I know it’s been a while since I wrote to you, but things have been crazy here in Berlin. The war is getting worse every day, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see my beloved Hans again. He’s been fighting on the Eastern Front for months, and his letters are becoming more and more scarce. I miss him so much, Diary. He’s the only one who understands me, who makes me feel alive.
You see, Diary, I have a secret. A terrible secret that could get me killed if anyone ever found out. I’m Jewish. My parents were killed by the Nazis when I was a child, and I was adopted by a kind Christian family who hid my true identity. They gave me a new name, a new life, a new faith. But I never forgot who I really am, where I came from, what my people are suffering.
And neither did Hans. He’s not Jewish, but he hates the Nazis as much as I do. He’s part of a resistance group that plots against Hitler and his regime. He’s brave, Diary. So brave. He risks his life every day for a cause he believes in. He’s my hero.
We met at a bookstore, of all places. It was before the war started, when things were still normal. We both loved books, especially history and fiction. We started talking, and we couldn’t stop. We had so much in common, so much to share. We fell in love, Diary. Madly, deeply, passionately.
But then the war came, and everything changed. Hans had to join the army, or else he would be arrested as a traitor. He didn’t want to fight for Hitler, but he had no choice. He promised me he would come back to me, that we would be together again. He gave me a ring, a simple silver band with our initials engraved on it. He said it was our promise, our hope, our future.
I wear it every day, Diary. It’s the only thing that keeps me going in this hell. The bombings, the raids, the hunger, the fear. The constant threat of being exposed as a Jew. The guilt of living a lie.
Every night, I hear the sound of sirens and explosions as the Allied planes bomb the city. The windows rattle and the walls shake as if they are about to collapse any minute. Sometimes I hear screams and cries from the streets below as people run for cover or get caught in the blast. I hide under my bed with my diary and pray that it will be over soon.
Every morning, I wake up feeling hungry and weak as there is not enough food to go around. The bread is stale and moldy, the milk is sour, the meat is scarce. Sometimes I have to queue for hours at the ration shop or scavenge for scraps in the garbage bins. Sometimes I have to trade my valuables for a bite of cheese or a piece of chocolate. Sometimes I have to steal from the Nazi soldiers or the collaborators who have more than they need.
I live in fear of being discovered as a Jew. I wear a cross around my neck and a fake ID in my pocket. I avoid the Gestapo agents and the informers who patrol the streets. I pretend to be loyal to the Führer and salute his portrait. I act like a good German girl and follow the rules. But inside, I hate them all. I hate their lies, their cruelty, their madness.
I read Hans’ letters. His letters are my lifeline, my source of comfort and joy. He tells me about his life on the front, how he fights against the Russians, how he hates the war, how he longs for peace. He tells me about his dreams, his hopes, his plans. He tells me he loves me, he misses me, he needs me. He tells me to be strong, to be brave, to be hopeful.
I tell him the same. I tell him about my life in Berlin, how I cope with the hardships, how I resist the Nazis, how I wait for his return. I tell him about my dreams, my hopes, my plans. I tell him I love him, I miss him, I need him. I tell him to be strong, to be brave, to be hopeful.
We write in code, using words and phrases that only we understand. We hide our true feelings and opinions behind metaphors and symbols. We use books as our inspiration and reference. We use our story as our guide.
We are the star-crossed lovers of Berlin.
And we will never give up. I can’t let them win. I have to survive, for Hans, for myself, for our people. I have to hope that one day this nightmare will end, and we will be free.
That’s why I’m writing to you today, Diary. Because today is a special day. It’s Hans’ birthday. And I have a surprise for him.
I’ve been saving up some money for months, doing odd jobs here and there, selling some of my books and clothes on the black market. And I finally have enough to buy him a gift.
A history fiction book.
A book about our story.
I found it in a hidden corner of the bookstore where we met. It was written by an anonymous author, who claimed it was based on true events. It was called “The Star-Crossed Lovers of Berlin”.
It was about us.
It was an epistolary story, told through letters between two lovers separated by war and fate. A Jewish girl and a German soldier who defied the odds and found each other in the midst of chaos and horror. A story of love and courage and hope.
It was perfect.
I bought it without hesitation, and wrapped it in a brown paper with a red ribbon. I wrote a note for Hans, telling him how much I love him and miss him and wish him a happy birthday. I told him to read the book carefully, to find the clues hidden in the words, to discover the truth behind the fiction.
I told him it was our story.
I mailed it to him this morning, hoping it will reach him safely, hoping he will understand my message, hoping he will love it as much as I do.
I’m waiting for his reply now, Diary. I’m waiting for his reaction. I’m waiting for his words.
I’m waiting for him.
In a week's time, a few men came home. Men who wore green uniforms. Said that my place is in camps. Yes, someone read the book and understood the story very well.