The Nazis raid the farm in search of the Jewish children, but the latter have already escaped trying to reach the Promised Land…
Solomon’s Trains, Part 14
Dvorah, her sister and their parents were standing on one of the six platforms of the Berlin Anhalter Bahnhof Train Station. It was the second largest, yet busiest, of Berlin’s three stations. It was the ninth of March 1938, two days her seventeenth birthday.
The Grand Anhalter Bahnhof was also the station that the “Save the Children Project” used the most. The intense busyness of the station with a train pulling out about every seven minutes and the fact that from this station trains went to a greater variety of destinations than the others, thus hopefully enabling some measure of anonymity, were the central reasons for that choice.
This had been the station from which Solomon Dzubas and Recha Freier, the wife of Rabbi Moritz Freier Chief Rabbi of Berlin, had sent off their first batch of teenagers. Since then a few thousand had already found safety from the Nazi death machine in a new life in the Holy Land of Palestine thanks to these two farsighted brave people.
Outside the wintry weather was still to be well felt. Inside the ever busy station, with trains pulling through every few minutes transporting tens of thousands of people and tons of cargo, was all abuzz with its daily business. Few people paid attention to the group of teenagers on platform six near the last car of the train. For all outward appearances they were on their way to a spring vacation camping trip in the country side.
Dvorah’s voice could barely be heard above the din and hubbub of the busy station. “Momma, Poppa I’ll miss you, promise me you’ll come soon.”
With some gentle loving strokes to her cheeks her father answered, “Ushi sweetheart, my soul and heart travel with you. We must be here a little longer to help Rabbanite Recha to save more children like you and your friends. We will surely do our best to come as soon as possible. We would so much like to be traveling with you. Like you, we long so much to live in our ancient homeland and to help rebuild it, long to live in the Holy Land of our patriarchs and the Holy Temple. When you are there please do pray for us to succeed.”
Judith’s squeaky little voice piped up. “Oh Poppa…”
Becka added, “I’ll miss the two of you Ushi and Peeps. We will try our best to come very soon. Quick each of you darlings have a kiss and get into line, they are boarding now. God bless you guide and guard you. Dvorah-Ushi I’m sorry we won’t be with you to celebrate your birthday. Surely they will do something nice for you on the farm. Yet have a happy birthday, and may it be a good sign for the start of a good long new life, amen. I love you both. … Hey your suitcase!”
As the youngsters approached the door of their train car each one had to show travel permit papers as well as their tickets.
Solomon watched concernedly as ever from the side. He knew that most of the papers were either “gray” or altogether illegal. At this time it was almost impossible to get a full set of all legal papers for leaving Germany and entering Palestine, at least for a Jew that is. However there was no choice other than such methods, since there was no other way to get these youngsters out of Germany alive.
Suddenly after the first five children boarded the train, several army officers strode hastily to the conductors who were meticulously checking the tickets and papers of each passenger. Solomon and Becka turned pale worried that maybe their ploy had been discovered, God forbid. If the Nazi’s discovered that even only one of the children had forged papers they were all doomed.
Peeps asked her sister, “What do you think is happening?"
"How should I know?"
"You're the older sister. You're supposed to know everything."
"Where is that written?"
"In my diary when I was six years old."
"Cute but …."
"Hey look, the conductor is rushing everyone onto the train without checking permits. Look Ushi he's not even checking tickets!"
The conductors were pushing people up the steps and shouting "Kinder sich schnell! sich schnell! Everyone onto the train fast, fast move!"
"Barukh HaShem (Blessed be God)"
“Hodu LeHaShem ki tov ki le’olam chasdo! (Thank the Lord for He is good, for His mercy is eternal)”
Near the line of passengers Reb Solomon turned to his wife, "Becka look, Plaoth Boreh (wonders of the Creator), what gift of Divine Providence! They're not checking the papers."
"Why, what changed?"
"I haven’t the foggiest idea. Wait what…"
Wooo'ooooaghaawagh, the klaxon roared. “Achtung! All civilian trains pull out now! All civilian trains pull out now!”
Dvorah leaned out the train car door calling, “Momma, Poppa I’ll miss you. Promise … oohps!”
The train suddenly started to move with a jolt even before the platform conductor closed the gate to the door and she fell. Just before she fell to the platform a strong hand reached out and caught her, “Silly girl, you want to die?”
Their friend Yaakov-Koebis had been near the door, and as ever was quick on the ball. He saw Dvorah slipping and jumped forth to grab her arm and pull her back into the train before it was too late.
“Wow, thank you Koebis, God bless you. You saved my life!”
Wooo'ooooaghaawagh “Achtung! All civilian trains pull out now and fast! Clear all the platforms, now! All civilians are ordered to leave the train station immediately!!! Achtung All civilians are ordered to leave the train station immediately! Sieg Heil!!”
People flocked to the exits like herds of cattle being pushed by the herdsmen, many with their now worthless tickets in their hands.
