Chapter 5: Soon
It was one of those hot, early September days that really made it a burden to be at work or simply indoors, when one could be at the beach. It was days like those that made Peter miss being all day on his fishing boat, soaking up the sun and breathing in the cooling sea breeze. But those days offered little pay compared to what he was earning now.
Earlier on in the year he had been promoted to factory manager at the large fishing company at which he had been working for years. He was earning more than he had ever imagined possible. It was times like these that nearly made Simone and him forget the desperate and stressful era back when Kristian and Yvonne were born.
Not only had Peter been able to afford a restoration and expansion for their 18th century house and a new boat for leisure, but just recently he had purchased the latest model of Mercedes Benz, a 1929 S model.
The times were more than wonderful; music and laughter filled the air. Jazz had become a very popular music, and although Kiel had remained slightly more quiet, talk on the radio was that in the capital it was an endless jazz party. People were in love with American movies, and simply idolized the ‘Bronze Venus’ Josephine Baker.
Peter often missed the older, traditional era. He didn’t want his children to grow up in this frenzy-filled culture obsessed with Hollywood; but he also couldn’t complain because his family and the rest of the nation were more prosperous than ever before.
The school bell rang and, as usual, Ivy and Uli were the last ones to leave their class. They just weren’t in a hurry to leave school like the other children, they loved school. Although today they packed their things faster, because they really wanted to get to the centre of town to see what all the fuss was about.
When they got there, they saw a small crowd that consisted mainly of children around the centre statue in the plaza. As they got closer they saw the flags and banners that had been set up where the crowd was. Flags that Uli and Ivy hadn’t seen before, they were striped red and white with a black symbol in the middle. "What a strange looking symbol,” Ivy said to Uli. “Let’s get closer, see who they are,” he replied.
The people from the curious crowd were talking to a small group of girls and boys, their ages probably ranging from sixteen to eighteen years old. They were wearing a beige and brown uniform with the same strange-looking symbol on the sleeves, with matching hats and neckties.
“Hello there little ones,” a tall, older boy greeted them. “Hello, who are you all?” Uli asked him. “We, young man, are the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) and we are here to recruit more boys and girls for our club!” he told them full of excitement. “What is the Hitler Youth, sir?” Ivy asked, and an older girl joined them and said “It’s a fun club for beautiful young ones like you two. We do lots of fun activities together and we also make lots of friends!” she smiled.
“How old are you both?” the boy asked. “We are nine years old, sir,” Uli replied. “Oh I’m afraid you are a bit young to join our junior program, but once you turn ten you can surely join us little man. Just one more year,” he patted Uli on the head. “And once you are fourteen, you can join us in the program for older youth,” the girl told them with a warmhearted smile. “Here, take this home and keep it as a reminder that soon you can join,” the boy handed them a pamphlet, and with that, they turned their attention to other people that were approaching.
Ivy and Uli only had one topic of conversation as they walked home, Hitler Youth. “Do you think it is fun like they said? It sounds like a bore,” Uli said with a frown. “It sounds like fun, I guess, but we already have lots of friends at school. Wait, do Hitler Youth go to school too? Because I would not miss school for anything at all,” she laughed and then said “Uli, who is Hitler anyway?” “I’m not sure actually, my dad talks about him sometimes, and I hear his name on the radio often, but I never paid attention to it,” he told her. “He’s probably the head of the club, I suppose.”
Tuesday, October the 29th, 1929 Ivy wrote at the top of the page she was about to fill out with homework answers. She was sitting at the kitchen table, working on her Geography assignment. Mother was cooking while Father was also at the table, helping Kristian with his Mathematics homework. The radio was buzzing softly in the background, voices speaking but barely audible, yet suddenly Mother stopped stirring the soup and turned the volume up.
“...at the moment. I repeat, this is an urgent announcement dear listeners. Please listen up, this is an urgent message. The American stock market has crashed. I repeat, the American stock market has crashed. As of a few hours ago, sixteen million shares were traded, with the Dow Jones losing 30 points. As we reported yesterday, the Dow had already lost 38 points. This additional loss of 30 Dow points today marks the biggest crash in stock exchange in the history of a Western nation. The United States of America is in bankruptcy dear listeners, complete ruins... They say people in Wall Street, New York and our people here in Berlin have taken to the streets, and many have taken their lives, folks, what a tragic day for us all...” and the radio announcer went on to repeat the message over and over again.
Simone stared at Peter with eyes wide open, while Peter just sat there frozen, in shock.
“What does it mean Vatti? What did the radio man mean?” Kristian asked. But Peter was speechless. “Mutti, what’s wrong? What does this all mean?” Ivy innocently asked.“It means our country is doomed, my darlings. It means we are going back to the desperate times,” Simone said as tears began to flow down her face.