On Thursday the 26th May, early in the afternoon, I was, as usual, sitting upon my bed and writing my book. On account of the height of the window, I could see far better there than I would have been able to if sitting at the table — for the table, placed immediately under the window, received little light. At my side, apart from my papers and my exercise book, was H. R. Hall’s Ancient History of the Near East out of which I had been reading a chapter or two after lunch, before resuming the work to which I devoted all my time. In fact, I could not keep my mind entirely concentrated upon my writing, as I so easily did on other days; for this Thursday being the Ascension Day, was like a Sunday, and I had just been told that my two friends H. E. and L. M. would come to spend the afternoon with me. And I was expecting them with my usual joyous excitement.
“It is the 26th May. I shall remind them that it is today exactly twenty-six years ago that Albert-Leo Schlageter was shot,” thought I, to myself. It was not that I particularly wished to impress my comrades with my capacity for remembering the great dates of the history of National Socialism. I simply felt urged to speak a few words of hope to them on this anniversary of the day the young hero had paid with his life for the joy of defying the French Occupation of the Ruhr after the first World War. I wanted to tell them that now, no less than in 1920, no Occupying Power can kill the spirit
which Albert-Leo Schlageter embodied so beautifully. I was not so conceited as to believe that they needed me to tell them that. They knew it anyhow. Still, I reflected, I would tell them — for the mere pleasure of feeling in communion with them and, through them, with all Germany, in the memory of the early National Socialist struggle and in the anticipation of new agitation, new sacrifices and new glory in the future, now that the National Socialist struggle had become the supreme struggle for the survival and triumph of Aryandom.
Such were my thoughts, when I heard unfamiliar footsteps along the corridor and caught the sound of a man’s voice just outside my cell. I startled. Instinctively, scenting I knew not what danger, I pushed my papers and the copybook in which I had hardly finished transcribing a passage of my book, under the covering of my bed. And, opening Hall’s Ancient History of the Near East, at random — just in time — I assumed a detached expression, as though I were absorbed in the perusal of the scholarly relation of events as far removed as anything can be from the wars and revolutions of twentieth century Germany. The door was opened and in stepped Mr. Watts, Colonel Vickers’ assistant, the German interpreter, and Fräulein B., the wardress on duty. With utmost apparent ease, I got up to greet the three people, and put down my open book upon the bed.
“We have come to pay you a little visit; to see how you are getting on,” said Mr. Watts, after returning my “Good afternoon.” The interpreter nodded his head, and the wardress left my cell, pulling the door behind her.
“I am all right; I am reading a little, as it is today a holiday,” replied I calmly.
“And what are you reading about?” asked the Governor’s
assistant, picking up my book, and looking straight into my face, — suspiciously.
“About Naram-Sin, king of Babylonia,” said I, in the same imperturbable voice, not in the least with the desire to be pedantic but certainly with the intention of appearing so in the eyes of my interlocutor, deeming — perhaps too hastily — that, the more pedantic I would look, the less he would suspect me of retaining in jail the precise, active interest in modern affairs that had led to my arrest. Mr. Watts took a glance at the book which he now held in his hand: at the place at which it was open, the illustration on the right hand page pictured some very old stone relief called “The stele of Naram-Sin,” and the title of the book, Ancient History of the Near East, was harmless enough. Still, my surmise had been a little hasty, and the man had more logic than I had expected: my obvious interest in early Babylonian history did not exclude in his eyes the possibility of my carrying on, in prison, some sort of Nazi activities. He asked me point blank, after handing over the book to the interpreter, who started examining it very closely: “I have come to see if you have any forbidden literature, — or forbidden pictures — in your cell. Have you?”
I suddenly felt my heart sink within my breast. But, as far as I can tell, my face did not change. (Somehow, in moments of emergency such as this, it seldom does.) And, with the help of all the Gods, I managed to retain my natural voice and my apparent ease.
