At last, Frau Erste came to fetch me, ushered me back into my own cell, and locked me in.
I saw my mattress and bed clothes that had been turned over; my cupboard, in which nothing was left, not even the dish in which I used to eat; my now empty drawer, in which, all these weeks, I had kept my manuscripts. And, just as a man who has been stunned awakens to pain after a few seconds of insensibility, I was lashed out of my strange deathlike inertia, back to life — back to hell. I knew the horror of knowing that I had lost everything and that I could do nothing about it; the horror of being vanquished. My mouth quivered. Tears choked me. I threw myself upon my bed — topsy-turvy as it was — and started sobbing aloud, wildly, desperately, as I had so many, many times during those three atrocious years of bitterness, humiliation and powerless hatred that had followed the collapse of all my dreams in 1945; those years through which I had lived without hope, for vengeance alone, and during which even vengeance seemed at times too far away for me to expect to see it. I sobbed till my eyes were dim and my body exhausted; till I could sob no longer.
This was the nearest approach to “personal” grief which I had ever experienced — surely the first grief in my life concerning a happening that affected me more than others; and probably the only grief of that description which I was capable of experiencing. I suddenly realised it, as I sat up upon the bed, and dried my tears with the
cuff of my sleeve. And this awareness, which came to me in all its forceful simplicity — as that of a physical fact — was the first redeeming ray of light in the midst of the utter gloom that still submerged me; my first impulse of strength and pride from the depth of dejection. “What am I weeping for, I who have never wept but for things worthwhile?” thought I. “This blow is nothing, compared with the Capitulation. It affects only me. Therefore, it is a trifle. Am I a weakling, a coward, a conceited ‘intellectual’, to cry over this now, when the horror of ’45 is rapidly receding into the past? Now, when I know that there is hope both of revenge and of glory, for those whom I admire? Now, that a smaller lapse of time, perhaps, separates my martyred comrades and myself from our Day in the future than from the Capitulation in the dismal recent past? Even if my writings are lost forever, why should I break my heart over them? Cannot the invincible Aryan élite, — the real, living ‘gold in the furnace’ — rise without their help? Pull yourself together, Savitri, whose name signifies ‘Energy-of-the-Sun’! Deny the agents of the dark forces the power to make you suffer! And dry your tears: Nazis don’t cry.”
I felt a little better after thus reasoning with myself. I got up, and washed my face. I was determined not to allow myself to be crushed. Sentences of the beautiful old songs that had inspired the early National Socialists during the first struggle for power, came back to my memory as dictates of pride and courage:
“None of us shall ever weaken . . .”1
1 “Wollt nimmer von uns weichen . . .” (From the song, of the S.S. that begins “Wenn alle untreu warden . . .”)
“Nothing but death can defeat us . . .”1
“We shall march further on, when everything falls to pieces . . .”2
A sudden unearthly enthusiasm, all the more irresistible that it rose so dramatically within me, out of such utter dejection, at the call of my higher self, took hold of me. Again, tears filled my eyes. But they were no longer the tears of the vanquished. They were tears of emotion as, in the teeth of total powerlessness and irreparable loss, I became conscious of my invincibility, that was — I felt; I knew — the invincibility of all the true Nazis of the world.
Standing in the middle of my ransacked cell, my right arm outstretched towards the east — as I had in the dark damp place in which I had spent the night of my arrest; as I had, when free, one day, upon the ruins of a lonely “bunker” blown up by the Allies, in the vine-clad hills above Wiltingen, near the river Saar — I intoned the immortal Song:
“Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
S.A. marschiert, mit ruhig festem Schritt . . .”
As I sang, great memories, visions of supreme warrior-like beauty, rose within my consciousness, living friezes from another world — from that world that I had loved, admired, exalted, lived for, that I would gladly have died for, but that I had never seen; that was mine nevertheless, whether I had seen it or not. I imagined the march of the S.A. through the streets of reborn Germany,
1 “. . . der Tod besiegt uns nur . . .” (From “Wir sind die Sturmkolonnen . . .”)
2 “Wir werden weiter marschieren, wenn alles in Scherben fällt . . .” (From “Es zittern die morschen Knochen . . .”)
in the early days of the struggle; the delirious enthusiasm of 1933; the majestic Party Rally of 1935, at Nuremberg, — hundreds of thousands, come to proclaim their faith in our eternal values, in that immense stadium dominated by the stone platform bearing the sacred Swastika and supporting the bright living Flame, the new altar of the Aryan Race to the glory of the Sun and to its own glory; I imagined the grand scenes of 1940: the march of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler under the “Arc de Triomphe de L’Etoile” and along the Avenue des Champs Elysées, to the music of that selfsame Horst Wessel Song, in conquered Paris. But after that, the ruins, the terror, the hunger, the daily humiliations that I had seen; Germany’s long-drawn martyrdom; my own mental agony in a Europe hostile to all that I admire; the sight of the eunuchs of Democracy and of their pupils — the slimy Levantine and the Christianised ‘intellectual’ Negro — and of their masters, the Jews, gloating over the defeat of the noblest of Aryans; the triumph of the monkey over the living demigod and, which is perhaps even worse, the monkey’s patronising sermon to the wounded demigod, lying in the dust, powerless, yet godlike in spite of all — more godlike than ever by contrast with the conceited subhuman clown . . .
I made an exhausting effort to “hold on” to the end. But while, in a voice already altered by emotion I sang the last line:
“Die Knechtschaft dauert nur noch kurze Zeit.”
(Slavery has not much longer to last.)
I broke down.
And from then onwards, my torture began — a torture that the representatives of the Occupying Power could not fathom, nor even suspect, and of which they were, to say the most, the instruments, not the cause.
The cause was by far remoter; and it lay within myself. For while I had sought in the Song of freedom, pride and power, a spell of strength in my present tragic plight, my old gnawing regret for not having come to Germany earlier, — that consciousness of a useless, wasted life, that had tormented me like a remorse, so often, since the outbreak of the war and especially since the Capitulation — had again caught hold of me with a grip of iron. It now mingled itself with the grief I felt for the loss of my manuscripts, nay, it kindled that grief into utter, maddening despair. My impulse would have been to pray to the invisible Forces to save my writings, even against all hope. But an implacable inner voice — the voice of my real self — kept on telling me that I was unworthy of the favour of the just, passionless all-pervading Forces. With baffling vividness and accuracy, it pointed out to me my practically wasted life, in glaring contrast with what that life could have been if, when I was twenty-two, I had taken a different line — my own only rational, only constructive, only natural line, namely, if I had just crossed the Rhine instead of crossing the Mediterranean. It lashed me and it mocked me, as I lay upon my bed, sobbing more wildly than ever, this time, less over my lost manuscripts than over my lost youth, my lost energy, my lonely, wearisome, worthless years in the Near and Middle East, a pitiful caricature of the useful and happy life — the glorious life — that I could have lived . . . if — if I had not been such a fool. And I accepted in all humility every stroke of that whip of conscience that fell again and again upon me, biting into my heart deeper and deeper each time — every thrust of the knife into the old gaping wound — for I knew I deserved it.
Mercilessly, in all its tragic irony, the film of my whole life unrolled itself before me. I recalled my essentially
Pagan childhood, my still more consciously Pagan adolescence, in the midst of that Judeo-Christian world that I had always so deeply despised when I had not bitterly hated it; nay, in the midst of the most notoriously over-civilised, cerebral, light-spirited and light-hearted — decadent — nation of that world: France, the nation that laughs at all that which it fails to understand. I remembered my early pride in health, strength and grace; my early revolt against the Judeo-Christian values and the Democratic attitude to life. The equality, the ‘dignity’ of all human beings whatever their race, their character, their state of health, for the sole reason that they were human beings; one of these repulsive idiots, that I had seen on my visit to the asylum of Laforce, as lovable as myself in the eyes of gentle Jesus — and of the my dull, kindly, patronising teachers, whether Christians or Freethinkers, — for the sole reason that he was supposed to have a ‘soul’ (or whatever might be the Freethinkers’ equivalent for one); the life of a Negro, of a Jew, as “sacred” as that of the most splendid specimen of mankind, and much more sacred than that of the majestic beasts of the forests, that I loved for their beauty; the “right” of man to inflict suffering and death upon healthy innocent animals as much as he pleased in order to contribute to feed or to “save” diseased, deficient, or naturally inferior men, while denying the stronger, more beautiful, better men the right to keep down and exploit the naturally inferior ones! Oh, how I had hated all that, with all the passion of my heart, from the earliest days of my life, in defiance of my surroundings at home, in school, in college, everywhere! How I had always been the irreducible enemy of the sentimental believer in the “rights of man,” of the pacifist, of the Christian, especially if that lover of humanity
was, in addition, a meat-eater and a supporter of any horror committed upon animals “in the interest of mankind!”
Verses that I had read in my early teens — or before — and that I had never forgotten, for they had exercised upon me a spell-like appeal; verses of the French poet Leconte de Lisle, mostly, came back to my memory:
“Henokhia! monstrous city of the virile,
Den of the violent, citadel of the strong,
Thou who hast never known fear nor remorse . . .”1
And this glaring evocation of the deified Aryan hero of India, in all the pride of the privileged godlike Race — these verses of which the music was destined, one day, after the failure of my great dreams in Greece, to drive me to the caste-ridden Land as to the immemorial stronghold of natural order and hierarchy:
“Rama, son of Dasharatha, whom the Brahmins honour,
Thou whose blood is pure, thou whose body is white,”
Said Lakshmana, “Hail, O resplendent subduer
Of all the profane races!”2
Indeed, I had been inspired all my life with the selfsame
1 “Henokhia! cité moustrueuse de Máles,
Antre des Violents, citadelle des Forts,
Qui ne connus jamais la peur ni le remords . . .” —
Leconte de Lisle (Poèmes Barbares, “Qaîn”)
2 “Rama, Daçarathide, honoré des Brahmanes,
Toi dont le sang est pur, toi dont le corps est blanc,
Dit Lakcmana, salut, dompteur étincelant
De toutes les races profanes!”
Leconte de Lisle (Poèmes Antiques, “L’Arc de Civa”).
same spirit as now. How right I had been when I had written, somewhere in my now lost book: “One does not become a National Socialist. One only discovers, sooner or later, that one has always been one — that, by nature, one could not possibly be anything else.”1 The more I remembered myself on the threshold of life, in my discussions with the Christians who already reproached me with my “spiritual pride” and “inhuman outlook”; with the pacifist dreamers whom I despised, with the their fashionable enthusiasts of Sigmund Freud, whom I loathed, the more I knew how true this was.
