Burly leathered men and wrinkled women in drab black rags carried on in a primitive way , almost unchanged from feudal times .
Peasants puzzled Andrei .
He wondered how they could go on in poverty , superstition , ignorance , with a complete lack of desire to make either their land or their lives flourish .
Andrei remembered a Bathyran meeting long ago .
Tolek Alterman had returned from the colonies in Palestine and , before the national leadership , exalted the miracles of drying up swamps and irrigating the desert .
A fund-raising drive to buy tractors and machinery was launched .
Andrei remembered that his own reaction had been one of indifference .
Had he found the meaning too late ? ?
It aggravated him .
The land of the Lublin Uplands was rich , but no one seemed to care .
In the unfertile land in Palestine humans broke their backs pushing will power to the brink .
He had sat beside Alexander Brandel at the rostrum of a congress of Zionists .
All of them were there in this loosely knit association of diversified ideologies , and each berated the other and beat his breast for his own approaches .
When Alexander Brandel rose to speak , the hall became silent .
`` I do not care if your beliefs take you along a path of religion or a path of labor or a path of activism .
We are here because all our paths travel a blind course through a thick forest , seeking human dignity .
Beyond the forest all our paths merge into a single great highway which ends in the barren , eroded hills of Judea .
This is our singular goal .
How we travel through the forest is for each man's conscience .
Where we end our journey is always the same .
We all seek the same thing through different ways -- an end to this long night of two thousand years of darkness and unspeakable abuses which will continue to plague us until the Star of David flies over Zion '' .
This was how Alexander Brandel expressed pure Zionism .
It had sounded good to Andrei , but he did not believe it .
In his heart he had no desire to go to Palestine .
He loathed the idea of drying up swamps or the chills of malaria or of leaving his natural birthright .
Before he went into battle Andrei had told Alex , `` I only want to be a Pole .
Warsaw is my city , not Tel Aviv '' .
And now Andrei sat on a train on the way to Lublin and wondered if he was not being punished for his lack of belief .
Warsaw ! !
He saw the smug eyes of the Home Army chief , Roman , and all the Romans and the faces of the peasants who held only hatred for him .
They had let this black hole of death in Warsaw's heart exist without a cry of protest .
Once there had been big glittering rooms where Ulanys bowed and kissed the ladies' hands as they flirted from behind their fans .
Warsaw ! !
Warsaw ! !
`` Miss Rak .
I am a Jew '' .
Day by day , week by week , month by month , the betrayal gnawed at Andrei's heart .
He ground his teeth together .
I hate Warsaw , he said to himself .
I hate Poland and all the goddamned mothers' sons of them .
All of Poland is a coffin .
The terrible vision of the ghetto streets flooded his mind .
What matters now ? ?
What is beyond this fog ? ?
Only Palestine , and I will never live to see Palestine because I did not believe .
By late afternoon the train inched into the marshaling yards in the railhead at Lublin , which was filled with lines of cars poised to pour the tools of war to the Russian front .
At a siding , another train which was a familiar sight these days .
Andrei's skilled eye sized them up .
They were not Poles .
He guessed by their appearance that they were Rumanians .
He walked toward the center of the city to keep his rendezvous with Styka .
Of all the places in Poland , Andrei hated Lublin the most .
The Bathyrans were all gone .
Few of the native Jews who had lived in Lublin were still in the ghetto .
From the moment of the occupation Lublin became a focal point .
He and Ana watched it carefully .
Lublin generally was the forerunner of what would happen elsewhere .
Early in 1939 , Odilo Globocnik , the Gauleiter of Vienna , established SS headquarters for all of Poland .
The Bathyrans ran a check on Globocnik and had only to conclude that he was in a tug of war with Hans Frank and the civilian administrators .
Globocnik built the Death's-Head Corps .
Lublin was the seed of action for the `` final solution '' of the Jewish problem .
As the messages from Himmler , Heydrich , and Eichmann came in through Alfred Funk , Lublin's fountainhead spouted .
A bevy of interlacing lagers , work camps , concentration camps erupted in the area .
Sixty thousand Jewish prisoners of war disappeared into Lublin's web .
Plans went in and out of Lublin , indicating German confusion .
A tale of a massive reservation in the Uplands to hold several million Jews A tale of a plan to ship all Jews to the island of Madagascar Stories of the depravity of the guards at Globocnik's camps struck a chord of terror at the mere mention of their names .
Lipowa 7 , Sobibor , Chelmno , Poltawa , Belzec , Krzywy-Rog , Budzyn , Krasnik .
Ice baths , electric shocks , lashings , wild dogs , testicle crushers .
The Death's-Head Corps took in Ukrainian and Baltic Auxiliaries , and the Einsatzkommandos waded knee-deep in blood and turned into drunken , dope-ridden maniacs .
Lublin was their heart .
In the spring of 1942 Operation Reinhard began in Lublin .
The ghetto , a miniature of Warsaw's , was emptied into the camp in the Majdan-Tartarski suburb called Majdanek .
As the camp emptied , it was refilled by a draining of the camps and towns around Lublin , then by deportees from outside Poland .
In and in and in they poured through the gates of Majdanek , but they never left , and Majdanek was not growing any larger .
What was happening in Majdanek ? ?
Was Operation Reinhard the same pattern for the daily trains now leaving the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw ? ?
