Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Halle, Germany – June, 1918
The entire student body of the Reform Gymnasium School without exception, are looking up at their school building. Two boys are trying to race up to the roof. There is an awed silence. Suddenly, gasps en masse are heard. One of the boys slips, rolls, grabs a hold of a railing, jumps on a balcony, goes through the open door.
“Immerman’s giving up,” some of the school kids say sadly.
“There’s only Heydrich,” the others say. “Come on, Heydrich. Come on.”
The Headmaster is in the street. Parents are starting to arrive to pick up their children. “What’s going on?” he asks a group of Heydrich’s classmates. They point upwards. “Heydrich’s up there.” Sure enough. Reinhard Heydrich is about to reach the roof of the school building through the most circuitous, impossible routes. Climbing, swinging, scaling the building. “Oh, dear God!” the Headmaster closes his eyes unable to watch.
“He’s doing it,” the members of his class say. “One more tug. Heydrich’s done it!” they scream and screech. “Heydrich! Heydrich!”
From the ledge of the roof, Heydrich looks down and waves at all the people below.
The Headmaster does a rough head count. Between the entire student body and their parents, about five hundred people are watching. “What is he doing?” he asks.
“Well, Sir, Heydrich’s coming down the same way he got up.”
“Heydrich’s just getting his second wind,” another student informs him.
“Oooh! There he is,” squeals another group.
“I can’t bear this. Inform Master Heydrich I expect him in my office the moment he touches ground. Is that clear?” the Headmaster walks away, pale and shaken.
Each time Heydrich moves, the crowds below go “One! Two! Three!” and so on. “Yes! Heydrich. Go! Heydrich.”
Heydrich’s parents show up terror stricken. “He told us he had an errand to do in school so he asked us to pick him up later.”
“Aren’t you proud?” asks the athletic looking father of a scrawny looking kid.
“My son’s a pianist and violinist,” cries Elizabeth Heydrich “God in heaven.”
“Never mind his career. What about his life?” a desperate Bruno Heydrich asks. He leads his wife out of there gently.
“Where are we going, Bruno?”
“I need a drink, Elizabeth. We are going to a tavern.”
“Dear, you never drink. Neither do I.”
“We are now, Elizabeth.”
“What about our son?”
“He’s climbing down four stories, for the love of God. He’ll either do it or he’ll fall. Can we do anything about it? No.”
“We can pray, Bruno.”
“We’ll do that, Elizabeth. In the tavern.”
Meanwhile in the office of the Headmaster are several members of the school board.
“This is a first,” says one. “It’s exciting.”
“A first,” says another.
“Not exactly. Some crazy kid tried it ten years ago.”
“The crazy kid broke his neck and died. We got a lot of grief over that let me tell you.” The Headmaster shuts his eyes and in quivering voice. “Heydrich is giving me ulcers, is he down yet?” he asks, gulping down a blue bottle of some anticolic. I can’t take much more of this.”
An incredibly triumphant roar goes out on the streets.
“Sir, it sounds like Heydrich made it down safely.”
Cheers and songs ensue from the school grounds, rebounding to the corridors.
“He’s going to be in trouble as soon as he enters my office,” declares the Headmaster, exasperated beyond words.
“Don’t let’s be too hard on him. He’s our best student and our best athlete. He didn’t hurt anyone. He hasn’t broken any rules.”
“Heydrich! Heydrich! First! First!” chant the students, tramping down the hall, accompanying Heydrich to the Headmaster’s office.
The Headmaster gets an idea. “At the next meeting of the board, I am going to propose that any student who climbs the roof as if he’s scaling the Matterhorn will be suspended for 60 days.”
“A severe reprimand for Heydrich?” asks one of the board members in the Headmaster’s office.
“Tomorrow. I don’t dare scold him in front of the entire school today,” replies the Headmaster.
“Ja. We might be lynched.”
“Immerman, the other student, attends the Kaiser Gymnasium School. Did you know?”
The Headmaster shakes his head. “I’m beginning to see. Immerman must have challenged Heydrich. The Kaiser Gymnasium has more land than we do, but it’s a piddling two stories. The bloody cheek!”
Heydrich suddenly appears on the doorway surrounded by masses of students. “We beat the hoity toity Kaiser Gymnasium.”
“That was very dangerous, Heydrich,” the Headmaster begins.
There is a tense silence.
“Congratulations. You beat them in a most daring feat.”
“Hurrah!” the students agree.
Dinner at the Heydrich home. Herr Bruno Heydrich on one end of the table, Frau Elizabeth Heydrich on the other. Reinhard on his father’s right, Heinz and Maria on their mother’s like usual.
“Whose turn is it to say grace?”
“Mine, Mama,” replies Reinhard contritely. He makes the sign of the cross slowly. “Bless us, oh Lord, for these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Frau Heydrich signals the uniformed domestic to serve the wiener schnitzel to Herr Professor Bruno Heydrich.
“I’m so sorry, Mama and Papa. I didn’t mean to upset you by climbing the roof. It will never happen again. I promise.”
“Reinie, your father and I both think your guardian angel must be close to a nervous breakdown by now.”
At Elizabeth Heydrich’s witty comment, the family all laugh and proceed to enjoy their dinner with evident relief and thankfulness.