Beth describes the day Michael tried to commit her to a mental hospital

As published on the Daas Torah blog.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: Beth describes the day Michael tried to commit her to a mental hospital

In the following chilling yet fascinating account Beth Alexander describes her allegations of abuse by her husband - culminating in his calling the police to have her committed to a mental hospital.
Often when an intelligent, self-confident woman claims abuse by a husband who is perceived as a wonderful man - the question is if these allegations are true - why didn't she just walk out. Why would anyone tolerate this treatment. Unfortunately it is very common - and there are many factors.  In this case her version is supported by the police report.
As with many divorce accounts - it is important to realize this is her side of the story. If Dr. Schlesinger wishes to present his side - I will provide a forum for his version.

Beth's diary: The day he tried to commit me to a mental hospital

15th February 2010

I came back from walking the twins dropping with exhaustion, chilled to the core from the biting cold wind and craving a steaming cup of tea.  Our walk was our daily afternoon ritual. He always ordered me out with the babies after he had eaten the lunch I had prepared so he could sleep. When he called me a few hours later awake and refreshed, I was allowed to come home.

My heart sank as the babies started to howl the second I walked through the door. The tea was a non starter. 

`I´ll start running the bath´ Michael said, stalking off to the bathroom. My heart sank at the inevitable row I saw coming.

`No. Can’t you see they´re hungry and need to eat first? I insisted.

`We always feed them first.`

´I think it´s better to bath them first,` he countered.

 Let’s try it this way for a change.´

`Why change their routine today? They are too hungry to enjoy the bath now,` I sighed.

´They can eat after the bath,´ he retorted sharply. His eyes bore through me menacingly and I felt my nerve leave me. The synchronized howls now reached a piercing crescendo.

´Please, Michael. I want them to eat now,` I pleaded meekly above the screams while unzipping their overalls.

´At least let them have a bottle.`

`If you can´t be bothered to bath them, I will bath both babies´ he declared, yanking Benji out of the stroller and charging him towards the bathroom with such aggressive force that my heart bled for the child in his grip. I blinked back the tears that welled in my eyes. 

I saw the shadow of resolute determination contort his face and knew that there was no point in arguing. I would not win and rowing would only upset the babies further.

I wearily shook off my coat, took Sammy out and against all my wishes and maternal instincts led him to the bathroom. With a heavy heart I sat him down on the floor and went to the bedroom. I felt myself crumple in a heap on the bed, allowing the tears to flow freely. I could not bear this cruel exploitation of my children, disrupting their evening routine just to wage his personal battle against me. That´s all it was I realized. This was no longer about what was best for the children. They hardly entered into it. It was his vicious way of asserting his authority over me and reminding me who was boss in this little family set up. We were all pawns to be played with in his whimsical fanaticism.

I lay in the dark trying to block out my babies` shrill protests at being undressed and immersed in the soapy water straight from the cold outdoors without so much as a drink. I heard his gruff voice in playful sing song baby talk. Could they also detect the mocking irony that laced his every word? I felt physically sick at his subversive attempts at fatherhood. Why was I so weak? What kind of mother was I to allow him to dictate to me at the expense of traumatising our children? Why did I not put up more of a fight? I berated myself.

And yet, I felt I couldn’t. I could hardly budge from the bed. Physical and emotional fatigue totally drained me of every ounce of energy I had left and the reserves of will power that I had assiduously stored now evaporated, leaving me feeling lifeless and pathetic. I hated myself for the shell of a person I had become but knew that as long as he was around I could never resurrect the person I once was.      

 His stern calls for help jolted me from my half sleep.

´Can you prepare their dinner now?` his tone was accusing, the sheer audacity that he was expected to do everything alone!  

Slowly, limply, I crawled from the bed and wearily walked to the kitchen. I knew they should be eating proper food for dinner, healthy and nutritious medleys of fish or meat, chicken and vegetables and not the sweet sickly baby mush he insisted on serving them but I did not dare raise the issue now. I added hot water to the powder and brought the bowl of brown gooey mixture into the living room where he had arranged them side by side in their rocking chairs. I crouched down and started spooning it into their little pouting mouths but as I predicted, they started to scream in protest, wriggling their faces away and waving their arms in tired rejection.

`You see? ´Now they will go to bed without any dinner,` I cried, jumping up and retreating to the security of my duvet cover once more. I buried my face in the folds of the sheets and sobbed at having my maternal role robbed from me and my decisions overridden by a mean spirited man who I could only assume had endured a horrible childhood and didn´t have a clue what it meant to grow up surrounded by love, warmth and laughter. Or if he did, he had a peculiar way of illustrating that to his own children.