Was there another Majdanek in the Warsaw area , as they suspected ? ?
Andrei stopped at Litowski Place and looked around quickly at the boundary of civil buildings .
His watch told him he was still early .
Down the boulevard he could see a portion of the ghetto wall .
He found an empty bench , opened a newspaper , and stretched his legs before him .
Krakow Boulevard was filled with black Nazi uniforms and the dirty brownish ones of their Auxiliaries .
`` Captain Androfski '' ! !
Andrei glanced up over the top of the paper and looked into the mustached , homely face of Sergeant Styka .
Styka sat beside him and pumped his hand excitedly .
`` I have been waiting across the street at the post office since dawn .
I thought you might get in on a morning train '' .
`` It's good to see you again , Styka '' .
Styka studied his captain .
He almost broke into tears .
To him , Andrei Androfski had always been the living symbol of a Polish officer .
His captain was thin and haggard and his beautiful boots were worn and shabby .
`` Remember to call me Jan '' , Andrei said .
Styka nodded and sniffed and blew his nose vociferously .
`` When that woman found me and told me that you needed me I was never so happy since before the war '' .
`` I'm lucky that you were still living in Lublin '' .
Styka grumbled about fate .
`` For a time I thought of trying to reach the Free Polish Forces , but one thing led to another .
I got a girl in trouble and we had to get married .
Not a bad girl .
So we have three children and responsibilities .
I work at the granary .
Nothing like the old days in the army , but I get by .
Who complains ? ?
Many times I tried to reach you , but I never knew how .
I came to Warsaw twice , but there was that damned ghetto wall ''
`` I understand '' .
Styka blew his nose again .
`` Were you able to make the arrangements '' ? ?
Andrei asked .
`` There is a man named Grabski who is the foreman in charge of the bricklayers at Majdanek .
I did exactly as instructed .
I told him you are on orders from the Home Army to get inside Majdanek so you can make a report to the government in exile in London '' .
`` His answer '' ? ?
`` Ten thousand zlotys '' .
`` Can he be trusted '' ? ?
`` He is aware he will not live for twenty-four hours if he betrays you '' .
`` Good man , Styka '' .
`` Captain Jan must you go inside Majdanek ? ?
The stories Everyone really knows what is happening there '' .
`` Not everyone , Styka '' .
`` What good will it really do '' ? ?
`` I don't know .
Perhaps perhaps there is a shred of conscience left in the human race .
Perhaps if they know the story there will be a massive cry of indignation '' .
`` Do you really believe that , Jan '' ? ?
`` I have to believe it '' .
Styka shook his head slowly .
`` I am only a simple soldier .
I cannot think things out too well .
Until I was transferred into the Seventh Ulanys I was like every other Pole in my feeling about Jews .
I hated you when I first came in .
But my captain might have been a Jew , but he wasn't a Jew .
What I mean is , he was a Pole and the greatest soldier in the Ulanys .
Hell , sir .
The men of our company had a dozen fights defending your name .
You never knew about it , but by God , we taught them respect for Captain Androfski '' .
Andrei smiled .
`` Since the war I have seen the way the Germans have behaved and I think , Holy Mother , we have behaved like this for hundreds of years .
Why '' ? ?
`` How can you tell an insane man to reason or a blind man to see '' ? ?
`` But we are neither blind nor insane .
The men of your company would not allow your name dishonored .
Why do we let the Germans do this '' ? ?
`` I have sat many hours with this , Styka .
All I ever wanted was to be a free man in my own country .
I've lost faith , Styka .
I used to love this country and believe that someday we'd win our battle for equality .
But now I think I hate it very much '' .
`` And do you really think that the world outside Poland will care any more than we do '' ? ?
The question frightened Andrei .
`` Please don't go inside Majdanek '' .
`` I'm still a soldier in a very small way , Styka '' .
It was an answer that Styka understood .
Grabski's shanty was beyond the bridge over the River Bystrzyca near the rail center .
Grabski sat in a sweat-saturated undershirt , cursing the excessive heat which clamped an uneasy stillness before sundown .
He was a square brick of a man with a moon-round face and sunken Polish features .
Flies swarmed around the bowl of lentils in which he mopped thick black bread .
Half of it dripped down his chin .
He washed it down with beer and produced a deep-seated belch .
`` Well '' ? ?
Andrei demanded .
Grabski looked at the pair of them .
He grunted a sort of `` yes '' answer .
`` My cousin works at the Labor Bureau .
He can make you work papers .
It will take a few days .
I will get you inside the guard camp as a member of my crew .
I don't know if I can get you into the inner camp .
Maybe yes , maybe no , but you can observe everything from the roof of a barrack we are building '' .
Grabski slurped his way to the bottom of the soup bowl .
`` Can't understand why the hell anyone wants to go inside that son-of-a-bitch place '' .
`` Orders from the Home Army '' .
`` Why ? ?
Nothing there but Jews '' .
Andrei shrugged .
`` We get strange orders '' .
`` Well -- what about the money '' ? ?
Andrei peeled off five one-thousand-zloty notes .
Grabski had never seen so much money .
His broad flat fingers , petrified into massive sausages by years of bricklaying , snatched the bills clumsily .
`` This ain't enough '' .
`` You get the rest when I'm safely out of Majdanek '' .
`` I ain't taking no goddamned chances for no Jew business '' .
Andrei and Styka were silent .