Whistles screeched as each person was hurried out of his or her beds into the square. It had become clear; German soldiers were making their presence known by inciting fear among us, shouting their commands. They demanded everyone leave their homes and enter the square. They lined us up according to gender, age, and any "visible" illness. I felt frozen, watching my wife being shoved with all the women across the other side of the street. My son, not comprehending, fought the guards and was hit in the head with a rifle butt. Tears flowed down my face, as I knew I was unable to help him. Today, he must learn to be a man. There are rumors amongst the men that 2000 will be taken today. I stood erect waiting for something, anything. Suddenly, an Scharfϋhrer walked diligently across the courtyard and grabbed me, yelling that I am not to be taken. He ranted in German and ordered me to go home in front of the others. My wife looked back at me with hope, but she is pushed in the direction of the trains, as is my son. I felt a lack of power as the soldiers pushed on, determined. I watched as they brutally moved people from the square, dragging them toward the iron cars. Where were they going? What is going to happen to them? Why was I not chosen? They are boarding the cattle cars, bound for somewhere. Where is my somewhere?
Days passed in aguish as I waited for word about the train destinations. There is talk that others will go soon. Soldiers continued to patrol the streets, turning the town into a concentrated ghetto. Nausea consumes me as I think of my son being beaten in the head. He was brave to face those guards with such gallantry. I think of my sweet wife locked in a cattle car, so frightened and feeling alone. The image was too much to bear in the restless nights that I waited. They packed her in with so many as if they were animals. I could hear the wailing coming from the cars as I walked slowly towards my home. The screams haunt my imagination. I wondered what was happening but dared not look back. The soldiers were still rounding up Jews, taking their photographs and assigning numbers. Walking home, I wondered the fate of my family, about dominance, and all who were bound in the iron boxes.
By day seven, another train had arrived. This time, it sat idle, waiting. I slink around in the darkness, checking on my relatives and seeking information on the destination of the trains. My uncle Elliot is gone now and so are his personal belongings. I sat down at his table and wept. What is happening? Where are they all going? I saw Mrs. Bernstein through the window scurrying down the sidewalk, attempting to go unnoticed. I caught up to her and asked of my uncle. She merely replied he was shoved into the boxcar at the last moment. I asked her about the trains and she just shook her head and slipped into the darkness. I walked, disinterested, looking into the empty homes of my friends. They are all gone. Homes no longer carry sound, no laughter, and no names. My sense of hopelessness grows with every day as I wonder why I was passed over.
Three more days have passed and almost everyone is gone. The German soldiers have taken over most of the homes. The shops are now closed and the provisions are rationed. There is order everywhere as if we are destined for some journey. I think about my destiny. No trains have returned. Shame is ever-present when I think of my family and friends who had walked by with downcast eyes. They had seen my culpability. I had no reason for not boarding the trains, but they picked me. The Germans have not told me of my demise, nor do I ask. I am fearful and alone everyday. Waiting adds to my discomfort. I cannot remember what my wife was wearing that horrid day when she was taken. I remember the blood on my son's face so vividly. I ask God every day for forgiveness, although relief never comes. The Germans come to my home to make sure I am still here. Where would I go? I continue to wait silently for my orders.
Today the train's engine is running. I sit in the courtyard, watching the German officers walking through the square, counting the last of the Jews. They are methodical as they document everyone. They leave me alone as the rest are being boarded onto the cattle cars. Watching the last tangible part of life board the trains' gives credence to the enormity of my pain. I sit weeping, not knowing my fate. I am a Jew with no place, no family, and no identity. I look up at the sun, feeling its warmth against my skin. I wonder if my wife and son can feel the same warmth. The town is full of ghosts and souls of those who once lived here. I sit, bound for nowhere, hoping I can remember what has happened.