Excerpt for Baro Xaimos: A Novel of the Gypsy Holocaust by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Baro Xaimos

A Novel of the

Gypsy Holocaust

E.W. Farnsworth

Distributed by Smashwords

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. All characters appearing in this work are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the written permission of the publisher.

For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below:

Attention: Permissions Coordinator

Zimbell House Publishing, LLC

PO Box 1172

Union Lake, Michigan 48387


© 2016 E.W. Farnsworth

Published in the United States by Zimbell House Publishing, LLC

Distributed by Smashwords

All Rights Reserved

Cover Design by The Book Planners

Print ISBN: 9781942818748

Electronic ISBN: 9781942818762

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016939871

First Edition: June 2016

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Chapter One: The Controller’s Key

Chapter Two: Black Winter Night

Chapter Three: The Crossed Keys

Chapter Four: The French Parade

Chapter Five: Mother Russia Turns

Chapter Six: Gypsies in America

Cast of Characters

About the Author

Reading Group Guide

A Note from the Publisher


To Evelyn Zimmer

sine qua non


Nadine Anton


baro xaimos is Romani for "great devouring" of life, also known as the “Gypsy Holocaust”

“Persecution of Roma (Gypsies) in Germany, and indeed in all of Europe, preceded the Nazi takeover of power in 1933. The police in Bavaria, Germany, maintained a central registry of Roma as early as 1899 and later established a commission to coordinate police action against Roma in Munich. In 1933, police in Germany began more rigorous enforcement of pre-Nazi legislation against those who followed a lifestyle labeled ‘Gypsy.’ The Nazis judged such people to be racially ‘undesirable’ and enacted systematic measures of persecution against the Roma.

After the Nazis had decided that Roma had alien blood, one of their main concerns was the systematic identification of all Romani people. A definition of ‘Roma’ was essential in order to undertake systematic persecution. Classifying who was Jewish was in this sense easier because records held by religious communities were readily available to the state. Roma in Germany had been Christian for centuries, so ecclesiastical records were useless in determining Romani descent.

The Nazis turned to racial hygiene and sought to determine who was Romani based on physical characteristics. Dr. Robert Ritter, a child psychologist at the University of Tubingen, became the central figure in the study of Roma. His specialty was criminal biology; that is, the idea that criminal behavior is genetically determined. In 1936, Ritter became the director of the Center for Research on Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology in the Ministry of Health and began a racial study of Roma. Ritter undertook to locate and classify by racial type the estimated 30,000 Roma living in Germany. Ritter performed medical and anthropological examinations in an attempt to classify Roma. Despite Ritter's own claims to document his decisions with pseudo-science, his teams resorted to interviewing Roma to determine and record their genealogy. Ritter's interviewers threatened their subjects with arrest and incarceration in concentration camps unless they identified their relatives and their last known residence. In this way, Ritter established a register of almost all Roma then living in Germany.” [1]

[1] Holocaust Encyclopedia, “Persecution of Roma (Gypsies) in Pre-War Germany, 1933-1936”

Chapter One

The Controller’s Key

Shortly before the opening of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the police ordered the arrest and forcible relocation of all Roma in Greater Berlin to Marzahn, an open field located near a cemetery and sewage dump in eastern Berlin. Police surrounded all Romani encampments and transported the inhabitants and their wagons to Marzahn. The arrests began at 4 a.m. on July 16, 1936. Uniformed police guarded the camp, restricting free movement into and out of the camp. Many of the 600 Roma arrested continued going to work every day, but were required to return each night. Later, they had to do forced labor in armaments plants. —Holocaust Encyclopedia, “Persecution of Roma (Gypsies) in Pre-War Germany, 1933-1936”

July 15, 1936 – August 31, 1937

The gypsy caravans stood in the copse of woods, far enough off the main highway not to be noticed by passing cars. Milosh Tewitz and Jaelle Hanstein’s wedding festivities were in progress, and their extended gypsy families had gathered for the occasion. Several goats had been slaughtered, and their meat was now on spits roasting over fires. Fresh breads, flagons of wine and pitchers of water were set out on makeshift tables with colorful cloths.

Gypsy boys and girls laughed and played together in the woods. Serious looking teenagers formed two large groups, one composed of males and one of females. Adults talked in groups or wandered from one group to another to greet the new family members or renew acquaintances and share wine and the news. On everyone’s tongue was the name Marzahn, the newly opened camp where the nation’s gypsy caravans would be heading soon. The young knew nothing about the camp. The old women with memories still intact knew the camp was only the beginning of an evil that had plagued gypsies all over Europe for centuries.

Jaelle’s mother Nadya held the forearm of Milosh’s mother Lala as she whispered in the Romani language, “This new political party will be the death of us all. They are well organized and ruthless. The way they ask questions leaves no wiggle room. They record everything they hear. All our names are known to them. It’s only a matter of time before we’ll all go to Marzahn to die. Wait and see.”

Lala nodded sagely. “You’re probably right, Nadya. My other son Stefan is making plans to escape before the police find him. He doesn’t think they’ll allow any male to leave the Marzahn camp alive once the caravan is inside it. He wants the whole family to go with him.” She stopped for a moment, as though mulling over the thought. “But I’m not so sure we should do that. How would we live if we moved around?”

Nadya shook her head wearily, her face lined with wrinkles as she furrowed her brows. “We haven’t been moving in the last two generations. Life on the road is hard. The borders are all watched. How will he escape? If they capture your Stefan, then they’ll kill him. Besides, where would he go? Every other country is making trouble for gypsies. They’re all working together on new laws against us. This time, they intend to enforce their laws.” Nadya observed this while looking at her knees nervously and pressing her blue taffeta dress with her palms.

