In 1938, Germany was a dangerous place to be. The rise of the Third Reich made life precarious for Jews and their sympathizers. AntiSemitism was on the rise throughout Europe thanks to Nazi propaganda. A nationwide boycott of businesses owned by Jews swept throughout Germany, culminating in Kristallnacht on November 9 and 10, 1938. Stormtroopers and civilians ransacked and destroyed Jewish homes and businesses, burned synagogues and murdered 91 innocent people. 30,000 men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, where most of them perished. Wilhelm Plum, a mild mannered shopkeeper, has turned a blind eye to the growing anti-Semitism in his country, naively believing that no harm will come to him or his young business partner, Ruben Geller, a dedicated and brilliant watchmaker. But as tension mounts throughout the fall of 1938, he can no longer ignore the imminent danger. When Wilhelm overhears his son, Hans, a Nazi sympathizer, plan the impending pogrom with a friend, Wilhelm must risk everything to save Ruben and family from a horrid fate.
Time had a way of standing still whenever Ruben forgot to wind his father’s pocket watch. When the fat, gold instrument ceased ticking, it was as though his heart stopped with it. Time was suspended until he resurrected it again with a few twists of the watch’s knob. He sat in his dimly lit and cluttered workshop and stared at the stilled watch that fit so perfectly in his cupped palm, as though his hand had been made for it. The watch had been a gift from his father, given to him on the morning of his twenty-first birthday. He remembered the day well. ~ They had been walking together through the boulevards of Munich toward the shop Ruben and his new partner, Wilhelm Plum, had recently purchased. It had been a bitter January morning in 1933. Their breath had bloomed in mist before them as they walked. Ruben’s father had said, “I want to give you a birthday present.” He had handed him a velvet maroon jewel box, the same kind Ruben would be giving to his customers later that same day. The old man had patted his son on the shoulder and smiled. Ruben had slowed his step as he lifted the hinged lid with a gloved hand. He had peered inside and gasped. The pocket watch was heavy, its face was ringed with Roman numerals that had faded over time. The gold slightly tarnished from generations of hands, the intricate engravings darkened and worn flat. Ruben had recognized it immediately. It had once belonged to his grandfather who had brought it with him as a boy when he moved to
Munich from his little village in Poland. He’d passed it down to his son, Albrecht, who in turn presented it to Ruben. “I can’t take this, Papa,” Ruben had said and stopped in his tracks to marvel at the gift. “This is yours. It’s all you have to remember Opa by. Besides, I can make myself a new one any time I want.” “I want to give it to you before it’s too late,” Albrecht had replied. “I may not be around much longer.” He had carried a newspaper tucked under one arm and nervously shifted it to his other arm as he’d spoken. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Ruben had said. “You’re in perfect health. Why wouldn’t you be around much longer?” Albrecht had gazed up at the morning sky as though something malevolent yet interesting was lurking there. “You never know,” he had said, “when it may be too late.” “Thank you, Papa,” Ruben had said and tucked the treasured watch into his coat. He had embraced his father there in the street, and the two men had walked together the rest of the way to the shop. They stopped before the shop window and gazed proudly at the sign, its paint still so fresh, gleaming in the dull winter sun. The sign read Plum & Geller, Makers of Fine Watches, Est. 1933. Behind the glass, rows of carefully crafted fobs and watches shone like strings of suns. “I’m very proud of you, Ruben.” The old man had hugged his son one last time and continued down the street without turning to look back.
About the Author Caroline Misner was born in a country that, at the time, was known as Czechoslovakia. She immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1969. Her work has appeared in numerous consumer and literary journals in Canada, the USA and the UK, most notably The Windsor Review, Prairie Journal and Dreamcatcher. Her work can be viewed online at www.thefurnacereview.com, www.glass-poetry.com and www.millerspondpoetry.com. Her short story “Strange Fruit” was nominated for the Writers’ Trust/McClelland-Steward Journey Anthology Prize in 2008. In the autumn of 2010, her poem “Piano Lesson” was nominated for The Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Georgetown, Ontario where she continues to read, write and follow her muse, wherever it may take her.