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[Pages 350-356]

The “V-1” Secret

Written by Dezsö Schön

Translated by Susan Geroe

1

We've been already working for over a week in the factory, but it was still a secret to us where we were and what we were doing. From the huge dormitory, where sleeping quarters were prepared for 300 men, a narrow zigzagging corridor led to the workshop. We worked in two shifts, 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Since we were herded into this huge room, the blue sky and the June sun disappeared, to where in this great isolation, the line between day and night also started to fade.

Sometimes, voices were filtering into the dormitory from the factory courtyard. The two soup carrier boys from Maramaros told us that in fact, the factory was an entire city, with at least 30 thousand people working in it. They saw Ukrainian-speaking women pushing miner's trucks and working like men. The male nurse told us he heard French spoken. Yet, we were unable to obtain real information. The SS guard assigned to us in Auschwitz at the start of the transport proved to be unapproachable. German engineers and foremen were dispensing strictly work related orders, otherwise were mute. Obviously, upper orders restricted them from communicating with us, “heftlings”.

Our first connection with the outside world was established through a piece of paper that someone had stuck between the lavatory window's gratings from the courtyard. It was a crumpled piece of newspaper, looking like a piece of scrap. It was a portion of the Völkischer Beobachter's first page – a 2-3 day old edition – with the “OKW” bulletin and a short commentary.

“London is up in flames “– we read in the bulletin -. “Our miracle weapon releases its bomb load nonstop, 24 hours a day. The Royal family and the Government escaped from the British capital.”

The news commentator referred to neutral observers, who identically professed that since the use of the V-1, chaos and fear of death dominates the British capital. “The psychological effects of the V-1 are indescribable: the enemy became invisible to the British citizen. He no longer faces a human being, but a machine. Fight for the human being becomes hopeless…”

We were discussing lively the events in the corner of the dormitory, on the narrow bunk beds. We wondered about the truth regarding this miracle weapon. How much is fact and how much propaganda intended for internal consumption? How long can the Germans stand this rhythm, how will the Allies defend themselves? What is V-1, - an awkward incident, or perhaps the weapon, which gives a new unexpected direction to the war?

We were further crushed by the fact that the bulletin mentioned only in a few words the Normandy landing, or the Invasion, as we called it. It contained one lonely sentence about “local military operations and bombings”. We were hoping that in the meanwhile the Allied troops had already taken Paris, yet now we read news about the “repressive” miracle weapon and local military operations from the Normandy coast…

Miki Vadasz walked towards us through a row of elevated bunk beds. Miki was an engineer, assigned to work with the German director. His fine, smiling face was grave. He sat down on a narrow bed, looked around carefully, then said quietly:

“Do you know what is the machine we assemble? V-1.”
        Four pairs of shocked eyes stared at him.
        “Are you sure, Miki?” escaped the question from someone's lips.
        “Deadly sure.” came the answer.

2

Our group was made up of three hundred Hungarian Jews, mostly from the ghettos of Nagyvarad and Kolozsvar. The group had been assembled in Auschwitz. A German in civilian clothes with a wide hook and arrow band on his arm stood in front of the block and was recruiting metal workers. I listened to the advice received from a Warsaw Jew while waiting in front of the bathing place – I enlisted as metalworker.

“Go away from here,” said the Warsovian, “sign up for the first transport. Whoever escapes from hell, is already half saved.”
        “And what about you?” I inquired.
        “I was appointed to a commando here. I can't go on a transport.”
        He pulled up his sleeve and showed me a tattooed number.

It was morning time, a few hours after we arrived to the station at Birkenau and went through what everyone else ordered to the right went through. There were several friends and acquaintances around the block. No one greeted one another. We were looking into one another's' eyes quietly, like at a funeral.

The German with the armband held a notebook in his hand.
        “Your name?”
        I said my name. He recorded it in his notebook.
        “Your profession?”
        “I am a machinist.”
        As an explanation, I added: “I had a typewriter, sewing machine and bicycle repair shop. My brother worked for me, is a good worker,” I said pointing to my son, who was holding onto my arm all the while. At the beginning of our life as” KZ” inmates we worried mostly about becoming separated, the reason we didn't let go of each other's hand even for a minute.

