Camps

From CleanPosts

Jump to: navigation, search

THE CAMPS

The Germans were not complete idiots. Earlier in the year a U-boat captain, gazing at the shore of the Isle of Wight through his periscope, noted that the Atherfield lighthouse stopped flashing for hours. He noted the start and stop time, and a clever intelligence agent in Berlin realized this matched the start and stop time of the Clarinet signal originating from what they thought was a nearby tower. A second and third observation over the next two weeks verified the anomaly. In the early morning hours of June 3rd, a German sub surfaced just offshore, and commandos rowed ashore to raid the lighthouse, led by an SS captain named Felix Schaub who doubled as the political officer aboard the U-boat to ensure its loyalty to Hitler.

On this occasion Schaub wore his black pre-war Schutz Staffel uniform for the brutal psychological effect he knew it would have on the Gervasi family.

With Lilith and Edith whimpering in terror, tied up and threatened with pistols pointed at their heads, Benjamin demonstrated the Clarinet system to Captain Schaub, but to Benjamin's great surprise the Germans neither destroyed the gear nor tried to remove it to their submarine. Instead, Schaub pulled out a notebook and identified each member of the Gervasi family by name, and he told them he knew they were Jews. He said whether they lived or died would depend on the correct answer to precisely two questions:

What is the target of the planned invasion across the English Channel?

Benjamin stiffened in dismay. He was confronted with the choice of losing his family or betraying the trust Admiral Sir Ramsay had given him. At the slightest nod from Schaub, the hammer was pulled back on the pistol pointed at Lilith's head.

Gervasi gave in. Calais, he said, and let out the breath he had been holding for nearly a minute.

Goot, Captain Schaub said. And the timing?

June twentieth.

The SS officer smiled and put his notebook away. I'm a man of my word, he said. Neither you nor your wife nor your daughter will be killed. Now here is what I want you to do, Mr. Gervasi. From now on, when you get your orders to operate Clarinet, you will carry them out, but you will be a little sloppy when you align the antenna. Not too much! Perhaps just a fraction of one degree. Just enough to throw the bombing raid off by a few hundred yards. You will do this until the end of the war. And more importantly, you will tell no one that you are sabotaging the raids.

Or you'll come back and kill us?

Benjamin, I'm disappointed in you! What does a man have in this world if he fails to do what he promises he will do? You have my word of honor that neither you nor your lovely Edith nor your beautiful young Lilith will be killed. But they will be taken to the concentration camp near Saint-Malo in France were all the British Jews in the Channel Islands have been relocated.

No, I beg you!

They will not be mistreated there. But if we learn that a future air raid on Germany using the transmitter at this lighthouse is successful, things will not seem so good. But even then, my word will hold. Lilith and Edith will be transferred to a work camp deeper in France, perhaps even in Germany. He closed the leaves of his notebook with a snap. It is astonishing how much work you can get out of a Jew with a whip.

Lilith and Edith were taken to Cherbourg, and by the evening of June 4 they were inducted into their first camp, a French farm that had been dubbed a clinic for racial hygiene. The Atherfield lighthouse was not the only Clarinet system that had been raided by Captain Schaub, but it was the only one whose operator remained alive after the raid. Schuab's report filtered up to Hitler, and the final piece of deception in the Fortitude operation was in place. Hitler reinforced the defenses in the Pas-De-Calais region and left only a skeleton force at Normandy.

It is common knowledge that Calais was a feint, and the real invasion took place on the beaches of Normandy on the morning of June 6, 1944. Two Panzer tank divisions, which might have driven the invaders back into the sea, were kept on a tight leash by Hitler, because he didn't trust his own generals. Hitler himself slept until noon on that day, and didn't release the Panzers until 4 PM, by which time the beachhead was relatively secure, and Allied aircraft dominated the skies to the point of forcing German tanks to move only at night.

But for two months the Allies became tied down in the Normandy region trying to break out of hedgerow country while the Germans attempted to contain them. When they finally did, the breakthrough was very near to the Saint-Malo area where Lilith and Edith were being held. To prevent their premature liberation, the Germans moved everyone in the camp to another one in France far from the front lines.

Benjamin Gervasi continued to operate the Clarinet system when orders came in over the Teletype, but he deliberately altered the requested target angle slightly, believing it to be the only way he could save the lives of his wife and daughter. The deception came to an end in September when Lilith failed to register for secondary school. The constable came calling, who found evidence of the German raid, and notified army intelligence, who squeezed the truth out of Benjamin. Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay intervened personally to keep Benjamin out of prison, but he was sacked from his lighthouse job and gradually began to despair of seeing either one of his loved ones again.