“I certainly not!” exclaimed I, feigning great surprise, and looking straight into Mr. Watts’ eyes, with as much serene assurance as if I had lied all my life. “I had, it is true, at the time of my arrest, five fairly good pictures of the Führer, of which only one was given back to me. That one must be somewhere in my luggage. I
have not seen it since the day my things were put away. And anyhow, I would not dream of keeping such a dangerous likeness here in my cell, however much I might wish I could do so.” This explanation, given with naturalness, would make all that I said seem more plausible; — at least, I thought it would.
“And what about your earrings in the shape of swastikas?” asked the Governor’s assistant. The whole British staff knew of the existence of those earrings of mine, I imagine, for the little jewellery that I possessed had been handed over to the Governor’s office directly by Miss Taylor, on the day of my arrival, before my trial. But I again lied.
“They were with the rest of my jewelry,” said I, “and they are still there as far as I know.” And I added calmly, opening my cupboard and risking everything in order to appease the man’s suspicions, and to avoid a systematic search of my cell: “You can look for yourself and make sure that I am not keeping them here; also that I am indeed not hiding anything forbidden.”
I pulled out the few books that were on the top shelf: Art and Civilisation of Ancient America, Harold Lamb’s March of the Barbarians, and one or two others, and I put them upon the table before Mr. Watts who, at the mere sight of the titles lost all desire to look between their pages. Without the slightest sign of nervousness, I took the envelope that was behind them — the envelope at the bottom of which lay my golden swastikas — and handed it to Mr. Watts: “In here, are a few photographs of my husband and of myself; would you like to see them?” said I with a smile.
“That’s all right, quite all right,” replied he, practically reassured, “you have no forbidden pictures among them?”
“Not one. You can see for yourself,” answered I, acting as though I would have welcomed a close examination of the contents of the envelope, which in reality I dreaded.
“That is all right,” repeated Mr. Watts, putting the envelope upon the table, to my immense relief. Then catching sight of my Mythology of Ancient Britain, — under the covering of which I kept the portrait of the Führer — he asked me: “You have nothing hidden in there, either?”
“Absolutely nothing,” replied I, with assurance. “Look!” And opening the book, I turned over its pages rapidly. There was not a scrap of paper between them. Mr. Watts did not think of asking me to lift the covering of the book. Nor did he, — fortunately for me, — think of lifting the covering of my bed. He seemed to believe me, although it is difficult to ascertain to what extent he actually did. At last, the interpreter, who all this time had been busy reading bits and pieces out of Hall’s Ancient History of the Near East, spoke to me. “You are very seriously interested in Antiquity, I see,” said he.
“Indeed I am! I have even written a book or two about the Religion of the Disk, a particularly attractive form of Sun worship dating as far back as 1400 B.C.” replied I, delighted at the idea that this talk might induce the two men to give up their search and to leave my cell as soon as possible. And I picked out A Son of God from among the books that I had taken down from the top shelf of my cupboard, and showed it to them, hoping that the nature of the text no less than the photograph of the stone head of King Akhnaton on the first page, would finish convincing them that I was a harmless person: “This is my main book on the subject,” said
I, handing over the volume to the interpreter. I would have added a few words of explanation, but Mr. Watts interrupted me.
“We expected to find entirely different things in your cell,” said he. “We were under the impression that you had here a portrait of Hitler, and what not . . .”
“I am sorry if I have disappointed you,” replied I, ironically. “But as you see, I have nothing of the kind.”
I said that. But all the time I was thinking: “Who the devil can it be who has gone and reported me? It must be that woman opposite, in No. 22. H. E. told me that, she was a confounded Communist. If so, she can only detest me. But how could she have known what I had in here? Unless she looked through the spy hole one evening after six o’clock, on her way to the recreation room. That, of course, is possible . . .”
Mr. Watts took another glance at me as though he wished to read once more in the fearless expression of my face the sign that I was speaking the truth. “We believe you,” said he, at last. And he and the interpreter walked out.
I heard the noise of the key locking my cell after they had departed: and the voice of Fräulein B. in the corridor, and the sound of her footsteps and of theirs, retreating in the direction of the gate that led out of the “Frauen Haus”; finally, the sound of the iron gate, that the wardress closed behind them.
