Bavaria - 1954
"In the fields and on the heath," Werner sang in his deep, sweet voice, "I lose strength through joy."
"Shhh..." I giggled, snuggling closer with his erection firmly planted within my sex. "Someone will hear you."
"Who? They're all working," he said, shifting slightly and pulling me so that I lay more fully on his bare chest. "I love you."
"Mmmm..." I rocked my hips. "That's what you told Brigitte yesterday."
"She talks too much," he sighed, holding my ass while I straddled his thighs. We'd found an easy rhythm and I worked myself lower as Werner lifted his hips to meet me.
"And Erna?" I teased him. "Last week?"
"Are you jealous?" he asked and I kissed him, feeling my swollen nipples burning against his cool skin.
I felt so hot, inside and out, and I'd been a virgin until arriving in Bavaria. At fourteen, I'd graduated from the Jungmaedel into the Bund Deutscher Maedel, and my father had packed his only child off somewhat unhappily for a month of camping in the countryside. Having been born and raised in Berlin, I'd felt no desire to leave the city, but that had changed quickly enough.
A Labor Service camp for young men in the Land Jahr had been constructed nearby and Werner, like so many others, had to spend a year working with local farmers. After that he'd probably be conscripted into the army, but for the moment he liked to sneak out of the fields and into the girls' Hitler Youth camp. Two of my new friends had slept with him and naturally I'd been curious, especially after hearing their stories.
And they were all true, I thought, moaning as his tongue filled my eager mouth and Werner seemed so much larger than me. He was eighteen and very strong, very fit and handsome with his closely cropped hair and deep blue eyes. I was at an age where all men held a fascination for me and it had been so easy to fall in love. I'd given myself to him with hardly a murmur of protest and now he held my smallish body against his, driving himself into my sex harder and faster as the urgency grew. I whimpered weakly, closing my eyes and gasping for every ragged breath I could find.
"More ... More ... Yes..." Werner groaned, digging his fingers into my flesh and watching my face as I rode him to orgasm. The pain of losing my virginity, if I'd really felt it at all, had long since disappeared. Perhaps because he wasn't very well endowed? I had no way of knowing then and it doesn't matter at all. My body had been made for this, everyone said so, and now I believed it.
I felt his penis jerking inside me, spilling the immediate and distinct warmth of Werner's semen very near the entrance to my womb. The sensation brought my own shuddering climax and I collapsed completely upon him, feeling my flushed cheeks grow damp as tears filled my eyes. I kissed his neck and jaw while he held me and shivered with the pleasure of our union. Sex, I'd already decided, was now my favorite thing in the world and I couldn't seem to get enough of it. Especially the afterwards, when he held me and kissed my face and hair.
Werner regarded me with a lazy smile as I dressed quickly, frowning at the straw clinging to my clothes. We'd used a blanket, but I felt itchy as well and desperately wanted to take a bath. I shook my skirt, blue and modest, snapping the cotton through a shaft of dusty sunlight before stepping into it. My panties were terribly stained and I couldn't decide if I enjoyed the feeling of Werner's sperm leaking from my sex or not. Either way I had little choice and I'd be wearing the man between my thighs for much of the day.
"Where did my brassiere go?" I asked, looking around the loft and then rolling my eyes as he pulled it out from under him.
"This one?" he teased me and I snatched it away.
"You're going to get us in trouble," I told him. "You have to get out of here."
"I like to see you," he said, admiring my milk white breasts as I covered them. They were hardly generous, but firm and nicely formed anyway. I liked the way he looked at me and I wasn't shy.
"Will you write to me?" I slipped into my blouse, simple and white and began to button the front of it.
"I said I would," Werner replied with a shrug. "Will you write me back?"
"Of course." I said, having no choice but to smile. "I'll miss you."
"While you're dancing in Berlin?" he asked. "You'll forget all about me, Lise."
"My father won't let me go dancing," I said. "He won't even let me have a boyfriend."
"What will he say when you receive my letters?"
"I'll hide them," I decided, pulling on my wool socks and I didn't like those very much, or the heavy hiking shoes we had to wear.
