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Munich SignatureThe Zion Covenant BOOK 3
By BODIE THOENE BROCK THOENE
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 1990 Bodie Thoene
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLiving Windows
Throughout this terrible night, the soft glow of the moon illuminated the stained-glass windows that ringed the cupola of the Great Synagogue of Nuremberg. Windows crafted four hundred years earlier told the story of the seven days of creation, of the fall of man, the great flood and the waters that carried the ark of Noah. Bright panels of color and light wound around the gilded dome, wordlessly displaying the history of the Torah. Generations of children had memorized the stories by sight as they sat beside their swaying fathers in the sanctuary below. Little boys craned their necks backward to ponder the image of father Abraham offering his son to God on the altar of Moriah while the ram God had provided struggled in the thicket.
Would Abraham really have plunged the knife into Isaac?
The vision of faith made sons tremble beside their fathers.
Would Papa plunge the knife into me?
Sibling squabbles took on new meaning as children contemplated the glass panel depicting Joseph in his coat of many colors being sold into slavery by his brothers.
Ah, how his father Jacob grieved when the brothers returned with the torn coat!
Fromthis point, half the curve of the dome was dedicated to the slavery of Israel and the life of Moses. Ten plagues upon Egypt. The pillar of fire. The crossing of the Red Sea. Moses receiving the tablets of law on Mount Sinai while the ungrateful Hebrews reveled in sin at the foot of the mountain. Was there anything more frightening than the face of Moses as he smashed the tablets in anger and pronounced judgment against the instigator of the rebellion? Here was a picture of God's wrath against the sinners who had forgotten their deliverance.
Until this night, those little boys who had grown to manhood beneath this vivid tableau could not imagine anything more fierce than the wrath of God. But this was Nuremberg. This was the German city where the Nazi laws against Jews had first been passed three years earlier.
This was also the great gathering place of the Nazis each year in September. By the thousands, the Hitler Youth came to march and drill with their burnished shovels. Searchlights lit the skies of Nuremberg. Rallies were held and speeches were made by all the great party leaders. Year after year the ranks of the faithful had swelled until thousands were now hundreds of thousands. There was no field large enough to hold them all, these children of the Aryan race.
Hitler himself had pondered the problems. He had studied the map of Nuremberg with his architect, Albert Speer. His eyes had traced the boundary of the Jewish Quarter of the city, and with a sweep of his hand he had condemned that section to destruction. By the expression of his will, the Great Synagogue of Nuremberg was to be demolished.
Tonight the fierce hatred of the Führer of Germany seemed stronger than the prayers of the generations who had gathered beneath this cupola. Once again no stone would be left upon another. Instead of prayers to the God of Abraham, praise would be lifted up to Hitler in ten thousand mighty Heils!
Two hundred brave Jewish men had gathered beneath the dome tonight. Silk prayer shawls covered their heads as they intoned the last prayers that would be prayed in this place. And God mourned for them as Jacob had mourned for his son Joseph when the patriarch saw the torn coat. The light from the moon streamed through the stained-glass windows and fell in brightly colored patches on the white prayer shawls. Tonight every man, like Joseph, wore a coat of many colors. They took on the hues and the substance of the stories portrayed above them. They became one with the suffering of the ages. Suddenly the grief of their fathers had fallen upon them, and they became living windows that wept and prayed as the shadow of destruction moved nearer with the morning light.
"Again we are destined to wander in the wilderness," whispered the ancient rabbi of Nuremberg. Tears streamed down the lined cheeks and dampened the soft white beard. "Unless we have a miracle."
"Ascribe unto the Eternal glory and might."
The groaning of the steel tracks of the demolition equipment could be faintly heard.
"Ascribe unto the Eternal the honor due unto His name."
Next came the low rumble of engines-the bulldozer, the crane with its wrecking ball.
"Bow ye down unto the Lord in the adornment of sanctity."
Voices shouted, "Juden!"
"The voice of the Eternal resounds above the waters."
"Jews out! Jews out! Jewish vermin out of Germany!"
"The voice of the Eternal thunders above the mighty waters. The voice of the Eternal in strength."
"Destroy the Jews! Bring it down on their heads! Down! Down with the temple!"
"The voice of the Eternal doth shatter the cedars of Lebanon!"
A bullet through the head of Moses on Sinai burst the window into a thousand fragments, which showered down on the congregation. Raucous voices called, "Blow them up!"
Within the dome the prayers continued. "The voice of the Eternal flasheth with a flaming fire: the voice of the Eternal causeth the oaks to tremble, and maketh the forests bare; and in his temple everything bespeaks his glory."
