Saturday, August 4, 2012

Uprooted: Part XVIII Turning Point

These Saturday blog entries have been devoted to a serial novel titled Uprooted, a story about Ralph Kand, a young crippled man from Estonia during those difficult and challenging years from 1939-1945. It's a story of alienation, and of the relentless pursuit of freedom and a homeland.

Turning Point

Two weeks after the Dachau trip Ralph arrived late to his office at the cement works. Klaus, his German supervisor, was standing in the hall in an animated discussion with a soldier. Ralph had noticed the jeep out front when he arrived and sensed the tension in the hallway. When he reached his desk he could tell this was not to be an ordinary day.

He looked from the Frenchman to the Czech and to the Frenchman again, attempting to understand their exuberance. “Have the Nazis announced a new holiday? Wasn’t Christmas just two weeks ago?”

Jean-Paul, the Frenchman, spoke first. “So you haven’t heard?”

Kapinski shushed him. “Where are the Germans?”

“Volk’s down the hall talking to some soldier. Mundt must be out back.” Ralph said. “Heard what?”

“The Russian army is smashing them. They’re on the move!”

Ralph turned away without smiling. He began arranging papers on his desk before seating himself. He'd anticipated this day a long time.

Jean-Paul looked quizzically at Ralph, then said to Kapinski, “I don’t think he heard us right.”

Ralph glared at the Frenchman fire in his eyes. “I heard. I heard, damn you.”

“Then break out the champagne!” Kapinski announced.

“Champagne! See, you don’t know what you are talking about. If you had seen the things I have seen...”

Jean-Paul cut him off. “I have seen things, too. Nothing could be worse than what I have seen.”

Ralph stood and limped to the frost-covered window. He cleared a spot with his palm. Slowly, he turned and faced the two men whose enthusiasm had been temporarily dampened. He looks from one to the other, interrupted by a German soldier shouting a string of invectives ending with, “Macht scnell!

“We continue this later,” Kapinski said as he hunkered down over his never ending paperwork.

Throughout the day Ralph recalled to mind his repeated conversations from the tavern in which he sought to convey how bad things were going to be when Stalin's troops arrived. No one listened. Western Europe had only seen one kind of evil and could not comprehend this other kind.

When Kapinski two weeks before had declared the Germans are an accursed race, Ralpho countered, "When the Russians come, every mother in Czechoslovakia will weep." So many times had he defended the Nazis. But Ralph's hardline attitude had begun to soften some after that day in Dachau.

Only days before he'd nearly come to blows with Kapinski over the matter. "In a world such as ours, when you are forced to take sides, your choice must come from being informed. I'm here to inform you that the Communists are to be feared, not welcomed."

"So you're saying we should side with the Nazis?" Kapinski said, sticking his finger down his throat as if to gag himself.

"As I see it," Ralph countered, "the Germans are the only ones who have the resolve it takes to fight the Communists. When the Russian Army comes, we must support the Germans."

"You mean, the Fascists."

"Yes, the Fascists." He waved his hand dismissively. "I'm not afraid of Fascists. I am afraid of Communists.

As he reflected on this conversation he began to feel ill, an illness accompanied by suffocating fear.


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