DescriptionJakob Okker, his wife Sarah and youngest daughter Anna are forced into hiding by the increasing threats by Nazi occupied Amsterdam. They find shelter in their friend’s hotel. They are captured by Gestapo agents thanks to the betrayal by an employee of Jakob’s diamond factory. Anna’s parents and the hotel owners are taken away. Anna is viciously gang raped by Dutch police officers.
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CHAPTER 3 BETRAYED “Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?” —Anne Frank Amsterdam, October 29, 1942 The jackboots above our cramped hiding place sounded different. The footsteps were usually briskly paced during the Germans' nocturnal foraging for liquor in the hotel's dark bowels. But these sounds were slow and deliberate, accompanied by a faint tapping and the intermittent barking of a dog. Muffled voices were suddenly aborted by a loud voice. “Achtung.” Our initial instinct was to hide within our confined space, but we sensed the absurdity of this strategy. Mama, looking panic stricken, clasped her arms around Papa. He motioned to me to remain silent. I held my breath.The barking became louder. Suddenly, the trap door above us lurched open. A large black dog leaped down towards us, bearing its sharp fangs. It was quickly tethered by a pair of dark leather gloves. A German's voice bellowed, “Schmutzige Juden kommen!” A second voice from somewhere above us cried out in Dutch, “Please Jakob, come out. Don't disobey them—they'll shoot! They're telling you to come out with your hands above your heads!” The trembling voice sounded like Jan, my parents’ friend—the hotel’s co-owner along with his wife Emma. Father made eye contact with Mama and me, despair and desperation etched in his weary eyes. Papa reluctantly grabbed the ladder and settled it up against the room's covert opening. We raised our hands above our heads. I was the last to ascend. A group of plain-clothed Gestapo agents dressed in grey belted top coats and black wide-brimmed fedoras awaited us, their flashlights pointing at us. Agents seized each one of us with rough-handed belligerence. The one grasping me was of slight build, not much taller than me. He smiled menacingly, displaying an assortment of glimmering gold teeth. His wire rimmed spectacles reflected off the basement’s dull lights. I noticed a Gestapo agent standing close to the staircase, clutching a short barrelled Luger pistol in one hand, and the dog’s leash on the other. He sneered at us, and then addressed me in fractured, but decipherable Dutch, “You tell your father over there that we know he has diamonds hidden. If he has any desire to continue breathing, he’ll tell me where he's hiding them. Make it quick. I'm not exactly known for my patience!” There was a tense moment of silence. I desperately needed to gather my thoughts. He began walking closer to us. “Quickly!” he yelled, pointing the pistol at Papa. I began to shake. “Papa, please tell him!” Papa lowered his head. The agent restraining him grabbed him by the throat. Mama pleaded, “Please Jakob, tell them for the sake of your family!” Papa kept his silence. The agent tightened his grip. Mama screamed, “I'll tell you! They're...downstairs... in the safe. I’ll give you the combination. Please, I beg you, just let go of my husband!” The agent loosened his hold and began to lower himself down the ladder. The sounds of wood and metal crashing to the floor, were accompanied by broken glass. The agent emerged, holding the safe and our wireless set. “So, you've been listening to those English dogs and all their lies!” My captor jolted up my chin, pushing his face close enough that his lips were almost touching mine. He reeked from tobacco and whisky. I tried not to gag. “Wat is je naam klein?” he demanded, speaking in flawless Dutch. I refused to answer. He gripped my cheeks. The agent roared, “Spreek jood meisje!” I defiantly cried out my name, “Anna....Anna Okker.” Papa tried to break his captor’s grip. He shouted, “Keep your filthy mof hands off my daughter!” Mama fell to her knees, weeping. “I beg of you Jakob. You must cooperate. They'll kill you!” The agent placed the safe on the floor beside Papa’s shoes, removed a pistol from his side, and pointed it against Papa’s temple. “So you, my pathetic Judenschwein diamond swindler—open this safe now—my tolerance for your defiance is running out!” Papa looked up towards the basement's wooden rafters, muttering something in Hebrew. I could make out a few of the words. “Exalted and hallowed be God's great name”.... It was the mourner's Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. “Now give me the combination, you piece of vermin shit!” The agent cocked the Luger's hammer. The sound of its ‘click’ echoed off the musty concrete walls. Mama collapsed from her captor’s hold. I lunged