Divided We Fall
PART I - By Your Side
PART I - By Your Side
12. August 1961
Crafty and Genius.
These were only a couple of word how his older brother had been described at one point or another, but he would never, ever have been called quiet. Until today.
It was a hot day in August 1961. All of the windows had been thrown open despite the oppressing midsummer heat outside. Someone had thought opening them would provide relief and cool down the rooms. What had been a nice gesture made it even worse. The heat penetrated every corner of the building making its occupants suffer just a bit more.
A special delegation of personnel who worked for the leaders of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) had discarded their jackets. (1) The shirts were opened halfway with ties hanging loosely around their necks. Some tried to work despite the temperatures, while others had given up and relaxed in their chairs trying to find some relief in an ice cold drink. One or two went so far as to put a cold wet towel on their head and wait for their working day to end. The wheels the of administrative machine in Berlin would keep on turning nonetheless. None of them realized yet what was happening at the garden party of the government guesthouse in Döllnsee (2). In the great scheme of things they were not important. As government employees, they would continue working and not lose any of their privileges.
The people who did matter and had changed history were just next door. The guesthouse had only one spacious room and it was just about enough to cram in the leaders of the GDR, USSR and their nation's spirit in human form. Unlike the personnel, these people were all dressed in perfectly tailored suits. Nothing was out of place except for their sweaty foreheads as they all stared at the two men standing in the middle of the room.
“As of today, the order has been signed to close the border completely and finish construction of the wall that will separate East Germany from the West.” Announced Walter Ulbricht, the chairman of the GDR State Council. “Gilbert Beilschmidt, the national spirit formerly known as Prussia, you will reside in the GDR under supervision of our comrade Ivan Braginsky, the embodiment of the USSR.” Ulbricht was staring at the fair-haired man watching his reaction, but had to raise an eyebrow as nothing came. Gilbert Beilschmidt remained silent and looked on with unreadable eyes. All of them expected some kind of outburst and protests. The Prussian was known to display erratic behaviour. The GDR delegation even placed four security guards in the room as a safety measure. And yet, nothing happened. The albino was standing there calmly watching him. The chairman cleared his throat and quickly continued to read off the official statement: “Ludwig Beilschmidt, you will remain in the West, residing in Bonn the official capital of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BND) under supervision of the Allied forces. They will be notified at a specific time.”
Ludwig clenched his fists slightly. “Gilb-“
“Bear it, brother.” He interrupted softly unclenching his fingers and let them hang limply. You need to survive this, boy. No matter what. Nevermind what happens to me, he thought to himself and gritted his teeth.
Ludwig glanced sideways to see the other man tremble slightly. It was so faint nobody noticed it, except him. Several centuries together ensured he would notice the slightest change in this man’s behaviour.
“It’s hard to breath-.” Prussia only managed to get out before he fell to his knees and started coughing up blood. He managed to break the fall by falling on his hands, but the red liquid splashed across the marble floor in front of him. Just when his battle wounds finally started to heal they were being ripped open again. He could more or less bear the pain of a bullet wound, gashes, cuts and bruises. It was a completely different pain to feel your heart seize up.
The younger brother was immediately kneeling by his side, shouting to get a doctor.
Ivan was the first to act and knelt next to them as well, checking for Prussia’s pulse. By just looking at the man’s pale face he understood this was a different kind of pain. The humans would be unable to help. “A human doctor won’t be much of help to him.” he said softly.
“Then what will?” Ludwig demanded, looking desperately at the tall Russian. During the war, his older brother had taken all of the hits from the USSR’s attack. The Russian army had been an unforgiving and menacing force freeing and defending its regions. In Ludwig’s personal opinion it was more than justified after what the leader of the Third Reich had done to Russia. The war had been 20 years ago now, but Gilbert had only started to heal from it and now this. The GDR, the vassal state of the Kremlin was at a breaking point and might lead the world with its actions to a possible World War Three between the US and the USSR. At this point his brother might die.
The embodimentof the USSR ignored the younger German and stood up, turning his attention to the human leaders in the room. “Gentlemen, the decision has been made, how the German Democratic Republic and the USSR will proceed. I ask you to vacate the room. The matter of the national spirits of each country should be dealt with between ourselves.” He sensed and understood the curiosity of the human leaders to see what would happen to Prussia. However, he had not only an obligation to his own country, but also to his fellow nations’ spirits. Prussia, later a part of the Third Reich had invaded his lands several times, but it were the human leaders who had done it. Their national spirit had the option to try influence its leader’s decisions, but always had to bear the consequences. No exceptions existed to that rule. For this reason the relationship between spirits were strictly dealt with care and without human presence. Ivan held no grudge for neither Gilbert Beilschmidt nor his younger brother. His own existence was far too old and twisted to make such a pointless distinction between good and evil. There was no such pure duality in their world.
