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A Reason to Hope

The excerpt below is from a novel that I wrote a few years back that deals with the Holocaust. My hope is that, after you, who are in pain, read this excerpt, you'll walk away feeling disturbed because of what happens and the subject matter, but also with a new look on life. The prisoners in the concentration and death camps fought very hard for life... they were being treated like animals and yet all they wanted was to live. I find comfort and strength in knowing that, if they could survive, if they could keep pushing ahead for the next day, just to be alive, then I can find the strength to endure my problems as well, and to live. I am hoping that each of you can do the same. God loves us all and He's here to help us through tough times, like the Holocaust and whatever you may personally be enduring.

"Mountains of Hope"

Alyx exhaled miserably. She knew, from his promise of yesterday, what would happen now. He had vowed to select, to randomly select, and murder two innocent people if one inmate escaped. Alyx instinctively knew he'd keep that vow. Shawn smiled benignly, while swinging that cursed baton back and forth, his narrow gray eyes surveying his line of Auschwitz prisoners.

"Well," he said. "It seems as though two of your friends have somehow managed to escape, and that means that four of you will pay the price." He paused a moment to allow that to sink in before he started walking down the long line of terrified prisoners. His eye caught sight of a small girl first.

"You look weak, come." He said callously, pointing to the girl. The child was young, no more than nine or ten and she didn't really understand what was about to happen. The child's mother, however,did and she instantly began pulling on her daughter's arm. "Oh, please, please,sir, don't. She's only eleven years old, please, sir!" the mother begged and Shawn looked at her tearstained face before moving his gaze to the child. The mother's obvious distraught and tears made the girl's own eyes water and Shawn, much to Alyx's disbelief, reached a hand out and touched the girl's cheek. "Don't cry, child." Then he glanced at the mother. "What is your name, Jew?"

"Karena, s-sir."

"And the child's?"


"Pretty name," he commented lightly. "She's a pretty child. You're blessed. And I take pity on you and your Sarah. I have children, daughter's actually, of my own. However, I did pick your daughter."

Instantly, fresh tears sprang to Karena's eyes and a cry of denial sprang to her lips. Shawn closed his eyes and held up a hand to silence her

"However, your pleas have not fallen on deaf ears. What if I were to simply move your daughter to a different part of the camp? Would that be better?" Shawn asked and, this time, Karena's tears were of gratitude an relief.

"Oh, sir, thank you, thank you so much -"

"You're welcome. Now, Sarah say good-bye to your mother. You're going to a different part of the camp to do lighter work."

As mother and child hugged each other, told each other that they loved each other and said good-bye, Alyx felt her knees buckle from disbelief. Tears entered her eyes too. After all she had seen and endured, it was so hard to see a German acting in a truly decent way to a Jew. Maybe Shawn only came to work every day with an angry attitude; maybe he didn't enjoy murdering innocents; maybe he wasn't Hitler's son in disguise.

"Sarah, go stand next to my guards an keep your back to us. I am afraid that what you would see might steal your childhood." Shawn ordered and when Sarah looked up at him, everyone there, Shawn included, saw the obvious love and gratitude and respect in her deep brown gaze. She didn't completely understand what she had just happened, but she knew from the pained expression on her mother's face, it could have been terrible and this man, this German, was protecting her from it. Shawn waited until Sarah was to the other Nazis, with her back to everyone else, before he smiled again.

"I have spared one life: I have no more mercy." With that, he calmly walked down the line and randomly selected three other women. He ignored their cries for mercy, and their tears. He ignored them, but Alyx knew that she would remember them for the rest of her life because, once the final victim had been chosen, she exhaled a breath she hadn't even known she was holding. Her life was spared and, as much as she didn't want those women to die, a part of her was grateful she wasn't among them. For that thought, Alyx would never forgive herself.

The women stood about ten yards away from Shawn, and they all knew it wasn't far enough. They clasped hands in a desperate attempt at hope and when the fist bullet was fired, one of the women fell to her knees in fright. Shawn had missed her deliberately by a half inch and he patiently waited until she stood again to fire the next bullet. As the first victim died, Alyx covered her face with her hands. She could not believe, simply could not believe, that this cold blooded killer was the same man who had just spoke to and touched a child so gently.

Alyx was shaking as the last victim died. Those women's faces were permanently engraved on her mind. She closed he eyes briefly and when she opened them, she saw Shawn nod, pivot around on his heel and fire one more bullet. This bullet sped into the back of little Sarah's head. As the child he'd promised would live died, Karena, the child's mother collapsed to the ground and Alyx covered her tear-drenched face with her trembling hands. At fourteen years old, her childhood was over.

From "Mountains of Hope" by Tiffini Johnson

At the end of the novel, Alyx survives Auschwitz, as does Karena. After everything that they were put through, they survive and, in the end, Alyx uses the experiences she had at the camp to educate others about the Holocaust and the evils that took place there to prevent it from happening again. Know that, even in your darkest moment, even in a moment as dark as what Karena must have felt when Sarah was murdered, that everything happens for a reason. You CAN survive the pain you're in and I know that you have the strength to do it... sometimes we just need a reason, and I hope that the above excerpt has given you a reason: if people, like Karena, watched their loved ones die and still fought to stay alive, then we all can choose to fight and survive, as well. Not only can we survive but, if we reach out for help and talk about it with someone, we can find joy again. I pray never of you experience anything as heartbreaking as the death of a child or loved one. No matter what obstacles you may face, though, never forget that you are loved.