The man with the armband wrote up his name as well.

In front of the neighboring block, forest workers enlisted, a little further mine workers.
The choice of professions embarrassed my friend, Henrik Bravermann, who owned a factory in Nagyvarad.

“What do you think, what should we do?” he asked, trying to see through me into the uncertain future.
I told him what the Warsaw Jew had taught me. Anyway, I already enlisted as a metal worker. Bravermann stood in the machinist line as well.

Then, attorney Dr. Tibor Hirsch and Armin Friedmann, representative of Golf razor blade manufacturing came to consult with me. Feri, who graduated High School only a few days earlier and was the son of physician Sandor Wiener, also discovered me in the multitude. I repeated the instruction. They all lined up as machinists.

In the group of 300, fathers and sons, brothers, brothers-in-law, friends, neighbors, all united. The oldest person was Majer Fein, the “samesz” of the Orthodox Community, who was near the age of 60. The youngest was Majsi, my son, whose Bar-Mitzvah we celebrated only a few months earlier.

There were locksmiths apprentices, factory workers, previous soldiers, and artisans in the group. There were also a few over tortured labor battalion inmates who returned from the Ukraine, yet before they had the chance to look around, the sky fell open. There were “Mesumeds” from antebellum times, “Chassid” from Maramaros, and “Bochers” from Zenta, who were torn from studying Talmud. In one word, every stratum of the Hungarian Jewry was represented.

They held us for a few days in temporary barracks, then one afternoon they took us to the ramp and heavily guarded by the SS, we started out towards West.

3

“We're making weapons to murder our rescuers,” said despondently Uncle Fein the “samesz”. “We're extinguishing the spark of hope by our own hands. There isn't a trace of such calamity even in the Torah.”

Days went by while working in the factory, yet we didn't know how the attack against England was going, how did the Invasion progress, what was happening on the other fronts. In vain did we watch the grates of the lavatory, the miracle did not repeat itself, we didn't receive a newspaper. In any case, the strict isolation had its explanation: we were the most valuable trustees of the German Empire's military secret.

We started work at seven o'clock; at nine we had a short break. This break was mostly for the benefit of the German foremen, because our men – aside from a few exceptions – ate already their bread portion for the day at breakfast. Instead of break, we interrogated Miki Vadasz, the expert:

“What do you think Miki, what's the hourly speed of the airplane? How heavy is its bomb cargo? How far can it fly? How exact are its hits? What do you think Miki, how can one defend against such airplanes?

Miki Vadasz spoke of an airplane without pilot, which would be launched, according to all signs, from a catapult and, which would be directed by a magnetic contraption. “Certain number of revolutions,” he explained, “equals a certain distance. When the airplane reaches its target, the motor stops, the plane dives and the bomb load explodes.”

One evening, Miki Vadasz did a presentation for a group of 15 or 20 of us. He started a formal presentation, but was interrupted by questions.

“In short, what you're saying is that the apparatus is an airplane?” teed off the avalanche tinsmith Herman Katz from Nagyvarad.
        “Yes, an airplane without pilot.”
        “Then where is the propeller?” insisted Steinmetz, the currency exchange agent.
        “There is no propeller.”
        “Incomprehensible,” we chimed in a chorus.
        “Rather, it is new and unusual,” reasoned Miki. “This jet inlets air, then while shooting out compressed air, it develops counterforce, which propels it with great speed.”

Miki complemented his explanation with an engineer's sketch.

“Imagine,” he said, “we are sitting in a boat, in the water. Now then, if we project from the boat strong water jets below the water-level, the reactionary force would set the boat into motion.”

The boat example set the crowd thinking. A short pause followed.

A discussion started among the engineers whether the apparatus heated the compressed air. Miki reasoned by the side of the “intermittent” method, whose essence consisted in the fact that the propulsion was based on the principle of interruptions. He used professional terms, which included Steuergeraet, Rudermaschine, Leitwerk, Argus-Rohr, Ascania, but to us laymen, all that had no meaning.