But then, the accusing inner voice rang clear and pitiless within me: “Yes of course, that is true. In the whole Aryan world outside Germany, not one man or woman ever was more decidedly marked out than you for the honour of bearing witness to the truth proclaimed by Adolf Hitler. None understood that truth better than you; none loved it more ardently; none loved nothing but it, as you already did in those far-gone days of the early struggle for power. Oh, remember, remember with what sympathy, with what wholehearted admiration you followed that early struggle in the papers, when you were eighteen, twenty! You had not yet got over your grief for the destruction of Greek Ionia — that age-old outpost of Aryan civilization in the Near East — and already you had enough vision to take interest in a great Western nation’s fight for freedom, nay, for life; you had already enough heart to see in the French Occupation of the Ruhr an act of felony, and you spoke against it with wild indignation. Once more, as during the blockade of Greece during the first World War, and as after her betrayal of Greece in Asia Minor, you looked upon France — and rightly so — as the enemy of Aryan mankind. But what did you do, when free to act? You went and
1 In Chapter 9.
sought to save the modern Greeks from their slavish regard for things French and from France’s influence, — from the appeal that the sickly ideals of the French Revolution somewhat exercised upon so many of the half-educated and of the foreign-educated among them; you endeavoured to stir in them the love of the eternal Aryan values, that are the Greek values of old. And when you saw you could do nothing — for the roots of equalitarianism lie deep, in Christianity, nay, in the corruption of Hellenistic times, and no preaching, unless it be backed by force, can pretend to stem over two thousand years of decay, — you turned to the East, to the one Land where Christianity had never superseded the Aryan Gods, and where Rousseau’s equalitarian nonsense was unknown. You went to India — and stayed there, you fool, while Europeans, many of whom less aware than you were of the historical significance of the National Socialist message, were building new Germany, new Europe, the real resurrected Aryandom of your dreams. What were you doing, while they, your friends, your comrades, your brothers, your equals and your superiors, were doing that? Expressing yourself in violent speeches against the missionaries both of Christianity and of Democracy; relating eloquently, to the dazzled Hindus, as a warning, the dismal story of the conquest of the Aryan West by the Jewish creed of meekness and equality and hypocrisy and crying to them: “beware!”; trying to induce the East to join its efforts to those of the Western élite in the fight for truth, for order, for Aryandom! Wasting your time. You fool! Did it take you all these years to discover the incurable inertia of the East?
“What were you doing in September 1935, while your dreams were taking shape in the broad stadium of Nuremberg, amidst columns of light? While upon the
new altar, bearing the immemorial Swastika, the sacred Flame proclaimed to the bewildered world the miraculous resurrection of the privileged Race, of your race, of the Aryan in all lands? Why were you not there in your place with the hundreds of thousands, at the foot of the altar, you, Aryan woman, whose vision had, for years already, transcended frontiers; you whom India, through the prophetic intuition of a few of her daughters, had renamed Savitri, “Energy-of-the-Sun” and symbol of resurrection? Save the Führer himself and one or two others, who knew, who understood better than you, that the battle-cry of new Germany was also the call to life addressed to all Aryandom? Why were you not in your place at the Rally, to hear Hermann Göring call the Führer the Saviour of his people, and to add, within your heart: ‘And of all higher mankind’?
“What were you doing, then? Exhibiting your earrings in the shape of swastikas in Indian tea parties; giving free expression to your fruitless enthusiasm before hospitable men and women, not one out of a thousand of whom understood you; having, in a certain Indian’s motorcar, a free fight with a Jewess who had said some thing against the Führer, and feeling pleased with yourself when you had answered her silly talk with a few blows and a few vitriolic sentences. You fool! Why on earth did you not come back?”
I sobbed more desperately at the thought of the beauty of all that I had missed. But the implacable inner voice did not stop tormenting me. “And why at least did you not come back in 1938?” it said; “There was time, yet. Remember your first conversation with the wise man whose name you now bear. What did he tell you, after talking to you five minutes? ‘Go back! Your duty is in Europe. Go back! Here, you are wasting
your time.’ Why didn’t you listen to him, you conceited, empty-headed imbecile; why didn’t you? Thought yourself ‘useful’ in the East, eh? And thought you had time; did not believe the menace of the jealous Democracies, agents of international Jewry; thought they would wait for you to make up your mind, and not attack the new Reich that you so admired before you could come to defend it! Admittedly, you did your best to come once the war had broken out. You quickly secured yourself a British passport to make things easier . . . But it was already too late. You did your best in India, when compelled to stay. But what was that, compared with the glorious career you missed in Europe? Oh, think of it, Savitri! Think of all the services you could have rendered in wartime, here, or in occupied France, or anywhere your superiors would have chosen to send you! Think of all that, — apart from the great moments you would have lived. You paced the marble floor of your room in Calcutta, and sang all night at the news of the fall of Paris. You would have seen the parade of victory: seen it with your own eyes; heard that selfsame song of conquest that you now sang, resound along the Avenue des Champs Elysées; Bald flattern Hitlerfahnen über allen Strassen . . . You would have lived on the spot those joys — and then, those agonies — that you shared so intensely from a distance of six thousand miles.
“And when the end would alas, have come, you would have met, at the hands of the enemies of all you love, a death worthy of your ardent, one-pointed life. But, before they killed you, you would have had the bitter pleasure of defying them for the last time with the lashing eloquence of one faced with certain ruin not before a few rank and file Nazis as were probably to be
found among the public attending your trial at Düsseldorf, but before Göring, before Hess, before Himmler and Streicher and all the others, in that tragic hall of Nuremberg that history will remember as the seat of the most monstrous iniquity. In the midst of the horror of a those days, before the self-appointed judges, champions of those Judeo-Christian-democratic values that you hated all your life, you would have vindicated the right of National Socialism to assert itself, to conquer, to endure, in the name of the truths of all times that it embodies; you would have publicly accused its accusers, and condemned them, you, the lifelong champion of the typically Aryan values in the East and in the West. And having done that, you would have died with the Twenty-one, in a cry of defiance and of triumph . . . Oh, what have you not missed, for the sterile satisfaction of impressing a few ‘Untermenschen’ on the ground of their flimsy claims to the everlasting Aryan inheritance! What have you not missed, you damned fool!”
The wardress on duty brought in my lunch and told me kindly that I should try to eat. I paid no attention to what she said. I left the food lying there in its container, until she came again to carry it away; and I continued to follow the trend of my thoughts, listening to the condemnation of my inner voice for all that I had not done. The inner voice pursued:
“And now, you would like to save your writings. Objectively speaking, you are right. They are perhaps the best thing you ever did. Yet, why should you save them? It is not just that you should, for you are a fool and deserve to suffer. Stupidity, childishness, are crimes. You have to pay. True, you have tried to make up for your past omissions. At last, you came — when all was lost; but at least, you came; as they say: ‘better late than
never’. At last, you have thrown yourself heart and soul into the one sort of action you should have confined yourself to from the beginning: propaganda among the natural élite. You were not made for anything else. But even now, you have acted foolishly and got caught — the only sin, for an underground worker. You are congenitally stupid. Incurably stupid. Useless to pray: it serves you right if your writings are destroyed. It serves you right — you who were absent all these years — if no trace is left of your love and faith when the New Order rises again; if your very friends, once more in power, one day, send you back to India, telling you to go and mind your cats there. Remember what your husband told you on the 7th of November 1943: ‘You are unworthy to live under that National Socialist world order that you profess to fight for! It was not established for fools like you!’”
My husband had, indeed, said such a thing on that one occasion on which he had quarrelled with me. He had said it because I had admitted to him — who used to control all my movements, and rightly so — that I had, in the course of a conversation, been foolish enough to tell the title of the magazine of which he had once been the editor, — the New Mercury — to one of the Americans that I used to bring home, every week, from the “East and West Club.” The American, himself a greater fool than I, had never even taken the trouble to find out what sort of a magazine that was. But, said my cautious ally, he could have been more inquisitive; he could have enquired; and he could have spread suspicion among the others, thus impairing the little usefulness we still might have had. And I had agreed with him, although his words had been harsh and had made me cry. And I had deplored my stupidity.
Now, six years later, in jail, at the mercy of our victorious enemies, and threatened with the destruction of my sincerest writings, I deplored it once more; I deplored all the mistakes I had made; all the omissions, all the foolish impulses and hasty decisions of my whole life. And I came to the logical conclusion: “The just Gods have given me now the treatment I deserve: when I had at last produced something constructive — a book of a certain beauty, if nothing else — for the cause I so love, that is taken away from me to be destroyed . . . I shall submit to the will of the Gods. They are right to torment me for not having come before; for not having made myself more useful all these years; for not having been killed in ’45, while so many, worth a thousand times more than myself, have met a painful death as ‘war criminals’ and what not . . .”
I tried to dry my tears, and bravely to accept the blow that crushed me, and not to pray, as a child, for undeserved favour. But I could not. A fact kept on obsessing me: I knew that I could never write my book anew, as it was; that, whatever its value or lack of value, it was something unique and irreplaceable: the product of my whole being at a given time, and under given circumstances which would never come back exactly the same; the youngest and best and most beloved child of my brains and of my heart, conceived in blessed hours of inspiration, brought forth in daily uncertainty and danger. I could no doubt create another, work, in many ways like it. But I knew that it could never be the same.
Moreover I knew — or dared to believe — that my book which would have, in the eyes of every reader, at least that literary merit that the stamp of absolute sincerity gives to any writing, would most certainly, in addition
to that, appeal to the National Socialists, for whom alone it was written, and especially to the German ones. Nay, I felt — was it conceit? Or was it sane judgement? I cannot tell; but I honestly felt — that there were many things in it which could not but appeal to any German heart, irrespective of politics; things that could even, perhaps, convert to National Socialism certain Germans who had, up till now, failed to grasp the everlasting significance of Hitler’s Movement. I dared to believe that, I, a non-German Aryan, could have had, one day, through that book of mine, the rare and unexpected honour of bringing more Germans to Adolf Hitler.
But now, the book was lost. And somehow, it seemed to me, not only that I could never write it over again, but that nothing of what I could ever write in the future could have the appeal of those pages written with tears and fire, in 1948, during my short-lived underground struggle, and in 1949 in prison, and I felt that, although I, no doubt, well deserved to suffer in expiation of all my old mistakes, my book, in spite of everything, deserved to live. And the fear of its destruction remained the greatest torture for me.
