In 1928 a girl child is born to Benjamin and Edith Gervasi in London while
Benjamin is attending Imperial College. He names her Lilith because it is
such an interesting name.
Interesting in the way Jezebel or Medusa or Typhoid Mary is interesting,
Edith complains, but she knows she can do nothing to change Bens mind, so
her daughter is Lilith.
In Jewish legends Lilith was Adams first wife, created from the soil at the
same time as Adam rather than from his rib like his second wife. Lilith
left her husband when she refused to accept the sex position that Adam in-
sisted on doing, since it left the man on top. She wanted to do reverse
cowgirl. Cursed by God, Lilith became a she-demon who roamed the night
looking for souls of newborn infants to steal, but the prophet Isaiah fore-
saw that even Lilith would find rest in the Messianic Age.
As the decade of the 1930s wears on, Jews are systematically stripped of
their civil rights on the Continent, and begin to be moved into work camps
that evolve into racial hygiene (extermination) camps, but nothing like
that happens in Britain. There are even Jews in Parliament. The Gervasi
family has been royal subjects for many generations, and Benjamin Gervasi
is a meteorologist with a specialty in numerical methods of mesoscale fore-
Jews on the whole are rather rare in the United Kingdom. During the years
of the Great Depression Benjamin Gervasi could only find work as a light-
house keeper at St. Catherines Lighthouse on the Isle of Wight, just a few
miles off the southern coast of England.
This job, however, has several good points associated with it Benjamin
thinks. First, his wife and eventually also Lilith aids him in his work. It
becomes a family endeavor. Second, the lighthouse grounds double as a mete-
orological outstation. During daylight, they send by Teletype hourly re-
ports of temperature, humidity, cloud height, cloud formation, wind direc-
tion, and wind force to the Meteorological Office in London. Benjamin de-
rives some satisfaction to work within his chosen field.
Once a week when Benjamin is paid his salary, a small amount of petrol is
also delivered to power the engine that turns the lighthouse shaft. He is
never tempted to divert even a small portion of this petrol to his motor-
car, as he had no motorcar, but he does have to keep an eye out for certain
neighbors who do.
Every weekday morning Lilith trudges up the hillside to the nearest village
for her Primary school, and sometimes her mother accompanies her when she
needs to attend to shopping. On Shabbat they cease from their labors and
remain indoors. Very rarely, Benjamin arranges transportation by bus and
ferry, and they take such holidays as they can afford, sometimes even to
the beautiful Lake District, camping in the high, treeless hills called
fells that qualify as mountains in England.
In the lead-up to World War II British scientists are tasked to create a
death ray based on radio waves to take down German bombers. They never
quite manage a death ray, but in their research they find that metallic
objects at great distances can reflect a radio pulse and the time delay
displayed on an oscilloscope is a very accurate indication of distance.
Rotating an antenna can pin down a targets position. Thus is born RDF, or
Range and Direction Finding. A network of RDF stations called Chain Home
make all the difference in the Battle of Britain, which occurs over the
summer of 1940.
Numerically the Luftwaffe has an edge over the Royal Air Force, but when
the Luftwaffe attacks they have to hunt for RAF fighters, while the RAF
(aided by Chain Home) knows exactly where the Luftwaffe is and can concen-
trate planes. The Luftwaffe also has an edge when it comes to the quality
of their aircraft, but with Chain Home providing early warning of attacks,
RAF pilots can rest until they are scrambled, use less fuel, and put less
wear and tear on their aircraft.
As the Luftwaffe begins to take heavy losses in bombers and fighter cover,
they try to attack some of the Chain Home stations, including one that is
constructed nigh to St. Catherines Lighthouse. But as the Gervasi family
can attest, the antenna towers with their open structure are not very sus-
ceptible to blast damage from bombs. The few antennas that actually are
knocked down are repaired within days while operators from nearby dummy
stations broadcast signals that fool the Germans into thinking no damage
was done at all.
The Luftwaffe tries flying lower, approaching England below the sight line
of Chain Home stations, but the British uses smaller RDF systems intended
to direct gunfire against ships, and German losses continue to mount at an
unacceptable rate. So the Luftwaffe switches to night raids, knowing that
even if they are detected, the RAF can do nothing about it, since the de-
fending planes cannot see the bombers in the dark when it comes to actual
combat. The British quickly miniaturize the RDF systems and install them on
fighter planes, which rapidly ends German night bombing over England.
Since the battle takes place over United Kingdom home turf, if an RAF plane
is shot down, the British pilot can bail out and be back in the air flying
another plane, perhaps on the same day if he is not injured. But if a Ger-
man pilot bails out over land, he is invariably captured, and if he bails
out over the Channel he is likely to die from drowning or exposure to cold.
