Auschwitz in Essex

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Who are the Real Christ-Killers?

Jonny Martel stirred from the couch, to greet dear old Tuppy once again.

Tuppy practically fainted into his arms. Jonny walked Tuppy over to their cosy old place again, where they had undoubtedly shared a great many bittersweet memories up to now. But what the future held, of course, was far less certain.

The Mexican chocolate was on its way. "Put a bit of brandy in it, now there’s a good lad!" Tuppy managed to stammer out. Jonny dashed a few drops of cheapskate Parisian trumpery and nonsensicalities into the mug.

They sat in silence, as the empire of a winter’s wind dared penetrate every last atom’s shelter and moment’s refuge of this most unsatisfyingly romantic of artist garrets.

Chaim stood at the gate of the synagogue, nervously peering up at this great monument, (as he muttered), to the steadfast, shameless, lovingly-lunatic patience of his fathers.

A homeless urchin hurled a cold, grey snowball.

By now, of course, Chaim had determined that it must always be an act of unforgivable imprudence to rise to the provocation.

For after all, he was not among equals. The power was all on one side. The goyim could be loved, honoured, respected, admired; but they could never once be trusted.

For every righteous gentile, there were a hundred who could never truly understand him; and among these, there were quite a mighty handful who viewed him as the spawn of Satan. They even used the name of this grand old Accuser-in-Chief as a synonym for ‘synagogue.’ The synagogue of Satan?

‘Who are the real Christ-killers?’ Chaim pleaded; not resentful, not embittered.

It was this very ability to ask ‘Why’ without the merest hint of rancor or fury was, according to a rare friend or two among the gentiles, a token of a truly rare and admirable excellence of virtue and of character.

Occasionally, friends of all stripes warned him that a good heart was not enough.

‘You lack the instinct of a hunter,’ some told him. ’Your heart is the right place, but your head is sadly askew. The problem is, because you are a gentle person, and think the best of everyone, and have goodwill to all, you think everybody else must be the same as you.

‘One day, this simplicity and purity of heart will prove your undoing. Hens can preach love and gentleness to foxes if they wish; but if they walk among wild wolves and hyenas as though they were amid doves and nightingales, they should not be surprised to be torn asunder.’

And still Chaim asked the question. His heart would not rest easy without an answer.

‘Who are the real Christ-killers?’

It is hard to imagine someone of Chaim’s people asking this question in anything other than a bitter and vengeful manner. Many there were, even among the goyim, who would have found it impossible to blame a Jew for asking this question in anger.

But Chaim did not ask this question in order to accuse the anti-Semite of being a blasphemer and a hypocrite. There was no sword or burning torch in his land; only an olive branch; offered in a forlorn glimmer of hope, and of frailness, and of vulnerability; and nothing more.

In the stillness of his heart, he wept.

He wept, but not according to the flesh.

His pain was too deep for words.

“Pray do read for us, like you used to do,” implored Tuppy.

His gallant husband-in-the-higher-law archly raised an eyebrow. "And do let’s have some more handsome Gallic flair!" he murmured. By now he had perked up a little.

“Mais, ça? C’est pas permis!” was the dry and faux-dismissive observation of Monsieur Martel.

“Oh, stuff and nonsense! ‘It’s not permitted?’ Why, you’re such a tease, dear boy!’" said Tuppy; beginning to giggle like an over-wise schoolgirl.

Jonny held Tuppy’s hand, and blew on it to warm it further.

“Madame est satisfait?” he inquired, with his customary smirk; not without a glint of fear, in his radiant, blazing, sky-blue eyes.

“Ah, ouais!” Tuppy murmured coquettishly, in a most captivating rendition of an immaculate, high-class Parisian lady of the salon.

“Ouais, je suis très satisfait. Mais, hop! On va lire!”

Jonny kissed Tuppy’s hand, and they began to read together.

All of a sudden, Chaim thought he heard the child again. He frowned and scratched his head. How long ago had the child been there?

Twelve crazy old codgers of the tribe did frown

Mr Hitler’s going to bring the ugly den of thieves down!

Chaim lowered his head and began to weep.

Nobody heard him.

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