From Darkness

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Chapter 11: Guilt

Ivy slowly stepped inside the bathtub and sank as low as she could, so that the foamy water was over her chin. The water felt wonderful, it was warm and scented with lavender. She untied her two braids and began to untangle her hair with her fingers. Her Hitler Youth uniform lay on the floor where she had carelessly dropped it. Now that Ivy looked at it, she felt a pang of guilt. She sat up and grabbed it, dripping water on it in the process, but it didn’t matter. She folded it nicely and placed it on the other side of the bench where her evening dress lay.

Ivy continued to run her fingers through her hair as she thought about how unfair life sometimes could be. It was certainly kind to her family now, they were prospering along with the rest of their nation. She hadn’t forgotten that not long ago they had been starving, but those times seemed like from another lifetime. Yet life was unfair because now that she was fourteen, she should have been allowed to wear makeup, but she wasn’t. Ivy loved how her lips looked in rouge lipstick, but in the Third Reich women did not wear makeup, because makeup was for whores. I’m not a whore, she thought.

She tried to wear red lipstick for school one day, but when Mother saw her she told Ivy to remove it at once. “We must go back to our traditions Yvonne, we must wear our folk dresses, our hair in braids and let our natural beauty shine through. The Führer and Goebbels don’t want us looking like French women.” That day Simone threw all of her makeup in the trash.

Ivy loved the Reich and its leader, he was her idol. He was an idol to all in his own right, having turned so many of his promises into realities and restoring Germany’s former glory in such a short time. Everything wasn’t quite yet the way it used to be, or so Ivy heard from elders, but her beautiful country was prospering at speeds that frightened the rest of Europe.

Although she loved the Reich, there were things about it, such as the rule that women must look and dress traditionally, that she disliked. Looking at the crest on her uniform’s sleeve made her feel guilty again, guilty for thinking about disliking the Reich. I’m such a coward... My Führer would deem my thoughts disgusting. No, no he wouldn’t. I’m loyal to the Reich, I would sacrifice almost anything for it, she thought.

When her bath had gone cold she dried her body and hair and put on a long-sleeved white blouse and then her dirndl. The dress she was wearing that evening was gorgeous, although it was very folksy and traditional. Even she had to admit so, it was a stunning dirndl in midnight blue and dark champagne satin, for very special occasions. Wearing dirndls used to be for milk maids and farm girls, but now every German woman was wearing them in all sorts of colors and fabrics.

A special occasion it indeed was. Grand Admiral Karl von Schäffer was coming to her house for dinner. He was visiting Kiel from Berlin, where he lived. Karl Schäffer had fought alongside Peter during the Great War, and he earned the rank of Grand Admiral after a very successful victory against Great Britain.

Ivy didn’t really know why he was visiting them for dinner, she’d been told they would have a very special guest that evening and that she must wear her prettiest dinner dirndl.

Once Ivy had put it on, she let her hair loose so it could dry and went downstairs to the kitchen. “Is there anything I can help you with, Mutti?” “No Ivy, I just finished preparing the food and the table. Grand Admiral Schäffer will be here soon, just... You’re going to braid your hair, yes?” Simone said.

“Yes Mutti” Ivy replied and began braiding her hair down the side. “Alright, I’ll be back,” Simone said and she went outside to get more wood for the fireplace.

Ivy went to the living room where Peter sat reading an old newspaper, he seemed unhappy or perhaps anxious. He was wearing his Imperial German Navy Captain’s uniform, it was navy blue and white with gold stripes on the sleeves. There was a knock on the door and Peter sighed deeply, folded the newspaper neatly and put it down on the coffee table. Another knock. Peter opened the door just as Simone came back in and signaled Ivy to her side.

“Ah... old friend, welcome to my home. Come in, please,” Peter said to the tall, bald man at the door. He looked a lot older than Peter, and he also wore a uniform just like Peter’s but with different stripes. “It’s good to be here, you have a lovely home my friend,” Admiral Schäffer said.

“This is my wife Simone and my daughter Yvonne,” Peter introduced them while Schäffer shook their hands and said “Very beautiful ladies you have, I always knew you were a lucky dog!”

Dinner with Karl von Schäffer was surprisingly pleasant, Ivy thought, even though it was so formal. The only time she spoke to him was when asked about school and how she liked it. “I like school and I like learning, a lot, what I’m learning now is about how we can create a better future for our nation,” Ivy told him.

“Yes, young lady, the future is everything, it’s all we have,” he replied.

After they were finished, Peter and Karl stepped outside for a smoke. Vater never smoked, but Ivy assumed that Admiral Schäffer had offered and he hadn’t wanted to be rude by declining. When they went back inside the house, they locked themselves up in Peter’s study. Ivy wanted to hear what they were saying, her curiosity getting the best of her as always.

Ivy tiptoed her way to the study door and pressed her ear against it. She could hear mumbling, they were speaking in low voices. She managed to understand a part of the conversation.

“There won’t be another war Peter, we’re simply restoring order to the chaos that was our previous government.” “Yes Karl, but with the plans you’re telling me are going in action, a war could be easily provoked. Is the Führer going to just wipe his arse with the Treaty of Versailles?” Peter said.

Karl laughed and said “My dear friend, I know not what the man plans to do with that treaty, but whatever he does, I’ll follow him. I’ll even follow him into war, I want revenge for my Vaterland. I want revenge for the way they humiliated us.” “I want revenge just as bad, but I don’t think that it is worth putting my family through hardships once more.” “This time around there will be no hardships, you’ll be earning thrice what you earn now, your family will be well off...” Karl said.

At that moment Ivy heard her mother walking towards her and she ran upstairs to her room. So Grand Admiral Schäffer had come to offer Vati a job, but what was the job? As a sailor again? She would just have to wait to find out.

Ivy stayed in her room reading a book of Spanish poems from the 18th century until she heard the front door close and an engine start, then fade away. When she went downstairs, she found Simone cross-armed and seething with anger while Peter held out his hands and said “Please darling, try to understand...”

“Vati, What happened?” Ivy asked.

“Grand Admiral Schäffer came to offer me a job as a Gruppenführer of the Schutzstaffel. It’s quite the promotion really, and for old times’ sake I have accepted. Well, and also for the good of the family and the Reich,” he replied.

“That’s wonderful Vatti!” she said, hugging him.

“Yes, it’s just... well there’s one small detail. The job is in the capital, not here,” he told her.

“In the capital? What... what does that mean Vatti? You’ll leave us? But only for a little while, right?”

Simone got up and left, a few seconds later they heard the bedroom door close with a bang.

“No Ivy, I’m not leaving you. We are all moving to Berlin.”

Author’s Note:
Gruppenführer translates to General in military terms.

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