“Niels Bohr and the Sleeping Dane,” (continued)
The narrator of the piece is David Goldblum, whom at the time of the events he is recounting is an aspiring physicist who greatly admires Niels Bohr. Itzak Goldblum, David’s father, is a Hasidic rabbi who, although loving and fiercely devoted to his son, cannot help being disappointed that his only child seems inevitably intent on devoting his innate qualities of genius to the world of science rather than to the religious world the father so cherishes. Rabbi Goldblum, though quite justifiably proud of his son’s accomplishments, cannot seem to resist the temptation to constantly needle David, often employing colorful Yiddish parlance which enhances the exquisite ambience of this story.
David Goldblum is haunted by memories of the anti-Semitic persecution his family endured in Nazi Germany. Before his father and he fled to Denmark, SA thugs had raided his father’s bookstore, severely beating the family, before dragging off David’s mother, murdering her in the process. Now, the cancer has pursued the family in the form of the German occupation of their adopted homeland. Although at first relatively and surprisingly benign, the inevitable persecution of Jews has begun and the Goldblums and other Jews within the country scramble to escape with the help of the heroic Danish resistance, sympathetic to their plight. By such a quirk of fate, David finds himself seated across from his idol Niels Bohr, accompanied by his gentile wife, aboard a train bound for Northeastern Denmark where the resistance has arranged transport to neutral Sweden.
En route, the train is stopped and boarded by a party of SS soldiers, led by a Gestapo captain whose appearance is the very epitome of the “Aryan” ideal man; blond and handsome, ice cold in his officious demeanor. Although the Goldblums have shed any outward trappings of their heritage, David is certain that his father and he are doomed; with Bohr ultimately as well, though not before serving the Nazis' purposes in regard to atomic research.
Rabbi Goldblum, steeped in the Jewish mystical traditions of the Kabbalah and the Zohar, its chief work, seems unconcerned, which worries the younger Goldblum all the more. He remembers how his father’s attempt to employ mystical powers had had some effect during their German pogrom, but had ultimately failed to save his mother’s life. However, in a scene reminiscent of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s use of Jedi-derived mystical powers to talk his way past an enemy checkpoint in Star Wars, Rabbi Goldblum convinces the officer that Professor Bohr is not whom the officer knows perfectly well he is. To the amazement of his son, Rabbi Goldblum’s mystical powers actually work this time, with the SS thugs departing, taking a young Jewish couple and their infant with them; their unknown fate haunting David evermore. Click to cntinue: