As I neared Marianne’s home, I braced myself against a reality I already sensed. Then I was standing before the heap of charcoal that had been the house. Its chimney poked into the air like a warning nger. Around it lay smashed bricks and blocks, black with soot; steel beams bent in the heat of the re; jumbled debris of all sorts. Then I saw the sign stuck in the rubble. Somebody had written in red: ALL MEMBERS OF THE HARDENBERG FAMILY ARE DEAD.
I was so taken aback and distracted by having had all our possessions taken from us, that although I had seen an SS man at some point, I never noticed, until it was too late, that the women had been sent in a different direction. Suddenly Rachel was no longer walking beside me. It happened so quickly that I had not even be able to kiss her or call out to her. Trying to look around to see if I could spot her somewhere, an SS man snapped at me to look straight ahead and to keep my “Maul (gob) shut.”