Chapter 18: Sights
“No more English classes? How am I supposed to learn English now? It’s as though everything that is British or American is damned!” Liesel complained as she and Ivy left their school.
“Shhh... keep it down, Liesel. Why do you want to learn English anyway?” Ivy said.
“Why do you want to learn Spanish?” she asked in response.
“Well, because I like it,” Ivy replied.
“There you go. I like English, and I wish to visit America some day,” Liesel said to her.
“Ugh, I can’t understand you sometimes. America is full of Negroes and Jews,” Ivy said.
“I never said I wanted to live there...” Liesel said and they laughed.
“Speaking of...” Ivy pointed to the end of street they were walking by, a residential street near the center of the city. Gestapo police and SS soldiers were dragging and shoving Jews into a large truck.
“Where do you think they’re taking them? To the camps?” Liesel wondered.
“I’m not sure, perhaps our fathers know, but of course they wouldn’t tell us. Probably the camps, yes, but where are these camps anyway?” she said.
“No idea...” Liesel squeezed Ivy’s hand. “Come on, we’ve got a party to get ready for.”
Ivy looked back as they walked onward and saw the soldiers beating up a young boy who refused to get in the truck. With a baton, they struck a blow to his head and he fell on the ground, unconscious. Ivy couldn’t help but feel sadness. All the way to her house she couldn’t stop thinking about her guilt. It troubled her that she could feel pity for a Jew, after so many years of learning how wrong that was. She was weak, only a weak person could feel sad for Jews. What is wrong with me? He was just a filthy little Jude, a little cockroach. Cockroaches are disgusting...
“Ivy, are you listening?” Liesel was asking her.
“What? No, sorry. I was thinking of what dress to wear,” Ivy lied.
“Oh, I know, it’s so difficult! Men have it easy, they just wear their uniforms or a tuxedo, no need to think,” she sighed. “Anyway, I have to run home if I want a chance to look decent tonight. I’ll see you soon,” Liesel hugged her and went on her way.
“Yeah, see you later,” Ivy waved after her and went in her house.
Her parents were hosting a ball in honour of the recent annexation of Austria into Germany. It was now a province of the Reich. The Führer had done Austria a favor by sending troops in to establish order, and by restoring his homeland to the Reich. Austria had been in deep turmoil and economic instability, while Germany was increasingly strong and steady. Many high-ranking officers from the SS and the Army were going to be there, and even with the help of five servants, Mother was stressing over the festivities.
“Yvonne, where have you been? Have you seen what time it is? Your grandparents are on their way and your father and Mr. Von Schäffer will be here soon! And then the guests will be arriving shortly after that!” Mother shouted at her. Simone was a lovely woman, but when it came to dinners and parties, she turned into a bit of a monster.
“I was at BDM and school, mother, did you want me to leave those early?” Ivy said.
“Don’t you talk to me like that, young lady! Apologize and proceed to get ready, hurry!” Simone simply didn’t have the time to pull Ivy by the ear like she deserved.
“Yes mother, I’m sorry mother,” Ivy started going up the stairs.
“Oh and you have a letter from Uli, I left it in your room,” Simone told her.
Ivy sprinted up the stairs and into her room. She carefully tore the envelope open; it had been well over a month since Uli’s last letter. Ivy knew they had grown apart, and that they only wrote to each other out of habit, a sort of commitment or obligation. Yet, she suspected there was more to Uli’s silence than distance or time.
Monday, March 14, 1938
Sorry I haven’t written you in a while. The twins are well, my mother not so much. It’s no excuse, but I am very busy, working, training, and taking care of her and the twins. I had to leave school, just had no time for it. I am training at the military aviation academy in Kronshagen. The pay is good and it is fairly close to home. Also, I recently bought a motorcycle, so I can go anywhere on my own.
Anyway, how are you? I hope you won’t be too upset that I left school, or that I think school is a waste of time, I’m almost laughing as I write this.
I have a surprise for you. I don’t know when this letter will get to you, so depending on that timing you will either know or not what I am talking about. Soon you will know.
I’m so happy by the events of yesterday, our Führer is the best!
Greet your parents on my behalf,
Uli’s letter was five was days old. She wondered what he meant by the timing of the letter and the surprise. What surprise? He couldn’t just leave her wondering like that, he knew she was too curious for her own good.
Once Ivy had finished putting on her gold embroidered silk dress and doing her hair in a braided updo, she went downstairs where she could already hear many voices.
“Oh my! Look at our granddaughter, Antoine! She’s a perfect beauty!” Grandmother exclaimed when she saw Ivy.
“Thanks Oma. Where is Kristian? Isn’t he coming?” Ivy asked her father.
“Kristian? Probably getting drunk at another bar. I don’t care what he does anymore. If he does not come, that’s his problem. He’s the one who will get fired if he keeps going down this path,” Peter said, disgusted.
