Sami’s Trap by Nehemia Har-Peled

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My dad is an amazing story teller.

Sami’s trap is one of the short stories that he wrote, that I translated from Hebrew:

Sami’s Trap

by Nehemia Har-Peled
2/10/09

“I sat across from a German officer and my whole body shook. It was just the two of us, sitting at the compartment. When the train stopped at the station at Tour Lepine, the door opened and a militiaman appeared. I heard shouts “Alle Juden, ‘raus!” coming from the other cabins. The officer asked in German what was going on, and the militiaman stood to attention, and apologized. After the door closed, the officer uttered something that sounded like a curse, and continued reading the newspaper. I saw my friends outside. I bent down to tie my shoelaces so they wouldn’t see me… Do you realize how scared I was? I nearly wet my pants… Is Sami your real name? Tell me the truth, I am not a Collaborator.”

Mahmud looked at the old lady and wanted to ask her how come she did not sit with her girlfriends to begin with, but instead just said “It is possible that I would have to shut the water off for some time. I need to replace the trap. Can you see how it is all rusted out?”

“Fine, do whatever is needed. I am sure it is not your name. Why would they name you Sami? Are you Christian? Not that I have anything against the Christians, you know… To this day, I still pray sometimes the prayers they taught us in the nunnery, can you believe it, that I do that, sixty years later? I wanted to become a nun so badly. When my uncle came to take me at the end of the war I called him a Dirty Jew… Do you realize how fanatical I was?”

“That’s because of Nahum, that they call me Sami. He says some clients don’t want Arabs to work at their house, so I don’t mind. But Nahum, when we are not with a client, calls me Mahmud, which is my name. He says also that the Jews are getting their punishment now, for filling the Nazis’ shoes. You must get why he says that, yaani, maybe now they are the same or something like that… Maybe you can call him, and ask him if I should replace the trap, that is rusted? Because if yes, than we need to tell him to bring a new one”.

“They called one day and informed me that I was in fact on that train, and that they will give me reparations. It is documented that I was sent to Auschwitz on that train. We changed trains at Tour Lepine, which is a small town in France, and from there we continued to Auschwitz. I told that lady on the phone, that I did not disembark at Tour Lepine, and that I continued on the train for two more stops. I told her, excuse me madam, but I wrote to you that I was in no concentration camp other than Drancy, and that even from there I escaped on the same day we arrived. And she said, that it makes no difference, that if it says I was in Auschwitz, I must have been, and repressed that memory. Then, do you know what I told her? That I demand that they correct their records. She cannot tell me what really had happened. It is true that I am not young anymore, but I remember every minute from the war. The Nazis had failed to send me to Auschwitz back then, and they definitely can’t do it sixty years later. Do you know Sami, how does it feel to stand chest high in the mud for four days and four nights, while their dogs can smell people in the mud but can’t get in? When they shot at us, blindly into the bushes, we bent down and put our face in mud. The skin on my feet turned hot red, like fire. For a really long while I had wounds that wouldn’t heal.”

“The French refused to give me reparations. They said I was born in Poland before the war, so I was not French during the war. But do you know that I was in the Resistance?  That I, with Little Jack, blew a German train up? That I ran away, but Jack went back to look for ammunition on the train’s cars?  There were no rifles, but there were tons of chocolate boxes for the German Army. He brought several of those boxes to the storage shed where we hid. I moved somewhere else, and the rest of them were found and killed by the Germans. Do you understand? They found the chocolate boxes. This was my luck, on that same day  I went to visit my brother, whom I put in a home for retards, whose headmaster was also in the Resistance. Later when I wanted to get back, I couldn’t, because I had Jaundice, and that’s how they didn’t get me.”

“Every day passed like a year. Why is that now I obsess about it all the time? Why after all those years? Why I didn’t tell even to my husband? Do you know that my kids, are grandparents now, and they know nothing of what I told you? And now that I want to tell, that it burns me from inside, they are not interested to hear, not even their children”?

Mahmud wanted to tell her that her robe was a little too open, but only said “Right, like they don’t want today to hear about us, how hungry and cold we are with no electricity in the house, yaani, it is our turn to be like you in Germany… So where is your phone so I can call Nahum about the trap”?