It is a cold December night, a night of the comfortless wartime year 1943. A car bearing two occupants, Wermarcht army officers, is parked near a Munchen railway station. They are Major Henrich von Dalau and Captain Manfred von Talschtalt. Both are waiting for an echelon arriving from the Eastern Front: mostly young Polish, Belorussian and Ukrainian boys and girls assigned to work in Germany. The echelon is late. Henrich is displeased that he let Manfred talk him into this, thinking to himself, «Instead of resting before night duty, I had to come down here at this odd hour and listen to some nonsense about the anthropological differences between Slavic and Aryan women.» (Manfred often asked for this duty, since he had the authority to send any young woman that caught his eye to work as a nurse in the military hospital, where he could «visit» her every Saturday evening). The weather is not exceptionally cold, but it is snowing heavily. All lights in the station are out so as to conceal the real purpose of events.
At last they can hear the sound of an approaching train. Lit up by projectors, the train is composed predominantly of hospital cars and full of war casualties, with only a few containing workers. Several guards and dogs appear. A cordon is formed between the platform and the station, through which a stream of the new arrivals is trooping. Manfred cannot judge how good the «consignment» is because of the guards and the thick blanket of falling snow. He presses the car horn and the guards step aside. He turns on the headlights, blinding the column of people. Suddenly there is a commotion: one of the prisoners recoils from the harsh light as if from a gunshot, slides and falls. Several prisoners follow suit and very soon the file is stuck. In the light, Henrich can see clearly how from the crowd a slight figure falls into the fence formed by the guards. Her cap falls, and locks of pitch black hair can be seen flowing over the snow.
Manfred. (surprised) Hey look — isn’t that a Jew?
The guards load their weapons and rapidly return order to the column.
Manfred. (waving his hand energetically) Watch, they will now separate them: boys to the trucks and directly to the armory factory, girls to the railway station. And then we go in.
Henrich looks at his companion in disgust, turns around and closes his eyes. Unwanted memories of an event that happened 15 years earlier come into his mind.
A country estate in Landsberg, a small town near Munchen. An ancient castle that belonged to nobility of the past. New Year's Eve.
Henrich, now a thirteen-year-old boy, is running out of the gates of the castle towards the Town Square. He turns into the narrow market lane, then at a leisurely pace walks past a small two-story building on which hangs the sign «Clothes for Ladies.» He throws a deliberately vacant glance at the shop window and is very glad to see her--Rebecca! There she is in the window-case, decorating a Christmas tree. Her mother, a lean and haggard woman, is engaged in conversation with a caller somewhere on the premises. (She used to come over to Henrich's home to deliver his mother's orders. And she always took Rebecca along with her. Martha, the housekeeper, would immediately take Rebecca to the kitchen and treat her to some cookies. During the summer holidays, Evelyn — Henrich's sister--usually took music lessons from Rebecca's father. Theirs was a poor Jewish family that had great difficulties in making ends meet.)
Henrich crosses over to the other side of the street and stands there pretending as if he is waiting for somebody, while keeping his eyes on the shop window. Rebecca surely is the most beautiful girl he has ever set his eyes on. There she is dressed up in her calling attire, her small and delicate features framed by lustrous locks of black hair; her glorious eyes, the color of which always reminded him of richly blended tea, below rich eyelashes are archly staring at him. The street is empty--not a soul, just the snow gently falling down. And the shop window--just like in a fairy tale, the wondrous princess is dressing the magic Christmas tree.
Engrossed in this living wonder, Henrich fails to notice as two young boys he knows--Kurt and Henkel--the Schultzes' (the butcher’s) sons, come up to him. (They were a little older than he, and he was proud that grown-ups--from his point of view--would associate with him as equals and were not alienated by his higher social status: after all, he was an aristocrat, a member of the nobility. «I suppose it is because I do not scorn them, and furthermore I am far taller than others my age,» Henrich thought to himself.)
Kurt. (grinning) Nice Jew-girl, eh? Come over tonight before closing time. You’ll get to know her even further.
Henrich glances at the magic window. The princess is already gone. All that is left are cheap toys shining dejectedly on the unshapely Christmas tree.
The street is pitch black. Henrich comes closer to the tailor's shop. Then he notices Kurt and Henkel standing at the adjacent doorway. And with them two other boys, also children of some local shopkeepers.
Kurt. Wait a bit, her mother will soon go out--she will plod down to that old Jewish lady living on the other street. Remember that one whose shop window we broke during the summer? (He notices Henrich's surprised look.) We are trying to teach them some sense. But I've not been able to get between the legs of that lovely babe. It is always one thing or the other.
Apprehensively, Henrich's heart jumps a beat. He wants to run away. But he can't--what would they think of him?
At last, they notice the retreating shadow of a woman, run over to the door and right on time--Rebecca is just about to close the shop. Silently, they enter the shop premises. Kurt immediately switches off the lights and locks the door. Henrich manages to observe the girl's fearful eyes. She attempts to run along the narrow corridor, at the end of which is the backdoor and the stairs which lead to the second floor, where their small apartment is located that smells of medicine. But she does not make it to the yard: Kurt pushes her into the confined fitting-room. Two of the boys grab her hands while Henkel tears off her dress. Rebecca yells and kicks Henkel in the abdomen, manages to escape and again runs towards the corridor. There stands Henrich, literally petrified. She clings to him, clawing at his coat lapel.
Rebecca. Please do something!
The light flowing from the stairway falls on her face, distorted with fear, and her curls hanging at her shoulders. The boys start to tear Rebecca away from Henrich. Her supplicatory eyes beg for help.
Rebecca. Help me please! Help!
And there he stands, not daring to move. Someone is knocking on the entrance door.
Suddenly the back door flies open. There stands Rebecca's father holding a snow shovel in his hands and with a deadly look in his eyes. The boys quickly squeeze past Henrich towards the exit, he starts to retreat and on seeing the shovel swung above his head, turns around and swiftly runs away.
At home, Henrich can't sleep all night. Now he knows that he will never again see the magic window or his princess. And he will never be the magic prince, because a despicable coward can never become a prince. And what the hell, fairytales are for little children after all.
He rises up from his bed and approaches the mirror. Next to the dressing table is his fancy suit. They are expecting guests the following day. He dons the starched collar on his neck and the gold foil crown on his head. He looks at his reflection with abhorrence and disgust. Then he spits at the reflection, throws himself on the bed and buries his head under the pillow.
The next day, a car carrying the von Dalau family stops in front of the church. As ill luck would have it, Rebecca's father is passing by. Henrich is petrified with fear that transcends his whole being. But Rebecca's father takes off his hat and respectfully bows to the family. The boy is taken over by an unfamiliar emotion. It is a feeling of impunity. Evelyn pulls at her brother's sleeve hurriedly. And he follows her unwillingly, while looking with a sneer at the bowed figure.
Later on they left for Munchen to meet their family tragedy. Henrich's father was a major Bavarian industrialist. But he preferred spending time in the capital to dealing with business affairs. He assigned an administrator to take care of his business. Immediately after Christmas, Henrich's father left for Berlin, but soon had to return, devastated by news of his bankruptcy.
On the train Henrich’s father buys several newspapers, all the headlines of which are covered with news about the collapse of the von Dalau industrial empire.
Munchen, the Count's estate on Ludvigschtrasse. Henrich's father steps into the house, opens his bedroom door and sees his wife embracing a half-naked man. Who would have guessed--his wife is cheating on him, and not with some stranger, but with his administrator! The Count runs to his writing desk and pulls out a pistol from a secret drawer. With the first shot he kills the lover instantly, with the second--his wife, and with the third he shoots himself in the forehead.
Henrich runs into his parents' bedroom and sees three figures in a pool of blood. His mother is naked and lying across the bed. She is still alive. In agony, she stretches out a bloody hand towards her son. Eventually Evelyn appears behind his back. Her loud and desperate scream reverberates through the whole building.
Six months later. Summer. Landsberg. Henrich approaches the tailor’s shop. Its door and shop-window are boarded shut. Kurt emerges from the butcher's shop. On Henrich's face--a silent question.
Kurt. They ran away to their Jewish relatives, most likely. Maybe Poland? (and with a sneer on his face, adds) We got her in the end, though. And didn’t we have fun?
He accompanies this significant announcement with an obscene gesture. As if something explodes in Henrich's brain, he can see nothing but a blanket of blood covering his eyes. Putting all his strength into his fist, he punches Kurt in the jaw. The impact is so strong that the boy falls down on the pavement like a log. Henrich then commences to kick him, not giving Kurt any chance to get up. Henrich knows he mustn't stop. He knows that if he stops something shameful will surely happen to him. Several people appear and some men pull Henrich from his victim. Only then does he feel the telltale shivering of his lips and cramp in his throat.
He escapes from their grips and runs towards the castle, weeping loudly, tears streaming down his cheeks. At the gates of the estate he stumbles into pastor Holst. Jostling the latter off the road, he detours the house and hides in the garden. Alarmed, the pastor runs after him. He finds the boy lying on the floor of the summer house, weeping spasmodically.
Henrich. Get out! You and your idiotic god, get out, leave me alone!
A month later. Pastor Holst comes to the Count's castle in order to converse with Henrich. He meets the latter in the library. Henrich is busy studying the anatomy of the female body. Absolutely unperturbed, he calmly puts the atlas of anatomy aside, not even bothering to close it. The pastor is profoundly stupefied by the immense changes in the boy's features. His light, previously childlike eyes are cold and unbending and he has a rigid crinkle at the corner of his mouth.
Pastor. My son, I have been waiting to hear your confession for a long time...
Henrich. (interrupting him) That's too bad. I have nothing to confess, or rather, no one to confess to.
Pastor. How is that? What about God! Everybody is bound to confess before him.
Henrich. There is no God! Consequently, I do not need to confess before anyone.
Pastor. Remember, my son! That God is the sole creator of all and everything. Our lives are in his hand. Do not anger your Lord. Have faith in his doings.