forward. “I beg you Papa, please help him open the safe!” Papa slowly picked up the safe and turned the tumbler dial. His first attempt failed. I began to panic. Did he forget the code? Is he thinking of sacrificing himself for the sake of a bunch of useless gems? Doesn’t he care about us? Thankfully, the vault opened on the second try. The agent put his weapon down, and greedily grabbed the contents. After giving the gems a cursory look, he took out a white handkerchief from the pocket of his top coat, and gathered them up. He grabbed the empty safe, and tossed it carelessly back down into our hiding place. The sound of it crashing to the floor reverberated through the dark basement. The sound of thumping of boots approached us from the stairs above. They settled along the damp walls. I recognized their green uniforms—Orpo police officers. They were a Nazi enforcement unit responsible for keeping law and order amongst their occupied Dutch citizens, especially the Jews. I noticed three officers standing at the base of the stairwell, each restraining a captive: two men and a woman. As they approached closer, I recognized Emma and Jan. Emma's eyes were red and swollen. Jan hung his head. I noticed dried blood along the side of his head. The other older man was slumped over, his clothes and hair dishevelled. He appeared to be older than my parents. He resembled a wounded animal caught in a hunter's snare. He looked vaguely familiar. The officers dragged him towards us. The gun-toting agent turned towards Papa and addressed him sharply, “Do you recognize this pathetic excuse for a man, diamond swindler? ”Papa looked up but didn't speak. "Then perhaps I can refresh your memory. Is this not your good friend, the one who managed your crooked business, the one you could always trust and depend on?” The elderly man cried out, “Jakob, please forgive me. May G-d forgive me! They threatened to shoot my wife and children. I had no choice!” He wept uncontrollably. I recognized the broken-looking man—it was Mr. Klonenberg, the manager at Papa’s factory. Our families had enjoyed many holidays together. We sat together at Passover seders and enjoyed family simchas. Papa shook his head, but remained silent. I wondered if his wordless reaction was a response to his sympathy for his friend's dilemma, or whether he was sickened by his betrayal. The agent scanned the room with scathing indignation. The agent addressed his fellow agents and police officers: “As you can see before you, my faithful brothers and servants of our all powerful and great Reich, how easily these money hungry subhuman Jews can turn on each other like rabid dogs!” It was impossible not to contemplate Mr. Klonenberg’s dilemma. What would I have done if I was faced with his plight? Would I risk my family by refusing to cooperate with the German’s? Or would I go along with their threats and betray a friend? Could I really blame him? Why was life so damn complicated? Papa finally lifted his head and shouted out at the agents, “Everyone of you slechte klootzakken will rot in hell along with your depraved leader. G-d will make certain that the Allies will defeat you!” The agent laughed, revealing a row of stained, rotting teeth. He lit a cigarette with a slow deliberate motion, locking his eyes directly on Papa. He moved closer to him, expelling a cloud of smoke onto his face. He glared at Papa for a moment, and then stubbed out the cigarette onto his forehead. “Go to hell you bastard!” my father shouted out, trying to mask his pain. The agent rubbed the cigarette ash down his forehead towards his nose and cheeks. Papa tried to grab the agent's hand. “No Jakob, he'll kill you!” Mama shrieked. ”Listen to Mama”, I shouted. The agent swung his pistol's handle against Papa’s skull. He collapsed to his knees, blood spurting from his scalp. I screamed, trying desperately to break through my agent's grip. Mama turned frantic. She struggled to free herself, collapsing to the floor, screaming incoherently. The Gestapo agent waived over to an Orpo officer. “Take them both away!” he commanded. “Show them how we deal with Jew insects like themselves!” I watched in horror as they dragged my parents up the stairs, trickles of blood trailing Papa’s heels. The agent pointed to the officers restraining Jan and Emma. “Give these two Jew-hiders a lovely full guided tour of Scheveningen. Let them join the other slime who refuse to respect our Führer!” My captor asked an idle agent to relieve him. He took hold of both of my hands, and savagely restrained them behind my back. I glanced at him. He looked young, not much older than myself. He had the blond Aryan look, much treasured by Hitler. His piercing blue eyes were void of any sign of emotion. They revealed a man who could turn sadistic on the slightest whim, and thoroughly relish it. He raised