What was in Hitler's personal file kept by the Nazi Party's own intelligence agency, the SD? Israel Sarid Roth, only son of two survivors of the Holocaust is about to find out, as a routine assignment in Jerusalem plunges him into the center of a deadly nightmare.
Delivering me into this world was an act of defiance as is my name: Israel Sarid Roth. From early on, I was told that “Sarid” means “remnant” in Hebrew and this is what my parents were: survivors, ashen residues of that great conflagration, the Holocaust.
After the War, they met as two near-skeletons in a DP camp - that’s a Displaced Persons facility, often only marginally better than a concentration camp. They clung to each other in a hurried act of marriage and fourteen years later – the time it took them to regain some trust in life, not least by making a small fortune in the specialty publishing industry - they made me.
My mother slid the plate of broiled vegetables across the Formica-top table: “Finish it!” – she demanded, almost ferociously – “You never know when you will eat next.”
My father pleaded with sad, rheumatic eyes and I nibbled half-heartedly at the multicolored mash.
It was almost time.
In Israel, the Holocaust Memorial Day opens with a wailing siren, followed by two minutes of contemplative, silent observation. One year, my mother traveled all the way to Jerusalem and, standing on the grounds of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, she taped the piercing sound and the ensuing silence.
She played it every year since then on the appointed date and this year was no exception. As the sound faded, I rose up and exited this funereal abode, mumbling barely audible goodbyes.
The air outside was fresh with life.
I was 46 years old but didn’t have much to show for it, except a string of failed relationships. More out of angst than out of need, I worked three days a week in the musty acquisitions department of the Genocide Monitoring Group (GMG), a non-government organization as well-funded and as morbid as my family.
There was a note on my creaking, plain-wood desk at the office:
“urgent to see the manager Bauer”, Ashok, my Hindu assistant, scribbled. Bauer is my irascible boss. It sounded bad.
“Sit down” – droned Bauer, straightening an errant bow tie and, then, without a pause – “You’ve heard of Leo Frankenberg?”
I haven’t. And there was nowhere to sit in Bauer’s windowless and airless cubicle. The only thing that passed for a chair was bent shapeless by an avalanche of cardboard folders and reams of folded printouts. I crouched, resting my back on a polyglot tower of hardbacks.
“Neither have I,” – he confessed cheerfully – “until recently, that is. He is … was … supposed to have been a veteran and venerable investigative journalist. In other words, a bore and a loser …”
Ever since he was criticized by the media for his high-handed ways at the GMG, Bauer detested journalists, investigative or otherwise.
“Was? He died?”