STORY: Nazis and Christmas
Aliza cried into the rough covers of her bed, the bed she used to share with her little sister. Her mother and sister had moved to a Strausburg to work that summer but had died in a train accident on the way.
Her father’s heavy steps came down the hall until he stopped and spoke through the door. “Aliza! You have no idea what you have done to this family. Who is the father?”
She held her face in her pillow until she heard the door open. She sat up quickly and straight on the side of the bed, holding her pillow to her stomach and trying to hold back her tears.
Her father walked up to her and lifted her chin, his curls of hair hanging from either side of his fedora. “Who is the father, Aliza?”
She just shook her head, unable to speak.
“Is it one of the boys from your class?!”
She shook her head.
“Someone in the neighborhood?”
she shook her head.
He stood up and grunted in frustration, curling his angry fingers above her head. “I have to go to temple now. You must stay tonight so they can’t see your stomach. We will go to the doctor and get this fixed tomorrow.”
He started to turn around but then stopped. He stared at her head for a few seconds and then spoke slowly and gravely, “Is it one of the men in the temple?”
She didn’t move. He roared again, this time not concerned the neighbors would hear. “And of course you’re not going to tell me who.”
She shook her head and he stormed out of the room. After he had slammed her door she squeaked, “I tried to stop it but. . .”
It was too late. He didn’t hear.
Aliza went to temple late that night after everyone else had gone. She knew how to get in because her father was the rabbi.
She crumpled between the pews and cried. It echoed in the empty hall. Then she heard a pew behind her creak and footsteps slowly approached her. She hesitantly lifted her head until she met eyes with an old gray bearded man. He sat down tenderly at the end of the pew.
“Oh, grandpa. Oh grandpa. I’ve ruined us.”
Come here darling. His voice was patient and soft. She hesitated. She would not get up or face him:
“Oh, are you already showing, my dear? It’s okay.”
Her eyes got big and she couldn’t say anything for a long while. His eyes were so accepting and kind. “Did my dad tell you?” He shook his head.
“God told me.” He smiled. “It’s okay, Aliza. He told me in a dream your son will bring peace to his people.”
She sniffed and turned toward him, still crumpled between the pews.
“I’ve felt the need to come and pray for the whole last week,” He said. “And God told me you will carry a child that no one wants to come into this world. But he will save us. That’s what he told me. He will save us and he will bring peace.”
Her lips trembled, “Save us from what?” She thought about her dad’s big congregation and the news he had recently told her that a new government party was becoming popular and they had asked her dad to be a consultant. “Who could possibly be against us?”
“I have been alive a long time and I sense something in the air. Not this year or next. But maybe 20 years from now. And your father won’t listen to me. He just wants the power. Aliza, you have to keep this baby and raise him well. He’s going to save many of us.”
The next day her father had said to wait for him, and they would go to their doctor to take care of it after synagogue. But she walked into synagogue with her bulging stomach in full view of everyone. Murmuring competed with her father’s hard voice until he was done speaking. Both she and her father knew they couldn’t go to the doctor after that.
Only the doctor and her grandpa were at her baby’s birth. And even the doctor left quickly so no one would see him. Aliza named her baby Amichai because it means “My people are alive.”
She stayed in her basement room because to show her face would be to shame her family. Her granpda was also alone, but he moved from the temple to the markets for errands, to sitting with Aliza as she fed or rocked her baby boy. He read her the newspaper and told her what he was afraid was happening in the government.
As Amichai got older, Amichai watched everything. Until he came of age he had only said one thing. It was when he was five, he said one sentence, full and articulate to his mother when she was crying. He said, “Don’t worry mother; Peace is coming.”
As Amichai got older he walked the streets. Their parents knew who he was but the children loved him. He would watch them from his steps. The girls would look at him and smile. They would send a bold ambassador to talk to him but he would only smile, shake his head kindly, and walk up a few steps and away from her. The girls were perplexed but they giggled and adored him.
As he watched the boys play games they could see that he was strong and sharp. And so they invited him to their games. Again he would smile kindly, shake his head, and bow out.
Whenever there was a fight among them, he was drawn to it. And as soon as the fighters saw him near, their attention turned to their mysterious friend as he walked by, smiling kindly at them and the fighting would be replaced by goodhearted laughing at this peculiar boy.
