Daughter of the Bear (Blog Three) by Dan Watt, author of Brackish, and Queen of Caelum, References at bottom of page
I have seen the tortured sculpture at Dachau, Germany and the black and white reel of a bulldozer pushing what first appear to be emaciated mannequins into a giant pit only to realize they were human bodies. But there were two Germanys during WW2. One that fought for the Motherland and one that fought to create slavery and annihilation. Through her church or some other source my mother met a man who was an officer on a U-boat during WW2. She asked me to meet him. This was a man aged and dying of cancer, who had no reason to make up stories. He said two things to me that have caused me to re-evaluate my feelings and thoughts towards WW2 and life. “There was no death camps,” he told me. And, “Why didn’t England join us?” Just as Rommel was fighting in Africa, this gentleman was fighting far out to see in a U-boat far from the knowledge of death camps
The last phone called he needed to make was to INTERPOL. He heard five rings and a pause. INTERPOL has its own anti-hacking methods. His call will be thoroughly analysed for any hackers before someone answers. Two minutes pass before he gets a reply.
“Oui,” a man’s voice says.
In French he asks, “Little Bear Night Witch is?”
There is a long pause before the man replies in French, “Nowhere.”
Still in French he asks, “Rogue?”
“Frodo’s or Harry Potter’s cloak,” The voice replies in English. The line goes dead.
He realizes Marina let INTERPOL know she will be going beyond contact. That she’s wearing an invisible cloak could have three different meanings. She is hiding. She is in disguise and hiding. Or most likely she’s in disguise and hunting. As the granddaughter of a Night Witch and great niece to a sharpshooter she knows how to hunt by air or ground.
As he unclips the interior lining of his main luggage bag he recalls when he was eight and his mother took him on a flight from Russia to see his Babushka and Großvater in Lahr, Germany. His mother and father had already been divorced for four years by then.
Babushka refused to be called Oma, even though Mother Russia abandoned her until after the war. There was no doubt that in the household of his grandparents Babushka was the voice. His Großvater, whose health was failing had put on the kettle to make Pfefferminztee (peppermint tea) for Babushka and Erwin and brewed Mount Hagen coffee for himself and mother.
While Großvater was making tea and coffee Babushka used a cane to get into the dining room. His mother helped her into a rocking chair and to get her feet on a padded stool. From a signal from his mother he brought over two high back chairs.
“Your Großvater is a rare breed of men,“ Babushka told him in Russian with a smile and a sparkle in her one good eye. “Has your mama told you how we met?“
He remembers shaking his head.
“Do you know about the Night Witches?“
“Some,“ he had admitted.
“In WW2, Colonel Marina Raskova was given permission to create all-female air squads.” His Babushka put out her thin veiny hands to him. He stood up so he was in front of her and took her hands. They felt cold yet strong. “I was in one of those squads. That’s where I became great friends with your mother’s dearest friend’s mother. Together we helped scare the Nazis out of Russia and back to Germany.”
“But how did you end up here?” he had asked.
“The plane I was in crashed in German occupied Belarus. We ended up in a field not far from a road. I was the pilot and stuck in the cockpit. My left eye,” she points at the eye that can no longer see, “was staring down at my legs, which was strange since my right eye was looking through the shattered windscreen. I told the navigator to run. Both my legs were broken.
“Sometime later a Tourenwagen with a platoon of troops in trucks arrived. I was fading in and out of consciousness. I tried to grab the revolver I kept on my left side but I couldn’t reach it. I saw a tall and very handsome enemy officer stare in at me.” Her good eye wandered in the direction of his Großvater. “Engel,“ he gasped, “Engel!“ He said other things in German but I couldn’t understand him. Diligently he took my left eye and squeezed it back into its socket. I must have gone unconscious.
“When I awoke I was in a bed. Not in a hospital but what I thought must be an apartment or house. For the rest of the war a Jewish family your Großvater hid in his family cottage in Lahr Germany brought me back to health. When I could walk around on my own my left eye could see but not as clearly as my right. To my shock your Großvater came back and soon after asked me to marry him.
“It’s very important Erwin, very, very important you understand that WWII was two wars. Hitler and Himmler’s war—the Nazi war, and Rommel’s war—the majority of Germany’s war. If a Nazi commander had found me I would have been tortured for information then killed.“
After his Großvater poured the tea and coffee Erwin saw him hobble into a back room with bookshelves full of books. His Großvater returned with two books. He handed Erwin the first book called On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard A. Hunt. “Don’t ever let yourself be indoctrinated Erwin,“ his Großvater told him in his thick German accent. The second book he gave him was Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. “Follow what you believe is correct from deepest inside.
That was the same week they went to visit a former U-boat captain in a nursing home. They only told him his first name, Manfred. Manfred was dying of cancer. Sad eyed and gray skinned Manfred had turned to his grandfather and asked, “Is that you Plagge, Helmet Plagge, and and you Yevy? Who is with you?,“ he asked with urgency.
“Our grandson Erwin Mikhail,“ he remembered his Babushka saying proudly.
“Come here Erwin,“ Manfred had said his eyes brimming with tears. “There were no death camps. It’s all lies. And why didn’t the English join us?“ Even at the age of eight Erwin understood this man had nothing to lose. No reason to lie. As the years went by Manfred’s words affected him much more than whatever he learned from the two books his Großvater had given him. World War Two was two wars: Hitler’s and Rommel’s. Hitler’s was despondent and insane with no rules but attrition while Rommel’s was a soldier’s war with rules to engagement.
Before he returned to Russia with his mother his Großvater told him that after the war David Montgomery and Manfred Rommel met and became close friends. “That’s what wars are supposed to be,“ his Großvater told him. “About land rights, the ability to feed your people, and shaking hands at the end. Not about slavery or annihilation.“
Before he places a bottle of the pain killer Panadol into his carry on bag he shakes it. He needs to make sure the cotton batting inside the pill container will stop the pills from moving around so the potassium cyanide pills, in the shape of molars, end up on the top. He will place one of the false teeth in his mouth once he reaches Russia.