Sunday, December 16, 2012

Episode Six

Episode Six begins exactly as Episode Five has ended.  Commandant Strassel is standing in the open doorway.  Wachter and Mrs. Winkelman are half-turned to the door.  Lusia, while clutching Genia, gives a cry of recognition and terror.  There is a moment of silence as Strassel enters and closes the door behind him.

Strassel:  Good evening, Albert.
Wachter: [Finding his voice] Uh, good evening, Heinrich.
Strassel:   We meet again, old friend.
Wachter:   Yes.  How…how did you know that Genia lived here?
Strassel:   Genia? That’s odd. She told me her name was Alice—Alice Schulz.
Wachter:  Alice Schulz?  [Wachter glances at Lusia, who nods her head.]
Strassel:   She is well-trained, that little one.  Like a little parrot—“My name is Alice Schulz and I am 8 years old. Please let me go home!”  But I soon learned the truth.
Lusia:    You hurt her!
Strassel:   Madame!  We do not hurt children. We are a civilized people.
Lusia:    Genia!  Why did you tell on us?
Strassel:   Oh, but she did not tell on you.  [Strassel takes yellow ball from Genia.] Thank you, liebchen. This told me.
Wachter:   I believe I see how…when we met this morning…
Strassel:  Yes, Albert my friend.  We met and you with a yellow ball.  You tried to conceal it; I couldn’t think why. Then when little lost Alice—Genia rather—was found by my troops and clutching that same yellow ball as if her life depended on it, I put two and two together and came up with Albert Wachter.
Wachter:  [Trying to urge Strassel toward the door.] Well, thank you, Heinrich, for bringing her back.  Believe me, we really appreciate it.
Strassel:   Not so fast, Albert. We’re not through talking.  You haven’t introduced me to the ladies.
Wachter:  Your pardon. Commandant Strassel: May I present Lusia, Genia’s mother. Lusia, this is Heinrich Strassel, Commander of the Waffen SS.
Strassel:   [Looks at Lusia with contempt, but makes no acknowledgement.] And this lady?
Wachter:   Mrs., Winkelman, my housekeeper.
Strassel:   [Bows, clicks heels] Madam!  I am honored.
Wachter:   You can go, Mrs. Winkelman. [She exits to the kitchen.]
Strassel:   [Tossing ball up and down] Yellow, like the badge of the Jews.  I wasn’t sure about Alice—I mean Genia.  But… [holds up doll] Genia’s doll is named Rivke—Hebrew for Rebecca.  And now that I’ve seen Genia’s mother… [in barking voice] You are Jewish!

