Jewish Soul
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Mayla Sucuri’s world is falling apart . . . no Gypsy is safe in Hitler’s Germany. Her twin sister, Vanya, has just run off with her love and joined the partisans. Now Mayla is being forced to leave her papa and younger sister, Zilka, with the kumpania. Heading to Switzerland with her mother, to the safety of her Grandmother’s chalet in Switzerland, Mayla fears she’ll never see any of them again. Her grandmother is connected to every high official in the SS. But not everything is as it appears. Because of her drive to be a doctor, Mayla finds herself invited to Dachau and Auschwitz. She quickly finds herself in the company of Doctor Josef Mengele and Doctor Sigmund Rascher, who are only too willing to share the results of their medical experiments on Jews and Gypsies. At great personal risk, Mayla refuses to turn down the opportunity to take notes and bear witness to the atrocities happening at the concentration camps. Mayla is drawn to Auschwitz where the distinctions between good and evil become blurred in a world turned upside down. Will it get her killed or will her unwavering resolve give her the strength and courage to rescue her sisters from the gas chambers?

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Date de parution 08 avril 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781773621449
Langue English

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Jewish Soul
Tango of Death ~ Book 3
By Rita Karnopp
 
Digital ISBNs
EPUB 978-1-77362-144-9
Kindle 978-1-77362-145-6
WEB 978-1-77362-146-3
 
Print ISBN 978-1-77299-319-6
 

 
Copyright 2015 by Rita Karnopp
Cover art by Michelle Lee
 
 
All rights reserved. Without limiting therights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publicationmay be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without theprior written permission of both the copyright owner and the abovepublisher of this book.

 
 
 
 
 
Dedication
 
 
There were a number of doctors who the Nazis asked tojoin their force in attempting to create a perfect Aryan societywho refused, without harm. Psychiatrist Karl Bonhoeffer even led aprofessional struggle against the euthanasia program, and no abusewas inflicted on him. "As . . . historians have noted, in thehundreds of postwar trials and masses of documents, 'not one caseis known in which one person's life was in danger or in which aperson suffered serious consequences' for refusing to obey an orderto kill unarmed civilians (cited in Zukier, 1994), though definitethreats were made, and much peer pressure was administered –especially where the soldiers were concerned.”
Who were the real criminals in the six-year successof the Holocaust? Was it Hitler who decreed the soldiers' anddoctors' actions? Was it Himmler who personally masterminded theprograms from the beginning? Or, were the German doctors themselvesto blame?
It was the willing participation of German doctors,twisting their Hippocratic Oath and giving a pretentious medicalaura to mass exterminations that led to the final moral decline.Their obsessive scientific curiosities led Nazi doctors to abandonall moral reasoning in pursuit of medical knowledge. They believedthey were doing brilliant work for humanity.
Like the Jews, Gypsies were singled out by the Nazisfor racial persecution and extermination. They were nonpersons, offoreign blood, labor-shy, and were termed asocial. In 1942 Himmlersigned the decree for all Gypsies to be shipped to Auschwitz. Therethey were subjected to all that Auschwitz meant, including medicalexperiments before they were exterminated.
Gypsies perished in Dachau, Mauthasusen, Ravensbruck,and other camps. At Sachsenhausen they were subjected to specialexperiments that were to prove scientifically that their blood wasdifferent from that of the Germans. The doctors in charge of thisresearch were the same ones who had practiced previously on blackprisoners of war. Yet, for racial reasons they were foundunsuitable for sea water experiments.
Gypsy women were forced to become guinea pigs in thehands of Nazi physicians. Many were sterilized as unworthy of humanreproduction ( fortpflanzungsunwuerdig ), only to beultimately eradicated as not worthy of living .
Attempting to escape the atrocities of the camps,many Gypsies participated in partisan activities. Roma Gypsies usedtheir wagons to transport refugees and smuggle small arms andexplosives. The Gypsies frequent movements allowed them to accrueration cards under different names in a variety of places andhelped supply food to resistance fighters. They also brought thepartisans news heard on BBC radio broadcasts.
This book is dedicated to the Gypsies and theirsacrifice. Flemish artist Jan Yoors said: “ In the rain, one seesno tears .”
Chapter One
 
