The nasty virus which attacked me on Friday has taken a step back. Thank goodness! I’m not up to full power, but 85% is pretty good, but I might need a nap on this ridiculous dark, dreary day.
Ken did his best to take care of me by fetching water and pills which might help. He scrounged his meals from leftovers he could microwave. But what is left in his wake are piles of messes. He can’t help it for two reasons — one he’s not able to keep things neat and clean because his disability doesn’t allow too much leeway, and two, he’s a man who doesn’t think of such things.
So today, the post is short again. After all there’s dishes and laundry to do.
But at least I can give all of you the next few chapters. I still haven’t heard if anybody is enjoying or hating them, so I’ll just stick to my original plan and keep publishing the chapters every day until we finish the story.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 3 (Continued)
Paris – June—Marta and Emma always listened to their radio after dinner. In between a comedy and a selection by France’s Royal Symphony, they listened intently to a broadcast by a French tank general named Charles de Gaulle.
“The leaders who, for many years, led the French armies formed a new government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true; we got overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground, and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. The tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today.
“But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No! Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone!
De Gaulle repeated the line: “La France n’est pas seule!”
“She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. France can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.
“This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it.
“I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons. I invite the engineers and the specialized workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.
“Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished; and it will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London.”
The unknown French General’s appeal moved Marta and Emma to tears as he called upon the French people to rise up and resist the Germans. Since coming to Paris two years ago, the girls now thought of themselves as French citizens, so this message made a strong impression on them.
The first order of business of the Vichy puppet government decreed a death sentence for Charles de Gaulle.
Budapest, Hungary – June—After dinner, Heidi packed the children into the car for what she hoped would be one last time. Baby Jacob, who she now called Jake, fell asleep immediately once the car rolled down the unfamiliar road.
David sat in the front seat with Heidi. “Mutter, where are we going?”
“In all honesty, David,” Heidi said, “I do not know. Fritz gave me the name and address of a person we must contact. I trust Fritz. He is a good man.”
“Ya, Fritiz ist ein guter mann.” David said in perfect German, and he then added, “Do you think Fritz is okay?”
“I pray he is.”
“Me too.” He paused. “Heidi, why do people hate us so much? Why do we need to run away?”
David surprised Heidi with his mature question. “Sometimes people are just so full of hatred they become stupid. Remember hate is very dangerous.”
“Oh.” David seemed satisfied with Heidi’s answer.
Heidi breathed a sigh of relief when David didn’t ask further questions. Sometimes his grown-up questions proved to be too tough to answer.
After stopping a couple of times for directions, Heidi found the address on the note Fritz had given her so many weeks ago. The unpainted wooden structure sat in the heart of downtown Budapest. Heidi turned off the car engine and instructed the children to wait while she went up to the front door and rang the bell.
A man with a long white beard came to the door. He wore the traditional dress of a rabbi with a black kippah resting on his bald head. “May I help you, miss?”
Heidi cleared her throat. “A friend of mine in Lviv gave me your address. He said we would be safe with you.” She handed him Fritz’s letter of introduction.
The man read the note; then he looked at the car parked at the street with three small blond children. “Please, pull your car around to the back of the house, and we will talk.”
“Thank you.” Heidi said.
Once Heidi got her brood into the safety of the house, the man welcomed the family. “I am Rabbi Weismann. Welcome to my home. This is my wife, Gavriella, and my children-Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and Hannah.”
Heidi replied, “I am Heidi Schiller from Berlin. I am the nanny for the Gessler children. They are from Warsaw. When Mrs. Gessler died in Lviv, and all of the Jews got sent to Siberia, Fritz told me to come here.”
The Rabbi’s eyes widened with surprise. “These are Jewish children?”
“Yes, Rabbi. Their last name is Gessler. I dyed their hair blond so no questions would be asked if we encountered trouble at the checkpoints. I wanted the Germans or Russians to think they belonged to me. I even taught them a few Catholic prayers and some basic German.”
“You are a very brave girl to come alone this far alone.” He said in amazement.
“I begged Fritz to come with us, but he thought he would put us in danger if he made the trip. I pray he is all right.”
“Where did he go?”
“When he wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the U. S. S. R., the Russians sent him to a place called Siberia.”
The rabbi’s face fell. “I understand.”
Gavriella asked, “You must all be hungry. Come, let us share some bread.”