Henrich. Are you telling me this? Me?! You mean that my parents' death was also God's doing?
Pastor. My son, God's will is beyond human comprehension. We must accept it with humility, notwithstanding how unjust it might seem to us at first. Yes, you have suffered gravely. But you have to stand strong. Only infinite faith in the Lord can save you. Mitigate your soul, open up to him. And the Creator shall surely hear you.
Henrich. (curving his lips in disgust) I do not believe you, because there is no God! All that nonsense was concocted by clerics in order to steal into people's minds and control them at will!
The pastor becomes genuinely afraid. He cannot believe that such words can come from such a youth. He tries to stop Henrich's tirade but the boy continues, unmoved by the reverend father's protesting gestures.
Henrich. Yes, yes, there is no God. And if he does exist, then he must be brutal and cunning to allow people to turn into cowards, beasts and killers. Or he must be feeble to allow people to live uncaringly. Outwardly, everybody appears so pious, while actually nobody gives a damn about God or about each other. The people who were precious to me left me. And nobody asked me how I would feel about that. They simply betrayed me! So I will never open my soul to anyone ever again, and therefore nobody will be able to hurt me anymore! And I will live as I see fit and not according your god or whomever. I will have nothing more to do with all of you. Now that is my last confession, reverend father.
Looking solemnly at the pastor, who is dumbfounded with horror, Henrich leaves the library.
Further, Henrich remembers another episode when, as a cadet at the Munchen Military Academy and a member of the Nazi party, he is engaged in dispersing opposition demonstrators. Not far away co-members of the Nazi party are holding a meeting. Adolf Hitler, not yet appointed German Fuhrer, is addressing the crowd. Henrich tears a banner from a demonstrator and lays it down at the feet of his idol. That gesture leaves a lasting impression in Hitler's mind.
Later on, at a reception in the Heka cafe organized in honor of his arrival, the Fuhrer, on seeing Henrich guarding the door of the cafe, stops and looks at him with feeling. Tears even come to his eyes. Then he declares:
Hitler. Behold, the future of our great Fatherland, the pride of the Aryan nation! A perfect elite specimen of the Nordic race. On young men like this one standing before you lies our ideology of the superhuman. For such young men was the ideology created!
Later Henrich recollects the official ceremony during which he and the other fabled ten heroes of the El Alamein battle are bestowed the Knight's Cross. The solemnity of the moment is further heightened by the military orchestra playing the «Alle Deutschland!» anthem. Henrich’s face still bears a deep suntan acquired under the African sun. His hand is in bandages. He has not fully recovered from his battle wounds, but he is happy and proud beyond belief.
His journey down memory lane is abruptly interrupted.
Manfred. Wake up, friend! The obedient slaves are awaiting their masters.
It turns out that Henrich, lost in his thoughts, has failed to notice developments. A loud song is being played on the radio. Henrich turns off the radio, and both officers start for the railway station.
Inside the building the young women are lined up in single file along the perimeter of the enormous building. Dismal, withdrawn faces, wretched clothing, unthinkable hats and scarves. A thought of apprehension passes through Henrich's mind, maybe he will not be able to find the figure that lay on the ground illuminated by the car headlights half an hour ago. He says a few words to Manfred, who then addresses the convoy leader, who in turn in broken Russian orders the women to take off their headgear. The gray vaults of the ancient building are literally transformed by flowing brown, ashy and ginger hair.
Henrich walks along the file. Fortunately there are few brunettes. He halts in front of each brunette, closely inspects the «specimen» and then continues further. At last he sees her. A slight brunette of small frame, standing with her head down. Henrich stands in front of her. Hands behind his back, he studies the crown of the emaciated being and waits for those two brown eyes to open and look at him with adjuration and hope.
The girl stands there, eyes firmly shut, barely able to stay upright. Her head is spinning from weakness and hunger, the floor is swimming before her eyes, and it seems as if she is still shivering in the dank and unheated premises. Suddenly she feels the presence of the figure in front of her. Initially she can only see the widely planted legs in buck-leather boots. Slowly she raises her head and realizes that an officer is standing in front of her, obviously an important person. Her glance pauses at the wide chest, on which several medals can be seen. Then she ventures to look him in the face. In order to do that, she has to tip her head back. She sees a protruding chin, lips curled up in a contemptful and self-confident sneer, and cold light-gray eyes, which are burning through her with their icy fire. Then she goes cold with fear and drops her head. Manfred appears.
Manfred. A Jew? A Jew?
The head of security snaps the girl's passport from her and reads aloud:
Head of Security. Anna Sedykh, 16 years old, Ukrainian.
Manfred immediately calms down and goes further, brusquely inspecting and feeling any girl that he likes. He has already assigned two platinum blondes to the hospital sergeant’s care. He glances back and notices that Henrich is still standing silently in front of the lean brunette.
After doing a swift about-turn, and looking at no one, Henrich exits the building.
Manfred. Take her to the hospital!
Throughout his shift, Henrich cannot keep from contemplating the previous event at the railway station. That hair spread out on the snow, those eyes looking at him from beneath that forehead... No, that was not Rebecca's face. What he saw was a white angelic face like that in the painting in Saint Jacob's Cathedral in Munchen. Those bright blue eyes looked at him dispassionately, without a single expression, as if they were staring at an empty space.
Afternoon the following day. Henrich enters the lobby of the command post. Manfred is there waiting to hand over duty. He is smiling playfully at him.
Manfred. I would never have thought that you have such peculiar tastes. Henrich. Where can I find her?
Manfred. Oh! Is it that serious? But you have forgotten that old Manfred is a true friend. He took good care of your little girl and kept her in a safe place.
Henrich. Where is she?
Manfred. At the General Hospital. Waiting impatiently for her blonde Viking to come and pay his respects.
Henrich. Stop blabbing.
Manfred. Oh! How can you be so harsh? You should be grateful. Anyway! Are you staying here till evening? I shall be waiting for you in the hospital at 22:00. And don't forget to bring along a bouquet of roses and put on your best suit.
Henrich is overwhelmed by an unaccustomed tension. Hardly waiting till the end of his shift, he gets to the hospital by 22:30 sharp. Manfred is there already. The familiar sergeant leads Henrich through the hospital personnel area to a door on which is written «Sterilization Room.» Henrich can feel the rushing of his heartbeat. «This is impossible, I'm excited,» he thinks to himself.
He enters the room. There are no autoclaves there, just a bed, some chairs and a table in the center of the room. There stands Anna with her back towards him, leaning on the table. Startled, she turns around. Henrich takes off his peaked cap and overcoat and approaches her. She stands stiffly with her head down, her fingers clamped to the edge of the table. Henrich places his hand under her chin and lifts her head. Her eyes are those of a person ready for anything. They contain neither hatred nor humility. Henrich is shocked beyond bounds. He, used to the notion of his superiority, is being confronted with fearlessness and cold detachment, and by whom? This helpless thing.
At that moment he recollects an experience from his childhood.
Evening. Landsberg. Henrich, a little boy, hears the sounds of an imminent quarrel coming from his parents' bedroom, located directly above his. Henrich opens his window only to see flying past him a bouquet of roses (a present from his father to his mother). One rose falls into a decorative swimming pool. The late November night is exceedingly cold. In the morning, Henrich finds the lovely rose covered in a layer of ice. Hastily climbing over the ledge, breaking finger nails and wounding his hands, he extracts the rose. His mother appears and, holding him by the ear, pulls him out of the swimming pool.
In the evening he religiously takes his treasure out from under a pillow, only to find a limp and dead rose. He looks at his wounded hands, then looks at the distorted and dead rose, throws it down on the floor and stamps on it.
Suddenly he feels a compelling need to break the icy blanket of strength, to luxuriate in his might and see how this passionless being will be turned into a pitiful lump of tears and fear.
He topples her onto the table and tears off whatever clothing she has on. The girl does not resist. Before penetrating her delicate and almost ethereal body, he again looks at her face. Her eyes are tightly shut, her lips pinched. No other expression but revulsion! And then a grimace from the pain, yet again replaced by that contemptuous detachment. Henrich sees neither fear nor tears in those eyes.
Not bothering to turn around, Anna leaves the room. Henrich, confused, follows her with his eyes. He then turns his eyes to the red spot on the tablecloth. «You would think that she gets deflowered every day,» he thinks to himself.
Henrich goes down a corridor, a flight of stairs and yet another corridor, on his way meeting several patients. In deference they keep their distance, some saluting him. But Henrich pays no attention to their actions. He hears a woman's laugh coming from one of the rooms. From the same room emerges a young nurse. Through the door left ajar Henrich can see Manfred embracing one of his wards. Henrich walks past, not bothering to stop.
Manfred. (going after him) Henrich, Henrich, where are you going?
Henrich. (talking through his lips) Excuse me, pal, that game is not amusing to me.
The next several days are incredibly busy. Henrich is occupied at work. He spends his only time off (Christmas evening) getting totally drunk together with Manfred at the officers' mess.
Waking up the following morning, he cannot comprehend where he is. Soon he realizes that he is not alone. Lying next to him is a woman, her face covered. Only long waves of hair, darker in contrast to the pillow. Henrich closes his eyes. Didn't he see these same locks of hair on the snow under the beam of his headlights? The head turns slowly, and there staring at him is Rebecca. Then the face is evasively replaced by that of the haughty Russian girl. And Henrich cannot tell whether it is that of Rebecca or Anna. Henrich grips the woman roughly at the shoulders and turns her around.
Alas, it is neither Rebecca nor Anna, it is a stranger. Without saying a word, Henrich gets up and dresses quickly. The woman holds his hand, attempting to stop him, but he gruffly brushes her away and hastily goes to work.
He finds Manfred in the office. Outwardly he doesn't look any better than Henrich. But he is grinning genially.
Manfred. What we need now is to visit our dolls over at the hospital. What do you think?
Henrich. Yes, let's go over there today. Manfred almost jumps out of his chair in surprise.
Manfred. Hey, I was only joking. I would love nothing more than to sleep it all off. The hell with girls!