That . . . and other fears also. For I had written about a few people, in that book. I had not mentioned their names, naturally, but the circumstantial details that I had given were perhaps sufficient to make some of them recognisable. It did not matter, for the book could not be published, in Europe anyhow, so long as Germany was not free. And when Germany would be free, those of my friends about whom I had written could only be grateful to me for having done so. But, now, my statements took on a dangerous importance for the fact that our enemies would read them. I thought in particular of that Chapter 12 which I had just begun to write
when my cell was searched. I remembered what I had written and decided that that was safe enough: our enemies could not possibly find out who was Herr A. whom I pictured in that chapter as such a sincere National Socialist. But what would happen if they discovered who had told me about the atrocities of the British military policemen at the time they took possession of Belsen, atrocities which I had described with some details and stigmatised in my Chapter 6? I shuddered at that thought, and switched on the light outside my cell, to call the wardress on duty. It was Fräulein F. She had not yet been relieved, from which I concluded that it was not yet three o’clock.
“Could you please call Frau So-and-so?” said I, as soon as she came; “I want an aspirin; I feel as though my head were splitting in two.”
“I shall call her,” answered Fräulein F., kindly, after taking a glance at my swollen face and feverish eyes.
“But why do you put yourself in such a state? Why do you keep on crying all the time?”
“I have lost everything,” said I, as new tears started rolling down my cheeks. “My book is far more precious than my life.”
“But they will give it back to you!” replied Fräulein F., who seemed to consider that statement strange, to say the least.
I looked at her as a grownup person looks at a child who has just said: “Father Christmas will bring you the moon.”
“You would not say that, if you knew the things I have written in that book,” remarked I.
* * *
Frau So-and-so came. H. E. was with her, pale,
visibly upset. She did not wait for me to tell her what had happened; she knew. All the prison knew. She did not wait for me to explain to her what worried me, along with the loss of my book, and why I had called for Frau So-and-so — and implicitly for her — with the excuse of wanting an aspirin. That also, she knew. And that was precisely why she was so upset. She spoke to me first, in a whisper, after carefully pulling the door behind her: “Now that they will read what you wrote about their atrocities and about the Belsen trial, God help us! . . . You have not mentioned my name anywhere, I hope?”
“Goodness no!” answered I. “But I did refer to you by your initials, as you know, in a passage or two; I also referred to H. B. and to Frau H. by their initials, and that is what worries me so . . .”
For the first time, H. E. scolded me. “You are a fool, really, to have landed yourself — and us — in such trouble as this! Either you should never have mentioned in your book any of those horrors of which I told you, or you should have managed to avoid at any cost letting the book fall into those people’s clutches. It makes little difference, in fact, whether you have written our initials or not. The mere mention of the Belsen trial is enough for them to suspect us of having given you the damaging information. The Governor already knows that I come here, otherwise he would not have issued strict orders that I should come no more.”
“In that case, since the harm cannot be undone,” said I, “would it not be better if you boldly stood by me and told them to their faces, if necessary, that every word I have written is true; nay, that reality was, if that be possible, even more horrid than the description I tried to give of it? Would it not be better to accuse them openly — in public, if they give us a chance? To stir up at
last the indignation of the press, of the world, against them and their so-called ‘justice’, their alleged, ‘humanity’?”
“One day, when we are free, yes, we shall do that — and a lot more. But not now!”, exclaimed H. E., “not now! Now, our voice would not be heard beyond these walls; they would see to it, that it should not be. And the only result of our stand would be more fruitless suffering for us all, and more oppression for Germany, without any benefit to our cause. Believe me; I know these people.”
Anguish was depicted upon her face at the mere thought of what could befall us if my Chapter 6 — “Chambers of Hell” — were freely discussed. In a flash, I recalled the terror she had experienced, in April 1945, when, huddled against the other women in service at Belsen, she had seen the circle of the grinning British military policemen close around her, narrower and narrower, until the steel of their bayonets touched her . . . And I remembered the sinister mockery of a trial that had followed, the result of which I had read in the papers: Irma Grese, sentenced to death and hanged; H. E. sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment; H. B. and H. both sentenced to ten years . . . Indeed, nobody could reproach her with cowardice for dreading these people.
“All right,” said I; “tell me only what I must say, in case they ask me wherefrom I obtained the information,” enquired I.
“Say you have got it from some prisoner now free, whose name you do not remember. Say anything you like; but don’t mention me, nor any of us. We have suffered enough.”
“She is right,” added Frau So-and-so; “What makes that search of your cell so tragic is that you are not alone involved . . .”
I put my hand upon my comrade’s shoulder. My eyes, now dry, looked straight into hers. “My H . . .” said I lovingly and forcefully, “don’t fear! I shall not let them know that you told me about those horrors of theirs. If they ask me, I shall tell them that I heard of them from others, as you say, and that I put down fanciful initials, purposely. And if I am cornered, I shall finally say that I invented them myself, for the sake of anti-democratic propaganda, and thus take the whole responsibility and the whole blame. Let them do what they like to me! Now my book is lost, I could not care less what my fate is!”
I started weeping in her arms. And she, and Frau So-and-so, did their best to soothe me.
Heartened by the mere feeling of their sympathy, I asked what seemed to me, no sooner had I uttered it, the most nonsensical question: “But are you quite sure that they will destroy my book?” I would have given anything for a ray of hope; for a hint that they “might not,” after all.
“How could I know?” said Frau So-and-so; “Strange things happen.”
“I also do not know,” said H. E. “All I can say, from the little I have read of your manuscript, is that, if they do not destroy it, I shall believe that they are either completely mad or . . . about to revise their whole policy with regard to Germany.”
Those frank words meant that more despair was probably in store for me. But they implied such an appreciation of my book that I was moved as one is when given unexpected praise. And I was all the more eager to see my precious writings saved.
Soon, Frau Oberin herself came and spent a few minutes with me. She too was upset — afraid.
“Do you realise that, through your extravagant lure of defiance you have put us all in danger?” said she, sternly. “You seem to lack that sense of responsibility, so important, so essential, in a person with your ideals — otherwise, no doubt you would have been more careful. I had told you: do what you like, but don’t involve me, don’t involve others. And now it will be a miracle if I do not lose my job on account of you . . .”
I was sincerely, deeply sorry for all the trouble that I was causing, or that I should cause in the future, through the repercussions of that unfortunate search in my cell. But I could not help feeling that, not merely to me, but objectively, — solely from the National Socialist standpoint — the impending destruction of my book was more tragic than the loss of anybody’s job. I looked sadly at Frau Oberin and said: “Maybe, I was foolish. One always is, when one gets caught. Nevertheless, you will find a new job, if you lose this one. While I can never write my book anew, as it was. It is irreparably lost.”
There was such distress in my voice that she spoke to me gently. She even seemed moved. Her face took on a thoughtful, sad expression. “We have suffered many irreparable losses, we Germans,” said she, slowly and quietly, as though speaking to herself.
I remembered that her own brother had been killed on one of the battlefields of the Russian front. And I felt small. Of those hundreds of thousands of young soldiers who had given their blood to Germany and to the Führer, was not each one irreplaceable, and immeasurably more precious than my book? Yet, joyfully, they had given their blood, their beautiful youth, for the Aryan ideals — my
ideals — to prevail in the world. Who was I, to speak of my losses before their mothers, their wives, their sisters? The least I could do was to accept in silence and dignity the suffering imposed upon me by our common enemies; my little share of grief for the common cause.
But Frau Oberin spoke again: “It is not your book that seems to have stirred them to frantic wrath,” she said; “it is the other things they found in your cell, specially the Führer’s picture. That has made the Governor wild. And he blames me, naturally, for having allowed you to keep it . . .”
“I shall tell him that I kept it without your knowledge. Also that, whatever I wrote, I wrote without you suspecting it.”
“I shall appreciate it if you say that,” replied she, “although I wonder whether he will believe you. Anyhow: don’t speak before you are questioned. And speak as little as possible. You have made a sufficient mess of everything. I don’t suppose the Governor will see you before Friday, anyhow.”
Before leaving my cell, she asked me whether I still had the little glass portrait that I used to wear around my neck. “Yes,” said I; “it is the only thing I have left.”
“Give it to me,” said Frau Oberin “I shall put it in safety for you — and give it back to you when I can. It would be another catastrophe if ever they searched your body again, and found that!”
“But they would not search me again?” reflected I.
“One never knows . . . It is better to forestall the possibility.”
So I untied the string, and handed over to her the last treasure I had; the one Frau Erste had spared. I
parted with it feeling confident that, in Frau Oberin’s hands, it was safer than in mine.
* * *
Evening came. I ate hardly anything of the supper that was brought to me. I lay upon my bed, too exhausted even to weep. But I thought of my lost manuscript all the time. However much I told myself that mine was a minor loss — a trifle not worth mentioning, compared with the death of so many thousands of faithful young men, killed for our cause, — I could not raise myself above my grief. An unbearably oppressive feeling — something like that of a hand gripping me and squeezing me at the level of the waist — added physical torment to moral torture.
I watched the pattern that the setting Sun projected against the wall, move slowly towards the door, as it did every evening. I looked around my now empty cell, and remembered that, only twenty-four hours before, it was not empty; that, when the Sun had last set, there had still been here my precious manuscript, spread before me upon the bed, and the Führer’s likeness, facing me upon the table . . . Where were those treasures, now? Again I started sobbing desperately at the thought of them. It seemed as though nothing could soothe me. I longed to be dead — not to feel; not to remember. “Oh, why, why weren’t I killed in ’45 or ’46, with so many others of us?” thought I.
But the clear, still, serene voice from within me again rose in answer and said: “Because you were not on the spot — which is your own fault. But also, perhaps, because it was the will of the Gods to keep you aside, for you to be useful in the second struggle for power, in a way they alone know.”
“The second struggle for power!” thought I — and the very idea of it gave me, in spite of all, the desire to live. “The second struggle . . . Yes; it has already begun; and although a prisoner, I am already in it. But of what use am I, in the state I am in?”
“You will grow out of that state,” said the serene inner voice; “even if they destroy all your writings, still you will grow out of it, and fight again; do your duty as an Aryan — as one of the few non-German Aryans of the world aware of the fact that National Socialism is their concern, no less than Germany’s, and Hitler the natural Leader of the whole race.”
I was thus thinking when I heard the noise of a key in the keyhole, and startled. For it was unusual; nobody ever came after six o’clock. But I was soon reassured: it was the Oberwachtmeisterin, Frau S. Her bag in hand, she was ready to go home. But although time was over, she had stepped in to see me on her way out.
“Frau S.!” exclaimed I, as a pathetic smile made my tired, swollen, face, in tears, look perhaps even more sorrowful. “Frau S.! It is so kind of you to have come! You will not scold me, will you?”
Frau S. had probably come with the intention of scolding me, just as Frau Oberin had. But she looked at my face, and was silent for a minute. Her scrutinising grey eyes discovered in me a distress that she had not imagined. “You have got us all into serious trouble,” said she, however, at last. “What have you to say?”
