November 13, 1939
I took our savings from under the mattress. We didn’t have much, but I hope you understand. I opened the door to go, but I realized that without a note, I’d be gone without a trace. You never would know where I went and what happened to me. Even if the contents of this letter turn you against me, I want you to know the truth.
You probably will never see me again. I’ll think of your messy hair and blue eyes everyday, but I’ll also think of your little brown uniform, crisply ironed and waiting in the closet for the days that Hitler demands even the children to salute him. I still see you, walking down the street to the first fire. You cheered, a wave in that sea of brown, as photographs and books were scorched to cinders. I also see you sitting by the radio, listening to Hitler’s announcement: war’s begun. At first, I was as believing as you, one of the youths heading towards Germany’s bright new future. Then I realized that it was a lie. A lie to control. A lie to rule. A lie that will be used to take away our freedom. As I stood beside you, watching those papers bloom into flame, I knew that never again would our lives be the same.
It began after you came back from school, proclaiming that you’d been accepted into the Hitler Youth. He will make our country great again! I told you frankly what I thought, but you didn’t listen. How could you have been brainwashed like the rest of them? The next day, you asked me to go down the hill to the burning of yet another Jewish shop, and hoping that you would come to your senses, I refused. Aleida, you responded, the Fuhrer once said, “If you want to shine like the sun, first you have to burn like it,” so come along. Don’t be held back by your own weakness! Pleading did nothing to stop you and once dressed in your uniform, you marched away, with the arched back of a newly-minted soldier. Cecile, I know that you lost trust in me that night, but I lost my sister, someone far more important to me than you could ever know. Though I’m gone, I haven’t given up on you, so please, do me this one favor. Stop viewing yourself as a fighter and start seeing yourself as what you really are. Cecile, you are a slave.
After that day, I couldn’t bring myself to cheer as Jewish shops were destroyed, homes burned down and people led away. Cecile I’m sorry. I tried to bury my doubt, but with every salute and red flag strung up, I couldn’t do anything but feel that doubt grow. Each day that I spent watching you join the ranks of the Fuhrer tore me to pieces, bit by bit. Soon I knew that I had to get out of this rising tide of oppression. That’s why this letter is sitting in your hand. I’m sorry I had to tell you this way. I wish that I could have believed without a doubt that you would stand by me, maybe even join me; but Cecile, I know almost as well as you that you would never turn your back on your leader. The only thing that has kept me from losing hope is that I know you aren’t lost forever.
I am writing this long after sunset. Posters are faint smudges on dark walls through the window, and the last soldiers have left the streets. You are asleep, and for the first time in months, I can see the friend that I have lost. There are no shouts of “Heil Hitler”, and your right arm is tucked under your head, not straightened in a proud salute. While you are lying here, I can remember so clearly what our life had been like before this awful war. We trusted each other, loved each other, and would never have lived to be separated. Is that sister still there? If she is, I have faith that if you search hard enough, you can find her. I’ll miss you Cecile, and maybe, if this war ends, I’ll see you again.