Henrich. A girl is what I need right now!
Manfred. (with admiration) You are something!
From that day on, Henrich visits the hospital every day, spending half an hour sometimes. And every day is a repetition of the first. And every single time he is met with the same apathetic detachment, which to him is a challenge, proof of the disdain she feels towards him.
Once he comes over to the hospital and, entering the «sterilization room,» in a small room located opposite the landing he sees the «Russian dolls» devouring some foul-looking soup. He sees Anna earnestly wiping the empty soup bowl in front of her with a piece of bread.
Evening the next day. The sterilization room. Anna smoothes her skirt and goes toward the door. He holds her arm and hands her a heavy parcel. She looks at him queryingly. (As yet she hasn't spoken a word to him. Henrich doesn't even know what her voice sounds like.) He uncovers the parcel. In it are white bread, sugar, butter, a can of corned beef and three enormous red apples. She freezes, unable to take her eyes off the treasures before her. She swallows involuntarily. Henrich thinks to himself gleefully, «She is breaking at last!» He even begins to feel a sense of disappointment that this absurd chapter in his life will come to an end.
He walks to the window. He takes his overcoat from the chair and slowly puts it on. He hears the sound of the door closing and turns around. The room is empty and the parcel of food lies on the table untouched.
Henrich heads for the corridor. On his way he comes across two ambulatory patients. They are looking at Anna's retreating figure. Henrich doesn't like the expression on their faces, but he is too angry to pay attention to them. He descends into the yard, gets in his car and drives home.
He is furious. He has known a number of women but has never fallen in love. He doesn't even have to woo them--most of them throw themselves at him. He does not understand sadists and is never rough with women. He simply takes what he needs from them and forgets about them afterwards. He does not even remember their faces. Light, dark, beautiful or otherwise--they mean very little to him. He is used to seeing women’s faces distorted with passion, lust or even fear--anything but revulsion. The truth is that Henrich, without any doubts, regards himself as a full-fledged Aryan. He is always in control of himself, proud of the fact that he can always keep his emotions in check. And after all, he is accustomed to a sense of personal distinction.
All of a sudden this nobody from nowhere, a girl, a nonentity, the existence of whom depends wholly on his will. «What do I need her for?» he repeatedly asks himself. He doesn’t even derive normal sexual satisfaction from his relationship with her. And he is the one having these feelings, not she. Above all, he has to affirm his power over her. And she has to acknowledge his authority. Henrich arrives at the conclusion that until she does, he will never be able to get her out of his mind.
Suddenly he remembers the two soldiers he stumbled into on his way out of the sterilization room. At high speed he swings the car around and drives back to the hospital.
His premonition is not without reason. There is a commotion in the hospital. The sergeant is looking upwards and shouting commands. The nurses have tied several bed sheets together and stretched them as firemen would stretch a line in order to save people from a burning house. There, standing on the third floor parapet, is Anna, clinging with difficulty to a column.
On seeing Henrich, the sergeant runs towards him, stammering with fear, and begins to explain:
Sergeant. Two patients dragged her to a ward, but she broke away from them, she has been standing on the balcony for fifteen minutes now. The nurses are afraid to go to her, since she might jump and kill herself. And I promised Captain von Talschadt that no harm would come to her...
Henrich pushes him aside so roughly that the poor serviceman nearly loses his balance, and runs to the fourth floor. He runs into one of the wards, throws his overcoat on the ground, tears sheets away from the immobile bodies of the wounded and ties the sheets together. He binds one end around his waist, fixes the other end to a steel pipe and climbs out just above the girl. He then jumps forward and downward, catching her with his legs.
They land on the floor of the veranda. Anna loses consciousness (on impact she hit her head).
On the way home, Anna regains consciousness and looks across at Henrich in surprise. Swiftly her expression is replaced with that same indifference.
They drive towards a house, a plush residence built in the eighteenth century and located on Ludvigschtrasse. The door is opened by an elderly lady — Martha, the housekeeper. She takes her master's overcoat and peaked hat, turns towards Anna and gazes at her perplexedly. Somewhere inside the house a female voice is heard.
The doors of the antechamber swing open and Countess Evelyn von Dalau appears in the doorway. Without question this woman has the capacity to stir any imagination. Tall, handsome and blessed with a lovely figure, she, like her brother, represents a living monument of genuine Aryan beauty. The same lovely light hair, fearless blue eyes, sharply accentuated and voluptuous mouth, arrogantly snobbish brows. Evelyn von Dalau in many ways resembles her brother.
Evelyn. Did you remember that today is my birthday... (With the last phrase, at first her eyes turn into wide circles, then constrict into narrow slits.) What is this? (She points an elongated, well-groomed finger at the puny figure wrapped up in the coarse military blanket, a barbaric and inappropriate addition to the atmosphere of this noble house.)
Henrich. You've been asking for a housemaid for a long time. Well, here she is. Her name is Anna.
Evelyn. In which concentration camp did you discover this starveling? She can't even lift a pressing iron! (She studies the girl closely and then explodes angrily.) And in addition, she is a Jew!
Henrich. Relax, she is not a Jew. (He takes a small box from his pocket and holds it out for his sister.) This is for you. (There in folds of red velvet lies a sparkling diamond ring.) Martha, feed her, please (with a subtle turn of the head towards Anna) and find something for her to wear. She shall live in the children's room.
He detects a mocking smile on his sister's face.
Evelyn. Thank you very much for the present. I see you didn't forget about yourself either!
Henrich leaves the room without answering her. His sister follows him with majestic resentment.
Martha leads the newly employed housemaid through the house into her new room. Earlier, Henrich's governess had lived there. The small room is located next to Henrich's bedroom and the two rooms share a common dressing room and bathroom.
Martha leads the girl to the bathroom, opens the tap and, using gesticulations, tells her what to do. Anna takes off the blanket. Spreading it on the floor, she places all her clothing in it and ties it up in a knot. There is a flat ragbag hanging at her neck. Martha attempts to take it off, but the girl immediately retreats and covers it with her hands.
Martha. Alright, alright, place that on the window-sill and climb into the bathtub immediately.
Carefully Anna climbs into the bath. She is so emaciated that her ribs and backbone are clearly visible. Martha falters with emotion. She goes out swiftly, carrying the knot of clothing with her, and quickly reappears carrying some clothes in hand: German housemaids never stay with the family for long--Evelyn is too strict a mistress. Consequently, she had implored her brother to find a Slavic servant. But her brother had paid no attention to her caprices.
Then Martha brings her to the kitchen and gives her some food. From a concealed position she observes how Anna greedily attacks the plate of food, but soon has to push the plate away--her stomach cannot take that amount of food. Her eyes become heavy. When Martha approaches her to help her get up, Anna trustingly clings to her. Martha, the austere and elderly lady, is touched. Nobody has ever shown her appreciation for anything. From that moment, Martha--the elderly and lonely woman--becomes Anna's loyal ally.
The governess’s room. Falling asleep, Anna hears steps behind the door. Henrich is heading to the dining room. Suddenly her room door opens; she sees Henrich and a big German shepherd near him. Grinning, the dog enters the room.
Henrich. Sit down, Held! (to Anna) It will not approve if you start wandering over balconies again.
He leaves. The dog sits staring unwinkingly into Anna's face. The girl looks at the dog in admiration.
Anna. You are so beautiful! Come here, come!
Strange speech, unknown intonations. Nobody has ever talked with Held this way. The dog looks puzzled; tongue hanging out, it leans its head to the right, then to the left. A warm wave emanates from the strange being who does not fear it. And Held dives into this wave entirely. He lies down on the floor, puts out his forepaws, closes his eyes and hides his nose in his paws. Then he opens his eyes half-way, one after another, and crawls nearer.
Anna smiles as she watches. She wants to pet the dog very much. And it seems to Held that he is approaching her so stealthily as to be unnoticed. Thus Anna has won another friend in this strange big house.
Hastening to his office after supper, Henrich looks into the governess’s room. The girl is fast asleep already. Her hand dangles from the bed and lies on the dog’s back. Seeing his master, Held puts his ears back and crawls under the bed.
Next morning. Returning from duty, Henrich finds the girl still asleep.
He throws himself at her, not even taking his clothes and boots off. He squeezes her childish body greedily, entering again and again. But he can hear no sound coming from her, no groan. He is accepted with meek resistance as a disaster or an inevitable evil. Eventually his desire turns to anger, the latter to annoyance. When he leaves her at last he is wasted and furious.
Putting on her clothes, Anna goes to the kitchen. She has barely strength enough to move. She sees Martha sitting squarely, a picture of mute censure. But having seen the girl, she changes immediately. Her face relaxes, the look becomes kind. She sits Anna down at the table and feeds her. It is obvious that Martha does this with pleasure. Anna eats, barely concealing her hunger and impatience. Then she sits doubled for a while. When the pain in her stomach decreases, she draws a deep breath and gathers herself up. She sweeps her eyes around the interior of the kitchen. Caressing Martha's hand, she looks into her eyes gratefully.
Martha. (melting) She really is an angel!
Anna tries to wash up but Martha waves her aside and tells her to rest.
Eventually Anna recovers. She starts to help Martha with the housework. And Henrich, to everybody's amusement, spends every free evening at home. After having his supper, he goes directly to Anna's room. He can do nothing with himself. Every time he leaves her, he swears that he will trample his feelings; he tries to assure himself that if the girl has become so necessary for him, he should think of her as a bedroom article, nothing more. And nevertheless he cannot wait for the cherished minute when he opens the door of her bedroom. Parties with friends, dates – he forgets everything. Evelyn observes this incredible transformation with poignant interest.
A fortnight has passed since Anna’s appearance in the Dalau house. It is afternoon on a cold day in January. Anna is cleaning Evelyn’s bedroom. The mistress stands in the doorway.
Evelyn. Get out! (Anna goes to the door.) Now then, come back! (Eva stands in the middle of the room with an empty earring box). Bitch, immediately show me where you hid them!
