By Anavi Khosla –
Quote: When given the choice between being right or kind, choose kind.
~ R.J. Palacio, Wonder
- Sho’ah: The term used to call the Holocaust back then.
- Guilders: Currency during Holocaust.
The Sho’ah. Something that people would rather read about in their history textbooks than their newspaper. And here I was, sitting in my big armchair, reading about it from a newspaper, about the situation outside my front door. As I read on, my brain kept telling me to put the newspaper down and read about something happier, because all that this article is going to do is make me feel bad about the Jews and try to fix it, which could lead to me getting killed or thrown into one of those horrid concentration camps I read about in yesterday’s newspaper.
“Alissa, come to the kitchen! I have cookies for you!” My mom yelled. I sighed and got up, dropping the newspaper onto the coffee table. I walked into the kitchen to see my mom pulling out a tray of weird colored, grainy cookies. I huffed in annoyance and whined, “Did you call me here to eat your oats filled, no chocolate chips, weird colored cookies?” My mom sighed and picked a cookie up, waving it under my nose. “You know that since the war started, we all have rations and everything’s prices have been jacked up? I swear, I went to the store and the chocolate chips was 150 guilders! You know what I could buy with that much? I can buy 5 pajamas, 3 cotton vests, 2 petticoats, a pair of slippers, a pillow…”
I tuned her out as I stared at the cookies in front of me and tried to picture them as cookies, real ones, pre-war, and as I moved my hand to grab one, my mom poked me and said, “Alissa, were you listening to me?” She chuckled and pushed a cookie into my open hand. “Go open the door, silly! I just heard some knocks.” I sighed and got up while putting the cookie in a tissue and slipping it into my pocket. I walked to the door and asked, “Who is it?” I waited a few seconds before peeping through the peephole. I pushed my ear against the door and asked again. “Please help me,” a faint whisper rang in my ears. I opened the door to find a girl with a dirty face and a tattered dress.
My mouth fell open as I stared at her. I backed away slowly and yelled for my mother. The girl reached her hands out, but I put mine up, as if to say, “Please stay away from me,” and she dropped hers. She had a few wounds and cuts on her arms and legs and my mother appeared in the doorframe of the kitchen, saying, “Alissa, what happened?” I pointed at the door, where the girl was now down on her knees, the scrapes and blood from there worsening and seeping into the welcome mat. Mom turned while wiping her hands with her apron and froze upon setting her eyes at the scene in front of us.
The girl repeated, a little louder this time, “Please help me.” My mom took a few steps towards her and asked, “Jewish?” She nodded. My mom gestured for her to stand up, and she did. “What’s your name?” Mom asked. “Ellie,” she replied. Mom nodded and asked, “Where are your parents, Ellie?” I winced, not wanting to hear the answer. A single tear rolled down Ellie’s cheek as she replied, “Gone.” My mom and I winced, and turned to each other. “What do you want to do about this?” I whispered. She shrugged and replied, “We have to take her in.” I involuntarily slapped her arm and said, “Are you crazy, Mom? She’s Jewish!” My mom shrugged, and turned back to Ellie. She motioned for her to come in, and Ellie stood up, saying, “Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m so grateful. Thank you.” Mom shushed her and lead her to the sofa, sending me to get a new dress for her.
I trudged up the stairs, grabbing a dress from my closet, went back downstairs. Mom was dressing Ellie’s wounds, as the girl tried to swallow her cries of pain. I sat next to Mom and placed the dress on Ellie’s lap. I placed a soft hand on her thigh and said, “You’re going to be okay. We’re going to hide you in the attic, okay?” Ellie nodded, and my mom leaned in to kiss my temple. “Thank you,” she whispered. I handed her the cookie from my pocket and her eyes widened. “For me?” She asked, while pointing at herself. I nodded, and she smiled back at me, unwrapping the tissue to eat the cookie. Once Mom finished dressing her wounds, I led Ellie to the bathroom and handed her the dress. “Change, okay? And then come to the kitchen. We’ll find something for you to eat.” She smiled gently, a twinkle in her eye, and placed a hand on my shoulder. “Thank you for doing this,” she said, a genuine smile on her face. I picked her hand off my shoulder and held it between my hands.
I told her, “My dad told me something once. He said, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” And I promised myself that day that, that is what I will do.”
Pathways School Gurgaon