Joseph watched as the coast of France was slowly devoured by the murk of the sea mist. He strained his eyes as the last distant shadow that had been Calais was taken from his view. France was gone, Belgium was gone, but most important of all, Germany was gone. All of it now left behind them, swallowed by the mist. If only that same mist could swallow the nightmare of the last two years. Erase it from his mind as it had the coast from his eyes. But it could not. The horror of it all would torment him forever. Especially the memory of that night. He had told himself a thousand times that there was nothing he could have done. But still the guilt of inadequacy rested heavy on his shoulders. He had done what they had wanted him to do; he had got her out. But what of them? What hell were they living now? That is, if they were still living. There was no doubt in his mind that his dear brother was dead, beaten to death by the Nazi soldiers. He had seen it. But had the rest of them survived? His mind toiled yet again with the agony of his memories. It was the coldness of the morning that eventually encroached on the privacy of his thoughts and made him think of the child. He squeezed the small hand that was nestled in his. There were just the three of them now. They had nothing but each other and their freedom, but it was enough. He looked down into the large brown eyes of his niece and smiled. She had not spoken since they had boarded the boat. It was as if somehow in her young mind she understood the significance of what was happening and with the obedience of a child had not questioned it. She had asked about her parents and brother and sister; every day she had asked. But not today.
‘She will be cold,’ he said, turning to his wife.
Elizabeth looked down at the child and then at him. It was some moments before she spoke.
‘We will never go back, Joseph, will we?’ she said softly.
‘What is there to go back to?’ he asked. ‘We have no life there now, we have lost our family, the business, everything.’ He put his arm around her and the three of them began to walk from the deck.
‘No, we have no life there now.’
The ship was crowded but inside they managed to find two seats together and they sat. Elizabeth held the child on her lap, he held their one small case on his. Joseph reached inside his jacket pocket. They were still there, still safe, the precious papers that were to take them to their new life. It had taken nearly four months for the three of them to travel from Berlin to Calais. Moving from contact to contact, from house to house, always living with the fear of being discovered and returned to Germany. They had travelled on foot most of the way, cutting pieces of cardboard to fill the holes in their shoes, eating when they could and enduring the harshness of winter in Northern Europe. Eventually, they had crossed the border into France at a point just south of Strasbourg and then used the last of their money to travel by train from Metz to Lille. After spending the last two weeks waiting in Lille, it had finally happened: their new papers had arrived.
He was now Joseph Valsac, a German-speaking Swiss businessman travelling with his wife and daughter to England. He knew he would never be able to thank all the faceless men and women working throughout Europe to help the Jewish refugees, but he thanked God for them.
After Berlin, he had thought he would never trust anyone again. How could he? He had been betrayed by a man that he had loved as a brother. But others had helped them. One man had stolen trust from him, but others had restored it. As he took his hand from his pocket, he felt the cold metal of the pistol that had been his friend for so long and he told himself, One day he would reap his revenge… their revenge.