“Figure-toi Pyrrhus, les yeux étincelants,
Entrant à la lueur de nos palais brûlants,
Sur tous mes frères morts se faisant un passage,
Et de sang tout convert, échauffant le carnage.
Songe aux cris des vainqueurs; songs aux cris des mourants,
Dans la flamme étouffés, sous le fer expirants.”
“Was folgte, waren entsetzliche Tage und noch bösere Nächte—ich wußte, daß alles verloren war. Auf die Gnade des Feindes zu hoffen konnten höchstens Narren fertigbringen oder—Lügner and Verbrecher. In diesen Nächten wuchs mir der Haß, der Haß gegen die Urheber dieser Tat.”
It was in Bonn on the Rhine, hardly more than a week before my arrest.
I had walked into a café to have a cup of hot coffee, and especially to find a relatively peaceful corner in which I could sit and write, undisturbed as long as the owner of the place would allow me to stay. And there, I made the acquaintance of a comrade unlike most of those whom I had met up till then, in Germany or elsewhere; of an awe-inspiring elemental force in human garb—a typical beer hall “tough.”
He was sitting at a table drinking with another man. I could not help
1 “Imagine Pyrrhus, with his flashing eyes
Bright in the blazing of our royal halls,
Hacking his way over my brother’s bodies,
Bloody himself, cheering bloodshed on;
Imagine all the clamour—victor’s cries
And cries of those that died, by flame, by sword.”
(Jean Racine, Andromaque, Act III, Scene 8, in Four Greek Plays: Andromanche, Iphigenia, Phaedra, Athaliah, trans. R.C. Knight [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982], p. 34.)
2 “There followed terrible days and even worse nights—I knew that all was lost. Only consummate fools could manage to hope for the mercy of the enemy—or liars and criminals. In these nights hatred grew in me, hatred for the perpetrators of this deed.” (Mein Kampf, I, vii, p. 225; cf. Mannheim, p. 206) [Trans. by Ed.].
noticing him as I walked in. He looked like one of Hermann’s warriors disguised in shabby modern workman’s clothes. His head and shoulders were those of an aurochs of the Germanic forests of old. In his pale, greyish-blue eyes shining under bushy eyebrows; in his broad forehead; in his red square face, in his thick mouth, half-hidden under a fiery blond moustache, and in his powerful chin there was strength, and will, and thoughtfulness too, no doubt. But not the will and thoughtfulness of “a” man—of an individual; rather those of a whole multitude just awakening to consciousness; of a mighty, primitive, silent, invincible multitude of which he was the mouthpiece.
The other man, with more regular features but a far less expressive face; better dressed, and less boisterous—less “barbaric”—looked, by his side, like an individual; an average individual of the dying world of today. In this rough one, lived the soul of the ancient Hercynian Forest, and the soul of the happy German factories of the days of resurrection; “the old and the new,” I thought; “the Germany that never died.”
I much wished to talk to the man. But, of course, I did not. I only sat as near as I could to his table instead of taking a place in the corner. I ordered a coffee, took out my things, and started scribbling the beginning of a paragraph. It is the man who talked to me—as though his instinct had told him he should.
“Writing your school task, Madam?” he called out to me after a while, over the heads of half a dozen other customers. I looked up and smiled.
“I am too old to write school tasks; am I not?” said I, jokingly.
“Then, it must be love letters,” replied the man. I laughed, this time, wholeheartedly.
“Goodness no!” said I. “I never wrote love letters. It is only a book.”
“Oh, oh, a book! What sort of a book?”
And without giving me time to answer, he asked again: “Do you mind if we come and sit at your table?”
“Surely not. You are both welcome.”
So the two men got up, took their beer with them, and sat by me. As they were coming, I could see that the one who had spoken to me was as tall as I had presumed. But one of his legs was maimed. The aurochs was a wounded one. And there was, to me, something heartrending in the sight of that huge strong body that had been broken.
“What are you drinking with us? A glass of beer?” said the man, as he and his companion sat down.
“And now,” he continued, “tell us what your book is about.”
