I miss my mum, dad too.  They were taken to the concentration camps.  I don’t even know if they will come back.  They were strongly against Hitler and his ideas to make Germany a better place.  Unlike everyone else, they weren’t bought by his lies.  Now they will be killed, because they voiced their opinion against Hitler. 

I am of the Jewish faith, but luckily, i haven’t been found and taken.  When they took my parents, i was hiding in the loft, inside a whole heap of boxes.  By the sounds of it, the soldiers didn’t even know that i existed, as they yelled at my mother, while, from what i heard, they beat my father.  Father knew this day would come when he would be taken away, thats why he told me to hide in the loft.  I used to hide there as a little girl, playing with my friends.  We would play indians and tell stories, but things have changed.  Now my friends don’t want to be arund me anymore, just because I am jewish.  They think they will get arrestedfor being near me, so they avoid me.  I can’t go to school anymore, the principal asked me to leave.  But I was getting good grades, i was the best in my class, Herr Eitzel said so.  Maybe that might have been just for english, but i was getting good grades in all of my classes.  Again, because i am jewish,i have been kicked out, forgotten, lost in time.  Why is Hitler treating us like crap?  we have done nothing wrong, and we are getting knocked off by the thousands.  Gassed in rooms at the camps where nobody can hear our cries.  I pity Hitler.  He must be a very lonely man, trying to kill all jews, not to mention anyone else that were not worthy of being alive.  He killed my friends mother just  because she was mentally challenged.  She had a problem, so she died for it.  For what?  she didn’t die for her country, or her family.  She was not perfect, she died for that. 

Okay, so maybe I was mad or something. But hey, isn’t the world mad anyway? Sure seems like it from where I’m standing. So when those two fascist goons came into my watering hole, shaking their tin at my bar, in their NAZI-issued brown shirts and their standard-issue, screw-the-world-over jack-boots, loudly bleating their filthy, prejudiced, hate-inspired political froth from their smug little moustachioed faces – well I got mad. I hate NAZI’s. I hate bullies. I hate tiny little grey men who like to wear shiny little tin badges and who think that a red and black armband gives them the right to bully, beat and blackmail anyone they like. So I hit them.

            I don’t like what’s happening in
Germany at the moment. Sure, we got the Olympic Games. But we’ve also got Jewish ghettoes and a menacing, hate-fuelled government that is basically run by a despotic madman who has got some seriously screwed up ideas about running everything from art to marriage. No, things aren’t so good in the ‘Fatherland’ at present. And one thing you don’t do is hit one of the goons. It isn’t clever. Bullies never take kindly to being beaten at their own game. And the party, well… they take care of their own. So I wasn’t surprised that the next night a whole truckload of goons came to wreak a bit of party-inspired vengeance. That’s how those NAZI-scum maintain power – if anyone challenges them, they screw them right over. They rule through fear. And sure, I’m scared – who wouldn’t be? But they haven’t broken me.

            I’ve gotta admit, when I cracked those two fascist heads, it felt good. It even felt right. But I knew what I was getting myself in for. I knew that more of those bullies would soon be back in force carrying instruction to bust some ex-boxer’s head. So why didn’t I just bolt? Do a runner? Well you see… it isn’t that simple. Bullies need a victim – otherwise they’ve got no purpose in life. If I’d bolted then, well my fellow workmates or the owner of the club where I work would be rolled instead. In fact last year my boss, Hermann Schmidt, was beaten up by the brown-shirts himself. His crime? The NAZI party didn’t like the cabaret show we were putting on in the club. Sure it sent up prominent members of the NAZI party. They objected to the stage show because they claimed it had subversive political content in it. Of course it was subversive. That’s the whole point of satire. So when Herr Schmidt put the show back on the next night, in defiance I suppose, the brown-shirts came to teach him a lesson. He was a right mess afterwards, too. Most of his teeth were broken, he had several broken ribs, a cracked vertebrae… took him nearly four months just to get back on his feet. So me and Sam Spadaco, the Spaniard barman, ran the joint in Herr Schmidt’s absence. And with a little help from the girls, we kept the place afloat. But we changed the routine. I couldn’t stomach the thought of something like that happening to one of the girls or Sam. So we folded. Capitulated I guess. Went for a safer ‘burlesque’ type of operation. Hurt the takings though. People like to laugh at the NAZI’s.