When the Battle of Britain comes to an end in October 1940 the British have
lost only about 500 airmen while the Germans have lost eight times that
number. Nearly a thousand German pilots are captured. The Luftwaffe lose
nearly two thousand planes and Hitler is forced to shelf his invasion plans
indefinitely. Hitler has been thwarted for the first time in the war. So
he turns his gaze to the East and begins preparing the Barbarossa campaign
against the Soviet Union.
The UK shifts emphasis from defense to offense, and during the course of
1941 it becomes clear to Bomber Command that night navigation to the cor-
rect target is a serious issue. In 1942 an electronic guidance system
called Clarinet is developed that uses two highly directional radio beams,
one transmitting Morse code dots and the other one transmitting dashes, to
be received by a single bomber flying in the lead of the wave (to minimize
the chance of the Germans reverse-engineering the system from a downed
plane). They fly out along the dots, and when the lead plane encounters the
strongest part of the dashes it drops a load of marker flares, and the
bomber wave drops their bombs on these flares.
A Clarinet antenna was constructed inside Benjamins lighthouse mounted to
the central shaft. That way the white structure of the lighthouse would
hide the antenna and the Germans would never suspect a thing. From time to
time a targeting order comes to Benjamin over the same Teletype he uses to
transmit his weather information. The message gives him a precise angle to
position the antenna, a duration in time, and whether he was to use dots or
dashes. The Gervasi family are quite busy throughout 1943 as the RAF fo-
cuses their bombing campaign on Hamburg and the industry centered in the
In 1944 a large number of American, Australian, En Zed, and Canadian troops
are transported to the south of England to join the Tommies in preparation
for the invasion of France, and to ensure their success a monolith of oper-
ational deception is built up that the world had never seen before nor
since. False radio traffic is created to give the Germans the impression
that Patton is gearing up to take the entire force over the narrowest part
of the Channel where the white cliffs of Dover can be seen from Calais.
False plans are planted on a corpse that is allowed to wash up on a French
beach.Admiral Sir Bertrand Ramsay, in overall command of the invasion,
leaves nothing, absolutely nothing to chance. In the run-up to D-Day Sir
Ramsay even pays a visit to Benjamin Gervasi in his lighthouse on the
southern-most point of England.
The weather is quite murky and wet, so the Admirals inspection of the exte-
rior of the lighthouse is necessarily cut short. While his driver waits in
the car, Benjamin shows the Admiral the room where the Teletype and Clari-
net transmitter are installed. Ramsay thanks Benjamin personally for his
service to the King, and Benjamin, for his part, considers it prudent not
to mention the assistance he receives from his wife and daughter. Then the
Admirals eyes are captivated by a wall chart, and he asks Benjamin to iden-
Thats my moving five-day weather forecast for Undercliff, Sir. That would
be this little strip of land where the lighthouse is located. We are in a
rain-shadow, you know. And also a fog-shadow, if you will. The weather here
is typically not quite as immoderate as it is for you Overners.
Benjamin leads the Admiral into the white octagonal tower to inspect the
Clarinet antenna. He takes him spiraling up the ninety-four steps to the
top, where the huge crystal lens (chipped by a 1943 air raid) slowly ro-
tates, and they can see for thirty nautical miles out to sea. The whole
English Channel in fact is roiling with whitecaps from high winds which
threaten to derail the invasion.
And you do this weather forecasting as a sort of hobby?
Perhaps a bit more than just a hobby, Admiral Sir Ramsey.
Im trained as a meteorologist, and Im a damn fine one, if you dont mind me
carrying my own chair. But with the war I find myself. . .over-qualified
for the task I currently occupy. Now I know weve all got to pull together
to stop Jerry, and Im sure other professional men are in the same predica-
ment, but all the same, one must use the skills one has been trained to
use, or ones mind gets in a bit of a rut.
Its not a purely sterile pursuit as you might imagine it to be. By a
strange fluke of geography and wind and water currents, the weather here at
the lighthouse, which can be quite different from the rest of England or
even the rest of the Isle of Wight, almost always corresponds to the weath-
er across the Channel on the coast of France, in the Normandy area. Ive
checked it for years, in every season, and the match is very good, more
than eighty percent of the time, well outside the possibility of coinci-
dence. I plan to publish a paper about it after the war.
Is that so? Remarkable! And what do you predict for Undercliff?
A twenty-four hour break in this weather, partly cloudy, winds drop to five
knots. Then on the afternoon of the sixth of June we return to the same
pattern. This forecast holds for here and the Normandy coast. Everywhere
else along the English Channel there will be no twenty-four hour break.
There will be only fog and rain and winds gusting to thirty knots.
