Monday, February 25, 2013
General Strassel Has Returned!
How can this be? We saw him shot by Wachter, declared to be dead, and his lifeless body carried into another room. Let’s see if this mystery can be solved. But first, to maintain continuity, let’s play back the last lines of Episode Nine—
Wachter: If he had shown a little mercy and gone away without Lusia and Genia, he’d still be alive.
Sharon: [Screams; points in terror] He is alive . . . alive!
All turn to see the figure of Strassel standing in the doorway of the room into which he was carried.
Now, let’s continue with the play--
Strassel: Achtung! So you thought you could dispose of me so easily.
All are terrified by this apparition. Wachter takes a step toward Strassel, hand outstretched.
Wachter: You . . . you! [He is about to fall and is caught by Itzhak and the Rabbi.]
Maury: [In the uniform of Strassel, leaps forward] Herr Wachter! It is I, Maury. Not Strassel! Not Strassel!
Itzhak: It’s Maury! Maury, you bulvan![i]
Rabbi: You might have killed him!
Dolek: Then where would we be!
Maury: Forgive me, Herr Wachter. I don’t know what got into me.
Itzhak: That’s easy to answer: you’re an actor, a ham actor.
Wachter: [Clutches his chest, then gasps out a laugh] Maury, you really fooled me!
Maury: Forgive me?
Wachter: Of course.
A pause, as all stand staring at Maury as Strassel.
Itzhak: I’d swear it was Strassel.
Rabbi: It’s uncanny.
Maury: I really had to hurry to get made up and this uniform on.
Dolek: Say something, Maury. . . something like a Nazi would say.
Maury: I won’t scare anyone?
All laugh, to a chorus of “go head’s” and “let’s hear it.”
Maury: [Strutting, imitating Hitler] Achtung. Er bekämpft oft und shönunglos die gefahrlichstenFeinde des Staates: Juden, Freimaurer, Jesuiten! Politische Geislichkeit![ii] [He becomes Maury again.]
All applaud softly.
Maury: [Bowing] Thank you. [pause.] Do you know what I am going to do now?
Wachter: I can guess, Maury.
Maury: I go to lead the dogs away from the house of Herr Wachter.
Wachter: It will be dangerous, Maury. Do you think you can pull it off? The Gestapo is pretty sharp.
Rabbi: It’s our only chance.
Wachter: Here, Maury, take this. [He picks up the pistol his hand trembles as he hands it to Maury.]
Maury: Thank you, Her Wachter. [Wipes the pistol.]. Your fingerprints must not be found on this weapon.
Itzhak: So while we were worrying about a dead body . . .
Rabbi: . . . Maury was dressing up as Strassel.
Feodor: Maury, the actor.
Rabbi: Maury, the arranger.
Maury: I will go where I will be seen. Then General Heinrich Strassel, commander of the Schutzstaffen SS, will board a train headed for . . .for where?
Wachter: Waldshut, a city next to the Swiss border.
Maury: Waldshut . . . Thank you! And on the train, I shall go to the lavatory, shed the shiny skin of the snake Strassel, scatter it out the window, and emerge as the shabby salesman, Jürgen Strub, whose clothes I wear underneath—Jürgen Strub, traveler in pots and pans, complete with my new name and necessary papers and money, thanks to Marek the forger.
Wachter: The rail line may be cut by bombs.
Maury: Then as General Strassel, I will commandeer transportation.
Wachter: When you get to Waldshut, go to the Brauerei Walter cafe´. Ask the headwaiter, Karl, for a table, and whether Hasenpfeffer is on the menu. He will seat you in a booth near the back door. You will be joined by a passeur who will get you across the border into Switzerland.
Maury: “Ask Karl", and, “is Hasenpfeffer on the menu”—yes, I’ll remember. Thank you Herr Wachter! Your protecting arm extends even to Switzerland.
Wachter: While you are here in the city, Maury, don’t go near Gestapo headquarters. If they get the least hint something is wrong . . .
Maury: Hey! Trust me! And don’t look so unhappy, everyone. This will be the greatest role of my career as an actor. Of course, there will be no audience to applaud, so no one will know.
Rabbi: We’ll know, Maury. [He begins quiet applause. All join in.]
Maury: Thank you! Thank you. [He struts to the door like General Strassel, opens the door, turns, and raises his arm in the Nazi salute.] Sieg Heil! [The salute drops to a small wave of the hand as he says, quietly] Goodbye, my friends.
Rabbi: May the God of Abraham go with you and protect you.
Maury: I would appreciate his company.
Maury exits. The stage lights dim out and rise again to indicate a lapse of time. Itzhak is pacing the floor.
Itzhak: God, I hate waiting like this. Did he get away or not? We should have heard by now.
Rabbi: Be patient, Itzhak. Maury—or should we call him Strassel, has been gone three hours. Herr Wachter has been following him. He will come soon and tell us how he made out.
