I watched as one by one, the tanks rumbled into the camp. Ehud stood next to me. "More stinking Germans." He spat on the ground and turned back toward the barracks.
I turned to follow him when I caught sight of something white on the side of the nearest tank. "Ehud!"
He stopped. "What?"
"Look." I pointed to the tank. "Stars. There's no swastika."
"So? Maybe the Nazis changed their insignia."
Jonah came to stand on my other side. He never spoke to anyone. If he tried to say anything, it came out garbled, and no one could understand him. The Nazis had cut out his tongue. The three of us stayed together as much as we could. I had met Ehud at the fifth camp I'd been to, and Jonah at the last one. Now we were all here at Dachau. We became brothers. We had no one else.
The top hatch flipped open with a resounding clang. By this time, other prisoners driven by curiosity lined the fence. We watched as a hand came up, then another, then the soldier lifted himself out in one motion. The other tanks had also stopped, and more soldiers came out of their metal shells.
I could hear another sound. I tilted my head. Jonah poked me, and I shushed him. He tugged on my shirt and pointed. I looked. Behind the tanks were more soldiers on foot. Infantry. "Who are they?"
"Americans." Rabbi Yoni answered. "See? That is the American flag." I stared at the rectangular cloth flapping in the wind. Red and white stripes alternating, and white stars in a field of blue.
"But why are they here?" asked Ehud. Jonah nodded, and all of us turned back to the soldiers.
More prisoners had gathered until I was afraid I would be crushed against the fence. The German commandant stood in front of his quarters in full dress uniform. I saw one of the American soldiers walk up to him. They spoke a moment, and then the German led the American into his quarters.
They stayed in there a long time. The other American soldiers stood by their tanks or in formation as they waited for their commander. Many prisoners soon lost interest, and went back to work. Ehud, Jonah, and I stayed at the fence. For once, the guards didn't seem to care that we weren't working, and we took advantage of it.
Finally, the two commanders stepped out of the building. The German nodded once to the American, then turned and walked to one of the vehicles parked near the building. One of the guards stepped to the driver's door, but the commandant shook his head. He took the keys from the guard, sat in the driver's seat, and drove away. He didn't look back.
The American commander called one of his soldiers over and spoke to him. That soldier spoke to several more, and soon the loudspeakers blared out in German, "Please assemble for an announcement." The message repeated many times, until most of the prisoners stood in the area in front of the barracks.
The American commander stood on a box in front of us, an SS guard beside him, translating. "I have an announcement to make. Hitler is dead." The SS guard seemed to pale as he translated. "The Nazis have surrendered this camp to the United States of America. You are no longer prisoners. You are no longer slaves. You are free."
No one said a word. No one believed him.
Then I heard a single voice. "Yaaahhhh!"
Jonah stood beside me, fist in the air, yelling as loud as he could. Ehud joined in. Others around us started yelling, and then everyone was yelling. The American stood in front of us, weeping. Such sorrow on his face, but there was also hope. I had lost all hope before arriving at this camp, yet here I saw it again. I had only existed one day at a time, yet I saw the future in this American. Suddenly, I knew. I knew I would live. I knew there was hope. I began to smile. I raised my fist, and yelled my hope and freedom.
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