A week later I returned to Cologne.
Some vague presentiment warned me I had better go straight to Koblenz. But I overcame that feeling. Or rather, the desire to see Herr W. once more was stronger in me than the desire to avoid taking unnecessary risks.
I remembered every word the young German had uttered from the minute I had met him. The story of his three years’ captivity in Africa haunted me. I admired him for having stood so brilliantly the test of persecution; and I loved him with the same strong, warm affection — the same feeling of sacred comradeship in life and death — as I do any real Nazi. I did not stop at Cologne to find out whether he had stuck up my posters or not. I knew he had. I trusted him implicitly. I stopped for the sheer pleasure of meeting him again. I was planning to go with him for a long walk, somewhere on the border of the Rhine, outside Cologne. The weather was bright. In the daytime, in the sunshine, it was not too cold to sit down, provided there was no wind. I would buy some food and cakes enough for the whole day, — I thought and we would go and sit in some lonely and lovely place. I would spread my thick grey cloak upon the ground for us to be more comfortable. And the S.S. officer would talk to me with friendliness and understanding and faith — would tell me about the grand days that came and went and will come again; would speak of the recent humiliations and of the unavoidable revenge; of the Führer, of greater Germany, the foundation stone of future Aryandom
(all I stood for, all I wanted, all I loved) while the unchanging Rhine would roll past us its sunlit waters with the selfsame everlasting murmur. I wanted to hear him tell me, as hundreds had before him, how beautiful was the Führer’s inspired countenance when he addressed the cheering crowds. I wanted to tell him, as I already had ten thousand others, how happy I was to be waiting in Germany, instead of elsewhere, for the return of the Leader and Saviour.
I got down from the train and, after leaving my things at the cloak room, went straight to the Catholic Mission where I asked the woman on duty what seemed to me a most non-committing question: “Could you be kind enough to tell me the address of Herr W., who was here a week ago in search of a room? He told me he would leave his address with you.”
I did not know that Herr W. was already under arrest, nor that, for the last four or five days, the police were searching for me all over Germany.
The woman on duty — who perhaps knew — looked a little embarrassed, “Herr W?,” said she. “Are you quite sure it is that name?”
She was turning over the pages of a copybook in which were written down the names and addresses of many people who had obtained lodgings through the Mission. But she did not seem to me to be seriously trying to find the name. Still I replied to her question.
“Yes, Herr W.,” said I. “I met him here, in this place, exactly a week ago. I could not say whether the Catholic Mission has managed to find him a room or not. But he told me he would leave his address here wherever he went. It surprises me that he has not done so. Would you be kind enough to look carefully?”
I had no time to say more, for at that moment a
policeman stepped in. He walked straight to me and said: “May I see your papers, please?”
It was not the first time I had shown my passport to a German policeman. Generally, the man had a look at it and gave it back to me at once, without any comment. This man did not give it back to me, but said: “Would you follow rue to the police station? We have some point to make clear. Leave your things behind; no one will touch them.”
I at once scented danger. But I felt extraordinarily calm, — calm as only an absolute believer in fate could feel. “I suppose this had to happen one day,” thought I. “However, I shall do all I call to ‘slip out’ if possible. But if I am caught, I am caught. And I shall not behave as a coward under any circumstances.”
I entered the police station — a bare, whitewashed room in which there were two other men in police uniform (one, obviously of higher rank than the other, seated at a table, near a telephone) and a prisoner, seated in a corner. “Surely not a political prisoner,” thought I, as soon as I saw him. He did not look as happy as I.
The man at the desk offered me a chair. I sat down. Then, the policeman who had brought me in handed over my passport to the man, and the latter examined it with utmost care, for a long tine. “A British passport,” said he, at last. “But you are not English, are you?”
“Half English and half Greek,” I replied. “My mother is English. I have acquired British citizenship by my marriage.”
“Your husband is English?”
“And where is he now?”
“In Calcutta, as far as I know.”
The police officer was apparently not interested in
my husband’s whereabouts so far away. He changed the conversation.
“You have travelled quite a lot, I see from the visas on your passport,” said he. “What prompted you to come to Germany?”