“The police always have enforced them,” Lala said. “But never as fanatically as now. My Yanko works in the post office. He hears terrible things every day. Newspapers are printing propaganda against all non-Aryan people. Forget the fact that we stem from Aryans by any definition. Yanko gets evil stares even from the young people at the post office. Customers complain about him even though he does nothing wrong. His bosses take the complaints seriously since it suits their purposes. They won’t listen to Yanko’s explanations because he’s Roma. He’s afraid he’ll lose his job soon. I don’t know what we’ll do if he does lose his job.”

She stopped suddenly as two girls ran toward them, their smiling faces in stark contrast to the heavy conversation. Nadya looked up and smiled at the two girls who brought her posies as a wedding gift. “Girls, that’s very thoughtful of you. Please take the flowers to the bride and groom. They’re in the car at the center of the woods. It’s the freshly painted wagon. The pattern is flowers and vines on a white background. You can’t miss it.” The girls ran off in the direction she indicated.

“This day’s too special to spend worrying about things beyond our control,” Lala counseled.

“You’re right. I remember my own wedding day as if it were yesterday.” A dreamy look came over her face as memories of that day washed over her. “The families came together, and we had a feast, just like the one we’ll have today. My brother Tobor fought with his cousin Walther. He drew blood and left a scar on Walther’s face. They’ve been estranged ever since. My brother always defended my honor with his knife. He was relieved when I finally had a husband to defend me. Since my father and husband disappeared, Tobor became the head male in my family. I think the world of him, but he is headstrong sometimes. I fear what he’ll do next.”

“That’s Tobor over by Drina’s wagon, isn’t it?” Lala asked, pointing out a handsome, hearty man with a mustache dressed in a black shirt with a red sash.

“You can’t miss him. He always stands tall. Sometimes he frightens people. It doesn’t look as if Drina is frightened, though.” Nadya smiled and squinted one eye as she inclined her head.

“Drina had better take care. Her three brothers will kill her if she goes with a man before she is married. They’ll kill the man too.”

“They’d have a hard time killing Tobor even if all three came at him together with their weapons drawn. Tobor is ferocious, even lethal with his knife.”

The two women watched Tobor talking with Drina without commenting further. Nadya remembered incidents of her brother’s martial wrath. Lala remembered her own brothers’ concern. They assured that she maintained her virginity before her marriage. “Gypsy men,” she thought, “are always more careful of their sisters’ honor than of their own.” Yet the women took comfort because they knew their men were watching over them. Lala’s eyes fell on Jaelle’s clothes, bringing her back to the present.

“Jaelle’s wedding garment is beautifully embroidered,” Lala said.

“Thank you. I managed to match the embroidery for her and Milosh. The white satin cloth is unforgiving as a background. It’s so hard to press down to lie flat.”

“Milosh was pleased to have the garments match. Did you know he made the wedding wine himself?”

“It’s very good wine. Would you like some more of it?”

“I’d better not indulge until after the ceremony. I want to remember this wedding as I do my own.”

The two women fell into silence and gazed off into the distance. Tobor was saying goodbye to Drina. She was blushing and smiling. He came straight over to see his sister and the groom’s mother, carrying a full wineskin by a thong over his shoulder.

“Well, it’s the ladies Tewitz and Hanstein! Good day. I bring wine in case you want some. The groom made it himself, and it’s very good.”

“Thank you, Tobor, but we were just saying we’ve drunk enough before the wedding ceremony. We’ll possibly have more afterward during the feast. Is all going well with you?”

His beaming face clouded over at her words. “Nadya, these are dangerous times to be Roma. I’m doing no better and no worse than all the others. The police are coming soon, as early as tomorrow morning. By midnight, I’ll be going where no one can find me. There’s no need to worry or to disturb the wedding or the party. Has either of you seen my cousin Walther?”

“We haven’t seen him. I don’t think he’s here yet. Why do you ask?”

“As you know, we have a feud running. He’ll want to strike when I’m happy. Since I’m happy now, I think he’ll strike soon.” He looked serious now.

Lala exclaimed, “Will this feuding never end? We’ve got enough trouble with the Nazi Party. We’ll need every able gypsy man if push comes to shove.”

“What I’m worried about is Marzahn. Any man entering that camp will be lost to our people forever.”

“That’s an extreme view, isn’t it, Tobor?” Lala asked, sounding frustrated, as though annoyed by his paranoia.

“Our grandparents just barely escaped the massacre, or have you forgotten? They had no advanced warning. Grandfather’s instincts were all that saved the family. Everyone else was complacent. Slavery had ceased. Gypsies were becoming wealthy. The authorities struck like a bolt from the blue. Many gypsies died. Others went to jail. It was a dark time for gypsies, even worse for the Jews.”

“Do you think that’s going to happen again?” She sounded fearful.

“Yes, but nothing ever happens twice the same way. The Nazis are very good at keeping records. I was questioned. In fact, every adult in both our families was questioned. The threats that came with the questions told the whole story. The Germans want us all dead.”

She reflected for a few moments over his words. “What do you plan to do? Where are you going?”

“It’s better that you don’t know the details, dear sister. You’ll wake up tomorrow to discover that many men have disappeared. When the authorities ask you about that, tell them we went looking for work. Tell them we said we’d be back, but we didn’t know when that would be.” Before the women could question him further, he turned away with a sigh, apparently done with the conversation. “I’ve got to make the rounds to see the other men. Congratulations to both of you on the marriage of your children.”

Nadya replied, “Thank you, Tobor. This is a glorious day for a gypsy wedding. The bride and groom are perfect for each other. Is the priest ready for the ceremony?”

“The priest is well lubricated. He didn’t refuse to partake of the wine. Besides, he is our special friend.” Tobor laughed, and his eyes twinkled. He twirled his mustache as he walked away, still chuckling. Then he was off.

“Be safe, Tobor!” Nadya called after him. Her brother was already striding towards the center of the woods with his wineskin swinging by his right side. He looked like a fine specimen of a gypsy man with his above-average height, dark hair and mustache and his strong, confident and supple movements. Family pride filled her as she watched her brother walk away.

