THE UNFORGETTABLE NIGHT
“When all is lost—when thou hast no possessions, no friends, no hope left—then I come, I, the Mother of the world.”
—The Goddess Kali (according to Swami Vivekananda)
I was coming from Sweden, and going back to England through Germany and Belgium. The train was rolling on towards the German frontier, which I was to cross at Flensburg on the same day, the 15th of June, 1948, at about 6 p.m. All these years, I had lived six thousand miles away, in India. I had never seen Germany in the grand days of Hitler’s power. Now, the Gods had ordained that I should have a glimpse of her ruins. Bitter irony of fate! “But there must be a meaning to it”; I thought, “All that the Gods do has a meaning.”
I was travelling—officially—as a dresser in a theatrical company.1 And I marvelled at the network of circumstances that had been preparing for me, of late, a new life. Never, perhaps, had I felt more grateful to the principal of the company2 for having taken me to Sweden two months before. That trip had been for me the welcome awakening after a long nightmare. I had met in Stockholm an old friend: the sincerest, perhaps, and surely the most intelligent of all the English Nazis I happened to know; a fine character, and the one person to whom I had been able to open my heart in London when I first came there from India, in that wretched year 1946.3 We had talked again, and he had managed to convince me that things were now a little less awful, from our point of view. And through that friend, I had soon met others, Swedish Nazis, magnificent men and women of the purest Nordic stock, faithful to our eternal ideals; real Pagans according to my heart. And through these—and through the will of the Gods—I had had the honour of meeting one of the great men of the New Order, the famous explorer and the Führer’s friend: Sven Hedin, aged eighty-three, looking forty-five, and speaking as only everlasting youth can express
1 The dance company of Ram Gopal (1912–2003)—Ed.
2 Ram Gopal—Ed.
3 Elwyn Wright—Ed.
itself. I had had a four hour interview with him on that memorable Sunday, the 6th of June. “Have confidence in the future,” had he told me, among other things: “There are millions like you in darkest Europe. Trust them as you would trust yourself.” And as I had recalled our irreparable losses, in particular, the death of the martyrs of Nuremberg, he had replied: “Germany has other such men, of whom you never heard.” And as I had pointed out that one Man, at least—namely the Führer himself—must be looked upon as irreplaceable, he had told me: “Do not be so sure of his death. Several versions of it were published, none of which is convincing.”—“So,” I said, “perhaps . . .” I was too moved to finish my sentence. “Yes, perhaps . . . ,” replied Sven Hedin. He said no more. But I understood.
After three years of despair and disgust, I felt an inexpressible happiness fill my breast. I had known from that minute that a new life had begun for me; that all was not finished—that all was perhaps just beginning. I then told Sven Hedin what I intended to do during this first journey of mine through Germany. He had not discouraged me but only told me that “times were not yet ripe,” and tried to make me realise how risky my project was. Several young Swedes who had indulged in similar activities had never come back or been heard of again. Still I said, “I shall try.” The pleasure of defying those who had set out to destroy the National Socialist Idea was something too tempting for me to resist.
So I spent two nights copying on separate papers, five hundred times, in my own handwriting—for I knew nobody in Sweden who could print such literature—the following words in German:
Men and women of Germany,
In the midst of untold hardships and suffering, hold fast to our glorious National Socialist faith, and resist! Defy our persecutors! Defy the people, defy the forces that are working to ‘de-Nazify’ the German nation and the world at large!
Nothing can destroy that which is built in truth. We are the pure gold put to test in the furnace. Let the furnace blaze and roar! Nothing can destroy us. One day we shall rise and triumph again. Hope and wait! Heil Hitler!
And now I was sitting in a corner of the railway carriage, with my precious papers in my pockets and in my luggage; waiting to throw them out of the windows of the train at every station we passed through, as soon as we reached Germany. I was sitting and thinking of
the glorious past, so recent, and of the wretched present—and of the future, for now I knew we had a future.
