From Darkness

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Chapter 8: Listen

Ivy and Julia discussed boys’ immature behavior as they walked around the school courtyard at lunch when they noticed it. A commotion, the kind that occurs when there is a fight going on. Like many others, they walked toward it out of curiosity.

“Give it back please!” scrawny and shy Thomas whimpered, but his pleads only fueled his bullies.

“‘The way her hair flows in the wind, it’s so beautiful... She’s so beautiful! I wonder if she even knows I exist’ Ha! What a loser!” Uli laughed so hard he was out of breath, but he continued to loudly read the contents of one of Thomas’ notebooks. The rest of them, along with his backpack were laid out on the ground where Uli and his friends stood.

Thomas made an attempt to snatch the notebook from Uli’s hand and one of Uli’s friends, a tall kid named Ben, pushed him so roughly he fell and brought on more laughter from the crowd.

“You are so pathetic Thomas, just look at yourself, no girl is going to like you, you smell bad and your hair looks like a rat’s nest!” Ben said while Uli stretched out a hand to hold him back, while saying “Don’t worry Ben, I got it, look at this line here,” and he pointed at the notebook. They both laughed hysterically and Uli proceeded to read it “‘Julia, if only you gave me a chance to spend time with you, I could maybe sing you one of the songs I wrote for’” his sentence was cut off...

“Enough! That’s enough!” Ivy pushed through the crowd gathered in a circle. Uli and his gang were not only bullying and embarrassing poor Thomas, but also her friend Julia who turned crimson at the discovery of Thomas’ crush for her and the fact that the entire school now knew. Julia ran away before anyone got the chance to make fun of her too.

At that moment Professor Braun stepped in and yelled “Ulrich Werner and company, leave Thomas alone right this instant! Thomas get up off the ground and dust yourself off, boy! And everyone else, get back to minding your own business, please!”

They all did as they were told, although Uli shouted after a running Thomas “See you later, beautiful!” procuring a round of laughter from all those still leaving the scene. All except Ivy.

“I haven’t seen you since the morning bell,” Uli turned to Ivy. “That’s because I’ve been avoiding you. You should be ashamed of yourself.” Ivy began walking away from him, but he followed.

“Why? What did I do?” he asked. “What did you do? Uli, you keep making fun of anyone and everyone who isn’t part of your stupid little gang!”

“That’s not true, we only laugh at those who deserve to be laughed at. I mean, look at Thomas, who’s pathetic enough to write those things down?” Uli said.

“You hurt people’s feelings like that Uli, you even embarrassed Julia,” she crossed her arms and sat by the fountain. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass her, I swear,” he sounded honest.

Ivy sighed “It’s okay, just don’t do it anymore,”

Uli smiled “It was here where I first talked to you, do you remember?”
“Was it really? I always thought it had been inside our first class,” she said.

“No, it was here,” He grabbed her hand and asked her to go with him for snow cones after school. Ivy could never say no to Uli, he may have been a bully but he was her best friend.

~

The next day a letter from Kristian arrived and Ivy did not have the patience to wait until her parents came home to open it. She tore the envelope and began reading what she expected would be a detailed account of his latest days in Berlin. Instead, only three lines filled the page:

February 23, 1933
I have been promoted. I will come home in five days to celebrate.
Kristian Köhler.

They hadn’t seen Kristian in five months, he was very secretive about what he was doing in Berlin, and he was always too occupied to visit. Simone had gotten a job as a secretary at a financial office downtown, while Peter was back at the same fishing company he’d been working at three years ago.

When Kristian arrived five days later, Simone and Peter were so relieved to see him at the front door.

They had wanted to receive him at the train station, but he hadn’t specified what time he’d be arriving. At times like these they wished they could afford a telephone, since the grandparents had one in their house, where Kristian was staying.

They had been worrying so much about Kristian, and desperately wondering whether he was well or not. There had been a massive fire in the Reichstag on the previous day and word was that there was turmoil in the capital.

After two knocks on the door, Peter swiftly opened it and hugged Kristian tightly. Then he was hugged by Simone, who was silently wiping tears off her cheeks.

Ivy stood back, admiring her brother who in a matter of months had physically changed a lot. He looked older, taller, serious. His slate gray uniform handsomely contrasting his pale skin and making him look almost unrecognizable.