Sir Ramsey is suddenly filled with great admiration for Benjamin Gervasi,
because Eisenhowers chief meteorologist has predicted the very same short
break in the weather over Normandy, using B-17 aircraft far out over the
Atlantic to gather the data, but General Eisenhower is dithering as he is
ever wont to do. The Admiral knows if he tells the General the doughnut
hole in the bad weather is confirmed by a second independent source, it
might be enough to make him decide to launch the invasion of France on the
morning of June 6, just when the Germans will be letting their guard down
with intelligence of a solid week of terrible weather.
The Admiral asks, Does the strange correlation of weather between Under-
cliff and the French coast hold for the Pas-De-Calais?
Alas, no. Im afraid that predicting the weather for Dover and Calais is
more like a jigsaw puzzle, and my reports to the Weather Office are but one
The Admiral sighs, reluctant to proceed. There is one final duty Mr. Gerva-
si can perform for England, and it saddens the Admiral to deceive the man,
but there is no choice. It is, in fact, the main reason for his visit. The
net of operational deception woven around Operation Neptune must be water-
tight. He says, Then it is time to reveal the real purpose of my visit
here, and why I have attended to this myself rather than send a staffer.
What Im about to tell you has the highest possible classification. You can-
not mention a word of it even to your wife or daughter.
Of course. I understand, sir.
Mr. Gervasi, the following three weeks will be very lively ones for you, Im
afraid. You are no doubt aware that most of southern England has become one
large armed camp containing millions of troops and all their supplies. As
we get closer to the invasion across the Strait of Dover, which is set for
June 20, you will find that your Clarinet task orders will be coming in at
a much greater rate.
Daily rather than weekly?
Twice daily, Im afraid. We will soon be bombing the landing areas more or
less continuously. Now is the time we must make our greatest effort. I
needed to tell you this, Mr. Gervasi, lest you think something has gone
terribly wrong. And I could not trust this information to others.
Benjamin assures the young admiral he understands his duty perfectly. And
with that they part, but Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay feels thoroughly
The Germans are not complete idiots. A U-boat captain, gazing at the shore
of the Isle of Wight through his periscope, notes that St. Catherine’s
lighthouse stops flashing for hours. He logs the start and stop time, and a
clever intelligence agent in Berlin realizes this matches the start and
stop time of the Clarinet signal originating from what they thought was a
nearby tower. A second and third observation over the next two weeks veri-
fies the anomaly.
In the early morning hours of June 3, 1944 a German submarine surfaces just
offshore and commandos row ashore to raid the lighthouse, led by an SS cap-
tain named Felix Schaub who doubles as the political officer aboard the U-
boat to ensure the loyalty of its crew to Hitler. On this occasion Schaub
wears his black pre-war Schutzstaffel uniform for the psychological effect
he knows it will have on the Gervasi family.
With Lilith and Edith whimpering in terror, tied up and threatened with
pistols pointed at their heads, Benjamin demonstrates the Clarinet system
to Captain Schaub, but to Benjamin’s great surprise the Germans neither
destroy the gear nor try to remove it to their submarine. Instead, Schaub
identifies each member of the Gervasi family by name and he tells them he
knows they are Jews. He tells Benjamin that whether they live or die depend
on the correct answer to precisely two questions.First: “What is the target
of the immanent invasion across the English Channel?”
Benjamin stiffens in dismay. He is confronted with the choice of losing his
family or betraying the trust Admiral Sir Bertrand Ramsay has given him. At
the slightest nod from Schaub, the hammer is pulled back on the pistol
pointed at Lilith’s head. Gervasi gives in. “Calais,” he says, and lets
out the breath he had been holding for nearly a minute.
“Goot,” Captain Schaub says. “And the timing?”
The SS officer smiles. “I am a man of my word,” he says. “Neither you nor
your wife nor your daughter will be killed. Here is what I want you to do,
Mr. Gervasi. From now on, when you get orders to operate Clarinet, you will
carry them out, but you will be a little sloppy when you align the antenna.
Not too much! Perhaps a fraction of one degree. Only enough to throw the
bombing raid off by a few hundred yards. You will do this until the British
government decides it will no longer prosecute its aggression against the
Reich. And more importantly, you will tell no one that you are sabotaging
“Or you will come back and kill us.”
“Benjamin, I’m disappointed in you! What does a man have in this world if
he fails to do what he promises? You have my word of honor that neither you
nor your lovely wife Edith nor your beautiful daughter Lilith will be
killed. But they will be taken to the concentration camp near Saint-Malo in
France were all the British Jews in the Channel Islands have been relocat-
“No, I beg you!”
“They will not be unduly mistreated there. But if we learn that a future
air raid on Germany using the transmitter at this lighthouse is successful,
things will not seem quite so good. But even then, my word will still hold!