“Germany today,” I replied.
At once the expression changed on the rough, red, square face. In the man’s eyes, I read an earnestness that had not been there before.
“Were you here in the beautiful time—before the war?” he asked me.
“Alas no. I wish I had been,” said I. “But I was not.”
“If you have never seen those grand days, then you cannot realise all the difference with now. And you cannot write about present day Germany.”
The man was probably right, I thought. And once more, as I recalled in a flash those glories that I have not seen, my heart ached with a feeling of inexpiable guilt. Once more, the knife had been thrust into the old wound. Yes, why had I come so late?
I looked at the man sadly and said: “It is true that I was not here then. I have never seen either the magnificent yearly Party rallies, or the parades of the Hitler Youth through the streets; nor have I heard the Führer’s own voice address the German people (save on the wireless). All these years, I was ten thousand kilometres away—in India. But I have studied the Movement as much as one can from far. And I also had, directly, ample news from here that most people were not lucky enough to have. My husband was the owner and editor of the only National Socialist periodical in India, The New Mercury, a fortnightly publication to which every German in the country was to subscribe, by order of the German Consulate in Calcutta. The magazine was banned as early as 1937.” (I could say that much without betraying anybody’s secrets or my own; for these were all known facts.)
The man gazed at me with immensely increased interest. His eyes sparkled.
“Oh, oh,” said he, to his companion, “have you heard this? By Jove, it is worth hearing!”
And, turning to me before the other one had had time to put in a word, he said: “Of course, in that case, it is a little different. You are not one of those foreigners who come over here either to exploit us or to pity us—a plague on them! And even if you had not the privilege of being here in the grand days, you know the truth.”
“And you tell the truth, in that book of yours?”
“I hope I do.”
“And what is your dominant impression of Germany as you see it today? Do you like us?”
“I admire you,” I replied, with the spontaneity of conviction: “I admire you—the real, faithful Germans, I mean—even more than I did
in glorious ’40; even more than I did in ’42, when I was waiting to welcome your armies in Delhi after what I had expected to be a triumphal march through Russia.”
The man’s face brightened into a most sympathetic smile.
“You are right,” he said, “quite right. We are good people: hard-working, honest, kind, and peace-loving. We never wanted this war. It is those swine from abroad who forced it upon us. You know that, don’t you? And we would have won, too. For although we love peace, we fight well, when we must. We would have won, had it not been for the traitors.”
“I know. Three times the Führer offered England an honourable peace, and his collaboration in the building of a happy Europe. And three times she refused—obeying the orders of her masters, the Jews. I know it is no fault of yours. And . . . can I speak still more frankly? Will your friend here have no objection?” I said, alluding to the other man sitting at our table.
“He? Surely not. He is an old comrade. With us you are perfectly safe.” I hoped I was. One never knows. But I spoke.
“I can never get accustomed to the sight of the ruins.” said I. “Wherever I go, they cry out to me the story of the martyrdom of the great nation that could have arrested the decline of the superior races; saved the whole world. And the more I think of that, the more I hate those who, in or outside Germany, have worked to bring about the disaster.”
“You mean the Jews?”
“The Jews, undoubtedly. But still more, those Aryans who believed the Jewish lies, or who allied themselves to the forces of international Jewry for petty motives of their own; all those who, in or outside Germany, betrayed National Socialism or fought it openly.”
“And of all, whom do you hate the most?”
“The traitors of whom you yourself spoke a while ago: those who, in spite of being pure-blooded Germans, have secretly worked against the Führer during this war and who, now, sit in high positions, thanks to the conquerors’ protection.”
“Good! Well said! Yes, those are the rascals that must go first, when the day of reckoning comes.”
“I am waiting for that day.”
“And I! And not only I—millions!”
And the man’s eyes suddenly hardened, and I saw in them a flash of ferocity—which I welcomed. “At last,” thought I, “here is someone with whom I need not bother to moderate my style. Here is someone
who will follow me to the end; someone whom the sight of that deep-seated Mediterranean barbarity of mine—that lingering trace of the immemorial non-Aryans who flourished before the Greeks and Latins on the shores of the Inner Sea—would not frighten; a Northerner who, once stirred, could match any Southern European in cold-blooded violence.”
