Tablet Original Fiction: A father and son go to Germany after the Holocaust to adopt a Jewish child
The two men were about to settle into their beds, when their landlady called up to them, “There’s someone here for you!”
“What—now?” said Joseph’s father.
“She says something about a major, that you know her from a major,” said the landlady. “I understand little. She is some Pole. I can send her away.”
Joseph’s father went to the head of the stairs. He looked at Joseph then shouted down, “Give us a minute please, then you can send her up.”
The two men had just tightened the belts on their bathrobes when she appeared: first her golden hair, then her pale shoulders, then torso, waist, hips, legs.
“Misters,” she began.
She was winded from the climb up two flights of stairs.
“I—” Anna began again.
She pulled her earlobe and pointed to her mouth.
“What kind of craziness is this?” asked Joseph’s father
“You hear something?” asked Joseph, touching his own ear.
She shook her head.
She touched her lips and then pointed to Joseph’s ear.
“You’re telling me something?” he asked.
Then, in signs, gestures, pantomimes and halting bits of English, she made them understand that they were being lied to about the child. And that she knew who the mother was.
“Then tell us the truth,” said Joseph’s father. He pointed at her and then touched his own heart.
Anna shook her head.
“What do you think she means? Why is she saying no?” asked his father.
Again they engaged in their pantomime until Joseph knew what she was saying. She was not the mother—his prayer had been answered! He was so filled with joy that the horror of what she had said did not fully come to him until he spoke.
“She will tell us about the mother if we take her with us to America,” Joseph said.
His father stepped back, then forward. He pointed at her cross and asked her, “Catholic?”
“And Boxwood. Catholic?”
“No,” she said.
“Then there is no question of her marrying him,” said his father. “Don’t you agree, son? We must take her away from this situation.”
Yes, it was the right thing to do, thought Joseph. But he did not want to do it. She would live among them in the communion. Daily he would see her—her beauty, its temptation.
“She can be of help in the community. She can help you care for the girl.”
This was more horrible yet to Joseph. It would be just as if she were the child’s mother; and he would wish she were his wife.
“I can marry her when Grace dies,” said Joseph’s father, referring to his own wife, who was ill, but not yet gravely so.
When my mother dies, thought Joseph, Anna will be my father’s wife. My stepmother. The thought was unbearable and he knew he had to find a way for this not to happen.
“Tell us who the mother is,” said his father.
Again she shook her head.
“Swear,” she said.
Her gestures said they had to swear they would take her with them.
She raised the gold cross from her bosom.
Joseph’s father slowly walked toward her. He touched the little cross. “I swear,” he said.
From the rest of their pantomimes with Anna, Joseph and his father came to understand that the mother was still alive. That she was interned in the camp. And that she was Jewish.
“We must refuse the child!” Joseph protested to his father the moment Anna left. “How can we bring a Jew into the communion!”
“Father Redmond told us she had been baptized,” said his father.
“He also told us the child had been abandoned! No one wanted her!”
“I have just sworn an oath to her, said Joseph’s father. “Anna said the mother is French but speaks English. We are obligated to find out the truth.”
At six the next morning, the major’s car arrived for them. Boxwood had promised to help them, Anna gestures had told them. They must go back to Boxwood’s quarters. The girl’s mother would be there.
The major himself opened the door. His jacket now unbuttoned to the waist, showing a yellowed undershirt. He gestured toward the bedroom. “In there,” he said.
A new generation of women is being misled into assuming an ideological tension between feminism and Zionism