by Marga Minco
Complete Explanation for the short story included in the CBSE/NCERT Class 11 syllabus
About the background of the story
It’s a moving story dealing with the annihilation of a whole Jewish family barring a daughter who escaped death because she was away. The Nazi soldiers herded Jews in the occupied countries and sent them to concentration camps where the deportees were tortured and killed. The lone daughter sees the curtains coming down on the War, and dares to visit a friend of her dead mother, Ms. Dorling. The cold reception she gets and the torment in her heart are encapsulated in this story. It is a moving account of the shock and suffering Hitler unleashed against the Jews, whom he perceived to be at the root of Germany’s woes.
The War is over. People’s devastated lives are slowly falling into place. The author, an educated girl knows her family has perished in the Nazi camps, but she remembers one Ms. Dorling who had befriended the author’s mother for taking possession of the valuables of the home apparently to hold them in safe custody. The items were to be returned after the Jewish family returned home after the War, but they never did.
The author, the lone survivor of a Jewish family, knocks at the front door, and the woman inside opened it partially. On being asked about her identity, the author says she is the daughter of Mrs. S. Even after this, the lady (Ms. Dorling) simply gawked at the author giving her the impression that she was not welcome.
The woman’s cold attitude took the author by surprise. She doubted if she had knocked the wrong door. The author had seen the woman only once before. This added to her doubt, but the address was the same her mother had told her to remember. It was 46, Marconi Street.
The author persisted with her inquiry. The woman certainly knew the author’s family and her mother, but had assumed that possibly the whole family had been forcibly deported from the Netherlands by the occupying German forces, never to return to their homes. The author disclosed that all of her family had departed, possibly killed, and only she had escaped the eviction and eventual death.
The woman was as cold as before. She said she couldn’t do anything for the author. But, again the author persisted saying that she had come by train only to have a word with her.
The woman shut the door quietly on the author’s face. Possibly, she didn’t want anyone in the house to know about the visitor.
The author read the address again. It was No.46, Dorling – the same her mother had given her ears ago. So, she had come to the right place, but had been turned away. She headed back for the station.
The author remembered her earlier days, when during her short visits to her home, her mother spoke about Ms. Dorling. She was a distant relation, who had befriended the author’s mother. Mrs. Dorling was a greedy woman, and would ask for items each time she came to meet her mother. No wonder, the house was looking increasingly empty. Even the author noticed that items were vanishing from the house.
Mrs. Dorling took all the table silvers, antique plates, and the large vases. Even, Ms. Dorling eyed the crockery. In the name of keeping the items safe in her custody, she took possession of all. It was known the author’s family members could be asked to leave their homes any day.
Mrs. S, the author’s mother knew dark days were drawing near. The Nazis could come any day to force them to be carted away to death camps in Germany. She was helpless. She knew Ms. Dorling’s motives were suspect, but she couldn’t muster courage to resist.
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