Lusia:    I am.
Strassel:   And so is Genia.  We Schutstaffeln have well-trained noses for sniffing out Jews. So, Albert my old friend, you are harboring Jews.  That is a criminal offense! I could hang you for that.
Lusia:    No!
Strassel:   Oh, yes.  Right outside this house from a lamp post, as an example to others. Genia, go with your mother to another room.  Herr Wachter and I must have a talk—a private talk.
     Wachter nods to Lusia who begins to hurry Genia offstage. She stops as Strassel calls to her.
Strassel:  Genia!  Haven’t you forgotten something?
Genia:   [Stops, hesitatingly returns.] What…?
Strassel:   You’ve forgotten Rivke! [Peeks doll playfully over his arm.] She will cry if you leave her.  Here you are.
     Genia takes doll as Strassel pats her head.  She curtseys.  Lusia takes Genia’s arm and hurries her offstage, but leaving the door slightly ajar.  All other inner doors are also slightly ajar.
Strassel:  [Beaming] Ah, I wish I had a daughter like that, so polite and well-behaved.  Not Jewish, of course.
Wachter:   With such a daughter, you would be blessed beyond measure.
Strassel:  Well, Albert.  What have you to say for yourself?  [Wachter shrugs, at loss for words.] Ah, I recall that, as a boy, you would bring a menagerie of animals home to your parents—whom I remember with great affection. Hurt animals…stray animals—a veritable zoo.
Wachter:   I …I don’t know what to say.
Strassel:   No need to say a word. You have merely started another menagerie.  Animals are lacking here in the city, so you bring home two Jews—Genia and her mother.
Wachter:   Yes I did! But not for that reason.
Strassel:   Albert, Albert, these are not animals, they’re undermenschen, subhuman, worse than animals. They are Jews! And as I told you before, sheltering Jews is a capital offence.  Really, I could hang you for it.
Wachter:  Hang? For sheltering a pretty little girl and her mother from death?  In the old days, we called that chivalry.
Strassel:   [Laughing] Just like the Albert Wachter of old—impractical, and ignoring the reality for the ideal.
Wachter:  And I remember a different Heinrich Strassel, a gentle, kindlier Heinrich Strassel.
Strassel:   Enough!  Why do I waste my time with you?  One word from me and you will be on your way to Auschwitz within the hour, or would you rather hang? [Reconsidering] No, Albert.  You are a friend, and we go back a long way.  Let us talk. Let us see if I can pound some sense into that head of yours.
Wachter:   Yes, let us talk. Perhaps I can pound some sense into yours.
Strassel:   [With a great pealing laugh.] Splendid!  Just like the Albert Wachter I used to know. We’ll talk.  [Sits]  And let’s be informal. [Removes death head’s cap.] Perhaps a stein of beer, jah?
Wachter:  Jah. [Exits to kitchen. Leaves door open.]
Strassel:   [Raises voice to talk with Wachter in the kitchen] Ah, Albert, it is good to relax and talk with an old friend.  I have severe responsibilities these days, not at all like the old times in school. [Wachter returns with two steins.]  Danke!  Prosit.  I walked here alone, carrying Genia. I get so tired of being escorted by a dozen troops in a motorcade.  Mrs. Winkelman…has she been with you long?
Wachter:   Many years.
Strassel:   A good Aryan woman, Mrs. Winkelman.  A pillar of her race.
Wachter:   I agree.  A pillar of her race.
     [Author’s note: Mrs. Winkelman is actually Jewish.  So much for Strassel’s “nose for smelling out Jews.”]
Strassel:   You are to be complimented on your servants, if not your guests.
Wachter:   [Warily] Thank you.
Strassel:   [Drinks] Sehr gut. (Sighs] Leiber Gott!  You can’t imagine the load I carry these days.  Uh, this chair I sit in…it was your father’s, was it not?
Wachter:  It was.
Strassel:   I remember the day I dared to sit in “his chair”—when he was not there, of course. I think of your father with great affection.  He was stern, yet caring.
Wachter:   He still lives, but now in an old people’s home and quite happy with his memories of a better time.
Strassel:   He must be very old…at least 90.
Wachter:  94.
Strassel:   Wonderful.  Wonderful.  How times have changed, Albert.  I think those old days were the best times in our lives.  Don’t you agree?
Wachter:   I do.
