In the student auditorium at the Reform Road Gymnasium School, prizes are being awarded. Reinhard Heydrich is twelve years old and already taller than many of the older boys. Both lapels of his dark maroon jacket are brimming with gold medals. He is sitting at the back of the auditorium. His closest friend Karl, four years his senior, is seated next to him. “Congratulations, Reinhard. You’re sweeping up all the gold medals,” he says, unable to restrain his awe.
Up on the stage the Headmaster and the Mayor of Halle are about to announce the gold medals for academic excellence, all around sports, and mastery of the arts. Both officials confer quietly, whispering back and forth into their ears. Then the announcement, “This is most unusual. All three awards for the entire school this year go to Reinhard Heydrich.”
His parents clap wildly. His father Bruno jumps in the air. “Bravo!” he cries out. The student body erupts in thunderous applause.
Reinhard Heydrich remains as still as a statue. As the clapping continues, his friend Karl urges him, “Go on. Collect them.” One of the older boys sitting in front of Heydrich turns to look at him and mimics a goat softly. Heydrich smiles at him beatifically and gives him the appropriate hand gesture for “Up yours.” As he walks down the aisle, another boy suddenly sticks out his leg but Heydrich is expecting it so he jumps over the outstretched leg. His right arm pirouettes him just in front of the muscular, heavyset boy. “Ha! Ha!” he hisses. “Jerk.” Heydrich continues walking. Cheers and cries of “Sehr Gut” accompany him as he climbs the steps to the stage. Somewhere near where the boy had tried to trip him, the unmistakable voice of a much older boy, someone whose voice has changed to a more masculine tone, shouts “Up and at them, pretty face.”
The Mayor and the Headmaster show consternation. There is an ominous silence in the auditorium. Reinhard Heydrich is unflappable. He holds his head high, walks unconcernedly towards the podium where the Headmaster and then the Mayor give him the three gold medals. Heydrich walks over to the microphone which is adjusted to his height by the Headmaster. “Thank you,” he says in the still high-pitched voice of a child. “I’m not afraid of work, I’m not afraid of anything or anyone. I’m also happy to be rewarded for my hard work.”
Bruno Heydrich cries out, “Bravo! Reinhard.” The Headmaster and the Mayor take up the cry and another thunderous applause follows.
After the ceremonies, there are refreshments and light snacks being served on the school grounds. Sacher torte. Apfel strudel. Fresh apple juice. Beer for the parents. Heydrich’s parents and Karl’s are conversing gaily. Karl is also a bright student, good in sports, an excellent cellist. He has several gold medals on his lapels.
“I still have books and papers I need to collect from my classroom,” Heydrich tells his parents.
“I’ll come with you,” offers Karl.
“No. I have to do this alone, Karl,” he murmurs.
As soon as Heydrich enters his classroom, he hears the deep masculine voice of Jurgens who is waiting for him. “Hello there, pretty face,” he repeats acidly.
“What do you want, Jurgens,” Heydrich says in disgust, stooping to gather up his things.
Five tall young men, all Seniors, all eighteen years old, surround Heydrich. Kurt, who lives in the shadow of Jurgens and imitates him in all his bullying, grabs Heydrich by the collar and sends him sprawling against the desk. Blood tickles out of Heydrich’s nose.
“Oh, that’s too bad. Blood is ruining that pretty face,” moans Kurt.
Jurgens takes over. “I’m fed up with you. Beating you up is too boring. You don’t cry.”
“It doesn’t seem to hurt you,” yells young man #3.
“I know what will make you kiss my ass. Lick this floor clean. Pa-ga-ni-ni,” Jurgens declares in short, staccato tones.
The other boys laugh in anticipation. “Tell him, Jurgens. Don’t keep him in suspense.”
Meanwhile Heydrich is still sprawled on his desk. Two boys are pressing his body down against the wooden desk with all their strength. The full significance of what Jurgens alludes to frightens Heydrich. By calling him Paga-ni-ni, Jurgens has told him what he intends to do. Heydrich starts repeating over and over. “Listen. Listen. Listen.”
“Shut your silly mouth, nanny goat,” Kurt slaps him on the head.
“Hey, let’s hear him beg for mercy,” Jurgen decides. “Turn him over, Kurt. That’s it. Spread out his fingers.”
“Let’s see Pa-ga-ni-ni play his violin without fingers,” says Jurgens. All the thugs crack up.
Heydrich sits up straight. He makes no attempt to wipe the blood flowing steadily out of his nose, staining his lily-white shirt. Heydrich looks at them defiantly. “I am going to say this just once in my nanny goat voice. If you are thinking of breaking all of my fingers, you had better have the goddamn balls to kill me here and now or I shall hunt you down one by one and kill you.”
This announcement is something Jurgens and his gang did not expect. It is food for thought. In the ensuing pause, Heydrich goes on. “I can think of a dozen ways to kill you pieces of scum without the use of my fingers. Go ahead. Kill me.” At that instant, Heydrich jumps on the floor, pulls out a whistle and blows on it. The shrill sound startles the boys. Jurgens glares at Heydrich. “To be continued,” shouts Heydrich coldly. He continues blowing on the whistle.
At the sound of the whistle several people converge on the classroom. “What were you doing in here?” asks the assistant headmaster. “You boys are nothing but troublemakers. Thank the Lord you’re not coming back next year.”
Karl Schutze and Bruno Heydrich rush into the classroom. Heydrich is coolly gathering his books and papers into a large briefcase. “Son! You’re hurt!” his father cries out, removing his handkerchief and gently wiping the blood off his face.
“This is supposed to be a school for the upper classes,” comments Heydrich’s mother, Elizabeth.
“Mama,” Heydrich says gently, “bullies and thugs come in all sizes, colors and classes.”
“Let’s go home,” Bruno Heydrich tells them.
“Thanks, Karl.” Heydrich gives him an invisible, affectionate upper cut.
The assistant headmaster sees the bleeding Heydrich emerge from the classroom. Jurgens, Kurt and the other boys are being questioned in the hall by the police and school authorities.
“We are going to need your testimony,” one policeman apprises Heydrich.
“Testimony? What for?” asks Heydrich.
“To press charges for assault and battery,” he replies indignantly.
“They’re protozoans. They ridicule me, bully and taunt me and those others. I’m their prime target because I’m always winning prizes but they did not attack me in there. I slipped and stumbled.”
“What about the S.O.S. message you blew on the whistle?” asks the policeman and the school authorities.
“But – I don’t understand,” pipes in the Mayor.
“Neither do we,” insist Heydrich’s parents.
“I didn’t realize that was an S.O.S. message. I was just experimenting with different sounds and tempos. I’m really sorry,” Heydrich apologizes to one and all.
As he passes Jurgens, Heydrich sibilates “One of these years, you will have an unexpected visit from me.”
Later that evening the family sits down at the family table. Bruno Heydrich is at one end of the table, Elizabeth Heydrich at the other. Reinhard, the eldest son, is seated on his father’s right; his younger brother Heinz and his elder sister Maria are on their mother’s right hand side. “Let us say grace. Reiner? Would you do the honors?”
Reinhard Heydrich makes the sign of the cross. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive, etc. etc. etc. Amen. Thank you, Jesus.”
“Reiner?” asks his mother sharply.
“Forgive me. I have a mental blackout. I just can’t remember the words.”
Bruno and Elizabeth Heydrich look with comprehension at their eldest son. “So many things happened today. God bless this family.” Elizabeth Heydrich clasps her hands in prayer and then signals for the uniformed domestic to begin serving the roast beef to Herr Professor Heydrich.