In Ilse's school, the teachers had changed practically overnight. Now they all wore Nazi lapel pins. They were also not as nice as they used to be. When Ilse had come in to class one day and sat at her regular seat, she discovered that all the Jews had to sit together across the isle from the "aryan" students. Jews? Ilse barely knew that she was Jewish. Sure, she had had to go to Hebrew school as part of her religious training in school, but her family was not religious at all. They had a Christmas tree every year, and her nanny even used to take Ilse to church with her every week. Ilse looked at one side of the room and then the other, shrugged, made a face at Inge, with whom she usually sat, and walked over and took the closest seat to the window. She began to write a note straight away:
"Dear Inge," she wrote. "Isn't this silly? Haha, I get the window now. Do you know what my brother was doing yesterday...."
Heinz was not so lucky. His school did not allow Jews anymore. Jews? Since when is anyone in my family a Jew? Heinz asked himself when he was told he had to leave. As far as he knew, the last real Jew in his family had been his grandfather. Before he died, he had made Heinz's father promise that he would bury him properly and say Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. His son obeyed, and his family never had anything to do with the religion again. Until now. Heinz was sad to leave. He loved his school. Now, three months before graduation, he would have to go to the Jewish school in the second district, the Sperlgymnasium. He sighed and continued gathering his books up. He knew he lived on borrowed time now. Last night his parents had taken a screwdriver and made a hole in the molding on the corner of the living room ceiling. They had taken all of his mother's jewelry, hidden it in the hole, and covered the hole back up again. He would have to find a way to get out.
That afternoon Heinz was to meet Ilse in the park. He had been starting to teach her English lately. He figured that the best way to teach her would be to have her do what his mother had made him do - memorize Shakespeare. He had her start with the most famous one of all. He took his well worn copy and left for the park.
Ilse was busy trying hard to memorize the passage
from Hamlet that Heinz had given her. She wasn't very good at
it, but she was desperate not to seem a dummy in Heinz's eyes.
"To be or not to be" - that part was easy. She moved
on. "To sleep perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub."
Rub? Ilse thought. What did that mean? Well, she would be late
if she didn't leave now, so she would just have to ask him. In
the park, they sat down on their usual bench. Heinz took away
her book. She hadn't been expecting that. "OK, tell me what
you've learned so far", Heinz said to her. "Well, OK",
she said. Nervously she started out: "To be or not to be
- that is the kvestion -"
"Question", Heinz interrupted her. "The "qu" sounds different in English". Ilse nodded.
"Kvestion", she replied.
"Good. Now go on."
"Vether - no, whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and....and...." Ilse was distracted by a robin bouncing along the bright fresh green grass of spring. "Go on," Heinz prompted. She fidgeted. The lilacs were blooming, and their intoxicating smell was very distracting. "And, by opposing..." Heinz urged. Ilse gave up. The lilacs and the birds and the warm sun and Heinz sitting next to her were all too much. She turned to him with a mischievous grin...
It was Ilse's last day of school. She was very glad. The teachers were starting to not be very nice. They never talked to her or the other Jews anymore. Of course, they had to talk to you when you raised your hand, but it was all very business-like. And there were the horrible girls who were Nazis. There were only a few, but they always made faces at Ilse. That is, if they even looked at her at all. Most of the time they just ignored her. She made fun of them sometimes with Inge behind their backs, but she was getting tired of them. Most of all, like the other girls in her class, she could not understand why she and the rest of the Jews were being treated this way - it was so obviously stupid. Ilse wanted to celebrate her last day of school. Of course, it was not the end of her studying, she would take some practical courses in sewing and dress-making, while Heinz took courses in men's tailoring. They both knew it was because they would have to leave soon, but they never really discussed it much. They had chosen to take those courses because it was a universal profession and you didn't have to be able to speak another language to do it. You never knew where you might end up. She tried to catch Inge's eye, but she wasn't watching. She carefully ripped out a piece of notebook paper and started to write: "Inge: Can you believe it's our last day? Can we hide and meet today? Write back! Ilse" She waited until the teacher wasn't looking, and she quickly handed it across the aisle to the girl sitting next to Inge. Inge opened the note and looked uncomfortable. She shifted in her chair and looked over at Ilse. She wrote underneath Ilse's note and passed it back. "Ilse," the note said. "I really can't meet you today. My parents don't allow it, you know. Too dangerous. Sorry. Inge" Ilse sat looking at the note. She sighed. Well, she had expected it, after all. None of her friends liked to meet with her. She folded the note and put it away and turned to look out the window and the beautiful June day. Suddenly she sat up. Was that Heinz coming, she wondered. It was! He stood there outside her school waiting to pick her up. She glanced at the clock. Five minutes! How could she ever wait five minutes! Finally, class was over. Ilse sat in her chair, impatiently waiting for the Aryan girls to leave the classroom. They had to leave separately since they were forbidden to be together. Finally she rushed out of the classroom and into Heinz's arms. How lucky I am to have such a wonderful boy! she thought.