I heard him trying to coax them to eat and the ensuing struggle as they battled against his force feeding attempts. I winced, feeling utterly helpless to change the situation. I held the cover tighter over my head to blot out the sounds, wishing I could vanish to somewhere else.  

Sometime later he stormed into the room and ripped my protective tent from over me.

´Look at you! You´re a terrible mother. You´re so weak. Why do you want the children to see that they have such a pathetic mother? He ranted.

`Please. Leave me alone,` I whispered tugging to recover my duvet.

He started to pull on my wrists, yanking my arms to get me up from the bed.

`Get up, get up´ he screamed. Youre a psychopath. You`re not normal.

The tugging was so strong that I thought he would yank my arms out of their sockets.  

`Stop it!` I yelled through hysterical sobs.

`Stop crying already. Pull yourself together, ´ he snarled.

As much as I hated to let him see me cry as I knew he derived a sadistic pleasure from it, I couldn’t stop.

He changed tactics.

`Beth,´ he began, feigning tenderness and sitting himself on the edge of my bed, grabbing my hand roughly and tightening his grip.

`I spoke to a psychiatrist in the hospital. He also thinks you´re mentally ill. A week in a psychiatric unit would help.´

`What?` I exclaimed.

`There´s nothing wrong with my mental state,` I spat back.

`I just want to help you,` he continued, looking at me so earnestly that for a second I wasn’t sure whether he had actually convinced himself of his own lies.

I looked him squarely in the face.

´I hate you more than I`ve ever hated anyone,` I hissed.

This incited him and with one final violent tug, he heaved me from the bed and dragged me towards the nursery where Sammy and Benji were wailing in their cots.

´Here.` He thrust a bottle of milk in my hand.

´You´re his mother. Feed your baby already,´ he ordered indicating towards Sammy.

Without a word, eyes downcast, I held the bottle at the baby´s lips while he sucked, oblivious to the terrible scenario that was taking place above him. As I gazed down at his perfect little body and listened to his contented purring I couldn’t help but weep, I was so overcome with guilt at having brought him and his brother into this wicked world. I was grateful for the dark which hid my wretched face from his beautiful innocent stares.

Michael stood feeding Benji, all the time watching me. I could feel him relishing my pain and silently goading me to deteriorate further.

´You´re a bad wife and a bad mother` he finally blurted over the two cots.

Benji had drifted off to sleep and he marched over towards me. I let go of the bottle and shrank into the space between the cot and the wall, cowering under his bestial silhouette which towered over me.

He grabbed onto my forearms and shook me.

`You´re not normal,´ he repeated.

I tried to push him away but he trapped me in the corner so I could not move an inch in any direction.

´Let me get the baby to sleep,´ I managed to say. My head was a whirr. He reluctantly stepped aside and I willed myself to muster the strength to stay in the room with him just a few minutes longer until Sammy was asleep.

I hummed my precious baby a melancholy tune and saw his eyes grow heavy. Michael stood by my side supervising. As soon as he was asleep, I reeled round and tried to escape through the front door. He was quicker than me and blocked my path.

´Where do you think you’re going?` he demanded, shoving me backwards forcefully.

I need air. I’m going for a walk.

`You’re not going anywhere. You stay here now,` he fulminated, his eyes ablaze with anger, revulsion and a trace of fear, perhaps at losing a sense of control.

I tried to sidestep him but he stuck out his arm and blocked me.

`Let me out of here` I yelled.

I struggled against him and tried to bite his arm to release me from his fierce grip. Finally he decided I wasn’t worth it and let go of me before pushing me backwards a final time.

I’m telling you now, if you leave this apartment don’t bother coming back tonight. I’m locking the door,´ he threatened.

I rushed past him and fled, racing down the staircase to the safety of the street. I ran towards the U-bahn station and stood at the platform panting for breath.

I took out my phone and dialled.

´Frauenhaus Wien,` a woman’s voice answered. Vienna Women’s´ Shelter.

´I would like to come please,` I said hurriedly, still whimpering. Now.`

`Your name?`

Beth Schlesinger. I called a few days ago.

Oh yes, I remember. Come right away. She gave me an address and directions by subway. My heart pounded at the surreal absurdity of what I was about to do. I could not control the flow of tears that came flooding down nor could I suppress the prevailing fear that engulfed me.       

How many more tears would I shed over this madman I wondered? He had driven me to total despair I realised with a horrible sense of foreboding. What would become of me? Worse, what would happen to my children?

The train came at last and I got on it listlessly. I sat next to the window with my head in my hands but was unable to stop the choking sound that emerged as I tried to stifle my heavy sobs. I wished I could wail freely like the twins. I had no dignity left. The woman opposite me reached into her handbag and dug out a tissue which she held out to me with a kindly expression.

