The men and women stood in line, waiting to see if they
would go to the left or the right. Prison to the right,
execution chambers to the left. Left, right, left right.
Everyone wanted to go to the right, but most of them
were sent to the left. A tall man in uniform presided over
the selection, pointing his thumb in the direction each
person should go. The girl who was now at the head of
the line gazed fixedly at the swastika on the soldier’s
“Well?” The soldier startled her with his harsh voice. “Go,
“Which way, please?” she murmured.
She didn’t know what would happen to her if she went to
the left, but she had heard some of the ones before her
pleading to be sent to the right. I am strong, they would
say. I can work hard. So she made a plea for herself.
“Please,” she began timidly. “May I go to the right? I can
work hard. I’m quite strong.”
The soldier hesitated for a moment, then replied. “No.
You go to the left.”
She walked slowly to the left to join the condemned
group that stood huddled together, shivering and crying.
Next in line was an older man. He was directed to the
right, but he asked to be sent to the left instead of the
girl before him.
“You see,” he explained, “she’s my daughter. I know she
is very strong. She’ll last much longer in the camp than I
would. I’m an old man, very sick.”
After a brief deliberation, the soldier nodded. He
motioned for the girl to go to the right. She turned and
looked at the man as he went to the left, and for just a
moment, stared straight into his eyes. They were cold
and dark. He was close enough for her to touch him. She
reached out her hand and touched his as they passed
each other. She joined the group on the right.
“You have a wonderful father,” one girl whispered.
“I’ve never seen that man before,” she replied. “My
father died ten years ago.”
A young woman at the back of the group turned toward
the crowd that were sent to the left, and met the eyes of
“Papa?” she cried.
He put his finger to his lips and shook his head.
“Papa? Why did you do it?” she whispered.
The man looked at his daughter for a long moment, then
at the girl he had rescued. After a moment, he replied, “I
don’t know. I looked at that girl and saw your face.
The man fell silent and his daughter turned away from
him, tears streaming down her face.
Another woman with a hardened face and cold voice
spoke to the girl. “Do you think he was doing you a
favor? It would have been better for you to go with
“If you go that way," she said, pointing to the left, "it’ll
all be over in a few minutes. Then everything will be
peaceful. But here,” she sighed, “we’re the ones dying.”
“Where are we going?”
She pointed up the hill to a large, formidable compound
surrounded by a barbed wire fence. There was smoke
coming from the chimneys, black clouds billowing into
the sky. At the entrance to the camp there was a sign
that read: Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
The girl didn’t know whether to be grateful to the man
for keeping her alive, or angry for not letting her go too.
Sixty years later, she still wasn't sure.
Melindy Wynn-Bourne is a
freelance writer living in
Mississippi. After spending
several years writing short
stories, she is currently
working on her first novel.
Her latest work will appear
in the Sixth Annual Ultra
Short Edition of The