Heidi smiled. “Thank you, but we just ate.”
The rabbi studied the young girl and the three children. Even with the blond hair, the Rabbi noted Jewish features in the children. Why should she take on such a burden if her story is not true?
The rabbi nodded to his wife. “Gavriella, would you please make a room ready for our newest guests? They appear very weary from their long journey.”
Gavriella nodded in agreement. Her husband thought he bore the responsibility to help Jews escape Nazi tyranny. Many strangers from other parts of Europe came to him for help, but these three children and their young nanny made an exceptional case. “I will prepare the room in the attic.”
The Rabbi smiled. “Thank you, my dear.”
Gavriella said. “Come with me, Miss Heidi and children. I will show you to your room.” The rabbi went ahead of them to pull down a hidden staircase from the ceiling. He lit a candle and began to climb the stairs. Gavriella followed and motioned for Heidi to follow.
David pulled on Heidi’s skirt. “Mutter, is this the wizard we are looking to find?”
Heidi’s face turned red. “Shhh, David. We will talk later.” She nudged David to climb the stairs.
Ruthie sucked her thumb and refused to move.
“Ruthie, what is the matter with you?” The fatigue of holding a sleeping Jacob strained Heidi’s arms, and her patience waned. She didn’t want to deal with a tantrum from Ruthie.
“Mutter I am scared. Monsters are up there.” She cried.
“David and I will keep you safe. I am sure the nice rabbi would not give us a room with monsters.”
The rabbi overheard Ruthie’s complaint and came to Heidi’s aid. “Ruthie, we save this special room for our most honored guests. I scared all the monsters away before you go here. Come. See the toys upstairs. Perhaps you will find one you like.” The rabbi offered his hand to the little girl.
Ruthie put her hand into the rabbi’s palm. Her short little legs strained to propel herself up the steep ladder while the rabbi followed her. Gavriella lit candles in the sconces on the outside walls of the large room; the attic revealed itself to be a beautiful dormitory. The spacious room offered several beds and a toy chest at the far end. “We can really stay here?” Ruthie asked in her four year old squeaky voice with her eyes wide open. “I can sleep in a bed by myself?”
“Yes of course.” The rabbi smiled as he led her to the toy box.
Heidi’s eyes widened with surprise. The white plastered walls made the attic appear cavernous. Colorful floral curtains covered the one large window in the room. Paintings of country scenery decorated the wooden walls. on every wall. A wooden rocking chair stood beside a handmade crib. Heidi laid Jacob in the crib and covered him with a colorful handmade quilt. When she turned around, she realized beautiful quilts covered all of the beds.
Heidi glanced at Gavriella. “Did you sew these wonderful quilts?”
The short, stocky woman blushed. “Yes.”
The rabbi interjected. “Gavriella does many things to make our guests comfortable. I would never be able to help so many without her special help.” He and Gavriella shared a special look only couples understand.
“How do I thank you for opening your home to us?” Heidi smiled.
The rabbi put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and held her close. “We both hope you will be happy and safe here, You are very brave, Miss Heidi. If you need extra blankets, tell Gavriella. The night can get chilly -even in June.”
All at once the emotion of the past few days flooded into Heidi’s eyes. “God brought us here, Rabbi. We may practice different religions, but we share the same loving God.”
“You are right, my dear. All of the prophets say to love one another. I too believe He sent you here.” He smiled. “Sleep well, children. Tomorrow we will eat a nice breakfast.” He climbed down the ladder.
Gavriella stayed to help Heidi get the sleepy children into their bed clothes and tuck them in. Heidi kissed them all and hugged Gavriella.
“Goodnight, everyone. Sweet dreams.” Gavriella waved as she descended the ladder.
The soft candlelight in the large room put Heidi at peace. Her weariness allowed her to let go of any fears of what might come next. She extinguished the candles in the sconces with a soft breath and undressed by the light of a single candle beside her bed. She lay down on the soft straw mattress and studied the reflection of the flame dancing on the white ceiling. Gavriella’s warm quilt wrapped her in the warmth of a mother’s love. Heidi slipped into the twilight of sleep and her tension floated away; she blew out the last candle and quietly said her prayers. “Dear God, Thank you for bringing us here safely. Bless Fritz. Without his friendship with the Rabbi, I never would be here. Thank you for introducing me to Rabbi Weismann and Gavriella. They are most kind. Amen.”