Elsie Dubin

Harvey Hertz was a regular Aryan Nazi before his boss signed him up to be a spy for the Gestapo and he started to see some of the things that they did to minorities. He started to question all the loyalty he had for the Nazis. His loyalty is truly tested when he gets sent to spy on Elsie Dubin’s family. He used to think that Jew’s were heartless but after meeting Elsie all his views were changed, She was intellectual , caring , and everything he’d ever wanted, but there was one problem – he was sent to turn her and her family into the gestapo.

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1. Chapter One.

Life isn’t easy for anyone in Germany now, right now I’m sat somewhere far away from my home and everything I have ever known. Even though I am facing my ultimate doom, I can’t seem to be able to force myself to regret a single moment of the events that brought me here. Even when faced with a way to save myself from this fate, I couldn’t back away from the people who had started out being nothing to me but had become the only reason I have to live. It still kills me that I have no idea where they are or if they’re alright the only thing I can do to keep myself sane is to remember them and remember that I saved them for as long as I could.

“We’ve decided where we’re sending you” my boss had told me, looking at me sternly.

“Where?” I was anxious to find out, I’d been pestering him to find something else for me to for weeks before that day.

“We want you to be a spy for the Gestapo, we don’t want you doing anything that involves any combat anymore.” I glanced down at my battered leg that made me unable to fight in the war anymore. I had only been in the war for two months but I’d already seen so many things that I would have rather not seen. An explosion had caught our platoon one day and I and many others had ended up in the hospital building for months while the nurses tried to recover our bodies. They did an excellent job meaning that the only thing that they couldn’t recover was 4 of my toes, but the Generaloberst didn’t want me getting hurt anymore. It took me a while to persuade him to let me do something else. I’d already seen so many people die for the fatherland and I wanted to do something to be of help to them too, to make sure that my friends hadn’t died for nothing.

“That’s great.” In all honesty it frightened me to my core, the gestapo weren’t the type of people who you could just cross and I’d always been scared of them although I had no reason to be.

“You’ll get on the plane tomorrow and they’ll brief you on your first mission.”

“Thank you.” I stood up to leave but I remembered that I had forgotten to do something.

“sieg heil.” I said while saluting

“sieg heil.” He repeated almost like it was a mantra now. When I got to the Gestapo headquarters the next day I got a lot of suspicious looks from most of the people there. I could tell that they were looking at the cane that I was using to balance myself until I learnt how to do it myself, the Nazis didn’t like people that are disabled and none of these people knew me well enough yet to know for sure that I was not an enemy. I walked into the office of my boss who was obviously waiting for me. He had the Gestapo uniform on – a thick black jacket with a belt round it and badges pinned onto it, the long knee high boots , and the red Swastika arm band was on him, that band that set fear into most people every time they saw it –  and he looked very stiff-lipped.

“Hello Harvey.” He stood as I walked in and motioned for me to sit.

“Sir.” I said issuing him a polite nod and sitting on the chair opposite his huge desk.

“Please call me Nickolaus.” He too sat on his chair which towered over the desk making sure that everyone knew who was in charge. The whole room screamed Nazi. A large Nazi flag loomed over us as if the fuhrer himself was watching our every move. The walls were all wooden and nothing seemed at all out of place.

“Alright..”

“So your first mission, we want you to check up on a family, we have had an informer tell us that they are Jewish but we want to make sure because the informer isn’t very reliable…” he paused checking my expression which I made sure to keep cold and emotionless “we’ve rented the house next door to them for just a few months. We need you to befriend them, make them trust you then once they confide in you, you tell us and we’ll take care of the rest.” I felt bad that I’d accepted the job, but whether I did it or not someone was going to get the information out of them.

“Sounds easy enough.” I commented, through the guilt.

 “Good, well you’ve got your entire luggage from the plane right?”

“Yes sir, it’s in the car.”

“Alright, the driver knows where to take you so you may go.”

“Thank you Nickolaus, Seig hail” I stood and saluted

“Seig hail.” I made my way to the car, where as promised the Driver knew exactly where to go I watched out the car window as it winded around the streets and drove closer and closer to the part of town that easily scared people and pulled up on a very shabby looking row of houses that looked like they hadn’t been looked after properly in years. Even though I had never seen this street before it reminded me of one I was very familiar with, one that I would never step foot in again. The thought sent a shiver down my spine but I shook the memories off and addressed the driver.

“Do you know which ones mine?”

“Number 20 sir.” He looked through the mirror at me.

