Sunday, March 10, 2013

Episode Eleven

In Episode Ten, we saw how the formidable General Strassel was carried off dead, and how he reappeared, much to everyone’s horror. Then it was explained:  Maury, the actor, had taken on the role of General Strassel, and the real, dead  Strassel would end up in the cellar cemetery of Wachter’s house. Maury— as Strassel—would  leave and parade about the city streets, then take off on a train, thus leading the Gestapo away from Wachter’s house and the Jews taking refuge there.

But another crisis arises!  To the alarm of the Rabbi and Wachter, Dolek announces that he will leave the safety of Wachter’s house and declare himself to be a Jew—a fatal declaration to a populace that kills Jews on sight.

 Now, let’ see what becomes of Dolek—
  The scene is an outdoor cafe.It is several hours later, toward dusk. Dolek is seated alone, holding an empty wine glass. A full glass is on the table opposite him.  Soft music is heard, along with the distant rumble of bombs. The lights slowly dim during the scene, indicating approaching nightfall. After a few moments of silence, a young waiter enters, limping.

Waiter:  Another glass of wine, sir?

Dolek:  Yes. Please.

Waiter:  [Indicating the full glass] Shall I take this away?

Dolek:  No, leave it.

Waiter:  Is someone coming?

Dolek:  I'm afraid not. Leave it, anyway.

   The waiter flinches in sudden pain. His leg buckles and he nearly falls. Dolek half rises, supports him.

Dolek:  Here, son, what's the matter?

Waiter:  My leg. Shrapnel. Eastern front. Not much leg left.

Dolek:  Sit down, sit down.

Waiter:  Can't ... if I did, it would only stiffen up, then I couldn't stand. So I keep moving. Thanks, anyway. [He limps off under the sympathetic eyes of Dolek, then returns with a full glass.]

Dolek: Thank you. Take care of yourself--son.

Waiter: Thanks.

   There is a pause. Dolek raises his glass to the empty place opposite. Sharon enters, stands quietly behind him.

Sharon: Dolek?

   Dolek starts, turns, stares up at her.

Sharon: I see that you have ordered for me.

Dolek:  [Anger overcomes his surprise.] What are you doing here?

Sharon:  It is my place to be here.

Dolek:  I thought that I'd gotten rid … I mean--

Sharon:   Gotten rid of me? Very well, I shall go, if you wish.

Dolek:  [His anger is replaced by fear for her safety.] No! Sit down ... please! [He rises, pulls out a chair for her.] You are in danger—terrible danger!

Sharon:  I know. We both are.

Dolek:   Then why did you come? Why did you leave Herr Wachter's?

Sharon:  Dolek, Dolek, how can you ask? Don't you know that after 30 years, you have no secrets from me? I know exactly what you are going to do.

Dolek:  You know?—and yet you came?

Sharon: Yes, I know, and I came. It is not so easy to get rid of me, my husband. [Indicates glass of wine before her.] Is this for me?
Dolek:  Yes.

Sharon:  Tell me--why were you sitting opposite an empty space with a glass of wine before it?

Dolek: You know.

Sharon:  It was a symbol . . . a symbol of—me?

Dolek:  Yes, you and your presence. Like you used to be.

Sharon: Like we used to be, Dolek.

Dolek:  Like we used to be.

Sharon:  [Raises her glass.] A toast?

Dolek:  To what can we toast?

Sharon: To the good years—to our years together.

Dolek:  Yes. Our years together. [They drink.] I didn't expect you to come.

Sharon:  You didn't?

Dolek:  How could you, after the way I've been acting. And how could you know where I'd be?

Sharon:  Not hard. I knew it would be here in this café, where we had so many happy times in the past. And here I am.

Dolek:  I'm glad.

Sharon: What have you been doing since you . . . you ran away?

Dolek:  Ran away?

Sharon:  Ran away--from me.

Dolek:  No, not from you Sharon. I ran away from myself, and the way I'd become. Actually, I walked, walked for hours until I am weary of it.

Sharon: Walked to all the old, familiar places, I would guess.

Dolek:  Every one. To the places where you and I have been happy, Sharon ... so long ago.

Sharon:  Not so long ago, really.

Dolek:  Now you must go back, Sharon. Go back to the safety of Herr Wachter's.

Sharon:  And what about you?

Dolek:   When you are gone . . . when you are safely away, I'll put on the yellow star of the Jews, stand up, and proclaim myself to the world as I am--I Dolek Mirapol, a Jew.

Sharon:  May I have another glass of wine?

Dolek:  Yes, of course. [Calls] Waiter! [to Sharon] Wait until you see the waiter--he's so much like ... like--

Sharon:  I saw him when I came. He's like our son Samuel.

Dolek:  Very like Samuel.

[Waiter enters.]

Waiter:  Yes, sir?

Dolek:  Another glass of wine, please, for my wife.

Waiter:  And yourself?

Dolek: Why not?

Sharon:  Why not, indeed?

Dolek:  [Waiter exits] Is he not like Samuel?

Sharon:  Very like.

Dolek:  Sometimes I have such a longing for my son, I think my heart will stop.

