Jeremy leaves home when his racist father forbids him from dating a black girl. Jeremy’s grandpa offers him an unlikely form of help: a story about a young man who lived in Germany during 1934 and fell in love with a Jewish girl.

Jeremy was about to start his English homework when his bedroom door burst open, the door handle banging against the wall. He spun around and found his father looming in the doorway, his face red with fury.

Jeremy leaped to his feet and faced his enraged father. “Have you been spying on me? This is too much, Dad. How can you—”

“Don’t question me, boy!” Dad pointed a finger in Jeremy’s face. “As long as you’re under my roof, you’ll abide by my rules. No son of mine is going to date a black girl, you hear me?”

Jeremy stared at the hate burning in his father’s eyes and felt sick. They’d argued about Jeremy’s relationship with Kiana before, but now Dad was actually threatening to use his power as the school principal to ruin her future!

“I asked you a question!” Dad grabbed the front of Jeremy’s shirt in his fist. “Answer me, darn it.”

“I hear you, Dad,” Jeremy replied. There was nothing else he could say without endangering Kiana’s future.

A few hours later, Jeremy tiptoed through the dark house with a backpack over his shoulder and a heavy heart. Dad had always been harsh, but his attitude had worsened in the years since Mom died. Jeremy couldn’t stand it anymore. He had to get out of there.

“If you won’t let me love Kiana while I’m under your roof, then I’ll find a new place to live,” Jeremy muttered as he slipped out through the front door.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Jeremy sprinted down the sidewalk. The Uber he’d called was waiting at the end of the street. The city streets were quiet, and it took less than half an hour for Jeremy to reach his destination. He knocked on the front door.

“Jeremy?” Grandpa looked Jeremy up and down as he opened the door. “What are you doing here? Has something happened?”

“Yeah…I can’t stay with Dad anymore. I came here because I know he doesn’t talk to you anymore, Grandpa Bill, and I needed a safe place to stay. Can I come in?”

“Of course.” Grandpa moved aside so Jeremy could enter. “But you have to tell me what’s going on. Did you have a fight?”

So Jeremy sat down with Grandpa and told him everything about his girlfriend, Kiana, and Dad’s racist reasons for opposing their relationship.

“So you ran away?” Grandpa shook his head. “You can’t do that, Jeremy. Running away means giving up.”

“What else can I do?” Jeremy leaned back on the sofa.For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

“Fight for her!” Grandpa raised his fist in the air. “Defend her! Just like that boy in ’34, you mustn’t give up on the one that you love.”

“Boy in ’34? What are you talking about Grandpa?”

“A boy who lived in Germany in 1934 and fell in love with a Jewish girl. He faced much greater challenges, but he never gave up.”

“Tell me more about him, Grandpa,” Jeremy said.

“His father was an SS-Sturmbannführer, a high-ranking member of the Nazi paramilitary,” Grandpa said. “He was a stern, powerful man with a very specific idea of right and wrong, and wouldn’t hear any views contradicting his beliefs.”

“One day, the father took his son, Wilhelm, to a bar. This was a special night; a celebration to usher the boy into manhood. Wilhelm was excited that he finally got to join the men and be considered an equal, not a child, but his enthusiasm quickly waned.”

“While the men spoke of politics and ideology, the boy’s attention wandered. He started walking around the bar and noticed a young, dark-haired woman sitting in a narrow passage leading to the back of the bar. She was reading a book, and Wilhelm decided to introduce himself.”For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

The young woman’s eyes widened when she spotted Wilhelm approaching her. She hid the book and smiled nervously at him. His curiosity was aroused instantly.

He’d helped his student group burn many subversive books the previous year and had been intrigued by some of the titles. He hoped this girl might have one of those books.

“Good evening,” Wilhelm said and introduced himself. “May I ask your name?”

The girl eyed him nervously before answering quietly that her name was Ruth.

“A name that evokes a loyal spirit,” Wilhelm replied. He spoke a while longer with her to put her at ease and discovered that her mother worked at the bar. Then he asked what book he had seen her reading earlier.

“I will not tell anyone,” he promised her.

Ruth removed the book from her handbag. Wilhelm’s eyes grew wide when he read the title. No wonder she’d hidden the book away.

“Jews in the German Cultural Sphere? It sounds very interesting. Could you tell me more about it?”

Ruth studied him for a long time before she nodded.For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Wilhelm hesitated just long enough to glance back to his father, but the man was engrossed in a conversation with his friends. Nobody seemed to realize Wilhelm had slipped away.

Ruth showed Wilhelm several pages from the book, and he flooded her with her questions.

“You must remember that Jews have lived in Germany for many generations and think of this country as home,” Ruth said. “Although many believe Germany lost the Great War because Jews betrayed the Germans, the truth is that thousands of Jews fought for this country and died on the frontlines.”

