Walking to his room Jurgen felt fine and lit a smoke and sat at his desk. December 1, 1944: What a day, he wrote in his journal. Konrad is a great kid and some of the others are pretty remarkable, but they aren’t him! He poured booze into a glass and took a sip. It tingled tongue and warmed empty stomach. I hate to admit it, but he is truly special. And she wants him, which is something I am sure. I see her looking at him…I see her longing for him! But he’s not hers, and she knows that, thankfully; forever loyal to the Party! Oh my Hilda! How I love my Hilda!
After putting Konrad down we joined the staff which had gathered to speak of what was long rumored. Some didn’t feel comfortable as it is hard for them to imagine what is going on there. Others could, and approved, and well, the Party…its hold is strong on some, that’s for sure. And there’s hate, for sure also. Then there are those like me; nothing is shocking anymore and we know better than to voice our opinions, if we choose to even muster them. What do I care? Organize! The Commander has always instructed us, and specifically me, to organize. What was he organizing? Is it hard to imagine? No, of course not, I’m only pretending to be naïve, as many of us are.
Jurgen set the pen down and took another drink. His fingers forcefully gripped the tumbler. Would another break, he wondered and glanced at the shelf to make sure there was gauze. He tried to loosen his hold but walls closed and ceiling lowered and the squeezing became tighter and tighter until the glass was slid away in panic.
Watching it teeter before settling across the desk he felt relief being free from its threat. But the closing and lowering continued and Jurgen jumped to his feet and searched for an escape. He stepped towards the door, but stopped. Beyond it was a hallway, and his peers. The window! No, too high. Trapped, with nowhere to go! No, stop! he instructed himself. Stop and relax. A war was going on and he needed to calm down. The Commander, his old school boy chum, what was he doing?
Jurgen took a deep breath. It’s okay, the Commander was only organizing. As were Hilda, Dr. Murdock and Sven; as was he; everyone was organizing for Germany; everybody was doing it for the Party.
Hilda was highly committed and would do anything for Germany but Jurgen wondered how she would handle the cracking tyranny. If it were over, would she remain loyal to the mission or beat herself for participating? Where was Hilda? Why wasn’t she there, with him? His lovely Nazi; thinking of her made him forget pain. In his fantasies he would smell her all day. Imagine that, a life of doing nothing but taking in the scent of a pretty woman. Why had his government denied that from happening? Why didn’t they want to achieve that dream?
Something wasn’t right. His feet were numb; he couldn’t move. It was happening again and again there was anxiety. But it was okay; experience taught him to remain calm. “Panic has produced nothing.” It was a line the Commander had used often and now was a time to think and take inventory: what could he move? His arms swung, fingers functioned and head turned. Okay, good. But now, what could he do? Organize! Yes, of course, organize!
Jurgen reached for a chair and pulled it close and lowered himself onto its seat and thought, what’s wrong? Is it a stroke? Yes, a stroke made sense and he closed his eyes. Good, it was only a stroke and he was relieved to only have his legs taken away. And sight. Sight? What? His sight was gone? “Help me! Please, someone please.” He was scared. “I can’t see. I’m blind! Please help me! I can’t see,” he called.
Fear gave way to sadness; it will never end, he worried. His state was worse and the war kept going; walls grew closer, sight had left and legs were useless. Thoughts of suicide entered, as they had recently. The troublesome glass? It could easily be found and broken and the shards used to slice and cut; why not? Why not do it today? What was stopping him?
Hilda, for her he wouldn’t. Not today. She had seen too much and didn’t deserve to find his body lying in pools of blood. Where was Hilda? he wondered. And why had no one come to help me? Jurgen listened intently and didn’t hear any trucks and after a moment his vision returned and he stood and walked to the bed and sat.
Of course they didn’t come, he thought. Why would they? They’d come before, several times, and it was always the same. Why was he waiting for them when he needed to be organizing? “Organization is the key to success,” the Commander preached to him a year ago and Jurgen reached for the glass, poured a drink and remembered the conversation:
The Commander had finished his inspection of the floors and they sat alone in a receiving room where sunbeams brightened space. “Organizing; it’s one of the keys to success in undertakings as large as this, and may be the most important and under-recognized things that we do in this war,” the Commander said before pausing and looking around the room. Jurgen watched him study the fixtures and trim. “This castle is wonderful,” he declared. “The work put into it is well done.”
“Yes,” agreed Jurgen, admiring the molding above.
“But organizing!” the Commander continued. “I’ve organized the SS, which was a pitiful small group that I turned into a world-class fighting machine, and I’ve organized the clinics – and the camps! Thousands of camps!” He paused and nodded his head before continuing in a quieter tone. “Sometimes I think about it and I truly don’t know if the Fuehrer could have organized all of that – I don’t know if he can organize like I do.”
“Well, could you do what the Fuehrer does?” Jurgen asked.
The bulging eyes shot out further. “What are you asking?” the Commander snapped. “Tell me that you do not doubt me?”
“No, of course not, I’m just saying we all have our own talents,” Jurgen replied. “And yours are yours, and his, his. And mine, mine.” He smiled. “And then there’s a nurse, and she’s going to have her talents.”
