“It is finished.” The weariness of the voice drew everyone’s attention to the entrance of the Children’s Memorial.
It had been more than thirty hours since the kabbalists had first entered the underground cavern, and now they were beginning to emerge. Despite his years, Benjamin was the first to run and greet them.
Seeing the expectant look on the rabbi’s face, one of the kabbalists shrugged. “It lives,” he said, “but we must remember that while our intentions and God’s are often the same, his path to the end result does not always follow man’s logic.”
Benjamin knew that he would get no true answer to the man’s mysterious comment, nor did he expect one. He took Christman by the arm and led him and the others into the Memorial.
Upon entering the cavern, the first thing that struck Christman and the others who had never had the opportunity to visit the Memorial was the sense of perpetual sorrow. It seemed only fitting that a place of such utter despair be the birthplace of renewed hope.
In the center of the main chamber a sturdy, wooden table nearly eight feet long and three feet tall stood empty. As the party looked around, Guardineer was the first to spot the lone figure huddled in a shadow-filled alcove. He touched the rabbi on the shoulder and directed his attention.
“Come out, my child,” Benjamin said softly. “You are among friends.”
Slowly, the figure stood. As he reached his full height, several of the men took a step back. Cautiously, the golem stepped from the shadows and into the light provided by the many candles.
Standing nearly seven feet tall, the golem looked nearly human. Although its basic build was that of a male, its nakedness revealed that it was, in fact, sexless. Its skin was paler than that of a normal human but held a blood-red tint and was completely devoid of hair. As it drew closer to the rabbi, he noticed that the flesh covering its mouth and jaw area appeared to be scarred, as if from a great heat.
Benjamin immediately understood what the kabbalist had told him.
As the rabbi wondered how the golem could be of use to their cause, Baker and Guardineer were suddenly whispering excitedly back and forth. Christman turned to see what had gotten into his friends.
“What are you two doing?” Christman asked.
“We’ve had an idea,” Baker replied. “Can we speak to you outside?”
Christman approached the rabbi and excused his men and himself. Moments later, the two men were explaining their idea to their friend. Initially, he was highly skeptical at what they were suggesting, but after mulling it over, a grin appeared on his face.
Spotting one of the kabbalists, he respectfully asked the man to join them for a moment. “Could we ask you a couple questions about the golem?”
The man thought for a moment, then nodded.
“How strong is it?” Guardineer asked.
The kabbalist glanced around. Within seconds, his eyes focused on something off to the left. “Do you see that military vehicle?”
The other three men sought out what he was talking about.
“The truck?” Baker asked.
“Yes,” the kabbalist answered. “The golem has enough strength to push it over onto its side.”
“Does it have any other abilities?” Guardineer wanted to know.
“It can run at nearly ninety kilometers per hour for a short period of time, and does not need to eat or breathe.”
“Thank you for your time,” Christman smiled before excusing himself to return to the cavern.
“Do you think the rabbi will go for it?” Baker asked.
“I don’t see why not,” Guardineer replied. “Just look at the effect Uncle Sam has on the Nazis when he rears his head. Why do you think they took such pains to capture him last year? Imagine their surprise when another costumed hero joins the Resistance.”
At the mention of a costume, Baker began to pat his pockets until he found a small pad of paper and a pencil. Five minutes later, he had a completed sketch. He handed it to his friend.
Guardineer took one look at the picture and grinned. “I like it.”
Together, the two men re-entered the memorial. By the time they reached Christman, he had already explained their idea to Benjamin. They handed him the sketch.
After a few seconds of studying the picture, the rabbi looked at the three men. “He is going to need a name.”
As the men thought, the golem opened his mouth and began to speak. Taken by surprise, Benjamin and his friends could only listen in awe to the words it spoke. They changed in pitch and tone, sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes old, sometimes young, and even the nationality and dialects changed. Nearly a minute went by before the golem’s voice settled on one specific language. When it did, it spoke one single word in a high-pitched, childlike voice.
The rabbi fell to his knees.
Immediately, Christman and Baker were at his side. “Are you OK?” Christman asked.
“That voice,” Benjamin stammered. “That was the voice… of my nephew.”
As tears began to fill the rabbi’s eyes, the other men could only stare at each other. Finally, Guardineer found his own voice and whispered, “What did he say?”
Looking up, Benjamin could hardly speak. “It was… Polish. It… means… retribution.”
Colonel Franz von Lossberg took a sip of vodka, then began to flip through the files laying on his desk. The new Treblinka camp was due to begin processing Jews in six weeks, and he still to choose a doctor. One file in particular caught his eye.
