IN THE BEGINNING
On a warm, quiet spring evening in April, the great lord Death arrived in a small village in Austria. It was April 20, 1889 and the date would long be remembered as the beginning of his most fearsome legacy to the world.
He stood where he had arrived in this small town in Austria, quite still, for a long time. He appeared to be tall, and thin, and blended almost naturally into the four o’clock -in-the-morning haziness of the market square. He remained in the same spot until small splashes of a pink sky began to hover over the town bringing the first donkey carts full of fruit into the market square.
Not until then did he move. Slowly, casually, almost carelessly he walked the length of the market and turned into a side street leading to the park where he found a bench, sat, and watched the town come alive.
In any small town where lord Death arrived, his presence was at first more felt than seen and here was no exception. Professionally sensitive people would later claim, some with justification, that they recognized him at once. Most of the town, confused and perplexed, would remark on the changes they had perceived without knowing the source. Some — the wise ones — knew him from the beginning, and were afraid.
But they were also the first ones to be relieved since they also were wise enough to know when he had left.
Everywhere, from the very center of the town all through the surrounding countryside, people would afterwards recall the disquiet in their lives on that one particular day. Small disturbances seemed to grasp the community one by one until, seen in the aggregate and from the perspective of hindsight, even the slowest wit finally understood the enormity of what had happened in their small town.
Farm tractors would not start, donkeys would not move, the rich, lush floral garden that surrounded the pathways in the park wilted nearly to the ground. The color of the entire community on this bright sunny day in April, everyone remembered later, had turned to a misty grey.
Thus the great lord Death came, and did his deed, and left the earth , but not before being pleased with what he saw was to come. If anyone had noticed he would have been seen smiling, for it was Easter Sunday and Adolph Hitler had been born.
Next: Escape from the Krakow ghetto, on the train to Auschwitz