His forehead scrunched and the Commander straightened his small frame. “Well, if you do doubt my ability to lead, please let me know, and quickly!”
“Because, if you do in fact doubt me, I would seriously question whether or not you are able to serve this closely to me. I mean really, do you doubt me, Jurgen?”
He looked at the man in charge and thought about the threats: Do you want to be sent to the front? A camp? Back to the hospital? That is no way to lead people, or to be a friend, Jurgen thought. But, maybe the Commander was hurt. Maybe his approval meant something to him. Ha, Jurgen laughed, he didn’t respect himself much less the Commander. “You know that I don’t doubt you, Commander,” Jurgen reassured his old friend. “And you know that. Many of us agree that you would be a great Fuehrer and a wonderful leader.”
“Yes, well, I think that you are right on that and maybe someday I will get my opportunity, but he is a great leader,” conceded the Commander. “I mean the following, I don’t know if I could garner that.”
“I think you mean the blind worship,” Jurgen cracked.
The Commander gave him a disapproving glance and put his elbows on the table and leaned closer. “Tell me, Dr. Roth, you seem a little down on the Party today, my friend,” he noted. The seriousness of his low voice hung. “First you take a shot at me, your Commander, and now at the Fuehrer, the leader of your Country; has something happened that I should know about?”
Jurgen shook his head and pulled a cigarette from his pocket and tapped it on the table. “No,” he said, “I’m just getting tired of the war and didn’t mean anything by it – the Fuehrer is a great leader.”
“A great man!”
“Yes, yes, of course, he’s a great man,” Jurgen agreed, lighting his cigarette.
“Then what’s wrong with you?” the Commander demanded.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, “It’s just the war…this…war,” Jurgen explained. There was silence and he peeked at the Commander’s long skinny face; it was anxiety ridden! Damn! He knew better than to push the buttons of a desperate man. “But really, you don’t have to worry about me, sir,” Jurgen continued, picking his cigarette from the ashtray. “I’m not going to cause you any problems.”
The Commander nodded, leaned back and let fingers stroke his narrow chin. “Maybe I wouldn’t have made some of the same mistakes he has made. Maybe things would have turned out differently.”
“Is the war going poorly, sir?” Jurgen asked.
The Commander shook his head. “No, the war is going fine,” he replied, his tone sure. “If we all just do our jobs, everything will be fine. You should all be focused on your duties!” The smaller man shot out of his chair and put on a military hat, pausing to study his reflection and to make careful adjustments before spinning back to Jurgen. “Just remember, in the end, if you’re the Fuehrer or the Commander of the SS, or running a floor in the program like you are, or, like you say, a pretty nurse charged with caring for these babies, organization is the key! Remember that,” the Commander advised. “Organize! And be organized, and you will have success.”
The room opened and Jurgen regained control, refilled his drink, lit a cigarette and stood and looked out the window. It was quiet and he was at ease. There were no trucks. There were no children coming and going. But if there were no trucks or boys, where was Hilda?
Sitting down, Jurgen thought about life after the war; would they be together? Married? Or would they be in prison? Regardless, there was a joy in thinking of it being over and again he stood and looked outside. No trucks. No children. He turned and gazed around the room. No Hilda? He finished booze and put out the smoke, flopped onto the bed, fell asleep and was swept into a peaceful subconscious state. After briefly experiencing random faces and places Jurgen was back to observing Tom, Helga’s husband and Konrad’s father, the Norwegian Resistance Fighter that unwittingly provided the seed producing the hope for 1,000 years of Nazi rule:
It was a warm spring evening when he first viewed the Castle. The sight made Tom’s heart race. Helga, he thought. I’m going to see my Helga. But he needed to be patient. Watch patterns. Study guards and test the doors. It’d been a long journey, Tom reminded himself, and thought of his friend, Daniel; now was not the time for impatience.
Four months earlier Tom was in a suburb of London at a hospital recovering from numerous injuries. He had outrun the Nazis and faced many hardships and survived and was ready to get out of bed and return to his homeland. However, having lost his toes, he needed to learn to walk again.
Every day was a struggle; falling and getting up to fall again. His body took a beating but he kept going and after two months he was ready to leave. Nurse Rosemary, who had been working at the hospital since World War I, watched him make his way across the room.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she stated in amazement. “And I’ve seen a great deal. I thought you were going to die, but now you are walking, and you are somehow walking without your toes!”
“There’s nothing that’s going to stop you, Mr. Tom,” the nurse gushed. “Nothing.”
“Good! Norway needs me,” he explained, wincing in pain. “And you know I’ve got to find my wife.” At an even pace he walked to the nurse and pulled out a worn photograph. “She was taken years ago to Germany by the Nazis to give birth to our child so that they could raise him to be one of theirs.”
“Yes,” she laughed. “I know; you’ve shown me the photo before.”
“Yeah I’m sorry; I know,” said Tom shyly. “But I like to repeat that story; I’ve heard she’s had a boy and I desperately want to bring them both home.”
The nurse smiled. “Oh, I’m sure that you will.”
