the ruptured
door. “Go where?” Grandpa says.
Sandra tries to think where they can go. Maybe to her fathers, but he will give
them up for sure; he will not take a chance. They know relatives all over the region but
they will not put any relatives in harm‘s way. Lena can‘t hide them because her father
will give them up and smile while he is doing the dastardly deed. There are school chums
but they all seem to believe in the Nazis cause. Or maybe they are just play-acting
waiting for the war to be over and the Nazis to be destroyed. Life is a big, black pit: just
when you think things are getting better, they get worse (get the worst). Sandra goes back
to her room and flops on her bed; the tears start and don‘t stop until morning. In the
morning, her grandfather walks right past the suitcase packed the night before by her
“I will not run!” Her grandfather says.
“You old fool,” her grandmother says. “This war is not over. And the Nazis will
not stop until all Germans, including themselves and their families are dead. They blame
their loosing ways on everyone who doesn‘t back them. This job thing is just a rouse. The
stores will all be bombed-out skeletons by the end of the year, anyway. Go! Leave the
country. Sandra and I will survive until the Americans and British come. We‘ll learn to
dodge the bombs.”
“I will not run! I will meet with the store owners, this morning; they will use their
power to stop this harassment.”
“Harassment? They mean to kill you, you old fool!” She turns away and runs into
the kitchen; when her grandmother passes the staircase, Sandra sees tears running down
her grandmother‘s trembling cheeks.
The Nazis arrest Grandpa as he waits, at the train station, on his way to work. He
sees them coming and attempts to move into the crowd, to use it as camouflage, but the
crowd sees what he is doing and quickly disperses not wanting to do anything to make
this day their last day of freedom; if you call these days in Germany freedom; it is more
like one big prison waiting to collapse around its once proud ears.
When the crowd disperses, Grandpa stands like a deer caught in the headlights;
his head drops down, then he shakes it off and raises his head and straightens his
shoulders and walks defiantly toward the oncoming Nazis. Two Nazis grab him by his
arms and slam him face first into one of the cement pillars supporting the massive roof of
the train station. Blackness fills his mind and covers the picture of his beloved wife and
Sandra he holds in his mind.
When he comes too, he is in a moving boxcar (like the ones he heard so much
about.) He is bleeding from his nose and mouth and his bare feet.
A tall, slender man uses his shirttail to remove blood from Grandpa‘s nose and
lips. “My name is Isaac,” the tall man says. “You have been unconscious for almost
twenty-four hours. We are headed for a Work Camp and then a Death Camp if you are
Jewish. Are you Jewish?”
“No!” Grandpa says. “Are you?”
“Yes, most of the people in here are Jewish. You have done something real bad to
be in with us.”
“I hired Jews,” Grandpa says.
“Not very smart are you?”
“Not very,” Grandpa says.
“You are dehydrated, but there is no water.”
He is transported with the others to a factory that is fenced like a prison with
guard towers at each corner. The factory manufactures shoes; top of the line combat
boots and top of the line dress shoes. He is taken immediately to the work line. His nose
is sill bleeding and he needs water and food, but he is seated at a heavy-duty sewing
machine and told to begin. Sixteen hours later he is allowed a toilet break, some bread
and gravy and sleep.
When Grandpa is first taken away, Sandra‘s Grandma tries in vain to find out
where he was taken. Weeks pass and then months. No one hears from Grandpa and then
one-day Lena‘s father comes knocking at the door. He speaks to Grandma like he never
met her before even though they live next door to each other for decades.
“Mrs. Reim, I regret to inform you that your husband was transported to a work
camp for crimes against the motherland.”
“That is ridiculous!” She says. “What crimes could that old man commit without
me knowing? And I know of no crimes.”
“We believe you knew nothing.” Lena‘s father says. “We…I…am certain you
knew nothing about him hiring subversives and Jews to fill positions at the markets.”
“You are ridiculous! Where did you take him?” Grandma asks, calmly.
“You have no need to know. He is sentenced to four years. The only way he will
get out earlier is if at any point Hitler decides to forgive all Jews and friends of Jews for
what they did to this country. And I for one am certain the Fuehrer will never forgive
anyone who helped destroy the Motherland.”
“Ridiculous little man,” her grandmother says, “you and your kind destroyed the
Motherland.” She slams the door in the little brown-shirt‘s face.
