A new work of historical fiction by retired teacher, Reg Upfield.
The Day Before the Dawn of the Holocaust.
Here is the first scene:
He had nowhere to go – from time perspective we could say, that his situation was illustrating the tough position of the whole nation. He had to get used to insults and pokes. He’d known them since the very beginning, although he had never known such overwhelming solitude before. He was alone. Unknown circumstances led to his fight with his relatives. In a hurry, with his head filled with anger and without thinking too much, he’d packed up the most necessary things: documents, clothes, the rest of his savings. Then he had left the house of his uncle and aunt, and he was alone on the streets of Paris.
One rainy evening, November of 1938, was exceptionally unpleasant and threatening. The City of Light was crying, but even under hundreds of light posts, it was impossible to tell apart, the tears of fury, from the cold raindrops rolling down the boy’s cheeks. Passing pedestrians paid no attention to the obviously distressed youth. They sought shelter for themselves.
Puddles were squelching under his boots as he walked those empty streets. He had no idea where he was heading, nor where to go. It was like running through the tunnel of despair – streets merged with thoughts, bland lights smudged in tearful eyes. And the heart – it thumped, mimicking the arrhythmic canter of the horseshoes he heard.
He checked into a poor hotel in the city centre. There he sat on the bed, the walls of the sparsely furnished room flickered with the light from an old kerosene lamp. From a soaking wet bag, he took a postcard from his sister. The message was terse: “We were not permitted to return to our homes. I begged to be allowed to return home to get at least a few essential things. So, I left, with Shupo accompanying me and I packed a valise with the most necessary clothes. That is all I could save. We don’t have a cent. To be continued when next I write. Warm greetings and kisses from us all. Berta.”
From the newspaper reports, he knew that Polish Jews were expelled from Germany at the time. Earlier that year Polish President Mościcki made a decree to revoke citizenship for those who were abroad for more than five years. Many of those people were now officially stateless and unable to cross the frontier. His Polish passport was expired and although he tried to regularise his status in France, he never succeeded.
The young man came close to the mirror. In its dirty surface, he saw his face, the fearful expression of a hunted animal. Those eyes; devoid of hope, his soul heavy – helplessness. Suicidal thoughts were emerging – it was such a tempting solution. He had nowhere to run.
However, when he woke up the next morning, an idea had formed in his mind. Just as if someone had hidden a roadmap under his pillow. He moved with purpose, long steady strides took him to the small table where he sat, placed the provided paper before him, grasped the pen in a steady hand and dipping the nib in the inkwell, he wrote in Hebrew.
“I couldn’t do otherwise. My heart bleeds when I think of our tragedy and that of the twelve-thousand Jews. I must protest in a way that the whole world hears and this I intend to do. I beg your forgiveness. Herman.”
That note was directed to his uncle. He hid that piece of paper in his wallet. Checking out from the hotel, he walked to the nearby gunsmith. Without any problems, the boy bought a revolver and rounds of ammo. Back in his hotel room, he placed the parcel he'd carried from the gunsmith on the table. Only a twitch of his lip, a blink, before he untied the string, hinted at the emotions whirling in his mind. His lips remained still, pursed tight, as he unwrapped the brown paper wrapped parcel, withdrew and loaded the gun, which he placed in his coattail.
To be continued:
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