 
Poland — Slovakia — Germany,1943
 
Mayla covered Vanya’s bare shoulder thenpulled Zilka close. Would this be the last time she held her babysister? There wasn’t a time since she was born that Mayla hadn’tprotected the youngest of the Sucuri sisters. Being the oldest,even if by five minutes, held certain responsibilities.
As long as Mayla could remember, the three ofthem shared their feelings, ideas, and dreams out under the stars,like they had this night. She glanced up at the cloudless sky andtook in the comfort they offered. If only they could stay like thisforever. Why did the Nazis hate them? What gave them the right totreat them like criminals? She closed her eyes. Vanya was runningoff to be with Vilas and Zilka was staying with papa. It didn’tseem real. How could mama possibly leave them behind? Maylawondered if she could turn her back on the kumpania. They werefamily. Would she see any of them again?
Mayla watched Vanya twitch and moved wrestlesin her sleep. It was time to wake her, say goodbye, and pray theywould . . . survive the war.
This damn war! It destroyed everything good.Oh, she always understood one day she might part ways with hersisters. That was life. They hadn’t expected to be torn apart.Zilka was their schej, their little Gypsy girl. She wouldalways remain Gypsy. Everyone said the twins were different, andthey were right. Vanya and she wouldn’t have stayed with thekumpania. They’d discussed it often. Vanya wanted a husband andfamily, but she didn’t want to live traveling from town to townfrom a wagon. She’d always wanted a town house and garden neargrandmother.
Mayla couldn’t blame Vanya. Mama talked ofnothing but growing up in Switzerland. Her childhood sounded like adream story to be told over a campfire. Vanya and she clung toevery word and talked about going to grandmother’s chalet.
Before meeting papa, Elise Backer wastraining to be a doctor. She had high expectations to be the firstfemale doctor in Basel. She taught Mayla all she knew and now ithad become her dream. In the morning she and mama were leaving forBasel. It seemed a dream and a nightmare.
Vanya bolted from the ground, sitting andglancing around as though she’d heard something frightening.
“What? What’s wrong?” Mayla whispered.
“You were supposed to wake me. I—”
“Calm down and don’t wake Zilka. You haveplenty to time before you . . . leave.”
“Haven’t you gone to sleep yet?”
Mayla sat and tucked the blankets tenderlyaround Zilka. “I can’t sleep. I’m worried you’ll get yourselfkilled with the partisans. I’m worried schej will cry hereyes out when we both leave her. We promised to always protect her.I . . . I feel like I’m deserting her.”
“Then talk her into going with you andmother. Explain she should meet her grandmother and now is theperfect time. You have the travel passes and . . . and—”
“She’ll never leave the kumpania. You and Iknow that. She’s more Gypsy than the entire camp put together.She’ll never leave because she intends to marry Petre’ Sidako.”
“I know you’re right.”
“Maybe if you decided to go to grandmother’swith mama and me, Zilka would agree to go with us, too.”
“No! First of all, that wouldn’t make herdecide to go with us. She’ll never leave the kumpania and papa!Second, I’m meeting Vilas. I know you don’t like him, buthe’s—”
“I never said I didn’t like him. He’s . . .uh . . . he’s exciting. He’s experienced. I just don’t think it’sright for him to steal you away. Papa will never forgive him. Bychoosing him—”
“I know. I’m turning my back on all of you.Say it! Well, there was a time when I would have made sure Vilasgot papa’s approval. But papa and mama took that decision from me.They are forcing me to go to Switzerland and leave Vilas. I can’tdo that. Someday I will go to meet grandmother. That is nottoday.”
“Think about it,Vanya. If Vilas loved you, he’d want you to go to Switzerland andbe safe. But asking you to run off and live in the woods with abunch of strangers with guns and to fight the Nazis is dinilo !”
“You might think it’s crazy, but we can’t saygoodbye to each other. We are in love. I would rather die by hisside than to never see him again. I wish you could understand.”
Mayla grabbed her twin’s hand and held itbetween her palms. “I do understand and I’m happy that you’ve foundsuch love for a man. I look forward to such feelings. But . . . Ican’t imagine you shooting a gun. I . . . how will we handle beingapart?”
“I don’t know. I think about that all thetime. I wish you’d come with me and let mama run off to Switzerlandby herself. She would, you know.”
Mayla drew in a breath. Smoke from nearbycampfires filled her nostril. She loved the scent. Somehow shefound it comforting. “Yes, I know. And as angry as I am with herright now, I can’t let her leave alone . . . just like Zilka can’tlet papa stay alone. Maybe this is the way things are meant tobe.”
“No, none of this was meant to be. It’s allwrong. The world has gone dinilo !”
“You’re right, it has.” Mayla releasedVanya’s hand. “Come, let’s walk down to the lake and say ourgoodbye. I don’t want Zilka to hear us. She will become hystericaland wake everyone with her sobbing.” Mayla eased from Zilka’s sideand led the way down the worn path. Crickets screamed into thenight. A hoot owl announced his loneliness into the stillness.
“I have my belongings stashed behind that bigoak just ahead,” Vanya whispered.
“Would you have snuck off to Vilas withoutsaying goodbye?” Mayla swallowed the lump in her throat.
“No, I was planning on waking you. This isn’tas easy for me as you think. One minute I’m certain I’m meetingVilas. The next I can’t imagine leaving my family behind. It’s youI will miss the most.”
“Then don’t leave me. Come with mother andme. Make the choice of family. Vilas will understand.”
“I’m not sure. I mean . . . I have to provemy love. Is it strong or just that of a young girl with a crush?You see, I have to decide what my heart is saying. If I don’t meetVilas . . . I don’t believe I’ll ever see him again. How will hefind me later . . . after the war? What if he is killed?”
“And what if you are killed? Fighting withthe partisans . . . it’s not you, Vanya.” Mayla failed tounderstand why her sister was being so stubborn. Never had she beenso strong-headed and determined. “He can find you after the war atgrandmother’s. If he doesn’t come for you, then he didn’t trulylove you.”
“I’ve considered that. Oh . . . I don’t know.My head tells me to go with you and my heart tells me to go withVilas. It’s not an easy decision.”
“I . . . want to talk you into staying withme. But if you’re going to be totally upset and heart-brokenbecause I talked you into it . . . I couldn’t live with myself.It’s a decision only you can make. You know I will support you inwhatever you decide.” Mayla pulled her sister into her embrace andheld her tightly. How could life have changed so drastically thatpeople had to choose between fighting or hiding? This was allwrong.
“Goodbye, sister. I will remember the way tograndmother’s chalet. I will meet you there after the war is over.We all have to agree to stay there for however long it takes eachof us to get there. I fear most for Zilka. She has chosen the mostdangerous choice of us all.”
“Choosing to fight with the partisans isscary,” Mayla said. “But I must agree. To exist in a kumpania,ignoring the inevitable is a nightmare waiting to happen. I spokewith papa and he refuses to leave the kumpania. If nothing else, heand Zilka should take our vardo and strike out on their own.He refuses.”
“I did the same. If they were to hide in thewoods, live among nature, they would have a better chance of notbeing found by the Gestapo. A kumpania as large as ours is beggingfor attention. He will not listen. He doesn’t believe they are inany real danger. He thinks mama has panicked and will return withina month time. I think he is wrong.”
“I agree, Vanya. He is ignoring the truth.The entire kumpania is delusional. When they finally realize theyare all in danger of losing their lives . . . it will be too late.”Mayla hugged Vanya, then pushed her at arm’s length.
“I just know we’ll be together again.”
Mayla fought the tears that surfaced. “I feelit, too. You must go to your love. Tell Vilas you have my blessing.If he mistreats you, I’ll find him and kill him myself!”
