Exodus by Leon Uris
WELCOME TO CYPRUS
The airplane plip-plopped down the runway to a halt before the big sign: WELCOME TO CYPRUS. Mark Parker looked out of the window and in the distance he could see the jagged wonder of the Peak of Five Fingers of the northern coastal range. In an hour or so he would be driving through the pass to Kyrenia. He stepped into the aisle, straightened out his necktie, rolled down his sleeves, and slipped into his jacket. “Welcome to Cyprus, welcome to Cyprus …” It ran through his head. It was from Othello, he thought, but the full quotation slipped his mind.
“Anything to declare?” the customs inspector said.
“Two pounds of uncut heroin and a manual of pornographic art,” Mark answered, looking about for Kitty.
All Americans are comedians, the inspector thought, as he passed Parker through. A government tourist hostess approached him. “Are you Mr. Mark Parker?”
“Mrs. Kitty Fremont phoned to say she is unable to meet you at the airport and for you to come straight to Kyrenia to the Dome Hotel. She has a room there for you.”
“Thanks, angel. Where can I get a taxi to Kyrenia?”
“I’ll arrange a car for you, sir. It will take a few moments.”
“Can I get a transfusion around here?”
“Yes, sir. The coffee counter is straight down the hall.”
Mark leaned against the counter and sipped a steaming cup of black coffee … “Welcome to Cyprus … welcome to Cyprus” … he couldn’t for the life of him remember.
“Say!” a voice boomed out. “I thought I recognized you on the plane. You’re Mark Parker! I bet you don’t remember me.”
Fill in one of the following, Mark thought. It was: Rome, Paris, London, Madrid (and match carefully); Jose’s Bar, James’s Pub, Jacques’s Hideaway, Joe’s Joint. At the time I was covering: war, revolution, insurrection. That particular night I had a: blonde, brunette, redhead (or maybe that broad with two heads).
The man stood nose to nose with Mark, gushing on all eight cylinders now. “I was the guy who ordered a martini and
they didn’t have orange bitters. Now do you remember me?” Mark sighed, sipped some coffee, and braced for another onslaught. “I know you hear this all the time but I really enjoy reading your columns. Say, what are you doing in Cyprus?” The man then winked and jabbed Mark in the ribs. “Something hush-hush, I bet. Why don’t we get together for a drink? I’m staying at the Palace in Nicosia.” A business card was slapped into Mark’s hand. “Got a few connections here, too.” The man winked again.
“Oh, Mr. Parker. Your car is ready.”
Mark put the cup down on the counter. “Nice seeing you again,” he said, and walked out quickly. As he departed he dropped the business card into a trash basket.
The taxi headed out from the airport. Mark rested back and closed his eyes for a moment. He was glad that Kitty couldn’t get to the airport to meet him. So much time had passed and there was so much to say and so much to remember. He felt a surge of excitement pass through him at the thought of seeing her again. Kitty, beautiful, beautiful, Kitty. As the taxi passed through the outer gates Mark was already lost in thought.
… Katherine Fremont. She was one of those great American traditions like Mom’s apple pie, hot dogs, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. For Kitty Fremont was the proverbial “girl next door.” She was the cliché of pigtails, freckles, tomboys, and braces on the teeth; and true to the cliché the braces came off one day, the lipstick went on and the sweater popped out and the ugly duckling had turned into a graceful swan. Mark smiled to himself-she was so beautiful in those days, so fresh and clean.
… and Tom Fremont. He was another American tradition. Tom was the crew-cut kid with the boyish grin who could run the hundred in ten flat, sink a basket from thirty feet out, cut a rug, and put a Model A together blindfolded. Tom Fremont had been Mark’s best pal as long as he could remember for as far back as he could remember. We must have been weaned together, Mark thought.
… Tom and Kitty … apple pie and ice cream … hot dogs and mustard. The all-American boy, the all-American girl, and the all-American Midwest of Indiana. Yes, Tom and Kitty fitted together like the rain and springtime.
Kitty had always been a quiet girl, very deep, very thoughtful. There was a tinge of sadness in her eyes. Perhaps it was only Mark who detected that sadness, for she was joy itself to everyone around her. Kitty had been one of those wonderful towers of strength. She always had both hands on the rudder, always had the right words to say, always decent and thoughtful. But that sadness was there… . Mark knew it if no one else did.
Mark often wondered what made her so desirable. Maybe it was because she seemed so unreachable to him. The iced champagne—the look and the word that could tear a man to pieces. Anyhow, Kitty had always been Tom’s girl and the most he could do was envy Tom.
Tom and Mark were roommates at State University. That first year Tom was absolutely miserable being away from Kitty. Mark remembered the hours on end he would have to listen to Tom’s mournful laments and console him. Summer came, Kitty went off to Wisconsin with her parents. She was still a high-school girl and her folks wanted to dampen the fervor of the affair with a separation. Tom and Mark hitchhiked to Oklahoma to work in the oil fields.
By the time school started again Tom had cooled down considerably. To remain in Mark’s company one had to sample the field. The times between Tom and Kitty’s letters lengthened and the times between Tom’s dates on the campus shortened. It began to look like a strike-out for the college hero and the girl back home.
By their senior year Tom had all but forgotten Kitty. He had become the Beau Brummell of State, a role befitting the ace forward on the basketball team. As for Mark, he was content to bask in Tom’s glory and generally make a name for himself as one of the worst journalism students in the university’s history.
Kitty came to State as a freshman.
Mark could see Kitty a thousand times and it was always as exciting as the first. This time Tom saw her the same way. They eloped a month before Tom’s graduation. Tom and Kitty, Mark and Ellen, a Model A Ford, and four dollars and ten cents crossed the state line and sought out a justice of the peace. Their honeymoon was in the back seat of the Model A, bogged down in the mud of a back road and leaking like a sieve in a downpour. It was an auspicious beginning for the all-American couple.
Tom and Kitty kept their marriage a secret until a full year after his graduation. Kitty stayed on at State to finish her pre-nursing training. Nursing and Kitty seemed to go together, too, Mark always thought.
Tom worshiped Kitty. He had always been a bit wild and too independent, but he settled down to very much the devoted husband. He started out as a very little executive in a very big public relations firm. They moved to Chicago. Kitty nursed in Children’s Hospital. They inched their way up, typical American style. First an apartment and then a small home. A new car, monthly bills, big hopes. Kitty became pregnant with Sandra.
Mark’s thoughts snapped as the taxi slowed through the outskirts of Nicosia, the capital city that sat on the flat brown plain between the northern and southern mountain ranges. “Driver, speak English?” Mark asked.
“They’ve got a sign at the airport, Welcome to Cyprus. What is the full quotation?”
“As far as I know,” the driver answered, “they’re just trying to be polite to tourists.”
They entered Nicosia proper. The flatness, the yellow stone houses with their red tiled roofs, the sea of date palms all reminded Mark of Damascus. The road ran alongside the ancient Venetian wall which was built in a perfect circle and surrounded the old city. Mark could see the twin minarets that spiraled over the skyline from the Turkish section of the old city. The minarets that belonged to St. Sophia’s, that magnificent crusader cathedral turned into a Moslem mosque. As they drove along the wall they passed the enormous ramparts shaped like arrowheads. Mark remembered from his last visit to Cyprus that there was the odd number of eleven of these arrowheads jutting from the wall. He was about to ask the driver why eleven but decided not to.
In a matter of moments they were out of Nicosia and moving north on the plain. They passed one village after another, monotonously similar, made of gray mud-brick cottages. Each village had one water fountain which bore an inscription that it was built through the generosity of His Majesty, the King of England. In the colorless fields the peasants labored with the potato crop, working behind those magnificent beasts, the Cyprus mules.
The taxi picked up speed again and Mark sank back to his reveries.
… Mark and Ellens had gotten married a little after Tom and Kitty. It was a mistake from the first day. Two nice people not made for each other. Kitty Fremont’s quiet and gentle wisdom held Mark and Ellen together. They both could come to her and pour their hearts out. Kitty kept the marriage intact long after time had run out. Then it broke wide open and they were divorced. Mark was thankful there had been no children.
After the divorce Mark moved East and began banging around from job to job, having matriculated from the world’s worst journalism student to the world’s worst newspaperman. He became one of those drifters who inhabit the newspaper world. It was not stupidity nor lack of talent, but complete inability to find his niche in life. Mark was a creative man and the business of routine reporting cut that creativity. Yet he had no desire to attempt the life of a creative writer. He knew that his personality would not take the demands on a novelist. So Mark hung in limbo, being neither fish nor fowl.
Each week there was a letter from Tom, and it would be filled with enthusiasm and the vigor of his climb to the top. The letters were also filled with Tom’s love for Kitty and their baby girl, Sandra.
Mark remembered Kitty’s letters. A calm appraisal of Tom’s effervescence. Kitty always kept Mark posted on. Ellen’s whereabouts until Ellen remarried.
In 1938 the world opened up for Mark Parker. There was a post to be filled in Berlin with American News Syndicate, and Mark was suddenly transformed from a “newspaper bum” into the respectability of a “foreign correspondent.”
In this capacity Mark proved to be a talented journeyman. He was able to fill part of his desire for creativity by developing a style that labeled him as an individual-as Mark Parker and no one else. Mark was by no means a world-beater but he did have that one great instinct of a crack foreign correspondent: an ability to smell out a story in the making.
The world was a lark. He covered Europe, Asia, and Africa from one end to the other. He had a title, he was doing work he liked, his credit was good at Jose’s Bar, James’s Pub, Joe’s and Jacques’s Hideaway, and he had an inexhaustible list of candidates for his blonde-, brunette-, or redhead-of-the-month club.
When the war broke out Mark chased all over Europe. It was good to settle back in London for a few days where a stack of mail from Tom and Kitty would be waiting.
Early in 1942 Tom Fremont enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was killed at Guadalcanal.
Two months after Tom’s death, their baby, Sandra, died of polio.
Mark took emergency leave to return home, but by the time he arrived Kitty Fremont had disappeared. He searched for her without success until he had to return to Europe. To all intents she had disappeared from the face of the earth. It was strange to Mark, but that sadness that he always saw in Kitty’s eyes seemed like a fulfilled prophecy.
The moment the war was over he returned to look for her again, but the trail had grown cold.
In November of 1945, American News Syndicate recalled, him to Europe to coyer the war-crimes trials in Nuremberg. By now Mark was an established craftsman and bore the title, “distinguished” foreign correspondent. He stayed on, turning
in a brilliant series, until the top Nazis were hanged, only a few months back.
ANS granted Mark a much-needed leave of absence before transferring him to Palestine, where it* appeared local war was brewing. To spend his leave in the accepted Mark Parker fashion, he chased down a passionate French UN, girl he had met earlier, who had been transferred to the United Nations Relief in Athens.
It all happened from a clear blue sky. He was sitting in the American Bar, passing the time of day with a group of fellow newsmen, when the conversation somehow drifted to a particular American nurse in Salonika doing fabulous work with Greek orphans. One of the correspondents had just returned from there with a story on her orphanage. The nurse was Kitty Fremont.
Mark inquired immediately and discovered that she was on vacation in Cyprus.
The taxi began to move upwards, out of the plain, on a twisting little road that led through the pass in the Pentadaktylos Mountains. It was turning dusk. They reached the peak and Mark ordered the car to pull over to the side.
He stepped out and looked down at the magnificent jewel-like little town of Kyrenia nestled against the sea at the foot of the mountain. To the left and above him stood the ruins of St. Hilarion Castle, haunted with the memory of Richard the Lion-Hearted and his beautiful Berengaria. He made a mental note to come back again with Kitty.
It was nearing dark as they reached Kyrenia. The little town was all white plaster and red tiled roofs, with the castle above it and the sea beside it. Kyrenia was picturesque and remote and quaint to a point where it could not have been more picturesque or remote or quaint. They passed the miniature harbor, filled with fishing smacks and small yachts, set inside two arms of a sea wall. On one arm was the quay. On the other arm stood an ancient fortress rampart, the Virgin Castle.
Kyrenia had long been a retreat for artists and retired British Army officers. It was, indeed, one of the most peaceful places on earth.
A block away from the harbor stood the Dome Hotel. Physically the big building seemed outsized and out of place for the rest of the sleepy little town. The Dome, however, had become a crossroads of the British Empire. It was known in every corner of the world that flew a Union Jack as a place where Englishmen met. It was a maze of public rooms and terraces and verandas sitting over the sea. A long pier of a hundred yards or more connected the hotel to a tiny island offshore used by swimmers and sun bathers.
The taxi pulled to a stop. The bellboy gathered in Mark’s luggage. Mark paid off his driver and looked about. It was November but it was warmish yet and it was serene. What a wonderful place for a reunion with Kitty Fremont!
The desk clerk handed Mark a message.
I am stuck in Famagusta until nine o’clock. Will you ever forgive me??? Dying with anxiety. Love.
“I want some flowers, a bottle of scotch, and a bucket of ice,” Mark said.
“Mrs. Fremont has taken care of everything,” the room clerk said, handing a key to the bellboy. “You have adjoining rooms overlooking the sea.”
Mark detected a smirk on the clerk’s face. It was the same kind of dirty look he had seen in a hundred hotels with a hundred women. He was about to set the record straight but decided to let the clerk think anything he damned well pleased.
He gathered in the view of the sea as it turned dark, then he unpacked and mixed himself a scotch and water and drank it while he soaked in a steaming tub.
Seven o’clock … still two hours to wait.
He opened the door of Kitty’s room. It smelled good. Her bathing suit and some freshly washed hosiery hung over the bathtub. Her shoes were lined up beside the bed and her make-up on the vanity. Mark smiled. Even with Kitty gone the empty room was full of the character of an unusual person.
He went back and stretched out on his bed. What had the years done to her7 What had the tragedy done? Kitty, beautiful Kitty … please be all right. It was now November of 1946, Mark figured; when was the last time he saw her? Nineteen thirty-eight … just before he went to Berlin for ANS. Eight years ago. Kitty would be twenty-eight years old now.
The excitement and tension caught up with Mark. He was tired and he began to doze.
The tinkle of ice cubes, a sweet sound to Mark Parker, brought him out of a deep sleep. He rubbed his eyes and groped around for a cigarette.
“You sleep as though you were drugged,” a very British accent said. “I knocked for five minutes. The bellboy let me in. Hope you don’t mind me helping myself to the whisky.” The voice belonged to Major Fred Caldwell of the British Army. Mark yawned, stretched himself into wakefulness, and checked his watch. It was eight-fifteen. “What the hell are you doing on Cyprus?” Mark asked.
“I believe that is my question.”
Mark lit a cigarette and looked at Caldwell. He didn’t like the major nor did he hate him. “Despise” was the suitable word. They had met before twice. Caldwell had been the aide of Colonel, later Brigadier, Bruce Sutherland, quite a good
field officer in the British Army. Their first meeting had been in the lowlands near Holland during the war. In one of his reports Mark had pointed out a British tactical blunder that had caused a regiment of men to get cut to pieces. The second meeting had been at the Nuremberg war crimes trials which Mark was covering for ANS.
Toward the end of the war Bruce Sutherland’s troops were the first to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Both Sutherland and Caldwell had come to Nuremberg to give testimony.
Mark walked to the bathroom, washed his face with icy water, and fished around for a towel. “What can I do for you, Freddie?”
“CID phoned over to our headquarters this afternoon and told us you landed. You haven’t been issued credentials.”
“Christ, you’re a suspicious bunch of bastards. Sorry to disappoint you, Freddie. I’m here on vacation en route to Palestine.”
“This isn’t an official call, Parker,” Caldwell said; “just say we are a bit touchy over past relationships.”
“You have long memories,” Mark said, and began dressing. Caldwell mixed Mark a drink. Mark studied the British officer and wondered why Caldwell always managed to rub him the wrong way. There was that arrogance about him that stamped him as a member of that quaint breed, the Colonizer. Caldwell was a stuffy and narrow-minded bore. A gentleman’s game of tennis, in whites … a bashing gin and tonic and damn the natives. It was Freddie Caldwell’s conscience or the utter lack of it that bothered Mark. The meaning of right and wrong came to Caldwell through an army manual or an order. “You boys covering up some dirty work on Cyprus?” “Don’t be a bore, Parker. We own this island and we want to know what you want here.”
“You know … that’s what I like about you British. A Dutchman would tell me to get the hell out. You fellows always say, ‘please go to hell.’ I said I was on vacation. A reunion with an old friend.”
“A girl named Kitty Fremont.”
“Kitty, the nurse. Yes, smashing woman, smashing. We met at the governor’s a few days back.” Freddie Caldwell’s eyebrows raised questioningly as he looked at the connecting door to Kitty’s room, which stood ajar.
“Go give your filthy mind a bath,” Mark said. “I’ve known her for twenty-five years.”
“Then, as you Americans say-everything’s on the up and up.”
“That’s right and from this point on your visit becomes social, so get out.”
Freddie Caldwell smiled and set down his glass and tucked the swagger stick under his arm.
“Freddie Caldwell,” Mark said. “I want to see you when that smile is wiped off your face.”
“What in the devil are you talking about?”
“This is 1946, Major. A lot of people read the campaign slogans in the last war and believed them. You’re a dollar short and an hour late. You’re going to lose the whole shooting match … first it’s going to be India, then Africa, then the Middle East. I’ll be there to watch you lose the Palestine mandate. They’re going to boot you out of even Suez and Trans-Jordan. The sun is setting on the empire, Freddie … what is your wife going to do without forty little black boys to whip?”
“I read your coverage of the Nuremberg trials, Parker. You have that terrible American tendency toward being overdramatic. Corny is the word, I think. Besides, old boy, I don’t have a wife.”
“You boys are polite.”
“Remember, Parker, you ate on vacation. I’ll give Brigadier Sutherland .your regards. Cheerio.”
Mark smiled and shrugged. Then it came back to him. The sign at the airport., … welcome to Cyprus: William Shakespeare. The full quote was-“Welcome to Cyprus, goats and monkeys.”
CHAPTER TWO: During the hours in which Mark Parker awaited his long-delayed reunion with Kitty Fremont, two other men awaited a reunion of a far different sort in a different part of Cyprus. Forty miles away from Kyrenia, north of the port city of Famagusta, they waited in a forest.
It was cloudy, socked-in with no light from the sky. The two men stood in utter silence and squinted through the dark toward the bay a half mile down the hill.
They were in an abandoned white house on the hill in the midst of a forest of pines and eucalyptus and acacias. It was still and black except for a wisp of wind and the muffled unsteady breathing of the two men.
One of the men was a Greek Cypriot, a forest service ranger, and he was nervous.
The other man appeared as calm as a statue, never moving his eyes from the direction of the water. His name was David Ben Ami. His name meant David, Son of My People.
The clouds began to break. Light fell over the still waters of the bay and on the forest and the white house. David Ben Ami stood in the window and the light played on his face. He was a man of slight build in his early twenties. Even in the poor light his thin face and his deep eyes showed the sensitivity of a scholar.
As the clouds swept away, the light crept over fields of broken marble columns and statuary that littered the ground about the white house.
Broken stone. The mortal remains of the once-great city of Salamis which stood mighty in the time of Christ. What history lay beneath this ground and throughout the fields of marble! Salamis, founded in times barely recorded by men, by the warrior Teucer on his return from the Trojan Wars. It fell by earthquake and it rose again and it fell once more to the Arab sword under the banner of Islam, never to arise again. The light danced over the acres and acres of thousands of broken columns where a great Greek forum once stood.
The clouds closed and it was dark again.
“He is long overdue,” the Greek Cypriot forest ranger whispered nervously.
“Listen,” David Ben Ami said.
A faint sound of a boat’s motor was heard from far out on the water. David Ben Ami lifted his field glasses, hoping for a break in the clouds. The sound of the motor grew louder.
A flash of light streaked out from the water toward the white house on the hill. Another flash. Another.
David Ben Ami and the forest ranger raced from the white house, down the hill, and through the rubble and the woods till they reached the shore line. Ben Ami returned the signal with his own flashlight.
The sound of the motor stopped.
A shadowy figure of a man slipped over the side of the boat and began to swim toward the shore. David Ben Ami cocked his Sten gun and looked up and down the beach for signs of a British patrol. The figure emerged from the deep water and waded in. “David!” a voice called from the water.
“Ari,” he answered back, “this way, quickly.”
On the beach the three men ran past the white house and onto a dirt road. A taxi waited, hidden in the brush. Ben Ami thanked the Cypriot forest ranger, and he and the man from the boat sped off in the direction of Famagusta.
“My cigarettes are soaked,” Ari said.
David Ben Ami passed him a pack. A brief flame glowed over the face of the man who was called Ari. He was large and husky, in complete contrast to the small Ben Ami. His face was handsome but there was a set hardness in his eyes.
He was Ari Ben Canaan and he was the crack agent of the Mossad Aliyah Bet-the illegal organization.
CHAPTER THREE: There was a knock on Mark Parker’s door. He opened it. Katherine Fremont stood before him. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. They stared at each other silently for a long time. He studied her face and her eyes. She was a woman now, soft and compassionate in the way one gets only through terrible suffering.
“I ought to break your damned neck for not answering my letters,” Mark said.
“Hello, Mark,” she whispered.
They fell into each other’s arms and clung to each other. Then for the first hour they spoke little but contented themselves with looking at each other, with quick smiles, occasional pressing of hands, and affectionate kisses on the cheek.
At dinner they made small talk, mostly of Mark’s adventures as a foreign correspondent. Then Mark became aware that Kitty was steering all the conversation away from any talk of herself.
The final dish of cheeses came. Mark poured the last of his Keo beer and another of the many awkward silent periods followed. Now Kitty was obviously growing uncomfortable under his questioning stare.
“Come on,” he said, “let’s take a walk to the harbor.”
“I’ll get my stole,” she said.
They walked silently along the quay lined with white buildings and onto the sea wall and out to the lighthouse which stood at the narrow opening of the harbor. It was cloudy and they could see but dim outlines of the little boats resting at anchor. They watched the lighthouse blink out to sea, guiding a trawler toward the shelter of the harbor. A soft wind blew through Kitty’s golden hair. She tightened the stole over her shoulders. Mark lit a cigarette and sat on the wall. It was deathly still.
“I’ve made you very unhappy by coming here,” he said, “I’ll leave tomorrow.”
“I don’t want you to go,” she said. She looked away out to the sea. “I don’t know bow I felt when I received your cable. It opened the door on a lot of memories that I have tried awfully hard to bury. Yet I knew that one day this minute would come … in a way I’ve dreaded it … in a way, I’m glad it’s here.”
“It’s been four years since Tom got killed. Aren’t you ever going to shake this?”
“Women lose husbands in war,” she whispered. “I cried for Tom. We were very much in love, but I knew I would go on living. I don’t even know how he died.”
“There wasn’t much to it,” Mark said. “Tom was a marine and he went in to take a beach with ten thousand other marines. A bullet hit him and he died. No hero, no medals … no time to say, ‘tell Kitty I love her.’ Just got hit by a bullet and died … that’s it.”
The blood drained from her face. Mark lit a cigarette and handed it to her. “Why did Sandra die? Why did my baby have to die too?”
“I’m not God. I can’t answer that.”
She sat beside Mark on the sea wall and rested her head on his shoulder and sighed unevenly. “I guess there is no place left for me to run,” she said.
“Why don’t you tell me about it.”
“I think it’s about time that you did.”
A half dozen times Kitty tried to speak, but her voice held only short disconnected whispers. The years of terror were locked deep in her. She threw the cigarette into the water and looked at Mark. He was right and he was the only one in the world she could confide in.
“It was pretty terrible,” she said, “when I got the telegram about Tom, I loved him so. Just … just two months after that Sandra died of polio. I … I don’t remember too much. My parents took, me away to Vermont and put me in a home.”
“No … that’s the name they give it for poor people … they called mine a rest home for a breakdown. I don’t know how many months passed there. I couldn’t remember everything. I was in a complete fog day and night. Melancholia, they call it.”
Suddenly Kitty’s voice became steady. The door had opened and the torment was finding its way out. “One day the veil over my mind lifted and I remembered that Tom and Sandra were dead. A pain clung to me. Everything every minute of the day reminded me of them. Every time I heard a song, every time I heard laughter … every time I saw a child. Every breath I took hurt me. I prayed … I prayed, Mark, that the fog would fall on me again. Yes, I prayed I’d go insane so I couldn’t remember.”
She stood up tall and straight and the tears streamed down her cheeks. “I ran away to New York. Tried to bury myself in the throngs. I had four walls, a chair, a table, a swinging light bulb.” She let out a short ironic laugh. “There was even a flickering neon sign outside my window. Corny, wasn’t it? I’d walk aimlessly for hours on the streets till all the faces were a blur, or I’d sit and look out of the window for days at a time. Tom, Sandra, Tom, Sandra … it never left me for a moment.”
Kitty felt Mark behind her. His hands gripped her shoulders. Out in the water the trawler was nearing the opening between the arms of the sea wall. She brushed her cheek against Mark’s hand.
“One night I drank too much. You know me … I’m a terrible drinker. I saw a boy in a green uniform like Tom’s. He was lonely and crew-cut and tall … like Tom. We drank together … I woke up in a cheap, dirty hotel room … God knows where. I was still half drunk. I staggered to the mirror and I looked at myself. I was naked. The boy was naked too … sprawled out on the bed.”
“Kitty, for God’s sake…”
“It’s all right, Mark … let me finish. I stood there looking in that mirror … I don’t know how long. I had reached the bottom of my life. There was no place lower for me. That moment… that second I was done. The boy was unconscious … strange … I don’t even remember his name. I saw his razor blades in the bathroom and the gas pipe from the ceiling and for a minute or an hour … I don’t know how long I stood booking down ten stories over the sidewalk. The end of my life had come but I did not have the strength to take it. Then a strange thing happened, Mark. I knew that I was going to go on living without Tom and Sandra and suddenly the pain was gone.”
“Kitty, darling. I wanted so much to find you and help you.”
“I know. But it was something I had to fight out myself, I suppose. I went back to nursing, plunged into it like crazy. The minute it was over in Europe. I took on this Greek orphanage … it was a twenty-four-hour-a-day job. That’s what I needed of course, to work myself to the limit. Mark
… I … I’ve started a hundred letters to you. Somehow I’ve been too terrified of this minute. I’m glad now, I’m glad it’s over.”
“I’m glad I found you,” Mark said.
She spun around and faced him. “… so that is the story of what has become of Kitty Fremont.”
Mark took her hand and they began walking back along the sea wall to the quay. From the Dome Hotel they could hear the sound of music.
CHAPTER FOUR: Brigadier Bruce Sutherland sat behind a big desk as military commander of Cyprus in his house on Hippocrates Street in Famagusta, some forty miles from Kyrenia. Except for small telltale traces-a slight roll around his middle and a whitening of the hair about his temples-Sutherland’s appearance belied his fifty-five years. His ramrod posture clearly identified a military man. A sharp knock sounded on the door and his aide, Major Fred Caldwell, entered.
“Good evening, Caldwell. Back from Kyrenia already? Have a chair.” Sutherland shoved the papers aside, stretched, and put his glasses on the desk. He selected a GBD pipe from the rack and dipped it into a humidor of Dunhill mix. Caldwell thanked the brigadier for a cigar and the two men soon clouded the room in smoke. The Greek houseboy appeared in answer to a buzz.
“Gin and tonic twice.”
Sutherland arose and walked into the full light. He was wearing a deep red velvet smoking jacket. He settled into a leather chair before the high shelves of books. “Did you see Mark Parker?”
“What do you think?”
Caldwell shrugged. “On the face of it we certainly can’t accuse him of anything. He is on the way to Palestine … here to see that American nurse, Katherine Fremont.”
“Fremont? Oh yes, that lovely woman we met at the governor’s.”
“So I say, sir, it all appears quite innocent … yet, Parker is a reporter and I can’t forget that trouble he caused us in Holland.”
“Oh, come now,” Sutherland retorted, “we all made blunders in the war. He just happened to catch one of ours. Fortunately our side won, and I don’t think there are ten people who remember.”
The gin and tonics arrived. “Cheers.”
Sutherland set his glass down and patted his white walrus mustache. Fred Caldwell wasn’t satisfied.
“Sir,” he persisted, “in case Parker does become curious and does decide to snoop around, don’t you think it would be wise to have a couple of CID men watching him?”
“See here, you leave him alone. Just tell a newspaperman ‘no’ and you’re apt to stir up a hornet’s nest. Refugee stories are out of style these days and I don’t believe he would be interested in their camps here. None the less we are not going to run the risk of arousing his curiosity by forbidding him to do anything. If you ask me I think it was a mistake for you to see him today.”
“But, Brigadier … after that trouble in Holland …”
“Bring the chess table, Freddie!”
There was something absolutely final about the way Sutherland said “Freddie.” Caldwell grumbled under his breath as they set up the chessmen. They made their opening moves but Sutherland could see that his aide was unhappy. He set down his pipe and leaned back.
“Caldwell, I have tried to explain to you that we are not running concentration camps here. The refugees at Caraolos are merely being detained on Cyprus until those blockheads in Whitehall decide what they are going to do with the Palestine mandate.”
“But those Jews are so unruly,” Caldwell said, “I’m certainly in favor of some good old-fashioned discipline.”
“No, Freddie, not this time. These people are not criminals and they’ve got world sympathy on their side. It is your job and mine to see that there are no riots, no outbreaks, and nothing that can be used as propaganda against us. Do you understand that?”
Caldwell didn’t understand. He damned well thought that the brigadier should be much tougher with the refugees. But no one wins an argument with a general unless he happens to be a bigger general and it was all so deep-so Caldwell moved a pawn forward.
“Your move, sir,” he said.
Caldwell looked up from the board. Sutherland seemed completely withdrawn and oblivious of him. It was happening more and more lately.
“Your move, sir,” Caldwell repeated.
Sutherland’s face was troubled. Poor chap, Caldwell thought. The brigadier had been married to Neddie Sutherland for almost thirty years, and suddenly she had left him and run off to Paris with a lover ten years her junior. It was a scandal that rocked army circles for months, and Sutherland must still be taking it hard. Terrible blow for the brigadier. He had always been such a decent sort of chap. The white face of Sutherland was lined with wrinkles, and little red veins on his nose turned bright. At this moment he looked all of his fifty-five years and more.
Bruce Sutherland was not thinking about Neddie, as Caldwell believed. His mind was on the refugee camps at Caraolos.
“Your move, sir.”
“So shall your enemies perish, Israel . , .” Sutherland mumbled.
“What did you say, sir?”
CHAPTER FIVE: Mark led Kitty back to the table, both of them breathless. “Do you know the last time I danced a samba?” she said.
“You’re not so bad for an old broad.”
Mark looked around the room filled with British officers in their army khakis and navy whites and their high and low English accents. Mark loved places like this. The waiter brought a new round of drinks and they clicked glasses.
“To Kitty … wherever she may be,” Mark said. “Well ma’am, where do you go from here?”
Kitty shrugged, “Golly, I don’t know, Mark. My work is finished at Salonika and I am getting restless. I’ve got a dozen offers I can take around Europe with the United Nations.”
“It was a lovely war,” Mark said. “Lots of orphans.”
“Matter of fact,” Kitty said, “I got a real good offer to stay right here on Cyprus just yesterday.”
“They have some refugee camps around Famagusta. Anyhow, some American woman contacted me. Seems that the camps are overcrowded and they’re opening new ones on the Larnaca road. She wanted me to take charge.”
“That’s one of the reasons I couldn’t meet you at the airport. I went to Famagusta to see her today.”
“And what did you tell her?”
“I told her no. They were Jews. I suppose Jewish children are pretty much like any others but I’d just rather not get mixed up with them. It seems that there’s an awful lot of politics connected with those camps and they’re not under UN auspices.”
Mark was silent in thought. Kitty winked mischievously and waggled a finger under his nose. “Don’t be so serious . . , you want to know the other reason I didn’t meet you at the airport?”
“You’re acting tipsy.”
“I’m starting to feel that way. Well, Mr. Parker, I was in Famagusta seeing my boy friend off. You know me … one lover leaves by ship while another lands by airplane.”
“As long as you brought it up … who was this guy you came to Cyprus with?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Colonel Howard Hillings of the British Army.”
“Anything dirty between you two?”
“Dammit, no. He was so proper it was disgusting.”
“Where did you meet this guy?”
“Salonika. He was in charge of the British mission in the area. When I took over the orphanage we were short of everything … beds, medicine, food, blankets … everything. Anyhow, I went to him and he cut wads of red tape for me and we became friends for ever and ever and ever. He really is a dear man.”
“Go on. It’s getting interesting.”
“He got notice a few weeks ago that he was being transferred to Palestine and he had leave coming and wanted me to spend it with him here. You know, I’d been working so hard I’d completely forgotten I haven’t had a day off in eighteen months. Anyhow, they cut his leave short and he had to report to Famagusta to sail to Palestine today.”
“Future prospects as Mrs. Hillings?”
Kitty shook her head. “I like him very much. He brought me all the way to Cyprus to find the right setting to ask me to marry him …”
“I loved Tom. I’ll never feel that way again.”
“You’re twenty-eight years old, Kitty. It’s a good age to retire.”
“I’m not complaining. I’ve found something that keeps me content. Mark, you’re going to Palestine too. There are a lot of officers here leaving for Palestine.”
“There’s going to be a war, Kitty.”
“Why … ? I don’t understand.”
“Oh, lots of reasons. Lot of people around the world have decided they want to run their own lives. Colonies are going out of vogue this century. These boys here are riding a dead-horse. This is the soldier of the new empire,” Mark said, taking a dollar bill from his pocket; “we’ve got millions of these green soldiers moving into every corner of the world. Greatest occupying force you’ve ever seen. A bloodless conquest … but Palestine … that’s different again, Kitty, there’s almost something frightening about it. Some people are out to resurrect a nation that has been dead for two thousand years. Nothing like that has ever happened before. What’s more, I think they’re going to do it. It’s these same Jews you don’t like.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t like Jews,” Kitty insisted.
“I won’t debate with you now. Think real hard, honey … since you’ve been on Cyprus. Have you heard anything or seen anything that might be, well, unusual?”
Kitty bit her lip in thought and sighed. “Only the refugee camps. I hear they are overcrowded and in deplorable condition. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. Just say I’ve got an intuition that something very big is happening on Cyprus.”
“Why don’t you just say you’re naturally nosey by profession?”
“It’s more than that. Do you know a Major Fred Caldwell? He’s aide to Brigadier Sutherland.”
“Terrible bore. I met him at the governor’s.”
“He met me in my room before you got in. Why would a general’s aide be sitting on my lap ten minutes after I landed on a matter that is seemingly trivial? Kitty, I tell you the British are nervous about something here. I … I can’t put my finger on it, but five will get you ten it’s tied up with those refugee camps. Look … would you go to work in those camps for me for a few weeks?”
“Certainly, Mark. If you want me to.”
“Oh, the hell with it,” Mark said, setting down his drink, “us two kids are on vacation. You’re right … I’m nosey and suspicious by profession. Forget it, let’s dance.”
CHAPTER SIX: On Arsinos Street in Famagusta, facing the wall of the old city, sat a large and luxurious house belonging to a Greek Cypriot named Mandria, who was owner of the Cyprus-Mediterranean Shipping Company as well as owner of a great number of the island’s taxicabs. Mandria and David Ben Ami waited anxiously as Ari Ben Canaan cleaned up and changed into dry clothing after his swim ashore.
They both knew that the appearance of Ari Ben Canaan on Cyprus meant a top-level mission for Mossad Aliyah Bet. British policy for many years had been to exclude or extremely limit the Jewish immigration to Palestine. They had the Royal Navy to execute this policy. The Mossad Aliyah Bet was an organization of Palestinian Jews whose business it was to help smuggle other Jews into Palestine. However, as fast as the British Navy caught the Mossad boats trying to run the blockade the refugees would be transferred to detention camps on Cyprus,
Ari Ben Canaan, in a fresh change of clothing, entered the room and nodded to Mandria and David Ben Ami. The Palestinian was a big man, well over six feet and well built. He and Ben Ami had long been intimate friends but they played a role of formality in front of Mandria, the Cypriot, who was not a member of their organization but merely a sympathizer.
Ari lit a cigarette and got right to the point. “Headquarters has sent me here to stage a mass escape from the detention camps. The reasons are obvious to all of us. What is your opinion, David?”
The thin young man from Jerusalem paced the room thoughtfully. He had been sent to Cyprus months before by the secret army of the Jews in Palestine called the Palmach. He and dozens of other Palmachniks smuggled themselves into the compounds of refugees without the knowledge of the British and set up schools, hospitals, and synagogues, built sanitation facilities, and organized light industry. The refugees who had been turned back from Palestine to Cyprus were hopeless people. The appearance of young Palestinians of the Jews’ army infused new hope and morale. David Ben Ami and the other Palmachniks gave military training to several thousand men and women among the refugees, using sticks as rifles and rocks as grenades. Although he was but twenty-two years of age David was the Palmach commander in Cyprus. If the British had gotten wind that there were Palestinians inside the camps they kept quiet about it, for they did their guarding from the outside-having no desire to go into the hate-riddled compounds.
“How many people do you want to escape?” David asked.
“Three hundred, more or less.”
David shook his head. “We have a few tunnels dug but those lead to the sea. As you know by coming in here tonight, the tides are treacherous and only strong swimmers can make it. Second, we move in and out through the garbage dumps. They are loosely guarded, but we could never get that many people through. Third, British uniforms and false papers … again, we can only get a few in and out at a time. Last, we crate some of our members up in boxes and send them to the docks. Mr. Mandria here owns the shipping company and his dock hands are on the alert for these crates. At this moment, Ari, I see no way to pull a mass escape.”
“We will find a way,” Ben Canaan said matter of factly, “but we only have a few weeks to complete this job.”
Mandria, the Greek, arose, sighed, and shook his head.
“Mr. Ben Canaan, you have swum ashore tonight and asked us to do the impossible … in two weeks, yet. In my heart,” Mandria said, touching his heart, “I say that it will be done, but! … in my head”-and Mandria tapped his skull with his forefinger-“it cannot be done.” The Cypriot clasped his hands behind him and paced the dining room. “Believe me, Mr. Ben Canaan”-he swung around and made a bravado sweep of the arm-“you Palmach and Mossad people can count on the Greeks of Cyprus to back you to the last drop of blood. We are for you! We are with you! We are behind you! Nevertheless … ! Cyprus is an island and it is surrounded by water on all sides and the British are not stupid or asleep. I, Mandria, will do everything for you, but still you are not getting three hundred people out of Caraolos. There are ten-foot walls of barbed wire around those compounds and the guards carry rifles … with bullets in them.”
Ari Ben Canaan arose and towered over the other two men. He had ignored much of Mandria’s dramatics. “I will need a British uniform, papers, and a driver by morning. You can start looking for a boat, Mr. Mandria. Something between a hundred and two hundred tons. David, we will need an expert forger.”
“We have a boy out in the children’s compound who is supposed to be a real artist but he won’t work. The rest of the stuff is primitive.”
“I’ll go out to Caraolos tomorrow and talk to him. I want to look over the camp, anyhow.”
Mandria was elated. What a man of action Ari Ben Canaan was! Find a ship! Find a forger! Get me a uniform and a driver! life was so exciting since the Mossad and Palmach had come to Cyprus, and he so loved being a part of the cat-and-mouse game with the British. He stood up and pumped Ari Ben Canaan’s hand. “We Cypriots are with you. Your battle is our battle!”
Ben Canaan looked at Mandria disgustedly. “Mr. Mandria,” he said, “you are being well paid for your time and efforts.”
A stunned silence fell on the room. Mandria turned as white as a sheet. “Do you believe … do you dare believe, sir, that I, I, Mandria, would do this for money? Do you think I risk ten years in prison and exile from my home? It has cost me over five thousand pounds since I began working with your Palmach.”
David stepped in quickly. “I think you had better apologize to Mr. Mandria. He and his taxi drivers and his dock hands take all sorts of risks. Without the help of the Greek people our work would be nearly impossible.”
Mandria slumped into a chair deeply wounded. “Yes, Mr. Ben Canaan, we admire you. We feel that if you can throw the British out of Palestine then maybe we can do the same on Cyprus someday.”
“My apologies, Mr. Mandria,” Ari said. “I must be over-tense.” He recited the words completely without meaning.
A shrill sound of sirens outside brought the conversation to a stop. Mandria opened the French doors to the balcony and walked outside with David. Ari Ben Canaan stood behind them. They saw an armored car with machine guns leading a convoy of lorries up the street from the docks. There were twenty-five lorries, in all, surrounded by machine guns mounted on jeeps.
The lorries were packed with refugees from the illegal ship, Door of Hope, which had tried to run the British blockade from Italy to Palestine. The Door of Hope had been rammed by a British destroyer, towed to Haifa, and the refugees transferred immediately to Cyprus.
The sirens shrieked louder as the convoy swept close to the balcony of Mandria’s home. The lorries passed one by one. The three men could see the jam of tattered, ragged misery. They were beaten people-at the end of the line-dazed, withered, exhausted. The sirens shrieked and the convoy turned at the Land Gate of the old wall and onto the road to Salamis, in the direction of the British detention camps at Caraolos. The convoy faded from sight but the shrieks of the sirens lingered on and on.
David Ben Ami’s hands were tight fists and his teeth were clenched in a face livid with helpless rage. Mandria wept openly. Only Ari Ben Canaan showed no emotion. They walked in from the balcony.
“I know you two have much to talk over,” Mandria said between sobs. “I hope you find your room comfortable, Mr Ben Canaan. We will have your uniform, papers, and a taxi by morning. Good night.”
