Echoes of Honor

…Though I Walk Through the Valley…

________________

A Week Before…

It was survival…They would have killed him if he hadn’t agreed…

Locked in a dark room with no furniture other than a cot and chair. The rope they had used to keep him from fighting back as they tortured him, lay tangled on the floor.

David, weak from the loss of blood, sank down the wall and onto the floor, the pressure of guilt twisting like a knife inside him.

Would they kill him today if he didn’t give them the answers they wanted?

It was all their fault…The group had forced him out of their lives by never paying attention to the deep hurts inside. It was always on to the next mission.

Sophie had never shown interest in him other than just a friend and that hurt. He had liked her since meeting her several years back.

Wilhelm, Wilhelm was a German. As far as any of them knew, Wilhelm could be a killer. Karl never even took David’s advice about him into consideration.

They had all stabbed him in the back.

Now he was left with a choice. The Gustopo had cornered him several days ago when he had passed out in an alley from lack of food. They had drug him to a dingy building and had been asking non-stop questions. At first, David had refused to answer just because they were Hitler’s soldiers. He’d never tell them a thing.

Then they tortured him. Every time he passed out, they roused him and repeated the process. They wanted information about the Resistance. How they ever knew David was affiliated with the Resistance, he didn’t know. These men had people ratting on others to save their skin or for money.

He was cracking inside. The small fracture had started when he witnessed the deaths of his family. He’d never forget that. Then the Resistance group. They had betrayed him. Now he was sitting here, alone. His broken body begging him to yield with everything in him.

They wanted information…

David knew his betrayal would cause the deaths of his friends. Karl, Sophie, Philippe…Because of him, they’d die.

If he agreed to help the Gestapo they’d let him live for at least a little while longer.

What did that matter? Did he have anything to live for anyhow?

What did he have left that was so important?

Distant memories of Sophie, Karl, and Philippe flooded his mind. Good memories, the rare times they had found absolute joy. There was only one man that he wanted gone. Deep down he couldn’t bear the thought of his three good friends dying.

David ground his fist into the floor. He’d give the Gestapo the information on Wilhelm. Height, looks, everything. That German would pay for stealing Sophie, for taking Karl’s attention off overthrowing Hitler, for disrupting everything…

He knew just where to keep a lookout for Wilhelm…

The meeting of the Resistance group in Berlin was soon. No doubt Karl had heard of the planned round-up of Jews in a Berlin tenement. They’d all be there, to start their Operation Echoes of Honor. A perfect time to trap the German that had wrecked their plans for taking down Hitler.

David would tell the Gestapo about Wilhelm. There was no way they wouldn’t be able to locate him in the crowd of Jews and soldiers during the round-up. He was especially tall and good looking. That would be his downfall.

Wilhelm would pay…and in a way, so would the rest.

Her nerves were taut.

Her nerves were taut as they walked away from the car. Was there anything going on between Wilhelm and her that she was unaware of? She didn’t think so. If everything was normal, if there wasn’t a war going on, Sophie believed she’d be open to the idea of Wilhelm coming to court her.

Arguments between them occurred less and less, and she even noticed that Wilhelm was quicker to defend her.

For goodness sake! Sophie began to berate herself. Why was she even thinking about this? They were about to embark on a rescue mission. There’d be time for thoughts like this later.

“Be careful, Sophie,” Philippe said in a warning tone. “You just about tripped on those uneven stones.

She returned his concern with a faint smile and caught Karl watching her. Despite his secretness, they had a close relationship. Could he guess what she was thinking?

The light of dawn began to brighten the shadowed alleyways. Sophie wished she could go and in the light. There was too much darkness in all their lives.

“Do you have a feeling about this rescue?” Philippe asked, coming to walk beside her and Petr.

“What do you mean?”

“I just have a feeling about this mission.”

Sophie looked at him. “What sort of feeling.”

“Don’t laugh at me, Sophie.” He looked troubled.

“Never. You know I wouldn’t do that.”

“I feel this strange darkness. I keep having an urging thought that this is not the right time for this. I feel like we should have done more planning and brought more back-up.”

Sophie wanted to confess she had awakened with that same feeling. “Why didn’t you tell any of us?”

“Because it may be nothing and I don’t want more children to die because it was just me being afraid.”

“How long have you felt like this?”

“Ever since we started talking about doing this. I’m all for it of course–but this urging I have, warning us to stay away, is getting to me.”

“You should tell Karl.”

“Too late now. He’s set on this and I can’t back out. I promised to help.”

“We’ll be real careful, Philippe. You watch my back, and I’ll watch yours. We can be comforted by the fact that Karl, Wilhelm, and especially God are keeping a close eye on us.”

Philippe was silent for a moment, and Sophie felt like this was the best time to try and pry into his plans for rescuing his sister Marie.

“You been thinking about Marie?”

“I told you, Sophie, this is all on me. She’s my sister, and I’m not dragging any of you into it.”

