Chapter 1: Cyprus and New Allies
Summary: Based off the movie "Exodus" with Paul Newman. A young Christian Jew tries to find her way back to Palestine and her father after World War II's end. A lot of this is going to have accounts from other people's prison experiences during the Holocaust; Anne Frank being a huge account since the character was in Auschwitz and Bergin-Belsen at the same time as Anne Frank.
Hadassah ben Canaan fastened the Star of David around her neck as the lorry went down the streets of Cyprus. She had had the necklace since she was four. She had been given the necklace as a birthday gift from her father before he had left Czechoslovakia right before Adolf Hitler had taken control of the small country.
Her father had been born and raised in the British Mandate of Palestine. He had been trying to get passports and visas for her and her mother, but the Czech border had been locked and he couldn't get back in to get them out. He had sent her mother letters until the Nazis had cut off all the mail and she and her mother had emigrated to Rotterdam, Holland.
Her mother's people had been Dutch. They had come from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and had been there since. Her father had been part of the British army in Palestine and had been in Czechoslovakia trying to get people to emigrate to Palestine when he had met her mother who had a special work permit as a teacher.
Her father had met her mother and had fallen in love instantly and she him. He had decided to stay with her and they had had Hadassah. Ari ben Canaan had been a devoted father and husband. His arms were strong and safe, but that safety hadn't lasted long.
10 years later and Hadassah was fourteen years old. Her health was precarious and she suffered from asthma attacks. Her mother and the rest of her mother's family had all died in Auschwitz, Dachau, and Mauthausen Concentration Camps in the last 11 months of the war in Europe and Hitler's Holocaust.
She had been separated from her mother at Auschwitz-Birkenau and sent to Terezin and Bergin-Belsen. Near starvation and typhus had almost killed her, but American and British soldiers had liberated the camps and had given the medicine that the Nazis had refused to give their Jewish prisoners. Hadassah still couldn't believe that the Nazis had all the medicine not even a mile away and hadn't even given it to their prisoners. It was just as if the Nazis had murdered people without shooting or gassing them.
Now that the war was over Hadassah had been given a special immunity since she was a British citizen, as well as Dutch and Czech. Of course that also meant she had to get her health back slowly. She had suffered first with malnutrition. She had been 30 pounds lighter than she should have been for an almost 11-year-old in 1945, but had managed to get it all back on. Now at 14 years old she was 112 pounds and was on the island of Cyprus so she could go to the British Mandate of Palestine.
This also was an excellent time to see if her father was still alive. Like the Czech Republic, Holland hadn't allowed Ari in to get his wife and daughter or even to see if they were all right. Hadassah looked up in shock, jolted from her thoughts, as a dark-haired Jewish boy jumped from the lorrie she was on and British soldiers shouted.
She really didn't know all the people she was with. They, like her, had been Jews who had survived the death camps and had passports and visas for Palestine. Of course Hadassah had an automatic passport since her father's passport covered her and he was part of the British army. Of course he had no idea that she was even coming. He probably thought she had died since he hadn't heard her voice in 10 years.
A girl who was sitting next to her frowned. She looked like an Aryan with her blonde hair and blue. Hadassah had blue eyes, but this girl's was a shade lighter. "What was he thinking?" She whispered to Hadassah as they looked at the boy trying to outrun the British soldiers.
"No idea, but he'd better be careful," Hadassah said, her two years in England evident in her voice.
"Are you British?" The girl asked.
"Not really. I have a British passport, but I'm a Czech, Dutch, and Palestinian Jew. I am Hadassah ben Canaan," Hadassah introduced herself.
"Karen Hansen. I'm from Denmark. My parents were arrested and I was adopted by a Danish couple. I'm going to Palestine to find my father. My mother died," Karen explained, eyes downcast.
"My mother did too in Auschwitz. My father is part of the British forces in Palestine. I'm going there to find him too," Hadassah said, feeling sympathy for Karen.
"I wonder why they didn't just send you to live with him before Hitler took over your countries," Karen mused.
"I haven't the slightest idea. I don't even know if Papa would recognize me. It's been 10 years and I don't know if he knows that Mama died," Hadassah said in despair.
"I think he would. Maybe he thinks you're dead too," Karen said, failing to sound helpful.
"I thought of that. So many times I wished I had died. I was a 60-pound walking skeleton at Bergin-Belsen with a tattooed number on my arm," Hadassah said, rubbing her left forearm. The number J389-1872 was still there. The doctors in England had said it would be impossible to remove since it was on the veins in her arm and she could bleed to death.