The instant David and Ari were alone they threw their arms about each other. The big man picked the little man up and set him down as though he were a child. They looked each other over and congratulated each other on looking well and went into another bear hug.
“Jordana!” David said anxiously. “Did you see her before you left? Did she give you a message?”
Ari scratched his jaw teasingly. “Now let me see …”
“Please, Ari… it has been months since I have received a letter…”
Ari sighed and withdrew an envelope which David snatched from his hands. “I put it in a rubber pouch. The only thing I could think of tonight when I was swimming in was that you would break my neck if I got your damned letter wet.”
David was not listening. He squinted in the half light and slowly read the words of a woman who missed and longed for her lover. He folded the letter tenderly and carefully placed it in his breast pocket to be read again and again, for it might be months before she could send another. “How is she?” David asked.
“I don’t see what my sister sees in yon. Jordana? Jordana is Jordana. She is wild and beautiful and she loves you very much.”
“My parents … my brothers … how is our Palmach gang … what…”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute. I’ll be here for a while-one question at a time.”
David pulled out the letter and read it again, and the two men were silent. They stared out of the French doors at the ancient wall across the road. “How are things at home?” David whispered.
“Things at home? The same as always. Bombings, shootings. Exactly as it has been every day since we were children. It never changes. Every year we come to a crisis which is sure to wipe us out-then we go on to another crisis worse than the last. Home is home,” Ari said, “only this time there is going to be a war.” He put his arm on the shoulder of his smaller friend. “We are all damned proud of the work you have done in Caraolos with these refugees.”
“I have done as well as can be expected, trying to train soldiers with broomsticks. Palestine is a million miles away to these people. They have no hope left. Ari … I don’t want you antagonizing Mandria any more. He is a wonderful friend.”
“I can’t stand people patronizing us, David.”
“And we can’t do the job here without him and the Greek people.”
“Don’t be fooled by the Mandrias all over the world. They weep crocodile tears and they pay lip service to our millions of slaughtered, but when the final battle comes we will stand alone. Mandria will sell us out like all the others. We will be betrayed and double-crossed as it has always been. We have no friends except our own people, remember that.”
“And you are wrong,” David snapped back.
“David, David, David. I have been with the Mossad and the Palmach for more years than I care to remember. You are young yet. This is your first big assignment. Don’t let emotion cloud your logic.”
“I want emotion to cloud my logic,” David answered. “I burn inside every time I see something like that convoy. Our people locked up in cages like animals.”
“We try all sorts of schemes,” Ari said; “we must keep a clear head. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes we fail. Work with a clear mind, always.”
Even now they could still hear the sound of sirens over the breeze. The young man from Jerusalem lit a cigarette and stood for a moment in thought. “I must never stop believing,” he said solemnly, “that I am carrying on a new chapter of a story started four thousand years ago.” He spun around and looked up at the big man excitedly. “Look, Ari. Take the place you landed tonight. Once the city of Salamis stood there. It was in Salamis that the Bar Kochba revolution began in the first century. He drove the Romans from our country and re-established the Kingdom of Judah. There is a bridge near the detention camps-they call it the Jews’ Bridge. It has been called that for two thousand years. I can’t forget these things. Right in the same place we fought the Roman Empire we now fight the British Empire two thousand years later.”
Ari Ben Canaan stood a head taller than David Ben Ami. He smiled down at the younger man as a father might smile at an overenthusiastic son. “Finish the story. After the Bar Kochba revolution the legions of Rome returned and massacred our people in city after city. In the final battle at Beitar the blood of murdered women and children made a crimson river which flowed for a full mile. Akiva, one of the leaders, was skinned alive-and Bar Kochba was carried off to Rome in chains to die in the lions’ den. Or was it Bar Giora who died in the lions’ den in another revolution? I can get these revolutions mixed up. Oh yes, the Bible and our history are filled with wonderful tales and convenient miracles. But this is real today. We have no Joshua to make the sun stand still or the walls to come tumbling down. The British tanks will not get stuck in the mud like Canaanite chariots, and the sea has not closed in on the British Navy as it did on Pharaoh’s army. The age of miracles is gone, David.”
“It is not gone! Our very existence is a miracle. We outlived the Romans and the Greeks and even Hitler. We have outlived every oppressor and we will outlive the British Empire. That is a miracle, Ari.”
“Well, David-one thing I can say about the Jews. We certainly know how to argue. Let’s get some sleep.”
CHAPTER SEVEN: “Your move, sir,” Fred Caldwell repeated.
“Yes, yes, forgive me.” Brigadier Sutherland studied the chessboard and moved his pawn forward. Caldwell brought out a knight and Sutherland countered with his own. “Dash it!” the brigadier mumbled as his pipe went out. He relit it.
The two men glanced up as they heard the dim but steady shrill screams of sirens. Sutherland looked at the wall clock. That would be the refugees from the illegal ship, Door of Hope.
“Door of Hope, Gates of Zion, Promised Land, Star of David,” Caldwell said with a snicker. “I will say one thing. They do give those blockade runners colorful names.”
Sutherland’s brow furrowed. He tried to study out his next move on the board, but the sirens would not leave his ears. He stared at the ivory chessmen, but he was visualizing the convoy of lorries packed with agonized faces, machine guns, armored cars. “If you don’t mind, Caldwell, I think I’ll turn in.”
“Anything wrong, sir?”
“No. Good night.” The brigadier walked from the room quickly and closed the door of his bedroom and loosened his smoking jacket. The sirens seemed to screech unbearably loudly. He slammed the window shut to drown the noise but still he could hear it.
Bruce Sutherland stood before the mirror and wondered what was going wrong with him. Sutherland from Sutherland Heights. Another distinguished career in a line of distinguished careers that went on, the same as England itself.
But these past weeks on Cyprus something was happening. Something tearing him to pieces. He stood there before the mirror and looked into his own watery eyes and wondered where it had all begun.
Sutherland: Good fellow to have on your team, said the yearbook at Eton. Right sort of chap, that Sutherland. Proper family, proper schooling, proper career.
The army? Good choice, Bruce old man. We Sutherlands have served in the army for centuries… .
Proper marriage. Neddie Ashton. The daughter of Colonel Ashton was a clever catch. Fine stock, Neddie Ashton. Fine hostess, that woman. She always has the ear of the right person. She’ll be a big help to your career. Splendid match! The Ashtons and the Sutherlands.
Where the failure, Sutherland wondered? Neddie had given him two lovely children. Albert was a real Sutherland. A captain in his father’s old regiment already, and Martha had made herself a splendid marriage.
Bruce Sutherland opened the closet and put on his pajamas. He touched the roll of fat about his waist. Not too bad for a man of fifty-five. He still had plenty of punch left.
Sutherland had come up fast in World War II by comparison to the slow tedious advancements in the peacetime service. There had been India, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Middle East. But it took a war to show what he was made of. He proved to be an exceptional infantry commander. V-E Day found him a brigadier.
He put on his bedroom slippers and sank slowly into a deep chair and dimmed the lamp and he was filled with remembering.
Neddie had always been a good wife. She was a good mother, a tremendous hostess, and a woman cut out for colonial service in the army. He had been very fortunate. When had the break come between them? Yes, he remembered. It was in Singapore so many years ago.
He was a major when he met Marina, the olive-skinned Eurasian woman. Marina-born and made for love. Each man has a Marina hidden deep in his inner thoughts, but he had his in the flesh and she was real. Laughter and fire and tears and passion. Being with Marina was like being in a bubbling volcano ready to erupt. He was insane for her-he desired her wildly, madly. He threw jealous tantrums before her only to half sob, begging forgiveness. Marina … Marina … Marina … the black eyes and the raven hair. She could torment him. She could delight him. She could spiral him to heights he never knew existed on this earth. Those precious, magnificent moments of their trysts …
His hands had clutched her hair and pulled her head back and he had looked at her deep red sensuous lips … “I love you, you bitch … I love you.”
“I love you, Bruce,” Marina had whispered.
… Bruce Sutherland remembered the stunned hurt look on Neddie’s face as she confronted him with evidence of his affair.
“I won’t say this hasn’t hurt me deeply,” Neddie said, too proud for tears, “but I am willing to forgive and forget. There are the children to think of. There is your career … and our families. I’ll try to make a go of it with you, Bruce, but you must swear you’ll never see that woman again and that you’ll put in an immediate request for transfer from Singapore.”
That woman-that woman, you call her, Bruce thought-is my love. She has given me something that you or a thousand Neddies never could or never will. She has given me something no man has a right to expect on this earth.
“I want your answer now, Bruce.”
Answer? What could the answer be? A man can have a woman like Marina for a night, for a touch, but she is not real. There is only one Marina to a man … one to a lifetime. Answer? Throw away his career for a Eurasian girl? Bring scandal on the name of Sutherland?
“I will never see her again, Neddie,” Bruce Sutherland promised.
Bruce Sutherland never saw her again but he never stopped thinking of her. Perhaps that is where it all started.
The sounds of the sirens were very faint now. The convoy must be quite near Caraolos, Sutherland thought. Soon the sirens would stop and he could sleep. He began thinking of the retirement that would be coming in another four or five years. The family house at Sutherland Heights would be far too big. A cottage, perhaps in the country. Soon it would be time to think about a pair of good hunting setters and gathering rose catalogues and building up his library. Time to start thinking about a decent club to join in London. Albert, Martha, and his grandchildren would indeed be a comfort in retirement. Perhaps … perhaps he would take a mistress, too.
It seemed strange that after nearly thirty years of marriage he would be going into retirement without Neddie. She had been so quiet, reserved, and distinguished all those years. She had been so sporting about his affair with Marina. Suddenly, after a lifetime of complete propriety Neddie burst out frantically to salvage her few years left as a woman. She ran off to Paris with a Bohemian chap ten years her junior. Everyone sympathized with Bruce, but it really didn’t matter to him much. There had been no contact and little feeling for Neddie for many years. She could have her fling. They were quite civilized about it. Perhaps he would take her back later …… perhaps a mistress would be better.
At last the sirens from the convoy stopped. There was complete silence in the room except for the muffled shushing of the surf breaking on the shore. Bruce Sutherland opened the window and breathed in the cool crisp November air. He went to the bathroom and washed and placed the bridge of four teeth in a glass of solution. Damned shame, he thought, losing those four teeth. He had said the same thing for thirty years. It was the result of a rugby game. He examined the other teeth to satisfy himself they were still in good shape.
He opened the medicine chest and studied the row of bottles. He took down a tin of sleeping powders and mixed a double dose. It was difficult to sleep these days.
His heart began racing as he drank down the solution. He knew it was going to be another one of those horrible nights. He tried desperately to lock out or stifle the thoughts creeping into his brain. He covered himself in bed and hoped sleep would come quickly, but it was already beginning to whirl around and around and around in his mind …
… Bergen-Belsen … Bergen-Belsen … Bergen-Belsen … NUREMBERG … NUREMBERG! NUREMBERG! NUREMBERG!
“Take the stand and give your name.”
“Bruce Sutherland, Brigadier General, Commander of …”
“Describe, in your own words …”
“My troops entered Bergen-Belsen at twenty minutes past five in the evening of April 15.”
“Describe in your own words …”
“Camp Number One was an enclosure of four hundred yards wide by a mile long. That area held eighty thousand people. Mostly Hungarian and Polish Jews.”
“Describe in your own words …”
“The ration for Camp Number One was ten thousand loaves of bread a week.” “Identify…”
“Yes, those are testicle crushers and thumbscrews used in torture …”
“Our census showed thirty thousand dead in Camp Number One, including nearly fifteen thousand corpses just littered around. There were twenty-eight thousand women and twelve thousand men still alive.”
“DESCRIBE … !”
“We made desperate efforts but the survivors were so emasculated and diseased that thirteen thousand more died within a. few days after our arrival.”
“Conditions were so wretched when we entered the camp that the living were eating the flesh of the corpses.”
The moment Bruce Sutherland had completed his testimony at the Nuremberg war crimes trials he received an urgent message to return to London at once. The message came from an old and dear friend in the War Office, General Sir Clarence Tevor-Browne. Sutherland sensed it was something out of the ordinary.
‘He flew to London the next day and reported at once to that huge, ungainly monstrosity of a building on the corner of Whitehall and Great Scotland Yard which housed the British War Office.
“Bruce, Bruce, Bruce! Come in, come in, man! Good to see you. I followed your testimony at the Nuremberg trials. Nasty bit of business.”
“I am glad it is over,” Sutherland said.
“Sorry to hear about you and Neddie. If there is anything at all I can do…”
Sutherland shook his head.
At last Tevor-Browne led up to the reason for asking him to come to London. “Bruce,” he said, “I called you here because a rather delicate assignment has come up. I must give
a recommendation and I want to put your name up. I wanted to talk it over with you first.”
“Go on, Sir Clarence.”
“Bruce, these Jews escaping from Europe have posed quite a problem. They are simply flooding Palestine. Frankly, the Arabs are getting quite upset about the numbers getting into the mandate. We here have decided to set up detention camps on Cyprus to contain these people-at least as a temporary measure until Whitehall decides what we are going to do with the Palestine mandate.”
“I see,” Sutherland said softly.
Tevor-Browne continued. “This entire thing is touchy and must be handled with great tact. Now, no one wants to ride herd on a bunch of downtrodden refugees, and the fact is … well, they have a great deal of sympathy on their side in high quarters-especially in France and America. Things must be kept very quiet on Cyprus. We want nothing to happen to create unfavorable opinion.”
Sutherland walked to the window and looked out to the Thames River and watched the big double-deck buses drive over the Waterloo Bridge. “I think the whole idea is wretched,” he said.
“It is not for you and me to decide, Bruce. Whitehall gives the orders. We merely carry them out.”
Sutherland continued looking out of the window. “I saw those people at Bergen-Belsen. Must be the same ones who are trying to get into Palestine now.” He returned to his chair. “We have broken one promise after another to those people in Palestine for thirty years.”
“See here, Bruce,” Tevor-Browne said, “you and I see eye to eye on this, but we are in a minority. We both served together in the Middle East. Let me tell you something, man. I sat here at this desk during the war as one report after another of Arab sellouts came in. The Egyptian Chief of Staff selling secrets to the Germans; Cairo all decked out to welcome Rommel as their liberator; the Iraqis going to the Germans; the Syrians going to the Germans; the Mufti of Jerusalem a Nazi agent. I could go on for hours. You must look at Whitehall’s side of this, Bruce. We can’t risk losing our prestige and our hold on the entire Middle East over a few thousand Jews.”
Sutherland sighed. “And this is our most tragic mistake of all, Sir Clarence. We are going to lose the Middle East despite it.”
“You are all wound up, Bruce.”
“There is a right and a wrong, you know.”
General Sir Clarence Tevor-Browne smiled slightly and shook his head sadly. “I have learned very little in my years,
Bruce, but one thing I have learned. Foreign policies of this, or any other, country are not based on right and wrong. Right and wrong? It is not for you and me to argue the right or the wrong of this question. The only kingdom that runs on righteousness is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdoms of the earth run on oil. The Arabs have oil.”
Bruce Sutherland was silent. Then he nodded. “Only the kingdom of heaven runs on righteousness,” he repeated. “The kingdoms of the earth run on oil. You have learned something, Sir Clarence. It seems that all of life itself is Wrapped up in those lines. All of us … people … nations … live by need and not by truth.”
Tevor-Browne leaned forward. “Somewhere in God’s scheme of things he gave us the burden of an empire to rule____”
“Ours not to reason why,” Sutherland whispered. “But I can’t seem to forget the Arab slave markets in Saudi Arabia and the first time I was invited to watch a man have his hands amputated as punishment for stealing, and somehow I can’t forget those Jews at Bergen-Belsen.”
“It is not too good to be a soldier and have a conscience. I won’t force you to take this post on Cyprus.”
“I’ll go. Of course I’ll go. But tell me. Why did you choose me?”
“Most of our chaps are pro-Arab for no other reason than our tradition has been pro-Arab and soldiers are not in a position to do much other than follow policy. I don’t want to send someone to Cyprus who will antagonize these refugees. It is a problem that calls for understanding and compassion.”
Sutherland arose. “I sometimes think,” he said, “that it is almost as much a curse being born an Englishman as it is being born a Jew.”
Sutherland accepted the assignment on Cyprus, but his heart was filled with fear. He wondered if Tevor-Browne had known he was half Jewish.
That decision, that horrible decision he had made so long ago was coming back to haunt him now.
He remembered that afterward he began to find solace in the Bible. There were those empty years with Neddie, the painful loss of the Eurasian girl he loved, and it all seemed to plunge him deeper and deeper into a longing to find peace of mind. How wonderful for a soldier like him to read of the great campaigns of Joshua and Gideon and Joab. And those magnificent women-Ruth and Esther and Sarah … and … and Deborah. Deborah, the Joan of Arc, the liberator of her people.
He remembered the chill as he read the words: Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake.
Deborah! That was his mother’s name.
Deborah Davis was a rare and beautiful woman. It was small wonder that Harold Sutherland was smitten with her. The Sutherland family was tolerant when Harold sat through fifteen performances of The Taming of the Shrew to watch the beautiful actress, Deborah Davis, and they smiled benevolently as he went over his allowance on flowers and gifts. It was a boyish fling, they thought, and he’d get over it.
Harold could not get over Deborah Davis, and the family stopped being tolerant. She defied an edict they issued for her to appear at Sutherland Heights. It was then that Harold’s father, Sir Edgar, traveled to London to see this amazing young woman who refused to travel to Sutherland Heights. Deborah was as clever and witty as she was beautiful. She dazzled Sir Edgar and completely won him.
Sir Edgar decided then and there that his son had been damned lucky. After all, the Sutherlands were known to have a tradition of inclining toward actresses and some of them had become the grandest dames in the family’s long history.
There was, of course, the touchy business of Deborah Davis being a Jewess, but the matter was closed when she agreed to take instructions in the Church of England.
Harold and Deborah had three children. There was Mary, their only girl, and there was moody, irresponsible Adam. And there was Bruce. Bruce was the oldest and Deborah’s favorite. The boy adored his mother. But as close as they were she never spoke of her own childhood, or of her parents. He knew only that she had been very poor and run away to the stage.
The years passed. Bruce took up his army career and married Neddie Ashton. The children, Albert and Martha, came. Harold Sutherland died, and Deborah moved along in age.
Bruce remembered so well the day that it happened. He was coming to Sutherland Heights for a long visit and bringing Neddie and the children. Deborah would always be in the rose garden or the conservatory or floating about gaily on her duties-smiling, happy, gracious. But this day as he drove up to Sutherland Heights she was not there to greet him nor was she anywhere about to be found. At last he discovered her sitting in darkness in her drawing room. This was so unlike Mother that it startled him. She was sitting like a statue, looking at the wall, oblivious to her surroundings.
Bruce kissed her on the cheek softly and knelt beside her. “Is something wrong, Mother?”
She turned slowly and whispered, “Today is Yom Kippur -the Day of Atonement.”
Her words chilled Bruce to the bone.
Bruce talked it over with Neddie and his sister, Mary. They decided that since Father had died she had been alone too much. Furthermore, Sutherland Heights was too big for her. She should move into an apartment in London where she could be closer to Mary. Then, too, Deborah was getting old. It was hard for them to realize, because she seemed to them as beautiful as when they were children.
Bruce and Neddie went off for his tour of service in the Middle East. Mary wrote happy letters that Mother was getting along fine, and the letters from Deborah told of her happiness to be in London near Mary’s family.
But when Bruce returned to England it was a different story. Mary was beside herself. Mother was seventy years old now and acting more and more strangely. A creeping on of senility. She could not remember something that had happened a day ago, but she would utter disconnected things about events that took place fifty years ago. It was frightening to Mary because Deborah had never spoken of her past to her children. Mary was most alarmed of her mother’s strange disappearances.
Mary was glad that Bruce had returned. He was the oldest and Mother’s favorite and he was so steady. Bruce followed his mother one day on one of her mysterious walks. It led to a synagogue in Whitechapel.
He thought it all over carefully and decided to leave her alone. She was old; he did not feel it proper to confront her with things that had happened over fifty years before. It was best to let it pass quietly.
At the age of seventy-five Deborah Sutherland lay on her deathbed. Bruce got back to England just in time.
The old woman smiled as she saw her son sitting on the edge of the bed. “You are a Lieutenant Colonel now … you look fine … Bruce, my son … I haven’t too many hours left…”
“Hush now, Mother. You’ll be up and about in no time.”
“No, I must tell you something. I wanted to be your father’s wife so badly. I wanted so much … so very very much to be the mistress of Sutherland Heights. I did a terrible thing Bruce. I denied my people. I denied them in life. I want to be with them now. Bruce … Bruce, promise that I shall be buried near my father and my mother …”
“I promise, Mother.”
“My father … your grandfather … you never knew him. When … when I was a little girl he would hold me on his lap and he would say to me … ‘awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake …’”
Those were the last words Deborah Sutherland spoke. Bruce Sutherland sat in numb grief for a long hour beside the lifeless body of his mother. Then the numbness began to thaw under the nagging burn of a doubt that would not be kept out of his mind. Must he be bound by a promise he had made a dying woman? A promise he was forced to make? Would it be breaking the code of honor by which he had always lived? Wasn’t it true that Deborah Sutherland’s mind had been going on her bit by bit over the past years? She had never been a Jewess in life, why should she be one in death? Deborah had been a Sutherland and nothing else.
What a terrible scandal would be created if he were to bury her in a shabby rundown Jewish cemetery on the poverty side of London. Mother was dead. The living-Neddie, Albert and Martha and Mary’s family and Adam would be hurt deeply. The living had to be served.
As he kissed his mother farewell and walked from her room he had made his decision.
Deborah was put to rest in the family vault at Sutherland Heights.
The sirens from the convoy of refugees!
The sirens shrieked louder and louder and louder until they tore through his eardrums. Bergen-Belsen … Marina … Neddie … caged trucks … the camps at Caraolos … 1 promise, Mother … 1 promise, Mother …
A burst of thunder rocked the house to its very foundation, and the sea outside became wild and waves smashed up the shore and raced nearly to the house. Sutherland threw off the covers and staggered about the room as though drunk. He froze at the window. Lightning! Thunder! The raging water grew higher and higher!
“God … God … God … God … !”
“Brigadier Sutherland! Brigadier Sutherland! Wake up, sir! Wake up, sir!”
The Greek houseboy shook him hard.
Sutherland’s eyes opened and he looked about wildly. The sweat poured from his body and his heart pounded painfully. He gasped for breath. The houseboy quickly brought him a brandy.
He looked outside to the sea. The night was calm and the water was as smooth as glass and lapped gently against the shore.
“I’ll be all right,” he said. “I’ll be all right… .”
“Are you sure, sir?”
The door closed.
Bruce Sutherland slumped into a chair and buried his face in his hands and wept and whispered over and over, “… my mother in heaven … my mother in heaven …”
CHAPTER EIGHT: Brigadier Bruce Sutherland slept the sleep of the tormented and the damned.
Mandria, the Cypriot, twisted and turned in a nervous but exhilarated sleep.
Mark Parker slept the sleep of a man who had accomplished a mission.
Kitty Fremont slept with a peace of mind she had not known in years.
David Ben Ami slept only after reading Jordana’s letter so many times he knew it by memory.
Ari Ben Canaan did not sleep. There would be other times for that luxury, but not now. There was much to learn and little time to learn it in. All during the night he pored over maps and documents and papers, absorbing every fact about Cyprus, the British operation, and his own people there. He waded through the stacks of data with a cigarette or a coffee cup continuously at hand. There was a calm ease, a sureness about him.
The British had said many times that the Palestinian Jews were a match for anyone on matters of intelligence. The Jews had the advantage that every Jew in every country in the world was a potential source of information and protection for a Mossad Aliyah Bet agent.
At daybreak Ari awakened David, and after a quick breakfast they rode in one of Mandria’s taxis out to the detention camp at Caraolos.
The compounds themselves stretched for many miles in an area that hugged the bay, midway between Famagusta and the ruins of Salamis. The garbage dumps were a contact point between the refugees and the Cypriots. The British guarded them loosely because the garbage detail was made up of “trusties.” The garbage dumps became trading centers where leather goods and art work made in the camp were exchanged for bread and clothing. David led Ari through the dumps where the early morning bartering between Greeks and Jews was already going on. From here they entered their first compound.
Ari stood and looked at the mile after mile of barbed wire. Although it was November it was chokingly hot under a constant swirl of blowing dust. Compound after compound of tents were stretched along the bay, all set in an area of low—
hanging acacia trees. Each compound was closed in by ten-to twelve-foot walls of barbed wire. On the corners there were searchlight towers manned by British guards armed with machine guns. A skinny dog began following them. The word “BEVIN” was painted on the dog’s sides-a bow to the British Foreign Minister.
It was the same scene in each compound they visited: packed with miserable and angry people. Almost everyone was dressed in crudely sewn purple shorts and shirts made from cloth that had been torn from the inner linings of the tents. Ari studied the faces filled with suspicion, hatred, defeat.
In each new compound Ari would suddenly be embraced by a boy or girl in the late teens or early twenties who had been smuggled in by the Palestine Palmach to work with the refugees. They would throw their arms about him and begin to ask questions about home. Each time Ari begged off, promising to hold a Palmach meeting for the whole group in a few days. Each Palmach head showed Ari around the particular compound he or she was in charge of, and occasionally Ari would ask a question.
For the most part, he was very quiet. His eyes were searching the miles of barbed wire for some key that would help him get three hundred people out.
Many of the compounds were grouped together by nationalities. There were compounds of Poles and of French and of Czechs. There were compounds of Orthodox Jews and there were compounds of those who banded together with similar political beliefs. Most compounds, however, were merely survivals of the war, with no identity other than that they were Jews who wanted to go to Palestine. They all had a similarity in their uniform misery.
David led Ari to a wooden bridge that connected two main portions of the camp by crossing over the top of the barbed wire walls. There was a sign on the bridge that read: welcome to Bergen-Bevin. “It is rather bitter irony, Ari, this bridge. There was one exactly like it in the Lodz ghetto in Poland.”
By now David was seething. He berated the British for the subhuman conditions of the camp, for the fact that German prisoners of war on Cyprus had a greater degree of freedom, for the lack of food and medical care, and just for the general gross injustice. Ari was not listening to David’s ranting. He was too intent on studying the structure and arrangement of the place. He asked David to show him the tunnels.
Ari was led to a compound of Orthodox Jews close to the bay. There was a row of outside toilets near the barbed wire wall. On the first toilet shack was a sign that read: Bevingrad. Ari was shown that the fifth and sixth toilets in
the line of sheds were fakes. The holes under the seats led under the barbed wire and through tunnels to the bay. Ari shook his head-it was all right for a few people at a time but not suited for a mass escape.
Several hours had passed. They had nearly completed the inspection. Ari had hardly spoken a word for two hours. At last, bursting with anxiety, David asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“I think,” Ari answered, “that Bevin isn’t very popular around here. What else is there to see?”
“I saved the children’s compound for last. We have Palmach headquarters there.”
As they entered the children’s compound Ari was once again pounced upon by a Palmachnik. But this time he returned the embrace with vigor and a smile on his face, for it was an old and dear friend, Joab Yarkoni. He whirled Yarkoni around, set him down, and hugged him again. Joab Yarkoni was a dark-skinned Moroccan Jew who had emigrated to Palestine as a youngster. His black eyes sparkled and a huge brush of a mustache seemed to take up half of his face. Joab and Ari had shared many adventures together, for although Joab was still in his early twenties he was one of the crack agents in the Mossad Aliyah Bet, with an intimate knowledge of the Arab countries.
From the beginning Yarkoni had been one of the wiliest and most daring operators in Mossad. His greatest feat was one which started the Jews of Palestine in the date-palm industry. The Iraqi Arabs guarded their date palms jealously, but Yarkoni had managed to smuggle a hundred saplings into Palestine from Iraq.
David Ben Ami had given Joab Yarkoni command of the children’s compound, for it was, indeed, the most important place in the Caraolos camp.
Joab showed Ari around the compound, which was filled with orphans from infancy to seventeen years of age. Most of them had been inmates of concentration camps during the war, and many of them had never known a life outside of barbed wire. Unlike the other compounds, the children’s section had several permanent structures erected. There was a school, a dining hall, a hospital, smaller units, and a large playground. There was a great deal of activity here in contrast to the lethargy in the other areas. Nurses, doctors, teachers, and welfare people from the outside, sponsored by money from American Jews, worked in the compound.
Because of the flow of outsiders, the children’s compound was the most loosely guarded in Caraolos. David and Joab were quick to capitalize on this fact by establishing Palmach headquarters in the compound.
At night the playground was transformed into a military training camp for refugees. The classrooms were turned from standard schools into indoctrination centers in Arab psychology, Palestine geography, tactics, weapons identification, and a hundred other phases of warfare instruction.
Each refugee receiving military training by the Palmach had to stand trial by a kangaroo court. The pretense was that the refugee had got to Palestine and had been picked up by the British. The Palmach instructor would then put him through an interrogation to try to establish that the refugee was not in the country legally. The refugee had to answer a thousand questions about the geography and history of Palestine to “prove” he had been there many years.
When a “candidate” successfully completed the course, the Palmach arranged an escape, generally through the children’s compound or the tunnels, to the white house on the hill at Salamis, whence he would be smuggled into Palestine. Several hundred refugees had been sent to Palestine that way, in groups of twos and threes.
British CID was not unaware of the fact that irregular things took place inside the children’s compound. Time and again they planted spies among the outside teachers and welfare workers, but the ghetto and the concentration camps had bred a tight-lipped generation of children and the intruders were always discovered within a day or two.
Ari ended the inspection of the children’s compound in the schoolhouse. One of the schoolrooms was, in fact, Palmach headquarters. Inside the teacher’s desk was a secret radio and transmitter which maintained contact with Palestine. Under the floor boards weapons were hidden for the military training courses. In this room papers and passes were forged.
Ari looked over the forgery plant and shook his head. “This counterfeit work is terrible,” he said. “Joab, you are very sloppy.”
Yarkoni merely shrugged.
“In the next few weeks,” Ari continued, “we are going to need an expert. David, you said there is one right here.”
“That’s right. He is a Polish boy named Dov Landau, but he refuses to work.”
“We have tried for weeks,” Joab added.
“Let me speak to him.”
Ari told the two men to wait outside as he stepped into Dov Landau’s tent. He looked over at a blond boy, undersized and tense and suspicious at the sudden intrusion. Ari knew the look-the eyes filled with hate. He studied the turned-down mouth and the snarling lips of the youngster: the expression of viciousness that stamped so many of the concentration-camp people.
“Your name is Dov Landau,” Ari said, looking directly into his eyes. “You are seventeen years old and Polish. You have a concentration camp background and you are an expert forger, counterfeiter, and duplicator. My name is Ari Ben Canaan. I’m a Palestinian from Mossad Aliyah Bet.”
The boy spat on the ground.
“Look, Dov, I’m not going to plead and I’m not going to threaten. I’ve got a plain out-and-out business proposition … let’s call it a mutual assistance pact.”
Dov Landau snarled, “I want to tell you something, Mr. Ben Canaan. You guys aren’t any better than the Germans or the British. The only reason you want us over there so bad is to save your necks from the Arabs. Let me tell you-I’m getting to Palestine all right and when I do I’m joining an outfit that’s going to let me kill!”
Ari did not change expression at the outburst of venom that erupted from the boy. “Good. We understand each other perfectly. You don’t like my motives for wanting you in Palestine and I don’t like yours for wanting to get there. We do agree on one thing: you belong in Palestine and not here.”
The boy’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. This Ben Canaan was not like the others.
“Let’s take it a step further,” Ari said. “You’re not going to get to Palestine by sitting here on your arse and doing nothing. You help me and I’ll help you. What happens after you get there is your business.”
Dov Landau blinked with surprise.
“Here’s the point,” Ari said. “I need forged papers. I need piles of them in the next few weeks and these boys here can’t forge their own names. I want you to work for me.”
The boy had been thrown completely off guard by Ari’s rapid and direct tactics. He wanted time to look for a hidden trick. “I’ll think it over,” he said.
“Sure, think it over. You’ve got thirty seconds.”
“And what will you do if I refuse? You going to try to beat it out of me?”
“Dov, I said we need each other. Let me make myself clear. If you don’t go along with this I’m going to personally see to it that you’re the last person out of the Caraolos detention camp. With thirty-five thousand people ahead of you, you’ll be too old and feeble to lift one of those bombs by the time you get to Palestine. Your thirty seconds are up.”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
“Because I said you could.”
A faint smile crossed the boy’s face, and he nodded that he would go to work.
“All right. You get your orders from either David Ben Ami or Joab Yarkoni. I don’t want you giving anyone a bad time. If you have any problems, you ask for me. I want you to report to Palmach headquarters in a half hour and look over their plant and let David know what special materials you’ll need.”
Ari turned and walked out of the tent to where David and Joab waited. “He’ll report to work in a half hour,” Ari said.
David gaped and Joab’s mouth fell open in awe.
“How did you do it?”
“Child psychology. I’m going back to Famagusta,” Ari said. “I want to see you two boys at Mandria’s house tonight. Bring Zev Gilboa with you. Don’t bother to show me out. I know the way.” .
David and Joab stared in fascination as their friend, the remarkable Ari Ben Canaan, crossed the playground in the direction of the garbage dumps.
That night in his living room Mandria, the Cypriot, waited, along with David, Joab, and a newcomer, Zev Gilboa, for the appearance of Ari Ben Canaan.
Zev Gilboa, also a Palestinian Palmachnik, was a broad-backed farmer from the Galilee. Like Yarkoni, he, too, wore a large brushlike mustache and was in his early twenties. Zev Gilboa was the best of the soldiers among the Palmach Palestinians working inside Caraolos. David had given Zev the task of heading military training for the refugees. With zest, with improvised weapons, and by using the children’s playground at night he had taught his trainees nearly everything that could be taught without actual arms. Broomsticks were rifles, rocks were grenades, bedsprings were bayonets. He set up courses in hand-to-hand fighting and stick fighting. Mostly he instilled tremendous spirit into the spiritless refugees.
The hour grew very late. Mandria began pacing nervously. “All I know,” he said, “I gave him a taxi and a driver this afternoon.”
“Relax, Mr. Mandria,” David said. “Ari may not be back for three days. He has strange ways of working. We are used to it.”
Midnight passed and the four men began to sprawl out and make themselves comfortable. In a half hour they began to doze, and in an hour they were all asleep.
At five o’clock in the morning Ari Ben Canaan entered the room. His eyes were bleary from a night of traveling around the island. He had slept only in brief naps since he had landed on Cyprus. He and Zev Gilboa hugged each other in the traditional Palmach manner, then he set right to work without offering excuse or apology for being eight hours late.
“Mr. Mandria. Have you got us our boat yet?”
Mandria was aghast. He slapped his forehead in amazement. “Mr. Ben Canaan! You landed on Cyprus less than thirty h6urs ago and asked me for a boat. I am not a shipbuilder, sir. My company, Cyprus-Mediterranean Shipping, has offices in Famagusta, Larnaca, Kyrenia, Limassol, and Paphos. There are no other ports in Cyprus. All my offices are looking for a boat for you. If there is a boat on Cyprus you will know it, sir.”
Ari ignored Mandria’s sarcasm and turned to the others.
“Zev, I suppose David has told you what we’re going to do.”
The Galilee farmer nodded.
“From now on you three boys are working for me. Find replacements for your jobs at Caraolos. Joab, how many healthy children are there in that compound between the ages of ten and seventeen?”
“Oh … probably around six or seven hundred.”
“Zev. Pick out three hundred of the strongest. Get them in the peak of physical condition.”
Ari arose. “It will be light in another half hour. I’ll need a taxi to start out again, Mr. Mandria. I think that man I had yesterday is a little tired.”
“I will drive you around, myself,” Mandria said.
“Good. We’ll leave just as soon as it turns light. Excuse me. I want to look over some papers in my room.”
He left as suddenly as he had entered. Everyone began talking at once.
“Then the escape is going to be made by three hundred children,” Zev said.
“It certainly appears so,” Mandria said. “He is such a strange man. He expects miracles … he doesn’t tell anything.”
“On the contrary,” David said, “he does not believe in miracles. That is why he works so hard. It seems to me that there is more to this than Ari is telling us. I have a feeling that the escape of three hundred children is only part of what is in his mind.”
Joab Yarkoni smiled. “We all have known Ari Ben Canaan long enough not to try to second guess him. We also have known him long enough to know that he knows his business. We will learn, in due time, just what Ari is up to.”
The next day Mandria drove Ari around Cyprus in what seemed to be an aimless chase. They drove from the sweeping Eastern Bay past Salamis and Famagusta clear to Cape Greco. In Famagusta he walked along the old wall and studied the harbor area, Ari barely spoke to Mandria the entire day, except to ask a pertinent question now and then. It seemed to the Cypriot that the big Palestinian was the coldest human being he had ever met. He felt a certain hostility, but he could not help admiring Ari for his absolute concentration and seemingly superhuman stamina. He must, Mandria thought, be a tremendously dedicated man-but that was puzzling because Ben Canaan seemed to show no traces of human emotion.
From Cape Greco they drove along the Southern Bay on the underbelly of Cyprus and then into the high jagged mountains where the resorts prepared for the winter season of skiing and ice sports. If Ben Canaan had found anything of interest he certainly was not showing it. Mandria was exhausted when they arrived back in Famagusta after midnight, but there was another meeting held with Zev, David, and Joab. Then Ari went into another all-night session of study.
On the morning of the fourth day after Ari Ben Canaan had swum ashore onto Cyprus, Mandria received a call from his Larnaca office to the effect that a ship had just come in from Turkey that fitted his specifications and could be purchased. Mandria drove Ari to Caraolos to pick up David and Joab, and the four of them drove off for Larnaca.
Zev Gilboa was left behind, as he was already at work selecting the three hundred children and setting up special training courses for them.
Mandria was feeling quite proud of himself as they drove along the Famagusta-Larnaca road. At a halfway point Ari was suddenly attracted by some activity taking place in a large field off to the left of the road. He asked Mandria to stop the car and stepped outside for a look. There was feverish building going on in what appeared to be a military barracks.
“The British are building new detention compounds,” David said; “they’ve reached the saturation point at Caraolos.”
“Why wasn’t I told about this?” Ari snapped.
“You didn’t ask,” Joab Yarkoni answered.
“The best we can figure,” David said, “is that they’ll begin transferring the overload from Caraolos in two or three weeks.”
Ari returned to the car and they drove on. Joab Yarkoni, who declined to try to second guess his friend, could nevertheless see that Ari was definitely intrigued by the new compounds. Joab could almost hear the wheels grinding in Ari’s brain.
The car entered the narrow bending streets of Larnaca and moved onto the waterfront road, lined with its neat two-storied white houses. They stopped before the Four Lanterns Tavern where the Turkish owner of the ship, a man named Armatau, awaited them. Ari insisted they forego the round
of drinks, the fencing for price, and general bartering that was so much a part of the normal business transactions. He wanted to see the ship immediately.
Armatau led them over the street to the long pier that jutted more than a half mile into the water. As they walked past a dozen or more trawlers, launches, and sailboats Armatau kept up a constant stream of talk over his shoulder. He assured them that the ship they were about to inspect was, indeed, a queen of the sea. They came to a halt near the end of the pier before an ancient wooden-hulled salvage tug that bore the faded name on her bow: Aphrodite.
“Isn’t she a beauty?” Armatau said, glowing. Then he held his breath apprehensively as four pairs of cold eyes surveyed the old scow from stem to stern. “Of course,” the Turk continued, “she is no racing cruiser.”
Ari’s practiced eye estimated the Aphrodite at a hundred and fifty feet in length and displacing around two hundred tons. By her general build and appearance she was in the neighborhood of forty-five years of age.
“Now just who was Aphrodite?” Joab Yarkoni asked.
“Aphrodite was the goddess of Love. She was washed up in the surf just a few miles from herefive thousand years ago,” David answered.
“Well, this old girl has sure had her change of life,” Joab said.
The Turk swallowed and tried to smile at the jibes. Ben Canaan spun around and faced him. “Armatau, I’m interested in one thing. It’s two hundred miles to Palestine. She’s got to make one run. Yes or no?”
Armatau threw up both arms. “On my mother’s honor,” he said, “I have made three hundred runs between Cyprus and Turkey. Mr. Mandria owns the shipping company. He knows.”
“It is true,” Mandria said. “She is old but reliable.”
“Mr. Armatau, take my two friends aboard and show them the engines.”
When the other three had gone below decks Mandria turned to Ari. “Armatau may be a Turk but he can be trusted.”
“What kind of speed can we get out of this thing?” Ari asked.
“Probably five knots-with a gale in her back. The Aphrodite is in no hurry.”
They went on deck and looked over the topside. She was half rotted away and long past the time it would have paid to repair her. Yet, despite the obvious qualifications there was something very sound about her. A solid feeling that she knew the tricks of the sea and had won many battles against it.
In a half hour David and Joab completed their inspection.
“This ship is an absolute abortion,” David said, “but I am positive she’ll make it.”
“Can we get three hundred aboard?” Ari asked. David rubbed his jaw. “Well … maybe, with a shoehorn.” Ari turned to Mandria. “We will have a lot of refitting to do. Of course it is necessary that we don’t attract any attention.”
Mandria smiled. He was in his glory now. “I have, as you may well know, very good connections. It is merely a matter of greasing the right palms and you can be sure that nothing can be seen, heard, or reported.”