“Nadya, I’m worried about Tobor’s plan to escape. The authorities will take it out on the rest of us.” Lala was looking apprehensive.

“I don’t think you should mention what he said to your husband. Yanko is bound to report it to his superiors.” Nadya stood up and brushed her dress with her hands. “It’s almost time for the ceremony. Let’s walk towards the center of the woods.”

As the women walked, they passed livestock tied to trees or roaming free and children playing everywhere. Nadya called out to remind the children that the ceremony would start soon. She continued reminiscing with Lala about the old times when gypsies roamed throughout Europe, living day to day by their wits and keeping one step ahead of persecution and death.

“We’ve come a long way, Nadya,” Lala said. “We aren’t all rootless anymore. So many things have changed! It’s difficult for me to imagine living as our ancestors did with the current laws.”

“The laws and policies have always disfavored us gypsies. We are different from the others in every country. Don’t you agree?”

“Perhaps we’ve become less and less different as time has gone by. I don’t know many of us who are pure gypsies anymore. Most have married outside the gypsy tribes and families, even some who remain with the caravans.”

A commotion was stirring at the center of the woods. As the women drew near, they saw Tobor and Walther facing off in front of the wedding couple’s wagon. This filled them with dread and anticipation.

Walther called out, angry and determined, speaking loudly so everyone could hear. “Tobor, do you remember how I promised to make you rue on a day when you were happy? Well, I hope you’re happy now. I’ve come to exact my revenge.” He drew his knife, tossing it from hand to hand and crouched as if he intended to attack.

Cousin, put away your knife. This isn’t the time for fighting. Save your energy for fighting the Germans who are coming to destroy us.”

Instead of standing down, Walther clenched his knife and locked eyes with Tobor. “The Germans didn’t give me my scars. You did! Draw your knife and fight me like a man.”

As Tobor drew his knife and crouched, the priest walked uncertainly between the feuding cousins. He staggered, apparently from all the wine he had imbibed.

“Where are the bride and groom?” the priest asked with slurred speech. “I’ve come to marry them.”

As if on cue, Nadya knocked loudly on the door of the wedding pair’s wagon. Milosh and Jaelle strolled out with an easy gait that showed their ignorance of the situation. Jaelle’s eyes widened as she saw her cousins preparing to battle, knives gleaming wickedly in the sunlight.

She implored, “Uncle Tobor and Cousin Walther, desist! If you must fight, let it be after the wedding night. You’ll jinx our marriage and the whole family.” Her voice boomed as she held her head high, making her authority clear.

The combatants warily sheathed their knives, stood tall and bowed to the natural authority of the bride. The tension in the air dissipated as quickly as it had come, replaced by excitement for the main event.

“Father, let the ceremony begin,” said Milosh.

Drunk as he was, the priest managed to get through the ceremony by force of habit. It was not a long service. Most understood nothing of the substance because the priest spoke only in Latin. The crowd did understand that by kissing each other, Milosh and Jaelle were now man and wife. The couple having been duly married, Tobor led the priest away to a chair, where he plied the man with more drink from his wineskin.

Meanwhile, the guests pressed forward to congratulate the bride and groom. Some gave small gifts. Others gave cash in envelopes.

“Let the drinking and feasting begin,” yelled Tobor, gesturing towards the tables crammed full of food and wine. “It’s time for music and dancing!”

Musicians came forward and played lively gypsy songs accompanied by violins, flutes, castanets, and drums. The married couple danced, and others joined them. Lala and Yanko danced together. Nadya and her brother Tobor danced. Walther danced with Drina and her sister Simza. He lingered with Simza and kissed her on the cheek. She blushed and looked from side to side to see who was looking at her. The children danced with each other. One child led a milk white goat through the dancers while laughing.

Time passed as the families danced the day away. Before long, murky evening light had chased away the bright noonday sun. It was suddenly evening. Torches were lighted and affixed to holders above the doors of the wagons. A bonfire was set alight in the clearing in front of the nuptial wagon while eating and drinking began in earnest.

At a special table just for them, the bride and groom fed each other and drank from the identical green goblets they had been given by Nadya. Tobor feasted with Drina and Nadya. Walther ate with Simza at a separate table while he occasionally glared at Tobor, who ignored him. A strolling violinist played impossibly intricate mazurkas while Tobor visited each grown man present, whispering in his ear and clapping him on the back. Nadya watched her brother’s every move. Lala studiously avoided watching him, lest her husband should become aware of what Tobor was doing.

Around midnight, the blushing bride and her handsome groom went into their wagon and shut the door. The window shades had already been drawn together. The young people and children mocked the couple in a friendly fashion. They pounded on the sides of the wagon and shouted bawdy jokes at them from outside. While the bride and groom consummated their wedding in the wagon, Tobor and Walther met in front of the large bonfire at the center of the woods.

“Walther, I’m leaving with the others right now. You can come with us or stay here and take your chances. It’s your choice.”

“I’m staying. Someone has to be in charge here for our families’ sakes.” Walther spat out his words as if in defiance.

“I’m asking, then, for you to forget your vendetta against me while we both fight a larger battle against our common threat.” Tobor extended his hand as a peace offering, but Walther refused to shake it.

“I’ll never forget my vendetta. Every morning I look in a mirror and find your sign on my cheek. I swore revenge. I’ll defer that for now because the bride asked me to. One day, though, I’ll be back to get revenge.” Without another word, Walther turned and walked swiftly into the darkness. Tobor shrugged resignedly and turned the other way.

Nadya, who had witnessed this interchange between her brother and their cousin, silently strode up and embraced Tobor. Her face streamed with tears as she bid him farewell.

“I fear, Tobor, this is the last time I’ll ever see you.”

“Perhaps you’re right, Nadya. Once you go to Marzahn, I fear you and the others won’t be coming out again alive.”