One after another the stained-glass windows shattered, and the slivers rained upon the heads of the mourners until they were forced to take cover beneath the long wooden benches.
As the report of gunfire died away, a voice boomed over a bullhorn: "In the name of the people of the Reich-in the name of the Führer, Adolf Hitler, you are ordered to leave this building or it will be brought down on you!"
Again the chanting of young Nazi voices began. A full minute passed, and then the bullhorn bellowed over those voices: "We give you just one minute! Evacuate the building, or you will be destroyed with it!"
No color was left in the Great Synagogue of Nuremberg. The aged rabbi gathered up the ark and raised his gnarled hands to bless the last of the congregation as each man picked up a shard of glass and filed out to face the angry mob. "Direct us toward thee, O Eternal, that we may return indeed."
As the old rabbi stepped from the synagogue, the wrecker's ball swung hard against the cupola, crushing the Star of David. The ark was snatched from the old man's arms, and the scroll was trampled beneath the feet of the crowd. Prayers shawls were ripped to shreds. Faces of the Jews were spat upon and bloodied.
Some from among the congregation were hauled off to concentration camps for their act of prayerful defiance. Others were put to work in the public parks of the city clearing the grass with their teeth. The rabbi of Nuremberg was shackled hand and foot and loaded onto a truck bound for Hamburg. There a ship waited; by the personal order of Adolf Hitler the old rabbi was to be put aboard to head a congregation of doomed men and women. There was an irony in such an ending, which pleased the Führer very much.
* * *
Persistent sunlight had been seeping in around the window shades for nearly two hours, but Elisa ignored it. She lay quietly beside Murphy and watched his broad, muscular back rise and fall in the even cadence of deep sleep. She wished he would wake up and take her in his arms again, but he did not, so she contented herself with studying the topography of shoulders and admiring the smooth, olive-colored skin stretched tight over his ribs. She traced the boundaries of faint tan lines that remained from last year's short-sleeved shirts and swim trunks. On the left shoulder blade was a small, strawberry-colored birthmark. She decided she would kiss it-but later, when he was awake. Like an explorer in a new land, she claimed John Murphy for her own and happily memorized the landmarks of his body.
It was their first morning together. Strange how quickly the horrors of last night receded in her mind; thoughts of their fearful flight from Vienna and the battle at the National Theatre did not come to her this morning. She heard the rattle of pots in the kitchen and the voice of Dr. Litov when he came to check little Charles, but those sounds seemed like part of a distant dream. While Murphy slept, she wanted only to lie beside him. So many mornings had been wasted without him. She would not let go of this one easily.
She stretched out her left hand and held it just an inch above his head. The blue lapis wedding ring on her finger meant something now. More than little leaves of gold against a blue stone backdrop, it was a pledge: "This is my beloved, and this is my friend." She whispered the words of Song of Songs 5:16 entwined in Hebrew letters with the leaves.
As if in response, Murphy sighed but did not turn to face her. "You awake?" he asked drowsily.
He reached back to take her arm and wrap it around his middle.
She moved closer until she was curled tightly against him.
"How come you didn't wake me?"
"I wanted to watch you." She kissed the birthmark on his shoulder blade.
"Did I drool?" he asked jokingly as he raised her fingers to his lips.
"I don't know. You were facing away from me."
"It's a good thing, too. If my face looks as bad as it feels after last night-" He rolled over and grinned.
Elisa winced. His left eye was swollen nearly shut and his cheek was red from the flame of Albert Sporer's gun.
"Oh, Murphy!" Elisa looked pained.
"Just tell me you didn't marry me for my looks."
She giggled, then caught herself. "I didn't marry you for your looks," she repeated, then dissolved into laughter again at the sight of his lopsided face.
"Or for my money?" He pulled her closer.
"No. That is why you married me, remember?"
"After last night I think I'll give you a refund." He kissed her.
"Disappointed?" She ran her fingers through his hair as he pushed her gently back on the pillow and then raised up on one elbow to gaze at her appreciatively. Her golden hair fanned out on the pillow, and her blue eyes sparkled with amusement as she gazed back at him.
"What a way to wake up," Murphy murmured as he pressed his mouth against hers. There was no reluctance in her kiss.
She held him tightly as a rush of warmth surged through her. "Murphy," she whispered.
He smothered her words with another kiss. "I can tell," he said breathlessly, "that you're going to be like Chinese food."
She pushed him away, startled by the strange remark. "What?"
