“We don’t make Jews evil, but if you don’t tell the truth, you will have to shoot you”

Michael Brodsky was preparing for school, when it was occupied Odessa. With humility and humor it tells the story of his life: as they were under the gun of the Romanian officer who survived the death of the mother and her parents, as it was sheltered and saved from death. His memoir, “Sabaneyev bridge” published by the Corpus. “Pravmir” prints a Chapter from the book “we Jews”.

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Michael Brodsky

And on October 16 gunfire on the outskirts of the city subsided, and entered the city by the Germans. My mother stood silently at the window and watched from Sabaneev bridge to elm street in the middle of the bridge marched a German convoy. The soldiers were gray-green in helmets, had not yet seen us machines. The street was empty, only some women, jumped out of the gate, threw flowers to the soldiers. The column turned onto Gogol street and disappeared from sight. A clatter of boots stopped, and became incredibly quiet. Thus began a lifetime occupation and is over an ordinary childhood.

I soon learned that we were Jewish. It was not clear what that means, but one thing was clear: it’s a secret and if you don’t want to die, the secret must be kept.

Good thing I did not give you circumcision — said the mother. — I was sorry to torture you.

And mom explained to me what it means.

One cold autumn morning a terrible life turned upside down. Came to the house two young Russian police and took me and my mom, allowing to take only the suitcase with the most necessary things. The police took us to school, the one where I was going to do this fall.

We were taken into a large room, where stood a never seen me the desks, and locked with a key. So this was my first day of school and beginning of attainment that is called life.

Time passed slowly, we were sitting with mom at her Desk, mom had her arm around me and comforting stories about how to be good when will end the short war, and I will come to this class and I will sit, maybe even for this one, and the teacher will call on me and I will write with chalk on the Board, answering a lesson, as do all children in all schools at all times.

Outside the window was dark, hungry and mom gave me taken from the house sandwich.

In the hallway he heard voices, footsteps, the door opened, and a policeman, the other, a middle-aged, with a face hard as a Boxing fist, nodded to us:

— Go.

We were taken on a dark staircase upwards, and we found ourselves in a small corridor in front of the door, covered with black oilcloth. Dim the lights a little lamp. The corridor went back and forth elderly Romanian soldiers.

— Stay here, — said the policeman, and went with mom into a black door.

I sat down on a chair near the wall. It was scary. The soldier looked at me.

— Jude? — said the soldier.

I already knew what it was, and vaguely shook his head. The soldier sighed and reached into his pocket. From his pocket came a piece of lump sugar. The soldier handed it to me. Is not hungry, but it was uncomfortable and I put it in my mouth. Sugar filled my mouth with sweetness, but the bitter fear did not pass.

The black door opened, and a policeman took me by the shoulder, pushed forward. I entered the small, brightly lit room, where behind a Desk sat a young officer in Romanian uniform. In the corner of the wall next to the door somehow, stood a tall wooden staircase. Mom was sitting at the table.

— Come here, boy, ‘ said the officer in fluent Russian.

I walked over to the table. On the table stood a lamp under a green, very homemade lampshade, a few pieces of paper was pinned a black gun.

The officer looked at the clearance of my mother’s passport, determining whether the Erasure in the column “nationality”.

Michael’s mom

— Leave me with the boy, said the police officer. A police officer brought the mother out of the room.

“Listen,” said the officer, don’t hide that you’re Jewish. Because I know everything. You’ve probably been taught to tell the truth.

— I’m not Jewish, ‘ I replied.

— Why are you afraid to tell the truth? — gently asked the officer. — We do not make the Jews evil. Just during the war all Jews should move to another place. This is the order. See.

The officer took the gun, took out the magazine and showed me. Yellow cartridges, closely fitted to each other, was gilded in the light.

— If you don’t tell the truth, I have to shoot you. See this top cartridge? When I shoot, it will be here. The officer rapped his knuckles on my forehead and lye put the clip back into the pistol.

So where are you gonna take us? — I asked.

— We will take you to a good place where not to bomb. There will be peace. Until the end of the war. Now I’ll call your mother. My mom came in and stood at the door leaning against the staircase.

“You see,” said the officer and smiled, revealing gold teeth, fitted to each other, as the rounds in the magazine, — the boy told me everything.

— Not true! — exclaimed the mother. — What did you say?

— Tell her — nodded at me officer, we agreed.

— Mommy! — I shouted. — We will not kill, I said I’m Jewish, and we can just drive to another location.

So you’re not my son! — desperately cried the mother, and became as white as the wall.

— Mommy… — I cried. The officer smiled.

— Take them — he threw a policeman standing in the doorway.

We were taken to another classroom where there were many people: women and children. Mother was gravely silent.

Night came. I fell asleep with my head on mom’s lap. A sharp jolt woke me up. My mom raised me in his arms. People were banging on the door.

— What happened? — I muttered.

— It seems that the fire, mom said, holding me up and pushing to the doors.

The crowd fell out on the stairs, filled with a caustic smoke. People with children in their arms, distraught, crushed each other. People were moaning.

— Mommy, I don’t want to die, ‘ I whispered.

The crowd monolithic mass, turning into a giant mindless monster, slowly slid down the stairs. The soldiers, who stood at the foot of the stairs, barely holding back the pressure. From above I saw the lobby where a few soldiers trampled boots burning and steaming rags. Anywhere else, there was no fire. Panic went out. People gradually came to himself. We returned to class and I fell asleep again.

Early in the morning all brought out and built in a column. The column was long and stretched across the entire block. It was a little nasty rain. We silently walked, guarded by soldiers, in the middle of the pavement under the eyes of the infrequent passers-by. Was a long time, all through the town, and came to the iron gate in the red brick wall. It was the city jail. With a clang the gates opened and the convoy was involved in a prison yard.

Those who have read “Little Dorrit,” and remembers the description of the debtors ‘ prison of the Marshalsea, could you try to imagine the number of people living a strange life in the walls beyond which it is impossible to leave, but on the inside, enjoying their relative freedom.

I remember the few days we spent in prison. Remember the crowding, the extraction of boiling water, a heavy night’s sleep in the hallway on a sort of trunk. Remember the unexpected meeting in the prison yard with Victor, a friend with whom we played in the country during the war.

The memory of those days is gone somewhere deep in the subconscious mind, and kind of spilled out twenty years later. I’ll talk more about this in another place.

The inability to remember and to tell in detail about these last days many thousands of people all the more sad that I may be the only or at least one of the very few survivors who escaped the terrible fate prepared for the Jews, who were in the Odessa city jail. The people among whom I have lived these few days, were burned to death in some barracks near Odessa.

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