(The following piece of writing is the first chapter of a story based during World War 2, from the viewpoint of a young Jewish girl. This was written for my A Level English coursework under the criteria of racial prejudice).
My father, Aryeh, has gone to collect the paper. As a working-class Jewish household without a radio, one of us, usually father, visits the shop daily to collect a printed newspaper. He’s often shouted at, bruised and spat at along the way because of the yellow badges strapped to our clothing, exposing our religion to strangers.
Father returns, his hands shaking as he throws the newspaper on to the table. His eyes drift away from ours and he busily looks around the room.
“Is everything ok?” my mother, Haida, asks, concerned. As she speaks, I glance over at the headline of the article, which reads: “50,000 Jews in Hungary seized for deportation.”
“I don’t think we’re going to be safe much longer,” he mumbled, “I saw a truck on its way down our street, as I rushed into the house. I’m sorry…”
I choke up and don’t want to speak. I sit, breathless, looking outside the window. It’s the middle of the day, but the skies that were once so clear and arctic blue are now grey, polluted with smouldering smoke and riddled with charcoal-coloured clouds. The corruption of innocence: accused of crime we haven’t committed and disgraced for the religion we were born in to, we all know we’re in danger.
I hear the clunking of overused tires and rumbling on an engine as the vehicle emerges closer to our house. And then… silence. I’m terrified. I hear a crash at the door. It’s them. We’re next.
“Hide!” My father yells at me. I’m stood, paralysed, struck with immense fear like a young child trapped in their worst nightmare. I pretend I’m ok. I am ok. I’m fine.
“Jenni?” he whispers. I hesitate, clearing my throat as I swallow.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Good luck, Jenni. Goodbye.” I see a tear trickle down past his cheek and into the corner of his lips; his mouth is slightly upturned where he’s trying to put on a smile and a brave face. I rush over to him and give him a hug; I’m on my tiptoes and my arms reach all the way around him as I squeeze him tightly, reluctant to let go.
“Goodbye, Aba,” I mutter, breathing heavily and weakening my grip as he stands in front of me to protect and hide me.
They barge their way in and I quickly wriggle away from my father and crouch under the table before they can see me. Our house, with the Star of David hung jaggedly upon our doorframe, is being broken in to and demolished before my eyes. I watch as my father tries to stand up against them and defend our family. They thump him, shove him; their dirty-yellowed nails scratch his wrists as they drag him out of the door.
I move myself slightly from underneath the table and look up towards to my mother who mutters beneath her breath for me to make a run for it. I crawl hurriedly away, scuffing up my knees and hands as I struggle to stay hidden.
I’m eventually out of eyesight; I push on the back door quietly and run before it slams shut behind me. I sneak along the walls of my house and around to the pavement, avoiding all people by escaping eye contact and hiding along the way. I’m wheezing and gasping for air, anxiety rushes through me like a waterfall of emotions I didn’t know I had in me.
I’m shaking but I try to stay composed and out of sight, examining the village for a hiding place. There’s a black bin on the pavement, it’s narrow but quite tall so I can just about hide behind it. I crouch down, peering over in an attempt to see what’s going on.
The cattle truck is confined in size and bursting with people; confused individuals claw at the sides of the trailer, as if they are caged animals, in an attempt to be free of the claustrophobic space. More and more innocent children and adults, with bruised arms and a yellow badge sewn to their clothes as a symbol of shame, are violently shoved into the back of the truck.
Clattering chains slam heavily as they are slowly dragged across the ground, screeching of blameless children crying for their mothers to hear, supposedly noble soldiers lug them forward towards the vehicle. I see petrified families rushing out of their houses searching for somewhere to hide, some successful, others cornered and captured. Some are alone and frightened, calling for their relatives with their crackled screams and looking for help with their tear-filled eyes.
I close my eyes. I can’t bear to look at it anymore. With my eyes shut I become distant from the disastrous surroundings and become sensitive to the horrifying clatters of fear and terror. Screaming, crashing and unremorseful laughing from the devils within metres of my hiding place echoes around my head.
“Mummy?” I hear a young boy cry with a quiver in his voice. “Where are you, mummy?”
His voice blends in with the sinister demands of the Nazi army; the sound of their hard heeled boots as they march across the ground, and their deep-voiced shouting: “Find them!” “Don’t let him get away”.
I open my eyes once more to see my mother being dragged unwillingly away from our house, objectified, and no longer a human.
Their heels clunk as they stomp and march, they scowl as they tower their gigantic bodies over her, clutching on to her waist tightly with their enormous hands as she squirms to escape. Thrown to the ground, she lays there shaking and trembling, staggering to try to get up again as they squeeze her, leaving indents of their fingerprints in her fragile pale arms. They dump her into the vehicle, securing the crate tightly behind her, and the roaring engine of the heaving truck starts up again.
Guilt rushes through me and tears stream down my cheeks, I’m letting out the distress I’ve been hiding behind my falsely brave face. And with that, she was gone, alongside my father, and I may never see them again.