A Girl with an Apple
> A Girl with an Apple
> August 1942. Piotrkow , Poland.
> The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously.. All the men,
women and children of Piotrkow's Jewish ghetto had been herded into a
square. Word had gotten around that we were being moved. My father had
only recently died from typhus, which had run rampant through the
crowded ghetto. My greatestfear was that our family would be separated.
> "Whatever you do," Isidore, my eldest brother, whispered to me,"don't
tell them your age. Say you're sixteen." I was tall for a boy of 11, so
I could pull it off. That way I might be deemed valuable as a worker.
> An SS man approached me, boots clicking against the cobblestones. He
looked me up and down, then asked my age. "Sixteen,"I said.He directed
me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men
> My mother was motioned to the right with the other women, children,
sick and elderly people. I whispered to Isidore, "Why?" He didn't
answer. I ran to Mama's side and said I wanted to stay with her.
"No,"she said sternly. "Get away. Don't be a nuisance. Go with your
> She hadnever spoken so harshly before. But I understood: She was
protecting me. She loved me so much that, just this once, she pretended
not to. It was the last I ever saw of her.
> My brothers and I were transported in a cattle car to Germany . We
arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp one night weeks later and
were led into a crowded barrack. The next day, we were issued uniforms
andidentification numbers."Don't call me Herman anymore." I said to my
brothers. "Call me 94983."
> I was put to work in the camp's crematorium, loading the dead into a
hand-cranked elevator. I, too, felt dead. Hardened, I had become a
> Soon, my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald's
sub-camps near Berlin. One morning I thought I heard my mother's
voice,"Son,"she said softly but clearly, I am going to send you an
angel." Then I woke up. Just a dream. A beautiful dream. But in this
place there could be no angels. There was only work. And hunger. And
> A couple of days later, I was walking around the camp, around the
barracks, near the barbed-wire fence where the guards could not easily
see. I was alone. On the other side of the fence, Ispotted someone: a
little girl with light, almost luminous curls. She was half-hidden
behind a birch tree. I glanced around to make sure no one saw me. I
called to her softly in German. "Do you have something to eat?" She
didn't understand. I inched closer to the fence and repeated the
question in Polish. She stepped forward. I was thin and gaunt, with rags
wrapped around my feet, but the girllooked unafraid. In her eyes, I saw
> She pulled an apple from her woolen jacket and threw it over the
fence. I grabbed the fruit and, as I started to run away, I heard her
say faintly, "I'll see you tomorrow." I returned to the same spot by the
fence at the same time every day. She was always there with something
for me to eat - a hunk of bread or, better yet, an apple. We didn'tdare
speak or linger. To be caught would mean death for us both. I didn't
know anything about her, just a kind farm girl, except that she
understood Polish. What was her name? Why was she risking her life for
me? Hope was in such short supply, and this girl on the other side of
the fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and
> Nearly seven months later, mybrothers and I were crammed into a coal
car and shipped to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia. "Don't
return," I told the girl that day. "We're leaving." I turned toward the
barracks and didn't look back, didn't even say good-bye to the little
girl whose name I'd never learned, the girl with the apples.
> We were in Theresienstadt for three months. The war was winding down
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