`Thank you,` I smiled.

I had to change trains twice. My head hurt so much I could hardly concentrate long enough to work out which direction I needed to go in. Waiting on the platform I seriously contemplated stepping over the edge. For the first time in my life I had no desire to live. I felt I had nothing left to live for. As the blinding beam of the headlights came speeding towards me I wondered how painful the impact of train to body would be. Would I die instantaneously? Would there be time to scream? Would the driver see me? In the split second I had to make my decision, an impulse even more powerful than my desperate anguish held me back: the will to mother my children.

It took over an hour to reach my destination. It was almost 11pm as I stepped onto the deserted platform. I had not eaten a thing nor even had a drink since lunch time and my head was swimming from dizziness. An eerie and portentous stillness hung over the platform as I stumbled down it heading for the exit to the street.

Suddenly blotches of black clouded my vision and everything blurred as I felt my feet slipping beneath me. I felt my legs buckle and the next moment I found myself lying flat, cheek pressed down against the steely cold concrete platform. I opened my eyes and registered where I was. Alone and abandoned in a city of strangers. I didn’t want to get up. Here. With him. It was intolerable. I could never go back. As the evening´s events came flooding back to me and the vision of his foul face twisted in bitter anger flashed before my eyes I felt a surge of hatred for this man to whom I had given my life and borne his children. A wave of nausea swept over me. What if I stayed like this until someone discovered me and called an ambulance? The thought of spending a week in a hospital bed away from an abusive husband and shrieking babies seemed like heaven. But what if some drunk or rapist came along first? That thought terrified me enough to shake me out of my stupor and drag me desolately up to the street exit. No broken bones. Just a broken spirit and broken dreams. Take comfort, I consoled myself. Just a few more metres until safety. A refuge. Physically and mentally my distressed soul was screaming out for help.

I looked about the silent street and had no idea where to go. After about five minutes a dishevelled looking man in a baseball cap walked up to the car in front of me. I was wary of approaching a stranger at almost midnight on a deserted street but had no choice.

´Excuse me. Please can you tell where this address is?` I asked realising that the impression I must have made in my wild unkempt state was not much better than his.           

´Hmmm, let me check my map.´

He opened the boot of his car and took out a folded piece of paper. He spread the map out over the back window and I stood nervously looking over his shoulder while he tried to locate the elusive street. It seemed to take an eternity. I pulled my coat closed against the icy cold air and shifted from one foot to the other trying to contain my impatience. I eventually gave up.

`Don’t worry about it, I´ll find it,´ I said, starting to walk away.

`Wait a minute. Let me check my navigation system.´

He opened the driver´s side door and sat down. I watched him type in the street address.

`What number?` he called out.


Again, a fruitless search.

`I don’t know why its not coming up here, he said puzzled.

´Really don’t worry. Thanks anyway for your help. I said jogging away. I ran first to the right checking the street signs for about five blocks along. No sign of it. I did the same in the other direction but to no avail.

Damn it, she said it was just near the underground station I cursed under my breath..

I called the refuge again to say that I was lost. The woman that answered redirected me. It turned out to be nowhere near the station after all. After about twenty minutes spent frantically navigating the misty side streets, I finally reached safety. Lit windows beckoned me along a row of apartment buildings and I breathed a sigh of relief as the number 60 appeared at last. Summoning my last vestige of strength, I dragged my tired feet up the stairs until I came to a reception area.

Two women stood chatting cheerfully. I felt my eyes well up again and couldn’t hold back the tears which began to flood freely down in relief and exhaustion. I almost collapsed at their feet. They stopped mid sentence when they saw me and the one nearest to me glanced sombrely at the other before politely excusing herself and walking briskly away.



´Come and take a seat. Can I get you a drink? I sat down apprehensively on the edge of the couch and willed myself to calm down.

`A tea would be lovely, thank you,` I replied.

As she went away to bring the tea, I took in my surroundings. Although I knew that such places existed, I could never have imagined that I would one day end up in one myself. The reception area had been decorated colourfully in bright cheerful colours and childrens` drawings were pinned up on the wall. A hand written notice announcing a `Faschings´ fancy dress party the following evening was stuck on the door. Some toys and children’s´ books lay scattered about one corner of the room. It had all the hallmarks of a domestic setting and would have felt quite cosy had it not been for the disconcerting reality that the residents were here to escape domestic violence in some form or another. It was the kind of feeling you get when entering a children’s hospital ward where you know that the pleasant child friendly atmosphere is intentional to assuage the unpleasant reason for its existence. It had that familiar institutional smell of disinfectant mixed with stale cigarette smoke.

