WHERE ARE YOUR PAPERS? PAPERS! PAPERS!

The following day, the torment continued. An American plane was shot down in the nearby woods, and the Nazis were searching for both knowledge of the pilot’s whereabouts and unsuspecting partisans aiding his rescue. Armed Gestapo arrived immediately and patrolled the church, waiting for villagers to exit mass. As the bells of the campanile marked the end of the service, the large wooden doors opened to reveal soldiers with their rifles drawn. The blinding sunlight blurred the Germans’ faces from the villagers, who squinted their eyes from the glare as they were randomly pulled out one-by-one and forcefully pushed aside.

“Where are your papers? Papers! Papers!” one of the officers shouted as he directed several men and women with the tip of his rifle to form a straight line.

A rise in tension blanketed the parishioners, and children were stunned into silence as they watched their parents tremble with fear before the soldiers. Lilia was among those children—she had attended mass alone that day. To her surprise, her teacher was in the lineup.

”Signore Maestro!” Lilia blurted out nervously.

”Lilia! Run to my home and get my papers from my wife!” He cocked his head slightly toward her, pleading for help. Panic drenched his voice. Lilia saw large patches of sweat ringing his armpits, and his hands trembled as he tried to steady his legs with his knotted walking cane—the same cane he had so viciously and wrongfully used to punish her.

Lilia contemplated whether or not to help him. She despised him, but she had witnessed families taken away for questioning—some were released days later, while others never returned. Her teacher’s imminent future was in her hands…tender hands that not long ago were swollen a livid blue.

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