It cannot be

The package fell to the floor with an ominous thud. Miriam walked into the hall wrapping her dressing gown close against the cold. She turned the thermostat dial until she heard a click, picked up the package and walked through to the kitchen.
Miriam poured a mug of coffee, sat down at the kitchen table and turned the parcel in her hands examining the label. Untying the hemp string she folded back the brown paper to reveal a cigar box. Opening the lid she spread the contents on the table top: a letter, some old brittle documents, one looked like a birth certificate, and a faded photograph. There was a masculine aroma of tobacco. Apart from the letter, handwritten in English, everything appeared to be in German.

My dear Miriam

You were far too young to remember me. I have enclosed a photograph of your father. He looks quite glamorous in his uniform, do you not think? The birth certificate is yours. Of course, you had a different name then.
I will contact you by telephone. We must talk.

Kindest regards

Esther

Laying the letter on the table Miriam smoothed the paper with her cold finger tips, as if by doing so some deeper meaning could be deciphered. Outside a neighbour was cutting his lawn. On the wall next to her a radiator ticked, hot water coursing through the pipes, but Miriam felt chilled. She reached out and picked up the photograph. A handsome man smiled at her from some distant time. His peak hat, worn at a jaunty angle, was decorated with the insignia of the Waffen SS. Underneath the stylised eagle, claws gripping a swastika she could make out a skull and crossbones bright on the dark hatband. She turned the photograph over and stared at words written in faint pencil: Rudolph Höss, Commandant of Auschwitz, 8 May 1944 – 18 January 1945.
She thought of the numbers tattooed on the papery skin of her grandfather’s left arm, remembered her grandson’s Bar Mitzvah the previous month. This is not possible. Could not be possible.
The buzz of her neighbour’s lawn mower stopped. In the silence the telephone in the hall began to ring.

Trapped in amber

The Antiques Roadshow expert passed the necklace of rough stones slowly through his finely manicured fingers and held it for a moment in the sunlight for the television cameras to pick out the subdued orange and yellow hues.

“Many viewers will be familiar with polished amber jewellery, but what we have here appears to be an example of unpolished Lithuanian amber jewellery..but I’m not sure…perhaps you could tell the viewers the story of how the necklace was found……”

As his son began to relate the little of what he knew the old man, hunched in the wheelchair stared up at the necklace; remembering.

He remembered leaving the cell and climbing the stairs to stand in the middle of the road stunned at the Armageddon destruction. He had shuffled aimlessly along the road through a haze of smoke and dust, a bewildered ghost, one among many.

Some time later, desperate for water he had entered a building that had escaped total destruction; the sound of glass crunching under his feet as he stepped through the wreckage sharp in his memory.

On the floor of the house he found a horrifically burned body, the right hand a grotesque claw appeared to have been holding something. The arrangement of the stones on the floor suggested a necklace, the connecting string having been burned away. Nearby, in the charred remains of what had probably been a chest of drawers there was a metal box; not unlike a biscuit tin his mother would have at home. Opening it he found photographs: formal family groups, individuals posing, children. One in particular caught his attention; a young girl, standing against a wall – probably of the house he was standing in – looking into the camera, smiling in the sunlight. Smiling at him.

He had gathered up the strange almost weightless pieces of stone and placed them in the tin box and left the sad house of death. Later at home he he felt compelled to restring the necklace. He then placed it in the box and closed the lid and tried to forget.

“….and my father left the house and was eventually rescued and repatriated. He was one of the few British prisoners of war to survive the atomic bombing of Nagasaki…”

“What an amazing story. And this is the actual box?”

“Yes, it is.”

The presenter carefully put the necklace to one side and spread the photographs, sepia and black and white images, on the blue felt table cover to allow the television camera to show viewers the happy family scenes and the the young girl standing against the wall. She was smiling at them as her fingers played with a piece of jewellery around her neck, the smooth polished amber stones glinting in the sun