"You know, I really do love you," Werner said with a sigh. "You're entirely beautiful to me."
"I don't believe you!" I laughed, scrunching up my nose and standing once more, combing my fingers through my dirty blonde hair.
"Beautiful," he insisted and I left upon that word, wanting it to be his last thought of me. Any other goodbye would have been harsh and nearly unbearable.
Berlin - 1954
"What are these?" My father threw the bundle of letters onto my bed. I'd bound them together with a red ribbon and hidden them in my closet.
"Letters," I said, ignoring the pounding of my heart and lifting my chin. "From my admirer."
"Admirer?" His lips were thin and white, his eyes dark with anger. "What have you done?"
"I don't know what you mean." I swallowed hard and turned my face towards the windows overlooking Hanfstaenglstrasse.
"Don't play games with me!" he shouted, stamping across the room in his boots. "Tell me. Now!"
"Herr Reich Minister!" Ingrid gasped. The old woman's eyes widened when my father raised his hand as if to strike me.
"You've been ill," he said, lowering his voice along with his arm. "You're losing weight and can't sleep. I know all of this, Lise."
"Then you know everything," I told him, casting a dirty frown at my handmaid and Ingrid refused to meet my gaze.
"I want to hear it from you," my father insisted.
"Very well." I cleared my throat and turned to face him directly. "I'm pregnant, Father. Nearly three months now."
"God in heaven," he breathed, wincing as if I'd slapped his face.
"I've decided to keep it," I told him with a faint smile, rather enjoying this despite the icy knot of fear in my belly.
"You've decided..." he whispered. "No! Absolutely not!"
"But I must, Father," I said calmly. "I have a duty to the Fatherland, the Fuhrer himself said so."
"Damn the Fuhrer!" he snarled and I blinked at that. "Do you even know who the father is?"
"Of course." I nodded quickly, realizing I'd gone too far. "He's there..." I pointed, " ... on the bed. He loves me."
"Stay here," my father said, retrieving the thin bundle of letters and turning away.
"Where are you going?" I asked, but he didn't even slow down. "What are you going to do? Father!"
"Don't let her out of this room," I heard him tell Ingrid as she'd followed him to the door. "Under no circumstances."
"Yes, Herr Reich Minister," she agreed, dipping her head and closing my bedroom door behind him.
She'd betrayed me, of course, and I gave her a withering look, but beyond that there was little else I could do.
"Lise ... Wake up now," Ingrid whispered, sitting on my bed and patting my hand. "The doctor is here."
"Get away!" I breathed, jerking away from her wrinkled fingers.
They'd come for my baby in the middle of the night, the way thugs and criminals do. Two strong men to hold me down and the doctor to cure me of my indiscretion. My father stood in the doorway, a shadow of a man with the light behind him, and I screamed. I fought, but to no avail. In the end my father would win, as he always did, and they left me exhausted and angry, drugged and calm and dreaming terrible things.
"You let him do it," I whispered as my mother bent over my bed, smoothing my comforter.
"For the best," she replied. "Go to sleep."
"Did you murder him?" I asked my father over breakfast several days later.
He ignored me, turning a page of the London Times, the newspaper he preferred with his coffee. A copy of the morning paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, lay undisturbed on the teacart at his elbow.
"I asked you if you killed him," I repeated, demanding an answer, and he didn't even lift his eyes.
"He won't bother you anymore," my father said. "I've taken care of everything."
I had no reply to that and we sat in silence but for the rustle of newsprint and the chirping of birds. The terrace overlooked a small, but well tended garden surrounded on three sides by a high, brick wall. The modest grounds seemed a luxury in the center of Berlin, where so many parks had been lost to the never ending construction. And it couldn't compare with my grandfather's estate in East Prussia, of course, a place I'd grown very fond of during our occasional visits and hoped to see again soon.
"Your car is waiting, Herr Reich Minister, and yours as well, Fraulein," Josef, our butler, announced. "Lieutenant Roepke has your books."
"Thank you," I said, fighting back the tears that threatened to spill down my cheeks. I refused to give my father the satisfaction.
