Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GATHERING (07/14/16)
- TITLE: Roll Call
By Bonnie Bowden
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Ann looped her hands around her sister’s shoulders and pushed her forward. The sound of the gong rang in her ears.
“Please, Ruthie, faster. We can make it.”
“Just let me die here. God would understand.”
“Maybe God would God understand, but mama and papa would not. “
Ahead, Ann noticed that most of the women were already gathered in the courtyard in rows of five, block by block, surrounded outside the electric fences by hundreds of guards with machine guns at the ready. They slipped into place right before Ann saw a girl being slapped across the mouth for being late. Ann let Ruthie lean against her, so she wouldn’t fall.
“Remember, Ann whispered, “Stay invisible”
About 1,000 women stood huddled in the chilly rain. The damp penetrated every fiber of her dress like a wet sponge. Every prisoner’s number was called out one by one as each woman shrieked, “Here,” her number was checked and double-checked against two separate lists—the living and the dead. Time passed. Even though it was hours, it felt like days.
“Raus! Raus!” barked the SS officer as she cracked her whip against shining leather boots. It was finally time to head back to the block.
Back in the bunk room, a kapo handed Ruthie and Ann a small crust of bread, a pat of butter, and poured some watery liquid into each one of their small silver cups. After Ann chewed half of her bread she hid the remainder in her pocket for Ruthie.
Gently, Ann helped Ruthie into the middle tier bed. The hard shelf planks scratched Ann’s raw legs as she lay down next to her sister and two others. “Tomorrow is Sunday, Ruthie. More time to rest.” She watched Ruthie’s chest rise and fall for several minutes before she could even think about sleep.
Please Lord, let Ruthie live. Watch over her when I cannot.
After roll call in the morning, we were herded into a block with long tables and given a pencil and postcard.
“You will write your family and tell them you are fine and like working here,” the guard said.
Ann scribbled the words down without a single glance at anything but the paper.
When they were walking back, another prisoner, Emma, slipped two red kerchiefs into Ann’s hand.
“Tomorrow, you and Ruthie march out with me. Only twenty-five of us can work in clothing detail, so be early. We work inside”
“Did you hear that, Ruthie? God is answering our prayers.”
Ann couldn’t believe the mounds and mounds of clothes stacked on the long table in the middle of the room.
“Where are these clothes going?” Ann whispered to Emma.
“Germany,” she answered.
“What are you doing?” an SS officer to the girl at the end of the table.
“Nothing,” she said.
“You fat pig. I saw you take something from the pocket and eat it.” He struck her again and again until she was bloodied and senseless.
Ann turned her head away and saw a man on a ladder. He opened a can of gas and poured something in a hole.
“What’s that man doing?” Ann asked.
“Pouring the gas into the chambers,” Emma said. “Don’t look.”
“It’s just like the Bible said: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Ann replied.
The gray remained as they walked out of the building, but Ann saw the rainbow’s color peek from behind the clouds.
The Bible verse is from Romans 8:36 (NIV)
Rena’s Promise : a Story of Sisters in Auschwitz / by Rena Kornreich Gelissen with Heather Dune MacAdam.
The Auschwitz Escape / by Joel C. Rosenberg
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