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Other Covenants

Alternate Histories of the Jewish People
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Tommy stared out the window as the train departed the station for Debrecen. He saw himself staring back. Even though it was only eleven years ago, it was more than half a lifetime. It was a long time ago, in a world far away where he had passed a childhood that didn’t feel like his, in a language he was no longer fluent in and in a motherland that didn’t feel like home. But here he was.

The land was flat and green with crops as far as he could see. They were divided by fields of sunflowers. What a strange thing to grow, he thought to himself. Other than sunflower seeds, he didn’t know what else they could possibly be good for. Huge heads on such thin stalks. Why didn’t they fall over and snap? Incredible.

Schmutz and Speedy sat down next to him.

“We’re going to pass my grandfather’s town just before we hit Debrecen.” Tommy said. “My father was in a labour camp there.”

“What’s a labour camp?” Schmutz asked.

Tommy thought everyone knew what it was but then realized ‘everyone’ meant Jews. “It’s where Hungarian Jewish men were sent when the war broke out. It was part of the army except they weren’t allowed to carry guns.”

“Why not?”

“Jews were not considered real Hungarians. They weren’t trusted with guns. Instead they were given picks, shovels and brooms. They were given all the shitty work: fixing roads, digging ditches, cleaning latrines. And some, according to my father, were sent to the front and used as mine clearers.”

“What are mine clearers?” Schmutz asked.

"The ones forced to go clear land mines that the enemy planted before they retreated. They had to go find and dismantle them before the regular soldiers advanced. Many of them were blown up.”


“Does your grandfather still live there?”

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