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Breaking the Rules

Since Jews could only be out on the street at certain times, we couldn’t go to school any more. We couldn’t go to the stores to look for left-over food. We couldn’t travel long distances for fear of not being back home on time. For me, this represented an irresistible challenge: to be outside during “illegal” hours without the mandatory star.

I regularly went out without a star on to roam around the street, pick up a newspaper or buy an ice cream cone. And I visited our store every day. Although we weren’t allowed to go to restaurants or movie houses anymore, I didn’t want to give up my movies, so I continued going. This scared my mother stiff. But because I didn’t look Jewish, I was never caught. Occasionally, an aquaintance would notice me without the star on, point at his or her heart, and mouth “no star,” instead of reporting me to a policeman.

Although I broke the law daily, the fear of being attacked on the streetcar or in the streets was always with me. The streetcar was regularly stopped by Arrow Cross bands who would come on the car and yell out, “Any Jews here?! Does anybody see any Jews here?” If they did, they would be dragged out and beaten up, then left on the streets of the ghetto, or the fascists would take them to a wall and shoot them.

Ugly scenes played out on the streets more and more often, with red-faced “patriots” insisting that a Jew be arrested for not wearing the star, while the police reluctantly performed their distasteful duty. Sometimes, a police officer would just issue a warning and then tell the “criminal” to disappear quickly. In the early months of spring, policemen still behaved with a degree of decency. Such simple acts were so outstanding, they begged the question: Why didn’t more people behave with decency when this was quite possible?

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