Uncle Fein, the “samesz”, translated the presentation into his own language. What he heard in over an hour and a half, he summarized in the following words:

“It is clear that the machine is “golem”, but that little box which guides it, is the “sem-mefajres”. They brought the Jews to assemble it because the Jews know how to handle “sem-mefajres”… Well, didn't I tell you that there is no trace in the Torah of such curse and affliction…?”

4

The factory was situated in the area of Braunschweig, in Fallersleben. It had its own name - KDF-Stadt -, a name that was plastered on it when the German government encouraged people to increase production with its “Kraft durch Freude” slogan. Originally, it was built as a car factory and it produced in series 1000 mark small cars by the name of Volkswagen. The Volkswagen evolved into a boat car, and they later retooled it for the production of the V-1.

The factory presented us with several advantages: in the corner of the dormitory there was a bathing facility with a shower and constant hot and cold water. The workplace was in the same physical building; we didn't have to foot it. And most importantly, they didn't torment us for hours by standing about on the Appelplatz for head count. We had half the day, that is to say 12 hours to ourselves, when we did not even catch sight of the SS.

Making friends happened fast, given the strong interdependence. In a matter of a few days, we called one another on first name basis. Conversing was easy because barriers fell, envy and rivalry ceased. The great tragedy provided a constant subject, people being unable to digest their experiences. The German invasion, the yellow star, the ghetto, the wagon – all these disasters gushed too fast. No wonder everyone interpreted the matter as if it were about personal injury, which happened to him – and solely to him. Some kind of hocus-pocus happened, legerdemain, sorcery and before the vigilant, smart, and experienced man could realize the ploy, he was already trapped.

“Oh God, had I only suspected it…” rang from every story, every sigh.

A good Gentile friend called on engineer Rajz: “Come Bandi, I'll hide you all in my vineyard so well that they won't be able to find you even with an X-ray machine.”

The tall Nussbaum worked at Dermata shoe factory in Kolozsvar. His wife was a Gentile, they had two children and a beautiful family life. His brothers-in-law came and begged him: “There is problem for the Jews, Imre, don't go into the ghetto, we hide you.” He chose never to hide. He was not afraid now either, he had nothing to be afraid of. “This is where my great courage got me…”

Janos Dunka, the Romanian Chief magistrate of Sugatag called on Feri Wiener. The husband of their one-time maid wanted to build a bunker for the entire family, but the father did not believe that any hardship would befall a doctor.

Leimdorfer wanted to hide in the Transylvanian mountains. A person from the religious order of the Kanonok offered Little Samson to hide him in the attic and provide food for him. “I swear,” stressed little Samson with flushed cheeks, “that would have been the real thing to do. People hid in the attic of the 'mikve', for sure they escaped.”

There were those like Jozsef Neumann, who was already hidden, and he watched the gendarmes round up the Jews of Palosremete. “The Gentile man implored me – 'don't go, don't go Jaszl, you'll regret it' – but I could not stay. I said I didn't want to be an exception. Let it happen to me what happened to the other Jews…”

There were hundreds and hundreds of stories, but at the basis of each, the same reproach, same self-blame, self-grinding.

Only the air raids provided a fresh theme. This was the flickering light of hope, the sign of existence of an outside world.

Around 12:30 PM, with the precision of a watch mechanism, the factory's siren rang out and we filed into the bunker build in the corridor. The SS guard closed and locked the door on us and waited in the so-called bunker corridor the end of the alarm.

One day though, there was a real bomb hit. It landed so close by that the bunker rocked. The light went out, the air pump stopped. Our first thought was that we were covered by rubble and we would get asphyxiated as rats.

The SS sergeant tore open the door and having lost his temper yelled: ”Run!”

We were floundering over rubbles. In the courtyard, there was a huge “dead” bomb. Gasoline filled barrels were aflame. We were able to take rest about a kilometer from the factory, on the soccer field. Even the SS soldier mellowed, allowing us to stretch out on the grass.

