Early, 1942: “Think about it, Hilda,” Jurgen implored. “The breeding of people to be bred and bred to be bred to create a very specific people, that’s not the way evolution works. By science, it’s not right. It is dangerous.”
“Dangerous? Evolution is what’s dangerous. Tell me, where has that gotten us?” Hilda asked.
“Where?” Jurgen laughed. “Here, look around at you and me. Before these wars the country was great and produced a great people with art and music and nightlife…this castle. You forget, not long ago Berlin was on its way to becoming an important cultural center in the world, and now what is it? It’s the capital of….” He stopped himself.
“Yes, Jurgen?” she asked in a critical tone. “Berlin is now the capital of…?”
“Well, my point is that you can’t breed art and culture,” he defended. “Those things happen when you have free and diverse thought born of a free and diverse people and without art and culture, what’s the point.”
“Those are naïve statements based on false and evil principles,” Hilda stated while turning and tending to a baby. “I’m surprised by you.”
Walking to Konrad, Jurgen laughed again. “Yes, now I see, you’ve gotten yourself some Party readings, did you?”
“Yes, I’ve been reading,” Hilda answered, tucking the baby snuggly into a blanket and patting his covered stomach. “Is that not okay?” she asked. “I read and think for myself – is that okay with you?”
“Really, are you?” he asked. “You know even they call it propaganda.”
Hilda didn’t answer and watched him play with Konrad. The boy was lying in his crib and the doctor poked his belly and made faces. “Aren’t you supposed to be down the hall by now?” she asked, walking towards him. “What are you doing? The Commander is coming today. We need to have all the babies ready, not just Konrad.”
“Such a big big boy you are,” Jurgen said in baby-talk, picking up and putting Konrad down. “How did you get so big?”
“What are you doing Dr. Roth?” Hilda asked.
Tracking from a corner of an eye, when she was close he turned and pulled her body against his. “The Commander is coming! The Commander is coming!” Jurgen laughed and pushed his face against hers and kissed a cheek. “Enough of that Hilda!” he said, pulling back and looking into her eyes. “Just kiss me!”
“Jurgen! Please, no,” Hilda exclaimed, struggling free. “No.”
“What? You don’t love me Hilda?” he asked as they stepped away from the child. “What about the weekend we had in Berlin? You remember Berlin, don’t you?” She looked at him and her big eyes showed warmth. “Hilda, here’s to Berlin?” Jurgen said, raising his eyebrows.
“No, Jurgen, stop,” Hilda insisted and turned and adjusted Konrad’s blanket. “Close your eyes now,” she soothed the child. “Sleep baby, sleep. Today is a big day for you.”
Coming from behind Jurgen pressed against her body; wrapping arms and resting his chin on Hilda’s shoulder. There was a deep whiff and his nose rubbed against her skin and she giggled. “Stop laughing, you smell like heaven,” he proclaimed and gently kissed her smooth neck. “I love you Hilda and can’t stop thinking about it.”
“Jurgen!” Hilda spun around. “No, please stop.” He tried to grab her hand but she resisted. “No!” Hilda repeated and brushed him away.
Disappointed, but mindful, he walked to a clipboard and studied the attached chart. Inhale. Exhale. “Listen,” he said, facing the wall, “I’m done with all the babies – they’re all measured and recorded and ready to go.”
“How?” she asked.
Facing her, “I got up early,” Jurgen explained.
“Yes, of course. Don’t you remember, the Commander is coming.”
“Jurgen please don’t tease.”
“But Hilda I’m not, he is.”
“Stop it!” she insisted. “Really, is everything done?”
“Yes, everything is done and we are okay. Meet me outside and you and I will relax and have some cigarettes and discuss our plan.”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “They don’t want us smoking inside. They believe it is bad for the babies.”
“No, they don’t want us smoking in the babies’ rooms,” Hilda corrected. “You can smoke in your room.”
“Oh yes, okay, that’s better,” he decided and gave her a crooked smile. “Let’s go smoke in my room then.”
“No, I don’t think so,” she replied and laughed.
“Really? I’ll play a record.”