I rode in the back of the Mercedes in silence while Lieutenant Roepke drove me to the gymnasium. He reminded me of Werner and I stared at the man's neck where it was exposed above the black collar of his Schutzstaffel uniform. They shared the same Nordic features, I thought, in the nose and jaw and in their clear, bright eyes. A handsome young man, this SS officer, and he must have been about the same age as Werner, but then I remembered that Werner would never grow a day older.
I did cry then, finally.
"Where have you been?" Nora wondered as I took my seat beside her in class.
"Home," I said with a shrug. "I wasn't feeling well."
"You haven't missed very much," she said and proceeded to report faithfully the most recent gossip. I pretended to listen until she was interrupted by the familiar strains of Deutschland uber Alles.
Rassenkunde, our first class of the day, was the one I enjoyed least. I found the subject boring at best and most often contradictory, even to my adolescent mind. Doubtless others thought much the same thing and so the subject was slowly fading from the curriculum, but not yet gone completely. My father had waved away my incessant questions, telling me to attend to my studies and ignore my confusion.
"In America, we see the deliberate and systematic spread of disease by Jews, using the blacks..." our teacher, Frau Klein, lectured in her droning voice and I spent my time drawing pictures of windmills.
"Hey," Nora whispered. "How come nobody in Germany ever dies from syphilis?"
"I don't know," I said. "Why?"
"Because the Gestapo shoots them first!" she said, hiding a giggle beneath her hand as I rolled my eyes.
"They'll shoot you someday," I predicted and the girl stuck her tongue out at me.
We were fourteen and going to live forever, that's what she thought and so many of my other classmates as well. I'd believed it myself until just recently and I touched my empty tummy, sitting up straight in my chair and giving Frau Klein my attentive blue eyes. She'd remember that one moment out of the many and I'd get a small check mark next to my name. Lise Speer von Manstein was a superb student, an ardent National Socialist, and a credit to the Fatherland.
East Prussia - 1957
"Grandfather!" I smiled and leapt off the train in most unladylike fashion, running into his hug like a little girl.
"Oh! Careful," he grunted and the old general was nearing seventy, but still healthy and alert. "I've missed you, Lise."
"I've missed you," I replied, kissing his cheeks and keeping my arm around him as we turned away from the platform and towards the great glass and steel structure of Konigsberg Station.
"How was your trip," he asked. "Any trouble crossing the Corridor?"
"No." I shook my head. "They didn't even stop the train this time."
"Good." He nodded at that news. "The Poles are preoccupied with Russia."
"Will there be war?" I wondered and that had been a favorite topic in Germany over the last few weeks.
"I don't think so," my grandfather said. "But there should be."
"I feel sick every time I pass through Danzig," I told him truthfully. "I saw a sign on a wall..."
"What did it say?"
"We are forgotten."
"Hmmm..." The general frowned.
"They'd tried to wash it away," I told him. "But I could still see it."
"They're not forgotten, Lise."
"I know," I agreed and made an effort to speak of more cheerful things. "Where is your new automobile? Can I drive it?"
"Do you know how to drive?" he asked with a chuckle and a doubtful purse of his lips.
"I'm a very good driver!" I protested happily. "You'll see."
Grandfather's adjutant, Major Crispin, stood near a Mercedes waiting for us and he greeted me warmly as well. Although retired these past few years, Colonel General Erich von Manstein had been the Chief of the Army General Staff, and therefore entitled to the privileges of his rank unto death itself. He still wore his uniform on occasion and retained some influence in the Wehrmacht. Not nearly so much as he'd enjoyed as the second most senior officer in the Reich, but enough for my purposes, I hoped.
I did indeed drive my grandfather's fine new car, much to the chagrin of Sergeant Dahl, the general's official driver. The Mercedes was large and painted Prussian blue, an oversized sedan with a powerful motor and luxurious interior. It had been presented to him courtesy of the Verein Graf Schlieffen, an association of retired staff officers. I rather enjoyed roaring across the Junker estates with their great and ancient oak trees flying past like huge fence posts. In the passenger seat beside me, my grandfather laughed, but in the mirror I could see the poor major turning pale and I reluctantly slowed to a more stately pace.
"Are you alright, Major?" I teased him after arriving safely at our destination.
