Motti begins to teach the boys a little Torah, and slowly they begin to catch on. Kalonymous struggles with his inner pain. Emmanuel and Esther visit with gifts and treats. Esther praises Breindl for what she is accomplishing.
* * *
The boys stayed in their hiding place for two nights and three days, based on the rising and setting of the sun. There was a small slat they could see through in the root cellar — the same one Hershel had been looking through the last time he saw his mother, the day she was taken away. Their father had already been gone for some time, with no explanation given for his absence. Kalonymous had asked his mother many times where he was and received no answer at all, until eventually he stopped asking and started accepting it as a fact.
Kalonymous went to cheder less and less, spending most of his time looking for odd jobs. He made himself so useful in the butcher store, the owner had no choice but to start paying him a small wage, which he immediately handed over to Mrs. Ascher. With the scraps Kalonymous brought home and her various jobs, she kept body and soul together for herself and her family.
She continued until the noose started to tighten around the small neighborhood. She’d given little thought to the appointment of a screaming, crazy man as Chancellor until her neighbors started to disappear, and she came to complete attention when, on her way home from the city center, she heard shouting and the sound of breaking glass.
She hurried home that night as quickly as she could, thanking G-d that the boys were safe. Unsure of how far the pogrom would travel, she hurried them into the root cellar, passing them down two loaves of bread. Hershel and Dovid’l screamed for her to take them out; Kalonymous just stood mute with fear. When she saw Franz walking up the pathway to her house, she barely recognized him in uniform, and wondered when he’d become a soldier. At first she thought he was coming to help her. Instead, he pulled her by the elbow and dragged her off to a waiting truck.
She, along with 30 other women crammed into the truck, were transported to Buchenwald, where she met the fate of the millions of Kedoshim.
* * *
The boys waited for her to return, Kalonymous and Hershel keeping watch through the slat as day turned into night, and then day again, three times according to Hershel’s count. They nibbled at the bread and listened to the shouting, far enough away that they weren’t in imminent danger, but close enough to frighten them deeply. They would have to leave their hiding place eventually; they couldn’t remain there for much longer. They’d either be found or they’d starve. Kalonymous was hoping someone had seen their mother taken and would come looking for them, but when no one came, he realized that they were indeed on their own.
When it grew dark for the third time, he sat his brothers down and told them it was time to go.
“To Tante Gertrude’s house,” he replied, even though he had no idea where she lived. They’d visited a few times, but he’d been busy watching the scenery. The thought that he would have to one day lead his brothers there had never entered his mind. He knew the village was called Rügen and it was on a beach, but that was all he could remember.
He considered ducking back into the house to gather up some things but he hesitated in fear, not knowing whether he was risking their safety. Hershel sensed his hesitation and, before Kalonymous could stop him, he climbed up the ladder from the root cellar into the house instead. He was back in less than five minutes, carrying a large bag filled with an odd assortment of items: their mother’s sewing box, a screwdriver, a few jars of borscht, two pairs of short pants and an old sweater of their father’s he’d left behind.
“Well done,” said Kalonymous, unsure how these things would help but glad to have them anyway. “We’ll take turns carrying the bag until we can divide it up.”
“I guess we should go,” said Kalonymous, but again he didn’t move.
Dovid’l, sensing fear, began to whine. “I don’t want to go. I want Mama. I want Mama!” His voice was reaching a crescendo, so Kalonymous reached over and caught his face gently between his hands, crouching down so they were eye-to-eye. “Let’s do a code,” he said, knowing that Dovid’l loved codes. “When I touch your face like this,” and here he rubbed his thumbs across the little cheeks, “that means ‘Shh!’”
Dovid’l’s eyes were shining. “A real code?”
“Yes,” said Kalonymous. “A real code. You’ll remember?”
Dovid’l nodded his head, and Kalonymous wished he could be his age again.
He knew they couldn’t stay after what happened to their mother. Kalonymous and Hershel had both seen it, yet not a word had passed about it between them. Dovid’l had been too small to see through the slat; that was a blessing.
Taking a deep breath, he used the screwdriver to unhinge the slab of wood covering the hole that led outside the house, and before they knew it, they were on their way.
To be continued …