“Really? You think I’m going to tell himthat? You . . . kill someone? That is ridiculous.”
“Fine. Then I’ll find him and make him pay.He really doesn’t want to make me mad.” Mayla knew theirconversation bordered ridiculous. She just didn’t want Vanya toleave.
“You sound so vicious. You’re nothing but akitten.”
“I know. But a kitten grows into a feistycat. Don’t forget that.” Mayla smiled, then picked up Vanya’sbundle and handed it to her.
“Go and be that doctor you’ve always wantedto be. Next time I see you . . . I hope you’re . . . in love so youcan understand why I chose Vilas.”
“I understand, dear sister. I understand andthat’s what hurts. You must go to Vilas and I must go with mama. Itis not what we dreamed our lives would be like.” Mayla swiped atthe tear that threatened to surface.
“I . . . love you. I feel like I’m leaving apart of me behind.”
Mayla wiped the tears that rolled downVanya’s cheeks. “Don’t cry. We both knew this day would somedaycome. We knew we would have to separate. No matter where you are,remember that I love you. Fight for your right to live. Fight forthe Gypsy and the Jew. We will be together again . . . if not inthis lifetime . . . then in the afterlife.”
They hugged for what seemed forever . . .then separated. Mayla remained silent and watched as Vanya turnedand ran up the path and out of sight. It seemed impossible to thinkshe’d never see Vanya again.
“How do I let go?” Mayla whispered.
“You don’t.”
Mayla turned to find her baby sisterapproach. “Why aren’t you sleeping?”
“I missed your warmth. I knew you and Vanyawere saying your goodbyes. I didn’t want to . . . interrupt. Iwaited in the bushes until she left.”
“Why didn’t you come and give her a huggoodbye?” Mayla pulled her baby sister close.
“I told her goodbye already. She will be okaywith Vilas and then she’ll move on and find her true love.”
Mayla looked into Zilka’s eyes. “You saw herfuture? What was it? She will survive the partisans, won’tshe?”
“We will all be together again.”
“Did you ask Stacia to read our fortune?”Mayla wondered why she hadn’t thought of it.
“No. I saw it in a dream. Vanya was holdingme close and we were shivering, afraid, and you came and savedus.”
“Saved you from where? What are you talkingabout?” Mayla hated when Zilka talked in riddles.
“I don’t know. When I woke I just had thefeeling we all are going to be okay.”
“What about mama and papa?” Mayla asked.
“I don’t know. I . . . it scares me. I get nofeelings about them. What do you think it means?”
“Probably nothing.” Mayla glanced down thetrail where Vanya had disappeared. She hoped to see her sisterreturn. The path remained empty. “We should get back to our blanketand get as much sleep as we can. Morning will come tooquickly.”
“Mama promised to teach me to make papa’sfavorite eggs in the morning. You think I will . . . youthink—”
Mayla pulled Zilka closer and rocked hersobbing sister. “Shhhh, schej . You are going to be okay. Didyou not see us all together again? Why don’t you come with mama andme? Grandmother would want it that way. Papa is being stubborn.Come with mama and me and we will take care of you.”
“No! I’m not going! You know I can’t leavethe kumpania. I belong with my Gypsy people. I would . . .die—”
“Stop it, Zilka! You’re not a baby any more.This is not a discussion on whether you get to keep your favoritepair of shoes even though they are worn out. It is a discussion oflife and death. Mama has gone through a lot of trouble to get usthe right papers. You stay with the kumpania and you . . . don’thave much of a chance to escape being seen by the Gestapo. Thefires alone give them away.”
“I know. But you want papa to be deserted byhis whole family? How can I leave him? He is . . . he is thefoundation of our family. He has taught us all we know. He is therock. I cannot leave him or the kumpania. You must go as Vanyaneeded to go. I must stay.”
“You are being stubborn. Can you not seethere is no future for you if you stay? I want to take care of you. . . but I must go with mama. Come with us and . . . and I promiseyou will be happy you did.”
“Did you beg Vanya to go with you andmama?”
“I . . . asked her to go with us, yes.”
“Did you beg her? No. Because you believe shehad to make her own decision. It had nothing to do with what youwant. You gave her permission to choose. I ask that you allow me tochoose.”
“I cannot stay to protect you, schej .”
“I know that. I’m not asking you to stay. I’masking you to allow me to stay. Let me decide what is right forme.”
Mayla choked back the emotions that engulfedher. Baby sister had suddenly grown up and it seemed impossible toaccept. “If you die . . . I don’t know how I’ll forgive myself.”Mayla clung to Zilka.
“That’s the reason I’m asking you to allow meto decide. It isn’t your fault if I decide for myself. I’m nolonger a baby, you just told me that. You’re right. I am a youngwoman. I will soon marry Petre’. You are no longer responsible formy decisions. If I choose wrong . . . it is my fault.”
“I . . . don’t know if I can leave youbehind. I just lost Vanya. How can I lose you?” Mayla cried out.She’d suppressed the tears and loss for so long . . . she justcouldn’t hold back any longer. Together they cried until they hadno more tears.
“You feel better?” Zilka asked.
Mayla forced a smile. She glanced across theglass-calm lake that reflected a full moon. A hoot owl pierced thenight with his shrill cry. “I will feel better when this war isover.”
“Will you and mama hide at grandmother’suntil then? Papa and I will come for you both.”
“That is our plan, schej . We will allmeet at grandmother’s when this nightmare is over. Vanya will gothere, too. If the Nazis try to take you . . . show them yourpapers. They say you are Swiss. They are stamped for entrancebefore nineteen thirty-eight.”
“I don’t understand. What is so important ordifficult about that?”
Mayla paused, hesitating to tell Zilkaanything about Paul Grüninger.
“You don’t trust me?”
The hurt in Zilka’s eyes broke Mayla’s heart.“What I’m telling you must not be repeated.”
“I can keep a secret.”
Mayla sat on a rock and wrestled with herconscious. “Grandmother is friends with the Grüninger family. Theirson, Paul was a commander of police in the  Canton  of  St.Gallen  in  Switzerland when theNazis annexed Austria in August thirty-eight. Following theAustrian Anschlüss, the government of Switzerland gave orders notto allow any refugees to enter its borders.”
“But why? Switzerland is a neutral country.Mama has said so many times.”
“Yes, I know. But Switzerland has decided ithas too many Jewish refugees and they don’t want to handleanymore.”
“Does that include Gypsy refugees?”
“I would think so. But, as a Police Captain,Grüninger provided falsely dated travel documents in violation tothese orders, and allowed some Jewish refugees to enterSwitzerland.”
“How did he do that?”
“Mama said that Grüninger falsified documentsso that the Jews were issued passports classifying them as legalimmigrants.”
“I still don’t understand how he could dothat.”
“He backdated passports to indicate that theyhad entered earlier. Grandmother wanted us to come to Switzerlandand be safe. She went to Paul and asked for papers for ourfamily.”
“Is that how we got passports and travelpapers?”
Mayla nodded. “Yes. It was a good thing shedid it right away because a year later he was convicted of fraud,and sentenced both to a prison term and to pay a fine.”
“We should thank him.”
Mayla smiled. “You’re right. Grandmother saidthat when his activities were discovered, he was dismissed indisgrace, convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison. Now he’sunable to find work as an ex-convict and is denied of his pensionrights”
“That’s a sad situation for a man who did avery good thing.”
“You’re right, Zilka. But since the man paida high price, we should use the passes he created, don’t youthink?” Mayla stretched her back and rubbed the back of herneck.
“After the war I will try to find this PaulGrüninger and thank him.”
“ schej, you are priceless. Okay, Iwill help you do this. Let’s go back to our blanket and get somesleep. I’m suddenly very tired.” Mayla shivered from the cold nightair as they headed back to the kumpania.
 

