ELEVEN - Klara
"Heil, mein Führer!"
He is talking to Hitler. It is surreal. I slump down in the couch, my ears ringing and a sudden darkness clouding my vision. This is it. I am sure! He did not hand me over to the Gestapo because he is going to take to Berlin!
His warm honey voice makes its way through the ringing in my ears.
“Your suspicions were correct. My trip to Prague has been most fruitful,” he is saying.
Oh my God! So even Hitler knew of our plan? We have been so naive thinking that we were able to keep this within the six of us. We thought we had managed to fool them all! When it has been us who have been made fools of all along.
“Yes, mein Führer. I am leaving for Terezín within the hour,” he says.
Terezín! Why is he taking me there? To kill me? But that makes no sense. Maybe he is not going to take me there. Maybe he is going to send me on to Berlin. I have to escape before he ships me off.
I know I am listening to only one side of the conversation and that in reality, it may have nothing to do with me. Maybe it is the ′something much bigger’ that he was telling Fuchs about. But then where do I come in the picture? Why am I here with him? He helped, at least I think he helped Tomas by sending him to warn the others. Or is Tomas walking into a trap? This man will have Tomas followed and catch everyone all together!
My head is spinning. I have never fainted in my life. I think I might do it now. But I do not have time to faint!
“Yes. I was indeed there when the attempt on his life happened,” he is saying. This is most definitely about me. I strain my ears to try and get the other side of the conversation. But Hitler’s voice is too low and he is talking too fast for me to understand anything anyway. I will have to make do with this one-sided conversation.
“Yes. I did take the would-be assassin into custody,” he says.
My fingers are numb and the rest of me is trembling. I think I am cold.
“I have a suspicion which I would like to clear up before I hand her over to Geschke. In the meantime, I am certain he is doing all he can to round up the others involved,” he says and pauses as Hitler says something on the other side.
My mind is now too numb to conjure up any more scenarios.
"Mein Führer, I would like some time to verify my suspicions on this and I can give you the complete update when I am in Berlin after securing the treasure.”
After what is obviously some final order from Hitler, he says ”Heil, mein Führer,” and ends the call.
Did he say treasure? What else does he suspect I have done? How is he going to verify his suspicions? I think it may be a good idea to faint now. It may give my brain some room to breathe. Because, the way it is running away with all the thoughts right now, I am certainly going to throw up.
“If you do not control that overactive imagination of yours, you are going to make yourself sick, Klara.”
I look up to see him looking at me with a hint of a smile on his face.
Can he read my mind? Oh my God!
Then I burst out into a laugh. I am certain I am going mad with all the worry if I am starting to believe that he can read my mind.
Again, as if reading my mind, he says, “You look rather green. Here, drink some water.”
He hands me a glass of water, which I take from him gratefully. But my hands are trembling so much, I am likely to spill it all. He makes a noise in his throat; which could be anything between anger, to frustration, to irritation, but lowers himself next to me and wraps his fingers around my trembling ones. His hands are so warm, my hands feel even more chilled by comparison. I never imagined terror could feel so many different things. I always thought fear is one large overwhelming emotion, which drives all others out. I find that, instead, it is a cavalcade of hundreds of different emotions and physical reactions which swamp you and make you incapable of doing of anything coherent.
I manage to drip a few sips of the cool water with his help. It also gives me some time to contain my terror into a manageable form, so that I am able to function with at least a little bit of sense. I am sure I have a thousand questions to ask him, about his recent conversation, about his plans for me and about what he has actually done with Tomas. But it all condenses into one monolith, “Are you going to tell me anything?”
That seems to give him pause. I suddenly realise that just as I have a thousand questions that I can ask him, he must have a thousand answers that he can give. It all depends on what his reasons were for bringing me with him and whether or not he intends to help me. While he mulls over what to tell me, if anything at all, I drink some more water as it seems to settle my churning stomach too.
“I am going to take you with me to Terezín. But rest assured that I only wished to help your friends when I let Tomas go.”
I am so frustrated with this answer. I let go of the glass and jump to my feet. Rounding on him, I hiss, “That is no answer, mein Herr. That tells me nothing at all! You expect me to simply nod and go with you?”
He seems astonished at my outburst. Honestly, I am too. I think he has been so gentle with me so far, it has given me a lot more courage. It has made me forget that he is a German and he can and will be ruthless if required. I take a couple of steps back as I realise that.
His face, which had looked slightly less frightening as he was helping me drink my water, turns back to stone.
“Yes. I expect you to go with me. Do you really think you have any choice in this matter?” he asks in his calm and strong voice.
All the indignation seeps out of me in an instant. No. I do not have a choice.
Before either of us can say or do anything further, there is knock at the door, followed by a ′Herr Genelarmajor!”
His motorcar is ready. He gets up and opens the door. “Come,” he orders. And I follow, properly chastised and put in my place.
There is no more talking as we get into the large motor car. I know now that he will not tell me anything at all. And in that case, I have nothing at all to say to him. He is sitting beside me, perfectly relaxed. But I am too unsettled to stay still for any length of time. I have never been to Terezín. I know it has a very old castle, but other than that all I know is that Fuchs has moved all the Jews there. Relocated them.
“How long does it take to get to Terezín?” I ask. Perhaps he will answer this question. It is harmless enough.
“Three hours, perhaps a little more,” he says.
I almost feel triumphant. I actually made him give me a straight answer! There is draught in my mind again after that, as I cannot think of anything else to say. After a while, he says, “Get some sleep now. I will keep you safe and try to help your friends too. Will you take my word for it, Klara?”
I am shocked. I look up at him, but it is too dark to see his face. There is something in his voice that makes me want to believe him, though. And the fact that so far he has been nothing but a gentleman with me. I nod, realise that he cannot see me either, so say it out loud, “I will try and trust you Herr von Hallerstein.”
He again makes the growly sound in his throat. This time I am certain it is irritation. “MY NAME IS Günter,” he almost growls and I have this very foolish desire to laugh at his frustration.