“I must think otherwise, or I’ll despair. The Nazis claim we’ll be given everything we need to live at Marzahn. It’ll be a place where we can park our caravans and live out the rest of our lives in peace. Our enemies won’t be able to get in there to do us harm. It sounds like paradise.”

“Like paradise, you think? So be it, then. Farewell. I won’t forget you.” He was frustrated by his sister’s idealistic view and truly sorrowful that they had to be separated.

“Tell me, what do you intend to do once you’ve gone?”

“I’ll make it my life’s work to undo what the Nazis intend to do to our people. I’ll do that in every way I can.”

Hearing the fierce determination in her brother’s voice, Nadya’s heart sank. There was nothing that could be said to veer him off this path now. His mind was set.

“Be safe, elder brother. I’ll think of you every day.” Nadya was still weeping and wiping her tears with her kerchief.

Tobor strode into the night in the direction opposite to the one Walther had taken. The priest shook himself awake and went after Tobor. So did eight other men of his age. Nadya noted each of the men as they departed. She wondered where Lala’s second son Stefan was.

When the bonfire was nothing but embers and all the remaining gypsies were asleep, Lala put her arm around Nadya.

“Yanko knows,” she whispered in Nadya’s ear.

“How can he know?” Nadya asked in alarm. “Did you tell him?”

“I told him nothing. He saw what Tobor was doing. Yanko noticed the men who followed him into the woods. He told me he knew why they left. When I asked him where they were going, he said ‘to the east.’ He also said the men were right to leave now before it’s too late. It’s all very technical, but a supplementary decree to the Nuremberg Laws was issued last year, on November 26, 1935. It defined us gypsies as ‘enemies of the race-based state.’ It won’t happen all at once, but it means we’ll all be rounded up and killed eventually.”

“Why didn’t Yanko leave with the other men tonight?”

“He thinks he’s safe since he works for the state.”

“You mentioned earlier that he was getting hostile looks at the post office.”

“Yes, he is. Oh, I don’t know. It’s confusing. Anyway, Yanko’s staying put. He said something about helping the gypsy cause from where he is—whatever that means.”

It was time to sleep, so the women went to their separate wagons for the night. Nadya remained at the camp because it was her home, but Lala and Yanko departed immediately to return to their own separate camp. Their just-married son was now on his own.

That night as gypsy women have done for centuries, Nadya experienced nightmares about living among people who hated and distrusted gypsies enough to want them dead. She thought of her ancestors’ departure from India and then from Egypt. She had visions of their wandering through Europe, fleeing oppression. Enslavement and abuse had dogged her ancestors.

She wondered aloud to herself, “Will the oppression ever end?”

At four o’clock in the morning, the police raided the gypsy camp. They surrounded the camp in large numbers with their weapons drawn. Their orders were to escort the entire caravan to the gypsy camp at Marzahn by the fastest available route. It took four hours for the police to take a census of the gypsies and for the gypsies to prepare their wagons for travel. The police confiscated the animals and promised to return them at their destination. Nadya suspected the gypsies would never see their animals again.

The captain of the police who led the government relocation mission remarked to Nadya how few adult males were present when the raid occurred. Irritated and intimidating, he wanted to know what had happened to them. Nadya and the other women told the police that their husbands, brothers and sons had all gone away looking for work. The police laughed at this idea since they knew no legitimate work for gypsies existed in Germany.

The only adult male found in the camp was Milosh Tewitz, the newlywed. Even he disappeared during the caravan’s transit to Marzahn. When questioned after she arrived at the camp, the man’s wife Jaelle Tewitz told the police that her brand-new husband had gone looking for work to feed his new family. She said this proudly with a smile. She did not know it at the time, but she was carrying inside her the embryo of Milosh’s child.

After all the caravans arrived, and the wagons were placed in their assigned positions, the police cordoned off the camp and posted guards to assure that no one departed who had entered. Within the next four days, the livestock from their camp arrived unharmed. The camp guards provided feed and water for their animals. Though they did not have a copse of trees to protect them, the children played gaily in their new home. The gypsy women, always adaptable, began to cobble together a life.


The escaping gypsy males traveled by night and slept in woods and caves by day. Tobor, with his nine gypsy companions, including Milosh and the priest, made their way gradually east while living off the land. They opted not to commandeer horses or automobiles. They did not want the encumbrance of having to provide feed and fuel. They raided small farms for eggs and chickens, goats and calves. They foraged for berries at dawn and twilight. The priest was their emissary when they needed to make contact with the people for news and directions. He was welcome everywhere, especially by his fellow religious people, both priests and nuns. Tobor thought it ironical that the same churchmen who had once enslaved his people now provided safe passage, though by night. The priest led them to his contact in the Orthodox Church. From that time forward, they could travel by daylight.

They finally arrived at their destination, a building in a large clearing surrounded by trees and, beyond them, fields in all directions. A short man with strict manners took control of Tobor and his men and housed them in a special barracks, where their severe training began.

Some days Tobor wondered whether he had done the right thing to lead his people into Russia. Their training started at daybreak and did not stop until well after dark in the night. They ate well, but they exercised physically and mentally as they never had done. Within a month, the gypsies were hurting from their exertions. Within four months, they were becoming fit. They marched for hours and performed special calisthenics. For two hours each day, they memorized speech formulas in German and French. For another two hours, they practiced using weapons and preparing and using poisons. They were trained to use small cameras, codes and invisible inks.

Always testing them for special talents, their Russian handler Egon Tyudi discovered that Tobor was especially proficient with knives and had a good tactical mind. Milosh was fast with his hands and liked the garrote. Two brothers, Nicu and Pali, were superb marksmen with guns and rifles, respectfully. Pesha, the third brother, was an outstanding archer. Stefan, Milosh’s younger brother, could climb buildings rapidly without using external aids. Yoska could mimic speech and animal cries. Harman had a prolific visual memory. Pitti was a quick study linguist, though he had never learned to write. Gudada was strong as an ox and tireless. He could bend iron bars and hold all the others on his shoulders to scale a high wall.