“I came to gather firsthand information in order to write a book,” I replied — and it was true; I was, in fact, writing my Gold in the Furnace, a passionate picture of National Socialist Germany in the clutches of her persecutors, at the same time as a personal profession of faith in Adolf Hitler. I added: “This is stated in a letter which you will find in my passport; a letter from the French Bureau des Affaires Allemandes recommending me to the Occupation authorities.” And this too was true. In that letter the head of the above mentioned Bureau begged “the French and Allied Occupation authorities to afford every possible help and protection to Mrs. Mukherji, author of several works on historical and philosophical subjects, who is now going to Germany and Austria in order to gather the necessary material for a book about those countries.” (Useless to say, he knew nothing of my convictions, and could not suspect what sort of a book I intended to write nor what activities I intended to carry on in Germany.)
The police officer looked at me, a spark of amusement in his eyes, as though he were thinking: “Possible; quite possible. You underground fighters are up to anything that can forward your ends.” He took the letter and had a glance at it, but did not read it. He probably did not know French. Whether the document seemed authentic to him or not, I could not tell. Anyhow, it did not impress him enough for him to send me away as a harmless person under the protection of Germany’s present-day masters. He continued to question me.
“You are a writer?” he asked.
“We want to know if you have anything to do with a certain leaflet and poster affair . . .”
I understood it would be difficult to “slip out,” this time. Yet, I felt exceedingly calm — as though I were acting; as though the person sitting in my place and answering the questions were not my real self. (Nor was she, in fact. My real, free, unattainable Self lives in millions of individuals, in Germany and abroad; wherever there are Aryans who share our ideals; wherever the Nazi spirit flourishes in all its strength and pride. It cares little what might happen to the material, limited I that was speaking at the Police Office of the station of Cologne on that night of the 20th February 1949).
I pretended not to understand the German word for a leaflet, the word Flugblatt.
“What sort of thing is a Flugblatt?” asked I, not without repressing a tendency to laugh.
“A paper with some propaganda written upon it, intended for distribution,” replied, this time, not the man at the desk but the other one — the policeman who had brought me in. And he added, drawing a swastika upon a blank page and handing it over to me: “If you do not know what is a Flugblatt, do you know, at least, what this is?”
“A swastika,” said I; “I believe everybody knows that.”
“The symbol of National Socialism,” he emphasized, “And the immemorial Symbol of the Sun,” I added. “In India, it is looked upon as a sacred sign for thousands of years.”
“And do you also look upon it as a sacred sign?” asked the policeman. I gazed at him with defiance — and
a pinch of irony. I knew I was playing with fire, but I enjoyed it. I naturally enjoy defying danger.
“Surely I do,” said I. “I too, am a worshipper of the Sun.”
That answer was rigourously accurate. In my mind, I recalled my years of struggle in faraway India; my lectures against the Christian ideology of equality, false meekness and false humility, in the shade of banyan trees, before white-clad crowds. And before that, my struggle in Greece against the monkeyish mentality of a levantinised “intelligenzia,” in the name of the eternal Aryan ideals which in those days — twenty-five years ago — I still called “Hellenic.” “All my life, I have indeed fought for the same truth. under that same age-old holy Sign,” thought I. And the prospect of being arrested — which had never worried me — suddenly became almost attractive in my eyes. True, I would lose the little usefulness I might have had. But what a splendid culmination of my whole life history it would be, to suffer — at last! — a little of what so many thousands of my comrades have been suffering for the last four years at the hands of our persecutors! I now nearly wished I would be arrested. Still, I was determined not to hasten the fact by unnecessary admissions. I would let it to the invisible Gods to decide where and how I should continue to bear witness to the glory of National Socialism. If I “got away with it” this time, that would mean I was more useful free. If I did not, it would mean that, in the long run, I would be more useful in jail — or dead, if the enemy would do me the honour of killing me.
The man at the desk addressed me again.
“You know a certain Herr W., a former S.S. officer, don’t you?”
And for the first tine I realised, — I knew, as clearly
as if the man had told me so — that Herr W. had been arrested. I felt any blood go cold, for I knew (from others, who knew it from direct experience) to what extremes of brutality the present-day masters of Germany — or the Germans in their pay — can go, when dealing with one of Hitler’s faithful ones, caught red-handed in the action of defying them. “Poor dear comrade!” I thought; “I do hope they have not been torturing him. Anyhow, I’ll take all the responsibility on myself, if it comes to the worst.”