“Well I’m done here so let’s go outside – come outside with me,” Jurgen urged as she looked at him doubtfully. “Trust me, if you want to impress the man, it’s best to be prepared for the man,” he advised. “Be ready and be organized. We should be going outside and getting ready, firming up our plan and smoking cigarettes and enjoying the air as we finalize our preparations.”
“You know that I’m eager for today.”
“Yes, I know.” His head motioned towards the door. “Come on outside with me.”
Her easy face smiled. “Okay,” she said, voice soft and eyes gentle. “Give me a moment and I’ll be right out.”
A pleasant day meant a walked to the market wearing only a sweater. Upon returning her mother made tea and they discussed happenings in town. When finished, Helga began knitting. Pregnant, she was anxious but the act soothed and diverted her attention. A child in their home; sounds and noises and the joys of watching them grow. Life was good and Helga recalled her parents’ love and hoped she could provide the same. Those pleasant thoughts, however, were interrupted.
Bursting through the door, “Everything is true,” he declared heatedly. “The Germans have landed near Oslo and it doesn’t look like we are putting up much of a fight.” He rushed into the bedroom and returned a moment later with a cloth satchel and a pistol. “They think they’re going to rule us? Do they really?”
“Tom, where are you going?” she asked.
“These bastards have come for our land and expect us to roll over like a trained dog,” he said, throwing bread and dried fish into his bag. “Well, it’s not going to happen. If our government won’t stop them then we will have to fight to save Norway! You can bet on that.”
Setting knitting aside, Helga stood and stepped towards her husband. “Where are you going?” she asked again.
“There’s a meeting down the hill over at Johan’s and we’re gathering there to find out what the heck is going on,” he explained. “And there’s a man coming up from the south to give us a report on what has happened and what he has heard those Nazis have planned.” His voice was heated. “But I guarantee you that they will not occupy us without resistance! I guarantee that!”
“Will you be back?”
“They can’t! And we won’t let them!”
“Tom, will you be back?”
“Will I be back?” he asked and stopped and looked at her. The question was processed and his eyes changed. Gone was the desire to fight. His wife was in front of him and she was going to give birth to their baby. Life was complicated, Tom remembered. His country was being invaded, and he had a child on the way. But he wasn’t alone. “Yes, and I’m sorry,” he answered and went to Helga, set the bag on table and put his arms around her. “Yes, sure I’m coming home. And you know that I pity the man, or the army, that tries to stop me from ever returning to the most beautiful woman I’ve ever set my eyes upon. For you I will always be coming back.”
Her cheeks blushed and she smiled. “When?”
Emotions ran high and he tried to focus. “I don’t imagine we’ll be there too much after supper,” Tom estimated. “Helga, my love, you have to know that I’ll always come back to you.” They looked at each other. “I’ll always come home for you. I promise you that.” He bent down and kissed her and a moment later was out the door and she resumed knitting.
Late morning’s winter brightness flowed through far-reaching trees surrounding the Castle and his heart was on fire – he loved her and loved thinking about her. A life filled with constant love and love making could be theirs if they were together, and the door opened and Hilda stepped outside and Jurgen watched her adjust to the light. She spotted him and smiled. Yes, there were feelings for him too. But, alas, he recalled, she loved the Party more. Never forget that she loved the Party more!
With flush cheeks, Hilda hurried down the stairs and walked towards him. “Why are you pulling me outside? It’s cold and I have a lot of work to do!” She looked around. “Let’s get around the back so they won’t see us.”
“Who?” he asked.
“The others – I don’t want to be seen with you outside like this. You’re my boss.” Hilda moved swiftly until around the corner. “Why are you pulling me outside? Just because you are done doesn’t mean that I am.”
“You know why.”
Her eyes further rounded, becoming almost completely circular. “To prepare for the Commander?” she asked. “To work on our plan?”
“No,” Jurgen said and smiled and handed her a cigarette. “Because I love you, that’s why.”
Hilda held the cigarette between her fingers and raised it to her lips and he struck a match and it was lit. “Jurgen,” she sighed, “this will never be and you know that. Why are you doing this to me?”
“Yeah?” he asked, their pace slowing. His body playfully bumped into hers as they strolled down the pathway. He wanted to take her hand and hold it but knew she wouldn’t let him. “Who says that this will never be?”