I waited a minute or two, hardly daring to believe that they would not suddenly come back. But they did not cone back. Then, lifting the covering of the bed, I saw my precious manuscript there, where I had hidden it. And I thanked the immortal Gods for my narrow escape.
After a while, as I heard the door of my cell being opened, again I startled. My manuscript, — that I had just taken out — I hurriedly pushed back into its hiding place, and my heart took to beating fast. But I had no reason whatsoever to fear. There, standing at my threshold and smiling to me, were my two dear comrades H. E. and L. M. A renewed feeling of miraculous escape added itself to the pleasure I had to see them. And I smiled back to them with a beaming face, as I got up and greeted them. Fräulein B. walked into my cell with them, and whispered to me: “I am sure you will excuse me for the delay; but I simply had to see the Englishman off, before I could bring in your visitors. The Englishman gave you a fright, today; didn’t he?”
“It was nothing but a false alarm,” said I, with a smile. “And even if they had searched my cell, they would not have found anything,” I added, so as not to let the wardress suspect that I had forbidden things hidden away, in the case she was not sure about it — for I did not know whether she was on our side or not.
Fräulein B. left us, and shut the door. We were alone, the three of us — H. E., L. M., and myself — as usual. I told my friends all that had happened.
“You have had a narrow escape, and can thank your stars for it,” said H. E.
“You played your part beautifully, I admit. But still, what would you have done if the Englishman had insisted on examining your things minutely?” commented L. M. “Actually, I cannot understand why he did not do so. We would have, in his place.”
“My dear,” exclaimed I, with that feeling of elation that I always experience when about to expose the weaknesses of our enemies, “never speak of what we would have done in the place of some silly Democrat! Those
people are not we; they can never react as we would. Their whole psychology is different from ours. Of course, we would never believe a word of what an enemy tells us. We take it for granted that we can never trust anybody who was once against us — that we cannot, as a matter of fact, trust those who pretend to be ‘for’ us, until they have been tried. But the Democrats have all the trouble in the world even to admit that some human beings are decidedly — and definitively — against them and their precious ‘values’. They think their ‘human values’ so wonderful, that they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that people who are both intelligent and well-informed and disinterested, can sincerely feel for them nothing but loathing or contempt. We must be ill-informed, or biased, or unbalanced (they think), otherwise we would not be against them. That is how they work out their conclusions — the fools! And they refuse to take us seriously, until we actually hit them on the head. In the meantime, if, perchance, they be forced to take one of us less lightly then they had expected, they lull themselves into believing that, with a little preaching coupled with a few marks of “kindness”, he till surely “come around” and leave off being what his deep-rooted atavistic tendencies, his lifelong aspirations, his experience, his common sense and the will of the immortal Gods have made him forever and ever. I have come up against that insulting attitude of theirs all my life. Oh, how I hate it! Yet, I tell you it should be encouraged in times like these. It can — and should — be exploited for our benefit, and for the coming discomfiture of these champions of “human rights” and so forth, if we are clever enough. It is not even necessary to be particularly clever. One of us always slips through their hands while continuing to defy them, under their Democracy,
for more easily than one of them could avoid himself trouble under our régime. The man who, for instance, came here just now, imagines, I am sure, that three months of fairly decent food and what they describe as ‘kind treatment’ have already half ‘de-Nazified’ me. And the sight of my ancient history books has further confirmed him in that erroneous impression. These people have such a decadent regard for ‘intellectuality’ and such a poor knowledge of National Socialism, that they cannot believe that a woman who enjoys reading Babylonian history can at the same time be a full-fledged ‘Nazi monster’. The fools! Let them go on refusing to believe it! One day, when my book comes out — no matter when — they will change their mind. They will change their mind anyhow, whether they care to read my writings or not, when they see with what ruthless consistency I keep on serving our cause after my release, until I die!”
My two comrades had listened to my tirade with interest, and perhaps with a certain amount of amusement. For while the light in which I had depicted our enemies doubtless encouraged one to believe in the overthrow of parliamentary capitalism and the final rise of National Socialism upon its ruins — which is what we all want — the fact remained that my sweeping statements about the shallowness and stupidity of the Democrats were contradicted by many individual instances and that, also, it was not always as easy as it looked for us to be clever.
