“Women and children to the right. Men, to the left,” I once said.
From 1942 to 1944 I was what some called a Jew killer. Though, I have never hurt a soul, I was responsible for separating Jewish families, ensuring they would never see each other again. Those who were sick, were sent to their death … by me because I was forced to follow the enemy. The war stole my right of beliefs, my goals for a future, my left arm, and the love of my life. I saved Amelia … … then I lost her. And after more than seventy years, I’m told she’s alive and asking for me. Will love be enough to overcome the silence of more than seven decades?
The house in front of me was a vivid shade of blue—bluer than the sky but no darker than the ocean. The color reminded me of a blue-bird. The windows were framed with a shade of forest green, and there were two small windows on each side of the matching door. The roof was old and tattered, but supported the one lonesome dormer-window in the attic. The flower beds beneath the front windows were empty but I imagine they were full of vibrant blossoms in the spring and summer. Trinkets clung to the windows from the inside where a fire illuminated an empty table covered with a freshly prepared dinner.
I wasn’t standing in front of that house to admire the unique colors and decor.
They gave me a task.
Sven shoved his elbow into my side as he walked passed me, continuing down a line of Jewish men and women who were waiting for their next order. “Charlie, kill that woman. She is out of line,” Sven asserted his command with an authoritative intonation.
I tried to step forward along the uneven cobblestones I was standing upon. The sight in front of me had me frozen. Through wisps of fog, I set my focus on the middle-age woman. With dark hair, tied in an unkempt knot at the base of her skull, and loose strands hanging in front of her eyes, she appeared forlorn while shouting for her children. She was wearing an apron, probably from the food she had just finished preparing for her family when a group of SS soldiers broke into her quaint blue-bird house. “Let my children go!” The woman was trying to protect her family—her daughter and son. Sven told me to kill her because she was crying for her children, and we weren’t supposed to tolerate such a disgusting display of emotion from a Jewish person.
Sven stopped walking when he noticed I wasn’t following his lead. He stood, staring at me, waiting on me to fulfill his command. I still couldn’t move. Rather than follow orders, I glanced back and forth between the woman’s daughter, who was being pulled away by a comrade I didn’t know, and then back at the distraught mother. The woman was reaching her arms out toward her daughter who was already so far away. In that moment, I knew the two would never reunite. The thought made me feel ill.
“Kill her,” Sven shouted. “Do it now, Charlie.”
I knew of the punishment I could receive for not following orders from a superior, but I couldn’t move my arms, let alone, handle a weapon.
Sven’s hand pressed against the lapel of my coat as he pushed me away. “Coward,” he muttered, passing me by.
Sven retrieved his rifle from the left side of his belt and aimed it at the mother’s head while the other comrade had the woman bent over in shame.
I couldn’t do much else but watch her daughter grieve what would be an extraordinary loss in a matter of seconds. “I love you, Mama. Please don’t hurt her!” the girl shouted in a plea.
“Amelia,” the woman countered. “Fight and be strong. For me.”
Amelia was the girl’s name.
Amelia deserved a mother to face the horrors she was about to encounter.
“Mama, no,” Amelia grunted. “Please, don’t leave me!” Amelia pleaded as if her mother had a say in the matter. Though, we all knew only one person had the final decision, and Sven no longer had a heart in his chest.
Amelia’s words buzzed over the blasting weapon—her mother was taken down with one bullet. To the ground, she fell. Blood pooled instantly. The smell of gunpowder was potent even through the thick air.
The world went silent for me even though there were screams coming from all sides. The Jews were scared, especially now that one was sacrificed as an example of what disrespect earns.
I watched that woman’s daughter, Amelia, the pale complexion wash through her face as she stared doe-eyed at her mother’s corpse. Amelia’s head shook slightly with disbelief as they pushed her within the herded line, farther and farther away from her mother’s body. Amelia couldn’t have been older than sixteen or seventeen, and in an instant her world had become darker than she likely ever could have imagined it would.
My chest felt as though it was caving in on itself. No matter how many Jews I watched meet their ending day as Amelia’s mother had, the pain never lessened, and the heartache only grew stronger with the sight of every new fallen body.
I was not meant to be a killer.
I was not meant to hate, no matter what I was supposed to believe.
International Bestselling Author, Shari J. Ryan is a writer of Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance, and Romantic Comedy. Throughout the last seven years of her writing journey, Shari has written more than twenty emotionally charged novels ranging from Rockstar Romances and Medical Romances to Historical Fiction.
Shari is happily married to her own superhero–a former Marine who has inspired many of her stories. Together, they have two beautiful little boys.Shari’s active imagination allows her to create characters with depth and raw emotion as they journey their ways to a happily ever after.