What Really Happened

 

Scene 1:

           

Carol, Hannah Jack and Joseph are outside the nursing home. Hannah is 14, Jack is 10. Carol and Joseph are in their mid forties. They are in front of a picturesque building lined with trimmed trees and a fountain. It is around noon on a bright, sunny May day. The nursing home is made of white marble. In the distance there are pink cherry blossom trees that are just blooming. There are birds chirping. Behind them, a car will whizz by them every once in awhile on the road. The Johnson’s car is being driven away by the man who came to greet them. He’s taking it to the parking lot and Jack now has the ticket to get it back. It is obviously a rich and expensive nursing home. Carol opens the door to the air-conditioned lobby, but stops, letting the cool air seep out when Hannah begins to talk.

 

Hannah

Ugh! Mom, I told you I have a party tonight! Why can’t I skip this one time? She’s just an old woman. All Grandma Esther ever does is scream at the old TV on a reloop of world war two footage on the History Channel and eat. I don’t see why that is so important!

 

Carol

Hannah, apologize right now. We only see Grandma Esther once a month! The least you can do is be respectful about it. I don’t see your brother complaining.

 

Hannah

That’s because he has his video game! You could take him half way across the world and he wouldn’t notice as long as he had his video game!

 

Jack

Hmm…

 

Joseph

Honey, the point is that we hardly ever see Grandma Esther. Just be respectful and before you know it, the night will be over.

 

Hannah

Yeah right.

 

She mutters under her breath


Scene 2:

 

Jack, Hannah, Carol, Joseph are in Esther’s room in the elderly house. There is a brown couch and yellow wall paper. An old fashioned TV is on the opposite wall. Next to the couch, there’s a table with some water glasses. Surrounding the TV are two other brown chairs. Esther is sitting on the couch, watching her reloops of World War II footage. Channah and Carol are also on the couch. Jack and Joseph are on the chairs. Esther occasionally screams at the TV. There is tension in the air. Jack is still playing his video games.

 

Esther

Run! Run away! Don’t let them get you! Run for your life, Channah!

 

Hannah

Grandma, Channah is dead. She was killed in World War II. Remember?

 

Carol

Mother, what she means is Channah is no longer with us. She was killed by the Nazis. We named Hannah after Channah.

 

Hannah

Yep, I’m named after a dead girl. You never seem to get tired of that one, mom. What happened to Channah, anyways?

 

Carol

She was going to pretend to be an Aryan, but before she made it to her hiding place, she was bombed.

 

Esther

Channah is not dead! She escaped the Nazis!  Somewhere, she is living happily in Germany waiting for me! They just showed her! CHANNAH IS ALIVE!

 

Joseph

Esther that was very old footage of a girl that looked nothing like Channah.

 

Esther

CHANNAH’S ALIVE!

 

Esther takes a glass that was on the table and throws it at the TV. The screen shatters and makes a fizzing sound.

 

Carol

I’ll call the front desk.

 

Jack

High score!

 

He looks up for the first time.

 

Did something break?

 

Hannah

Ugh! I’m leaving.

 

Joseph

And where do you intend on going?

 

Hannah

Anywhere but here.

 

 

Carol, Esther, Jack and Joseph exit. Hannah wanders down the hall and into the bathroom. The bathroom is all white-white tiles, with a white sink, and a white shower curtain.

 

Why is it so wet in here? That crazy old woman.

 

Hannah takes a towel. She dries the floor except for one spot behind her. She steps back and slips. She moans as she hits her head on the tile floor.

 


Scene 3:

Hannah is now Channah. She is in an old apartment. The ceiling is tin. The couch is a worn, green color. The wallpaper is yellow with old, brown stains. The floors are a splintery wood that Mama just tried her hardest to polish. On one side of her, there is a hallway. On the other side she sees a yellow and brown kitchen. There’s a dusty mirror across from her. She doesn’t know it yet, but she has gone back in time. She is now her grandma Esther’s older sister, Channah. She is in Berlin, Germany in 1939. She is Jewish. Though she has blond hair and blue eyes, her mom and sister have brown hair and brown eyes and her dad has brown hair, green eyes.

