Author Note: In Response to PadfootBlack16's Historical Challenge
September 1940; Dresden, Germany
September 1940; Dresden, Germany
We had our shop closed down first. A large, bright yellow Star of David had been spray-painted on the window; the front door that had once tingled merrily as people entered was sealed off with cardboard and plyboard planks. I had seen the destruction they had done on the way home from school. I felt my chest tighten and turn the moment I had rounded the corner. Our family shop, a simple stall where we sold and repaired pocket-watches, was just a mere block away from home - had they found Momma and Papa, too? My fingers instinctively clutched at the two things I had grown to hate - and love. One hand traveled to the hollow of my throat, my slender digits touching a cold chain brushed in gold.
The other wandered down to my schoolbag, where amongst my practice books rested a slender piece of wood.
What, one might ask, would a slender stick, a mere sliver of tree, do to help a sixteen-year-old girl defend herself against the Gestapo, the Nazis, or the SS? I would immediately tell that person, should they ask me that up front, that they were being carelessly foolish. I have no doubt they would deliberately shove that back in my face. It isn't at all pleasant when that happens.
I walked another block further, and I wished I could have dug my wan- I mean stick out of my bag for protection, but it was no use. If I were to wave it around like a raging lunatic, they would surely ship me off to the Chancellor of Germany himself. I thought to myself that I'd be hanged in front of a synagogue before that happened.
Society asks so many strange, stupid questions that I shouldn't doubt it’d ask - "Why to the 'Fuhrer' himself for waving an infernal stick?" It's the ‘infernal’ part that troubled me the most.
The street on this next block, I had noticed while in my reverie, was nearly empty, though why was unbeknownst to me. Perhaps it was because the shops were closed? Or was it that God-be-damned Gestapo standing at the corner of the sidewalk by the street sign? But it didn't matter - this was the way I ALWAYS went home, and I wouldn't change my route just because a German man happened to be standing by the street corner. My feet picked up their pace, and I soon realized that home was closer than I thought. I kept my eyes, my Wollsburglen family eyes, focused on the ground.
That is, I did until my body collided with that of another. A weight was added to my shoulder - a hand, I presumed - and my bag dropped from my hands, my pendant that I had strung about my neck flying out of my shirt collar, where it had been safely hidden from the rest of the German society. My cheeks tinged, there was a ringing in my ears - like a warning alarm going off in my head - but I paid no attention to it. My gaze was fixed to a stick, rolling towards the street - where its plunging fate would end at a gutter. The hand was removed from my shoulder as I knelt, picking up my books and hurriedly tucking the Star of David into my shirt, all the while keeping my eyes on that stick.
I couldn't lose it - I couldn't bear to lose it. My family had used it for so long in rituals no one had seen before. It meant something to me, to my mother, and her parents before her in Poland. It had created things for this family, this long line of Jewish Wollsburglens, which nothing else could piece together.
Magic. Magic had come out of that stick.
And I didn’t want to lose that magic.
That same hand I supposed had been on my shoulder had retrieved my stick before it plunged into the water - and booted feet blocked my view of the street. I stood, looking down as the figure handed me my precious, safe and sound. How thankful I was! ... But only for the moment.
I should have been more careful. If I were to lose any of my possessions due to my absurd clumsiness, my momma would have my head. "Danke," I whispered in relieved German thanks, raising my eyes to meet the harsh aqua ones of a man in uniform, a Nazi swastika emblem on his forearm armband. His stare was cold, but deceiving, for I could see laughter and amusement in his eyes. I had no doubts that he was amused by me - an over-analyzing teenaged Jewish girl who carried a well-cared-for, polished stick in her school bag. But he just nodded as his angled face examined my features, checking to see if I was Aryan or not.
That damned ''perfect race'' of which Jews such as myself were outlawed from. The Master Race.
Apparently, from his next words spoken in clumsy English, he had classified me as not so perfect.
"Clumsee leettle Jewish girl should not be playing vith stick. She could poke someone's eye out - like me." His thick accent was hard to digest, and I could feel my cheeks growing hot - my chest heaving as my heart rate soared. I merely nodded, clutching my 'dangerous weapon' close to me. "Go home now, Juden." His eyes narrowed, and I ran - sprinted - the two blocks left to reach my house.