The train rolled on. I was not the only one to think of these things. There were in the same compartment as myself three Indian girls—three dancers of the company with which I was travelling—and also two Jewesses. One of the Indians, a Maharashtrian of the warrior caste, started relating how, in Stockholm, she had read, in an American magazine, an article discussing the question of whether Adolf Hitler is alive or dead; and she added: “How I do wish he is alive! For the good of the whole world, such a man should live!” My first impulse was to press the girl in my arms for having said that. My second one was to reply that “such men always live,” but this ugly world of knaves and fools is unworthy of them. I refrained from both these forms of self-expression and merely gave the girl a sympathetic smile. With five hundred leaflets in my pockets, I could not afford to attract further attention to myself. But I thought: “Even a twenty year old girl from the other end of the world finds it impossible to feel herself nearing the German frontier without thinking of our Führer.” And I recalled in my mind the words heard long ago, in the days of glory: “Adolf Hitler is Germany; Germany is Adolf Hitler.” These words still express the truth. They always will. And I thought: “Just as, today, this daughter of the southernmost Aryans, so, for endless centuries to come, the whole world will identify, in its consciousness, Hitler and Germany and National Socialism—as one cannot help identifying to this day the Islamic civilisation, Arabia, and the Prophet of Islam.” Once more, I marvelled how broad and how eternal National Socialism is.
But the two Israelites present did not allow me for long to think in peace. “How dare you?” exclaimed one of them, turning to the high-caste Hindu; while the other sprang up like a wounded snake from the place where she was reclining and thrust herself at the girl: “Yes, indeed,” said she, “how dare you praise such a man?—Hitler, of all people! What do you know about him? You should learn before you speak . . .” Her eyes flashed. And she spat out, against the Germans in general and against the Führer himself, the vilest, the most nauseating tirade I had ever heard since the gloating of one of her racial sisters over the Nuremberg Trial in a London boarding house in 1946.
The world accuses us of cruelty. I am supposed to be “cruel,” and—if given power—would surely be more merciless to our enemies than any other National Socialist whom I personally know. And yet even I have never said—never thought—that I would “be delighted to see” any man, any devil, “torn in two.” I have not said that of the rascals
who conducted the Nuremberg trial; nor of those who organised the bombing of Germany to the finish. Can a Jewess hate our Führer more than I hate those people? No. But what the world miscalls our “cruelty” is just ruthlessness—the earnest and frank use of violence whenever it is necessary. The really cruel ones are the Jews. And that is why the fate of any of us in their hands is incomparably worse than the fate of any Jew in our power.
I shuddered as I heard that young daughter of Zion speak. Nobody yet had ever, in my presence, uttered a word against Adolf Hitler without my replying vehemently. But now, though burning with indignation, I was mute and motionless. I had those precious leaflets with me. I thought of the godlike Man for the sake of whom the German people are so dear to me. Was I to defend him against that tapeworm of a woman, and create a row, and get discovered, and become useless—or distribute my message of pride and hope to the people he so loved? I held my peace. But I gave the woman such a glance of hatred that she recoiled—and was never again to address a word to me. And I rose from my place and went and wept in the one place in which, even in a train, one is always sure to be alone.
* * *
The train rolled on towards the German border. There were some difficulties awaiting me at Flensburg. I was asked to get out of the train to be questioned on the platform by a man—visibly a Jew—to whom the stage manager of my employer’s company, also a Jew, was already talking. I possess a pair of Indian earrings in the shape of swastikas. I had them on; and intended to wear them right through German territory, in sheer defiance of all “de-Nazification” schemes. I threw a shawl over my head (there was no time to do anything else) and came out. The man on the platform, I was told, was “a member of the police.”
“Are you Mrs. Mukherji?” said he, as he greeted me.
“Yes, I am.”
“Well,” he continued, “There are rumours about you. Can you tell me how far they are justified?”
“What rumours?” said I.
“You surely know.”
“I do not. I have not the faintest idea. People say so many things.”
“Some say you are a Nazi. Are you really?”
“Does it matter what one is, in a land to which you are supposed to
have brought ‘freedom’—so you say?” I replied ironically.
“It does,” said the man. “We don’t welcome people likely to make the already difficult task of the Occupying Powers still more difficult.”
“I don’t see how anyone could display such might from behind the windows of the Nord Express,” I answered—wishing all the time I could.
I had hardly finished saying these words when one of the youngsters of the company, who knew I was wearing my lovely and dangerous earrings, pulled the shawl off my head from behind, “for a joke” he later explained. The “joke” could have proved a tragic one. But the boy did not know—nobody knew—what I was carrying with me and what I was intending to do. The hallowed Symbol of the Sun gleamed on each side of my face in that first German frontier station, now in June, 1948, as it did in the streets of Calcutta in glorious ’40.
“I see it is useless talking to you any longer, Mrs. Mukherji,” said the man to me. “You’d better stay off the train. We shall search your luggage.”
“You can,” I replied, with outward calm. But I ran to the principal of the company, who was taking a stroll, and took him aside at the other end of the platform.
