Chapter One

Isidor Franks held up a glass of champagne. “Mazel tov,” he said, toasting Ben Komorosky, who smiled proudly, held up his own glass, and tapped Isidor’s.

“Thank you, Isidor. And thank you for coming.”

“Only for you. Normally, I don’t celebrate days like this one,” Isidor said, cocking his eye in obvious reference to the news that President Von Hindenburg had named Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany earlier in that day, January 30, 1933.

Ben sighed. “That’s all everyone is talking about,” he said with a sweep of his glass at the crowd of twenty‐five or more people milling about in the spacious room decorated specially for the occasion. Large letters on one wall, hanging above a table filled with gifts, signified the occasion: “Congratulations, College Graduate.”

January 31, 1933

“Your good fortune has been overshadowed by our misfortune,” Isidor said, and Ben agreed with another sigh.

“Do you plan on doing anything now?” Isidor asked.

“I’m going to graduate school in America. I leave the end of July. Until then I plan to help out at the store.”

“I meant about Hitler. If he’s not stopped, there will be no store to work in. Haven’t I been right so far?” “You have,” Ben said. “I’m amazed, actually.”

“My dear friend,” he said, putting a hand on Ben’s shoulder. “The words of an English philosopher come to mind,” and he switched from the German they had been speaking to English: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

The tapping sound of a spoon against a glass grabbed their attention.

“Please be seated everyone,” Adam, Ben’s older brother, called out to the gathering.

“I left you a gift on the table,” Isidor whispered. “I have something else for you if you are interested in stopping evil. Something...” He paused, giving Ben a knowing look. “...personal.”

“I am interested,” Ben said.

Isidor grinned. “Good for you,” he said and slapped Ben on his shoulder.

* * *

In the faint glow of the hallway light, Ben crossed the oval rug in the living room, leaned over a sofa, and drew the window shades on two side‐by‐side windows. Only then did he flick the switch of a lamp next to the sofa, lighting the room just enough for him to see. He had done as Isidor had instructed; it was not his normal routine. By the time he turned on a second lamp, Isidor had materialized in the doorway bearing a wrapped package. Rectangular, maybe an inch deep, he guessed it might be a framed photo or a painting.

“Come in,” Ben said. “I’ll show you around.” After closing the door behind him, Isidor set the gift on an armchair and dropped his hat beside it. Fifteen years older than Ben, Isidor was a chubby fellow with a cropped beard and a ready smile. His attention fell on the shelves against the near wall. “What are all the trophies about?”

“Marksmanship. It’s one of my two hobbies.”

“May I?” Isidor said, reaching for one. Ben nodded.

Isidor read from the trophy. “1932 Bavarian Three Hundred Meter Rifle Championship. First Place.” An impressed look showed on his face. “Hmm. You must be good.” He set it back on the shelf. “Now I’m curious.

What’s your other hobby?”

Ben grinned mischievously. “Women,” he said, winking.

“Oy,” Isidor muttered, rolling his eyes.

“And now I’m free to enjoy the nightlife here in Munich as I did in Paris, only no homework.” He motioned for Isidor to follow him.

“Be careful, my friend. This isn’t Paris.”

Ben finished the tour of his three‐room apartment, then pointed to the package. “What have you got for me?”

Isidor handed it to him, and Ben removed the paper.

The red‐orange glow of the nearby lampshade was reflected in a piece of glass in a walnut frame. He read the banner headline over an article clipped from the Volkischer Beobachter (Racial Observer), a Nazi gossip sheet published by Alfred Rosenberg: “Mach Ganze Arbeit Mit Den Juden,” it read (“Clean Out The Jews Once And For All”). The date of the article, March 10, 1920, gave him an eerie feeling. He turned an inquiring eye to Isidor.

“When I was a boy,” Isidor said, “my mother took me on a trip to visit her family in Kishinev, which was then part of the Russian province of Bessarabia but is now in Romania.”

“I know about Kishinev,” Ben said. “Were you there during the pogrom?”

“I was. My mother was raped and killed by an angry mob of Christians. They probably would have killed me, too, but I escaped...with her help.”

“Please,” Ben said, motioning to his sofa. “Sit and tell me about it.”

Isidor took a seat and related the story. At the point where Isidor tripped and fell in the puddle, Ben was on the edge of his chair. “So how did you escape?” Ben asked.

“I was rescued by, of all things, a Christian family. I broke both my arms in the fall. One was a compound fracture. I still have the scar,” he said, standing to slip off his coat. He pulled up the sleeve on his left arm, and Ben rose to his feet to look.

“The family that rescued me was as generous and kind as the rest of the city was cruel and bigoted. They paid for my medical care and, after confirming that my mother had been killed, notified my father who returned to bury her and take me to Berlin.

“Later, when I was old enough to do so, I researched the Kishinev pogrom, and learned that the riot was precipitated by the murder of a Christian boy in a nearby town on the Orthodox Easter holiday.” Isidor’s face tightened and his voice turned bitter. “Even though it was clear to anyone interested in the truth that the boy had been killed by a relative who was later arrested.

A Russian‐language, anti‐Semitic newspaper, much like the one you hold in your hands, insinuated that the boy was killed by Jews. Another one alleged Jews had killed the boy to use his blood to prepare matzo.” He threw his eyes upward.

“I took two lessons from the experience,” he said, holding up two fingers. Then he curled the middle one down and spoke intently. “One, hatred toward Jews lies deep within our culture and, once stirred into action, its people will commit the most heinous crimes in expressing that hatred.”

The second finger reappeared, along with a telling look. “And two, most people will stand by and let it happen.

“The same thing is happening today in Germany. I clipped and framed that article when I saw it in 1920 because it reminded me of the articles that preceded the Kishinev pogrom.”

A reflective smile came to Isidor’s broad, bearded face as he placed an arm across Ben’s shoulders.

Determination showed in his eyes. “So, today I fight so others will not have to suffer their own pogrom. I could use your help.”

“What kind of help?” Ben said.

“Something easy for you that I have neither the talent nor the time for.”