Strassel:   Now I have the glory, the pomp, the respect…   [His voice falters as he displays a feeling of weakness, even of fear.]  I’d trade it all for a month, a week, even a day of those old days when were boys.  What has become of us, Albert?  What has become of those boys?  Ach! I’m talking like a fool.  What’s got into me?
Wachter:  You are talking like the Heinrich Strassel I used to know. [Wachter seizes on what he believes a moment of weakness in Strassel.]  Heinrich, a moment ago, you called Genia “liebchen.”
Strassel:   Yes, I did. She is a little dear.
Wachter:   And well raised, wouldn’t you say?
Strassel:   Agreed.  A most polite and charming little girl.
Wachter:   Is she doing any harm in staying here with me?
Strassel:   Harm? [Pauses for a moment of thought] Yes.  Harm.  Indirect harm.
Wachter:   But why shouldn’t Genia and her mother stay?  I know what will happen to them if you force them to leave.
Strassel:   You know…what do you know?
Wachter:   I know…I know about Auschwitz.
Strassel:   Auschwitz! What goes on there is not to be known to the general public. How do you know?
Wachter:   Just that I know.
Strassel:   I could find out how you know! We have ways….  Oh, forget that.  In answer to your question “are they doing any harm, I said “indirectly.”
Wachter:   How, indirectly?
Strassel:   There is no harm in those two Jews now, but that lovely child Genia is a cultural time bomb who in a few years will be spawning undermenschen.  And her equally lovely mother, with her fertile womb, is biology of treasons.
Wachter:   How can you say that?  How can you believe that?
Strassel:   Because, as Jews, Genia and her mother are corrupters of the human race.
Wachter:  Save that propaganda for the mob, Heinrich.  As a reasonable human being, how can you believe such nonsense?
Strassel:   [Bristles, then laughs heartily.] Albert, you haven’t changed a bit.  You still love an argument. We were a fine pair of debaters, you and me.  I remember we won prizes in school. Let’s go back to those old times and have a debate—a contest of logic, you and I.
Wachter:  Agreed! And what shall the subject be?
Strassel:   How about… the rights of the Master Race versus…versus what?
Wachter:  Versus the Rights of Humanity.
Strassel:   Hmm…yes! That will work. My proposition will be that the Master Race has certain rights, and yes! …those rights are compatible with the Rights of Humanity, rights which are set forth in…now, let’s see…
Wachter:  Don’t give your argument away.
Strassel:   No, I mustn’t do that else I fall into the trap of the wily debater, Albert Wachter.  [Laughs] Wunderbar! I have a subject dear to my heart! [Rises, clasps Wachter’s hands] Dear Albert!
Wachter:   There must be a prize for the winner.
Strassel:   A prize? Yes, of course.  If you win the debate, I shall leave, and leave alone, and not return. If you lose, then Genia and Lusia must go with me. Agreed?
Wachter:   Do I have a choice?
Strassel:  Not really.  If I did my duty, I would ship those Jews to Auschwitz and have you hanged, all within the hour. But I put aside duty for friendship’s sake—their lives in the balance against my eloquence in defense of the doctrines of the Fuhrer.
Wachter:   That is not much of a choice. Yet, I agree.
Strassel:   Oh, come now; what I offer is fair.  Notice I said “a contest of logic.”
Wachter:   If there is to be contest of logic, there must be no fulminating about “Jewish-Capitalistic Bolshevism,” and the like, because it is meaningless…it will carry no weight with me.
Strassel:  [Hearty laugh] Fulminating—hah! I love that word.  But I agree.  And for my part, another ground rule: no Judeo-Christian claptrap. No blather of Jesus or God or the rest of that tribe of Abraham.
Wachter:   You leave me little basis for debate.
Strassel:   I am being fair, Albert. Anything you say concerning religion will have no weight with me as I don’t believe that dreck for a moment. Another ground rule: Let us not stand around making speeches, you and I; let us feel free to break in one another with questions and comments. Agreed?
Wachter:   Agreed. But who’s to be the judge of this contest?
Strassel:   Come, we are both fair men.  It will be obvious to both who is the winner.
Wachter:   And if it is obvious that I am the winner…?
Strassel:  I will leave, and you will see me no more.  Then you may have your Jews, Albert, though little good they will do you.  Come now, like old times.  I argue first, and then you follow.
Wachter:   All right. You first!

