Draft74

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CHAPTER 074

Judith and Edith Margolies were taken to Cherbourg by raft and by sub, and by the morning of June 6 they were inducted into a French farm that had been dubbed a clinic for racial hygiene.

Schuab's report, sent by coded radio from the U-boat, filtered up to Hitler, and the final piece of deception in the Fortitude element of Operation Bodyguard was in place. Hitler reinforced the defenses in the Pas-De-Calais region and left only a skeleton force at Normandy.

Captain Felix Straub and the Uboat at his beck and call only just made it to Cherbourg in time. In the early morning hours of June 6 the Channel was filled with 7,000 vessels carrying 160,000 men to the beaches of Normandy, and not Calais, as Benjamin told his tormentors. Mr. Margolies's weather forecast had tipped Ramsay into Montgomery's camp for having a go, and that in turn convinced Eisenhower. Two Pan- zer tank divisions, which might have defeated the invasion, were kept on a tight leash by Hitler because he didn't trust his own generals. Hitler himself slept until noon on the sixth of June, and didn't re- lease the Panzers until four in the afternoon, by which time the beachhead was relatively secure and Allied aircraft dominated the skies to the point of forcing all German tanks to move only at night.

For two months the Allies were tied down in the Normandy region trying to break out of hedgerow country while the Germans attempted to con- tain them. When the Allies did escape, the breakthrough was very near to the Saint-Malo area where Judith and Edith were being held. To pre- vent their premature liberation the Germans moved everyone in the camp to another one deeper in France, far from the front lines, precisely what Felix Straub threatened would happen should Benjamin Margolies prove faithless in his sabotage, when he in fact never was.

Benjamin continued to operate the Clarinet system when the nightly orders came in over the Teletype, but he deliberately altered the re- quested target angle slightly. He sincerely believed Captain Straub that it was the only way he could save the lives of Edith and Judith. The deception came crashing to an end in September when Judith failed to register for secondary school. The constable came calling, and he found evidence of the raid by the German frogmen. He notified army intelligence, and they in turn squeezed the truth out of Benjamin.

Sir Ramsay successfully intervened to keep Benjamin out of prison, but Sir Arthur Harris of RAF Bomber Command insisted the man be sacked from his lighthouse job. He was forced to move to a small cottage on the beach nearby and he was not even permitted to operate his weather station inside St. Catherine's lighthouse. In his isolation Benjamin gradually began to despair of seeing either one of his loved ones again.

After breaking out of Normandy at Avranches, General Patton's Third Army moved across France at an unbelievable pace, performing a right hook that nearly encircled Hitler's forces opposing the invasion. Ju- dith and Edith were moved to different camps at least once a month. The constant relocation was encouraging in a way, but things grew pro- gressively worse the nearer Edith and Judith were taken to Germany itself. Internment camps were abandoned for work camps, which were evacuated in turn for what could only be called punishment camps.

Early in 1945 after one more relocation, Edith and Judith reached their final destination, an extermination camp called Ohrdruf-Nord deep in the heart of Germany proper. In that place Jews were worked to death constructing a railroad center that would never be finished. Along the way currency, gold, and jewelry (of which Judith and Edith had none) were sent to the SS headquarters of the Economic Adminstra- tion. Watches, clocks, and pens were sent to the troops on the West- ern, Eastern, and Italian fronts. Their civilian clothing was given to increasingly needy German families.

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

Many men have a taste for sixteen year old female flesh. Judith learned to trade her body for scraps of extra food. The longer she could delay taking on the figure of a skeleton, the more opportunities he might have to trade her body for food, for both herself and Edith. This became a huge problem during the terrifying and humiliating ap- pells, or inspections, that followed roll call and lasted most of the day. The guards realized Judith and Edith were wasting away at a slightly slower rate than their companion prisoners.

They were successful in feigning weakness, but it was almost impossi- ble to hide their extra weight, and suspicion was raised. When the guns of Patton's tanks could be heard only forty miles away, the twelve thousand inmates of the camp were being loaded onto cattle cars. The prisoners were being rushed to transfer to Buchenwald. Edith Margolies slipped and revealed that she had a little extra food hidden away. What happened after that Judith told no one but her father, years after the war, on his final day of life. Learning the manner of the passing of his wife might have even been the thing that killed him.

Troops of the 89th Infantry Division of the US Third Army captured Ohrdruf-Nord on April 4, 1945. Judith was one of the very few prison- ers left standing.

After the war in Europe when Judith had been sufficiently deloused and scrubbed, and had demonstrated her status as a British subject to the satisfaction of the Occupation, she was placed on a ship and sent home to her father. She met him on a dock at Portsmouth. Judith gazed upon him as though across a great gulf which was the memory of the unspeak- able ordeal she had somehow survived. They were utter strangers to each other.

When he took her home Benjamin tearfully begged his daughter to tell him what happened to Edith. The girl said nothing. Every time he pressed, she would only shake her head. But the beach bungalow was very small, and it was not very long before Benjamin caught a quick glimpse of the mass of whip scars on his daughter's back.

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