Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, Germany, 1943
He saw the girl first during the selection. She had her arm around a woman with a slightly protruding belly, comforting her.
"It's going to be fine, Ziske. You'll see," the girl said.
"It's not fine!" a portly woman in line before them said. "It will never be fine anymore!"
Her sister began to cry.
"Tell them you can work," the others told the girl. "Tell them that you're in good health and you can work and that your occupation was a farmer."
The girl embraced her sister, whispering into her ear.
The portly woman suddenly gasped. "You are with child!" she exclaimed to the sister. Then to the girl, she said, "Leave her. You can't be seen attached to her. The furnaces, that's the only place they'll send useless women like her."
"No," the girl said, drawing her sister closer to her. "She is all I have left, and I am all she has left. If she is sent to the furnaces, we will burn together."
He felt his heart give a jolt, and he felt his eyes open upon her world. He saw the sorrow, the anger, the distress. The smoking chimneys and the dark midday sky. He heard the cries of the hopeless that he had been deaf to only moments before. And he heard the promise he made to himself:
She will not burn.
How could he let such goodness go up in flames?