Halle Germany, After the War has Ended
Reinhard, his mother, father and sister Elizabeth are waiting for the tram. “It’s half an hour late. Maybe we should have taken the car to go to church,” Elizabeth Heydrich comments bitingly. “These tickets cost as much as a pair of shoes.”“And have the mobs burn our car?” replies Bruno Heydrich, loudly protesting to his wife.
“Here it comes. Quick! Jump in!” Elizabeth orders her family as an ugly crowd starts marching down the street two blocks away from them. The tram screeches. The driver yells, “Get in!”
Bruno Heydrich is a tall, heavyset man. He climbs up with great effort. Reinhard assists his mother and his sister Maria. His brother Heinz looks frightened. Reinhard looks around quickly. All the passengers are afraid. The driver is too nervous. The tram shudders and slows almost to a stop. “Mein Gott!” he cries. The mob is closing in, heading straight for the tram.
“Can’t you drive this contraption?” asks an impatient passenger.
This only causes the driver to shift the tram into the wrong gears, causing sparks to fly on the wires. Gasps are heard.
“You’re going to get us all killed,” wails another passenger.
Some of the angry mob now begin banging on the sides and doors of the tram. “Open!” Their tone is ugly. A few people begin sitting down on the tracks directly in front of the tram.
The driver looks desperate. “We’re short of drivers. So many of us have lost our jobs.”
“What do these people want?” asks Bruno Heydrich.
“They want to ride in the tram without paying. I can’t let them do that,” replies the driver defensively.
“Why not?” demands Bruno. “There’s only ten of us in here. Thirty could sit here comfortably and another thirty could stand.”
“You’re all paying passengers,” the driver insists stubbornly.
“Sir, those people out there have no money to pay. They’ve been fired without notice and without severance,” calmly observes Reinhard, approaching the tram driver so easily, without a hint of aggression in his body language. The driver does not have the time to react as Reinhard presses the driver’s carotid artery enough to make his head spin and cause him to lose consciousness for a few seconds.
Bruno Heydrich springs into action and presses the levers close to the driver’s seat, which automatically opens the doors of the tram. “Don’t panic. Enter with order,” Bruno yells loudly as men, women and children start running to climb the steps of the tram.
Meanwhile Reinhard has relaxed his hold over the driver’s neck and is comforting him. “Look. If your trolley car is damaged or burnt, the big shots won’t care if you were following their orders. You’ll be out on the street. Relax. Live to work another day.”
The driver leans back, lets the situation take place. “You’re right.” Then he frowns, peers at Reinhard closely. “Who are you?”
“The name’s Heydrich. Reinhard Heydrich.”
. . .
Back home sitting in the study. The family is having a heart to heart talk.
“Inflation is skyrocketing. Many students are dropping out of our conservatory. The government is powerless to improve the economic situation of Germany,” a grave Bruno Heydrich says. “We’re going to have to close the Conservatory and find other ways to survive.”
Elizabeth Heydrich looks at her tapered, manicured hands. “I have decided to keep only one full-time domestic. This is only possible because Frau Roth has begged to stay on even without a salary. All the members of her family are out of work and there isn’t enough food to go around.”
“I am swallowing my pride and I’m writing a letter to the Mayor of Halle begging him to use what connections he still has left with the new government to postpone the bankruptcy proceedings against our Conservatory of Music.”
Elizabeth takes Reinhard’s hand in hers. “ We need your help, son.”
“Just ask me, Papa and Mama. What can I do?”
“The Mayor has a great deal of correspondence and documentation in English and in French. He needs the best translator but there’s no money in the city’s budget. He suggested you would be the most suitable to work in his office, after school.”
Reinhard turns to his mother. “Why can’t I work from our house?”
“Of course, you can. It’s just that the Mayor receives calls on Saturday from French officials and there is no one there to take the calls and explain to the Mayor so action can be taken right away,” explains Elizabeth.
“Doesn’t anyone speak German?” asks Reinhard curiously.
“Yes, they do.” Bruno Heydrich bangs his closed fist in the air. “This is one of the ways the French are humiliating us.”
“I’ll do it. You know I’m not afraid of work,” Reinhard reassures both his parents, even though he had his heart set on going to University to study Chemistry and mathematics.
. . .
Stores and shops in parts of Halle have gave gone out of business. Steel shutters give it a sinister air. Many streets look forlorn and dismal. Rubbish is everywhere.
Reinhard, along with the rest of his classmates of the Upper School are members of the Halle Volunteer Corps. Because he is the most accomplished student in academia, athletics and sports, the Mayor has named him the leader of the Corps.
“Communists, Anarchists and plain criminals are roaming and ravaging our countryside, to say nothing of our towns, doing whatever they please,” says the Mayor to the young Heydrich, personally giving him a membership card with a photograph of the teenager in his late teens.
Heydrich signs his name slowly and puts a flourish on the H.
“Gott, Heydrich. Even your handwriting is beautiful. Is there something you don’t do well?”
Heydrich does not reply. He looks awkwardly at the Mayor.
“Street fighting is so common, the people need protection.” The Mayor is a little unsteady on his feet. “We lost millions of men in their 20’s and in their 30’s. Thus, we are now reduced to depending on 17, 18 and 19 year olds for our civil defense protection.”