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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 79 - John Rescues A Child

...As he looked on helpless, a young mother broke through the ring of soldiers who'd surrounded the Jews and ran towards him calling his name. It was Eva Horovitz, the wife of the couple who had befriended him and as she staggered towards him, a German officer ordered two of his men to seize her and bring her back.

John ran to the distraught mother and reached her just before the soldiers. "Please, John!" she gasped. "Take my daughter Miriam and get her away!" She thrust her child, a little girl of five or six, into his arms, screaming with fear, clinging to him as the Germans closed in...

John Illingworth rescues the girl from Nazi soldiers.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather's novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

As Helen's child grew up, there was no mistaking whose son he was, and Joe had to come to terms with that long before he made his peace with the father. By the time John Greenwood was five he already had his father's striking features. He was tall and strong, and had his father's flaxen, wavy hair. He could be self-willed but he had a seriousness his father lacked. He got that from his mother, and as he grew older, he became bookish and reserved like her. Joe and Mary doted on him.

Joe and the boy became inseparable. Almost as soon as John could walk Joe taught him how to handle and kick a rugby ball. Joe still coached Keighworth rugby league team at the bottom of Garlic Lane, and when he was old enough John went with him and trained there, so that by the time he went to secondary school, he was a fine player and first-class athlete.

Mary taught him to read and he had his mother's library of books in his room. He won a scholarship to Keighworth Grammar School and did well there, eventually going up to university and gaining a good degree.

But John Illingworth could only watch from afar. He was never able to share his son's life and felt it keenly, for between him and his son there was a great divide, the yawning gap of class and up-bringing. He was never able to bridge that gap as he'd done with Helen, for Joe clung to the boy jealously and brought him up down Prospect Street, where he spoke and lived like Joe.

Sir Abe could only watch from a distance, too, as his grandson matured. Like the subject of Helen, John Greenwood was taboo between him and his son, and as time went by and John Illingworth stayed unmarried, it dawned on Sir Abe that the Gibsons' boy was the only grandchild he would ever have. It also became painfully clear that if he were to have any contact with the boy, he would have to swallow his pride and make peace with Joe.

As for Rosemary Clemence, she shut the boy from her mind. He was the son of Helen Greenwood whom she had envied and despised; the more so when John Illingworth told her whose hair was in the locket he wore round his neck. She made some sarcastic remark before she could stop herself and he flared up, ordering her never to mention Helen's name again. Shortly after that, she became pregnant and he stopped seeing her. During their affair, she felt she had his body. Now, even that was denied her.

September 1938 was a turning point in all their lives. John was posted to the embassy in Prague to supervise an intelligence scan on German air-power along the Czech border. In the same month, the British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, made a deal with Hitler that there would be no war over Czechoslovakia. John had been in the city barely a month when the deal was made. A fortnight later Hitler invaded and seized Czech Sudetenland, which bordered Germany, and his first move was to cleanse it of Jews, many of whom fled east into what was left of Czechoslovakia.

They were hounded further when his storm troopers invaded the rest of the country, marching straight to Prague, where Fit. Lieutenant John Illingworth with other embassy officials watched Hitler strut on the balcony of Hradcany Castle, overlooking the city, as his stormtroopers paraded below.
But the Fuhrer received a very hostile reception later when he himself entered the city. Unlike the reception he had had in Vienna, where he was welcomed as a hero, violence broke out in protest against him. The demonstrations were crushed brutally, a curfew imposed and the Jewish community rounded up like cattle. Terrified, the Jews flocked to the railway stations trying to flee the country. But the Gestapo were already waiting for them. John Illingworth saw it all when he himself was caught up in the savage drama played out on the city's streets.

On his arrival in Prague, he had been befriended by a Jewish couple who were friends of the Goldsteins. They were called Horovitz and had been his guests at an embassy dinner the day before the Germans invaded. A week later, he was walking near the station, when a convoy of lorries suddenly screeched to a halt and disgorged armed soldiers, who began rounding up Jews on the station concourse. They rifle-butted the menfolk into submission and one lay bleeding, unconscious on the ground not far away. John tried to protest but was pushed back by a guard and told to stay clear.

As he looked on helpless, a young mother broke through the ring of soldiers who'd surrounded the Jews and ran towards him calling his name. It was Eva Horovitz, the wife of the couple who had befriended him and as she staggered towards him, a German officer ordered two of his men to seize her and bring her back.

John ran to the distraught mother and reached her just before the soldiers. "Please, John!" she gasped. "Take my daughter Miriam and get her away!" She thrust her child, a little girl of five or six, into his arms, screaming with fear, clinging to him as the Germans closed in.

Eva kissed her speaking rapidly and telling her daughter to stay with John and say he was her father. Moments later the Germans arrived and took her off to the lorries, where her husband and the rest had been herded. That was the last John ever saw of them.

The two soldiers were nonplussed and their officer barked at his men to arrest John, assuming he was a Jew. He pulled out his diplomatic identity card waving it angrily under the officer's nose and demanding an apology. The German looked at it and came to attention as he saw John's rank, clicking his heels and saluting him. Then he looked hard at the girl in John's arms, uncertain of what to do next.

"What the devil do you think you're doing?" John demanded, nodding at the thuggery going on a few yards away. "Is this the way you Germans always behave?"

"We're arresting the enemies of the Fuhrer, sir. The people who caused the riots," explained the young officer. Then he nodded at the child John carried. "Please, sir. This girl. She was with the Jewish woman."

"She's my daughter," John said fiercely, "and the woman you've taken is her nanny. You understand? My God, if you had treated my daughter the way you've treated her nanny, I'd personally kick you all the way back to the Fatherland! What's your name and number, lieutenant?"

The other faltered, uncertain. "But the woman...?" he stammered.

"She was taking her for a walk, you idiot. Now, if you please, let me pass. My ambassador will hear of this, you can be sure."

The German officer apologised profusely, clicked his heels and saluted again, ordering his men to let John pass, as women and children all round him were dragged screaming to the waiting lorries. Later, he discovered they had been taken to some disused barracks north of the city. Two years later they were transferred to Auschwitz in Poland where most of them, including the Horovitzes were murdered in the death-camp there.

John hurried away clutching the girl, holding her close and trying to shield her from the brutality about them. She clung to him sobbing all the way back to his apartment, where he sat down and tried to pacify the little girl. She kept saying something over and over in Czech, then in German, while he cuddled her, stroking her hair and trying to comfort her and speaking to her in his broken German. When she had calmed down, he gave her some chocolate, then phoned through to the apartment next door.

A married couple from the embassy lived there, who had two children of their own at school in England. When the mother answered, he breathed with relief and explained what had happened. She said they would take the girl in and hide her if his apartment were searched. His mind raced as to how he could get her safely away, but even as they talked, they heard the ominous crackle of rifle shots outside.

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