 
 
Chapter Two
 
 
“Where is Vanya?”
Mayla jumped and squinted up at her mama. Noticingshe had both hands pressed into her hips meant she definitelywasn’t happy.
“Can’t you hear? Where is your sister? Don’tyou cover up for her either. I know she doesn’t want to go with ustoday, but I’m telling you right now . . . she is going!”
“I think she decided for herself where shewanted to go.” Mayla pulled the covers higher over Zilka. “Weshould let her sleep. She was up very late last night.”
“And I told the three of you that you’dbetter get a good night’s sleep because we are leaving right afterlunch.”
“We . . . ugh . . . we had some things todiscuss.”
“Are you getting smart with me girl?”
“Leave the poor girl alone, Elise. Can’t yousee she looks dead on her feet?”
Mayla smiled and laid back down on theblanket. Nothing seemed to bother Bajram Sucuri.
“She’ll be dead on her feet if she doesn’tget up and packed. We are leaving today.”
“Now don’t be getting all frazzled and upset.The girls are having a time of this. Why don’t you just leavetomorrow? Better yet, don’t leave at all.”
“I’m not going to have this conversation,Bajram.”
“You’re tearing the girls up with thisleaving. You’re tearing me up with this leaving. You want to leaveso bad – go!”
“You want the girls to end up dead in somehole? Or would you like them to be sent to a work camp where theywill work from sun-up to sun-down? Our girls, little Nazi slaves.Is that what you want?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.You keep at me with this nonsense. I’m sick of hearing it.”
“Well after today, you won’t have to hear it.I’m taking the girls and we are leaving today. Period. Nodiscussion left.”
“One day will make a difference?”
“One day can be the difference between lifeand death. Yes. Now, Mayla, I repeat, where is your sister?”
“She’s gone, mama,” Zika said.
“Gone where? She meeting up with that youngman again? I’ll give her a thrashing when she gets back. Mayla, gofind her and bring her here.”
“I can’t.”
“What do you mean, you can’t? Don’t you startin with me today. I told you to get your sister . . . now go!”
“You aren’t listening. She’s gone, mama,”Zilka repeated.
“What exactly do you mean gone, child?”Bajram asked.
Mayla didn’t miss her papa’s tightening jaw.He rarely got angry, but when it came to his daughters, there wasoften hell to pay. “She . . . ran off to marry VilasKochanowski.”
“She what?” Bajram asked.
“She did no such thing, Mayla. You arepressing sorely on my nerves. Of all days to pick to be in one ofyour sullen moods. Get up and go bring your sister in forbreakfast. Zilka you come inside so I can show you how to make yourpapa’s eggs.”
“Vanya did run off to meet her beau, papa.She told me she was in love. She is going to be a partisan and isgoing to kill Nazis.” Zilka stood and wrapped a blanket around hershoulders.
“Mayla, you knew she was going to do this?Why didn’t you tell us?” Elise shouted.
“Hold your voice down, you want the wholekumpania to know our business?” Bajram asked.
“Don’t you tell me to hold my voice down,husband. I’ve got good reason to be upset. My daughter has run offwith a no-good Polish Jew. For all we know he might even be partGypsy . . . and you want—”
Bajram slapped Elise across the cheek.Silence followed.
In all her almost eighteen years, Mayla hadnever seen papa raise his hand to anyone. She didn’t know what todo or say. Surely he had reached the end of his patience with theentire situation.
“Come, mama, show me how to make those eggs.I will help you pack if you like.” Zilka grabbed her mother’s handand led her back into the vardo .
“Papa . . . are you okay?”
“No, daughter, I’m not okay. I just laid ahand on your mama. My second eldest daughter has run off with apartisan and my eldest daughter will soon be heading forSwitzerland. I fear my baby daughter might be killed if she stayswith me . . . but I can’t bear to tell her to leave, too. I’m farfrom okay.”
Mayla closed the gap between them and huggedhis big, burly body. Nothing was as comforting or secure as beingin the arms of papa. “I . . . could stay if you need me.”
“No. One thing I do know, Mayla, you and yourmama must leave. If we all stay in one place our whole family mightbe wiped out. If we are scattered . . . we have a chance for somesurvival. Maybe it’s a good thing Vanya ran off with this . . .man. I know you don’t think I’m aware of what is happening aroundme. But I know everything.”
“Then you’re not angry with Vanya?”
“I suspected she was saying her goodbyesyesterday. I hoped I was wrong. I didn’t have the heart to ask her.It was easier to let her go quietly . . . than to watch her leave.You three girls are all that matter to me.”
“And mama.”
“Your mother and I are what we call strangersliving in the same vardo. She has not loved me for a longtime. She has stayed for you girls. She has pretended heraffections for me for you girls. Now, she fears for her life andshe would have left you all if you hadn’t agreed to go withher.”
“I’m sorry, papa.”
“I have no regrets. There was a time shelightened my heart like you girls do. There was a time I think sheand I were . . . happy. She has regretted her decision to marry mefor a long time. A husband is forever . . . I do not understandher.”
“I should stay with you and Zilka. Mama willbe okay all by herself.” Mayla didn’t want to admit she didn’t wantto stay. But, seeing papa so broken down tore Mayla apart.
“No, daughter. I have always known you andVanya would one day go to Switzerland with your mama. I don’t thinkZilka would have even gone in good times. She would not survive inthe gadze’ world. She is my schej through andthrough.”
“I know you’re right, papa. I want things tobe as they were. I am afraid to go with mama and I’m afraid tostay. I already miss Vanya and I don’t want to leave you and Zilka.My world is turning upside down and there is nothing I can do tostop it.” She flicked a tear from her cheek and moved from herpapa’s embrace.
“That is the way of life, child. You willhave good times and bad times. We get through the bad times knowingwe have family to support and love us. The times ahead will behard. Know in your heart we are here for you. Know in your mind wewill be together again. Use your stubborn constitution to stayalive and do good during your lungo drom .”
“I will, papa. Maybe if mama is away from youfor a while she will miss you and realize she still loves you.”
“Ah . . . see, you have Gypsy in you afterall. The Gypsy is a romantic. We feel with our hearts. You willalways be part Gypsy, but I want you to promise you will tell noone. Once you leave our kumpania you are a Swiss girl. If you sharethis information . . . it might get you killed. Do youunderstand?”
