A year with Amon Goeth had changed Helen Hirsch so much that she was sure even her own mother wouldn't recognize her now. Those twelve months of unpredictable rages, harsh beatings, and arbitrary killings had broken her spirit, numbed her soul, and hardened her heart. It had scarred her inside and out.
It appeared that she wore her pain on her face, in the shape of bruises and cuts, but the real scars were on the inside. Amon had robbed her of so much. Would she ever be the same again?
Gone was the bright, beautiful, carefree girl whose smile lit up an entire room. The girl who could charm even the Nazis who hated her by nature and whose beauty never failed to mesmerize a crowd. Gone was the girl with the quick wit and sharp tongue, who had an answer for everything and a strong sense of justice, the girl who would fight for what she believed in until the end.
In her place was a silent girl whose terror paralyzed her soul and kept her from feeling. Now that happy, lighthearted girl had turned into a skittish, fearful one, who jumped at loud noises and flinched whenever someone lifted up their hand. Now, Helen lived in constant fear, never knowing when Amon would tire of her and just shoot her and be done with it, and facing unpredictable beatings and cruelty at every turn.
He had no shame, she knew. It had never even occurred to Amon that he might be wrong to hurt Helen like he did, and was not embarrassed at all to parade her in front of guests, black eyes and all. He would even brag to them about how well he had trained her; with sharp slaps and harsh threats, she had learned well. Not only did everything have to be done well for Amon, but it had to be done impeccably. A single wrinkle in his shirt warranted a beating for Helen, and so she learned to iron immaculately. She had learned to attune herself very carefully to his moods, wants, and needs, because if things weren't done just so, Amon would punish her severely.
And when Amon boasted like this to company, they would laugh good-naturedly, as if amused by Amon's antics, not understanding that Helen was a person too, and it hurt her to be treated so cruelly.
It had been twelve long months since someone had kissed her cheek and told her that they loved her, twelve long months since she had felt secure in her mother's warm embrace, twelve long months since anyone had said a kind word to her at all. Now, she doubted she would recognize sincerity if it walked right up to her and introduced itself. And at night, when she lay in her dingy cot in the basement, thinking, she sometimes found herself panicking as she struggled to visualize the faces of her parents and siblings. There was Adam, with his dark hair and twinkling eyes, and David, who was serious and intelligent, with wire-rimmed spectacles, and Anna, with long golden hair and bright blue eyes – or were they green? Helen couldn't remember. And of course, there was little Rachel, with her beautiful curly hair – red like fire, to match her temper.
Helen's heart ached thinking about it. How she would love to hold her little sister in her arms – Rachel was only five, just a child, and she was only a baby when the war started. It was sad that her little sister had never tasted a real cookie or drank hot chocolate with whipped cream on top, had never known a carefree life without fear of the Nazis. But someday, Helen would see her again, and they would all go somewhere safe, like Palestine or America, and Rachel would soon forget the terror she'd lived with for all her young life. And then, maybe, so would Helen.