“I have met him,” I replied, paling a little.
The police officer was watching me with hard, scrutinising eyes — the eyes of an expert observer.
“Go and fetch her things,” he ordered the other policeman, “and bring them all here.”
The policeman left the room.
“So you met him,” said the man at the desk, turning to me and speaking once more of Herr W. “Where and when did you meet him?”
“Here in Cologne, some time ago.”
“Here, in this railway station, exactly a week ago,” replied the man. “And you had an appointment with him. You said so when you were asking for his address, at the Catholic Mission, just now. Do you imagine you, are not observed? What business had you with that young man?”
“I just wanted to see him again.”
The mean seized a telephone from against the wall, and I soon heard him speaking to some “Herr Oberinspector” — asking him for instructions as to what he should do with me. I remember bits of the conversation
“She has been in touch with that man. . . . But she has a British passport, — in order, as far as I can see. And a letter of recommendation addressed to the Allied Occupation
authorities by some important French Bureau in Paris. . . . Yes, yes Herr Oberinspektor. . . . No; nothing like as old as that. Her passport states forty-three, but she does not look more than thirty-five, if that. . . . Yes, certainly, Herr, Oberinspector. . . . No; not yet. . . . We shall see. The policeman is gone to fetch her luggage. . . . Yes, certainly; I think so too. We shall see. . . . Yes, Herr Oberinspektor.”
The policeman did not take long to come back. He was holding my travelling bag in one hand, my handbag and my attaché case in the other. He put the former in a corner on the floor, the two latter upon the table. Then, he pulled out of my handbag one of my leaflet-posters twice folded in four, (there were a few there, as I had been distributing them in the train on my way to Cologne.) He unfolded it, and laid it before the officer at the desk. “Exactly the same ones as those found on G.W.” said he. “Those Nazis! More active and more arrogant than ever, if you ask me! What do you think of that?”
The man at the desk did not reply to him, but read the paper (the text of which I have translated in the preceding chapter) and spoke to me:
“How do you account for the presence of this in your bag?” he asked me. “Did Herr W. give it to you? Or someone else?”
I knew it was now useless to try any longer to hide the truth from the police. This time, I would not “get away with it.” And the more accurately I would tell the truth, the lesser would Herr W.’s responsibility in this affair appear in comparison with mine, and the lighter would be his sentence, — the sooner he would be free. He deserved to be free, after all his years of service during the war and his three years of captivity in the horror camp, in the middle of Africa. I could afford to go to jail.
Perhaps I deserved to go, — for not having come back to Europe before the war; for not having been, during the war, as useful as I might have been in Europe, if I had managed to come. Moreover, even if these considerations had not arisen, and if it had been, not Herr W. but someone else who had worked with me, I should have felt it my duty, anyhow, to take the entire responsibility of any action for the Nazi cause in which I had played a part, however small. That responsibility was an honour that I could not fail to claim.
I looked straight at the man at the desk and replied clearly and firmly, almost triumphantly: “Those posters are not Herr W.’s; they are mine. I wrote them. And it is I who gave Herr W., all those he had, — I alone.”
The man bad expected me to accuse Herr W. and do everything I could to shun personal responsibility. He had forgotten, apparently, that we are not Democrats. He gazed at me with surprise and with interest — as someone gazes into a shop window at some object that has not been seen in the market for many years and that one never expected to see again. But he made no comments. There were no comments he could make. He simply told me:
“I am sorry — very sorry — to have to inform you that you are under arrest.”
I was smiling. I was remembering my first journey through ruined Germany, less than a year before. “If I can do nothing more for them, in these days of horror, may I at least suffer with my Führer’s people!” had I then prayed to all the Gods in heaven. For nine months, I had experienced a little of the hardships to which the Germans were submitted for the last four years. Now, I would stand by them in the hands of Germany’s persecutors. The Gods had granted me my heart’s desire.
“I am happy,” said I, “for this opportunity to bear witness to my lifelong ideals.”
And the three people present could see that I was not lying, nor “putting on a show.” I felt so happy that I must have looked it.
It was about two o’clock in the morning.