Herzlia Grade 5 essay competition

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Herzlia Highlands: Meira Rod, Robbie Hirschson, Jared Zolty, Sarah-Rain Witkin (winner)

During September, the Herzlia Grade 5 classes from Weizmann, Highlands and Constantia visited the Letters of Loss and Refuge exhibition, based on the book about the Schwab family by Professor Shirli Gilbert at the South African Jewish Museum.

Their guide, Roz von Zwiklitz, explained the historical background of Nazi Germany that drove Rudolf Schwab to start a new life in South Africa. The children viewed extracts of his many letters, discovered in his trunk years later and used their imaginations to write essays about what the trunk would say if it could talk.

After some tough deliberation, a winning essay and three runners-up were chosen from each school.

By Mia Burnham, winner Herzlia Weizmann

Hello and welcome to this exhibition that is all about me! You say it’s not. Well I ever! Wouldn’t you like to know my story, not my master, Rudolf’s one. You would? Really? Well then, make yourself comfortable. It’s going to be a long one.
I was sitting behind that sparkly, glass shop window posing, waiting for someone, anyone to come and buy me. The owner of the shop had polished me today, much better than he ever had before. The first customer of the day walked in. He looked like a well-off person and maybe a good owner too. So I did what any trunk searching for an owner would do. I tilted back so that the morning sun made my polished, silver padlocks shine. So do you want to know what he did? Of course you do. He walked right past me and my sparkly corners. A few more people came in and did not even glance at me. At about lunch time a grumpy person came. I didn’t really like the look of him so I didn’t show off, but he came up and grabbed me anyway. He bought me and took me to his home.
I was sitting on his bed in his room when I heard him read aloud a letter he had gotten from his childhood friend, Karl Kipfer, the non-Jewish-forced-to-be-a-Nazi friend. It told my master that he was going to be arrested soon because he was a Jew. Suddenly Rudolf started throwing clothes into me. He wrote a letter explaining he had to leave to his family and set off to Belgium. He found no work there so he moved to Holland. He found work there but the Nazis invaded so we set sail for Cape Town.
We were at sea for weeks. I felt like I was going to vomit, I was that seasick, except trunks can’t vomit. We finally saw the dim lights of the Cape Town harbour. I was so happy when we stopped in the harbour that I wanted to hug someone although I have arms as much as I can vomit.
I spent a few months in the lovely sunny Cape Town with my owner and then moved up to Johannesburg. We bought a rather fine house and settled in. He went on safari without me, but wrote a very descriptive letter to his aunt about it and made a copy of it with some carbon paper. He gave the copy to me. Me! Yes me! Me of all trunks! Well I am the only trunk he owned at that time. Talking about his letters, he kept all the letters he received inside me and all the copies of the letters he wrote stored inside me.
He wrote letters about life in Africa. The game reserves, the climate, other things I didn’t have time to read. He wrote about how he was sorry he couldn’t come to his brother’s Bar Mitzvah and how he missed everyone and was trying to get passes to allow his whole family to come to Johannesburg. He received letters from his aunt telling him to be careful because there are dangerous animals in Africa, a letter all about what happened in his brother’s Bar Mitzvah and many about life in the war.
He married a lovely lady called Rachel and had a child called Norman. Norman grew up and inherited me with all my letters. He soon forgot about me and put me in a corner in his garage. A few years ago there was an accidental fire in Norman’s house but I survived along with Rudolf’s family tree. Daniel, Norman’s son, started looking through the letters, found them interesting and showed them to the Jewish Museum and BAM! Here I am. Well that’s it. That’s our story. Rudolf’s and mine. I hope you enjoyed it. Goodbye!

By Sara-Rain Witkin, winner Herzlia Highlands

It’s been years now, years since I’ve been opened, so many that I can’t even remember the letters stored inside of me. All neatly wrapped, folded and copied through that highly regarded carbon paper that Rudolf deeply appreciated. I used to know them word for word, each letter bearing such important information during such rough times that I felt myself compelled to memorise each one from beginning to end. Rudolf would often read them out once he received them. Sometimes he would even cry. Oh Rudy, how I wish I could see you again!
Now I sit in a garage, discarded and locked, waiting for someone, anyone, to find me. I’ve been to many places, sat in corners, but I’ve never been so alone before. I feel neglected. No one has ever — wait. What was that? Could that be my Rudy? It’s a door opening. I’m not alone!
A young man walks up to me. He looks like Rudolf, but not quite. My journey continues…

By Jarred Beifus, winner Herzlia Constantia

Dear Brother Suitcase Bronze
I have just come out of the factory. It is wonderful here with all the new breaths of bags, trunks and suitcases. I came out as a marvellous trunk with nice bronze lines and a wooden body. Right now I’m going to a Jewish family. Hope you enjoy your new life!
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
I have safely landed here in Germany and have been bought by a nice-looking Jewish fellow. He has taken me to a nice house near some Jewish neighbours. I’m sorry if I’m forgetting a lot of details, I guess I’ve got a lot to learn about where I live. That’s it for now, looking forward to hearing from you again.
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
I’m getting worried about where I live. There’s a mean old chap who calls himself Hitler. I wonder what type of bag he is. Anyway, back to this guy, he is trying to come into the country to beat down my family. What a mean guy! Well I’m going to find out more. Look forward to seeing you again!
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
Hitler has invaded the country! Thankfully we left in time and are now heading to a new place named Africa. I’m travelling with my owner on a giant iron bag. I’ve tried talking to him but he isn’t that chatty. I will tell you when I get there. For now, looking forward to your reply!
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
I have arrived. Africa is an amazing place! I’ve seen some wild animals and I went to this giant reserve park! We have moved down to a big city named Johannesburg. It’s very nice here and I love my life here. I look forward to writing to you again.
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
A new bag has entered the house! He is very cute and he makes a lot of noise! My owner Rudolf (I finally found out his name!) has named the new bag Norman! I think it’s a good name for a little bag like him. I’m running out of ink so it will be a while till we talk again.
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
I have been put away in the garage and I don’t like it here. Norman is now a huge bag and has forgot about me and left me to waste in the dark garage. These are sad times. My only friends are the spiders. I will talk to you again soon.
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
Yesterday there was a fire! Only me and a guy named the family tree survived. I am sad by the silence in the garage, now everything is black and not even the spiders are talking to me anymore. For now I will rest in the black rubble.
Yours truly, Trunk Bronz

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
It’s been a while since we talked. Recently a group of bags the same type as Norman came to my rescue. HURRAY! They took me to a weird place where they fished letters out of my stomach. It was a bit horrifying. I’m going to a new place now, I will write to you again I promise!
Yours truly, Trunk Bronze

Dear brother Suitcase Bronze
I am in this new place called a museum. I have lots of friends now! And bags like Norman and Rudolf now visit me all the time! Although the people here don’t let me use a typewriter anymore I want you not to worry about me as I am happy where I am. I hope you are happy too and wherever you are just remember I’m happy!
Yours truly, your happy brother, Trunk Bronze.

Letters of Loss and Refuge will be on display at the SA Jewish Museum until mid-January 2018.

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