He smiled and traced the line of her throat with his finger. "I thought I was full, and an hour later I'm hungry for you again."
At that, she reached out for him. "When I think of what I've been missing!"
"That's all ... I ... have ... been ... thinking."
* * *
The room was exactly as Elisa Murphy had described it. Leah Feldstein felt lost in the middle of the massive feather bed. She pulled the crisp, clean sheets up under her chin and lay staring up at heavy wood rafters stained dark by centuries. Here at the Wattenbarger farmhouse there was a sense of safety beneath these stout timbers, just as Elisa had told her. For the first time in months Leah had slept the night through, waking only to hear Otto's tearful farewell.
Strange man. Brave man, to return to Vienna when he might have stayed here.
Someday perhaps she would be able to thank him properly. Then in a stab of painful memory it came to her that he was returning to Vienna with the name of Shimon Feldstein seared in his mind. Would he find Shimon? Would he be able to help him?
Such thoughts and questions robbed Leah of the peace she had felt only moments before. She sat up and frowned toward the shuttered window. Outside she could hear the sound of horses stamping impatiently at a rail. The jangle of bits and bridles mingled with urgent voices.
"We can take them as far as Gustav Stroh's hut on horseback."
"Small groups-two, maybe three at a time. Gustav can guide them over the Zillertal, and young Henri can take them to Father Prato in Italy."
"Otto says we must hurry. We have days at best before they are back in force." Leah recognized the voice of Frau Marta. There was no hint of dread or grief in the farmwife's voice. This morning she seemed fully in charge of her emotions as though she had not been forced to bid her eldest son farewell.
Leah wrapped a quilt around her shoulders and stepped onto the cold floor. She tiptoed close to the window and held her breath as she listened to them discussing the escape of their fugitive guests.
"And the woman Otto brought last night?" a male voice said.
Leah peeked through a crack in the shutter. This strong, red-bearded young man was Franz, the one who had fallen in love with Elisa when she had stayed at the farmhouse with her family.
"Poor dear," Marta said. "I put her in the garret room. Let her sleep through breakfast. She is a dear friend of our Elisa, Franz."
Franz placed a saddle squarely on the back of a mare whose red hide matched his beard. "That may be, Mama, but I think we should take each group out in the order they came to us. Ja, Papa?"
"Leah is her name. She looks as if she could use the rest. Pale as a glacier. No sunlight for weeks. All shut up in a little flat in Vienna, Otto told us."
Leah stared up at the timbers. She was not at all unhappy about being last on the list to leave this place. Perhaps Otto would somehow find Shimon while they waited here. Then they could leave Austria together over the Zillertal. They would be together in Italy and in Switzerland and then, perhaps, Jerusalem? This would be the best place, the closest place to wait for Shimon to join her. She exhaled loudly; in her excitement she had lost the flow of the conversation taking place beneath her window.
Three children stood tearfully in a half circle around Frau Marta. The oldest was a boy of eleven or twelve who raised his chin manfully and bit his lip to control his tears. Two little girls wept openly as Frau Marta daubed their tears with her apron and smoothed their long braids.
"There, now, no need for tears. When this is all over, as it surely must be soon, you will come back and stay for as long as you like and help Papa Karl milk Gerta and Zillie."
"We will miss you," sniffled the smaller of the two girls. "Who will sing to us and pray with us at night?"
Marta pulled the child close. "Everywhere there are those who love to sing with children and pray with them, too. In Italy you will be with a priest for a while; such prayers you will hear!"
"Can he bake good roggenbrot?"
"You have become an admirer of Tyrolean rye bread, eh?" Marta paused dramatically. "No one bakes it as I do." She clucked her tongue. "But I have sent fresh loaves in your packs."
Excerpted from Munich Signature by BODIE THOENE BROCK THOENE Copyright © 1990 by Bodie Thoene. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Several interrelated stories continue in this third installment of this series set just before World War II breaks out. Elisa Murphy, recently married, is forced back into service as a spy for the British intelligence. Her beloved husband, distraught over their forced separation, still manages to get caught up in writing a newspaper story about the plight of a ship full of Jewish people who have escaped from Germany. Part of the story takes place on that ship, the Darien, and tells the story of one of the families on board. This book captured the historical details so well I wondered if it was based on a true story. The theme of holding onto one's faith while in the midst of extreme suffering was well played out. Not everything ended in a happy ending, which was sad but realistic, especially considering the time period. I'd suggest it to anyone who enjoys detailed historical fiction and who enjoys novels where several interweaving stories are told at once.