End of Episode Six

And so the two will begin their debate.  There is so much at stake—the lives of Genia of the yellow ball and her mother Lusia. The odds against Wachter are formidable. Armed might and the perverse logic of Hitler’s mind are on the side of Commandant Strassel, and only reason and common humanity on the side of Wachter.   …only reason and common humanity?  That may be enough.
In the last Interim, Interim Five, we wished you a Happy Hanukkah. Now Christmas is coming, and very soon, so let’s celebrate Christmas and the New Year, and meet again on January 7, 2013.

Painting by Viggo Johanson, 1891
From Wikipedia

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Interval Five - A Dark "Conspiracy"

A Review of the Motion Picture Conspiracy 

Those pictured on the DVD-disk are (from the left) Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich, and Stanley Tucci as Adolf Eichmann. Heydrich is SS-Obergruppenfuhrer, and in addition to being a general officer, holds several other high offices in the German chain of command. He was considered to be third most powerful man in the Reich, ranking only after the one and two of Hitler and Himmler. He was also a man of uttermost cruelty, and natural born sadist whom Hitler (who should know!) labeled as “the man with the iron heart.” And there is no doubt that Heydrich was the man who launched the Final Solution that culminated in the deaths of six million Jews. That, plus a couple of million others deemed by the Nazis as undermenschen—the Romani (gypsies), and the Sentis

Conspiracy is based on notes taken by Adolf Eichmann at the Wannsee Conference, a meeting held at the Wannsee villa located just outside of Berlin. The date was January 1942. The Wannsee villa was, and still is, a lovely place, and is now a Holocaust museum— a fitting end for its role as the location of the Wannsee Conference. The participants were 15 in number, most of whom represented second-tier leaderships of the Nazi party. Reinhard Heydrich had called the meeting and chaired it, and supplied the agenda. His goal? –their unconditional acceptance. 

A review like this can only touch the most representative highlights, ones which can, it is hoped, bring out underlying horror of what, on the surface, appeared to be a normal” business conference. They had all gathered, and Heydrich was the last to attend, as he was forever making a “grand entrance. “ Below we see Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich— a man may smile and smile and be a villain. 

Kenneth Branagh

Reinhard Heydrich


Heydrich calls the meeting to order and calls on each participant to identify themselves.  

Note: Excerpts of the dialog will be offered to indicate the content and interplay of the meeting participants. 

The meeting begins-- 

Heydrich: We are standing still in Russia. The Americans have joined the war. These matters place a further demand on our economy and food supply. We cannot store these Jews. So the question is: What do we do with the staggering number of Jews overwhelming us? The Jews must be removed from our living space. And the inevitable solution is what we will discuss this afternoon. 

What about our friends, the Italians, you ask? In the last analysis, if they do not purge their Jews, then we will go down there and accomplish it for them.

Dr. Kritzinker: Seventy- five percent of your Jews have never even picked up a pencil. And now— building roads…?

Heydrich: They will become ‘casualties.’ [Which meant that they would die of exhaustion from overwork, rotten food, and weather extremes.]

(Eichmann is called away to answer a phone call for Heydrich. Eichmann, to the called: “This meeting is not taking place. We will not take phone calls from anyone. Unless the Führer calls. And he won’t. Understood?”) 

Heydrich finds that Dr. Kritzinker to be an obstacle. He takes him aside: 

Heydrich: You’ve taken a position--you deserve a response. It is a cold winter. It looks like a longer, harder war. The Jews are in the way.
Dr. Kritzinker: And how can I, being one rather peripheral figure in your grand plan, be in your way?

Heydrich: You underestimate your influence. I do not. You’d be a hard man to down, but certainly not impossible. Did I hear you say earlier “be practical?” (Yes.) Well now this is the moment to be practical until such time that Germany can afford your philosophy, which is, what?—impoverish them, exploit them, imprison them-- just do not kill them. And you are one of God’s noblest men! I find that truly remarkable. Sitting at the table, I will again ask for your agreement to what has been proposed. 

Dr. Kritzinker: And I must answer now?
Heydrich: Oh, you will answer now—or you will answer…later.
Dr. Kritzinker: I will not oppose you.
Heydrich: I want more than that.
Dr. Kritzinker: Of course.
Heydrich: Good, now we understand each other.
(“I am) Neumann, Director of the Office of the four year plan.” “And what is your plan? That we will be in the White House in four years?”
Heydrich: Jews over 65 years will be moved into Ghettos, possibly Terezin, along with war veterans awarded the Iron Cross.
Comment: “I hear Heydrich has a little Jew blood in him.” Response: “Why don’t you ask him?” A later comment: “It is his father.” [But nobody dared to ask him!] 

Then they got to the crux of the meeting—the whole intent of purpose of it—to initiate the Final Solution!