Having heard the noise, Martha runs to the room; she is frightened to see Evelyn turning out the pockets of Anna's skirt.
Evelyn. Maybe they’re in your mouth. Do what you are told! Open your mouth!
Anna opens her mouth and Evelyn slaps her across the face. The girl falls down. Martha groans and dashes to support her.
Evelyn. And you, old cow, try to protect this trash?
Martha stands clear, pressing her lips together and staring down.
Evelyn. (to Anna) Take off your clothes!
Anna takes off everything and gathers herself up to full height, stepping over her clothes. Eva walks around the girl, openly examining her and smiling fastidiously.
Evelyn. What does my brother find in her? l do not understand. He is just a pervert.
As if she has lost interest, Eva goes to the mirror and begins to comb her hair. Precious stones glitter among her curls.
Martha. I dare to note, Fraulein, that the earrings you are seeking are in your ears.
Evelyn. (carelessly) Really! (She carefully studies her reflection in the mirror). Go. Martha, bring me coffee in half an hour.
A week later. It had been planned that Henrich would go to Berlin, but the trip has been cancelled abruptly. He returns home. He is not surprised that neither Martha nor Hans (the old Austrian who has served in their house as long as Henrich remembers) meet him--he is not expected to lunch today. However, he is worried that he went through the whole house and found nobody except Eva--she is smoking and listening to Vagner's “The Battle of the Gods.” She pretends she does not notice her brother. Henrich switches the gramophone off.
Henrich. Where are they?
Evelyn. Who are “they”? Martha? Hans? Or our pretty dog? Oh, how could I not understand! Of course, Tristan is seeking his Isolde. (after a long pause, in an affectedly serious tone) Some people from the Gestapo came and took her to the beauty contest “Miss Dahau.” (She laughs loudly.)
Henrich. Stop it! Where is she?
Evelyn. The bombing is becoming more and more frequent. I think we shall be made to move to the basement forever. So I ordered them to clean there. And, please note, they feel good together. They all dote on your Juliet. Held just follows her everywhere... It is she who is his mistress, not you! I wonder at how strong the tendency to consolidation is among lowly-organised beings! (Pause again.) But these are explainable matters. I cannot understand one thing: how this nobody could cloud your mind? You?!
Henrich sets his teeth, works his jaws and leaves the room without answering.
The evening of the same day. It is late. Henrich returns home extremely drunk. He forces the door of Anna's room and switches the light on. His eyes, dimmed by alcohol and rage, are riveted on the girl. Startled, she squeezes up against the backboard of the bed. Held growls.
Henrich. (to the dog) Get out of here!
The dog does not move, the fur on his back bristling. Having moved closer and kicked the dog's side, Henrich falls on the bed next to Anna. At that moment Held rushes at Henrich and sinks his teeth in Henrich’s arm.
Henrich. Goddam dog! You bit your master!
Henrich jerks out his pistol with his free hand and puts it to the dog's head. He fires. Held falls dead. Anna screams. She then begins to weep.
Anna. (in pure German) You! You are an animal! You are a real animal!
Immediately regaining control of himself, Henrich stands over the dead dog. Martha looks into the room, terror-stricken.
Henrich. (to Martha) Call Hans, have him clean up.
He goes toward the butlery; he needs brandy. But he meets his sister in the doorway.
Evelyn. (in a baleful whisper) You aimed the wrong way.
The next day Henrich is busy till late. He returns home after midnight. Everybody in the house is asleep.
He finds a few drops of blood on the floor of the bathroom and goes to Anna's room. She is unconscious. Her forehead is ablaze, eyes half-open. She whispers something in her language. Henrich turns the blanket. He sees that her nightgown and sheet are red with blood. He calls Martha, who starts to cry upon seeing her lovely girl in such a state. She reports weepingly that the girl was very upset by Held’s death. She did not come out of her room all day long and asked that they leave her alone.
Henrich. (bitterly) She wanted to die again. Martha, what shall we do?
Martha. Herr Henrich, we shall ask Fraulein Eva.
Henrich. Perhaps you are right.
Henrich calls Evelyn. The Countess makes them wait a long time. At last she appears like a fury.
Evelyn. Why should I get up in the middle of the night because of this thing?
Henrich turns the blanket in silence. Evelyn puckers her lips fastidiously.
Evelyn. She lost a baby!
Evelyn. Yes, she had a miscarriage.
Henrich. I did not know that she was pregnant.
Evelyn. (mockingly) Ah, the poor boy does not know yet how babies are born. The mystery is revealed at last: this is what happens to small girls after they have been screwed by big guys.
Henrich. I did not think that ...
Evelyn. ... that this mistake of nature, this runt, could conceive? I think you could get even an Egyptian mummy pregnant!
Henrich. Eva, please, help. You have a doctor ... doctor Holst!
Evelyn. What is this? You are asking me for help? This is something new. And for whom?! You are crazy. (She goes toward the door but, not reaching it, stops and speakes over her shoulder.) OK, as you wish. Unlike some people I always pay for pleasure.
Henrich. What is the pleasure you see in it?
He points at Anna.
Evelyn. I like to see you so miserable and dependent on me. Even if not for long.
Doctor Holst is an old doctor with a kind, tired face. He is the brother of pastor Holst.
It seems to Henrich that he waited an eternity while the doctor was with Anna.
Doctor. She did in fact have a miscarriage. There was a danger of sepsis. Now the danger is over. But there is another problem. She is very weak, and has lost much blood. She needs a blood transfusion. Generally speaking, she has to be hospitalised.
Henrich. That’s impossible. She is Russian.
The doctor raises an eyebrow. He looks at Henrich intently and understands everything. The doctor is old and wise.
Doctor. Then we have to make a transfusion immediately, we need blood.
Henrich. I’m ready. Take as much as you need. I have “0” group.
Eva, who is standing at the far side of the bay window, laughs.
Evelyn. Indeed, doctor, are you really going to mix the blood of a true Aryan and a second-rate plebeian? She could not even carry his baby.
Taken aback by her remark, the doctor turns his gaze from Evelyn to Henrich. He thinks that this giant is ready to tear his sister to pieces. Having taken Henrich's arm, he hurries to draw him away.
When Henrich comes out to see the doctor off, Evelyn is still in the same place. They do not notice her in the darkness of the living room. The doctor stops.
Doctor. (confidentially peering into Henrich's face) Count, I am a doctor so I shall tell you something. Until her health improves, the girl may not have sex and become pregnant; she may in no event. Childbirth will kill her. Evidently the last few years were very hard for her, so she is underdeveloped. She needs high feeding and some rest. Do you understand what I mean?
Henrich. How long shall this rest last?
Doctor. One and a half or two months.
Henrich. Why so long?
Doctor. I am sorry, Count, this is a delicate issue, perhaps we should not discuss it.
Henrich. I think we should. Please be frank.
Doctor. As you wish. You know, I do not like what I have seen. The girl’s state is the result of inequality in the physical sizes of partners' organs, rough treatment of her, or her disinclination to participate in coition. Or of all of the above simultaneously.
There is a long pause. Henrich feels with horror that he is blushing. The doctor recedes a few paces, thinking that this story could turn out badly for him: It is unlikely that the Wehrmacht officer will have mercy on a witness of an event that could compromise him. But Henrich pays the doctor lavishly.
Henrich. If you can keep silent, you need not worry about your life.
The doctor bows his agreement and leaves the house hurriedly.
Anna comes to in the morning; despite Martha's persuading she mutely refuses to eat or take medicine. In the evening Henrich sees Martha, upset, bringing untouched dishes out of the governess’s room.
The next day he comes home to have lunch. After lunch he goes into Anna's room and puts an oblong box on the bedside table. It contains a luxurious gold chain and pendent.
After work Henrich goes directly to the kitchen. He wants to know whether Anna accepted the gift.
Martha shakes her head. The box is on the tray together with the untouched food. The housekeeper gives it back to Henrich.
Martha. I should not advise my master, but if Herr Henrich asked her himself, she would obey and start eating. Just talk with her tenderly. She is just a baby.
Scared by her own presumption, the old woman does not continue.
The next day. The governess’s room. Anna lies in bed feeling her life slowly and grudgingly draining away.
Suddenly her attention is attracted by a strange sound. Anna turns and sees a puppy in the middle of the room. Unsteady on its broad paws, it bobbles around and yelps gently. With difficulty Anna picks herself up and moves toward the puppy. Having noticed the only live thing in this strange and hostile room, it goes to Anna.
Henrich stands behind the curtain watching these two helpless beings. Anna sits and cuddles the soft, furry creature in her arms and the puppy, happy and grateful, licks the face of its wonderful find, nuzzling at her neck with a cold, wet nose.
Henrich feels something dragging at his heart. He wishes to be the puppy or to dive somehow into that inaccessible world. His strong, indefatigable body appears to him an absurd shell, an insuperable obstacle. Adamant will, iron nerves, able mind--everything that he has taken pride in and that inspires general admiration--instantly seems worthless.
He inhales noisily and turns to leave, but stops when he notices that she is looking at him. Oh, God! She is smiling! She is smiling broadly and looking directly at him! Henrich comes into the room slowly, praying to God to reduce him to their size.
Anna. Is it for me?
She speaks! She speaks in his native language!
Henrich. Yes, it is.
Anna. You will not kill him, will you?
Henrich. No, I won’t.
The puppy, tired of sitting in her weak arms, falls on the floor and makes a small pool.
Anna looks at Henrich with happy eyes. His familiar tough mask leaves his face and his lips twitch as he tries to make an ordinary human smile. His facial muscles cannot master this unusual task.
The puppy stands in the middle of the pool whining.
Anna looks at Henrich again. This big, full-grown man kneels before her, his face now enlightened by a boyish grin. Anna laughs. She turns her gaze from Henrich to the puppy and laughs uncontrollably. Then Henrich laughs too. It sounds like a foolish roar at first, then turns into a normal human laugh.
Having approached silently, Martha looks in the room. She is shocked.
Suddenly Anna stops laughing.
