I had no possessions with me, in the commotion my tiny suitcase was left in the truck. It contained none of my own belongings, a small hoard of items I had stolen or bartered for in the ghetto. It was no great loss to me. So I stood cross-armed and waiting. I noticed as the closer we got the soldier up the front, the women began to slowly and slyly tidy themselves. Smoothing back their hair, wiping the grime from their cheeks, adjusting their dirty blouses. The filthy conditions in the truck had soiled our worn clothes and left us looking untidy. An older woman with what looked to be her grandchildren in front of me, took the bottom of her skirt, spat on it, and rubbed the face of the two little children with it.
The fussing of the women, unnerved me and a sickly feeling washed over me. Like a stone, sitting heavily in the pit of my stomach. Weighing me down- a death like dread. I tucked my blouse into my skirt, and smoothed down the front of it as best I could. I retied my hair in a tight bun at the nape of my neck, to cover the dirt that had built up there. The longer I waited, the more nervous I got. My mouth dried out.
What stands out in my memory was how dry my mouth was. Although there was an icy chill in the night air, I was thirsty. It dawned on me, that I would not get a drink, an offer to sit and rest my aching legs. Courtesy was something that did not exist here. Offset by indignation, was a growing feeling; desertion, desolation. I saw no respite in my future, and those despondent feelings were quickly stamped out by anger. That thirst? It was never quenched.
Before I reached the front of the line, the women in front of me were whispering something about the way in which the man was pointing. I didn’t realise the magnitude of importance the flick of the brownshirts finger had until it came my turn.
When the older woman who was in front of me in the line came face to face with the soldier, it was an odd sight. This tall, severe brute, whose uniformed was adorned in pointless gleaming medals, towered over the small lady. He pointed to the right, and as the woman moved to the right, she took her children with her. One of the surroundings soldiers jumped in;
“TYLKO TY, ZOSTAWIAJ DZIECI. ONLY YOU LEAVE THE CHILDREN!” he screamed at her in Polish.
The woman looked shocked. She grabbed the children by the arms and tried to explain that they needed to come with her.Although the old woman was shouting, the officer wasn’t listening. He quickly barked out orders in German, and the same soldier that had spoken Polish came forward and grabbed the old woman by the hair. She fell, and he dragged her off as she was kicking, trying to loosen his grip. The old woman was screaming to the children, and they back to her. The last discernable thing I could make out between her frenzied and hysterical cries was her telling the children to look after each other. The children, of about fifteen began to scream and cry after their babcia, but it was useless and they were visciously shoved to the left.
The feeling of dread spread around my body and almost paralyzed me as I forced myself to move forward. I was terrified beyond all sense after seeing what had just happened. But I stared blankly in the face of the officer. I stood up at my full height and I barely reached his chest. I glowered at him. I was intoxicated by a mix of blinding fury and terror. The officer simply flicked his finger to the left, barely looking at me. I made my way to the back of the group, where stood the two sobbing children and grabbed their hands.
‘Cisza, hush,’ I hissed at them. Gradually, their heaving sobs eased into to soft whimpers. As I felt the girls grips tighten around my hands almost simultaneoulsy, it struck me, that the lives here are worth nothing. Nothing. We are all now but numbers. They tore apart what remained of that babcias life when they took her away from her granchildren. They rip apart lives with a similar ease like that of ripping paper. It means the same to them, nothing. We are here, now numbers, less than nothing.
Those two girls, are long dead. I had to carry both their starved and tiny bodies to the pit where the corpses are stacked. One would think, that this would be enough to send any person to the brink of death themselves. But in this place, what the body can cope with, is unimaginable.