Recap: Papa brought their menorah from home so they can light candles for Chanukah. The farmer brought Fraidy back. He is too worried about the risk of keeping her and the grandparents hidden.
I woke to a starling trilling outside and sunlight filtering in through the window. I could hear Mrs. Zabinski downstairs preparing breakfast and the rumble of army trucks outside.
Papa whispered to Mama, “Jan found out exactly when this last Kindertransport boat will leave for England. He’s working on a plan to get the children to Holland before it leaves.”
I sat on my mat and shivered – not just from the cold.
Benny was clingy this morning. He didn’t want to play with the toys the Zabinskis had set up for him. He just wanted to sit on my lap and hear stories.
Mama told me she needed me to listen to her.
I didn’t like the way she didn’t meet my eye. “Mimi, tell Benny to go play. I have to talk to you.”
Benny wouldn’t budge from my lap. “We don’t have much time. I’ve packed your things and a bag with food. Mr. Zabinski found a way to transport you and the other children. It’s a ride to Holland, believe it or not, and that will get you to the boat of the Kindertransport.”
“How in the world can we get to Holland? We have to cross Germany.”
Mama nodded. “It sounds crazy, but Jan said that he has a friend whom he trusts. This man is working for the underground but he looks like a German soldier.”
I felt chills go up my spine. “I won’t go with a German soldier, Mama.”
“He’s going to drive you in a truck. You and Serena are the oldest, so we need you to take care of the others.”
“No, Mama. It’s too scary. I can’t.”
“Mimi, we have no choice. It’s not safe for Fraidy to be here, and really all the children need to be transported. The Germans come in and out of the villa here all the time. One sound, one sneeze, and we are all in grave danger.”
I felt like this was something happening to someone else, another Mimi. Mimi Karmel lived with her family in Poland. She wasn’t going in a German truck across Germany heading for Holland. This couldn’t really be happening.
Mama said, “You have to be brave, Mimi. You are responsible for Fraidy and Benny and the safety of the two Miller girls. Because you and Fraidy and Benny look Arian, you will ride in the truck bed with Hans. The others will hide behind the truck in the straw. Mimi, you are Anna Schmidt, and this is your sister Krista and your brother Peter. You have to remember these names. It’s a matter of life and death. You are traveling with your Uncle Hans and he is bringing you to a relative’s home in Holland as your mother is not well and your father is in the German army. Can you remember all of this?”
I took a deep breath and nodded. I wasn’t Mimi anymore. I was Anna Schmidt.
Goodbyes were a blur of tears. I clutched my T’hilim and the bag with my flute and the food Mama had packed. A German soldier named Hans picked us up in the early morning hours. Mama had handed me the identification papers with our strange names on them. Fraidy was kvetchy. I had my hands full, keeping her calm and happy, and Benny was also riding with us in the truck, so I had to keep him busy. The others were hidden in the back, under piles of straw.
We drove past so many army cars and trucks. I hated how our country was filled with all these Germans. Rys had given me his favorite stuffed toy and Mrs. Zabinski had given me a scarf she’d crocheted. I tried not to think about my family and to concentrate on Benny and Fraidy and keeping them happy and to teach them their new names, Krista and Peter.
The driver didn’t speak to me. He kept his eyes on the road.
Every time I noticed his uniform I cringed.
A few hours into our trip he offered me a hard candy. I said, “No, thank you.” Mama had taught me how to say no and yes and thank you in German.
It felt like we were driving forever. Suddenly, a big German army truck blocked our way. A soldier goose-stepped over to the driver’s side of our truck. My heart pounded so hard that I was sure he would hear it.
“Papers!” he barked.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.