“David. Send a radio message to Palestine tonight. Tell them we need a captain and a two-man crew.” “Is a crew of three going to be enough?” “I might as well tell you. You two boys and Zev are coming back to Palestine with me on this mud scow. We’ll fill out the crew. Joab! You’ve always had a tendency toward mature women. Well, you’ve got one now. You’re in charge of getting this thing refitted and stocked up.” At last he turned to Armatau, who was still bewildered by Ari’s rapid fire questions and commands. “O.K., Armatau, you can breathe easy, you’ve sold us this monstrosity-but not at your price. Let’s go into the Four Lanterns and lock this up.”
Ari jumped off the deck onto the pier and gave Mandria a hand. “David, you and Joab find your own way back to Famagusta. Mr. Mandria is driving me to Kyrenia after we finish our business.”
“Kyrenia?” Mandria said, startled. “Doesn’t that man ever get tired? Kyrenia is on the other side of the island,” he protested.
“Is something wrong with your automobile?” Ari asked. “No … no … we shall drive for Kyrenia.” Ari started off down the pier with Mandria and the Turk. “Ari!” David called, “what shall we name the old woman?” “You’re the poet,” Ari called back. “You name her.” Joab and David watched the three men disappear at the end of the pier. Suddenly they broke out in smiles and threw their arms about each other. “That son of a gun Aril He picks a fine way to tell us we are going home.”
“You know Ari. The scorner of sentiment and emotion,” David said.
They sighed happily, and for a moment both thought about Palestine. Then they looked about the Aphrodite. She certainly was a sorry old girl.
They walked around the deck examining the ancient hulk. “I’ve got a good name for her,” Joab said, “why don’t we call her the Bevin?”
“I’ve got a better name,” David Ben Ami said. “From now on she will be known as the Exodus.”
CHAPTER NINE: Mark pulled the rented car off the road and parked it. He had driven high up in the mountains directly over Kyrenia. An enormous jagged rock several hundred feet high rose to a peak before them. On the peak were the ruins of St. Hilarion Castle. It was a fairy castle, suggesting even in semicollapse the might and splendor of Gothic power.
Mark took Kitty’s hand and led her over the field toward the peak, and they climbed the battlements until they stood on the lower wall and looked into the castle yards.
They picked their way through royal apartments and great halls and stables and the monastery and fortifications. It was deathly silent, but the grounds seemed to be alive and breathing, with ghosts of the past whispering of another day filled with love and hate and war and intrigue.
For almost an hour Mark and Kitty climbed slowly up the peak toward the summit. Then at last they stood on the very top, perspiring and breathless, dazzled at the breathtaking panorama below them. Below was a sheer cliff that fell nearly three thousand feet to Kyrenia. On the horizon they saw the coast line of Turkey, and to the left and right the lush green forests and terraced vineyards and houses hanging on cliff edges. Below, the olive orchards’ leaves turned to a shimmering silver as zephyrs played through them.
Mark watched Kitty standing silhouetted against the sky as a cloud passed behind her. How very lovely she is, Mark thought. Kitty Fremont was the one woman in his world who was different. He had no desire to make love to her. Mark Parker honored little in the world. He wanted to honor Kitty. Moreover, she was the only woman he was absolutely comfortable with, for between them there was no pretense, no impression to make, no games to play.
They sat down on a huge boulder and continued to stare at the splendor all about them. The castle, the sea, the sky, the mountains.
“I think,” Mark said at last, “this is the most beautiful vista in the world.”
They had been wonderful days for both of them. Kitty seemed renewed since Mark’s arrival. She had enjoyed the wonderful therapy of confession.
“I am thinking something terrible,” Kitty said. “I am thinking of how glad I am that Colonel Howard Hillings was sent
off to Palestine and I have you all to myself. How long can you stay, Mark?”
“Few weeks. As long as you want me.”
“I never want us to become far away from each other again.”
“You know,” he said, “everyone at the Dome is certain we’re shacked up.”
“Good!” Kitty said. “I’ll put a sign on my door tonight in big red letters to read, ‘I love Mark Parker madly.’”
They sat for another hour, then reluctantly began working their way down from the summit to descend before it turned dark.
After Mark and Kitty had returned to the hotel, Mandria drove his car into Kyrenia to the harbor and stopped on the quay. He stepped outside with Ari and they walked to the docks. Ari looked across the harbor to the tower of the Virgin Castle which stood on the sea’s edge. They crossed over and climbed up inside the tower and from this vantage point could see the entire area perfectly. Ari studied in his usual silence.
The harbor had two sea walls. One ran out from the Virgin Castle and the tower where he now stood. Opposite him were the houses on the quay, and from that side the wall ran out to the sea so that the right and left arms of the sea wall formed a new circle, almost touching each other. There was a small break which was the entrance to the harbor. The inside of the harbor was tiny, not more than a few hundred yards in diameter. It was filled with small boats.
“Do you think we can get the Aphrodite inside the harbor here?” Ari asked.
“Getting it in won’t be a problem,” Mandria answered, “but turning it around and getting it out again will be.”
Ari was silent in thought as the two men walked back toward the car. His eye was on the little harbor. It was beginning to turn dark as they reached the car.
“You might as well drive on back to Famagusta by yourself. I have to see someone at the Dome Hotel,” Ari said, “and I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I’ll find my own way back to Famagusta.”
Mandria would have resented being dismissed like a taxi driver, but he was getting used to taking orders from Ben Canaan. He turned the ignition key and pressed the starter.
“Mandria. You have been a big help. Thanks.”
Mandria beamed as Ari walked away. These were the first words of kindness he had heard from Ben Canaan. He was surprised and touched.
The dining room of the Dome Hotel was filled with the strains of a Strauss waltz playing softly over the drone of British voices, the clink of glasses, and the whisper of the sea outside. Mark sipped his coffee, wiped his lips with his napkin, and then stared over Kitty’s shoulder intently at the figure who had entered the doorway. A tall man was whispering into the ear of the headwaiter, and the waiter pointed to Mark’s table. Mark’s eyes widened as he recognized Ari Ben Canaan.
“Mark, you look as though you’ve seen a ghost,” Kitty said.
“I have and he’s just about here. We are going to have a very interesting evening.”
Kitty turned around to see Ari Ben Canaan towering over their table. “I see that you remember me, Parker,” he said, taking a seat without invitation and turning to Kitty. “You must be Mrs. Katherine Fremont.”
Ari’s and Kitty’s eyes met and held. Several awkward seconds of silence followed, then Ari looked around for a waiter and called him over. He ordered sandwiches.
“This is Ari Ben Canaan,” Mark was saying, “he is a very old acquaintance of mine. I see that you seem to know Mrs. Fremont.”
“Ari Ben Canaan,” Kitty said. “What an odd name.”
“It is Hebrew, Mrs. Fremont. It means, ‘Lion, Son of Canaan.’”
“That’s quite confusing.”
“On the contrary, Hebrew is a very logical language.”
“Funny, it didn’t strike me that way,” Kitty said, with an edge of sarcasm.
Mark looked from one to the other. They had only met, and yet they were already engaged in the verbal fencing and maneuvering he himself so often played. Obviously Ben Canaan had struck either a sweet or a sour chord in Kitty, Mark thought, because she had her claws bared. ‘ “Strange that it wouldn’t strike you as logical,” Ari was answering. “God thought Hebrew was so logical He had the Bible written in that language.”
Kitty smiled and nodded. The orchestra changed to a fox trot. “Dance, Mrs. Fremont?”
Mark leaned back and watched Ben Canaan walk Kitty onto the floor, hold her, and lead her about with smooth gliding grace. For the moment Mark didn’t like the spark that had obviously struck the second they met: it was hard to think of Kitty as a mere mortal playing mortals’ games. They danced close to his table. There seemed to be a dazed look on Kitty’s face and it was unnatural.
Then Mark began thinking of himself. He had had the feeling that something was brewing on Cyprus from the moment he landed. Now it was confirmed by Ben Canaan’s appearance. He knew enough of the Palestinian to realize he was one of the top Mossad Aliyah Bet agents. He also knew that he was going to be approached for something, because Ben Canaan had sought him out. What about Kitty? Did he know of her only because she was with him or was there another reason?
Kitty was a tall girl but she felt lost in Ari Ben Canaan’s arms. A strange sensation swept over her. The appearance of this strapping, handsome man had thrown her oil guard. Now, in his arms only a moment after their meeting, she felt unraveled. The sensation was attractive-it had been many, many years. But she felt rather foolish at the same time.
The music stopped and they returned to the table.
“I didn’t think you Palestinians danced anything but a hora,” Mark said.
“I’ve been exposed to too much of your culture,” Ari answered.
His sandwiches arrived and he ate hungrily. Mark waited patiently for him to reveal the nature of his visit. He looked at Kitty carefully. She seemed to be regaining her composure, although she glanced at Ari from the corner of her eye as though she were wary and ready to strike.
At last Ari finished eating and said casually, “I have something I want to talk over with both of you.”
“Here, in the middle of the British Army?”
Ari smiled. He turned to Kitty. “Parker didn’t have a chance to tell you, Mrs. Fremont, that my employment is considered sub rosa in some quarters. Every so often the British even glorify us by calling us ‘underground.’ One of the first things I try to impress a new member of our organization with is the danger of making secret midnight rendezvous. I’d say there isn’t a better place in the world to discuss this.”
“Let’s move the party up to my room,” Mark said.
As soon as they had closed the door behind them Ari got right to the point. “Parker, you and I are in a position to do each other a good turn.”
“Are you familiar with the detention camps at Caraolos?”
Both Mark and Kitty nodded.
“I have just completed plans for three hundred children to make an escape. We are going to bring them over here and load them aboard a ship in the Kyrenia harbor.”
“You boys have been smuggling refugees into Palestine for years. That isn’t news any more, Ben Canaan.”
“It will be news if you help make it news. You remember
the commotion over our illegal ship, the Promised Land?’
“The British looked pretty bad then. We feel that if we can create another incident as important as the Promised Land we stand a chance of breaking their immigration policy on Palestine.”
“You just lost me,” Mark said. “If you can pull a mass escape from Caraolos how are you going to get them to Palestine? If they do escape then where is the story?”
“That’s the point,” Ari said. “They aren’t going any farther than boarding ship in Kyrenia. I have no intention of making a run for Palestine.”
Mark leaned forward. He was interested, and there was obviously more to Ben Canaan’s plan than first appeared.
“Let’s say,” Ari said, “that I get three hundred orphans out of Caraolos and on a ship in Kyrenia. Let’s say the British find out and stop the ship from sailing. Now-let’s say you have already written a story and it is sitting in Paris or New York. The minute those children board ship your story hits the headlines.”
Mark whistled under his breath. Like most American correspondents he had sympathy for the refugee’s plight. Mark would get the story, Ben Canaan would get the propaganda value. Was the story going to be big enough for him to become involved? There was no way he could seek instructions or talk it over. He alone had to evaluate and make the decision. Ari had thrown him just enough to whet his appetite. To question the Palestinian further could open the door to involvement. Mark looked at Kitty. She seemed completely puzzled by the whole thing.
“How are you going to get three hundred children from Caraolos to Kyrenia?”
“Do I take that to understand you are coming in?”
“Take it to understand I want to know. It doesn’t commit me to a thing. If I decide against it you have my word that anything said will not leave this room.”
“Good enough,” Ari said. He balanced himself on the edge of the dresser and explained his escape plan step by step. Mark frowned. It was daring, audacious, even fantastic. Yet -there was an admirable simplicity about it. For his part, Mark had to write a report and smuggle it out of Cyprus to the ANS Paris or London bureau. By some prearranged signal the report would be published at the exact moment the escape was taking place. Ari finished and Mark digested the plan for many moments.
He lit a cigarette, paced the room, and fired a dozen questions at Ari. Ari seemed to have considered aE the angles. Yes, there was a possibility of a sensational series of stories.
Now Mark tried to weigh the odds of Ari’s wild scheme. There was no better than a fifty-fifty chance of success. Mark took into account the fact that Ari was an extremely clever man and he knew the British thinking on Cyprus. He also knew that Ari had the kind of people working with him who would be most likely to pull such a thing off. “Count me in,” Mark said.
“Good,” Ari said, “I thought you’d see the possibilities.” He turned to Kitty. “Mrs. Fremont, about a week ago you were offered a job working in the children’s compound. Have you considered it?” “I decided not to take it.”
“Would you reconsider it now … say, to help Parker?” “Just what do you have in mind for Kitty?” Mark asked. “All of the teachers, nurses, and welfare people coming in from the outside are Jews,” Ari said, “and we must go under the assumption they are suspect by the British.” “Suspect of what?”
“Cooperation with the Mossad. You are a Christian, Mrs. Fremont. We feel that someone of your background and religion could move about more freely.” “In other words, you want to use Kitty as a courier.” “More or less. We manufacture quite a few papers inside the camp that are needed outside.”
Mark said, “I think I’d better tell you that I’m not too popular with the British. Sutherland’s aide was sitting on my lap the minute I landed. I don’t think this will affect me, but if Kitty goes to work at Caraolos it would be a cinch they’d suspect her of working with me.”
“On the contrary. They would be dead certain you would not send her to work at Caraolos.” “Maybe you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right,” Ari said. “Let us assume that the worst happens. Let us say Mrs. Fremont gets caught with forged papers. Absolutely nothing will happen to her except some embarrassment, an escort, and a free ticket away from Cyprus.”
“Just a moment,” Kitty said. “I’ve listened to you two divide me up. I am very sorry that I had to hear any of what went on here tonight. I am not going to work at Caraolos, Mr. Ben Canaan, and I am not getting mixed up in this scheme of yours.”
Ari looked quickly to Mark, who merely shrugged. “She’s a big girl.”
“I thought you were a friend of Parker’s.” “I am,” Kitty said, “and I understand his interest.” “I don’t understand your lack of it, Mrs. Fremont. This is the end of 1946. In a few months the war in Europe will
have been over for two years. We have people behind barbed wire under the most terrible conditions. There are children in Caraolos who have no idea there is a world outside barbed wire. If we don’t break this British policy they can well be behind barbed wire the rest of their lives.”
“That is just the point,” Kitty fired back; “everything connected with Caraolos is neck deep in politics. I am certain that the British have their reasons. I don’t wish to take sides.”
“Mrs. Fremont. I was a captain in the British Army and I hold a Military Cross for valor. To coin an old cliche-some of my best friends are British. The fact is that we have dozens of British officers and soldiers who can’t stomach what is happening in Palestine and who work with us twenty-four hours a day. This is not a case of politics but of humanity.”
“I doubt your sincerity. Why would you risk the lives of three hundred children?”
“Most human beings have a purpose for living,” Ari said; “there is no purpose in Caraolos. Fighting for your freedom is a purpose. We have a quarter of a million people in Europe who want to get into Palestine. Any one of them would board that ship in Kyrenia if given the choice.”
“You are a very clever man, Mr. Ben Canaan. I cannot argue with you. I don’t have your stock list of answers.”
“I thought you were a nurse,” he said sarcastically.
“The world is filled with suffering. I can give my services a thousand places just as needful as Caraolos, without the strings attached.”
“Why don’t you visit Caraolos and tell me that afterwards?”
“You’re not going to trick me and you’re not going to issue me challenges. I worked the night shift in a Cook County hospital, and more nights than not I’ve blotted up bodies off the receiving-room floor. You can’t show me anything at Caraolos that I haven’t seen before.”
The room became quiet. Ari Ben Canaan blew a long breath and threw up his hands in defeat. “I am sorry,” he said. “I’ll be in touch with you in a few days, Parker.” He turned for the door.
“Mr. Ben Canaan,” Kitty said, “are you quite certain that I won’t go telling this story to our mutual friends?”
Ari walked back and looked down into her eyes. She knew that instant she had said the wrong thing. A cruel little smile crossed his face. “I think you are just trying to be a woman and have the last word. I don’t misjudge people very often. I can’t afford to. I like Americans. Americans have consciences. As soon as yours begins to get the best of you, you
can reach me at Mr. Mandria’s and I’ll be glad to show you around Caraolos.”
“You are quite sure of yourself, aren’t you?” “Let us say,” Ari answered, “that right this minute I am surer of myself than you are.” Ari walked from the room.
It took a long time after Ari left for the impact of his visit to subside.
Kitty kicked off her shoes, at last, and sat back on the bed. “Well! You did say we were in for an interesting evening.”
“I think you made a wise choice by staying out of this thing.”
“It’s a day’s work. It could turn into something very big.”
“Suppose you had refused him?”
“Oh, they’d get another correspondent somewhere in Europe to come over to Cyprus. They are very resourceful people. I just happened to be conveniently here.”
“Mark,” Kitty said thoughtfully, “did I make a fool of myself?”
“I don’t suppose you made yourself any more foolish than a hundred other women have.” Mark said it deliberately to let Kitty know she had been obvious about her attraction to Ari.
“He is a gorgeous man. When did you meet him?”
“The first time was in Berlin in the early part of 1939. That was my first ANS post. He had been sent over by Mossad Aliyah Bet to get as many Jews out of Germany as he could before the war started. He was in his early twenties then. I saw him again in Palestine. He was in the British Army … this was during the war. There was some kind of undercover assignment. I don’t know exactly what it was. Since the war he has been heard of showing up all over Europe, buying arms, smuggling refugees into Palestine.”
“Do you really think he can get away with this utterly fantastic plan of his?”
“He’s a clever man.”
“Well … I’ll say one thing. This Ben Canaan doesn’t act like any Jew I’ve ever met. You know what I mean. You don’t particularly think of them in a capacity like his … or fighters … things of that sort.”
“How do you think of them, Kitty? The good old Indiana version. The little Jew boy named Maury who’s going to marry a little Jew girl named Sadie …”
“Oh, stop it, Mark! I’ve worked with enough Jewish doctors to know they are arrogant and aggressive people. They look down on us.”
“With what? An inferiority complex?”
“I’d buy that if you were talking about Germany.”
“What are you trying to say, Kitty-that we’re pure?”
“I’m saying no American Jew would trade places with a Negro or a Mexican or an Indian for that matter.”
“And I’m saying you don’t have to lynch a man to rip his insides out. Oh sure, the American Jews have it good, but just enough of your thinking and enough of two thousand years of being a scapegoat has rubbed off on them. Why don’t you argue it with Ben Canaan? He seems to know how to handle you.”
Kitty shot off the bed angrily. Then both she and Mark began to laugh. They were Mark and Kitty and they could not really be angry.
“Exactly what is this Mossad Aliyah Bet?”
“The word aliyah means to arise, go up, ascend. When a Jew goes to Palestine it is always referred to as an aliyah … always going higher than he was. Aleph or the letter a was used to designate the legal immigration. Bet or the letter b for the illegal. Therefore Mossad Aliyah Bet means Organization for Illegal Immigration.”
Kitty smiled. “My goodness,” she said, “Hebrew is such a logical language.”
For the next two days after Ari Ben Canaan’s visit Kitty was perturbed and restless. She would not admit to herself that she wanted to see the big Palestinian again. Mark knew Kitty well and sensed her irritation, but he pretended to carry on as though Ben Canaan had never entered the scene.
She did not exactly know what was disturbing her, except that Ben Canaan’s visit had left a strong impression. Was it that American conscience that Ben Canaan knew so well, or was she sorry about her anti-Jewish outburst?
Almost but not quite casually Kitty inquired when Mark expected to see Ari. Another time she made an unsubtle suggestion that it would be nice to go sightseeing in Famagusta. Then again she would grow angry with herself and resolve to wipe out any thought of Ari.
On the third night Mark could hear Kitty’s footsteps through the connecting door as she paced back and forth in her room.
She sat in the darkness in an overstuffed chair and puffed on a cigarette and decided that she would reason out the whole matter.
She did not like being drawn against her will into Ben Canaan’s strange world. Her entire approach to life had been sane, even calculating. “Kitty is such a sensible girl,” they always said of her.
When she fell in love with Tom Fremont and set out to win him it had all been a well-thought-out move. She ran a sensible home and served sensible meals on a sensible bud—
get. She planned to give birth to Sandra in the springtime and that had been sensible too. She stifled spur-of-the-moment impulses in favor of planned decisions.
These past two days seemed to make no sense to her at all. A strange man appeared from nowhere and told her an even stranger story. She saw that hard handsome face of Ari Ben Canaan with his penetrating eyes that seemed to read her mind mockingly. She remembered the sensation in his arms, dancing with him.
There was no logic to this at all. For one thing Kitty always felt uncomfortable around Jewish people; she had admitted as much to Mark. Then why did this thing continue to grow?
Finally she knew that she would continue to be disturbed until she saw Ari again and saw the camp at Caraolos. She decided that the way to beat this whole idea was to see him again and assure herself she was not mystically involved but had merely been jolted by a sudden and brief infatuation. She would beat Ari Ben Canaan at his own game on his own ground.
At breakfast the next morning Mark was not surprised when Kitty asked him to make an appointment with Ben Canaan for her to visit Caraolos.
“Honey, I was happy with the decision you made the other night. I wish you’d stick to it.”
“I don’t quite understand this myself,” she said.
“Ben Canaan called the shot. He knew you’d come around. Don’t be a damned fool. If you go to Caraolos, you’re in. Look … I’ll pull out, myself. We’ll leave Cyprus right away …”
Kitty shook her head.
“You’re letting your curiosity throw you. You’ve always been smart. What’s happening?”
“This sounds funny coming from me, doesn’t it, Mark, but it almost feels as if some force were pushing me. Believe me, I’m going to Caraolos to end all this … and not to start something.”
Mark told himself that she was hooked even though she was pretending she wasn’t. He hoped that whatever lay ahead would treat her kindly.
CHAPTER TEN: Kitty handed her passes to the British sentry at the gate and entered Caraolos at Compound 57, which was closest to the children’s compound.
“Are you Mrs. Fremont?”
She turned, nodded, and looked into the face of a young man who smiled and offered his hand. She thought that he
was certainly a much friendlier-appearing person than his compatriot.
“I am David Ben Ami,” he said. “Ari asked me to meet you. He will be along in a few moments.”
“Now what does Ben Ami mean? I’ve taken a recent interest in Hebrew names.”
“It means Son of My People,” he answered. “We hope that you will help us in ‘Operation Gideon.’”
“Yes, that’s what I call Ari’s plan. Do you remember your Bible, Judges? Gideon had to select a group of soldiers to go against the Midianites. He picked three hundred. We have also picked three hundred to go against the British. I guess I may be stretching a point for the parallel and Ari does accuse me of being too sentimental.”
Kitty had braced herself for a difficult evening. Now she was disarmed by this mild-appearing young man. The day was closing and a cool breeze whipped up a swirl of dust. Kitty slipped into her topcoat. On the other side of the compound she could make out the unmistakable towering figure of Ari Ben Canaan crossing over to meet her. She drew a deep breath and steadied herself to fight off the same electric sensation she had felt the first time she saw him.
He stopped before her and they nodded silently. Kitty’s eyes were cold. She was letting him know, without a word, that she had come to accept a challenge and she had no intention of losing.
Compound 57 consisted mostly of the aged and very religious. They passed slowly between two rows of tents filled with dirty and unkempt people. The water shortage, Ben Ami explained, made bathing virtually impossible. There was also insufficient diet. The inmates appeared weak, some angry, some dazed, and all haunted by ghosts of the dead.
They stopped for a moment at an opened tent where a wrinkled old specimen worked on a wood carving. He held it up for her to see. It was a pair of hands, clasped in prayer and bound by barbed wire. Ari watched her closely for a sign of weakening.
It was squalid, filthy, and wretched here, but Kitty had prepared herself to accept even worse. She was beginning to be convinced that Ari Ben Canaan held no mysterious power over her.
They stopped once more to look into a large tent used as a synagogue. Over the entrance was a crudely made symbol of the Menorah, the ritual candelabra. She stared at the strange sight of old men swaying back and forth and reciting weird prayers. To Kitty it seemed another world. Her gaze
became fixed on one particularly dirty, bearded old individual who wept and cried aloud in anguish.
She felt David’s hand lead her away. “He is just an old man,” David said. “He is telling God that he has lived a life of faith … he has kept God’s laws, cherished the Holy Torah, and kept the covenants in face of unbelievable hardships. He asks God to kindly deliver him for ‘being a good man.”
“The old men in there,” Ari said, “don’t quite realize that the only Messiah that will deliver them is a bayonet on the end of a rifle.”
Kitty looked at Ari. There was something deadly about this man.
Ari felt Kitty’s disdain. His hands grabbed her arms. “Do you know what a Sonderkommando is?” “Ari, please …” David said.
“A Sonderkommando is one who was forced by the Germans to work inside of their crematoriums. I’d like to show you another old man here. He took the bones of his grandchildren out of a crematorium in Buchenwald and carted them off in a wheelbarrow. Tell me, Mrs. Fremont, did you see one better than that at the Cook County Hospital?”
Kitty felt her stomach turn over. Then resentment took over and she fired back, eyes watering with anger. “You’ll stop at nothing.”
“I’ll stop at nothing to show you how desperate we are.” They glared at each other wordlessly. “Do you wish to see the children’s compound or not?” he said at last. “Let’s get it over with,” Kitty answered. The three crossed the bridge over the barbed-wire wall into the children’s compound and looked upon war’s merciless harvest. She went through the hospital building past the long row of tuberculars and into the other wards of bones bent with rickets and skins yellow of jaundice and festering sores of poisoned blood. She went through a locked ward filled with youngsters who had the hollow blank stares of the insane.
They walked along the tents of the graduation class of 1940-45. The matriculants of the ghettos, the concentration camp students, scholars of rubble. Motherless, fatherless, homeless. Shaved heads of the deloused, ragged clothing. Terror-filled faces, bed wetters, night shriekers. Howling infants, and scowling juveniles who had stayed alive only through cunning. They finished the inspection.
“You have an excellent staff of medical people,” Kitty said, “and this children’s compound is getting the best of the supplies.”
“The British have given us none of it,” Ari snapped. “It has come as gifts from our own people.”
“You made the point right there,” Kitty said. “I don’t care if your facilities are manna from heaven. I came at the request of my American conscience. It has been satisfied. I’d like to go.”
“Mrs. Fremont …” David Ben Ami said. “David! Don’t argue. Some people find just the sight of us repulsive. Show Mrs. Fremont out.”
David and Kitty walked along a tent street. She turned slightly and saw Ari staring at her back. She wanted to get out as quickly as possible. She wanted to return to Mark and forget the whole wretched business.
A sound of uninhibited laughter burst from a large tent near her. It was the laughter of happy children and it sounded out of place at Caraolos. Kitty stopped in curiosity before the tent and listened. A girl was reading a story. She had a beautiful voice.
“That is an exceptional girl,” David said. “She does fantastic work with these children.”
Again laughter erupted from the children. Kitty stepped to the tent flap and drew it open. The girl had her back to Kitty. She sat on a wooden box, bent close to a kerosene lamp. Circling her sat twenty wide-eyed children. They looked up as Kitty and David entered.
The girl stopped reading and turned around and arose to greet the newcomers. The lamp flickered from a gust of air that swept in from the open flap and cast a dancing shadow of children’s silhouettes.
Kitty and the girl stood face to face. Kitty’s eyes opened wide, registering shock.
She walked out of the tent quickly, then stopped and turned
and stared through the flap at the astonished girl. Several
times she started to speak and lapsed into bewildered silence.
“I want to see that girl … alone,” she finally said in a
Ari had come up to them. He nodded to David. “Bring the child to the school building. We will wait there.”
Ari lit the lantern in the schoolroom and closed the door behind them. Kitty had remained wordless and her face was pale.
“That girl reminds you of someone,” Ari said abruptly. She did not answer. He looked through the window and saw the shadows of David and the girl crossing the compound. He glanced at Kitty again and walked from the room.
As he left, Kitty shook her head. It was mad. Why did she
come? Why did she come? She fought to get herself under command-to brace herself to look at that girl again.
The door opened and Kitty tensed. The girl stepped slowly into the room. She studied the girl’s face, fighting off the urge to clutch the child in her arms.
The girl looked at her curiously, but she seemed to understand something and her gaze conveyed pity. ’
“My name … is Katherine Fremont,” Kitty said unevenly. “Do you speak English?”
What a lovely child she was! Her eyes sparkled and she smiled now and held out her hand to Kitty.
Kitty touched the girl’s cheek-then she dropped her hand.
“I … I am a nurse. I wanted to meet you. What is your name?”
“My name is Karen,” the girl said, “Karen Hansen Clement.”
Kitty sat on the cot and asked the girl to sit down, too.
“How old are you?”
“I’m sixteen now, Mrs. Fremont.”
“Please call me Kitty.”
“All right, Kitty.”
“I hear that … you work with the children.”
The girl nodded.
“That’s wonderful. You see … I … I may be coming to work here and … and, well … I’d like to know all about you. Would you mind telling me?”
Karen smiled. Already she liked Kitty and she knew instinctively that Kitty wanted-needed-to be liked.
“Originally,” Karen said, “I came from Germany … Cologne, Germany. But that was a long time ago …”
COLOGNE, GERMANY, 1938
Life is quite wonderful if you are a young lady of seven and your daddy is the famous Professor Johann Clement and it is carnival time in Cologne. Many things are extra special around carnival time, but something that is always extra special is taking a walk with Daddy. You can walk under the linden trees along the banks of the Rhine or you can walk through the zoo that has the most magnificent monkey cages in the entire world or you can walk past the big cathedral and stare up at those twin towers over five hundred feet high that seem to push right through the sky. Best of all is walking through the municipal forest very early in the morning with Daddy and Maximilian. Maximilian is the most remarkable dog in Cologne, even though he looks kind of funny. Of course, Maximilian isn’t allowed in the zoo.
Sometimes you take Hans along on your walks, too, but little brothers can be a nuisance.
If you are such a little girl you love your mommy, too,, and wish she would come along with you and Daddy and Hans and Maximilian, but she is pregnant again and feeling rather grumpy these days. It would be nice if the new baby is a sister because one brother is just about as much as a girl can bear.
On Sunday everyone, except poor Maximilian, who has to watch the house, gets into the auto and Daddy drives along the Rhine River to Grandma’s house in Bonn. Many of the aunts and uncles and bratty cousins gather every Sunday and Grandma has baked a hundred cookies, or maybe even more.
Soon, when summer comes, there will be a wonderful trip along the coast up north and through the Black Forest or to Brenner’s Park Hotel at the springs at Baden-Baden. What a funny name—Baden-Baden.
Professor Johann Clement is a terribly important man. Everyone at the university doffs his cap and smiles and bows and says, “Good morning, Herr Doctor.” At night there are other professors and their wives and sometimes fifteen or twenty students pack into Daddy’s study. They sing and argue and drink beer all night along. Before Mommy’s stomach started showing she used to like to joke and dance with them.
There are so many wonderful tastes and smells and feelings and sounds for a happy seven-year-old girl.
The best times of all were those nights when there would be no visitors and Daddy didn’t have to work in his study or give a lecture. The whole family would sit before the fireplace. It was wonderful to sit on Daddy’s lap and watch the flames and smell his pipe and hear his soft deep voice as he read a fairy tale.
In those years of 1937 and 1938 many strange things were happening you could not quite understand. People seem frightened of something and spoke in whispers … especially at a place like the university. But … these things seem quite unimportant when it comes carnival time.
Professor Johann Clement had very much to think about. With so much utter insanity all about, a man had to keep a clear head. Clement reckoned a scientist could actually chart the course of human events as one would chart the tides and waves of the sea. There were waves of emotion and hate and waves of complete unreason. They’d reach a peak and fall to nothingness. All mankind lived in this sea except for a few who perched on islands so high and dry they remained always out of the reach of the mainstream of life. A university, Johann Clement reasoned, was such an island, such a sanctuary.
Once, during the Middle Ages, there had been a wave of hatred and ignorance as the Crusaders killed off Jews. But the day had passed when Jews were blamed for the Black Death and for poisoning the wells of Christians. During the enlightenment that followed the French Revolution the Christians themselves had torn down the gates of the ghettos. In this new era the Jews and the greatness of Germany had been inseparable. Jews subordinated their own problems to the greater problems of mankind; they assimilated to the larger society. And what great men came from this! Heine and Rothschild and Karl Marx and Mendelssohn and Freud. The list was endless. These men, like Johann Clement himself, were Germans first, last, and always.
Anti-Semitism was synonymous with the history of man, Johann Clement reasoned. It was a part of living-almost a scientific truth. Only the degree and the content varied. Certainly, he felt, he was far better off than the Jews of eastern Europe or those in semibarbaric condition in Africa. The “humiliation oaths” and the Frankfurt massacre belonged to another age.
Germany might be riding a new wave but he was not going to turn around and run. Nor would he stop believing that the German people, with their great cultural heritage, would ultimately dispose of the abnormal elements which had temporarily got control of the country.
Johann Clement watched the blows fall. First there had been wild talk and then printed accusations and insinuations. Then came a boycott of Jewish business and professional people, then the public humiliations: beatings and beard pullings. Then came the night terror of the Brown Shirts. Then came the concentration camps.
Gestapo, SS, SD, KRIPO, RSHA. Soon every family in Germany was under Nazi scrutiny, and the grip of tyranny tightened until the last croak of defiance strangled and died. Still Professor Johann Clement, like most of the Jews in Germany, continued to believe he was immune to the new menace. His grandfather had established a tradition at the university. It was Johann Clement’s island and his sanctuary. He identified himself completely as a German.
There was one particular Sunday that you would never forget. Everyone had assembled at Grandma’s house in Bonn. Even Uncle Ingo had come all the way from Berlin. All of the children were sent outside to play and the door to the living room had been locked.
On the way home to Cologne neither Mommy nor Daddy
spoke a single word. Grownups act like children sometimes. As soon as you reached home you and your brother Hans were bundled right off to bed. But more and more of these secret talks had been taking place, and if you stood by the door and opened it just a crack you could hear everything. Mommy was terribly upset. Daddy was as calm as ever.
“Johann, darling, we must think about making a move. This time it is not going to pass us by. It’s getting so I’m afraid to go out into the street with the children.”
“Perhaps it is only your pregnancy that makes you think things are worse.”
“For five years you have been saying it is going to get better. It is not going to get better.”
“As long as we stay at the university … we are safe.”
“For God’s sake, Johann. Stop living in a fool’s paradise! We have no friends left. The students never come any more. Everyone we know is too terrified to speak to us.”
Johann Clement lit his pipe and sighed. Miriam cuddled at his feet and lay her head on his lap and he stroked her hair. Nearby, Maximilian stretched and groaned before the fire.
“I want so much to be as brave and as understanding as you are,” Miriam said.
“My father and my grandfather taught here. I was born in this house. My life, the only things I’ve ever wanted, the only things I’ve ever loved are in these rooms. My only ambition is that Hans will come to love it so after me. Sometimes I wonder if I have been fair to you and the children … but something inside of me will not let me run. Just a little longer, Miriam… it will pass… it will pass…”
200 synagogues gutted!
200 Jewish apartment houses torn apart!
8000 Jewish shops looted and smashed!
50 Jews murdered! .
3000 Jews seriously beaten!
20,000 Jews arrested!
from this day on no jew may belong to a craft or trade!
from this day on no jewish child may enter a PUBLIC school!
FROM THIS DAY ON NO JEWISH CHILD MAY ENTER A PUBLIC PARK OR RECREATION GROUND!
A SPECIAL FINE OF ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS IS HEREBY LEVIED ON ALL THE JEWS OF GERMANY!
FROM THIS DAY ON ALL JEWS MUST WEAR A YELLOW ARM BAND WITH THE STAR OF DAVID!
It was hard to believe that things could get worse. But the tide ran higher and higher, and the waves finally crashed onto Johann Clement’s island when one day little Karen ran into the house, her face covered with blood anti the words, “Jew! Jew! Jew!” ringing in her ears.
When a man has roots so deep and faith so strong the destruction of his faith is an awesome catastrophe. Not only had Johann Clement been a fool, but he had endangered the life of his family as well. He searched for some way out, and his path led to the Gestapo in Berlin. When he returned from Berlin, he locked himself in his study for two days and two nights, remaining there hunched over his desk, staring at the document that lay before him. It was a magic paper the Gestapo had presented him with. His signature on the paper would free him and his family from any further harm. It was a life-giving document. He read it over and over again until he knew every word on its pages.
… I, Johann Clement, after the above detailed search and the undeniable facts contained herein, am of the absolute conviction that the facts concerning my birth have been falsified. I am not nOw or never have been of the Jewish religion. I am an Aryan and…
Sign it! Sign it! A thousand times he picked up the pen to write his name on the paper. This was no time for noble stands! He had never been a Jew … Why not sign? … it made no difference. Why not sign?
The Gestapo made it absolutely clear that Johann Clement had but one alternative. If he did not sign the paper and continue his work in research his family could leave Germany only if he remained as a political hostage.
On the third morning he walked from the study, haggard, and looked into Miriam’s anxious eyes. He went to the fireplace and threw the document into the flames. “I cannot do it,” he whispered. “You must plan to leave Germany with the children immediately.”
A terrible fear overtook him now for every moment that his family remained. Every knock on the door, every ring of the phone, every footstep brought a new terror he had never known.
He made his plans. First, the family would go to live with some colleagues in France. Miriam was nearly due and she could not travel far. After the baby came and her strength had returned they would continue on to England or America.
It was not all hopeless. Once the family was safe he could worry about himself. There were a few secret societies
working in Germany which specialized in smuggling out German scientists. He had been tipped off to one working in Berlin-a group of Palestinian Jews who called themselves Mossad Aliyah Bet.
The trunks were all packed, the house closed down. The man and his wife sat that last night in silence, desperately hoping for some sudden miracle to give them a reprieve.
But that night-the day before departure-Miriam Clement began having her labor pains. She was not permitted into a hospital so she gave birth in her own bedroom. Another son was born. It had been a difficult and complicated delivery and she needed several weeks to convalesce.
Panic seized Johann Clement! He had visions of his family being trapped and never able to escape the approaching holocaust.
He frantically rushed to Berlin to Number 10 Meinekestrasse, the building which housed the Mossad Aliyah Bet. The place was a bedlam of people trying desperately to get out of Germany.
At two o’clock in the morning he was led into an office where a very young and very exhausted man met him. The man was named Ari Ben Canaan and he was a Palestinian in charge of the escape of the German Jews.
Ben Canaan looked at him through bloodshot eyes. He sighed. “We will arrange your escape, Dr. Clement. Go home, you will be contacted. I have to get a passport, a visa … I have to pay the right people off. It will take a few days.”
“It is not for me. I cannot go, nor can my wife. I have three children. You must get them out.”
“I must get them out,” Ben Canaan mimicked. “Doctor, you are an important man. I may be able to help you. I cannot help your children.”
“You must! You must!” he shrieked.
Ari Ben Canaan slammed his fist on his desk and jumped up. “Did you see that mob out there! They all want to get out of Germany!” He leaned over the desk an inch from Johann Clement. “For five years we have pleaded, we have begged you to leave Germany. Now even if you can get out the British won’t let you into Palestine. ‘We are Germans … we are Germans … they won’t hurt us,’ you said. What in God’s name can I do!”
Ari swallowed and slumped down into his chair. His eyes closed a moment, his face masked in weariness. He picked up a sheaf of papers from his desk and thumbed through them. “I have obtained visas for four hundred children to leave Germany. Some families in Denmark have agreed to take them. We have a train organized. I will put one of your children on.”
“I … I … have three children …” “And I have ten thousand children. I have no visas. I have nothing to fight the British Navy with. I suggest you send your oldest who will be better able to take care of itself. The train leaves tomorrow night from Berlin from the Potsdam Station.”
Karen clung drowsily to her favorite rag doll. Daddy knelt before her. In her half sleep she could smell that wonderful smell of his pipe.
“It is going to be a wonderful trip, Karen. Just like going to Baden-Baden.”
“But I don’t want to, Daddy.”
“Well, now … look at all these nice boys and girls going along with you.”
“But I don’t want them. I want you and Mommy and Hans and Maximilian. And I want to see my new baby brother.” “See here, Karen Clement. My girl doesn’t cry.” “I won’t … I promise I won’t … Daddy … Daddy … will I see you soon?”
“We’ll… all try very hard …”
A woman stepped behind Johann Clement and tapped him on the shoulder. “I am sorry,” she said. “It is time for departure.”
“I’ll take her on.”
“No … I am sorry. No parents on the train.” He nodded and hugged Karen quickly and stood back biting his pipe so hard his teeth hurt. Karen took the woman’s hand, then stopped and turned around. She handed her father her rag doll. “Daddy … you take my dolly. She’ll look after you.”
Scores of anguished parents pressed close to the sides of the train, and the departing children pressed against the windows, shouting, blowing kisses, waving, straining desperately for a last glimpse.
He looked but could not see her.
The steel train grumbled into motion. The parents ran alongside, screaming final farewells.
Johann Clement stood motionless on the fringe of the crowd. As the last car passed he looked up and saw Karen standing calmly on the rear platform. She put her hand to her lips and blew him a kiss as though she knew she would never see him again.
He watched her tiny figure grow smaller and smaller and smaller. And then she was gone. He looked at the little rag doll in his hand. “Good by, my life,” he whispered.
CHAPTER TWELVE: Aage and Meta Hansen had a lovely home in the suburbs of Aalborg; it was just right for a little girl, for they had no children of their own. The Hansens were quite a bit older than the Clements; Aage was graying and Meta was nowhere as beautiful as Miriam but none the less Karen felt warm and protected from the moment they carried her drowsy little body into their car.