Understanding that this was not their business, Premier of the USSR Khrushchev vacated his seat and headed for the door. His delegation followed quickly after him and lastly the leaders of the GDR.
Once the room was empty, Ivan quickly knelt down again cradling Gilbert’s head with both hands. “For goodness sake, Gilbert you have to let go.” He said softly to the man. “If you keep holding on, it will destroy you.”
Gilbert managed only a cough in reply and the blood stained Ivan’s face and a part of his white dress shirt. The Russian paid no attention to it and continued. “Don’t make the same mistake as the Holy Roman Empire...” He never had forgotten how the boy had suffered a tragic death. It was in fact a slow process of decay for more than hundred years: the worst kind of death for them. Prussia had been declining since 1918 and it was 1961 now. “It’s 43 years now…you have to stop.”
Ludwig let his brother lean against his chest and listened to the Russian. “What do you mean?” He frowned, not understanding what was being said.
Ivan glanced over to him and cocked his head to the side. “You don’t know?”
Gilbert grabbed Ivan’s hand squeezing it lightly. “I’ve…never told’im.”
The answer made the Russian sigh heavily. “You are insane…” He studied Gilbert’s pale face noting his ruby coloured eyes were too bright to be normal. Placing one hand on his forehead confirmed his suspicions. The man had a fever and it was quite high. “Alright, I’ll keep it short. Humans make history and we change with it. There are certain key moments for us, when we must change to survive. I started my existence as a small kingdom of pagan tribes, became an empire and almost got killed during the Bolshevik revolution and had to change again into a collective republic of different countries. Each time I had to let go of my past duties. We cannot let ourselves get trapped by memories long gone. If we do…” Ivan watched as the Prussian was leaning slightly forward to have the hand cover his forehead completely. Having the legendary General Winter on his side gave the Russian perpetually cool hands. He did not like the cold, but on this occasion it came in quite handy. “If we do not change with the times, we start to lose our existence in a very painful way, as you can see. Gilbert has been holding on to his existence as the kingdom of Prussia, although the dissolution happened already in 1918.(3) You have to let go. Become East Germany, while your brother will be the West.”
“If I do, the Wall will…we won’t be seeing each other for god knows how long.” Gilbert gritted his teeth sitting up properly. “I’ll have to follow your Kremlin bosses.” This could not get any worse, but then again it could. Dying was always the worst outcome.
“Is the option of dying and leaving your only family all alone more appealing to you?” Ivan could be level-headed and patient, but only to a certain degree. At this moment both of those qualities start to wear thin. “Sometimes we do, what we have to do in order to survive. Given your history, you know that better than others.”
He could not abandon his brother. “I know…”
13. August 1961
Exactly at midnight, just like clockwork construction trucks started rolling on and off with blocks of concrete. Both the workers and machines were protected by army and police from each side of the wall.
Gilbert stood at the last open space of the wall clenching his fists from time to time. “Brother…” he couldn’t get any more out than that. The tears in his eyes spoke for him.
On the other side Ludwig was looking back at him. Seeing his brother was on the verge of breaking down he took a step forward wanting to cross. America grabbed his arm preventing him to go. “Ludw-“
“Fuck you.” The taller man cut him off and turned to the Allied force. “I’ve never given you permission to call me by that name,” he said narrowing his eyes and yanked his arm free. America had such a tight grip on him that it hurt. For a second he thought this would lead to a dislocated shoulder, but deep down he was beyond caring. “To you, I am Germany.”
He took one huge step forward and held out his hand as far as he could through the opening. If even going to his brother one last time was not possible then at least reaching out would have to do. Ludwig refused to part ways without even holding his brother’s hand.
Gilbert was watching the exchange with wide eyes. His younger brother was not exactly known for using crude words and having sudden emotional outburst in public. It was rare. So rare in fact, Gilbert could count on one hand how often it had happened. When something like this occurred, then that was really saying something about his mental state.
’I’ve never given you permission to call me by that name. To you, I am Germany.’
As he heard Ludwig’ statements Prussia raised his head high and grinned, whipping away the tears quickly.
Their former leaders were defeated.
Their country lay in ruins.
People were dead.