How I hoped I wouldn't have to encounter another on that sprint home.
"Minka!" my father cried out at me in happiness when I stepped foot on the doorstep. The front door, strangely, had been pulled open wide, and my father's gentle, wrinkled face grinned at me, his prominent ears and glittering hazel eyes nearly identical to mine. I smiled in return, not wanting to speak. My stomach was still churning from my incident two blocks back with the man on the street corner. I was just thankful I hadn't dropped the precious cargo down the drain. "Welcome home, daughter." My father welcomed me back into the comfort of my small and cramped two-story home - where my little brother, Josef, sat at the kitchen table, drawing with a black crayon.
My mother had an apron tied around her waist as she cooked at the fireplace, stirring something in a pot around and around. I dropped my school bag and sat on the floor, touching my neck to make sure that the pendant was still there. Momma's face turned to look at me, and I faltered in my smile. She knew something was wrong. "Minka - has something happened? You seem rather off and quiet today..." Like I wasn't quiet everyday. Apparently, though, this silence from me must have been different enough that both of my parents seemed to notice, while Josef just scribbled alone.
I shook my head, gazing out of my glasses at the fire. It was darker in the family room, strangely. Normally we would have the windows open, and the shutters flown wide so that the breeze of Germany could waft through the windows and sweep through the house. But they were firmly shut, and a few candles were flickering, giving off their eerie light to everyone's face.
I heard Papa shut the front door and slide the bolt into place. Something was wrong. I could sense it.
"Nothing's wrong, Momma," I answered in my soft, monotone voice, "or at least, not with me." I wouldn't tell her about the incident with my wand and the German man unless she forced it out of me. Josef hopped down from his chair and handed me the paper he had been coloring on. I took the frail piece of paper into my hands and looked at what the four-year-old had drawn. A family, with me, him, and two long, gangling stick figures that were our parents, and in both my hand and my mother's hand, sticks that represented our magic.
The thing that had shocked me the most in this toddler drawn picture, however, was the bright yellow, six-pointed star in the background. Even he knew what we were. I stifled a shudder that threatened to rattle my spine and grinned loftily at Josef, who promptly sat himself in my lap. I looked up at my mother. She was frowning, and she obviously knew something was off, but I refused to tell her, or Papa.
"Momma - have you seen the shop?" My voice softened even more, probably so that one would have to lean in to hear me, cup their ear.
Papa looked up from the Polish newspaper he had gotten in the mail from our grandparents. The headline told me that Germany was planning to extend rule over to Poland - become a dominant country. I scowled. I wouldn't bear to see the man on the corner, or men like him, ruling my homeland. "We know, córka," he affectionately said, calling me ‘daughter’ in Polish and running a hand through his graying hair.
But my mother looked confused. "The shop, Oskar? What's wrong with the shop?" Josef's head twitched to the speaker every time someone had a word to say; as if he could really understand the situation we were in.
And I knew we were in a deep situation.
"It's been boarded up, Momma," I reluctantly spoke out of turn. Papa, however, said nothing, but returned to his newspaper. "The Star of David painted on it as well."
Momma's face could be seen crinkling in dismay in the pale light. I felt sorry for her. She was the witch who had the most experience between the two of us, but she could not use it against the Nazis. They would ask questions. I played with my own armband - the one with the matching star that I had been required to wear ever since I was twelve. Josef, luckily, didn't have to deal with that humiliation.
Fear crossed over her face.
I gathered that wasn't a good sign . . .
Author Note: July 23rd, 2008 - Chapter Is Beta'ed.
Author Note: For those of you who don't know - the Jewish people in Germany who were immigrants from Poland were stripped of their German citizenship and their shops were closed down, marked as "Juden" or Jewish. This was during WWII, and Adolf Hitler's reign as Chancellor of Germany, or the Fuhrer. Minka and her family are fictional characters - and yes, Minka is a Half-Blood Jewish Witch. <33 Her mother is a Pureblood from Poland, and her father a Jewish shop-owner.
Minka's run-in with the German Nazis will continue . . .
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