“Thank you” I got out of the car and walked up the steps to my new house; I fingered one of the grey bricks and a piece of it fell off easily, the street looked tattered and weary. The kind of place where people didn’t trust much it made me wonder how hard it was going to be to get them to trust some stranger. A woman stepped out of the house next door; she pulled her dark straight hair over her face, hiding from something. As she stepped down the steps she rubbed her eyes which had dark circles under them which made her look not like a young woman but she resembled a much older overworked woman than she really was. She had a small pretty button nose, and her lips were so thin that they were almost non-existent. As was normal I glanced at her clothes that showed anyone that she wasn’t very well off, her red dress fell to her knees but it was tattered and she’d obviously drawn seams on the back of her legs to appear as stockings which seemed a little wonky and gave her away. The wind blew the hair away from her face and I noticed her facial expression as she scanned the street and noticed me, she looked worried that everything around her was against her. Then I noticed her most prominent feature, her soft dark green eyes that seemed to sparkle in the gleam of the midday sun behind her. I instantly found her beautiful, not in the conventional way but still beautiful.

 “Hi” She whispered to me reluctantly. “I’m Elsie, are you moving in?”

“Hello I’m Harvey and yes I am.”

“Well then hello neighbour, I hope you like it here” she smiled sweetly but there was a fright in her eyes that her smile couldn’t possibly hide.

“I like it here already” I said being truthful and hoping that she took it as a compliment.

“Do you want some help with your stuff?” she nodded towards my bags before walking down to the bottom of her steps

“No it’s fine, I only have two suitcases” I myself glanced towards my bags.

“Well they look heavy so let me take one after I’ve put this rubbish in the bin.” She said looking at my cane with curiosity and sympathy, she just wanted to help and I knew that I was probably going to get that a lot now I was out in the real world. She placed her rubbish in the bin delicately before turning back to me and awaiting my response.

“If you really want to, go on then”  She walked around the brick wall that laid in-between the two houses and picked up one of my cases with what looked like great difficulty to her, and we walked into the empty house.

“How long have you been here? - there’s basically no furniture.”

“Actually this is the first time I’ve seen it.” I said looking around at the pealing wall paper and empty room, it didn’t look like it had been lived at all, I swiped my finger across a coffee table that was placed near the door, as I held my finger up to my eye it was now dark grey with dust, I glanced over to the other side of the room and saw a radio – the only thing that didn’t look old or battered and wasn’t covered in dust. But I figured it was as battered as I was and so was quite fitting. “But I have a radio so I guess that’s alright”

“I guess, well since it’s your first day here so you’re probably going to be in no mood to cook, how about you come over for dinner?” she showed an air of hospitality, but that she secretly hoped that I’d decline so that she could just drop of something and not have to have a stranger in her house.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to be an imposition” I tried to wriggle myself out of it without saying no outright and risking hurting her feelings

“Yeah, we’d love to have you over, just knock around 5.” She said flashing me a smile and skipping out the door. I thought about how easy this job was compared to the army. I had already been offered an invitation to their house when I’d known Elsie about a few minutes. I remembered the movies they made us watch in the Hitler jugend and tried to pinpoint any of the features that Jews had in Elsie. She didn’t seem like a cold-hearted person, or even much different to any other German woman I had ever met. If Hitler meant people like her when he said that Jews were vermin then he’s got it completely wrong, I had thought while trying my best to clean the dust out of my house as much as possible.

***

 

I went over to Elsie’s at five o’clock sharp – My time in the army had taught me to always be punctual – and knocked lightly on the door. A woman who was around 50 opened the door with a welcoming smile, she looked just like Elsie except with more lines around her mouth and forehead, and her eyes weren’t as bright or as frightened.

“You must be Harvey, I’m Adelisa Dubbin but everyone calls me Addie, I’m Elsie’s mum.”

“Harvey Hertz.” I held my hand out to her

“Nice to meet you” She shook it politely “Come on in.”  I walked into their house which from the outside looked exactly the same as the one I was living in but on the inside it was much smaller and much more cluttered. The hallway was so tiny that I had to walk in a line behind Adelisa to fit into it. To get to the living room we had to step over a couple of homemade toys and walk by dozens of photos of what I assumed were family members, it was one of the most homely houses I’d ever been in. it was defiantly lived in but it was one of those places that you knew that no matter how bad it looked, it was always filled with a loving family. I had only just walked in but I already felt like I was at home. It was the type of place I’d always envied when I was a child, I shook away the images of my own childhood home, before walking behind Adelisa into the living room.