The first day he was able to travel Tom caught a boat to Sweden and snuck into Norway and rejoined the Resistance. They were in the final stages of a mission to destroy a Nazi plant in Telemark and he watched and later celebrated in a candle-lit cabin deep in the woods.
The drinks were flowing. A year and a half in the making, the mission was treacherous but well planned and when it was over the men sensed they had changed history’s course. “Anything to report of your wife, my friend?” carefully asked a large man named Karl as he handed Tom a glass of liquor. “Heard anything?” Tom shook his head. “No? You’ve heard nothing?”
“No, not a thing,” Tom answered dissatisfied. “I’ve heard nothing and was hoping that there’d be some news here.” A large gulp burned and Karl poured more into his glass. “Any?”
“No, not me. I’d guess the only one to ask here is Lars, really. He shook down a couple Nazi bastards that we captured about three months ago. They were up there in the hills looking for us and when we found out they’d worked in one of those breeding clinics – the damn bastards! – Lars wanted some time alone with them to find about his wife and he really put them through it, you know,” Karl explained. “They spoke for a long time but when they finished, well Lars just killed them – just plain shot them both in the head. Boom. Boom. So naturally we assumed the news wasn’t very good.”
Tom nodded. “And you didn’t ask him what it was? the news?”
“Well no,” said Karl, shaking his head and laughed. “He still had the gun!”
“Yeah no, no one asked him about it and he didn’t offer anything so we let it go.” The man tilted back his head, finished the drink and smiled. “It must’ve been an awful thing, but we needed to keep the focus on the mission, Tom. We’ve all lost, you know, and we just needed Lars to focus on the mission so we wouldn’t lose anymore.”
“Yes, of course,” Tom agreed and nodded and took in the celebration before turning back. “And well done then too. But if my news is bad, well Lars can go ahead and just shoot me. I honestly don’t think I will be able to take it.”
Chuckling, Karl slapped Tom solidly on the back. “Oh my friend, after what you’ve been through I don’t think a bullet will kill you, even if you wanted it to.” He finished his drink and poured another. “You probably couldn’t even kill yourself.”
“That part may be true,” Tom said and laughed. “Yes, that may be true.” He thanked Karl and walked across the room.
“Lars,” Tom greeted the man sitting alone. “How are you?”
Flames and shadows lit and darkened his face as he nodded. “Fine, thanks Tom. How are your feet doing?”
He shrugged. “You know, feeling a little better every day, I guess,” Tom answered, lowering himself into a chair next the young man. Movements were cautious and body calmed when seated. “Tell me, do you hear anything from Germany about my wife? Karl said that you may know something.” Lars said nothing. “It’s okay,” Tom encouraged. “I’m ready for anything.”
“Yea, I’m sure that you are,” Lars said, straightening in chair and arching back. “And, I know, I should’ve approached you earlier.” He relaxed. “And I am sorry about that.”
“You were focused on the mission.”
“And I’m sorry to be asking you of this, okay,” Tom apologized. “But…”
Lars held up a hand. “I know, and it’s alright,” he said, lowering his arm. “From what I’ve heard, Helga is still at the clinic. She’s well – not happy, but healthy.” His eyes closed and he paused. “She’s the prize of the Nazis so…”
Lars’ eyes opened and he nodded. “Yes, the prize. And the baby she had, the first baby boy, he’s the star of the clinic. I guess he’s their real prize, and so maybe she’s the star. But I don’t know – my German…” He shook his head. “But your wife is okay, as long as she doesn’t try to leave and keeps breeding.”
First baby? Prize of the Nazis? Keeps breeding? Anger quickly swelled and though nothing was understood images flooded mind and produced heavy punches to gut. He felt like vomiting. Then attacking. Attack! No! Don’t. There was a time he would have but experience had made him wiser and Tom took a deep breath. And another. And another. “Do you think I can save her?” he managed through his pain.
Focused on glowing fire, Lars lifted the metal cup and took a long drink. “My wife gave birth and then was taken with our baby boy to Germany when I was away, fighting. There she gave birth two more times. And when she had had enough, she left, and was hunted down and shot.” He wiped his mouth with a sleeve. “Tom,” Lars continued, eyes reflecting flames, voice even, “if I were you I wouldn’t care what I think. I’d only care that she’s there.” Lars paused. “And so you know, she’s there in Hancock.” Without turning his head Lars motioned south. “It’s about a two-week walk from the sea, in a castle that has been converted into a clinic.”
“Okay,” Tom said and nodded. “Thanks Lars. I appreciate you talking to me.” Thinking of the travel and freeing his wife and son made his chest feel alive and he lost himself in the flames. Tom turned and saw Lars watching the fire. His eyes were piercing and jaws clenched and he looked like a man with no journey available. He didn’t want that look for himself. He must go to Hancock. He must rescue Helga. “And I’m sorry for your loss, Lars,” Tom added. “I truly am. What you did on this mission, you should be very proud.”
The man nodded and took another drink. “Tom,” Lars said and turned, his profile highlighted, but emotion hidden. “Let me say that if you truly want to save her you must wait,” he advised. “Be patient as the winter is no time to travel through Germany if you want to move undetected. Let the weather warm and the snow be melted,” he advised. “I know that you are feeling ready, I can feel that now, but you need to be stronger. Get your health back up and remember Tom, she’s a prize and they’re going to do their best to keep her healthy.”