Solomon looked about has they walked out and commented, "Look Becka, hundreds of armed SS troopers with battle gear and full packs are running up to the platforms. The big armored DRG locomotives are coming in with long rows of passenger cars. There are Gestapo agents watching the entrances and exits. Let’s get out of here fast. It’s a massive troop movement."
They were later to discover that this was a part of the transport of troops for the takeover of Austria only three days later.
Little did either the children nor Soli and Becka know that the train with their girls in it was to be the last one Solomon Dzubas would send in his life.
Photo right, The Anhalter Bahnhof Station WW 2
“Wow did that go fast! Ushi I never saw a train start off so fast from the station. And they zipped out like frightened mice.”
Koebis told them, “Duvid, who was looking out the back window, says he saw hundreds of SS troops in battle gear filling all the platforms and the huge armored DRG’s pulling long trains. It’s probably a troop transport to a field campaign on their mad war.”
Motkeh added, “It’s only by God’s loving grace that we got on the train before it pulled out. Did you see that there were hundreds of people who got shooed out of the station without traveling to their planned destinations? They’ll likely not get their money back nor credit for other tickets either.”
Judith piped in, “Loonies, what do they imagine they’ll gain? They’ll kill hundreds of their enemy’s soldiers and their enemy will kill hundreds of theirs, one side or other will grab some more land from the other until the next war. Didn’t they learn any lessons from the last one? Europe has been having wars over patches of land for centuries, trading off death and land back and forth. Is there anything more stupid?”
“Well I’d say more stupid would be the fact that so many of our own people still refuse to admit that it’s dangerous for a Jew to remain in Germany or Poland.”
The train raced through Berlin and out into the countryside on its way north.
Rachel asked, “Does anyone know where we are going too?”
Mindel said, “I heard that the original plan was to Fulda where the early Bachad Hakhshara groups were placed because there were a good number of observant Jewish farms there. But recently they were all taken over by the Nazi government.”
“Right”, piped up Yizik, “and Rabbanite Recha found out that the Hakhshara farms in Tsenrod wase also taken over, and Groengeshof still is full with the previous group which has a couple weeks remaining before they leave for Palestine.”
“So where are we going?
Mendel whispered cautiously for fear that maybe the conductor was listening behind the door, “I heard that she found out about an unobtrusive farm that is registered as being owned by a non-Jewish family that in secret is against the Nazis. It’s near Mecklenburg.”
“Hey look at that beautiful forest. I see some deer. Look at the antlers on that one there!”
“There near the brush is a little one next to its mother, how sweet.”
“Why don’t they run away from the noise of the train?”
“They’re probably used to these big noisy things already and understand that as big strange and noisy as they the trains can’t get to them to harm them.”
The train steamed at high speed through northeastern Germany. The children alternately ate their packed food, chatted and watched the quickly flowing view.
A couple hours later they heard the announcement, “Achtung passagiere nahern wir uns Mecklenburg Station”. (Attention passengers we are approaching Mecklenburg Station.)
“We’re here we’re here!”
“How will we know who is to meet us? Who is going to be there? How will we get to where we are staying?”
“Now you think of this?” It’s a good thing you’re not the organizer.”
“Ushi’ I’ll take your suitcase. You watch over your little sister. Moishy take Peep’s valise, will you?”
“Sure thing, happy to.”
“Surkah, here you are! Now I know where you went off to.”
“Yes, precious ones. Rabbanite Recha sent me here to arrange everything for your crew. Come now here are the buses waiting to take farm. Be’ezrat HaShem (with the Lord’s help) you will be a two months or so on the farm to get a bit of the feel of it. While you are there we will complete arrangements for your ship voyage to Palestine.”
“Will you be coming with us?”
“For now my orders are to stay here in Germany to keep things in order and help get more youngsters ready to go. When Recha tells me to go I will most happily go to join you all there. My soul hungers for the Holy Land.”
Several days later on the farm, “Duvid, why is the roof so peaked?”
“This far up north and out in the country side there is heavier snow even than in Berlin. If it wasn’t so steep a roof it would collapse under the weight of the snow.”
“How do you know so much?”
“I don’t waste my time playing with dolls, toy kitchens and endless pattering.”
The counselor of the farming training camp announced the next morning, “Children today you will help gather hay to be set up in stacks. After a couple days of this we will introduce you to the cows and the barn.”
At which Chavy, all aglee, chimed in, “Oh goodie cows, that sounds like fun.”
To which a farm hand laughingly remarked, “Wait till you get downwind from the barn, or even better inside, hee hee.”
“What do you mean?”
“The nose knows.”
The city children got a taste of farm life. Gathering and binding haystacks. While the girls had to learn to cook and care for a large group kitchen, they also had to learn some light farm work.