The train ride into Denmark had been bewildering. All she could remember was the stifled sobs of children all around her. The rest was a blur-standing in lines, being tagged, strange faces, strange language. Then waiting rooms, buses, more tags.
At last she was led alone into the room where Meta and Aage Hansen stood waiting anxiously. Aage knelt down and lifted her and carried her to the car, and Meta held her in her lap and fussed and petted her all the way to Aalborg, and Karen knew she was safe.
Aage and Meta stood back expectantly in the doorway as Karen tiptoed cautiously into the room they had prepared for her. It was filled with dolls and toys and books and dresses and records and just about everything one little girl could ever want. Then Karen saw the floppy little puppy on her bed. She knelt beside him and stroked him and he licked her face and she felt a wet nose against her cheek. She turned and smiled at the Hansens and they smiled back.
Those first few nights without her daddy and mommy were awful. It was surprising how much she missed her brother Hans. She nibbled at her food and just sat alone quietly in her room with the little dog she had named Maximilian. Meta Hansen understood. At night she lay beside Karen and held her and soothed her until her soft little sobs subsided into sleep.
During the next week a steady stream of visitors came with presents and made a great fuss over Karen and babbled in a language she still could not understand. The Hansens were very proud and she did her best to be nice to everyone. In a few more days she ventured out of the house.
Karen was terribly fond of Aage Hansen. He smoked a pipe like her daddy and he liked to take walks. Aalborg was an interesting place: Like Cologne, it had a river, called the Limfjorden. Mr. Hansen was a lawyer and very important and almost everyone seemed to know him. Of course, he wasn’t as important as her daddy … but few people were.
“Well now, Karen. You have been with us for nearly three
weeks,” Aage said one night, “and we would like to have a very important talk with you.”
He clasped his hands behind him and paced back and forth and talked to her in a very wonderful way so that she understood. He told her that there was much unhappiness in Germany and her mommy and daddy thought it would be better if she remained with them for the time being. Aage Hansen went on to say that they knew they could never replace her own parents but because God had not let them have children of their own they were very happy to have her and wanted her to be happy too.
Yes, Karen understood it all and told Aage and Meta she didn’t mind staying with them for the time being.
“And Karen, darling. Because we are borrowing you for a little while and because we love you so much, we wonder … would you mind borrowing our name?”
Karen thought about that. It seemed to her that Aage had other reasons. His question had that grown-up sound … like the sound of her mommy and daddy talking behind closed doors. She nodded and said that it would be fine with her too.
“Good! Karen Hansen it is, then.”
They took her hands as they did every night and led her to her room and put on the low lamp. Aage played with her and tickled her, and Maximilian got mixed up in the fracas. She laughed until she couldn’t stand any more. Then she got under the covers and said her prayers.
“… God bless Mommy and Daddy and Hans and my new baby brother and all my aunts and uncles and cousins … and God bless the Hansens who are so nice … and God bless both Maximilians.”
“I will be back in a few minutes to sit with you,” Meta said.
“That’s all right. You don’t have to stay with me any more. Maximilian will take care of me.” “Good night, Karen.” “Aage?” “Yes?” “Do the Danish people hate the Jews too?”
My dear Dr. and Mrs. Clement,
Has it already been six weeks since Karen came to us? What an exceptional child she is. Her teacher tells us she is doing extremely well in school. It is amazing how quickly she is picking up Danish. I suppose that is because she is with children her own age. She has already gathered a large number of girl friends.
The dentist advised us to have one tooth pulled to make
room for another. It was a small matter. We want to start her on some sort of music lessons soon and will write more about that.
Every night in her prayers ..
And there was a letter from Karen in big block print:
DEAR MOMMY, DADDY, HANS, MAXIMILIAN, AND MY NEW BABY BROTHER: I MISS YOU MORE THAN I CAN TELL YOU… .
Wintertime is a time for ice skating on the frozen banks of the Limfjorden and for building snow castles and for sledding and for sitting before a blazing fire and having Aage rub your icy feet.
But winter passed and the Limfjorden flowed again and the countryside burst into wild bloom. And summertime came and they all went away to the beach at Blokhus on the North Sea and she and Meta and Aage took a sailboat a hundred miles out.
Life was full and rich with the Hansens. She had a flock of “best” girl friends, and she loved to shop with Meta at the smelly fish market or stand beside her in the kitchen learning to bake. And Meta was so good in so many things like sewing or with studies, and she was a wonderful comfort at Karen’s bedside if there was a sudden fever or sore throat.
Aage always had a smile and open arms and seemed nearly as wise and gentle as her own daddy. Aage could be mighty stern, too, when the occasion demanded.
One day, Aage told Meta to come into the office when Karen was at her dancing lesson. He was pale and excited.
“I have just heard from the Red Cross,” he said to his wife. “They have all disappeared. Completely, no trace. The entire family. I cannot get any information from Germany. I’ve tried everything… .”
“What do you think, Aage?”
“What is there to think? They’ve all been put into a concentration camp … or worse.”
“Oh, dear God.”
They could not bring themselves to tell Karen that her entire family had disappeared. Karen was suspicious when the letters stopped coming from Germany, but she was too frightened to ask questions. She loved the Hansens and trusted them implicitly. Instinct told her that if they did not mention her family there was a reason for it.
Then, too, a strange thing was happening. Karen missed her family a great deal, but somehow the images of her mother and father seemed to grow dimmer and dimmer. When a child of eight has been removed from her parents
for such a long time, it gets harder and harder to remember. Karen felt bad sometimes that she could not remember more vividly.
At the end of a year she could hardly remember when she was not Karen Hansen and a Dane.
There was a war in Europe and a year had passed since Karen arrived at the Hansen house. Her bell-like voice carried a sweet hymn as Meta played the piano. After the hymns Karen went to the closet in her room where she had hidden the Christmas present she had made at school. She handed them the package proudly. It bore a label printed in her hand that read: to mommy and daddy from your daughter,
APRIL 8, 1940
The night was filled with treachery. A misty dawn brought the chilling sound of marching boots to the frontiers of Denmark. Dawn brought barge after barge of gray-helmeted soldiers creeping through fog-filled inlets and canals. The German Army moved in silently with robot-like efficiency and dispersed over the length and breadth of Denmark.
April 9, 1940!
Karen and her classmates rushed to the window and looked up at a sky black with thundering airplanes, which one by one descended on the Aalborg airdrome.
April 9, 1940!
People rushed into the streets in confusion.
“This is the Danish State Radio. Today at 4:15 the German Army crossed our frontier at Saed and Krussa!”
Completely shocked by the lightning stroke and its masterful execution, the Danes clung desperately to their radios to await word from King Christian. Then the proclamation came. Denmark capitulated without firing a shot in her own defense. The crushing of Poland had taught them that resistance was futile.
Meta Hansen pulled Karen out of school and packed to flee to Bornholm or some other remote island. Aage calmed her and persuaded her to sit and wait it out. It would be weeks, even months, before the Germans got the government functioning.
The sight of the swastika and German soldiers opened a flood of memories for Karen, and with them came fear. Everyone was confused these first weeks, but Aage remained calm.
The German administration and occupation forces made
glowing promises. The Danes, they said, were Aryans like themselves. They were, indeed, little brothers, and the main reason for the occupation was to protect the Danes from Bolsheviks. Denmark, they said, would be allowed to continue to run her own internal affairs. She would become a model protectorate. Thus, after the initial shock had subsided, a semblance of normalcy returned.
The venerable King Christian resumed his daily horseback rides from the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen. He rode proudly alone through the streets, and his people followed his lead. Passive resistance was the order of the day.
Aage had been right. Karen returned to school and to her dancing lessons, and life resumed in Aalborg almost as though nothing had happened.
The year of 1941 came. Eight months of German occupation. It was becoming more obvious each day that tension was growing between the Germans and the people of their “model protectorate.” King Christian continued to irritate the conquerors by snubbing them. The people, too, ignored the Germans as much as they could, or, worse, poked fun at their struttings and laughed at the proclamations. The more the Danes laughed the angrier the Germans became.
Any illusions the Danes had had at the beginning of the German occupation were soon dispelled. There was a place for Danish machinery and Danish food and Danish geography in the German master plan; Denmark was to become another cog in the German war machine. So with the example of their fellow Scandinavians in Norway before them, the Danes, by the middle of 1941, had established a small but determined little underground.
Dr. Werner Best, the German governor of Denmark, favored a policy of moderation for the “model protectorate,” so long as the Danes cooperated peaceably. The measures against the Danes were mild by comparison to those of other occupied countries. None the less, the underground movement mushroomed. Although the members of the resistance could not hope to take on German troops in combat or to plan for a general uprising, they found a way to unleash their hatred for the Germans-sabotage.
Dr. Werner Best did not panic. He calmly went about organizing Nazi sympathizers among the Danes to combat this new threat. The German-sponsored HIPO Corps became a Danish terrorist gang for punitive action against their own people. Each act of sabotage was answered by an action by the HIPOS.
As the months and years of German occupation rolled by, Karen Hansen passed her eleventh and twelfth birthdays in faraway Aalborg, where life seemed quite normal. The re-
ports of sabotage and the occasional sound of gunfire or an explosion were only momentary causes for excitement.
Karen began to blossom into womanhood. She felt the first thrills and despairs that come with caring deeply for someone other than parents or a girl friend. Young Mogens Sorensen, the best soccer player in the school, was Karen’s beau, and she was the envy of every other girl. ’
Her dancing ability led her teacher to urge Meta and Aage to let her try out for the Royal Ballet in Copenhagen. She was a gifted child, the teacher said, and seemed to express through dance a sensitivity far beyond her years.
At the turn of 1943 the Hansens became more and more uneasy. The Danish underground was in communication with Allied Headquarters and was getting out vital information with regard to the location of essential war manufacturing plants and supply depots inside Denmark. They cooperated further by spotting these targets for the British RAF Mosquito bombers.
The HIPOS and the other German-sponsored terrorists stepped up reprisals. As the activity heightened, Aage began to ponder. Everyone in Aalborg knew of Karen’s origin. Although no move had as yet been made against the Danish Jews, a sudden break could come. He could be fairly certain, too, that the facts concerning Karen had been relayed to the Germans by the HIPOS. At last Meta and Aage decided to sell their house in Aalborg and move to Copenhagen on the pretext that there was a better position for Aage there and that Karen could receive better instruction in ballet.
In the summer of 1943 Aage became affiliated with a law firm in Copenhagen, where they hoped they could become completely anonymous among its million inhabitants. A birth certificate and papers were forged for Karen to prove she was their natural child. Karen said her good bys to Mogens Sorensen, and suffered the pain of a badly broken heart.
The Hansens found a lovely apartment situated on the Sortedams Dosseringen. It was a tree-lined street looking out on the artificial lake and crossed by numerous bridges which led into the old town.
Once the strangeness of resettlement had worn off, Karen loved Copenhagen. It was a fairyland on earth. Karen, Aage, and Maximilian would walk for hours and hours to see the wonders of the town. There were so many wonderful places— around the port past the statue of the Little Mermaid, along the Langelinie or through the bursting gardens of the Citadel or the gardens at the Christiansborg Palace; there were the waterways and the narrow little alleys crammed with ancient five-story brick houses. There were the never-ending streams of bicycles and that wonderful fish market at Gammel Strand,
so vast and noisome it put the one in Aalborg to shame.
The crown jewel in that fairyland known as Copenhagen was the Tivoli-a maze of whirling lights and rides and theaters and restaurants and miles of flower beds-the children’s band and the Wivex Restaurant and the fireworks and the laughter. Karen soon wondered how on earth she had ever managed to live away from Copenhagen.
One day Karen ran down her street, up the stairs, and threw open the apartment door. She flung her arms about Aage, who was trying to read his newspaper.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”
She pulled him from his seat and began to waltz around the room. Then she left him standing dazed in the center of the floor and began dancing over the furniture and back to him and threw her arms around him again. Meta appeared in the doorway and smiled.
“Your daughter is trying to tell you that she has been accepted by the Royal Ballet.”
“Well now,” Aage said, “that is pretty good.”
That night, after Karen was asleep, Meta could at last pour out her pride to Aage. “They said she is one in a thousand. With five or six years of intensive training she can go right to the top.”
“That is good … that is good,” Aage said, trying not to show how very proud he was.
But not everything was fairylands and happiness in Copenhagen. Each night the earth was rocked by explosions caused by the underground, explosions that lit the skies, and dancing flames and the sounds of cracking rifles and stuttering machine guns filled the air.
The HIPOS began methodically to destroy places and things that were sources of pleasure for the Danes. The German-sponsored Danish terrorists blew up theaters and breweries and entertainment palaces. The Danish underground lashed back at places where the German war machine was being fed. Soon both the days and the nights were racked by the thunder of destruction and flying debris.
The streets were empty during German parades. Danes turned their backs on German ceremony. The streets were mobbed by silent mourners on every Danish national holiday. The daily horseback rides of the old King became a signal for hundreds upon hundreds of Danes to rally and run behind him shouting and cheering.
The situation seethed and seethed-and finally erupted! The morning of August 29, 1943, was ushered in with a blast
heard across Zealand. The Danish fleet had scuttled itself in an effort to block the shipping channels!
The enraged Germans moved their forces on the government buildings and royal palace at Amalienborg. The King’s guard fought them off. A furious pitched battle broke out, but it was all over rather quickly. German soldiers replaced the King’s guard at Amalienborg. A score of German field generals, SS and Gestapo officials descended on Denmark to whip the Danes into line. The Danish Parliament was suspended and a dozen angry decrees invoked. The model protectorate was no longer a “model,” if indeed it ever had been.
The Danes answered the Germans by stepping up their acts of sabotage. Arsenals, factories, ammunition dumps, bridges were blown to bits. The Germans were getting jittery. Danish sabotage was beginning to hurt badly.
From German occupation headquarters at the Hotel D’-Angleterre came the decree: all jews must wear a yellow
ARM BAND WITH A STAR OF DAVID.
That night the underground radio transmitted a message to all Danes. “From Amalienborg Palace King Christian has given the following answer to the German command that Jews must wear a Star of David. The King has said that one Dane is exactly the same as the next Dane. He himself will wear the first Star of David and he expects that every loyal Dane will do the same.”
The next day in Copenhagen almost the entire population wore arm bands showing a Star of David.
The following day the Germans rescinded the order.
Although Aage was not active in the underground the partners of his law firm were leading members, and from time to time he received information of their activities. At the end of the summer of 1943 he became terribly worried and decided that he and Meta must reach a decision concerning Karen.
“It is true,” Aage told his wife. “In a matter of months the Germans will round up all the Jews. We just don’t know the exact time the Gestapo will strike.”
Meta Hansen walked to the window and stared blankly down at the lake and the bridge to the old town. It was evening and soon Karen would be coming home from ballet school. Meta’s mind had been filled with many things she had been planning for Karen’s thirteenth birthday party. It was going to be quite a wonderful affair-forty children-at the Tivoli Gardens.
Aage lit his pipe and stared at the picture of Karen on his desk. He sighed.
“I am not giving her up,” Meta said.
“We have no right…”
“It is different. She is not a Danish Jew. We have records to show she is our child.”
Aage put his hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Someone in Aalborg may inform the Germans.”
“They won’t go to that trouble for one child.”
“Don’t you know these people by now?”
Meta turned around. “We will have her baptized and adopt her legally.”
Aage shook his head slowly. His wife slumped into a chair and bit her lip. She clutched the arms of the chair so tightly her hand turned white. “What will happen, Aage?”
“They are organizing to get all the Jewish people up to the Zealand beaches near the straits. We are purchasing as many boats as we can to make runs over to Sweden. The Swedes have sent word that they will accept everyone and provide for them.”
“How many nights I have lain awake and thought of this. I have tried to tell myself that she is in greater danger if she must flee. I tell myself over and over that she is safer here with us.”
“Think of what you are saying, Meta.”
The woman looked at her husband with an expression of anguish and determination he had never seen from her before. “I will never give her up, Aage. I cannot live without her.”
Every Dane who was called upon cooperated in a gigantic effort. The entire Jewish population of Denmark was whisked secretly north to Zealand and smuggled to the safety of Sweden.
Later that month the Germans made a sweep of Denmark to catch the Jews. There were none to be caught.
Although Karen remained unharmed in Copenhagen with the Hansens the responsibility of the decision weighed heavily on Meta. From that second on the German occupation became a prolonged nightmare. A dozen new rumors would send her into a panic. Three or four times she fled from Copenhagen with Karen to relatives on Jutland.
Aage became more and more active in the underground. He was gone three or four nights a week now. These nights were long and horrible for Meta.
The Danish underground, now directed and coordinated, turned its energies against German transportation. Every half hour a rail line was bombed. Soon the entire rail network of the country was littered with the wreckage of blasted
The HIPOS took their revenge by blowing up the beloved
The Danes called a general strike against the Germans.
They poured into the streets and set up barricades all over Copenhagen flying Danish, American, British, and Russian flags.
The Germans declared Copenhagen in a state of siege!
From German headquarters at the Hotel D’Angleterre, Dr. Werner Best shrieked in fury, “The rabble of Copenhagen shall taste the whip!”
The general strike, was beaten down, but the underground kept up its acts of destruction.
SEPTEMBER 19, 1944
The Germans interned the entire Danish police force for failing to control the people and for overt sympathy with their actions against the occupation forces. The underground, in a daring raid, destroyed the Nazi record offices.
The underground manufactured small arms and smuggled fighters into Sweden to join Danish Free Forces. It turned its wrath on the HIPOS, dispensing quick justice to spoe of its members and to Danish traitors.
The HIPOS and the Gestapo went berserk in an aimless wave of reprisal murders.
Then German refugees began pouring over the border into Denmark. These were people bombed out by the Allies. They swarmed all over the country, taking food and shelter without asking; stealing and preying on the Danes. The Danes turned their backs on these refugees with utter contempt.
In April 1945 there were all sorts of rumors.
MAY 4,1945 “Mommy! Daddy! The war is over! The war is over!”
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The victors entered Denmark-the Yanks and the British and the Danish Free Forces. It was a great week-a week of retribution to the HIPOS and the Danish traitors, to Dr. Werner Best and the Gestapo. A week of din and delirious joy, climaxed by the appearance of creaking old King Christian to reopen the Danish Parliament. He spoke in a proud but tired voice which broke with emotion.
For Meta and Aage Hansen the week of the liberation was a time of sorrow. Seven years before they had rescued a child from grave danger and they had raised her into a blossoming young woman. What a lovely girl she was! Karen was grace and beauty and laughter. Her voice was pure and sweet and she danced with magic wings on her feet. Now: the Day of Judgment.
Once in a fit of anguish Meta Hansen had sworn she would
never give Karen up. Now Meta Hansen was becoming a victim of her own decency. There were no Germans left to fight now, only her own Christian goodness. And Aage would fall victim, as he had to, to his Danish sense of honor. Liberation brought upon them a fear of the haunted nights and the life of emptiness that lay ahead of them without Karen. The Hansens had aged badly during the last seven years. It was apparent the moment they were allowed to relax from the tension of war. No matter how trying things had been there had always been room for laughter, but now while Denmark laughed there was no laughter for them. The Hansens wanted only to look at Karen, hear her voice, spend the hours in her room in a desperate attempt to gather for themselves a lifetime of memories.
Karen knew it was coming. She loved the Hansens. Aage had always done what was right. She had to wait for him to speak first. For two weeks after the liberation the gloom thickened. At last, one evening after another wordless meal Aage rose from the table and put down his napkin. His kindly face was wrinkled and his voice a listless monotone. “We must try to find your parents, Karen. It is the thing to do.” He walked from the room quickly. Karen looked to the empty doorway and then to Meta across the table.
“I love you,” Karen said, and ran to her room and threw herself on the bed and sobbed, hating herself for bringing this sorrow on them. And now she was hating herself for another reason. She wanted to learn about her past. In a few more days they sought out the International Refugee Organization.
“This is my foster daughter,” Aage said.
The case worker had been on her job only the few weeks since the liberation, but already she was becoming sick at the sight of couples like the Hansens and Karen. Day after day the woman was being forced to become a party to tragedy. In Denmark and Holland, in Sweden and Belgium and France, couples like the Hansens who had hidden and sheltered and raised children were now stepping forward to receive their bitter reward.
“You must be prepared for a long and difficult task. There are millions of displaced people in Europe. We have absolutely no idea how long it is going to take to reunite families.”
They left with her all the known facts, a list of all the known relatives, and the letters. Karen had a large family and her father had been a prominent man. The woman gave them a little hope.
A week passed, and two, and then three. June-July. Months of torture for Aage and Meta. They would stand in
the doorway of Karen’s room more and more often. It was frilly and soft and it smelled good. There were her ice skates and her ballet slippers and pictures of classmates and prima ballerinas. There was a picture of her beau, the Petersen boy.
At last they were called to the Refugee Organization. “We are faced with the fact,” the woman ‘said, “that all our initial inquiries have turned up nothing. This is not to be taken as conclusive. It means a long hard task. Were it my own decision I would absolutely forbid Karen to travel to Germany alone or even with Mr. Hansen. There is utter chaos inside Germany and you won’t find a thing that we can’t do from here.” The woman looked squarely at the three of them. “I must warn you about one thing. We have been receiving more and more reports each day that something pretty hideous has happened. Many Jews have been put to death. It is beginning to look as though the numbers may run into the millions.”
It was another reprieve for the Hansens, but what a ghastly thought! Were they to keep this girl only because over fifty members of her immediate family had been put to death? The Hansens were being pulled in two directions. The solution came from Karen herself.
Despite the love she had given and received from the Hansens, there had always been a strange, invisible barrier between them. Early in the German occupation when she was but eight years old Aage had told her she must never speak about being Jewish because it could endanger her life. Karen followed this order as she did all of Aage’s decisions because she loved him and trusted him. But even though she obeyed it she could not keep from wondering why she was different from other people and exactly what this difference was that endangered her very life. It was a question she could never ask and therefore it was never answered. Furthermore, Karen had been completely isolated from any contact with Jews. She felt herself to be like other people and she looked like other people. Yet the invisible barrier was there.
Her question might well have died, but Aage and Meta kept it alive inadvertently. The Hansens were faithful to the traditions of the Danish Lutheran Church and were very devout. Each Sunday the three of them went to church together, and each night before bedtime Aage read from the Book of Psalms. Karen treasured the little white leather Bible the Hansens gave her on her tenth birthday and she loved the magnificent fairylike stories, especially those in Judges and Samuel and Kings, which were filled with all the wonderment of great loves and wars and passions. Reading the Bible was like reading Hans Christian Andersen himself!
But reading the Bible only led to confusion for Karen. So many times she wanted to talk it all over with Aage. Jesus was born one of these Jews, and his mother and all his disciples were Jews. The first part of the Bible, the most fascinating to Karen’s mind, was all about Jews. Didn’t it say over and over again that the Jews were people chosen by God Himself to carry out His laws?
If this was all true then why was it so dangerous to be Jewish and why were the Jews hated so? Karen probed deeper as she grew older. She read that God often punished the Jews when they were bad. Had they been very bad?
Karen was a naturally curious girl, and so long as these questions arose she became more and more perplexed by them. The Bible became her secret obsession. In the quiet of her room she studied its passages in the hope of finding some answers to the great riddle.
The more she read, the older she became, the more puzzled she was. By the time she was fourteen she was able to reason out many of the passages and their meanings. Almost everything that Jesus taught, all His ideas, had been set down before in the Old Testament. Then came the largest riddle of all. If Jesus were to return to the earth she was certain He would go to a synagogue rather than a church. Why could people worship Jesus and hate His people?
Another thing happened on her fourteenth birthday. At that age Danish girls are confirmed in the church with a great deal of ceremony and celebration. Karen had lived as a Dane and a Christian, yet the Hansens hesitated in the matter of her confirmation. They talked it over and felt that they could not take upon themselves a matter that had been decided by God. They told Karen the confirmation would be set aside because of the war and the uncertainty of the times. But Karen knew the real reason.
When she had first come to the Hansens she had needed love and shelter. Now her needs had expanded into a longing for identification. The mystery of her family and her past ran parallel with this mystery of being Jewish. In order to take her place forever as a Dane she had to close the door on these burning questions. She was unable to do so. Her life was based on something temporary, an invisible wall-her past and her religion-always stood between her and the Hansens.
As the war drew to a close Karen knew that she would be torn from them. Wisely she conditioned herself to the shock of the inevitable parting. Being Karen Hansen was merely playing a game. She made the need of becoming Karen Clement urgent. She tried to reconstruct threads of her past life; to remember her father, her mother, and her brothers.
Pieces and snatches came back to her in dim and disconnected hazes. She pretended over and over again how the reunion with them would be. She made her longing constant.
By the time the war was over, Karen had conditioned herself completely. One night a few months after the end of the war she told the Hansens that she was gding away to find her parents. She told them she had seen the woman at the Refugee Organization and her chances of finding her family would be better if she moved to a displaced persons’ camp in Sweden. Actually the chances were the same if she stayed, but she could not bear to prolong the Hansens’ agony.
Karen cried for Aage and Meta far more than for herself. With promises to write and with the slim hope of another reunion with them, Karen Hansen Clement, aged fourteen, cast herself adrift in the stream of roamers of the backwash of war.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The dream was ruthless to the reality. The first month away from Denmark was a nightmare. She was frightened, for she had always been sheltered, but a dogged determination carried her on.
First to a camp in Sweden and then to a chateau in Belgium where there were armies of homeless, penniless drifters; inmates of concentration camps; those who fled and those who hid and were hidden and those who fought in the hills and forests as partisans and those legions of forced labor. Each day was riddled with rumors and new stories of horror. Each day brought a succession of new shocks to Karen. Twenty-five million people lay dead in the wake of war.
The trail led to the displaced persons’ camp, La Ciotat, on the Gulf of Lions in southern France a few miles from Marseilles. La Ciotat seemed a morbid place packed with lusterless concrete-block barracks which seemed to slosh in a never-ending sea of mud. The numbers of refugees multiplied daily. It was overcrowded, short of everything, and the specter of death seemed to haunt the inmates. To them, all Europe had become a coffin.
Genocide! A dance of death with six million dancers! Karen heard the names of Frank and Mueller and Himmler and Rosenberg and Streicher and Kaltenbrunner and Heydrich. She heard the names of thousands of lesser ones: Ilsa Koch, who won infamy by making lampshades out of human tattooed skins, and of Dieter Wisliczeny, who played the role of stockyard goat leading the sheep to slaughter, or
Kramer, who sported in horsewhipping naked women and some of whose handiwork she saw. The name of the greatest killer of them all came up over and over again: Eichmann, the German Palestinian who spoke fluent Hebrew and was the master of genocide.
Karen rued the day she had opened that secret door marked Jew, for behind it lay death. One by one the death of an aunt or uncle or cousin was confirmed.
Genocide-carried out with the precision and finality of a machine. At first the efforts of the Germans had been clumsy. They killed by rifle. It was too slow. They organized their transport and their scientists for the great effort. Steel-covered trucks were designed to lock in and gas to death prisoners en route to burial grounds. But even the gas vans proved slow. Next came the crematoriums and the gas chambers capable of killing two thousand people in a half hour-ten thousand on a good day in a major camp. The organization and planning proved itself and genocide proceeded on an assernbly-line basis.
And Karen heard of thousands of prisoners who threw themselves on the quick mercy of electrified barbed wire to cheat the gas chambers.
And Karen heard of hundreds of thousands who fell to disease and hunger, stacked-up emaciated corpses thrown into unmarked ditches, with logs placed between them and gasoline poured over them.
And Karen heard of the game of deception that was played to tear children away from their mothers under the guise of resettlement, and of trains packed with the old and feeble. Karen heard of the delousing chambers where prisoners were given bars of soap. The chambers were gas and the soap was made of stone.
Karen heard of mothers who hid children in their clothing, which was hung up on pegs before going into the chambers. But the Germans knew the ruse and always found the little ones.
Karen heard of thousands who knelt naked beside graves they had dug. Fathers holding their hands over the eyes of their sons as German pistols went off in the backs of their heads.
She heard of SS Haupsturmfuehrer Fritz Gebauer, who specialized in strangling women and children barehanded and who liked watching infants die in barrels of freezing water. She heard of Heinen, who perfected a method of killing several people in a row with one bullet, always trying to beat his previous record.
She heard of Frank Warzok, who liked to bet on how long a human could live hanging by the feet.
She heard of Obersturmbannfuehrer Rokita, who ripped bodies apart.
She heard of Steiner, who bored holes into prisoners’ heads and stomachs and pulled fingernails and gouged eyes and liked to swing naked women from poles by their hair.
She heard of General Franz Jaeckeln who conducted the massacre of Babi Yar. Babi Yar was a suburb of Kiev and in two days thirty-three thousand Jews were rounded up and shot-to the approval of many cheering Ukrainians.
She heard of Professor Hirts’ Anatomical Institute at Strasbourg and of his scientists, and she saw evidences of the deformed women who had been subjects of their experiments.
Dachau was the biggest of the “scientific” centers. She learned that Dr. Heisskeyer injected children with t.b. germs and observed their death. Dr. Schutz was interested in blood poisoning. Dr. Rascher wanted to save the lives of German air crews and in his experiments high-altitude conditions were simulated and human guinea pigs frozen to death while they were carefully observed through special windows. There were other experiments in what the Germans referred to as “truth in science” which reached a peak, perhaps, in the attempted implantation of animal sperm in human females.
Karen heard of Wilhaus, the commander of the camp at Janowska, who commissioned the composer Mund to write the “Death Tango.” The notes of this song were the last sounds heard by two hundred thousand Jews who were liquidated at Janowska. She heard other things about Wilhaus at Janowska. She heard his hobby was throwing infants into the air and seeing how many bullets he could fire into the body before it reached the ground. His wife, Otilie, was also an excellent shot.
Karen heard about the Lithuanian guards of the Germans who merely clubbed and kicked people to death and of the Croatian Ustashis and their violent killings of hundreds of thousands of prisoners too.
Karen wept and she was dazed and she was haunted. Her nights were sleepless and the names of the land tore through her brain. Had her father and mother and brothers been sent to Buchenwald or had they met death in the horror of Dachau? Maybe it was Chelmno with a million dead or Maidanek with seven hundred and fifty thousand. Or Belzec or Treblinka with its lines of vans or Sobibor or Trawniki or Poniatow or Krivoj Rog. Had they been shot in the pits of Krasnik or burned at the stake at Klooga or torn apart by dogs at Diedzyn or tortured to death at Stutthof ?
The lash! The ice bath! The electric shock! The soldering iron! Genocide! Was it the camp at Choisel or Dora or Neuengamme or
was it at Gross-Rosen or did they hear Wilhaus’ “Death Tango” at Janowska?
Was her family among the bodies which were melted to fat in the manufacture of soap at Danzig?
Death lingered on and on at the displaced persons’ camp at La Ciotat near Marseilles, France.
… and Karen heard more names of the land. Danagien, Eivari, Goldpilz, Vievara, Portkunde.
She could not eat and she could not sleep-Kivioli, Varva, Magdeburg, Plaszow, Szebnie, Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, Landsberg, Bergen-Belsen, Reinsdorf, Bliziny.
Fossenberg! Ravensbriick! Natzweiler!
But all these names were small beside the greatest of them all-Auschwitz!
Auschwitz with its three million dead!
Auschwitz with its warehouses crammed with eyeglasses.
Auschwitz with its warehouses crammed with boots and clothing and pitiful rag dolls.
Auschwitz with its warehouse of human hair for the manufacture of mattresses!
Auschwitz, where the gold teeth of the dead were methodically pulled and melted down for shipment to Himmler’s Science Institute. Auschwitz, where an especially finely shaped skull would be preserved as a paperweight!
Auschwitz, where the bones of the cremated were broken up with sledge hammers and pulverized so that there would never be a trace of death.
Auschwitz Which had the sign over the main entrance:
Karen Hansen Clement sank deep in melancholy. She heard till she could hear no more. She saw until she could see no more. She was exhausted and confused, and the will to go on was being drained from her blood. Then, as so often happens when one reaches the end of the line, there was a turning upward and she emerged into the light.
It began when she smiled and patted the head of an orphan and the child sensed great compassion in her. Karen was able to give children what they craved the most, tenderness. They flocked to her. She seemed to know instinctively how to dry a runny nose, kiss a wounded finger, or soothe a tear, and she could tell stories and sing at the piano in many languages.
She plunged into her work with the younger children with a fervor that helped her forget a little of the pain within her. She never seemed to run out of patience nor of time for giving.
Her fifteenth birthday came and went at La Ciotat. Aside
from the fact that she was just plain stubborn, Karen clung to two great hopes. Her father had been a prominent man, and the Germans had kept one “prestige” camp where prisoners were neither tortured nor killed. It was the camp at Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. If he had been sent there, as well he might, he could still be alive. The second hope, a slimmer one, was that many German scientists had been smuggled out of the country even after being sent to concentration camps. Against these hopes she had the confirmed deaths of over half of her family.
One day several dozen new people entered the camp and the place seemed to transform overnight. The new people were Palestinians from the Mossad Aliyah Bet and the Palmach who had come to take over the interior organization.
A few days after they arrived, Karen danced for her youngsters-the first time she had danced since the summer. From that moment on she was in constant demand and one of the most popular figures in La Ciotat. Her renown spread even as far as Marseilles where she was invited to dance in an annual Christmas presentation of the Nutcracker Suite.
The pangs of loneliness of her first Christmas away from the Hansens were terrible. Half the children in La Ciotat had come to Marseilles to watch her dance in a special performance. Karen danced that night as she had never danced before.
When the performance was over a Palestinian Palmach girl named Galil, who was the section head at La Ciotat, asked Karen to wait until everyone had left. Tears streamed down Galil’s cheeks. “Karen. We have just received positive confirmation that your mother and your two brothers were exterminated at Dachau.”
Karen tumbled into a sorrow even deeper than before. The undaunted spirit which had kept her going vanished. She felt the curse of being born a Jewess had led her to the mad-ess of leaving Denmark.
Every child in La Ciotat had one thing in common. Every one of them believed their parents were alive. All of them waited for the miracle which never came. What a fool she had been to believe!
When she was able to come to her senses several days later she talked it all over with Galil. She did not feel she had the strength to sit and wait until she heard that her father was dead also.
Galil, the Palestine girl, was her only confidante and felt that Karen, like all Jews, should go to Palestine. It was the only place a Jew could live with dignity, Galil argued. But,
with her faith destroyed, Karen was about ready to close the door on Judaism, for it had brought her only misery and left her as Karen Hansen, a Dane.
At night Karen asked herself the same question that every Jew had asked of himself since the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed and the Jews were dispersed to the four corners of the earth as eternal drifters two thousand years before. Karen asked herself, “Why me?”
Each day brought her closer to that moment when she would write the Hansens and ask to return to them forever.
Then one morning Galil rushed into Karen’s barrack and half dragged her to the administration building, where she was introduced to a Dr. Brenner, a new refugee at La Ciotat.
“Oh, God!” Karen cried as she heard the news. “Are you certain?”
“Yes,” Brenner answered, “I am absolutely positive. You see, I knew your father in the old days. I was a teacher in Berlin. We often exchanged correspondence and met at conventions. Yes, my dear, we were in Theresienstadt together and I saw him last only a few weeks before the war ended.”
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: A week later Karen received a letter from the Hansens stating that there had been inquiries from the Refugee Organization as to her whereabouts, as well as questions as to whether the Hansens had any information about her mother or brothers.
It was assumed that the inquiries came from Johann Clement or from someone in his behalf. Karen surmised from this that her father and mother had been separated and he was unaware of her death and the death of the brothers. The next letter from the Hansens stated that they had replied but the Refugee Organization had lost contact with Clement.
But he was alive! Every horrible moment of the months in the camps in Sweden, Belgium, and La Ciotat was worth it now! Once again she found the courage to search for her past.
Karen wondered why La Ciotat was being supported by money from Jews in America. After all, there was everything in the camp but Americans. She asked Galil, who shrugged. “Zionism is a first person asking money from a second person to give to a third person to send a fourth person to Palestine.”
“It is good,” Karen said, “that we have friends who stick together.”
“We also have enemies who stick together,” Galil answered.
The people at La Ciotat certainly looked and acted much like any other people, Karen thought. Most of them seemed
just as confused by being Jewish as she was.
When she had learned enough Hebrew to handle herself she ventured into the religious compound to observe the weird rituals, the dress and prayer of those people who were truly different. The vastness of the sea of Judaism can drown a girl of fifteen. The religion was based on a complex set of laws. Some were written and some were oral. They covered the most minute of subjects, such as how to pray on a camel. The holiest of the holy were the five books of Moses, the Torah.
Once again Karen turned to her Bible. This time what she read seemed to throw new light and have new meaning for her and she would think for hours about lines like the cry of the prophet Isaiah: “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. We roar like bears, and mourn sore like doves … we look for salvation, but it is far off from us.”
These words seemed to fit the situation at La Ciotat. Her Bible was filled with stories of bondage and freedom, and she tried to apply these things to herself and her family.
“Look from heaven and see how we have become a scorn and a derision among the nations; we are accounted as sheep and brought to the slaughter to be slain and destroyed or to be smitten and reproached. Yet, despite all this, we have not forgotten thy Name; we beseech thee, forget us not …”
And again the path would end in confusion. Why would God let six million of His people be killed? Karen concluded that only the experiences of life would bring her the answer, someday.
The inmates of La Ciotat seethed with a terrible desire to leave Europe behind them and get to Palestine. The only force that kept them from turning into a wild mob was the presence of the Palmachniks from Palestine.
They cared little about the war of intrigue that raged about them between the British and the Mossad Aliyah Bet. They did not care about British desperation to hold onto the Middle East or oil or canals or traditional cooperation with the Arabs.
For a brief instant a year earlier everyone’s hopes had soared as the Labour party swept into power and with it promises to turn Palestine into a model mandate with open -immigration. Talk was even revived of making Palestine a member of the British Commonwealth.
The promises exploded as the Labour Government listened to the voice of black gold that bubbled beneath Arab sand. The decisions we’re delayed for more study, more commissions, more talk, as it had been for twenty-five years.
But nothing could curb the craving of the Jews in La Ciotat to get to Palestine. Mossad Aliyah Bet agents poured all over Europe looking for Jewish survivors and leading them through friendly borders with bribes, forgery, stealing, or any other means short of force.
A gigantic game was played as the scene shifted from one country to another. From the very beginning France and Italy allied themselves with the refugees in open cooperation with the Mossad. They kept their borders open to receive refugees and to establish camps. Italy, occupied by British troops, was severely hampered, so France became the major refugee center.
Soon places like La Ciotat were bulging. The Mossad answered with illegal immigration. Every seaport of Europe was covered by Mossad agents who used the money sent them by American Jews to purchase and refit boats to run the British blockade into Palestine. The British not only used their navy but their embassies and consulates as counter-spying centers against the Mossad.
Leaky little boats of the Mossad Aliyah Bet, overloaded with desperate people, set out for Palestine, only to be caught by the British as soon as they entered the three-mile zone. The refugees would be interned in yet another camp, this one in Atlit in Palestine.
After Karen learned her father was alive she, too, became swept up in the desire to get to Palestine. It seemed natural to her that her father would come to Palestine also.
Although she was only fifteen she was drawn into the Palmach group, whose members held nightly campfires and told wonderful stories of the Land of Milk and Honey and sang wonderful oriental songs right out of the Bible. They joked and spun tall yarns all night long and they would call, “Dance, Karen, dance!”
She was made a section chief to take care of a hundred children and prepare them for the moment a Mossad boat would take them to run the blockade into Palestine.
The British quota for Palestine was only fifteen hundred a month, and they always took old people or those too young to fight. Men grew beards and grayed their hair to look old, but such ruses usually didn’t work.
In April of 1946, nine months after Karen had left Denmark, Galil gave her the great news one day.
“An Aliyah Bet ship is coming in a few days and you and your section are going on it.”
Karen’s heart nearly tore through her dress.
“What is the name of it?” “The Star of David,” Galil answered.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: British CID had a running acquaintance with the Aegean tramp steamer, Karpathos. They knew the instant the Karpathos was purchased in Salonika by the Mossad Aliyah Bet. They followed the movements of the eight-hundred-ton, forty-five-year-old tramp to Piraeus, the port of Athens where an American Aliyah Bet crew boarded her and sailed her to Genoa, Italy. They observed as the Karpathos was refitted into an immigrant runner and they knew the exact instant she left and sailed toward the Gulf of Lions.
The entire southern coast of France was alive with CID men. A twenty-four-hour watch was thrown around La Ciotat for signs of a large-scale movement. A dozen major and minor French officials were bribed. Pressure came from Whitehall to Paris to prevent the Karpathos from getting inside French territorial waters. But British pressure and bribes had no effect. French cooperation with Aliyah Bet remained solid. The Karpathos moved inside the three-mile zone.
The next stage of the game was set. A half-dozen trial runs were made from La Ciotat to trick and divert the British. Trucks were donated by the French teamsters and driven by French drivers. When the British were thoroughly confused, the real break was made. Sixteen hundred refugees, Karen’s section included, were sped out from La Ciotat to a secret rendezvous point along the coast. The entire area was blocked off from outside traffic by the French Army. The trucks unloaded the refugees on a quiet beach and they were transferred by rubber boats to the ancient Karpathos, which waited offshore.
The line of rubber boats moved back and forth all night. The strong hands of the American crew lifted the anxious escapees aboard. Palmach teams on board quickly moved each boatload to a predesignated section. A knapsack, a bottle of water, and an obsession to leave Europe was all the refugees had.
