The following essays were selected from winning submissions over a five year period to the Luna Kaufman Writing and Art Contest and were published in Flowers from the Ashes, An Anthology of Students' Writing and Art on the Holocaust.The B'nai Sholem/Beth El Foundation of Temple Beth El, Oakhurst, New Jersey funded the print version of our anthology. All rights remain with the writers.
Prejudice Marielle Cartagena
Hannah, My Friend Ju-Young Lee
A Marked Star Christopher Devine
A Holocaust Nightmare Laura Zamora
Holocaust Museum, New York City Melissa Hochman
It has happened in Germany,
It is happening in Darfur.
Whether it affects millions,
Or one person on the street corner,
It is happening,
And will happen again.
It is like smoke,
Slowly seeping everywhere.
If people don't open their eyes,
And realize the wrong,
Prejudice will end the world.
I will never forget Hannah. My friend. I will never forget....
"Wake up! Wake up!" My mother whispered while shaking me. "You must get up now!"
"Why?" I asked sleepily.
You'll see," she said.
I walked outside my bedroom. Standing in the doorway was a girl about my age. She was wearing rags and was very skinny. She looked so scared.
"Katherine," my mother said, "This is Hannah. She is a Jew."
I was so surprised. I stood with my mouth open. Everyone knew that the Jews were being tortured and if anyone were caught hiding one, they would be killed instantly. My mother placed her hands on my shoulders. "Katherine, Hannah needs our help. The Nazis will kill her if we don't hide her. Try to understand." I nodded and took a closer look at Hannah. She looked so helpless. I stuck my hand out toward her and introduced myself. Hannah looked at me, then at my hand, then she took it slowly, and smiled a little.
"Good," my mother said with satisfaction, "let's have breakfast."
About a month later, we had been searched by the Nazis. Hannah was in her hiding place in the closet. The Nazis looked around our home while my heart was pounding. "Where is it? Where is the Jew?" they shouted as they searched our home. I was sure they would find Hannah as they readied for the closet door. Rut right at that moment, the leader shouted, "Move out! No one is here. We will come back another time!" And they marched out the front door. We all let out sighs of relief. I opened the closet door and Hannah emerged from the coats. We all looked at each other silently for a moment. It was the first of many close calls to come.
One night when I was sleeping, I heard someone calling my name. I opened my eyes and saw Hannah standing beside me. "I hear something outside'" she quietly said. When I looked out the window, I gasped. There were hundreds of Nazi soldiers holding torches and facing our neighbor's house. One of them went up to the house and yelled something. Then, one by one they threw their torches at the house which burst into flames. The Nazis cheered. In the upstairs window I could see our neighbors looking out the window, and with them was a stranger, perhaps a Jew. I looked away. The next morning the house was a pile of ashes.
Days and weeks past, and we were all still safe. I was glad to be hiding Hannah She was so nice and so much fun for me to be with. We did so many things together, playing games, reading books, and doing each other's hair Everything seemed to be going great, until one day when the door suddenly rattled. "Hide, quickly, Hannah!" my mother said. She dashed to the closet to her hiding place. Just as the closet door closed, the front door crashed down, Nazis stormed into our house and began to search One Nazi went to the closet and opened the door. After a moment, he pulled Hannah out. "Here it is!" he said with a sound of triumph. My mother father, and I looked with horror. "Bring the Jew and its friends too!" The Nazis pushed us out through the door. One Nazi pulled out a gun while we were tied together. "Please, no!" my father pleaded. "Just take me! Leave the others!" The Nazis looked surprised at first, but then one replied,
"That is fine. They can watch you die before we kill them."
But they did not take my father first; they took Hannah. She whimpered, "It is all my fault." A Nazi snickered, "Yes, you are so right. It is all your fault and all the other Jews like you. And those who try to hide you." Then one of the Nazis raised his gun. I looked away. I could not watch. When I turned around, I saw Hannah lying on the ground. I knew we were next.
Is it true? Is it all their fault? Was my family wrong? What have any of us done wrong? Why are we being punished? Why is caring so wrong? Why does being a Jew mean death? Why was Hannah, my friend, killed? Why? Perhaps we will all meet again in a better place where we will not have to live in fear ... but I will not forget Hannah, my friend.
Star light, Star bright
Twinkle, twinkle little star
The star is a symbol of hopes and dreams
Something we make wishes on
But today I wish not upon a star but
For ordinary things
Playing with friends
Eating a full meal
Long walks with lots of laughter
Today I wear a star
As a badge of persecution
My race is marked
And fate determined
I am a Jew
When I got home,
I went to sleep.
I started to dream
Not a good dream,
A bad one.
My dream started like this,
My family and I were Jewish.
We were living very well.
Everything was happy.
Then the soldiers came
And started to arrest
The Jewish people.
We had to move
To another house.
We had to go into hiding
Behind secret doors.
We were living together,
My family, and my father's friend,
In a space so small
We could hardly move.
We stayed there one year
Never knowing if we would survive.
Then the soldiers found
My family, our friend, and me.
We were sent away to Hell
To a death camp
Where people had
No food or water
And death was everywhere.
I saw my family killed
Before my eyes.
The soldiers then came for me
I closed my eyes
And waited for death,
But at that moment
I opened my eyes
Everything had been a bad dream.
But my nightmare
Had been the Jews' reality
And my dream taught me
About their sufferings and pain.
It is a nightmare
I will never forget.
In a frosty December I found myself on a bench waiting for the Greyhound, thumbing through a museum brochure. As I studied the map on the back cover I breathed in New York City. Sellers exchanged magazines and gum on street comers for crinkled dollar bills, and hot dog vendors sold their goods to rumbling stomachs.
Among the consumers stood a little girl in white shiny shoes and a red petticoat. She giggled and reached for a Heinz ketchup bottle to give her hot dog some flair.
An old woman stood beside her, combing through the little girl's straight black hair. The woman wore a scarf to cover her own hair, and on her feet were worn-in brown shoes that reminded me of my grandmother.
The old woman wore her wrinkles for the city to see. Her eyes were dark, but they were not cold. And they were not naive. She was not afraid. When the old woman looked up, her gaze stopped the clouds from moving in the sky. The vendor, the young girl, and I were drawn to her when she looked at the sky. She was thankful.
My bus arrived, terminating my trance. I paid my quarters as the woman paid the hot dog man. The little girl tugged on the old woman's shirt, and the man stared at her left wrist. She did not attempt to mask the numbers he had seen, for she had seen so much more.
Admission to the museum was $10.00. I walked through each exhibit, cleansing myself with icy truths. Secrets of the 40s on display in the 21st century.
Gold plaques glimmered under harsh lighting. My fingers met the name of my grandmother. Lucy M. Weisman, 1944, Treblinka. I traced the inscribed letters of Treblinka, my heart angered that she didn't die of old age. She died of Treblinka.
On the opposite wall hung a collage of photos snapped at the scene of the crime. From the bottom corner, my grandmother as a little girl looked back at me. And she was smiling. Even though her eyes were dark, they were not cold. And she smiled.
She stood next to a girl about the same age as herself, and the girl was looking at a grey sky. She had the same eyes as my grandmother, dark but not cold. The little girl beside my grandmother was waving, exposing her left wrist. She was branded. She was not naive.