A Wing and a Prayer

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Chapter 24

Klein found his First Class compartment on the train and selected one of the large chairs, and spread his bag, jacket and his buff envelope over the seat in front, to discourage anyone else from sitting there. By the time he settled down, the train had just pulled out of the station and was crossing the bridge over the River Clyde. Klein looked out towards the West side of the city and took in the view of the cranes of the shipyards lining the river banks, and thought of the estuary beyond. He spared more than a passing thought for those he was leaving behind and how desperately unhappy he was at having to leave the care and hospitality of Mags and Andy. He never knew how much he thought of them as parents until he reflected on this, now, and he felt the same apprehension about this journey as he did when leaving his real parents for the Luftwaffe base for the first time. He thought about his time here, and how much he would miss Mags and Andy and he began to feel very despondent again. Klein felt a deep sense of isolation, now, as he realised he was homesick for two places and suddenly felt very much on his own at a time when he needed people around him the most. He thought back to how scared, vulnerable and lonely he felt when he first got out of his ’plane when it crashed on Arran. That was nothing compared to what he felt now.

The train gathered speed as it passed more industrial parts of Glasgow – steelworks, foundries, boiler shops, marshalling yards, all geared towards maximum production for a war that was now finally over. Klein was snapped out of his daydream when the conductor came in to his compartment to check his ticket. Klein, remembered to keep quiet and take the first real test of Iain’s ‘deaf’ plan. He handed the conductor his ticket and then handed him the little card. The conductor read it at the same time as he gave Klein back the card and then smiled meekly at him. As the conductor turned to leave, he paused as

he noticed the buff coloured envelope on the chair and looked at Klein, raising his eyebrows, muttered,

“Bloody hell - refugee Germans going First Class! What next?”

Klein simply carried on smiling, aching to keep up his pretence and cursing himself for leaving the envelope in view – how could a German refugee be travelling First Class! Klein was relieved that he didn’t seem interested enough to alert any authorities.

Once the conductor had left, Klein put his ticket away carefully in his bag and sat back to watch the view, which was now rural and pleasant as the train sped through all the stations, it would normally have stopped at, had this been a regular train service. Klein was feeling much more confident now, and so, when another member of the train crew, who looked like some kind of waiter, came in to give him the menu for the dining car, he was using his ‘deaf’ card confidently. The ‘waiter’ indicated to Klein as best he could that he was to make his way to the dining car, anytime, and order from the bar. Klein smiled and gave him a ‘thumbs up’ sign to show he understood.

The menu wasn’t up to much, as far as First Class menu’s go, but this was to be expected from a rationed, war-torn service! Klein had the choice of mainly sandwiches – corned beef and cucumber, Beef paste and lettuce or cheese. Drinks included tea (no coffee), ginger beer, or soda water. After pondering over the limited choice, he settled on a corned beef and cucumber sandwich, and a pot of tea. He decided he would just point to the items he wanted and show his card at the same time, and again avoid all conversation. This card was proving very useful! Klein got up and made his way to the dining car, which was next coach but one, to his own. As he approached the corridor of the next coach, he heard the distinctive sound of two women chatting away in German, and, while he never heard the full conversation, he was able to ascertain that these women were also worried about getting over to Germany without anyone checking their papers. They were, Klein guessed, about 30 years old, certainly no older, well dressed and rather nervous looking. Klein was curious, and approached them with his card in his hand. The women immediately stopped talking as Klein

came towards them and acknowledged them with a smile. They spoke to him in perfect English, with hardly the trace of a German accent,

“Good day.”

Klein smiled again and showed them his card, and the women looked genuinely relieved that he could not have possibly heard them speaking and thus known they were German. Klein walked on, into the dining car and was very curious as to what these women were doing travelling First Class and how they were able to speak such good English. Why were they having to get back to Germany clandestinely? What were they doing here, and why do they not want the authorities to see their papers, when they clearly have them? Klein was keen to find out more, but daren’t blow his cover at being deaf in order to find out, and he remembered what Iain had said about the other Europeans and the Jewish contingent on the train. Andy and Mags had mentioned in the past that there were a few wealthy German-Jewish business people in the Glasgow area before the war, so Klein figured there was a good chance these women could be Jewish. It might not be a wise thing to do to reveal his identity, although he did wonder if they could help him get over to Germany easier. Klein sat at a table near the entrance to the dining car and soon after, he saw the two women he passed in the corridor come in and sit at another table in front, and at the other side of the train. Klein could hear everything they said. The waiter came over and asked Klein what he would like, and Klein showed him his card and then pointed out the items he wanted from his menu. The waiter smiled politely and acknowledged Klein’s order and then went over to the two women. He heard the women order their tea in perfect English again, and as soon as the waiter had left, they reverted back to German.

“We’re fine, Karina. We can talk freely. Just watch out for the waiter.”

“What about the gentleman behind you?” Karina whispered.

“He’s deaf! And anyway, he’s unlikely to speak German!”

“I’m more concerned about anyone hearing us speak German, Heidi!” Karina replied.

“Well he certainly won’t anyway!” Replied Heidi.