And I smiled.
* * *
The man swallowed his glass of beer, ordered another one, and then turned again to me.
“So you have seen what those rascals have done to our poor country, haven’t you?”
“I have seen Hamburg,” I replied; “I have seen Hanover, Frankfurt, Essen, Cologne, Koblenz, Saarbrücken; I have seen Stuttgart and Ulm. And I know the towns of the Russian Zone—Berlin, Dresden, and the others—are in the same state; that it is everywhere the same.”
“Have you seen Düren?”
“It is my native town. Not far from here. Between Cologne and Aix-la-Chapelle. Can you imagine how many innocent people, men, women, and children, they killed there in one single night with their confounded phosphorus bombs? Twenty-two thousand! And not killed outright, mind you. No, but burnt alive—stuck, and literally frizzled to death, in the melting tar of the streets all ablaze, all but a few. I was there—on leave from the army—and had a narrow escape. I saw that hell with my own eyes, and will never forget it. It was on the 16th of November 1944. You should see the place now: a heap of ruins. Like the rest of Germany.”
“I will never forget,” he again said, after a pause: “and never forgive.”
And again, I caught in his eyes that flash of elemental ferocity.
I smiled faintly, recalling in my mind the ever-vivid memory of my first journey through Germany, of my first glimpse of those ruins of whole cities, and of my appeal to the implacable Force Who rules the Universe with mathematical harmony—to the Inaccessible One,1 deaf to the voice of pious fear or tardy remorse: “Mother of Destruction,
1 Durga, one of the names of the Nature Goddess, both creative and destructive, means in Sanskrit “inaccessible.”
avenge this country!”
“Yes,” said I, to the man, in a most sincere outburst of feelings very similar to his although they sprang from a different source, “I too shall never forgive those rascals their cruelty and their vile hypocrisy; their sitting as judges over so-called ‘war criminals,’ at Nuremberg, after having themselves done this—as though this were not a war crime far more horrible than all their alleged charges against National Socialism. I shall never forgive them their smugness, their pretences of righteousness, their lies about ‘justice’ and ‘liberty’ coupled with their fanatical mania of ‘re-educating’ all those who do not believe as they do. Who are they to re-educate people, anyhow? Who are they to talk of morals, and ‘humanity’ and what not?”
“So you hate them just as I do, don’t you?”
“Yes, just as you do—if not still more.”
“But you say you were in India. You have not suffered what we have suffered here. You have not seen that hell.”
“No; but I thought of it all the time. It haunted me. I travelled from place to place not to think of it, and could not. And then came that nauseating trial—that crime, if there ever has been one. As soon as I came back to Europe, I heard them congratulating one another over it, as though it had been an act of justice—the swine! And that is not all. The savage destruction of that National Socialist Germany which I had looked up to for twenty years; the hanging of the finest men of Europe as “war criminals,” even that fades away before the one thought which I can never cast aside: the thought of what they would have done to my Führer himself—the one among my contemporaries whom I have ever worshipped—if they had been able to lay hands upon him. I shudder at the idea . . .”
“Yes; the devils!” replied the man. And his eyes blazed. “But,” he added in a whisper, to be heard of me alone. “Don’t fear: he is alive—and in excellent health.”
“I know,” said I.
“And he is coming back,” continued the man, in a still lower whisper. “When the Day of divine Vengeance dawns, you will see him.”
“Perhaps—if the Gods judge me worthy,” I replied. And my face beamed. “See him! See him at the head of the promised Last Battalion—the ‘Third Power’”—said I, recalling both spoken and printed words that had given me new life and new impetus, even after my coming to Germany. “But where is that mysterious ‘Third Power’? Do you know?”
