“Exodus,” I asked. I am sure I was looking puzzled.
“Yes,” said Sarah, “Exodus, like in the Torah – Your Old Testament, has a chapter called ‘Exodus’; about the Children of Israel - Jews leaving Egypt; and Moses and Pharaoh; and God saving them, and leading them to safety.”
“Of course we were there, and could remember everything that happened, because we were in
our early teens… except for Nathan, “ said Sarah, laughing, “but we loved being told the stories
time and time again.”
I looked around me, and as we had been speaking, several members of the family, all ages, had
come quietly into the room and were settling down for what was obviously a story telling of the
“Great Escape - the Exodus” that I was about to be treated to.
“Some of the stories of our Exodus were really scary and some were funny, believe it or not,
“said Helmut, “tell Mrs. Thompson about the grocery store one, Sarah.”
“Well,” said Sarah, “we stopped in a small village to see if we could get some Ethanol for the
car. They did not use gasoline in Germany at that time. They sold it in ordinary stores and
chemists and places; by the can, sometimes. We were all in the store, and the chemist or
storekeeper or whatever, went to get some cans of fuel from the back of the store. Suddenly the
street outside was full of drunken men calling out anti-Jewish slogans and yelling, “Jews out,
“We were terrified. The whole family scattered. Helmut and I ran to the room at the back of the
store. We hid under a kitchen table there that fortunately had a tablecloth almost down to the
floor. The storekeeper’s wife had come in and grabbed little Nathan like a sack of potatoes and
was sitting beside our table, pretending that the baby was hers. Father and Mother, and even
Grandmother were lying on the floor behind the counter for almost three hours; terrified to move
and unable to do anything because the thugs were milling around outside the shop. The owner
had come back in with the fuel; saw our parents lying on the floor and realized exactly what was
happening. He just stood on his side of the counter chatting with people when they came in and
out and serving them as if nothing was wrong. Every now and then, someone would come in and
buy something. There was one terrible moment when one of the rioters came in and asked for
something on the top shelf. I cannot remember what it was. He was about to come around to get
it himself but the storekeeper said, ‘Don’t worry, I have some steps around here,’ and he stood
on Father, who was lying there, and just reached it.”
“For years we used to call our father “Ladder Back” when he got grumpy about something. It
always made him laugh… and thank God for saving us,” said Helmut, laughing aloud.
“And you’re lucky pendant,” said Sarah. “Don’t forget that.”
“Yes!” said Helmut, suddenly very serious, “in the barn, you said, ‘you won’t starve. You won’t
want for anything with this,’ and you gave it to Father. I’ll never forget those words till the day I
“None of us will,” said Sarah. “You’re lucky charm saved our lives. I don’t know how, but it
did,” and she stretched out and took my hand in hers and squeezed it tightly.
Stay tuned for Chapter 7!