Lilith and Edith will be simply be transferred to a work camp deeper in
France, perhaps even in Germany. Do you know, Benjamin, it really is aston-
ishing how much work you can get out of a Jew with a whip.”
Lilith and Edith are taken in the submarine to Cherbourg, and by the
evening of June 5 they are inducted into a French farm that has been dubbed
a clinic for racial hygiene.
The lighthouse on the Isle of Wight is not the only Clarinet system that
has been raided by Captain Schaub, but it is the only one whose operator
remained alive after the raid. Schuab’s report filters up to Hitler, and
the final piece of deception in the Fortitude element of Operation Body-
guard is in place. Hitler reinforces the defenses in the Pas-De-Calais re-
gion and leaves only a skeleton force at Normandy. Calais, however, is a
grand feint. The real invasion takes place on the beaches of Normandy on
the morning of June 6, 1944. Benjamin Gervasi’s weather forecast has led
Eisenhower’s to give the order to go. Two Panzer divisions, which might
have driven the invaders back into the sea, are kept on a leash by Hitler
because he doesn’t trust his own generals. Hitler himself sleeps until noon
and doesn’t release the Panzers until four PM, by which time the beachheads
are relatively secure and Allied aircraft dominate the skies to the point
of forcing German tanks to move only at night.
But for two months after the Allies are tied down in the Normandy region
trying to break out of hedgerow country while the Germans attempt to con-
tain them. The breakthrough is very near to the Saint-Malo area where Li-
lith and Edith are being held. To prevent their liberation the Germans move
everyone in the camp to another in France far from the front lines.
Benjamin Gervasi continues to operate the Clarinet system when orders came
in over the Teletype, but he deliberately alters the requested target angle
slightly, believing it to be the only way he can save the lives of his wife
and daughter. The deception comes crashing to an end in September when
Lilith fails to register for secondary school. The constables came calling,
finds evidence of the German raid, and notifies army intelligence, who in
turn squeeze the truth out of Benjamin. Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay inter-
venes personally to keep Benjamin out of prison, but the bombing command
insists that the man be sacked from his lighthouse job for the duration of
the war. Benjamin despairs of seeing his loved ones again.
Patton’s 3rd Army moves across France at an unbelievable pace, performing a
rapid right hook that nearly encircles Hitler’s forces opposing the inva-
sion. Lilith and Edith move at least once a month, which is encouraging in
a way, but the camps grow progressively worse the nearer they draw to Ger-
many itself, until they arrive at an extermination camp called Ohrdruf-Nord
deep in the heart of Germany proper, there to be worked to death construct-
ing a railroad center that is never finished.
Along the way currency, gold, and jewelry (of which Lilith and Edith have
none) are sent to the SS headquarters of the Economic Adminstration. Watch-
es, clocks, and pens are sent to troops on three fronts and civilian cloth-
ing is given to needy German families. Lilith sees things that push far
beyond any boundaries of human evil she previously thought must exist. And
Ohrdruf isn’t even the worst camp in the hellish constellation.
Many men have a taste for sixteen year old female flesh. Lilith learned to
trade her body for scraps of extra food. Some of this she eats herself, but
it is purely business. The longer she can delay taking on the figure of a
skeleton, the more opportunities she would have to trade her body for food.
The rest of this extra food she gives to her mother. This becomes a prob-
lem during the terrifying and humiliating appells, or inspections that fol-
low roll call and last most of the day, when Lilith and Edith are found to
be wasting away at a slower rate than their companion prisoners. They are
successful in feigning weakness, but it is more difficult to hide their
extra weight, and suspicion is raised.
When the guns of Patton’s tanks can be heard only forty miles away and the
twelve thousand inmates of the camp are being loaded onto cattle cars for
transfer to Buchenwald, Edith Gervasi is discovered in possession of a lit-
tle extra food. What happens after that Lilith tells no one but her father,
years after the war, on his final day of life. The horror of it might even
have been the thing that killed him.
Troops of the 89th Infantry Division of the US Third Army capture Ohrdruf-
Nord on April 4, 1945. Lilith is one of the few prisoners left standing.
After the war in Europe when Lilith has been sufficiently deloused and
scrubbed, and has demonstrated her status as a British subject to the sat-
isfaction of the Occupation, she is placed on a ship and sent home to her
father. Meeting him on a dock at Portsmouth, Lilith gazes upon him across a
great gulf which is the memory of the unspeakable ordeal she has somehow
survived. They are utter strangers to each other now. On the dock and when
he takes her home Benjamin tearfully begs his daughter to tell him what
happened to Edith but the girl only shakes her head. Two days later, in
his Portsmouth home, Benjamin catches a quick glimpse of the mass of whip
scars on his daughter’s back. It would be a long time before she could
summon the will to begin to recover from her experiences.