Sandra wonders what her Grandpa and the Jews did to the country. It must be real
bad for the Nazis to come and get her Grandpa because he hires some workers to fill
positions at one of the markets. What can Grandpa and the Jews do to subvert Germany
from a market? Poison the food? Maybe the Jews would but her wonderful Grandpa
wouldn‘t hurt a fly. If a fly gets in the room and Grandpa can catch it, with fast hands and
a fast mind, Grandpa will catch the fly and hold it gently in his cupped hands and push
the door to the outside open with his foot and spring open his hands so the fly can buzz
off toward the forest. Then he looks at Sandra and smiles. “It could be someone‘s
mother,” he says and they both laugh.
It doesn‘t seem logical to Sandra that she never observed her grandfather‘s
traitorous actions; he must do whatever he does way after she goes to bed. Because he is
always down at the Village Square where anyone can see and talk to him or he is at home
or he is at one of the stores.
That‘s probably where he attempts to destroy Germany (if he does attempt to
destroy Germany). Or, he must leave the house after she falls asleep. Sometimes he
comes in and checks on her. She pretends to sleep and he leaves her room. But she only
hears him go back down the creaky, wooden stairs. She never hears him leave the house
to hire Jews. Maybe the Jews come to the house after Grandma and Sandra go to sleep.
That is it. The Jews come to the house. The Nazis follow them. So her Grandpa gets
caught. Now, he is with the Jews and friends of the Jews. Sandra isn‘t a Jew, of course
not. How can she be? Grandma definitely isn‘t. Sandra‘s beloved mother, the one floating
around in Heaven, isn‘t Jewish, because Grandpa is her father. And if her mother is part
Jewish, she can‘t be in Heaven.
No Jews can be allowed in Heaven. Her father told her so. He knows, because he
spends many hours a day talking to Jews about his line of products. Her father wouldn‘t
tell Sandra her mother was in Heaven if he thought she was Jewish. Sandra and her
friends vow they will never talk to a Jew and, now, Sandra must talk to them to find out
what happens to Jews and friends of Jews who go to the work camps. She makes it her
project to find out what happens when someone is sent to the work camps. She hears
horrible things but she is certain most of it isn‘t true because it comes from the boys in
her school and everyone knows that boys are mostly clowns and liars.
So Sandra continues her project. But project or not, she is able to find very little
information. Her grandmother says she thinks that the people who go to the camps are
used to manufacture materials needed for the war; but Sandra knows there is more to it
then that. She knows many families whose fathers and brothers work at manufacturing
war materials, but they don‘t live at work camps, they all just work a few miles from their
homes. They go home each and every night.
It appears to Sandra that only Jews and those in disfavor with the government are
sent to work camps.
“Well, I‘ve head my father and mother whisper about the work camps,” Lena
says. “The people work as free labor because they committed crimes against the
government.” She walks in a circle around Sandra; they hide in their secret place behind
Lena‘s house: inside an old shed. “The Jews on the other hand are sent to other camps. I
think they call them ‚Death Camps.”
“Why would they be called that?” Sandra says.
“Sandra! Why do you think they call them that?”
“Your father says that Jews are being put to death?” Sandra asks.
“No, he doesn‘t say that,” Lena says. She moves away from Sandra and sits on an
old crate.” It‘s just, all the facts seem to point to it.”
“The government is killing Jews?”
“Yeah, the government is killing Jews. Lots of Jews. Tons of Jews.” Lena says.
And she holds out her hands as though she is holding butchered meat in her hands. She
starts to weep.
Sandra runs to her and holds her in her arms. “Don‘t cry, Lena,” she whispers. “It
can‘t be true.” Sandra will never believe it; can never believe it. Of course her Grandpa is
not a Jew, but what if they mistake him for a Jew. Some of his features can be mistaken
as being Jewish. What if there exist such things as Death Camps and her Grandpa is put
on the wrong train. The train will say Work Camp but will be headed toward a Death
Camp. Her Grandpa will be stuffed in some boxcar with a bunch of guilty Jews. An
innocent, honorable German among guilty Jews. The boys at her school tell stories of the
boxcars. Even claim to have seen one being loaded with Jews and Gypsies.
“Let‘s say the boxcar is supposed to hold a hundred people, the Gestapo stuffs
three hundred Jews and Gypsies into the boxcar and you can hear them moan and cry. It‘s
so neat,” the boys say.
But Sandra doesn‘t believe any of it. She lets go of Lena who sits down on a
tattered crate and continues to sob. How can it be? Sandra thinks. Actually, she doesn‘t
know what to think; she is too agitated for anything close to rational thought. Her head is
spinning, and her stomach hurts. As she looks around fearfully waiting for the other shoe
to fall, she wipes her forehead with the back of her hand; when she raises her hand to her
face, she sees that the fine hairs on the back of her hand stand on end. Her hand trembles.