The man’s eyes took on an expression of superhuman ferocious joy. His face became beautiful and terrible, like that of a war god of old. “I am the ‘Third Power,’” said he, with exultation, without even caring this time to lower his voice; “I am the Last Battalion; I am the divine Vengeance that will descend upon those rascals like the lightning, and finish them forever—both the Western lot and the Eastern lot, which is even worse; I, and millions like me. Don’t expect it from abroad. No, it is here—unseen, unsuspected, but waiting, ready to strike at the first signal. It is here, and it will come from here. It will rise out of Germany’s own soil, from a thousand places at a time, like the lava of a thousand volcanoes, that nobody can hold back, and it will roll all over Europe in waves of flame and fire before they have time to turn around. The hatred of the Nation who had done no harm to them, and whom they have tortured and humiliated, gagged, and robbed and cut to pieces—and reviled—in the sole hope that they would enjoy the earth alone; that hatred is the ‘Third Power,’ I tell you. There is no other.”—“And we need no other,” he added, emptying his glass, “That will finish them.”
“Unless the atom bomb finishes the whole earth before,” put in the other man sitting at our table. It was the first time I had heard him say something.
“The atom bomb will do a good deal of our dirty work for us,” replied the first speaker. “Don’t worry, my friend; the swine will use it on each other without bothering to waste it on us—it is too expensive. We will only step into their game when they imagine they are about to end it. And watch then, what happens, atom bomb or no atom bomb! Watch, for it will be worth seeing. Not like 1940, oh no! Much better!”
And his heavy shoulders shook with a loud, defiant laughter. And his eyes gleamed with that ferocious joy that I am said to radiate, at times, when speaking or thinking of our enemies’ future abasement. I was looking at him with the admiring interest of a beautiful woman looking at herself in a mirror. Yes, that rough, uncouth, outspoken man would understand my indignation at the thought of all the sufferings imposed upon those who think and feel as I do. He would never tell me—or tell others—that I am “awful.” What a relief to meet such a one after three years of contact with squeamish humanitarians of all degrees of falsity!
The man ordered three more glasses of beer, insisting that I should have one too, and then pursued:
“Much better, yes! I was then in France, with the army. I marched down the streets of Paris and under their famous ‘Arc de Triomphe.’
Those were splendid days. I marched right through the country, down to the Spanish frontier. I enjoyed myself. We all did. We ate. We drank. We had a fine time. Grand days, I tell you! But we behaved as gentlemen. We did harm to nobody. More still: our iron discipline protected the vanquished against possible excesses on our part. In Lyons, I saw one of our soldiers shot for having helped himself to a wristwatch adorned with diamonds, in one of their shops. We kept order among ourselves. And we brought order to the countries we ruled. We were generous and merciful to the conquered—until, of course, they started killing us by the dozen in the streets, after sunset, for nothing at all. Then, we just had to take steps. Who would not have? We lost the war. Many of us failed to get out of France as quickly as we would have liked to, and fell prisoners to the French. I was one among them—and wounded. You should have seen how they treated us! Worse than pigs!”
“I have heard accounts from other prisoners, especially from some of those who had served in the Waffen SS, and who happened to be captured at that time,” said I.
“Yes, those—our finest boys—they handled worse than any account can possibly describe. How many of them never came back from their hellish concentration camps or their slave labour settlements in the middle of Africa? How many of them, after being ‘liberated,’ were forced to sign contracts for years of service in their ‘foreign legion,’ and sent off to Indo-China and other places to die of tropical diseases? God only knows. But set them aside. We fared badly enough, we common soldiers of the Wehrmacht. I would tell you all that I went through personally, if this place were not closing at three o’clock and if it were not now nearly a quarter to three.
“Well, they kept me till the end of 1948. It is only three months since I came back home. And the oppression I have seen here—whatever be the ‘zone’—I don’t believe the world has ever seen before; not in Europe, at any rate. Nice ones to talk of ‘liberty’ and ‘justice,’ these damned Democrats! They have tied us down, hand and foot, so that we cannot move; and gagged us, so that we cannot protest, while they plunder our country right and left, carry away our factories piece by piece, cut down all our woods, take our coal, our iron, our steel, whatever we have, and make people believe, on the top of it all, that we are the cause of the war—the confounded liars!
