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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: War and Peace (not about the book) (07/07/11)

TITLE: And Then There Were None
By Kathleen Langridge


Raisa and Isak Kaplan were worried, but focused on keeping their children, Sarra, 7 and Aron, 9 occupied with games and stories. Russian official silence birthed the Latvian Jews ignorance of the evil, coiled within the 3rd Reich. Now the coil had sprung in Varaklani; murder found its victims daily.

“Momma, it is lovely and cool this morning. Can’t Aron and I play outside?” pleaded Sarra, her chocolate brown eyes sparkling with hope. Raisa, masked the fear devouring her heart; looked at her daughter, light brown hair falling in soft ringlets about her face. Her once ruddy cheeks, now pale, from being kept indoors, since the Nazis had taken the village.

“I am sorry, bubeleh, but it isn’t safe. Let’s ask Aron to tell us one of his stories.” Raisa turned to look at Aron, who knew his parent’s fears about the Einsatzgruppen’s random murders. Isak, watched at the window; peering through the shutters, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

Sarra sat down in front of Aron, “Tell us a princess story, please, Aron?”

Isak turned, terror owning him, he whispered, “Everyone quiet! Potato cellar, right now! Quiet, please, be very quiet!” Their stocking feet ran, but held the silence. As they rushed through the hatch, the front door burst open bullets ripping through the walls and ceiling, shattering the once peaceful home.

Raisa and the children pushed far back into the dark, dank cellar hoping for safety, while Isak secured the hatch door. Just as he reached Raisa’s side a line of bullets broke into the cellar tracing his path, one finding its mark in his shoulder. He moaned and Raisa held him as he slumped against her. Sara’s whimpering forced Aron to put his hand over her mouth as he enfolded her against his quivering chest.

The soldiers were shouting above their heads. The sound of jackboots stomping about did little to muffle the cruelty of breaking pottery and cooking pots being smashed. Raisa heard the corner cupboard; holding her mother’s precious crystal, crash to the floor with painful finality. She could not hold back a sob of devastation.

As suddenly as they came, the soldiers left, and the house grew quiet. Raisa laid Isak on a pile of potato sacks, “Children stay with Papa, I must go up and get some bandages for his shoulder.” She hurried back with her medicine bag and water skins, knowing they must remain hidden through the night. “Aron, why don’t you tell us your story, now? I need to take care of Papa.”

Aron sat with Sarra on another pile of potato sacks, tipping his water skin, he took a sip and handed it to her, “Sarra, just a sip, we have to make it last. Now, once in a kingdom far away across the Baltic, lived a beautiful princess named Sarra. She didn’t know . . .” The hatch door crashed open as its rope pull tore in two.

“Schnell! Schnell! Juden!” shouted an angry voice into their uncovered hiding place. With Raisa helping, Isak climbed the ladder, followed by Sarra and Aron. Aron held Sarra in desperation, trying to shush her crying. He was rewarded with a rifle but slamming into his back, yet still he held onto her.

Raisa continued to support Isak while Sarra grasped her skirt and Aron held Sarra’s other hand. Stumbling along the dusty road Isak whispered one word in Raisa’s ear, “Cemetery.” Too soon, pick axes and shovels were thrust into their hands. Aron trying to make a game of it telling Sarra, “Its a race to see who can dig the deepest.” Isak gathered his family in his arms, one last time, as machine gunfire folded them into their gravesite; the sound of Holocaust ricocheting off forest walls; daring to muffle the hopeless cries of other families awaiting their fate.

The Varaklani Jewish Cemetery is quiet today; raked paths meander through the tombstones and past benches for sitting and reflecting, among the silent trees. No trace of the pits remain, only memorials, peaceful in their protest against the horror of August 4, 1941. 540 lives, and then there were none.

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This story is a fictionalized account of true events.

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This article has been read 423 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 07/17/11
I like this.

Be careful with punctuation, especially semi-colon use.

You did an awesome job keeping the intensity up. Great job.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/21/11
Wow you did an incredible job of telling this story. I thought they'd be safe in their hiding place but truth be told there weren't many happy endings during this horrific blemish on history. You did such an outstanding job I felt like I was right there watching it This is one of my favorite pieces of this topic and of your work You did a great job.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/22/11
Congratulations for placing 7th in level one!
marcella franseen07/23/11
This is a haunting story. Haunting because-although it is fiction-it is all too real. My heart bleeds for the families who lost each other to such nonsensical violence. You didn't give us a happy ending, but unfortunately, you gave us truth. This one will stay with me tonight.
Kelvin Fowler08/17/11
Well done Kathleen, very good and well written. Another tragic story of war and slaughter.