Karen’s children, the youngest, were boarded first and given a special position in the hold. They were placed below deck near the ladder which ran to the deck. She worked quickly to calm them down. Fortunately most of them were too numbed with excitement and exhaustion and fell right off to sleep. A few cried, but she was right there to comfort them.
An hour passed, and two and three, and the hold began to get crowded. On came the refugees until the hold was so packed there was scarcely an inch to move in any direction.
Then they began filling up the deck space topside and when that was crammed they flooded over onto the bridge.
Bill Fry, an American and captain of the ship, came down the ladder and looked over the crush of humanity in the hold and whistled. He was a stocky man with a stubbly beard and an unlit cigar butt clenched between his teeth.
“You know, the Boston fire department would raise hell if they ever saw a room like this,” Bill mumbled.
He stopped talking and began to listen. From the shadows a very sweet voice was singing a lullaby. He pushed his way down the ladder and stepped over the bodies and turned a flashlight on Karen, who was holding a little boy in her arms and singing him to sleep. For an instant he thought he was looking at the Madonna! He blinked his eyes. Karen looked up and motioned him to take the flashlight off her.
“Hey, kid … you speak English?” Bill’s gruff voice said.
“Where is the section head of these kids?”
“I am the section head and I’ll thank you to lower your voice. I’ve had enough trouble getting them quieted down.”
“I’ll talk as loud as I want. I’m the captain. You ain’t no bigger than most of these kids.”
“If you run your ship as well as I run this section,” Karen snapped angrily, “then we will be in Palestine by morning.”
He scratched his bearded jaw and smiled. He certainly didn’t look like the dignified Danish ship’s captains, Karen thought, and he was only pretending to be hard.
“You’re a nice kid. If you need something you come up on the bridge and see me. And you be more respectful.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
“That’s all right. Just call me Bill. We’re all from the same tribe.”
Karen watched as he climbed the ladder, and she could see the first crack of daylight. The Karpathos was crammed with as many people as she could hold-sixteen hundred refugees, hanging from every inch of her. The half-rusted anchor creaked up and slapped against the sides of her wooden hulk. The forty-five-year-old engines coughed and sputtered and reluctantly churned into action. A fog bank enshrouded them as though God Himself were giving cover, and the old ship chugged away from the shores of France at her top speed of seven knots an hour. In a matter of moments she was beyond the three-mile zone and into the waters of no man’s land. The first round had been won by the Mossad Aliyah Bet! A blue and white Jewish flag was struck to the mast, and the Karpathos changed her name to the Star of David.
The boat bounced miserably. The lack of ventilation in the overjammed holds turned everyone pale. Karen worked with
the Palmach teams feeding lemons and applying compresses to stave off a major epidemic of vomiting. When lemons failed, she went to work quickly with the mop. She found that the best way to keep things quiet was to sing and invent games and tell funny stories.
She had the children under control but by noon the heat worsened and the air grew more rancid, and sobn the stench of sweat and vomit became unbearable in the semilit hold. Men stripped to shorts and women to their brassieres, and their bodies glistened with sweat. An outbreak of fainting began. Only the unconscious were taken up on deck. There was simply no room for the others.
Three doctors and four nurses, all refugees from La Ciotat, worked feverishly. “Get food into their stomachs,” they ordered. Karen coaxed, coddled, and shoved food down the mouths of her children. By evening she was passing out sedatives and giving sponge baths. She washed them sparingly, for water was very scarce.
At last the sun went down and a breath of air swept into the hold. Karen had worked herself into exhaustion, and her mind was too hazy to permit her to think sharply. She fell into only a half sleep with an instinctive reflex that brought her awake the second one of her children cried. She listened to every creak of the old ship as it labored for Palestine. Toward morning she dozed off completely into a thick dream-riddled sleep filled with annoying confusion.
A sudden roar brought her awake with a start. She looked up the ladder and it was daylight. Karen pushed her way up. Everyone was pointing to the sky where a huge four-engined bomber hovered over them.
“British! Lancaster Bomber!”
“Everyone return to your places and be calm,” the loudspeaker boomed.
Karen rushed back to the hold where the children were frightened and crying. She began singing at the top of her voice urging the children to follow:
Onward! Onward to Palestine
In happiness we throng, Onward! Onward to Palestine
Come join our happy song!
“Everyone keep calm,” the loudspeaker said, “there is no danger.”
By noontime a British cruiser, HMS Defiance, appeared on the horizon and bore down on the Star of David, blinker lights flashing. A sleek little destroyer, HMS Blakely, joined the Defiance. The two warships hovered about the old tramp as she chugged along.
“We have picked up our royal escort,” Bill Fry said over the loudspeaker.
By the rules of the game the contest was over. Mossad Aliyah Bet had gotten another ship out of Europe and onto the high seas. The British had sighted the vessel and were following it. The instant the Star of David entered the three-mile limit off Palestine she would be boarded by a British landing party and towed off to Haifa.
On the deck of the Star of David the refugees hooted at the warships and cursed Bevin. A large sign went up which read: hitler murdered us and the British won’t let us live! The Defiance and the Blakely paid no attention and did not, as hoped, miraculously disappear.
Once her children were calmed, Karen had more to think about. Many of them were becoming quite sick from the lack of air. She went topside and inched her way through the tangle of arms, legs, and knapsacks up to the captain’s bridge. In the wheel room Bill Fry was sipping coffee and looking down at the solid pack of humanity on deck. The Palmach head was arguing with him.
“Jesus Christ!” Bill growled. “One thing we get from Jews is conversation. Orders aren’t made to be discussed. They are made to be obeyed. How in the hell you guys going to win anything if you’ve got to talk everything over? Now I’m the captain here!”
Bill’s outburst hardly fazed the Palmach chief, who finished his argument and walked off.
Bill sat mumbling under his breath. He.lit a cigar butt and then saw Karen standing rather meekly in the doorway.
“Hi, sweetheart,” he said, smiling. “Coffee?”
“I’d love some.”
“You look bad.”
“I can’t get too much sleep with the children.”
“Yeah … how you getting along with them kids?”
“That’s what I came to talk to you about. Some of them are getting quite sick, and we have several pregnant women in the hold.”
“I know, I know.”
“I think we should have a turn on deck.”
He pointed down to the solid cluster of bodies. “Where?”
“You just find a few hundred volunteers to exchange places.”
“Aw, look now, honey, I hate to turn you down, but I’ve got a lot on my mind. It just ain’t that easy. We can’t start moving people around on this can.”
Karen’s face retained a soft sweetness and her voice showed no anger. “I am going back down there and I am taking my
children on deck,” she said. She turned her back and started for the door.
“Come back here. How did a sweet-looking kid like you get so ornery?” Bill scratched his jaw. “All right! All right! We’ll get them brats of yours topside. Jesus Christ, all I get is arguments, arguments, arguments!”
That night Karen led her children to a place on the fan-tail of the ship. In the cool and wonderful air they fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.
The next day the sea was smooth as glass. Dawn brought more British patrol planes, and the now familiar escort, the Defiance and Blakely, were still there.
A tremor of excitement ran through the ship as Bill announced that they were less than twenty-four hours from Eretz Israel-Land of Israel. The mounting tension brought on a strange quiet that lasted far into the day. Toward evening the Blakely moved very close to the Star of David.
A booming British voice cut over the water from the Blakely’s loudspeaker. “Immigrant ship. This is Captain Cunningham of the Blakely here. I want to speak to your captain.”
“Hello, Blakely,” Bill Fry’s voice growled back, “what’s on your mind?”
“We would like to send an emissary aboard to speak to you.”
“You can speak now. We’re all mishpocha here and we got no secrets.”
“Very well. Sometime after midnight you will enter the territorial waters of Palestine. At that time we intend to board you and tow you to Haifa. We want to know if you are going to accept this without resistance?”
“Hello, Cunningham. Here’s the picture. We’ve got some pregnant women and sick people aboard here and we would like you to accept them.”
”We have no instructions. Will you accept our tow or not?”
“Where did you say?”
“Well I’ll be damned. We must be off course. This is a Great Lakes pleasure boat.”
“We will be compelled to board you forcibly!”
“Inform your officers and men … you can all go to hell!”
Night came. No one slept. Everyone strained through the darkness for some sight of shore-the first look at Eretz Israel. Nothing could be seen. The night was misty and there were no stars or moon and the Star of David danced on brisk waves,
Around midnight a Palmach section head tapped Karen on the shoulder. “Karen,” he said, “come up to the wheelhouse with me.”
They threaded their way over the prone bodies to the wheelhouse, which was also packed with twenty of the crew and Palmach section heads. It was pitch black inside except for a bluish light from the compass. Near the wheel she could make out the husky outline of Bill Fry.
“All accounted for.”
“All right, pay attention.” Bill’s voice sounded in the darkness. “I’ve talked it over with the Palmach heads and my crew and we’ve reached a decision. The weather off Palestine is socking in solid … fog all over the coast. We are carrying an auxiliary motor aboard capable of boosting our speed to fifteen knots. In two hours we will be inside territorial waters. If this weather stays bad we’ve decided to make a run for it and beach ourselves south of Caesarea.”
An excited murmur raced around the room.
“Can we get away from those warships?”
“They’ll think this tub’s the Thunderbird before I’m finished,” Fry snapped back.
“How about radar? Won’t they keep us on their screens?”
“Yeah … but they ain’t going to follow us too close to shore. They’re not going to risk beaching a cruiser.”
“How about the British garrison in Palestine?”
“We have established contact with the Palmach ashore. They are expecting us. I’m sure they’ll give the British an interesting evening. Now all of you section leaders have had special instructions at La Ciotat in beaching operations. You know what to expect and what to do. Karen, and you other two chiefs with children … better wait here for special orders. Any questions?”
There were none.
There were none.
“I’ll be damned. Good luck and God bless all of you.”
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: A wind-driven mist whistled around the ancient and abandoned port of Caesarea, Palestine, and its heaps of rubble, broken walls, and moss-covered harbor which was in use four hundred years before the Christian era.
For five long centuries Caesarea-built by Herod in honor of Caesar-had been the capital of Roman Palestine. All that was left was ruin. The wind howled and churned up the
water into a swirling foam which dashed against rocks jutting far into the sea.
Here the revolution against Roman tyranny ended with the slaughter of twenty thousand Hebrews and their great sage, Rabbi Akiva, who had called his people to fight for freedom with Bar Kochba, met his martyrdom. The Crocodile River still flowed to the sea where Akiva ‘was skinned alive.
A few yards south of the ruins were the first buildings of a collective Jewish fishing village named Sdot Yam (Fields of the Sea). This night no fisherman or his wife slept.
They were all crouched throughout the ruins and they silently, breathlessly strained their eyes to the sea. They numbered two hundred and were joined by two hundred more Palmach soldiers.
A flashlight signal blinked out from the ancient Tower of Drusus which jutted into the surf, and everyone tensed.
Aboard the Star of David, Bill Fry’s teeth tightened on a cigar stub and his hands tightened on the wheel of the old ship. He zigzagged her in slowly, inching past treacherous reefs and shoals. On deck the refugees pressed toward the rail and steeled themselves.
The Star of David shuddered and creaked as her timbers slashed into a craggy boulder! A single flare spiraled into the air! The melee was on!
Everyone scrambled over the sides, diving into shoulder-high water, and began fighting foot by foot through the surf toward the shore line several hundred yards away.
As the flare burst, the fishermen and Palmachniks scrambled from their cover and waded out to meet the refugees. Many slipped and fell into potholes or were overturned by a sudden wave and went down on slimy rocks, but nothing could stop them. The two forces met! The strong hands from the shore grabbed the refugees and began dragging them in.
“Quick! Quick!” they were ordered. “Take off your clothing and change into these at once!”
“Throw away any identification papers!”
“Those dressed, follow us … move … move … move!”
“Quiet! No noise!”
The refugees tore the drenched clothing from their bodies and put on the blue uniforms of the fishermen.
“Mingle … everyone mingle… .”
On deck of the Star of David, Karen handed children down to the Palmachniks one by one as fast as they could make a trip in and come back out. Strong, sure-footed men were needed to hold the children in the surf.
“Faster … faster …”
There were uninhibited cries of emotion from some who fell on the holy soil to kiss it.
“You will have plenty of time to kiss the ground later but not now … move on!”
Bill Fry stood on his bridge barking orders through a megaphone. Within an hour nearly everyone had abandoned the Star of David except for a few dozen children and the section chiefs.
Thirty kilometers to the north a Palmach unit staged a devastating assault on some British warehouses south of Haifa in an effort to divert the British troops in that area away from the beaching operation at Caesarea.
On the beach the fishermen and Palmachniks worked rapidly. Some of the refugees were taken into the village and others to trucks which sped them inland. . As the last of the children was handed over the rail of the Star of David, Bill Fry tore down the ladder to the deck and ordered the section heads over the side.
Karen felt the icy water close over her head. She balanced on her toes, treaded water for a moment, and found her direction. She swam in close enough to find footing. Ahead of her, on the beach, she could hear confused shouts in Hebrew and German. She came to a huge rock and crawled over it on all fours. A wave washed her back into the sea. Now she worked to solid ground and pushed in foot by foot against a driving undertow. Downed again on all fours she crawled closer to the shore.
A piercing sound of sirens!
An ear-splitting crackle of rifle fire!
On the beach everyone was dispersing!
Karen gasped for breath as she emerged into knee-high water, holding her side. Directly before her stood a half dozen khaki-clad British soldiers with truncheons in their hands.
“No!” she shrieked. “No! No! No!”
She hurled herself into the cordon screaming, clawing, and kicking with fury. A strong arm seized her from behind and she was wrestled into the surf. Her teeth sank into the soldier’s hand. He yelled in pain and released her. She flung herself forward again fighting like a savage. A second soldier held his truncheon high and brought it down and it thudded against her head. Karen moaned, went limp, and rolled unconscious into the water.
She opened her eyes. Her head throbbed horribly. But she smiled as she looked up into the face of stubble-jawed, bleary-eyed Bill Fry.
“The children!” she screamed, and spun off the cot. Bill’s hands grabbed her.
“Take it easy. Most of the kids got away. Some of them are here.”
Karen closed her eyes and sighed and lay back on the cot again.
“Where are we?”
“British detention camp … Atlit. It was a wonderful show. More than half the people got away. The British are so damned mad they rounded everybody up and herded us off here. We got crew, fishermen, refugees … everybody mixed up in this mess. How do you feel?”
“I feel horrible. What happened?”
“You tried to whip the British Army singlehanded.”
She pushed the blanket off and sat up again and felt the lump on the side of her head. Her dress was still damp. She stood and walked, a bit wobbly, to the tent opening. There were several hundred more tents and a wall of barbed wire. Beyond the barbed wire were British sentries. “I don’t know what came over me,” Karen said. “I’ve never struck anyone in my life. I saw those soldiers standing there … trying to stop me. Somehow the most important thing that ever happened, happened that moment. I had to put my foot on Palestine. I had to or I’d die … I don’t know what came over me.” She sat down beside him.
“Want something to eat, kid?”
“I’m not hungry. What are they going to do with us?”
Bill shrugged. “It will be light in a few hours. They’ll start processing us and asking a lot of damned fool questions. You know the answers.”
“Yes … I keep repeating that this is my country to whatever they ask.”
“Yeah … anyhow, they’ll keep you here a couple or three months and then they’ll turn you loose. At least you’re in Palestine.”
“What about you?”
“Me? Hell, they’ll throw me out of Palestine same as they did the last time. I’ll get another Mossad ship … try another run on the blockade.”
Her head began to throb and she lay back but she could not close her eyes. She studied Bill’s grizzled face for many moments.
“Bill… why are you here?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re an American. It’s different with Jews in America.”
“Everybody is trying to make something noble out of me.” He patted his pockets and pulled out some cigars. They were ruined by the water. “The Aliyah Bet came around and saw
me. They said they needed sailors. I’m a sailor … been one all my life. Worked my way up from cabin boy to first mate. That’s all there is to it. I get paid for this.” “Bill…” “Yeah …” “I don’t believe you.”
Bill Fry didn’t seem to be convincing himself either. He stood up. “It’s hard to explain, Karen. I love America. I wouldn’t trade what I’ve got over there for fifty Palestines.” Karen propped up on an elbow. Bill began pacing the tent and groping to connect his thoughts. “We’re Americans but we’re a different kind of Americans. Maybe we make ourselves different … maybe other people make me different … I’m not smart enough to figure those things out. All my life I’ve heard I’m supposed to be a coward because I’m a Jew. Let me tell you, kid. Every time the Palmach blows up a British depot or knocks the hell out of some Arabs he’s winning respect for me. He’s making a liar out of everyone who tells me Jews are yellow. These guys over here are fighting my battle for respect … understand that?” “I think so.”
“Well, damned if I understand it.”
He sat beside Karen and examined the lump on her head. “That don’t look too bad. I told those Limey bastards to take you to a hospital.”
“I’ll be all right,” she said.
Later that night the Palmach staged a raid on the Atlit camp and another two hundred of the refugees escaped through a gaping hole blown in the barbed wire. Karen and Bill Fry were not among the escapees.
When the full report of the Star of David episode reached Whitehall the British realized they had to change their immigration policy. To date, the illegal runners had brought in loads of a few hundred. This ship had carried nearly two thousand, and the greater part of them had escaped in the beaching at Caesarea and the subsequent raid on Atlit. The British were faced with the fact that the French government openly supported the Jews and that one out of every six Jews in Palestine had entered illegally.
And so the British were caught in a tangle. They were as far away from a final answer on the Palestine problem as they ever had been, and so it was decided that the Jews must be turned away from Palestine and not kept at Atlit. The camps on Cyprus were established as a direct result of the pressure of illegal immigration and specifically of the success of the Star of David expedition.
Karen Hansen Clement was sent to the island of Cyprus on a British prison ship and interned in the Caraolos camp. But
even as the Karpathos/Star of David lay wedged in the rocks off the shore of Caesarea and the surf pounded her to bits, the Mossad Aliyah Bet speeded up their operations, planning for more ships and larger numbers of refugees to follow in the wake.
For six more months the young girl stayed in the swirling dust of Caraolos and worked among her children. Her time in the succession of DP and internment camps had done nothing to harden or embitter her. She lived only for the moment when she could once again see Palestine … Eretz Israel… . The magic words became an obsession for her too.
Many hours had passed when Karen finished telling her story to Kitty Fremont. During the telling a rapport had been established between them. Each detected the loneliness and the need for companionship of the other.
“Have you heard anything further about your father?” Kitty asked.
“No. Not since La Ciotat, and that was very long ago.”
Kitty looked at her watch. “Goodness … it’s past midnight.”
“I didn’t notice the time,” Karen said.
“Neither did I. Good night, child.”
“Good night, Kitty. Will I see you again?”
“Perhaps … I don’t know.”
Kitty stepped outside and walked away from the building. The thousands of tents were still now. A searchlight from the watchtower swept over the waves of canvas. Dust kicked up and blew around her feet and she tightened her coat. The tall figure of Ari Ben Canaan walked toward her and stopped. He handed her a cigarette, and they walked silently over the bridge out of the children’s compound. Kitty stopped a moment and looked back, then continued on through the old people’s area to the main gate.
“1 will work for you on one condition,” Kitty said, “that that girl does not go on the escape. She stays in this camp with me.”
Kitty turned and walked toward the sentry house quickly.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: The plan which David had romantically called Operation Gideon moved into action. At Caraolos a large batch of bills of lading and British army identification cards were forged by Dov Landau and given to Kitty Fremont. She carried them from the camp and turned them over to Ari Ben Canaan.
The delivery of the bills of lading enabled Ben Canaan to complete the first phase of his scheme. During his survey of Cyprus he had become familiar with a large British supply depot on the Famagusta road near Caraolos. It was a fenced-in area containing several acres of trucks and other rolling stock and a dozen enormous warehouses. During the war the depot had been a major supply base for the Allies in the Middle East. Now some of the stock was still being shipped to British forces in that part of the world. Other stock had been declared surplus and had been bought up by private consignees. There was always some measure of movement from the depot to the Famagusta harbor.
Mandria’s Cyprus-Mediterranean Shipping Company was the agent for the British Army on Cyprus. In that capacity Mandria had a stock list and numbers of all the materials stored at the depot. He also had a very adequate supply of bills of lading.
On Thursday at 8:00 a.m., Ari Ben Canaan and thirteen Palmachniks, all dressed in British uniforms and carrying British papers, pulled to a halt before the main gate of the depot in a British truck. Zev Gilboa, Joab Yarkoni, and David Ben Ami were in the “working party.”
Ari, who was carrying papers as “Captain Caleb Moore,” presented a list of requisitions to the depot commander. Ari’s “working party” had been detailed to gather the listed material and take it to the Famagusta docks for shipment aboard the SS Achan.
The forgeries were so perfect that the depot commander did not for a moment remember that Caleb was a spy for Moses in the Bible and that the Achan, a nonexistent ship, carried the same name as the man who stole the treasury at Jericho.
The first item the bills of lading called for was twelve trucks and two jeeps. They were rolled out of their parking area and checked out to “Captain Caleb Moore.” The “working party” then moved from warehouse to warehouse, loading their twelve new trucks with everything that would be needed for the Aphrodite/Exodus to make her trip to Palestine with three hundred escapee children.
Joab Yarkoni, who was in charge of fitting the ship, had drawn up a list of things which included a late-model radio receiver and transmitter, canned foods, medical supplies, flashlights, small arms, water cans, blankets, air-conditioning units, a loudspeaker system, and a hundred other items. Joab was very sad because Ari had insisted he shave off his big black mustache. Zev’s mustache met the same fate, for Ari feared this would identify them as Palestinians.
In addition to supplies for the Exodus, David took a few tons of the things most urgently needed in Caraolos.
Zev Gilboa nearly went to pieces when he saw the British arsenal. In all his years in the Palmach they had always needed arms, and the sight of so many lovely machine guns and mortars and carbines was almost more than he could stand.
The “working party” moved with clocklike precision. Ari knew from Mandria’s lists where everything was located. Joab Yarkoni rounded out the afternoon’s work by taking a few cases of scotch and a few of brandy and a few of gin and a few of wine-for medicinal purposes.
Twelve brand-new trucks crammed with supplies supposedly headed for the Famagusta harbor, where both supplies and trucks would be put aboard the SS Achart. Ari thanked the British commander for his excellent cooperation, and the “working party” left six hours after it had entered.
The Palmachniks were flushed with the ease of their initial victory, but Ari did not give them time to rest or be too proud of themselves. This was but a beginning.
The next stop of Operation Gideon was to find a base for the trucks and material they had stolen. Ari had the answer. He had located an abandoned British camp on the outskirts of Famagusta. It had apparently been used once by a small service unit. The fence was still up, two wooden office shacks and the outhouses remained. Electric wiring from the main line was still in.
During the night and for the next two nights all the Palmachniks from Caraolos came to this camp and labored feverishly pitching tents, cleaning the area, and generally making it appear to be once again in service.
The twelve trucks and two jeeps were painted the khaki color of the British Army. On the doors of each vehicle Joab Yarkoni drew an insignia which could be mistaken for any one of a thousand army insignias and the lettering: 23rd Transportation Company HMJFC.
The “company” office had enough actual and forged British papers and orders strewn about to give it an authentic look.
In four days the little camp with the twelve trucks looked quite natural and unimposing. They had taken enough British uniforms from the depot to dress the Palmachniks adequately as soldiers and enough of everything else to stock the camp completely.
As a finishing touch Joab Yarkoni put a sign over the entrance gate which read: 23rd Transportation Company HMJFC. Everyone sighed with relief as the sign raising officially dedicated the encampment.
Zev looked at the sign and scratched his head. “What does HMJFC stand for?”
“His Majesty’s Jewish Forces on Cyprus … what else?” Joab answered.
The pattern of Operation Gideon was set. Ari Ben Canaan had had the utter audacity to form a fake unit of the British Army. Wearing a British uniform, he had established Mos-sad Aliyah Bet headquarters in broad daylight on the Famagusta road, and he was going to execute the final phases of his plan using British equipment. It was a dangerous game, yet he held to the simple theory that acting in a natural manner was the best cover an underground agent had.
The next phase of Operation Gideon became fact when three Americans from a merchant freighter landed in Famagusta and jumped ship. They were Mossad Aliyah Bet men who had received training during the war in the United States Navy. From another ship came two exiles of Franco Spain. Often former Spanish Loyalists worked Aliyah Bet ships. Now the Exodus had a crew, the balance of which would be filled out by Ari, David, Joab, and Zev.
Hank Schlosberg, the American skipper, and Joab set to the task Of refitting the Exodus into an immigrant runner. Larnaca was a small port and Mandria certainly knew the right way to produce silence over any unusual activity around the Aphrodite at the end of the pier.
First, the cabins, holds, and deck were stripped clean of cabinets, bins, shelves, furnishings, and trimmings. The ship was turned into a shell from stem to stern.
Two wooden shacks were constructed on deck to serve as toilets: one for the boys and one for the girls. The crew’s mess hall was converted into a hospital room. There would be no formal mess hall or galley. All food would be eaten from cans. The galley was converted into an arsenal and storeroom. Crew’s quarters were taken out. The crew would sleep on the small bridge. The loudspeaker system was hooked up. The ancient engine was overhauled thoroughly. An emergency mast and sail were constructed in case of engine failure.
There were Orthodox children among the three hundred, and this posed a particular problem. Yarkoni had to seek out the head of the Jewish community on Cyprus and have “kosher” food especially processed and canned for them according to dietary law.
Next an exact cubic measurement of the hold was taken, as well as a surface measurement of deck space. Shelves seventeen inches apart were built in the hold. These would serve as bunks and allow each child room to sleep on his stomach or back but not the luxury of rolling over. They computed an
average height for the children and allotted four feet, eleven inches per child and marked it off down the shelves. The balance of the deck space in the hold and topside was also marked off, allowing a child just enough room to move an inch or two in each direction while asleep.
The lifeboats were repaired. Large holes were cut into the sides of the ship and wind pipes constructed so that air would be driven into the hold by electric fans. The air-conditioning units taken from the British depot were also fitted in. Air had to be circulated at all times in the packed quarters to prevent mass vomiting.
The work moved along smoothly. The sight of a half dozen men working on the old salvage tub appeared quite natural in the Larnaca harbor.
Loading supplies would pose another problem. Ari did not want to risk sending the khaki-colored trucks onto the dock, as he felt they were certain to attract attention. When the majority of the refitting had been completed the Exodus stole out of Larnaca each night to a rendezvous cove a few miles away in the Southern Bay. Here trucks from the 23rd Transportation Company HMJFC would come filled with supplies taken from the British depot. A constant stream of rubber boats moved from shore to ship all night until the Exodus was filled, inch by inch.
At the children’s compound at Caraolos, Zev Gilboa carried out his part of Operation Gideon. He carefully screened three hundred of the strongest boys and girls and took them in shifts to the playground, where they were toughened up by exercises and taught how to fight with knives and sticks, how to use small arms and to throw grenades. Lookouts were posted all over the playground, and at sight of a British sentry a signal would, change the games of war into games of peace. In three seconds the children could stop practicing gang fighting and start singing school songs. Groups not working out on the playground would be in the classroom learning Palestinian landmarks and the answers to mock questionings of “British Intelligence.”
At night Zev would take them all to the playground and build a bonfire, and he and some of the Palmachniks would spin stories and tell the children how wonderful it would be for them in Palestine and how they would never live behind barbed wire again.
There was a hitch in Operation Gideon, but it developed among Ari’s closest lieutenants: David, Zev, and Joab.
Although David was a sensitive boy and a scholar he feared no man when aroused. He was aroused now. The first expedition into the British depot had gone so well that he, Zev, and Joab felt it was sacrilegious to leave as much as a
shoestring in it. He wanted to run 23rd Transportation Company trucks into the depot around the clock and take anything not nailed down. Zev envisioned even taking cannons. They had gone so long on so little that this windfall was too great a temptation.
Ari argued that greed could ruin the whole plan. The British were sleeping but not dead. Twenty-third Transportation Company trucks should appear from time to time for the sake of naturalness, but to attempt to drain the depot would be to hang them all.
None the less he could not hold them down. Their schemes began to sound wilder and wilder. Joab had got so cocky that he even went so far as to invite some British officers to the 23rd Transportation Company for lunch. Ari’s patience ran out and he had to threaten to send them all back to Palestine in order to get them into line.
In a little over two weeks after the beginning of Operation Gideon everything was ready to go. The final phases of the plan-Mark Parker’s story plus getting the three hundred children to Kyrenia-awaited word from the British themselves. The final move would be made when the British opened the new refugee camps on the Larnaca road and began transferring inmates from Caraolos.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Caldwell, Sutherland’s aide, went into the office of Major Allan Alistair, who was the Intelligence Chief on Cyprus. Alistair, a soft-spoken and shy-appearing man in his forties, gathered a batch of papers from his desk and followed Caldwell down the hall to Sutherland’s office..
The brigadier asked Caldwell and Alistair to be seated and nodded to the intelligence man to begin. Alistair scratched the end of his nose and looked over his papers. “There has been a tremendous step-up of Jewish activity at Caraolos in the children’s compound,” he said in a half whisper. “We analyze it as a possible riot or breakout.”
Sutherland drummed his fingers on the desk top impatiently. Alistair always made him nervous with his quiet, hush-hush ways and now he droned on through several more pages of information.
“Dear Major Alistair,” Sutherland said when he had finished, “you have been reading to me for fifteen minutes and the theme of your story is that you suspect that some dire plot is being hatched by the Jews. During the past two weeks you have attempted to plant three men inside the children’s compound and five men elsewhere inside Caraolos. Each one
of your master spies has been detected within an hour and thrown out by the Jews. You have read to me two pages of messages which you have intercepted and which you cannot decode and you allege they are being sent from a transmitter you cannot locate.”
Alistair and Caldwell glanced at each other quickly as if to say, “The old man is going to be difficult again.”
“Begging the brigadier’s pardon,” Alistair said, leaning forward, “much of our information is always speculative. However, there has been concrete data handed down which has not been acted upon. We know positively that Caraolos is riddled with Palestinian Palmach people who are giving military training on the playground. “We also know positively that the Palestinians smuggle their people into Cyprus at a place near the ruins of Salamis. We have every reason to suspect that the Greek chap, Mandria, is working with them.”
“Blast it! I know all that,” Sutherland said. “You men forget that the only thing that keeps those refugees from turning into a wild mob is the fact that these Palestinians are there. They run the schools, hospitals, kitchens, and everything else at that camp. Furthermore they keep discipline and they prevent escapes by letting only certain people go in and out. Throw the Palestinians out and we would be begging for trouble.”
“Then hire some informers, sir,” Caldwell said, “and at least know what they are planning.”
“You can’t buy a Jewish informer,” Alistair said; “they stick together like flies. Every time we think we have one he sends us on a wild-goose chase.”
“Then crack down on them,” Caldwell snapped; “put the fear of God into them.”
“Freddie, Freddie, Freddie,” Sutherland said in dismay, fighting his pipe. “There is nothing we can do to frighten those people. They are graduates of concentration camps. You remember Bergen-Belsen, Freddie? Do you think we can do anything worse to them?”
Major Alistair was beginning to be sorry that he had asked Fred Caldwell to come in with him. He showed absolutely no latitude in his thinking. “Brigadier,” Alistair said quickly, “We are all soldiers here. None the less I’d be less than honest if I reported to you that everything was peaceful at Caraolos and that I thought we’d be wise to continue to just sit and wait for trouble.”
Sutherland rose, clasped his hands behind him, and began to pace the room thoughtfully. He puffed his pipe for several moments and tapped the stem against his teeth. “My mission here on Cyprus is to keep these camps quiet until our government decides what it intends to do with the Palestine mandate. We are not to risk anything that could bring adverse propaganda.”
Fred Caldwell was angry. He simply could not understand why Sutherland chose to sit and let the Jews drum up trouble. It was beyond him.
Allan Alistair understood but did not agree. He favored a quick counterblow to upset any Jewish plans in Caraolos. None the less, all he could do was present the information; it was up to Brigadier Sutherland to act upon it. Sutherland, in his estimation, was being unreasonably soft.
“Is there anything else?” the brigadier asked.
“Yes, one more problem now, sir.” Alistair thumbed through his papers. “I would like to know if the brigadier has studied the report on this American woman, Katherine Fremont, and the correspondent, Mark Parker?”
“What about them?”
“Well, sir, we are not certain if she is his mistress, but the fact that she has gone to work at Caraolos certainly coincides with his entry into Cyprus. From past experience we know that Parker has anti-British leanings.”
“Rubbish. He is an excellent reporter. He did a splendid job at the Nuremberg trials. We made a costly blunder once in Holland and the man found it and reported it. That was his job.’
“Are we correct in assuming, sir, that it is quite possible Mrs. Fremont’s going to work in Caraolos may have something to do with helping Parker do an expose of the camp?”
. “Major Alistair, I hope that if you are ever brought to trial for murder the jury will not hang you on such evidence as you have just placed before me.”
Little red patches dotted Alistair’s cheeks.
“This Fremont woman happens to be one of the best pediatric nurses in the Middle East. She was cited by the Greek government for doing an outstanding job in an orphanage in Salonika. That is also in your report. She and Mark Parker have been friends since childhood. That is also in your report. It is also in your report that the Jewish welfare people sought her out. Tell me, Major Alistair … you do read your reports, don’t you?”
“I haven’t finished. Let us assume that the very worst of your suspicions are well founded. Let us assume that Mrs. Fremont is gathering information for Mark Parker. Let us say that Mark Parker writes a series of articles about Caraolos. Gentlemen, this is the end of 1946 … the war has been over for a year and a half. People are generally sick and tired of, and rather unimpressed with, refugee stories. What will impress people is our throwing an American nurse and
newspaperman off Cyprus. Gentlemen, the meeting is concluded.”
Alistair gathered his papers together quickly. Fred Caldwell had been sitting in cold and fuming anger. He sprang to his feet. “I say we kill a few of these sheenies and show them just who is running this show!”
Caldwell turned at the door.
“If you are so anxious I can arrange a transfer to Palestine. The Jews there are armed and they are not behind barbed wire. They eat little men like you for breakfast.”
Caldwell and Alistair walked briskly down the hall. Freddie grumbled angrily under his breath. “Come into my office,” Alistair said. Freddie flopped into a chair and threw up his hands. Alistair snatched a letter opener from his desk and slapped it in his open palm and paced the room.
“Ask me,” Caldwell said, “they ought to give the old boy his knighthood and retire him.”
Alistair returned to his desk and bit his lip hesitatingly. “Freddie, I’ve been thinking for several weeks. Sutherland has proven utterly impossible. I am going to write a personal letter to General Tevor-Browne.”
Caldwell raised his eyebrows. “That’s a bit risky, old boy.”
“We must do something before this bloody island blows up on us. You are Sutherland’s aide. If you back me up on this I’ll guarantee there will be no repercussions.”
Caldwell had had his fill of Sutherland. Alistair was a relative of General Tevor-Browne through marriage. He nodded. “And you might add a good word for me with Tevor-Browne.”
A knock on the door brought in a corporal with a new batch of papers. He gave them to Alistair and left the office. Alistair thumbed through the sheets and sighed. “As if I didn’t have enough on my mind. There is a ring of organized thieves on the island. They are so damned clever we don’t even know what they are stealing.”
General Tevor-Browne received Major Alistair’s urgent and confidential report a few days later. His immediate reaction was to recall Alistair and Caldwell to London and to call them on the carpet for what amounted to mutiny; then he realized that Alistair would not have risked sending such a letter unless he was truly alarmed.
If Tevor-Browne was to follow the advice of Alistair and make a quick raid on Caraolos to upset any plans the Jews might have, he had to move quickly, for although he didn’t know it, Ari Ben Canaan had set the day, hour, and minute for taking the children out of Caraolos.
The British announced that the new facilities near Larnaca
were ready and a general evacuation of many of the overcrowded compounds at Caraolos would begin in a few days. The refugees would be moved by truck at the rate of three to five hundred per day over a ten-day period. Ari chose the sixth day as the day.
No tunnels, no crates, no garbage dumps. Ari was just going to drive up to Caraolos and take the children out in British trucks.
DELIVER IN PERSON TO KENNETH BRADBURY CHIEF, ANS LONDON BUREAU
This letter and enclosed report from Cyprus are being delivered to you by F. F. Whitman, a pilot with British Intercontinental Airways.
D-Day on Operation Gideon is five days off. Cable me at once that you have received the report. I have used my own discretion on this thing. I feel that it can turn into something very big.
On D-Day I will send a cable to you. If my cable is signed mark that means that everything went off according to schedule and it is O.K. to release the story. If it is signed Parker then hold off because that means something went wrong..
I promised F. F. Whitman $500 for safe delivery of this to you. Pay the man, will you?
MARK PARKER DOME HOTEL KYRENIA, CYPRUS
AUNT DOROTHY ARRIVED SAFELY IN LONDON AND WE WERE ALL HAPPY TO SEE HER. LOOKING FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU.
Mark’s story sat safely in the London ANS bureau, to be released on signal.
Kitty moved from the Dome Hotel to the King George in Famagusta when she went to work at Caraolos. Mark decided
to stay put at the Dome in order to be on the spot in Kyrenia when the Exodus came in.
He had driven to Famagusta twice to see her. Both times she was out at the camp. Mandria confirmed what Mark suspected. The young refugee girl went to work as Kitty’s aide. They were together all day long. Mark became worried. Kitty should have more sense than to try to bring her dead child to life through this girl. There seemed to him to be something unhealthy about it. In addition there was the business of her carrying forged papers out of Caraolos.
There were only a few days left until Operation Gideon moved into the final phase. The tension harassed Mark, and Kitty’s strange behavior harassed him even more. He made a date to meet her at the King George in Famagusta.
As he drove to Famagusta his nerves were on edge. It had all gone too easily. Ben Canaan and his gang of bandits had run circles around the British. The British were aware that something was happening but they could not for the life of them seem to find the outside workers. Mark marveled at the finesse and skill of Ben Canaan and the courage of the Palmachniks. The outfitting of the Exodus, the training of the children had gone off perfectly. It would indeed be the biggest thing of his career, but because he was part of it all he was very worried.
He reached Famagusta and parked beside the King George Hotel, which was much like the Dome in that it sat on a beach with terraces overlooking the water. He found Kitty at a table looking out at the sea.
“Hello, Mark,” she said, and smiled and kissed him on the cheek as he sat beside her.
He ordered drinks and lit a cigarette and one for Kitty. She was absolutely radiant. She seemed ten years younger than she had that first day in Kyrenia.
“I must say, you look the picture of happiness,” she said in deference to his sour expression.
The drinks arrived.
“Are you on pins and needles for the big moment?”
“Sure, why not?” he snapped.
Their eyes met over the tops of their glasses. Kitty set hers down quickly. “All right, Mr. Parker. You are all lit up like a road sign. You’d better start talking before you explode.”
“What’s the matter? You mad at me? You don’t like me any more?”
“For goodness’ sake, Mark. I didn’t think you were so thin skinned. I’ve been working very hard … besides, we agreed it would be best not to see too much of each other during the last two weeks, didn’t we?”
“My name is Mark Parker. We used to be friends. We used to talk things over.”
“I don’t know what you’re driving at.”
“Karen … Karen Clement Hansen. A little refugee girl from Denmark via Germany.”
“I don’t think there is anything to discuss …”
“I think there is.”
“She’s just a lovely child I happen to like. She is my friend and I am her friend.”
“You never could lie very well.”
“I don’t wish to talk about it!”
“You’re asking for trouble. The last time you ended up naked with a marine in bed. This time I think you’re going to have the strength to kill yourself.”
Her eyes dropped away from Mark’s glare. “Up to the past few weeks I’ve been so sane all my life,” she said.
“Are you trying to make up for it all at once?”
She put her hand on his. “It has been like being born all over again and it doesn’t make sense. She is such a remarkable girl, Mark.”
“What are you going to do when she goes on the Exodus! Are you going to follow her to Palestine?”
Kitty squashed out her cigarette and drank her cocktail. Her eyes narrowed in an expression that Mark knew. “What have you done?” he demanded.
“She isn’t going on the Exodus. That was my condition for going to work for Ari Ben Canaan.”
“You damned fool … you damned fool, Kitty.”
“Stop it!” she said. “Stop making something indecent out of this. I’ve been lonely and hungry for the kind of affection this girl has to give and I can give her the kind of understanding and companionship she needs.”
“You don’t want to be her companion. You want to be her mother.”
“And what if I do! There’s nothing wrong with that either.”
“Look … let’s stop yelling at each other … let’s calm down. I don’t know what you have figured out, but her father is probably alive. If he isn’t, she has a family in Denmark. Exhibition number three … that kid is poisoned like they poison all of them. She wants Palestine.”
Kitty’s face became drawn and her eyes showed a return of sadness and Mark was sorry.
“I was wrong not to let her go on the Exodus. I wanted to have her for a few months … to gain her complete confidence … to let her know how wonderful it would be to go to America. If I could be with her a few months I’d be sure of myself….”
“Kitty … Kitty … Kitty. She isn’t Sandra. You’ve been looking for Sandra from the moment the war ended. You were looking for her in Salonika in that orphanage. Maybe that’s why you had to take Ben Canaan’s challenge, because there were children at Caraolos and you thought one of them might be Sandra.”
“Please, Mark … no more.”
“All right. What do you want me to do?”
“Find out if her father is alive. If he isn’t, I want to adopt her and get her to the States.”