He simply smiled and I had a feeling Major Crispin would be sharing a brandy with the sergeant after I'd been settled into my room.
The rustic villa had once been used as a hunting lodge by a Hohenzollern Margrave and cousin to Frederick the Great. During the 1930's the land had been apportioned by Herman Goering when he became the Prime Minister of Prussia, giving legal ownership to the Party. Subsequent to the Fuhrer's death, the estate had been gifted to my grandfather for supporting Chancellor Schact during the dark days of the Beck Putsch.
I'd sometimes looked down upon that gift, fearing perhaps that bribery may not be too strong a word, but history is written by the victorious. Prussia, as my father himself had told me, often rewarded her generals for the sublime performance of their duty and I should remember and be proud of that. My grandfather had acted out of conscience in any event and to consider him a mercenary would be unthinkable.
As it turned out, we all had a brandy in the comfort of Grandfather's spacious study. Sergeant Dahl stayed only long enough to start a fire in the hearth and toast the general's health before taking his leave, but Major Crispin remained and I didn't mind. I'd turned seventeen half a year previously with a wandering eye for handsome young men, and the good major had not yet turned thirty.
"To your father," the general said, lifting his glass after Crispin had refilled it.
"The Reich Minister," I agreed politely and the old man caught my something in my tone, or perhaps the look in my eye.
"How is he?" Grandfather asked and I shrugged, looking down at my glass after taking a small sip of the warm liquor.
"He sends his regards," I answered, fulfilling my usual role as my father's apologist. "The Chancellor likes to keep him in Berlin."
"Of course," he agreed and changed the subject. "Tomorrow we'll visit your mother. Yes?"
"Yes," I said. "I'd like that very much."
"I haven't been there in some time," he sighed. "I don't like to go alone."
"I understand," I told him, reaching for his hand. "I'm here now, Grandfather. We'll go together."
Soon thereafter his housekeeper announced dinner and we spent much of it listening to stories about me when I'd been small. Grandfather had missed me greatly, and me him, and it felt good to be home again. That was very much how I thought of it too. I lived in Berlin, but that had seemed a cold and heartless place these past few years and I was glad to be away from it.
Major Crispin looked surprised when he opened the door to his bedroom and I laughed lightly, clutching a shawl to my breasts with one hand and holding a bottle of champagne with the other.
"May I come in?" I asked. "My feet are freezing."
"What?" He looked down at my bare toes for a moment before collecting his wits. "Yes. Of course, but ... What are you doing here?"
"I couldn't sleep," I said, giggling like a nervous school girl as I scampered across the room and fell onto his bed. "Do you have glasses?"
"I, uh..." He smiled, knotting his bathrobe and glancing around the room. "No. I don't think so."
"That's alright," I said, peeling the wrapping from around the cork. "We can share the bottle."
"Lise." He shook his head. "You shouldn't be here."
"Why not?" I offered him a calculated pout and I'd spent the better part of an hour making myself beautiful ... and working up my courage.
"The general will put me in front of a firing squad," he said and I laughed out loud.
"He will not!" I made a face as I pressed against the stopper with my thumbs.
"Oh!" I held the bottle away from me as cold champagne erupted onto the bed and then the floor. "He loves you like a son."
"And you're his grand-daughter," he sighed. "That makes us practically related."
"Practically!" I giggled, jerking my head and inviting him to join me. "Come here now and stop pretending."
"Pretending?" The major widened his eyes and stepped closer, finally deciding to sit with me as I made room for him.
"Hmmmm..." I swallowed a mouthful of champagne and pushed the bottle towards him, " ... that you don't like me."
"You know I like you," he said. I watched as he took a large swallow and licked his lips, giving me his warm eyes. "I've known you since you were ten..."
"Eleven and a half," I corrected him.
"You should have never grown up, Lise," Crispin decided as I reached for his broad shoulders.
"Too late," I whispered, pulling him down as I lay on his pillows. "Now ... What are you going to do about it, Herr Major?"
"Open your mouth..." He held up the bottle.
"Umph!" I swallowed quickly and laughed, choking and spilling champagne down my neck and into my hair.