It was a mild, warm summer day. After the ghetto, Auschwitz and enslavement in the factory, we met up again with the sun and the blue sky, grass and flowers. The illusory feeling of freedom stole itself into our hearts.

Dr. Erno Mandel from Marosvasarhely, who even during difficult times never lost his sense of humor, pointing towards the thick smoke clouds rising from the factory building, said with feigned sadness:

“Guys, I'm afraid I lost my job…”

5

Mandel was right. After the attack we no longer had a job in the factory. We were cleaning up the rubbles for a few more days, but as soon as the freight cars arrived, they sent us on our way.

During the transport, time passed with difficulty and at a desperately slow pace. We were sitting on the floor and were craning our necks towards the door crack. Then, we got used to the motion, the changing scenery, and we were staring ahead with drooping heads. Now and then the train stopped and our wagons were pushed onto sidetracks where we awaited for half days at times. This is how it went, night and day, night and day.

“Take a look Jancsi, what's written on that locomotive?”
        “Little Freiman looked and reported: “Es rollen die Reder für den Sieg.”

In July 1944 the wheels of the German trains were still rolling in the interest of victory.

“Steinmetz, hurry and try to find out from him where we are going.”

These orders pertained to those who sat in the first row, thus closer to both, the SS soldier and the outside world.

In the train, I tried to settle close to Friedlaender. He was born in Ungvar – that's from where they took him to Auschwitz. He was a man around the age of forty, quiet, patient, and good-natured – with all the characteristics of the real “talmid-chacham”. In the midst of the never-ending waiting, it was a pleasure to talk to him. Auschwitz did not sway him from his deeply religious belief. I needed his faith, to warm my chattering soul at its flame.

In Bonn, our train stopped at the main station. It was daytime and we saw the city, heard the jingle sof the streetcar. A passenger train was standing on the tracks next to ours. Men, well dressed urban ladies, and vacationing children were getting on the train. Fine, genteel folks.

“You're thinking of the contrast, aren't you?” said Friedlaender. “They and we – day and night. Did you try to catch a glimpse from them? Don't bother. You won't succeed. You know, if one wants to establish connection with another person, one searches for eye contact. That is why our forefather, Jacob, whose eyesight worsened in his old age, embraced and kissed his grandchildren on his deathbed, while making his testament – that is how he connected with them. But these people here,” he pointed to the other train, “do not acknowledge our existence, and at the end could easily say that they had no knowledge about anything.”

Sandor Schlesinger from Kisvarda said:

Do you believe the horrors of Auschwitz? About the women…the children…”
        “I don't believe it,” answered Friedlaender. “You don't believe it, he doesn't believe it. Our survivor's instinct objects against believing what some Polish Jews said in Auschwitz. Or else, we would give up hope about ever escaping.”

Friedlaender did not have a story about how he could have escaped. If he ever made a comment, he said that our defense mechanism became dull. This was the price we paid for emancipation. Even the religious, Orthodox Jew believed that the Law and Constitution defended him. He was loyal out of gratitude, even when this fidelity meant Auschwitz. He often quoted the Writing, according to which “cheszed l'umim chatat” - it is a sin to believe in the sense of justice of the host nation…

Our train was rolling by the River Rhine. There were hardly any traces of the five yearlong war. We saw bucolic landscapes, capricious curves, steamboats, painting-like little towns pasted onto the brae, vineyards, orchards. On the mountain peaks there were medieval castles. As if they ganged up that day, everywhere they were picking cherries. The fresh fruit colored their baskets red.

The spellbinding scenery amazed us and energized us. German pride arose in the SS soldier and for the purpose of bragging, solely on this one occasion, he was willing to regard us as human beings. He opened wide the wagon's door, sang, gave explanations. “Here, this is Germany's pearl, its crown, the world's most beautiful spot. Oh, Rheinland, Oh Rheinland!”

