After a futile attempt at sleep, I went back downstairs, where my aunt was sitting and drinking warm water as a poor substitute for tea.
“In the convent, did you hear any news of the world?”
“Some of the nuns had acquaintances outside who would give them news, but I didn’t really hear anything. The nunnery really was its own little world.”
“Do you know anything about our history? Do you know who Hitler is?”
I shook my head.
“Here’s a cup of water. It might calm you down. Pretend it is hot cocoa or something nice.” She handed me a mug and continued, “You weren’t around to remember the Great War. It was horror beyond imagination. It was just a big fight between everyone. But we lost. The winners made us pay for everything. They made us give them our factories, our food, our money; they forced us to kneel down before them like nasty sniveling little creatures begging for their lives. I watched everyone around us die. We all withered away, just barely clinging to life. All because of them…they ground us into the dust. It was humiliation and shame you can’t imagine. Then Hitler rose up. He came to save his people. He promised freedom, life, and happiness. And look at us now…” she laughed a little wildly, “we can’t speak our thoughts to any other living being. We can’t whisper rebellion to our pillow at night without being thrown in prison. People are dying like flies, all over, everywhere. And this is happiness. If this is happiness, I don’t want to see unhappiness. So that’s why we are here.”
Uncle Gottlieb came into the room, and my aunt cut off her lecture. I had a feeling he preferred not to speak any more than necessary and wanted everyone to follow his habit, too.
We didn’t go outside that day. It started snowing a little, and the streets were littered with soldiers and people—dead and alive. I walked all over the house, trying to stay a little warm and trying to keep my mind off the terror of the night. It didn’t help very much.
– From Part One, Chapter 9