THE EMPTY TRAIN
“I have some papers here, . . . dangerous ones; would you like to see them?” said I to the tall and handsome young German walking by my side along the underground passage that led to the platform from which I was to take my train, in the station of Cologne, the night between the 13th and 14th of February 1949. I had met the man a few hours before, at the “Catholic Mission” of the same station, and we had talked enough for him to become convinced that he could trust me, as I could trust him — to say the least.
He stopped for half a second and looked around to see if anybody was following us, or if any passerby could possibly have overheard my words. But we were the only people in the long, gloomy corridor. The young man turned to me and answered in a low voice: “Yes; give me one.”
I pulled a poster twice folded in four out of my pocket and put it into his hand.
“Don’t stop to read it now,” said I, “but wait till we get into the train, and then go and read it in the toilet, where nobody can come and disturb you. You have heaps of time. See if you think such papers can be useful, and tell me so quite frankly. If you want more, I still have plenty left.”
The young man hid the precious paper in the inner pocket of his coat and continued to walk by my side in silence, helping me to carry the little luggage I had. We reached the platform. The train was there, — practically
empty, for it was not to start till an hour later, at 1:12, if I remember well. A fierce wind was blowing. And it was bitterly cold.
The young man helped me to lift my suitcase into the railway carriage and then stepped in himself, and went to read the poster in the best hiding place, as I had suggested. The words he read, written in large capital letters below a black swastika that covered about one third of the page, were the following:
WHAT HAVE THE DEMOCRACIES BROUGHT YOU?
IN WAR TIME, PHOSPHORUS AND FIRE.
AFTER THE WAR, HUNGER, HUMILIATION, OPPRESSION;
THE DISMANTLING OF THE FACTORIES;
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FORESTS;
AND NOW, — THE RUHR STATUTE!
HOWEVER, “SLAVERY IS TO LAST BUT A SHORT TIME MORE.”
Our Führer is alive
AND WILL SOON COME BACK, WITH POWER UNHEARD OF.
RESIST OUR PERSECUTORS!
HOPE AND WAIT.
The paper was signed “S.D.” — i.e., with my own initials.
The young German came out of his corner. There was a strange light in his bright grey eyes and a strange assertiveness in his voice. “Give me as many of these posters as you have. I shall stick them up for you!” said he. He was no longer the lonely, hungry, dreary prisoner of war who had just returned home after four long years of all manner of ill-treatment at the hands of Germany’s enemies. He had become once more the soldier of a victorious Germany — of an invincible Germany — and the
herald of Hitler’s eternal Idea; once more his old self, that nothing could kill.
I admired him, and recalled in my mind the words I had once heard in a village in Saarland, some six months before, from another sincere National Socialist: “We are waiting for the spark.” Could it be that I was something of a spark — a spark of faith and hope — in the midst of the unending gloom of the present day? As that thought entered my consciousness, tears came to my eyes, and a thrill of immense elation ran through my body and seemed to lift me above myself. Through the windows of the train, I could see, in the dim artificial light, the torn outlines of what had once been a wall — ruins, nothing but ruins wherever one sets one’s eyes in unfortunate Germany; the torn and prostrate body of Hitler’s martyred country. But before me, against that background of desolation, stood the young man (he could not have been more than thirty) fifteen times wounded on the battlefield for the cause of the New Order; over three years a prisoner of the French in a slave labour camp in the burning heart of Africa, under the whip of African auxiliaries; hungry; without work; apparently without a future (he had told me of his plight) but now erect and hopeful, once more aware of his invincibility. The German soul gleamed, more alive than ever, in his sparkling eyes — a tangible reality — and addressed me through his voice.
“Who wrote ‘these’”? the young man asked me, referring to my posters.
He gazed at me, visibly moved.
“You,” said he; “you, a foreigner!”
“I, an Aryan, and a National Socialist,” I replied. “No Aryan worthy of the name can forget his debt of gratitude to the Führer — the Saviour of the whole race —
and to Germany who now lies in ruins for having fought for the rights, nay, for the very existence of superior mankind.”
My answer, which bore the accent of sincerity, seemed to please him. But he did not comment upon it. He only asked me a few questions.
“Where did you get ‘these’ printed?” asked he, again speaking of my posters.
“And you brought them over yourself?”
“Yes, myself. Three times I entered Germany with three successive supplies of different leaflets or posters, and seven times I crossed the border between Saarland and the French Zone with a greater or lesser number of them. I was never caught yet. The unseen heavenly Powers take care of me.”
“And how long is it you have been doing this?”
“I began eight months ago. I would have begun as soon as I came from India — three years ago — had I managed then to obtain a permit to cross the frontier under some pretext or another. But I had to wait.”
The young German walked up to me and took me in his arms.
He was much taller than I, and much stronger. I could feel the pressure of his athletic body, and see his bright eyes looking down, straight into mine.
“So it is for him, for our Führer, that you have come from the other end of the world to help us in the midst of our ruins!” said he. There was deep emotion in his voice. He paused for a second, and pursued in a whisper: “Our Führer; out beloved Hitler! You really love him. And you really love us.”
I felt a wave of untold happiness fill my breast. And I flushed crimson.
“I adore him,” said I, also in a whisper. “And I love all he stands for and all he loves. You, his faithful countrymen, you are the people to the service of whom he dedicated his life; his living Germany, so beautiful, so brave, and so unfortunate.”
The bright grey eyes peered still deeper into me, as though trying to decipher the story of my life. “And you,” the young man asked me at last, “who are you?”
“I have told you: an Aryan from far away.”