The man licked my skin and I shivered happily beneath his kisses. I opened my nightgown, exposing my breasts and he baptized my hard nipples with wine, kissing and biting them gently while I cradled his head and murmured my appreciation. He bathed my taut belly and sipped from my navel, making me giggle until the major took a long pull from the bottle and fed me with a champagne filled kiss that I swallowed greedily.
"I should have brought two bottles," I teased him, lying naked in the chill night air, but feeling nothing except the warmth of my arousal.
"Do you want me to find another one?" he asked and I shook my head, feeling his erection pressing between my thighs.
"You should kiss me," I whispered, "or I'll wake the entire the house."
"I'm very loud in bed," I told him solemnly and then spoiled it with another giggle.
"I believe you." He laughed and then kissed me deeply, pushing his tongue into my mouth and a moment later entering my ready sex with his manhood.
"Ummm..." I winced and nodded my head, smiling into the major's face as we made love. He liked to put my legs over his shoulders and I'd never felt anything like it before. The position, my complete vulnerability, made him seem even larger than he was and I gasped as his cockhead found the very bottom of my sex.
"I've wanted you for ... so ... long ... Lise," he whispered, panting the words in time with his thrusts.
"I know," I gasped, pulling at his hips and thighs with my fingers, urging him to fuck me harder.
I recalled my previous visits, arriving unpredictably as I grew from a girl into a woman, and how Major Crispin would look at me. The warmth I'd felt and the excitement as his restrained interest grew with each passing year. I'd teased him at times, playing the innocent, but knowing this night would come eventually. At seventeen, I couldn't wait any longer and now we were together, joined inevitably by chance and choice. I tried fervently to remain clear and catalogue the sights and smells and sounds, committing every sensation to memory so that I'd never forget.
But my orgasm peaked too soon and I surrendered completely, losing all sense as the pleasure grew. I clutched at the man awkwardly, desperate to be kissed in that moment when the walls of my sex collapsed around his sweet penetration. I wanted to hold him inside me forever and it wasn't long before Crispin began to cum as well. His stiff member pulsed like a second heartbeat deep in my belly and I welcomed the intimacy of receiving his seed. That seemed the best part for me, not my own climax, but his, and I felt completed by it somehow.
"Thank you," I breathed, flushed and giddy with the euphoria of the moment.
"You're welcome." Crispin smiled, his confusion tempered with amusement, and we both knew we weren't yet finished. The nights in East Prussia were very long this time of year.
Grandfather had constructed a mausoleum in the side of a small hill for his wife some ten years before, and a short time later his daughter had joined her. My mother, Angela Speer von Manstein, had died of tuberculosis when I'd been twelve years old. Her funeral provided the last occasion in which we were all together, my parents and I, my grandfather and his wife. My father had not returned since, but he'd suffered this before when his first wife, Margarete, had died giving birth to their first child. My half-brother, Charles, hadn't survived her by more than twenty minutes and I often thought of him, as I'm sure my father did as well.
Such ill-fortune had shaped my father's life, and mine, and I sometimes blamed those two women for failing him so completely. How different things might have been if only one of them had survived. But those were weak and childish thoughts and I cast them aside. I'd brought flowers that I'd picked from the fields around my grandfather's home. Wild flowers, coarse and beautiful like the land upon which they thrived.
I arranged the bouquet beneath the stone upon which their names were engraved, kneeling on the rocky dirt and brushing away the dust and grime that collected over time. The day had dawned chill and grey; the sun did not shine and the wind tugged at my dress and the redingote I wore over it. My hair blew into my face and I wiped it away with my tears before rising to rejoin my grandfather. He held my hand as we stood there for a long while, sharing our most private thoughts in a silence born of blood.
"I've decided what I want to do," I told my grandfather once we were in the car and away from that place.
"And what is it you wish to do, Lise?" he asked with a petulant smile, no doubt expecting something only slightly unorthodox. I'd had a great many plans over the years.
"An appointment in the army," I said. "I want to be an officer on the General Staff."
"There are no women on the General Staff," he said immediately, unable to completely suppress his opinion of the idea; I heard the distaste quite plainly.