“But I tell you, the day of reckoning is coming; that grand day that you and I, and our friend sitting here, and thousands of others are awaiting; the day when we shall see those Johnnies run for their lives,
in every ‘zone’ whichever it be, and curse their destiny for ever having brought them to Germany; the day when you will see the ‘Third Power’ at work; when I shall be in Paris once more. But I shall not be the same man. And Paris will be in ruins. So will many other places that we spared this time. We will spare nothing and nobody, next time. We will show these rascals what the kind, peaceable, harmless Germans can become, when exasperated by years of inhuman treatment. Yes, they used to call us ‘sales Boches,’ and we just laughed, as one laughs at children’s naughty pranks. This time, we will not laugh. Oh, no! I, at least, will not laugh!”
And suddenly raising his voice, and rolling before me eyes that were those of a wounded wild beast maddened with pain, or those of a Stone Age war god athirst for blood—inspired eyes, in which the lust of murder (as old and as strong as the lust of copulation) shone in all its barbaric splendour—he said: “I shall spare none of these bastards, this time, when I go back as a conqueror. But I shall cut the throat of each and every one I catch, do you hear?— like that” (and, in a horrible gesture, he passed the back of his hand across his own throat three or four times) “and I shall watch their eyes beg me for mercy, and shall remain as deaf as stone and as hard as stone; I shall watch life slowly leaving them while I look straight into their faces, until the end. And that will still be kindness, compared with what I have seen them do to us, in 1944 and 1945.”
I gazed at that outburst of elemental fury in a man of my own race and of my own ideals, with that mixed feeling of religious awe and elation that had once possessed me while I stood on the slippery deck of a ship, in the midst of a storm on the North Sea, or by one of the lava streams at night on the slopes of erupting Mount Hekla.
I half closed my eyes, and smiled to bitter memories which, one day—I now knew—would seem to me like the recollection of a nightmare in the glory of daylight: the tragedy of Nuremberg; the tragedy of all Germany in ruins; and all the horror of the relentless persecution of National Socialism, of which I had seen a little, and heard a lot more. And I remembered that I had called for divine Vengeance, during my very first journey through the martyred Land. “Goddess colour of the stormy Ocean and colour of the starry night, Dark Blue One, Mother of Destruction,” I thought, as I looked at the frightful face in front of me, “hast Thou answered my call? Art Thou Thyself gazing at me through these ferocious eyes, promising me Thy slow, exact, passionless vengeance, for all those I love?”
I recalled in my mind Hekla’s thick lava, moving at the rate of three
meters a day, and burning everything on its way. Equally slow was the gradual swelling of that mighty ocean of hatred against the persecutors of all I stood for; equally slow, and equally irresistible, and equally indiscriminate in its divine, impersonal destructiveness. But that ocean was conscious, to some extent. Through each one of its molecules, it could speak to me—as it did now—and I could speak to it. It understood me. For, although I stood above it, when I liked, I still was, myself, a part of it, and knew its language, and could make its rolling waves rise and rush forth at my voice.
I held out my hand to the terrible, simple-hearted “tough,” and smiled once more—not merely, this time, to the abstract idea of divine vengeance, but to him. “Right!” said I, “quite right! Oh, you don’t know how much I am in sympathy with you! But don’t forget to ‘liquidate’ these damned anti-Nazis out here, before you proceed to chastise the outer world. They are the first cause of the loss of the war, and the originators of all Germany’s sufferings.”
“Certainly! You don’t imagine that we are going to leave any of these traitors behind, do you? No fear! They will get what they deserve all right.”
But the man’s eyes softened as he took my hand in his big, rough, strong hands. He looked at me with a face in which the murderous expression had completely vanished, giving way to a frank, kind, almost affectionate smile. And, turning to his comrade, he said—while still holding my hand in his—“I like this woman. She speaks the truth.”
“And writes it!” I replied, laughing.
“Yes, I had forgotten about your book.”