“You’re married, Jurgen,” she explained. “Don’t you remember that?”
Was she trying to hurt him, he wondered. Or protecting herself? His wife? Yes, he remembered he was married, but knew it didn’t matter. The Nazi were changing everything; they were blowing up the rules that society had lived by for centuries. She was one of them! Oh, he loved her more than ever and they walked in silence for several yards.
“The Commander will be here shortly, let’s go back in,” Hilda requested. “I’m anxious and we need to get ready. Let’s finish smoking and go back in.”
“You know that the Nazis don’t care if I’m married or not,” Jurgen told her. “They just want me to have a baby.”
Hilda nodded. “Yes, but with your wife, not me.” Hilda looked away. “That’s what you should be doing. You should be having babies for Germany with your wife. Think about how beautiful your babies would be, Jurgen.”
“But I want you to have my babies,” he said and touched her arm and smiled. “Imagine how beautiful those babies would be!”
Was he a fool or not, Jurgen did not know. “Hilda, do you know that you sound like them when you say that?”
“Like them? I am them – I’m a Nazi. There’s a plan and we are supposed to follow it. And Jurgen, you know that too,” Hilda said, her voice growing frustrated. “If some of us follow the plan and others don’t,” she shook her head, “it won’t work. And don’t forget that you’re a Nazi too and you need to produce a baby. It’s your duty.”
“Okay good, then we can mate!” Jurgen declared. “Nazi with Nazi – that has to be allowed.”
“No, we can’t! It isn’t!” Hilda insisted. “And Jurgen you know that!” she took a deep breath. “Why are you doing this to me?”
He could tell she was hurt but could not stop. “Hilda, think about what they want and what you want? Think about love and what that can produce. You can have a baby with me; they can’t stop you.”
“Why are you putting me through this, Jurgen? You know how much the Party means to me and you know how much having a baby means to me!” She fought her body’s desire to heave in sadness. “Why are you doing this?” The battle was lost and, like a dam break, a powerful sob was let loose and Hilda turned and ran down the path.
Following briskly, “Hilda, I’m sorry,” he apologized, catching up and touching her arm. “Come on,” Jurgen pled with a playful smile. “I don’t want to see you cry. Not today. That’s the last thing I want for you.”
“Oh Jurgen, I know.” The cigarette was thrown down and put out with her shoe. She took his handkerchief and wiped tears from cheeks and composure quickly returned. “The way you feel, Jurgen, about me…well I’m grateful for your attention, please know that. It’s been tough adjusting to this place. But that doesn’t mean we can act as this – it really doesn’t. We are doing important work by setting the foundation for the future of Germany and I take that work very seriously.”
“You are ready to meet the Commander, aren’t you?”
Her eyes crossed. “If you are asking me if I want to be a part of that future, then the answer is ‘yes’. And if they think that I’m with you, well, I don’t know what they’d do to you, but we both know that they’d send me away.” Hilda looked down the path; a corner of the Castle was visible and glistened. She needed to be there. She’d feel better there. “Let’s just go back in,” Hilda requested. “The Commander is coming today and you know that they will want to see you. Aren’t you worried?”
“Have you ever met the Commander?” Jurgen asked.
“No, of course not,” Hilda replied. “But I have read his books and do think that he’s a brilliant man.”
“Do you hope that he talks to you? Would that be a dream come true?”
She was hurt. “Stop teasing, Jurgen,” Hilda demanded. “Or is that you being jealous? Jealous that someone else is admired?”
Grabbing Hilda by the wrist, “You know I don’t care what they want and I find it hard to believe that I’d ever be jealous of him, or any man like him,” he told her. “You know I don’t care about their damn plan.”
“Jurgen! What’s wrong with you?” she asked and shook free.
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with them? You can all send me to camp to work if you want; if you think I’m a bad man report me.”
“You don’t mean that – you’re mad,” Hilda said.
“No, please do – I mean it! I’m not a bad man but my beliefs about where this is heading are my beliefs and I’d rather love you then have this succeed. I’d rather put you and my feelings towards you above fear and if that means being sent to a camp, well it means being sent to a camp.”
“You are mad!” she repeated.