Hadassah nearly started as two or three British soldiers came to the parked lorrie and threw the runaway Jewish boy into the truck. His face was bloody and bruised and he was groaning while he grabbed at his ribs. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a number on his arm. He was a concentration camp survivor like her!
Hadassah reached over and touched his head gently. He looked up at her with pain-filled eyes. "Are you all right?" Hadassah asked, concern in her dark-blue eyes.
"I think so. Who are you?" The boy asked.
"Hadassah ben Canaan And you?" Hadassah asked as she and Karen propped him up against the wooden supports behind them.
"Dov Landau," the boy said as Hadassah pulled off her trench coat and covered him with it.
"What did you hope to accomplish by running like that?" Karen wanted to know.
"I was thinking I could get to Palestine without all this," Dov admitted with a half-hearted smile.
"Fat chance. I have a passport to Palestine, but they won't let me out of the Displaced Persons Camp unless I can prove that I don't have indigestion or some other nonsense. I would get in contact with Papa if I knew where he was," Hadassah said in annoyance.
"Yeah, the Mufti doesn't want us any more than the countries we came from. It's like they don't want to accept the fact that we are the survivors of a race that Hitler murdered," Dov said bitterly.
"Can't argue with that. They looked the other way as our families were killed. I hope they can sleep with themselves at night after seeing how some of us looked at the end of the war," Hadassah said as the left the city and rattled down an old dirt road. Well, at least they weren't walking like the Nazis made them do when they arrived at a new death camp. Hadassah remembered the hours that she and 100 other women prisoners had stood before allowing them to sleep the night they arrived at Birkenau. Her legs had ached unmercifully and it was snowing.
The Displaced Persons Camp looked like a concentration camp with barbed wire and soldiers standing sentry. There were no gas chambers, disease, or terrible food. (Or no food in Bergin-Belsen's case.)
Hadassah jumped down from the lorrie. Dov had had to be carried by a strong-looking Greek Jew. He had given Hadassah back her trench coat without a word and carried Dov into the already-crowded camp. All right this was Bergin-Belsen. Hadassah only hoped she didn't have to sleep someplace crawling with fleas and lice and enough typhus to fell an elephant.
The other main difference was that there was no swastika on the flags or British uniforms that the soldiers wore. But no matter. The same foul demon that was in Hitler and the Nazis was still here, even among the British soldiers who were giving the new arrivals disgusted looks.
"So, where are we going?" Karen asked as Hadassah put on her coat and picked up her two small leather valises. One was full of clothes and the other contained books that she had acquired in England.
"I guess we follow them to the sign that says "Processing" over there," Hadassah said, indicating the crowd and the procession center. The sign was written in Hebrew, British, and German.
"You can read that?" Karen asked, surprised.
"German and Dutch are almost the same and I learned English 2 years ago, including how to read it. Sad to say I don't speak or read Hebrew any more. My grandfather used to speak Hebrew, but I haven't heard it in a long time and my knowledge ran out," Hadassah said, walking towards the procession center.
"You don't think they'll hurt us do you?" Karen asked nervously.
"I don't think so. I don't see gas chambers or mass graves," Hadassah said, wiping her sweaty forehead.
"I hope you're right," Karen said, still sounding nervous. Hadassah hoped she was too. Life was too short to go through a genocide a second time. Hadassah gulped hard as she stepped in front of a registration desk and a grim-faced woman.
Ari ben Canaan walked out of the ocean and onto the beach of Cyprus around two O'clock in the morning. In his mid-thirties he felt like he was getting too old for this; swimming in the ocean and smuggling the Holocaust survivors to Palestine. If he had found his daughter, Hadassah, and his wife, Lotje, he would have let a younger soldier do this, but it was not to be.
Lotje had been gassed upon her arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau and no word had ever come back on Hadassah after Ari had sent inquiries about her through the Red Cross. Hadassah would be fourteen now. She had looked like her mother at four-years-old, except with blue eyes like his and a lighter tint of brown hair with blonde highlights in it. Like him she might have passed for non-Jewish. It had been her name and the fact that he was a Jewish soldier that had probably doomed his wife and daughter.