Anna. Thank you.
She tries to stand but she feels faint and falls. Henrich receives her body in his arms and gently lays her on the bed. Martha comes in and wipes up the pool. Then she brings a rug and a saucer with milk for the pet. The puppy greedily drinks the milk and then curls itself into a ball on its comfortable new bed.
Anna lies with closed eyes. Henrich sits near. He wants to make a request–just a request, not an order. But he has forgotten how, and he fumbles for the right word.
Henrich. (as if he is writing out the words) Please, Anna, eat and take some medicine.
Martha appears immediately with a tray.
Anna begins to recover. Soon she is able to help Martha with the housework again. Henrich throws himself into his work. He leaves the house early and returns when everybody in the house is in bed. Hs tries neither to see Anna nor to think about her.
A month passes. It is a late evening in March. Henrich enters the house, which is quiet and tranquil. Exhausted, he takes a shower and goes to bed. But he cannot sleep. Her eyes and her smile are constantly before him. Henrich gets out of bed and goes furtively to the governess’s room.
Heavy camouflage curtains cover the window. He sees the child’s face, peaceful in sleep. Her hair is scattered across the pillow, her eyes and lips are half-closed, and her cheek lies on folded palms.
The truth suddenly bursts upon him. She actually could bear him a baby. And the baby could be a girl who belonged completely to him.
He comes closer, bends down and caresses her cheek. Sensing his touch but not waking, the girl shifts as if to turn over. Suddenly a surprising thing happens: rubbing her cheek against his palm, she shifts back. Henrich’s hand is taken captive by these child-like palms, warm cheek and lips, which press to his hand trustfully.
He wishes he could bury his face into her hair, her lips, cover this small thin body with his own and penetrate into every cell! Henrich understands at last what it means “to have a woman.”
He stands bent over Anna, inhibiting desire by force of will. The thought of her expression were she to awake stops him. Having released his palm, he leaves the room on stiff legs.
The next morning. Henrich and Evelyn are having breakfast. Henrich has given orders that Anna bring coffee. She comes in and Henrich is flabbergasted. The month when he avoided her has wonderfully improved her appearance. She has filled out to a healthy degree, and her skin's bluish discoloration has disappeared. Her skin seems to be a radiant white in contrast to her rich black hair, and there is a gentle bloom on her cheeks. Clear blue eyes shine under thick eyelashes and high brows.
She calmly places the cups and pours the coffee. Henrich’s eyes are glued on her neck, on her thin, perfect fingers. She is so beautiful and so far from him! Anna leaves the dining room, but Henrich continues to stare in the direction she went. Not hiding her curiosity, Evelyn observes this scene. She sneers.
Evelyn. Romeo, your coffee is getting cold. Your Jew is really beautiful. But you are nothing to her... Only think! My brother, pride of the Reich, the object of desire of all the women of the best society, has fallen in love with a little girl who doesn’t care a whit about him!
Henrich. Shut up, bitch!
Evelyn. (dropping her coffee cup on the floor) Animal!
The second half-day at the office passes slowly for Henrich. He does everything as if he is in a dream. He dreams of Anna: sleeping, bringing coffee, her lips burning his palm. The rage caused by his sister's words gradually subsides. He exploded at her words because she was right. He is nothing to Anna, just a blank spot. There is an insuperable obstacle in his way. He felt it with his whole soul there in the dining room. “Perhaps I am sick or insane. If I want, any woman will be mine. Why do I need only her? Why am I so disgusting to her? I’m going to get drunk today,” he decides.
That evening. He and Manfred arrive at the restaurant Bierische Hof and together with two familiar officers and girls begin tanking up. But soon he sees Erna Ganfshtengl, the sister of Ernst Ganfshtengl, who is Head of the NSDAP foreign press agency. She is in the restaurant with a noisy crew. She has plumped out but does her best to hide her weight, and she is still pretty. She has kept her cool and naughty appearance as before. Henrich sneers, recollecting what is under the icy shell. “That's what I need now,” he decides and goes to meet her.
Erna. Tell me that I am not sleeping! The great recluse Henrich von Dalau in person! (The iceberg melts instantly. Her smile exposes an even row of sharp teeth.) At the Bierische Hof! Chance encounter! It’s an omen!
Erna is hinting at their acquaintance here at the ceremony in honor of Adolf Hitler’s arrival five years earlier. The Fuhrer raised his glass to the three most beautiful women of Bavaria: Helen Ganfshtengl, Erna Ganfshtengl and Evelyn von Dalau.
Henrich. I shall wait for you in the entrance hall in an hour. Agreed?
Erna. Agreed. In twenty minutes.
Having turned, Erna heads across the room.
Henrich and Erna are in the car. Kissing Henrich, Erna tries to press against him with her whole body.
Erna. Today my parents have a full house of guests. Let's go to yours.
Henrich turns down a dark alley, gets out of the car and opens the rear door.
Henrich. Sit here.
Erna. Oh, now I see that you missed your little Erna.
She moves to the rear seat. Henrich begins to strip the clothes from the too-voluptuous body of a faded beauty.
Erna. Oh, you are so impatient! Here?
Henrich. Right here!
He turns her skirt up. He feels an overheated-female smell. Her big breasts and the rest of her body heave, emitting a strong sweaty odor mixed with a harsh perfumed fragrance. He feels nausea at this odious sight. “Either she is really this ugly or I had too much to drink,” he says to himself. He realizes that he does not need to take his trousers off.
Erna turns up the whites of her eyes and grips him by the legs; she gathers him in her arms and seeks his lips. Henrich's impulse is to slap her wet, greedy mouth. He clenches his hand into a fist but stops himself in time. He gets back in the driver’s seat.
Henrich. Put your clothes on! I shall drive you home. Next time try to pay more attention to detail.
He has never been in such a situation. “What has she done to me? Maybe she has put a spell on me? No matter. Now it’s my turn! Damn this fortnight!” he thinks.
Everyone in the house is sleeping. It is dark. Only the noise of running water drifts from his bathroom.
“Is she taking a shower? Excellent! Now I shall make you sweat,” he says to himself. Suddenly he notices that Anna is singing. Her high, clear voice is singing “Ave Maria.”
Henrich enters the room quietly. The girl is in a full bathtub singing. “She has a fine voice,” he marvels.
Suddenly, catching his gaze, Anna begins to get up but sits back in the water again as if seeking salvation in it. She looks scared. She has never seen him so furious. He stands near her for a while staring at her, then turns around and goes to the butlery. He blunders against a chair and kicks it away. He strips the tablecloth and a heavy cut-glass vase shatters into splinters. Everything in his way goes crashing to the floor.
Evelyn stomps into the bathroom where Anna stands wrapped in a bath-towel.
Evelyn. Have you refused him?
Anna. He did not want it himself.
Evelyn. Ah, that's it. He pities the girl! He obeys the doctor's advice. (Now they can hear the dull sound of blows in Henrich’s bedroom.) So he will rage for a fortnight and I shall have to bear it! You snake! You parasite!
Evelyn slaps Anna's face and stomps out of the bathroom, banging the door.
Anna. So I have a fortnight.
The fortnight has passed. It is evening in the Count's house.
Anna is taking a bath and enjoying one more quiet day. She does not hear Henrich return home. He eats in a hurry and goes to her room. Having slipped into a bathrobe, she enters the room. She sees Henrich in her bed drawing the blanket back. “Well, it’s starting again,” runs through her mind.
However, this time he did not crash into her room and throw himself on her without even taking his clothes off. He is lying naked, waiting patiently for her. His lips are pressed tightly, the vein is clearly visible at his temple. His torso muscles are tensed into a single mass. His whole body exudes a deep passion. Anna stands, not daring to look up.
Henrich. Take that off.
Anna takes her bathrobe off obediently. He sees all her body naked for the first time. It is unbearable to see this beautiful young body. With a groan he closes his eyes.
Henrich. Come here.
Henrich releases his fierce desire. His ecstasy and suffering alternate with each other. But one thing is strange. Anna feels no pain. Henrich is careful and, perhaps, even tender.
Then Henrich reclines against the pillows at last and, as it seems to Anna, falls asleep. She eyes him and assures herself that it is hard to imagine a more perfect male body. She tries to understand what attracts this strong man to her, an inexperienced girl. Her notions about love come from books and movies full of gentle vows and bashful kisses. She considers everything Henrich does to be perverted or sick. Of course, she knows how babies appear. She has seen fascists raping Russian women during the past two years. But she assumed that children result from love, while violence is caused by hatred. What drives Henrich? What makes him forget numerous mistresses and prefer her society? Why has he held himself back, contrary to his male nature, all this while? Is it just because of the doctor's advice? Now she has seen what the enforced continence cost him. She is impressed by the great outburst of energy which followed. Suddenly she realizes that he is not asleep. It is as if he is in a deep faint. Anna recollects her neighbor in Moscow who died of cancer, her cruel suffering relieved by strong drugs.
She comes to the conclusion: “He is actually sick. I am his disease and I am his remedy... Well! At least someone needs me.”
She tries to move away, but he immediately embraces her again. He takes her again and again fails to satisfy his hunger. Incredibly, he does not feel her resistance any more.
The beginning of June. Landsberg. Henrich and Anna are in a car in front of the castle. The old groom opens the gates. He is the only man who remains of numerous servants.
Henrich and the girl go to the garden. Barking cheerfully, their dog runs before them. Henrich admires Anna picking blue cornflowers and camomiles from neglected grasses. She hides behind an overgrown clump of lilac and weaves a wreath of flowers. Henrich rounds the clump and stands before her. The expression of his face tells her what will follow. Her cheerful smile disappears to be replaced by resigned detachment.
Afterwards Henrich takes the small flat bag off the girl's neck despite her desperate protests. He knows that she never takes it off. It contains two folded photos. The first is a photo of Anna with her parents and brother; the other is an old portrait of a rich and very high-born family. Both photos contain an amazingly beautiful woman.
Henrich. Who are these people?
