From Darkness

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Chapter 16: Marriage

Rain poured in a rhythmic pounding against the tall windows of the rococo style house. Beethoven’s most beloved piano sonatas softly played in the background, while Grandmother Gerda brought to the table her famous roast pork. Ivy sat next to her grandfather at the brightly lit dining table.

On Ivy’s other side sat Sara, Kristian’s fiancée. She was a teacher, a pretty blonde from Berlin. She seemed like a very sweet girl. Ivy didn’t see her too often, mainly at dinners and gatherings, but she could tell that Sara loved her brother. Kristian had proposed to her recently, over a year after meeting her.

“How come I never knew that you are French, Opa?” Ivy said.

“His name being Antoine didn’t give you any clues?” Kristian teased.

“Well his surname is Neumann, would you say that’s a French name, brother?” Ivy asked.

“That’s right, my darling. My surname makes it easy to assume I’m from here, but I was indeed born in Haguenau, and to a French family. To be quite fair, that town is so close to the German border that although we consider ourselves French, our ancestry is quite Germanic,” Grandfather Antoine replied.

“Was it part of our country in the past? Do the people there speak German or just French?” Ivy eagerly asked.

“I believe it was, yes. The people of Haguenau speak both languages, curious girl,” he smiled.

“That is fascinating Opa, I would love to visit Haguenau some day,” Ivy said.

“Perhaps you can... Your grandmother and I own a little cottage there, you see. We visit it now and again, although after the war we don’t go as much.”

“How did you and Oma meet?” Ivy asked.

“Oh dear! We met in Paris, I was not much older than you are now. But that is a story for another day,” Grandmother Gerda dismissed.

“Is that why we have some family in Paris?” Kristian asked.

“Yes, it is. Which reminds me, your brother sends you his regards, Simone. Speaking of which... I am still surprised by how calm France and Britain stayed through all that,” Antoine said.

“It’s not so surprising, I think. They simply don’t want to stir up trouble, none of us do,” Peter told him.

“I agree, but to send troops marching into the Rhineland like that, I mean, that was a bold move... The French armies on the other side of the Rhine could have easily attacked,” Antoine replied.

“But what is there to attack for? Militarizing the Rhineland? Breaking the Treaty of Versailles? It was a cruel punishment of a treaty anyway, it was meant to be broken. Our country is getting its honour back, and the French and British can’t stop us,” Kristian said.

“Nonsense, Kristian. Your grandfather is right. The Führer gambled, and he won, but he gambled nonetheless,” Peter frowned.

“Let us speak of more pleasant topics, you men will discuss political affairs to no end,” Simone interrupted.

“Yes, but not the damn Olympics! How are the wedding plans coming along? Did you choose a gown yet? And what about the location?” Grandmother Gerda asked.

“Not yet, finding the right gown is proving difficult. We were thinking of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral. It’s a bit of a stretch to book, but Kristian says he can arrange it,” Sara said. Kristian smiled and squeezed her hand which was in his.

“St. Hedwig’s is beautiful! You know, I am expecting great-grandchildren as soon as you two are married,” Gerda exclaimed.

“Let the young ones be, woman. They’ve heard you tell them that a hundred times now,” Antoine rolled his eyes.

“Yes Oma, there is still a long way to go. We’ll get our marriage license soon though, that is an important step,” Kristian said.

“It’s a ridiculous step, if you ask me. In my time there was no need for such a thing. Nowadays you need a license for everything,” Gerda frowned.

“But the marriage license is important, and besides, you two have nothing to worry about. You’re both healthy, young Germans,” Peter said to Kristian and Sara.

“Frankly, I’m just displeased that all the attention right now is going to the Olympics. It is a wonderful event, but everywhere I go, people only talk about the same thing. Ask Sara about the struggle to get that silly seamstress’ attention at the gown shop,” Simone sighed.

“It’s so exciting, Mutti! That’s why everyone loves talking about it. After the cancellation of nineteen-sixteen, it’s exactly what our country deserves! Now we get the chance to show the world how superior our athletes are,” Ivy proudly stated.