Prize! His wife? Oh the fury. “Yes, thank you Lars.”
Later that night he decided his physical condition was poor and it was February and Lars was right; Tom would spend the cold months getting stronger, studying maps and improving his German. The Nazis were in trouble and their presence in Norway was weakening and when spring arrived he easily escaped and trekked through Sweden and into Germany. Landing in Rostock, he began traveling towards the Clinic.
Though the war was not going well for the Nazis, Tom remained cautious. Stealing bread, walking low, sleeping under bushes and restricting movements to the evening and early morning, he traveled mostly undetected. When he was seen it was by a defeated people with little interest. Helga, the thought of holding her in his arms kept him going. It would be heaven.
Near the Castle was a large tree with a bush growing at its base and there Tom settled, gun in hand. Completely hidden under foliage, it brought back powerful memories and he thought about his toes; they weren’t missed much anymore. Darkness came but there was activity. Men in uniforms and lab coats exited, some standing outside for extended periods of time, others only for a moment. Later a truck pulled in and children were led out of the clinic and loaded into the back. Men from castle and truck mingled for a moment before the engine started. Then the truck left.
Sun up and into woods and wait and again night came and he returned. This time it was quiet and he was ready to test the Castle’s doors.
As was the feeling following his previous dreams involving the Norwegian, everything seemed vivid upon awakening and there wasn’t a moment he couldn’t remember. Tom’s face and hands and the manner in which he spoke lived in Jurgen with a lucidity that shook his being. Did he witnesses the events? Was Tom on the move? Elements of sleep remained and he attempted to separate dreams from reality. But reality was a blur and dreams seemed real. Raising boys to breed a master race? A rodent-faced commander? A toe-less resistance fighter coming to save his wife and child? What was real?
It was all true, Jurgen decided, and Tom was approaching the Castle like storm sneaking up on a field during a calm summer afternoon. Would he seek revenge on as many staffers possible or only hurt those responsible for his loss? Then again, it was Tom, and he might rise above the humanistic instincts of enacting pain onto those that have caused him suffering and return peacefully to his homeland after freeing his boy.
Poor Hilda, Jurgen thought. She and Konrad had been through much together and it would be hard to see them separated. Yet, the boy should be with his father and she was not his family, he justified. Then again, maybe she’d go with Tom. Why not? Though being a highly-capable man, he would need someone to help with the child and who better than Hilda? She’d be perfect! But he didn’t want to lose her, not to Tom, or the Commander, and began formulating a plan.
“You were dreaming,” she said in a sweet, hushed voice. She placed her perfect hand on his shoulder and the touch reminded him of how easily warmth can be forgotten when missing. “I could tell that you were dreaming. What was it about? Do you remember?”
Good, she was there and those worries dissolved. Dreaming? Why worry about a dream when he could open eyes and take in her beauty. Vision was fuzzy but cleared and seeing Hilda caused his heart to flutter. “No,” Jurgen said and smiled. “No, I don’t remember what it was exactly. But I do remember it had to do with the war and the war ending.”
She smiled with doubting eyes. “Tell me please, in your dreams do they let me take the boy after the war?” Hilda asked.
Jurgen sat up. “Yes, they do, but it’s interesting,” he reported. “In my dreams, no one wants that little bastard and, so you see, we decide that he can’t stay here alone, and someone has to take him – someone – anyone. And that ends up being you.” The back of his hand caressed one of her cheeks. “In my dreams you are his angel, as you are now, as always.”
She laughed. “Oh Jurgen, please don’t call Konrad a bastard. I’ve told you that he has a father.”
Large hood of full circle black cloak cast shadow over the narrow drawn-out face, hiding his spectacles and leaving only a pointy nose, weak chin and thin lips to be illuminated by candle’s orange glow. Long bony fingers clutched a hefty black leather bound book as the scrawny man read aloud medieval Germanic verses before settling on “My past will lead me” as his mantra. The chanting began and a gold Aryan emblem hanging from his neck swung back and forth as he rocked. It was the day his former self had died and a thousand years later the Commander could not celebrate; concentration was needed to block out worries.
Things weren’t going to end well for the Fatherland, he concluded earlier in the week. It was a fate feared for sometime but a recent train ride with a sturdy Swiss politician convinced him it was fact.
“To tell you the truth, the world is amazed that you go on, really. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for you,” the Swiss man said to his old friend. “And your people don’t see that?” he questioned.
Carefully selecting his words, “The German people have faith in the Party’s leadership,” the Commander explained.
“Ha, yes, that is very apparent,” the man acknowledged, shaking his head. “But then, I have to ask, do you see that?” His voice was subtle but husky. “Or do you have the faith that they do?” There was no answer. “Yes, I’m sure you that do,” the Swiss man said and chuckled. They were seated side-by-side and he looked away for a moment before turning back to the Commander. “You can still save yourself. You know the enemy will not be very forgiving of what you have done, and most think that you cannot stop Him.” The man leaned closer. “But you can try.”
