To Be An Israeli: The Fourth Book in the All My Love, Detrick series, p.1Roberta Kagan
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Writing and publishing a book is a joint effort. I would like to take a moment to thank all of the people who helped me to bring this novel to life. My daughter is my angel. Unlike me, she is a wiz on the computer. I could never list all of things that I am grateful to her for. She is my best friend and my encouragement to continue when I am frustrated and I think about giving up.
A supportive but critical beta reader is a crucial part of giving birth to a novel. My husband is my most dedicated beta reader. He has shown incredible patience and I cannot thank him enough for his continued encouragement.
A great big thank you to Ido for all of the time he spent giving me information about the IDF. I was so touched by his effort that I wanted to honor Ido, so I named a character in this novel for him.
Many blessings to all of you,
Copyright © 2014 by Roberta Kagan
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events are purely coincidental.
Tel Aviv, Israel; 1964
Katja Zuckerman sat on the balcony and looked out at the full moon that was just beginning to rise—a blood-red moon. Blood-red moons always coincided with significant events for the Israeli people and Katja wondered what news the moon would bring.
From where she sat, the city of Tel Aviv looked like an ant colony, people moving in all directions. She felt like an outsider as she watched them—a couple walking hand in hand, a group of young girls laughing, an old man hunched over with a cane looking angry and determined to push through the crowds, and a woman carrying a paper bag filled with groceries.
Across the street, a flag danced softly caressed by the breeze in the starlit night. It was a blue and white flag with a Star of David. This was her home. This was Israel. Almost a year had passed since she’d learned the truth about her birth, and she still could not accept the reality. Six months ago, she’d traveled to Germany where she met her birth mother for the first and only time.
A tear slipped down her cheek as she looked down at the streets. Anyone who knew her story might say that she did not deserve to call herself a Jew, not only a Jew but also an Israeli. Katja was still filled with shame that stained her like the mark of Cain. The truth had ripped through her life as a box cutter sliced through pieces of cardboard, and Katja, like the cardboard, had fallen in pieces to the ground. The truth was that she was not born of Jewish blood but was born in the Lebensborn to a pure Aryan German mother and a father who was an officer in Hitler’s hideous SS.
This girl who loved her Jewish family with all her heart had been christened in that home for the Lebensborn when she was just a year old and given the name Katja by one of the most notorious Nazis, Heinrich Himmler. After the naming ceremony, she was adopted by another monster of a man, the abusive Nazi in charge of work details at the Treblinka Extermination Camp, SS Officer Manfred Blau and his barren wife.
Even the fact that she had served her country for two years in the IDF had not been enough to exonerate her and remove the stain and purify her blood. Maybe if she had actually served in combat, it might have counted. But as a beautiful girl with exotic looks, she was trained to type and take shorthand. Katja was not just beautiful. After training, she could type at the speed of ninety-five words-per-minute. Afterward, she was assigned to the procurement office of the IDF to work as the secretary for Sergeant Greenberg.
In spite of her unfortunate beginnings, God was watching and had other plans for Katja. Although the Nazis had carefully planned her future, God knew that Katja was just an innocent child. And so, in his powerful wisdom, He arranged the circumstances that had forced
Isaac and Zofia Zuckerman, Jews, had taken the child and raised her as their own. Katja grew up Jewish. She grew to love the land of Israel and to call the Jews her people. All of this took place when Katja was too young to remember. The only parents she remembered were Isaac and Zofia. Over the years, they could not find it in their hearts to tell her the truth. She might never have known and might have remained blissfully ignorant, if SS officer Manfred Blau had not escaped from Spandau Prison and been recaptured and tried in Israel.
She had been preparing a dinner when she heard her name and her mother’s name spoken by Blau at his televised trial. It was the greatest shock of her life. When her fiancé at the time, Elan Amsel, a native to Israel, learned of her bloodlines, he left her. He was heartbroken but could not marry her knowing that the blood of an SS officer ran through her veins, and if they had a child, the child would be tainted as well.