“Tell us,” said H. E.; “supposing the Englishman had come half an hour later, and found us, here in your cell, what would you have told him to account for our presence?”
The question was a very embarrassing one, for that
possibility had, naturally, never entered my head. I reflected a minute and replied: “I really don’t know. But I am sure that, faced with that unpleasantness, I would have cooked up some story to suit the circumstance.”
“What sort of a story, for example? Tell us, for the sake of curiosity,” insisted my friend.
“Well,” said I, “I could have pretended that I had had a fainting fit, and that, in the absence of Sister Maria, you . . .” I had just started imagining an hypothetical explanation which seemed to me fairly plausible at first sight, but L. M. interrupted me. “It is useless to bother our heads now about what each of us would have done or should have done, if the Englishman had found us here. He did not find us; and that is that. He found you alone, and you behaved sufficiently cleverly for him not to suspect the existence of your writings, as far as we know. That is the main thing. Be grateful for that, to whatever superhuman power you believe in, and let us worry no longer over this ‘false alarm’ as you call it. It is over, anyhow.”
“I am not so sure as all that, that it is over,” remarked H. E. “Have I not told you long ago to be careful about that manuscript? You have translated passages of it to me, that is why I speak. I know what dangerous stuff it is. You know it yourself, as well and better than I do. It is a sheer miracle that they did not destroy the three first chapters of it that you had written before your arrest. From what you have shown me out of the introduction alone, it baffles me. Each time I think of it, I say to myself; our enemies must be mad; there is no other explanation for it. But my dear, if ever they lay hands on that book again, now that you have written so much more of it; especially if they read that
Chapter 6 of yours, all about their own atrocities, — that lashing impeachment of the Allies, if any — I tell you, this time, you shall not see it again. Be careful, and listen to me: hide it somewhere outside your cell — for I have a horrible feeling that there is trouble for you in the air, and perhaps trouble for me, too; that one fine day, your cell will be searched thoroughly.”
“Why did they not search it today, if they intended to?” asked I, trying hard to invent for myself reasons to brush aside the painful awareness of danger that was suddenly taking hold of me.
“Because,” said H. E. “those people are shrewder than you think. They leave us a long rope to hang ourselves. Quite possibly, they know all the time that you are writing, and are only waiting for you to finish your book to lay their hands upon it.”
“But how could they know? Who could have told them?” asked I.
“Anybody, — for everybody knows it, or suspects it,” replied my comrade. “You seem to forget that there is a spy hole in the door of each cell and that any prisoner on her way to the recreation room, or any one of those who scrub the corridor in the morning, can look in. I am sure that someone has reported you, or else the Englishman never would have taken the trouble to come himself all the war to see what you were doing. And if you ask me, it is that F. woman in the cell opposite yours who has been playing the spy. I told you who she is, and warned you to beware of her.”
“I have never spoken to her since the day you warned me; and before that, — when I did not yet know who she was — I only once exchanged a few words with her. She asked me, in fact, if I was here able to write,
I told her I was not. I told her that I was never given any paper, save for private letters.”
“You can rest assured that she found out for herself through the spy hole, whether you spoke the truth or not; and that she also discovered that you have a picture of the Führer. She then went and informed against you straight away. Quite like her! She hates us all — and you, possibly, more than the others, because you have not even the excuse of being German . . .”
“But,” said I, “the Englishman has not seen the picture. Nor has he seen me writing. He still believes that I was reading Babylonian history when he came in . . .”
“Or rather,” explained my friend, “you believe that he believes it. But does he? You seem to underestimate our enemies’ intelligence. We once did. But now, we know better. We know that those people are the subtlest rogues on earth. I mean, of course, those who occupy responsible posts. As for the others, — the millions who were deceived into fighting us for the sake of ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ — you are right when you look upon them as fools. But they don’t count — however much they might imagine they do, when going to vote, once every four or five years. On the other hand the responsible ones as a rule, do nothing without a reason.”