~

The Olympics transformed Berlin in a way most citizens found amusing. Ivy, for instance, noticed that Brown Shirts and SS Storm Troopers were much nicer and kinder to the general public, even to Jews. They were not to harass Jews or anyone else for the duration of the Olympics. All the “Jews Not Welcome” or “No Jews Allowed” signs were removed completely from all places. The city had been rid of all undesirable people, such as the homeless, and most buildings were decorated with Olympic flags hung next to Nazi flags.

Berliners had been told to create a friendly and welcoming environment for all the tourists flooding the city.

Lots of conflicts and accusations had risen from Americans against the Nazi government, to the point where, to Ivy’s surprise, they had allowed a half-Jewish fencer to be in the Olympic team. Jews and Negroes from other nations were to participate in the Olympics as well. Still, to America’s displeasure, the German team was composed of only Aryan athletes, with the exception of the Mischlinge.

Ivy disliked the hypocrisy of it all. Even newsstands had been cleared of Anti-Semitic newspapers. Why should they have to change their ways just to please the Olympic Committee or the Americans? She didn’t understand, it seemed almost as if the government was hiding their way of life. But why? What was there to hide? They were doing nothing wrong. Jews were, after all, the nation’s enemies.

Despite all the hiding and hushing, Ivy was having a wonderful time. She had never seen so many people of different cultures and ethnicities in one place. She exchanged books with a girl from Mexico and had a lengthy conversation with a Japanese man whose German had been remarkable. She loved interacting with all the tourists. They were all so excited to be there, and truly impressed by how great Berlin was.

Ivy went to the opening ceremony, where she sat a good distance away from The Führer himself. They sat in a section reserved for him, SS military and their families. Peter, Kristian, and Sara were also there. Everyone who was not in uniform wore white, and Ivy wore the most beautiful white dress, with a gold reichsadler pin Father had given her.

She also attended the track and field events. Outrageously enough, some of the Black American athletes achieved gold and silver medals, with Jesse Owens being the main record breaker and medal winner. Television, Radio, and Newspaper reporters referred to them as the Negro athletes or the auxiliaries, although they were full-fledged teammates.

No matter how much Ivy and the younger generations had been taught to hate those kinds of people, Ivy saw the kids in her neighborhood fascinated by Jesse Owens. They wanted to be as fast as him, as glorious as him. She even saw some little boys who had covered themselves in charcoal dust, to look more like Owens. It made her giggle, but she doubted her father or brother would find it as funny.

In the end, what mattered most had been achieved. Germany was the victor, the nation with the most medals. They had 89 in total, while The United States had come in second place with only 56. Ivy knew then that her Führer was right, that her people were superior, how else could their athletes have achieved so many medals? We have proved it to the world, how magnificent our people are, how great our nation is. I knew we would, she wrote in her latest letter to Uli.

It was announced that the next Olympics would take place in Tokyo, and Ivy and Uli made a pact to go together, in four years’ time.

~

“Come back to bed, please,” Sara sighed as Kristian came out of the bathroom, already buttoning up his uniform shirt.

“Baby I can’t, I’m sorry. I have to go, but I’ll see you at noon to go pick up the license. I love you,” he kissed her and left the bedroom.

“I love you too,” she mumbled in the darkness.

The sky was beginning to lighten to a pale orange, soft streaks of sunshine peeking through the curtains. Sara lay in bed and closed her eyes, she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore. Planning the wedding was nerve-wracking enough, but that day she felt more nauseous and nervous than ever.

Today is the day... please God, please, let it be okay, I beg you... she silently prayed. A tear escaped her eyes and she told herself it would all be fine. Love triumphs over all else, and her love for Kristian was too strong to fail.

~

“Officer Köhler, General Köhler is asking for you, sir,” a soldier told Kristian as he passed him by in the Reichstag hallway. “Where is he?” Kristian asked. “In the garage, lower floor, sir” the man replied.

Peter was loading suitcases and briefcases onto a car trunk. “Heil Hitler!” Kristian saluted his father who simply looked up and smiled. “Father, you must salute back...” Kristian looked around, questioningly.

“We’re alone, son,” Peter said.

“What did you want me for? I have to leave soon. Sara and I have to go to the court,” Kristian leaned on one of the cars.