“Yes, papa. I’m going to miss you so much. Ican’t imagine not . . . you make me feel safe. I . . . I’m afraidto leave.” Mayla glanced at the ground. It embarrassed her to admitshe still needed her papa. She was practically a grown woman. Mostgirls her age were already married with several children. “I shouldhave married Bruska like you wanted. I wouldn’t be faced with thisdecision if I had.” No, she reminded herself. She didn’t love him.Besides, she wanted to be a doctor and marrying Bruska would havecancelled any dreams of going to school.
“No, you were right in not wanting to marryhim. He was too old for you. He married Maria and he is a veryhappy man. You two were not suited for each other. Mayla, you go toschool and become a doctor. A good doctor. You become somethingspecial and make your papa proud.”
“I will papa, I promise.” Mayla hugged him toher again, clinging to the man who gave her strength. “I love you,papa.”
“And I love you, daughter. I’m going insideto eat my breakfast. You and mama should go. We have said ourgoodbyes.”
Mayla clung to him . . . then finallyreleased her hold. She glanced up and wished she hadn’t seen hischeeks wet with tears. She stood and watched him slowly take thesteps up into the vardo. It somehow seemed final. She fearedthat was the last time she’d see him.
Taking a deep breath, she wiped her sleeveacross her face in an attempt to dry it. This had been harder thanshe expected. Her heart already ached and she hadn’t even left.
“Mayla!” Zilka shouted and jumped off theback of the vardo . “Papa said you’re leaving now. I wantedto go to the lake with you this morning. It’s not fair to shortenour time together.”
“Maybe it’s best, schej. It’s hard onus to drag out our parting. I don’t want to leave you, yet I haveto go. Are you sure you won’t come with mama and me?”
“I’m sure. Papa needs me. We’ll be okay. Iknow we will all be together again. I’m not afraid.”
“I’m afraid. Keep watch for Einsatzgruppen deathsquads. Don’t let the Nazis take you. Run and hide if youmust . . . but don’t get caught.” Mayla knew she needed to bestrong and show Zilka things were going to be okay. But she alsowanted her little sister to understand it was a time to be careful,fearful, and not take things too lightly. The Nazis were someone tofear.
“I will. Papa and Petre’ will protectme.”
“No one is safe where the Nazis areconcerned. You will not be safe. You must run and hide. Promiseme?” Mayla pulled Zilka into her arms and hugged her.
“I promise. Papa is sad and mama is angry. Idon’t like it when they fight.”
“Are they fighting right now?” Mayla hopedthey could at least put their differences aside and . . . what . .. pretend to care? They put on a good front for so long, yet no onebelieved they cared about each other. It was one of the reasons shefeared marriage.
“No. They aren’t saying anything. Papa didn’tdo anything wrong. He just wants his family together. Mama hasalways talked about going back to Switzerland. Every time she saidit, it hurt papa. He’s been hurt so many times . . . now he’drather not care.”
“You, schej , are too smart for yourown good. You are right. That should teach us all a lesson. If youmarry, make sure you are willing to give one hundred percent. If itmeans giving everything up . . . do it, but never look back withregrets.”
“I agree. I will remember that, Mayla. Petre’and I have talked of this often. We both want the same things. Wenever want to leave the kumpania. You and Vanya never wanted tostay. You will come and visit us some time . . . won’t you?”
Mayla grasped Zilka’s shoulders in her palmsand pushed her at arm’s length. “Never believe I will forget you.Never believe I will walk out of your life and never see you again.You hear me? You are my schej and I will always keep you inmy heart. We will meet at grandmother’s chalet after the war. Youand papa . . . and if you are married, then Petre’, must come to usthere. We will all wait for each other, but we will all be togetheragain. You hear me?”
“Yes. I will make sure we find you. Papa saidhe knows where grandmother’s chalet is. He said it is a sight tosee. He is afraid I won’t want to leave . . . but he’s wrong, Iwill never want to live like the gadze’ .”
“Yes, I do believe that. You belong on the lungo drom with the Gypsies. Your spirit will always beGypsy.”
“Will you go to school to be a doctor now? Ithink you’ll make such a good doctor.”
“I’m going to consider it. I’ll wait and seewhat my grandmother is like and what opportunities wait for me. I’mscared and excited. I will work at not being angry with mama.”
“I have forgiven her. It’s not her fault thatshe doesn’t feel she belongs here. She wasn’t born to it. You andVanya have never felt the Gypsy spirit either. No one blames youtwo. We shouldn’t blame mama.”
“Like I said, you are wiser than your years.You are something special and I hope Petre’ realizes that. You takecare of yourself and papa. He will be sad and more protective ofyou after we go. It’s not you he’ll be angry with . . . but becauseyou are all he has left.”
“As long as he lets me be with Petre’, I canhandle it.”
Mayla smiled. “Come, help me bring my bags tothe pile.”
“Look!” Zilka shouted, running down the trailthat sufficed as a road.
“Get back here before he runs you over.”Mayla watched a large, black car head their way. “Gestapo!” Maylascreamed. “Zilka, go run and hide in the woods!”
“No, stop!” Elise shouted. “That is ourdriver.”
“Our driver? I thought we would be travelingby horse and cart. We have a driver? How wealthy is ourgrandmother?” Mayla stood, gasping in awe at the shiny car thatcame to a slow halt in front of her.
“We do not ask such questions, Mayla. Mindyour manners. At your advanced age you should know suchthings.”
“Sorry, mama.” After flashing a hard look herway, Mayla felt badly. She wanted to be nice to mama, but it wasdifficult. Maybe Zilka was right, but somehow that didn’t make itany easier to accept mama had turned her back on papa.
“Don’t just stand there. Load your bags inthe back of the car, Mayla. You’ve said your goodbyes and we needto get on the road as soon as possible.”
Mayla glanced toward Zilka, only to find herrunning toward the vardo . It didn’t seem real. Was shereally leaving the kumpania and traveling across the country in acar to Switzerland? She’d never ridden in a car, especially not oneas elegant as this.
“Hurry, Mayla. Why are you dawdling? Hurryup, child.”
“I’m not a child, mama. If you want me to dosomething, why can’t you just ask? You are always yelling at papa,too. You need to stop . . . or I’ll just stay here with papa andZilka.”
“Are we really going to have thisconversation again? You must come with me!”
“Why? Why do you keep saying that? Why, mama?Is there a real reason why I must come with you?” Mayla stopped inher tracks, dropped her bags and settled her palms on her hips.
“Because . . . well, you know—”
“No I don’t, mama. Tell me the truth or I’mnot going.”
“Listen here, young lady. Your grandmotherhas gone to a lot of trouble to guarantee we make it safely toSwitzerland. The least we can repay her by accepting.”