“Nothing,” replied I, — “save that I was unfortunate enough to attract attention, and to undergo an unexpected search. It is not true that I have been distributing leaflets, here, among the other prisoners, as Frau Erste thinks. I did distribute a few in the beginning, admittedly, and then, only among the D wing ones. I never
gave any to a single one of the ordinary criminals, save to a tall dark-haired woman called L., and that was weeks ago. And I did not leave the paper in her possession. She gave it back to me after copying it. Anyhow, she is now free. Since then, I have done no more propaganda among this lot. I cannot trust them. I have spoken of serious things to nobody but my two friends, who are reliable. And I have done nothing but write in silence.”
“I remember that L.; she was a debased type of woman,” remarked Frau S. sternly. “What inclined you to trust her?”
“She told me that she had been a member of the N.S.D.A.P.”
“Everybody was in those days,” replied Frau S. “That is no guarantee that she was a National Socialist, or that she is one now. You should have known that, being all these months in Germany. Or else, if you are incurably lacking in discrimination, you should not try to do dangerous work.”
Tears again choked me. “I was perhaps wrong to show a copy of my leaflets to L.,” said I; “I was certainly wrong. But don’t scold me! They have taken my manuscript away and will surely destroy it. Is that not enough to punish me, if I failed?”
Frau S’s expression softened. I pursued: “Believe me, it is not frustrated vanity that makes me cry over the loss of that book; it is not the idea that my prose will never come out in black and white, and be available in bookshops: that my style, my thought, etc. will not be appreciated. Oh, you don’t know how little I care for all that! If my book were one day to be published under another name than mine, if another person were to be praised for it, I would not care, provided it had the right influence upon the minds and hearts of its readers
provided it helped to forward the Nazi cause. All I want, all I ever wanted, is to contribute to the success of the one Idea for which I have lived. I am crying over my book because it is the best thing I have produced for our cause; because it is my most valuable gift to Germany. I know — and this would remain true even if nobody knew that the book is mine — I know no foreigner has ever written about you, my Führer’s people, the things I wrote in those pages. It is the first time . . .”
Again my mouth quivered and tears ran down my cheeks. Visibly moved, Frau S. took my hands in hers, and squeezed them with warm sympathy, while the clear serene voice within me gently rectified the statement I had just made. “No,” it said; “it is not true. Your most valuable gift to your Führer’s people is not your book, but your love. You are the first foreigner who really loves them.” It also told me: “Bear your loss and your suffering bravely, as a Nazi should. Remember the words of your comrade — and superior — Herr A. that you have quoted in the writing you will never see again: ‘A National Socialist should have no weaknesses’.”
* * *
The long evening dragged on . . . I tried to sing some of our old songs to give myself strength. The magical words — and tunes — would indeed give me back for a while, the strength, the pride, nay the aggressiveness that I so much needed. But at the same time, they would awaken in me the old unbearable sense of guilt for not having been in my place during the great days; for not having been killed in ’45; and the sorrow for having lost, now, the one sole thing I had created entirely as a tribute to those whom I so admired.
Slowly the sky darkened; the stars appeared; night came.
I tried to ponder over the staggering distances that separated me from those mysterious suns in space; to detach myself from all that was of this earth. But somehow, I always came back to our planet.
Gazing at a bright green star that twinkled in the midst of so many others, I said to myself: “Those rays of light have perhaps travelled for years to meet my eye. For years, at the rate of 300,000 kilometres a second! How far away that makes the burning centre from which they emanate; and how small that makes the earth — my earth that bears all I love! A mere speck on the shores of limitless fathomless space, my earth, with its wars, its religions, its songs! Still, it is only through this little earth that I can love that endless Universe. The marvel of this earth is not Pascal’s sickly ‘thinking’ Christian, who despises the majestic Universe because he believes it less precious than his silly conceited self in the eyes of his all-too-human Yiddish god; no, the highest form of life on this planet is the healthy, handsome, fearless Aryan who follows his racial logic to the bitter end; the perfect National Socialist — the one creature who collectively and consciously, lives up to a cosmic philosophy that exceeds both himself and the earth, infinitely; a philosophy in which man’s ties, man’s happiness, man’s life and death, man’s individual ‘soul’ (if he has such a thing) do not count; in which nothing counts but the creation, maintenance and triumph of the most dynamic and harmonious type of being: of a race of men indeed ‘like unto the Gods’; of men in tune with the grandeur of starry space.”
I knew that I had exalted that superhuman ideal, that proud, hard, logical, divine Nazi philosophy, in my
book, and that my book was lost. I tried to tell myself: “What does it matter, since the doctrine is eternal? Since it is the true philosophy of Life, right through starry space, for aeons and aeons? Since, if that green star of which the radiance takes several light-years to reach us has living worlds revolving around it, the mission of those worlds is the same as that of ours: namely, through love and strife, to realise the Divine in the proud consciousness of superior races, or to perish?” And I remembered my challenge to the silly Democrats in Chapter 5 of my lost book: “You cannot ‘de-Nazify’ Nature!” But still I wept.
I tried to sleep — to forget. And out of sheer exhaustion, I managed to fall into some sort of demi-somnolence in which, if not totally unconscious, I was at least relieved of the torture of thinking, of remembering, of regretting; of feeling powerless before the loss of what I considered to be the culmination of my lifelong struggle for the Aryan ideal of life modelled on cosmic truth. I perhaps even slept — for half an hour or so. I do not know. But I suddenly rose out of my torpor. The horrid grip from within that I felt in my stomach, at the level off the waist, was so unbearable that it had thrown me back into consciousness. And my head was aching as if it had been hacked through the middle. A cold sweat oozed from my skin. And my teeth clattered with fever.
I sat up on my bed, on which I had thrown myself without taking the trouble to undress. Again I gazed at the distant starry sky. And I listened to the silence that surrounded me. Perfect silence; lovely, sweet silence. Oh, how well I would have slept, had it not been for my burning torment from within!
I remembered my home in Calcutta.
The starry sky was as beautiful there as here, as
everywhere. And the intoxicating scent of jasmine flowers, and of the sticks of incense burning in the room before the only two pictures that adorned it, reached me as I softly went to sleep under the artificial breeze of the electric fan. Save for the next door neighbour’s radio, all was quiet enough for an hour or so. Then — how many times! — no sooner I had gone to sleep, music would begin in the “bustee” downstairs (separated from our house by a mere wall) or in some courtyard across the road. Fifty people, a hundred people, or more, would start howling in cadence, to the deafening beating of drums, to the high-pitched sound of flutes, to the rattling of castanets. And I would awaken all of a sudden, and not be able to go to sleep again. All night, hour after hour, maddened with irritation, with fatigue, with a splitting headache, I would in vain wait and wait for the noise to subside. It usually kept on till the morning. Or else, reluctantly, I would get up after an hour or two, cross the sitting room, and knock at the door of my husband’s room. He would be fast asleep, and would not hear me. I would finally walk in and awaken him. And the dialogue would be — more or less — the same every time
“What is it?”
“The music again. They have started.”
“A plague on them, and on you! Really, why couldn’t you leave India in 1938, when I first told you to? Now, instead of making yourself a nuisance to me, every other night, you would be in Germany turning out bombs in some ammunition factory.”
“Oh, how I wish I were!”
“So do I!”
“Aren’t you going to the police, to try to have them stop this damned row?”
“I suppose I have to. But what a curse you are!
Goodness only knows how I have done all I could to help you to get away from here. I gave you a British passport, that you might travel in spite of the war. For my sins in past lives, I could not give it to you in time, and I am, apparently, condemned to put up with you as long as the war lasts . . .”
Thus he grumbled — and who could blame him? But he would get up and dress and go down into the street, walk to the police station, and have the nuisance stopped. And I would at last rest, but generally remain awake for long hours after the disturbance.
Now, in Werl, I remembered those awful sleepless nights, as I breathed the fresh air and felt the restful silence all round me, being myself in the grip of anguish. I regretted them. “The sleeplessness due to those deafening drums, those castanets, and howling voices, was better than this agony,” thought I. “Those headaches, due to noise alone, were better than this one!”
And I recalled one particular night of those on which, as always, I had got up to call my husband and beg him to go to the police. It was in early September 1944, — a few weeks before I left Calcutta to wander for months so that I would not learn when the end would be. Our brave eastern Ally, Japan, that we had been helping with all our might, had just surrendered. This time, my husband had answered as soon as I had knocked at his door: he was not asleep. Nor had he shown me his usual — and understandable — irritation, when I had told him that the noise “had started.” He had merely switched on the light, and taken my hands in his, and looked intently into my eyes. “I know you suffer here,” he had said; “but let me tell you, now, — now that our work, our dreams, all we fought for, all we valued in the modern world, is about to collapse, nobody knows for
how long —: this suffering of yours is nothing. It is only physical. One day, soon, — sooner than you expect — you will go back to your quiet Europe. There, you will no longer have to put up with drums and castanets, but . . . You will be persecuted for your dearest convictions, — like the others; you will be hated, or mocked, for all that you stand for; forbidden to speak, forbidden to write in defence of your faith; forbidden to protest against the infliction of humiliation and pain upon those you admire the most; not killed, but much worse: crushed into dreary uselessness, provoked into powerless rage, despoiled of all means of expressing what you know to be true, of exalting publicly what you know to be great and valuable; laughed into ‘harmlessness’ by the victorious Democrats, your inferiors and mine. Then you will know what suffering is!”
Now, in my peaceful cell, torn and tortured as I was by the thought of the destruction of my manuscript, I thought — and not for the first time since my return to Europe: — “How right, oh, how absolutely right he was!”
* * *
The following days were as horrible to me as the one I had just lived. I was not given any work to do; nor anything to read; nor — as can be expected — any pencil and paper, to write. I had absolutely nothing to do but to think. And my reflections, whatever they were, always brought me back to that one anguishing reality: the well-nigh certain destruction of the book in which I had put so much thought and so much love.
I tried to rise above my grief by bearing in mind words of strength — those of my comrade Herr A., in the shade of the sacred Hartz those of other comrades of
mine, or of the Führer himself — and by singing the Horst Wessel Song once a day or more. For a while, the spell worked its miracle, and turned into my old self, once more, the pitiable creature of despair that I had become. But then, again I would realise that “my most valuable gift to Germans” (as I had characterised my book before Frau S.) was lost forever. And again an anguish perhaps even worse than the certitude of despair would seize me by the waist. And I would sob till my eyes would ache as though they were being pulled out of their sockets.
I could neither eat nor sleep. I merely forced myself to nibble a little of the food that was brought to me by telling myself that I needed my health and strength to fight again one day; that, to let myself go would be, in a way, to betray our cause. But at last, I could pray. I knew I deserved no favour from the invisible Powers, but I felt that it was my right and even my duty to beg for understanding and for strength, nay, to appeal for the miracle that would save my book against all earthly possibilities, provided I did so not for my own relief, not for my own satisfaction, nor for my own exaltation; but solely with a view to forward the Nazi cause.
