Tablet Original Fiction: A father and son go to Germany after the Holocaust to adopt a Jewish child
Somewhere deep in the night they were awakened by the sound of a locomotive and cries from the platform. Father and son raced up and down calling, “Hanover? Hanover? Hanover?”
“Nein,” someone said. “Bremen.”
They slept again. They awoke to a hot, dry morning. Hours went by. Noon. Finally another train.
“Hanover? Hanover? Hanover?”
“Nein,” someone said. “Osnabrück.”
Another night on the platform, two more awakenings from sleep: trains to Bremen, Bremerhaven.
His father asked Joseph to kneel with him. “Dear God,” he said. “We are coming to collect Your child. Grant us the fortitude to persevere and so we may keep her in the goodness of Your salvation.”
Suddenly Joseph hoped that the difficult journey was not a test of faith but a sign to retreat.
Morning was still far from the sky when a train rumbled in. It was bound for Hanover, which they reached in one hour. The connection to Celle was waiting on another platform. Through God’s intervention, his father said, they had been guided to their destination.
It was five in the morning. The sky was brightening before the sunrise. By another miracle, it seemed, a man with a placard bearing their names was waiting for them.
“I represent Abbé Landschule,” said the man with a foreign accent. “We have met every train,” he said with a smile. “And finally you have come. Your luggage, somehow, has preceded you. Well. We will get you to the inn and see that you are settled. Then Major Boxwood would be honored to see you for a Sunday dinner at four, in his quarters within the camp.”
He led them to an open motor car, and off they drove. They could see the ruins of buildings against the sheen of the eastern horizon. Once they were past the outskirts, the sun began to rise and the air grew hot and dry. Soon they were in the countryside. Cows were grazing; fields were being plowed; tree branches were ahaze with tender new leaves. It was their perfect idea of Germany: woods, villages, farms, flower boxes, geese, cows, ladies in dresses with aprons.
They came at last to a town. They marveled at the ancient half-timbered houses, the steep tiled roofs, the bustling central square. It was a Sunday. Church bells pealed. The sun was sparkling in the fresh grass of the square. They sighed. They had survived the transport.
A car arrived at four in the afternoon; a British flag flew from the aerial; the driver was a soldier. After a ten-minute drive, they came to a barbed-wire fence with a sign saying “Hohne Camp.” What kind of place had they come to? Joseph wondered. And why was it surrounded by barbed-wire?
They drove inside the perimeter, then the car abruptly stopped. Forty or fifty men were running toward them from the right. They were singing and marched double-time behind a flag with a big blue star on a field of white. “Jewish star,” Joseph’s father whispered to him. Then a contingent came at them from the left. They were hale and hearty men, which terrified Joseph, because if such men were Jews, they could move about the world in secret.
The car drove on to a compound of some sort. The driver then parked and walked them through a warren of buildings, down bisecting hallways to Major Boxwood’s quarters.
A beautiful woman opened the door. She bowed shallowly and murmured something in a language Joseph did not understand. The woman was no more than five-foot-one. She had a full, rounded figure, and golden hair that rose around her head in curls. Her eyes were hooded, and from their depths came flashes of clear bright green. Her skin was a creamy white from her face to her neck to the frayed low edge of her pale blue dress. Joseph looked down. A tiny gold cross glinted back at him.
His father told her their names. “I think Major Boxwood is expecting us?” he said.
She pointed to her chest and said what sounded like “Ah-nah-nah.” Then she turned and walked down a dim hallway. She seemed young, just a little older than his wife, but something in the woman’s bent posture made her seem worn.
They waited in a small sunny room furnished with four heavy, upholstered chairs arranged around a circular table. A large man came out of the shadows to greet them.
“I see you did make it after all,” he said.
He was in uniform but with a stained, open collar. This stain somehow undid the full authority of the man’s height, which was about six-foot four, and of his broad shoulders, which strained against the cloth of his jacket. His dark hair was oily. On his chin were reddish dots, which appeared to be dried blood from shaving cuts. He seemed to Joseph to be about the same age as his father, but his father would never appear before another man looking like this.
Major Boxwood’s handshake was moist and fleshy as they exchanged introductions. He mopped his brow, although the day was pleasant.
“Abbé Landschule called to say he would be late,” said the Major. “Some arrangements about … well, whatever brings you here. I’m to entertain you until he arrives.”
Boxwood steered them into a compact dining area. The room’s lone window was dusty and uncurtained; the walls were bare. The table was set for four. He went over to a small bar at the end of the room and dropped ice into three glasses.
Joseph and his father politely declined a drink.
“Mind if I go on by myself? Gin and tonic. Gin. The only liquor available at the moment from our lively black market.”
A new generation of women is being misled into assuming an ideological tension between feminism and Zionism