 

Mama

Channah? Oh, Channah you’re awake! You had me worried sick!

 

Channah

Mom? Where am I? What happened?

 

Mama

I had just cleaned the floors. You fell and hit your head. Oy vey, you may have a concussion. When did you start calling me “Mom” instead of Mama?

 

Channah

What do you mean? When have I ever called you “Mama?” We were at Grandma Esther’s house. She had thrown her glass at the TV and it broke. Then I went to the bathroom and I slipped… that’s all I remember.

 

Mama

Oh, Channah. You and your stories. Just don’t tell your sister that. She’s playing the piano, but I’ll call her down here. Esther, stop with the piano and help your sister.

 

Esther enters.

 

Esther

Does she remember anything?

 

Mama

Enough to make stories at her sister’s expense. I have chores to do. Esther, bring back her memory.

 

Mama leaves and Esther sits down on the couch.

 

Channah

Where am I?

 

Esther

At home, in Berlin. Where else?

 

Channah

What year is it?

 

Esther

1939. Are you sure you’re alright?

 

Channah

But that means I went back 70 years! This is World War two. I’m a Jew in Germany during World War II. Oh no. This isn’t good! This isn’t good.

 

Esther

What do you mean you went back? You didn’t go anywhere. After you fell, you went from the floor to the couch. You’re scaring me.

Channah

So you said your name was Esther, right?

 

Esther

Of course.

           

Channah walks over to the mirror. She touches her strange reflection. She’s wearing old fashioned clothing. But other than that, she looks the same.

 

Channah

And I’m Channah?

 

Esther

Yes. Are you sure you’re alright?

 

Channah

Positive. Now I’d like a minute alone.

 

Esther

Whatever you say.

 

Esther leaves, leaving just Channah. She begins to talk to herself.

 

Channah

So I’ve gone back in time 70 years. I’ve taken the place of my Great Aunt, Channah. I’m living with my grandmother and great grandparents in Berlin, Germany. My grandma is now my sister. The good news is that I’m the first person to time travel. The bad news is that I’m a Jew in Berlin, Germany during World War II. I have to get back home before I die like great aunt Channah did. But how…?

 

Someone knocks on the door. Mama comes back, followed by Esther, and opens it. The door opens to two blond haired, blue eyed twins. One is a boy and one a girl. They step in. The girl wraps her arms around Channah.

 

Adelaide

Oh, Channah! How are you? I rushed over just after church to meet you.

 

Roswell

And, of course me.

 

Channah

Who are you?

 

Adelaide

We’re your best friends. Have been since we were babies. You have to remember us. We were your first friends. And you were our first friend.

 

Roswell

Esther, how much does she remember?

 

Esther

I don’t think she remembers too much. Just now she asked me what the year was and where we are.

 

Mama

Oy, vey. What if those stories weren’t stories? What if she actually doesn’t remember anything?

 

Esther

Everything will be fine, Mama.

           

Esther leads Mama to the couch and sits her down

 

Adelaide

We’ll take her out. Maybe that will jog her memory.

 

Roswell

But I doubt it.

 

Adelaide playfully hits the side of Roswell’s arm.

 

 

Adelaide

Come on, Channah. Let’s go for a walk.

 


Scene 4:

A week has passed. Channah is sitting in her room, reading a book. It is around seven in the evening, the summer sun turning dark. Someone knocks on the door. Mama and Papa come in.

 

Papa

Channah, it’s time.

 

Channah

Time for what?

 

Mama

We don’t have much time. They’re coming soon! They’re only two apartments away!

 

Mama goes around the room and starts putting clothes in bags.

 

Papa

We discussed this when the war started. If it were ever to seem like our family was in danger of going to a concentration camp, you would hide. You could live with Adelaide’s family. You look like them. Pretend you are their cousin or another distant family member. An Aryan, like them.

 

Channah

But that won’t happen, Papa because you’re a doctor. As long as you keep being a doctor, we’ll be fine.

 

Papa

Things have changed, Channah. The Nazis are doing a search through the building. You are to climb down the side and into the alley.