“Me? I’m mad? Tell me then, why do they want me to breed if that is true.”
“For the good of all the people! This is for the future of the Fatherland. What we are doing…oh Jurgen, tell me you don’t mean all of this. Tell me you love Germany.”
“Of course I do, but there’s nothing to do with love here – nothing! Death has more love Hilda, can’t you see that?” Jurgen looked at the Castle. “They have removed love from inside of that place. All those babies and no love; it is truly a Nazi miracle.”
“I love those babies.”
“Yeah? You’ll love your own baby more,” Jurgen replied. “Just like their mothers love them more. But if anyone complains, they get sent to a camp.”
“There’s less love at the camps,” Hilda returned.
“Ha, that might be the clearest thing I’ve heard you say today. Tell me, why did you come with me?” Jurgen asked.
“I don’t know,” she said to him looked at the ground. “It’s like I said, I knew you’d treat me nice – I knew that you would make me feel special and I needed to feel special.”
“I’m talking about Berlin; you knew what would happen.”
Hilda turned away from Jurgen and took a few steps. “I know what you’re talking about,” she said before turning back. He stepped forward and took her hand. “It was nice,” she said. “But we’ve discussed this, and that’s done. That’s over. Let’s get back in, okay?”
Hilda was surprised; the Commander was not tall and through his thick coat she could tell he had a boyish build and when his hat was removed to wipe brow the hair was thin, dark and receding. Little round glasses were worn and his face wasn’t chiseled, as Hilda imagined such an important man would have. There weren’t many men at the Castle he could beat in a fight, she determined. The tall and athletic Jurgen would certainly defeat him. Maybe even the older and shorter, yet stockier, Dr. Murdock would emerge victorious.
However, as the day continued her admiration grew. He went through doors with confidence and had the respect of those around him; the group following him gladly obeyed every order. He must be brilliant, Hilda deduced. Possibly the smartest man in Germany – but no! she corrected herself. No, the Commander was not; the Fuehrer’s the smartest man in Germany, of course, and Hilda wondered what it was like to be around him.
“Well, let’s have a look at these babies,” the Commander said to Dr. Murdock.
In his fifties with thick grey hair, Dr. Murdock was a loyal Party member but loved Germany, the people and the land, whatever the politics. “Of course, Commander,” the doctor replied and motioned the way. “I’m pleased to report that they’re doing quite well and have been gaining weight. These children have been eating well, sir.”
“Good. Good,” said the Commander. “Diet is very important and that’s what we want, and I expect nothing less, doctor.”
They strode down the first floor hallway. “The Program is just getting underway and this castle has taken a little work to be turned into a clinic,” the Commander explained to his guests. “But I think it is coming along quite well.”
“It is quite impressive,” commented a visitor. “Well done Commander.”
Dr. Murdock pointed out important administrative offices and key personnel but the group never stopped. Quickly marching to end of hall and up stairs they emerged through a door on the second floor. The Commander stopped and took a deep breath. “I can smell them now, and they smell glorious,” he proclaimed with a smile.
From room to room the Commander stopped and looked at each baby; touching some and reading charts of others, but when he saw Konrad the Commander’s face moved close. “What do we have here? Look at him – how old is this one?” he asked and picked up the infant.
Dr. Murdock checked the chart. “This boy is nine months.”
“Nine months? Impossible.” Moving the baby from arm to arm before lifting him above head, the Commander smiled broadly. “If true, doctor, this is no baby,” he declared, lowering and cradling the child. “Are you positive? Nine months? He looks to be well over a year.”
“Yes,” confirmed the doctor, reading the boy’s statistics. “Born March, 1941.”
“Extraordinary. Where did he come from?”
“Let’s see,” Dr. Murdock said as he checked the chart. “Well, of course, being on this floor he has a Norwegian mother and it is, oh yes, Helga,” confirmed the doctor. “Yes, Helga. The SS brought her here shortly after we occupied Norway. She was about seven months pregnant.” The doctor smiled. “A true Viking woman – she’s amazing.”
The doctor smiled. “Yes; big, blonde and beautiful – she’s quite a woman. She is as you described how a Vikings woman would be: perfect features and strong – so strong. And she’s almost ready to be bred again.”