Anna is made to tell about her grandfather and grandmother, a Georgian prince and princess. They immigrated to America after the Russian Revolution. Her mother was studying at a Saint Petersburg boarding school which was occupied by Latvian riflemen. One of them fell in love with the Georgian princess and married her by force. He later became a high executive in the NKVD; Anna described how cruel he had been, how he had tormented her mother and brother.
Henrich. Was he the animal I am?
Anna. Oh, no. He was much worse. Animals are not cruel. They just have no imagination. They do not know that they hurt. If they did, they could not eat and would die out.
Henrich. (smiling) Thank you. Now I know what you think of me. Perhaps you are right. And what happened then?
Anna. My parents were arrested in the summer of 1940 and shot as public enemies. My brother was in a military academy ... he shared the same fate.
Henrich. Who saved you?
Anna. My mother. She had a premonition that everything would turn out that way. She sent me to distant relations of our housekeeper a month before her arrest. I lived as their niece in a remote Belorussian village. My mother gave me these photos during the last evening I spent at home in Moscow. She told me who she really was, her real name, and ordered me to keep everything secret.
Henrich. Was it she who taught you German?
Anna. Yes. English and French too.
Anna. Then came occupation, hunger, cold and fear.
Henrich. Were you afraid?
Anna. Yes, of course. I was always afraid. I was afraid of my father. I was afraid of other people. I thought they hated me because I was the daughter of an executioner. Then I became the daughter of a public enemy. I feared that this fact would be established. Then I was afraid only of fascists. Once a punitive expedition came to our village. They looked for partisans. They burnt our house and killed my foster parents. I hid in hay and saw everything. I tried to flee. One soldier chased me. Suddenly I found myself near a river. I could not swim. It was then that I stopped fearing. Perhaps I was just tired of doing so. And I jumped.
Henrich. And then?
Anna. I do not remember. It seemed that I flew high in the sky. I saw my body carried by the river. There was a light and I saw my mother. She said that she was awaiting me but that I had to complete my mission. I would be happy if I saved someone’s soul. I awoke on the bank much farther downriver. The inhabitants of a neighboring village picked me up. When the winter came, all the young people from the area were rounded up and sent to Germany. Now I am here.
Henrich. Are you afraid of death?
Anna. I am not afraid. It is good there. I am being awaited there... Nobody needs me here. (she adds gently) Perhaps you need me a bit.
They have never talked so long. They go back in silence. Henrich tries to think over everything she told him. He has never given a thought to her background. He could not admit that she had a past, and, all the more, such a past. He finally understands her resistance to hardships and amazing fearlessness. She is just waiting for her hour!
Anna does not regret that she told Henrich everything. She is sure that he will not harm her. She falls asleep. The car makes a sharp turn and she snuggles against his shoulder. She is warmed by the heat of his strong body. She feels easy and comfortable, safe for the first time in a long time. It is as if a real friend is protecting her.
Suddenly the car stops. Having opened her eyes, Anna sees that Henrich's face is set. There is sweat over his lip. Jaw clenched, he looks straight ahead. Anna moves over in fear; “Oh God, not again,” she thinks.
Getting a grip on himself, Henrich gets out to smoke. “She is just a child. She needs a big, kind father, not an animal like me,” he concludes. In the car, acting on an unexpected impulse, he strokes her hair.
Henrich. Everything’s fine.
The Count's house in Munich. Early evening. Evelyn returns from a date and enters her bedroom. It is obvious that she is out of spirits. She throws her purse on the bed and stands amazed by a lovely sight. There are armfuls of blooming jasmine in vases on the floor; a bouquet of pink peonies is on the toilet table; and two unelaborate wreaths of blue cornflowers and camomiles crown the console mirror. The room is perfumed by the summer flowers as if the horrors of the war are just a nightmare.
Evelyn. Martha, who did this?
The menacing tone of the mistress betokens no good for anyone in the house. Martha babbles that Herr Henrich has been in Landsberg to look at the estate. There are many such flowers there.
Evelyn. So it was Henrich who brought them.
Martha. (in a dismal voice) No. It was Anna.
Evelyn. Ask her to come here immediately.
Anna enters and Evelyn looks at her with a scowl.
Anna. (looking down) I thought they would please you. (She looks up. She looks at Eva the way one might look at a beautiful statue from which some element has broken off, such as an arm or a nose.) You are so beautiful and so unhappy!
Evelyn. Get out!
Eva's voice is strange, throaty. She turns away toward the window.
Henrich’s bedroom. He is sleeping. It is now late evening. There is a knock at the bedroom door.
Martha's voice. Herr Henrich! I am sorry but I have to wake you up. The Countess locked her door and has been crying for an hour. I am afraid that she has had an attack of nerves.
Henrich wakes up, reluctantly puts on his trousers and silk nightgown and goes to his sister. He hears dull weeping behind the door.
Henrich. Evelyn, open the door!
Henrich. Please open or I shall break the door or shoot the lock out.
No response again.
Henrich goes to his room and returns with a pistol. He cocks it.
Henrich. I shall shoot in one minute.
Evelyn lets her brother into her room after exactly one minute. She steps aside to the window. Having opened the curtain, she touches her forehead to the glass.
Henrich. What has happened?
Evelyn. It is not your affair.
Henrich. You know that if I ask I have to get an answer.
Henrich sits down in a chair. He puts his legs on a coffee table. Eva turns abruptly. Her face is patchy and mottled, eyes puffy.
Evelyn. You want to know what happened? Here it is.
She points at the flowers.
Henrich. Do you dislike them? Have them taken away.
Evelyn. You do not understand, doughty warrior! (Fumbling with a handkerchief, she sits down.) They were brought by your sweetheart. You see, she wanted to please me. Heavenly angel! Tell her that it would be better for me if you all died.
Henrich crosses his legs and takes out a cigarette.
Henrich. It would be easier for you to die yourself.
Evelyn. I know that you hate me. (Her voice thins.) Everybody hates me. I’m just a fucking bitch! Do you ever think why? When our dear father got the news that he had been cleaned out like an old freak, he came up with nothing better than to blow his brains out along with those of our depraved mother. Who got everything back? Money, houses, factories? You, maybe? (She tries to calm down, taking a cigarette.) You know perfectly well who reclaimed it all. You do not know how much it cost me. I was as innocent and pure as she is. (She nods at the door.) The difference is that she is fucked by the best male of the Wehrmacht and I was a freebee for every fat pig who could help me to reclaim our property. What did I feel? Do you ever think about that?
Henrich. I always thought that it was your personal choice whose freebee you wanted to be. You were always distinguished by eccentric tastes. You are mistaken about the difference between you and Anna. The difference is not in bed partners. She is not afraid to lose her life. And you are ready to screw with everybody to reclaim your property.
Evelyn. (choked with passion) My property. Really? You are not concerned with this property. Do you not realize that your bones would be putrefying under Moscow if I had not reclaimed our money? Who would need you here if you were not the owner of almost half the local military plants? You did nothing except use the fruits which I earned! (She points at the area between her legs.)
Henrich. You may think that I became a gigolo at 15. Maybe I should have become a pimp. Then we would be in the same game and you would not reproach me. (The ribald grin disappears from his face and he looks at his sister heavily.) Imprint it in your memory. I fought in Africa and I am not in Russia now thanks to my own merits.
Evelyn. Oh, yes, our hero became notorious for murders and violence in the hot deserts of Africa! Now the same bastards do the same in Eastern Europe. I cannot understand: Who needs it? Why? To prove to all the world that Aryans are the greatest nation? That German men are the best in the world? Only subnormals try to prove things this way. It is obvious when a man is intelligent, strong and a real man. There is no need to prove it. An abject clutch of plebeians, subnormals and impotents, you are!
Henrich. Do you mean me?
Evelyn. OK. You’re just a subnormal, that’s all.
Henrich. It looks like your Schlosser fucked you badly.
Evelyn closes her ears to this remark.
Evelyn. (smoking nervously) Real Aryans! Supreme Nation! Obduration, selfishness and hatred are what hide behind such words. It makes me retch. You just look at her. (She points at the door again.) The girl was robbed of everything, brought here so that every bastard could do with her whatever he wanted. But we can’t do anything to her. We cannot drag her in the mud, much as we try. She has more dignity and humanity than all of us together. She is the real aristocrat in spirit.
Henrich. Unless I am mistaken, such thoughts didn’t bother you before.
Evelyn. They always did. But you know, he who keeps company with the wolf will learn to howl! Life is easier when you see that everybody is alike. Now she serves as a constant rebuke to me. I cannot bear it.
Henrich. You can. But what exactly upset you?
Evelyn. (speaking clearly) She has pitied me. Do you understand? Me! A spoiled bitch from whom she never sees anything except humiliation and animosity. She took pity on me, while you did not, my precious brother!
She lights another cigarette and begins pacing the room. She is not crying now. A feverish glint in her eyes reveals internal tension. She sees that her words have not impressed her brother. She wants to hurt him.
Evelyn. (mockingly) Go to your darling! You know, she will never be yours. She just tolerates you. She pities you like she does me. Do you understand? She pities us as if we are monsters. Henrich jumps to his feet and grabs her by the shoulders. He looks as if he could tear her apart. Eva cries out with pain. Henrich pushes her away. She falls on the bed. Henrich leaves in a fury.
Evelyn talks with no one for a few days. She does not go out and answers no calls. An ominous silence fills the house.
It is early morning. Henrich, in a hurry, goes into the hall. Evelyn calls him. He turns, frowning.
Evelyn. I am invited to von Schlosser’s birthday dinner. Would you drive me home in the evening?
Henrich. Hans will drive you.
Evelyn. No, I want you to do it.
Henrich. Damn it! You are in one of your moods. I am on duty today.
Evelyn. Manfred can replace you for a while.
Henrich. OK. Ask him yourself.
Evelyn. Henrich, do this for me, please.
Henrich. You forget that I am a soldier. Next time, maybe.
Evelyn. (in a dismal voice) There will be no next time.
Henrich shrugs his shoulders and leaves.
