There was very little personal information in her letters. All she ever wrote about was her folk. “Her people,” particularly the men were small in stature. The men were also dark, while the women were almost all brown.
Hertzl never complained directly to her but attributed his daughter’s attitude to the reluctance of young people to accept guidance.
Meanwhile Marie’s life shifted even more away from agape. In order to adapt to a foreign land she occupied herself with all aspects of love. Love to her had to be more than puppy love or the love for or from a parent. So soon she found herself very susceptible to a Frenchman’s advances and tried to explain it to her father. From then on Rev. Hertzl had one additional thing to worry about. He therefore told his daughter that it was time that she seriously considered marriage.
Marie’s dilemma and zeal were not uncommon. Then to be disappointed over finding out that her students really hadn’t gotten past the fact that their teacher was a foreigner. They were very polite but their smiles were almost impossible to interpret.
There came a point when she wanted to give up. As for her frustration she was told that, as long as she was Christ-centered, it didn’t matter how well she did because the Lord was in charge. And of course, without the help of the Holy Spirit, “our cake will naturally fall flat.” They told her that, and she was expected to pray herself out of her problems.
Marie also craved news from home, but frequently the news she got plunged her right back into the fracas on her doorstep. So she decided to abandon her teaching and to get her hands really dirty. She went to work in a refugee camp; and it became both a blessing and a curse. Each day she faced personal threats but continued to serve Jesus while threatened with malaria, diarrhea, scabies, and conjunctivitis. Overwhelmed she often wept.
Each day at the camp placed her in the company of bad people. To her good people were less evident than bad ones. She hadn’t yet heard the French expression “in the night all the cats are gray.”
On hearing about life in the camp Rev. Hertzl wrote to his daughter and said: “I know it has been hell. But… with every act of kindness a price is paid and often that price is dear. And isn’t it with such people, those with the rods and the whips, that God asks us to form a connection? Perhaps you can, as you say, ‘Bring about change and force others to rethink the game’, but what if the rules of the camp were dictated by, say, an eager Nazi-besotted twenty-year-old who happens to be your brother? And what if he believed in Hitler? Certainly God hasn’t made it easy for you. However pray, and you’ll find that it would be wrong to be too sanguine. You may feel that I’m completely apathetic, which sadly may be true. Strange, isn’t it? So what’s happened to me?”
Marie tried to control herself. Then she laid her father’s letter down and wrote him back. “Dear father, my work has brought me in contact with atrocities that you wouldn’t believe.” Then she went on to write: “You couldn’t possibly fathom the level of brutality and inhumanity that I see every day.” But of course he could.
Nothing helped. Then she turned to her Bible, opened it to John 15:17, and read the commandment about loving one another. “But they hate me, do you hear, daddy! They hate me! But if you were to look at all that I’ve done you would know that there was no reason for their hatred.”
“History has its lessons, and the fiction is that each of our experiences are unique,” replied Rev. Hertzl. “Never is conceit more obvious than in the young visionary who strikes out on a personal mission to save the world. But as soon as he or she stumbles into a snake pit or a dunghill, from that moment on he or she believes nothing could be worse. But how could they be so wrong? Believe me, sorrow that is never spoken is the heaviest burden. I’d like to be able to say to my brother, ‘while the world may hate you, what do I care what the world thinks: I love you.”
By all accounts Marie’s stay in Vienna didn’t help her much, and she couldn’t blame it on how depressing the magnificent city on the Danube can be in the wintertime, or from having to adjustment from being suddenly transplanted from warm Asia to a cold place. Instead Marie found herself trying to relate to her uncle Niki, who by then had settled into the routine of a recluse.
Niki already suffered from guilt. Marie could share with him her own feelings of desperation. Meanwhile all she knew about her family’s connection with the holocaust was this: her father had spent much of the war in a Nazi concentration camp, which in her mind should’ve made him want to go back home, but instead he immigrated to Texas. Was he ever intending to go back? He refused to say. During all of those years he rarely mentioned his brother and then only when questioned.
He also failed to tell her the truth about his family’s role in Austria’s persecution of the Jews. His silence fueled Marie’s curiosity and made a visit to Vienna obligatory. For the short span of thirty-two years both her uncle and his deeds had been buried, and later she regretted that she unburied it all. Still curiosity had a strong pull. Unfortunately she wouldn’t be able to change any of it.
Much of her time in Vienna she spent wandering the streets, trying to unravel the alchemy of this great metropolis. That seemed easier to her than spending a lot of time with her uncle.