It was a cold December evening in the year 1942.
Fredrick Garland was sitting in his armchair in front of the fire, reading a letter. He folded the little piece of paper and shrank back into his armchair. A tear after tear fell from his eyes.
“Not again!” he murmured. Then he cried his heart out.
Even after crying for almost an hour, Fredrick was still overwhelmed with a feeling of desolation. This state of restlessness forced him to come out of his house and take a walk to sort out his thoughts, even though it had started to snow
He had not gone far from his house when he saw a man, a woman and a little boy closely hurdled together and shivering badly in the snow. Their clothing was insufficient for the freezing cold night like that. Some instinct forced him to talk to them and soon he found himself offering them shelter for the night.
“It is very cold tonight. Come, you can spend the night in my house. I have a room vacant you can sleep there. If you stay out in this weather, you will surely die of cold.” They destitute family looked terrified at this suggestion and immediately declined the offer. But Fredrick wouldn’t give up. At last they had to give in and follow Fredrick into his house. He served them hot food and made them sit in front of the fire. He arranged their beds and sent them off to sleep.
“Good night!” he said and went to his own room.
Late in the night the little boy, Charlie overheard his parents talking…
“Oh Henry what is to become of us? They are after us like mad dogs!! They’ll kill us!”
“Yes Liza dear, those cruel animals are hungry for blood. They will not spare anyone. They will kill all of our kinds.”
“It is not us that I am worried about… it’s our little Charlie here. Sure a small kid! What has HE done to them??”
Henry patted his son and said, “My poor boy. Just your bad luck, you were born in our house.”
“Henry, I am scared! What will happen to us!! We’ll die!! Oh Lord!!”
Charlie closed his eyes. He didn’t want to hear more. He had heard them talk like that before. He had heard them mention a man named Hitler and the Nazis. He knew that Hitler and the Nazis wanted to kill them. But who they were and why were they after them, his parents never told him. He was so utterly confused.
‘Fred uncle is a good man.’ He thought, ‘I will ask him in the morning to save us’. Then he slept soundly.
In the morning he found Fred in the kitchen. He didn’t notice his eyes were red. He went up to him and hugged him. Glancing his innocent eyes into his red ones and said, “Fred, will you save us? Please save us. Mamma and pa are very scared.”
Fred frowned a bit. “Save you? But my dear Charlie”, he said patting Charlie’s hair, “Save you from whom? Are you in danger?”
“I don’t know. But my parents talk about some Hitler wanting to kill us. They never tell me a thing!”
“Hitler! O Jesus! You are Jews!! That’s why you were scared to come with me?”
Henry and Liza were standing at the door. Henry said, “O please good sir. Please don’t turn us over to Hitler. He will kill us. You don’t know how cruel and stone-hearted he is! You are an Aryan. He loves you and your kind. Please, for the sake of this little boy, don’t… “
Liza also joined in, “We will leave just now and will never show you our faces again. Hitler’s very cruel. He is hungry for Jew blood. Please spare us.”
Till now Fredrick had been listening quietly. Now he spoke,” You think I will give you up to the Nazis? I hate them just as much as you do… perhaps more.”
He felt silent for a moment. He went to the cupboard and took out the letter he had been reading last night and showed it to Henry. “Look at this”, he said, Henry opened the letter…
We are in danger. They have found out our hideout. They’ll take us any day. The Lockharts are dead and now is our turn.
Fred, you are an awesome friend. I don’t know what would have I been without you, my dear friend.
Lots of love
Mr. and Mrs. Frank
Henry folded the letter and look up at Fred. Fred continued.
“I, the Lockharts and the Franks have been friends since our college days. But after college we settled in different parts of Germany. The Lockharts and the Franks were Jews, while me a bloody ‘Aryan’. We were the bestest of friends…Lockharts were killed a month ago and now the Franks…” He paused for a moment, tears in his eyes. “Well… do you still think that I will not help you?” he added with a smile.
A few months had passed. The Jew family lived in the shed in Fred’s backyard. They never went out and remained quite. By now Fred and the Jew family had grow very close. They were living happily.
But their happiness was short-lived. The neighbors grew suspicious and began talking about Fredrick.
“Did you see the amount of groceries Fredrick buys these days?”
“Yes. His groceries can easily feed four or five people!
“He seldom comes out of his house. He has broken all the ties with us.”
“I smell a rat! Don’t mind me, but don’t you think he is hiding something…. Or someone?”
The neighbors felt something fishy.
One day there was a loud banging on Fredrick’s door. He opened and found a group of hefty Nazi officials. They dragged him out. “Where are they?” they barked, “You have been hiding them. Where are they?”
He was beaten up badly but he didn’t speak. “Speak! Or I’ll kill you!!” But Fredrick’s lips remained sealed.
Two Nazis ran in to search the house after a few minutes they were out, dragging the Jews with them.
Charlie ran and hugged Fred. “Uncle you are bleeding!”
Then Fred noticed that he was bleeding profusely. Henry, knowing their death was near, said, “Fred Thanks for these lovely last months of our lives. They have been great.”
Then they were pushed into the Nazi vans… off to the gas chambers.
Two Nazis stayed behind to take Fredrick to the jail. Fred noticed quite a crowd had assembled. “Come on you!” one of the Nazi barked and kicked Fred in his stomach. “We don’t have time to waste.”
But Fred’s mind was somewhere else. He did something none present would have expected.
“I am coming friends… We’ll surely meet now… All these years we never met but now we’ll meet in heavens. I’m coming my dear Lockharts and Franks… I’ll meet you too- Henry, Liza and little Charlie” he murmured.
Then he pulled out the gun from the waist of the Nazi who kicked him. Before the Nazis could react, he shot himself.
He died on the spot.