“They can‘t be killing Jews,” Sandra says, “Grandma would tell me.”
“How would she know?” Lena says. “I get more information than she does. She‘s
just like most old people. They believe that Germany can do no wrong. So you can tell
her a hundred times that Jews and others are being executed on a large scale, but she will
never believe you.”
“Okay, let‘s say that maybe some of it is true,” Sandra says. “Why do they do it?
It is better to use them as cheap or free labor then to kill them.”
“Not if it costs you more, to feed and cloth them, than a Jew is worth as a
“Like women and children. Or if you‘re crippled or something.” Sandra says.
“Yeah, like that.”
The sight of Lena‘s wide, teary eyes and bloodless skin makes Sandra know that
Lena, with more information than Grandma, believes that the German government, the
Nazis, are killing Jews, and not just a few Jews; like the family she heard of that used to
own the local bakery; but hundreds and maybe thousands of Jews. She feels a headache
coming on and a little sourness in her stomach. But she needs to find out for herself.
Lena, who should have the most accurate information, is always so dramatic and her
father tends toward major exaggerations, says they are definitely killing thousands of
Jews and her father is ecstatic about it.
“It will be the best way to stop the International Jewish Conspiracy.” He says.
“They will think a second time before they try this in another county as powerful as
And then she thinks of the anger in the voices of the police and Nazis who tried to
take her Grandpa from his house. It was more than an arrest: It was very personal. Their
angry voices still needle through her brain; kicking up the dust of that dark evening.
“Come out of your house you old Jew lover,” they said almost in a kidding way.
Then Alf tore into the young policeman‘s upper thigh.
“Yeah, I love all Jews,” her Grandpa said defiantly. Later that night, he said he
didn‘t know why he used those words.
But Sandra thinks that those I love all Jews words may be the last words she will
ever hear her Grandpa say, and she shivers at the idea, like when she saw the tall stranger
at the shed at the back of the gas station when she was four years old. Her tears start.
Lena moves to her side and holds her head. “It‘ll all be okay,” Lena says. “God
will protect us.
“I‘m not so sure there is a God,” Sandra says. “A sane God would not make me
live without my Grandpa.”
“There is a God, but he lets us do what we want most of the time,” Lena says.
“Then why do we need him?”
“It has nothing to do with needing him. He exists and is all powerful so we have
to listen to him.”
“He sounds like Hitler.”
“Sandra! If they hear you talk like that about God and Hitler, they will think
you‘re a Commie.”
“At least the Commies are not taking grandfathers or Jews away in boxcars,”
“We don‘t know that there are any boxcars. Just what the boys say.
“I saw a boxcar full of people when I first came here,” Sandra says.
“You never told me.”
“I forgot. But I saw them. The boxcar was burning and these people were standing
out in the field and there were policemen with guns guarding them. They were probably
“If the boys saw the boxcars, why can‘t we go see them? Then we‘ll know if it‘s
true or not,” Lena says.
The boys who are willing to take them to the boxcar site are two of the nastiest
kids in their school. Both are two years older than Sandra and Lena. Sandra sneaks from
her house after midnight and meets Lena by her shed. They hunker down as they move
through the shadows of the village. Curt and Houser meet them at the cemetery on the
outskirts of the village. Three hours of walking get them to an old factory site. Behind the
factory are lines of boxcars. They stand in the shadows at the top of a brush-covered hill.
“I told you!” Houser says. “Those are all Jews and if we stay here long enough,
some of them will be dead Jews.”
“Yeah, there‘s always some jerk Jew who mouths off to the guards and gets his
ass blown away,” Curt says.
“How do you know those are Jews?” Lena says.
“Don‘t you know nothing?” Houser says. “Those stars on their clothes mean those
“I saw some people in the city with stars on their jackets,” Sandra says. “Grandpa
said he didn‘t know what it meant.”
“He lied,” Curt says. “Everybody knows what it means.”
“My Grandpa doesn’t lie!”
“You two stop before someone hears us and blows our asses away,” Houser
There is a commotion by the boxcars. The guards are screaming at ten or twelve
of the Jews. The guards are forcing them, into a line, with the barrels of their guns. They
make six men, three women, and a boy about Sandra‘s age strip and lay spread-eagled
face up on the gravel. The guards shoot directly into the passive bodies. Sandra and Lena
“Oh, shit!” Houser says.