 

 

Channah

But they’ll never believe me. I don’t have the right identity card. They’ll know I’m your daughter right away. And look at my clothes. They’re too tattered. I couldn’t be an Aryan.

 

 

 

Papa

Channah, you have to. It’s the only chance of surviving. Say that the Jews stole your clothes and identity card. If you are convincing enough, they’ll believe you.

 

Channah

But what about you and Mama and Esther? What will you do?

 

Mama

You have to go by yourself. It’s the only way.

 

Tears’ streaming down her face, Mama hugs Channah from behind.

 

Channah

Do I have to leave now? Why can’t I wait? Just a little longer?

 

She begins to cry too.

 

Papa

Channah, there is no time. You must go soon or they will catch you. We packed you a bag. Say bye to Esther quickly.

 

Channah

I can’t leave yet. I just got here. I’m never going to see you again. You’ll be lost. Gone. No one will ever know what happened. Esther will be too crazy to remember. Then, twenty years later, no one will know. No one will know what really happened.

 

Mama

Channah, shayne kinder. You must go. It’s the only way.

 

Mama and Papa hug and kiss Channah good bye. Then they go get Esther. Channah is alone in her room again. She pulls out a pen and paper. She begins to write a note to Esther that she reads aloud.

 

Dear Esther,

You must stay strong, no matter what happens to me or Mama or Papa. You can never believe what the Nazis say to you, or what anyone says. You’ve changed my life in a way I never knew was possible. You showed me what war does to a little girl, even if you don’t yet know how. I know now that you’re a beautiful, bright girl. Not at all the same. And now I know what really happened. I’ll tell my real children and grandchildren what happened to Esther Bauer in Berlin, Germany, 1941. Always remember that you are loved, and that no matter how much distance there is between us, we’ll always be together. You are the best sister I could ask for.

 

I’ll Love You Always,

Channah

 

 

Esther comes in.

 

Esther

Goodbye, Channah.

 

They both cry and hug each other.

Channah

Bye, Esther. I love you.

 

Esther

I love you, Channah. I don’t want you to go.

 

Channah

I don’t want to go, either. But I have to. Here. Take this note. When I leave or, whenever you miss me, read it. Remember I love you.

 

She hands Esther the note. Just then they hear a knocking on the door and know it is the Nazis. Esther dries her eyes as best as she can.

 

Esther

You have to go now.

 

Channah gives Esther another tight hug and kisses her forehead. Then she swings the bag over her shoulder and when she hears Esther close the door, she jumps out the window and into the alley.

 


 

Scene 5:

Channah landed on her feet in the alley. Up ahead, she can see the street where Nazi’s are herding Jews into an empty garage. She hides her bag and approaches one of the Nazi’s.

 

Channah

Help! Help me! The Jews! They kidnapped me! I was walking home from church. A big crowd passed.  Jews yanked me from behind. They pulled me into a side alley. They stole my clothes and my identity card. Please help me, sir.

 

Nazi 1

So who were you with? How am I supposed to know that you aren’t actually a Jew?

 

Channah

I was with the family of Mr. Schulz. I’m Adelaide and Roswell Schulz’s cousin, Klaudia Haas.

 

Nazi 1

Where are you from?

 

Channah

I was born in Germany and I’m fluent in German. My father died when I was young. My Grandmother lives in France, and we stayed with her. She taught me French. Eventually, my mother married again. My mom and stepfather went on a business trip.

           

 

Nazi 1

Where in France?

 

Channah

I live in Orleans, France. My parents are in Paris. Please, sir. My aunt and uncle will be worried. I should really get home now.

 

Nazi

Yes, yes. Freulein, you can’t be walking around by yourself. We are in a war. When you’re outside, you must always be on alert. You should consider yourself lucky you were only robbed.

 

            They soon arrive at the Schulz’s big house.

 

Channah

Thank you, sir.

 

Nazi

Let one of us know if you have any more trouble.

 

Channah

I’ll keep that in mind.

 

The Nazi exits and Channah knocks on the door.

 


 

Scene 6:

            Channah is in the Schulz’s big house. In front of her, there are two parallel stair cases. To her left is a huge dining room. To her right is the parlor. The house has shiny wooden floors, marble walls and paintings all across the walls. Between the two stairs is a table with a vase of flowers.

