Friday, 12 March 2010
The phone call has stunned me. I need to sit down and take a breath before I faint.
I look down at my forearm and see the numbers etched for a lifetime. The loose skin on it has made it difficult to read but even now, I can feel the pain.
I rub my fingers across the number and I remember the day as clearly as if it was happening right now and I am just a spectator watching it from the sidelines. The whole thing was surreal.
I remember sitting in the cattle train with my sister Eva, which was filled with so many people that we had to take turns to sit down to rest. Our journey had taken three nights, three nights without food and water, three nights of terror and exhaustion. On the fourth day when the train stopped, we were roughly pulled out on a platform filled with men, women and children. The guards were dressed in Nazi uniforms controlling the ferocious dogs barking at us.
Eva is just fourteen and I, Lisa am 16 years old. Our parents and younger brother had boarded a different train; I miss them and fear for them. We had seen other people being pushed onto trucks and who had never come back. We had heard of rumors that people were being killed and burnt in concentration camps. Both of us huddle close to each other as we are very scared and cold. We are herded with other women and made to march towards a gate. As we walk in the bitter cold, Eva and I lock hands.
We walk on and after sometime I see many brick buildings which are all surrounded by wire fencing. I see smoke coming out of a row of chimneys and a stench which I cannot decipher. I also see people with shaved heads wearing dirty striped pajamas. They all have hungry and sunken eyes. They are emaciated and look like walking skeletons. I am scared by their appearance.
Our group comes to a halt behind another row of women. The line is slowly inching forward and I can hear shouts and cries of women. I am so exhausted that I am numb. My legs are shaking and I am barely able to stand. Eva is standing next to me, tears trickling down her eyes. She too is shaking violently. Eva had always been a frail child. Her frame is so small that she actually looks like a ten year old. As our line moves ahead, the cries of women get louder and fear grips my heart.
As we move to the head of the line. Eva’s name is called out and she approaches the man sitting in uniform with some papers on the desk in front of him. There are other desks with other uniformed men who are all sitting in a row. I hear my name being called out and I approach the man. He asks if my name is Lisa Horowitz and I nod my head. He then asks me to strip my clothes, I am horrified and I refuse. I suddenly fall down to the ground as a cane hits me on my back. The pain is unbearable. I raise my eyes to see a woman in uniform holding a cane ready to beat me if I refused again. I get up out of sheer terror and start undressing. I see that other women are undressing too. Far on the left I see Eva standing naked, her head shaved, trying to cover herself with her hands. She is so thin that I can see she is just a mass of bones.
I undress completely and now my teeth are chattering so badly that I feel that any moment they are going to fall off. As my head is shaved, I see another woman dressed in striped clothes collecting the hair that is falling down. I want to run to Eva, to hold her and comfort her. She is my baby sister and I want to protect her. The laughter, the fights and the secrets we had shared while growing up, now just seem to be a distant dream.
All of us are again herded towards another desk. A white coated man is checking each woman out to see if she is healthy. I see him check Eva to see if she is fit for work. He pulls at her cheeks and the skin on her arms. He scribbles something on the paper and Eva is asked to stand in a group with people who are old and frail. She starts sobbing and that is when I realize that my sister was going to die. She was going to be gassed to death as she is too young to work.
I cry out: Oh! Please, she is my sister and she is fourteen and very strong. She will do any kind of work. Please, please let her come with me. I promise she will work.
Eva, I love you. Please be brave. I love you darling sister. I will always love you.
I stand there helpless as she is made to walk with the others to a brick building. I can see smoke rising furiously from the chimneys. I see her pleading eyes and then the door is banged shut and locked. That was the last time I ever saw Eva, my darling sister.
I suddenly feel the wetness on my cheeks. I wipe my tears. It has been more than 65 years since that terrible cold winter morning at Auschwitz.
How can I be crying today? My Eva is alive, she is a grandmother now. I have just spoken to her on the phone. There is a surge of emotions and I feel as if my heart will not be able to bear this happiness. Eva was never killed in the gas chamber. That is all I know right now. My grandson has traced her. He traced her with the help of kind people who have set up an organization to help the survivors of the Holocaust.
She is coming to meet me tomorrow. I have so many questions, I have so much to talk and listen. I want to hold her and tell her how much I love her and that I always loved her.
P.S: This is a work of fiction. I have been reading books and watching documentaries about the Holocaust for quite some time which inspired me to write this story. This is my tribute to the victims of Holocaust, one of the most deplorable acts carried out by the human race.