“Yes, good, make sure that happens. And his father? Is he German?”
The doctor looked back to the chart. “No, no, his father is…also Norwegian.” Dr. Murdock read a little further. “Like I said, she came here from Norway, pregnant, and yes, okay, he left his family to fight for the Resistance shortly after they were married.”
“The Resistance? Well I hope that this baby is not a fool like his father,” the Commander snickered, handing Konrad to a nurse who gently retuned him to his crib. Shaking his head in admiration, he went back to the boy and messed the baby’s fine blonde hair. “I don’t think that you are a fool like your father. No, you are not a fool,” he reassured, paused and looked at him closer. “Okay yes, I remember you young man. I know you.”
Dr. Murdock looked confused. “No, I don’t think that you’ve met, Commander.”
“But doctor, we have,” he bristly corrected his insubordinate. “He’s in my dreams when I dream of a perfect Germany.” He touched the boy again. “That’s where I know you from, my dreams of Germany’s future.”
The Commander turned to Dr. Murdock. “What is this boy’s weight?”
Doctor Murdock raised clipboard to check statistics but as it approached reading level the Commander’s slap knocked it to the ground. “Doctor,” he scolded, kicking the clipboard across the floor. “I would expect that you would take a greater interest in the boys in this facility that are obviously the superior specimens we are looking to cultivate. Isn’t that why you are here?”
“Yes sir,” the doctor apologized, scrambling to retrieve the clipboard. “I just wanted to be accurate,” he explained. “I’m sorry.”
“You will know these statistics!”
“Yes sir, I will. I’ll be more accurate.”
“Accurate? I don’t understand. If this is just a job to you, and you are coming here every day like you work on a factory line to be accurate, let me know and I will put you in a position that you can just show up to; maybe there’s something in one of the labor camps that suits you better.” He stepped towards the doctor. “Would you rather keep accurate records of prisoners? Log them in as they arrive? Take their weights?” asked the Commander, his high pitched voice growing more painful and deep set eyes darting about the room and back. “You’ve been here a while and I expect you to know intimately the measurements of this baby and all other babies in the Program.”
“That is understood?”
“Yes sir, and I’m sorry Commander,” the doctor apologized. “I will do so this point forward.”
“Especially boys like this!” the Commander said, looking at Konrad. “Don’t you think that this boy is special? Didn’t you just hear me call him the future of Germany?”
“Yes,” the doctor answered. “And I’m sorry, sir.”
“Do you agree that he is special?” the Commander challenged.
“Yes sir, I do.”
His eyes penetrating as he looked at the doctor. “Well at least you have sound judgment. Please know his information!”
“I will be better prepared.”
The Commander shook his head. “You’re not understanding, it’s not just preparation, it’s embracing! Embracing these children and this program,” he lectured and looked around the room again. Hilda was standing a few feet away from the crib and he nodded in her direction. “Well,” the Commander said, stepping towards her, “other than you, my dear, who is charged with the well being of this baby?”
Feeling a surge of pride when addressed, Hilda looked at Dr. Murdock and then back to the Commander. “Konrad is under the direct care of Dr. Roth,” she answered confidently.
Titling head and nodding the Commander turned to Dr. Murdock. “See, she didn’t need a chart for that.” He returned to Hilda and moved closer. “Tell me,” he said, reaching out and gently holding her hand between his long skinny thumb and middle finger, “would that happen to be the great Dr. Jurgen Roth?”
Surprised the Commander knew Jurgen’s name, Hilda nodded. “Yes, sir,” she confirmed. “His name is Jurgen.”
The Commander laughed. “But my dear, you are unsure if he is great?” he asked playfully and watched Hilda’s cheeks turn pink and smiled. “So tell me, do you know where the not so great Dr. Roth is at this moment?”
Hilda took a moment; Jurgen told her he was going to do his best to avoid the Commander by staying two rooms ahead of him at all times and she looked at the door. “He should be down the hall, tending to the other children,” she explained. “He’s making his rounds.”
“But sir,” Hilda said. “I didn’t mean that he’s not great.”
The Commander smiled. “I know my dear.” He released her hand and looked around the room. “Well, let’s go see that Dr Roth.”