“You must help me to get on that train again at once, without them searching my things,” said I.
“Why? What has happened?”
I explained what had happened, and the principal promised he would try to help me.
I could not tell what he said to the official or semi-official “member of the police” who had questioned me. He probably pointed out to him that no person seriously intending to indulge in Nazi underground activities would be such a fool as to advertise herself beforehand by wearing a pair of golden swastikas. And the argument, apparently, proved convincing. My very stupidity saved me. My luggage was not searched. At last the train moved on. “The Gods still love us,” thought I, as I rolled triumphantly into German territory.
* * *
Right and left the land stretched out, green and smiling, in all the glory of its summer garb—“as beautiful,” thought I, “as when ‘he’ ruled over it.”
I stood in the corridor, with as many of my leaflets as my pockets and handbag could carry—some concealed in packets of ten or twenty
cigarettes or in small parcels of sugar, coffee, cheese, or butter (whatever I could buy in Sweden), others placed in envelopes, others just loose. The railway ran parallel to a road. Walking along the road were a woman and a child. I waved to them, and threw a little packet of sugar out of the window—a packet with a leaflet in it, naturally. The woman picked it up and thanked me. I was already far away. By the side of a small station through which we passed without stopping, was a café. A youngster and a girl were seated at one of the tables, out of doors, drinking beer. I threw them a packet of cigarettes also containing a leaflet. The packet fell a little further from the table than I thought it would. The young man got up to take it, and smiled at me while I leaned out of the window to catch a glimpse of him. He was a fine young man: tall, well-built, blond, with bright eyes. The girl—a graceful and slim maiden with golden locks—had also got up and was standing at his side. She too, was smiling, glad to have the cigarettes.
As the train carried me further and further away out of their sight, I imagined them opening the packet, finding the paper, unfolding it. I imagined their eyes sparkling as they saw at the top—once more after three dark years—the unexpected Sign of the Sun, and as they read the words written for them from the depth of my heart: “Hold fast to our glorious National Socialist faith, and resist! . . . One day, we shall rise and triumph again.”
They had thought they had got twenty cigarettes and lo, they had got that along with them: a message of hope. I was happy. The idea did not enter my head that the message was perhaps wasted on them; that, after all, they might not necessarily be Nazis. I took it for granted that they were, at heart. However much this may seem childish, nay, foolish, utterly out of keeping with the seriousness of what I was doing, they struck me as too beautiful to be anything else.
* * *
And on I went, through the lovely countryside, my head at the open window. Whenever we passed through a station, or whenever I saw anybody within my reach—workmen on the side of the railway, people walking along a road or waiting at a level crossing for our train to pass—I threw out some small parcel and a handful of loose leaflets. The faces of which I caught a glimpse were haggard and tired but dignified faces; faces of men and women who, obviously, had not had enough to eat for a long time, but whom an iron will kept alive and whom an invincible pride kept unsubdued. I admired them.
A little before we reached Hamburg, I thrust from the toilet window over a hundred of my leaflets onto the crowded platform of some station through which we passed, and then came back into the corridor. The train was rushing on at full speed. I had no time to see what happened. “But surely,” I thought, “some of my papers must have fallen in good hands.” Then it struck me that some, also, being so light, might well have flown back into the train. I knew that the Jew B.T.,1 the stage manager of the company, was sitting in a railway carriage nearer the end of the train than mine. And I shuddered at the idea of him suddenly seeing one fly in from the window and fall upon his lap. “Oh, dear!” said I to myself, “I must be more careful henceforth!”
The Sun had already gone down, and we were running through the suburbs of Hamburg. For the first time, I beheld what I was soon to see every day: the ruins of Germany. Black against the pale green and golden sky—the afterglow of the late summer sunset—I saw no end of shattered walls; of heaps of wreckage; of blocks of iron and stone out of the midst of which emerged, now and then, the skeleton of what had once been a boiler, or a wagon, or an oil tank; no end of long dark streets in which no life was left. The whole place looked like an immense excavation field.
Tears came to my eyes, not because these were the ruins of a once prosperous town, the lamentable remnants of happy homes and useful human industries, but because they were the ruins of our New Order; all that was—materially—left of that super-civilisation in the making which I so admired. Far in the distance, I noticed the steeple of a church standing, untouched, above the general desolation—like a symbol of the victory of the Cross over the Swastika. And I hated the sight of it.
