“But it looks pretty, doesn’t it, Mama?” Beth couldn’t understand her mother’s tears nor her papa’s anger. Everyone in the family had one of the beautiful stars on their clothing. The child was happy to see them.
“Yes, dear one,” Mama wiped her eyes and forced a smile. “It’s the symbol of one of the great heroes of our faith of course. You know which one?”
“King David, Mama,” Beth answered, delighted.
“Now little one, it’s time for you to run along to school.”
“Yes Mama.” The six-year old shouldered her book bag. She was barely out the door when Aaron exploded.
“The Megan David is blue, Hannah! That is the symbol of King David! This…this yellow star…that is the emblem of ostracism, of differentness…of hatred!”
Hannah turned to him, eyes hollow with fear. “And you would have me tell our child what Aaron? She is so young…”
Repenting of his outburst, Aaron rose and put his arms around her.
Beth liked the yellow house on the corner. She liked the lady who lived there. Mrs. Machnikowski often had fresh baked cookies and liked to talk to the kids as they walked by her porch.
“Look, Mrs. Machnikowski!” Beth pointed at her star, her eyes shining with pride. Mrs. Machnikowski had an odd expression on her face. She opened her mouth as if to say something, then said nothing. Instead, she rose from her chair, went into her house, and closed the door.
Perplexed, the child continued on her way. She was close to school when a group of girls in her class caught up, talking excitedly. “Hi Beth,” several chorused, followed by “Why are you wearing that star?”
One of the girls spoke first. “My Papa says people who wear those are ‘stinking Jews’.”
Beth tugged the corner of her sweater over to hide the star.
By the end of the day, the child hated the star and it was not so beautiful as she had thought. Girls who had been her friends avoided her. Older children with the same star kept their heads down, their eyes averted as if ashamed.
One afternoon Beth saw some people in a line in the middle of a street. There were men wearing tawny uniforms and carrying guns. The people; men, women, and children were wearing the same yellow star. They looked frightened. She shuddered, terrified.
“Why do we have to wear the star, Mama?” she asked when she got home.
Her father answered. “Be proud my child. Be proud to wear that star. It means you are special. It means you are a child of the true God.”
The next day Mrs. Machnikowski stopped Beth on her way home. “Please child, come into my house.” She ushered the girl quickly through a side entrance.
Inside the kitchen Mrs. Machnikowski set a plate of sugar cookies and a glass of milk before the child, and sat in silence.
Nibbling on a cookie the child sat puzzled, her mind full of questions.
Shortly a man appeared in the doorway wearing a long dark coat and a woolen hat. “Is she the only one Anna?” His voice was gentle.
“On this street, yes. Oh, Henryk…” her voice trailed off, her head bowed.
“Come child, we must be quick.” The man came toward her. Beth shrank back frightened by him and by the few words they’d spoken. She was the only one…of whom?
“It’s ok, little one. You must go with Henryk. He’ll take you to safety.”
“Are Mama and Papa coming too?” Beth looked from the man to the woman and back again, desperately questioning. A picture came to mind; people lined up in the street. She trembled, terrified.
“Anna, let’s pray before we go,” said Henryk.
“Certainly, yes Henryk.”
Beth bowed her head too, though confusion and dread consumed her. She felt suddenly like she was falling down a dark hole with no bottom.
“Lord,” began Henryk, “we don’t always know why things are as they are in this world. Yet we know how much you love us. Place your hand over this child of yours. Protect and guide us and her. Give her comfort and peace, and touch her with your everlasting love. In the name of your Son, Jesus, Amen.”
Beth remembered her father’s words: “Be proud to wear that star…you are a child of the true God.”
“Child, we must go now. You must trust me.”
Mournful in the distance was the woeful whistle of a departing train.
During the second World War, many Polish resistance fighters such as Henryk and Anna worked with Christian and Jewish organizations to rescue the people with the yellow stars: the Jews. Many were themselves persecuted and executed by the Nazi invaders for their heroism.
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