That night Henrich receives a call at the command post saying that his sister, Countess Evelyn von Dalau, died half an hour earlier. She was with Baron von Schlosser when their car crashed into a fuel truck at full speed.
He finds Evelyn's farewell letter under his pillow the next morning.
Evelyn's voice. You will find this letter when I am dead. I hope that you do not blame yourself for my death. I am just tired of the loneliness that I committed myself to. I lowered myself to vice too early, thinking that I could wash the dirt away. I was wrong. The stain cannot be removed. I feel that we all exude the same fetidity. I have no more strength to deceive myself. I have no one who can save my soul. Love is the salvation. Yes, love. It is the thing I have lacked all my life. Who ever would have thought it! I who learned to hate at such a young age, I waited for love. But I should just have loved myself. We should seek salvation in ourselves. It is a pity that I understood this too late. I was waiting for the impossible all the same. I sought your love, ordinary compassion, proof that I meant something to you. I have nobody except you. My mood was not capricious. My life was at stake. I played “Russian roulette.” There were no bullets, only the words “yes” and “no.” You said “no.” Now I am leaving you. And you will stay conscious that you could have stopped me. This is my revenge for your callousness and your girl. God loves you more. He sent you a miracle, this girl. Do not worry about your reputation. Everything will be natural. There will be just two drunken people in the car. I shall just turn the wheel abruptly. I think God does not blame me for this animal Schlosser. I wish you happiness. Or at least make her happy. She deserves it. Farewell! Your sister Eva.
There is a date at the end of the letter: June 1, 1944.
The day of Evelyn's funeral is gray and sweltering. There is a thunderstorm that night. Martha and Anna are sitting in the kitchen. They are silent.
Martha. (after a tremendous burst of thunder) The rain has washed Evelyn’s sins away and God has accepted her.
Henrich's bedroom. He is in bed. It is pouring rain, lightning is flashing. An open shutter is banging loudly outside his window.
Anna enters the room quietly. It seems to her that Henrich is asleep. She shuts the window but does not draw the curtain. Anna tucks the blanket around Henrich and strokes his hair. It is beautiful, even in the low light.
Anna. (in Russian) My poor boy!
She turns to leave but Henrich catches her arm. The girl gives a cry of surprise.
Henrich. Do not leave, please.
He holds her palm on his chest with both hands. Anna sits near him. They are silent. Anna hears his heart beating.
She is near. And Henrich feels like an overgrown, useless animal, a prehistoric monster turned to stone. There is emptiness all around... But he feels real, live warmth through that childish palm.
Anna. Nobody is guilty of Eva’s death.
Henrich. I am guilty. I am shit. It is too late to beg her forgiveness. You forgive me, if you can. (he adds after a while) I shall secretly send you to Switzerland through the Red Cross in a few days.
Anna. What shall I do there?
Henrich. I’ll give you money. You’ll go to your relations in America and forget all this hell.
Anna. Germany, Switzerland, America... Strange countries, strange people. They do not care for me. I am strange even in my native country. You know, I have nobody except you.
Henrich closes his eyes. He tries to swallow the lump in his throat.
Anna. (suddenly deciding) If you want I shall stay here. Take me.
Henrich. I shall take you when you want it yourself.
He makes himself release her palm. Anna gets up slowly and leaves the room.
The Second Front is opened in Western Europe in June 1944. The English and American troops’ invasion is successfull. The end of the war is not far.
The day after the funeral Henrich flies to Normandy. A month spent at the front persuades him of the meaninglessness of the bloodshed.
A short nighttime lull in the fighting. Henrich lies in a field-bed in a dug-out. Recent battle images come back to him. He recollects the crashing of shells, the faces of boys whom he sent in an attack and the piles of mutilated bodies that were all that remained of them.
The same thoughts continue to haunt him. It is frightening to acknowledge that he is part of that infernal machine which has destroyed the world, tortured and murdered millions of human beings. He understands that he is on a sinking ship. That ship is the epitome of evil and has to be destroyed. The main thing is to give nobody a chance to escape. Eva, Eva, you showed the right way!
His thoughts turn to Anna. Eva was right. He has not won her love. Yes, he has her body, her life is in his hands. But this is so little. Her smile when he brought her the puppy, the cheek squeezed against his palm, her words “I have nobody except you”–these are the only things he remembers with pleasure. He treasures them, they warm his heart.
Henrich concludes that all his life depends on one thing.
“It's time to put my life at stake, too,” he decides.
He returns to Munchen the next night.
It is morning. Henrich is at home again. A familiar scene: Anna is bringing coffee. But everything looks different. There is no Eva; Henrich has become a new man and Anna has changed, too. She has become more beautiful, and it seems to Henrich that she is even smiling at him. Could it be?
Then Henrich takes a long shower. Rubbing himself down, he enters his bedroom. His glance stops at a photo hanging on a wall. It is of a young and carefree Henrich in boxing gloves. He is the winner: a gold medal and broad ribbon hang around his neck with the inscription “The Wehrmacht Champion.” He peers through the past, trying to recollect himself in those years. Only six or seven years have passed, but now they seem an eternity to him.
He wakes up that night and lies listening to the nighttime noises of the old house. Then he gets up, switches the light on, paces the room, puts on his military coat and lights a cigarette.
Anna's bedroom. Anna notices a gleam under the dressing-room door. She cannot sleep as she tries to straighten out the tangle of thoughts and feelings caused by Henrich’s arrival.
She was relieved when he left a month before. But while he was away she began to feel anxious about his life. She missed him. “Do I like him?” she asked herself. She was haunted by a feeling of purposelessness. He is here at last. There are traces of deep thinking on his face. Where is that superman who experienced neither doubt nor pity? The expression of his face, his gait has changed completely. Yes, she needs this new Henrich. She lacks the warmth and comfort which can be provided only by a truly close person. “That means that I need him just to avoid loneliness and fear. Moreover, he is an adult man. I cannot give him everything he needs.”
Nevertheless she feels a strong affinity for him.
But recollecting his last words before departure to Normandy, she is afraid of taking the step. She is not sure that she is ready.
She prepares to get up but then hides her head under her pillow.
— OK, so be it! she decides and enters Henrich's room.
Henrich's room. He is sitting astride a chair, his head drooping. He stares but sees nothing. Anna notices his back and muscles tensed under his shirt. It seems to her that his military coat will burst any second. He does not turn. She feels a tug at her heartstrings. He is so close and so unhappy. Which of us needs it more? she asks herself. Suddenly she feels herself becoming strong and mature. She is not the previous helpless being, she can animate this tired man.
She approaches Henrich, takes his hands in hers and, having dropped to her knees, peers in his face. He looks as if he is under terrible tension. Anna unclasps his hands and puts them on her cheeks. Henrich opens his eyes and sees her smiling face. Not believing his eyes, he leans back and closes them. Then her lips press to his eyelids one after the other, confirming what he has seen. She sits on his lap and strokes his face, neck, chest. Her lips follow her palm as if she is rubbing away the patina of time from an ancient statue and recognising her former god. Kissing him, she is simultaneously establishing her power over every cell of his body. This is mine! And this is mine, too!
Henrich feels himself melting at her touch, as if he is an empty cup being filled with wonderful strength. Then this cup disappears and he becomes light as a cloud.
Henrich. You won’t leave me?
Anna. No, I won’t.
He takes her in his arms and carries her about the room, pressing her close and even rocking her like a child. Then he puts her on the bed, stroking and kissing her hair. Now he has not just recollections but real treasures, which he coaxes out of the broad night-gown. He admires her charms and then hides them again amid folds of thin bed linen.
He never thought that he was capable of caressing a woman this way, wrapping her in a gold cloud, imbibing her and melting in her simultaneously. He does not feel his body, forgetting about physical desire. It is real freedom, true and previously unknown delight.
Anna is high in the cloud they have become. They have merged and she can no longer determine where she ends and Henrich begins.
The thought of the physical contact that is the natural next stage distresses her. Her face tenses when Henrich starts caressing her private areas. But Henrich clearly is not even thinking of anything more physical. Having understood this, she relaxes. And then an inexplicable thing happens.
Anna. (whispering) I want you.
Two voices merge in one cry, breaking the silence of the house.
Anna. What was that?
Henrich. (smiling) You became a woman. My woman.
Anna. I didn’t think that it happened this way.
Henrich. I didn’t know either. Thank you.
Anna. For what?
Everything that Henrich feels and does is altogether new for him. He finds himself in an unexplored and wonderful world. He cannot tell where they are now, what time it is. He forgets the Henrich that he was until recently. And he says words which formerly he could neither say nor think.
Henrich. I am in love with you. I am happy. I believe in God again. You made me a human being. I am not an animal any more. Isn’t that true?
Anna. You are the dearest and most wonderful person in the world to me.
Henrich. You are the most wonderful. You breathed soul into stone.
Anna. An evil magician put a spell on you. I just broke the spell. That's all.
She laughs happily.
Henrich. (turning onto his back) God, thank you. You did not turn away from me. You sent me an angel. The angel is this woman, the most beautiful woman in the world.
Anna. (embracing him) I love you.
Henrich. (groaning) God, thank you.
Air-alert sirens wail. A bombing will begin soon. But Henrich and Anna do not go down to the basement. They are making love and no horrors of war can disturb them.
It is dawn.
Henrich. Tell me the truth. Was it disgusting to you before?
Anna. Yes. I thought that you were ill.
Henrich. And now?
Anna. I am ill, too.
Henrich. Do you like it?
Anna. Oh yes, I will be ill forever now. (Her tone becomes serious.) Do not leave me, please, OK? We must be together.
Henrich. Certainly. We shall be together no matter what the cost. Otherwise life will lose its meaning.
Henrich's face darkens with the thought but he does his best to hide this emotion.
Nevertheless the war continues. The Alliance force (Americans by day, Englishmen by night) bomb German towns. Munchen suburbs containing tank and other military factories are ruined. The town shares their fate. The inhabitants of the house on Ludvigstrasse spend almost every night in the basement.