 

Ms. Schulz

Were they taken away? Or are you spending the night?

 

Channah

They’re gone forever. I’ll never see any of them again.

 

Channah begins to cry again.

 

Ms. Schulz

Oh, honey. Don’t worry. We’ll get them back. We’ll find a way.

 

Adelaide comes down one of the stairs. She gives Channah a quick hug before leading her upstairs to Adelaide’s room. Adelaide’s room is all a rose petal pink color. She has pink wall paper, a pink rug, pink arm chairs, and a huge pink canopy bed. Rays of dim sunlight pour in through the open pink curtains. Adelaide quickly closes it. They sit down on the rug against the bad.

 

Adelaide

So what do we do now?

 

Channah

Papa said not to stay hidden. He said the more I hide, the more suspicious people will be.

 

Adelaide

So you’ll go everywhere with us? Even to church?

 

Channah

I guess I have to. I just wish I could get them out.

 

Adelaide

We’ll find a way. My dad knows a Kommandant in the Gestapo. Maybe he’ll get them out.

 

Channah

No. no, you can’t do that. He’ll want to know why. If you tell him, he’ll kill you. The only thing I can do is pretend I’m your cousin until the end of the war and hope they get out.

 


Scene 7:

Another week has passed. Channah—now called Klaudia, is doing everything Adelaide and Roswell do—going to church, to parties and even dinners with Nazi’s. The Schulz’s are having a dinner party. The Schulz’s Channah and some Nazi friends of Mr. Schulz are eating in the dining room. The Nazi’s—Nicolas and Gaspard are asking Channah questions. Nicolas and Gaspard are French. The dining room is a big wood table with a white table cloth. White walls with paintings. An elaborate chandelier hangs above the table.

 

 

Nicolas

So, Klaudia, where did you say you were from?

 

Channah

France. My parents went on a business trip and I’m staying here until they come home.

 

Gaspard

We are French, too. Comment allez-vous, mademoiselle?

 

Channah

Bon, monsieur.

 

She giggles, glad she knew a little French from her grandmother.

 

Nicolas

So, Klaudia, how did you lose your identity card?

 

Channah

I was taking a walk. Before I knew, it I was pushed into an alley. It was three Jews. I couldn’t see their faces—they were covered in so much dirt and grime. I don’t think they had bathed in months. They took my identity card and all my valuable possessions.

 

She feels ashamed for talking such trash about her people, but she knows she must. Everyone has done so much to get her this far.

 

Gaspard

Pauvre mademoiselle. You’ll be fine.

 

Channah

Sorry. It was just a painful memory. I just wish I could go back and change what happened.

 

Nicolas

Well, Klaudia, we do have some good news.

 

Gaspard

If you tell us your full name, your address and your parent’s names we can get you a new identity card before your parents get home.

 

Channah

Merci, monsieur, but that really won’t be necessary.

 

Nicolas

Nonsense. The faster you can get an identity card, the better. At the moment, you can’t travel, you can’t go out past the Jewish curfew – you can’t even eat in a restaurant without being hassled by the Gestapo. It’ll be much easier for you and your family.

 

Ms. Schulz

You see, my sister likes to keep her information private. Even we don’t know all of the information needed on her identity card.

 

Gaspard

Well, the child must know. She lives there, doesn’t she?

 

Adelaide

My cousin is tutored. The closest school is much too far away to commute every day. She doesn’t go out that much. She lives on a farm in Orleans, and my aunt is very old fashioned.

 

Roswell

Please, sir. She will get her identity card once her parents come back. For now, she is fine.

 

Nicolas

For now, fine. But in a month, we will check to make sure she has one.

 

Gaspard

Personally check.

 

Channah

Yes, monsieur. I’ll have it by then.

 

 


 

Scene 8:

Ms. Schulz

We’re safe now, but pretty soon Channah will need an identity card. One that says she lives in Orleans.

 

Roswell

Adelaide, why did you go into such detail?

 

He glares at Adelaide, annoyed.

 

Adelaide

The more specifics, the more they’ll believe us. How hard can it be to find a fake identity card?