The stabbing pain in her heart had still not healed, but she was doing better. When Elan first left, it seemed impossible to go on. She had so many questions. Her mind raced in confusion, and she could not sleep or eat. At one point, Katja even considered suicide until her dearest childhood friend Mendel suggested that she confront the problem head-on by meeting her birth mother.
Mendel had searched all over Europe and found a Leah Haswell in Switzerland. After meeting with her, she told them that she knew Helga was married to a farmer on the outskirts of Munich. Mendel arranged the entire trip for Katja, her mother, Zofia, and himself to go to Germany where they would seek out Katja’s birth mother, Helga Haswell.
After an extensive search, they’d found her, married, now Helga Hoffman. Katja had spoken to Helga and looked into her eyes. She’d watched her try to explain, and to some degree, Katja had even forgiven her. She had been trying to make sense of it all and to put the pieces of her life back together ever since she had returned home to Israel.
The phone on the table beside the bed rang, startling Katja out of her rambling thoughts. She jumped up and ran to lift the receiver.
“Let me guess, you’ve probably forgotten to eat again. Am I right?”
She laughed. “I had a late lunch at work.”
“Why don’t I pick you up, and we can have some dinner? You need to eat, Kat. You’re getting so thin that soon it will be impossible to see you.”
“I’m not that thin, Mendel.” She giggled.
He laughed. “Okay, Kat, you’re not that thin, but come on, do it for me. Let’s go and have dinner.”
“All right. Can you give me half an hour?”
“Sure. I’ll see you then.”
Mendel. God bless Mendel. He was always there to lift her up when her spirits were low. Katja stretched and went to take a quick shower. Perhaps it would be good to get out of the apartment for a while.
Mendel arrived a half hour later carrying a paper bag filled with groceries.
“I thought you wanted to go out and eat?” Katja said.
“I do, and we are going out, but I wanted to put some food in your refrigerator. You never have anything in there.” He winked at her and began unloading fruit and vegetables into her empty refrigerator.
“Mendel. You don’t have to shop for me. I can take care of myself.”
“Of course, you can. But you’ve been working a lot lately, and I’d just like to make things a little easier. Besides, if you have some food in the house, you might even eat once in a while.”
She watched him as he emptied the bags. “Mendel.” She shook her head. “You didn’t need to do this, but thank you.”
He turned to look at her and smiled. “No need to thank me, Kat. You’d do it for me if I needed you to.”
“You’re right. I would. I’d do it for Rachel, too.”
“You know, we should go and see Rachel. It’s been a long time. Would you like to make plans to go one weekend?”
“I don’t know if I can take the time off of work. We’ve been so busy,” she said.
“Then let’s plan it for later in the year.”
“Are you ready to go out and get something to eat? I’m starving.”
“Yes…” Katja grabbed a white sweater off a hook on the wall. Mendel opened the door, and they walked, side-by-side, toward his car.
“It’s a beautiful night.”
“Isn’t it?” she whispered. “Look, Mendel.” Katja pointed up to the moon. “It’s almost red tonight.”
“Yes, I see, and the sky is so clear that you can see the stars.”
“Remember, we used to love to look at the stars when we were kids. We’d wonder if there were people living on them.”
“I remember,” he said and rubbed her shoulder.
Katja smiled at him and sighed. “I wish we were kids again when we were still innocent.”
He opened the car door, and she slid inside. They drove for a few minutes with the windows open while a warm breeze stroked their faces.
“You realize, Kat, you have to move forward in your life. I know you still think about all of it, and it still bothers you…”
“You mean my birth mother and everything?”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “That’s exactly what I mean.”
“How did you know that was what I was thinking about? How did you know that I still think about it all the time?”
“Because I know you. Sometimes, I think I know you better than I know myself,” Mendel said.