Out of doors, the bitter wind continued blowing, and I could see the ruined wall against the dark background of the night. In a flash, I recalled the sight of the whole country; miles and hundreds of miles of crumbling walls; streets in which — like in the Schloss Strasse of Koblenz, which I had just seen — there was not a single house standing. But along those streets, marching in a warrior-like manner, and singing on their way, I pictured to myself the veterans of this lost war and of these following years of persecution, side by side with the youth of resurrected Germany — the Army of the Fourth Reich, one day; out of chaos: order and strength; out of servitude and death, the will to live and to conquer. And I smiled, as a tear rolled down my cheek. I felt inspired, as seldom I have been.
“Do you remember,” said I, “the grand days when you used to parade the streets and sing the song of conquest?
We shall march further on,
If everything falls to pieces;
For Germany is ours today,
Tomorrow, the whole world.”1
1 “Wir werden weiter marschieren,
wenn alles in Scherben fällt;
denn heute gehört uns Deutschland,
and morgen, die ganze Welt.”
Hundreds of flags bearing the sacred sign of the Swastika hung from the windows, in festive array; thousands of outstretched arms greeted your onward march — the beginning of an endless future in which you believed. Do you remember how strong and how happy you felt then?
Disaster followed, I know, with its trail of untold misery: hunger, destitution, servitude, utter ruin — that horror in the midst of which we stand. And yet, from the depth of my heart I tell you: the song of triumph was not a lie; still the stupendous dream will become true; is already becoming true, in spite of the phosphorus bombs, in spite of four years of unprecedented hardships of persecution, of “de-Nazification.” Nothing can keep it from becoming truer and truer as time goes on, — “for Germany is ours today, and tomorrow, the whole world.”
I paused, and a flash of unearthly exultation brightened my face. I spoke with the compelling assurance of one for whom the bondage of time and space had ceased to exist. “What I think and feel today,” said I, — “I, the insignificant foreign Nazi, — the whole Aryan race will think and feel tomorrow, next year, in a century, never mind when, but surely one day. I am the first fruits of the future love and reverence of millions for our Führer and for his ideals. I am ‘the whole world’, conquered by his spirit, by your spirit; the living sign, sent to you by the unseen Powers, in the hour of martyrdom, to tell you, faithful Germans, that the world is yours because you deserve it.”
The young man gazed at me with great emotion, and pressed me a little tighter in his arms as though I were indeed the reconquered world. I was intensely happy. I knew I was doing no harm. For this man was not Herr G. W. an individual. And I was not Savitri Devi
Mukherji. There was nothing personal in that spontaneous gesture of his, or in the reverent abandon with which I accepted it and responded to it. This young soldier was, in my eyes, Germany’s youth, fearless in the midst of persecution as well as in battle; one of those “men of gold and steel” whom I had exalted in the book. I was then writing. And to him, I was a foreign Nazi — Germany’s friend — nothing less, nothing more.
He gazed at me for a minute without speaking, as though a friend, in these atrocious days, were something worth looking at.
“I know you mean every word you say,” he whispered at last; “and I thank you: and I shall help you. After all we suffered, it is refreshing to hear you speak. You rouse hope and self-confidence in our hearts. You make us feel what those who fought in the early days of the struggle must have felt after the first war. What is it that gives such force to your words?”
“My love for the Führer. I feel inspired when I speak of him.”
“Our Führer!” repeated the young man, with passionate devotion, echoing my own feelings. “You are right. I’ll help you as much as I can. Give me all the posters you have.”
He loosened his embrace. I took out of my bag a bundle of some four or five hundred posters, concealed in fashion magazines, and gave it to him. He hid it carefully in his clothes. “That is all?” he asked me.
I smiled. “No,” said I; “but leave a few for the rest of Germany; won’t you?”
“You are right,” said he. And he smiled for the first time. He took my hands in his and gazed at me as though he were seeing the last of me. “When and where can I meet you again?” said he. “We must meet again.”
“I have no permanent address,” I replied. But if you care to leave yours — when you have one — at the “Catholic Mission” of this station, I shall find you. I shall come back here after exactly a week — sometime next Saturday night — and ask your address from that place. In the meantime, be careful, oh, be careful! Don’t commit any blunder that might land us both into trouble. I don’t say ‘don’t betray me’, for I know you will never do that.”
The young German’s frank, earnest eyes looked at me more intently than ever, and his strong hands squeezed mine in a gesture of reasserted comradeship. “Never!” said he. And, lowering his head almost to the level of mine, he whispered: “The mark is there, upon my flesh. It does not come off. You can trust me.”
The mark . . . I understood, — and felt an admiring affection, verging on reverence, grow in me for that new friend. My face beamed.
“So, you were in the S.S.?” said I, in a low voice, in the tone a Roman maiden would have said to a Roman veteran: “So, you were in the Pretorian Guard?”
“I was in command of S.S. men,” answered the young man, with pride, also in a whisper.
I thought of all he had told me of his sufferings at the hands of our foes. And as I looked up to him, I remembered the first line of the song of the S.S. men. “If all become unfaithful, we remain faithful indeed.”1
I heard noise, — a door being opened and shut again — and I startled. But it was not in our carriage. Still, I was aware that the train would not remain empty for long.
“I will soon be going,” said I. “You’d better get
1 “Wenn alle untreu werden, so bleiben wir doch treu, . . .”
down now, while nobody is watching. I’ll see you next week. But for heaven’s sake, be careful! Auf wiedersehen. Heil Hitler!”
“Heil Hitler!” replied the young man, returning my salute.
He got out of the train and went his way. I watched his tall figure disappear in the bitter cold night.
A few minutes later, the train started. Sitting in a corner of the dark compartment, where more people had now taken place, I too was going my way — going to distribute more tracts, to stick up more posters, in another part of Germany; going to help to keep the Nazi spirit alive among other compatriots of my Führer.
I was cold, but happy — oh, so happy!