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 Walter’s 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 didn’t 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.”
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, Germany’s 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 I’ll 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.