The young woman whom I learned was called Sophie returned with a steaming cup of tea which I took gratefully. The hot smooth liquid was nectar to my parched mouth.

She spoke in a low gentle voice and asked me if I could answer some questions for the form she held on her lap. She couldn’t have been that much older than me I guessed. Her black hair was streaked red. She wore big gothic style jewellery and her eyes were heavily made up with black eye liner. She took down my contact details and then, with a concerned look, inquired why I was there. Feebly I described the run up to tonight. I described the increasing desperation I had felt the past few weeks subjected to continual physical and psychological abuse by my volatile husband and recounted the immediate events which culminated in my call to the refuge this evening and my final bid to escape. She looked at me pityingly as I spoke but didn’t appear shocked. She must hear harrowing stories all the time it dawned on me with alarming horror, many probably worse than mine. What a job. I told her about my concern for my babies that I had left behind.

´We can have the police go in with you to collect them and bring them back here´ Sophie offered.

Remembering their terrified faces at the night time visit by the police a few days earlier, I couldn’t bear to frighten them again. Disturbing two sleeping babies by removing them from their warm cots and taking them to a foreign place in the dead of night would be so cruel I couldn’t bear to do it. Even if that meant abandoning them to him all night. They would survive one night without me I reasoned. Sophie informed me that a night at the refuge cost seven euros. I realised with embarrassment that in my haste to flee the apartment I had forgotten my wallet.

´Don’t worry about it,´ she told me. One night is not a problem.´

I thanked her profusely as she led me down the corridor to my room for the night. I was not expecting The Ritz Hotel. Four small camp beds each held together by a precarious looking metal frame plus a small basic table and a rickety wooden chair was the only furniture in the room. She showed me the communal bathroom and kitchen. It reminded me of school camp. Luckily I had the room to myself. Sophie handed me the key and showed me where to deposit it if the office was still locked in the morning when I wanted to leave.

She told me that I could stay for as long as I wanted and the team at the refuge would provide all the help and support I needed. It was a tempting offer but I felt that a night away would diffuse the tension and by morning light I would have the courage to return and re-evaluate the situation.

I couldn’t have been more wrong I was to discover later. I woke up at about 7.30 and turned my phone back on. Seven missed calls from Michael between 11pm and 1am. Had he been genuinely worried about me or was he just furious that I had left him alone with the babies all night? I decided the latter was more accurate and pictured him struggling to feed both babies and trying to get them back to sleep on his own.

I gathered my few belongings and locked the room. The building was silent and the office was locked. I contemplated waiting the half hour until it opened but was impatient to get back to my babies. I knew that Michael would be going mad at being so late for work and didn’t want to antagonise him further. I hailed a taxi (I would get money at the other end) and began to prepare mentally for the dreaded confrontation. I had no idea what to expect. As I neared Taborstrasse the phone rang. Michael.

`Yes? I answered.

`Where are you?´ I´ve called the police.

Oh G-d. My mouth went dry with fear. 

´I´ll be there in five minutes,´ I said, hanging up abruptly.

As I neared home Nina, my neighbour called.

´Beth. Is everything ok?

´Yes, ` I lied. `Why?`

´The police were here.´ I tried to conceal the tremor in my voice.

´It´s nothing. I´ll tell you about it later.` I replied, cutting her off and anxiously climbing the stairs to my apartment.

I quietly turned the key in the lock. The first thing I noticed was the two womens´ coats and shoes left at the cupboard by the door. Tamar. Which wicked woman had accompanied her? My sister in law Tina or her underling, Esther? I wanted to spit at them both. My gut reaction was to turn and walk back out but I guessed from the hushed whispers that they´d heard me come in and I couldn’t appear cowardly. I should have known that they would be here. I warily approached the living room just as Michael flew out of it towards me.

´Where have you been?´ he flared, hurling himself at my shoulders and sending me careening backwards where I collided roughly with the wall.   

I had never seen him more enraged. I had been his punch bag during countless fits of his vile temper but I knew in that instant that this was to be the final showdown. He lunged at me again, his face the picture of a maniac. I dodged his punch and managed to sidle down the corridor. He had worked himself into a total frenzy. This was no longer a man in anger; it was a beast bent on ravaging his prey.

´You´re a psychopath,´ he roared.

´I’m going to have you locked away.` He shoved me violently against the radiator.

 ´I’ve called the psychiatrist. They’re coming to take you away.´ Another shove.

´You will never see your children again. Nobody will visit you. Nobody will even know you are there,´ he cackled dementedly.

