Mort Laitner
Mort Laitner

The Reenactment

4 T
Fedor Andreevich Bronnikov (1827-1902). The damned box. Place of execution in ancient Rome. The crucified slaves. Oil on canvas., Date 1878. (Public domain)

Hi, my name is Billy Sussman.
I’m nine-years-old.
I’m in the third grade at Watkins Elementary School.
Watkins is in our Capital—Washington, DC.
And this is my story about what happened in our library a couple of weeks ago.
Yeah see, a bunch of us kids were in the library doing our self-guided projects, when the librarian tapped her fingers on her desk and called us to attention.

“Students, listen up.
Please push your desks into a circle.
Today, I got a special project for us to work on.
This project even deals with Christmas.”
Hearing the word “Christmas” my fellow third graders excitedly, circled their desks and waited for more instructions.
I noticed that the librarian smile looked kinda funny—her lips were tight and they curled around the edges.
I saw a glaze hang over her eyes.

“Today we’re going to do reenactments of what happened during the Holocaust in Europe. Does anyone know the meaning of the word Holocaust?”

Johnny raised his hand, “I know, this German guy, named Adolf Hitler, wanted to kill all the Jews in Europe. He and his Nazi party managed to murder six million.”

“Johnny, very good answer. Well, today we are going do reenactments on how the Nazi’s did that to Jews and why it happened.

First, I want five of you girls to stand up and get in the middle of our circle. Girls stand real close together. Now pretend you’re in a ravine and soldiers are on top of the ravine pointing rifles at you.”

The librarian pointed finger at three boys.

“Now I want you three boys to stand up and act like you’re the Nazi soldiers.
Aim your rifles at the girls heads and bodies.”
The girls look frightened.

Boys start shooting your guns. Girls fall on the ground and pretend bullets have pierced your body.

I want to hear your pain.”

So the girls moaned and cried real loud.

The librarian jumped out of her seat and clapped her hands, like she was seeing a Broadway play.

“Now boys start kicking dirt from the top of the ravine on to the girls’ dead bodies.
Excellent! Great reenactment!

Okay third graders, go back to your seats and I want the other kids to get up and go into the middle of the circle. Now pretend you’re packed, like sardines, in a cattle car attached to a train on the way to a concentration camp.

Johnny, what’s a concentration camp?”

“It’s a prison where the Nazis gassed the Jews to death.”

As the librarian nodded her head, she said, “Johnny, again a great answer. Did you read a book about the Holocaust?”

“Yup. It scared the living daylights out of me.”
“Well students, how do you feel in that cattle car?”

Screams poured out of the mouths of  my fellow nine-year olds.

“It’s too hot in here! I need some air! I’ve got to pee! There’s no room even to lay down! There’s is only a filthy bucket to pee into! This cattle car stinks! I’m going to faint!

The librarian stood in amazement.

“Well done students. Are you ready for the next reenactment?”

My frightened classmates answered her question with silence.

“Well, that train you were on has arrived in the concentration camp and the soldiers rush you to a room with the word, “SHOWERS” painted on the door. You’re cramped into that room. You hear the door latch slammed shut. You smell a gas. An odor that smells like rotten eggs. You’re lung hurt and you’re begging for air.
Students, tell me your last words before you die.”

My classmates whispered:
“Mommy help me. Daddy save me. G-d, why is this happening to me?”

As tears poured down my classmates faces, Johnny raised his hand and asked the librarian two questions:

“Where is the Christmas part of these reenactments?

And why did the Nazis hate the Jews so much?”

My librarian lowered her eyeglasses, rotated her head so she could gaze into her students’ eyes and said,

“Because the Jews ruined Christmas for the Germans when they killed Jesus.”
At that very moment school bell rang, as my fellow third graders slowly stood and headed for the exit. My librarian spoke, “Kids remember these reenactment are our secret. Don’t talk to anybody about them, not even your parents.”

As I, Billy Sussman, the only Jew in my third-grade class, shut the classroom door, I inhaled the cool air of the hallway and felt relieved.

For I feared the librarian planned on making us do a reenactment of the crucifixion and I, Billy Sussman, would be ordered to play Jesus.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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