 

Channah

Very hard. Especially now that we have specifics to cover. But that’s fine. Adelaide’s right. The more specifics, the more likely they are to believe us. We could try to find one on the black market.

 

Roswell

There’s a black market in that old abounded warehouse.

Ms. Schulz

That was destroyed when the Jews were being rounded up. All that’s left is ashes. Anyways, Nicolas and Gaspard are too suspicious about the situation. In two weeks, we can pretend that “Klaudia's” fake parents are coming to get her and take her to America, because she doesn’t want Klaudia harmed and America isn’t in the war yet. We’ll say she left without a trace. In reality, Channah can hide in the secret cupboard in the pantry. For now, there’s nothing we can do.

 

 


Scene 9:

 

Channah has been hiding in the cupboard since April 16. It is now April 30. Gaspard and Nicolas will be coming any day now to make sure Klaudia has an identity card. Gaspard knocks on the Schulz’s door. Ms. Schulz answers.

 

Ms. Schulz

Gaspard, Nicolas! Would you like something to drink?

 

Nicolas

Actually, we just wanted to make sure that Klaudia had her identity card. You see—

 

Ms. Schulz

Oh, Klaudia. Actually, my sister came by two weeks ago and took her to America, since they aren’t part of the war yet. She thinks France is too dangerous for her daughter. I haven’t heard from her since, and she didn’t say where she was going.

 

Gaspard

Well isn’t that convenient. You see, we did a little research. It turns out, there is no Klaudia Haas. So we did a little more research. Miss, you have no sisters, only brothers, and none of them have a daughter named Klaudia. You are hiding the Jew, Channah Bauer. Her real parents and sister are now in Dachau. She would be there, too, if you hadn’t done this.

 

Ms. Schulz

Sir, I can explain—

 

 

Nicolas

No need to. We’re just going to search your house for this Jewish girl you’re hiding. Then all of you can go to the camps!

 

The cupboard is dark, but Channah can hear everything. As Nicolas and Gaspard approach, Channah jumps out, trying to protect the Schulz’s. Gaspard pulls her by the hair.

 

Channah

Let me go!

 

Nicolas

Like we’d ever let a hidden Jew go! Just be a good girl, and maybe will let you die peacefully.

 

Adelaide comes running in

 

Adelaide

Stop! Let her go!

 

Gaspard

Stay out of this, little girl. We wouldn’t want you to get hurt.

 

He says sarcastically. He tries to push her back but she blocks Channah with her body. Gaspard shoots Adelaide in the side.

 

Channah

No! She did nothing wrong! Why would you do this? Why would you shoot her? She’s an innocent girl – so am I – so are all the Jews that you carelessly murdered. Hear that? Murdered! Don’t you think about what will happen? About the aftermath? When this war is over, do you think you’ll be seen as the heroes? Well, you won’t! Take it from someone who knows. Twenty years from now, when kids worldwide learn about this war, you’ll be seen as monsters! Murderous, blood hungry monsters who just kill and kill and kill millions of innocent people. Think about that. Do you really want to be known as monsters? All the hatred, the loss and pain in the hearts of millions of people, directed to you? Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all embarrassed about what you did so many years ago? You may die, but the history of what you did won’t die with you!

 

Channah drops to her knees and squeezes the dying Adelaide’s hand. Gapard bends down and puts his face close to hers.

Gaspard

And what makes you know so much about the future? Have you come to ‘save my soul?’

 

            Gaspard stands up and laughs at Channah with Nicolas.

 

Nicolas

 Anyway, your friend hid a Jew, and then tried to protect her. That’s two reasons.

 

Channah brushes away her tears, then stands up and spits in Nicolas’s face.

 

Channah

You can’t kill me – can’t kill anyone! You don’t know what killing me will do! It’ll drive

 her crazy – every death drives a war survivor insane! Survivors, they’ll feel guilty that they survived. Even the non-Christians. Wars – even if you didn’t kill – you never forget them. And you’re never the same afterwards. You don’t understand!

 

She kicks Gaspard in the shin.

 

Gaspard

Filthy Jew.