´I will certainly not come to visit you.´

I gasped in astonishment and tore into the living room. I glanced frantically from Tamar sitting next to Sammy on the floor to Esther holding Benji on the settee. I had not uttered a word until now. I still could not speak. I just looked pleadingly from one woman to the other, silently begging for mercy. Finally Tamar had seen and heard the true face of her son and would realize what he was putting me through, I thought, expecting to be vindicated at last.

She looked back at me blankly and did not stir. Her eyes revealed no sign of compassion or remorse. I could have been invisible. I stood frozen on the spot, desperately turning to Esther in the hope of a reaction.

´You are so sick, Beth´ she said instead, mournfully shaking her head.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I felt the room starting to spin and forced myself to get a grip. I suddenly felt physically sick with fear. I had naively entered right into a gladiator ring, completely unprepared for the fight. I was a prisoner in my own apartment, totally exposed and vulnerable to the sinister plots of the people that should have been my closest allies but turned out to be my most bitter and hateful enemies. I wanted to turn and escape back to the refuge but this time Michael stood smugly guarding the door like a jailer.

The babies just sat there in bewilderment staring up at me goggle eyed. I didn’t know which one to take first. I decided Benji was in graver danger. Esther had proven so incompetent she might let him fall from the settee. I reached forwards to take him but she pulled him back and held her arms around him defensively.

`Give me back my child´ I demanded.

At her refusal I plunged forward and grabbed him from her battling arms.

´Get out of my apartment´ I hissed at her.

´This is not your apartment´ she said evenly. It is Michael´s.    

In three great strides Michael was before me. He snatched Benji away from me and carried him to the farthest point of the room.

´You will not see them again` he repeated ominously.

My heart began to pound so ferociously I thought it would rip through my rib cage.

I reached for my phone and called the nearest person that I thought could help me. Luckily she answered after a few rings.

`Nina,` I said breathlessly.

Please come down. I need your help.

What is it? She asked curiously.

`Just come. Now,` I begged.

I ran out of trhe living room into the corridor. He followed after me raging words that my ears could no longer process or absorb. He had put Benji down so he had both arms free to resume his vicious attack on me.

I heard the doorbell ring and Esther´s pathetic voice at the door.

´You cannot see Beth now. Please come back later.´

´Nina! Nina´ I screamed at the top of my voice.

´Please, please help me,` I screamed from the far end of the corridor where my bestial husband was pinning me against the wall, bearing down on me and digging his nails into my sunken shoulders.

I started kicking my legs and beating my fists in a desperate attempt to release myself but he just strengthened his grip further.

What’s going on? Nina asked baffled. She bypassed Esther and came towards us.  

´He wants to have me locked away in a mental asylum,` I said in total disbelief.

Hearing the words articulated sounded so ridiculous to me that I thought she would actually laugh at the absurdity of it. Surely she would calm things down and restore some sanity here. 

She looked from me to him while he fired off a few sentences of rapid German to her which I didn’t understand.

´Beth. Go where they tell you. It´s for your own good,` she said emotionlessly. I was dumbfounded.

All the favours I had done for her obviously counted for nothing. 

`You bitch!` I screamed out in horrified betrayal.

Had all sanity flown out of the window? Was there no one who could see sense anymore?

´Get out of here,´ I yelled.

Enough enemies were present without introducing another. With a chilling realisation I came to the terrible conclusion that I was to face this nightmare totally and utterly alone.

The next moment four burly police officers arrived at the door. Michael immediately released me from his grip. He quickly composed himself and tucked his shirt neatly back into his trousers as he went to greet them. He invited them inside and I stood aghast as three more men in red uniforms carrying bulky canvas holdalls followed closely behind.  

´Here is my wife,´ he said contemptuously nodding his head in my direction.

I stood trembling as the men trooped towards me down the long length of the corridor. I have never in my life felt as small as the moment they gathered around me for inspection. Two of the fiercest looking ones took hold of my elbows and purposefully escorted me towards the kitchen. They supported me as my legs wobbled beneath me. I felt like I was walking a tightrope. Or a pirate ship´s plank. To my death. From the corner of my eye I glimpsed the conceited glow of triumph light up Michael`s face as he observed them leading me away.

The other two officers began conversing collegially with him in German. I overheard him superciliously name the hospital and department where he worked. He produced his doctor´s identity card and solemnly began fabricating a disparaging diagnosis of me as they stood listening intently. I stood aghast as he began to reel off a list of my supposed mental conditions: I was a paranoid schizophrenic, delusional, a manic depressive and suicidal. He conducted himself with such self assured poise and so convincingly assumed the part of the responsible, honourable doctor that I let out a little yelp of disbelief at his shameless charade.     

