Another Midsummer Night’s Dream — Part Three
Another Midsummer Night’s Dream
PART THREE: Do You Undertand?
But then he was inside my cell, his pale hands barely visible spread out before him, showing me they were empty, no weapons. He was also whispering something back at me, it sounded like, “Freunde, freunde.”
I recognized a German accent. “Who are you?” I asked, still tense. I didn’t recall hearing any German accents among the men here. But people came and went all the time.
“Ich bin Hans,” he answered, still in a low tone, and then corrected himself. “I am Hans Berger. My English is not very well. But I am here to speak with you.”
“Yeah?” I was skeptical. “About what?”
“Deine bruder,” he muttered, “Your brother.”
“What do you know about my brother?” I demanded.
“Ich weisse genug,” he muttered. “I know enough. The letter. Your letter.”
“Those letters?” I hissed. “How do you know about them?”
He shrugged. I could just make out his face now. Blond hair that hung down over one eyebrow. A gray, lined face. Pale eyes. “In German some call would me a wandergeist,” he said. You might call it a being who has no resting place.” He waved a hand dismissively. “But that is nicht important. I have come to ask your help.”
“Help?” I asked. “What can I do for anybody, locked up in here?”
“Ach,” he said. “You can listen. There are not many who can do that. Not for me.” He stepped back. “But if you refuse, then I will go.”
He took another step back, up to the bars.
“Wait,” I said. What he was doing in my cell was still unexplained. But he didn’t seem dangerous, and I hadn’t talked face to face with anyone for four days. “All right,” I said. “I’ll listen to whatever it is you’ve got on your mind.”
“Eine schwermut erzahlung,” he murmured, “a story. My story.”
I leaned back. The cell wall felt damp, but cooler than it had been. “Go ahead,” I said. “I’m listening.” And he began to talk.
“I am born in Berlin, in 1922. My father, Heinrich Berger, works in a bank, and my family is Quakers. There are not many of us, but we believe. I am raised to know war is wrong. When Hitler comes, it is hard for us. Gestapo listen to our meetings. Many Friends keep very quiet; but some of them go to prison. Others leave Germany.
“I now have two little sisters, and my father is asked, does he want to leave, and he says it is his duty to stay. Quakers suffered before, he says, and we may suffer again; it is in God’s hands. I am young, but I understand, and I am proud of him. I know time will come for me to do my duty also.
“When the war starts, the army is drafting the young men. I am a student, in science. But I also study the Bible, and George Fox. In the Bible, Jesus says we must not resist evil, but must speak the truth and take up the cross. In Fox’s Journal, I read the peace testimony of 1660: we do not fight for the kingdom with carnal weapons. I believe it. I believe it all. I am ready to say no to the Nazis and their army. Even if they kill me, I will say no. It is in God’s hands.”
He paused. “Verstehen sie?” he asked. “Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I said. “I think so.”
He nodded. “Gut. In 1941, your country joins the war against Germany. The Nazi army wants more and more young men. They send me a letter. I throw it away. They send me another one. It is full of stern talk about saving the fatherland and obeying the will of the Fuhrer. This time I write back, and tell them I am a Quaker and a follower of Jesus, and I will obey him and not be part of their war, and I am not afraid of them. There is much prahlen, er, boasting, in the letter.
“Then some weeks later, I am coming home from the hochschule, and a black sedan stops me in the street. Two SS officers get out, and tell me to come with them. They take me to an office, and leave me sitting alone in an empty room that has only a chair in it for an hour.
NEXT: Wherever It Leads