 

He shoots Channah in the head. She falls to the ground on top of Adelaide’s crumpled form. There’s a pounding in her ears, and then black.


Scene 10:

 

Channah is back to Hannah. She is lying on a hospital bed, back in America in 2011. She had a concussion, but is awake now.

 

Hannah

Where am I?

 

Carol

You’re here. With us at the hospital. You’re better now. Everything is fine.

 

Hannah

What happened?

 

Carol

We were at Grandma Esther’s. She got upset and threw her glass at the TV. You went to the bathroom, fell and got a concussion.

 

Hannah

What about Esther and Mama and Papa? Are they hurt? Or Adelaide and Roswell and Mr. and Ms. Schulz? What happened to them?

 

Carol

Honey, who are these people? Your grandmother… well… after she threw the cup at the TV, she had a stroke. She passed last Tuesday. You’ve been out for two weeks.

 

Hannah

Esther’s… gone? But… no. I just saw her. She was a bright, kind little girl. The war – it turned her into a monster. This can’t be happening. Nothing makes sense! Where are we? What year is it?

 

Carol

Honey, calm down. It’s 2011. We’re in the Albany Memorial Hospital. Are you alright? You need to rest. I’ll get a doctor.

 

Carol walks off to get a doctor.

 

Hannah

No. Wait, mom.

 

She calls faintly. It’s too late.

 

 


Scene 11:

 

A week has passed since Hannah’s concussion. She still can’t figure out if everything that happened in Berlin, Germany 1941 is real. She is in Esther’s old room in the nursing home, where the family and friends are gathering to sit shiva. She sees a strange wooden box with a key next to it on Esther’s dresser. She opens it up and see’s an old, torn piece of paper.

 

Hannah

Oh my gosh.

 

Hannah unfolds the old, yellowed paper. It’s the note she wrote to Esther in Berlin. She reads it aloud

 

Dear Esther,

You must stay strong, no matter what happens to me or Mama or Papa. You can never believe what the Nazis say to you, or what anyone says. You’ve changed my life in a way I never knew was possible. You showed me what war does to a little girl, even if you don’t yet know how. I know now that you’re a beautiful, bright girl. Not at all the same. And now I know what really happened. I’ll tell my real children and grandchildren what happened to Esther Bauer in Berlin, Germany, 1941. Always remember that you are loved, and that no matter how much distance there is between us, we’ll always be together. You are the best sister I could ask for.

 

I’ll Love You Always,

Channah

 

            There’s another piece of yellowed paper in the box. Hannah pulls it out. It is a letter from Esther, addressed to Channah.

 

She wrote back!

 

            Hannah read it aloud.

 

Dear Channah,

Life has been awful without you. I had nightmares for years after you left. I kept hoping you would come back. You would find me, here in America. But you never did. Sometimes, I almost laugh at the irony – I survived the camps, yet you, the “Aryan” didn’t. Adelaide was killed the same day you were. Roswell, Mr. and Ms. Schulz, they were taken to the same camps we were. But all three of them were killed five months after you came. Mama and Papa were killed four months after them. Channah, I’m all alone. Everyone’s left me, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t start over in this new life.  All the guilt pressing down on me, it’s unbearable. Why me? You deserved to live more. Adelaide, Roswell, Mama, Papa, they all deserved to more than me. It’s not fair. Today’s my thirtieth birthday. A birthday you never got to experience. But I can’t go on like this, hoping that you will come back. You never will. As much as it hurts to, I have to say goodbye. So bye, Channah. Goodbye.

 

Love always,

Esther

 

Poor Grandma Esther. She never got to tell her sister bye. No one did.

 

A tear rolls down Hannah’s face as Joseph walks in.

 

Joseph

Honey, come on. We’re about to start the service.

 

Hannah

It was real, dad. It was real. And I never fully got the chance to appreciate her. I never showed her my gratitude. But no one knows. No one ever will.

 

She wraps her arms around her dad and cries into his chest.

 

Joseph

I know, honey. I know.

 

Arm in arm, they walk off stage.

 

 

 

 

 

Marya Matlin-Wainer
Age 12, Grade 7
MS 51 William Alexander
Silver Key