Once more, as in the last days of the war and in the months that followed, I experienced for a while the feeling of despair. In my mind, I recalled those darkest days: my departure from Calcutta already at the close of 1944—when one knew what the end would be—not to hear, not to read, and, if possible, not to think about the war; not to be told when National Socialist Germany would capitulate; and then, my wanderings from place to place, from temple to temple, all over central, western, and southern India, without my being able to draw my attention away from the one fact: the impending disaster. I saw myself again in a train on my way to Tiruchendur, at the extreme south of the Indian peninsula. A man holding a newspaper in English was sitting
1 Ben Topf—Ed.
opposite me. And I could not help reading the headlines in big letters: “Berlin is an inferno.” It was in April, 1945, a day or two after the Führer’s birthday. The man had looked up at me as he had seen me reacting and had said: “Well, we are safe out here, anyhow!” And I had replied: “It is all right for you, but I wish I were not safe. I wish I were there.” And before he had had the time to overcome his astonishment and ask me why, I had gotten up and gone out into the corridor, and there, easily abstracting myself from my tropical surroundings, I had thought of that inferno—as far as one can think of such a thing without having seen it. And I had pictured to myself the Man against and around whom raged the fury of a world possessed by demons, the Man who had striven for peace and on whom three continents were waging war: my beloved Führer—in the midst of the noise of exploding bombs and of crumbling buildings, his stern and beautiful face lighted up, now and then, by the sudden glow of new fires started in the vicinity. And I had felt all the more tormented in my security far away, because I could not look up to that tragic face in the hour of ruin and tell my betrayed Leader: “The East and West may turn against you now, but I am with you forever!” And I recalled, after that, my return to Bengal in July, 1945; the news: Germany divided into four “zones”; and then, the three long, gloomy years that had followed, until I had found in Sweden a new ray of hope.
I was thinking of all this as the train halted in Hamburg station, along the one remaining platform of the twenty-eight the station once possessed.
* * *
I soon noticed a gathering before one of the windows of our train—the window of a compartment nearer the end than the one I occupied. People were rushing forward, pushing one another, struggling with one another for something at their feet on the platform. Then, for a minute, all was calm again—all eyes were once more gazing at the window in expectation until, at last, the desired thing fell, and all again rushed to pick it up. The thing was a cigarette—a single one.
I walked down the corridor to the carriage from which it had dropped. It was the one occupied by the stage manager of the company, the Jew whom I mentioned. And there I actually saw Israel B.T. standing at the window, gloating over the ruins of Hamburg and of all Germany at the top of his voice—saying he was sorry an atom bomb had not been dropped on each town—and throwing onto the platform
one cigarette at a time (only one) just to have the pleasure of seeing twenty people rush forth to pick it up. Twenty people who less than ten years—less than five years—ago, had acclaimed the Führer at the height of his glory with their right arm outstretched and the cries of “Sieg Heil!”; twenty people who had fought for the triumph of the Aryan Ideology and for the overlordship of the Aryan race in this world, were now, after three years of systematic starvation, oppression, and demoralisation, fighting for a cigarette thrown to them—like a dry bone to a pack of hungry dogs—by a fat, ugly, mean, cruel, gloating Jew! My heart ached with shame and indignation. I wanted to get down from the train, to rush to the ones on the platform—to my Führer’s people; to my people—and tell them: “Don’t pick up that thing! It is the gift of mockery. Don’t!”
But the train had already started moving on. I turned to Israel B.T. with cold, contained rage: “If you must see people fight for your damned cigarettes, you could at least throw out a packet of twenty—something worth having.” I loathed the spiteful, cowardly creature from the depth of my heart, but I just could not keep silent. The Jew looked around at me and said: “I keep my cigarettes for Englishmen, and would advise you to do the same, if you have any.”
“Mr. B.T.,” I replied, “what have you in common with England and Englishmen? As for advice, let me tell you straightaway that I take none from my racial inferiors.”
It was the first time I ever had shown the creature my National Socialist feelings in all their glaring nakedness! He was taken aback. “What is the matter with you?” he said. He did not know me enough—yet—to understand at once.
“What is the matter with me?” I repeated, “Nothing. We are in Germany. That’s all.”
The train moved forth between further expanses covered with ruins. Yes, we were in Germany.