The scars they had because of it would take years to heal, if ever.
Other nations were deciding their fate. One part would belong to the West and the other to the East separated by a wall of concrete, barbed wire, landmines, dogs and automatic gun installations.
Despite all that, both of them continued to live. Ludwig was the best example, that all of it did not break his perseverance and will. As the older brother, he could not show the other his crying face. Not now. Gilbert was in fact more than proud of him for saying these two sentences. It was everything Gilbert had hoped for Ludwig, because he would carry a great burden on his own in the decades to come. Just as his little brother and even more, he had to be strong.
Deep down all the nation spirits were influenced by the population and its leaders of each country. They rarely had the option of overruling the majority of their nation. Former Prussia was in that regard no exception, but his reasons ran even deeper. As Gilbert, his destiny was entwined with his younger brother. He may have been an artificial state created out of war. He also may have been pulled into WWII and participated in it. In hindsight, you always regret some of the decisions one’s nation had taken. However, he could not and would not let Ludwig think he was alone. If Germany was at war, then former Prussia would stand by his side on the front-line.
Ivan was standing next to him and just gave him a light push forward. “Go.” This was the last time the brothers would be able to talk like family. He was witnessing yet another tragic historical moment of a country being divided. Letting Gilbert say goodbye to his other half was done by Ivan, not the USSR.
Gilbert grinned at him before leaping forward and landing right on the borderline. “I’m proud of you,” he whispered as Ludwig pulled him into a tight hug, cradling his head against his chest. “Ich wünsche dir alles Glück der Welt, Ludwig.” His younger brother had become so tall and actually needed to lean down to hold him. (“I wish you all the best”)
“Don’t…” Ludwig replied holding him even tighter. When had his big brother become so much smaller? “Don’t say goodbye.”
Gilbert gently pushed him away. “I’m not. Never.” He needed to see his brother’s face for what was about to be said. “You are a part of me. Don’t ever forget that.”
His older brother had put both hands on each side of his face and pulled him down so they would be on eye level. Ludwig blinked and nodded his head quickly in agreement. Gilbert had dark eye bags from lack of sleep and worry. The ruby red eyes were in pain too, both mentally and physically. After breaking down the day before he was exhausted beyond what humans would be able to bear. At the same time his eyes were smiling. Pupils wide which only manifested when they were seeing somebody he loved. Despite the anguish, Gilbert’s eyes had that glint, which was practically saying: I will not back down.
“I don’t know how long this will be, but I will come back to you. In the meantime, help our people. After all, we are here because of the people. We are the first servants of the state. (4) Never forget that.” He leaned up and gently placed his lips to Ludwig’s forehead. “I, Prussia am the past. You are the future. May your reign be longer than mine, Ludwig Beilschmidt.” Gilbert closed his eyes and leaned their foreheads together. “I’ll be watching you as the Deutsche Demokratische Republik and one day…” his voice broke and he took a deep breath clutching at his chest. “One day…” His chest was burning, right where his heart was. It felt like a knife was slowly being dragged over the skin in an excruciatingly slow manner. Carving every second of this moment into his skin as a lasting memory. He refused to give in to the pain and looked up catching Ludwig’s heartbroken eyes again. “I swear, we will see each other again.”
Ludwig started to tremble and grabbed onto Gilbert to make it stop. His heart hurt. It was like a mirror, which had gotten a hit so hard it developed cracks and started to break. Bit by bit. He witnessed Gilbert kiss people’s foreheads before. It was performed right before a battle, which the national spirit of Prussia was not able to attend in person. This gesture was only done to those he had respected greatly and had been fond of. These people went to battle and rarely came back. Ludwig had understood only later that this gesture was Gilbert’s way of saying ‘I’m proud of you, stay save and come back’. If these special people did not return, his older brother looked for the first opportunity to ride out and look for them himself. The man did find them, but not in the state he had hoped for.
Stay save and come back.
No matter how long this Wall would stand and what challenges he was about to face on his own, he was going to wait for his brother. “I, Ludwig Beilschmidt, am the Bundesrepubliek Deutsch-” he said slowly and stopped as the realization hit him even harder. They were literally dividing up the country, their hearts and souls.
Gilbert saw his brother’s hesitation and pressed their hands together and bound them in a brotherly handshake. It was a silly thing to do, but it had saved them so often, when times had gotten tough. This was their symbolic oath that would last forever. “Say it, brother.”