“What are you saying?”
Tree-filled hills slowly transformed into a bleak war-torn landscape. “Well there are still some, very few, but some, that think you can do it, that you can stop this senseless killing. If not Him, then it’s only you that can, and if you do, there may be a future for you,” the man reported and leaned back, turned and watched the countryside. Not long ago he ran a publication committed to turning others against the Jews, warning of their takeover: “They will control the banks and then your businesses…” But what the Nazis were doing was unimaginable and now the man hoped to save the people he once tormented. “I think you know that this is your only way out, and I recommend you choose it.”
War was everywhere, the Commander thought. Scorched buildings and holes dominated the landscape. Everything was grey. It looked like Poland, he mused. “If I manage to do this, could it be arranged that I’m the Chancellor after the war?” the Commander asked. “I think that I may be the perfect leader to rebuild the country.” He held his chin and thought. “The Fourth Reich,” the Commander pondered, his thing eyebrows rising. “Yes, the Fourth Reich, don’t you think?”
His confident tone caught the man by surprise and he turned with squinted eyes. “I really don’t think you understand,” he explained. “After what you have done we are negotiating to keep you alive at this point.” He shook his head. “Negotiating,” the man emphasized. “To save your life.”
Late 1944, the Commander thought. Almost ’45. No Christmas this year, again, and probably not one next year. They’d been at it along time, every hour of everyday and his daughter had grown but he wasn’t there to witness her subtle changes; development appeared in drastic leaps. If only born a couple of years earlier he would have been a war hero! And, maybe, become Fuehrer. What was the Fuehrer, the Commander asked bitterly. A simple messenger? Running around the battle field and delivering messages? His role would’ve been momentous! As Fuehrer he would not have gone into Russia. He was smarter than that. He understood history and studied military strategies and tactics and, of course, knew winter would come. However, there was no denying the Fuehrer could hold a crowd. Countrymen were devoted to him and without his charisma this might not have been possible and yes, people were not rebelling like 1918. “It is amazing that they have not rioted in the streets for change,” the Commander acknowledged. “There are many hungry countrymen out there, I am sure.”
“Is it clear what I am asking? What you need to do?” the man inquired impatiently.
Thumb firmly in back and knuckle of index finger pressing solidly against front, the gripping of his chin grew tighter. It was wrong, but survival outweighed devotion. “I see it clearly,” the Commander answered. “I’ll turn on my savior and be hung from a tree like a traitor Jew. Yes, that’s it; I’ll go down in history as a Jew-like traitor.” He removed his hand to light a cigarette. “Yes, thank you, I see it clearly.”
At night, in the barracks, Vladimir remembered the hopelessness and dread felt in the truck and how it gave way to a sad numbness. It was a bumpy ride spent expecting to die. Rough roads turned smooth and then rough again; they traveled overnight and cold seeped into the truck where there were no blankets or comforting bodies to hold him. His wounds were fresh and by the morning he wished Nurse Hilda had killed him. But she didn’t, and soon Vladimir was at the camp, tattooed and put to work.
He was strong and worked hard and one day, a month into imprisonment, his blonde hair and blue eyes caught the attention of Colonel Schluter. “You there,” the man in charge called to Vladimir. “Put down that shovel and come up here and talk to me.”
Effortlessly Vladimir climbed out of the deep hole. “Yes sir?”
“Where do you come from?” the colonel asked. “You aren’t Jewish, are you?”
“Russia, sir,” Vladimir replied in German.
“Russia? And you’re not Jewish, right?”
“I don’t know, sir,” Vladimir admitted.
“Well you’re too big and handsome to be a gypsy.”
“I was at a clinic for children and they sent me here to this camp.”
“Your German is very good for a Russian boy,” commented the cornel. “Very good. Is that where you learned to speak like that, at the clinic?”
“Yes sir; I worked very hard at my German.” Vladimir shook off a dusting of snow. “I had hoped to be adopted by a German family, but…” He looked at the ground. “But I was sent here.”
The Colonel was impressed and took the boy as a playmate for his eight-year-old son and soon Vladimir was assigned to care for the family’s quarters.
It was never imagined; people pulling themselves into bed and willing their bodies out, and out there was death, rape and beatings. His barrack mates were dirty and hungry and day after day their labor was long and hard and conditions poor. Vladimir would wake early and load his cart with wood and bring it to the Colonel’s house and start the morning fire before going back down the hill and retrieving another load. He’d continue until there was enough to get through the day and then do chores before taking on the role as a companion to their boy, with an eye always on the fire’s condition.
Lunch was plentiful and he stuffed extras into pockets and brought them back to the barracks. His friends were thankful. Vladimir realized he didn’t have it as bad but nothing was easy about what he witnessed; daily men and women arrived, their health intact only to quickly grow skinnier; the emaciated bodies that welcomed him somehow grew skinnier and skinnier until they endured the last of their slow, painful deaths.
Walking through the camp he witnessed men brutally beaten by butts of guns and repeatedly slammed into walls until their bodies went limp. When able they crawled to the barracks and once inside, away from guards’ eyes, were helped.