* * *
It was now dark. A bright starry night, and that desolation—those endless charred and blasted walls, and those emaciated, stern, and dignified faces—beneath the splendour of the heavens; and I, still standing in the corridor with a new supply of leaflets in my pockets. “Why had I not come years before, during our great days?” I was thinking. “Why had I not stood, I too, along those now devastated streets and cried out ‘Sieg Heil!’ at the passage of the one Man of my
times whom I revered as a god? Why had it been my destiny to spend all those years six thousand miles away from Europe and to come now—now that proud Germany lay in the dust?”
Tears filled my eyes as I gazed at the deep sparkling sky, and then at the rare lights scattered here and there in what was left of that immense city: Hamburg. The dark infinity above reminded me of one of the many names of the immemorial Mother Goddess, in Sanskrit, the sacred language which the Aryans once brought to India: Shyama—the Dark Blue One; Goddess of indestructible life, Goddess of death and destruction; lover and avenger; Energy of the Universe. And I recalled the words which the Mother Goddess Herself is said to have addressed to a Hindu sage: “When all is lost—when thou hast no possessions, no friends, no hope left—then I come, I, the Mother of the world.” And I remembered that, to the Hindu mind, the universal Mother lives in every woman. “In me, also,” I thought; “I too have come when all is lost, when all is in ruins; when all is dead, save the invincible Nordic soul, in Hitler’s people. Is that why I have come so late?—to speak to the German soul for fifteen hours from the corridor of the Nord Express?”
We passed through a station. More leaflets flew out of the window, written by me, thrown by me—“written and thrown by the Gods through me,” I felt. We rushed through another station. I repeated the gesture.
I was alone in the corridor save for a young man standing there—a handsome blond with a frank, trustful face. I had sworn to myself not to touch food or drink of any sort and not to sleep as long as I was in Germany—a manner of self-imposed penance for not having come before, and a symbolical expression of solidarity with the starving and the homeless among my Führer’s people.
I continued to distribute my leaflets. Save for two papers concealed, one in a packet of sugar, and the other in a small tin of butter, I had now only loose messages left. Each time we stopped, I expected the police to come, the train to be searched, and me found out and arrested. I knew I was doing something risky and had not for one moment hoped to get away with it. When, on the morning before, I had seen the Baltic Sea gleam in the sunshine, and watched the seagulls come and go in the bright sky, I had felt convinced that these were my last hours of liberty. I was prepared for the worst. But nothing happened.
The young blond I have mentioned did not seem to be watching me or even to have noticed what I was doing. Yet, I thought I had better try to find out who he was and what views he held . . . “in case.” I went
up to him, and we started talking. He was a Dane, he told me. I had met in Iceland, over a year before, a couple of Danes who were convinced Nazis. But I knew, of course, that a very great number were not. I asked this one the testing question which, generally, no European whose country was recently under National Socialist rule can answer without revealing his tendencies: “How did you fare with the Germans, during the war? Badly?” He smiled and replied: “Better than since they left.” I thought for a minute that he had guessed his answer would please me. But no. That could not have been. It was not written on my face that I am a National Socialist. And also, I was then dressed in the Indian style, in a “sari,” as I always had been, for years, before I came to live in occupied Germany. And few people knew what a response Hitler’s message had found in the hearts of some of the “southernmost Aryans.” The young man was probably sincere. And I felt I could talk a little freely to him. I told him how the sight of the ruins shattered me to the depth, and how I was in sympathy with Germany in her martyrdom.
“Yes,” he said, “I see you throw cigarettes and food to these people.”
“And better than that,” I suddenly replied, as though something had prompted me to betray myself—or as though I were sure the young Northerner would not betray me.
“What do you mean by ‘better than that’? What is better than food for the starving?” said he.
“Hope,” I replied, “the certitude of a future. But don’t ask me for further explanations.”
“I shall not. I think I understand you now,” he said. “And you have all my sympathy,” he added in a voice that seemed sincere. “But may I ask you only one question: you are not yourself a German, are you?”
“I am not.”
“Then, what is your nationality?”
“Indo-European,” I replied. And I felt my face brighten. In a flash, I imagined on the map of the world the immense stretch of land from Norway to India on which, from time immemorial, the different nations of my race created cultures. And as the young Dane seemed puzzled, I explained: “Yes,” said I, “I have no other nationality. Half Greek and half English, brought up in France, and wedded to a Brahmin from far-away Bengal, what country can I claim as mine? None. But I can claim a race—a race that stands above conventional boundaries. Fifteen years ago, to someone who asked me whether I gave my allegiance to Greece or to India, I answered: “To neither—or
to both along with many other lands. I feel myself an Aryan, first and last. And I am proud to be one.”
