Diese vertrackte vergänglichkeit
Three weeks ago, he'd be eating good food and drinking excellent wines in some of the best restaurants Paris had to offer. He even sat at the same table as Reichsminister Goebbels in more than one occasion.
Now, he was drinking acceptable beer (because the alternative wasn't worth imagining about). The only celebrity was the simpering barmaid with too-eager smiles.
All because of that over-confident Private Zoller finding out that certain SS Gestapo Major hadn't been civil enough to the Kino-owning heifer, when he picked her up prior to the lunch with Herr Dr. Goebbels. How the mighty have fallen.
Wenn Sie haben...
He was surprised to see Colonel Landa at the motor pool, apparently waiting for him. "Don't let that over-inflated soldier get to you," the Colonel said, as they waited for the staff car to be brought around.
"Of course," Dieter replied, not wanting to show how the prick had indeed gotten into him.
"Stew a while, then. There won't be a shortage of local species for you to vent your frustrations on."
Dieter climbed into the back seat of the car, resigning himself to his career exile.
"Come next year, you'll be back in Paris as though you've never left."
A young Dieter Hellstrom first saw an equally young Hugo Stiglitz one day in November 1933, at Heidegger's address to the students at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität. They both had looked bored.
That day, they exchanged just a handful of words with each other, before going on their separate ways.
Dieter had thought that would be that, especially when he finally learnt they shared not one class. They didn't even belong to the same faculty. Yet, they seemed to be able to spot each other even in a crowded room.
Dieter was irrationally pleased. He hoped it would be one for the ages.
Looking back, he should have known that things could only go downhill.
A letter arrived for him one overly hot summer’s day. Dieter had been complaining endlessly about the weather.
"He's calling me back," Dieter said after a long silence.
"Back to Berlin?" Hugo ventured.
"Yes," Dieter answered bitterly. "Apparently my exile is over."
Dieter knew his grandfather believed that his unsuitable grandson would thank him. Indeed, a year ago Dieter wished for nothing more but to be allowed to return to Berlin. Now he loathed to leave.
"What should I do?" Dieter implored.
Hugo stared, but was quiet.
Wenn sie uns keine wahl lassen
In the end, Hugo did not offer anything but a promise to occasionally write. Hugo didn’t even drop by the morning of his leaving, even though he said he would.
Dieter was hurried onto the train by an impatient officious-looking old man. By sundown Dieter had finally completed his journey back from his exile.
He was met by his grandfather's faithful assistant—a stern-looking woman who couldn’t smile. Dieter was informed that his mother, sister, and grandfather were all waiting back at home.
The sky was unremarkable. The city was cold and distant. There was no hero's welcome.
Nicht sehr höflich
He didn't meet his family until the next morning, however. He braced himself for a reprimand, as he pushed the breakfast room door open, an hour late.
"You're late," Grandfather Hellstrom declared from his place at the head of the breakfast table, dripping venom it seemed. His mother and sister were sat to one side gave him a pair of tight smiles and stiff hellos.
"Eat!" Grandfather Hellstrom barked, pushing a breadbasket with exactly one piece of round soft bread inside. "The last thing I need is for your worthless hide to pass out on Herr Doktor Günther's carpet."
Ich sehe einen blumgarten
The elder Hellstrom and his grandson met with Dr Hans Günther exactly three times. On the third and last occasion, Dieter was officially declared a student at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität.
He wrote about it to Hugo, the first letter he had ever written in his short life. Though he did not expect a reply, it bothered him nonetheless.
Time might be a fickle mistress, but Fate was a cruel one. By the end of autumn, just when he had convinced himself that he had moved on, his past caught up with him under the linden trees.
"Hello, Dieter," Hugo said.
They joined up just in time for the Summer Olympics. Hugo was right: the uniform made all the difference with the opposite sex. Dieter though, was too preoccupied at being disappointed to notice all the women.
"Why didn't you join the SS like we planned to?"
"I didn't. You did. You know I'd go mad sitting behind a desk all day. I can't abide the politics either. Guns, though, they speak a language I understand. Meant what they say, too."
"But the Heer?"
"A soldier's life is simple."
"The Waffen-SS then. That's soldiering, too!"
"Just forget it, Dieter. It's done."
Mit ein und dem selben
The soldiers and the actress were loud enough to give Dieter a headache. Then a group of SS Officers arrived.
Any hope Dieter harboured for a peaceful night, or indeed for there to be a “tomorrow” was dashed when a familiar voice congratulated the new father.
Dieter decided that Fate wasn't just cruel. She was also extremely unimaginative. An exiled boy and his soon to be friend. Neither of them were boys nor friends anymore.
Yet, he was sure both of them will still be together. Like inevitability, they gravitated to each other.
It will just be like old times.
Hugo Stiglitz didn't kill 13 officers because he was stupid. Precisely because he wasn’t stupid, he knew that this damn Brit was bad news.
As they descended the spiral staircase of La Louisiane, then stepping off the final step onto worn stone floors, Stiglitz had the sinking feeling that they would never leave this place alive.
"Listen, I’ve got a joke, ‘kay?” Donowitz had said, as he walked back into the room after a piss. “A British spy, a German traitor and an Austrian Jew walk into a French basement bar. Inside they meet a German actress turned spy...”