Eichmann Reports-- 
We have used injections, and tried electrocution, but most effectively, we have used carbon monoxide gas. Areas are constructed that resemble a shower room or bath, and the subjects are brought in naked, as for a bath. Outside, are stainless steel tanks of carbon monoxide gas. Seventh-three thousand two hundred and seventy-three have been gassed in this program We also directed the construction of 20 mobile gassing trucks, using redirected carbon monoxide exhaust back into the trucks. In each truck, you can get in 40 to 60 Jews—a hundred is more effective--…and the carbon monoxide, what it does as it kills, --uh, the bodies come out pink. 

That got a big laugh around the table. “Now we turn red Jews into pink Jews! That’s progress!"

Eichmann went on-- 

We now have three camps where permanent gas chambers will be operating: Belzik, Sobibor and Treblinka. And Auschwitz…we are turning that camp into a major processing center. We have four camps where permanent gas chambers will be operating: When the buildings are completed, we expect to be able to process 2,500 an hour…not a day…an hour. At 24 hours a day, that is 60,000 a day. And that means the processing of 21,900,000 Jews a year! 

And, for disposal of the bodies, large commercial gas ovens will be used that leave little residue.

Those around the table are incredulous, and disturbed. Hard men though they are, they are appalled at first. Then they realize that their major problem—the Jews –would be gone from all Europe under the control of the Third Reich.
“So, 60,000 Jews a day will go up in smoke.”

Heydrich: We can achieve that. (All pound the table with great enthusiasm) The machinery is waiting. Feed it! Get the trains rolling.
Heydrich has a final word: Good! We have accomplished something!

The Meeting was over.  Eichmann destroyed the notes, gathered the folders, and left.  It was Eichmann who, upon the death of Heydrich, took on the responsibility of following Heydrich’s orders.  And that he was effective at the task is shown by the fulfillment of the Final Solution, and the six million dead. 

All those in attendance destroyed their copies of the records of the meeting; all but one, that is—Martin Luther. His copy was found by American forces. And that single sole copy was the basis for the movie Conspiracy.
Heydrich went on to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to deal with the Czech partisans, where he earned the title The Butcher of Prague. Not long after, as he was being transported in an open top car and with only a driver, Heydrich was attacked by two Czechs who had been trained in commando tactics by British operatives.  They shot Heydrich and threw a bomb at him. Although wounded, he followed them, tried to shoot it out with them. But he was mortally wounded, and died a week later. Hitler commented on the stupidity of what he did in traveling unprotected. But he gave him a huge funeral service, with all Berlin participating. 

And in retaliation for the death of Heydrich, the village of Lidice where the Czechs had hidden was destroyed, and all inhabitants killed. The total number that paid the price of Heydrich’s assassination was 13,000 men, women and children.

To read further--
Read a description of the Wannsee Conference by the USHMM-- the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. And while you’re there, view the 2011 National Days of Remembrance Ceremony, which is solemn and beautiful tribute to those who, at the risk of their lives, saved Jews from the Holocaust.
If you would like to learn more about Heydrich, read "Hitler's Hangman".
NOW—a little about the movie itself— 

The Cast of Conspiracy

Kenneth Branagh: Reinhard Heydrich
Stanley Tucci: Adolf Eichmann
Barnaby Kay: Rudolf Lange
Peter Sullivan: SS. Col. Eberhard Schöngarth
Ben Daniels: Dr. Joseph Büeller
Ewan Steward: Dr. Georg Leibbrandt
Brian Pettifer: Dr. Albert Meyer
Kevin McNally: Undersecretary Martin Luther
Colin Firth: Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart
Nicholas Woodeson: SS Lt. Gen. Otto Hoffmann
Johathan Coy: Erich Neumann
David Threlfall: Dr. Wilhelm Kritzinger
Ian McNeice: Dr. Gerhard Klopfer
Owen Teale: Dr. Roland Freisler
Brendan Coyle: SS Major Gen. Heinrich Müeller

[1] Brendan Coyle can be seen currently playing the part of the imprisoned valet in the PBS production Downton Abbey. 

