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Moishe Perlmutter raced across the street to the flat shared with his mother; face flushed, breathing rapid, eyes shining with the excitement of a decision he had just made. He rushed up the narrow stairs, barged through the door, frantically calling to his mother. Sara emerged from her bedroom, a look of fear on her face at the tone of voice of her only surviving son.

"What is the matter, Moishe?" she asked. "Is something wrong?"

"I can't go with you to Canada, Momma. I'm going with my friends to Palestine. They are waiting for me. They are leaving any minute. There is a man at Rosenheim sent by the Brikha to smuggle them out of Germany to France. I want to go with them."

Sara's eyes opened wide. Her hands trembled when she covered her mouth in shock at the unexpected request. "Moishe. You are only sixteen. Do you realize what you are asking? If you go to Palestine, we might never see each other again. I don't want to lose you now. Not after we have survived the Germans." She began to cry.

"No, Momma! Don't cry. You have sisters in Canada. There is no one waiting for me. My friends are going to Palestine, and I want to go with them. I have never had any friends, and now they will go without me. Please! "I want to be with my friends."

"How will I know if you are all right? How will I know if you are safe? Your poppa is dead. Gershon is dead. We are the only ones left. If not for you, I too would be dead and now you want to leave me."

"I want to live in Palestine. I want to be a Jew in my own country. Nothing will happen to me . . . not after what we have been through. Let me go, Momma. I will visit you. I promise. Let me go to Palestine with my friends."

Sara gazed lovingly at her son, knowing the hardships and pain he had endured. So young to have experienced so much. From an innocent child before the Germans came to an animal living in the forests of the Ukraine and back to being human because of friends he made in Krakow and Zakopane. She reluctantly understood with a heavy heart. It pained her as a mother to realize he needed his friends as much as she needed him. She clutched his hands. "You won't change your mind?"

Moishe slowly shook his head. The tough kid from Mulinsk, who had robbed and stolen, cheated and starved, was crying. He could not speak, only shake his head.

"I will miss you," she whispered. "Go with your friends and be safe."

Moishe kissed his mother, his face beaming at her words of release. He wiped the tears away with the back of his hand and waved goodbye, racing out of the room and through the door.

"Your clothes, you didn't take any clothes," his mother shouted after him, but Moishe was gone.

With lungs bursting, he raced through the streets and alleys towards Rosenheim, the Displaced Persons camp where his friends were quartered. He had to hurry because they told him they would be leaving anytime and they couldn't wait for him if he was not there when they had to leave. It was only a few years earlier, in 1945, when he was in Krakow that for the first time in his life, he had finally made close friends. Afterwards, when Lena Kuchler had taken all the children to Zakopane, he and his friends had fought off the Polish anti?Semitic parasites who were trying to burn them out. With his machine gun and his friend's rifles, their shouts and shooting had frightened the Poles who turned tail and ran faster than they had come.

Moishe entered the converted army base and charged towards the barrack housing more than forty orphaned boys. With the words of happy greetings on his lips he banged through the door, only to stop suddenly. The barrack was empty. Never since he had come to Rosenheim had the barrack been without someone inside. He peered about the empty room in panic. There were no traces of any personal belongings, and he realized his friends had all gone - he was too late. They could not wait. They had gone to Palestine, and he had been left behind. He stared into the empty barrack for a few minutes before he left. He made himself a promise - we will meet again.