´Its not true,´ I screamed vehemently in English.

´He´s lying.`

Nobody took the slightest bit of notice at my panicked protestations. I started pacing up and down clutching at my hair, frantic for a flash of inspiration to get me out of this evil plot that Michael and his family had conspired against me. I tried to form a coherent defence of my sanity but my words gushed out in a confusing jumble.

I called my parents in desperation. My mum answered groggily. It was only later that I fully understood the traumatic ordeal I put them through. It`s not every day that a parent is woken up to hear that their son in law is carting their daughter off to a mental asylum.    

`OH MY G-D,´ my mother shrieked.

I described the surreal scene taking place in my kitchen; the seven uniformed men gathered around the breakfast table, the spurious charges they were investigating against me, Tamar and Esther sitting in my living room with my babies, conspiring to take them away from me forever.

She was panicking as much as I was. I heard my dad in the background asking what on earth was going on and my mum´s tone of alarm as she briefly explained the situation. There was not a lot they could do. My mum said she would make some phone calls - the Embassy, the English police, the local Rabbi- I wasn’t sure how any of these could help me five thousand miles away but I hung up feeling a little reassured to hear a voice of sanity. I promised to call back soon to let them know what was happening.   


As unnatural as it felt, I had to force myself to remain calm, I realised. My hysteria will go against me. I tried to view the scene as an objective outsider; the ´mad´ woman´s vociferous cries of outrage and protest contrasted with the doctor`s calm rational disposition painted a pretty poor picture in my favour. The terrible realization struck me; they’ve already made up their minds that I´m mentally ill. I had an impossible fight on my hands.

´Please sit down, we would like to measure your blood pressure,´ one of the men in red uniforms said in German pushing me towards a chair. Paramedics, I deduced in horror. He unzipped one of the holdalls and started rummaging around inside. I saw his hand pass over a packet of syringes and needles and felt myself blanch in palpable fear; they intended to sedate me.

´You will not touch me!` I protested.

I recoiled from his grip and fumbled for the words in German. I tried to object, to state that I was perfectly healthy and sound of mind and it was my husband who was mentally ill but my mind went blank. I resorted back to English but he just looked at me with a confused expression and I knew he had not understood.

´Do any of you speak English?` I called out to them collectively. Blank faces all around. I clenched my fists in angry frustration.

I knew that with my poor German skills I was at an immediate disadvantage.

Michael stood watching, smugger than ever. The policemen ushered him out of the kitchen but allowed Nina to remain. She had let me down unforgivably but perhaps now her conscience would compel her to intervene and she would speak up for me. She could save me. I looked at her with the same pleading eyes that I had turned on Tamar and Esther but not a flicker of emotion crossed her face. She remained detached, a curious bystander, as one might watch a victim of a road accident being treated on the opposite side of the street.

The paramedic with the blood pressure monitor appealed to the police officers for help. I stood resolutely, preparing a look of defiance for any officer that would dare to force me to submit to his requests. One of the two that had led me by the elbow looked at me quizzically.

´Where were you all night?` he asked slowly so that I could understand.

´I went to a Womens´ Refuge. My husband was abusing me,` I stated.

`He locked me out of the apartment.`

I managed to formulate in broken German a basic account of what had happened the previous evening. The policeman asked me the name and address of the refuge and immediately made a telephone call to ascertain whether I was telling the truth or if I really were delusional and insane.

To my relief the refuge had a record of my visit and confirmed that I came in a distressed state. He hung up the phone and looked around at the other men in stunned surprise.  

Michael, oblivious to the ironic twist in the tale, came bursting into the kitchen holding out his mobile phone to the officer in charge.  

`I have my colleague, a psychiatrist on the phone. Please speak to him. He knows all about her,` he stated.

The officer dubiously took the phone and went out of the kitchen with Michael. After about five minutes he returned looking more confused than ever.

´We will call an independent police psychiatrist to assess the situation,´ he informed everyone present. This was becoming more and more farcical.

`It is very important that you remain calm and tell her everything exactly as it happened,´ he told me, tempering his abrasive manner.

It all hinged on the decision of the police psychiatrist – a woman - I considered, with a mixture of apprehension and relief. After a nail biting ten minutes, Dr Schreitl entered the fray. She sat down next to me and asked me what was going on. Luckily she spoke excellent English. Composedly and articulately I described the abuse Michael had subjected me to throughout the three years of our marriage, his constant controlling and how both had exacerbated since the birth of the children.  I recounted the occasions he had pushed me, even as I held a baby in my arms and the intensity of his invective and constant tirades against me. As she scribbled down notes, I told her that I finally had the courage to divorce him and that he feared that I, as the mother, would naturally be granted custody of the children.