The blonde man tightened his grip in the handshake and then relaxed his hand while letting out a sigh to calm himself. If that was even possible. Here he was almost renouncing his own brother. Separating both of them for god knew how long. “I, Ludwig Beilschmidt, am the national spirit of the new Bundesrepubliek Deutschland.” Since he had also a hold of the now GDR, he pulled him closer and placed a kiss on his forehead as well. “Stay save, brother...”
Gilbert stared into his face, surprised that the other knew exactly what the gesture meant and he even said it out loud. “You know…”
He smiled, but his eyes could not. “You are the East. I am West. But together we are one Germany.” They were separated by a wall and overseen by different nations, but Ludwig personally hoped that one day all of the parts would come together again. Until then he would bear the painful scar over his heart. It was bleeding now, trickling down his chest and staining his clothes. He accepted the pain as a sign of being alive. Alive meant there was hope.
Gilbert squeezed his chest again with the free hand and looked at it with a small smile when he saw the bloodstains. How ironic that his life was always painted in blood. It had started with blood and would probably end that way. “Alright! You better do your best! Don’t you dare embarrass your big brother!” He stood straight and held his iron cross out to him. “Keep it safe for me...”
Ludwig hesitated for a moment. Their twin iron crosses were one of a kind and held a very special meaning to both of them. “Why would y-“
“I will come back.” Gilbert emphasized again, grabbing his hand and pressed the item in Ludwig’s hand. He did not want to explain with others present and just hoped his brother would understand.
The Iron Cross was the symbol of the Teutonic Order of Knights, an elite force of noble men who had only answered to the Holy Roman Empire. His brother had started his very existence with that order. Without them invading pagan Prussia, thus forcefully Christianizing it and put it on the world map as a region, Gilbert Beilschmidt would not exist. If Gilbert were not here, Ludwig himself might have not existed the way he was now. The Teutonic Knights with their Iron Cross were their beginning. Gilbert was asking him to keep their origins save, no matter how morally questionable they were. (5)
Ludwig nodded and held the cross to his chest.
“Comrade Beilschmidt,” Ivan Braginsky, the national spirit of the USSR cleared his throat as a sign that it was time to leave.
“Da,” the albino called in acknowledgement, but looked past his brother for a second to America. He glared at him as a warning to not mess around with West Germany for there would be consequences. The war had not been won by America and the biggest sacrificed had not been on their side, but the USSR. Gilbert knew what his responsibilities and duties were now. He might not like them and being a vassal state was a concept he needed to get used to, but he would fulfill his duties nonetheless. If necessary, he as the GDR, would remind the Allies that the world had finally a chance at peace. The price for it was the death of 26.6 million on the USSR side alone and the division of his country. (6)
Gilbert turned back to his brother again. “I love you, West.” he said and hugged him tightly for the last time.
“Ja…” Ludwig replied as he reluctantly accepted his new role. Being a capitalist country meant his own brother was the enemy now. “Forgive me…” It was hard to look at him and Ludwig buried his head in his brother’s shoulder.
He brushed gently trough the golden hair and looked up at the night sky with a sigh. They had never been apart for longer than three months at a time. This time would probably be decades, if not more. They would see the same stars, breathe the same air, but be divided by walls, politics and the schemes of their human leaders. Gilbert only hoped the future politics of the GDR would not make his brother suffer. He was unaware that he himself was going to suffer the most and come close to death. “Mein Lieber*…you have to let go.” He said gently, patting his head as if he were a child. Compared to him Ludwig actually was.
“I know…” he mumbled into his older brother’s shoulder and then stood straight again towering over him with a forlorn expression on his face.
“13th August 1961.” (6) Former Prussia said loudly and lifted his hand as if in a greeting. “Never forget.”
“Never.” West caught the hand in mid-air and held it for a second before letting go reluctantly.
Gilbert did his best to smile for his baby brother and took one step back to let the workers continue with sealing the wall. The last thing he wanted to show him was a pathetic crying face. His title might change, but he was and would always be the great Prussia. The small backwater kingdom that had overthrown kings, queens and eventually changed all of Europe.
Ludwig willed himself to smile back. It was probably just a forced grin on his part, but that was the best he could do given the circumstances. He would not disappoint his older brother. If it was in his power, he would create the right circumstances and influence the nation so that both of them could exist at the same time. He tightened his grip on the Iron Cross until it dug into his skin and made a vow to himself. Whatever happened, he would be prepared to give up many things and make compromises, but Ludwig would never give up on the reunion with his brother.
Thank you for reading! I would love to hear your opinion on this story!
See you in PART II!