I did not add: “And I love this land, Germany, as the hallowed cradle of National Socialism; the country that staked its all so that the whole of the Aryan race might stand together, in its regained ancestral pride; Hitler’s country.” But the young man understood; “I know,” he told me; “and I repeat: you have all my sympathy. I shall not betray you.”
I was now sure he would not. He talked a little longer to me and then withdrew into his compartment. I soon was alone, awake in the sleeping train rushing on at full speed in the night through Germany. We halted at Bremen and at other stations. But, in order to avoid getting found out, I threw out my leaflets, as much as possible, at small stations through which we passed without stopping, whenever I saw people on the platforms. Every time the train stopped, I thought I might have been detected; I expected to be asked to get down and follow some man in uniform to the nearest police station. But nothing happened. Of all those who had picked up my message dropped from the windows of the Nord Express, none had yet been willing to betray me.
* * *
The train halted at Duisburg, and although it must have been about 3:30 a.m., there were plenty of people on the platform. To throw out a handful of leaflets was out of the question. The train was stopping. I would have been seen and arrested at once, without any profit to anybody. But I had an idea: I stuffed the pockets of one of my coats with leaflets, folded the coat in four carefully, and, as soon as the train began to move once more, threw the bundle out of the window. Someone, I thought would be glad to wear it the following winter. (It was a good coat, given to me in Iceland.) In the meantime, whoever picked it up would find in the pockets enough Nazi propaganda for himself and all his friends.
The train moved on . . . but stopped again. Had I been discovered, this time? I experienced that same uneasy feeling of danger which I had known so often since my narrow escape at the frontier station. Then, I noticed two men in railway uniforms get into the train by one of the doors that opened into the corridor where I was standing. One of them was carrying my coat. The uneasy feeling left me all of a sudden, as by miracle, and was replaced by absolute calm. I now was sure I
was going to be caught. I watched the two men walk toward me, as the train started once more.
They greeted me and asked me whether I spoke German.
“A little,” said I.
“You come from India?” asked again the same man, noticing the white cotton “sari” in which I was draped.
“And you threw that coat out of the window?”
“Yes. It is my coat. I hoped someone among the people would pick it up.”
“But there are papers in the pockets of that coat—very dangerous papers. Did you know of them?”
“Yes,” said I, calmly, I would nearly say casually—my fear had completely vanished—“I wrote them myself.”
“So you know what you are doing, then?”
“In that case, why do you do it?”
“Because, for the last twenty years, I have loved and admired Adolf Hitler and the German people.”
I was happy—oh, so happy!—thus to express my faith in the superman whom the world has misunderstood, and hated, and rejected. I was not sorry to lose my freedom for the pleasure of bearing witness to his glory, now, in 1948.
“You can go and report me, if you like,” I added, almost triumphantly, looking straight into the faces of the two bewildered men.
But neither of them showed the slightest desire to report me. On the contrary, the one who had spoken to me, now gazed at me for a second or two, visibly moved. He then held out his hand to me and said, “We thank you, in the name of all Germany.” The other man shook hands with me too. I repeated to them the words I had written in my leaflets: “We shall rise and conquer once more!” And, lifting my right arm, I saluted them as one would have in the glorious years: “Heil Hitler!” They dared not repeat the now forbidden words. But they returned the gesture. The man holding my coat gave it back to me: “Throw it out in some small station in which the train does not stop,” he whispered. “It is no use taking unnecessary risks.” I followed his advice. The coat—and the papers it contained—must have been found at daybreak, lying on the lonely platform of some station of which I do not know the name, between Duisburg and Düsseldorf. The two men had long got down from the train.
The name of Düsseldorf reminded me of the early days of the National Socialist struggle, of the days when the French occupied the Ruhr after the First World War. It also reminded me of one of the Führer’s speeches there, on the 15th of June, 1926, and I recalled a sentence from that speech: “God, in His mercy, has made us a marvellous gift: the hatred of our enemies whom we hate in return with all our hearts.” “Yes,” I thought, “whoever cannot thus hate, is also incapable of loving ardently.” I loved. And I also hated. And for the thousandth time, I realised all that I had lost for never having seen the Führer with my own eyes. Oh, why had I come so late, to behold nothing but ruins? I did not know that, in less than a year’s time, I should have the honour of being tried before a Control Commission Court in that same town—Düsseldorf—for having indulged in “Nazi propaganda.”