´He wants to take them from me but he has nothing to use against me. I do not drink, I do not take drugs, I´m a competent mother. This accusation of mental illness is the only thing he can come up with,´ I said shrugging my shoulders, confident that I had convinced her of the truth and successfully proven my sanity.

Her horrified expression confirmed that I had.

`Why did you stay with him so long?` she asked incredulously.

´He wasn’t always like that. After the aggressive attacks, he would turn sweet on me and pretend nothing had happened. I wanted to believe that it hadn’t, that everything was okay so I ignored it too. Life with him was like a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs,` I explained but realised that for an outsider unaccustomed to abuse, it was difficult to understand the rationale behind it. How could I expect anyone else to understand when I could barely fathom it myself?

She rose from the chair and went to confer with the police officers who were beginning to wonder why they had been brought here in the first place. 

Michael reappeared at the door with a bespectacled grey haired man by his side.

Dr Schreitl approached them.

`Dr Földes,´ the man said, arrogantly extending his hand to her.

I recognised the name, though not the face. The Jewish psychiatrist from the Mizrachi shul. The family friend of the Schlesinger family. I drew a breath. This hideous nightmare was getting worse by the minute.

I heard one of the babies start to cry and went to get him. Benji was back with Esther. This time she did not protest as I lifted him into my arms and kissed him. Sammy was distracted by a puzzle on the floor and I left him to play quietly.

I took the baby into the corridor where Dr Schreitl and Dr Földes were at loggerheads.

I caught the gist of the conversation. Földes, at Michael´s request, had come to take me away to the psychiatric unit at the Baumgartnerheuer hospital. He was the head of the department and believed Michael´s claims that I was mentally ill.

He had his back to me.

`Have you ever met Mrs Schlesinger? Dr Schreitl interrogated him.

´No but I´ve heard enough about her to know that…

`So you´ve never actually spoken to her?`

´Her husband has been calling me the past few weeks and telling me information…´

´Have you ever spoken to her yourself?` she demanded exasperatedly.

He was forced to admit that he hadn´t.

´And you’re prepared to institutionalise her without assessing her yourself? She exclaimed.

´Well, I…I…´

With great satisfaction I watched him squirming, trying to come up with a reasonable defence..

´I suggest that you talk to the young lady first before you decide about her mental state,` she said acerbically, turning her back on him to consult the policemen in charge.

Földes turned to look at me for the first time. His look was that of a man who had just discovered a piece of dog muck on his front doorstep. I regarded him with equal disdain.

Dr Schreitl assumed total control of the situation. She called me and the officer back in to the kitchen. 

`We are issuing your husband with a wegweisung,` she announced.

´A wegweisung?´ I repeated, unfamiliar with the term.

´We are removing his keys. He will not be able to return to the apartment,´ she replied.

He was being evicted. I was elated.

`Thank you. Thank you so much,` I said, shaking her hand, wanting to reach out and hug her.

She advised me to contact a centre for female victims of domestic violence and wrote down the name. The policeman handed me the eviction notice to sign.

The paramedics zipped up their holdalls and sighed irritably at the preposterous waste of their time. The policemen prepared to leave, their expressions a mixture of confusion and resentment at being party to this parody of medical chicanery. They looked at me apologetically and I smiled amicably, acknowledging that they were not to blame for this audacious attack on my freedom; they were just doing their job.

I went to the door to see them out. The head officer stayed behind. Michael, pulling along a suitcase of snatched belongings walked mournfully towards the door, eyes downcast. He didn’t dare look up at me. Tamar and Esther followed behind like a funeral cortege. They were more brazen and looked daggers at me. The officer held out the eviction order for him to sign. Silently, with a face like thunder, he signed his name, I wondered what thoughts passed through his mind knowing that he had brought this all on himself. In a final humiliating and degrading act of submission he was forced to hand over his house keys.

´How can you believe this verrückte (madwoman)?´ Tamar screamed at the impassive officer as he escorted them for the final time over the threshold of our marital home. Without a word to me, Nina accompanied them.

I closed the door with a heavy sigh and turned around. I had forgotten all about Földes. He was still standing there, watching Michael´s eviction with a look of pitiful regret.

´Perhaps we should sit down and talk?` he said, as amiably as a waiter offering a customer sachertorte in a Viennese coffee shop.

`Yes,´ I said rankled by his disingenuousness.

I sat Benji down in his highchair in the kitchen and went to fetch Sammy who had started bellowing in the living room.

´Would you like something to drink?´ I asked with the same slimy sweetness that he had used with me.