Director: Frank Pierson Writer: Loring Mandel

According to IMDb, Conspiracy won a Golden Globe, six other wins and 17 nominations.

The director, Frank Pierson, died at 87 soon after directing Conspiracy. He was a former Movie Academy president, and a script writer in addition to being a remarkable director. It is a challenge for director to deal with a large cast such as that of Conspiracy. Pierson met the challenge beautifully.

Conspiracy is available from your local dvd source, or at Barnes and Noble and Amazon

Now for something different, but not much—

It is said that there was a sign at the entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau which read, in effect: 


In view of the starvation diets the prisoners were subjected to, was this a bit of ironic humor? Or, perhaps the erection of this sign was a kindness, in that new arrivals would think “If they are concerned about my diet, this mustn’t be such a bad place.”

Now, what’s to come?

Genia has been lost, and now is found, as described in Episode Five. But the man who found her and brought her back to the house of Albert Wachter can mean death for all of them, for he is—SS General Heinrich Strassel!—the greatest threat to the Jews in all Europe

We’ll learn what happened in the next thrilling Episode Six of A Ball for Genia, which will be published on Monday, December 17. Following that, let’s suspend the playing of A Ball for Genia until Monday, January 7, when we take up the next interval—Interval Six. 

In the meantime, let’s all enjoy the holidays. First, Hanukkah, and the eight-day Re-dedication, which begins on December 9. And Christmas, with all the joy the season brings and the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Episode Five

Genia is gone from the house, putting them all in terrible danger. Here is how it happened: we will recall that Mrs. Winkelman went into the kitchen. The door of the kitchen swings open, followed by Mrs. Winkelman amid a cloud of smoke.

Mrs. Winkelman:   Ach! [She opens the front door and flaps her apron to drive out the smoke.  She exits to the kitchen, leaving the front door ajar. Genia enters, bouncing her yellow ball. The ball bounces out the front door.]
Genia:  [Runs to the door and looks out.]  My ball! It’s rolling down the hill! [She runs out.]
     Stage lights dim out. 

    The lights come up to show, Mrs. Winkelman, the Rabbi, and Dolek and Sharon, Marek (the counterfeiter), and Itzhak in worried conference.