Klein listened intently as they began to discuss their journey and from what he could gather, like him, they were trying to get back over to Germany with as little interference from the authorities as possible. As Klein listened, he was able to learn that they worked for a Diplomat in London, what nationality the diplomat was, he never found out. Despite the fact that they were clearly from a wealthy background themselves, educated and in a good job, they should have been able to get back over to mainland Europe with no problem. Klein started to think the worse and thought that perhaps they might have been involved in some criminal activity and decided to wait and listen before he committed himself to speaking to them. Despite Iain’s warning, he was weakening to the temptation to talk to someone from his homeland.

The waiter came over with Klein’s sandwich and tea and simply smiled at Klein and went over to the two German women with their order. The two women continued to talk and Klein was relieved to hear that they were not involved in anything criminal but had fled their jobs and their accommodation as they had been cited as a potential threat to National Security because of their nationality and had been practically under house arrest since the war ended. Once they suspected that things could only get worse for them, they decided to cut their losses, clear out all they had and try and get back to Germany. They had decided to get a train at Kings Cross station in London, but by an understandable error of judgement had found themselves on the train bound for Glasgow! This major mistake had at least thrown anyone off their trail who might be looking for them, but it lost them the advantage of time when it came to boarding a boat over to mainland Europe. If their original idea had gone to plan they would be well on their way on the boat by the time anyone got to the docks. Now, there would be Police waiting for them at Dover.

When they got to Glasgow Central, they just bought a ticket for the next train back, and thought of the idea, much the same as

Iain’s, about merging in with the refugees and slipping through the chaos that was to surely be in place on embarking the boats.

Klein decided that these women would be no threat to him as they were in much the same predicament as him, and decided that maybe they could help each other along the way. He finished his sandwich and his tea, and got up and turned towards the two women’s table. They looked startled for a second, and then astonished, as Klein spoke, in perfect German,

“My name is Jorgen Klein. I am also a German National trying to get back home without being processed. I believe I am in a similar situation as yourselves.”

Heidi, the more astonished looking of the two, said to Klein,

“So you’re not deaf, then?”

Karina, rolled her eyes up and turned to Heidi and replied,

“I think we can safely assume that now!”

Klein smiled and replied,

“May I sit down?”

Heidi and Karina gestured, apprehensively for Klein to sit and Karina introduced herself and her cousin, Heidi.

After formal introductions, Karina said to Klein,

“What do you mean, you are in the same situation as us?”

Klein decided to come clean with them and tell them he was in the Luftwaffe and that his crash was never reported. He never told them what happened to the aircraft, where he actually crashed, or exactly who he had been staying with. He still thought it wise not to tell them everything, and assumed they would do likewise.

“And now I am trying to get back home with the least amount of intrusion.”

Karina and Heidi began to look a bit more relaxed with their compatriot and started to tell Klein their story.

“We came over here near the end of 1937 at the invitation of a member of the British parliament, Dennis Wood, who was a family friend. It was a bit embarrassing for him, later, I suppose as my father and his brother-in-law, Heidi’s father, were fully paid up members of the Nazi party and my brother was in the Waffen SS.”

Karina, stirred her tea unnecessarily while Heidi continued,

“Anyway, he recognised that Germany was not going to be a good place to be and invited us over with a job offer. We had many friends who were Jewish and many Socialist friends, too, and despite the warnings we always received about fraternising with ‘such people’, we always defied them. I guess Dennis could have saved our lives, as it turned out. It was originally going to be a temporary measure while Chamberlain and Hitler worked out a non-aggression treaty between Britain and Germany, which as we all know now, never materialised.”

Heidi looked forlornly down at the table, acting as a cue for Karina to continue,

“So we ended up working for the British government, first in the speech-writing for several members of parliament, and, from 1942, in the Diplomatic Corp, when they realised that our family background might be useful to get some intelligence. By this time, our family were constantly trying to get us back home, which we couldn’t do as we had actually been working for the ‘other side’, and the British were always suspicious of us, being German with direct Nazi connections. We knew we couldn’t go home, anyway, but if we had made it, we probably wouldn’t be alive now.”

Klein listened intently and in a natural pause in the conversation asked,

“Why are you going back under a cloud of secrecy, though?”

Karina lowered her head slightly as if to make their conversation even more private, and replied,

“Since the war ended, we felt we had to get back home quickly as the British were beginning to keep a closer eye on us, and even had us followed wherever we went. We then found out that we were likely to be arrested as a threat to national security and some people were even suggesting that we could be spies. Of course these rumours and stories started flying around and becoming even more incredible by the day, so we just decided to clear out before we ended up in jail.”

Heidi then added,

“Who would believe us if we were arrested? A victorious nation, looking for revenge and two German women with the audacity

to be working in the British parliament, with a Nazi family! It would be a political scandal for Dennis, too!”

Klein nodded in sympathetic agreement and asked,

“So how did you end up in Glasgow? Surely it would have been easier and quicker to go straight to Dover?”

Karina laughed at the absurdity of their plight.

“We got on the wrong train! Can you believe that? We were in such a hurry to get away, we never checked the timetable properly!”

Heid added,

“It seems so stupid, but in actual fact it may have made things a bit easier as this train is full of German and Austrian refugees.”

Klein warned them about that,

“I believe many may be of Jewish origin, so I am not keen in letting it be known I was in the Luftwaffe!”

Heidi nodded and replied,

“And we certainly don’t want anyone to know our family is on first-name terms with Hitler!”

Klein raised his cup to them and said,

“So, we are in agreement, then. We could all use each other’s help to get home?”

Heidi and Karina smiled as they raised their cups to Klein’s.

“Here’s to home . . .”

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