In the meantime, the words of the unknown railway employee filled my consciousness: “We thank you, in the name of all Germany.” Was it to hear these words addressed to me that I had come from so far? And was it to deserve the love of my Führer’s faithful ones—now, in the days of trial, when only the faithful ones remained—that I had come so late?
* * *
The train rolled on. I was still there in the corridor, standing in the same place. I was neither tired nor sleepy, although this was the third night I was spending awake. The thrill of danger and my devotion to our Führer sustained me. And the memory of those glorious, unexpected words addressed to me by one of the thousands who still love him—and the first German in the country who had spoken to me—filled me with joy and pride. I would soon be out of Germany now. But I longed to come back—although I could not imagine how—to come back, and begin again.
We reached Cologne—another ruined city. In the bright morning sunshine, this time, I saw once more those same endless rows of burnt and shattered houses, those deserted streets. The sight was perhaps even more heartrending than in the subdued light of evening. The wounds of the martyred town gaped in all their horror, calling for vengeance.
I saw people pass in the streets below the level of the railway—those same worn and dignified faces I had noticed all over Germany. When we came to a bridge built above a street, I threw out my last leaflets and my last parcel—some sugar (and, naturally, a leaflet)
wrapped up in green paper. The train halted on the bridge, and I watched people pick up my message. They had a look at the papers, saw the swastika at the top, and quickly put them in their pockets; such literature was not to be read in public. For a long time the green parcel lay in the middle of the street. Then, a young man on a bicycle stopped and picked it up. He felt the parcel. Lumps of sugar—or perhaps sweets—something fit to eat, anyhow. He put it in the basket fixed to his bicycle and disappeared.
I imagined him reaching his home—some cellar, or some narrow rooms in a half-destroyed house—and opening it; seeing the old sacred Sign of the Sun, which is also the sign of National Socialism, at the top of the paper; reading the writing. He would show it to his friends. And when his friends would ask him where he had got it, he would say: “From nowhere. It dropped from heaven into the street. The Gods sent it.” Yes, the Gods. And the words of hope would travel from one end of the country to the other.
The train moved backwards. Had someone at last betrayed me, and was I going to be asked to get down? No. I was not to be arrested till several months later, in this very station of Cologne, but through my own abysmal stupidity, not through the betrayal of any German. The train was only changing lines. As we passed before a ruined house of which the ground floor alone was inhabited, I saw before the door a plate out of which a stray cat was eating something—some black bread soaked in water, probably; all that the poor people could spare for it. And I was deeply moved by that kind attention to dumb animals on the part of starving people, in the midst of a town in ruins.
The train started to move again, slowly. For a while, I went back to my carriage where I found two of the Indian girls alone. The Jewesses were not there—thank goodness! I stood at the window, gazing at what was left of Cologne. Then, turning to the girl from the warrior caste—the one who had said, the evening before, that she would like to feel that Hitler were alive—I said to her, in Bengali: “Look! Look what they did to beautiful Germany—to my Führer’s Land!” And I burst into tears. Then, I remembered the splendid starry sky I had seen all night from the windows of the corridor. And I remembered the Dark Blue Goddess, the Mother of Destruction, Whose presence I had felt that night. In faraway India, during the war, I had visited her temples and offered her wreaths of blood-red jaba flowers for Hitler’s victory. The implacable Force had not answered my prayer. But I knew that the ways of the Gods are inscrutable. I now turned my face to the sky, as though the Dark Blue One had been there, invisible, but
all-pervading—and irresistible—standing above the ruins. “Kali Ma,” I cried, again in Bengali, “Pratishod kara!”—“Mother Kali, avenge!”
The Hindu girl saw how moved I was, and heard my appeal to heaven. She looked up to me from her corner and said: “Savitri, believe me, I understand you. The way these people treated Germany is disgraceful.”
* * *
Aix-la-Chapelle,1 another city in ruins. Our train stopped again. It must have been, by now, nine o’clock in the morning. A woman came to sweep the train, a woman with a kind, sympathetic face. Seeing me alone and willing to talk, she talked to me. She showed me the ruins one could see from the train and told me the whole country was in the same state. “ Alles kaputt,” she said.
“Jawohl; alles kaputt.” I repeated—all lies in the dust. “But that is not the end. The great days will come back, believe me,” said I, with the accent of sincerity. I had no leaflets left to give her. But I knew their contents by heart. I told her what I had written: “We are the pure gold put to test in the furnace. Let the furnace blaze and roar! Nothing can destroy us. One day, we shall rise and conquer again. Hope and wait.” She looked at me, bewildered, hardly daring to believe that she really heard my words. “Who are you?” she asked me. “An Aryan from the other end of the world,” I answered. “One day, the whole race will look up to the German people as I do today.” And I added in a whisper, as she pressed my hands in hers, “Heil Hitler!”
