The souvenir given to my mother in exchange for my father’s life is lashing out at my eyes, forcing them shut. This keepsake is a bit of an odd paradox: it’s a large steel crucifix, but it’s the central memento of my dear, late, Jewish dad. My father died in the Great War, and for his great sacrifice we were given an object that robbed him of his identity. The army he killed himself for could not even properly acknowledge who he was. Most of our nation’s soldiers who had died were in fact Christian. Nevertheless, the fact that we were given the same token, the same cross to bear as everyone else, spoke to me. My father had been just another expendable life in the army. I knew that he had wasted his life, simply thrown it away.
The crucifix is affixed on my office wall and it seems to reflect all of the sunset’s magnitude into my eyes. I move over to the window on the opposite side of the room to close the curtains. I usually keep the drapes shut because the street below them is always the same. There’s nothing to see out there. People can’t afford to socialize or slow down anymore. The depression is all we can think about. The office that used to belong to my father has become my box to live in. I hate the thought that I’m just living off what’s left of him, but it’s a necessary action to survive in these dire times. My father had a prized stamp collection and they’re still relatively valuable. Although the country’s currency fluctuates incessantly, stamps are more consistent in value. I’ve been making a living by trading or selling them. Admittedly, I only keep the crucifix in my office because it’s good for business. People don’t like seeing Jews alive and well these days. When they see the crucifix here, they assume that I cannot be a so-called “wealth vampire”.
November 9th 1938 is coming to an end. No one has come up the stairs leading to my second story office in hours. I could see my automobile below through the drapes that I have not yet drawn completely. I can’t afford to run the vehicle. Still, I should buy some gasoline sometime- just enough to move the car down the curb. It would be better if it did not look like it was mine. I’d like to sell the whole contraption eventually- maybe get several dozen marks. I’d probably be selling more stamps if that automobile weren’t here right by my workplace. The masses abhor the wealthy. Those who are struggling in these times loathe those that do not suffer as they do.
In a split second, I’m halfway down the staircase. I had seen and heard the deafening resonance of metal being struck. I stop just before I fling my body into the front door at the bottom of the stairs. I nearly rush out onto the street out of impulse, but I knew that would be worse than futile. I would undoubtedly end up with the same fate as my automobile. I know what was happening out there. A group of opportunists were repeatedly battering my car with steel rods. One of them was yelling about the “bloody rich folk that owned the car”. Horror-struck, I slide to the ground in order to peer through the slit in the door that was intended for mail.
What exactly are they doing? What the hell would this random act of destruction achieve for them? Thoughts pounded their way through my mind. I hear the sound of glass shattering. I run back upstairs. Fragments of the window glass lay on the floor, and the curtains are wide open, dancing madly. My stamps are blowing wildly in the wind. I desperately try to salvage as many as possible. I can still hear the sound of my automobile being rammed. I step awkwardly over to the window frame. Smoke begins to dominate the streets. In the distance, the hand-held torches looked just like little lights, but they will soon be spreading hell.
Massive rioting is underway and I lay on the floor of the office praying that it would pass. The pogrom is raging on forcefully. I look upwards, and my eyes become fixated on the steel crucifix. All my life, I had had that cross instead of a father. I pull it off the wall. I can hardly believe how easily it slipped off; it had been there so long. I rushed into the wreckage in the streets, clutching the crucifix. My breathing is harder than the sound of my feet hitting the cobblestone road. I use the cross to smash out my own vehicle’s headlights until they are unrecognizable.
I am one with the crowd. We have done nothing to deserve this. I hate the wealth and pretension in this nation not the pogrom. As I collapse on the roadside, I reach a sense of solace. All that matters is that I’m not alone in this madness. The rioting is becoming more and more savage. The essence of war is in all of us.
As I hold on to my father’s memory, I realize that I am just like him after all.