Philippe sure could be stubborn at times.

“Let me help Philippe! You’ve done so much for me that I’m dying to help you.”

“Tell you what. Let’s keep our minds focused on the mission at hand, then, when we’re all safe this evening, we’ll talk.”

-___________-

The plan was to go into the midst of the chaos and slowly and discreetly lead several children away from imprisonment to a row of dumpsters near the apartments, then back to the getaway car.

“Act like we’re just siblings out for an early morning stroll, maybe they’ll think we’re on our way to school or something.” Sophie was beginning to feel like Philippe. They’re weren’t very well prepared for this. What if something went wrong? How on earth would Karl and Wilhelm be able to save them against so many soldiers?

Sophie tried not to look at the men in those ugly drag uniforms pacing outside the Jewish apartments. Instead, she directed Petr’s attention to a shop window full of toys.

“Karl said to look like we’re just innocent bystanders. Talk amongst ourselves and act like kids having fun. Pretend those soldiers aren’t even there.” Sophie cleared her throat. “Brother, look at that! Have you ever seen such a pretty tea-set?”

Philippe grimaced and put a hand to his forehead in mock disgust. “A tea-set! Look at this train. I bet it’d go real fast!”

The sound of breaking glass, and shouts tempted Sophie to turn and look at the soldiers.

No. It wasn’t time yet.

Petr was entirely enthralled by the train set Philippe was pointing out, that he hardly noticed the soldiers breaking into the apartments.

“Okay, Sophie. They’re bringing out the first family. Good. It looks like they’re just making them stand there while they move onto the next. Aren’t even bothering to guard them that much…That will be to our advantage.”

Slowly, the make-believe family moved down the street, continuing to look in the shop windows. Once or twice a soldier nodded politely to Sophie, and it took everything in her not to stick out her tongue back.

There were dozens of Jewish women her age that were shoved and shouted at by the very soldiers that had been so polite to Sophie. What made her, a German, so special?

“Family to your left,” Philippe said.

Sophie saw them. As far as she could tell, none of the soldiers were guarding them. She saw why.

A man sat on the ground, his legs twisted at odd angles. He stared vacantly into nothing, and Sophie realized he was blind. His plump little wife knelt next to him and their children, a set of twins, stood nearby. They’d get nowhere if they tried to escape. That’s why the soldiers didn’t bother with them.

Sophie casually walked by, then stopped, bending down to untie than re-tie her shoe. As she did, she stared into the woman’s eyes.

*Wir sind der Widerstand. Sei nicht ängstlich.” Sophie said softly, then repeated the words.

The mother’s eyes lit up. She pushed her children forward. “I have heard of the *Widerstand and how they rescue children. Take mine and may Jehovah bless you for the risk you take.” Tearfully, she let her children go. They followed Sophie and Philippe a few paces behind, mingling with the other Jews now gathered.

The din was deafening. The street was filled with sobbing, screaming, yelling, and the sound of breaking glass. Sophie wanted to cry. This was like a nightmare. Could it get any worse?

(*We are the resistance. Do not be afraid.)
(*Resistance)

“You have given us false information!” A soldier yelled, striking David across the face. “There’s no man out there that fits that description you gave to us. All we have seen is a woman with her brothers gazing in the shop windows just like the other citizens! No freedom fighters at all!”

David cowered against the stony ground. He waited for the bullet that was sure to come.

“If you are so confident that there is a freedom fighter out there, you will point him out.” The soldier whipped out a gun. “You refuse, and I will kill you!”

With plenty of prodding from the soldier’s gun, David stumbled down the alley and towards the noise coming from the street.

How could they have not recognized Wilhelm by now? Was he disguised?

David, from a hiding place between two buildings, was forced to look out onto a scene that should have soften the hardest of hearts. There were men, women, and children everywhere…most of them sobbing as they were being forced into crowded supply trucks for no reason other than ethnic background.

Then he saw them. Philippe and Sophie, with Petr walking in-between them. For a second he couldn’t believe it. They were there, out in the street, so close he could’ve called to them. David didn’t see Karl or Wilhelm.

“I am beginning to think you lied to us!” The soldier smirked, shoving the barrel of his gun into Wilhelm’s ribs. “You will pay for your lies!”

“No!” David struggled. He was afraid of death. He didn’t know what lay after. “They’re out there. See that woman and two boys?”

The soldier glared out at the street and nodded.

“They’re with this Wilhelm character. They are part of the Resistance.” David felt like he was about to be sick.

One side of the soldier’s mouth turned up in a cruel grin. He placed his pistol in its holster. “You saved you pitiful life for now, Jew.” The soldier tapped the German Luger at his side. “I suspected them. You have just sealed your friends’ fate.” The soldier motioned to several soldiers behind him. “You friend’s will be rounded up before they can an escape.”

David collapsed onto the ground. No one would ever forgive him for this.

-___________-

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~ Laura

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