I have committed no crime, but my community and I have suffered as if we have. I’m not of a race that threatens the ‘racial purity’ of this doomed Reich, but still I’m detained here. I’m a German. But before all that, before my nationality and heritage, I am a Jehovah’s Witness. I stand firm.
It’s not just my five sons who were lost to me, but many of my friends, and even my husband. For many years before these camps were probably even established, we were wronged. It is not my position to judge others, nor was it anybody else’s to judge us. It is something we learnt to contend with. The boundaries of tolerance are limitless to those who are humble and determined enough to pursue it.
My sons, while at school, were cruelly teased and tormented more than I’m sure they cared to discuss. On one occasion my youngest, Paul, was mercilessly beaten in front of me as I collected him from school. Two uniformed guards demanded he participate in the Heil Hitler salute. His polite refusal sent them into a patriotic fuelled frenzy and they raised their large, rough hands to his face and beat him for his disrespect to the “Fuhrer”. Paul’s unwillingness to accept the authority of the state infuriated them. It broke my heart seeing the frustration and hatred of these soldiers unleashed onto my child. Although he cried out and I begged them to stop, they hit him harder and harder. They hit him until the blood pouring from his nose covered their hands. I picked up his small and whimpering body from the ground once they had walked off. He pressed his bruised and bleeding face into my chest as I carried him back to our home.
“Mama”he sobbed quietly, over and over.As I walked, Paul’s small arms tightened around my neck.
Even as I write this, the sorrow I feel churns my stomach, and the piercing ache of longing cuts through my chest. There is nothing I would not give to see Paul again.
The soldier grimaced. He wondered what had happened to Paul, and he was outraged that anyone could beat a child like that. He found himself shaking his head with disapproval. He was finding it increasingly difficult to read on. But, in an indescribable way, he felt comforted at the same time by this woman, this mother of five who, even here, seemed selfless. Her warmth reached through the cold pages.