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Outside New York City, the palatial home of Dr. David Strauss's parents is attacked by gunmen during a glittering party. As he watches helplessly, his wife is murdered. In Los Angeles, Strauss's brother is killed during the Academy Award ceremonies. In Manhattan, his past sweetheart, Alix Rothchild, is running for her life. Dr. David Strauss is soon obsessed with finding the explosive secret behind the murders of his family members. His dangerous odyssey takes him across Europe, and finally to the Olympics, where...
Outside New York City, the palatial home of Dr. David Strauss's parents is attacked by gunmen during a glittering party. As he watches helplessly, his wife is murdered. In Los Angeles, Strauss's brother is killed during the Academy Award ceremonies. In Manhattan, his past sweetheart, Alix Rothchild, is running for her life. Dr. David Strauss is soon obsessed with finding the explosive secret behind the murders of his family members. His dangerous odyssey takes him across Europe, and finally to the Olympics, where one of the most shattering surprises in suspense fiction will take place.
Author's revised edition. Originally published in 1979 as The Jericho Commandment.
The King David Hotel, Jerusalem.
Five months before the beginning.
A benevolent midafternoon sun spattered golden streaks over the historic domes and needle spires, up and down the gray-yellow stones of the ancient Holy City walls. A bottle of Schweppes Bitter Lemon, a pot of English Breakfast tea, and a cold Maccabee beer were brought to the three old friends sitting on the pretty hotel terrace.
It is a fact recorded in several news correspondents¹ notebooks—though not as yet in their newspapers—that a sacred and very secret Jewish brotherhood had existed in Western Europe, America, and Israel since the end of World War II. The group was composed of workingmen and women; of farmers, entertainers, taxi drivers; of wealthy doctors, solicitors, merchants, rabbis; of important government leaders and elite army officers.
No matter how these men and women earned their livings, however, the sworn purpose of the cabal thrust another task on them.
They were to remember the terrible Holocaust—every last abhorrent detail. They were to protect against another unholy conflagration with their lives if need be. They were to relentlessly hunt down those responsible for the first abomination against the Jewish people and against mankind.
Two of the three friends clustered together on the hotel terrace were the secret brotherhood¹s original leaders—the third was a woman, a wealthy contributor from America.
Seated as they were in view of the gates of Old City, the three made a curious and memorable portrait—a noble picture worthy ofexhibition in the Jewish Museum.
Elena Cohen Strauss.
A combined age of 226 years.
All survivors of the Nazi death camps thirty-five years before.
The previous evening, Elena Strauss and Ben-Iban had jetted to Jerusalem after receiving an urgent message from Rabinowitz:
THE TIME HAS COME TO REMEMBER OUR SACRED PLEDGE. . . . THE FOURTH REICH IS ABOUT TO RISE. IT IS TIME TO CONCLUDE THE DISCUSSION STAGE OF OUR PLAN TO ONCE AND FOREVER STOP THE ENEMY.
Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique—then a BBC news broadcast—served as civilized background for the several private conversations progressing in grunts and murmurs on the grandly elegant hotel terrace. The clean smell of almonds and oranges was everywhere in the air.
Out on the streets of Rehavia, Arab cabdrivers could be heard mischievously blaring their Mercedes taxi horns. Out there, too, Hasidim tourists trudged along in their broad hats and stiff beards, pointing at Moses Montefiore's windmill, acting as if the Ba'al Shem Tov himself were standing at every cross street.
In the beginning of their meeting, the three old friends merely chatted.
The most casual talk possible under the circumstances.
They sipped their drinks, and they offered opinions on a recent Black September bombing of a children's school bus in Bayit Vegan. They spoke of a best-selling book from England, which had documented that the PLO was receiving huge sums of money from neo-Nazis living in southern France. They gave Freudian interpretations of Teddy Kollek's grand reconstruction dreams for Jerusalem.
Eighty-two-year-old Elena Strauss managed to smile a few times.
Especially when they shared an old story—that was the best.
But when they finally began to talk about the most sinister topic, when the loathsome Reich was brought up, the wizened old woman's hands knotted into tight fists. She could barely breathe. A single word, a single idea, was pounding on her brain.
"No matter what good we are able to accomplish, the Nazis get wealthier and more powerful," Benjamin Rabin-owitz began. "In South America. In West Germany and Austria. Even in Chicago and New York. In the south of France . . ."
"They are indeed ready again, Elena," Michael Ben-Iban elaborated. "I've seen it with my own eyes. Their wealth at this time is astounding.
"The opulent estates you know about, and the gold and diamond reserves. What you don't know about are the legitimate businesses. All over the world. The so-called multinational companies run with the Reich's money. Automobile companies. Oil companies. Communications conglomerates. Like nothing we've seen before!"
Benjamin Rabinowitz now began to elaborately review his plan. His proposal to silence the Reich once and for all time. The financing of which was the chief reason for the important Jerusalem meeting.
When Rabinowitz finished, tears were pooling in the soft brown eyes of Elena Strauss. The deadweight sadness and disappointment she was feeling right then were too much for her frail, weakened body. What Elena Strauss had to do next seemed an impossible task. What she had to do seemed like a betrayal.