Aliza and her grandfather taught Amichai as he grew up. He discussed the direction the government was going with Amichai and the growth of the National Socialist Working Party and its concerning philosophies. He also taught Amichai much about the sciences and history, and ancient ways in the scriptures. He taught him to pray and memorize the Torah. Amichai loved Jehova and spent hours in the temple when Aliza’s father, his grandfather wouldn’t know. To his grandfather the rabbi Amichai and his mother were impure.
Amichai’s grandfather the rabbi also became more entrenched in the state, and despite its antisemetic policies worked within the party as a representative for the Jews.
The day came when The National Socialist Working Party started separating whole sections of Jewish neighborhoods and shipping them away on trains. This, of course, brought Aliza many bad memories and seemed to be the tipping point for her son. He began speaking. And every word seemed to cut right to the heart as if every year holding them back aimed and sharpened them to penetrate their hearts.
He and his peers were now the rising youth of his neighborhood and the heart of their city. And they all knew of Amichai, for he had spent his days walking the streets of his city and knowing the others. And now he walked with a purpose. He would walk into a group who was simply playing craps or cards to pass the time and allay their fears. And he would say, “My brothers and sisters, this week will be hard. But do not lose faith in Jehova, for he will save us. Protect your families with your lives my friends. Peace is still coming.” And they listened.
The National Socialist Working Party, now in charge and having more power to arrest and detain for no expressed reason began closing in around their district. Along the fringes of the city Jews were being picked off for being too loud or going into shops they weren’t supposed to. But Amichai could usually be found near as these confrontations were happening and he would speak to the others to stay strong, trust in Jehova to save, and that “Peace is coming.”
As their resistance was felt by the Nazi’s, Amichai was identified as a dissident and targeted by the Nazi’s. But he seemed to instill his people with strength, hope and wisdom, and was never slow or obvious enough to be caught. And the encroaching continued. The whisper in the hearts of every Jew looking on was Amachi’s words, “Trust Jehova. Protect each other with your lives. And peace is coming.”
Amichai’s grandfather the rabbi still worked with the Nazis despite these things happening. He had become more like one of them then a defender of his own people. In fact he was assigned to be on the front line of attack as the nazi regime charged one Saturday. They had coordinated a greater push than they ever had before to penetrate and divide what had become known as quite the Jewish stronghold.
He was at the front line as they moved in, and the people didn’t resist because they saw one of their kind with them. At least not until he and the Nazi soldiers were deep within the stronghold and began to force families out of their homes. It was unfolding that they had been deceived by one of their own kind. The one that they had been trusting to fight for them.
The people were stripped from each other and pulled from their homes, unsure if and how to resist. There was confusion from the brown pressed suits and the mix of languages like steel gun barrels mixing through warm bowls of goulash. The Nazi’s had clear direction and instruction, and the Jews were crumbling under their metal.
Once the Nazi’s had stabilized their presence in the town square they brought out many of the town’s folk and lined them up around the perimeter, threatening them to stillness by expressionless men with guns. Before the guns went off the Nazi captain pushed Aliza’s father the rabbi out of their group, and into the line of Jews at the other end of the gun barrels.
He realized what was happening and frantically objected. But the soldiers were hard and they had been given their instructions. He fell to his knees and begged. His was the only voice that rang out in the plaza, and all realized that they betrayer had even been betrayed. His sobs rattled off of the cobbled stones. The captain seemed so frustrated by the whines of the man that he raised his own gun to shoot him. Everything else was silent. Aliza’s father froze and looked the man in the face, pleading with everything he had left with his eyes and beard and chosen curls.
But a young man stepped from the line of his comrades against the wall, walked to behind his own grandfather and put a hand on his shoulder. Amichai told his grandfather, “Go. And preach Jehova. And preach to our people that peace is coming.” Amichai looked at the captain with his arresting eyes, sent his grandfather to the walls and knelt in front of the gun. He bowed, as if he knew he had arrived at his final bed.
The shot rang out but the people spread before the confusion could set in among the Nazi’s. The Jews had heard their singular voice and they escaped into their houses immediately and locked their doors. They defended when they needed to with prayer. They preached the passover to each other. They preached that Jehova would save them soon. They threw pots and pans onto the guards. They preached to them of Jehova and when the military burst in often they would offer them food. The soldiers were dumbfounded, and just like the old testament stories the stronger foe was calmed and confused and by the end of the night completely dumfounded and disorganized. They retreated, confused and bewildered in the morning and did not have a chance to attack again, before salvation came.
The Americans and their allies overthrew the Nazi regime within a few weeks and the Jews in Amichai’s little town were saved.
All because a little boy had been born to a lonely, crying girl with a prophesy that her child would save her people.