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The Girl on the Train to Auschwitz





The Girl on the Train to Auschwitz



It was a strange welcome in a cold drizzling day. I was in Paris for my six month French course and the language organization had booked my stay in a French family at Rue De Rivoli. It was a good arrangement so along with classes I can get acquainted with speaking with a real French family.

But this morning when I knocked on the door and a maid in blonde hair opened, her face told me something was wrong. A little later being guided to my room without any word a beautiful young girl named Hannah hardly nineteen came in and spoke English said me,

' I am sincerely sorry that we cannot give you the best of notice today. Our family is destroyed and so am I. But if you need something please give me a call or the maid Sophie. I heard Indians are forgiving.'

She tried to smile but it was not painted on her dry lips.

I have to say now,

'If it is not too private may I know what happened?'

Hannah said nothing for a while but looked towards the floor.

Then she said, 'My elder brother Frank disappeared today and no trace of his has been found yet.'

'He hasn't informed you anything ?'

'Nothing. Just a very old letter that too a copy has been left on the table.'

'A letter?'

I asked.

'Yes, a letter very old of 1942.

Where a girl named Irene Dauvinne has written "I don't know where the German train is taking me. But it is heading east. And I know this is the route to Auschwitz."'

'Auschwitz?' I shivered.

'Yes.'

'How you got this letter?'

'One of my brother's friend, showed it to him. He wrote this in his diary last night. It belonged to his grandfather who according to the friend Marcus  was serving a ticket conductor in a village of France. He got this letter among the unsent letter in the cupboard. It was in 1961. He started searching but no details were found.'

'Do you know the name of this man, the grandfather?'

'It was written in the diary. Frederick Lacomte. He indeed work in a small rail station in Germany and it was he who said, the letter must be thrown by the girl from the train.'

I was intrigued with the details.  

'What happened to his grandfather?'

'He died a natural death in 1998. In Berlin.'

'And the letter?'

'My brother's friend got it through his possessions.'

'Can I see your brother's room?'

'For sure. But I came to ask for your breakfast.'

'Later, Hannah.'

My class was still fifteen days to start. That morning I thanked time for that. Because once I entered Frank, the brother's room everything changed. I brushed through the diary and the xeroxed old letter of the girl named Irene. Within one hour I packed some clothes in my backpack and was about to depart.



Hannah came.

'Where are you going?'

'I have a feeling; I know where your brother is?'

'Can I come with you?'

'No Hannah. It can be a wild guess. Moreover, you need to be here in the house to look after your mother.'

'Which place are you heading now?'

'Berlin.'

Then I said,  'You are like my sister. I would try to paint a smile on your face by searching for Frank.'

I kissed her forehead and got out.

After seven days when I came back, I gave back Hannah, the news that matters.

'Your brother is alive. I haven't met him but I know this much. First, I went to your brother's friend Markus's house. Then to his grandfather's house. I got a link there in an old letter and I went to the camp of Auschwitz and by the  picture of Frank he was recognized by the entrance officer. For three days he came back there spent time among the museum and the archives there but then he was gone again. Where I don't  know but the officer said Frank has asked for seeing the grave of Irene Dauvinne. There was no such grave. In those days mass burial was given for the concentration camp deceased. As happened to Anne Frank and her sister.'

'Where can Frank be?'

Hannah asked the question almost to herself.

'Somewhere in Europe searching answer to a lost riddle of time Hannah.'

Soon my class started and life fell in a rhythm. The French family also continued their survival with the news that at least Frank is alive. And as per the family, Frank is always a Bohemian.

Time makes everything bearable.  

After three months, two days to Christmas I was heading to southern France to the sea side resort along with my girlfriend Emille and we were in a lovely crowded train. A station came and a little boy rushed to the door and threw a paper to the wind shouting in ecstasy that only a child can do.

As if he was waiting for the station.

I laughed.

'This reminds me of that man when I was once going to Berlin from Paris in our summer break.''

Emille said still looking at the boy.

'What happened?'

'There was a young man in the compartment opposite me, handsome and sober who suddenly got up as a station came and looked for a while bewildered. He asked straight to me,

'Mademoiselle, which station is this?'

'Breitenau.'

I said.

He stood there for a while; his face suddenly white. Then he thanked me and smiled. It was a strange smile full of pain. He uttered something. He was standing so close to me that I can hear each of  those words.

'He said, "Irene, now you are not alone."

In French.

I shivered.

'Can you repeat it Emille?'

'Repeat what?'

'What the French man said?'

'Irene, you are not alone.'

'And the station.'

'Brieitenau.'

'Is it the station on the route to Auschwitz earlier?'

'Yes, that darkest route ever made in rail road.'

In a flash I remembered I have the picture of Frank in my mobile saved.

I opened it and showed it to Emille.

'Is he the Man?'

'How strange! Yes, he was the Man indeed!' Emille gasped.

I jumped up.

'Emille, come along.'

'Where?'

'I have to go to that station now. We will de route our journey.'

'But why Suby? Are you mad.'

'I will tell everything. But not now. Just come along!'

We changed two trains and around evening when we reached that station, I asked the station conductor if he has ever heard of a man named Frank Stroblitz in this station.

'No, I haven't.'

'Is there a Police station?'

'Of course. Walk straight.'

The police inspector also had no idea on the man named Frank but said, 'The time this lady is saying at that time one drowned case happened. A fishermen saw a young man jumping into the river. It is a deep river and it soon ends at sea. Nothing was found of the man again. Not even the body.'

'Nothing?'

'No. Just one thing I remember. He asked  a very old porter if this station existed in 1942 or not.'

'And?'

'The porter said yes. It was a station on the route to Auschwitz.'

'Thank you, Officer.'

I have nothing more to ask.

I along with Emille walked down to the river. I walked down and touched the river.

Emille came down and touched my shoulder.

 When I came back to my French sheltered home the first thing I did I walked into Frank's room.

After hours of searching I found an old diary within a cupboard of Frank full of junk. I found an old document photocopy stuck inside the diary where it was said Hannah's great grandfather served the Nazis in the second world war as SS member.

His name was Rudolf Stroblitz.

And it was quite clear to me that he was the person to obey the order to send the train which carried Irene to Auschwitz as per the German order.

Frank has read this as he has underlined the part in red letters.

I think he got the clear picture then. Next morning, he was gone. He embarked on his extraordinary journey which can only have one end.

I took a long breath.

Everything is clean now.

 A chapter that began in 1942 by his great grandfather, he ended in 2018.

I kept the diary in my locker and everything I know within me. Emille, knows a bit but not the whole story.

I never told anything to Hannah. She is happy with her life and with a hope that someday her brother will be back.

Frank will never be back but he will be always alive.

Along with one girl.

Who with all her courage threw a letter at a station from a running train before she was lost forever at Auschwitz.

Irene Dauvinne.




Subhadip Majumdar


Subhapdip is a well published poet and fiction writer.  A number of his well have been published in Ariel Chart.

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