The wealthy American woman stared across the table at hawklike Michael Ben-Iban, perhaps the bravest Nazi-hunter next to Simon Wiesenthal and Dr. Michael Ben-Zohar. She looked at shrewd, feisty Benjamin Rabinowitz. Such old, old friends, she thought. Such a wonderful, courageous alliance they'd shared . . . even more so because so very few people knew of their heroics.
Somehow, all three of them had survived the German death camps: Dachau, Auschwitz, Treblinka.
They had all been members of She'erit Hapleetch, the "Surviving Remnant," formed when no countries other than the Jewish community in Palestine had been willing to accept large groups of survivors from the death camps.
Instead of planning for the Jewish state, however, they had been among those who planned revenge and retribution. They had been among those who planned for the future defense of the Jewish people.
Together with forty-four other survivors, they had drawn up the radical brotherhood's priority list for the first Nazi-hunting year of 1946. That first year they had patiently tracked down and killed SS Brigadier General Ernst Grawitz; SS Major Otto Steiner, supervisor of the Belsen gas chambers; SS Colonel Albert Hohlfelder, who had viciously sterilized thousands of Jewish children by mass X-ray exposure.
Throughout the fifties and sixties, they had diligently hunted dangerous members of Die Spinne and ODESSA.
They had relentlessly watched for the dreaded Nazi renaissance.
They had remembered the terrible Holocaust—every last abhorrent detail.
"Benjamin, I have listened carefully to your plan, your fears about a new Reich." Elena was finally able to speak again. "I have lived and slept with your arguments, your dark conclusions. I have considered them as carefully as anything in my life . . . You say you need a great deal of money from me. Seven or eight hundred thousand dollars. I spoke at length with my oldest grandson before I came to Jerusalem. We talked about the Nazis, about the present condition of the Reich."
"They have never been more dangerous than right now," Benjamin Rabinowitz said.
Elena Strauss shook her head. "We think you're terribly wrong," she sighed. "But more important than that, the actions of our group have always been accomplished with great honor, with justice in all our minds. No matter how strong our enemies become, Benjamin, Michael, we must never go down to their Hun, barbarian level. This is the secret strength of the Jewish people, I believe. This is one reason we have survived. I don't believe we should act against our enemies now. Not in this hateful manner."
The thin voice of Rabinowitz suddenly rose above the clatter of the King David terrace. It was like the voice of a stern and knowing rabbi rebuking his shortsighted congregation.
"You've lived as a wealthy American for too long, Elena," the old man railed. "You don't understand the terrifying world we live in today. You couldn't possibly, and still talk as you do. The Fourth Reich's money is everywhere, Elena. The Nazi cancer is everywhere. In the Middle East. In America. In Germany, where the Spider's cells are springing up everywhere. Where little blond-haired children are marching again."
Elena Strauss reached into her purse.
"I have a small check. I want you to continue the search for Bormann, Mengele, Muller. You must! Please! As for the rest, I say no. My grandson wants to go to the other contributing families. To the American FBI. If necessary, we would break our vows to stop a dangerous confrontation at this time . . . You are taking away the last possibility of justice ever being accomplished for the six million! I will not allow this to happen! No! No!" The American woman's face was drawn tight. Her eyes were filled with rage.
Neither Benjamin Rabinowitz nor Michael Ben-Iban could believe that Elena Strauss would even speak of breaking their blood oath. For a moment, they were numb. Benjamin Rabinowitz's mouth was filled with bile. He thought he was going to be sick on the hotel terrace.
Elena Strauss was turning them down at the worst possible time.
The elderly woman suddenly stood up from their table. She was trembling, blinking her eyes very rapidly.
"I have been feeling bad this fall. Sick. Old—which I am. I should go back to my room now. This is a hard day for me, too."
Mrs. Elena Strauss bent and gave each of the old men a quick hug. They each hugged her back. The sadness was overwhelming in its intensity. Thirty-five years . . . now, threats! The breaking of oaths! There were tears in all of their eyes as they embraced. It was like the hollow, numb, empty feeling that comes on first hearing of a friend's death.
"Benjamin . . . Michael . . . shalom."
"She is a very, very old woman. A good woman," Michael Ben-Iban whispered, after Elena had disappeared back into the hotel. "Perhaps in a little time she'll come to understand . . . Benjamin? Are you all right, Benjamin?"
Benjamin Rabinowitz folded his thin arms and moaned softly.
"There is no time not to understand. If only I had made her see the terrible danger we know is there, Michael. The fault is mine. Oh, Moshe, no one but Jews will protect other Jews from our enemies. You know that."
Michael Ben-Iban nodded sadly. He knew. He knew it all too well.
Ben-Iban also knew that the enemy was truly capable of anything now. Even a second Holocaust. Even a terrible bombing right there in Israel. For the first time in thirty-five years, Ben-Iban thought, the Jewish nation could be without an adequate defense. A defense manned by Jews who understood the grave, ever-present danger.
As the two ancient survivors finished their drinks that sad afternoon, the Arab Imam was still wailing, still praying from his distant minaret.
The priest's prayer was that God would come and give him back his golden city. His prayer was that God would come down and kill all the Jews.
One hundred seventy-four days later, it suddenly began to happen.
On four continents across the civilized world.
A heart-sinking plot that would be called Dachau Zwei. Dachau Two.