A proper post after a long time. This won the first prize in the writing competition organized by the magazine committee of my college.
A slight chill had crept into the freshness of Spring. Nature almost seemed to whisper to Sarah, “Dearest, the end draws nigh.” Sarah herself seemed prepared for it. That she had lived for more than sixty years after her several close encounters with the reaper, was itself a miracle of sorts. Sarah lit the candles on the menorah. She hardly ever bothered to do it these days but today felt different. The view of the meadows from her window was breathtaking. Blossoms of every hue covered the ground like a carpet. In the distance she could see a group of stately trees. It was a special place and she knew that today, she would have to visit it.
The staccato burst of a machine gun woke the six year old girl. “Come Sarah”, said the lady, “We have to leave”. Sarah could sense the urgency in her mother’s voice. The sound could mean only one thing – the Baum family, along with several others, was leaving Krakow. Where they were going, nobody knew. All they knew was, wherever they went, hope would not exist.
A tall blonde man with the characteristic blue eyes that remained cold and reminded everyone of the “supremacy” of his race bundled Sarah into the truck with her parents. Only Rabbi Moshe dared to aske, “Where are we going?” As the doors clanged shut, people screamed in terror. But it was not the darkness that scared them. It was the answer. Auschwitz. Purgatory would have sounded better, for they knew Auschwitz was a place where even the Devil would fear to tread.
It all came back to Sarah as she prayed to the Almighty to forgive her and leave her a place amongst her beloved parents. Her sweet, gentle mother who had had no strength to keep up with the monstrous pace set by the SS. her father, who once seemed full of vitality, but whose failing health meant that he would see the inside of a gas chamber within a year of arriving at Auschwitz.
Sarah did not work too hard till her mother died. From that day, she had to look out for herself. A human being reduced to his primeval instincts is a terrifying sight to behold and this was what Sarah saw each day as girlss slapped and punched and kicked and knifed their own mothers and sisters to get that extra morsel of bread or just a piece of cloth. She too had to fight to survive and she did just that.
As Sarah thought back to every incident that was clearly etched in her memory, she felt like she was going through them all over again. She did not have a single happy memory of that time. The happiest, she mused, might have been liberation day, when she was finally freed from the camp of death and forced to live in an orphanage. She had survived, she had her freedom, but no one to share it with. Her parents were dead and all her friends at camp, if she could call some of them that, were lost in that great exodus.
The next sixty years seemed to pass in a blur. It seemed as though after Liberation Day, this was the day that followed. She had outlived Hitler, the monster whose acts, she had thought, would never be repeated. Then came Stalin, Saddam, Ghaddafi and so many others who
offered hope and then betrayed millions.Sarah had survived the biggest war in human history and when she realized that history was very close to repeating itself, she felt her inner resolve leave her. Sarah no longer wished to survive, no longer felt the desire to revolt against the forces that professed themselves stronger than her. Sarah Baum had had enough of the horrors of war and the hypocrisies of peace.
She remembered the clump of trees. She knew there was a clearing in the center. It was completely covered by the lofty branches above, which made the place seem like a sanctuary. The trees were covered with delicate flowers which gently rained down towards the clearing below. She had spent many a lonely hour there, seeking solace from the Almighty.
Slowly she coaxed her frail body into the center of the clearing. Flowers fell all around her and as dusk set in, she hoped someone would say Kaddish for her eternal soul. She remembered all the good things in the world which were worth preserving and thanked God for being allowed to see them. her life, she felt, was a miracle. The pink flowers still fell gently as the end drew near. As she lay on the ground, she heard a lady call out, “Come Sarah, we have to leave”, and the world went pink.