“If there’s a God, he’d have let those Nazis kill me,” one man told Vladimir, his forehead hot and sweaty. Vladimir wiped the prone man’s brow. Both ankles had been broken from being tossed from a roof by a pair of guards and the next evening, after the man was unable to work, a doctor entered the barracks and a long needle was thrust into his shoulder.
Vladimir watched plunger pressed. The man moaned. Looking at his watch the doctor called out a time and an assistant noted it on a clipboard. “Grab hold of his wrist and tell me when you don’t feel anything,” he instructed a gruff, older guard as the prisoner began to ooze fluids. “Hold that wrist,” the doctor commanded, sensing the guard’s desire to let go of the arm. “No matter what, keep on the pulse.”
The experimental injection provided the man time to re-find God and thank him for the death to come. He did this before vomiting began. Heaving and spitting, fighting guard’s hold, the man began to choke, which lead to convulsions, which lead to an arrest and finally his demise.
“No pulse,” the guard said, throwing the limp arm down. “Dead!” He proclaimed and frantically wiped his hands on the deceased man’s raggedy clothing.
“54 minutes,” reported the doctor and the body was pulled outside and ordered to be left by the barrack’s door.
Acts done onto women were harder to witness. Battered, they were often dragged across camp into buildings or around a corner by needy soldiers and violated. Others were simply beaten, sometimes to death. Most were someone’s mom, Vladimir imagined and later, though desperate for sleep, his mother’s fate would turn insides and cause eyes to squeeze tight. He had hoped for the best but love was far away from him now; it was gone, and the thoughts of a good outcome for his mother vanquished.
Winter was long and smells of sickness and burning flesh were everywhere and he didn’t know if survival was possible; his mind was not right; it was going. Memories of two rides in German Army trucks haunted him. The first trip was destined for the Castle and he sat in the dark waiting for his sweet sweet mother, but she never came. Then, months later, badly bruised and peering out the back, he looked at the Castle and waited for Nurse Hilda to descend stairs and command the truck to “stop”. But she didn’t and it kept rolling until he was at the camp. Nurse Hilda? Why had she chosen to do what she had done? Had loss haunted her too? Vladimir wondered.
It didn’t matter; his memories would be unchanged; the yelling, beating and unforgiving from their last 24 hours together would overshadow their months together. Those were filled with kindness and reassurances. “You work hard, Vladimir, and I’m very proud of you,” she said to him, stroking his youthful hair. “You’re a bright child and will be a fine German boy. Do what you are told and you’ll be okay.”
That’s right; Nurse Hilda was good in a world where he lost his mother, father and childhood. When he was helpless and lonely she gave him hope and friendship. But the day he didn’t do as told Nurse Hilda got angry and made a choice and sent him to a certain death. He was a boy! One day he misbehaved, and she made a decision and now Nurse Hilda would be in his thoughts for the evil she had done. Yes, Vladimir nodded, thinking of her has given him a cause and he vowed their eyes would meet again.
The Commander’s society, based on Prussian ethics and Knighthood orders, searched from China to the Greenland Sea hoping to find a means of returning Germany to its Aryan roots. They hiked deep into the Karelides Mountains of Finland to record a coven of witches’ clicking-style of verbal communication that linguists were eager to prove was the surviving language of Atlantis. Researchers were sent to Tibetan highlands and measured heads of people thought to be a pocket of Aryan descendants living in isolation after the fall of their island civilization. Boats were sent to waters off coasts to where great floods sunk legendary colonies. They sailed north near the Arctic Circle searching for hibernating giants, a breed of man created 15 million years ago when a huge moon moved across the sky and pulled them to greater heights. They had been ancestors of Aryans, blessed with super natural strength and energy, and needed to be awoken to activate their capabilities.
The Society’s effort was tremendous but they failed to find those that would return them to prominence or meaningful uses for the information and as the winds of war shifted members began to lose faith and think of their individual futures if Germany should happen to fall.
“Imagine such places,” a trusted lecturer encouraged the Society, brought in by the Commander to revitalize the members. “These are places where slumbering powers within live. Places that hold the keys to unleashing our Aryan magnetism. Places that harness the power of a great cosmic force that we can unleash for our use to initiate the creation of a new superhuman-class of Aryan stock that will exterminate all lower races and propel us to victory.”
“But sir, excuse me, we have searched for these,” replied a member. “We have been on missions and traveled very far to look for the keys that will help us unlock the powers that you speak of, but have yet to find anything. There are not many corners that we have not explored in this world.”
A glow swept across the lecture’s dramatic face and his blue eyes darkened. Stepping towards the member, he leaned in close. “The doctrine of Eternal Ice was not written and passed down for you to quit,” he exclaimed, voice full and projecting. “There are special relics! They are out there and you have to believe and realize that they may not be what or where they seem.” He pulled back. “Open your minds! All of you, if you truly believe in the Fuehrer, and the Commander, and the virtues of the Society, you must keep looking! You must or our kind will be lost in this life and for that you will be held responsible and made to greatly suffer in the afterlife.”