“I am glad you went with me to Germany. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“I love you, Kat—you know that. I will always be there for you, no matter what happens.”
“Mendel, Mendel, what am I ever going to do with you?” she said, reaching over and rubbing his shoulder as he drove.
“You could start by telling me what you feel like eating.”
She gave a short laugh. “Tonight, I’ll leave it up to you.”
They rode for several miles until they came to an outdoor café. They got seated and Mendel opened the menu, but Katja did not. She glanced around the café.
“I used to come here sometimes with Elan,” she said.
“You still think about him, too?”
“Yes, of course, how could I not? We were engaged.”
“But any man who was a man at all would not have abandoned you because of something out of your control. You may have been born to Nazis, but you’re as Jewish as I am.”
“Not to Elan. He wanted his blood line to be pure. I have the blood of an SS officer inside of me. Sometimes it makes me want to tear off my own skin,” she said.
“Don’t say that, Kat. You are the same person you always were. Finding out that crap about where you were born doesn’t change you at all.”
“It did, according to Elan. Suddenly, in his eyes, I became a spawn of the enemy. My blood was not pure. I was unclean.”
“Hmmm, pure blood, huh? Now if that doesn’t sound like Nazi philosophy, I don’t know what does.”
The waitress took their order and left them alone with their thoughts. A silence hung over them like a cloud. Neither of them spoke until the salads arrived.
She toyed with her fork for a few moments. “Mendel, how am I ever going to start over? I can’t seem to feel at peace within myself.”
“You are going to accept that you were born in the home for the Lebensborn and raised by Jews. Then you are going to realize that you are exactly where you were meant to be, here in Israel. You, Kat, are one of us. You’re an Israeli. You’re a Jew. You are just as much a victim of the Nazis as we are.”
“Do you really believe that, Mendel? Do you really think I am a Jew?”
“What do you feel in your heart, Kat? Do you feel like a Nazi, or do you feel like one of us? Can you still remember those days when we were onboard tha
“Then I wandered around the forests until I heard about the boat the Exodus. The Jewish leaders who were arranging the voyage felt sorry for me and let me on without any money for passage. I was ten years old and on my way to Palestine. You, me, Rachel, and Abe, we were just kids who were scared to death. We didn’t know knowing what the future held for us because we were Jews, and trying like hell, to get to Palestine before it was even legal, before it was Israel. Poor Abe died when the British attacked the ship.”
“Yeah, I can remember. It was so terrifying that I’ll never forget.”
“You were one of us then, and you are one of us now. I can still see you, tiny little Katja, with your long, blonde curls and those big, terrified blue eyes. Remember? You sat beside me, Rachel, and your parents—all of us together, all of us hoping to build a Jewish homeland.”
“Yes, I remember. But that was before I knew what I really was.”
“You knew who you were then, and you are the same person now. Where you were born and whose sperm fertilized the egg that created you means nothing. You are one of us.”
She nodded. He reached across the table and took her hand. “Kat, you have to believe me. You are one of us! If I were Elan, I would never have walked away from you—never! I can’t respect a man who could do that to a person he says he loves.”
“Mendel.” She smiled, but tears filled her eyes.
“Marry me, Kat. Make my life complete.” He cleared his throat. “Give me a chance to show you what it means to really be loved. You don’t have to love me back. Just give me a chance to make you happy, to bring that beautiful smile back to your face.”
“Mendel.” She shook her head. “I do love you. I just don’t know if it is in the way that you deserve to be loved.”
“Can you try, Kat? Can you give me a chance?” He squeezed her hand. “I promise to do everything I can to make you happy. In just a few more months I’ll be finished with law school. Just give me a couple of years to get my practice going. You’ll see. I’ll be successful. You’ll have everything you ever wanted. You won’t have to work. We can start a family and have a couple of kids? What do you say, Kat?”
To Be An Israeli: The Fourth Book in the All My Love, Detrick series by Roberta Kagan / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes