Peer Review by Cosmogyral (United States)

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German and Jew | Draft #5 | Review for Review

By: BillyJoeBobTheThird

    “Heil, Hitler,” I muttered as I entered the worn-down house on Glücklich¹ Street. I was exhausted from the brutal workout we had to do today.
    “Wie war es, Ben? How was it?” My mom asked, wiping her grimy hands on a towel.
    “Gut, Mama.” I replied. “Good.” I stumbled into my room.
    There was a Nazi flag on one of my peeling walls, next to a calendar that read "November 9, 1938", which I bought for 10 Reichsmark. A small black-and-white picture of my dad was perched on my desk. He was standing next to a plane in the photo, and although he looked exhausted, his eyes twinkled with undefeated cheerfulness. I missed him very much, ever since he was taken to Poland to fight for the Nazis last winter. We haven't heard from him since the letter he sent a month ago, but even those were becoming sporadic. Tears welled in my eyes and threatened to spill when I saw the picture, but I quickly wiped them away. Your dad is fighting for a good cause, I chided. You should be proud. Looking away guiltily, I collapsed on my moth-eaten bed. I didn’t even bother taking off my Hitler Youth² uniform.

    Glücklich Street was a relatively poor neighborhood. The houses were ancient, the shops were stagnant, but the streets were always bustling with activity: a group of kids playing soccer, the newspaper boy hollering, some adults chatting, and the sound of cats squabbling with dogs. I always loved walking down the street and just listening to what others had to say; it never failed to entertain and relax me. Glücklich Street always had a congenial atmosphere and everyone was friendly.

    I didn’t even remember falling asleep. The next thing I recall is a loud CRASH outside, followed by shouts and screams, followed by more crashes. I jolted awake, and the first thing that I saw was the flag on my wall, illuminated by a feeble candle. The flag was a sea of red, punctuated with a white circle, as clear as the moon. Then there was the formidable, clockwise swastika. I had mixed feelings about the flag, and it felt like a one-way mirror with Hitler on the other side, watching me. The flag made me feel intimidated and small, as if it was saying, you better follow the Führer's³ orders; or else, you'll be a disgrace to Germany. Even if the flag made me uncomfortable in my own home, I couldn't bring myself to take it down. Today, it had an ominous feeling.
    Pulling my eyes away from the flag, I got up and peered through the dirty pane of glass. I couldn’t see very well, partly because of the fingerprints and the cobwebs which were on the window, and partly because it was night. I got out of bed, put on my shoes, and ran outside to investigate the sound. What I saw made me freeze in my tracks.
    There were multiple Nazi officials armed with hammers and weapons, smashing shop windows and plundering goods. To my horror, someone set fire to the local clothing store, and a few Nazi official were beating a Jew on the ground. They were kicking and punching him, until he was a bloody mess. It was total chaos. I could smell gunpowder used to set the conflagrations, and the ear-splitting sound of shattering glass and screams rang through the night. 
    Suddenly, a Nazi official spotted me watching from the shadows. He shouted and I tried to run, but my feet were glued. After seeing my stupid Hitler Youth uniform which I forgot to change out of, he said a few German words to me, handed me a hammer, and pointed to one of the shops which was still miraculously intact. He must’ve mistaken me for another Nazi official!
    “Sorry, this must be a misunderstanding-” I tried to protest, but he screamed in my face and shoved me. I gingerly stepped over some debris and made my way to the shop, cursing my uniform.
    I looked back.
    The Nazi was still watching me.
    I raised the hammer…
    But I couldn’t bring myself to smash the windows.
    I tried again.
    I raised the hammer again... 
    But I just couldn’t do it.
    Suddenly, another Nazi came up and -- glowering at me -- snatched the hammer. He raised the hammer and brought it down mercilessly. Glass shattered everywhere. I collapsed on the ground, tears flowing from my eyes. Why did the Jews deserve this treatment? What's wrong with being a Jew? Just because they have a different religion doesn't mean that they should be treated differently!

    I knew I was in trouble. After the Nazis were done plundering the shops, they would come for me; all because I hesitated. Even worse, they might hurt Mother! I had to hide.
    I rose from the ground, and went inside the shop I was supposed to destroy. I stumbled in… and almost tripped over someone. I shrieked.
    It was a man. His face was dirty, punctuated by  a nasty, red gash across his forehead. His clothes were torn and battered, and he was curled up in a ball. He was obviously a Jew. He peered at me, trembling, but all I noticed were his eyes. The eyes which shone, undefeated. The eyes of my dad.
    Suddenly, we heard shouts outside, and a giant flame burst up in the store. They had set the place on fire!
    We both collapsed on the ground as the fire spread all around us, licking our soles. The heat was intense, and the flames filled the whole place with smoke. Suddenly, I did something unexpected. I grabbed the Jew’s hand, and he grabbed mine.
    He looked at me with those marvelous eyes and whispered, “Not all of us are evil.”
    I replied. “Same for us.”
    German and Jew, we clung on to each other through the night of Kristallnacht⁴. I wasn't worried, though. For once in my life, I felt safe.

Word count: 999

¹Glücklich means happy or lucky in German, which might be kind of ironic.

The Hitler Youth is a group founded by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, which was kind of like a Boy Scouts for German kids.

³Adolf Hitler is also known as the Führer, which means leader in German.

Kristallnacht, also known as The NIght of Broken Glass, is an event which happened on the night of November 9, 1938. That night, many Nazi officials ransacked Jewish shops, arrested and beat Jews, and caused great destruction.

Message to Readers

✡ A special tribute to those who suffered in the Holocaust ✡

Peer Review

Confidence in your start, that's the greatest quality any writer could show. It takes so much courage to write about something that has scarred humanity for so long, I can't help but admire that factor.

You showcase the part of a youth in this time period well, but I'd like to know more about his internal conflicts. Emphasize hesitation and curiosity, that ending was superb, but it could glisten a little brighter.

Is there any special reason you chose Germany as your subject? Genuinely curious.

I admire the tenacity of your work, I'd actually be really scared to write a piece like this. It's historically accurate, but to write a piece about a character in a time no one will speak of without being faulted, it truly is a gem.

Reviewer Comments

Review for review? :/ You're doing great btw, let me know if you'll write another draft for comment.