Violent quarreling is heard offstage. It is Dolek and Sharon.
Itzhak: Listen to that, will you!
Rabbi: I have talked to them, seriously. Sharon, I said, it is not right to quarrel with your husband. To Dolek, I’ve said that and much more.
Itzhak: It gets on my nerves.
Rabbi: On the nerves of all of us.
A quiet knock is heard at the front door.
Rabbi: [Calling] Mrs. Winkelman!
The Rabbi and Itzhak exit quickly as Mrs. Winkelman enters, looks through the peep-hole, and opens the door.
Mrs. Winkelman: Herr Wachter! Good afternoon.
WACHTER: Hello, Marie. [Mrs. Winkelman closes door.] Itzhak, Rabbi—all of you. [They hurry in, along with Feodor and Marek.] Maury didn’t exactly go into Gestapo headquarters , but made sure they saw him in the street. No one doubted that Maury was General Strassel. [Mrs. Winkelman exits with a gesture of relief.]
RABBI: He didn’t overdo it—didn’t over act?
WACHTER: Oh, yes. Once or twice.
ITZHAK: Actors! Once on stage they’re hard to get off.
WACHTER: When he was well noticed, he took a cab to the railway station and boarded a train.
RABBI: What a relief!
WACHTER: We needn’t have worried, my friends. I heard that General Heinrich Strassel was such a terror even to his staff, that no one would dare to question him, no matter how strangely he behaved.
ITZHAK: Maury should be at the Swiss border in about three hours.
RABBI: Maury the Arranger will make it over the border for sure.
WACHTER: He will be missed.
Offstage, quarreling voices are heard.
WACHTER: Sharon and Dolek—again?
ITZHAK: All afternoon, constant.
Dolek enters, in a rage.
WACHTER: Dolek, I know you are under pressure—we all are.
RABBI: It’s bad for morale, Dolek, very bad.
DOLEK: Don’t concern yourselves. There will be no more quarrels. I’m leaving.
RABBI: But, why?
DOLEK: Because I must.
ITZHAK: Take your papers and money, Dolek. Head for the Swiss border, like Maury.
DOLEK: No papers. I won’t need them where I’m going. I’m going out there and be myself. I’m going to face them, declare myself.
ITZHAK: But the Gestapo will pick you up! They will make you talk. You’ll give us away.
DOLEK: No, I won’t. I have a good story cooked up. I’m going—going right now. [Moves toward door.]
RABBI: But Dolek, you can’t leave Sharon like this.
DOLEK: Can’t I? Watch me.
RABBI: No, Dolek!
DOLEK: She doesn’t give a damn about me. It will be good riddance for her.
RABBI: She loves you . . . she told me so.
DOLEK: Love like that I can do without. I’m going. [Moves to door] Goodbye. Thank you, Herr Wachter for taking us in.
WACHTER: Wait, Dolek! Consider carefully. The war will soon be over. The Allied armies are near.
DOLEK: Too late for me.
WACHTER: Do you know what you’re going up against?
DOLEK: I know.
WACHTER: The SS may kill you right in the street.
DOLEK: Let them do their worst.
ITZHAK: They will.
DOLEK: I’m a man, and will face it like a man. I will declare myself, “Here I am, a Jew, Dolek Mirapol!”
He opens the door and exits as they murmur goodbyes. There is a moment of silence.
RABBI: Did you see what was sticking out of his coat?
WACHTER: Something yellow.
RABBI: The rest of that bit of yellow is the Star of David—the badge of the Jews.
WACHTER: Why is he carrying that?
RABBI: He said it—he was going to declare himself: I am a Jew!
WACHTER: Leiber Gott! He won’t give us away, will he?
ITZHAK: Not Dolek. I’ve gotten to know him. He is made of iron.
WACHTER: Iron he’ll need.
The light begins to fade. The Rabbi goes to the window, pulls aside the drapes and looks out. The sound of bombs is heard in the distance.
RABBI: It is near evening. The evening of the Sabbath.
The bombing becomes louder.
ITZHAK: An evening of bombs.
End of Episode Ten
Dolek has left the safety of Wachter’s refuge. Where will he go? And what will become of Sharon, the wife he really loves, but from whom he now seems estranged? We’ll find out in Episode Eleven, in a scene which has now been recognized as a separate play in itself. Episode Eleven is scheduled for publication on Monday, March 4.
Many did what Dolek intends—to be a Jew who defies the Nazis and their thugs and torturers, and declare themselves to be Jews and proud of it, no matter how horrible their fate might be.
Above is shown an heroic Jewish resistance fighter flushed from his hiding place during the battle of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Now we look forward Interval Ten which will be published on Monday March 4. The topic will be What if Hitler had won the war? He could have, you know. He was very close to victory.