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Dance on the Volcano
My Fears and Challenges

A Young Anti-Nazi German
Woman in Hitler's Germany

A Memoir
Renata Zerner

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Hardly any strangers from the street came at night, except the taxi drivers from the stand at the park across the street. They watched us kids play Skat, the popular German card game. Taxi drivers were known to play a good game; they passed their time that way while waiting for customers at the stands. They taught me to play. Many times one of them stood silently behind my chair and pointed to the card I should play and I became good at the game.

Though we were relaxed and playing cards, at the same time we were wide awake and alert. Soon we heard sounds of shooting, some yak-yak-yak from the flak, and in between the hum of the airplane engines.

“They’ll go to another part of town.” Someone was optimistic, but tonight his voice was tense.

So far, the east side of the city, where the factories were, had gotten the worst of it. But now we heard more airplanes and more flak, and then explosions.

As the sounds became louder, we youngsters grew anxious and moved silently into the other room to sit close to our parents. We had long stopped our chatter and games, listening to every sound. I huddled together with my parents and my sister Jutta. The barking of the flak became steadily louder, then a detonation, and nearby another one. It had never been that close.

People talked in low voices, but at each blast they flinched and then they stopped talking. Someone whispered, “They are close now, right above and around us.” My mother pressed her lips together, her eyes staring straight ahead. She looked at my father and whispered, “Hans?” He nodded, wanting to calm her, and said, “It’ll be over soon; we’ll be all right, Liska.” A young woman, trying to overcome her fear, kept playing the solitaire she had started earlier. She dropped a card and listened. But after a moment, she picked it up and continued to play.

I concentrated hard on the sounds outside and did not notice how tense I became, my arms wrapped tight around my body, leaning forward as if I could hear better that way. I waited for each explosion, each crack of the flak, waited for it to stop, waited for silence. But it did not end.

Suddenly, there was a whistle, and then a loud bang and the whole building shook. With one violent sweep, the woman playing solitaire pushed her cards off the table and screamed. Cries cut through the air – then stillness. My heart thumped; I could hardly breathe. Terrified, I looked at my mother, and she saw the fear in my eyes. She murmured, her face white and dead-serious, “It’s all right; I think the bomb dropped very near us.” My father stood up and said, “It must be the house behind us.” Though he looked concerned, his voice was steady and calm.

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