Two days after their arrival a birthday party was held for Dvorah. Special table clothes were laid out, a big cake with whipped cream topping made from fresh cream, and lots of singing. Later in the girls quarters a funny little skit was played in her honor too. As a gift the counselors had gotten her a new apron and sun hat.
Children will be children and some mischievous fun was had. After a few days of hay gathering Tsvikah turned to Moishi with a wink, “Want to see that superstitious Miri jump?”
“Nu what do you have up your sleeve wiseguy? Don’t make it anything dangerous or too scary.”
“Naw, I’ll just hide inside this haystack and you let me know when she’s next to it. Here she comes.”
“Shalom Miri, how’s they hay work for you?”
Before she could say a word Tsvikah burst out of the stack all covered with hay – “Booahawahow!”
“Yaaaaaaeeeeeeeeeeaaaah a troll a poltergeist!” and of she ran, helpppp.
The two boys rolled on the ground laughing themselves silly.
The next day some of the boys and girls were introduced to the barn. Now while it was well kept, this was not a modern concrete and stainless steel barn with automatic spray-washing of the floors. It was an old style dirt floor barn with all that this entails.
“Gross! What an odor! We drink milk from places like this?!” squawked Rachel.
To which Duvid answered, “Ruchi, visited other farms. This one is much cleaner than most, and better smelling too.”
“You’ll get used to it.”
“I’ll opt for going back to the kitchen and laundry rather thann work in a barn.”
“As you like it.”
The boys got to handle horses as well. They were being taught how to feed, groom, harness the animals for work, to plow and so on.
One evening only two weeks into the training period there was an emergency meeting of the counselors. “I’ve just gotten a message from Rabbanite Recha. This place has been discovered, there is danger of another take over. We must evacuate.”
“What do we do with the children?”
“How much time do we have do you know?”
“They information Recha received was that they are way too busy for an immediate move. We have a week or so.”
“I feel it is best to not wait that long.”
“Of course not, I have already arranged sale of the animals and equipment. They will be taken in three days. Surkah has contacted the center in Blankenase and they will arrange the tickets on a ship that is leaving Hamburg in three days.”
“The children have already been vaccinated as required by British immigration rules to Palestine and have the necessary documents to prove it.”
“We must be careful how we tell them that the hakhsharah training is curtailed so as not to excessively frighten them.”
“We will tell them tomorrow after lunch. Then they can get ready comfortably and leave the next morning.”
“To arrange so many train tickets in less time and for evening travel would arouse suspicion, even in Mecklenburg.”
The next day a special meeting was convened after lunch.
Surkah led it. “My precious children due to unforeseen circumstances your stay here must be shortened considerably. Tomorrow after breakfast you will be on buses to the train station and off to Blankenase, Hamburg. There after a day or so you will be boarding your ship to your new home in the Holy Land. I envy your good fortune. Would that I could be going with you.”
Aharon added, “The team there is already getting together some appropriate clothes for you take with you as well as all the arrangements and tickets for your voyage. God bless and speed you and give you good long lives in our ancient Holy Homeland.”
“We enjoyed your stay here under our care and guidance albeit it brief. Be’ezrat HaShem we will meet you again there.”
“Now off to your rooms to prepare your things. Hebrew lessons in one and a half hours, Mincha immediately afterward.”
The youngsters left the dining hall all astir with a wide range of ideas as to why their training time was so drastically shortened.
The ideas ranged from late winter storm warnings to a Nazi government takeover of the farm to possible arrest of someone in the system.
The next day in town after a brief wait the station’s loudspeaker squawked, “Achtung Fahrgäste den Zug nach Lüneburg und Hamburg ist von der Plattform zwei Abgangsgruppen in fünf Minuten“. (Attention passengers the train to Luneberg and Hamburg is leaving from platform two in five minutes.)
The ride was about three hours with the scenery changing somewhat as they neared the western coastal forest regions. Hamburg is on Germany’s northern coast on a river inlet from the sea near Holland.
With the typical screeching of steel wheels on steel tracks the train came to a halt in Hamburg station. The youngsters where taken by bus to houses in the Blankenase sector. There they would spend the next thirty hours familiarizing themselves with the new clothes they got already packed in rucksacks.
The wealthy families who were housing them, like they had housed previous groups treated royally. Comfortable beds, carpeted rooms with fancy curtains, fluffy bath towels and scented soaps, delicious meals, and pleasant rapport were given them too.
They received their ship tickets and passports with visas and other travel papers. While they were given a couple more lessons in Hebrew and had some free time they had no time in their minds for sightseeing the picturesque neighborhood they were staying in their last hours in Germany. Their free time was full of discussions of their concerns about why they had to leave so soon and what was awaiting them on the sea journey and upon their arrival in Palestine.
They had no idea that by the time they would be boarding their ship the animals and equipment of the farm would be taken away by the farmers that their counselors had sold them to. Five days later the Nazi army trucks came to take over a totally empty farm and found absolutely no one to arrest.
To be continued