Ariela never saw Rachel and Dan again after their move to Germany, but she treasured every letter from them forever. She and her husband lived out their days peacefully in the English countryside, going about their daily lives content to simply be with each other. Rachel and Dan, however, had a very different future in store for them, though not even I knew that then. Some people think that, as Time, I can see both future and past, but that is simply not true. Even I had no idea what lay in store for those two. They made a home for themselves in Berlin with Dan’s mother for the remainder of her days but stayed on even after she was gone and had two children: Max and Mira. Max, the elder of the two, proved to have his mother’s spirit, romping out his days with his fellow school boys. Mira, on the other hand, grew into the essence of her father. Kind and gentle, with an eye for the wonderful things in life, she became dear friends with a German girl on their street by the name of Sofia.
One crisp autumn morning, a week or two into November of 1938, when both girls were about eight, I peeked in to watch them as they played together in the cobbled street.
“Over here!” cried Sofia, beckoning her friend over to where she stood crouched over a small red and black flower. “Look at this!”
Mira hurried over to her across the street and bent down to look, brushing her black hair out of the way of her light brown eyes. “It’s so pretty,” she breathed, staring down at it.
“I think it’s ugly,” replied Sofia, shaking her head. “My father says that the colors black and red stopped being pretty after the Nazis took over. Now they just look like propaganda.”
“That’s not true,” cried Mira, stroking the petal softly. “That’s like saying every fruit is bad because one of them is rotten.”
Sofia sighed, boredly. “Whatever you say, Mira.”
“Hello, girls,” came a familiar voice from behind them. They turned around to see Sofia’s mother walking up with a basket in her arms. “I’ve brought a pie for your family, Mira. Is your mother at home?”
“She’s inside,” replied Mira, nodding.
Sofia gazed at the basket. “Could I help them eat their pie, Mama?”
“We have a pie at home for us, Sofia.”
“I know,” assured Sofia, shrugging, “but can I help them eat theirs too?”
Her mother laughed as she walked up the steps to their door. “You will have to ask Frau Rachel.”
The two girls shared a happy glance and hurried up after her, careful not to risk tipping her over and ruining the precious pie. “Rachel,” said Sofia’s mother, entering tentatively, “are you here?”
“Ah, hello, Caroline,” cried Rachel, hurrying in from the kitchen. Mira noticed her eyes were slightly red.
“Hello, Rachel,” said Caroline, leaving the basket on the table and hugging Mira’s mother. “How are you?”
Rachel sighed and forced a smile. “We are managing. Dan decided to close the shop for a few days. We thought it better to stay out of the way until this business is over.”
“Germany has gone crazy,” exulted Caroline, shaking her head. “In all my life I never imagined society would come to this. If only the German people would see their folly and go back to the way things used to be.”
Rachel smiled sadly. “You know that they won’t.”
Caroline sighed. “Yes, I know. Oh, I only wish you could have seen the Germany of my childhood, Rachel. It was such a wonderful place then!”
“It is not so bad now,” assured Rachel, quietly.
Rachel put a hand on her friend’s arm. “We have you. You and Walter and Sofia.” She smiled down at where the girls still stood. “I cannot imagine having to survive here alone without good friends like you.”
“That reminds me why I came,” said Caroline, seriously. “Walter and I talked it over and we want the four of you to come to our house for supper tonight. You can help us with our pie.”
“Oh, we couldn’t impose,” began Rachel, but Caroline cut her off.
“It will be no imposition.”
“Please, Mama!” pleaded Mira, hopefully.
“But to cook for us-”
“You can help me with the cooking,” assured Caroline, laughing. “Perhaps, though it is not Friday, you could even bring your candlesticks and lead us in Shabbat. I think that would be quite nice.”
“Rachel,” cut in Caroline, taking her hand. “All day I’ve had the most terrible feeling that something is wrong. Things are getting worse every day. Please, let me do this for you.”
Rachel looked from her friend’s face to her daughter’s pleading expression and smiled in spite of herself. “Alright,” she consented at last, laughing at the girls’ excitement. “Let me go and get Dan and Max.”
So it was that on the evening of Kristallnacht, as Jewish businesses and homes were being destroyed all over Germany, the two families huddled close around a small German table, bowing their heads as the blessings were said in the gentle light from the two silver candlesticks. When the blessings were over, Rachel stared into the flame for a long moment. “And God be with Germany,” she added quietly. There was nothing more to say.
Later, after the lights from the candles had long gone out and the girls had gone up to Sofia’s room, Mira glanced out the window. “It looks like we weren’t the only ones doing shabbat tonight.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sofia, looking over at her.
Mira gestured to the window. “There is a small red glow at the end of the street.”
“What?” asked Sofia, coming over to her. “There can’t be. There aren’t any other Jews on this street.”
“Look,” said Mira, pointing. Way down the street, far enough that they could just barely make anything out through the dark, a soft red glow slowly grew larger and larger as they watched.
“That’s weird,” said Sofia, staring at it. “There isn’t a street light down there. That’s right next to…” she caught her breath, “your house.”
At that moment Max shouted from downstairs. The panic hit both girls at the same time and they bolted downstairs, getting there just as the adults ran in from the kitchen. “What is it, Max?” asked Dan, hurrying over to where his son stood in the open front door.
“It’s burning!” cried Max, pointing in disbelief down the street.
“What is?” pressed Rachel, just behind her husband.
In an instant both Dan and Walter sprang out the front door and down the street with Max close on their heels. “Mama!” cried Mira, looking up at her.
“Oh!” cried Rachel, her hands flying shakily to her mouth. “To think we could have been in there!” By the time they reached the end of the street it was too late. The home they had loved so much, the only one Mira had ever known, was drowned in flames. The Nazis had struck.