So I prayed.
First, I sat still, and directed my mind to “That Which is.” “From the things that appear, but that are not, to those that appear not, but that are.” Those words came back to me. Long ago, — in 1927 — when I was still a student of philosophy at the Lyons University, another student, who was a Catholic and a pupil of the Catholic philosopher Blondel, had once shown me a book in which Blondel had written them for her. They could have been my motto, although I was anything but a Catholic. And they expressed adequately the attitude
of thousands of thoughtful Hindus whose outlook is as foreign to Christianity, if not as decidedly anti-Christian, as mine. I meditated upon those words.
“The visible, the tangible, the events of the world, are not without reality, as some say,” thought I; “but their reality is that of a consequence hanging on to a cause, — not that of a cause. The cause always lies in the invisible, in the intangible, in the events of the subtle world, of which few people know anything. Whoever can influence the unseen causes, can change the course of the consequences.” And that thought soothed me.
I imagined Colonel Vickers reading my manuscript. I imagined other Englishmen of the Occupation services reading it, — all notorious anti-Nazis, bitter enemies of all that I admire, men who could not but foam with rage at the perusal of my uncompromising statements, my sneers at “human rights” and “equality,” my impeachment of the Democracies — and of the Allied Occupation — my cynical praise of violence in the service of the cause of truth. And I said to myself: “But they are all nothing but puppets in the hands of the invisible Powers. They will read of my words only that which the Invisible will allow them to read; and they will grasp the meaning of it, only to the extent the Invisible permits. However clear be any sentence of mine, if the Invisible blinds them to its implications, they will be blinded.” And that also soothed me, although I could not understand how such a thing could possibly happen.
Then, of all the “things that appear,” I recalled the most majestic — the grandest sight I had seen in my life: beneath the starry sky streaked with northern lights, the burning and roaring Mountain, Hekla in eruption. And I evoked the mysterious Presence, the Power unseen and irresistible that I had hailed in its flames and lava,
exactly two years before my trial. I remembered myself in the snow, in the wind, in the darkness, alone before that glory of fire, singing, in mystical rapture, in the easternmost modern Aryan tongue, the hymn to Shiva “Dancer of Destruction, O King of the Dance! . . .” and Hekla’s subterranean roar answering my voice at regular intervals. The same awe-inspiring, still, implacable, resplendent Presence faced me now, I felt; unsuspected by others, the same Power radiated all round me, in the whole universe, and within me; to the same terrible Beauty, today, I lifted from the depth my aching eyes full of tears. And I was overwhelmed by such a sense of grandeur, that I forgot my grief in an act of adoration.
A cry sprang from me, — or rather through me, from a greater self; a cry uniting me, over centuries of racial and religious apostasy, to my Aryan ancestors, worshippers of fire and conquerors of India: “Aum, Rudrayam! Aum, Shivayam!”
Twenty-one times — I know not why that number — I repeated those words as a sacred incantation, motionless, my spine straight, and my head erect. There was in me not the slightest intention to imitate the “japa” type of religious exercises of which I had heard in India. I had never practised “japa” there, myself, and if my apparently strange gesture was influenced by the fact that I had lived there long years, I was certainly not conscious of it. No; I believe it was much more, as I said, the outcome of that particular Heathen piety of my own that had once driven me to India in search of a living equivalent of my old European Pagandom. It was not the cry of a modern European who, by living among Hindus, has become “Indianised,” but that of an ancient Aryan from before the far-gone Drang nach Ost that carried to
India the Sanskrit language and the cult of the Aryan Gods.
I did not pray; I contemplated. I penetrated my self with the beauty of the cosmic play behind the intricacy of ephemeral appearances, visible consequences of the Dance of the Invisible.
“Lord of the unseen Forces,” thought I, after I had finished repeating the holy syllables, “I ask Thee nothing. I know I deserve no favour. Moreover, Thou art mathematical Rhythm and merciless Artistry, not a personal god. Thou hast no favours to distribute. There are no exceptions to Thy everlasting laws. Only penetrate me with the awareness of Thy impersonal justice, let me understand Thy ways, and bear suffering with fortitude and dignity, if I have to suffer. Only make me a worthier follower of my Führer, in whom Thy spirit shines; a worthier and tougher supporter of our cause, which is Thine. Kill in me all vanity, all conceit. Help me to realise that I am but a tool in Thy hands — a tool that does not know how it is to be used the most efficiently, and that just obeys, day to day . . .
“Lord of the Dance of Life and Death, Lord of all things strong and true, Thou hast lived in the stately pageantry of our days of glory; in the processions, in the songs, in the frenzied collective joy of the Chosen Nation, intoxicated with its own vitality. Thou art that Vitality. Thou hast lived also. Thou livest now, in the grim endurance, in the silent, far-sighted determination of the men of iron, alone erect amidst the ruins of the Third Reich, faithful when the whole world is unfaithful; in those invincible ones whom I have exalted in my book. Thou art they. And Thou wilst live again in the grandeur of their second rising.
“Lord of the Unseen, of Whose Play all that is visible is but a reflected detail, help me to understand that, if the pages I wrote are sufficiently full of Thy dynamism to be of any use in the future, Thou wilst preserve them; that they will be destroyed only if, in the scales of Thy passionless justice, their preservation is of no import to our New Order — Thy divine Order on earth — in which case, I should not be sorry for their loss. Oh, kill in me that presumption that prompts me to overvalue what I have written. I really know not what it is worth. Thou alone knowest. Only help me to work with serenity and efficiency, firm, calm, wise and loving; never for my own promotion, but solely for our cause, our truth — Thy Truth.
“Lord in Whose dynamic cult men of my race expressed themselves in time immemorial, and Whose worship they imposed upon people of strange races, only make me a worthier Aryan; a better National Socialist.”
Thus I prayed. And for the first time, I felt a little peace descend into my heart. The clear, still voice from within, the voice of my better self, told me: “For once you are right: it is far more important to be a good National Socialist, than to write books in support of the National Socialist Idea. What one is always comes before what one does. And if you are a good Nazi, you should not care what happens to your book, provided the cause triumphs. Indeed, if the book is destined to be of some use to the cause, be sure that the unseen Powers Who take care of the cause will also take care of it. You individual, don’t worry. You don’t count, except to serve the cause. Apart from the cause, nothing counts.”
However, in spite of all, now and then, by day, by night, the grip of anguish would seize me again. I remembered the things I had written. Sentences came
back to me with amazing vividness. And I suffered at the thought of the destruction of my work. The still, inner voice told me for the hundredth time: “There are far greater losses that other Nazis bore bravely. Think of the mothers of all the young warriors who died for your ideas. Think of Horst Wessel’s mother. Aren’t you ashamed to weep over your book?”
I was ashamed. Yet, I wept.
But once, I asked myself if there was nothing in the world for which I would, of my own accord, give up my book to be destroyed; nay, for which I would, stoically, — if necessary — watch its pages curl up and disappear in the flames. And I answered the question immediately, in all sincerity, from the depth of my heart: “Yes, I surely would, if, at that price, I could save the life or buy the liberty of a single other National Socialist. Gladly I would! For however much I might love the creation of my brains, I love my Führer’s living people much more.”
And in a sort of day dream I imagined how glad indeed I would be if Colonel Vickers told me that I could set free anyone I liked among my fellow prisoners, on condition that my book would be burnt. Naturally, I would choose H. E., thought I; and forget the loss of my irreplaceable written tribute of admiration to Nazi Germany, in the joy I would have to tell that fine German woman, four years captive on account of the zeal she displayed in the service of our faith: “Meine H. . . . ! Sie sind frei!” — and to see tears of happiness fill her large blue eves; and to feel the pressure of her hands holding mine, in an enthusiastic farewell; to see and to hear her salute me on the threshold of freedom, for the last time before we would meet again in a free Germany: “Heil Hitler!”
I would willingly have undergone torture, or been killed, if that could have saved my book. I would do so, now, if it were necessary. Yet I say, in full sincerity: I would have sacrificed my book to free her, — in fact, to free any other true follower of Adolf Hitler, man or woman. I would now, if it were possible. And I honestly wished, then, that such a bargain had been possible between myself and the authorities upon whose decision the fate of my manuscript depended.
After I realised that I actually wished it, — strange as this might be, for the bargain was not likely to be proposed to me — I felt better. My gnawing anguish became a little less unbearable, although it did not leave me completely.
* * *
On Friday morning, the 3rd of June, Frau Oberin came to my cell.
“The Governor is coming today,” said she. “If he calls you — as he probably will — be careful how you answer his questions. He was furious at the sight of the things found in your possession, and quite likely, there will be trouble. Already, your friend H. E. has been relieved of her post at the Infirmery. She will henceforth have to do the same hard work as the other prisoners, and she will be far less free than she was.”
This was a new blow for me. “My H. . . . !” I sighed. “I love her so much, and yet I have brought this upon her!” And tears came to my eyes as I spoke.
“An intelligent enemy is often less dangerous than a sincere but foolish friend,” said Frau Oberin. “Anyhow, be careful what you tell the Governor. Make no further mistakes, for heaven’s sake! We all love you — the wardresses, Frau S., Fräulein S., the matron and myself.
We have done what we could to make your life here tolerable in spite of the Governor’s orders. You don’t want to harm us, now, in return, do you?”
“Never!” replied I, vehemently; “never! I’ll take upon myself all the blame, rest assured. And none of you will lose her job through me. You’ll see: stupid as I am, I am less of a fool than I look at first sight.”
“You are not a fool,” said Frau Oberin gently, with a smile so sad that I shuddered. “You are not a fool. But you have never experienced the constant terror under which we have been living since the Capitulation. You never had to hide your feelings, to lie, to crawl to those you hate, in order to remain alive. You have not been forced to pretend you hated all that you loved the most, in order to remain out of jail — hardly freer than those who are in, admittedly, yet, just sufficiently freer for it to be worthwhile, in the common interest.”
I recalled the words of the first German woman I had met at Saarbrücken, in 1948: “We have learnt to hold our tongues. This is the land of fear.” I forgot my plight, and the threat of the Governor’s wrath, only to think of those four hellish years of which I had lived on the spot but the last and less hellish. “Poor dear Germany, my Führer’s country!” said I, moved to the depth of my heart. “But I too have learnt something,” I pursued, addressing Frau Oberin after a few seconds’ pause. “For now, I too, shall lie — I who hate lies; and if it is necessary, I too shall silence my pride and crawl, like you have been forced to. I shall soon be like one of you.”
Two hours later, I was called before the Governor.