my chin upwards, trying to force me to look at him. His badly stained fingers reeked from tobacco and the faint smell of gun powder. I diverted my eyes, defiantly. “Look at me Jew bitch! Where's your respect?” I tried to turn my head, refusing to acknowledge him. He grabbed the back of my neck and shoved me towards the staircase. “Follow me boys,” he instructed the others. “I’ve got a nice little treat for you!” After we reached the hotel’s lobby, he forced me outside, his lapdogs trailing eagerly. The mid-autumn sun, weakened by the advancing season, struggled lethargically through the cloud laden sky. Having spent weeks in our dark hideout, the partially visible sun was still brazen enough to be almost blinding. It brought back fond memories of my childhood Saturday afternoons at the magnificent Tuschinski Theatre, exiting the cinema in the bright late afternoon sunlight. I shivered in the chilled air. I was dressed meagrely in a thin cotton dress and a light sweater. I looked around, desperate for any sign of my parents. The officer ordered me to move, but I refused. Suddenly I felt a cold metallic object pressing against the back of my neck. “Move, bitch!” I staggered forward. In the short distance ahead I saw a column of men, women, and children being led up the treelined street. Police officers armed with rifles flanked them with an impatient urgency. They were carrying suitcases and and bags filled with their personal belongings. A small convoy of dull green coloured military trucks, sheltered by loose canvas tops, idled on the side of the road, awaiting their confused and terrified passengers. I recalled Papa telling us about reports from an underground resistance fighter he had made contact with. He spoke about the Westerbork camp in the northeast, originally built by the Dutch government to intern mostly Jewish refugees from Germany. He said it was now being used as a temporary camp for Jews, prior to being transported by rail to camps in Poland and Germany. I shuddered at the thought of my family's fate. What are they planning to do to us? Would we all survive? Was there any hope? The officer pushed me away from the street towards the rear of the hotel. A short distance away I saw an elderly Hasidic rabbi slumped over a prone figure. He was surrounded by a semi-circle of onlookers: Orpo officers, Gestapo agents, and civilians. The officer guided me closer. The rabbi swayed, davening in prayer over a partially naked woman lying sprawled on the street. I gagged at the grisly site. A bloody gash extending from her chest to navel exposed her internal organs. Beside her lifeless body I saw what looked like a squid or octopus. It reminded me of the the fish stalls I passed on the Sunday morning trips with my parents to the Uilenburgerstraat Market. Horrified, I realized it was the remains of an unborn infant. I vomited with a force that shook my entire body. The bile burned deep inside my throat. The religious man stood up, a deep rage reddening his eyes and face. His lips trembled. He pointed to the officer holding the rifle with the blood stained bayonet. “You and the rest of you filthy animals will ultimately be judged by our Lord! This poor young woman and her unborn baby will be revenged!” The bayonet-toting officer moved closer to the rabbi. He spoke impeccable Dutch. “Don't threaten me with your phoney god, you filthy Jew scum! It’s Christ-killers like you who think you're something special. You call yourselves the ‘Chosen People’.” He laughed heartily. “In fact, you are ‘chosen’. Yes, our Führer has chosen you to cleanse the Reich of your contaminated blood!” The rabbi lifted a bible and pointed it at the officer. “G-d will be our judge!” The officer grabbed his arm, dislodging the holy book. I recognized the Tanakh—the Hebrew Bible. Nathan had a beautifully leather bound one given to him by our Zaydeh for his bar mitzvah. It dropped against the canal wall. The officer walked slowly towards the kneeling rabbi. He smirked, then calmly thrust the bloodstained bayonet deep into the cleric's chest. I gasped, as the rabbi fell back, his eyes rolling upwards. Somehow, I could not turn away. Ribbons of blood trickled from his mouth. I caught the eye of a young German soldier standing a short distance ahead. He quickly looked away, but within seconds turned back to face me. Shockingly, he resembled my brother Nathan. He had the same athletic build: greyish green penetrating eyes that looked both sad and introspective, and a fringe of copper coloured hair peeking out from beneath his wool cap. He looked ill at ease, unable to conceal his discomfort at the scene before him. Feeling faint, barely able to support my wobbly legs, I slipped from the officers grip. I looked up. A group of Dutch policemen were leaving the rear entrance of the hotel. They were dressed in their