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January 29, 2015 / 9 Shevat, 5775
 
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These I Shall Remember


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Garbler likes him, is fond of him- he can beg, he can plead- it is dangerous, but for Yankel-

Quickly, quickly, he is almost there, almost at the field-

He hears the shots.

Running, running, running- now he is there.

Garbler stops shooting.

Itche is there, standing at the bodies- Shmiel- Moishe Yusef- Yehuda Leib- I don’t know that face-Aron- Yankel.

Blood.

Dead.

Garbler looks at him, regret on his face. “I wish you would’ve come five minutes earlier.”

He lifts his hand in a resigned gesture. “Sorry… too late.”

There are no words to be said. There is nothing that can be done.

Itche’s mind unfreezes, and runs, and tumbles, SCREAMS-

Shoudlve-gotten-there-faster. How-did-I-not-get-there-faster-

Five minutes. Five minutes.

Could-I-have-got-there-faster?

The garden. The street. The corner. The alley. The gate. The field. How fast did I run. Could I have run faster? Should’ve run faster. HAD to run faster. Fast enough? It will never be fast enough.

Yankel’s face is there, before his eyes. It will never leave.

Itche cannot look at Garbler anymore. He cannot bear to look his master in the face. He must leave, must escape…and must get his sisters out with him.

Bochnia. Father had escaped to Bochnia. The Dembitz ghetto runs with blood, but Bochnia still has time.

One day, when the Gestapo Chief is out, Itche goes into the garage to find Jan, Garbler’s chauffeur. He thinks the man can be trusted… for money.

“Jan,” he says, “Would you like to make some money?” Itche holds out a bundle of cash and studies the man’s face.

Jan looks back. “What do you need me to do?”

“Tomorrow,” Itche says, “I want you to bring the car to the house of Dr. Polacyk, in the street right near the ghetto gate. Three girls will come out. I want you to drive them to Bochnia.”

Jan tilts his cap back.

It is a risk; it is a big risk. To take Jews…? But Garbler’s car has a special Gestapo license plate… no one would suspect him if he took the car out for a short while…

He jams his cap back on his head. “Cash in advance,” he says “in full. I’ll be there at three o’clock in the afternoon.” Then he turns and strides out of the garage.

The afternoon is quiet.

Three girls make their way through the ghetto streets. They stop at the house of Dr. Polaczyk and stare up at the window.

Dr. Polaczyk is a Pole, but he is a good man. His house is on the edge of the ghetto, the window on the Jewish side and the front door facing the street.

Aidel fidgets in the cold. Surale and Minna move closer together. Their brother Itche has paid the driver, and told them what to do. Now they can only wait.

Soon a face appears. The doctor is there. The window silently slides open, and the doctor beckons. Surale helps Minna climb over, then Aidel, then boosts herself up and in.

The ghetto is behind them.

Dr. Polaczyk leads the children to the front door. He raises the shade and looks out. The car is there, silently parked. There are no passersby.

He opens the door and beckons to the girls. Surale takes a deep breath, and leads them out. Down the stairs, open the car door, into the car. The motor guns to life…They are going.

Jan drivers the Gestapo car slowly through the Dembitz streets. He goes all the way up to the long street leading away from the ghetto and turns right.

The three passengers are silent, waiting, frozen, hoping.

The car turns right again. Then it slows. A familiar house is coming into view. This is Garbler’s house. They have come back. Three white faces stare through the glass.

Jan’s door opens, and he steps out. He turns toward the house and calls towards the figure emerging from the door.

“Chief! Come and see the merchandise I’ve brought you!” His tone is exultant.

Garbler stands for a moment, poised on the top step.

Then he crisply steps down and heads toward the car.

Itche turns at the sound of his name.

“Itche! Garbler is looking for you! Get yourself to the garden, and fast!” The boy pants as he delivers his news.

Itche jolts, inside him. What-

Fear.

He is off down the street.

His heart beats faster, flutters, pounds. What- did something happened- Jan… trustworthy? Did he sell them out?

Why does Garbler need him so bad?

Garbler is standing just inside the ghetto gate.

Itche’s eyes are on the Chief as he runs up, on the restrained fury behind the thin mouth.

Garbler is holding his pistol at the ready.

An iron hand clamps down on Itche’s shoulder. “Come with me,” Garbler spits out. Itche is pushed into a fast walk. He feels the energy radiating from the body beside him. Garbler is in a rage.

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