We discussed a long time. At six o’clock, the wardress on duty came to take my friends back to their cells. We greeted one another and separated, as usual. “With all this, I have completely forgotten to remind them that it is today exactly twenty-six years ago that Leo Schlageter died for Germany’s resurrection,” thought I, as soon as they had departed. Regularly, they were again to spend the afternoon with me on the following Sunday
“In three days’ time,” reflected I. And, being as I am, incapable of forgetting the dates of events that have deeply impressed me, however, remote those be, I remarked that the day would be the 29th May, — the anniversary of that dismal Tuesday on which Constantinople fell to the Turks, in 1453, at about half past six in the morning; that date I used to mark, in my adolescence, by observing silence from sunrise to sunset, without anyone ever having prompted me to do so.
My deep-rooted Mediterranean tendency to superstition, — coupled with the fears that H. E. had awakened in me — made me at once see in this a bad omen. I believed more than ever that there was trouble in store for me. And I had a vague though painful feeling that, perhaps, I had spent the afternoon with my two beloved comrades for the last time.
* * *
On Friday, the next day, in the morning, on my return from the “free hour,” I had at once the impression that someone had been in my cell, during my absence. Automatically, I looked under the bed covering. To my relief, my manuscript was there, as I had left it. I looked in my table drawer: there too, the copybook in which I had written the first chapters of Gold in the Furnace, and the one containing the first part of The Lightning and the Sun, were just as I had left them. But as soon as I opened my cupboard, an unbearable anxiety seized me: my books were not in the same order as I had placed them; and a yellow booklet, Das Programm der N.S.D.A.P. which I had recently taken out of my trunk for references, and which I had kept carefully hidden behind the others, I found lying alone, outside the shelf, on the top of the cupboard. That was
enough to indicate that my things had been touched while I was out. “By whom?” I wondered.
What could I do? Whom could I ask? Who was really on our side and who was not? For a while, I felt helpless — and all the time, with increasing merciless insistence, one question — one alone — obsessed me: how to save my manuscripts? All the rest, now, receded into the background, appeared secondary in my eyes. My earrings? Well, if ever they did confiscate them, nothing would be easier for me than to buy another, practically similar pair, one day, in any jewellery shop in India. Golden swastikas were as common, there, as golden crosses in Europe. My Programm der N.S.D.A.P.? I could get another from my German friends, when free. And if not, I could go without. I know the famous Twenty-five Points by heart, anyhow. And the extra references I had needed in connection with Chapter 11 of my book, I had now utilised. My books of songs could also be replaced. And I knew quite a number of songs. Even the loss of the Führer’s portrait, painful as it would be to me, would not be irreparable, thought I. But the loss of my manuscript would be. Never could I write it over again as it was. More and more, I felt it was in danger. But how to save it?
I was easier to look calm, — and in fact to feel calm — in a moment of sudden emergency like that which I had experienced when I had seen Mr. Watts enter my cell, than now, when I had all leisure to brood over the reasons I had to be anxious. I realised that I first had to look calm. And I lay for a while upon my bed in order to compose myself. Then, I looked at myself in the mirror to make sure that fear was not still to be detected on my face. Seeing that it was not, I pressed the switch that would light the bulb above my door, outside
my cell, in the corridor, and attract the attention of the wardress on duty. The latter, to my surprise, opened my door much quicker than I had expected, “What do you need?” she asked me.
“I am not feeling at all well; could you be kind enough to call for Sister Maria,” said I, feigning not to know that Sister Maria was on a holiday, and that the only person who could come to me in her absence was my dear Frau So-and-so, who would not fail to bring H. E. with her. The wardress’ answer confirmed my inner hopes. “Sister Maria is not here,” said she; “I shall ask Frau So-and-so to come.”
“Ask whom you like as long as someone comes,” replied I, in a studied tired voice. “I am feeling sick.” But I was thinking all the time: “Frau So-and-so is one of us. She will help me — if she can. And H. E. will surely come with her. My beloved H. . . . ! My true comrade! It will be a comfort to me, in this emergency, merely to see her!”
The two women came, and pulled the door behind them. In a whisper, I rapidly told them what had happened.