“Now that the Olympics are over, The Führer is going back to his retreat in the Bavarian Alps. I’m accompanying him for the trip, but I will return in three days. I need you to watch over your mother and sister for me while I’m away,” Peter said.

“Why are you telling me at the last minute, Father?” Kristian asked.

“I didn’t know until an hour ago. I am very proud of you, son,” Peter patted his shoulder.

“Thank you,” Kristian wondered why The Führer had chosen his father, of all the generals at his disposal.

“Father, why is he leaving again? How is he going to run the nation if he’s not in the Reichstag?” Kristian said.

“Keep it down, son. The walls have ears,” Peter cleared his throat.

“The Führer does as he deems fit. Between you and I,” Peter lowered his voice and leaned in closer, “he is planning something, something big. He won’t tell us what it is. He says he wants to maintain peace, but he has been asking me for advice on the rebuilding of our naval forces. There is still a lot to discuss, which is why I’m traveling with him. While I do give him my best advice based on my naval experience, he only hears what he wants to hear, and that’s exactly what I tell him,” Peter said.

“Like the Rhineland?” Kristian asked.

“Enough talk,” Peter straightened up and raised his hand in a salute to none other than The Führer, who was accompanied by his German Shepherd and four officers, all headed their way.

“Heil, mein Führer,” both men saluted him.

“All is ready?” Adolf asked.

“Yes, sir. Your car is that one,” Peter pointed to a black Volkswagen being guarded by two SS men in the distance.

“Excellent. I hear you are getting married soon, Köhler?” Adolf turned to Kristian.

“That’s right, sir,” Kristian replied.

“That’s wonderful news, wonderful. Is she the pretty girl from the opening ceremony?” he asked.

“Yes, mein Führer, that is her,” Kristian said.

“Congratulations, son,” Adolf smiled and continued to talk to one of the officers next to him as they made their way to the car.

~

“Don’t be nervous, love. Take a deep breath,” Kristian wrapped his arm around Sara’s waist as they walked into the court building.

“It’s just... I have the feeling something bad is going to happen before the wedding. I keep worrying but I don’t know why,” Sara told him.

“It will all be alright, as long as I’m with you, nothing bad will happen, I promise,” he comforted her.

“Actually, there is something I have been meaning to tell you, Kristian. It’s probably nothing, but maybe it’s the reason why I feel like something is wrong...” she said.

“What is it?” he opened the door to the lawyer’s office but halted, waiting for her response.

“Never mind, it’s... it’s nothing, I’m fine,” she assured him and they stepped in.

The lawyer assigned to their case began examining the documents on his desk.

“Well, Mr. Köhler, on your part the records show that your family history is pure and clean. There are no records of mental diseases or homosexuality in your family. There are also no records of Jewish ancestry. I see here you have a French maternal grandfather. We managed to pull his records from our neighboring country and his ancestry is actually of Germanic and French royalty, dating back to King Louis The Fourteenth and King Ferdinand The Third. Perhaps that’s something interesting you did not know.

You are, therefore, considered fit to marry anyone of German or kindred blood,” the lawyer pushed up his glasses with one finger and turned to Sara.

“Ms. Mayer, your records also show that your maternal family is clean and pure, of Nordic descent. The records show that there is no history of homosexuality or mental diseases in your family. However, your paternal family... well Ms. Mayer, I don’t know how to tell you this... your paternal grandfather was Jewish,” the man gave her a pitiful look.

“What? No, that can’t be! It cannot be. I can explain... My grandfather’s family may have been Jewish, I don’t know, but if they were, they all converted. They all converted to Catholicism. He was a Catholic!” Sara nervously told him.

Kristian looked shocked, he blankly stared at the papers on the desk.

“I’m afraid, Ms. Mayer, that conversion is no longer relevant under the laws of Nuremberg. You are therefore considered a Second Degree Mischlinge and you are not considered fit to marry Mr. Köhler. You are, however, considered fit to marry another Jew,” the lawyer put down his glasses and said to a silent, shocked Kristian and a teary-eyed Sara “I am truly sorry, but I cannot grant you both the license to marry.”

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