“I’ll do what I can,” he said. He spotted Ari Ben Canaan, dressed as Captain Caleb Moore, coming through to their terrace. Ari walked quickly to their table and sat down. The Palestinian was his usual cold expressionless self. The instant Kitty saw him, her face lit up.
“David just contacted me from Caraolos. Something has come up that requires my immediate attention. I think under the circumstances that you had better come with me,” he said to Kitty.
“What is it?” both Mark and Kitty said together.
“I don’t know exactly. The Landau boy, the one who does our forgeries. He is now Working on the transfer papers for getting the children out. He refuses to do any further work until he speaks to me.”
“What do you want me for?” Kitty asked. “Your friend, the little Danish girl Karen, is about the only person who can talk to him.”
Kitty turned pale.
“We must have those papers completed in the next thirty-six hours,” Ari said. “We may need you to talk to the boy through Karen.”
Kitty stumbled from her chair and followed Ari blindly. Mark shook his head sadly, and his troubled glance remained on the empty doorway for many moments.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: Karen stood in the classroom that was Palmach headquarters. She stared angrily at the boy with the soft face, blond hair, and sweet appearance. He was a little small for seventeen years and the softness was deceptive. A pair of icy blue eyes radiated torment, confusion, and hatred. He stood by a small alcove which held the papers and instruments he used for his forgeries. Karen walked up to him and shook a finger under his nose. “Dov! What have you gone and done?” He curled his lip and
grunted. “Stop growling at me like a dog,” she demanded. “I want to know what you have done.”
He blinked his eyes nervously. No use arguing with Karen when she was angry. “I told them I wanted to talk with Ben Canaan.” “Why?”
“See these papers? They are forgeries of British mimeographed forms. Ben Ami gave me a list of three hundred kids here in our compound to be listed on these sheets for transfer to the new camp at Larnaca. They aren’t going to the new camp. There’s a Mossad ship out there someplace. It’s going to Palestine.”
“What about it? You know we don’t question the Mossad or the Palmach.”
“This time I do. Our name isn’t listed. I’m not going to fix these papers unless they let us go too.”
“You’re not sure there is a ship. Even if there is and we don’t go they have their reasons. Both of us have work to do right here in Caraolos.”
“I don’t care whether they need me or not. They promised to get me to Palestine and I’m going.”
“Don’t you think we owe these Palmach boys something for all they’ve done for us? Don’t you have any loyalty at all?”
“Done for us, done for us. Don’t you know yet why they’re breaking their necks to smuggle Jews into Palestine? You really think they do it because they love us? They’re doing it because they need people to fight the Arabs.”
“And what about the Americans and all the others who aren’t fighting Arabs? Why are they helping us?”
“I’ll tell you why. They’re paying for their consciences. They feel guilty because they weren’t put into gas chambers.” Karen clenched her fists and her teeth and closed her eyes to keep herself from losing her temper. “Dov, Dov, Dov. Don’t you know anything but hate?” She started for the door.
He rushed over and blocked her exit. “You’re mad at me again,” he said. “Yes, I am.”
“You’re the only friend I’ve got, Karen.” “All you want to do is go to Palestine so you can join the terrorists and kill… .” She walked back into the room and sat down at a desk and sighed. Before her on the blackboard was this sentence chalked in block letters: the
BALFOUR DECLARATION OF 1917 IS THE BRITISH PROMISE OF A
Jewish homeland in Palestine. “I want to go to Palestine too,” she whispered. “I want to go so badly I could die. My father is waiting there for me … I know he is.”
“Go back to your tent and wait for me,” Dov said. “Ben Canaan will be here soon.”
Dov paced the room nervously for ten minutes after Karen had gone, working himself up to greater and greater anger. The door opened. The large frame of Ari Ben Canaan passed through the doorway. David Ben Ami and Kitty Fremont followed him. David closed the door and locked it.
Dov’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “I don’t want her in here,” he said.
“I do,” Ari answered. “Start talking.”
Dov blinked his eyes and hesitated. He knew he couldn’t budge Ben Canaan. He walked to the alcove and snatched up the mimeographed transfer sheets. “I think you have an Aliyah Bet ship coming into Cyprus and these three hundred kids are going on it.”
“That’s a good theory. Go on,” Ari said.
“We made a deal, Ben Canaan. I’m not fixing these papers for you unless I add my name and the name of Karen Clement to this list. Any questions?”
Ari glanced at Kitty out of the corner of his eyes.
“Has it occurred to you, Dov, that no one can do your work and that we need you here?” David Ben Ami said. “Has it occurred to you that both you and Karen have more value here than in Palestine?”
“Has it occurred to you that I don’t give a damn?” Dov answered.
Ari lowered his eyes to hide a smile. Dov was tough and smart and played the game rough. The concentration camps bred a mean lot.
“It looks like you’re holding the cards,” Ari said. “Put your name on the list.”
“What about Karen?”
“That wasn’t part of our deal.”
“I’m making a new deal.”
Ari walked up to him and said, “I don’t like that, Dov.” He towered over the boy threateningly.
Dov backed up. “You can beat me! I’ve been beaten by experts! You can kill me! I’m not afraid. Nothing you do can scare me after the Germans!”
“Stop reciting Zionist propaganda to me,” Ari said. “Go to your tent and wait there. We’ll give you an answer in ten minutes.”
Dov unlocked the door and ran out.
“The little bastard!” David said.
Ari nodded quickly for David to leave the room. The instant the door closed Kitty grabbed Ari by the shirt. “She , isn’t going on that ship! You swore it! She is not going on the Exodus!”
Ari grabbed her wrists. “I’m not even going to talk to you unless you get control of yourself. We’ve got too much to cope with without a hysterical woman.”
Kitty pulled her hands free with a fierce jerk.
“Now listen,” Ari said, “I didn’t dream this up. The finish of this thing is less than four days off. That boy has us by the throat and he knows it. We can’t move unless he fixes those papers.”
“Talk to him … promise anything, but keep Karen here!”
“I’d talk till I’m purple if I thought it would do any good.”
“Ben Canaan … please … he’ll compromise. He won’t insist on Karen’s going.”
Ari shook his head. “I’ve seen hundreds of kids like him. They haven’t left much in them that’s human. His only link with decency is Karen. You know as well as I do he’s going to be loyal to that girl. …” .
Kitty leaned against the blackboard where the words: the
BALFOUR DECLARATION OF 1917 IS THE BRITISH PROMISE …
were written. The chalk rubbed off on the shoulder of her dress. Ben Canaan was right; she knew it. Dov Landau was incorrigible but he did have a strange loyalty for Karen. Mark had been right. She had been a damned fool.
“There is only one way,” Ari said. “You go to that girl and tell her the way you feel about her. Tell her why you want her to stay on Cyprus.”
“I can’t,” Kitty whispered. “I can’t.” She looked up at Ben Canaan with a pathetic expression.
“I didn’t want anything like this to happen,” Ari said. “I am sorry, Kitty.” It was the first time he had ever called her Kitty.
“Take me back to Mark,” she said.
They walked into the hall. “Go to Dov,” Ari said to David. “Tell him that we agree to his terms.”
When Dov got the news he rushed over to Karen’s tent and burst in excitedly. “We are going to Palestine,” he cried.
“Oh dear,” was all that Karen could say. “Oh dear.”
“We must keep it quiet. You and I are the only ones among the children who know about it.”
“When do we go?”
“A few more days. Ben Canaan is bringing some trucks up. Everyone will be dressed like British soldiers. They’re going to pretend to be taking us to the new camp near Larnaca.”
They went out of the tent, hand in hand. Dov looked out over the sea of canvas as he and Karen walked in and out amone the acacia trees. Thev walked siowlv tnward the nlav—
ground, where Zev had a class of children practicing knife fighting.
Dov Landau walked on alone along the barbed-wire wall. He saw the British soldiers marching back and forth, back and forth. Down the long wall of barbed wire there was a tower and a machine gun and a searchlight.
When had he been outside of barbed wire? It was so very long ago it was hard to remember.
Barbed wire-guns-soldiers––Was there a real life beyond them? Dov stood there and looked. Could he remember that far back? It was so long ago-so very long ago––
WARSAW, POLAND, SUMMER 1939
Mendel Landau was a modest Warsaw baker. In comparison with Dr. Johann Clement he was at the opposite end of the world-socially, financially, intellectually. In fact, the two men would have had absolutely nothing in common except that they were both Jews.
As Jews, each man had to find his own answer to the relationship between himself and the world around him. Dr. Clement clung to the ideals of assimilation up to the very end. Although Mendel Landau was a humble man he had thought out” the problem, too, but had come to an entirely different conclusion.
Mendel Landau, unlike Clement, had been made to feel an intruder. For seven hundred years the Jews in Poland had been subjected to persecution of one kind or another, ranging from maltreatment to mass murder.
The Jews came to Poland originally to escape the persecution of the Crusaders. They fled to Poland from Germany, Austria, and Bohemia before the sword of “holy” purification.
Mendel Landau, like every Polish Jew, well knew what had followed the original flight of the Jews into Poland. They were accused of ritual murder and witchcraft and were loathed as business competitors.
An unbroken series of tribulations climaxed one Easter week when mobs ran through the streets dragging each Jew and his family from his home. Those who would not accept baptism were killed on the spot.
There was a Jew’s tax. Jews were forced to wear a yellow cloth badge to identify themselves as a race apart. A thousand and one statutes and laws aimed at suppressing the Jews stood on the books. The Jews were moved into ghettos and
walled in to keep them isolated from the society around them.
In these ghettos something strange happened. Instead of dying slowly, the faith and culture of the Jews deepened and their numbers multiplied. Sealed off forcibly as they were from the outside world, the Jews turned more and more to the laws of Moses for guidance, and these laws became a powerful binding force among them. Inside the ghetto they governed themselves and developed closer-knit family and community ties which continued even after the ghettos were outlawed.
For those who ruled Poland the ghetto was only part of the answer of how to deal with the Jews. Jews were prevented by law from owning land or belonging to dozens of trades and crafts in which they might offer significant economic competition.
The Jews, locked in their ghettos, made ready scapegoats for any Polish disaster. Periodically mobs, goaded by blind hatred and fed on fear, tore into the ghettos and killed and whipped the Jews and smashed their homes and belongings until Jew beating became an accepted, if not honorable, pastime of the Poles.
Four centuries of Jew baiting came to a climax in 1648. v During a Cossack uprising half a million Jews were slaughtered; the frenzy of the slaughterers was such that Jewish infants were often thrown into open pits and buried alive.
The Dark Ages, which came to an end in western Europe, seemed to linger on over the Polish ghettos. The enormous tragedy of 1648, together with hundreds of years of continuous persecution, created strange phenomena within the ghetto walls.
Throughout Jewish history, whenever events were black and hope all but vanished, a dozen or so self-styled “messiahs” would arise among the people and proclaim themselves their saviors. In this darkest of moments after the 1648 massacres a new group of “messiahs” stepped forward. Each claimed to have been sent in fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah. Each had a strong following.
With the messiahs came the Jewish mystics, a cult dedicated to finding Biblical explanations for the centuries of suffering. In their desperation for salvation the mystics concocted weird interpretations of the Bible based on mysticism, numerology, and just plain wishful thinking. They hoped through an involved system called the Cabala to find a way for God to lead them from the wilderness of death.
While the messiahs proclaimed themselves and the Cabalists looked for hidden meanings, a third sect arose in the ghettos: the Hasidim, who withdrew from the rigors of normal
life and lived only for study and prayer. By submerging themselves in prayer they managed to lift themselves from the pain of reality into religious ecstasy.
Messiahs-Cabalists-Hasidim-all born of desperation.
Mendel Landau knew all this. He also knew there had been periods of enlightenment when the burden eased and the laws relaxed. Poland’s own history was blood-marked. The Poles had struggled for freedom in a series of wars, revolutions, and plays of power. Parts of Poland’s borders were torn away, and there was always an invasion-or the threat of invasion. During these Polish struggles the Jews took up arms and fought alongside the Poles, placing the cause of the larger nation above their own.
Much of what Mendel Landau knew was now ancient history. It was 1939 and Poland was a republic. He and his family no longer lived in a ghetto. There were over three million Jews in the country and they formed a vital part of the national life.
The oppression had not stopped with the formation of a republic. It only varied in degree. There was still unequal taxation for the Jews. There was still economic strangulation. The Jews continued to be blamed by most Poles for causing floods when it rained and drought when it was dry.
The ghetto was gone, but to Mendel Landau anywhere he lived in Poland was a ghetto. It was a republic, indeed, but since 1936 Mendel Landau had seen pogroms; and anti-Jewish rioting in Brzesc, Czestochowa, Brzytyk, Minsk Ma-zowiecki; and he knew the snarl of the hoodlums who specialized in smashing Jewish shops and cutting Jewish beards.
And so Mendel Landau and Johann Clement came to different conclusions. After seven centuries in Poland, Mendel Landau was still an intruder and he knew it.
He was a simple and rather modest man. Leah, his wife, was the plainest of women, a hard-working and devoted mother and wife.
Mendel Landau wanted something to give his children as a heritage. He did not have the fervor of the Hasidim for prayer, nor did he believe in messiahs or in the numerology of the Cabala.
Mendel retained only a measure of faith in his religion. He kept the Jewish holidays as most Christians keep Easter and Christmas. He accepted the Bible for its historical value as a story of his people rather than as a basis for worship. And so he could not offer his children even a deeply rooted religion.
What Mendel Landau gave his children was an idea. It was remote and it was a dream and it was unrealistic. He gave his children the idea that the Jews must someday return to Palestine and re-establish their ancient state. Only as a nation could they ever find equality.
Mendel Landau worked hard as a baker. His world consisted of feeding a family and providing them with shelter, education, clothing, and love. He did not believe, in his wildest moments, that he would ever see Palestine, nor did he believe his children would ever see Palestine. But he did believe in the idea.
Mendel was not alone among the Polish Jews. Of Poland’s three and a half million Jews, there were hundreds of thousands who followed the same star, and from them spouted the wellspring of Zionism. There were religious Zionists, labor Zionists, small militant Zionist groups, and middle-class merchant Zionists.
Because he was a trade unionist, Mendel’s family belonged to a labor-Zionist group who called themselves the Redeemers. The entire social life of the Landaus revolved around the Redeemers. From time to time there were speakers from Palestine, there was recruiting work, there were books and pamphlets and discussions and songs and dances and endless hope to keep the idea alive. The Redeemers, like other Zionist groups, ran agricultural centers where boys and girls could be trained to work the land. And every so often the Redeemers sent a group to Palestine to cultivate newly purchased land.
There were six members of the Landau family. There were Mendel and his wife Leah. There was the oldest son, Mundek, who was a strapping boy of eighteen and a baker himself. Mundek was a natural leader and was a section head in the Redeemers. There were the two girls. Ruth, who was seventeen, was horribly shy as Leah had been. She was in love with Jan, who was also a leader of the Redeemers. Rebecca was fourteen, and there was little Dov, who was the baby of the family. He was ten and blond and wide-eyed and actually too young to be a member of the Redeemers. He idolized his big brother Mundek, who patronizingly allowed him to tag along, to meetings.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1939
After manufacturing a series of border incidents the Germans invaded Poland. Mendel Landau and his eldest son Mundek went into the army.
The German Wehrmacht ripped Poland to shreds in a campaign that lasted only twenty-six days. Mendel Landau was killed in battle along with more than thirty thousand other Jewish soldiers who wore the uniform of Poland.
The Landaus were not allowed the luxury of prolonged sorrow for this was a time of peril. Mundek returned from
the gallant but futile defense of Warsaw as head of the Landau family.
The same moment the Germans entered Warsaw, the Redeemers met to discuss a course of action. Most of Poland’s Jews, being more hopeful than realistic, felt nothing would happen to them and adopted a “wait and see” attitude. The Redeemers and other Zionist groups throughout Poland were not so naive. They were positive that grave danger lay ahead with Germans in occupation.
The Redeemers and many of the other Zionist groups decided to stay together and to take group action which would be binding on them all. Some groups chose to flee to the illusion of safety in the Soviet Union which had moved in to gobble up the eastern half of Poland when the Germans invaded. Other groups began an underground operation, and still others worked on the establishment of an “underground railway” for escape.
The Redeemers voted to remain in Warsaw and build up resistance inside the city and remain in contact with other Redeemer groups throughout’ Poland. Mundek was voted the military leader although he was not yet nineteen. Jan, Ruth’s secret love, was made Mundek’s second in command.
The moment the Germans established themselves in power and Hans Frank became governor, an immediate series of laws were levied against the Jews. Worship, forbidden; travel, limited; taxation, excessive. Jews were thrown out of public office, civil or elective. Jews were barred from bread lines. Jews were barred from public places. Jews were taken out of schools.
There was talk of a revival of the ghetto.
With the restrictive laws the Germans embarked upon a campaign of “enlightenment”’ for the Polish population, This campaign fostered the already prevalent opinion that the Jews had started the war; and the Germans claimed further that the Jews were responsible for the German invasion, which was designed to save Poland from “Jewish Bolsheviks.” Warsaw and the other cities were plastered with posters depicting bearded Jews violating nuns and other scenes of Jewish “depravity.” Beard cutting, profaning synagogues, and public indignities against the Jews were encouraged.
In Berlin the top Nazi officials wrestled with the “Jewish problem.” Several theories were advanced. Heydrich, the SD Chief, favored holding the Jews for ransom and then deporting them en masse. Schacht, the financial wizard, preferred a slow draining of the financial assets of the Jews. Many ideas were presented and discussed. An old plan of
shipping all the Jews to the island of Madagascar was revived for consideration. Others would have preferred to send, the Jews to Palestine, but the British blockade made that impossible.
SS Colonel Eichmann had long done “resettlement” work among the Jews. He had been born in Palestine and spoke fluent Hebrew and therefore seemed the most obvious man to be put in charge of the final solution of the Jewish problem. Headquarters were established at Kurfuerstenstrasse 46. The first thing that was apparent was that until a final solution was reached a mass resettlement program was called for. Most of the Nazis agreed that Poland was the natural place for resettlement. First, there were already three and a half million Jews in Poland. Second, they would encounter little or no public indignation as they would in western Europe.
Hans Frank, the German governor, objected to having more Jews dumped in Poland. He had tried to starve the Polish Jews and he had shot and hanged as many as he could. But Frank was overruled by the top planners in Berlin.
The Germans cast a dragnet all over Poland to catch the Jews. Raiding parties tore into villages and the smaller towns and rounded up the Jews at a moment’s notice. They were packed onto freight trains, often without-being able to take anything with them, and sent to the large population centers.
A few Jews learned of the roundups in advance and either fled or tried to buy their way into Christian homes. Very few Poles ran the risk of harboring a Jew. Others extorted every penny from the Jews and then turned them over to the Germans for a reward.
Once the Jews were “resettled,” an edict was issued ordering every Jew to wear a white arm band bearing a Star of David.
Poland wasn’t like Denmark. The Poles made no objection to the edict, and the Jews wore the arm band and the Star of David on their backs as well.
WARSAW, WINTER 1939
These were hard and bitter days for the Landau family. The death of Mendel Landau, renewed talk of reviving the ghetto, the resettlement program of the Germans, and the shortages made life very difficult.
One morning, early in 1940, there was a knock on the door of the Landau home. Polish Blue Police who worked with the Germans were outside. They abruptly informed Leah Landau that she had two hours to pack her belongings and move to another section of Warsaw which had been set aside for the Jews. There would be no compensation for the house and barely time to gather together what Leah had saved in over
twenty years of married life. The Landaus and all the rest of the Jews in Warsaw were resettled in an area in the center of the city near the main rail line.
Mundek and Jan moved quickly and were able to get an entire three-story building to serve as home and headquarters for over a hundred members of the Redeemers. The Landau family of five had a single room furnished with cots and a pair of chairs. The bathroom and kitchen were shared with ten other families.
The Jews were pressed into a tiny area that ran only twelve blocks in length from Jerozolimksa Street to the cemetery and was a bare six blocks wide. The Redeemers were situated in the Brushmakers’ district on Leszno Street. Leah had managed to hoard a few jewels and valuables which might be useful later, although there was no immediate financial need, for Mundek continued to work as a baker and the Redeemers’ pooled their food resources in a common kitchen.
Jews from the provinces poured into Warsaw. They came in long lines, carrying all they were allowed to take in sacks or wheelbarrows or pushcarts. They unloaded in trainload after trainload at the siding near the Jews’ quarters. The small area became packed. Jan’s family moved in with the Landau family. There were nine now in the single room. The romance between Ruth and Jan became an open secret.
The Germans had the Jews set up a council to govern their area, but it quickly became an instrument for carrying out German orders. Other Jews who felt it better to “go along” with the Germans joined a special Jewish police force. The population in the compressed area swelled to over half a million people.
At the end of 1940, one year after the conquest of Poland, the Germans put many thousands of Jews into forced-labor battalions. A brick wall ten feet high was built around the Jewish area in Warsaw. Barbed wire was strung atop the wall. The fifteen exits were guarded by Polish Blues and by Lithuanians. The ghetto had returned to Poland! Almost all traffic from the ghetto outside the wall ceased. Mundek, who had held a job on the outside, was now unemployed. Rations inside the ghetto were cut to a level that could barely feed half the population. The only families who seemed to stand a chance of obtaining food were those who held “labor” cards and worked in one of the dozen forced-labor battalions or industries.
The creation of the ghetto brought panic. Some Jews began to trade their fortunes for food and some tried to escape to Christian homes. But most escape attempts ended in death or betrayal from the other side of the wall. Life inside the wall gradually became a day-to-day struggle to stay alive.
Mundek Landau emerged as a leader. Because of his importance among the Redeemers he obtained a license from the Jewish Council to run one of the few ghetto bakeries. Thus, through a continuation of united action, his group managed to keep alive and fed.
All was not blackness inside the ghetto. A very fine symphony orchestra gave weekly concerts, schools ran on schedule, little-theater groups were formed. There was always a choice of debates and lectures. A ghetto newspaper was printed and ghetto money became a legal means of exchange. Secret religious services were held. The Redeemers played a major part in keeping these services and activities going. Although little Dov wanted to be more active in the Redeemers, the rest of the Landau family forced him to get as much schooling as he could.
Eighteen months after the invasion of Poland, the final decision for a solution of the Jewish problem was handed down by Adolf Hitler. The order was verbal. Six weeks later SD Chief Heydrich announced the Fuehrer’s decision at a secret conference of SS, SD, and other Nazi officials at Gross-Wannsee.
The final solution was genocide.
SS Colonel Eichmann, the resettlement expert, was put in charge of eradicating the Jews from the face of Europe.
Within a few months the Einsatzkommandos-Action Commandos-were mobilized into Einsatzgruppen-Special Action Groups-and they swept into Poland, the Baltics, and occupied Russian territory on their mission of genocide. The initial efforts of the Special Action Groups followed a pattern. They rounded up Jews, took them to an isolated area, and forced them to dig their own graves. They stripped them and forced them to kneel beside their graves and shot them in the head.
The climax of the activities of the Special Action Commandos took place in the Russian city of Kiev in a suburb called Babi Yar where thirty-three thousand Jews were rounded up and shot over immense pits in a period of two days.
The Einsatzgruppen had a great measure of success because there was no opposition from the local population, which, to some degree, shared the Germans’ feelings toward the Jews. The massacre of Babi Yar was carried out midst the cheers of many approving Ukrainians.
It became apparent that the methods of the Einsatzkommandos were not sufficient for the over-all plan of genocide. Shooting was slow and clumsy. Furthermore, the Jews were
not complying by starving to death in large enough numbers.
Eichmann, Paul Blobel, Himmler, Streicher, and dozens of other top Nazis worked out a huge master plan. The plan called for careful selection of secluded sites near railheads and population centers. Camps to be built on these sites would be designed by the best engineers at the lowest cost so that the executions could be carried out on an assembly-line basis.
Top personnel from old established concentration camps inside Germany would be promoted to take over the new establishments.
The Warsaw ghetto saw death in numbers that eclipsed even those in the pits at Babi Yar. People by the tens and hundreds and thousands starved or froze to death. Infants too weak to cry died by the hundreds, and old men died by the hundreds too weak to pray. Every morning the streets of the ghetto were strewn with new corpses. The sanitation teams walked through the streets with shovels and stacked the corpses onto pushcarts. Infants, children, women, men: piled up and wheeled off to the crematoriums to be burned.
Dov was now eleven years old. He quit school to prowl for food when Mundek’s bakery was closed. Even groups like the Redeemers were in dire straits. Dov learned the tricks of staying alive in a ghetto. He moved about, listened, and acted with the cunning of a wily animal. The Landau kettle was empty for long periods of time. When none of the family or the Redeemers could get together a meal Leah traded off a piece of her hoarded jewelry for food.
It was a long and a cruel winter. Once, when they had gone for five days without food, the Landaus finally had a meal, but Leah’s wedding band was missing from her hand. Then their fortunes took an upswing, for the Redeemers got hold of a horse. It was old and bony and forbidden by their religion as food, but it tasted wonderful.
Ruth was nineteen. When she married Jan that winter she was too thin to be really pretty. They spent their honeymoon in the single room they shared with the four other Landaus and three members of his family. But apparently the young couple was able to find some time alone somewhere, for in the springtime Ruth was pregnant.
One of Mundek’s major responsibilities as leader of the Redeemers was keeping contact with the outside. Money could be used to bribe the Polish Blue Guards and the Lithuanians, but Mundek reckoned that the money should be saved for more important things. He set out to establish routes in and out of the ghetto “under the wall” through the sewers. It was
dangerous to go into Warsaw, for Polish hoodlum gangs were constantly on the lookout for escaped Jews to extort or turn in for reward money.
The Redeemers had lost five members who had been caught beyond the wall. The last one, captured by hoodlums and turned over to the Gestapo and subsequently hanged, was Ruth’s husband, Jan.
Little Dov was wise to the ways of survival. He went to Mundek with the proposition that he be allowed to take up the job of courier through the sewers. Mundek would not hear of it at first but Dov persisted. His blond hair and blue eyes made him the least Jewish-looking of them all. He would be least suspect because of his age. Mundek knew that Dov was cagey and competent, but his heart would not let him let his younger brother do it. Then, when Mundek lost his sixth and seventh courier inside of a few days, he decided to let Dov have a try. Mundek reckoned that they all flirted with death each day anyhow. Leah understood and did not object.
Dov proved to be the best courier in the ghetto. He established a dozen alternate routes “under the wall.” He became at home in the fetid, slimy, putrid waters that ran beneath Warsaw. Each week Dov took that journey in the blackness through shoulder-high filth. Once “under the wall” he made his way to an apartment at Zabrowska 99 to a woman he knew only as Wanda. After a meal he would return to the sewer, carrying with him pistols, ammunition, money, radio parts, and news from other ghettos and from the partisans. When he wasn’t making his weekly trip Dov liked to stay at Redeemer headquarters where Mundek and Rebecca spent most of their time. Rebecca’s job was forging travel passes and passports. Dov liked to watch her and soon began working along with her. It was not long before it was discovered that Dov had a remarkable aptitude for copying and duplicating. His eye was sharp and his hand was steady, and at the age of twelve he was soon the best forger among the Redeemers.
LATE SPRING 1942
The Germans took a significant step toward the “final solution” of the Jewish problem by erecting several camps designed for the carrying out of mass exterminations. To handle the Jews from the Warsaw area, thirty-three acres were set aside in a place secluded from general view, called Treblinka. Two main buildings contained thirteen gas chambers. There were quarters here for workers and German personnel and there were enormous field plots for burning corpses. Treblinka, one of the first such camps, was a forerunner of more efficient models that followed.
July brought a day of mourning for all Jews. Those in the Warsaw ghetto and the other ghettos in Poland mourned perhaps more deeply than other Jews. It was the day of Tisha B’Ab, an annual Jewish holiday commemorating the destruction of the Temples by the Babylonians and Romans in Jerusalem. For the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman invaders nearly two thousand years before had signaled the end of the Jews as a nation. The Jews were thenceforth dispersed to the far corners of the earth. They were, from that day on, a Diaspora.
Tisha B’Ab 1942 coincided with major steps in the “final solution” of the Jewish problem.
As the Jews of Warsaw mourned both their ancient and present plight German patrols whisked into the ghetto and stopped before the building housing the Jewish Council. To all outward appearances the Germans seemed to be making another roundup for the forced-labor battalions. But this time something sinister was in the air. For the Germans wanted only old people and very yourig people. Panic swept through the ghetto as oldsters were herded in and the Germans sought out children, most of whom were torn from their mothers’ arms.
Those rounded up were gathered at the Umschlagplatz and then marched off to Stawki Street near the rail sidings, where a long line of freight cars stood in readiness. Dazed and shocked crowds gathered. Some frantic parents were kept separated from their children at gun point, and several times the Germans shot to kill.
The children were laughing and singing. The German guards had promised them a picnic in the country. This was an event! Many of them could hardly remember being outside the ghetto.
As the train rolled off toward Treblinka the “final solution” was at hand. Tisha B’Ab-1942.
Two weeks later Dov Landau came back from Wanda’s apartment at Zabrowska 99 with a shocking report. The report stated that those who had been rounded up on Tisha B’Ab and in five subsequent roundups had been sent off to death in gas chambers in a place called Treblinka. Further information from other ghettos around Poland reported the existence of other such camps: Belzec and Chelmno in the Cracow area, and Maidanek near the city of Lubin were in operation or being readied. It appeared, said the report, that a dozen more camps were under construction.
Mass murder in gas chambers? It did not seem possible! Mundek, as head of the Redeemers, met with half a dozen other Zionist groups in the ghetto and issued a joint decree
for everyone to stage an immediate uprising and break
through the wall.
The plea was emotional rather than practical. The Jews had nothing to fight with. Furthermore, everyone who held a card in a labor battalion had convinced himself that it was a passport to life.
The main reason that no uprising could be staged was that there was no support for it in Poland outside the ghetto. In France, the Vichy government had absolutely refused the Germans’ demands that French Jews be turned over to them. In Holland, the unanimous feeling of all the citizens was to hide their Jews. In Denmark, the King not only defied German edicts but the Danes evacuated their entire Jewish population to safety in Sweden.
If the Poles did not agree to the extermination of their Jews, they did not disagree. If they disagreed, they did nothing to show it. Only a very small minority of Polish people would shelter an escaped Jew.
Inside the ghetto, each different organized group of Jews embraced a different philosophy. The religious and the labor people argued. The conservatives and the left-wingers argued. Jews liked to argue. In ghetto life argument and debate had always been a great pastime. But now the time of greatest peril had come. Mundek’s Redeemers joined all the diversified groups in forming a unified command. The combined organizations carried the initials ZOB, and had the momentous task of saving the rest of the Jews in the ghetto.
Dov made one trip after another to Wanda’s apartment at Zabrowska 99. On each trip through the sewers he carried a message from ZOB to the Polish underground begging for help and for arms. Most of the messages were never answered. The few answers that were received were evasive.
Throughout that horrible summer while the Germans continued rounding up Jews for Treblinka the ZOB worked desperately to stave off total annihilation.
One day early in September, Dov had a particularly dangerous trip into Warsaw. After leaving Wanda’s he was spotted by four hooligans who chased him into a dead-end alley and demanded to see his papers proving he wasn’t a Jew. The boy had his back to the wall, and his tormentors closed in on him to pull off his pants to see the circumcision, the sure identification of a Jew. As they set to pounce, Dov took out a pistol he was carrying back to the ghetto and with it killed one of the hooligans and chased the others off. He darted away and soon found the safety of the sewer.
Back at Redeemer headquarters the boy broke down under delayed shock. Mundek tried to comfort him. Dov always felt warm and wonderful with his brother near. Mundek was
almost twenty-one now, but he was gaunt and always tired-looking. He had been a good leader and he worked beyond the limits of exhaustion. He had kept almost the entire Redeemer group intact and had never let their fighting spirit flag. The brothers talked quietly. Dov calmed down. Mun-dek put his arm around Dov’s shoulder and they walked from headquarters to their apartment. Mundek talked about Ruth’s baby, which was due in a few weeks, and how wonderful it was going to be for Dov to be an uncle. Of course, everyone in the Redeemers would be aunt and uncle to the baby but Dov would be the real one. Thefe had been many marriages in the group and there were already three babies-all new Redeemers. Ruth’s baby would be the finest of them all. Things were bright, Mundek told Dov, because they had found another horse and there would be a real feast. Dov’s trembling passed away. As they neared the top of the stairs Dov smiled at Mundek and told his brother that he loved him very much.
The instant they opened the door and saw the expression on Rebecca’s face they knew disaster had struck. Mundek finally got his sister coherent enough to talk.
“Mother and Ruth,” she cried. “They were taken out of the factory, Their work cards were invalidated and they were marched off to the Umschlagplatz.”
Dov wheeled around for the door. Mundek grabbed him. The boy screamed and kicked.
“Dov! Dov! There is nothing we can do!”
“Momma! Momma! I want to go to Momma!”
“Dov! Dov! We can’t look at her being taken away!”
Ruth, eight months pregnant, cheated the gas chambers of Treblinka. She died in the agony of childbirth and her baby died with her in a cattle car so packed it was impossible for her to lie down.
At Treblinka, SS Colonel Wirth, the commandant, was furious. There had been another breakdown in the mechanism at the main gas chambers and another trainload of Jews was en route from the Warsaw ghetto. Wirth had been proud that Treblinka had the best record for dispensing “special treatment” of all the camps in Poland. His engineers informed him that it would be impossible to get things into working order again before the train arrived from Warsaw.
To make matters worse, both SS Colonel Eichmann and Himmler himself were due on personal inspection tours. Wirth had planned to hold special gassings in their honor.
He was forced to round up all the old, obsolete gas vans he could find in the area and send them to the rail siding to meet the train. Generally the covered vans could accommodate only twenty people, but this was an emergency. By forcing the
victims to hold their hands over their heads the Germans could make space for another six or eight Jews. The Germans discovered that there were still several inches between the tops of the heads and the ceiling of the van. In this space they packed another eight or ten children.
Leah Landau was in a daze of grief over Ruth’s death as the train pulled to a siding near Treblinka. She and thirty others were taken from the cattle car and forced with whips, clubs, and dogs to get into one of the waiting vans and hold then-hands high. When the van held an absolute maximum the iron door was shut. The truck started into motion, and in a matter of seconds the iron cage was filled with carbon monoxide. Everyone inside the van was dead by the time the trucks entered Treblinka and halted before the open pits where the bodies were unloaded and the gold extracted from the victims’ mouths.
At least Leah Landau had cheated the Germans, for her gold teeth had been extracted long before and exchanged for food.
Winter was coming once again and the German roundups were becoming more and more frequent.
The entire ghetto moved into cellars, taking everything of value with them. The cellars expanded and some, like the Redeemers’, became elaborate bunkers. Dozens, then hundreds, of bunkers sprouted and connecting tunnels began to weave through the earth.
The sweeps of the Germans and their Polish Blues and Lithuanians netted fewer and fewer Jews for Treblinka.
The Germans became angered. The bunkers were so well concealed they were nearly impossible to locate. At last the commander of Warsaw himself entered the ghetto one day to speak to the leader of the Jewish Council. He was angry and demanded that the Jewish Council assist the Germans in speeding up the resettlement program by locating the cowards who hid from “honest labor.” For over three years the Jewish Council had been trapped and torn between carrying out German edicts on the one hand and trying to save their people on the other. Now, shortly after the German demand for assistance, the leader of the Jewish Council committed suicide.
It was winter in the ghetto again.
Mundek’s Redeemers were assigned to plan the defense of a section of the Brushmakers’ district. Dov spent his time either in the sewers or in the bunker forging travel passes. Actually his trips “under the wall” allowed him one or two decent meals a week at Wanda’s. On his trips out of the ghetto he now led old people or others unfit for combat. On his trips in he carried arms and radio parts.
During the winter of 1943 the death rate became appalling. Out of an original five hundred thousand who had been put into the ghetto, only fifty thousand were alive by the end of the year.
One day in mid-January, Mundek and Rebecca took Dov aside before he was scheduled to descend into the sewer on a trip to Wanda’s.
“It seems that we don’t have much of a chance just to sit around and talk these days,” Mundek said.
“Dov,” Rebecca said, “we all talked it over here and took a vote while you were in Warsaw the last time. We have decided that we want you to stay on the other side of the wall.”
“You have something special for me to do?” Dov asked.
“No … you don’t understand.”
“What do you mean?”
“We mean,” Rebecca said, “that we have decided to send certain members out to stay.”
Dov didn’t understand it. He knew the Redeemers needed him. No one in the entire ZOB knew the sewer routes as well as he did. If the ZOB was preparing to stage a defense then he would be more valuable than ever. Besides, the papers and travel passes he forged had helped get over a hundred people out of Poland. Dov looked at his sister and brother questioningly.
Rebecca pressed an envelope into Dov’s hands. “You have money there and papers. Stay with Wanda until she can find you a Christian family to live with.”
“You didn’t take a vote. This is your idea and Mundek’s. I won’t go.”
“You will go and that is an order,” Mundek said.
“It is not an order,” Dov answered.
“It is an order from me as head of the Landau family!”
The three of them stood in the tiny earthen room in one corner of the bunker. It was very quiet. “It is an order,” Mundek repeated.
Rebecca put her arms around Dov and stroked his blond hair. “You have grown up, Dov. We have not had much chance to spoil you, have we? I have watched you go into the sewers a hundred times and I have watched you bring us stolen food. We haven’t given you much of a boyhood.”
“It is not your fault.”
“Dov,” Mundek said. “Please don’t deny Rebecca and me this one thing we want. We have not given you much. You must let us try to give you your life.”
“Mundek, Rebecca. I don’t care as long as I am with you.”
“Please … please … understand us. One of the Landau family must live. We want you to live for us all.”
Dov looked at the brother he worshiped. Mundek’s eyes pleaded.
“I understand,” Dov whispered. “I will live.”
He looked at the package and slipped it into a canvas so that it wouldn’t get wet in the sewers. Rebecca crushed his head against her bosom. “We will meet in Eretz Israel,” she said.
“Yes … in the land of Israel.”
“You have been a good soldier, Dov,” Mundek said. “I am proud. Shalom, I’hitraot.”
“Shalom, I’hitraot,” Dov repeated.
Dov Landau spent his thirteenth birthday in the sewers beneath Warsaw wading to Wanda’s apartment with a heart so heavy it nearly broke. In another day and another world it would have been his bar mitzvah.
Three days after Dov left the ghetto for the temporary safety of Wanda’s apartment the Germans, Polish Blues, and Lithuanians converged on the ghetto. With only fifty thousand Jews left they began rounding up Jews for the final phase of the “final solution.”
The Germans and their cohorts ran into a hail of bullets from ZOB defensive positions. They fled, leaving heavy casualties.
The news spread through Warsaw like wildfire!
The Jews were staging an uprising!
That night every ear in Warsaw was tuned to the secret ZOB radio which repeated this appeal over and over and over again:
“Fellow -Poles! Today we struck a blow against tyranny! We ask all our brothers outside the ghetto to arise and strike against the enemy! Join us!”
The appeal fell on deaf ears. But from ZOB headquarters on Mila Street the flag of the Star of David was raised. Alongside it fluttered the flag of Poland. The Jews of the ghetto had chosen to fight to the death beneath a banner which had been denied them in life.
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: The Germans were chagrined at having been chased from the ghetto. Konrad, Gestapo chief of the ghetto security detail, reported to Hans Frank, the governor of Poland, that the matter would be cleared up in two or three days. The Polish people, who
had been told previously that the Jews were cowards, were
now told that the fighting had been the work of a few lunatics and sex deviates-the types who raped Polish girls.
ZOB assumed control of the ghetto and disposed of the Jewish Council. The fighters made a swift and merciless reprisal on all known collaborators and then moved into set defensive positions.
Hans Frank decided he would not play into ZOB’s hand by making an attack on the ghetto. The Germans decided to laugh1 off the attack and minimize it. They cut loose with a propaganda barrage and asked the people of the ghetto to come forth for voluntary resettlement and guaranteed they would be given decent treatment in exchange for “honest labor.”
ZOB issued an order informing the Jews remaining in the ghetto that they would be shot if they conformed with the German request. There would be no more evacuation.
After two weeks of quiet the Germans moved patrols in once again to round up Jews. This time they came heavily armed and moved with extreme caution. From carefully prepared positions the ZOB opened fire. Again the Germans fled beyond the wall.
The Germans decided to think it all over. Their press and radio were indignant over the Jewish Bolsheviks who were causing all the trouble. While the Germans wailed the ZOB tightened their defensive setups and desperately continued to plead for help from the Polish underground. They expanded their plea to the general public, but no arms came, no underground help came, and only a few dozen volunteers crossed into the ghetto “under the wall” to fight.
The German staff mapped one big crushing assault to wipe out the remains of the ghetto. The day they picked for the attack was the beginning of Passover, the Jewish holiday cele-. brated in commemoration of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt under the leadership of Moses.
At three o’clock in the morning, three thousand crack SS troops flanked with Polish Blues and Lithuanians threw a ring around the entire ghetto. Dozens of searchlights crisscrossed to pick out possible targets for German mortars and light artillery. The barrage lasted until daylight.
At dawn the SS launched their assault over the wall. Converging from several sides they penetrated deep into the heart of the ghetto without resistance.
From hidden barricades, from house tops, from windows, the ZOB-men and women-turned loose a barrage of small-arms fire at point-blank range against the trapped and surrounded Germans. For the third time the Germans scurried from the ghetto.