Their mentor and control, Egon, was himself gifted in languages. He spoke many dialects of Romani. He conducted training entirely in that language. Teaching Romani culture and tradition was his conduit for delivering state-approved Soviet propaganda.

By the seventh month of their course, the gypsies were aware of their tortuous history. They knew in excruciating detail the Germans’ plans for exterminating all gypsies in the Third Reich. As their instruction continued, Tobor and his friends grew together as a unit, bound by their gypsy heritage and by their individual skills. They wanted to take direct action against their enemy in Germany.

“I can’t send you all to Germany. I have missions for you in many countries that may be occupied by German forces. In another month, I will dispatch you. Within sixty days you will be fighting the Germans as you desire.”

Tobor replied, “What can we do to free our families at Marzahn camp?”

“I’ve not received orders about that, but I’ll write my superiors at Moscow Center and we’ll see. Above all, we must follow orders. Not doing so will mean death for all of us and the failure of our mission.”

Tobor was not satisfied with the official answer Egon gave him. He was worried that his relatives might be imprisoned or dead. He was anxious that no males were left in the families, leaving the women to fend for themselves. Feeling guilty and responsible if any harm were to befall them, he secretly hoped to help his relatives in spite of having orders to do other things while he was in Germany. Egon sensed what Tobor really wanted, but he could do nothing to encourage him at the time.

Tobor’s mission into Germany was launched as planned five weeks later. He threaded his way back to the country of his birth by the same means that had provided his escape. The priest met him at the border of the USSR and escorted him to the apartment, where he met his control, Fyodor Oblensky, who was living by the name of Konrad Blentz. Oblensky was fluent in Romani and in German, but he chose to control Tobor in German.

“Your mission is limited to a single assassination by means of a knife. Your target is an officer of the Waffen SS. Others have determined where and when the assassination will occur. You’ll be escorted throughout your mission. If anything goes wrong, you’re on your own. If all goes as planned and you accomplish your mission, you’ll be escorted out of Germany to Russia. There you’ll receive another mission in another place.”

“This will be my last mission on German soil?” Tobor asked.

“Very likely, yes. We can’t afford to use you twice. The authorities will be looking for you as an assassin and terrorist after your first mission.”

“So whatever I need to do in Germany, I must do on this mission?”

“That’s correct, but you must follow orders explicitly. That way we can orchestrate your escape according to plan.”

Oblensky reported to Moscow Center that Tobor Merikano, under the name Hans Klein, was ready for his mission. He also reported that he had serious doubts about the gypsy following orders. Moscow Center responded sternly in a coded message that the gypsy’s performance was Oblensky’s sole responsibility. His escape had already been planned. Any deviation from the plan would mean aborting the escape plan. Tobor should be eliminated if he did not comply. According to these orders, Oblensky planned the killing of his own assassin as a stopgap measure.

Tobor was taken to the place where his target Hauptmann Gerhardt Stumpf, the Waffen SS officer, lived. Every day the officer left his third-story flat at precisely seven-thirty a.m. Tobor slit the man’s throat on the landing outside his apartment at precisely that time. He placed the prepared note on the dead officer’s body. He followed directions and escaped the building through the back entrance before Stumpf’s driver entered the building to discover why his rider was late. When the driver raised a general alarm after discovering the body, Tobor was three blocks away. Using techniques he had learned in Russia, he detected he was being followed by a man who remained in the background, using available cover to remain hidden from view. Tobor doubled back and surprised the man. He used his knife and left the man’s corpse in the entry to an apartment building. Having almost lost his life, Tobor was taken aback. He had to sit down and catch his breath. He thought things through frantically. He wondered how the man had managed to follow him without knowing in advance that the assassination would take place. Only his handler had that knowledge. The only reasonable explanation was that his control wanted to eliminate him to erase any memory of who had ordered the killing. Tobor was now convinced that his controller had betrayed him. He resolved to confront and kill the man immediately.

Making his way back to Oblensky’s apartment, Tobor evaded the widening dragnet that was established to find the killer of the SS officer. The police found the second corpse, which had been killed by the same method as the first. The search intensified for the murderer. Tobor entered his control’s door with the key he had been given and waited for Oblensky’s return. He was furious at the betrayal and knew he would not be safe from assassination until Oblensky was dead. He thought of fleeing but knew his flight would solve nothing and leave him vulnerable. His control would not be aware he was still alive. Surprise would almost surely guarantee Oblensky would not report to Moscow Center before he died.

Tobor cleaned his knife in the kitchen sink and washed the blood off his hands and clothing. Finding a loaf of black bread and some butter, he sat and ate. He waited in the armchair facing the door.

At six-thirty p.m., Oblensky returned. By the way he froze, and his eyes widened, it was clear he was surprised to find Tobor in his living room.

“Hello, Tobor. I thought you’d be on your way to the border by now.” His words were bitter and accusatory.

“Did you? I completed my mission successfully.” Tobor spoke ironically to discover how much the man knew.

“Yes, congratulations.” Oblensky’s tone suggested spite and resignation rather than satisfaction.

“A man was following me. I killed him also.” Tobor paused to gauge his control’s reaction to this news.

“Was the man a policeman or a military officer?”

“He was neither. I thought you could tell me who he was.” Tobor took out his knife and began paring his fingernails. He smiled.

Oblensky warily moved towards his desk.

He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’ll have to see you reconnected to your priest. He’s likely worried sick you have not shown for the meeting.”

“What are the fall back times and places for the meeting?”

“You should know that already. At Saint Peter’s Church every hour until midnight.”

“Thank you. Why did you send an assassin to kill me?” He said this pointedly, a direct accusation looking for a denial.

“I didn’t send an assassin to kill you. Why should I have done that?” Oblensky broke out in a cold sweat.

“Perhaps as insurance?”