´A glass of water please,´ he said, seating himself in the chair that the police psychiatrist had vacated a few moments earlier.

With shaking fingers I filled his glass and sat down to talk to the man who had just attempted to imprison and psychologically murder me.

´I think I´ve seen you in Mizrachi a few times,´ he began, a flicker of recognition crossing his face.

´Yes I go there often,´ I replied. 

´But I´ve never seen you,´ I added emphatically hoping he was feeling the criminal that he was. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and held a fist over his mouth to catch a nervous little cough. He took a sip of his drink.

I wished I could punch him but I couldn’t afford to be rude. While his part in the despicable plot had failed, the fact remained he was the head of the psychiatric unit and I didn’t know what other powers he possessed.

As he had not troubled to introduce himself to me earlier nor deigned to inform me that he wished to lock me away in his unit, I was surprised to discover that he exhibited a perfect proficiency of the English language.

´Michael has made several phone calls to me over the last few weeks,´ he began defensively. ´I was led to believe that you had serious mental incapacities.´

I almost laughed out loud. Here he was, a pillar of the community and respected medical authority compromising his lifetime achievements to help a worthless trainee doctor teach his disobedient wife a lesson. He had been taken in by an evil lying brute and had unquestioningly accepted his bogus claims - for what? Had they paid him? At what price was he prepared to lay his career on the line and abuse his position in one of the leading hospitals in Vienna? There was no doubt in either of our minds that one stupid decision had brought his credentials as an eminent psychiatrist into serious disrepute.

Unfortunately, it was only after he´d gone that my mind began to process what had happened. At that moment I was still too shell-shocked to ask him the obvious question; what made him do it? I kicked myself later that I’d missed the opportunity to find out.

As he sat before me I felt his scrutinising eyes bore into me inquisitively, putting me more on the defensive than the offensive. I began to paint another picture of Michael entirely and watched his face drain of colour as his image of Michael the trustworthy doctor crumbled away and was replaced by an abusive, aggressive control freak.

I repeated what I had told the police psychiatrist but added a few touches that I knew would reach his conscience most as he himself was a traditional practicing Jew.

`I´m just a nice Jewish girl who came here full of optimism and enthusiasm hoping to create a happy Jewish home together,` I told him,

´He has systematically bullied me, controlled me and intimidated me and now he has attempted to eliminate me as well,´ I said, shaking my head and experiencing a devastating sense of betrayal as the notion of what he tried to do began to sink in.         

´I´m very sorry to hear this,´ he said solemnly.

Im damn sure he is, I thought. Sorry for himself more like that I wasn’t the raving lunatic he had expected to whisk away for he now found himself in a very uncomfortable position with many questions left to answer. He didn’t comment further but just wrote down his name and phone number on the nearest piece of paper to hand - the eviction notice.

´If you need anything, don’t hesitate to contact me,´ he said insincerely.

´Like if I change my mind and decide I’d like to spend a few relaxing days in a mental asylum after all?` Was on the tip of my tongue to respond. 

Instead I thanked him and walked him to the door. He stood hesitantly for a moment, as if he would have liked to add something. His brow furrowed but he decided against it and walked away sheepishly.

I locked the door immediately. I stood stock still for a moment or two struggling to comprehend the enormity of what had taken place in my apartment the past two and a half hours. I was numb. My emotions were all over the place and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My heart was pounding and my stomach lunging. Sammy and Benji had swivelled around in their highchairs and were looking up at me expectantly.

´What do you make of all that, hey?` I asked them, forcing myself to sound cheerful to hide the devastation I inwardly felt. They had witnessed scenes that no eight month old baby should ever have to face. For the second time in five days they had seen a police entourage intrude on our private lives; seen the grave expressions, heard the terrible shouts and sensed the searing tension as our family unit crumbled before their bewildered eyes. They had lived through a nightmare that was enough to traumatise even the most hardened adult.

G-d knows what was going through their little heads. They started to cry. I tried to placate them with a nursery rhyme but it must have sounded hollow even to them for their cries just got longer and louder.

What to do? My mind was racing. I couldn’t sit around. I had to do something. It was Tuesday. Divorce day in the court. At least in one respect I was grateful to him, he had just finalised my decision. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind anymore about staying together for anyone’s sake. I felt a great surge of relief. Whatever else, I would no longer have to face a future of fear and trepidation living with him. I was finally free.

At the same time I was heartbroken for what they had lost, for the ideal childhood they would never know, for the mother-father bond that would always be missing from their lives. I knew that divorcing their father would spare them the pain of his violent mood swings but it still didn’t stop me from wishing things had been different.    

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