A week later. The church in Landsberg. Henrich and Anna are wed in secret. The wedding is conducted by pastor Holst.
The priest asks Henrich after the wedding:
Pastor. What is your decision, Count?
Henrich. She alone.
Pastor. Perhaps you are right. (looking down and nodding his head thoughtfully) I think we shall be able to arrange it in the near future.
The living-room in the Count's house. It is morning. Henrich returns from duty. Anna besets him with questions. He sits her on his lap, strokes her hair and peers into the girl’s face, as if trying to memorize its features.
Henrich. My sweetheart, we shall be in real hell here soon. I want to send you to a safe place, to a country where there is no shooting or bombing. You will be helped there.
Anna. Again. Why do you speak about me only? And you? What are you going to do?
Henrich. I was offered a chance to flee to a Latin American country in exchange for one important paper.
Anna. And you refused.
She is ready to cry.
Anna's eyes fill with tears. Henrich kisses her wet face, feeling the bitterness of parting.
Henrich. Darling, do not cry. Understand me, please. I cannot buy my life and happiness at the cost of the lives of a few thousand soldiers like me. We must be judged. If God and humanity can forgive me I want to live in my native country and bear my name without the seal of a war criminal. I want you and our children to bear the name of von Dalau without shame. (grinning sadly) Otherwise I wouldn’t get to be with you in the afterlife, if there is an afterlife. And I can’t allow that.
Anna's tears stop. She tries to smile at Henrich's joke.
Anna. I shall stay with you. Please do not try to get rid of me again.
April 1945. The most bloody war in human history has spent its force. It is shortly before the surrender of Munchen. Neighboring towns are already occupied by the American 7th Army. Munchen suburbs are under artillery fire and the city center has already been bombed.
Henrich keeps true to his odious oath of allegiance and continues to serve as before. Anna spends most of the time in the basement together with Martha and Hans.
The governess’s room. Anna enters the room. She will become a mother soon. She tries to find something in a wardrobe. The shrill whistle of a falling bomb is heard, followed by an ear-splitting crash and the tinkle of falling glass. The room becomes dark. Eventually the clouds of dust and smoke clear away. Only ruins remain of the opposite house.
Thrown by the shock wave of the explosion, Anna lies unconscious on the floor. A fearful Martha finds her and lays her on the bed. As if he sensed trouble, Henrich arrives soon thereafter.
Martha. Herr Henrich, she has hit her head. Poor girl! What will happen to her? What will happen to the baby?
Henrich. Enough. It is time.
He goes to his bedroom and returns in a minute with Evelyn's purse. He shows its contents to Martha. It contains the family jewels of the von Dalau counts.
Henrich. If you can, save these for her. Here are the addresses of her relations in America. We can find her through them.
Having torn a sheet from a desk diary, he writes on the back:
“l am with you always, my darling! Do not worry. Nothing will happen to me. This is just a trial. We will survive it. I will find you and the baby and we will never be apart. Save yourself and the baby. I love you and will love you forever. Your Henrich.”
He takes Anna's identity papers, photos, the addresses of her relations and a thick wad of dollars from the purse. He puts everything in the bag hanging from Anna's neck and hides it in the folds of her clothes. Then he takes a carpet from the sofa, goes down to the car and spreads it on the floor of the car after taking the rear seat out. Returning to the house, he takes the white tablecloth from the dining-room table, then goes to the governess’s room. Anna is still unconscious. He takes her in his arms.
Henrich. Goodbye, Martha. We shall meet again, God willing.
Crying, Martha makes the sign of the cross over him. Henrich brings his precious burden to the car. He lays Anna down on the carpet and covers her with the seat for shelter. Having looked at his house one last time, Henrich starts the engine.
It is easy to drive through the center of town. Henrich chooses the safest route heading southwest. Patrols do not even try to stop his car.
It is Landsberg at last. The town is already occupied by the Americans. Henrich stops the car and fixes the tablecloth to the car door so that it resembles a white flag. Then he is at the wheel again. He has to go into the occupied zone. He comes under automatic-rifle fire from rooftops first, then drives in full silence. Neither local inhabitants nor Americans can be seen. He can see the church steeple. Suddenly a tank obstructs his path; it blocks the narrow lane leading to the square before the church. A captain and a few American paratroopers appear from behind the tank. The tank's gun is directed toward the car.
Henrich gets out of the car, throws his pistol down and puts his hands up.
Henrich. (in English) I have the mining scheme of Munich’s military plants. I shall pass it your command.
Captain. (with a smile) Not bad. I hope you will not assert that you have nothing to do with that uniform you’re wearing. Or that you have paid us a visit just to be friendly.
The soldiers laughed.
Henrich. No, I shall not.
Captain. Then you’ll have to come with us, major!
Henrich. I have one request. I would like to see the pastor of that church.
Captain. Oh, that old fellow! OK. If he is available.
A quarter of an hour later. A soldier returned with Pastor Holst.
Henrich. She is there. (He nodded in the direction of the car.) She has a concussion. She needs to be hospitalised. Delivery could start immediately.
Pastor. There are other casualties not far from here. They will be driven to Nuremberg on hospital buses, then to Normandy by train and, finally, to the States by sea. We can catch the buses if we hurry.
Henrich threw the rear seat out of the car and extracted Anna before the amazed Americans.
Henrich. Can I take her to the hospital buses?
The Americans exchanged glances and then let Henrich go before them.
When they found the buses, the casualties has already been loaded. The driver of the last bus has started the engine and a pretty nurse is preparing to get into the cabin next to him. She stopped, astonished by the unusual sight: a Wehrmacht officer carrying a pregnant woman in his arms, followed by three Americans and a German pastor.
Pastor. (shouting) Wait, wait! Take this woman, a Russian woman!
The driver gets out and started to argue with the pastor. The nurse admired both the handsome German officer and the beautiful young girl.
Henrich peered at Anna, oblivious of the tears running down his face and the silence which has settled suddenly.
The nurse opened the door of the bus and brought out a litter. Together with a soldier she cleared a space for Anna among the many wounded. Henrich put Anna on the litter and shut the door. The nurse shouted to him as the bus pulled away: “Do not worry, she will be all right!” Henrich stands and watched until the bus is out of sight.
Somebody is pulling at his sleeve. It is the youngest of the paratroopers, a boy with long, almost feminine eyelashes.
Paratrooper. (blinking nervously) It is time, major.
The script “Once upon a time in Germany” is protected by copyright law in Russia and registered by United States Copyright Office
Nice character development.
Seriously interesting finale.
Worth your time.
Just read it!
Russian native language author, Berezina, succeeds in building a story rich in tension, with some occasional relief, and it ends as an unfinished story, with tension in the reader’s imagination about what comes next.
The story portrays a young woman (Anna) whose desire is for closeness and sexual intimacy with a man as an end in itself, not just as a way for her to achieve some other goal, such as to have children. This is seen in her desire simply to be with Heinrich, while he is the one who dreams of them having a child together.
Their formal marriage is ambiguous, but it is significant because it takes place in Germany when the Nazis are still in power and Heinrich is a privileged, elite, military officer in that system. So he is sacrificing and risking a lot to have Anna – and this is the first time in his life that he has taken that kind of risk. On the other hand, Anna’s life has been a litany of danger and risks, so therefore he is entering her world.
An underlying theme explores about families with their internal battles and bonding, their noble hopes, their destructive jealousies, their warm kindness, and their cold viciousness.
The story is set on two theatrical stages: a micro stage and a macro stage. These stages parallel and reflect each other so that each one is the context for the other. By this means, the author brings the readers to delve deeper into family realities. The micro stage is the platform for the various natural families portrayed and it shows that the influence of those families spills over into the relationships people have in other situations and families. The macro stage comprises the family of nations known as “Europe” which is in the middle of a brutal ‘family’ war with Hitler’s Reich as its focus. This war puts the characters in different and sometimes hostile boxes because they act out their lives on both stages simultaneously. But it is a story of their lives lived in the context of the war, rather than a story about the war. In this respect, the title is ambiguous because the story is not about ‘once upon a time in Germany’: it is a quite specific time in history. The point of “Once upon a time in Germany” is that the story is timeless, like a nursery story for adults.
I commend the author for this interesting, challenging, and enlightening work and I recommend it to all explorers of the human condition.
Thank you very much David for such complete comment. That might be an excellent introduction for my future book based on this script.
Special gratitude for your deep reflections about two stages of the story. Because my intention was not only telling the story of taboo love but trying to show it in a wide, I would say historical, aspect: WHY and HOW it happened that LOVE could be regarded as a taboo.
Your thoughts about Anna’s desire and goal sound a little awkward for me. Neither Anna nor Henrich dreamt about child. I do not think at that time and in these circumstances anybody would dream about bringing a child to the world.
I am agreeing about the title. Anyway I think the story may acquire another title in a future.
Perhaps my idea that Heinrich wanted a child with Anna came from reading his thoughts in a particular way. After the story describes her psychological revival through the gift of a puppy, there is a month of Heinrich’s absence. When he returns he cannot sleep because she is in his mind. So he goes to her room, sees her sleeping peacefully and:
“The truth suddenly bursts upon him. She actually could bear him a baby. And the baby could be a girl who belonged completely to him.”
He is not thinking the obvious: that she is female and therefore could bear children. His realisation is very personal: that she actually could bear HIM a baby.
I did not read him as only wanting her for that purpose, nor that he was actually planning it at that time during a ghastly war. But the difference between their histories is reinforced in this idea that he can think ahead with some confidence, such as for them to have a child later, or to send her away to safety and later catch up with her. On the other hand, she dare not plan anything except the present – and so her desire is simply to stay with him now. In her life the only 'later' has been when death relieves her of the torture of 'now'. For the first time she has a flicker of happiness in 'now'.
Thank you very much David for such a closer look and a deep insight into my writing!
This script is some sort of haunting It makes you think again and again about human outpourings such as love and hate, the good and the evil. Wonderful story, respect to the author.