“You’d better leave right away. The search will expand to this apartment complex within the next two hours unless they’ve increased their pace. Killing an officer of the Waffen SS is not a light matter.” As he said this, Oblensky opened the drawer of his desk.

“I wouldn’t reach into that drawer, Oblensky.”

He might not have heard. His hand plunged into the drawer and groped frantically, but he did not find what he was looking for.

“Perhaps this is what you need?” Tobor said as he pulled Oblensky’s revolver from under his leg.

Oblensky lunged for the weapon, but Tobor’s knife sank to the hilt into his control’s neck. The man hardly had time to gasp before the light faded from his eyes, his body falling to the floor with a dull thud.

The gypsy left his control’s apartment after washing his knife and hand in the sink. He proceeded to St. Peter’s Church and sat in the last pew waiting for the priest. On the hour, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Tobor, at last you’ve come. I have to get you out of the city. There’s not a minute to lose.”

“We’re going to make a stop at Marzahn.” He spoke with the authority of a man who was in charge. He paused, looking for any sign that the priest was a threat to his life.

“We can’t do that. The Gestapo, the Wehrmacht, and the police are looking for you everywhere. If you have a message for your family, give it to me. I’ll make sure it’s delivered.”

“I want the message delivered tonight. Can you do that?” Tobor’s fierce gaze indicated the importance of this mission.

“One of the guards I know can help.”

“I want Jaelle Tewitz to know that I can take her newborn child to Milosh if she’ll let it go. I’ll need an answer to that question before I can depart.” By forcing the issue, Tobor was confident that his message would be delivered right away.

“Come back into the sacristy room. You’ll wait there until I return.”

Reluctantly, Tobor waited in the sacristy. He wondered whether the priest would go directly to the authorities to betray his location. Tobor also worried about Jaelle’s response to his message. Not a naturally patient man, he remained anxious and alert. Listening for any sound that might indicate the authorities, the assassin kept his knife at the ready as his mind rang the changes on the whole situation until well after midnight when the priest returned.

“I delivered your message and got a response. Jaelle said Loiza is not old enough to travel without her. She said to tell you she’s grateful to know Milosh is still alive. She sends him all her love through you.”

The priest paused, and Tobor nodded in satisfaction.

“She also said that Drina hasn’t come yet to Marzahn camp, but she’s expected very soon.”

Tobor considered this news for a few moments before his brow furrowed and his eyes gleamed.

“We have one more stop before we go. Will you drive us there tonight?” Tobor understood what Jaelle was saying. He had to give Drina a chance to escape with him before it was too late.

The priest drove Tobor to the gypsy caravan where Drina and her family used to live. She was still there with her sister Simza, though her three brothers Nicu, Pali and Pesha had left with Tobor for Russia. Tobor saw from her eyes that she was both terrified and delighted to see him again. She hesitated for a moment; then she flew into his arms and hugged him. She held him at arm’s length to see him clearly.

“Tobor, you’re looking well. I thought I’d never see you again. How are my brothers?”

“When I left them, they were fine. We haven’t much time. If you want to come with me, pick up what you will need and leave right now.” His serious look brooked no opposition.

“What will Simza do without me?”

“If you wait any longer, you’ll be picked up by the police and delivered to Marzahn camp. Do you want that?” The way he said this, he was clearly dismayed at the prospect.

“I don’t want to go to the camp. If I leave, Simza will have to come too.”

Tobor did not have to think for a moment. He made a snap decision.

“Tell her to bring her things too. Let’s go.”

“What about Walther?”

Tobor contemplated this for a moment. He was conflicted. The more people traveling with them, the less security was possible. Besides, Walther’s animosity to him made his coming inherently dangerous.

“Forget Walther. We don’t have time.”

“Walther is now married to Simza. She is carrying his child.”

“Then where is he?” Tobor was frantically trying to refactor the situation.

“He was arrested by the police and taken to Marzahn.”

“That decides it. Get Simza now. We’ve no time to lose.” Tobor was now firm and sounded convinced about his plan and the timing of their escape.

The priest, however, was distraught about having three people to smuggle out of Germany instead of one. Tobor, Drina, and Simza traveled light, but the priest had to alter his itinerary so they could visit nunneries to accommodate the women. Until they left Germany, they traveled only by night. Drina and Simza were given nun’s habits for their final push to the border. It was a good thing they were not stopped because of Simza’s condition. Once they were in the USSR, they said goodbye to the priest and continued to meet Egon Tyudi.

Egon was beside himself. “Tobor, you completed your mission. Fine. Now you’ve brought me two gypsy women, one of them pregnant. I told you to follow orders. You didn’t do that. You’ve brought problems. Did you know your German control was killed? Moscow Center wants answers.”

“I want Drina and Simza Mettbach to become part of our program. They are sisters of Nicu, Pali, and Pesha. Where are those men now?”

“They’re still on a mission in Czechoslovakia. I’ll contact Moscow Center about the women. What shall I say about the pregnancy? They may want her to abort her child.”

“Tell them I am Simza’s husband. They’ll have to kill me before they abort the child.”

“Tobor, you are an incorrigible romantic. What should I tell them about the death of your control?” Egon said this in a mocking tone, but he needed to know what to say.

“He was a casualty of war. Some madman was killing people randomly with a knife just as I was trying to leave the city. It was crazy. I’m lucky I got away alive. The priest can give Moscow Center all the details from the time I made contact with him at the church.”

Tobor winked conspiratorially. Egon caught his gist and nodded slowly, sure that Tobor’s words bore little resemblance to the truth. Yet he also knew the story had to be expressed to the letter. By sticking to it, Tobor might live.

That evening, Tobor and the two women had dinner together.

“Simza, for a while, you are my wife,” Tobor told her.

“She’s what?” Drina interposed, genuinely distressed. “She’s not your wife. Simza is Walther’s wife.”

Simza asked, “Why must I be your wife, Tobor?” She shook her head. She was upset by the prospect.

“To save your child. If you have no husband present, the Russians will want your child aborted.”