“I am not speaking only of my book,” said I. “I am speaking of these. Now I know that you will not betray me, I suppose I can show you one—and give you one (or more) if you are interested . . .”
And I produced from my bag a paper about twelve inches long by eight inches wide, one of the five thousand leaflets—my latest supply—of which I had already distributed the greatest number. “But,” said I, “be careful that nobody sees you reading it.”
“That’s all right! Don’t fear.”
He unfolded it, saw the large swastika filling about a quarter of the page. “Oh oh! Here is something!” he said. He cleverly turned over the portion of the paper bearing the sacred, and now most dangerous Sign and read the printed writing:
What have the Democracies brought you?
During the war, phosphorus and fire.
After the war, hunger; humiliation; oppression;
dismantling of the factories;
destruction of the forests;
and now—the Ruhr Statute!
But, “Slavery is not to last much longer.”
Our Führer is alive, and will soon come back with untold power.
Resist our persecutors!
Hope and wait.
“By Jove, it is true—could not be more true!” said the man. “And you wrote that?”
“And what does ‘S.D.’ mean?”
“My initials, standing for Savitri Devi. My full name is Savitri Devi Mukherji.”
The man laughed, “Written and signed, eh! That’s splendid.” “You can have a look at this,” he added, turning to his friend and handing the paper over to him. And to me, he said in a whisper: “It is a dangerous game you are playing, my dear lady. Beautiful, but dangerous. Only pray you don’t get ‘pinched’ one of these days. And now . . . another glass of beer, won’t you?”
“But . . .”
“Yes, yes, you must have one; to the success of your mission; to the return of the great days; to his return . . .”
“Waiter, three more beers!”
“But we are closing,” said the waiter.
“Never mind! Come along! It will not take five minutes.”
The waiter hurried back. The man paid. We lifted our glasses, speaking in a low voice:
“To the destruction of the enemy!”
“To the resurrection of Germany!”
“To Adolf Hitler, Weltführer!”
I felt tears rising to my eyes as I uttered these words, recalling in my mind the happy time when I was expecting to see the German army break through at Stalingrad, and march through High Asia into India, along the old Conquerors’ Way, uniting the whole of the Aryan world.
“What are you thinking about?” the man asked me.
“About the glorious days.”
“They will come back,” said he, putting one hand on my shoulder; “Or rather, I should say, greater days will come; the New Order but . . . no traitors this time, and no Jews.”
The waiter came up to us, “We are closing,” he said; “I am sorry.”
“Would you like to have more of my papers?” I asked the two men.
“I would like a couple of them,” replied the one who had hardly spoken up till now. I gave him a few.
“How many have you got?” asked the other man.
“I do not know. I had, originally, five thousand. But I have distributed quite a number already. I might have a few hundreds left.”
“Five thousand are very few for all Germany,” said he. “Use them sparingly. This one you gave me is enough. A thousand people will read it. Dozens will copy it and distribute it in their turn.”
We got up. We shook hands.
“By the way,” the man said at last to me, “I did not think of asking you your nationality. In spite of your foreign accent, I completely forgot you are not a German. What are you?”
“An Aryan,” I replied with a smile. “Is that not sufficient?”
“Yes, it is.” The man also smiled.
“Heil Hitler!” said I, in a whisper, as we parted, without daring to lift my arm in salute, as we were in a public place.
“Heil Hitler!” replied the two men.
* * *
Since then, I have often recalled the more than human force concentrated in that man; the bitterness, the resentment, the hatred of a whole people that has suffered beyond measure, and that he embodies. Yes, that is the force we will let loose upon this half-ruined continent, next time.
Vox populi, vox Dei. That rough, sincere German, fundamentally good but roused to murderous violence by excess of foul treatment, is the German people. Through his voice, the blood of the unknown thousands of Germans martyred for the love of the Nazi Idea since 1945, cries for vengeance. It is a divine voice. In it, rings the spell that will bring down the whole structure both of Democracy and of Communism. Nothing can silence it, nor weaken its magic power.