In blind fury the Germans came back into the ghetto with
tanks, and the tanks were met with a storm of gasoline-filled bottles which turned the iron monsters into flaming coffins. With the tanks disabled the German SS troops were forced to flee again; this time they left several hundred dead in the streets.
The ZOB fighters rushed out of hiding to take the German guns as well as their uniforms.
Konrad was dismissed and SS General Stroop was called in to take command. He was ordered to destroy the ghetto so thoroughly that no one would ever again dare challenge the power of the Nazis.
Stroop mounted attack after attack, day after day. Each new attack utilized a different strategy and hit from a different direction. Each attack and each patrol met the same fate. They were repulsed by the ZOB, whose members fought like madmen-house by house, room by room, step by step. They refused to be taken alive. Homemade land mines and booby traps, violent counterattacks, raw courage beat the Germans out of the ghetto every time they entered. Ten days passed and the Germans were desperate for a victory. They made a concerted attack on the ghetto’s lone hospital-entered, shot every patient, blew up the building, and claimed they had destroyed ZOB headquarters.
ZOB teams dressed in uniforms of German soldiers they had killed and used this device to trick, trap, and ambush their enemy. They crossed out of the ghetto time and time again to hit the Germans from the rear by raiding their arsenals.
The Germans continued their attacks and soon, by the sheer weight of their numbers and arms, made themselves felt. The ZOB could not replace a fallen fighter; once a defensive position was destroyed there was no choice but to retrench; they could not replace ammunition as fast as they were expending it. Still, with the power on their side, the Germans were unable to get a foothold inside the ghetto. ZOB began calling upon many of the Jews not in fighting units to escape into Warsaw, for there were not enough rifles to go around.
Wearing a captured uniform, Mundek led an attack on the Pawiak Prison and freed all the inmates.
The three-day cleanup Konrad had promised had stretched into two weeks. On the fifteenth day after the first German assault Rebecca Landau was fighting in a building in the Brushmakers’ district a few blocks from Redeemer headquarters. A direct mortar hit killed every defender but her. Under sustained mortar fire the walls of the building collapsed and she was forced into the street. As the Germans closed in on her and cut off all possibilities of retreat, she
reached beneath her dress and withdrew a hand grenade. Running at three Germans, she pulled the pin, and killed them and herself.
After three weeks Stroop was forced to change his tactics. He had drawn heavy casualties and the Nazis were unable to cover up the valiant action of the Jews with propaganda. Stroop pulled his troops back, reinforced the ring of men and armor surrounding the ghetto, and declared a state of siege. He brought in heavy artillery which blasted into the ghetto at near point-blank range in a determined effort to knock down all the buildings which the Jews had used so well as defensive positions. By night Heinkel bombers saturated the ghetto area with incendiary bombs.
Mundek returned to the Redeemer bunker after a staff meeting at ZOB headquarters. He and his fighters were half dead with exhaustion, hunger, and thirst. Many were badly burned. They gathered around him.
“German artillery has knocked down just about every building. What is standing is burning,” he said.
“Have we been able to establish contact with the underground?”
“Oh yes … we’ve made contact, but they aren’t going to help us. We cannot expect any more food, ammunition, or water than what we have on hand. Our communications are about ruined. In short, my friends, we can no longer fight according to a fixed plan. Each bunker is on its own. We will try to keep contact with ZOB through runners, but we will each plan and execute our own ambushes and encounters with the Germans when they come back.”
“How long can we hold out like this, Mundek? We have only thirty people left and ten pistols and six rifles.”
Mundek smiled. “All of Poland held out for only twenty-six days. We have done that well already.” Mundek assigned his guards, rationed what little food was left, and mapped out a dawn patrol.
Ryfka, one of the girls, picked up a battered accordion and began playing a soft, slow tune. In that dank and slimy bunker ten feet beneath the earth the remaining Redeemers sang in a strange and wistful blend of voices. They sang a song that they had learned as children ax Redeemer meetings. The song told them that the land in Galilee in Eretz Israel was beautiful and that wheat grew in the fields and the grain bent softly in the wind. In a bunker in the Warsaw ghetto they sang of the fields of Galilee that they knew they would never see.
“Alert!” a sentry called down as he spotted a lone figure weaving in and out of the flames and rubble. The lights went out and the bunker became black and
silent. There was a knock in code. The door opened and closed and the lights were turned on again.
“Dov! For God’s sake! What are you doing here?”
“Don’t send me away again, Mundek!”
The two brothers embraced and Dov wept. It felt good to have Mundek’s arms around him again. Everyone gathered about Dov as he relayed the final tragic news that the Polish underground definitely would not come in and that everyone else on the outside was being very quiet about the uprising.
“When I came back,” Dov said, “the sewers were filled with people just lying in the muck. They are too weak to stand up. They have no place to go. No one wants them in Warsaw.”
And so little Dov returned to the ghetto and a very strange thing happened. All over Warsaw and the surrounding countryside Jews who had managed to escape and live as Christians were beginning to return to the ghetto for the last-ditch stand. They had concluded that it was a privilege to be able to die with dignity.
At last the furious bombardment stopped.
The fires went out.
Stroop moved his SS troops in once again, but this time they held all the cards. The Jews had no defensive positions or communications or fixed plans and almost no food, water, or arms. The Germans worked systematically, cutting off one section at a time and cleaning out bunkers one by one with cannon fire and flame throwers until the section was completely destroyed.
They tried hard to capture prisoners to torture into revealing the exact location of the bunkers, but the ZOB fighters preferred to burn alive rather than surrender.
They threw open the sewer lids and pumped the sewers full of poison gas, and soon the slimy waters were filled with bodies.
Still the ZOB fought on. They lashed out of their bunkers on swift and deadly raids when they could find a German patrol. Suicide squads hurled themselves into certain death. German casualties mounted until the number was in the thousands.
Stroop pressed on relentlessly. When the Jews became ineffective as a fighting force they kept going on instinct alone.
On May 14, Mundek held a meeting of the remaining twelve Redeemers in his group. He gave them two choices. One was to remain and fight to the last man. The second was to try the sewers where Dov might be able to lead them to safety and a remote chance of reaching a partisan unit.
Dov convinced Mundek he could work around the areas of the sewers that were being gassed.
He made his way in “under the wall,” but as he approached Zabrowska 99 instinct told him something was wrong. He walked straight past the building. His sharp eye picked out a dozen men who were watching Zabrowska 99 from various vantage points. Dov did not know whether or not Wanda had been taken by the Gestapo but he did know the place was unsafe.
It was late at night when he returned to the ghetto. It was difficult even for him to locate the bunker, for there were no streets or buildings left, only rubble. As he approached he smelled the now familiar odor of burning flesh. He went beneath the ground and lit a candle he always carried in the sewer. Its flickering light bounced off the walls. Dov walked from one end of the bunker to the other and knelt low with his candle each time he came to a body. Direct hits from the flame thrower had charred the still smoking bodies so badly he could not identify them. Dov Landau wondered which of the burned corpses was his beloved brother, Mundek.
May 15, 1943. ZOB radio broadcast its last message: “This is the voice of the Warsaw ghetto! For God’s sake, help us!”
May 16, 1943. Forty-two days had passed since the Germans had made their first attack. Four months had passed since the ZOB arose and chased the Germans out. As a last gesture SS General Stroop dynamited the Great Synagogue on Tlamatzka Street. It had long been the symbol of Judaism in Poland. As the Temple of Solomon once fell to the Romans, so had the Tlamatzka Synagogue fallen. The Germans announced that the problem of the Warsaw ghetto had reached its final solution.
The devastation had been absolute. Nothing stood in the entire area above a man’s eye level. Stroop announced the capture of sixteen pistols and four rifles. Further, that the ruins of the buildings would make good material. There were no prisoners.
Even in this most meticulous of massacres there were ZOB fighters who refused to die. Even in the rubble the battle went on. The Jews who had somehow survived began to find each other, and in twos and threes they formed “rat packs” and attacked German patrols by night. The Germans and the Polish Blues swore the ghetto was haunted by ghosts.
Dov found six other Jews. They went from bunker to bunker until they were all armed. They moved from place to place but the stench and the sight of death was everywhere. At night Dov led them through the sewers “under the wall” where they made quick raids on food stores.
The Jews were rebelling in a dozen other places around Poland, but their risings all met with the same fate. Too little, too late, no support.
During all the daylight hours Dov and the six others remained below ground in a newly carved-out bunker. For five long and harrowing months neither Dov Landau nor any of his comrades saw the light of day. One by one they died -three on one raid in Warsaw, two by suicide, one of starvation.
Dov was the last one alive. At the end of the fifth month a German patrol found him close to death. His appearance was not even that of a human being. He was revived sufficiently to be dragged to Gestapo headquarters for questionings, which always ended in beatings. The Gestapo could get nothing from him. Dov Landau, age thirteen, ghetto rat, sewer rat, rubble rat, and expert forger, was marked for resettlement. Destination: Auschwitz!
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: Dov Landau was put into an open gondola car with sixty other Jews. The Gestapo refused to believe that he had stayed alive without outside help for five months in the rubble of the Warsaw ghetto. The train moved southward over the icy countryside in the dead of winter toward Auschwitz.
BERLIN, GERMANY, 1940
SS Lieutenant Colonel Karl Hoess entered the office of SS Colonel Eichmann, who had been given the task of carrying out the final solution of the Jewish problem. Eichmann showed Hoess the master plan which was the culmination of the combined brainwork of all the top Nazi officials.
The entire continent of Europe was interlaced with concentration camps and political prisons. Every occupied country was well saturated with Gestapo establishments.
Another network of three hundred “combination” camps spanned Europe. Half of them were reserved for Jews.
SS Lieutenant Colonel Karl Hoess was impressed with the intricate planning that went into genocide.
Despite all these camps and their carefully chosen locations, the blueprinters felt they were going to run into a special problem, and this was why Hoess had been called to Berlin. The Nazis knew they would have tremendous difficulty trying to run extermination camps in western Europe. Furthermore, Poland was more or less centrally located in relation to the Balkans and western Europe. A final, major camp was needed, one that would serve as a “master model.” In addition to Jews to dispose of there were Russian, French, and
other prisoners of war, partisans, political enemies in occupied countries, religious fanatics, especially Christians of the Catholic faith, gypsies, criminals, Freemasons, Marxists, Bolsheviks, and Germans who talked peace, liberalism, trade unionism, or defeatism. There were suspected foreign agents, prostitutes, homosexuals, and many other undesirable elements. All these had to be eliminated to make Europe a fit place for Aryans to live.
Such a camp as Eichmann spoke of would handle all these people. Eichmann informed Hoess that he was to be rewarded for his years of faithful service as a Nazi by being given command of the new camp. Eichmann pointed on the map to a small Polish town near the Czech border. A town called Auschwitz.
The train bearing Dov Landau and heading south for Auschwitz rolled to a stop at Cracow, a rail center. At a siding on the outskirts many more cars were joined to the train. There were cattle cars holding Jews from France and Greece and coal cars holding Jews from Yugoslavia and Holland and there were open gondolas holding Jews from Italy for resettlement. It was bitter cold. The biting wind and the snow whipped through Dov in the open gondola and all that pro-j tected him against it was his torn shirt and some little warmth ‘ of bodies packed together.
BERLIN, GERMANY, 1940-41
When the Nazis selected Hoess to command the camp at Auschwitz, the major clearing house and extermination factory, they knew well the caliber of the man they had. Hoess had had a long career in the concentration-camp system beginning way back in 1934 when Hitler first rose to power. More recently he had been second in command of the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen. Hoess was a meticulous man and systematic and he carried out orders without questioning them. Furthermore, he was not bothered by hard work.
Twenty thousand acres of land were cleared of farms and villages in the Auschwitz area and fenced off. The best construction men, engineers, scientists, and transportation experts and the best of the elite storm troopers went to work on the massive project. An area called Birkenau, two miles from the main Auschwitz camp, was selected as the site of the gas chambers. Birkenau was well secluded and had its own rail sidings. The site was picked because of its accessibility by rail from western Europe, eastern Europe, and southern Europe. The little town of Auschwitz was completely undistinguished and lay in a basin of eternal mud at the entrance to the Silesian mining district. In erecting the camp system the Nazis had to overcome a major objection from their own colleagues.
The German Army needed all the railroads and rolling stock it could get its hands on to execute a war on the eastern front. They did not like this nonsense of using valuable rail space to cart Jews all over Europe. The Nazis were just as adamant that the final solution of the Jewish question was as important as running the war. The question was taken to Hitler, who sided with the SS, SD, Gestapo, and other Nazi elements against the German Army High Command.
Hoess assumed command of Auschwitz and traveled to Treblinka to study the methods of extermination. He concluded that Treblinka’s commander, SS Colonel Wirth, was a clumsy amateur and said’ as much. The executions at Treblinka were carried out with carbon monoxide, which was inefficient; the machinery was always breaking down and it used up valuable petrol. Furthermore, Wirth was not systematic and he did not use any measure of deception, so that there were constant rebellions on the part of the Jews. Finally, Hoess felt, Treblinka had been poorly designed if only three hundred people could be executed at one time.
When the chambers of Birkenau were opened at Auschwitz, Hoess conducted extensive tests on the first “guests.” He and his scientists concluded that Cyklon B, a crude prus-sic acid gas, did the job the best. He ordered huge quantities of it from the International Insecticide Company in Hamburg.
The Birkenau chambers were designed to hold three thousand people at one time, and with utmost efficiency ten thousand people a day could be exterminated, depending on weather conditions.
The train bearing Dov Landau was now nearly fifty cars long. It stopped at the town of Chrzanow, the last before Auschwitz. One out of five persons on the train was already dead. Other hundreds were frozen to the sides of the cars and unable to move without tearing off the flesh of arms or legs. Many women threw their children over the rail beds and screamed to the curious onlooking peasants to take them and hide them. The dead were removed and stacked in six new cars added on at the end of the train. Dov, though in very bad condition, was keen and alert. He knew exactly what to expect, and he knew that if he ever used his wits he must use them now. The train rolled on again. Auschwitz was an hour away.
Hoess worked to perfect the operation at Birkenau. First he worked out a system of deception that would keep the victims calm to the very end. Lovely trees, lawns, and flower beds were planted around the buildings which hpused the gas chambers. There were signs everywhere in many languages which read: sanitation center. The main deception used was that the victims were going to be inspected and given a delousing shower before being issued new clothing and sent to labor camps at or around Auschwitz.
Under and around the gas chambers neatly laid-out dressing rooms had been built. There were pegs with numbers for hanging clothing. Everyone was told to “remember his number.” Hair was cut for “delousing” and the victims were requested to remove their eyeglasses before entering the sanitation “shower.”
Everyone was issued a bar of soap with a number on it. They were marched naked, three thousand at a time, down long corridors. A dozen mammoth doors ran along the corridors. The doors opened, revealing enormous “shower rooms.” |
Most of the guests were too numb to realize quite what was happening and entered the shower rooms quietly. Some began to examine the bar of soap and found it was made of stone. Others discovered the shower heads on the ceiling were fake and that there was no drainage for water.
Often a last-minute panic broke out but the Germans were ready now with storm troopers who clubbed and whipped the reluctant into the “shower rooms.” The iron doors were bolted shut.
A can or two of Cyklon B was dropped into each “shower room” and it was all over in ten or fifteen minutes.
Then came the Sonderkommandos. These were cleanup squads of inmates from Auschwitz. They emptied the gas chambers and removed the corpses to the crematoriums. Gold teeth were pulled and rings taken before the burnings. These would be melted down and sent to Berlin. Often a well-shaped skull would be taken for sale to the German guards as paperweights.
Little attention was given to pictures of families or love letters that were found in the clothing. The troopers were most interested in searching through the linings where jewelry was often hidden. Often an infant was found hidden in the clothes and designated for the next “shower.”
Hoess was good to his troops. They worked hard when a large trainload came to Birkenau and were rewarded with extra rations and schnapps. His system worked with great
efficiency and he never seemed fazed. He did not even get upset when Colonel Eichmann unloaded a quarter of a million Hungarian Jews on him practically without warning.
Hoess pressed his scientists and engineers for greater efficiency and lower costs. His architects had blueprinted elaborate expansion plans. One was for a gas chamber with a floor that could be lifted hydraulically like an elevator to another level where the crematorium was situated. Other plans were designed to increase the Birkenau capacity to forty thousand executions a day.
The greatest bottleneck at Birkenau was the disposal of corpses. At first they were taken directly from the gas chambers to open fields and buried in pits and covered with lime. The stench became unbearable. The SS troops forced the Jewish Sonderkommandos to dig up all the pits and burn bodies, then crush the bones. Again, open field burning proved too foul-smelling, so inside crematoriums had to be constructed.
The train bearing Dov Landau passed through Auschwitz and came to a halt at the siding at Birkenau.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: Dov was half dead with hunger and blue with cold, but his years of constant contact with danger and death had sharpened his instincts so that even in this state he was alert to survive. Dov knew that the next hour would spell life or death.
The doors of the cattle and freight cars were opened and those like him in open cars were ordered over the top with harsh guttural commands. The miserable victims dragged themselves onto a long platform and faced a line of storm troopers who stood in readiness with clubs, whips, pistols, and vicious dogs straining at their leashes. The whips cracked out in the cold air and brought screams of pain. The truncheons thudded against skulls, and pistols shot into the bodies of those too weak to walk.
A line was formed, four abreast down the length of the platform, and directed toward a huge station room. The line pressed to the room at a slow but steady pace.
Dov looked around him. To his left were the trains. Beyond the trains on the road outside the station room he could observe a line of waiting trucks. The trucks were not enclosed so they could not be gas vans, Dov assumed. To his right, past the line of guards, Dov could see the neatly groomed lawns and trees around the brick gas chambers of Birkenau.
He studied the shapes of the buildings and their conelike chimneys and he knew the area to his right held extermination chambers.
The line pressed on. A nausea born of fear racked him. A man staggered and fell, unable to arise. Two snarling dogs were turned loose and ripped the man to pieces. His shrieks set Dov to trembling. He fought to gain control; he knew that he must show no fear.
His line moved into the station room. The large line was split into four single lines, and each line moved toward a desk set up at the far end of the room. A German doctor sat behind each desk, and around each doctor stood a dozen guards and assistants. Dov fixed his attention on the desk ahead of him to try to find out what was happening.
The doctor quickly looked over every person as he or she stepped to the desk. The doctor would then order the person to go off in one of three directions.
The first way was out an exit on the right side of the room. Dov began counting; seven out of ten people were sent out that way. These people were old or children or appeared in bad condition. Since he assumed the buildings on the right were gas chambers, he came to the conclusion that those being sent out the right exit were going to be put to death immediately.
The second way was out an exit on the left side of the room. This exit led to the outside where the line of trucks was waiting. About two out of ten went that way and all of them appeared fit and well. Dov assumed they were being sent to the labor camp.
The right door meant death and the left door meant life! There was also a third group. These people, one in ten or even more, were mostly young women, some quite beautiful. A few teenage boys were ordered to join this group. Dov was certain the girls would be used as German field whores and the boys for homosexual activities with the German officers.
He drew in a dozen deep breaths as his line inched forward. He was a pack of bones and he knew he didn’t stand much of a chance of being sent through the left exit to the labor camp.
In the next line a woman screamed and half a dozen guards converged on her and flung her to the ground and ripped away her skirts. The woman had been trying to hide an infant.
“Right… right… right… right…” the doctor kept ordering the victims.
Dov Landau stopped before the desk.
The doctor looked up and glanced at him. “Go to that exit on the right,” he said.
Dov smiled softly. “You are making a mistake, Doctor,” Dov said with infinite calm. “I am an expert forger and counterfeiter. Write your name down on that piece of paper and I’ll show you.”
The doctor sat back, stunned. Dov’s coolness impressed him, for he obviously knew what awaited him. The youngster had put a sudden halt to the monotonous death march. The doctor caught his bearings and a smirk crossed his lips. Two guards grabbed Dov and began to drag him away.
“Wait!” the doctor commanded. He looked at Dov again and ordered him to turn around. For a second he became tired of the foolishness. The boy was making a clever bluff. He was about to order him out of the right exit, but his curiosity got the better of him. The doctor scribbled his name on a pad.
Dov wrote out six duplications of the signature and returned the pad. “Which one of those did you write?” Dov asked.
Half a dozen guards peeked over the doctor’s shoulder and stared in amazement. The doctor looked at Dov again and then whispered to a guard who walked off.
“Stand over here to one side,” the doctor snapped.
Dov stood by the desk and watched the line of people move toward him. He looked at them being condemned at the rate of four a minute.
Dov looked into the eyes of the guards and he looked at their truncheons and at the snarling dogs. He glanced at the right-hand exit and whistled a shaky tune half beneath his breath.
Five minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. The line coming in from the platform seemed never to end.
The guard returned with another man who was obviously a high-ranking officer, Dov thought, for his chest was filled with medals. The doctor handed the pad of signatures to the officer, who studied it for a full minute.
“Where did you learn this?” the officer snapped.
“In the ghetto at Warsaw.”
“What kind of work do you do?”
“Passports, travel cards, any kind of paper. I can duplicate anything.”
Dov passed through the left-hand door. As he got into the car and drove off toward Auschwitz a Main he seemed to remember Mundek’s words: “One of the Landaus must live through this.” In a few moments the car passed through the
main gate of Auschwitz. The sign over the entrance of the camp read: labor liberates.
The main compound was set in an area that wallowed in mud. There was acre after acre of frame wooden barracks which were isolated from each other by high walls of electrified barbed wire.
These acres of barracks fed manpower into some thirty subsidiary slave-labor camps. Each inmate wore a black and white striped uniform and an identification color on his arm and left breast. A pink badge was worn by homosexuals, a black badge by field whores, a green badge by criminals, violet badges for clergymen, red for Russians and Poles, and the traditional Star of David for the Jews.
Dov received another badge at Auschwitz. It was a tattooed number on his left forearm. Dov Landau was now a black and white striped Jew number 359195.
labor liberates. Dov Landau celebrated his fourteenth birthday in Auschwitz and his gift had been his life. He was quite fortunate for of all the tens of thousands of prisoners at Auschwitz, Dov’s small group of forgers were among the elite. His particular section was given the task of engraving and printing counterfeit United States one-and five-dollar bills for use by German agents in western countries.
After a short time at Auschwitz Dov wondered if it would not have been better to have died at Birkenau.
Here the inmates were underfed, worked into living skeletons, and stacked on shelves for their five hours’ sleep a night. Disease ran wild. Prisoners were tortured, driven insane, beaten, and degraded, and every known atrocity conceived by man was committed.
Here each morning found dozens of inmates who had hanged themselves by their own belts or thrown themselves on the quick mercy of the electric wire. The flogging blocks were in constant use and naked buttocks were lashed in public at roll calls.
Here the penal colony lived in single black cells and were fed only oversalted vegetables to induce unquenchable thirst.
Here in Block X, Nazi doctors Wirthe, Schumann and Clau-berg kept the human raw material for their pseudo-scientific experiments. Polish prisoner Dr. Wladislaw Dering performed castrations and ovarectomies ordered by his German masters as part of their insane program to find a way to sterilize the entire Jewish race.
This was Auschwitz and this was Dov Landau’s gift of life.
“One of the Landaus must live through this,” Mundek had said. What did Mundek look like? He could hardly remember. Or Ruth or Rebecca or his mother and father? He could not
remember his father at all. The memories grew hazier and hazier until he could remember nothing but death and terror and he did not know that there was a life where death and terror did not exist.
A year passed. The trains came in and out of Birkenau. The deaths at the labor camps around Auschwitz from torture and disease and hunger were nearly as appalling as those at Birkenau. Somehow he managed to cling to his sanity and that animal instinct to survive.
Even in this blackest of pits there were some rays of hope. There was the prison orchestra. There was a flourishing underground and they had a radio receiver. Even here a man could find a way to get to a woman. SUMMER 1944
There was a strange new stirring throughout Auschwitz. Dov could often look into the sky and see Russian bombers, and the secret radio began reporting German defeats. Hope, however dim, found its way through the muck and torture. Each new Allied victory sent the German guards into a murderous frenzy until the prisoners almost dreaded word of German defeats. At Birkenau activity speeded up until the gas chambers were in operation almost around the elock. AUTUMN 1944
The feeling now was that Germany was going to lose the war. They were being beaten on all fronts. But as they lost on the battlefield the appetite for extermination grew. Colonel Eichmann threw every possible resource into finishing his mission of genocide. OCTOBER 1944
The Sonderkommandos at Birkenau staged a wild uprising in which one of the crematoriums was blown up. Each day in new uprisings the Sonderkommandos snatched SS guards and their dogs and threw them into the crematoriums. At last every Sonderkommando was executed and a call went out for a new group from Auschwitz.
His back to the wall, Eichmann made a final gesture. Twenty thousand Jews, the cream of Jewry, who had been under guaranteed protection at the Czech camp of Theresienstadt, were ordered transferred to Birkenau for extermination.
The Jewish death toll at Birkenau mounted and mounted until the count reached nearly a million Poles, fifty thousand Germans, a hundred thousand Dutch, a hundred and fifty thousand French, fifty thousand Austrians and Czechs, fifty thousand Greeks, two hundred and fifty thousand Bulgarians, Italians, Yugoslavs, and Rumanians, and another quarter of a million Hungarians.
Each day during the macabre race for total annihilation came a call for more and more Sonderkommandos.
The counterfeit shop was abruptly closed down in Auschwitz and everyone was sent to Birkenau to work as Sonderkommandos.
It was Dov’s new job to wait in the corridor of the gas chambers until a gassing was over. He and other Sonderkommandos stood by until the shrieks of agony and the frantic pounding on the iron doors stopped. They waited another fifteen minutes for the gas to clear. Then the doors of the gas chambers would be opened. Dov had to go to work with ropes and hooks to untangle the hideous tangle of arms and legs and drag them out for reshipment to the crematorium. After the bodies were removed he had to enter the chamber and hose it down and get the room ready for the next batch of victims who were already in the dressing rooms, being prepared.
For three days Dov worked at this gory task. Every ounce of his strength was sapped, and now that stubborn, defiant will to live that had carried him through seemed to fade. He dreaded that instant when the iron chamber door opened and he was face to face with the tangle of corpses. He dreaded it worse than the thought of the ghetto or the sewers. He knew he would not be able to stand to see that horrible sight much more often.
Then a startling thing happened!
The Germans ordered the crematorium ovens dismantled and the gas chambers blown up! The Allies were advancing from the west and the Russians were coining from the east. Now the Nazis made frantic efforts to cover up their crimes. Pits of bodies were exhumed all over Poland and the bones crushed and scattered. Desperately needed transportation was used to get the Jews inside Germany.
JANUARY 22, 1945
The Russian Army entered Auschwitz and Birkenau and liberated them. The orgy of murder was over. Dov Landau, aged fifteen, was one of fifty thousand Polish Jews who had kept alive out of three and a half million. He had kept his promise to his brother.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: The Russian army physicians who examined Dov were astonished that he had been able to live through the years of privation and punishment with-142
out incurring permanent damage. He was weak and undersized and he would never have great stamina but with proper care he could be brought up to reasonable condition.
The injury to his mind was something else. The boy had been kept alive by an indomitable spirit. Now that he could relax after six years of constant strain a flood of memories surged through his brain day and night. He became morose and slipped into melancholia and his mental state approached the thin borderline that separates the sane from the insane.
The barbed wire was torn down and the chambers and the ovens were gone but the memories would never leave him. And the* frightful smell seemed always to hang over him. As he looked at his arm with the blue tattooed number he relived that grotesque second when the doors of the gas chamber were flung open. Time and time and time again he saw his mother and his sister Ruth being removed from such a chamber at Treblinka. Time and time again he held that flickering candle close to the smoldering bodies in the bunker in the Warsaw ghetto and wondered which one was Mundek. Over and over again he saw the skulls the Germans used as paperweights as his mother and his sister.
The Jews remaining at Auschwitz huddled together in several barracks. Dov could not comprehend that there was a world of the living without depravity and torture. A world of food and warmth and love was beyond him. Even the news of the German surrender brought no scenes of joy at Auschwitz, for there was no joy in victory.
Dov Landau’s memories festered into hate. He was sorry the gas chambers were gone for he could visualize lines and lines of German SS troopers and their dogs being marched into them.
The war was over but no one quite knew what to do or where to go. Warsaw? It was a hundred and sixty miles away and the roads were clogged with refugees. Even if he got to Warsaw, what then? The ghetto was rubble and his mother and father and sisters and Mundek were all gone-all of them were dead. Day after day Dov sat by the window without speaking a word. He stared out at the eternal pall that clung to the Silesian countryside.
One by one the Jews at Auschwitz ventured out to return to their homes. One by one they came back to Auschwitz with a final crushing disillusion. The Germans were gone but the Poles were carrying on for them. There were no cries of Poles for three and a half million murdered. Instead the cities were covered with posters and the people screamed, “The Jews brought this war on us … the war was started so that Jews could make a profit … the Jews
are the cause of all our troubles!” There were no tears for the dead but there was plenty of hatred for the few survivors. They smashed Jewish shops and beat up Jews who tried to return to their homes and property.
And so-those who ventured out of Auschwitz came back. They sat in the muck-filled compounds, shattered, half mad, and tragically waited to rot together. The memory of death never left them. The smell from Birkenau was always there.
A man walked into Auschwitz and was greeted with suspicious snarls. This man was in his early twenties. He was husky and had a big black mustache and wore a snow-white shirt with the sleeves rolled up above the elbows. He walked with a wonderful step that seemed to tell everyone that he was a free man. An assembly was called on the grounds and they gathered about him.
“My name is Bar Dror, Shimshon Bar Dror,” he called out. “I have been sent from Palestine to take you people … home!”
For the first time in the memory of many there was an outburst of happiness and tears of joy. Bar Dror was mobbed with a million questions. Many fell on their knees and kissed his hands and others just wanted to touch him, to hear him, and to see him. A free Jew-from Palestine! Shimshon Bar Dror-Samson, Son of Freedom-had come to take them home!
Bar Dror took charge of the compound with a vengeance. He told them that it would be some time before they could move out, but until the Mossad Aliyah Bet found a way for them they would do better to live like dignified human beings.
A new surge of life transformed the compound. Bar Dror organized committees to put the place into decent shape. School was started, a theatrical group organized, a small orchestra formed and dances held, a daily news bulletin printed, and endless discussion carried on about Palestine. Shimshon even started a model farm near the compound to begin agricultural training.
Once the new spirit had been instilled and the camp was self-governing, Shimshon Bar Dror set out on treks in search of other Jews to lead them to the base.
As Shimshon Bar Dror and other Mossad Aliyah Bet agents worked untiringly to gather the Jews together and get them out of Poland, another force was working just as hard to keep them in Poland.
Throughout Europe the British embassies and consulates put pressure on every government to keep their borders
dosed to these refugees. The British argued that it was all a plot of the world Zionists to force their own solution on the Palestine mandate.
As the undercover battle raged between the British and the Mossad Aliyah Bet, the Polish government issued an astonishing edict; it proclaimed that all Jews were to remain in Poland. The Polish government reasoned that if the few remaining Jews were allowed to leave they would confirm to the world that the Poles were continuing their persecution-as indeed they were-even after the German extermination program. Thus the Jews were locked in a country that did not want them and locked out of the country that did want them.
Winter came to Auschwitz and morale broke apart at the seams. All the good work of Bar Dror went for nought. The Palestinian held meetings to try to explain the political battle that raged around them, but the survivors would not listen. They did not care about politics.
In the dead of winter another Aliyah Bet man entered the camp, and he and Bar Dror made a gambling decision. The two men called the section leaders together and told them to prepare to abandon the camp.
“We are going to head for the Czech border,” Bar Dror said. “It is not too long a journey but it will be difficult. We can only go as fast as the slowest man and we must stay off the main roads.” Bar Dror opened a map and traced a route that would take them through the Carpathian Mountains and the Jablunkov Pass, a distance of seventy miles.
“What happens when we reach the border?” someone asked.
“We have Aliyah Bet men buying off the Polish border patrol. If we can get through to Czechoslovakia we will be safe for the time being. Jan Masaryk is a friend. He will not let them chase us out of Czechoslovakia.”
They left Auschwitz in the middle of the night, striking off the main road-a tragic line of survivors streaming forth, with the strong holding up the weak and carrying the young. The straggling procession pushed over fields of snow, driving their beaten bodies for six harrowing days. Then they drove themselves up into the biting winds of the Carpathian Mountains, with the Palestinians miraculously keeping them all alive and moving them on and on closer to the border.
Along the frontier other Aliyah Bet men worked feverishly to spread bribe money among the Polish guards, and as the ragged caravan pressed to the boundary the guards, with their pockets stuffed, turned their backs and the Jews poured through into Czechoslovakia.
On they marched through the freezing cold until they
passed through the Jablunkov Pass and assembled at the bottom, exhausted, feet bleeding, hungry, and in need of medical attention. A special train had been chartered by the Mos-sad Aliyah Bet. The escapees were taken aboard to waiting warmth, food, and attention. The first leg of the perilous journey was over.
When a Jew entered Palestine legally he surrendered his passport to the Aliyah Bet so that it could be used again. Five hundred such passports were distributed to the escapees from Auschwitz. In addition to the passports the Aliyah Bet had collected visas for Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and other South American countries. These “documents” would hold the British at bay for a while.
British CID got wind of the five hundred Jews who had crossed from Poland and relayed the news to the Foreign Office at Whitehall. Whitehall sent an urgent dispatch to the British ambassador in Prague to take the matter up with the Czech Foreign Minister, Masaryk, and have the train stopped. The British ambassador was granted an immediate meeting with Masaryk and demanded that the Jews be returned to Poland. He pointed out that the entire Mossad operation was illegal, contrary to Polish law, and had been sponsored by the Zionists in an effort to force the issue over Palestine.
Masaryk smiled. “I do not know much about oil pipelines, Mr. Ambassador,” he said, “but I do know about human pipelines.”
Masaryk was known to be outspoken in behalf of the Jews. The ambassador implied that British displeasure could be displayed in a more “practical” manner.
“Mr. Ambassador,” Masaryk said, “I will not comply with this or any other British threat. So long as I am Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia the borders of my country are open to the Jews with or without visas and with or without passports.”
The ambassador reported to Whitehall that the train could not be stopped. It rolled on toward Bratislava, the town where the borders of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria came together.
Again the British attempted to stop it, but this time it crossed into Austria under the personal protection of a sympathetic American military commander.
In Vienna the travelers stopped for much-needed rest and medical attention. They were issued clothing in a giant re-staging area that had been established by American Jews to help the European survivors.
In Italy, the next stop, the Mossad Aliyah Bet had the open cooperation of the public and the Italian officials, but
movement was hampered by the fact that the country was occupied by the British.
Paradoxically some of the British occupation forces consisted of units of Palestinian Jews. The Palestine Brigade of the British Army and its units stationed all over occupied Italy had long been considered model troops by the British command. Aliyah Bet agents from Palestine integrated with these units, and soon the Palestinian soldiers were busy establishing refugee camps, helping with illegal ships, and the like. For formal purposes the Palestine units were commanded by army officers, but for practical purposes the units were under the command of the Aliyah Bet and Palmach. Shimshon Bar Dror had been an army sergeant in one such unit and used his British army papers to travel back and forth to Poland to round up refugees.
It was springtime when Dov’s group of Auschwitz refugees embarked on another train that moved into the Austrian Alps and crossed into Italy through the Brenner Pass.
The train stopped near Lake Como outside Milan at a very isolated siding. Although the refugees had been warned that they would be met by men wearing British uniforms panic nearly broke out. The survivors could not comprehend men in fighting uniform wearing a Star of David on their arm. The Star of David had always been the insignia of the ghetto. No Jews, except in the ghetto uprisings, had fought under a Star of David for nearly two thousand years.
They debarked from the train apprehensively. The soldiers were kind and some spoke Yiddish and all spoke Hebrew and they were gentle but they seemed to be of a different breed of Jew.
A week after their arrival in Milan, Dov’s group of a hundred people were taken from a small camp in the dead of night. They were transported in British trucks driven by members of the Palestine Brigade. The convoy dashed to a secret rendezvous point along the coast where it met another three hundred refugees who had assembled from other camps. From nearby La Spezia harbor a tiny vessel moved out to meet them.
The ship dropped anchor offshore and was loaded by rubber boat. It sailed and got out of the three-mile limit and was soon trailed by the ever alert British Navy.
There was something baffling about the Gates of Zion. Unlike all the other refugee ships, this one was not heading for Palestine. Its course, instead, was toward the Gulf of Lions on the southern coast of France. Neither the British nor the refugees aboard the Gates of Zion had the slightest idea the vessel was a part of a gigantic plot.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Bill Fry sat at a table at Miller Brothers’ Restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. He dropped a handful of oysterette crackers into a big steaming bowl of clam chowder and stirred it. He toyed with the soup for a moment but he had no appetite. “Jesus Christ,” he thought. “I wonder if I can get that piss-pot across the Atlantic Ocean.”
Bill Fry had earned a reputation as the most successful captain in the Mossad Aliyah Bet. His beaching of the Star of David at Caesarea had opened a new era in the illegal immigration war. It had forced the British to start the Cyprus detention camps. This had been a turning point, for the Mossad had run one shipload after another into Palestine as fast as the British turned them back, and now another crisis was brewing. Mossad Aliyah Bet had run in so many illegals that the camp in Cyprus was bursting.
Flushing with success and determined to break the British exclusion policy, the Mossad dreamed up a wild scheme and chose Bill Fry to execute it.
The largest of the illegal fleet to date had been his Star of David, which carried under two thousand passengers. Other ships carried from a few hundred to a thousand. The Mossad figured that if they could run the blockade with a ship holding upwards of five thousand refugees it would be a staggering blow for the British.
Bill was commissioned to find a ship that could do the job, outfit it, and take five thousand refugees from the big center at La Ciotat in southern France. It was felt that the ship should be purchased in the United States or South America where the British would not be suspicious. British CID simply had the European ports too well covered. Mossad agents covered South America while Bill himself searched the Gulf ports and the east coast. It became obvious that they weren’t going to get much of a ship for the money they had to spend. So Bill had taken a gamble and now he was worried. He had purchased an overaged, obsolete steamship which had seen service only on the Chesapeake Bay in an overnight run between Baltimore and Norfolk. The ship, the General Stonewall Jackson, an oversized pleasure cruiser, had never sailed the ocean. The only thing Bill could think of that was decent about the ship was that it had been bought cheap.
The white-coated waiter hovered over Bill’s table. “Is something wrong with the chowder, sir?”
“Huh? Oh, hell no … it’s fine,” he mumbled, and shoved a spoonful into his mouth.
Had the purchase of the obsolete bay liner been a mistake? At this moment it was being fitted in Newport News, Virginia, to hold 6850 refugees.
Bill sighed. There was the other side of the picture. Suppose he could get seven thousand refugees out of Europe at one crack! It would just about explode the British policy!
Bill shoved the bowl of chowder away and asked for the check. He picked up the dead cigar butt from the ash tray and relit it and once again read the telegram from Newport News: THE JACKSON IS READY.
At Newport News the next day Bill assembled his crew of Palestinian Palmach and Aliyah Bet, American Jews, sympathetic Spanish Loyalists, Italians, and French. He inspected the ship and ran a short shakedown cruise around the lower bay, then revved up her engines and made for the Atlantic Ocean.
Within three hours the Jackson developed engine trouble and had to return to Newport News.
During the next two weeks Bill made three more attempts. The moment the old ship got far from her natural habitat, she rebelled and had to be taken back to port.
Bill told the Aliyah Bet people he had made a mistake. The Jackson simply could not make it. They urged him to check her over in dock for another week and make one last try.
On the fifth attempt the entire crew held its collective breath as the obsolete steamer chugged past Cape Henry into deep waters of the Atlantic-and continued to chug.
Twenty-two days later the Stonewall Jackson wheezed up the Gulf of Lions to the. French harbor of Toulon, which stood forty miles from Marseilles and only twenty miles from the big refugee camp of La Ciotat.
There had been a teamster strike in France, and the British CID who were watching La Ciotat relaxed for a moment, assuming that there would be no movement without trucks. Furthermore, there had been no reports of illegal ships coming from any European ports since the Gates of Zion, Dov’s ship, had landed at Port-de-Bouc several weeks earlier.
The British were caught napping.
They had no advance notice of the Jackson because she had been purchased and fitted in the United States and to date no Aliyah Bet ship had been large enough to navigate the Atlantic. When the Jackson was due to arrive at Toulon the Aliyah Bet went to the head of the French Teamsters’ Union and explained the situation. The Teamsters’ head secretly rounded up drivers and trucks and during the middle of their strike they rushed in and out of La Ciotat transport-ing sixty-five hundred refugees to Toulon-among them Dov Landau.
British CID discovered the secret at the last moment and descended upon Toulon. They passed out enormous bribes to port officials to delay the departure of the Jackson long enough for them to contact London for instructions.
Mossad Aliyah Bet men made counterbribes to the officials to get the ship on the seas, and the Jackson, now renamed the Promised Land, ran the blue and white Star of David to her mast top in open challenge.
Hasty meetings took place at the Admiralty, Chatham House, and Whitehall. The implications of the situation for British policy were clear, and it was obvious that the Promised Land had to be stopped at all costs. The British issued angry threats to the French. British warships waited outside Toulon. The French answered by granting permission to the Promised Land to sail.
The Promised Land set out from Toulon mid the cheers of the refugees aboard her. The instant she passed the three-mile zone she was escorted by two waiting British cruisers, the Apex and Dunston Hill.