Drina said, “I’m not upset by your logic. But now you’re going to be married to my sister. What about me?” she asked, weeping in self-pity.

Tobor thought he saw sparks of jealousy in Drina’s eyes as she stared at him through her tears. He didn’t have time for petty infighting. Yet Tobor knew from her tears that Drina had deep feelings for him and maybe wanted to marry him herself.

“First things first. If Moscow Center agrees, you are both going to become agents of the USSR and fight against the Nazis. You’ll be doing what your brothers and other gypsies are doing. Nicu, Pali, and Pesha will be back from their mission soon so you can be together for a while. Afterward, we’ll have to take what comes. Moscow Center gives the orders. We follow them.”

Drina was not consoled. “If you touch my sister while you’re pretending to be her husband, I’ll kill you.” Her eyes were full of fire. Her jealousy was palpable. When she stood up to leave the table, Tobor took her into his embrace and hugged her. She melted into his arms as he kissed her gently. She kissed him back, her eyes brimming with tears.

“Drina, I love only you. You’re the one who was concerned about leaving your sister behind. We brought her here because of you. I’m improvising for our survival. If you don’t want me to touch her, fine. I’ll touch only you. I fear, though, that your brothers won’t like that unless they give me permission first.”

“That’s the way it would have been for me,” Simza said, “if my brothers had been present when Walther came to court me. Now I’m with child hundreds of miles away from my husband. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see each other again.” She broke down and cried. Without warning, she doubled over and clenched her stomach. “This child may arrive at any time.” She let out a low hiss as another bout of pain hit her.

Tobor knew there was little he could do. “Drina, please help your sister. I’m going to see whether Egon has heard from Moscow Center.”

Tobor found Egon burning the message he had received earlier from Moscow Center.

“Come in and sit down, Tobor. Moscow Center just replied to my message. They approve of training the women. If the child is yours, it will be allowed to live. They’re suspicious about the death of your control. They think you killed him.”

Tobor nodded. “I expected no less from our masters. They are always suspicious, no matter what you do. So what do you think?”

Egon smiled. “I frankly don’t care whether you killed him or not. I only care that you fulfilled your mission. Besides, I have another mission for you. This one is in Belgrade. You must be ready to depart the day after tomorrow.”

“What will become of the women?” Tobor asked.

“A female control is coming tonight to take charge of Drina and Simza. She’s a qualified midwife, fluent in Romani. She is also a competent assassin. That is the role we have in mind for the Mettbach sisters.”

“I want to be sure the child is well cared for.”

“Don’t worry about that. We have all the medical services Simza will need. She’ll have a wet nurse. Nursery services will be provided the child. Do you have a name for the child?”

“Simza will name the child when she births it.”

“As you wish. Do you have any questions?”

“This mission in Belgrade. What is it?”

“I don’t know. Your Belgrade control will tell you when you arrive there. By the way, Marzahn camp has become the model for other such gathering areas all over Germany and in countries under the sway of Germany. Those seemingly innocuous staging areas will feed work camps. Work camps will, in turn, feed death and cremation camps. Gypsies are not the only intended victims. Jews are also targets. Anyone not German will be cleansed from the Third Reich.”

“We foresaw this, and it’s only the beginning. All the more reason we should strike against the Nazi menace in every way possible.” Tobor’s eyes flashed, and his hand instinctively grasped the handle of his knife.

Anastasia Gromyko, the female control, arrived at midnight. She took charge of Drina and Simza immediately. She saw that Simza was likely to give birth within the next twenty-four hours, so she prepared the woman for her ordeal. Because of her soothing voice and her competent, confident air, Simza trusted Anastasia from the start. She told her the child would be named Mihai if a boy and Florica if a girl.

“And if you have identical or fraternal twins?”

“The second child should be named Ion if a boy and Mala if a girl.”

Early that morning, Simza gave birth to a pair of healthy male twins, who were duly named Mihai and Ion. Tobor made an appearance in the room where Simza was lying. He looked on with approval as Anastasia showed him the twins.

When they were alone, Drina promised Tobor she would help with the children while he was away on his mission.

“Tell Simza I’ll try to get word to Walther about Mihai and Ion. He deserves to know they are safe.”

“You be safe! I’ll be waiting for your return.”

“Your brothers will be back before I return. Tell them you’d like me to court you. This is going to be tricky. For Egon and Moscow Center, I’m Simza’s husband and her children are mine.”

“Let me handle my brothers. I won’t let the charade that you are my sister’s husband get in the way of my marrying you.” She hugged and kissed him. Then she went back to help feed the babies.

Tobor departed the next morning for Belgrade. He threaded a labyrinthine route, traveling mostly by night. He met his control in a dingy apartment near the city’s center. His name was Dmitri Gogol, a mousy man with fiery black eyes, a shock of black hair and a mustache that curled over his front lip.

“Your mission? It’s an assassination at close range at a nearby location. The problem will be getting you clear of this city safely afterward.” Gogol poured two vodkas and toasted the mission. When they had drunk the liquor, Tobor wanted to make a clarification.

“Dmitri, you’ll have no problem with your mission or me as long as you don’t decide to have me killed. That could prove fatal for you and your assassin.”

Dmitri smiled uncomfortably. “Please don’t mistake the men who are trying to protect you for assassins. You are the assassin. Why would I want to eliminate you?”

“If you received orders to have me killed, you would do so without the least hesitation. I’ve been through all this before. You have fair warning.” Dmitri was not intimidated by Tobor’s words. He was a hardened man who knew that Tobor spoke truly. He would have said the same things to Tobor if their roles had been reversed.

Two days later Dmitri knocked on his door and told him to come immediately.

“Your target will be arriving on the train in two hours. He’ll be on Platform 2 for twenty minutes. Then he’ll climb aboard a second train. Your job is to assassinate him on the platform. Here’s his picture for reference.” Dmitri handed Tobor the picture of a dashing young man with a long mustache and bushy eyebrows. Tobor examined the photograph carefully and handed it back to Dmitri.

