The Present and the Past III: An Orange in Winter

June 1936

Lüneburg Synagogue 1941 – EBook Margaret A. McQuillan: An Orange in Winter / The Beginning of the Holocaust as Seen Through the Eyes of a Child
The synagogue in Lüneburg – The Jewish community had to sell the estate and demolish the synagogue bearing its costs just before “Reichskristallnacht” in 1938 – © Archive M. A. McQuillan /Archive
Lüneburg, memorial synagogue of 1955, Gedenkstein Synagoge von 1955 – EBook Margaret A. McQuillan: An Orange in Winter / The Beginning of the Holocaust as Seen Through the Eyes of a Child
A memorial commemorating the location of the Lüneburg synagogue of 1894 – © Collection Geschichtswerkstatt Lüneburg

As Hans stared across the street, the soldier´s angry shouting and the movement of bystanders interrupted his thoughts. His whole body tightened as he watched what was happening at 18 Bäckerstraße. The tension and sadness he felt evoked vivid memories of the past – the better times, when Walter and his family lived as respected German citizens.

Hans balanced the orange carefully in his hand, clearly realizing how it connected him to both his past and his present.

As he had grown older, Hans realized the other boys at Walters party long ago had been making fun of his homemade sweater; that to them, his birthday gift of an orange was just a piece of fruit. Walter had probably eaten lots of them. But it didnt matter. Not really. He would never forget how special the Lesses had made him feel.

These are honorable people,he thought to himself. Good people. And no one is doing anything to help them.

Nazi storm trooper German/Jewish storeowner 1938 – EBook Margaret A. McQuillan: An Orange in Winter / The Beginning of the Holocaust as Seen Through the Eyes of a Child
A German/Jewish storeowner displays his WWI Iron Cross commendation medal to show his patriotism, but to no avail. The Nazi storm trooper outside the store demanded people not to patronize a Jewish business, as commanded by the Nazi regime – © Archive M. A. McQuillan

He stepped out into the sunlight and strode purposefully across the street. He pushed through the crowd and defiantly planted himself in front of the storm trooper who barred the front doors. Hans had just been drafted into the Heer, Germanys new army, but for the first time in years, he was glad he was in his civilian work clothes and not in uniform.

Excuse me,he pretended politeness. I would like to enter this store. The soldier stared straight ahead, ignoring him. Hans raised his voice. I said, Excuse me. I have business here.

You have no business here,the red-faced storm trooper screamed for all to hear. No one has business with thieving, evil Jews. I have my orders. Heil Hitler!

Hans leaned forward so he and the soldier were face to face. He briefly noted the man was as young as he was. But when he looked into his eyes, the hatred that stared back made him seem much older and much more dangerous.

Hans lowered his voice. I said I have business here. Now step aside or Ill move you myself.

Hans put both his hands on the rifle and pushed it down, hard. Their eyes locked. Hans tightened his grip. The Nazi was the first to look away. He stepped aside.

Hans walked through the doors and firmly shook hands with Herr Less. Frau Less, who had watched the confrontation through the window, was pale and shaking. Hans hugged her tightly, and then gently placed the orange in her hands, covering them with his own.

Perhaps there is magic in an orange after all,she whispered gratefully. Das werde ich niemals vergessen, Hans.

An elderly peasant woman wearing a bright red scarf broke away from the crowd and followed Hans inside.

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The Present and the Past III: An Orange in Winter Copyright © 2017 by Margaret A. McQuillan and Geschichtswerkstatt Lüneburg e.V.. All Rights Reserved.

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