Jerry could feel his heart pounding like a hammer in his chest. Blood gushed from his left shoulder as he rounded the corner of what was once a bakery in the city of Bialystock, Poland. Many times he had casually walked to the bakery with friends, purchased soft white bread and eaten it while it was still hot. But bread was the last thing on his mind as he fled for his life like a wounded animal, from three vicious Nazi pursuers.
Minutes earlier, he and his beloved father had run from the back door as the soldiers burst through the front of their home. Two shots rang out, one hitting his father and the other striking Jerry in the shoulder. His father dropped to his knees and with an impassioned cry, yelled,
"Run Jerry, run!"
As he rounded the corner, he remembered that the bakery had a narrow alley between it and a shoe store. At the end of the alley stood about two dozen old wooden boxes piled against a six‑foot fence. To one side of the boxes there was a 14‑inch gap into which he often crawled. That led under the floor of the bakery, an ideal place to smoke cigarettes with another teenage friend, something his father would have frowned upon . . . if he knew.
His eyes were wild with terror, not only because he had been shot and was being chased by Nazis, but for fear of what had just happened to his father. As he crawled under the bakery floor he heard another two shots ring out. He stopped moving and whispered,
"Dear God . . . what is happening?"
The ground was damp and cold and there was hardly room for him to lift his head. He looked down at his bleeding shoulder. It was just a flesh wound but it scared him. The bullet had entered at the back of his left shoulder, missed the bone and passed through the other side, tearing the flesh as it went. It was burning as though it had been clamped in a red‑hot steel vise, causing uncontrollable groans to come from his mouth. His breathing was deep and fast and his chest heaved and burned as freezing air was drawn into his lungs. He gritted his teeth and shut his eyes to try and stop himself from crying, both from the pain of his shoulder and the dread that gripped his heart. Even with his right hand held tightly over his wounds, the sleeve of his shirt was crimson with blood right down to his wrist.
His eyes widened in fear, at the thought that entered his mind. What if his wound had left a trail of blood? Suddenly he heard footsteps! It was the unmistakable sound of soldier's leather‑soled boots crunching the stones on the ground in the alley. Jerry held his blood-drenched hand over his mouth to stop his loud breathing. He could hear voices, and through the cracks of the wooden foundation he could see the legs of the three soldiers that had so terrorized his family. His mother and sister! What would happen to his mother and his sister back at the house? He prayed that the soldiers would leave them alone. As far as he knew, it was only the men that were being rounded up and shot.
From the German dialect he had learned, he heard one of the soldiers say,
"He's just a boy!" Then he said something Jerry couldn't understand. After that there was silence, then footsteps heading off into the distance. He slowly took his hand from his mouth, took a deep blood‑tasting breath, and gave a guarded sigh of relief. It would be ten long hours before he dared to move, and in the dark of the night make his way back to his home.
To be continued.