She looked at me once more. Her tired face now shone. “Yes,” she said, “he loved us—the poor; the working people; the real German nation. Nobody ever loved us as ‘he’ did. Do you believe ‘he’ is still alive?” she added. I was not yet sure of it. I said: “He can never die.” Some people were coming. We parted.
The two Jewesses were walking up the corridor with the stage manager. The female who had spoken like a devil from hell on the evening before did not address a word to me—the Gods be praised! But the other one burst out at me in anger. She felt she could say what she pleased to the dresser.
“Where were you all night?” she asked me.
“Standing in the corridor.”
“Why weren’t you in your place in the compartment?”
“I wanted fresh air. And whose business is it, anyhow, whether I care to sit or stand?”
“Fresh air, my foot!” she exclaimed. “You were feeding your bloody Germans all night. Don’t we know.”
“Feeding them, only,” thought I. So they did not know the whole truth after all. “Can’t I feed whom I please with my own money?” I replied. “Again, what business have you to pry into my affairs?”
But the stage manager stepped into the row. “The Germans!” said he. “You should go and live with them, if you find them so wonderful: live on boiled potatoes in some cellar, like they do, and see how you like it!”
My eyes flashed, and my heart beat in anticipation of the beautiful life that I so wanted to be mine. Without understanding what he had said, the Jew had expressed my most ardent, my dearest desire. “Gods in heaven,” I thought with a longing smile, “help me to come back, and live among my Führer’s people.” But the Jew was not shutting his mouth. My silence, and possibly the happy expression on my face, irritated him.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” he continued. “You should think of the British soldiers who lost their lives in this country before you go giving butter and cigarettes to these people.”
“Mr. Israel B.T.,” I replied, stressing that word Israel that used to precede all Jews’ names officially under the National Socialist régime—“Mr. Israel B.T., I happen to be half-British. And my other half is at least European. You are neither British (save by a misuse of the word) nor European.”
“A bloody Nazi, that’s what you are!” the Jewess now shouted at me, as loudly as she could, so that all the English-speaking people in the carriage could hear.
My face beamed. “The highest praise given me in public ever since I left India,” I wanted to say. But I held my peace. We were still in Germany. There was no purpose in further irritating those angry dogs, and calling for unnecessary trouble. I needed my freedom to come back—and begin again.
The row subsided, as rows always do. I was once more standing at the window alone, my head against the wind. My task was done—for the time being. I looked back to those fifteen intense hours across Germany. I thought of those famishing people, living among ruins. Five hundred of them had got my message. Any of these could easily have taken the paper to the police, and said that it dropped from the Nord Express, and with the reward given him, bought enough black
market food to stuff himself for a month. The Nord Express would have been stopped, and searched, and I arrested. But no; of five hundred Germans taken at random along a route of four hundred miles or more, not one had wished to betray the holy sign of the Swastika—not for money, not for food, not for milk for their children. I admired these people, even more than I had in glorious ’40. “My Führer’s people,” I thought, “I’ll come back to you somehow. I wish to share your martyrdom, and fight at your side in these dark days. And wait with you for the second dawn of National Socialism.”
* * *
I crossed the Belgium frontier without difficulty. The train now carried me on towards Ostend, towards the sea.
Still standing in the corridor, I was singing an Indian hymn to Shiva, the Creator and Destroyer—the very hymn I had sung, over a year before, in Iceland, on the slopes of burning Mount Hekla, when I had faced in the night the majesty of the volcano in full eruption. At regular intervals, mighty subterranean roarings then answered my song. Now, I felt as though the noise of the redeeming war—the voice of that irresistible coming Vengeance that I had invoked—was answering me. Out of further ruins—the ruins of the whole world this time—the people who had not betrayed me, Hitler’s beloved people, would one day rise again, the Voice said.
On the evening of that day, the 16th of June, 1948, I was back in London. A few weeks later, the Gods had granted me my wish. I was again in Germany, having entered the French Zone with over six thousand more leaflets—printed ones; and larger ones too—also written by me. My new life, or rather the period which stands as the culmination of my whole life, had begun.
Savitri with unidentified friends (the man may be Elwyn Wright), Stokholm, May 1948.