Although there were other prisoners waiting for their turn in a row in the corridor, I was the first to be ushered into Frau Oberin’s office, where the Governor was seated. Apart from Frau Oberin herself, I saw
Fräulein S. her assistant, and the matron, Frau R. — Frau Erste — all standing. The Governor was sitting before the desk, as when I had met him on the day after my trial. And Mr. Watts, looking much more important, and sterner, than when he had visited my cell, was seated next to him.
I stood before the Governor in silence. To my utter amazement, the first words he addressed to me had not the slightest connection with the search in my cell: “Mrs. Mukherji,” said he, “your husband has appealed for your release. In the case of his petition receiving favourable consideration from the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces, do you agree to go back to India?”
For a second, I was dumbfounded. I felt as if I were dreaming. Then, in a flash, I thought of my home, and tears came to my eyes. Yet, underlying my emotion there was — as there always seems to be, with me, in moments of emergency — a definite, cool, calculating process of reasoning taking place; a process of which I was perfectly conscious.
“All I want is to go back — and never poke my nose into politics any more!” exclaimed I, gazing pitiably at Colonel Vickers; “to go back to my husband, to my household, to my cats — my big black one, especially; to hold in my arms once more that mass of thick, glossy, purring fur, — my puss, my black tiger, — and to forget my foolish adventures!”
I said that. The vivid remembrance of the beautiful feline stirred in me enough emotion to give my whole attitude an appearance of complete sincerity. Did Colonel Vickers really believe me? He alone knows. Things he told me only a few days later would tend to prove that he did not. But no one could accuse me of not having played my part well. None of my comrades,
standing before the self-appointed “re-educators” of mankind could possibly have looked more “innocent” — and more soppy — than I before the British Governor of the prison of Werl, on that memorable occasion. But, at the very moment I was making that silly exhibition of myself, talking that nonsense about my black cat and pretending to be tired of the life I had chosen, I was thinking — calculating — as clearly as ever: “Go back to India, why, it is probably the best solution, now that I shall no longer be able to see my friends of the D wing! I shall see my husband there, hear the news of Asia. Who, knows — I might be as useful there as in Europe, now that I shall be expelled from Germany anyhow. And then, I could of course print my book, if only they would give it back to me. I must now try my best to save it; say anything, to save it — anything that will not harm others of us. And if I cannot save it, well, still I shall continue fighting for the Cause.”
The Governor simply said: “All right. I shall then forward your husband’s petition.” Then, coming to the point — starting the comments I dreaded —: “Mrs. Mukherji,” pursued he, “your behaviour has been a great, disappointment to me. I had ordered both your person and your cell to be searched, hoping that facts would disprove certain rumours that had reached me. I have to admit that the result of the search has been most discouraging. We had treated you kindly; we had given you privileges that we do not give German prisoners. We had expected that, in return, you would begin to understand the value of our principles; that you would be ‘reformed’; at least that you would feel some sort of gratitude towards us . . .”
“What a hope!” thought I. And I forced myself to bear sad things in mind, in order not to laugh.
“Instead of that,” continued the Governor, “we find in your possession a picture of Hitler . . . and a book of awful songs of which the first one speaks of ‘bombs on England’. All that will be burnt. Do you understand? Burnt. I can’t allow you to keep, here in prison under my eyes, what is forbidden even to ordinary German civilians . . . Another thing: You have been meeting war criminals in your cell. That must stop. If I ever hear that you have again directly or indirectly come in touch with a single one of these women, I shall sack the whole prison staff . . .”
“It is not the fault of the staff,” exclaimed I. “Do be kind enough to let me say so. It is my own fault. It is I who insisted on seeing one or two of these women. And I did not talk politics with them. I only wanted a little intelligent conversation. I found the other prisoners hopelessly dull.”
“It is my business to judge whose fault it is,” replied Colonel Vickers sternly. “And I blame the staff. I repeat: I shall sack the whole staff if I hear that you have again spoken a single word to any of the war criminals. One thing I cannot understand about you: in his petition, your husband states that you are a very kindhearted person, fond of all animals, particularly cats. It seems you used to feed starving cats and dogs during the Bengal famine. How can you, then, wish to mix with women who have been sentenced for the most beastly crimes against humanity? Surely, a human being is worth more than a cat!”
“That again! That same old insufferable superstition concerning the two-legged mammal!” thought I.
Had I been free, — or at least not dependent upon the Governor for the preservation of my precious manuscripts — I would have answered coldly, and sincerely,
shrugging my shoulders: “Not necessarily. In my eyes, no anti-Nazi is worth a cat, or in fact any animal. For he (or she) is permanently dangerous while an animal is not; cannot be.” But had I not said: “I shall lie?” I kept my word; at least. I avoided replying to the Governor’s question. “The few D wing prisoners whom I have met, have done nothing ‘beastly’,” I simply stated.
Colonel Vickers flared up — even at that. “They tell you so, naturally,” exclaimed he. “But who has ever met a German who admits that he or she is a Nazi? You are the first person who, to my knowledge, openly calls herself one after 1945. I have been here longer than you, and I have never met another.”
Had I been free, and my comrades too, and my books in safety, I would have replied: “Naturally, they were not going to tell you, — you fool! I myself observed discretion, to some extent, before my arrest made all pretences useless. In wartime, in India, I was supposed to be ‘only interested in cats’. In London, after the war, I was supposed to be ‘only interested in King Akhnaton’s solar cult’ which flourished thirty-three hundred years ago.” But as things stood, I put my words aside for after Germany’s liberation, and was silent.
The Governor pursued: “Anyhow, I have seen two wars, for both of which Germany is responsible, and I have not come to discuss with you. Your husband says that your state of health necessitates your release. You will be examined by the British doctor as soon as possible. Have you anything more to say?”
The opportunity had at last come to me to do all I could to save my book.
“Yes,” said I: “one thing only. Spare my manuscripts!” Tears — that were not “crocodile’s tears,” this time — rolled down my cheeks. “I have transgressed the
rules of this prison by keeping in my cell the objects you mentioned,” pursued I; “I was wrong; and I am sorry. And although I had kept those objects solely for the emotional value they might have in my eyes, although I have never showed them to anybody nor tried to use them in a spirit of propaganda, I do not plead for them to he spared. But I beg you to spare my own writings. These might be of no value to anybody, but they are mine. They are like my children. I have put all my heart in them. And moreover, they are not for publication.”
“The manuscripts found in your cell are now in the hands of experts,” said Colonel Vickers. “If they are of a subversive nature, they shall be destroyed like the rest of your Nazi stuff. If not, you will have them back when you are free — whenever that be . . .”
I felt my heart sink within my breast, and my knees give way under me. No one knew, better than I, how “subversive” were, from a democratic point of view, my Gold in the Furnace, and even the first part of The Lightning and the Sun. Yet I said: “If, in spite of all the dark ingratitude with which I have repaid your kindness to me, I can still ask you a favour, then, oh, then, out of sheer pity, spare my writings, however ‘subversive’ they might be! I don’t want to live if I cannot, one day, have them back. As I said, I do not intend to publish them. In the first place — if that argument can convince you — it is a fact that in the present state of affairs, they could do more harm than good to my own cause. For I have shown from the first page to the last, as clearly as can be, that every Christian Church, nay that Christianity itself, as it has come down to us, is the natural enemy of National Socialism. Do you think I wish, now, to enlighten those people still simple enough to imagine that they can be both Nazis and Christians, — people
whose intelligence I might not admire, but whom I consider useful in times like this? That alone should prove to you that I am sincere when I tell you that my book is not to be published — ever! I only want to keep it as a remembrance of one of the periods of my life the most intense, emotionally, if not the happiest.”
Colonel Vickers gazed at me, the proud, defiant Nazi, in tears before him. I hated myself, in a way, for the exhibition I had just afforded him, and for the subtle tissue of lies — set around one central truth, artfully selected — that I had unfolded before him with such dramatic naturalness. Yet, I was thinking all the time: “What else can I do? The cause alone counts. Were I thus crawling before one of those contemptible Democrats so that one day my prose might get a chance to be praised, I would then be more contemptible than all of them rolled in one. But no; honestly, it is not my glory that I seek; it is merely my greatest possible usefulness. If I am lying, against my inclination, against my nature, I am doing so in the interest of the cause Immortal Gods, help me to win! If my writings are destined to contribute to forward and to strengthen the true Nazi spirit, then, help me to save them — be it my lying; but otherwise not!”
After a minute’s pause the Governor — who could not read my secret thoughts — said: “I repeat: at present, your writings are in the hands of experts. I shall have to consider the experts’ opinion about them. But I give you my word — the word of an Englishman — that whatever be the experts’ report, I shall not order the destruction of your books without calling you and giving you a chance to plead for them to be spared. And I shall take your arguments into account, along with other factors. You can now go.”
I thanked the Governor, bowed, and left the room.
A positive ray of hope now shone in the midst of my distress. All was not irretrievably lost, condemned beforehand. “I thank Thee, Lord of the unseen Forces!” thought I, as I walked back to my cell.
I then sat upon my bed and remembered my words to Frau Oberin: “I too, shall lie; I too, shall crawl.”
And I recalled the atrocious months that had followed the Capitulation — he tragedy of the thousands of National Socialists who appeared as major or minor “war criminals” before the Allied military tribunals, amidst the still smouldering ruins of nearly all the towns of the Third Reich. “Oh, my German comrades and superiors,” thought I, “forgive me if, in the depth of my heart, I have occasionally criticised some of you for what seemed to me, through the reports of the papers, an attitude unworthy of men of our principles! Forgive me if I have sometimes considered as ‘undignified’ the attempt of some of you to save their useful lives at the cost of false declarations of ‘repentance’! I have myself lied, today, to try to preserve my writings for our cause. Now I know what those of you who acted apostasy must have suffered! My brothers, forgive me if I have sometimes been harsh in my judgments!”
* * *
The dreary afternoon seemed endless. Still nothing to do but to think. I thought intensely, and I prayed, keeping my mind constantly on the fact that I should do all I could to save my book, not with a view to my own possible glory, but in a spirit, of detachment, in the sole interest of the Nazi cause; that then only it was my right, nay, my duty, to lie in order to try to save it; but that, if I failed — if the all-knowing Gods considered that my
writings were not sufficiently beautiful, sufficiently eloquent for the Nazi cause to be benefitted through their preservation — I should not feel sorry. The divine words of the Bhagavad-Gita, that had helped me, after my arrest, to bear with serenity the eventual loss of the three first chapters of my manuscript, came back to my memory, now, to sustain me in the case of the loss of twelve chapters: “Taking as equal pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, gird thee for the battle;”1 “thy business is with the action alone, never with its fruits. So let not the fruit of action be thy motive, nor be thou inactive.”2 I thought, I felt intensely what I had so many times preached in defence of our ruthless methods of action: “Anything is permissible, nay, anything is commendable, when duty commands, provided it is executed in a perfect spirit of detachment.”