“They do not teach that in school.” Wilhelm frowned.

Ruth lowered her head. “There are many things school does not teach, Wilhelm. It’s not so long ago that you could find Jews in government. You must have noticed how much life has changed over the past few years.”

Wilhelm nodded. He remembered a time when he injured his arm as a child. His mother had taken him to a Jewish doctor, and his father was furious. He also remembered the book of poems he’d seen before they were hurled into the fire and recalled how the book had tempted him.

He felt the same temptation now as he looked at Ruth’s book. He wished to take it home and study the ideas it contained. It felt like there was a hunger inside him that needed to know what else had been hidden from him.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

This feeling kept Wilhelm from his sleep that night and worried his mind until he decided to give in to his curiosity. Ruth had told him that she and her mother lived in a room above the bar, so he went to see her.

Wilhelm was surprised to see how clean their little home was when Ruth opened the door. She seemed shocked to see him, but her surprise turned to a smile when he asked if she had any books he might borrow.

“What sort of books?” Ruth asked.

“Books that will teach me new ideas, like the book you showed me last night,” Wilhelm replied.

“New ideas?” Ruth smiled. “I think I can help you with that.”

That day was the start of a beautiful and honest meeting of minds. Ruth and Wilhelm were soon meeting on a regular basis to discuss books and share ideas.

As Wilhelm learned more about religion and politics, he started to see that the world existed on a far larger scale than what he’d learned in school. It also became clear that many concepts he’d accepted as fact were baseless.

What started as a quest for knowledge became a hunt for truth. Wilhelm accompanied Ruth to a few meetings with her friends in addition to their usual conversations. He could never pinpoint exactly when it happened, but one night, as Wilhelm walked Ruth home, he looked at her and realized he was in love.For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

He asked Ruth on a date soon after that and they shared their first kiss on New Year’s Eve. They had to be careful where they went and who might see them together, especially after the Nuremberg laws came into effect in 1935, but that did not stop them from loving each other.

For a long time, Wilhelm had been cautiously optimistic that things would get better, but now he heard frightening whispers about Dachau prison when his father’s colleagues visited. He began to fear the future. He thought about leaving Ruth for her own protection, but he felt like he would wither away without her.

One day, Wilhelm and Ruth were walking in town when a car decorated with Nazi flags drove past. Wilhelm’s heart started racing when he locked eyes with his father through the window. It felt like time slowed when the man looked at Ruth and scowled.

Father was waiting when Wilhelm arrived home that evening. He summoned Wilhelm to his study and greeted him with a slap.

“What are you doing with that girl from the bar?” his father shouted. “Don’t you know she’s a Jew?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean anything, Father. She—”

“Don’t talk back to me!” Father pointed at Wilhelm. “You must stay away from that girl and her kind; those people are not like us. I won’t allow my only son to be defiled by a woman.”For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Wilhelm was sent to his room afterward. He was furious, frustrated, and overwhelmed by his inability to change anything. He paced his bedroom for a while before writing Ruth a letter.

He told Ruth how much he loved her and how much he hated that they lived in a society that refused to let them be happy together. He poured his heart out onto the pages, railed about how ridiculously hateful the party was and how much he loathed them for creating a world where his love couldn’t thrive.

Wilhelm was so absorbed in his writing that he didn’t notice when his bedroom door opened. He didn’t hear the footsteps on the carpet as his father walked up behind him.

“It is too late then,” the Sturmbannführer said. He snatched the letter from Wilhelm and strode toward the door.

“Wait, Father!” Wilhelm reached for his arm, but his father threw him to the floor.

“This is for your own good, Wilhelm,” he said. “That girl has poisoned your mind, but there is something I can still do to save you.”

Father shut the door behind him. It took Wilhelm only a few minutes to rise from the floor and chase after his father. He pressed his palm against the car window and begged his father not to do anything to Ruth, but the man ignored him and drove away.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Wilhelm ran along the street, breath rasping in his throat. His leg muscles burned with pain and felt heavy as stone, but he was almost there. He rounded one last corner and spotted Father’s car outside the bar where Ruth’s mother worked.

The door to the bar flew open as he approached, and Father emerged. He had one hand wrapped around Ruth’s arm, forcing her to follow him despite how she dug her heels in and tried to pry herself free of his grasp.

“Please don’t take her!” Ruth’s mother wailed as he ran out onto the street after Father and Ruth. “I swear my daughter’s done nothing wrong! She’s a good girl.”

Father ignored her. He forced Ruth into the car, and when her mother grabbed hold of his coat, Father knocked her down.

“How dare you touch me, filth?” Father kicked at the woman and then climbed into his car.

Wilhelm didn’t have enough breath to shout. He used the last of his strength for a final burst of speed. Ruth pressed her palms against the car’s back window, her mouth opening and closing as she spoke words Wilhelm couldn’t hear.