"How many?" Ari whispered to his friend Reuben. Reuben was part of the Haganah with Ari. They had been soldiers in the British army and Reuben had deserted with Ari over two years ago. They were as close as brothers. Reuben handed him a towel and shirt and Ari dried his muscle-hard chest and arms, putting on the shirt.
"611 Jewish refugees arrived from the Star of David fishing ship. They were all placed at Carolas. A few men and boys, but mostly women and children. A lot of them were young girls between 11 and 18," Reuben whispered quietly.
"In the same age bracket as my daughter would have been," Ari said with a bittersweet smile. Seeing four-year-old girls and fourteen-year-old girls was painful to say the least. A few months ago a little Jewish girl had fallen down on one of the boats and Ari had felt his insides rip apart as the child cried in his arms. It served to remind him how much he had wished the girl had been Hadassah.
"There's no point in pining for a little girl who's dead, my friend," Reuben said, sympathy in his dark eyes.
"You sound like my father. That's what he said when I refused to see the children at the Gan Dafna Kibbutz," Ari said ruefully.
"Barak is probably right. Anyways if she survived, you wouldn't be raising a four-year-old girl. She'd be fourteen and has had her Bat Mitzvah. She'd be accorded all the privileges of our people," David said.
"I guess after 10 years it's too late to hope for her. I was hoping that I could find her among all the refugees we smuggle into Palestine," Ari said, blinking against the burning tears in his eyes or was it salt from the Mediterranean Sea?
"The car's up there," Reuben said, changing the subject.
"Good. We'll go directly to Mandria," Ari said briskly.
"We can't, Ari. He's on the other side of the island. He won't be back until tomorrow," Reuben said to Ari's frustration.
"He should be on this side of the island!" Ari bit off as he strode to the car. If he couldn't save Hadassah things at least were going to go right.
Hadassah sat in front of the tent she shared with Karen, a book in her hands. Since she had been liberated from Belsen, she had read any book she could get her hands on; all of which were written in English. Her grandfather and uncle would have protested loudly since Yiddish, Hebrew, and German were the only languages read and spoken in the Bergin household.
Sadly to say Hadassah's knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish had died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz with her family. Except for a few words like "mazel tov" and "Omaine," she couldn't speak or read Hebrew and Yiddish.
Hadassah rubbed her eyes and looked up from her copy of "A Tale of Two Cities." Karen was walking towards her with a blonde-haired woman who had the kindest smile and blue eyes that were about the same color as Hadassah's.
"Kitty, this is my friend Hadassah ben Canaan. Hadassah, this is Kitty Fremont. She's been helping me and Dr. Odenheim in the infirmary. I wanted her to see if she could remove your tattoo," Karen said optimistically.
"I don't know. A British doctor said it was on my veins and if I was to remove it I could bleed to death," Hadassah said reluctantly.
"Why don't I look at it and give you a second opinion?" Kitty asked. Hadassah held out her left arm and bared the forearm.
"Are you an American?" Hadassah asked as Kitty examined her arm.
"Yes. How did a British girl find herself in a concentration camp?" Kitty asked.
"I'm not really British. I'm a Jew. I was born in Czechoslovakia and emigrated to Holland in 1939. I was in Bergin-Belsen in Germany when the war ended. They found out that I'm a citizen of the British Mandate of Palestine. They took me to England and I acquired this accent. I wish to learn Hebrew again. If I can find my Papa then he could teach me the language," Hadassah explained. Kitty then released Hadassah's arm.
"Well, can it be removed, Kitty?" Karen asked hopefully.
"That British doctor was right. It can't be removed. It would be as if you slit your wrists and committed suicide," Kitty said as Hadassah pulled down the sleeve of her shirt.
"Thank you. I didn't think the British doctor was right. I'm glad I was able to get a second opinion," Hadassah said with a smile.
"You know, I was going to the beach tomorrow. Would the two of you like to come?" Kitty asked.
"Sounds like fun," Karen said eagerly.
"Anything to get out of this camp. I'll come," Hadassah said.
"I guess I'll pick you two up tomorrow after church. I just hope that the beach isn't too crowded," Kitty said. It had taken Hadassah awhile to get used to church on Sundays instead of Synagogue on Saturdays, but Hadassah now went to church on Sunday as she had converted to Christianity before the war had begun. It had been another reason why she had gone to Terezin. A lot of Jews who had become Christians had been sent there. A belief in Jesus had not spared them from Hitler's wrath or his need to make them scapegoats with anyone else who was of Jewish descent.