In the evening, I was taken to the Infirmary to be examined by the British doctor.
I looked tired enough, ill enough, to impress any practitioner. However, now that, after so much anguish and such fervent prayer, I was beginning to surmount my grief, the lightning of defiance again appeared, occasionally, in my eyes. In spite of all, I was glad to feel that persecution could not crush me. “But,” thought I, as I walked out of my cell, “I must show nothing of this to the doctor. I must look, crushed; give him the impression that I have become a harmless fool. And I must, if I can, try to use the practitioner’s influence in order to save my book; do, at least, my best, in that line; lie once more, crawl once more, if necessary. It is horrible, no doubt — for we are the last ones whose nature is
1 The Bhagavad-Gita, II, verse 38.
2 The Bhagavad-Gita, II verse 47.
to be supple. But expediency — the interest of the cause — before everything, above everything! To save my book is now the best thing I can do for the National Socialist Idea. I must try my utmost to do it — at any cost; by any means; remain unshaken, serene, in case I fail, but, in the meantime, do all I can. And remember that this humiliation, our common humiliation, is not to last forever . . .”
“One day, the Day of revenge will come;
One day, we shall be free . . .”1
The words of the old Nazi song rang joyously in my heart as I walked along the empty corridor, by the side of the wardress on duty.
The doctor — a dark-haired man in uniform, with an insignificant kind-looking face — was waiting for me, with Sister Maria, who had come back from her holiday. But H. E. was no longer at the Infirmary. For a second the thought of her moved me to tears. But I pulled myself together: “Try to save your book!” said I to myself; “save it to publish it, one day; to expose Germany’s persecutors. It is the best you can do, now, for her, for all your comrades, for the cause.”
I stood before the doctor, looking as miserable as I possibly could.
“Sit down,” said he, gently.
I sat down. “You know that a petition has been sent from India for your release,” pursued he. “It states that your health will soon give way, if you remain here. Indeed, you don’t look well. Tell me exactly what is your trouble.”
“Oh, it is nothing physical,” replied I, in a low,
1 “Einst kommt der Tag der Rache
Einmal da werden wir frei . . .”
tired voice. “It is worry and weariness more than anything else. But that pulls me down, physically, too. I am given enough to eat, no doubt. But my life is a torment since I cannot say a word to my comrades, since I cannot even see them. I did not particularly want to talk politics. I just wanted to talk intelligently. The other ones, the ordinary criminals, are too hopelessly dull for me not to feel depressed in their company. I cannot understand why the Governor forbids me to talk with the only ones I love here, reducing my condition practically to solitary confinement. I am miserable, now; utterly miserable.”
“Whom do you mean by the only ones you love here?” asked the man.
“My comrades; those whom you people call ‘war criminals’,” replied I.
“And why do you love them?”
“Because they are fine characters, — those whom I have met at least. I don’t care what they might have done.”
“But you should care,” said the doctor. (How I hate that word that comes back, again and again, in the talk of every Democrat with anyone of us! Who are they, anyhow, to tell us what we should do?) “You should,” pursued he; “they have committed crimes against humanity.”
That very expression made my blood boil. I felt I could not contain myself for long, so that the only way I could get out of the discussion without any damage to my writings — in favour of which I was contemplating to ask the doctor to intervene — was to give vent, without restraint, to that particular life-centred logic that had always been mine and that had always won me the reputation of an “eccentric” person in the eyes of the
“decent” folk. In fact, the more I would let myself go along that line, the more the doctor — doubtless a “decent” man — would be convinced that such a “crank” as I could not be dangerous. I thus answered, boldly and sincerely
“I do not love humanity. And nobody can force me to love it. I love superior mankind, no doubt — the only men and women worthy of the name. And I love life — beautiful, innocent life; life in creatures that, I know, can never be against anything I stand for; in creatures with which I feel at peace. Well, as long as people find it normal for there to be slaughterhouses and vivisection chambers, I simply refuse to protest against any atrocities performed upon human beings, whether it be by us or by you, by the Chinese, or by the Carthaginians, or by Assur-nasir-pal, king of Assyria, (884–859 B.C., as far as I remember) who is, they say, one of the historic figures the hardest to beat on that ground. I know too much about the horrors that take place every day, in the name of scientific research, in the laboratories of most countries whose ‘public opinion’ strongly condemns our concentration camps and our gas chambers. In my eyes, the public who dares to censure us while tolerating such horrors upon creatures which are neither the actual nor the potential enemies of any régime, deserves the atom bomb, or anything worse, if there be. And if people think that such horrors must take place ‘for the progress of science’, then, I say, perform them by all means upon dangerous or deficient human beings — human beings who cannot otherwise be made use of, and who, in my eyes, are anything but ‘sacred’, anything but lovable, while all beasts, save parasites, are lovable to some extent. I do not consider as criminals the doctors who might have experimented upon such human beings,
before 1945, and whom your courts condemned. I say they did the right thing — precisely the thing that I used to uphold, years before our régime came to power.”
I had, until now, spoken in perfect earnestness and sincerity. It was good policy. For generally, people who have the same views as I about ‘dangerous or deficient’ human beings, are not in a hurry to exhibit them. No doubt, thought the doctor, only a half-mad person could have such views consistently. But a person who also said she had them, as frankly as I did, was surely incapable of dissimulation. One could therefore trust her to be sincere when she spoke of other things. Knowing this I began to lie deliberately, continuing, however, as cleverly as I could, to mix my lies with a certain amount of truth.
“You have strange reactions,” said the doctor, in conclusion to my tirade.
“I have the reactions that are within the logic of my nature.” replied I. “And you people who believe in the right of the individual to express himself as long as he is not a danger to other individuals, should not object to my frankness. We are not in power, now; so I can harm nobody. Moreover, the little activity I had has come to an end, and I only told you all this in answer to your question about my attitude to so-called ‘war crimes’.”
“But you can begin again, once free,” remarked the doctor.
“I don’t wish to begin again,” said I. “I am tired of all activity of that sort. All I want, as I told the Governor, is to go back to India and see my cats again; I would like to busy myself, henceforth, with animal welfare — my only alternative to boredom, I suppose, as I
don’t love human beings except when they share my ideals.”
“You can do that, and also carry on your former activities,” pointed out the man, who, however much he might have found me “eccentric,” was less simple than I had thought.
“India is not the place for Nazi propaganda,” said I.
“You can write books anywhere,” replied he.
Didn’t I know it! Did I not intend to finish the book I was writing, if only, by some miracle, they would give it back to me! Did I not intend to write other books, — as long as I could do nothing more substantial for the cause! “Oh, to be free, and to do that, indeed!” thought I, in a flash. But I deliberately bore in mind my present plight and started weeping — just as an actress would, I suppose, remember on the stage, some personal grief in order to shed natural tears in her role.
“I might write books, but they will not be about politics; that is finished,” sobbed I; “I am sick of politics! No doubt, I keep my convictions. Were they to tell me that I have to stay here for life unless I sign a paper stating that I am no longer a Nazi, I would remain here, and never deny my faith. So, you see, I am not trying to pretend that my outlook has changed. But, while adhering as much as ever to my Ideology, I have decided never again to take an active part in its service; never again to lecture about it, let alone to write books or articles.”
“That is all the authorities desire of you,” said the doctor — who seemed to me to have been sent to examine my state of mind more than anything else. “We don’t care what people are. Each one is free to think what he pleases. We are interested only in what people do.”
I could not help thinking: “What fools you are! We — and our real enemies, the Communists — know that one cannot be this or that sincerely without doing anything for one’s ideals, sooner or later.” But naturally, I kept this remark to myself.
“When I am home once more,” I pursued, “all I want is the right to speak freely to my husband, the one man in India who understands me.”
“Do you remember the doctor who examined you before your trial?” asked the practitioner.
“The mental doctor? A short, thin, red-haired man? I remember him very well.”
“I see you have a good memory. Do you remember the things you told him?”
“I do,” replied I. “But now, I am not the same person. Prison life has changed me; not changed my outlook on, life, of course (I told you; nothing can change that) but changed my estimation of my own capacity. I am now convinced that I am unfit for such activities as I have indulged in.”
“Because I lack the capacity of lying, which is essential,” said I. “Also because I am too passionate about my ideas. My love for our principles and our system blinds me to many realities. And without realism, one is useless. You mentioned writing books. Any book I would write would resemble the one I was just now writing, the one over the loss of which I am crying day and night. It would be sentimental rubbish.”
“Why do you cry over the loss of your book if you yourself believe it to be nothing but sentimental rubbish?” asked the doctor.
“Because I love it,” said I; “it is my creation, my child — the only sort of child I’ll ever have. I don’t want
it to be destroyed. Not that I want to publish it. I have told the Governor already that I shall never try to. But I want to keep it as my best remembrance of the fullest days of my life; of the time I was active, the time I was alive. I want to read passages out of it, now and then, to my husband, while he smokes his water-pipe. The dread of its possible destruction has thrown me into the state in which you see me. I can now neither eat nor sleep. I think of my book all the time. And if they release me without giving it back to me, I know I shall just go on pining for it until I am dead. Or else . . . if I succeed in gathering the strength to pull myself together again . . .”
“Well, what would you do if you had the strength to pull yourself together again, in supposing your manuscript were destroyed?” asked the man.
“I would,” answered I, “throw myself into active life once more, feverishly, wildly, with the determination of despair, this time, not for any Ideology, but out of hatred for those who destroyed my work. They happen to be Democrats; all right. I would offer my services to anybody — to the Communists whom I hate — in order to harm the Democracies by every means. Hatred would become the sole law of my life, vengeance its only goal. I would harm living men and their children, to avenge the child of my brains and of my heart.”
All the time I was saying this I was secretly thinking: “As if I shall not live to avenge National Socialist Germany anyhow! As if — even if you do, by miracle, give me back my precious book — I shall not live to destroy you, and the Reds, anyhow! As if I can do anything but what I consider to be my duty as an Aryan, anyhow!” But I said nothing more; and made a conscious effort not to smile.
“I shall tell the Governor that I believe he can safely give you back your manuscript,” said the doctor; “That, in the interest of your mental and physical health, he should give it back to you. I shall stress in my report your change of mind, your resolution to keep away from politics forever, and do what I can to give you what I am now convinced would be a harmless personal satisfaction.”
“Oh, do!” exclaimed I, with genuine tears in my eyes, hardly able to believe the words I was hearing. “If you do that, and if they listen to you and give me back my writings intact, I shall be compelled to admit how much more generous you western Democrats are, compared with the Reds. I shall miss no opportunity to say so. And I shall feel somewhat bound to do no harm to you, by word or deed, whatever be my convictions.”