“I had warned you!” exclaimed H. E. “Hadn’t I? I am sure it is that Communist woman who informed against you. And I shall find out who came into your cell — if I can.”
“Whoever it be, it makes no difference now,” replied I. “There is one favour I want to ask you, with Frau So-and-so’s permission; only one: hide my manuscripts in some drawer, in some corner of the Infirmary, so that, if they search my cell again, they will not find them. Save them! To me — and to Germany — they are far more valuable than my life; especially the one I am writing now. That one is . . . well, you know what it
is. You have read passages of it. Help me to save it!”
H. E. lifted her eyes towards Frau So-and-so with entreaty: “Why not try? Perhaps we can hide it?” said she.
Frau So-and-so reflected a while. My heart was beating fast, in anguishing expectation. The while seemed to last an eternity. “I wish I could render you that service,” said finally Frau So-and-so. “I have heard of your book from H. E. and I would do anything within my power to save it. But it would not be safe in the Infirmary. Everyone knows that we come here fairly often. Everyone knows, or suspects, that H. E. is your friend. If they search your cell for writings of yours and find none, they are quite likely to search the Infirmary, and then, if they discover the book there, God help us! We will suffer, along with you; more than you, in fact, because we are Germans. I shall lose my job. But I am not asking you to think of me. Think only of the danger which you can bring upon your comrade and friend, who is not only a political prisoner like yourself, but a so-called ‘war criminal’.”
I recognised the soundness and prudence of her words and pleaded no longer. I could not take the risk of causing suffering to my beloved H. E. even to save my book.
‘‘What do you advise me to do?” asked I. “In an hour’s time, the Governor, or his assistant, will come for his weekly visit. What if he takes into his head to look into my things?”
“They will not search your cell now, immediately, during the general visit,” said Frau So-and-so. “But if I were you, I would simply have all my dangerous stuff put away with the rest of your luggage in the cloakroom.
There is practically no fear of them going there to dig it out, for the simple reason that you are not supposed to have any access to the place. Let things remain as they are, just now. Quietly go and bathe when your turn comes, and then wait till the Governor’s weekly visit is over. Call Frau Oberin and give her all the dangerous things you have, asking her to put them in your trunk in the cloakroom. She will do it willingly, and say nothing about it. You can trust her.”
“Yes,” stressed H. E., “that is a good suggestion.”
“I shall follow it,” said I. “Thank you, Frau So-and-so! Thank you, too, for coming to me, my H. . . . ! You are coming again on Sunday, aren’t you? Somehow, since yesterday, I cannot bear to remain an hour away from you. It is as though I were afraid something might separate us.”
H. E. put her arm around my neck, as her sky-blue eyes looked lovingly into mine. “Even if they tried to, they could not separate us forever,” she said. And for a minute, I forgot my manuscripts that were in danger, only to feel that I had not come to Werl in vain, since I had met there such a comrade as H. E. And tears filled my eyes.
But she added: “Don’t worry, now. Do as Frau So-and-so has suggested, and all will be well. I shall see you on Sunday. I shall see you tomorrow morning, in fact, and this afternoon for a minute or two, if I can. Heil Hitler!”
“Heil Hitler!” repeated I, with fervour, in a low voice, lifting my right hand in salute, as she and Frau So-and-so left the cell. And with those two magic words, I felt fear and anguish vanish from within me. A strange strength, — that was not mine — that selfsame superhuman strength that had sustained thousands of
other National Socialists during all these years of persecution — possessed me. Somehow I know that, whatever could happen, we would win, in the long run. And if we were destined to win, what did all the rest matter?
* * *
The day passed, and the next day too, without any noticeable incident. I had asked to see Frau Oberin, intending to give her any manuscripts to keep in the cloakroom. But I had had no answer. Perhaps she was out, and would come back only on Monday morning. I knew she used to spend her weekends in Dortmund with her parents, every time she could. The only other person who could have taken my books and put them in my trunk in the cloakroom was Frau R., also known as Frau Erste, the matron. But although she had always treated me kindly, I did not feel sufficiently sure of her collaboration to confide to her my writings. “I shall surely see Frau Oberin on Monday morning, if not tomorrow,” thought I. “And I shall give them to her.”
