Chapter 6: Talks
Ivy had heard the stories, and she hadn’t been able to believe them, but now she could. Everything had gone from colour to gray, from hot to cold, from dream to nightmare, in just a matter of weeks.
Now it was Christmas day. Where last year laid a delicious feast of roasted lamb, sausages, fresh baked pretzels, sweet breads, wine, beer, cookies and chocolates, now laid a loaf of stale bread, a weak vegetable soup, and some potatoes Mother had been able to purchase. The whole family sat at the table and quietly prayed and thanked God for at least that bit of food. Well, Simone prayed anyway. Peter was never a man of prayer, Kristian pretended to pray, and Ivy was just too upset for words. It just wasn’t fair that they had to eat this.
Everything had changed drastically after the end of October. By the end of November, Father had been laid off work, the factory was in danger of shutting down, and he had sold the boat to be able to afford some food. Although its cost was rising per week, food was becoming scarce, along with fuel and medicine. Ivy and Kristian feared that soon Father would sell the car.
To make matters worse, all the savings Father had had in the bank mysteriously disappeared, along with many other people’s money. Simone’s parents, who lived in Berlin, had luckily managed to retrieve their funds before their bank went bankrupt, and so at least they were getting by. Peter’s parents had died of Spanish Influenza. He was sometimes glad they didn’t have to live through these times.
Refusing to eat the food on the table in front of her was not an option, unless Ivy wanted to go to bed hungry. She stared miserably at their red and blue decorated Christmas tree, which brought a stark contrast of colour and joy to an otherwise miserable night.
His campaigns were like nothing anyone had ever seen before. The way they paraded down the main street, the amount of soldiers, the marching band, happy, proud. The loud military music, the bright red banners and flags, the golden processions. And then there was the speech he gave in Kiel.
He started out his speech in a low and hesitant tone, and gradually increased his volume and pitch, until he broke out in a speech of shouting and indignation against the government. It was all the government’s fault, and he knew how unfair it was, and he was just as fed up with it as the next person. He understood their pain.
But he was like nothing anyone had ever heard before. He had a way with words. Like a man born to stand in front of a massive crowd. His speeches were heart-lifting and well-spoken. He knew just what to say, because that day Ivy saw her parents smile for the first time in a long time, just from listening to him speak. It was a simple enough speech to understand, he spoke of the ways he would bring the economy back to life and give every German a job.
That sounded far-fetched, especially at a time when six million Germans or half of the country’s working age population was unemployed. Those who were employed earned a wage that wasn’t nearly enough to live by. It was a time when the people were malnourished and depressed, even suicidal, and businesses were bankrupt and houses foreclosured.
Yet there he stood, cheering everyone up, lifting the spirits. Even Ivy had to join in the cheering, for at least this man promised to change everything for the better.
It hadn’t taken him long to become the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NAZI Party), and now, at the rate his electoral campaign was going, it wouldn’t be long before he became Chancellor of Germany. “He’s not even German,” the man standing next to Peter said. “Where is he from?” Father asked. “He is Austrian, ha!” To which Father replied “Well, I do not think it matters much, he seems like a good leader, like the leader we need.”
The speech ended with a massive, frenzied, adoring crowd, with their right arms stretched straight in the air, their voices shouting ‘Heil! Heil Hitler!’
It was the 4th of December, it had been two years since The Great Depression began.
“Son, I don’t like where this is all going... I have seen it happen before, the tension that builds up, our people fighting each other, it leads to no good,” Peter frowned.
He was sitting at the kitchen table, across from Kristian, and they were having an important conversation. Ivy knew it was important because this is the first time they had sat like this to talk privately. They thought they were alone, but Ivy was eavesdropping from behind the nearly-closed door.
Kristian ran his hands through his black hair, his light blue eyes fixed on the scratches and stains on the table.
“I have to do something Vater, I cannot just sit around here and watch us all starve to death! What would you have me do?” Kristian confronted him.
“I just don’t want you to be in involved in the violence son,” Peter said.
“It’s the Communists and their ridiculous ideas! They have the violent behavior. It’s all on them. And of course, on our shitty government... Weimar Republic? More like Useless Republic.” Kristian snorted.
“Yes well, you have heard what it is like over there on the radio... the people starving and begging everywhere, young men like you waking up every morning to another work-less, empty day,” Peter warned him.
“Yes Father, I know it will be hard, but I have a good feeling about this. They will take me in, you will see,” Kristian asserted him.
“Just be careful not to get into any fights with the Communists okay? I can’t stop you from leaving. You’re a man now,” Peter smiled sadly.
“It’s done then. I will go to the capital and stay with Opa and Oma, and that way I’ll save money and help them out too. I will send you all the money I can, I know it won’t be much but it’s the best I can do,” Kristian told him.
“You’re leaving us?” Ivy didn’t care that she had given away her hiding spot. “I must go to the capital, Ivy. You’re only twelve now, but some day soon you will understand,” Kristian said.
“Why are you leaving though? What are you going to do in Berlin?” she asked.
“I’m going to join the National Socialists. The Nazi Party.”
“With Hitler? Oh, I understand then. I wish I could join with you. I will miss you Kris, you must write to us, write often, promise?” Ivy smiled.
“I promise,” he smiled back.