While the SS soldier was singing Rhine songs, I was thinking that this is the cemetery of the Jewish martyrs. This is where the laments, which fill our prayer books, were born. Mainz, Worms, Speler…the cradles of the Ashkenazi Jews. Jews, like industrious little bees, were gathering riches, but the German farmer didn't trick them into an empty beehive, rather he killed them off with murderous smoke. And it happened that in a few years, the Jews forgot everything, they settled again in towns along the Rhine, where new Jewish Communities blossomed once again. When the beehive was full, the farmer lit the fire again and killed the bees. This is how it happened over a thousand years. Obviously, this is the statutory Jewish Law.

“You know Friedlaender,” I said to my neighbor without any introduction or explanation, “it wouldn't surprise me if after the war Jewish Communities rose again in Germany…”

6

The hillside where we set up homestead, in the vicinity of the French town named Thiel, a few kilometers from the Luxemburg border, proved to be a transit station. By the time the barracks were erected, Paris was liberated and we were once again entrained. We ended up in a small town by the River Rhine, called Dernau, where we tried to set up the assembly shop in a tunnel hollowed out from the hillside. However, the Allied forces were approaching with dangerous speed, thus they moved us out once again.

Given this premise, we arrived by the end of September, according to our calendar expert Lebovics on Yom Kippur morning, to the concentration camp situated in the Harz Mountains, to Dora.

The Dora factory (Mittelwerk Gmbh was its official name and the Waffen-SS its owner) was an underground city, built inside hollowed out rocks. Trains were moving inside the shafts and huge electric bulbs were shedding daytime light.

Over eight thousand prisoners worked in the shafts. They knew about the V-1. They said that there were several camps and shafts in the vicinity, all linked. One could get everywhere underground. The old timers knew already about the V-2, which were also made underground. This huge rocket, they explained, has a 12 ton bomb load and zips toward its target at 5000 kilometers per hour.

We were the first Jews in the shaft, in the so-called Sawatzky-commandos. Same as in Fallersleben, here we also worked on assembling. In the beginning, we put together 15 machines in the 12-hour shift, but within four weeks the procedure was so perfected that we finished a machine every ten minutes. We worked on an assembly line, on rhythm in the official language. The line became longer and longer, and as such it was possible to boost production. The factory managers were talking about maximum production, a machine every three minutes. They spoke of the prospects of better food, bonuses paid in camp-money and a day of rest. The main target was maximum production.

Everything went well until the end of December. Suddenly, the responsible German engineers fell into dismay: Mittelwerk was being sabotaged.

We found out detailes from the German foremen. The fired rockets climbed to 5-6000 meter height, but instead of continuing their parabolic trajectory, they crashed. Without a doubt, saboteurs were responsible for the destructive work.

On the surface, everything went just fine. Everything had been checked inside out and tried. The smallest mistakes were corrected. Officers of the Luftwaffe, according to logic trustworthy men, conducted the inspections. They checked the electronic appliances, atmospheric pressure, cold-start, and the functioning of all other parts of the complicated machinery. Every test was certified with a stamp, a sign that everything was as it should be. And following all this, when the rocket started, came the bitter disappointment – the miracle weapon crashed.

A responsible German engineer could really go crazy…

7

Only few of us knew that two young men, members of the group of three hundred machinists caused this horror and mix-up. The twenty-year-old Sanyi Heller from Kraszna and the twenty two- year- old Majsi Friedmann from Nagyvarad destroyed the factory's production.

Assembled machines, ready for transport, were taken to the main shaft, to the far end of Takstrasse. Those days, the railway hubs were the constant targets of the Allied forces, thus they had to stand by for the right time to do the loading.

Whoever witnessed once this loading procedure, could never forget the scene. The managers and the SS soldiers literally acted like raving mad: they were shouting, chasing people, and beating them. The horrified gasping “heftlings” in their wooden shoes moved even more clumsily than usual.

For two or three days after the loading, there was quiet in this part of the main shaft. Ready, inspected, and stamped machinery was of no interest to anyone until there was a loading scheduled.