“That’s not the whole truth. Tell me why Imust come with you.” There was no doubt, mama was holding somethingback.
“Well . . . I . . . promised your grandmotherat least one of her granddaughters would be coming with me. It’s assimple as that.”
“You promised or grandmother demanded?” Mayladidn’t miss mama’s jaw tighten.
“Alright, she demanded at least one of youaccompany me. She is desperate to meet you. She has waited a longtime to have at least one granddaughter at her side.”
“Did you even tell her I want to go touniversity to become a doctor?”
“I did mention that in a letter . . . and . .. well, she made no comment either way.”
“If I refuse to go . . . what then? Thetruth, mama.”
“Then . . . well then . . . I . . . this isnonsense. We need to get going. We’ll discuss this on the way,Mayla.”
“The truth, mama. If I refuse to go thenwhat?”
“The driver is instructed to return with noone.”
Mayla glanced at her mama, surprised andshocked. Her face said it all . . . anger, humiliation, and evenhurt. “Why didn’t you just tell me? Is she that hard? Why do youwant to go back if . . . if she doesn’t want you back? Aren’t webetter off staying here where we’re loved?”
“My mother can be hard . . . it’s just that .. . I promised I’d bring you girls to her over ten years ago. Sheis angry with me.”
“What do you mean – bring us girls? You weregoing to leave papa ten years ago? How could you? Do you hate himthat much?”
“I don’t hate your father, Mayla . . . I’mjust not in love with him anymore. I stayed because he wouldn’t letme leave with you girls. I needed only one of you but he wouldn’tlet any of you go. Now we don’t have a choice. If I get you toSwitzerland, you have a chance to survive. I’m very angry with yoursister for running off. Your grandmother was so hoping for twins.Now let’s get into the car and be on our way.”
“It’s that easy for you, isn’t it? Well, it’snot all that easy for me. Yes, I’ve always wanted to go toSwitzerland and meet grandmother . . . but not this way. Notwithout Vanya and Zilka. Not without papa. Was this your plan allalong?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I had no idea this warwould get his ugly. Get into the car. We can continue ourdiscussion as we travel. Heaven knows we’ll have plenty of time forit.”
Mayla picked up her two small bags, walked tothe back of the car and dropped them at the feet of the driver. Shegave him a glance and stopped in her tracks. The man was young,like her, at least six feet tall, broad and thin. He had dark browneyes and a slight aquiline nose above nicely shaped lips. He had tobe the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
“Hi, I’m Mayla. What’s your name?” Shenoticed color travel up his neck.
“Aaron Sokol, ma’am. Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise. You’re Jew?” she asked, more bluntthan she meant.
“Mayla! That’s enough. Get into the car.”
She glanced into her mama’s glaring eyes.“Oh, I didn’t mean any disrespect. I was just wondering. It seemsodd that grandmother would send us a car driven by a Jew. We willbe in grave danger if he’s discovered. Aren’t they arresting Jewsupon sight? Why would she draw attention to us?”
“Your grandmother has connections with . . .people.”
“Nazis? If you tell me grandmother is a Nazicollaborator . . . I’m not going with you.”
“She is not a Nazi collaborator, Mayla. Shehas connections because she is of the elite. She is privileged andshe knows how to get what she wants because of her position andmoney. Now get . . . in . . . the . . . car!”
Mayla bent over to grab her bag and bumpedheads with Aaron. “Ow,” she grabbed her head and laughed.
“I’m sorry, ma’am!”
“Stop the ma’am . . . call me Mayla and youhave nothing to be sorry for. It was my fault. I’m the one who issorry. Does your head hurt as much as mine?” She laughed again.
“The car, Mayla!”
She smiled again and walked to the back dooronly to find Aaron run past and reach over to open it. Unable tomove out of the way, he slammed it into her right hip. “Ow, dang,that hurt!”
He reached out and rubbed her hip. “I’m sosorry ma’am . . . Mayla. Truly, I didn’t mean to hit you with thedoor.”
His breath brushed her neck. She looked intohis eyes. “You may stop rubbing my hip. I believe I’m going to bejust fine.” His embarrassment registered in his expression. Maylalaughed softly and slid onto the car seat. It was soft andcomfortable. She quickly glanced out the window, hoping Zilka orpapa might venture out of the vardo to wave goodbye. Theyhadn’t and she couldn’t help feeling sad. Did they feel she wasdeserting them? Why wouldn’t they come out and wave? They startedmoving down the road.
“Stop!” she screamed. As soon as the carstopped, Mayla opened the door and ran toward the vardo .Taking the three steps in two, she burst into the small wagon andthrew herself into her papa’s arms. Zilka soon joined them.
“Mayla, you get back here this minute!”
She ignored her screaming mama. “Goodbye. Ilove you both, don’t you forget that. I’ll wait for you atgrandmother’s. I will miss you both and I will keep you in myheart.”
“Take care of yourself, Mayla. Be strong andmake me proud.”
“We will be together again, I just know it,”Zilka sobbed.
Mayla released them, turned and ran back tothe car. She stared out the car window as they passed barefootedchildren playing in the mud. A group of elders sitting around themorning campfire smoking their pipes stared back her. Several womenstopped hanging clothes and glared as they passed by. Not one smileor waved farewell. They were automatically outsiders.
She would miss the kumpania. She’d neverknown the feeling of being alone until now. Her sisters were goneand she no longer had papa’s protection. Was this the rightdecision?
“Are you going to give me the silenttreatment all the way to Switzerland?”
Mayla glanced over at mama, then back towardthe window. “I didn’t know I was. I’ve been thinking about what itmeans to leave. Everyone glared at us like we were Gestapo. Ididn’t like it. If I return, will they accept me or will I foreverbe an outsider?”
“It depends. If you marry within thekumpania, they will accept you back. I’ve always been an outsider.They never really accepted me. They were only polite because ofyour papa. Oh, they could be very nice to me when they neededmedical attention. I was the only one with proper training.”
“Why? I’ve seen many others accepted. Whywere you singled out? I always felt it. I always felt theirhostility toward Vanya and me, too. Never Zilka.”
“Your papa allowed it, so they treated uswith disrespect.”
“No, that wasn’t it, mama. Zilka has a Gypsyway about her. Vanya and me . . . and you . . . we all look gadze’ . We don’t really fit and never have. Then you alwaystold stories about our grandmother with her fancy house andgardens. It reminded them we aren’t one of them. Papa told us totell Gypsy stories, live Gypsy, act Gypsy, believe in the Gypsy wayand you will be Gypsy in heart. I love everyone in the kumpania . .. but I have never felt Gypsy. I feel bad about that now.”