Both of the guards turn quickly and look directly at the hill. They fire toward
Sandra and the others. Curt takes a bullet in his upper thigh. He falls to the ground.
Houser darts from the hill and runs in the direction of their village. The guards jump into
a small military jeep and speed toward the hill. Sandra and Lena pull Curt up by his arms
and drag him into the shadows of a block building. Curt is screaming. Sandra puts her
hand over his mouth. The jeep speeds up to the entrance of the block building.
“There‘s where they came up the hill,” a guard says. The jeep speeds down the
hill. Then it is silent except for the sobbing of the children. The silence is broken by
“They killed Houser,” Lena whispers, “next, they‘ll kill us!”
“No, they won‘t! Grab his arm,” Sandra says.
Lena bends down and tries to lift but Curt is hunkered forward, sobbing. “I can‘t,”
Lena says. “We have to leave him and get some help.” They both dart down the hill away
from the oncoming sound of the jeep. They hear Curt‘s screams and then gunshots. They
run through the brush, but Sandra stumbles. Lena runs back and helps her dear friend
stand. Sandra limps but starts running when they hear the jeep bearing down on them.
They fight their way through the bramble bushes until small spots of blood decorate their
legs and arms and faces. But, now, five vehicles are searching for the sobbing, young
girls. They move deep into the forest and flinch at every sound.
After miles of walking, their sobbing stops, and there is no sound of jeeps, but
they move cautiously through the thick growth: there is the rotted head of some kind of
animal. Lena screams. Sandra puts her hand over her friend‘s mouth. “Shut up,” Sandra
whispers and looks around. “You want to be caught and spread-eagled and blown away?”
The animal has been butchered for sport not for food, Sandra thinks. What if there
is something or someone in the forest that has no thought about the war. The war is only
his camouflage to butcher innocent animals. She accuses the killer of being a he because
women are rarely insane enough to hurt animals just for the sport of it. This is man‘s
sport. Maggots have eaten the eyes but Sandra is certain the animal died a horrible death.
She looks around. Why is the world so violent? Why can‘t it be gentle?
“Some crazy bastard is out here,” Sandra says.
Lena half-smiles. “I hope he only hates animals.”
“I think a guy like this is like my father; he hates everything.”
“I wish my father was here, right now, he would lead us out of this.” Lena says.
“Yes but he would never believe that we saw what we saw.”
“My father believes in the Nazis only because he believes they will solve the Jew
Problem. If he thought the guards only kill Jews he would be for the guards.”
“How did your father get so twisted?”
“He is just one of many Germans who are twisted,” Lena says. “I will try to
explain to him what we saw. Let‘s get moving, we have to be home before dawn.” Her
voice is horse from sucking in air through her mouth. “How can we get back home if the
troops are out looking for us?” Lena says.
“We know what village we are from but they don‘t so they‘ll have to search in all
directions from the factory. They don‘t have the manpower. Come on lets keep moving.”
Sandra picks up the pace faster then faster. She throws caution to the wind and almost
starts running. But she trips. Lena catches her before she is damaged goods.
“Let‘s slow it down,” Lena says.
“Okay. But. I‘m more frightened about Grandma than the Nazis.”
“You should be, she‘s tougher than any old Nazi.” Lena says.
They move quickly through the forest but dawn is chasing them and maybe
something else. Lena looks over her shoulder and screams. Standing on the edge of the
forest is Houser. He has a bullet hole through the center of his dirt caked forehead. Blood
runs from both of his shoulders and his left leg is missing. But still he is able to stand.
Lena and Sandra run up to him.
“Houser, how in Heaven‘s name did you get here?” Sandra says.
“I just kept moving. But I think I‘m dead now,” he says. His body topples forward
and reveals a makeshift crutch he‘s been using. They drag his dead body deeper into the
forest and cover it with branches and dry brambles. Now, neither lets go of the others
hand. They arrive back at the village before dawn. A few vendors are on the streets but
most of the village is still sleeping.
“Do I look as beat up as you do?” Lena says.
“You have small cuts on your face and legs,” Sandra says, “how we going to
“You‘re the brain.” Lena says.
“No, you‘re the brain,” Sandra says. “I know, grab a couple of branches.” They
walk up to the front steps of Sandra‘s house. “Okay, start sword fighting and shouting.”
They cross branches and start the fight; the commotion brings Sandra‘s
grandmother to the door. “Sandra! Get in here and get ready for school!”