            Despite all the problems, I liked my job. There aren’t too many options for an ex-boxer like myself. Security work at a local night club is a pretty good outcome – especially these days. Times have been pretty tough. Sure, things have gotten better since the tyrant Hitler took over, but I reckon they would have anyway, no matter who was in charge. But still, there were many times when food was scarce and procuring a bottle of schnapps was well-nigh impossible. Working in a joint like the KitKat club allowed me certain luxuries – I won’t deny it. I was always grateful to Herr Schmidt for giving me that job, lousy and underpaid as it was. My loyalty was to the club and to Hermann Schmidt – no doubt about it.     

            I never could figure where the boys with the cash came from. You would think that in a country addled with inflation and unemployment, everyone would be in the same boat. But night after night, a steady stream of men taking out their wife, or their girlfriend, or girlfriends, or male-friend, or whatever would come in through the frosted glass doors at the front of the club and take a table. While most of the city shivered on starvation rations, these men would order schnapps and beer and champagne. They’d tip the dancers, chat up the waitresses (while their partner sent them steely-eyed looks of venom) and order platters of food for their table. They’d get on the dance floor and tango or foxtrot; they’d watch the floor show, laugh at the jokes and eyeball the girls. And some of them, who knows which ones, would turn up to their local NAZI office the next day and snitch about the ‘political’ content of the show. You already know what I reckon about those bastards.  

            I guess I was pretty keen on one of the dancers, Marie. She was a dark-haired French woman from
Normandy, who had tons of charm, a big smile and lovely… well, I thought she was pretty easy to look at, put it that way. And I think she liked me too. Maybe I was just kidding myself, but she’d always stop for a chat in the stairwell, out the back of the stage, or give me one of her breezy smiles as she walked past. I had just resolved to ask her to dinner when she stopped coming to work. Just like that. Apparently she disappeared from the room she was renting sometime during the night. People said that she must have decided to return home to
France. But I knew better. There was this old man who often came to the club begging for work and we’d get him to sweep up or something for a drink or two. He told me that a car had come for her during the night and that he’d seen a couple of plain-clothes police taking her away. So I figured they must have found out that Marie’s mother was Jewish.   

            So when those two bullyboys walked into the club on Tuesday night, shaking their collection tin and rabbiting on about the Fuehrer, something in me went a little wild. I was really upset about Marie. But I was also really upset about what these bastards were doing to
Germany. And so yeah, I hit em. And believe me, when Carl Junket, ex-middleweight boxing champ of
Hamburg hits someone, they stay hit. A hard-hitting Hamburger who doesn’t mince with his opponents – that’s me. When the little skunks picked themselves up off the floor they slunk off with their tails between their legs. And like typical cowards, they got to a safe distance, stopped and started screaming obscenities back at me. Blah blah blah. So I knew they’d be back. In force. Damn ‘em all. Damn all bullies, all of the bastards. All NAZI’s.

            They came back two nights later. What I didn’t count on was that after the obligatory beating they loaded me into the boot of a Mercedes saloon and took me away. I would be a long time until I saw somebody from the KitKat Club again.  

I don’t believe in anything. Not in justice, truth or equal rights for women. It’s not that I’m opposed to anything, quite the opposite. If women want to vote, that’s fine, but I’m not going to march in any rallies. I don’t hold up placards and chant slogans. Actually, I can’t stand crowds. A few hundred people all yelling the same thing, all wanting the same thing – that’s my idea of Hell. Hell. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe in the Devil either. If he exists, that’s fine, but he’s not getting my support. On the subject, I don’t believe in Hitler either. Especially not Hitler.

I know Hitler exists, but I’d prefer he didn’t. I’d have a nice job if it wasn’t for Mister Hitler. Before his National Socialist Party started throwing their weight around, I had a comfortable position teaching English to good German children. The school was in one of the nicer areas of Berlin, about six blocks from my apartment. I loved that apartment. In summer I could stand by the open window and smell the roses from the park across the road, even from three floors up. On weekday mornings, I would cycle to work in my short sleeves, dodging between horses and automobiles. The air was warm and fragrant with roses. (It was also often fragrant with horse droppings, but I prefer to remember the roses.) I loved that ride, that apartment, that school.