After breaking out of Normandy Patton's 3rd Army moved across France at an unbelievable pace. Lilith and Edith found themselves being moved at least once a month, which was encouraging in a way, but the camps grew progressively worse the nearer they drew to Germany itself. Internment camps were abandoned for work camps. Work camp were evacuated and the Jews went to slave labor camps, and then punishment camps, and finally an extermination camp called Ohrdruf-Nord deep in the center of Germany proper, where Jews were to be worked to death constructing a railroad center that was never finished..

Along the way currency, gold, and jewelry (of which Lilith and Edith had none) were sent to the SS headquarters of the Economic Adminstration. Watches, clocks, and pens were sent to the troops on the Western, Eastern, and Italian fronts. Their civilian clothing was given to needy German families.

Lilith saw things that pushed far beyond any boundaries of human evil she thought where possible to exist. And Ohrdruf wasn't even the worst camp in the hellish constellation. Those were to be found further to the east.

Some men have a strong taste for sixteen year old female flesh. Lilith learned to trade her body for scraps of extra food. Some of this she ate herself, but it was purely business. The longer she could delay taking on the figure of a skeleton, the more likely she was to have more opportunities to trade her body for food. The rest of this extra food she gave to her mother.

This became a problem during the terrifying and humiliating appells, or inspections that followed roll call and lasted most of the day, when Lilith and Edith were found to be wasting away at a slower rate than their companion prisoners. They were successful in feigning weakness, but it was more difficult to hide their extra weight, and suspicion was raised. One time when the guns of Patton's tanks could be hard only forty miles away, and the twelve thousand inmates of the camp were being loaded onto cattle cars for transfer to Buchenwald, Edith Gervasi was discovered in possession of a little extra food.

The Germans did something to Edith Gervasi, a kind of crucifixion with ropes that was so much more terrible than anything Lilith had witnessed or imagined up to that point that the soul of the girl was seared, as though by a hot iron. For years afterward wanted to die just to erase the memory of it. Lilith the child in fact died just then, and another Lilith emerged who bore little resemblance to the one who had gone just moments before.

The Nazis didn't kill Edith in their treatment of her, but so much the worse for her suffering. Nazi renegades who went into hiding throughout the world after the war had little idea their most terrible, implacable huntress had truly been born on this day in a satellite camp of Buchenwald called Ohrdruf Nord

Lilith herself, as Edith's daughter, was to be stripped naked and clubbed to death before the still living eyes of Edith, to increase her suffering as she looked down from the Screaming Tree and begged to die.

In the undressing room Lilith seized a pistol from an SS officer named Eduard Farben and shot dead both him and a guard named Wilhelm Grabner. Other prisoners joined to attack other guards, but the SS called in reinforcements and got control of the situation again.

All the female prisoners were mustered together and marched for miles outside of the camp, barefoot, in the snow. They were kept outside at the position of attention until late in the afternoon, while they were threatened and ordered to reveal who had killed the two men. The information was not forthcoming, so they were ordered to run back to the camp. The laggards were beaten to a pulp with clubs. A thousand women died during this forced run, including Edith Gervasi, who was still in shock with crippled arms from the Screaming Tree.

The survivors were mustered together again for another roll call. The commander of the camp gave an order to flog the entire first row of prisoners because the exhausted and freezing women had poor posture. This first row included Lilith.

Listening to the screams of the prisoners being whipped before her turn was almost worse than the actual punishment.

She was stripped naked and held by two female guards over the whipping table while a third laid on the rawhide with a will. In later years Lilith said the agony of this punishment was indescribable, and so she never attempted to describe it. Only Round Robyn knew this, or what really happened to her mother, because Lilith allowed Round Robyn alone, out of everyone else in the Women's Democratic Forum, to Share.

Lilith lost count of how many strokes she received, and woke up in the camp hospital in only slightly less agony, with her entire back aflame. It would take four days before she could get more than a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep. She had lost a lot of blood and the slightest movement opened the scars and caused her to bleed again. So Lilith could not be moved from the hospital or walk under her own power and as the American forces drew very near, the entire camp descended into chaos. Lilith was left behind.

A day later Lilith did manage to stumble out of bed for one final task. Troops of the 89th Infantry Division of the US Third Army captured Ohrdruf-Nord on April 4, 1945. Among the many thousands of dead Jews whose burnt or decomposing bodies where strewn about, one female German guard lay on the ground with her head nearly twisted off the spine. She was the one who had laid the lash on Lilith's back.

After the war when Lilith had been sufficiently deloused and scrubbed, and proved her status as a British subject to the satisfaction of the Occupation, she was placed on a ship and sent home to her father. Meeting him on a dock at Portsmouth, she gazed upon him as though across a great gulf, which was the memory of the ordeal she had somehow survived. They were utter strangers to each other now.

Lilith was suffering from what would later be termed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It would be a long time before she could summon the will to begin to recover from her experiences.

No matter how much he pleaded with her, Lilith never spoke to her father or anyone else about what the Germans had done to her mother. Robyn got the memory wordlessly, directly from the source.

Personal tools
Strangers In Paradise