Sandra drops her branch and runs into her house. Lena hesitates and then dashes
into her house.
Sandra still holds her branch as she runs past her grandmother.
“Sandra, you foolish child!” Her grandmother says. “You could have poked your
eye out. Look at your face and legs. What if you have permanent scars?”
“We were just playing, Grandma,” Sandra says and runs up the stairs to her room.
Sandra and Lena are certain that Gestapo will come from every shadow or walk
straight into one of their classrooms and snatch them up and put them into a boxcar
headed for the Death Camp or just make them strip right in front of their classmates and
lay down by the chalkboard and spread-eagle and bang, bang. They agree that they can
never tell a soul that they know how Curt and Houser died. Rumor is the two bullies ran
away to join the German heroes at the front. Sandra and Lena speak, in glowing terms
about the two bullies, when they are asked for their opinions about what happened to Curt
“They were both always nice to Lena and me,” Sandra says. “They told some tall
tales about the boxcars of Jews and stuff like that. But as I said, they were always nice to
“They spoke often about going and helping the Germans at the Front,” Lena says
and smiles a Sandra.
“Especially Houser: that‘s all he talked about: that and those silly boxcars,”
Sandra says. “I know that if anyone can survive this war it‘s got to be those two ruffians.
“They were not our friends but we liked them.” Lena looks toward Sandra. “Well,
they didn‘t just talk about the Front and the boxcars. They many time talked about pulling
wings off of flies. And dancing on the graves of the Americans and the British. But I
don‘t think Curt could dance.”
“Why do you use past tense?” a classmate asks.
“Just a slip up. I meant can dance that‘s all. They talked about a lot of things,” she
looks over at Sandra.
“How to burn down a cornfield at just the right time of year.” Sandra says.
“And unbolting the classroom desks and the girls‘ bathroom doors,” Lena says.
“Putting someone‘s bicycle on the train tracks.”
“But they were always nice to us,” Lena says.
“Yeah, they were always nice to us,” Sandra says.
“Houser explained to us about the necessity of Germany to occupy Rome And to
make sure the Catholics didn’t side with the Jews.” Lena said. “My father says the Pope
wants to rule the world. And the world might end with the Catholics fighting the Jews.”
“I thought your father liked the Catholics because they hate the Jews because of
what they did to Jesus.”
“You would think so but all he can talk about is how wonderful it is that the
German’s now control Rome.”
MORNING, MARCH 24, 1945 PATTON’S MEN STORM OVER RHINE Nazis Say
Other Crossings Made on 215-Mile Front PARIS, March 23, (U.P.) Lt. Gen. George S.
Patton’s famed 3rd Army troops have stormed across the Rhine and established a solid,
expanding bridgehead on the direct road to Berlin…255 miles away, it was announced
tonight, as Berlin reported that other Allied forces are crossing the historic river barrier at
other points along a 215-mile front.
Seven years of war and, at the end, the people of Germany go through devastating air
raids. There is little to eat; whatever food there is goes to the troops. Sandra doesn’t
understand why the troops eat eggs and she gets none or at the most one egg a month.
She likes eggs; it doesn’t seem fair that she can’t eat as many as her hen can lay.
Grandma really doesn’t like eggs so she doesn’t miss having a nice breakfast of eggs, but
Sandra does miss those eggs more than anything. She is delivering three eggs to the army
supply depot. How will they know if she just takes one? She thinks. They won’t know.
She thinks about just taking one egg and downing it raw, but she doesn’t really like raw
eggs. Grandpa does, but he is someplace where they probably only get porridge for
breakfast; maybe they get porridge for every meal; maybe they only get one bowl of
porridge per day and nothing else to eat. Sandra decides to just deliver the eggs and go
home and be happy with what she has. In the village, where Sandra lives, no one is
starving but no one is getting fat either.
“At least we have food,” Sandra’s grandmother says.
“We don’t have any food,” Sandra says.
“Yes we do. It is out there in the fields. It just needs to be tended to. If we tend to
it we will grow all the food we need.”
“I hate vegetables,” Sandra says. “And if we try to work the fields, we’ll be killed
by the bombs.”
“I would rather we be killed by bombs than to starve to death.” Her grandmother
says. “We will wait, and when there is a lull in the bombing, we will tend the fields and
gather some food each time. Each time there is a lull. No matter if it is night or day.”
“We will all die, Grandma! Grandpa is already in Heaven with Mother.”