“You can keep the photo.”

“No thanks. If the police search me, they’ll be sure to know what the picture’s for.”

Dmitri shrugged. “Here’s your ticket for the train your target intends to take when he leaves the station.” He handed Tobor the ticket before he continued with his instructions. “One possibility is for you to take that train. If you cannot catch it for any reason, return to my apartment without attracting attention. If you’re arrested, I can do nothing for you. So be careful. I won’t be able to go with you to the station.”

“Do you know whether my target will be accompanied?”

“I don’t.”

“Do you have instructions for me if he is accompanied?”

“No. Use your judgment. In any case, the man must be killed. Whatever else happens is up to you.”

At the next corner, Dmitri slipped into the alley, and Tobor continued to the train station. He showed his ticket at the entrance to the platform and strolled out to wait for his train. The connecting train was ten minutes late. That diminished the time Tobor would have to finish his work. He was mildly frustrated, yet he remained confident that it would not be an issue.

Right away he spotted his target. The man was handcuffed to a policeman. Both were stretching their legs before they got onto the departing train. The crowd of passengers increased and started to press towards the open doors. The conductor for the departing train announced, “All aboard.” Suddenly the passengers were front to back, the policeman just ahead of his handcuffed prisoner.

Tobor was just behind the prisoner when he tried to wedge himself ahead of the man. He tapped the policeman on the shoulder opposite to the side where he slipped by. The officer turned to be sure his prisoner was still where he should be. The man was right behind the policeman, but he was clearly dead. No blood or wounds marred his body; it almost seemed as though he had simply died from a heart attack. Tobor managed to climb on to the train and slip into the carriage before the policeman’s whistle sounded. When Tobor looked out his window, he saw his target lying dead on the platform, with the policeman trying to undo the handcuffs while blowing his whistle. Meanwhile, the passengers filed around him to board the train.

The conductor pushed through the crowd to find out what was happening. Other policemen responded to the whistle. Some blocked people from leaving the platform. Others formed a cordon around the dead man and the policeman who was handcuffed to him. In the confusion, the conductor ordered the train’s doors to be closed. A plainclothes policeman signaled the trainmaster and the conductor to let the train proceed. Then he climbed aboard the train himself. The train’s engineer released steam and began to pull ahead and out of the station. The train went ahead four car lengths. As the train began to pick up speed, Tobor saw the plainclothes man step back onto the platform and wave the train forward.

Tobor did not stay on the train to the destination indicated on his ticket. He allowed the conductor to clip his ticket. He stepped out of the train at the next stop, a small signpost in a field. As the train started again, two hard men came to look out the back of the train’s last car. Tobor saw them from behind some plants in the field. He was worried, but the men returned to their car, and the train continued. Tobor looked around to determine his options. Fortuitously, he found a bicycle had been parked under the signpost. Tobor rode the bike back to Belgrade to report to his control.

Dmitri was unflustered by Tobor’s return.

“You did good work. I don’t think anyone could have seen your knife thrust or identified you as the assailant. Your target slumped to the platform as if he had suffered a heart attack or stroke. I don’t know how you managed to do it. I don’t care. Now I have to get you out of the city again.”

“A plainclothes policeman climbed aboard the train and then got off again before we left the station.”

“Yes, he was one of ours.”

“What about the two other hard men who climbed aboard just before he did? When I stepped off in the field, they seemed upset.”

“I know nothing about them.” Dmitri was cool. He did not seem flustered or threatening.

“I hope not. I’ll wait until evening to depart.”

“Suit yourself. I’ve sent a message to Moscow Center praising your effort here.”

“When do you expect a response?”

“I’m not expecting to receive one. If they do respond, they’ll be at least four hours doing so.”

Tobor wasted no time. He rode the bike to his shabby room and parked it inside. He stood watch outside the place until it was dark. Dmitri came with two men, one a priest.

“Dmitri, you’ve not come alone,” Tobor said from hiding.

“These men will help you escape from the city.”

“Tell them I won’t need their services. Did you bring the fresh papers for me?”

“Yes.” He held them high to show his good faith.

“Great. Just slide them under the door.”

Dmitri slid the papers under the door.

“Now go away.”

Dmitri shrugged and led his two companions into the darkness. Tobor left in the opposite direction without retrieving his bike or the papers. He made his way to the highway heading east. He hitched a ride on a truck driven by a gypsy. By the way the driver talked, he was hauling contraband. Tobor risked talking with the man in Romani. The man opened up at once. He told Tobor that the Nazis were struggling to do a census of gypsies even though they were not in charge. He said he was delivering weapons and ammunition to partisans fighting the Nazis in the hills.

Tobor asked, “Do your partisans have gypsies fighting among them?”

“A few, yes. Do you know about the man who was slain at the train station today?”

“No, I don’t. What about him?” Of course, Tobor was worried this may be a setup and the man may suspect him of the murder. He was, therefore, surprised and relieved by the man’s reaction.

“Well, it’s a good thing he’s dead. He was preparing to divulge everything to the authorities.”


“Yes. He was going to give up all the names of the partisans, their work names, and their real names. He was going to talk about how we get our supplies and what our plans are.”

“Was he a gypsy?”

“That’s the strange part. Yes, he was a gypsy. He worked with the partisans for a long while. Then he was captured. He thought the partisans had betrayed him. Anyhow, we discovered the police had found a way to make him talk. If he had gotten on that train today alive, we’d be finished by tomorrow morning.”

The man paused so Tobor could digest the information. He brooded and nodded his understanding. He had practical questions.

“What was their secret? How did they make him talk?”

“It was a woman, of course. They knew if they threatened to torture and kill his woman, he’d talk. Little did they know that she despised him for agreeing to help them. She went to the Communists to be sure he didn’t talk. I’m sure the Communists killed him.”

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