The party made its way past nurses in white uniforms and men in lab coats, all gazing at the Commander who followed a step behind the fleet-of-foot Dr. Murdock. Approaching a janitor washing a wall they stopped and the Commander nodded his approval. “These children need the most sterile environment that we can provide,” he explained to the old man. “Keeping this place clean is a must.” Turning to Dr. Murdock. “I hope that this kind of detail never changes.”
“I will see that it wouldn’t,” the doctor replied.
“Do you need a moment to write that down?”
Dr. Murdock ignored the comment and continued along the hallway.
“You move pretty well for a man your size,” the Commander noted as they raced around a corner.
Down another long hallway; Dr. Murdock glanced into each room they passed, hoping to find Jurgen. “Have you seen Dr. Roth?” he asked a young nurse.
“Yes, he was going that way a few minutes ago,” she replied. “But I’m sorry sir, I’m not sure which room he went into.”
Dr. Murdock turned around and faced the Commander. “He can’t be far; he’s near, sir.”
“Is he always this hard to locate?”
They resumed walking. “No,” the doctor answered, after a few yards. “But today he wanted to make sure that he got his measurements in before you arrived and is moving at a good pace to do so.”
“I love that he is being accurate. That is the accuracy I like.”
“Yes sir. He’s always accurate, sir.”
Attempting to keep up without looking hurried, the Commander lengthened his strides. “I have to assume that we must be catching him,” he said, short on breath.
Three rooms later, there he was, holding a baby in his arms while measuring its feet. Jurgen looked at the visitors and smiled and after handing the child to a nurse, he strode to the Commander and extended his hand. “Commander,” he greeted. “How are you?”
Breathing heavy, “Jurgen,” managed the Commander, “I’ve become winded – we’ve been looking for you.”
“Well,” replied Jurgen, “I tried to hide, but you’ve found me. How was your trip?”
The Commander took his hand and shook it warmly. “I’m happy to be here, Jurgen. It’s good to see you. The visit has been very pleasant. We have just come from seeing some of your work, that big boy down the other hallway – what a job you are doing with him!”
“Ah, you must mean Konrad,” Jurgen said to the Commander. “He’s something. But, we are only doing as instructed. Dr. Murdock has a plan, and we follow it, and it has worked out pretty good with that boy. Feeding and washing. Feeding and washing.”
“This is Dr. Jurgen Roth, and he has always been very modest,” the Commander explained with a grin to his guests.
Nodding, “Gentlemen, welcome,” Jurgen greeted the men. “Please let me know if you have any questions.”
“Jurgen, how about we go for a little stroll? Take a walk around the grounds and catch up on old times?” the Commander asked, touching his friend’s arm. “It’s not too cold out is it?” He turned to Dr. Murdock. “Doctor, I’m taking Dr. Roth away for a bit. We were chummy in school and I would like to visit privately with him. Please see that his duties are covered.”
“Yes, of course, Commander,” Dr. Murdock said.
The two men strolled around back of the clinic near a small, dead garden. Jurgen lit a cigarette and took a minute to gaze at the landscape. The Castle was at the crest of a hill and overlooked a village; another hill was at Jurgen’s back.
“I see you and for a moment and I forget why I am here,” the Commander said. “But it comes back and I have to ask if you are happy with your position?” The Commander removed his glasses to wipe them. “Are you happy here, my friend?”
Jurgen thought and nodded. “Am I happy looking after these children?” he asked. “Yes, I became a doctor to take care of people. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t know if I ever said that in school, but this is what I wanted to do.”
“Yes, you did,” the Commander confirmed. “I remember. But within this program, you are happy?”
Their time at school came back to Jurgen and, though decades had passed, a conversation he had with the Commander was recalled. It was 1918 and being one of the smaller students, the Commander often approached Jurgen and marveled at his physical traits:
“If I had your size Jurgen, I’d quit school and join the Empire’s forces today!”
Shaking his head Jurgen reached to his friend and patted him on the shoulder. “It’s easier to go battle with another man’s body, I suppose. But I’m hoping that this war ends – it looks awful.”
“Ends in victory for the German Empire, you mean!”
“Of course,” Jurgen smiled. “But ends soon in victory.”
