December 1943 by Hannah Johnson

Knowing something before someone else and not being able to tell them is incredibly frustrating. Knowing that eighty people in your building are going to die tonight and not being able to warn them is destroying.

I had always been a light sleeper, I could be woken by the sound of a pin dropping, which is why the click of the door to our building opening and a man whispering woke me up. I looked at the watch lying on my bedside table. It was 1am. No one in our building would have been up at that time. I sat upright in my bed and stayed perfectly still, slowing my breathing, making sure that not even the bedcovers rustled so that I could listen.
That’s when I heard the faint tread of heavy boots against hardwood floors on the bottom floor, slowly and carefully they were making their way up the stairs, trying not to make a noise and then it stopped. I wished I could stop breathing so that I could hear better. Then I heard a creak of a floorboard. Someone else was on the bottom floor. More footsteps. Now about fifteen pairs of boots were trying to quietly walk along the corridor on the bottom floor. Panicking, I leaned forward and looked out the window, peering directly below it. Soldiers were pressed with their backs against the wall, carrying large guns across their bodies, holding them tight. They were crouched low, one person holding open the door whilst they continued to creep in. At the same time the pat of boots continued along the corridor and up the stairs. I knew what was coming.
My muscles tightened with tension, making my chest ache as my heart pumped twice as fast, blood being forced through my veins was the only sound I could hear now. Throwing off my bed covers I wanted to run, to warn everyone in my building of what was about to happen. But I knew if I made a noise we would have less time but I could still warn my sister and her boyfriend, who I was living with. I had to do something.

Holding my breath to make myself feel lighter I tiptoed to their room. His arms were wrapped round her waist, her hands were cupping his. His nose was nestled on her neck just under her ear. They were so peaceful, I wondered whether they would be happier dying like this. But I woke them, I had to say goodbye. ‘Marie’ I whispered, gently shaking her. She groaned, I put my hand over her mouth to stop her from speaking out loud. Her eyes flicked open at this action. ‘Marie, they’re here. The soldiers are here. I can hear them downstairs. What do we do?’ Tears began forming in my eyes as fear grew in hers.