“Your grandfather is not in Heaven. I’m not even sure they would let him in. He’s
in Dachau. He’s in Hell.” She runs her fingers through Sandra’s long blonde hair: still
kept clean by her grandmother even though the rest of the world is becoming rubble and
tangled and dirty. Her grandmother whispers, more to herself than to Sandra, “Your
grandfather will survive this just as we will. We will all be together when it ends.”
“When will it end, Grandma?”
“When the Americans cross the Rhine.”
“Will the Americans kill us?”
“Neither side will kill us, on purpose. We are unimportant. We mean so little in
the scheme of things. They don’t give a damn if we starve to death or if they hit us with a
bomb or run us over with a tank, but neither side will kill us, on purpose.”
“Because we are not Jewish?” Sandra said.
“No, because we are not important.”
“Then it is good to be not important during a war,” Sandra says.
Her grandmother hugs her tightly. “Sandra, love of my life, you act so smart for
your age. Yes to be unimportant during a war is the best way to be. Let’s hope we are so
unimportant that the bombs don’t seek us out while we tend to our garden.”
There is steady bombing. American and British planes fly over day and night to
bomb the points, so there is no way that most of the farmers will tend the fields because
they fear a stray bomb. But during these bomb raids; with the sound of bombs going off
at what Sandra things to be every hour, Sandra and Grandma tend their garden.
Where do they get all those bombs? Somebody builds the bombs. Why does a
good human being on either side build bombs; they can only be used for two things: to
destroy and to kill. So why does a person build bombs? If they stop building the
messengers of death, the plants will close down and the planes will have nothing to drop;
or maybe they can drop food. Lots of food: meat and potatoes and no vegetables but lots
of eggs. Oh, no, Sandra thinks, they can’t, they can’t drop eggs because they will all
break unless they drop them on mattresses; everyone in the village can put their
mattresses out in a big square as big as a gymnasium and then the pilots can drop the
eggs. But for now, Sandra becomes a vegetarian; she can’t believe that somewhere in the
world there live people who voluntarily become vegetarians right next to a big restaurant
whose specialty is steak and eggs.
“Why is God allowing this war?”
“Maybe he’s testing for angels,” her grandmother says.
“Do you think we passed the test?” Sandra says.
“I hope not,” her grandmother says. “I’m not ready to leave this earth yet.”
The bombs come closer and closer. One blows apart the shed behind Lena’s
house. Sandra knows that Lena’s father is ready to kill all American or British troops that
come to the village. “When they come to ‘liberate’ the village; I’ll liberate them.” He
says and puts his rife up and sights down the barrel toward the horizon.
During one of the many bombings, Sandra and her grandmother tend a goat
“Grandma, I’m frightened, we must go.”
“No, Sandra, if we leave her now, her baby will die.” Her grandmother says. “I
am almost finished, and then we will run like the wind. And with God’s good graces,
we’ll be safe.”
They run from the barn. Most everything is on fire.
“What if a bomb hits the barn?” Sandra says. “The mama goat and her baby will
be killed. We should bring them with us.”
“We can’t help them any more than we already helped them. Now, we need to
take ourselves from harm’s way.”
“Why did we stay and help them if they’re just going to die anyway?”
“Sandra! The mama and her baby will be okay,” her grandmother says as she runs
and yanks Sandra toward safety.
“Does God use goat angels?” Sandra says. “I think.” Sandra stops dead. There is
the body of the old lady who lives across from the bakery; the side of her head is blown
off. She is so far from home. It makes no sense, Sandra thinks. Sandra stops and throws
up what little food she has eaten. Her grandmother pushes her ahead. They stumble
toward the cellar where family and friends are huddled, and frightened and crying and
screaming and praying. Boom! A bomb explodes near Sandra. She cries out for her
grandmother; a splinter of shrapnel spikes into the left side of her head. Blood streams
down the planes of her beautiful face. She falls; face down in the dirt, screaming. Her
grandmother scoops her up and carries her through the debris to the cellar. Sandra
“You need to take her to the nurse’s house,” a friend says.
“She’ll never make it,” Another says. “The bombs fall too heavily. They are
bombing everything. No regard for women or children or any of us. It won’t stop until
they level all of Germany.”
“Shut up!” Sandra’s grandmother says. “Hold her so I can remove the shrapnel,”
The friend holds Sandra who is thrashing and screaming. Sandra’s grandmother
takes a pair of small pliers, digs them into the wound. Sandra never felt such pain; it
drives through her entire body. Sandra is certain her grandmother is not even trying to be
gentle. She tries to pull away from the probing pliers, but she is held fast. All Sandra