“Jurgen, if the War continues we will be able to fight, doesn’t that excite you?” his friend continued. “To fight in one of the greatest conflicts in the history of mankind? Fight and leave your mark?”
“As I have said before, I have no desire to fight in this war. There doesn’t seem to be a pleasant experience in it. Last night we had turnips for the seventh or eighth straight meal and maybe for the 18th time out of 20! I don’t know anymore. It’s all we have and I think that I am going mad because of them, and we are dirty! Dirty and hungry and my mother is tired of hearing us complain about it because there is nothing that she can do, because of this war. We are suffering and not just my family, but our neighbors and the people that we go to church with are struggling. I hope that it ends before we are of age that will be called to fight, if only because I’d think I will starve if it goes on much longer.”
“Oh, but Jurgen,” his friend laughed. “Hunger and lack of personal grooming are the small sacrifices that we have to make for Germany. What about the men on the front? They’ve been laying in trenches in France, in the cold and the mud. And they’re eating turnips too.”
“That’s if they have lived,” added Jurgen.
“Well exactly; they are making a far greater sacrifice than we – risking their lives – losing their lives.”
“Yes, and that makes me think all the more that I want this war to end,” determined Jurgen. “I’ve lost uncles and cousins and it’s sad to think of them as dead. I’ll never see them again.”
“We have all lost family members. My cousin Peter was killed in action not too long ago and the French soldiers treated his body poorly and my aunt is beside herself; she’s very upset by it, and we’ve had horrible meals too,” said the smaller boy.
“But you don’t require much,” joked Jurgen.
“Yes, you are right,” he laughed. “But I truly believe that with a little more on the table I could get bigger and grow more powerful,” proclaimed the boy. “My father said the enemy is denying us that – they are the ones starving you, not the war. Don’t you want to fight for the German Empire?” he asked with great enthusiasm. “Especially as a boy being your size and strength; you’re the ultimate German fighting machine! Jurgen! If the war continues the Fatherland needs you and the other boys to fight. If all the people decide not to fight, we will surely lose. And then what?”
“I don’t know, but regardless, I’m sorry and fear that we are going to lose,” Jurgen explained as a group of boys ran past them on their way to the football field.
“We will never lose!” the Commander screeched.
“Come on Jurgen,” one of the football players called as he passed. “We need players – we need you to play.”
“I’ll be right there,” Jurgen answered and turned to his friend. “Do you want to play?”
“No,” declined the friend. “I have lessons. You know my godfather is Prince Henrich of Bavaria, right? I have told you that before, I’m sure.”
“Yes, many times.”
“Well, he’s helped me into the Cadet Corps and I’m an officer candidate now,” the smaller boy reported with pride and pulled on his lapels. “That doesn’t allow me much time for games. I have to study.”
“That’s sad,” replied Jurgen. “We do enough studying here at school.” He patted his friend on the shoulder. “But we will continue this, I am sure. There’s months of schooling left and I look forward to listening to you go on and please don’t get me wrong, the Fatherland is the only land for me. But I love life too. In fact, I think I love life just a little more.”
They shook hands and parted and Jurgen raced toward the door.
The conversation, Jurgen was positive, standing outside with the Commander a quarter century later, was remembered by the man who was now his boss. As were countless others, he figured, though they hadn’t seen each other in years. “Again, Jurgen, tell me, does this position fit you? Or would you like something else?”
Something else? A return to the army hospital? Or being sent to work in a camp? The front? Or worse? His time at the hospital was difficult; he was in the prime of his life, assigned to a miserable place tending to horrific injuries while training unqualified kids to go out into the field and tend to the gruesome wounds of war. No, he didn’t want to go back there and knew the reputation of the man that used to be his schoolmate and was sure their past would not stop him from continuing his quest. “No, Commander, this is quite fine. The babies are growing and, like you, I take joy in being able to see the fruitions of my work.”
“Isn’t it pleasurable to watch things that you cultivate grow,” asked the Commander.
“Yes sir,” Jurgen continued. “And you were correct; this position suits me.”
“I think so too,” said the Commander as he put on his black SS officer’s visor. “I have large expectations, you know.”
“Of course, Commander,” Jurgen said. “I do also.”