by Derek Link.
“If I can’t take it with me, I’m not going,” he said, and turned away from the stairs back into the surging crowd.
His daughter caught his arm. “Father, please leave it and get on. You won’t be safe here, and soon there will be no more room for us.”
“Of course I’ll be safe. I’ve been safe here my entire life, and now I won’t be safe? Because of this, I won’t be safe?” He raised the package and held it before her. “This is who I am, Stella, nobody can ask me to leave the Torah behind. Who will I be?”
“My father is who you’ll be. My father who cannot be replaced.”
Tears welled up in his eyes, and he put his arms around her. “I will always be your father. This is the center of who your father is. I cannot throw it on a garbage heap. The Torah is holy, daughter, it is to be protected and cherished. They want me to leave it behind for safety? The idea is rubbish. There is no safety without God. Who do these Nazi’s think they are telling me what I can believe? No, I will stay with God. I will not leave my beliefs behind and ride that train to safety.”
“But you heard them, Father. You may be killed here. They cannot guarantee your safety any longer. They’ll put you in prison. You heard what’s happening in Warsaw…the ghetto, the starvation.”
“But I have friends here, Stella, who will keep me safe, good people I’ve known my entire life! I went to school with them. They offered to shelter me.”
“No, Father, they won’t save you now. Everyone is frightened and taking care of their own. You see that gold star on your coat and so does everyone else. You can’t remove it, they can’t remove it, and the Nazi fanatics will kill you for wearing it. Please come with me.”
“If they will kill me, then let them kill me. They would have me choose life over my faith? OVER GOD? My child, they will have to kill me, and in doing so send me to Him. If nobody will keep me safe here on earth, then I am happy to go to Him who will keep me for eternity.”
“But you do not have to leave God, only the Torah. You will always be a man of faith, a Rabbi. You can keep your faith, Father, just hide it for now, for me, to stay alive. Mother would tell you I am right.”
“Daughter, do not pretend to know your mother better than I. She would spit in the Nazi’s faces and stand with me. She was a woman of steel, your mother. She and I grew in love and saw the work of God in your birth. Your mother would say, ’God’s love shines in Stella’s eyes.’ She would say that light cannot be hidden from the world. Stay with me, Stella, do not go.”
“But, Father, Abel is on that train. I love him as you loved Mother. Don’t ask me to choose.”
“No, No, I am selfish. You’re right, I’m sorry, you must go to him. I know. I know. Go now, hurry, get on the train. He’s waiting and the train is whistling.”
They embrace and the old man watches his daughter climb up. She turns to wave as a Nazi officer barks, “Last call for Auschwitz! All aboard!”
Derek Link writes from his home in Northern California. After years of writing grants, he now writes for fun. Derek writes short stories, poetry and long fiction.