"But there are women in the Reichsheer," I reminded him. "Eventually there will be female staff officers. Why can't I be the first?"
"The Reichsheer is not Das Heer," he reminded me in turn. "Have you discussed this with your father?"
"Not yet," I admitted with a deep breath.
"I'm sure he has his own plans for you," Grandfather said, attempting to close the subject. "Speak with him first."
"And you know what he'll say," I retorted, ignoring the dismissal. "If you arrange the appointment, he won't be able to refuse."
"A fait accompli? I don't believe the Reich Minister would be happy with that, Lise."
"I don't require his happiness," I said and decided upon a different tact. "You're the only man he respects. He took your name when he married my mother. You gave it to him ... to me, Grandfather. I'm a Manstein; the army is in my blood. I can feel it!"
"You can feel it, eh?" he asked with a smile and I felt my face turning pink.
"For the last hundred and fifty years there has been a von Manstein on the Prussian General Staff," I said quietly. "Until now. You've already retired, Herr Generaloberst, will you die without leaving behind a true heir?"
"Enough!" My grandfather turned his shoulders and stared out the window.
"Permit me to honor my family name," I finished, determined that he should hear me out. "I'll ask you for nothing more."
"The general doesn't wish to be disturbed." Major Crispin stood guard, sitting with a book near the closed door of my grandfather's study.
"What's he doing?" I asked, pacing helplessly and wringing my hands like an old woman. I forced myself to stop.
"I don't know, Lise," he answered gently. "You've caused him great concern."
"Do you think so?" I narrowed my eyes at the man, believing his words and wondering what they meant.
"He can be very ... traditional," Crispin explained. "And he's old."
"Old fashioned, you mean!" I snorted. "I'm not doing this because I'm a woman."
"You may believe that..."
"Because it's true!" I frowned, looking for an argument to ease my frustration.
" ... but nobody else will," the major continued reasonably. "You're entirely too beautiful for the army."
"And immune to flattery, Herr Major!"
"So I've noticed." He chuckled and I glared at him for a long moment before I had to smile.
"When he wishes to be disturbed again..." I held out my hands. "Will you please call me?"
"I'm sure he'll call for you himself," Crispin said and seeing my annoyance, quickly added, "But, of course, I'll keep you informed, Lise."
I lingered a minute more and finally retired to my rooms, wishing very much to know what my grandfather might be up to.
The possibility that he'd called my father was foremost in my mind and that would ruin everything. I had no desire to remain the perfect daughter and play the hostess for my father's tea parties. Nor did I eagerly anticipate an arranged marriage to further his political career, which was not unheard of in Party circles. I'd suffered my Cotillion shortly after my sixteenth birthday, understanding it to be a prelude to everything I did not desire, and I'd planned my escape carefully.
If only my grandfather would help me. My future, for better or worse, depended entirely upon his good judgment.
Berlin - 1957
"Heil Hitler," I said, standing stiffly at what I hoped was attention and extending my right arm.
"We don't do that in the Bendlerstrasse, Fraulein Speer."
I almost faltered then. I could feel my knees like gelatin and my face grew warm, but my arm did not waver and I held the Party salute for three heartbeats before letting it go. The deliberate slight to my family name had not gone unnoticed.
"Yes, Herr Generaloberst," I said slowly. "I'll remember that in the future. Thank you."
"Have a seat." He gestured as he stood behind a large, neat desk. "Please. Would you care for coffee or tea?"
"No. Thank you, sir." I remained where I stood and forced my fists to uncurl.
I felt almost foolish, standing there in my dress and low heels, with my hair pinned neatly. I'd worn black and white, with a red scarf loosely knotted about my throat. The Party colors had seemed a good choice, a safe choice, but now I wished I'd chosen something else.
Colonel General Walther Model took his seat and he wasn't an imposing man physically. I'd met him previously, of course, as a child and the apple of my grandfather's eye, but that's not to say we knew each other. I looked at him indirectly and saw nothing extraordinary beneath the field grey uniform, but his abilities were remarkable and his military competence beyond question. Like my grandfather, who had strongly recommended Model to succeed him as Chief of the Army General Staff, the man possessed a rare combination of tactical skill and fine strategic sense.