“These are my other daughters Anneliese, and Emilie.” She said pointing to each of them when she mentioned their name, the smallest one had blonde hair which was totally different to both her sister’s and her mother, the oldest was looking down at the floor and blushing at her name being mentioned. “Elsie is just cooking dinner.”

“Does she need any help?” I offered politely, I was already feeling even more guilty at what I was sent to do to these people after seeing a glimpse of their lives in their home.

“You’ll have to ask her, just go on through to the kitchen” She said pointing me in the correct direction.

“Hello Elsie.”  As I entered she was stirring a pot over an old cheap stove, I couldn’t see what it was but it smelt appetising, she jumped a little as she heard me say her name

“Hi” She didn’t turn around, she just kept stirring the pot that I noticed had pasta in it that she was cooking, the water spat up a little at her and she pulled her hand away quickly but didn’t react much more than that.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” I walked further into the kitchen, taking in everything around me, the table tops that were covered in flour, the baskets that were filled with different vegetables, an old dusty cookbook that didn’t look like it’d been used in ages but still had stains of the meals that it was used to cook on its cover.

“You can cut up the bread if you want” She said taking her eyes away for the pot for only a moment to point me towards the bread on the side and a knife laid neatly on a wooden countertop.

“How many slices do you want me to cut?” I asked aware that most people like Elsie would be used to very strict rationing, I felt bad for stereotyping her as the average poor girl, but then I remembered my mission and realised that that wasn’t something I should be feeling bad for.

“Just cut up the whole thing, if there’s any left we’ll use it tomorrow.” I started cutting up the bread as she talked to me over the hot stove.

“So I have to ask Harvey, why do you walk with a cane?” She paused “You don’t have to answer if it’s too personal.” She seemed worried that she had offended me.

“I lost 4 of my toes a few months ago, makes it a little hard to balance.” I think she could sense that I didn’t want to talk about the reasons why so she just nodded and didn’t ask for any more information, and if she realised that it was to do with the war then that probably would have meant that she didn’t want to talk about it either, but I tried to push the flash backs away. Of the huge cloud of red fire and black smoke and the sight of people I’d known sprawled across the hard floor covered in their blood and some even without one or two limbs.

“So why did you move here?” She drained the water from the pot and changed the subject to what she seemed to hope would be a cheerier topic.

“I guess just to get away, and it seems nice here.”

“Nice” she scoffed “with those Nazi brown shirts parading all the time, we never get any solitude we’re always scared we will do something wrong.” She said angrily although I could tell that she instantly regretted her words, she put down the meal preperations and put her hand over her mouth like she was willing the words to be pulled back into her mouth. “Oh god, please don’t tell anyone that I said that.”

“I won’t, I promise.” I said trying to sound as sincere as possible, so that she couldn’t detect my deceit.

“You’re not pro-Nazi are you?” She said obviously hoping that I wasn’t the type who inform on people

“No defiantly not, I’m practically disabled now, they all hate me.” I tried to make a slight joke.

“Oh good, I’d hate to have offended you.” I knew that wouldn’t be her main priority given the situation at that time, but I took a gulp and tried to forget that I’d soon be betraying her.

“It’s fine honestly.”

“Anyway we better get this on the table or the girls will be moaning soon.” She said picking up the bowl full of pasta and the plate of bread “Will you get the cutlery and plates please Harvey?” I picked up the plates and knives and forks from the counter top and followed Elsie into the tiny dining room that didn’t seem large enough to fit even two people in.

“Girls, dinner’s ready.” Elsie called after we had set out the plates and cutlery, she pulled the table cloth so that it fit on the table perfectly and tried to hide a stain on it by putting the plate of bread on top of it.

The little seven year old came skipping in obviously happy to have some dinner, and her two year old sister waddled in after her. Elsie went over to the smallest one kissed her on the head and swooped her up.

“Come on Emile sweetie let’s put you in your high chair” Elsie said to Emile who was smiling at just being picked up. “Sit anywhere Harvey.”

I sat down on a chair next to Anneliese hoping that Elsie would take the empty seat next to me. Which she did after she had safely put Emilie in her wooden high chair and gave her a piece of bread to eat while we waited for Adelisa to come through. We waited a few moments before she came through behind me I saw Elsie facial expression change from contentment to a mix of shock and embarrassment so I turned around to see what she was looking at. I was looking at Adelisa but it didn’t look like the happy woman who had greeted me at the door. Her cheeks were now stained with red wet lines all the way down, her eyes already looked big and swollen even though she can’t have been crying for more than 10 minutes. She was hanging onto a withered daisy flower with all her mite, she looked like she may die if she let go of it for even a second.