The Society set assail a slew of new expeditions with orders to search deeper but most believed it had become another Nazi dream turned into a desperate act and when voyage after voyage came up empty the Fuehrer grew impatient and ordered the Society’s funding discontinued. The Commander acknowledged his leader’s wishes and ended the costly excursions but did not tell the Society they were being shut down – one relic was the key to success! It could be found. Every scholar proclaimed that a fact and the members didn’t need to worry about funding. They needed to focus on what to find and where to search and the Commander couldn’t worry about their feelings; he needed to figure out how to make it out alive.
Hood pulled lower and stepping closer to the small black oak table, his worries were immense as he struggled to summons greater concentration. The conversation with the Swiss man wouldn’t leave him. Life, he wondered, where will it end? How will it end? What will be when he is gone? No! he snapped at his inner dialogue. Stop and focus! Concentrate. The tall round white candle’s wick burned and he forced his eyes to lock on its brilliant flicker. “My past will lead me.” Don’t worry about the future! Or the Fuehrer. “My past will lead me.” Or betraying his country. Don’t worry; not now. “My past will lead me.” Minutes past. “My past will lead me.” Then an hour. “My past will lead me.” Yellows and oranges gave way to a glimmer of blue and white and drew him in further. “My past will lead me.” Reciting grew involuntary and pressure dissipated, and vision faded and he began to drift.
The transformation was sooth and he glided through a soothing haze. Flying was easy and gave him peace but a quick, dazzling flash struck and jarred his being and knocked the Commander onto a rocky ground. Lying on chest, face pressed against dirt and stones, the weight of his body returned and he was shocked by pain. It didn’t last and he opened his eyes and saw a familiar white steed. Struggling to his feet, “Hello my old friend,” the Commander greeted the horse and patted its neck and together, from atop a great mountain, they gazed over the Fatherland. He sighed deeply before mounting the giant animal and beginning a travel through history.
After witnessing the elated victors, painfully wounded and stone dead that followed a battle, his horse climbed a steep hill of bones and they overlooked thousands of prisoners digging and breaking earth. One gazed from shovel and stared up at the Commander before pointing and cursing and soon an army of prisoners stretching for a mile voiced their rage.
The great beast was urged speed and soon the Commander was home, his wife and daughter working the garden in front of their house. They waved as he past. “You look so handsome daddy,” his daughter called. “That’s a beautiful horse. What’s its name?”
“I’ll be home soon,” he called back. “Mind your mother and keep up with your chores.”
Watching a rally he marveled at the youthful Party’s rise. “We were just boys,” the Commander told his hulky stallion. “And that’s why it worked – tough to beat the power of youth when it’s combined with determination!”
“And hard economic times,” added the horse.
“Yes, that’s true,” the Commander agreed. “That is true.”
The future Fuehrer finished his impassioned speech. “Yes,” the Commander admitted as the throng heaped applause onto the young orator. “No, I don’t have that charisma. That was special. I’m a good leader, a very good leader, but the manner in which they took to him, look at it,” he said and nodded towards the cheering crowd. “That was something special; it was truly extraordinary – magical.”
The countryside worked as a young man was next; stopping, he watched his younger-self toss feed. Chickens pecked and he dipped and spread meal. Admiring the even throws, the Commander wondered what could have been produced if he’d remained a farmer.
Carried past valiant Germans fighting another World War he again past the defeater and defeated. His ride took him to peasants’ fields; backs bent, faces dirty and land unforgiving. Another war and more heroes, losers and dead and soon ten centuries of Germanic life, achievement, labor and conflict passed and the horse ascended through clouds and they again stood on a mountain peak. Snow covered, it overlooked the world’s forest, deserts, hills and fields; rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. Everything was clear and the Commander searched intently for the relic. But it was not to be found and down the mountain, traversing a great basin, they traveled.
After reaching the tree line his horse sped through a narrow wood-lined path. It was dark but the Commander felt safe and eventually they emerged into a glorious day’s mid-morning light and were there, at the doorstep of his King’s shimmering castle.
Dismounting gracefully, he removed his decorated wool coat and handed it to a striking woman with long blonde hair wearing a light blue dress. She left and another, very similar woman, emerged to lead the horse away. When she was gone a taller, blonder, more remarkable looking female came from behind, took his hand and escorted him into the castle.
They walked through a door and entered the King’s reception room where a long red carpet led to a large man with ice-block-shaped shoulders seated upon an elaborate throne. Seeing the small man, “Commander,” the King thundered as he stood, “tell me, why do you dare make this journey when there is such important work to be done?”
The Commander smiled as the giant man approached. “I need to locate the sacred relic that those before me have written, my Lord,” he reported. “It is the relic that will restore Germany’s Aryan ancestry and save the Fatherland from defeat.”
“We’ve told you that the relic can be found,” the King said, his voice thick and heavy. Standing and stepping forward, he towered over the Commander. “Relics are not always what they seem,” the King explained.
“Yes, my Lord,” the Commander said. “You’ve told me that before, my Lord.”
“To do this now, you must sacrifice. To make this journey, you must endure.”
