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Book Excerpt

Out of the Frying Pan …

“How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing. It seems still more impossible that a quarrel which has already been settled in principle should be the subject of war.”

Neville Chamberlain, September 1938

AFTER SPEAKING TO MORDECHAI, SORRAH WENT home and packed a suitcase of clothing for her and the baby. She went into the kitchen, looked under the sink, and removed the metal case from in between the pipes. When she opened the case, she saw that it did, indeed, contain five hundred Reichsmarks, three
thousand Polish zlotys, and a German passport with her picture in it but issued to a “Sonje Richter.”

The forger had made up the name and identity of a high-ranking Nazi official, SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Klaus Richter, who was supposed to be an adjutant on Heinrich Himmler’s staff. It was hoped that, if Sorrah encountered any difficulties with her papers, a mention of this name would smooth the way for her. Sorrah practiced saying her new name and that of her “husband” over and over, so 226 Herb Rothman as to be fluent with the information if and when she was asked for it. The forger has been clever in selecting an alias beginning with the letter R, in case Sorrah carried any monogrammed clothing or jewelry.

She left the house from the back garden door, because it opened onto a side street that didn’t face any house fronts. From there, it was only a short walk to the Altona railroad station. Sorrah went to the ticket sales window. “I would like to purchase a one-way, firstclass ticket to Berlin on the Fliegender Hamburger and a transfer ticket from there to Neu Bentschen,” she told the ticket seller.

On May 15, 1933, Germany’s first high-speed diesel train, the Fliegender Hamburger (Flying Hamburger), was introduced. The train had an average speed of seventy-six miles per hour and was the world’s fastest scheduled rail service.

“May I see your passport and travel documents, please?” It was a reminder that, even inside Germany, Jews were no longer permitted to travel.

“Here they are. Do I look like a Jew to you?” Sorrah replied with hauteur, while inwardly quaking with fear.

The clerk glanced at both her passport and her documents. “I am sorry, Fräulein. Your papers seem to be in order. What business do you have in Berlin?”

“Do you see that I have a child with me? I am not a fräulein, unless you think I am a woman of loose morals. You will address me as Frau Richter or not at all. The business I have in Berlin is my business and none of yours. Either you sell me the ticket, or the next trip I make will be to Gestapo headquarters to report you. You
obviously don’t know who my husband is or you wouldn’t even be asking me these questions.”

“I apologise, meine Frau. We are required to ask these questions of all persons going to Berlin. There are a lot of insurectionists traveling to the capital. And, of course, I know who your husband is. I didn’t think that you were that Frau Richter. Here are your tickets.

Journey to Freedom 227

Do you require someone to help you and your beautiful daughter to the train? It is leaving on track 23.”

“No, thank you. I can manage on my own.”

“Again, please accept my sincerest apology and have a safe trip.”

As Sorrah made her way to the train with Miriam in her arms, she spent only a moment congratulating herself on her first performance as Frau Richter. Her thoughts immediately turned to Yehuda and how he was faring.