A Memorable Meal
Harish Venkatasubramanian, US Workshop 1
It was the winter of 1943. An especially cold one this time. Food was scarce and rations at the concentration camps were starting to dwindle.
Mikael had just managed to cling onto his job and avoid the Zyklon treatment. He shuddered at the very thought of entering one of those hideous gas chambers, where countless people had been put to death by merciless Nazis. But although Mikael was already bone-thin, he had a bigger problem than the availability of food.
He was lucky to have a job as a cobbler. But his boss, Adolf, was a ruthless, hardcore Nazi. A man who dismissed employees and sent them to the gas chamber on the slightest of whims. Mikael realized that if he was to have even a slim chance of survival, the only way he could gain it was by appeasing this man.
A new morning, yet nothing had changed. Mikael still woke up in a broken bed in a room that he shared with countless others who had committed what the Nazis believed was the greatest sin: being Jewish. That only caused his boss to be harsher on him and his rations to be made smaller, in favor of non-Jewish prisoners.
As he waited for his turn at the crowded baths, his boss came by and said, “Listen, you Jewish piece of scum, you will be on the next trip to the gas chamber unless you find a way to stop me. And I’d very much like to see you try.”
After bath, Mikael made his way outside to receive his daily ration of soup and bread. Suddenly, he had an idea. He had three cigarettes in his pocket, and cigarettes were worth a lot in the camps. He went to one of his friends and said “I will give you these cigarettes in exchange for a block of cheese.” His friend accepted the offer.
Storing some of the cheese in his bunker for later use, he quickly gulped down the watery soup and then carried his day’s bread along with some cheese to his boss and said, “Here you go, sir. My gift to you for being so kind to me.”
Adolf accepted it with a grunt and replied “Well, it looks like you have done enough to postpone your trip… ”
It is now 1993. Mikael is now in Hungary and living happily with his wife, three kids, and seven grandchildren. As he reflected back on his many close shaves with death during the Holocaust, he realized that the most important meal of his life was one that he never got to taste.
Harish Venkatasubramanian is a ninth-grader who currently resides in Charlotte, NC. He loves reading, music, tennis, and all things Liverpool FC. He attended US Workshop 1.