Flashback by Carlo Musso

I found a pencil stub in a ditch and I managed to rip this piece of paper out of a sack of bread in the kitchen ... I do not have much space nor much time ...

It happened many years ago, it was the summer of 1893, I had just turned 16 and I had gone for a couple of weeks to Aunt Miriam's house, in Simbach on the Inn River. One afternoon, while I was walking towards the river, I decided to cross the bridge to take a look at the town on the opposite bank. I had walked a hundred meters along the road from the bridge into the city, when I heard a convulsive cry on my left. I turned and saw a child sitting on the cobblestones, sobbing desperately, head bowed. He had short blue trousers, a linen shirt and a bob of black hair. He could have been four or five years old. I came closer. Between his legs he had a spinning top with a broken pin. I bent and asked him:

"What happened to you?".

He raised his face and stared at me with two dark eyes, full of tears.

"I broke the top ... when I go home my father will give me a beating ...".

The top of the pin with the knob was on the ground, a little farther. The wood was aged and the fracture was clear. Not far away I saw what looked like a carpenter's shop. I told the child:

"Wait for me here, do not move, you'll see that we will fix everything".

Shortly thereafter I was back with a can of glue. I spread a thin layer on the pin and made the two parts fit together. Then I told the child:

"Can you count?".

He looked at me with a proud expression, there was no trace of tears in his eyes.

"Up to a hundred!" He answered standing up.

"Then count, very slowly, up to a hundred".

He began, touching his fingertips one after the other, as he counted. When he reached 80 he began to accelerate, but by now the glue had taken hold so I let him continue.

"... 98, 99, 100!" He stared at me with eyes full of expectation and fear at the same time.

I let go of the knob: the two pieces remained attached. Then, cautiously, I pressed it a couple of times. The spinning top began to spin, while a cheerful tune came out of the carillon. The child looked at me for a moment with an ecstatic expression, then threw his arms around my neck. For a few seconds with his little hands he ruffled my hair. Then he released me, took the top, put it under his arm, and set off firmly toward the house. I looked at him as he walked away: "There's nothing more beautiful than making a child happy," I thought. Then he stopped, turned, and asked me:

"Sir, can you tell me your name? So I remember who helped me".

"My name is Joseph Goldstein. And you?"

"My name is Adolf... Adolf Hitler...".

Auschwitz-Birkenau, July 1943

Published in Issue #26

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