“Yes, my Lord. I fully understand the consequences.” The pain would be tremendous and he contemplated giving up on the dream of eternal life and going back to the war; maybe it will turn around. Maybe Germany will emerge victorious. Ha! he laughed. No, he knew the war was lost. The generals knew it. The soldiers knew it. And the people knew it. Everyone but the Fuehrer knew it and yes, he had to endure torture to save himself, and hopefully Germany. “My Lord, I am ready.”
There was satisfaction in his smile and he stepped closer and put a hand on the Commander’s shoulder. “Free your mind,” the King instructed. “Free your mind.” His voice soothed as large hands attacked the Commander’s neck and squeezed. “Free your mind,” repeated the King. “Free your mind.” The clenching intensified as thumbs pressed violently against the throat. “Free your mind.”
Muscles and ligaments were forced against bones and cartridge and tongue were pushed from mouth; snapping caused punctures that produced blood which oozed from neck. There was pain. “Free your mind.” The Commander took it and fought the urge to struggle. “Free your mind.” Agony overcome, blackness and floating entered and he soared amongst scrolls, goblets and ancient writings before landing in a majestic forest that populated an endless landscape of rolling hills.
Walking between long rows of cheering Aryan descendents he made his way to an enormous dock that jetted into a calm blue sea. “Free your mind.” Like warm milk the voice washed over soul as he tasted the sea splashing over bow of a longboat. “Free your mind.” The vessel sailed swiftly and the Commander held tight with one hand, covering eyes with the other as shore rapidly approached.
Docked, a tall woman with golden hair and inviting bosoms stood on land. Turning she walked a dirt path leading into woods. The Commander followed. Up and down a slight hill the woman went before disappearing around a corner. He ran after her and emerged into a clearing. Sun intense, and air buzzing, she was not seen. However there was a hut and slowly he opened its door and inside, engulfed in thick rays, was a baby. The Commander smiled, the boy from the Program? he questioned and moved closer. Yes, of course, the big boy from the program! “Konrad?” he asked, picking up the infant, turning around and looking at the woman from the path. “You’re the mother, aren’t you? You’re the mother that they speak of.”
She stood in a corner and gave him a shy smile and nodded. “I am Helga, the boy’s mother.”
Overtaken, “He’s a beautiful boy,” the Commander gushed. “Such a beautiful boy.”
“Thank you. My husband will be home soon if you’d like to meet the boy’s father,” she said. “He’s equally as impressive.”
“Yes,” the Commander said. “But no,” he corrected himself and shook his head. “No, I don’t think that I’m here for him.” His head moved closer to the baby’s. “I’m here for the boy and that is all. He’s such a beautiful boy. He’s the one that I am after.”
Stepping forward with eyes worried, “Are you going to take my son?” the woman asked.
The Commander nodded. “We already have,” he declared and smirked and watched tears stream down her cheeks. “Oh, but pretty lady, please don’t agonize,” reassured the Commander, putting a thin hand on her shoulder. “You are the mother of the future of Germany and he is being well cared for. Think about that; history will tell of your role in the 1,000 year Nazi rule.”
The infant’s small hand reached out and touched the medals on his chest and the Commander turned away from the mother. “You’ve always enjoyed these, haven’t you?”
The infant laughed. “Yes I have, my Commander,” Konrad said in fluent German. “Someday I want to be wearing a uniform like this, sir, and have such important medals.”
“They are beautiful, aren’t they?”
“Yes, my Commander. They are the most beautiful things that I have ever seen.”
The Commander smiled. “You will have them! You will! And do you know why? Because you are the Relic,” he proclaimed, his face glowing. “You are the future! You will provide the power to unleash our potential. And I should have seen that; you are a very special baby.”
A flash and a light then darkness and drifting and weight and pain and when it cleared he urged his horse to the Society’s castle. Delighted by the discovery, but he worried it was too late. If the Fatherland fell, would the Relic be just another boy, breeding with whomever he chose? Would he be useless and common and his precious blood spread randomly to create lesser beings? No! The Commander vowed, that will not happen.
Inside his room, settled in for the evening, the fresh air blown in on a subtle breeze gave the Commander a brief feeling of serenity. The boy and the Swiss man were his chance. Betraying the Fuehrer was going to be a death sentence that he hoped to survive. Focus and organize. He needed the Relic to carry on. Think; was the boy safe in the Castle? Yes. But no; his mother clearly believed the Relic belonged to her. She was trouble. Who else? Was there a father? Yes, she spoke of a father. The Commander proudly thought of what he had done for his daughter and the life she’ll live, if he is successful. He was doing what he did for her and for her children. His sacrifice, labor and risks…toil and trouble…yes, he concluded, a father would go to great lengths for his children and the Relic needed to be protected, and removed before the Party made him a wanted man.
A powerful gust extinguished the candle and the Commander stood, frozen in the dark. His arms were extended and then raised and a surge entered his body. “Yes, my Lord,” he said. “Yes.” He walked to his bed and sat on its edge. My Lord is right, he thought. There may be others wanting to deny the Nazis of their future – wanting to deny me of my rightful place in history. “Ah!” the Commander moaned aloud and pounded his fists on the tops of his thighs, “there is much to accomplish before this war is over,” he lamented before swinging legs into bed.