Sharon:  I, too.

Dolek:  For me, it's better to stop living, Sharon. I cannot live with the thought of Samuel, dead.

Sharon:  Samuel may not be dead. We have no proof.

Dolek:   The Gestapo took him away. No one has ever returned when taken away by them. Remember what that monster Strassel said--six million dead!

Sharon:  Let us have hope, and pray.

Dolek:   I am so desolate, Sharon. I no longer wish to live.

Sharon:   If you stop living, so shall I. When you stand up with your yellow star, I shall stand up beside you, and declare— here am I!-- Sharon Mirapol, a Jew like my husband, and proud of it-­-and proud of him! [She shows a corner of yellow star tucked  inside her blouse.]

Waiter:   [Returning with the wine.] Any other refreshment tonight, folks? Some cheese and biscuits?

Sharon:   No, thank you. Dolek?

Dolek:   Thank you, no.

   The waiter exits. The sun has gone down and the flashing lights of the cafe sign appear.  An occasional and distant rumble of cannon fire and the thud of bombs is heard above the music.

Dolek:  Sharon, you can’t do this.  There is no need. 

Sharon:  Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God: where thou diest, will I die.[i]

Dolek:  Sharon--in all those hateful words of mine these past months, there are three that I have not said--

Sharon:  What are they?

Dolek:  I think you know. I love you.

Sharon:  And I love you.

Dolek:  I have never stopped loving you for a moment, not even in the worst of the troubles.

Sharon:  Dolek--don't apologize. The times have done it to us, with the worry and the fear.

Dolek:  Sharon, you must go back. You know the temper they're in, these people.

Sharon:  I know. They kill by stoning. But Dolek, I have lived with you for all these years, and I intend to end with you.

Dolek:  I can't let you go through that.

Sharon:  But I will—you know I will—with you.

Dolek:  I know.

Sharon:  Hush, dear husband. I feel that in spite of what we have heard, I know that Samuel is alive somewhere, and that we must find him and help him.

Dolek:  Do you really think so? Is there a chance ... ?

Sharon:  I feel it as a mother feels it. Dolek, let us not die here, not now. Let it be later in life that we die, when we are old, in the fullness of years. Let us go back—go back to Herr Wachter's.

Dolek:  I can't, now, after what I've said.

Sharon:  So pride prevents you? Who needs pride like that? They need you at the house now that Maury is gone. Herr Wachter needs you, they ..... we all need you. The war is nearly over. Let us live, Dolek. Live for Samuel.

Dolek:  I can't go on with this perpetual fear and worry about what's going to happen today, tomorrow, or even the next hour.

Sharon:  Remember what the Rabbi said?--an hour of life is still life. So let’s enjoy that hour while you--while we have it. [She reaches across and takes his hand.] And later, when all this is over, we will look for Samuel.

Dolek:   Yes, look for Samuel! [Glancing around] Can we do it? Can we get away? I've been pretty noisy about all this.

Sharon:  We can. God will be with us. Come, it is getting dark. The Rabbi is preparing for Kiddush. Come. [She stands and holds out her hand.] Andiame, Dolek! [Sings softly] "La ci da-rem la ma-no . . .”

Dolek:  Mozart!—Don Giovanni, my favorite opera! (He sings Zerlina's response] "Vor-rei, e non vor-rei . . . . "  Wait—we 've got it backwards! I am singing the girl's part! [They laugh.]

Sharon: And I the Don's part! Andiame. Come.

Dolek: Dare we walk hand in hand?

Sharon: We dare.

Waiter: Leaving, folks?

Dolek: Yes. [Puts several coins on the table.]

Sharon: It's been most pleasant.

Waiter: You look very happy. An anniversary?

Dolek: You could say that, son.                                     
   The waiter catches sight of the yellow star protruding from Dolek's coat. He reaches for it and slowly pulls it out. His mouth forms the question "Juden?” After a pause, Dolek nods. The waiter looks as if he were going to shout the word, when a grimace of pain distorts his face. The grimace is replace by a brief smile as he slowly pushes the yellow star out of sight.

Waiter:  Better get home quickly. The bombers are coming. And as you told me, sir--take care of yourself.

Dolek:  I—we will. Good night, son.

Sharon: And . . . thank you!

    They leave, hand in hand with the waiter following them with his eyes. A sudden pain makes him gasp. He nearly falls as he reaches for a chair.  The sound of bombs is increasing. The light dims out to indicate the end of the episode.

                                 End of Episode Eleven

About Episode Eleven. The Holocaust  is often thought of in terms of millions of victims, but the humanity of the just two of the victims—Dolek and his wife Sharon— brings into intimate focus the enormity of Hitler’s  crime against the Jewish people.

Episode Eleven in itself has been performed by Elmhurst College Theater[ii] as a one-act play with the title An Hour of Life. It will become available as a separate play for use by Holocaust educators.   

Please mark you calendars for Monday,  March 18, when Interval Eleven will be published.

[i] Ruth 1:16
[ii]  Elmhurst College is a Liberal Arts College located near Chicago. It is notable for its many Holocaust Remembrance programs. 

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