About six months ago, being a teacher became more complicated than I like things to be. I was teaching a group of twelve year olds, most of them blond and all of them polite and friendly. By that time, a lot of the Jewish kids had dropped out. I heard rumours they had been persuaded to leave by the Headmaster, but I preferred not to know anything about it. If there was trouble, it was trouble someone else could deal with. I don’t do trouble. But then a couple of the teachers stopped coming in to work. In the staff-room (when the Headmaster wasn’t listening) there were stories that they had been dobbed into the party by some of their students. Dobbed in for daring to say something Mister Hitler didn’t agree with. A number of the students in the school had joined the Hitler Youth – there were a couple in my class, which worried me. I don’t like having to be worried.

One afternoon one of the blond haired boys in his brown shirt put his hand up.

‘Yes, Wilhelm?’ I asked, looking up from my desk at the front of the class.
‘Herr Eitzel, do you think it’s true that the Jews pose a threat to the Fatherland?’

I was hearing the term ‘Fatherland’ more than I would have liked to. It was one of Hitler’s favourite words. I preferred it when people used to just say ‘Germany’ or ‘Deutschland.’ I thought about this while I tried to think about how best to answer Wilhelm’s question.

While I was thinking, Wilhelm grew impatient. ‘Herr Eitzel,’ he said again. ‘Do you believe the Jews pose a threat to the Fatherland?’

What could I say? I didn’t believe in anything. I didn’t believe in a Jewish threat or the Fatherland. But I suddenly realised that, as far as Wilhelm was concerned, not believing the same thing he believed meant that I believed he was wrong. I couldn’t be undecided, I either believed the right thing or the wrong thing. I also realised that believing the wrong thing was likely to put me in a lot of trouble.

‘Er,’ I said. And, ‘Um.’

The next day, I quit the job I’d loved so much.

Since then, I’ve been tutoring students in their homes. A lot of parents had started teaching their kids at home, feeling it might be safer, I guess. Not just Jewish kids, there didn’t seem to be many of them around these days, but often the children of foreign businessmen. English and American mostly, although a lot of foreigners had also left Berlin. I had thought about it, thought about returning to London, but I didn’t like feeling pushed around. I didn’t believe it was worth causing a fuss. Things would blow over and Berlin would return to normal. I’d go back to my job at the school and could afford to rent that flat I’d loved so much. Right now, I’m renting a small room that only smells slightly less of cabbage than the kitchens occupied by my landlord, Frau Bernhard. Frau Bernhard is a lovely woman with a big smile and a bigger girth, who enjoys cooking more than anything. It’s a shame she’s so terrible at it as there’s always plenty to go around between me and my fellow lodgers.

Anyway, that’s enough about me. Me, Flynn Eitzel, an English ex-teacher, tutoring scared students and living in a damp beige room that reeks of cabbage. The story I want to tell you starts the morning I saw an ex-boxer thrown out of the antique shop across the road. I didn’t know he was an ex-boxer then, although his nose was pretty well flattened across his broad face. He was carrying a brown leather pouch that he dropped on the sidewalk as he seemed to stumble in the doorway. As the pouch landed, it fell open and from it spilled a small pile of glistening jewels that caught what sunlight there was and flashed it back in my eyes. The man, who had landed badly on one of his knees, instantly scooped the jewels back in to the pouch, got to his feet and hurried off up the street, limping.

I didn’t think much more about this scene as I walked on to my first job of the day.

My first student was a young girl called Eliza, whose dark hair fell in corkscrews about her face. She was mostly polite and often cheeky. She called me Herr Esel – which was German for Herr Donkey – partly because my surname sounded similar, but mostly because she thought my thin, pale face generally looked as miserable as a donkey.

‘Herr Esel,’ she would say. ‘You need to get more sun. You always look so pale and sad.’
‘Do your work Eliza,’ I’d say.

I didn’t mind, she worked hard and had an obvious and precocious talent for languages.

This morning, I rapped on the front door of her apartment and waited for her mother to answer. I waited a minute on the doorstep before knocking again. Finally, I could hear some slow, shuffling steps in the hallway and the door opened. It was her mother, her cheeks stained with mascara. She had obviously been crying. I asked her what the matter was.

‘It’s Eliza,’ she explained. ‘It’s my fault. I let her go to the shop for me this morning and she hasn’t returned. I’m terrified she’s been taken.’

‘Taken?’ I asked, although I knew what she meant. When people were taken, it was because they’d offended the Party somehow. Mister Hitler wasn’t pleased with them. But how could a polite young girl like Eliza upset the Fuehrer?

As I listened to Eliza’s mother cry and blame herself, I had the terrible feeling that I was going to have to help her find her daughter. Which was, I could tell, only going to bring me a lot of trouble. And I don’t believe in trouble.