familiar black uniforms, the gold coloured buttons lining their chests, reflecting the light off the high noon sun. They staggered down the steps, rifles slung erratically over their shoulders, singing loudly to what sounded to me like a popular Dutch drinking song. The last one to reach the basement called out to the agent trying to restrain me. “Kriminalsekretär, let us relieve you—I'm sure your skills are desperately needed elsewhere to weed out the rest of the vermin hiding out in the ghetto.” I despised the Dutch police. Too many of them were quick and eager to join ranks with the Nazis. Some were members of the NSB, the Dutch Nazi Party. It was no secret that they received generous cash bonuses for each Jew they apprehended, but I’m sure their fervent hatred for us was more than enough of an incentive to collaborate with the Nazis. My emotions were running amok: fear, anger, horror, hatred, confusion. Why were we hated so? What have we done to deserve this oppression? Are we not like everyone else? Is our religion so despised? Why doesn’t G-d intervene? A tall older officer with a pronounced limp, and a severely pockmarked face, shouted out to the officers, “Boys, let's have ourselves some well deserved fun. Follow me!” I assumed he was their superior officer. The group responded with libidinous laughter. The officer dragged me towards a garden shed at the far end of the hotel. It was separated from residential buildings by an imposing black wrought iron fence. A large oak tree, its branches partially naked, spread over the aged wooden structure, offering a hidden oasis from the horrific scene behind.The small structure contained discarded petro cans and a few small hand tools. Pieces of brown dried-out sod and straw were strewed along the faded wooden floor boards. The officer forced me down. Terrified, I struggled to free myself, but fell backwards, breaking the fall with my elbows. He lifted my chin and tried to force his tongue into my mouth. The smell of whiskey and garlic made me want to retch. I desperately tried to turn my face away. “Don't try to resist, dirty Jew slut. It’s time you enjoyed a real Dutch man! He turned his head. “Hoi Kasper! Come over here.” A short squat police officer, an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth, jogged towards us. He held my shoulders down. The tall officer walked away and shouted, “Okay you hard-up mosquito dicks, get your hands out of your pockets and get ready for some real action!” A hand reached up my legs. I tried to resist, but I was pinned down. I felt a finger groping my private area. I tried to scream, but the officer clamped his hand over my mouth. “Scream bitch, and I'll rip your throat off!” He let go to test my compliance, and then lifted my dress. I kicked out at him, but was no match against his savage strength. He ripped my undergarments away, and pried my legs apart. I felt a sharp pain of fingernails piercing my inner thighs. And then, what I feared most. He savagely penetrated me, the searing pain becoming unbearable. He grunted like a starving animal pressed upon its prey. Thankfully, he finished quickly. Somehow, I managed to lift my head. A line of officers stood idly by, chatting away, awaiting their turn. I shuddered. How could they do this? Surely, they had mothers and sisters—I’m sure that some had daughters. Wasn’t this in their thoughts? Did they not have a conscience? Have they gone mad? Have I gone mad? Are we all mad? The officer holding me down shouted out to another. “Horst, what's the matter? You don't want to join in? Don't worry we won't tell your girlfriend!” “Or your mama!” another taunted. “Maybe he's afraid!” the elder one jeered. "But don't worry Horst, if it's your first time I guarantee you it won't fall off!” The men howled with laughter. “Next!” shouted out an officer. “Hurry up Karl, my snikkel is going numb!” A hand slithered up my chest. He fumbled with my bra, undid the straps, and outlined my nipples with his tongue. I felt his calloused finger enter me. I screamed, “Stop, you're hurting me!" He lifted his head, the stench from his rotting teeth, sickening me. “Shut up, Jew slime!” He lifted his body up from me, pulled down his underwear, and placed his pistol against my temple. He pressed his private part against my mouth. “Open up whore, and do something useful with your filthy mouth!” I clenched my teeth. He cocked his gun, the sound of the metallic click challenging my fragile mortality. I opened my mouth tentatively, fearing his next move. He plunged himself inside. I gagged. He began to thrust frantically. I raised my head slightly, enough to spot the young German soldier who resembled my brother. Our eyes met. He did not lower his gaze, his eyes mirroring both pity and terror, as if he were witnessing an execution. I began to lose consciousness....