There were only two “heftlings” performing touch up work. Holding a can of paint and brush in hand, they were going from one machine to the other to make correction on the visible faulty painting or possible chipping. This part of the job was of so little importance that the paint shop “kapo” had not even bothered to place a foreman there. The work was indeed easy, but the “kapo” sent two Jews to do it anyway, probably because in this section of the main shaft, near the mouth of the cavity, it was extremely cold. The two guys worked with a portable electric lamp and warmed their numbed fingers by the lamp.

Heller and Friedmann loosened the cover, inserted their hands in the part called Mittelteil and lifted out from the guiding instrument the portion named “Bolze-A”. Then, with small pliers cut through the contact between the guiding instrument and navigator. After finishing the “job”, they replaced the cover and placed new “inspected band” around it. The entire operation took no longer than 3-4 minutes.

After they were convinced that the air was clear and there was nowhere any suspicious movement, they started working on a new machine.

Whoever observed them during work, would see only their hands dirty with paint, striped suit and wooden shoes sticking from paint, bluish or parchment color faces frozen to the bone, and believed that they were two dulled KZ- prisoners who even forgot already their own names.

Mittelwerk proved to be a disaster for the German experts. Every day someone disappeared. New faces appeared, new factory managers, new engineers, new inspectors, new master workers. Every time members of Sicherheitsdienst showed up, they always took with them a few Germans.

They doubled the numbers of factory militia, SS soldiers, and informers. They organized a public hanging and they wanted to impress upon us by commanding us to witness the hanging. During the last days of January, Dr. Robert Lei, Minister of Military Production visited Mittelwerk. They held long meetings. However, they never discovered the reason why the V-1, in Uncle Fein's words “the golem” – didn't want to obey its master.

One evening, wet and full of mud, when we reached the barracks on the top of the mountainside, we received with the news that Kecske died. He came back from the night shift, they said, didn't even touch his soup, asked the Tischaeltest to save it because he didn't feel well. Then he stretched on his bunk bed and died.

Poor Kecske, Hugo Katz by his real name, from Kiralyhaza, was only twenty years old.

As the row opened, the angel of death received permission to ravage.

Notes came one after the other from the Revier and Tibi Hirsch, who at the time kept the name list, and placed a date and swastika next to the deceased.         One such note informed about the death of Uncle Fein, the “samesz”. From the beginning, Uncle Fein didn't eat the soup and didn't touch the sausage, of which we received a very small piece once a week. He thought that if God had the right to shepherd his sheep to Auschwitz, then he, Uncle Fein also had the right pushing away the soup plate. “If the Saint Creator wants a “samesz” on Earth,” he said, “he has to redeem us very soon, as it is not in my power to grant him extensions…”

And as the redeeming was late in arriving, Uncle Fein stepped down from his earthly duties.

A bad stroke of luck killed Miki Vadasz from Nagyvarad, the 32-year-old greatly talented engineer. It seemed to him that by making sewing needles he could come by some extra income and for that reason he and engineer Rajz experimented together. They had the material, but making the hole proved to be a problem: how to drill such a thin hole? While experimenting, he stuck his finger and by the third day they took him to the Revier with fever. When the note came, a swastika and the date of December 31, 1944 were written by his name.

The Dutch Blockaelteste picked on Friedlaender, whom for the sake of simplification, he called “Talmud-Jew”. He fabricated an accusation against him and sent him to the neighboring camp with a detention group. This was equal to the death sentence.

Neither bragging about his friendship with young Ford nor his American fortune could help poor engineer Decker. They took him into the Revier, where they operated on him several times without anesthetic and used paper bandages. We found out of his death only later, through others. That is why by his name we could place only the incomplete date: 1944.

Gyula Grosz a man from Nagyvarad, who converted to Christianity, and who was the “kapo” of the group of 300 from the very beginning, beat up one evening Jeno Perlmann, also from Nagyvarad. By morning, Perlmann was dead. He beat up Dezso Hirschl from Nagyvarad, and by evening Hirschl was dead.

An air force officer caused the death of Erno Klein, owner of a cheese factory in Nagyvarad. During break, two young officers walked through a wing of the shaft.