“Darling don’t say that! You can help him, he’s not lost, he’s just...” Simone couldn’t finish her sentence, it upset her how Kristian had been behaving.
“No, Simone, Peter is right. Kristian is a grown man, he needs to learn to accept that Sara left and it’s over,” Antoine said.
Everyone believed Sara had just up and left mysteriously. But Ivy knew the truth, Kristian had told only her. She had felt devastated finding out that her brother had fallen in love with a Mischlinge. Ivy had tried talking sense into him, yet Kristian listened to no one. He had slipped into a world of darkness and seemed to sadistically enjoy being there.
“Mr. Köhler, this letter just arrived for you,” a pretty secretary stood at his wide-open office door.
“Thanks, leave it on my desk, ” he didn’t look up from the report he was reading.
“Would you like a coffee, sir?” She asked.
“No, thanks,” he continued to scan the papers.
She lingered. When he noticed her hesitation, he finally looked up. “Yes?”
“Sir, I’ve been wanting to say... I just wanted to say that if I was your fiancée, I would never leave you. I would have to be insane to do so,” she said.
“Is that so?” He asked her.
“Yes, Mr. Köhler,” she replied.
“Come here then, and lock the door behind you,” he put down the report and stood up.
It took her a second to register what was happening, but then she locked the door, walked around his desk and stood shyly in front of him. He towered over her, and looking down at her, he ran a hand through her bright auburn hair.
“Unbutton your blouse,” he told her. She didn’t hesitate. He pulled down her brassiere and simply looked at her freckled breasts before grabbing her hair with both hands and pushing her down.
“Get on your knees,” he ordered when she refused to be pushed down.
She gave in and knelt.
“Mr. Köhler, please,” she was starting to regret flirting with him, but he didn’t care.
He unbuckled his belt and unzipped his grey uniform pants.
“Kristian, I don’t want to do this anymore, please...”
“What did you call me? Just shut up and suck my...” he was interrupted by a knocking on the door.
With a grunt, he fixed his uniform as she shuffled to a corner to hide from the door while buttoning her blouse. Kristian opened the door slightly, “Yes?” he asked the soldier who had interrupted. “Apologies, Officer Köhler, Commander Himmler wants to see you in his office,” the soldier saluted him and left.
Kristian left without even looking back at the secretary.
“Heil Hitler!” he saluted the Schutzstaffel’s commander.
“Sieg Heil. Look, Officer Köhler, I don’t mean to be rude but I don’t have much time, so I must make this hasty. Do you have a minute?” he asked.“Of course,” Kristian replied.
“Great. I would like to offer you a job as an officer of the Totenkopfverbände, in Oranienburg. You would be earning twice your current salary and it is not too far from Berlin,” Himmler said.
“What’s in Oranienburg, sir? And what is the Totenkopfverbände?” Kristian asked.
“The Totenkopfverbände is a special unit of the SS. You have already seen the officers in the black uniform. Regardless, in Oranienburg is Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp. Modelled after our successful camp in Dachau, inspired by the British, American, and Cuban concentration camps of the past. Yet this one is more of a labour camp, where the prisoners can work to set themselves free, or so we tell them,” Himmler paused. “You’d be one of the administrating officers. I believe you are the perfect officer for this job, a tough and fearless man. Anyway, think about it and get back to me by Monday,” he dismissed Kristian by signaling to the door.
The party was going better than Simone had dreamed. Ivy and Liesel had just finished a polite conversation with Karl Von Schäffer and their fathers when they decided to get more drinks and step outside for fresh air. The music, which was played by a band and composed by Richard Wagner, was boring them to death.
“A little jazz wouldn’t hurt anyone,” Liesel whispered in Ivy’s ear and they both giggled.“You go ahead,” Liesel said as they were stepping out into the stone patio. “I need to go to the ladies’ room for a minute,” she said and went back inside.
Simone had decorated the house and the patio beautifully, with tiny golden lights and small Reich flags. Since it was a chilly evening, no one else preferred the solitude of the dimly-lit outdoors. A hundred guests crowded her home, it was a strange sight to behold.
Ivy was leaning on the stone fence which overlooked the small backyard when a tall figure stood next to her and leaned on it as well. For a moment she thought it was Kristian, that he had finally come to the party, but when she looked to her right, she didn’t recognize the man.
He turned to look at her and in the soft, golden light she could have sworn she had seen him before. His face was familiar... so familiar....
It can’t be, it just can’t be him. Could it?
“Uli?” she asked, incredulously.
“I told you it would not be long before you saw me again,” he smiled.
Ivy screamed and jumped into his arms. She hugged him tightly, afraid that if she let go he would fade away and she would wake up from a dream.
Totenkopfverbände translates to Death’s Head Unit, and was an independent unit of the Schutzstaffel. This organization solely administered concentration camps and extermination camps, as well as any other type of Nazi camp. Their uniform is the same as the SS’ uniform, but it’s black and bears a skull insignia among other insignia.