The following day was the 29th May, Sunday. Frau Oberin did not come. I decided to speak to her on Monday. In the meantime, I waited for my two comrades, while slowly continuing Chapter 12 of my book. In vain I waited the whole afternoon. By four o’clock, I had grown too restless to write any longer. I opened at random Hall’s Ancient History of the Near East and tried to read. But I could not. I kept lifting my eyes every five minutes, watching upon the wall the patch of sunshine of which the steady movement towards the door told me of the swift flight of time.
A little before my supper was brought in, I heard at last a noise at my door, and saw a blue eye gazing at me
through the spy hole. I got up, and went to see who it was. To my joy, it was H. E.
“Savitri!” she called me, softly and sadly, from outside.
“H. . . . !” replied I, calling her in my turn by her name. “Are you coming? I have waited for you all the afternoon.”
“We cannot come any more,” said she. “The Governor forbids it.”
I felt my heart sink within my breast, as I had at the unexpected sight of Mr. Watts, three days before. I scented danger. Doubtless H. E. scented it also, for she asked me: “Have you done what we told you?” I understood that she wanted to know if I had put my manuscripts in safety.
“Not yet,” said I. “I could not get in touch with Frau Oberin. I have asked to see her, but I have had no answer.”
H. E. looked at me more sadly than ever. “She is out,” she told me. “I hope tomorrow will not be too late.”
“Let us hope,” replied I. And I added: “Will you never be allowed to come again on Sundays? Never?” As I spoke, as felt as though something was choking me.
“Apparently, never more,” replied my comrade. “These are the Governor’s orders, I was just told.”
“Who told you?”
“Fräulein S.” Fräulein S. was Frau Oberin’s assistant, as I have once stated. I was speechless, and feeling more uncomfortable than ever. “I have to go, now,” pursued H. E. promptly; “they must not catch me talking to you through the spy hole, or there will be further trouble. Auf wiedersehen!”
The blue eye disappeared from the midst of the tiny round aperture. And I heard H. E. run along the corridor in the direction of the D wing. A sadness beyond expression, and an indefinable fear took possession of me. Instead of putting my manuscript back into the table drawer, I hid it under my mattress, after looking in vain right and left, for a better place. There was no place in which I could be sure that it would not be found, if a search was made. In fact, they were just as sure to find it under my mattress as in my drawer. I did not know why I was trying to hide it there, or rather, I knew it was useless. Still I hid it, in a sort of panic.
More fervently than ever, that night, I prayed that no harm might befall my precious writings, And with more yearning than ever I gazed at the Führer’s portrait, and longed desperately for the new times in which all my comrades and I would be free — having, after all our tribulations, at last, once more the right to be National Socialists, openly, before the whole world; nay, in which we would be powerful, dreaded by those who now persecute us.
But those times seemed far away, for I was not in a hopeful mood. I envied all those of us who had died in or before 1942, full of joyous certitude. And I tried to sleep — to forget, for a few hours.
But I could not sleep.
* * *
On the following morning, Monday, the 30th May, my cell was opened. Frau Erste — the matron — and Fräulein F, the wardress on duty that day, appeared at the threshold. Frau Erste ordered me out, ushered me into the cell No 50 next to mine, which was empty, and into which she stepped herself, with Fräulein F. She
pulled the door behind us, and then told me abruptly “Undress.”
I started unbuttoning my overalls while she untied my hair to see whether I had anything hidden in it. I then took off and threw aside my clothes, stockings and shoes, and remained naked before the two women, retaining only the little glass likeness of the Führer, that I wore around my neck on a piece of string. I could not help asking Frau Erste why I was all of a sudden submitted to this minute search.
“You have been doing silly things,” replied she. “You know yourself what you have done.”