She caught sight of Wilhelm just as the car pulled away. The moment their gazes locked stretched into forever. She pressed her palm against the back window, and Wilhelm had a sickening feeling that he’d never see Ruth again.For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

The Sturmbannführer signed Wilhelm up for a special army training camp, but the boy refused to go. No matter how much his father threatened him or his mother pleaded with him, Wilhelm would not be moved. He was haunted by ways he could’ve prevented Ruth’s capture, and tormented by guilt.

Wilhelm was determined to defy his father in every way possible until he realized there was something better he could do. He slipped from his bedroom one evening and knocked on his father’s study door. When he was told to come in, he marched up to the desk.

“I will trade you a favor for a favor,” Wilhelm said. “I will go to the training camp if you let me see Ruth one more time. I know you have the power to make this happen.”

Father sniffed.

“See the girl one last time…fine. I will permit you this one visit, if only because I know one day you’ll look back on this moment with the shame it deserves.”

A few days later, Father told Wilhelm to get into the car. They drove out into the countryside until they came to a large building. Father told Wilhelm to wait outside.

Wilhelm’s heart broke when he saw Ruth. Her hair had been cut, and she’d lost weight. Her eyes were filled with sadness until she saw Wilhelm in the car. Once Ruth had climbed into the backseat, Wilhelm asked his father if they could have ten minutes alone to speak privately.

“Very well.” The man scoffed. As soon as he’d shut the driver’s door, Wilhelm made his move.For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

The car engine roared as Wilhelm pressed down on the accelerator. Ruth was thrown sideways when he pulled away. She let out a shrill cry, but Wilhelm’s chief concern was his father’s hands slapping at the windows and grabbing at the door handles.

Wilhelm straightened the car out. His father still clung to the door handle, but soon Wilhelm left him behind. He watched his father wave his fist at him in the rearview mirror, but soon a cloud of dust from the car’s wheels obscured him.

“What are you doing, Wilhelm?” Ruth leaned forward over the top of the front seat. “Your father will be arrested for helping an enemy escape.”

Wilhelm turned to look at Ruth. Although they hadn’t been apart very long, it felt like he’d been underwater all that time, and now he could finally breathe again.

“Wilhelm?” Ruth cocked her head, and then a smile slowly crept onto her face. She placed her hand on Wilhelm’s shoulder and glanced ahead at the road.

“Where are we going?” Ruth asked.

“Somewhere we can be together in peace,” Wilhelm replied.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

The two men sat in silence for a while. Jeremy was moved by the story, but he also suspected there was more to the story than Grandpa had shared.

“Is that story about you and Grandma?” Jeremy asked. He had been staring at the pictures above the mantel while Grandpa spoke. “I’m guessing you started calling yourself William when you moved to the States?”

Grandpa nodded.

“I think you can understand why I felt that Wilhelm was a part of my past I preferred to let go.”

Jeremy watched the tears roll down Grandpa Bill’s cheeks as he rose and lifted a photo down from the mantel.

“Jewish beliefs consider the mother most important regarding heritage; did you know that? It doesn’t matter that Ruth stopped practicing, Judaism still considered your mother Jewish, and because she was Jewish, you are too.”

“I never realized.” Jeremy stared at Grandpa. It felt like a door had opened to a world he never knew existed. “Why have I never heard this story before?”

“You were too young.” Grandpa smiled sadly. “There will be plenty of time to discuss it later, but you have more immediate problems to deal with right now.” Grandpa set the photo down again and turned to face Jeremy. “Do you know what you’re going to do?”

Jeremy took a deep breath. He looked out the window, where the sky was just starting to turn from star-studded black to pre-dawn gray, and nodded.

“I know exactly what I need to do,” he said.For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Jeremy snuck up to the front door of his home and slipped inside. He was growing tired after a night without sleep, but a larger part of him was energized by purpose.

He heard Dad making coffee in the kitchen. He probably hadn’t even noticed Jeremy had left the house. Jeremy took a deep breath and removed his phone from his pocket. It should never have come to this—nobody should ever have to betray their family to do what was right—but Jeremy knew it was necessary.

He opened the voice recorder app, tucked his phone back into his pocket, and entered the kitchen. Dad scowled at him over the rim of his coffee mug.

“Dad, you’re a school principal and an intelligent man. Can you explain your racial theory to me, please?” Jeremy asked. “Why do you hate people of color so much?”

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

What can we learn from this story?

  • Don’t be a tool for people who preach hate and spread fear. History is littered with stories of powerful leaders who used prejudiced stereotypes and fear-mongering to control their people more easily. Search for the truth before you choose to follow another’s beliefs.
  • Love will always win. No matter how many barriers and obstacles it might encounter, there is nothing that love in it’s truest form cannot overcome.

Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.

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