Get To Know Someone.......My neighbor was an old man when I first met him. He had gray hair and sad brown eyes, and he was the kind of man that would lean against a wall with a cigarette in his hand. Later, my dad told me the story.
My neighbor had been a victim of a concentration camp in the Holocaust. He was Jewish, and so were many other people. A letter came in the mail telling his family that there was a camp with good working conditions, if only they got on a train in the next week. Relieved from escaping the soldiers walking the streets, the family packed up immediately and boarded the train without asking any questions. Nobody told them how long the train ride would last, or where they were going. On the train, everybody was at first polite to each other, but a week went by without any stops, and many people died on the train from lack of water. People began to worry and wondered what was wrong. Finally, after two weeks, the train stopped at the camp. But it wasn't the camp everybody was expecting. It had a dark and cold look to it, and guards were posted all around it to stop people from escaping. The family was separated by gender, my neighbor and his father, and his mother and three sisters. The two walked in a line in front of a finely dressed man that pointed to which way you needed to go in the camp: right or left. The young boys were told to go to the right. The older ones, 16 and above, were told to go to the left. My neighbor was fourteen at the time, but he felt that something bad was going to happen to the boys under sixteen, so when it was his turn to step forward, the finely dressed man asked him how old he was.
"Sixteen," he replied, his voice trembling from the lie. The man stared at him suspiciously.
"No, you're not." he said with a frown. Sudden anger came up out of him, and he shouted. "I'm sixteen and I know my rights!" Startled, the guard quickly pointed left. The boys going to the right were to be executed.
After a few days at the camp with his father, my neighbor began to wonder what had happened to his mother and three sisters. He asked other Jews, but nobody would answer him. Finally, he got the nerve to ask one of the guards.
"Excuse me, sir," he said. "Have you seen my mother and sisters?"
The guard stared at him and slowly pointed his arm at a building that emitted dark smoke from the chimneys. Screams of people being burned to death echoed inside.
"There," the guard said quietly, "Is where your mother and sisters are."
His father got sick of the fever and was burned to death as well. You can't imagine what it must have felt like to know that your family was just murdered, and that you could be next. After three years, he was moved with the rest of the Jews in the concentration camp back onto a train. He got the fever aboard it, and was thrown out of the moving train to stop other people from getting sick. He walked to a town and was told that all the people aboard the train he had been on had all been executed. He was the only one alive.
Heartbroken, he moved to America and married, but his wife died just a few months ago. Now he just sits in his house and stares out the windows. ...LT. Brian