“Honestly, I don’t. I have done nothing,” protested I, energetically. I was speaking sincerely. I had not the foggiest idea of what I could possibly be accused of. For weeks, all my activity had consisted merely of writing my book, without coming into contact with anybody but my two friends from the D wing, whenever I could, and the members of the staff. For weeks I had completely left off trying to indoctrinate the rather dull women with whom I used to spend my “free hour,” twice a day. Moreover, the companion I now usually had during those brief minutes of relaxation in the open air, was a Dutch woman, very sympathetically disposed towards our ideology, although a little too squeamish, — too prejudiced, in spite of all, in favour of the so-called “value” of every human life — to deserve to be counted as one of us. To indoctrinate her, ideologically, was unnecessary: theoretically, she was on our side, — or at least thought she was. On the other hand, to render her, in practical instances, more consistent with the Ideology which she professed to admire, was impossible; to try to do so was dangerous. For while her common sense told her that we were right even in what the decadent world likes to
call our “excesses,” she was a humanitarian by temperament. And that is incurable. I had therefore no earthly reason to indulge in proselytism, save through the living example of my own unwavering faith and absolute consistency.
But Frau Erste did not believe me. “You have been distributing leaflets, and talking propaganda, among the other prisoners,” said she.
“I have not, for many weeks,” replied I. And again I was speaking the truth.
Meanwhile, Fräulein F. was searching the pockets of my overalls, and my stockings. In one of my pockets, she found a paper folded in four, bearing in my own handwriting, a copy of the text of the posters that had caused my arrest. And I knew that the one printed copy of the same text that had been left in my possession, — and one of my leaflets of a year before, were to be found among my books. That would no doubt strengthen the accusation against me. And the manuscript of Gold in the Furnace was, of course, more than any leaflets, an eloquent proof that I remained as militant a National Socialist as ever.
Fräulein F. took a glance at the handwritten text and made no comments. I had given her a similar paper — which she had gladly accepted — a few days after my arrival in Werl.
The matron touched the little glass portrait of the Führer that I wore around my neck. Was she going to take it away from me? It seemed to me as though she intended to. “After all,” thought I, “she has orders to search me thoroughly.” I said nothing. I did not plead for mercy. But my eyes looked up to her with more forceful entreaty than any words could express. “Leave me at least that?” they cried to her in supplication. “I
am about to lose everything, including my writings. Leave me at least that — my last treasure! What harm can come to you? Who will know about it?”
The last treasure of a prisoner within her power: the likeness of the Man who, now, in her lifetime, had built up Greater Germany in all her glory. And the dark eyes that entreated her to spare it, with such pathetic appeal, were those of a foreign Aryan whose love had never failed; eyes who had radiated ecstatic happiness, at the announcement of the great victories of 1940; that had wept, when Germany’s power was broken. To this day, I do not know what happened in Frau Erste’s heart. All I know is that she did not order me to undo the string and hand over to her the priceless little object. And I like to believe that she obeyed the inner dictate of her German pride, — stronger, for once, than her professional sense of discipline for its own sake; stronger than her fear of Colonel Vickers.
Fräulein F. gave me new overalls to wear. Mine were carried away, with all they contained in their pockets, apparently to be examined more closely. The two women then went back to my cell next door, after locking me in No. 50.
Motionless, speechless and tearless, I listened to them turn over my mattress, take down my books from the shelves in the cupboard, upset my drawer. Doubtless, they had found my manuscripts. They would carry them away in a minute, and give them to the representatives of the Occupying Power. Those writings, in which I had put all my love, I would never see again. And the people for whom I had written them — my German comrades — would never read them I knew that. Or, at least, I thought I knew it. I felt the same as though it had been true, and as though I had known it. And yet, I
remained silent and without tears; in stone-like impassibility. Something choked me; and something paralysed me. I did not even pray, — not even think. I felt as if I had suddenly been emptied of all my substance and had ceased to exist, save as an automaton. I listened with indifference to the two women ransacking my cell, less than two yards away from me, on the other side of the partition wall. I caught sight of a patch of blue sky through a transparent windowpane. But even the sky — the boundless, fathomless ocean of light that had always meant so much to me — did not stir a feeling in me. If, for a while, a dummy could become conscious, it would have the sort of consciousness that I then experienced.
I could not tell how long I remained standing in that empty cell, inwardly crushed into that indescribable state of psychological death. Time existed no more for me than if I had really been dead.