Levi's War will be released in March 2017. Here is an excerpt:

"I wasn’t a natural soldier. I had never considered spending one second of the twenty-one years of my life in any of the Armed Forces. As the black Mercedes drew away from my family home and the forlorn group on the doorstep continued to wave goodbye, I was imagining a new life working in a bank in London.

Berlin had become an increasingly dangerous place for a Jew. The restrictions applied by our Nazi masters continued to pile up, new ones almost every day, and the night before my departure we had witnessed the biggest pogrom for a hundred years. My younger brother, Simon, and I had been caught up in the midst of the shattering glass, the acrid smoke and the vicious batons of the storm troopers, and had found refuge with a Gentile woman. We’d spent the evening in her apartment on the Handerstraβe, talking, laughing, singing, eating and enjoying warmth and safety. But this morning we’d taken our leave and made our way home. Simon had led me to the music shop of Amos Wiggenstein, a local luthier. He’d seen the violins burning in a pile on the cobbled street and Amos’s assistant, Jacob, being beaten and now he wanted to see what was left. We salvaged seven complete violins, carried them home in a wooden box and hid them in the attic of our home. Violins were an integral part of our lives. Our papa and mama owned two, a 1742 Guarneri del Gesú and a 1640 Amati. Both papa and Simon played the Guarneri and I played the huge Steinway grand piano.

And now I was being driven away from terror and towards safety. Did I feel guilty? Perhaps. I had some of our family treasures hidden in a leather pouch in my armpit and some documents in a package strapped to my chest. It felt like I was the guardian of centuries of family possessions. If we were forced to surrender them, I carried a complete inventory and some of the most precious pieces of jewellery with me to sanctuary.

I was under the impression that I would be taken south to the Swiss border but the driver informed me we were travelling north to the Danish border. Once into Denmark I would be met by a contact who would take me north to the sea and put me on a boat for Sweden. From there I would fly to London. It all sounded very exciting. The miles were gobbled up by the quiet, comfortable car and after a while I fell asleep.

“We’ve come to a checkpoint, Herr Horowitz.”

The voice roused me and I sat up. There were very bright lights ahead and a barrier across the road.

“They’ll need your papers,” the driver added.

  I fumbled inside the pocket of my papa’s woollen coat and pulled out the folded exit visa papa’s friend had given him.

“I have it here,” I said.

I rolled down the window and put the paper into a gloved hand that was thrust inside the car. There was a full moment of silence. All I felt was impatience.

“Get out of the car please, sir.”

The voice was firm but neutral. I hesitated and then did as he asked. My suitcase was on the seat beside me. The speaker was a soldier in uniform.

“Bring your case and follow me.”

I bent inside the car and picked up my suitcase.

“I won’t be long,” I said to the driver.

As I followed the soldier across the stony ground towards a large hut, I heard the car engine fire. I spun round and watched the Mercedes make a wide U-turn and disappear into the blackness.

“Hey! Come back.” It was a cry of shock and anger.

“Never mind, sir, just follow me. There are plenty more cars coming.”

With reluctance, I did as he said. The wooden hut was cold and draughty. He pointed to a chair behind a table.

“Sit there, please.”

I put my suitcase on the ground beside the chair and sat down. I had layers of clothing on under the coat and bending in the middle was quite hard. The soldier picked up my case and took it with him. I heard a key turn on the other side of the door. The room was lit by a bright bulb hanging from the roof in the centre. Over to one side was a bench with a kettle and two cups and a bottle of milk. I got up and walked around the room. Behind the blind the one window had iron bars in a grid pattern across it. The door handle turned but the door was locked. I returned to the seat and slumped down. I hadn’t anticipated this. The car was gone, my exit visa and suitcase were in the hands of a soldier and I was locked inside a small wooden hut on the German side of the Danish border. It felt like a good time to pray, so I bowed my head and asked G-d to intervene and set me back on my road to London. After some time the key turned in the lock and the door opened.

“Get up!”

This man was in plainclothes, a tightfitting black leather coat and jackboots. He held my suitcase in his hand. I rose to my feet, I was at least four inches taller than him. He snarled at me.

“Where are you going?”

I swallowed hard.

“London. My papa got my exit visa from a friend in the government, it is genuine.”

He dropped the case to the ground and drew a gun from his pocket. He was Gestapo.

“Genuine?” It was a sneer.

“Yes. My papa is an influential banker-”

He gave a humourless bark of laughter.

“Your papa is a Jew. And so are you and you are trying to leave illegally. That is a crime. Punishable by death.”

He levelled the gun at me."


Julie Thomas