For the next three and a half days Bill Fry steered the Promised Land straight for Palestine. Her long thin smokestack puffed and her engines groaned and her decks bulged, and her watchdog cruisers watched.
The Apex and Dunston Hill kept in constant radio contact with the Admiralty in London. As the Promised Land edged to within fifty miles of the Palestine coast, the British broke the rules of illegal blockade. The Apex came close to the steamer and sent a salvo over her ancient bows. The cruiser’s bull horns blasted and her loudspeaker sent a voice over the water: “Illegal ship! Stand by to be boarded!”
Bill Fry bit his cigar. He grabbed a megaphone and stepped onto the bridge. “We are on the high seas,” he shouted. “If you board us here it will be piracy!”
“Sorry, chaps, just following orders. Are you going to accept a boarding party peacefully?”
Bill turned to his Palmach chief who was standing behind him. “Let’s give these bastards a reception.”
The Promised Land turned on full steam in an attempt to sprint away from the cruisers. The Apex moved alongside her, then cut in sharply and her steel bow rammed the ancient steamer amidships. The blow splintered deep into the steamer’s hull over the water line and she shuddered under the impact. The Apex sent out machine-gun fire to drive the refugees off the deck and make it clear for a landing party.
British marines, wearing gas masks and carrying small
arms, poured over the bow of the Promised Land and moved back to the superstructure. Palmachniks unrolled accordions of barbed wire in the path of the British and then loosed a barrage of rocks on them, followed by streams of water from pressure hoses.
The British were swept back to the bow by the attack. They fought off the Palmach with small arms and called for reinforcements. More marines boarded, this time with wire cutters. Another attack mounted toward the superstructure. Again the water hoses pushed them back and again the British returned, under cover of machine-gun fire from the Apex. They reached the barbed wire and cut it in time to receive scalding steam jets from the Palmach. Now the Palmachniks jumped to the attack and drove the British back. They overpowered the marines and threw them into the sea, one by one.
The Apex stopped the attack to fish their men out of the water, and the Promised Land, a huge hole in her side, chugged off once again. The Dunston Hill chased her down and pondered the advisability of another ram. The steamer might well go down with one more blow. It was too dangerous to risk. Instead, the Dunston Hill poured on heavy-caliber machine-gun fire that raked the decks clean of refugees and Palmach. The Dunston Hill’s boarding party came up amidships on ladders. A wild hand-to-hand brawl followed. With flailing clubs and an occasional pistol shot, the British pressed the attack toward the ladder leading up to the captain’s bridge.
Meanwhile, the Apex recovered and raced to the scene again. The two cruisers boxed the steamship in. The Apex party boarded again behind a tear-gas barrage, and with the Dunston Hill marines pressing from the other direction the Palmach was driven back.
Dov Landau was in the fight. He and other refugees were guarding the top of the ladder near the captain’s bridge. They pushed the British down the ladder half a dozen times until the tear gas and, finally, small arms drove them off.
The British had control of the deck now. They reinforced their position and held the refugees and Palmach off at gunpoint while another party stormed into the wheelhouse to gain command of the ship.
Bill Fry and five of his crew greeted the first three men who entered the wheelhouse with pistols and angry fists. Although he was completely cut off, Bill continued fighting until British marines dragged him from the wheelhouse and beat him unconscious with clubs.
After four hours of fighting, with eight of their men dead
and a score wounded, the British gained control of the Promised Land. Fifteen Jews were killed, among them the American captain, Bill Fry.
A general order for secrecy was issued at Haifa harbor in Palestine as the Dunston Hill towed the Promised Land in. The old steamship was listing badly. The entire Haifa dock area was flooded with British troops. The Sixth Airborne Division was there and they were armed to the teeth. But in their attempt at maintaining the secrecy, the British did not know that the Jews had broadcast a full account of the boarding of the Promised Land over their radio.
As the ships approached Haifa Bay, the Jews in Palestine called a general strike. Troops and tanks were required in the dock area to form a barrier between the refugees and Palestine’s angry Jews.
Four British prison ships, Empire Monitor, Empire Renown, Empire Guardian, and the Magna Charta waited to effect an immediate transfer of the refugees from the Promised Land. But the very instant the Chesapeake Bay liner was towed into port, the harbor area and the entire city of Haifa shook under the impact of a mighty blast! The Empire Monitor was blown to pieces! This act was accomplished by Palmach frogmen who swam in and attached a magnetic mine to the ship’s sides.
The Promised Land docked and the transfer operation began at once. Most of the refugees had had the fight knocked out of them. They went quietly to delousing sheds where they were stripped, sprayed, searched for weapons, and moved quickly on to the three remaining prison ships. It was a tragic procession.
Dov Landau and twenty-five others locked themselves into a hold, armed themselves with pipes, and defied the British to the very end. The hold was pumped full of tear gas; and Dov was carried from the Promised Land by four soldiers, still struggling, cursing, and fighting. He was thrown into a barred cell on the Magna Charta.
The prison ships were packed even more tightly than the Promised Land had been, and that same night they sailed from Haifa with the two cruisers, Dunston Hill and Apex, as escort.
If the refugees were sent on to Cyprus to the already crowded camps there, then the Jews would have won their point. Sixty-five hundred more Jews would have been taken out of Europe and added to the evergrowing numbers waiting on Cyprus to go to Palestine.
“The refugees from the so-called Promised Land on the Empire Guardian, the Empire Renown, and the Magna Charta are to be returned to their port of embarkation, Toulon,
France. Henceforth any other illegal blockade-runners that are caught will also be returned to their ports of origin.”
The Palmachniks and Mossad Aliyah Bet people who were with the refugees on the three ships knew what.they had to do. If they debarked and returned to Toulon and if the British rode out the storm, then there would be no more illegal immigration.
The order for secrecy went out in Toulon as the prison ships steamed into the Gulf of Lions and dropped anchor offshore.
Simultaneously the Palmach chiefs on each of the prison ships handed the British captains a message; each one was to the effect that “We will be taken ashore only by force.”
The commander of the prison ships radioed to the Admiralty in London for instructions. Whitehall immediately turned on the toughest diplomatic pressure they could, short of breaking the Anglo-French alliance. They warned the French not to attempt to take sides with the Jews and to allow the British to carry out the debarkation by force. For four days messages and instructions flew between London and the prison ships and between Paris and London. Then the French government handed the British its dramatic decision.
“The government of France will not allow or be a party to the forcible removal of the refugees. If the refugees desire to return to France of their own free will, they are most welcome.”
The French had taken a stand with the Jews, even at the risk of rupturing relations with the British. The refugees were exhilarated by the news. To a man, they renewed their Vow to stay aboard the ships. The British, recovering from the shock, informed the refugees that they would either debark at Toulon or sit in the Gulf of Lions until they rotted.
Aboard the Empire Guardian, Empire Renown, and Magna Charta, the Jews dug in. The Palmachniks organized schools, taught Hebrew, compiled news, started a theater, and generally tried to keep things going. The French government kept up a daily stream of barges between the ships and Toulon to supply the refugees with good food and medical care. A dozen babies were born. At the end of a week, the refugees were holding fast.
On shore newsmen were getting curious about the three ships and were irate over the curtain of silence. One night an Aliyah Bet man swam ashore from the Empire Guardian and gave out the full story to the French press.
The story swept through France, Italy, Holland, and Denmark. Editorial insults were hurled at the British, in all four countries.
London braced itself against the onslaught of public resentment from the continent. They had expected it. They had, in fact, prepared for everything except the doggedness of the refugees. Conditions on the prison ships were of the worst. The atmosphere was sweltering and there was a good deal of sickness. Nevertheless, the refugees refused to come ashore. The British crews, who did not dare venture into the caged sections of the ship, were beginning to get uneasy. At the end of the second week the Jews were still holding fast and the clamor in the press was reaching a crescendo.
Three weeks passed. Four weeks passed.
At last the story began to lose its impetus. Then, the first Jew came ashore without being forced. He was dead. The whole issue was reignited. The captains of the three ships reported that the refugees seemed more determined than ever and the pressure on Whitehall mounted hourly. If more corpses were brought ashore it would be very bad.
The policy makers decided to take another tack. They asked that the refugees send in delegations to talk it all over. Their plan was to try to find a compromise that might let them out of the whole affair without losing face. From all three ships they received the same answer from the Palmach chiefs:
“We will settle for nothing more nor less than Palestine.”
The affair went into its sixth week. When the second corpse was brought ashore the British issued an ultimatum to the Jews either to come ashore or suffer the consequences. It was not clear what those consequences were to be, but when the refugees again remained steadfast the British had to take direct action:
“The Empire Guardian and the Empire Renown will set sail from Toulon at once. The destination of these two ships will be Hamburg, Germany, in the British occupation zone. The inmates of these two ships will be removed peacefully or otherwise and be detained at Dachau until further notice.”
As the two ships passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on the journey toward Germany, Mossad Aliyah Bet made feverish plans to load up two more ships with fifteen thousand refugees and make a run for Palestine. For as the Renown and Guardian landed on German soil, world opinion against the British reached a tidal peak. It was a somber victory for the Aliyah Bet.
As a last face-saving gesture the British let the third prison ship, Magna Charta, discharge its refugees at Cyprus, where they were sent to Caraolos. Dov Landau was fortunate to pass his sixteenth year at Caraolos rather than Dachau, but the boy was a study of hate.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Dov Landau spent his seventeenth birthday in yet another prison-Caraolos. He ushered in this birthday as he ushered in every day. He lay on his cot and stared at nothing and spent the day without uttering a word. He had not spoken to anyone since he had been dragged from the hold of the Promised Land. During the long weeks in Toulon harbor his hatred had grown.
At Caraolos a dozen welfare people and doctors and teachers and Palmachniks tried to reach him and break through his wall of bitterness, but Dov trusted no one and wanted no one near him.
By day he lay on his cot. By night he fought off sleep, for sleep always brought the recurring dream of that moment the doors of the gas chambers opened at Auschwitz. For hours on end Dov would stare at the blue tattooed numbers on his left forearm: 359195.
Across the path from his tent there lived a girl, and she was the most beautiful girl he ever remembered seeing. Of course, women could not be beautiful in the places he had been. She was in charge of many younger children and she always smiled when she saw him and she did not seem angry and aloof toward him as everyone else did. She was Karen Hansen Clement.
Karen saw Dov and made inquiries as to why he did not take part in school and other activities. She was warned to keep away from him, for he was said to be an “incurable” and maybe even dangerous.
Karen took this as a challenge. She knew Dov had been in Auschwitz, and her compassion seemed limitless. She had done amazing things with youngsters before, and although she knew it might be better to leave Dov alone her curiosity grew each time she went to her tent and looked over at his.
One day Dov lay on his cot, staring, and the sweat poured from him for it was very hot. He felt someone’s presence and jumped up instinctively and tensed at the sight of Karen standing near him.
“I wonder if I could borrow your water bucket. Mine has a leak and the water trucks will be coming soon.”
Dov stared and blinked his eyes nervously.
“I said I wonder if I could borrow your water bucket.”
“What does that mean? Yes or no? Can you talk?”
They stood and looked at each other like a pair of gamecocks. For that instant Karen was sorry she had come. She
took a deep breath. “My name is Karen,” she said. “I am your neighbor.”
Dov still did not answer. He glared.
“Well… may I use your bucket or not?”
“Did you come here to slobber over me?”
“I came here to borrow your bucket. You are certainly nothing to slobber over,” she snapped. ’
He spun away and sat on the edge of his cot and chewed his fingernails. Her abruptness disarmed him completely. He pointed to his bucket on the floor and she picked it up. He glanced at her quickly out of the corner of his eye.
“What is your name? I’d like to be able to call you something when I bring your bucket back.”
He did not answer.
“Karen is mine. Perhaps you can call me that and we can say hello. At least till you learn to smile.”
He turned very slowly but she was gone. He walked to the tent door and watched her moving toward the British water tanker which had just passed through the gate. She was beautiful.
It was the first time in many months that an outside event had been able to penetrate Dov Landau’s absorption in himself. This Karen was completely different from the others who had come to see him. She was abrupt and snippy and afraid-yet there was a tenderness that radiated from her too. She did not gush over him or recite words she didn’t feel. She was a prisoner at Caraolos but she did not complain or seem angry like all the others. Her voice was sweet, yet it was very stern.
“Good morning, Dov,” Karen said. “Thank you for the use of your bucket.”
“Oh yes, you are the one who growls instead of talking. I have a little boy like you in my kindergarten class. But he pretends he is a lion.”
“Good morning!” Dov shouted at the top of his lungs.
Dov knew what time she got up in the morning. He knew when she went to the wash racks and when she came and went from her classes. He slipped into her tent one day and looked around for her bucket and examined it. It had no hole in it at all. He would lie on his cot all day and wait anxiously for the sound of her footsteps coming down the catwalk. He would sneak to the tent door and steal a glance in her direction. Often, Karen would glance at his tent, too, and their eyes would meet for a brief instant. Then Dov would
become angry with himself for being taken in and for showing weakness.
The days passed but they were different now. He was still silent and sullen but often his thoughts veered from death and hate and he could hear the children in the playground nearby and he could hear her voice speaking to them. It seemed strange to Dov. In all the time he was at Caraolos he had never heard the children playing until after he met her.
One night Dov stood by the barbed wire and watched the searchlights sweep through the tents. He often stood and looked, for he still did not want to sleep. On the playground the Palmach had built a campfire and there was singing and dancing. Once he used to sing and dance those songs at Redeemer meetings, but he did not want to hear them now. Mundek and Ruth and Rebecca had always been there.
He whirled around and saw the dim outline of Karen standing near him. Her long hair blew in the breeze and she tightened a ragged shawl about her shoulders. “Would you like to come to the campfire with me?” She pressed closer and he turned his back. “You like me, don’t you? You can talk to me. Why don’t you go to school and join our gang?”
He shook his head.
“Dov …” she whispered.
He spun around and faced her, watery-eyed. “Poor Dov!” he screamed. “Poor crazy Dov! You’re just like all the rest of them! You just talk prettier!” Dov grabbed her and put his hands on her neck and tightened his fingers on her throat. “You leave me alone … you leave me alone …”
Karen looked him straight in the eye. “Take your hands off my throat… this instant.”
He dropped his hands. “I was only trying to scare you,” he said. “I wasn’t going to hurt you.”
“Well, you didn’t scare me,” she said, and walked off.
For a week after that Karen did not look at him or speak to him. He was seized with terrible restlessness. Dov was no longer able to spend the hours in sullen and morbid silence. He paced back and forth all day long. Why did he let the girl break into his thoughts! He had his memories and he had been alone with them! Now he could not think!
One evening Karen was on the playground when one of her children fell in a game and started to cry. She knelt beside him and put her arms about him and soothed away the boy’s tears. For some reason she looked up and saw Dov standing over her. “Hello,” he said very quickly, and walked away.
Despite the continued warnings of many to leave him alone,
Karen knew she had penetrated a great darkness. She knew the boy was desperate and trying to communicate and that his “hello” was his way of saying he was sorry.
A few evenings later she found a drawing on her bed. She held it to the candlelight and saw a picture of a girl kneeling and holding a child, and barbed wire was beyond her. She crossed the path to Dov’s tent and when he’ saw her he turned his back.
“You are a very good artist,” Karen said.
“I ought to be,” he snapped. “I got plenty of practice. George Washington and Lincoln are specialties of mine.”
He sat on his cot uncomfortably and bit his lip. Karen sat beside him. He felt funny, for he had never been so close to a girl other than his sisters before. Her finger touched the blue tattoo on his left arm. “Auschwitz?”
“Why do you bother with me?”
“Did you ever think that I might like you?”
“Uh-huh. You are very good-looking when you aren’t sneering, which is quite seldom, I must admit, and you have a very nice voice when you aren’t growling.”
His lips trembled. “I … like … you. You’re not like the rest of them. You understand me. My brother Mun-dek used to understand me.”
“How old are you?”
“Seventeen.” Dov sprang to his feet and whirled around. “I hate these goddam British. They’re no better than the Germans.”
His sudden explosion ended as quickly as it had started.
Yet, it was a beginning. He had blown off steam. It was the first time in well over a year that he had spoken more than one or two words. Karen watched him shrink back into that strange dark world of his.
Dov wanted to see Karen often because she was tender and she could listen to him and understand. He would talk quietly for a while and then burst forth with an impulsive short tirade of hate and then he would withdraw into himself.
Karen began to confide in him and tell him about how she was going to meet her father again in Palestine. Since she had left the Hansens she had always worked so long and hard with the youngsters she had never really formed a close friendship. Dov seemed proud that she would tell him all these things, and it was strange but she rather enjoyed talking to him.
And one day a great thing happened. Dov Landau smiled again.
When they spoke together he wanted to talk about nice things to her. The way she spoke … about the Hansens … the Danes … the children she loved … about her hope of reunion with her father … made him want to be able to talk like that too. But he could remember nothing nice, and before the war, 1939, was so long ago he could remember nothing about it at all.
Karen was careful with subjects that Dov did not mention. She never asked about Auschwitz or the ghetto.
After several weeks she came to him one day with a mission. “Dov, I have a favor to ask.”
Immediately Dov turned suspicious.
“The Mossad people know you were in Auschwitz and they have also found out that you are an expert counterfeiter.”
“There is a new man here from Palestine. Joab Yarkoni tells me he wants to talk to you. His name is Ari Ben Canaan. He needs passports and documents and could use your services.”
“So that’s it! That’s why you made friendsl So you could get me to work.”
“Oh, shut up, Dov. You don’t even believe that yourself.”
“Well,” Dov grumbled, “if they want me so badly they can come and ask me themselves.”
“How can anyone ask you anything when you won’t even talk to them?”
“And why should I work for them?”
“Because they’re working for you.”
“Hell they are. They’re working to save themselves.”
“All right. Take your side of it. They are no worse than the Germans, and if you could make American dollars for them you can certainly make passports for the Mossad.”
“You’re always so damned smart with the answers.”
“Dov. I’ve never asked a favor of you. What shall I tell them?”
“Tell them I might, but a lot of things have to be made clear.”
Karen took his hand and smiled. “Why don’t you make them clear? Ben Canaan is waiting for you.”
“I’ll see him here.”
Dov secretly liked Ari Ben Canaan. He was direct and to the point and let Dov know that if he didn’t work he was going to be the last Jew out of Caraolos. But more, Dov liked that quality of leadership in the man-the same quality Mun-dek had had. He went to work in the Palmach headquarters in one of the schoolrooms. Still, to everyone else in Caraolos but Karen, Dov Landau was incorrigible. He spoke only in anger. She was always called upon to calm his sudden eruptions.
She saw in him things that no other person saw-wonderful strength and pride. There were other things that she could not explain that made her like him very much.
Two and a half weeks after Ben Canaan’s arrival on Cyprus, David Ben Ami gave Dov a list of three hundred names of children to be fixed on documents resembling British transfer orders. The three hundred were supposed to be moved from Caraolos to the new compounds near Larnaca. Dov knew that this was the escape! Neither his name nor the name of Karen was on the list of transferees.
Dov told David that he wanted to speak to Ben Canaan, and it was then that he put his demands to Ari that he and Karen be included in the escape. And Ari agreed to his demands.
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: The final steps in Operation Gideon were twenty-four hours away.
Ari Ben Canaan called a meeting of his chiefs in the home of Mandria, their Cypriot compatriot.
David Ben Ami gave Ari the transfer papers that Dov Landau had just completed. Ari looked them over and commented that the boy was a real artist. The papers could have fooled anyone. David reported that he had taken care of the hundred odds and ends, from security to putting kosher food on the ship for Orthodox children.
Joab Yarkoni, the Moroccan, reported that all the trucks were in ready condition and could be moved from the 23rd Transportation camp to Caraolos in twenty minutes. He gave the elapsed time of trial runs from Caraolos to Kyrenia by several alternate routes.
Zev Gilboa said that the three hundred and two children would be loaded on the lorries in a matter of minutes after the convoy arrived at Caraolos. He would brief the children as to what was going to happen a few minutes before the trucks departed.
Hank Schlosberg, the American skipper of the Exodus, said he would take the ship out of its Larnaca berth at dawn and steam up to Kyrenia and be there at least a full hour or two before the convoy was due to arrive.
Mandria reported that he had a system of lookouts posted along the escape route who could notify the convoy of any unusual British activity. He also had watchmen on a half dozen alternate routes. Mandria said that he would wait, as ordered, in Famagusta in his home. The minute the convoy passed through he would telephone Mark Parker in Kyrenia.
Ari rose and looked over his lieutenants. They were nervous, all of them. Even the usually placid Yarkoni was looking
at the floor. Ari did not congratulate them or wish them luck. There was time for congratulations. As for luck, they’d make their own.
“I did not want to make the escape for three more days until the British themselves began moving children from the children’s compound. Nevertheless we have received information that Major Alistair is suspicious of our activities. We even have reason to believe he has gone to London for instructions over Brigadier Sutherland’s head. Therefore we must make our break at once. Our trucks arrive at Caraolos at nine o’clock. By ten o’clock I hope we have loaded the children and are passing your house here in Famagusta. The minute we turn off the Larnaca road we have two crucial hours. We have no reason to believe our convoy will be stopped. Our trucks are well known all over Cyprus. But . we must act under the assumption that we are under suspicion. Any further questions?”
David Ben Ami, the sentimentalist, could not let the occasion pass without proposing a toast. Ari tolerated the younger man’s frivolity. “Le chaim,” David said, raising his glass. “Le chaim,” the rest of them answered. “I have heard that le chaim from you boys often,” Mandria said. “What does it mean?”
“It means ‘to life,’” David answered, “and to Jews that is no small request.”
“ ‘To life,’ ” Mandria repeated. “That is nice.” Ari walked up to Mandria and hugged him in the Palmach manner. “You have been a friend,” he said. “I must go meet Parker now.”
Mandria stood there with tears streaming down his cheeks for he knew that this kind of affection was reserved for one of their own and to receive it from Ari Ben Canaan meant that he had been accepted fully as one of them.
A half hour later Ari, dressed as Captain Caleb Moore, met Mark on the terrace of the King George Hotel. Mark was a bundle of nerves.
Ari seated himself, refused a cigarette, and ordered a drink. “Well?” Mark asked impatiently. “Tomorrow. We will be at Caraolos at nine.” “I thought you were going to wait until the British started cleaning out the children’s compound.”
“It would have been better but we can’t wait. A friend at CID tells us that Alistair is on to something. But relax,” Ari said. “It is almost over. The British still don’t know what they’re looking for. Now you understand everything.”
Mark nodded. He would send a cable asking for an extension of his vacation. Bradbury in London would know by the signature, Mark, that Operation Gideon had been a success and would turn loose the story Mark had sent with a commercial pilot a week earlier.
“Suppose I don’t get a phone call from Mandria at ten.”
Ari smiled. “Then I’d suggest you get the hell off Cyprus unless you want to cover my hanging.”
“That might be nice,” Mark said. He finished his drink.
“By the way,” Ari said, looking out to the water, “Kitty hasn’t been in the camp since we were forced to put Karen on the Exodus list.”
“That’s right. She’s with me at the Dome.”
“How is she?”
“How in hell do you think she is? She’s miserable. She doesn’t want Karen to go on the Exodus. Do you blame her?”
“I don’t blame her but I feel sorry for her.”
“That’s nice. I didn’t know you felt sorry for anyone.”
“I feel sorry that she has let her emotions get the best of her.”
“I forgot. You don’t know anything about human emotions.”
“You’re nervous, Mark.”
Mark was angry at Ari’s placidness. He remembered Kitty’s anguish when she returned to Kyrenia and told him that Karen was going on the ship. “What do you want? Kitty has suffered more than one person has a right to suffer.”
“Suffered?” Ari said. “I wonder if Kitty Fremont knows the meaning of the word.”
“Damn you, Ben Canaan, damn you. What makes you think that Jews own a copyright on suffering?”
“Fortunately you’re not being paid to like me and I couldn’t care less.”
“How could you? You see, I like people with human weaknesses.”
“I never have them during working hours.”
Mark stood up to leave. Ari grabbed Mark’s arm in his powerful hand. For the first time Mark saw Ben Canaan shaken from his complacency. There was anger in Ari’s eyes. “What the hell do you think this is? A tea party on the duchess’s lawn? We’re butting heads with the British Empire tomorrow.”
He relased his grip on Mark’s arm and regretted the short display of temper. At that instant Mark felt a tiny bit sorry for Ari. Perhaps he had a better way of disguising it but the pressure was beginning to tell on him too.
A few hours later Mark had returned to the Dome Hotel in Kyrenia. He knocked on Kitty’s door. She managed to greet him with a half smile, but it could not disguise her red-rimmed eyes.
Kitty froze an instant. “So soon?”
“They are afraid the British are on to something.”
Kitty walked to the window and looked out at the pier and the island. It was a crystal-clear evening and she could even see the faint outline of the Turkish coast. “I’ve been trying to get up enough courage to pack up and leave Cyprus.”
“Look,” Mark said, “as soon as this blows over, you and I are going to head for the Riviera for a few weeks.”
“To pick up the pieces? I thought you were supposed to go to Palestine.”
“I doubt if the British will let me in after this. Kitty, I feel pretty rotten about dragging you into this thing.”
“It isn’t your fault, Mark.”
“You read that line well but it’s not quite true. Are you going to get over this?”
“Yes, I think so. I should have known better. You tried to warn me. At least I knew all the time that I was on thin ice. You know, Mark, it’s funny, but we argued the night I met Ben Canaan. I told you there was something different about Jews. They aren’t like us.”
“They have an unlimited capacity for getting into trouble. It’s their favorite sport,” Mark said, spinning off the bed and rubbing his temples. “Well … one way or the other we might as well eat and I’m hungry.”
Kitty leaned against the doorframe as Mark splashed his face with cold water. He groped for a towel. She handed him one.
“Mark. It’s going to be very dangerous on the Exodus, isn’t it?”
He hesitated a moment. There was no use trying to fool her at this point. “It’s a floating bomb.”
Kitty’s heart sank. “Tell me the truth. Can they get away with this?”
“They have a fair chance with that mechanical monster, Ari Ben Canaan, running the show.”
The sun went down and it was night.
Mark and Kitty sat wordlessly in her room.
“No use sitting up all night,” he said at last.
“Don’t go,” Kitty said; “I’ll just stretch out over the covers.” She reached into the night stand and took out a couple of sleeping pills, turned off the light, and lay back.
Mark sat by the window and watched the surf slap against the shore.
Twenty minutes passed. He looked over at Kitty and saw
she had fallen into a restless and thrashing sleep. He walked to the bed and stood over her for several moments, then covered her with a blanket and returned to the chair.
At Caraolos, Dov and Karen sat on his cot, too excited to sleep. They spoke in whispers. They were the only ones among the children who knew what the new clay would bring.
Karen tried to calm Dov. He kept whispering what he was going to do when he got to Palestine. How he was going to join the terrorists and kill British soldiers. She hushed him up as only she could and finally induced him to lie down.
As he closed his eyes Karen stood up and a strange sensation swept through her body. Odd and frightening. Dov meant more to her than she had realized until this moment. First it had been pity. Now Dov had a hold on her. She did not understand it. She wanted to be able to go and talk it over with Kitty. But Kitty was gone.
“I am here, Dov.”
The hours of darkness ticked by.
At the 23rd Transportation Company HMJFC three men lay on their cots wide-eyed.
Zev Gilboa dared think about springtime in Galilee for the first time in nearly a year. He thought of his wife and child and of the farm. His baby had been only a few months old when the Palmach sent Zev to Cyprus.
Joab Yarkoni thought of his farm too. It was different from Zev’s, for it hugged the sea just a bit north of the Plain of Sharon. His farm was called Sdot Yam and it meant Fields of the Sea, for its main crop was fish. Yarkoni loved to walk for hours through the abandoned ruins of Caesarea and dig for antiquities, and he hoped that the Palmach might let him return there for a while. He would go out on his trawler fishing and he would see his brother and sister again.
… and David Ben Ami thought of his beloved Jerusalem. He loved Jerusalem almost as much as he loved Ari’s sister Jordana. Now he would see them both again until they reassigned him to another mission. The rocky hills of Judea where his six brothers lived and the city rose out of stone. David propped on an elbow and reread the worn letter that Ari had brought him. Jordanal Jordana! His heart raced wildly. Jordana, my love!
The three men knew that their stay in Palestine might be brief because they belonged to the Palmach and Mossad and they might be needed anywhere in the world. But this night they thought of home….
Brigadier Bruce Sutherland had another of his nightmares. He dressed and went out of his house alone and walked through Famagusta in the depth of night. He walked along the old wall of Famagusta and stared into the old city with its hundreds of churches and cathedrals and ruins of castles and memories of past glory. He walked until he came to Othello’s Tower and he climbed it and looked down at the harbor. He was tired, very tired, and he wondered if there would ever be a night again in which he could close his eyes and fall into a peaceful sleep.
Major J. J. Alistair fell asleep over his desk. Most of the night he continued to pore through reports and bits and scraps of information in an attempt to put together exactly what the Jews were up to at Caraolos.
Mandria paced back and forth in the room where the Mossad and Palmach had held so many meetings. Yes, it had been only a few weeks since Ari Ben Canaan and David Ben Ami had stood on that balcony outside and watched a convoy of Jews being taken from their illegal runner, Door of Hope, Tomorrow he would stand on the balcony and another convoy would pass. This one would climax Ari Ben Canaan’s fantastic scheme. The imagination of the Greek Cypriots had been tremendously stirred by the daring of the Mossad. Those of them, like Mandria, who worked with the Jews, were beginning to think in terms of an underground movement of their own against British rule on Cyprus.
One man slept soundly. Ari Ben Canaan slept like a well-fed baby without a care in the world.
A ray of light fell over Mark Parker’s face. He opened his eyes and yawned. He had dropped off by the window with his feet propped on the sill. He was stiff and his mouth tasted foul from cigarettes and scotch. He glanced around and saw Kitty in a deep and quiet slumber on the bed. He pulled the window shade down and tiptoed from the room and shaved and spent several moments under an icy shower and he felt better. He dressed and returned to Kitty’s room and sat gently on the edge of her bed and stroked her hair softly. She stirred and opened her eyes slowly. She smiled when she saw Mark and stretched and purred. Then her expression changed to one of fear.
At twenty minutes to nine, Ari Ben Canaan, dressed as Captain Caleb Moore, entered the lead jeep in the convoy of twelve trucks of the 23rd Transportation Company. Each
truck had a Palmachnik dressed like a British soldier as driver. They sped out of their camp and twenty minutes later halted before the administration building at Caraolos, outside the barbed-wire compounds.
Ari entered the administration building and knocked on the door of the commanding officer, whose acquaintance he had carefully made during the past three weeks.
“Good morning, sir,” Ari said.
“Good morning, Captain Moore. What brings you up here?”
“We received a special dispatch from headquarters, sir. It seems that they are getting the Larnaca camp ready faster than they expected. They want me to transfer some children today.” Ari lay the forged papers on the officer’s desk.
The CO thumbed through the sheets. “This isn’t on the schedule of transfers,” he said. “We didn’t expect to start moving the children for three days.”
“That’s the Army for you, sir,” Ari said.
The CO bit his lip and meditated and stared at Ari and looked through the transfer papers again. He reached for the phone. “Hello. Potter here. Captain Moore has orders to move three hundred children out of Compound 50. Dispatch a detail to help get them moved.”
The CO picked up his pen and initialed the papers. He signed half a dozen other sheets authorizing entrance into the compound and removal of the children. “Move them along, will you, Moore? We have another load to be transferred in an hour and the roads could be clogged.”
“Oh, uh … Moore. Many thanks, old man, for the whisky you sent up to the club.”
“My pleasure, sir.”
Ari gathered up the papers from the CO’s desk. The CO sighed. “Jews come and Jews go,” he said.
“Yes sir,” Ari said. “They come … and they go.”
The breakfast table was set in front of the window in Mark’s room. He and Kitty nibbled at their food. Mark’s ash tray brimmed over. “What time is it now?” Kitty asked for the fifteenth time.
“What would be happening?”
“If they’re running on schedule they’re loading the children aboard the trucks right now. Look,” Mark said, pointing out to sea. The salvage trawler Aphrodite/Exodus turned and moved slowly toward the harbor entrance,
“Good Lord,” Kitty said, “is that the Exodus!”
“My God, Mark. It looks like it’s ready to fall apart.”
“But how on earth are they going to get three hundred children on her?”
Mark lit another cigarette. He wanted to pace the room but he did not wish to show Kitty how frightened he was.
The Exodus passed between the lighthouse and the castle, through the narrow opening of the two arms of the sea wall, and into the Kyrenia harbor.
“Mark, please sit down. You’re making me nervous.”
“We should be getting a call from Mandria soon. Any minute now … any minute.”
Five past ten.
Six past ten.
Seven past ten.
“Dammit! Where is that coffee I ordered? Kitty, phone from your room, will you. Tell them to get that coffee up here.”
A quarter past ten. The fresh pot of coffee arrived.
Seventeen past ten. Mark’s jitters abated. He knew that if he did not hear from Mandria in the next ten minutes something had gone wrong.
Ten-twenty. The phone rang!
Mark and Kitty looked at each other for an instant. Mark wiped the sweat from the palm of his hand, sucked in his breath, and lifted the receiver.
“Just a moment, sir. We have a call for you from Famagusta.”
“Hello … hello … hello.”
“They have just passed through.”
Mark replaced the receiver slowly. “He got them out of Caraolos, all right. They’re moving down the road to Larnaca now. In about fifteen minutes they’ll fork off and make a dash north. They’ve got about fifty miles, mostly flat country with only one mountain pass if they don’t have to use alter-
nate roads. They should be here a little after noon … if everything goes all right.”
“I’m almost hoping that something will go wrong,” Kitty said.
“Come on. No use waiting here.”
He took his field glasses and walked with Kitty downstairs to the reception desk and asked for a cable blank.
CHIEF, AMERICAN NEWS SYNDICATE
HAVING A BALL. REQUEST TWO WEEK EXTENSION OF MY VACATION. ADVISE.
“Send this through, urgent. How long will it take?”
The receptionist read it over. “It will be in London in a few hours.”
They walked from the Dome toward the quay.
“What was that about?” Kitty asked.
“My story should be on the wires from London tonight.”
They stood on the quay for several moments and watched the rickety salvage tug tie up at dockside. Mark led Kitty away. They crossed the harbor and climbed to the ramparts of the Virgin Castle. From here they could see both the harbor and far down the coastal road where the convoy was due to pass.
At eleven fifteen Mark focused his field glasses on the coast road. He slowly scanned the road that hugged the shore and wove in and out of the hills. The mountain pass was too far off to see. He froze! He had sighted a tiny trail of dust and a line of trucks which appeared as small as ants. He nudged Kitty and handed her the glasses. She held them on the trucks as they wove in and out the snake-like turns and inched toward Kyrenia.
“They are about half an hour away.” ,
They came down from the rampart, crossed the harbor once again, and stood at the end of the quay, which was only five walking minutes from the Dome Hotel. As the convoy passed the hospital at the edge of town Mark took Kitty’s hand and started back to the hotel.
In a phone booth at the Dome, Mark put in an urgent call to British Intelligence in Famagusta.
“I wish to speak to Major Alistair,” Mark said, disguising his voice by putting a handkerchief over the mouthpiece and speaking with a British accent.
“Who is calling, please, and what do you wish to speak to Major Alistair about?”
“Look, old boy,” Mark said, “three hundred Jews have escaped from Caraolos. Now just don’t ask any damned fool questions and give me Alistair.”
The phone on Major Alistair’s desk rang.
“Alistair here,” he said in his whispery voice.
“This is a friend,” Mark said. “I am advising you that several hundred Jews have broken out of Caraolos and are boarding a ship in the Kyrenia harbor at this very moment.”
Alistair clicked the receiver several times. “Hello … hello … who is this? I say … hello.” He closed his own phone and opened it again. “Alistair here. I have a report of an escape of Jews. They are supposed to be boarding a ship at Kyrenia. Sound an alert, blue. Have the Kyrenia area commander investigate at once. If the report is true you’d better advise naval units to move for that area.”
Alistair put down the receiver and rushed down the hall toward Sutherland’s office.
The convoy rolled to a stop on the quay. Ari Ben Ctnaan got out of the lead jeep and its driver drove it off. One by one the lorries rolled up to the Exodus. The youngsters responded automatically as a result of Zev’s training. They moved quickly and quietly from the truck to the ship On board, Joab, David, and Hank Schlosberg, the captain, moved them into their places in the hold and on deck. The operation was effected calmly and wordlessly.
Along the quay a few curious onlookers stood and gaped. A few British soldiers shrugged and scratched their heads. As quickly as each truck was unloaded it was driven off toward the mountains around St. Hilarion to be abandoned. As of that moment, the 23rd Transportation Company had fulfilled its purpose and was going out of existence. Joab left a note in his truck thanking the British for the use of their lorry.
Ari boarded the Exodus and went up to the wheelhouse. One by one the lorries discharged the children. It took only twenty minutes to load the boat. Zev, David, Joab, and Hank Schlosberg reported that the boarding had been completed. Ari gave the order to Hank and he cast off and started the engines.
“Get to the children,” Ari said, “and tell them exactly what we are doing and what will be expected of them. Any child who feels he cannot go through with it will advise me in the wheelhouse and he will be returned to Caraolos. Explain to them that their lives are in danger if they stay.
There is to be no pressure from you or the children to induce others to remain who wish to go.”
As the Palmachniks went down to brief the children the Exodus backed into mid-harbor and dropped anchor.
In an instant the entire Kyrenia area was alive with the shriek of sirens! Ari turned a pair of field glasses on the hills and coastal road and saw dozens of British lorries and jeeps converging on Kyrenia. He laughed out loud as he saw the trucks of the late 23rd Transportation Company rushing up the hills to be abandoned. They were rushing away from Kyrenia and passed the convoy of British soldiers coming in the opposite direction.
Ari looked below him. The children on deck were calm.
The British poured into the harbor area! Lorry after lorry of soldiers erupted onto the quay. Several officers were pointing at the Exodus and shouting orders. Soldiers began racing along both arms of the sea wall and setting up machine guns and mortars at the narrow harbor opening so that if the Exodus were to try it could not get out to sea.
More lorries poured into the area. The quay was roped off and curious spectators pushed back. Ari watched the British strength grow by the moment. Inside of an hour the harbor was swarming with five hundred fully armed soldiers. A pair of torpedo boats stationed themselves outside the harbor. On the horizon Ari could see a trio of destroyers rushr ing to the scene. The sirens shrieked on! The peaceful little town was turning into an armed camp! Then tanks rumbled onto the quay and artillery replaced the machine guns and mortars guarding the harbor entrance.
Another blaze of sirens brought a car bearing Brigadier Sutherland, Caldwell, and Alistair onto the quay. Major Cooke, the area commander of Kyrenia, reported to Sutherland.
“That’s the ship out there, sir. It’s loaded with Jews all right. It can’t possibly get away.”
Sutherland studied the harbor. “You’ve got enough here to fight a Panzer division,” he said; “they must be insane on that boat. Get a public-address system hooked up right away.”
“If you asked me, we’d blow them out of the water,” Caldwell said.
“I didn’t ask you,” Sutherland snapped. “Cooke . .,, get this area cordoned off. Organize a boarding party. Tear gas, small arms, in case they won’t come back by themselves. Freddie, hop over to the Dome and inform headquarters I want a news blackout.”
Alistair had remained quiet and was studying the tugboat
“What do you make of it, Alistair?”
“I don’t like it, sir,” he said. “They aren’t pulling a daylight escape like this unless they have something else in mind.”
“Come now, Alistair. You’re always looking for sinister plots.”
Mark Parker pushed his way past the guards and approached the two officers.
“What’s all the noise about?” Mark asked Alistair.
The instant Alistair saw Mark he knew his suspicion was correct. “Really, Parker,” Alistair said, “do be a good sport and tell us. You know, old man, you ought to brush up on your British accent the next time you telephone me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Major.”
Brigadier Sutherland was beginning to catch on. He looked from the tug to Parker and to Alistair and he knew that the Mossad Aliyah Bet had caught him unprepared. He flushed. Major Cooke, the Kyrenia area commander, reported. “We’ll have boarding parties formed in ten minutes, sir. Two hundred men and we’ll commandeer some trawlers here to take them out.” Sutherland did not even hear him.
“Where is the loudspeaker, damn it all!”
Ten minutes later Sutherland grabbed a microphone. A silence fell over the harbor. The boarding parties stood by to go out into the middle of the harbor after the Exodus.
“Hello, out there! This is Brigadier Bruce Sutherland, the commander of Cyprus, speaking,” his voice shot out in a series of echoes. “Can you hear me out there?”
In the wheelhouse of the Exodus, Ari Ben Canaan opened his public-address system. “Hello, Sutherland,” he said, “this is Captain Caleb Moore of the 23rd Transportation Company, His Majesty’s Jewish Forces on Cyprus. You can find your lorries up at St. Hilarion.”
Sutherland turned pale. Alistair’s mouth dropped open,
“Hello, out there!” Sutherland’s voice snapped angrily. “We are going to give you ten minutes to return to dockside. If you do not we are going to send out a heavily armed boarding party and bring you back.”
“Hello, Sutherland! This is the Exodus speaking. We have three hundred and two children aboard this boat. Our engine rooms are loaded with dynamite. If one of your troops sets foot on this boat or if one round is fired from any of your guns we are going to blow ourselves up!”
At that instant Mark Parker’s story was being cabled from London to every corner of the world.