"We adhere to a philosophy, Uberparteilichkeit," he said. "Have you heard of it?"
"Yes," I cleared my throat and spoke louder. "I have heard of it."
"Do you understand it?"
"I think so, Herr General."
"The Fuhrer envisioned a National Socialist army," the man said. "But this could never be. We are protectors of the land and its people, Fraulein. Not the State. Not the Party or the politicians or any scrap of paper, but only Germany itself."
"Yes, Herr General."
"Do you believe that?"
"I do," I replied immediately, keeping my eyes fixed a dozen centimeters above his head.
He drew a deep breath and let it out as a long sigh and I wished to give him something, but I didn't know what the man wanted. I fought down a surge of panic as the silence seemed grow around us. I felt his eyes, but I couldn't bear to look at him myself. This had been a mistake, I decided. How foolish I'd been and my grandfather had allowed me this humiliation if only to teach me a valuable lesson.
"Generaloberst von Manstein spoke very highly of you..."
" ... as I would expect," General Model continued. "But he declined to offer me advice as to what I should do with you."
"I assume you've had excellent marks in school. Your references are impeccable, your family ties beyond reproach and yet..." he shrugged, " ... you're a woman. How much simpler would this be if you were not, eh?"
"Is the General refusing my application?" I asked, blinking rapidly as I fought to get the words out.
"The army is above politics, Fraulein," he said. "But this is a political decision. You're demanding a change in national policy."
"The army has changed national policy before," I told him without thinking and cringed inwardly, but the general didn't seem to take offense.
"True as that may be," he said, "in this case, we must yield to the process of law and abide its decision."
"I understand, Herr General," I agreed, unable to do anything else. "Forgive my intrusion. I know you're very busy and..."
"It's quite alright." He stood up, generously ignoring my obvious fluster. "Any excuse to see you once more is hardly a burden, Lise. Believe me."
"Thank you," I whispered, turning as gracefully as my pounding heart would allow and walking across his large office.
"Be patient," he told me as his adjutant opened the door. I turned my head, but General Model had already busied himself with more important matters and said nothing further.
"Good evening, Ambassador." I smiled pleasantly as I stood next to my father.
"Mademoiselle!" The Frenchman's eyes seemed to devour me. "We have missed you terribly these past few months. Have we not, my dear?"
"But of course," his wife replied with somewhat less enthusiasm, offering me the required courtesies and little else. We didn't care for each other very much.
"Madame Truffaut." I dipped my head politely as a photographer took our picture.
Whether for the consular archives or tomorrow's social column, I had no idea. Probably both, I thought as the woman pretended to kiss me on both cheeks. I did the same, naturally, but I had no intentions of letting her husband do more than hold my hand. Ambassador Truffaut was a notorious womanizer, but his embassy did throw the best parties in Berlin, even better than the glittering festivals sponsored by Herr Stueben, the Reich Minister of Information.
As my widowed father's escort at public functions, I had to spend much of the evening at his elbow, engaging the wives, girlfriends, and occasionally the mistresses of other important men in the sort of idle chatter I deplored. Only rarely was I able to interject myself in meaningful conversation and doing so often entailed the risk of rising above my ornamental role, much to my father's pained annoyance.
I had my moments, however.
"The Polish question must be resolved," Sergey Volinski, the Russian ambassador, insisted.
"I tell you frankly, sir," the British Ambassador replied calmly, "that there is no question."
After spending ten minutes discussing Chanel suits with the wives of the two men, I had to seize the opening.
"Five million Ukrainians would disagree with you, Lord Smythe," I interrupted with the best smile I could find.
"And so too a half-million Germans in Danzig, no?" Volinski tilted his head, toasting me with his glass.
"Which is a free city guaranteed by the League of Nations," Ambassador Smythe recovered, but he had no answer for the Russians and everyone knew it.
"If you'll excuse us, gentleman," my father said politely, pinching my hip and turning us with well-practiced grace.
"Sorry," I whispered before he could start. "I was bored."
"Your boredom will start another world war someday," he sighed and then smiled, even laughed, and that pleased me a great deal.