“What’s wrong mum?” Elsie looked on at her putting down the bread she had been nibbling on.

“Robert loved daisies, he would always buy me them when he got home from work, we’d put them up in the living room and they used to make the whole room look brighter even on the most dreary day.” She cried and I wondered about the pain that was hidden behind the homely atmosphere.

“Mum…” Elsie said standing up and trying to pry the daisy from her mother’s locked hands. “Do you want to sit down and eat or you could go up to bed?”

“I’ll go to bed” Adelisa squeaked through newly formed tears.  Elsie handed her mother a piece of bread and led her out of the dining room. She turned back to me once she had got through the door and mouthed that she was sorry. I sat in silence with her sisters until she got back while Anneliese started devouring every bit of the bread.

“I’m so sorry about that. My Dad…. passed away 8 months ago and she’s still a mess whenever she sees something that reminds her of him.” She sat back down next to me and I looked at her with empathy. She had to look after her sisters while grieving over her Father and dealing with her mother’s grief on top of it all.

“You don’t need to give me an explanation, it’s absolutely fine.” I knew that she was embarrassed as she seemed to be trying her hardest to seem normal, like she didn’t have baggage like everyone does.

“Thanks for understanding.” A thankful smile escaped her lips “Anyway we can eat now, you can take some first Harvey because you’re our guest” She pushed the bowl of pasta towards me and I took a small amount out of it and put it onto my plate and then I pass the bowl to Anneliese who takes two big spoonful of pasta and passes it onto Elsie who gives herself a tiny spoonful and Emilie a little bit. I eat my food slowly and Elsie’s sisters’ finish before Elsie and I, they both eat like they haven’t seen any food in months. After they had finished their dinner Elsie allowed Anneliese to take Emilie into the living room, leaving me alone with her.

“How’s moving in going?” Elsie asked me, covering her mouth with her hand while she chewed on a mouthful of pasta.

“Fine, I don’t have much furniture but all I need is a bed, a kitchen and a dining table so I can get by.”

“I’m sorry about my mum again.” She said quietly.

“It’s fine, how did your dad die? – if you don’t mind me asking.” I was curious and she seemed like she needed a little release. The type of release that only came from sharing your emotions with an almost stranger.

“I don’t mind, we don’t really know how he died, we don’t even know if he is dead, we’re just assuming” I looked at her confused so she felt the need to explain and went on “He just didn’t come home one day from work, we tried asking his boss what happened but he never got back to us, so we assumed that he’s dead, either that or he left us, and anyone that knew my Dad well, knew that he’d never leave us especially without any warning.” I saw the fear that had been her eyes fade away as sadness took over and she tried to blink back tears that she didn’t want to face.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.” I said looking down at my now empty plate.

“No it’s fine, I don’t mind sharing. What about your family?” she asked before pushing her plate away and focusing her attention on me.

“What about them?” I didn’t want to talk about my family, just thinking of them made my skin crawl and then made guilt resonate in me.

“Tell me about them” she said being very vague so she could get the most important things out of me.

“Well I have regular parents and a twin sister.”

“Do you still see them?”

“No, well I heard that just after I moved out they all got taken away by the Gestapo” I lied not wanting to tell the truth.

 “What did the Gestapo want them for?”

“Well my family’s Jewish, I’m lucky that I moved out when I did otherwise I’d be wherever they are now too.” I whispered trying to replicate the fear she had in myself.

“You’re Jewish really?” she said obviously believing every lie that I said to her, I hated that in her. She was too trusting of me that I wondered how she’d gone on so long without getting taken by the Gestapo herself.

“Yeah why?”

“We’re Jewish too.”

“Wow really?” I said trying to act as surprised as was in my power.

“Yeah, we’ve been scared ever since the Nazis got into power. It’s frightening isn’t it.” We talked all that night about her upbringing and everything about her family, until Anneliese came in asking if she should put Emilie to bed which I took as my cue to leave. As I left I knew that I had what I needed to give them in, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to call my boss. I needed more time with her, to figure her out. So I tried to forget what she’d told me as I laid in bed wide awake just remembering everything about her, from the way she pursed her lips to the easy way she dealt with her mother. The one question that kept lingering in my mind was why I wouldn’t just hand her into the Gestapo, like I was supposed to.

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