When Good Men Do Nothing

Tomorrow is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. May we never forget the atrocities committed towards the 11 million Nazi victims during the Holocaust, end present genocides, and prevent them from occurring in the future. If we do not, who will? 

A lot of families from our neighborhood have been disappearing recently, and no one will tell me why. After the Rabinowitzes left without taking any of their things with them and a new family moved in, I asked Mama. She shushed me and told me not to ask again. But after the Rabinowitzes came the Birnbaums, and after the Birnbaums came the Abrams, and I began losing track after that. When I ask why everyone is leaving, they say that I’m a little girl and won’t understand it. I think eight years old is very mature, and I think I could understand anything they could tell me.

One day I decide enough is enough and ask my oma about it. My oma tells me everything, stories about how silly mama was when she was a girl like me and how her life was so much different than mine.

“Oma?” I ask when my grandmother is sitting in her chair in the living room. I snuggle into her lap. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course, Katharina.”

“Why are so many families leaving the neighborhood without their things? And why are new families moving into their houses and using their stuff?” I ask.

Oma sighs. “Has Mama or Papa explained this to you?” I shake my head. “Do you really want me to?” I nod. “Okay, Kathy. But you have to promise you won’t tell Mama or Papa I told you this.” I nod eagerly, glad to get an answer to my question. “Have you noticed the yellow stars some people have been wearing?”

“The Jews,” I said. “We learned about them in school.”

“What did you learn about them?”

“That they’re not as good as us, and Hitler is working to make sure that they’re separated from us.”

She sighed. “Will you believe me if I tell you that’s not true?”

I think about it for a little bit. My oma knows everything. “Yes.”

“Good. Because it’s not. Jews are just as good as any other human out there. But Hitler doesn’t think so, and he’s been trying to send them away from us. That’s where all the families have gone.”

“So it’s only Jewish families?”

“Yes.”

“I didn’t know I knew any Jews.”

Oma laughs. “You certainly do know many Jews. Your little friend Esther down the block is Jewish. So is Sara across the street.”

“Wait…is Hitler going to make them leave too?” I’m suddenly outraged. How could Hitler do something as silly as that? Esther and Sara are just as good as I am. We play together all the time. Why should they be sent away? Where are they going, anyway?

“He might. I don’t know, Kathy. Don’t dwell on it.”

“But we have to save them!” I exclaim, crawling off of Oma’s lap and looking her in the eyes. “We can’t let them get sent away! I’m friends with Esther and Sara!”

“I know, Kathy. But we can’t do anything about it. When you say your prayers at night, have Esther and Sara in mind. But don’t tell anyone that you are, okay? And don’t tell anyone that I told you all this. It’s our secret, okay?” Oma smiles at me and puts an aged finger to her lips. I smile back and put my finger on my lips too.

“Okay,” I say. “But I still think we should make sure Hitler doesn’t send Esther and Sara away.”

~ Talia Weisberg

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