Sunday, July 15, 2012

Faces of Innocent People

At the Jewish Museum, in Berlin, Germany
Janice and Delphine walked together across the campus of their University in the fall of their freshman year. They were assigned the same dormitory room and decided to go for a walk and get acquainted. Janice came from a working class Jewish family in the boroughs of New York City, while Delphine, a Christian, came from an upper class family from Tulsa, Oklahoma. As they walked, they looked around at their new surroundings and talked of their interests as well as the lives they were leaving behind. 

While Janice’s father had been bringing suitcases and boxes into the dormitory, Delphine had noticed a peculiar tattoo on his left forearm. It was simply a string of numbers, rather crudely etched. The vision had stayed in Delphine’s mind and haunted her, since she had a vague notion that it might be from a dark past. As they walked across a grassy lawn, strewn with fallen oak leaves that rustled underfoot, she got up the nerve to ask her friend what the numbers meant. Janice was slightly taken aback, but spoke solemnly, saying, “My father was a teenager when Germans took over his little village in Poland. They summoned all the Jews to the central square and made them begin walking out of town. The people that resisted or tried to hide were all shot to death."

The two continued strolling, but Janice slowed, and kept her eyes down. "A long line of people—whole families, including the elderly and mothers with babies were marched to a nearby village, and the German’s shot anyone who could not keep up. Eventually, the survivors were herded into freight train cars and taken to Auschwitz concentration camp. My father, when he arrived was in good condition, and received his tattoo. Many unfortunate souls never received a tattoo—they were intended to be killed in the gas chambers."

As Delphine listened to Janice speaking in a sorrowful tone amid the gayety of their first days at University, her heart sank and she struggled to comprehend the incomprehensible. Her footsteps, that had been light earlier, became heavy, and the leaves that crinkled underfoot seemed too brittle and she felt embarrassed by their sound, as if they were clinking iron, and the faces of innocent people were staring up from the earth that had become their grave.

This is a story I wrote to go with my photograph, seen above. To see more of my artistic photography, go to Graphixshoot

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