Lusia:    Four hours! Over four hours she’s been gone!
Sharon:   Be comforted. God is watching over her.
Dolek:  Are we sure she’s not in the house? Maybe she fell asleep somewhere.
Marek:    I searched every corner.  Searched twice.
Mrs. Winkelman:  It’s my fault.  I left the front door open.  The stew burnt and I wanted to let out the smoke. When I came back to shut the door, there was no one there.  She must have run out. It’s my fault!
Marek:     No, it’s not your fault—an accident.
Lusia:    Oh, why doesn’t she come back?
Marek:     Not to worry.  Herr Wachter is looking for her.
Dolek: Where’s Maury?
Marek: He’s out looking, too.
Dolek: Out looking! Will he be safe?
Marek: Maury is a man with a thousand disguises.  He’ll be safe.
Lusia:   She’s lost for sure. She doesn’t know her way around here. 
Dolek:   [Quietly, to Itzhak.]  If they find her, she will talk. Then they will come here.
Lusia:    [Overhears] She won’t talk.  I told her—never tell your real name. Never tell that you are Jewish. Over and over I told her.
Marek:     That’s a lesson many a Jewish child has learned.
Itzhak:     Still, she’s only a child.
Marek:     Was she wearing anything—a ring, a necklace, a medallion?  Anything to give away that’s she’s a Jew?
Lusia:    No. Nothing.  I’ll never see her again. Never!
Rabbi:   Let us pray for her.  “Oh, Lord most high and most holy, bring Genia safely back to us.”
[All say Amen]
Itzhak:    Amen.
Rabbi:   You, Itzhak, you the unbeliever; you say Amen?
Itzhak:    [A fleeting smile crosses his stony features.] For such a child, yes! Oh Lord, most high and most holy, bring Genia safely back to us.
      A knock is heard at the door.  All exit hastily except for Mrs. Winkelman, who looks through the peephole.
Mrs. Winkelman:   [Opens door] Herr Wachter!
     Wachter enters. Mrs. Winkelman closes door quickly.  Lusia runs in followed by Dolek, who is holding her back.
Dolek:    No, Lusia. You must wait until you are told you can come out.
Wachter:   It’s all right. Come in, Lusia.
    Dolek, the Rabbi, Marek and Itzhak return
Lusia:   Do you find her?  Please say you found her!
Wachter:    No, Lusia. I ‘m sorry—I didn’t find her.  I looked everywhere—the streets, the playgrounds, every place I could think of.
Lusia:    [wailing] Oh, no!
Wachter:    I even went to the police station to inquire.
Dolek:   Maybe…maybe the Gestapo found her.
Marek:    Don’t even think that, For God’s sake.
Dolek:  If these were normal times, we’d have ways to find a lost child.
Marek:     If these were normal times, none of us would be here.
Rabbi:    Trust God, Lusia.  He will bring her back.
Lusia:    Trust God? What’s he done for me?  Now I’ve lost Genia as well as Jareth!
Itzhak:    Don’t you say that, Lusia. That’s for unbelievers like me—not you! Trust God.
      A loud knock is heard at the door.  They all stand startled for a moment.
Wachter:    Quick. My friends, away!  [All exit for Wachter and Mrs. Winkelman.]  Answer the door, Marie.
Mrs. Winkelman:   [Peers through the peephole.] It’s Genia!  Her face is right up against the door! [She opens the door. The yellow ball rolls in, followed by Genia.]
Lusia:    [Rushes into the room.]  Genia!  Oh, Genia!
       Wachter and Mrs. Winkelman group around Genia and Lusia.  The front door has been left open. 
Lusia:    [Hugging Genia] Genia!  I thought I’d never see you again!
Wachter:    How did you get here, Genia?
Genia:   A nice man brought me.
Wachter:    What nice man?
Genia:  [Pointing toward door.]  That nice man.
      Lusia cries out in terror. Wachter and Mrs. Winkelman turn to see Waffen SS Commander Heinrich Strassel in the doorway, the death’s head symbol on his cap glinting in the light.

End of Episode Five

“That Nice Man” is the dreaded Heinrich Strassel, and for the Jews, the most feared of all the Nazis, with the possible exception of Hitler himself. Strassel commands all the Nazi troops in the district and in addition, is the local commander of the Gestapo.  And do you recall what Wachter said about him? Strassel was personally assigned by Himmler to make the country Judenfrei—free of the Jews. As a former commander of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, his reputation for sadistic ruthlessness is well known.  And here he is in the house of Albert Wachter who has (or, what appears to be!) two Jews, Genia and Lusia, living in his house! 

But!—Wachter also said that Strassel was a “childhood friend.”  Genia referred to Strassel as a nice man. And Strassel appears to have come without his usual escort of armed troops. What will he do?  What does he intend?  We’ll find out in Episode Six.

Now, About Interval Five

 INTERVAL FIVE is scheduled for Monday December 10. We’ll again search history for more fascinating facts about what happened during the Holocaust years of 1942-44. The Wannsee Conference was the trigger for the Holocaust. In what seemed like an ordinary business conference (with even a break for lunch!), a group of top Nazis decided that the five million Jews in captivity were too much to support.  The solution?— The Final Solution! It was a low-key meeting that included a calm discussion of the most practical way to kill five million human beings, and—a major problem!— the best way to dispose of the bodies.   It’s a bone-chilling story.

The Wannsee Conference was the subject of a movie based on the notes of the conference taken by Adolf Eichmann—notes that supposedly were never to be seen.   But they were found, and provide the basis for the story of the movie.  Actor Kenneth Branagh plays Reinhard Heydrich,  the ice-blooded “chairman” of the conference.  

See you at Interval Five!

(The link to Heydrich will take you to Wikipedia’s  fascinating account of the life and career of Heydrich. While on Wikipedia, you may wish to chip in some green to keep Wikipedia going.  It is an invaluable source of historical and other information.)