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]
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.
“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.
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.)