The candidate was Dr. Ubel Hoffman. As he read through the man’s file, Colonel von Lossberg’s eyes widened. The man had the personal endorsement of none other than Dr. Mengele himself. With such a reference, the colonel knew he needed to look no further. Thankful for a quick end to what at first had appeared to be a long night, he pulled a cigarette case from on inner pocket and removed a cigarette. He had just raised his lighter when he heard a deafening siren begin to scream.
Tossing the unlit cigarette onto his desk, the colonel grabbed his coat and hat. After quickly buttoning his coat, he grabbed his belt from where it hung on his chair and strapped it around his waist. He removed his Luger from its holster and made sure it was loaded.
As he opened the door, a sergeant was running down the hall toward his office. Lossberg didn’t have to ask what was going on; the sergeant immediately began to recount the events if the past few minutes.
“We are under attack, Herr Lossberg.”
“How many men do we face?” the colonel asked. “Fifty? One hundred?”
“There is only one, but he is no man. He is a monster!” the sergeant cried. “He is dressed all in black from the bridge of his nose to the soles of his feet. He stands taller than any man in the camp and has the strength of a demon.”
In his years of military service, Franz von Lossberg had come to realize that unmitigated terror might elicit babbling, but it rarely brought forth falsehoods. He wasn’t certain what his sergeant had seen, but he knew that the man spoke the truth as he perceived it.
“Is there anything else you can tell me about this ‘monster’? he asked, hoping to get a more realistic idea of the situation.
“He can cast fire from his eyes, and he speaks with the tongue of a thousand men,” the soldier said. “There is one more thing about him that you should know.”
“And that would be?”
The sergeant took a breath. “Upon his chest, he wears the symbol of those accursed Jews.”
Outside, the ground was littered with the bodies of dead and dying Nazis. A swath of destruction stretched from the front gates, which had been torn free and cast aside, to the wooden barracks that housed the camp’s soldiers. The creature that had called itself Retribution from the day of its creation left nothing standing.
As it stood facing the door of the barracks, a hail of bullets from the men inside did nothing more than enrage it. With a roar that bore in its depths the voices of thousands of murdered gypsies, it screamed its name again.
In horror, the trapped soldiers watched as flames began to dance in the corners of their attacker’s eyes. In less than the time it took for one to blink, the flames grew and burst forth to engulf the building. The structure went up like dry tinder. Many inside died now knowing how the Jews must have felt when cast into the camp’s incinerators decades before. Satisfied that these men would no longer harm an innocent, Retribution turned its attention to the next building.
As soldiers came from other parts of the camp to face the monster, three men slipped through the opening where the gates once stood. Christman, Baker, and Guardineer each carried a backpack filled with explosives, and each man determined that when they left this place, there would be nothing left.
Under the cover of noise and chaos, they found the camp virtually open to them. With Baker in the lead, the saboteurs turned their attention toward the small, unassuming outbuilding that led to a series of underground gas chambers. Only Guardineer stopped long enough to see what happened next.
Colonel Lossberg and a squad of SS soldiers exited his headquarters to find themselves face to face with golem. Immediately, the men unleashed a deadly barrage of bullets at their foe. A thick cloud of smoke filled the air surrounding their target.
As they lowered their empty weapons, a long black-clad arm emerged from the cloud, and a massive hand clamped around the colonel’s face. Lossberg disappeared into the smoke. Unsure of what to do, the Nazis took a collective step back.
Screams unlike any they had ever heard, even in their tortures of local Gypsies, began to issue from the smoke. They took several more steps back.
When the smoke finally began to dissipate, the golem stood like a statue splattered in crimson. Of Lossberg, there was very little that had not been torn to shreds. The soldiers broke and fled.
From his vantage point, Guardineer could only think of two words. “My God.”
The small private jet touched down in Cairo to find a truck waiting to take its passengers to Giza. When the truck reached its final destination, four figures climbed from the back. Benjamin, along with his Egyptian friend Hakizimana, was there to greet them.
“Word of your success came like music to our ears,” the Egyptian smiled.
Christman nodded. “When we left, there were very few buildings left standing, and those that were lit the night sky.”
Benjamin approached the golem. “And was our friend, here, a capable companion?”
The three men looked at each other, not certain how they should tell of what they had witnessed. Seeing no alternatives, they decided to recount the entire mission without omitting any of the facts.
As they spoke, the rabbi never took his eyes off of the golem. His reactions ranged from utter shock to — shamefully — complete satisfaction. When the men finished speaking, they all stood in awkward silence.
It was the golem that spoke next. The voice belonged to a young Hungarian man.
“We… some of us… regret our actions,” it began, “but when we saw what the Nazis were planning, we could not contain our rage. We hope that this will give the enemy pause when they consider something like this again, yet if it doesn’t, then they shall again face Retribution.”
No one knew how to respond. All they could do was hope that Germans had learned a valuable lesson. If not, well, they would make that decision when it arose.