8th Grade Park Forest Middle School Teacher: Mr. Cunningham
Maria was lying, near the others. The still shone in through the tiny cracks in the structure and the one window they had. She was practically dead. Her stomach used to the constant hunger, no longer growled. It had been only a year since she arrived at Bergen Belsen. She did not know the exact date, but it was colder than usual. Maria slowly awoke and walked over to where her mother lay. It was great luck that they had not been separated at the transit camp when they had been separated from the rest of their family. Her father and two brothers had been sent to Auschwitz to work hard labor.
As Maria stood over her mother, the guard burst in and yelled, “Stellen Sic sich schnell auf.” Maria was already up, and so were most of the Jews inside their barracks, except for one. Maria stared at her mother who did not look like she was trying to rise. The SS moved swiftly over to her and yelled “Bewegung oder ich werden Sie peitschen.” Maria was hoping that her mother would move, but she continued to lie there with her eyes shut and mouth wide open. The SS pulled out his whip and smacked it against Maria’s mother’s bare skin. Maria winced as the whip continued to hit her mother, but oddly enough she was still not moving. Her mother showed no signs of the whip affecting her, and then it dawned on Maria. Her mother was dead.
The SS guard seemed to realize it too, so he went out of the barracks and yelled orders to some of the nearby guards to put the women’s body into the crematory. The others in the barracks stood with solemn faces, but none were sad. This was not unusual at Bergen Belsen. Many had been taken away and thrown into the gas chambers: some were sent to the crematory.
Maria, however, stood speechless. Tears were clouding her vision, but she knew she couldn’t let her emotions get the best of her. She would be punished by the Nazis to an excruciating point if she did not work.
It was already bright outside, and Maria knew she would have to begun work soon. She put on the tattered remains of the clothes the SS had given her and trudged to her workplace in the factory. She stayed there for hours and hours before the SS came over the loud speakers and barked, “Kommen Sic zu Ihren Baracken schnell zuruck.” It was the next day. The tragedy of the day before had passed, but Maria could not stop thinking of the horrible mistreatment her mother’s body had received. Maria could not believe, even after a year in Bergen Belsen, that humans could do such horrific things to other humans. While she worked on the machine, her mind drifted off and she began to wonder whether death would be better than staying in this concentration camp. She was still pondering the query when her hand became caught in the machine.
A terrible pain shot through her body as a shrill scream left her mouth. The SS ran over and yanked her hand out. Maria gasped as she looked at what was left of it: a little stub with blood squirting out. She felt tears coming, and heard the rush of more SS running over to her. She could barely stand; the lack of proper nourishment combined with the loss of blood was making her dizzy. Maria fell over then, and never woke up.
When Bergen Belsen was liberated on April 15, 1945, over 30,000 people had died from starvation or disease. The British soldiers that liberated the camp were greeted with the smell of rotting corpses. Many of the people there could not walk for years due to the lack of food. Although the tragedy claimed many lives, many made it out with their lives intact. The memorial commemorates all those who lost their lives at the camp and shows everyone that this is a mistake we humans must not make again.