“Why? You are . . . what you are. You shouldbe grateful you look non-Gypsy. You have Swiss papers, and withgrandmother’s protection we are going to survive this war.”
“You and papa said you wouldn’t divorce. Ifyou don’t love papa and you’ve left him, why not divorce him?”
“I don’t know, it just isn’t necessary.”
“You tried to make us believe you and papaloved each other. You wanted us to believe that your leaving was agreat separation and very sad for you both. None of us believedyou. We didn’t understand why you felt a need to lie to us. Why isit so important to make us think there was love?”
“To save face for your papa. He is animportant man and this would be a true humiliation for him. AGypsy’s family is everything. Their children are everything. Peoplewould wonder if the children were staying or leaving. Many wantedyou girls to marry their sons. It’s important to know these thingsfor the future.”
“No, I think it was to save face for you. Ifeveryone knew papa didn’t consider you his wife, he would bepursued by women who have lost their husbands. He is a handsome manwith a very nice vardo . He is a man of position and respect.I think you only wanted to save face for you.”
“That is a very mean thing to say to yourmama. I have given my life for you girls and you only love yourpapa. You don’t think I notice the difference between how you acttoward him and me? I’m your mama and you disrespect me. It saddensme.”
“I’m sorry you have felt that way, mama. Weall love you . . . it’s different than the way we love papa. Youare always so busy. Papa takes time to teach us the ways, show uswhat is special in every place we camp, and he never fails to showus how proud he is to show off his girls. You only show us what wedo wrong. You point out that we don’t belong.”
“Well you don’t belong. Whatever possessed meto marry a Gypsy, I’ll never know.”
“Stop it, mama. Don’t talk about papa likethat. We must go back! We can’t leave them.”
“What are you saying? You don’t want to go toyour grandmother’s chalet. I know you do. You want to be a doctor.You’ll never be a doctor if we go back. You better think long andhard, girl. Your future will either be one of excitement . . . orone of day to day travel, being laughed at in every city, beingcalled a dirty Gypsy. It’s not an easy life, Mayla. You have achance to change your future. Few women get this chance.”
Mayla fell silent. Mama was right. She didhave a chance that would come just once in her life. Did she wantto remain at the kumpania? This was not an easy decision. She felttorn between her love for papa and Zilka and a chance to becomewhat she’d always wanted.
“Dear mother of Joseph!”
Mayla tensed as several trucks rattled pastthem. She looked out the back window and watched soldiers holdingriffles wave back at her.
“Wave and smile. Do it now!”
Mayla smiled and waved at the soldiers, thenquickly sat back in her seat. “Why did you make me do that?”
“Never show them fear. Never cast your eyesto the ground, it’s an act of inferiority. Hold your head high andact like you belong. Show fear and they will sense it.”
“I don’t like this mama. Where do you thinkthose soldiers are going? You don’t think they’re going to ourkumpania, do you?”
“We have no kumpania. Even if they are headedthat way, there is nothing we can do about it now.”
“But, mama, what about papa and Zilka? Wehave to go back and make sure they are okay. We just can’t leavethem to be arrested . . . or killed.” Mayla couldn’t keep her voicefrom rising.
“Calm yourself, Mayla. We made our choice . .. and we have to live with it. We go back now and they will onlyarrest or kill us, too. I think we got out just in time.”
“How can you say that? Aren’t you . . . don’tyou care? How can you be so calm about it all?”
“They made their choice and we madeours.”
“You knew . . . didn’t you? That’s why youwere in such a hurry for us to leave. You knew a Einsatzgruppen death squad was headed our way . . . and you said nothing. You could havewarned them. You could have—”
“Be silent, child. You don’t know what you’retalking about.”
“That’s it! The truth finally. Grandmothergot our travel passes and our papers in order at a price, didn’tshe? Was it the location of our kumpania?” Mayla stared at mamalong and hard.
“Do not look at me that way. It was not mydecision. I had nothing to do with this mess. Your grandmother madearrangements that were out of my control.”
“And this is the wonderful woman you keeptelling me about? The wonderful mother who is filled with love andcompassion? Where is her love and compassion now? Does she know themen she sent to our kumpania are going to arrest . . . or kill . .. her youngest granddaughter?” Mayla stared at the back of Aaron’shead.
“Stop it! I will hear no more from you. Don’tyou accuse me of something I knew nothing about. I rather doubtthose men are headed for the kumpania.”
“And why, might I ask?”
“Because . . . because they are . . . theyare—”
“What, mama? They are what?”
“They are heading for a farm community nearLwow.”
“Why would they be headed there . . . oh, Iknow why. That’s where those farmers are hiding Jews. Am Iright?”
“I wouldn’t know about such things.”
“Yes you would, because I heard you talkingwith papa about them. There’s a lady with three kids who is hidingJews is her basement. The next farm down an old couple is hidingtwo Jewish families right in their house. Did you tell grandmotherabout them?”
“What grown-ups discuss is not something youneed to worry yourself about. This has nothing to do with you.”
“But you’re wrong, mama. It has everything todo with me if they are paying for my travel pass and papers. Don’tyou think they’ll attack the kumpania if they see it on theirway?”
“The kumpania is way off in the woods. I’msure they’re safe.”
“You can see and smell their campfires formiles. No one is safe, especially a kumpania of Gypsies. We need togo back and warn them.”
“It’s too late for that now. We can only hopethey don’t see them. What’s done is done.”
“If I find out those men attacked ourkumpania . . . I won’t ever talk to you again.”
“What a terrible thing to say to me.”
“Mama, do you have any idea what you’ve done?You and grandmother have condemned those Jews to . . . to . . .death.”
“Don’t be so dramatic. Work camps are justthat. Work hurts no one. Soon the war will be over and they can allreturn to their homes and back to the way things were.”
“You really believe that? No, I don’t thinkso. It’s what you tell yourself so you don’t have to face whatyou’ve done.”
“That will be enough, Mayla. I am your motherand you will speak to me with respect.”
“Only if you’ve earned it. Right now I’drather not speak to you at all.” Mayla turned and faced thewindow.

