December 10th, 1942.
That’s the day my freedom was taken from me.
The day that suddenly Hitler and the rest of Germany decided to throw the blame on me, and everyone that is like me. I’ll never forget the day they kicked me and my family out of my house. It was December, and it was fairly cold in Berlin. It was even snowing. I will never forget the disheartened look on my mothers face. Her nose was bright red, and the white snowflakes were falling on her dark hair, creating the most beautiful contrast. Her eyes were watering, and it was so cold that I swear her tears could freeze the second that they escaped from underneath her thick, long eyelashes. They split my family up between carts. My mother in the second cart, my two brothers and father in the third, and myself in the first. I refused to give up. I tried running to her, but the Nazi officer just picked me up and threw me into my own lousy cart. It was humid, dirty, smelly. I reached down into my pocket for the last thing I had to remember my family by - a golden locket. I held it so dearly in my hands. I may have lost my family, but I’m never letting this go the way they did. Earlier in the Holocaust, these Nazi officers used to lie to us and tell us that we were “going on vacation”, or that we were going to a meeting, anywhere but a concentration or labor camp. However, then they decided to spare us the pity and not say anything.
They realized we’re not that stupid, nor naive.
“What’s your name, hun?”
I looked over; the person looked familiar. Male, button nose, bright green eyes. He didn’t look Jewish, what was he doing here?
“What’s your name?” he pushed. I didn’t understand what wasn’t clear to him, I was not in the mood for small talk.
“Sarah,” I muttered.
“What about your last name? There’s plenty of Sarah’s in Germany.”
“Bauer,” I hesitated.
“Mine’s Vincent,” he said. “You can call me Vince.” I nodded and looked down at my locket, trying to avoid eye contact. He continued to look at me.
“Where’s your family?” He asked. His inquiries were really starting to get on my nerves.
“The Nazi’s got them and split us up. What’s it to you?” I shot back at him.
He stopped looking at me. Now he was looking down at his lap and trying to avoid eye contact.
“They got mine a long time ago.”
It was day three on the deportation cart. Just as people were growing more and more irritable, we had arrived at our destination. Auschwitz. I’m not sure exactly which country I was in, but I knew I was in Auschwitz, and I knew I was there alone. No mommy or daddy to guide me. I stepped off the cart and the only things I could smell were the salt of peoples tears masked by the rotting of human flesh. They lined us all up outside the gate and paused seemingly to give us one last taste of what is was like to be free. They marched us in. Looking around, all I could see were bodies and faces - yet nobody seemed to have a soul left. They looked like zombies who were lingering between life and death and it frightened me to think that that is what I was going to become. Vince stood behind me. Even a seemingly proud man like himself could hardly bare the sight we were both witnessing. He dropped to his knees, finally noticing what was going to become of us.
“Aufstehen!” Stand up One guard yelled with a smug look on his face. I helped Vince up, not wanting him to start any trouble on his first day. We continued to march, but Vince was struggling so I offered a hand. He brushed off the dirt that scuffed his clothes and looked up at me. "Thanks," he said. I looked back and replied "it's no problem, I just don't want any trouble, that's all."
As the day progressed, I started to feel more tired and more lonely. The only person I had at this point was Vince, but that sounded ridiculous, seeing that I just met the guy. What other option did I have? He seemed pretty trustworthy, and seemed to at least mildly understand what I was going through. Plus, his soft green eyes were comforting. He also somehow still managed to smell like the old bakery shop back home, which was comforting in a place that was so, so far away.
As months had passed, Vince and I began to fall into a routine. We noticed that the Nazi officers took a cigarette break every couple of hours. During those cigarette breaks, Vince and I would take a little break of our own. It was working great so far, I mean, no one has noticed. No one has gotten shot yet. During our personal break, we’d sneak off and try to find some food. As always, Vince would try to start some small talk.
“So, what exactly is your story, Ms. Sarah Bauer?”
He said it somewhat sarcastically. How could someone be in such a teasing mood at a time like this?
“I don’t have much of one,” I wasn’t paying attention to responding to him at all. All I cared about in the moment was getting as much bread as I could.
“That can’t be right. There’s gotta be something to you. There’s something to everyone,” he insisted. I don’t think he’ll ever quit.
“What’s your story, then?” I guess his story could be interesting. I would like to see where all of his optimism comes from.
“Well, what do you want to know?” He didn’t seem as interested in talking about himself, but he was willing.
I had to think about it a little. “I don’t know, I don’t care either. Whatever you will tell me is good enough.”
“Well, obviously you don’t seem to remember me, but I go to the same academy as you. I’m in your Algebra class, I’m about the same age as you, seventeen, right?”
Algebra class. That’s where I once saw his familiar green eyes.
“Right?” He repeated. I gave him a nod.
“My parents were owners of the main bakery in Berlin. I had a sister, Elsa, but she passed away when she was two in a house raid. Both my parents were rounded up and shot by Nazi officers, and now I’m here. I’m here probably to fall into the same fate that caught up to them.”
For once, Vince wasn’t optimistic. It was silent after he spoke. For once, I didn’t want to resist Vince. I felt pity for him.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to unleash all of that on you. Just a lot of weight on my shoulders.” He had stopped looking at me and looked back at the bread, grabbing some more of it.
“Vince..” I hesitated.
“What if we…” I was still hesitating. I couldn’t get it out.
“If we what, Sarah?”
I still couldn’t get it out. He was sitting there, waiting.
“What if we escape?”
“Sarah, have you lost your mind? If they catch us anywhere near that fence, they will shoot us!” Vince almost seemed angry, however I knew it was just his concern that was showing through.
“So what if they shoot us? We’ve already lost everything. Our parents, our siblings, what else do we have to lose? I’m not going to let myself live here and rot under Nazi control. I will not starve myself, and I will not give into working for Hitler. I want to escape, and I want you to come with me. If we were to get shot, we would be better off than rotting away here in this hell hole. Let’s escape, Vince.”
For once, Vince sat quietly.
“Why’re you just sitting there? Don’t you have an answer?”
“I’m trying to think,” Vince had seemed frustrated.
He looked up at me.
“Let’s do it.”
We finished stuffing our mouths with bread and prepared ourselves.
“Are you ready?” I asked Vince. “As soon as I say go, we run as fast as we can. No stopping no matter what, because this is life of freedom or death. I’m right here with you. You can’t stop, understand?”
Vince nodded. “I’m ready,” he confirmed.
“Alright,” I stifled. “Go!”
We began to run. The fence was so far, but it made our freedom feel so close. I could feel my heartbeat out of my chest, my stomach fill with butterflies, the blood pumping through my body like a rush.
“Stopp! Lassen Sie sie nicht entkommen!” We heard the guards yell behind us. Stop. Do not let them escape, they were screaming. But they could not stop us. We were going to escape. We were already so close, and they were so far. They tried to round up more guards.
“Climb the fence!” I told Vince.
We both started clawing at the fence and trying to catch as fast as possible. We could not let them get us now. We were much too close.
They had begun to shoot, but it was already too late. Right at the first fire, Vince and I had rolled off the top of the fence, onto the side of freedom.
“We did it, we’re free!” Exclaimed Vince.
“We’re free,” I gently said.
March 30th, 1945. That was the day Vince and I regained our freedom from Nazi Germany.