Uncertainty: Chapter One
Uncertainty: Chapter Two
Uncertainty: Chapter Three
Uncertainty: Chapter Four
Uncertainty: Chapter Five
Uncertainty: Chapter Six
Uncertainty: Chapter Seven
Uncertainty: Chapter 8
Gottenyu!1 Hearing Ilse screaming at Terboven gave me chills, and I could feel the anger welling up inside me. But what could I do? I felt so powerless! Sitting in the finsternish, I fantasized of fifty ways of killing that farzeenish2 for what he’s done to us…but that’s not what the Torah teaches. All that I knew at that moment was I had to protect my family, and so I suffered in silence.
Truthfully, I was also paralyzed with fear, since I never had much of a taste for fighting…although there was the time I tried to defend Rochel’s honor when I first met her, and ended up with a broken nose for my troubles. But all things considered, I left Lodz to become a tailor instead of a soldier, and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Danken Got!3, I have a loving froy4 and tsvey sheyn tekhter5 who bring me naches6. I tightened my embrace around Eva and Rochel, and held them close to me for strength. But Ilse was on her own. And so I prayed to Almighty that he might watch over her, and that she’d be able to take care of herself.
Thankfully, from what I overheard, Ilse managed to ward off Terboven’s initial advances…this time. But then again, Ilse is a capable woman with chutzpah7, and I’ve seen what she could do with an axe.
“What’s in your hand, Frau Köhler?” asked Terboven. He was beckoning with his fingers, trying to lure me closer with his gestures.
“All I have is this,” I said, indicating the menorah just beyond his reach. “It’s nothing but a Kerzenhalter.
“Bring es her8! Zeig es mir9!” he ordered, and I complied with his demand.
He examined it closely and sneered. His mood turned surly. “Do you know the purpose of this?” he barked.
It was a stupid question. Of course I knew what it was, but that wasn’t any of his business. I turned away to pour my Tee.
“Natürlich!” I said. “Isn’t it for holding candles?” I sassed. “Now, if you’ll kindly hand it back, I can replace the candles while there’s still some light left.”
I could feel him eyeing me suspiciously. “You’re sure you don’t know?…Or are you lying?” he insinuated.
I turned to face him, and folded my arms for emphasis. “What exactly is the nature of your interrogation, Oberpräsident?” I asked indignantly.
“Is it because I’m in possession of ein Kerzenhalter? Sag mir10, bitte. What is the punishment these days for possessing ein Kerzenhalter?” I mocked.
“You refer to this as ein Kerzenhalter, but in reality, Frau Köhler, it’s much more than that,” he expressed, returning the menorah to the table. He uncorked the bottle of schnaps and took a long swig.
I feigned intrigue. “Really!? Well it looks like ein Kerzenhalter to me, and nothing more,” I contradicted. I gathered nine fresh candles and my tee, and moved to a seat at the table across from Terboven.
I spread the candles out, and lined them up in an orderly fashion as he spoke. “What you fail to comprehend,” he lectured, “is it’s relative importance to a particular pesky race of people. For this is no ordinary Kerzenhalter on your table, Frau Köhler. Das ist ein Jüdische Kandelaber11 known as a menorah.”
Raising his voice, “And what is most disturbing about this Kerzenhalter, is that you are lighting it on the first night of Chanukka…just like a Jude!”
“DO YOU DENY IT?!” he charged. He took another long swig of schnaps.
I pulled the menorah close to me–looking it over with an air of nonchalance–and lit the leading candle in my pile from a vanishing flame that danced around the rim.
“And this Judischer Feiertag12 that you refer to as Chanukka…” I rolled the candle bottom under the flame until the wax softened, and fixed it atop the drippings. “…Enlighten me, bitte.”
I continued the candle replacement as Terboven explained, “Their Feiertag–which lasts for acht Tage und Nachte13–is a reminder of some miracle that they claim happened thousands of years ago when the Juden took back Jerusalem and rededicated their temple. Each night the Jude adds a new candle to the menorah until all the candles are lit on the Achte Nacht14.”
“So why are there places for nine candles, if their Feiertag lasts for eight days?” I wondered aloud.
“How should I know? Do I look like a Jew?” he exploded.
I broke out in laughter. I couldn’t help myself. It must have appeared insulting to him that I would be laughing when he was being serious, but he must have finally recognized the absurdity of his remark, and before too long he was laughing as well.
Fighting back my amusement, I managed to compose myself. “I apologize for laughing, Herr Terhoven. I mean no disrespect, but your question is so ridiculous and ironic. You defend yourself while accusing me of the same crime. It’s a bit funny, don’t you agree?”
“Sehr gut15, Frau Kohler, Sehr gut,” he chuckled. Terhoven took another long drink, and swiped at his mouth with his handkerchief.
“But to your point, Oberpräsident…if I was celebrating the first night of Chanukka…like the Juden…then why have I lit all eight candles on the first night?
“Aha16! You make a valid point, Frau Kühler. “I can see that you are much more than a farmer’s wife. But one last question, bitte...” Now slurring his words,” How did you come by this menorah?“
“Mein Ehemann found it in a trash heap, and brought it home as a gift. The Juden’s loss is our gain!
“L’Chaim17!” Terboven toasted, and finished the bottle.
3Thanks to God!
5two beautiful daughters
8Bring it here!
11Jewish candelabraewish holiday
13eight days and nights