"I like the Russian," I said a moment later, watching my father's face for an opinion, but he'd already preoccupied himself with the aging General Sperrle, the Minister of Aviation.
"Lise!" Frau Sperrle, a handsome woman twenty years younger than her husband, engaged me with a kiss on the cheek. "Wherever did you find that dress? You look absolutely divine!"
Later, on the ride home, I put the question directly to my father, "Will there be a war?"
"I think so," he said.
"Three years," he shrugged, "maybe five at the most. It depends on the Russians."
"But the Poles could accept the plebiscite," I offered.
"They won't," my father said.
"But they could." I smiled at him. "That would solve everything. Wouldn't it?"
"Not for us," he sighed.
"Are you saying Germany will oppose it?" I asked. "How?"
"We'll demand equal treatment on the Danzig question," my father explained. "Amend the proposal to include the restoration of Danzig to the Reich. We also want a national railway and motorway across the corridor, immunity to Polish inspection ... a few other things."
"They'll never give us any of that," I said with a snort.
"Precisely," he agreed. "And the Poles don't want a plebiscite anyway, so..."
"So we're giving them a good excuse." I nodded. "I get it now, but..."
"When Russia finally attacks Poland..." I looked at my father. "Whose side are we on?"
"Our side," he said with a chuckle, pulling me close so I could snuggle against him. "Franz, turn up the heater, will you? It's chilly back here."
"Of course, Herr Reich Minister," the driver replied, but he'd probably turned it up already. It was just another cold night in Berlin.
The issue between Poland and Russia went back to a war fought in 1920, when the brand new Polish army had marched some 240 kilometers into the Ukraine and annexed a sizable piece of land and its inhabitants. Russia, still reeling from the World War and its own revolution, could do little but make peace and bide its time.
Germany had been stripped of land by the despised Treaty of Versailles, not only to recreate Poland, but to give that nation access to the sea via the Danzig Corridor. After nearly forty years, the very existence of Poland had become intolerable to Germany and the day of reckoning would have to come soon. The Polish question was ever in the heart and mind of the Third Reich and dominated her foreign policy.
"If only the Fuhrer hadn't died," I murmured, closing my eyes and enjoying my father's strong, gentle hand on my hip. "He would have known what to do."
"We've always known what to do," he said with a kiss of my hair.
"Yeah," I sighed sleepily, "but he would have done it."
"I have no doubt of that," my father agreed and I smiled because he and Hitler had been friends in the years before I'd been born. I felt very proud of him for that reason, and many others as well; I just didn't show it often enough.
Berlin - 1959
A tall young man with a hawkish nose and piercing blue eyes interrupted my lunch.
"May I sit with you?" he asked and I reached across the table, gathering my books to make room. "Thank you."
"Sure." I went back to my reading, biting my pencil and occasionally underlining significant passages or making notes in the margins.
"What are you reading?" he asked after several minutes of watching me. I'd rather hoped he'd take my disinterest to heart and save us both the pain of outright rejection, but no.
"You seem very interested in that book," he said. "You make the rest of us look bad."
"Do I?" I smiled and glanced around the cafeteria. Most of my fellow students were talking, joking, laughing. They were enjoying a break from the rigors of university curriculum and in a manner of speaking, so was I.
"Goethe? Nietzsche?" He widened his eyes with mock curiosity. "I have it! Friedrich Von Schiller. Am I right?"
"Rommel," I told him, holding up the book so he could see for himself.
"Infanterie Greift An?" The man looked confused. "Who is Rommel?"
"Chef der Schnellen Truppen," I answered casually. "This isn't his best book, but I like it. Have you read Panzern Ost or Gerpanzerten Vernichtunsgedanke?"
"Not too many people have," I said with a shrug. "Even in the army, they're not quite sure what to make of him."
"But that's what makes him so exciting, don't you think?" I leaned forward, smiling and lowering my voice as if confiding a great secret. "His revolutionary ideas speak to me."
"You, Fraulein, are a strange bird," he told me, using the English expression and I laughed.
"Everyone seems to think so," I agreed, closing my book with a sigh and extending my hand. "I'm Lise."