 
 
Chapter Three
 
 
Mayla woke and instantly realized the car hadstopped. Quickly she glanced over at mama. She slept peacefully asthough she hadn’t a care in the world. Mayla expected to see Aaronsleeping also . . . he was gone. Did he just drive until they fellasleep and now has run away? She wouldn’t blame him. Maybe that’swhat she should do. But where would she go? She didn’t know whereshe was and she didn’t know a living soul outside the kumpania.
Pressing the car door lever down, she easedit open and stepped out into the cold, early morning air. Sheslowly pushed the door closed behind her.
“I didn’t expect you to wake for hours.”
Mayla jumped, then quickly saw Aaron leaningagainst a tree, smoking a cigarette. “Where are we?” She walkedtoward him.
“Not far from Tarnow. This is not a good areato be lingering in. Most of Poland is crawling with Nazis. Ifyou’re anything but a pure Aryan, hide. They’ll shoot you on thespot and ask questions later.”
“How could this possibly be happening? Iwonder what my sister is doing. She . . . joined the partisans. Ishould have gone with her.”
“I can’t imagine you fighting with thepartisans.”
“Why? You don’t even know me.” Mayla leanedher back against a tree and faced him.
“I heard you say you want to be a doctor.Doctors save lives – not take them.”
“How did a Jew get a job driving this car?Weren’t they afraid you’d drive off and never come back?” Shewatched him intently.
“Where would I go? I’m a Jew without properpapers. Your grandmother owns me.”
“What do you mean she owns you?”
“My papers say I am a Jew assigned to FrauVictoria Backer. She has permission from Himmler to do as shepleases with me. I must do what she says or I’ll be sent toAuschwitz. I would rather be a slave to her, than go to that deathcamp.”
“Who is this Himmler? It’s important that Iknow who these people are.”
“You don’t know who Himmler is? Where haveyou been?
Mayla wondered if she should trust him. “I .. . I’m . . . I’ve spent my whole life living in a kumpania.”
“You’re a Gypsy?”
“You know I am. You picked us up in a Gypsycamp and I’m sure you overhead mama and me talking about it.”
“It’s not polite to let people know you’veoverheard their conversations.”
“Don’t be a prude. Just be honest and don’task stupid questions about things you already know.” Mayla kickedthe grass with the toe of her shoe.
“You’re not exactly reserved or withoutopinion, are you? You remind me of your grandmother.”
Mayla smirked at him. “So tell me about thisHimmler.”
“ Heinrich Himmler is both the Chief of German Police and Minister ofthe Interior. He oversees all internal and external police andsecurity forces, including the Gestapo Secret StatePolice. ”
“He’s head of the SS? Is he close to Hitler,then?”
“ In thirty-nine Hitler andhis army chiefs needed an excuse to invade Poland. It seemsHimmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and Heinrich Müller masterminded aplan, code-named Operation Himmler. German soldiers dressed inPolish uniforms and started border skirmishes that looked-likePolish aggression against Germany. The incidents were then used tojustify the invasion of Poland. They started the war. ThenHeydrich formed the Einsatzgruppen.”
“ The SS task forces? Tell me more.”
“ Well originally the SS wascreated to secure government papers and offices in areas taken overby the Germans. But Hitler authorized Himmler and Heydrich to sendthe Einsatzgruppen death squads to Poland. They murdered somesixty-five thousand intellectuals and civilians. They rounded upthousands of Jews and others and forced them into ghettos andconcentration camps.”
“ How could that many die? Idid not know. This truly was the beginning of the war? Butwhy?”
“ The beginning, yes. Forpower of course. Germany then invaded France, Denmark, Norway, andthe Netherlands. If that wasn’t enough, they began bombing GreatBritain in preparation for an invasion. ”
“ What do you mean bypreparation for an invasion?” Mayla couldn’t help wondering howAaron knew so much about the Nazi plan. Was he really a Jew? Didshe just reveal she was a Gypsy to a Nazi spy?”
“ In June of forty-one, the day before they invaded the SovietUnion, Himmler commissioned the preparation of the Generalplan Ost. They finalized it in forty-two. ”
“ The g eneral plan for the east?”
“ Yes. It called for theBaltic States, Poland, western Ukraine, and Byelorussia to beconquered and resettled by ten million German citizens.”
“ Resettled? What on earth areyou talking about, Aaron?”
“ All thirty-one millioncurrent residents will be expelled further east, starved, or usedfor forced labor. The plan is to extend the border of Germany athousand kilometres to the east.”
“ Six hundred twenty miles. .are you serious?” Mayla couldn’t imagine anything like this couldbe possible. “Are you making this story up?”
“ You asked, and I’m tellingyou the truth. Himmler expected that it would take twenty to thirtyyears to complete his plan, at a cost of sixty-seven billionreichsmarks . In January Himmler reported that six hundred twenty-ninethousand ethnic Germans had been forcibly resettled.”
“ They booted out the ownersand German families willingly took over their lives?” Mayla had ahard time envisioning such a thing.
“ We don’t think it went assmoothly as Himmler expected.”
“What do you mean?”
“ Well most resettled Germansdidn’t want to become farmers. As far as we can tell there arethousands of them living in temporary camps or quarters in towns.Another Nazi success.” He laughed, an edge clung to histone.
“ Who is that Heydruck Nazisyou mentioned?”
“Who, Reinhard Heydrich?”
“ Yes. Is he as powerful asthis Himmler?”
“ SS-Obergruppen Führer ReinhardHeydrich was Himmler’s right-hand man. He was General der Polizei , chief of the RSHA or Reichssicherheitshauptamt , the ReichMain Security Office. That included the Gestapo, Sicherheitsdienst desReichs Führer s - SS we call the SD , and Kripo , which became the CriminalPolice Department for the entire Reich. He was also the StellvertretenderReichsprotektor .”
“ The A cting Reich-Protector?”
“ Yes, of Bohemia and Moravia. We believe Heydrich was the brains ofthe Night of the Long Knives. The good news is he was killed lastyear by British-trained Czech commandos. They hid in safe houses,and eventually took refuge in Ss. Cyril and MethodiusCathedral, an Orthodox church in Prague. A traitor in the Czechresistance betrayed their location.”
“Did . . . any of themsurvive?”
“The Germans tried flushing themout with gunfire, tear gas, and by flooding the crypt. Finally theyblew-up the entrance with explosives. The soldiers took their ownlives instead of surrendering.”
“ How do you know all this?”Mayla couldn’t help asking.
“ My father and several otherpartisans were nearby when it happened. I guess Hitler was so angryhe falsely linked the assassins to the towns of  Lidice  and Ležáky. AGestapo report stated that Lidice was suspected as the hiding placeof the assailants. Then the Gestapo found a resistance radiotransmitter in Ležáky. Hitler ordered brutal reprisals. Overthirteen thousand people were arrested,  deported , andimprisoned. A number of children were chosen for Germanization, buteighty-one were killed in gas vans at the Chełmnoextermination camp. All males over the age of sixteen in bothvillages were murdered. They also slaughtered all the women inLežáky. All but four of the women from Lidice were deportedimmediately to Ravensbrück concentrationcamp.”
“ Why were four women spared?”Mayla shook her head and tried to create the scene in her mind. Itbecame too horrible to imagine.

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