When Hitler Stole the Ballet Shoes
by Mia Hyde, aged 11
"Plié, relevè, pas de chat ..." I'm in my private ballet lesson after school. It's normally my favourite part of the week - ballet is my life, literally - , but it's really hard to focus because of what happened at school earlier today. If only my ageing, yet shrewd, ballet teacher, Evelina Hirsch, knew why I wasn't concentrating like usual! Maybe she wouldn't push me as hard...
"Haziqah, concerntrate please!" Madame barks and I turn back to the lesson. My hijab slips down on to my face and I have to stop my assemblé to pin it back. My hijab is really the only reason that I am in this mess with my so-called 'friends'. Another five minutes of dancing, and it's still not going well. I sense a couple of droplets of warm water falling down my cheeks, but try to blink them back. Eventually it's all too much - my perseverance punctures and I erupt into tears.
"What's the problem, Haziqah?" My ballet teacher tries to sympathise.
"It's ... It's ... Everyone at school thinks I'm dangerous!" I manage.
She obviously hasn't been reading the recent news. "Because of who I am! They, they think I'm like the extremist Muslims, like in Paris!"
"Oh ... But you're not! They have to understand that!" she protests, and I smile faintly.
"Let me tell you what happened to me, in Munich, when I was your age," she continues, with a far-away look in her eyes...
She wakes up in a misty haze, to her mother gathering up her clothes. "Morning Evelina, um, school's been cancelled today - don't ask me why. And you'll have to wear this as well, I don't know why but the mayor has insisted." Her mum hands her a star in her shaky hands - it's the Star of David, the Jewish emblem. She doesn't mind wearing it, it's just curious to why they have to. Maybe her best friend can help, so she calls Ingrid, but her mum picks up the line and immediately cuts off the call when she finds out who it is. Such strange things are happening, she thinks. What happens if I can't go to ballet this evening?
After a day of worry and confusion, her mum calls her down and the whole family silently walk to the ballet school. The receptionist registers them and peers at them over her glasses. "There are people in Studio E who want to talk to you all - especially Evelina." The receptionist doesn't look pleased, so they nervously head upstairs. Two officers say they are there to escort them to a special ballet camp. Evelina is excited at first, but her mother begins to sob.
Madame snaps back to the present and fixes Haziqah with her kind but steely eyes. "They tried to take me to a concentration camp, just because I was Jewish." Her indignation sparks. "It taught me a lesson; it doesn't matter what religion you are, Muslim, Jewish, or from any culture, no-one can take away your ballet shoes."