When Mother and Father let go of him, he stepped around and opened his arms, and Ivy ran to hug him. She had missed him so much, even though he used to annoy her terribly.

“We were so worried about you son, how have you been? What’s happening in Berlin?” Peter asked.

“I have been well Vater, all is well. Berlin, well, there is always something going on in Berlin is there not?” Kristian replied.

“My darling why are you being so vague? What happened yesterday, you know, the fire at the government building? Were you there?” Simone asked him.

“The Communists set it on fire. They are rebelling against the Reich, ever since The Führer became chancellor last month. I wasn’t there, I have been promoted, like I mentioned.”

“What was your promotion?” Peter asked.

“I have been promoted from Sturmmann to Rottenführer of the Schutzstaffel. It’s a full time job and they are paying me very well. I will be able to send you more money in the future,” Kristian said.

“That won’t be necessary anymore son, we are doing well now, your father and I. But do save some for yourself and help out your grandparents, they need your help more than we do,” Simone told him.

After dinner, Kristian pulled Ivy aside with the excuse that he was going to take her to town for ice cream. Everyone in town gazed at him in awe, his uniform drawing the attention of all who saw him.

The man at the ice cream parlour refused to accept Kristian’s money, insisting that the great work he was already doing for The Führer was enough. Once Ivy had gotten her favorite ice cream, strawberry flavor, he took her to the park at the edge of the forest. She wondered why they were going so far, and he replied he didn’t want anyone to hear what he had to say.

They sat down at a bench and Kristian said “Listen Ivy, I have something very important to speak to you about, and you have to promise me you can’t repeat any of it to anyone. You can’t tell anybody Ivy, not even Uli. Do you promise?”

“Not even Uli? But why?” she asked him. “It has to stay between us, I have sworn an oath that doesn’t allow me to talk about anything Ivy, but this I must tell you. Promise?”

“I promise, I won’t tell anybody, not even Uli,” Ivy replied.

“Good. Now listen, I’m only telling you this because Mother and Father are old enough to know better and to understand what’s best for them, but you’re not. You are too innocent in a Germany that will soon not tolerate innocence. You will soon have to grow up fast, and you need to remember my words, because I might not be here to repeat them once more.”

“What? Kristian, what is going to happen?” Ivy asked, staring at him with eyes wide open.

“Don’t talk, just listen. Join the Hitlerjugend, you and Uli, join it now before it’s mandatory, it will look good. Our country is changing, Ivy, you have no idea the power The Führer has, nobody does. I met him the other day, when the Reichstag burned. The Communists didn’t really start the fire, we did. Hitler...The Führer, ordered the SS to do it, to make it seem like the Communists did it. ‘It will unite the people in their hatred for Communism and bring them closer to us’ he said,” Kristian told her.

“What is he like?” Ivy interrupted, her curiosity peaked.

“He is... amazing, in a nerve-wrecking way. Standing in the same room as him, shaking his hand... feels like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. You can feel the power radiating from him. He is ingenious, fearless...” Kristian lost his train of thought.

“Did you talk to him?” Ivy wondered excitedly.

“Briefly. Ivy, what have they taught you about Jews in school?” Kristian abruptly asked.

“Ummm... nothing. Why?”

“Soon they will teach you new things, they will tell you things. You must not object or disagree Ivy, you must keep quiet and if asked, you must agree with whatever those with authority do and say. Do you understand?”

“Yes Brother, but why? What’s wrong with Jews? What will they tell me about Jews?” Ivy asked him.

“It won’t be just Jews Ivy, it will be other people too. But not us, don’t worry, we are of a preferred race, we’re safe. Just agree with what you’re told and stay away from Jews, and you will be safe. Got it?”

“Yes, I got it.”

Author’s Note:
Sturmmann is translated to Stormtrooper, and Rottenführer to Section Leader.

The Schutzstaffel or SS was a paramilitary organization under the control of both Hitler and the Nazi Party. There were no armed forces yet, the SS was the only military existent in Germany at this point in the story, along with its branches such as The Hitler Youth. At this point in the story, the SS was in charge of protecting Hitler and of the Nazi Party’s internal security. Later on, it would take on more duties.

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