The myopic Erno Klein who was wearing glasses, was tottering along in the same area with a sardine can filled with coffee he received only moments ago. One of the officers, purely for fun tripped up Erno Klein. He fell so unfortunately on his back that he suffered severe skull fracture. He died on the way to the Revier.

The fathers were next: Mendel Katz, the blacksmith from Szaplonca, who with his two sons made up a full percent of our group, passed away; Ede Stern, the hat maker from Szatmar, who was there also with his two sons; then followed Herman London from Nagyvarad, Ignac Mulhlrad from Nagyszolos, Miklos Szoke from Szatmar, and Miksa Szocs from Kolozsvar.

In mid February, Sanyi Kohn encouraged us by saying that winter was about to end because in Nyiregyhaza, his hometown, the hens were already raking the ground. By this time, more than half of the fathers were dead and death was reaping the other half without resistance.

8

By March we were only miming work. Parts, as well as wagons and tracks were lacking. The air raids were going on day and night. They could not bomb the factory built in the rocks, why they bombed the train stations and destroyed the rolling production.         The soup became continually more diluted, the bread portion ever smaller. There were days when eight of us shared a single kilo and half loaf of bread. We counted not only the weeks and days, but also the hours.

With a new “cugang”, a new barber came to our block. After shaving me, he placed a small piece of broken mirror in my hand. An unknown face, surprised pair of eyes were staring at me.

The German military leadership obviously had far reaching plans for us, because in the middle of March they put us through an intelligence test. The test started with easy, elementary school questions: we had to copy circles and small sketches. I couldn't do it. I could not accomplish even one task. I was declared inappropriate for any kind of professional work. I totally failed.

That evening, on the bunk bed, my son approached me with a surprising request. He bent down near me and so that no one could hear, he whispered in my ears:

“Daddy, pray with me.”

We pulled the cover over our heads and from the improbable far away past, from its depth, the Hebrew words, prayer shreds broke through. I prayed whispering and Majsi repeated word by word.

“Min hamejcar” – I'm calling to you anxiously, my Lord. – “Bau majim ad nafes” – waves dashed over our heads.

“Zarim omrim ejn tochelet v'tikva” – strangers are saying that for us there is no prospect, no hope. I beg you, Lord, don't allow us to fall into our enemy's hands, so that they may erase our names.

Protector of Israel – “s'mor seerit Jiszrael”- keep safe what's left of Israel. Send help now, right away, until it's not late, and free us. Amen.

Majsi hugged me with his thin arms and within minutes I heard his quiet, uniform breathing. Our prayer had an immediate effect. He fell asleep peacefully.

9

We were in to separate beds, next to each other. There were clean, white sheets on the beds, pillows under our heads.

Above the bed, there was a board, on it the name, age, and nationality. As the defeat was still fresh, the German nurse did not dare argue with me – shaking her head though, next to my nationality she wrote: Eretz Israel.

We were recovering in a pavilion of a Schutzenhaus in Celle, near Bergen-Belsen. The doctors were stuffing me with Digitalis, so that my heart could cope with the sudden weight gain. It was a difficult task, because during the eleven months I lost more than half of my body weight.

It was the end of May. The courtyard of the Schutzenhaus was filled with flowers, the wind was caressing the leaves of the horse-chestnut tree under my window.

I had visitors in the afternoon: Majsi Friedmann and Mendi Kohn came. They brought a great deal of news. They also brought a few German newspapers, chocolate, smiles and brotherly good words.

Majsi Friedmann was urging me to go and take a little walk.

“I have not stood on my feet for weeks,” I hesitated.

“Try it,” insisted Majsi. “If you get tired, you go back to bed.”

We went to the little park in front of the Schutzenhaus. Just to make sure, we walked arm in arm.

We strolled across the mill ditch bridge. At the first corner, we stopped. Suddenly, my feet grew roots in the ground.

The victorious Allied Army placed on public viewing the most beautiful war trophy: they surrounded with barbed wire one corner of the little square, and behind it stood unveiled, the V-1.

A few children stood gazing by the fence. The adults did not even glance at it. They did not want to see the V-1 as trophy in the hands of the enemy – defeated, beaten, mocked…

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