I thought to myself; “As if I believed that one of us is ever bound to be grateful to the enemies of our faith, whatever they might do!”
But the doctor could not read my thoughts; nor was he perspicacious enough to realise how shockingly out of keeping my whole talk was with those very convictions of mine, that I did not deny. On the other hand, I took advantage of the eventual impression my speech had produced, to put forward a new demand. “There is something else I would like to tell you,” said I to the doctor. “The Governor has told me this morning that the picture of the Führer that they found in my cell would certainly be burnt. Do ask him to spare that also! I want to take it with me, if I am to be released.”
“Why do you want to take it with you?”
“Because I love it,” said I. “It has followed me in all my journeys. I have wept, looking at it, in the
horrid days — 1945, 1946, 1947; your days of victory. I want it also because the Man it represents means everything to me, whatever other people might think or say or write about him.”
“What does he mean to you, exactly?” asked the doctor.
I quoted the words I had written upon the first page of my manuscript of The Lightning and the Sun, — the work that I did not expect to finish quickly and that I had in advance, dedicated to him:
“The godlike Individual of my time,” said I, “the Man against Time; the greatest European of all times, both Sun and Lightning.”
The words, which reminded me of the loss of that manuscript also, were enough to make me cry. They were also enough to give the doctor (who looked upon our Hitler in quite a different light) the impression that I was an unbalanced but harmless woman — the impression that I precisely wanted him to gather.
“Of course,” added I — to confirm that impression — “I could get another picture. In fact I have a better one, in India. But it would not be the same, that I took about with me all these years. I want this one.”
“I’ll tell the Governor,” said the practitioner.
“Do!” begged I.
“And now, let us see your weight,” concluded he; “for I have to examine you physically as well as otherwise. When were you weighed last?”
“Hardly more than a week ago,” replied I. “I weighed fifty kilogrammes — the same as ever since I have been here.”
I undressed; was weighed again. “Forty-nine kilogrammes,” said Sister Maria, reading the spot where
the needle stopped. I had lost a kilogramme in five days, — a definite sign that my health was giving way.
“Don’t fall into despair on account of your manuscripts,” said the doctor as he took leave of me. “Force yourself to eat; keep up your strength. I know you are practically in solitary confinement, which is hard on you. Still, try to keep up your strength. Good bye, — and good luck!”
“Good bye,” said I; “and thank you!”
On that night, for the first time since my cell had been searched, I managed to sleep a little.
* * *
On the following day, which was Saturday, I told the Dutch woman with whom I used to walk around the courtyard during the “free hour,” the story of my interview with the British doctor. I trusted the woman to some extent.
“You have acted well,” said she. “You’ll see: you will save your book.”
‘‘I have done my best,” replied I, “my utter best; and indeed, I do not think I could have lied with a greater appearance of sincerity, nor picked out and stressed more artfully the points on which I was sincere nor spoken with more convincing naturalness, whether lying or telling the truth. The heavenly Powers helped me to act, in the interest of our cause, which is divine. I could never have done it alone. The heavenly Powers will save my manuscripts, if they care to. I can do nothing. I cannot even understand how certain things which I wrote as plainly as plain can be, can escape the notice of the Governor or of whoever else reads the book. Do you know, for instance, what I wrote, at the end of my seventh chapter, as a comment upon the fact that
these people sentenced me to three years’ imprisonment only while the Communists would probably have sent me to Siberia for the rest of my life? Do you know how I thanked those hypocritical ‘humanitarians’ for their leniency? ‘One day’, wrote I, ‘with the help of all the Gods, — I hope — we shall see to it that the Democrats and even the Communists bitterly regret not having killed more of us.”1 Now, what if they read that?”
“Don’t worry,” said the Dutch woman. “Don’t you know these people? They are not out here to serve an Ideology, like you. They have no such a thing. They are here to receive a fat pay, and to have a good time. The man who will read that, and other such sentences of yours — if he takes at all the trouble — will quite possibly be thinking about the girlfriend whom he expects to meet at the restaurant, or about the cocktail party he is doing to attend at some other officer’s house. He will skip over your book for the simple reason that the perusal of it would be to him a regular corvée.”
“If I were in control of some occupied land under our New Order, and were given to read the manuscript of some anti-Nazi underground worker as radical, as violent and as sincere as myself, goodness me! I would not skip over a word of it, with the result that the anti-Nazi would be ‘liquidated’ at my request even before I had finished reading the first chapter! I would appreciate his literary qualities — if any — and consider him all the more dangerous for possessing them. But, of course, as I once told a comrade, ‘these people are not we’. They can never react as we would.”
“You will benefit by this difference in psychology,” said the woman.
1 Gold in the Furnace — Chapter 7.
“If I benefit by anything, it will be through the exceptional favour of the invisible Powers,” replied I. “I don’t deserve it. But National Socialism does, Germany does, Aryandom does. Perhaps, if my book can one day be of any use . . . it may be spared in spite of all. I don’t know. I do not dare hope. I try to keep my mind detached; to do all I possibly can to save my manuscripts at any cost — by acting, by lying, if it be necessary — and not to care whether they are saved or not. I try to keep this attitude, but I cannot. I do care. I cannot help caring. I could sacrifice my writings joyfully only if I knew that, thereby, I would benefit the cause.”
“Try to think of nothing. Come this evening to the recreation room to hear a little music,” said the Dutch woman.
“I shall,” replied I.
* * *
It was the first time I set foot in the recreation room since the 8th of April. I remained by the Dutch woman, and did not relate a word of my story to the other prisoners, some of whom greeted me coldly, others amiably. Naturally, I did not meet the collection of anti-Nazis, former inmates of Ravensbrück and other camps, that I had seen two months before. They were B wing prisoners. And I was now in the A wing. But I came across others — just as bad — whom the Dutch woman pointed out to me saying: “You see that one with bobbed hair, sitting in the corner? Well, she was six years in a concentration camp. So was the one at her side, they say. As for those three talking together at the other end of the room, the dark haired one was four years in such a place, the other two three, I was told. The short one is a Czech.” It sounded to me as if the
three quarters of the ordinary criminals were former inmates of concentration camps, — which did not astonish me in the least. I carefully avoided all contact with them.
Music started playing on the wireless — a joyous, invigorating dance tune, well-rhythmed like a march. It reminded me of an orchestra in a luxury restaurant; of lively discussions around well set tables; of freedom under the best conditions — like before the war, or during the two first years of the war. I smiled.
“You see, you like it,” said the Dutch woman. “Wasn’t I right to tell you to come? It is better than to remain brooding in your cell.”
“Do you know what I am thinking of?” asked I.
“No. How could I guess?”
“Well, I am thinking of the next war. I am imagining how delighted I will be to be sitting in some luxurious festive hall, in South America or somewhere else, and to know that the Judeo-Christian world, that corrupt capitalistic world that rose to crush out beautiful New Order is crumbling to pieces, along with its ex-ally in the East; that their capitals are in flames; that our Day, at last, is dawning! Yes, even if these people, now, destroy all my books, still I will forget it all in my joy, when that day comes; still, full of enthusiasm, full of inspiration, rejuvenated, I will discuss, I will gloat — and dance, if I find a partner who hates them as much as I do — while picturing to myself their last hours; the last convulsions of the dying civilisation I loathe, before our Sunrise!
The radio had decidedly put me in a good mood. “You see,” pursued I, glad to speak, after that week of silence, glad to give vent to the old aggressiveness that I had nearly forgotten in my anguish about my book; “you
see, when they hear music like this, some think of love. I think of war; of the divine revenge. But do you know what would be ideal? Love and war. In old Babylonia they worshipped Ishtar-Zarpanit, the morning Star, goddess of war and manly works in the daytime, goddess of love, at night. That conception has always fascinated me. And although I have lived only one side of the double ideal, in this present life, I dream of living both, next time — if there be a ‘next time’; a new birth on this earth after each life, as the Hindus believe.”
Those words, which might have seemed insane to many people, did not even seem strange to the Dutch woman, who was a firm believer in the dogma of reincarnation. And although I am, personally, anything but sure of my soul’s destiny after death; although the theory of reincarnation is to me, at the most, a theory — an hypothesis, a possibility among many others — I smiled in anticipation of my “next birth,” somewhere in the new National Socialist Europe of my dreams. “All but a fairytale, perhaps,” thought I; “but at least, a beautiful one.” The music continued to play. And I let my imagination run riot.
“According to my horoscope, cast in India,” said I, I am to die at the age of seventy-seven. Assuming that I shall at once get reborn, if rebirth there be, that would mean that, in fifty years’ time, I shall be sixteen . . . Sixteen! — I never could understand why the Hindus whose views are so varied and conflicting on so many points, all seem to agree in their desire not to get reborn if they can help it. All their religious discipline is aimed at that. While I would like nothing better than to get reborn; to be sixteen once more, to be twenty, under the New Order, then solidly established: to look back to these days that we are now living as to a heroic beginning, never having
known, personally, anything else but the régime I am today fighting for; and to fulfill myself, this time on all planes, in beauty, in strength, in health: the mate of a youthful warrior devoted to our ideals, and the mother of living demigods . . .”
I suddenly stopped in my outpour of eloquence. I remembered the mental agony I had lived, in and after 1945; my remorse at the thought of my old omissions; my present anguish on account of my lost manuscript. Tears came to my eyes. “The Hindus say that every one of our lives is the consequence of our whole past,” remarked I. “Am I now suffering so that I might deserve that glorious future? And in order to deserve it more completely, am I to be told, in a few days’ time, that my precious book, my gift to my Führer’s people, will be destroyed?”
“Perhaps,” said the Dutch woman “and perhaps not. You know anyhow that, in the invisible, nothing is ever lost.”
The door was opened. The wardress on duty told us that time was up. I walked back to my cell.
Again, I started thinking about my manuscript, while the clear, still voice within me, the voice of my better self, told me once more: “Don’t worry; your real gift to your Führer’s people and to the everlasting Aryan Idea is your love, your dedicated life, — all your coming lives, if such there be, and if you so wish . . .”
I lay upon my bed and gazed at the limpid sky, so pure, so bright, so mysteriously transparent, in which the Sun would not set for another three hours. And I thought of an endless series of increasingly beautiful dedicated lives of struggle and of creation, all in the service of the truth embodied in the holy Swastika, sign of the Sun, sign of National Socialism, sign of the regenerate,
conquering, godlike Aryan Race. And I prayed with all the fervour of my heart that such should be my history, from now onwards, in centuries to come, if, contrarily to what many believe, death be not a full stop. “Immortal Gods,” thought I, “help me anyhow to deserve such a history, now, in this life, — whatever be the laws of life and death, which I do not know.”