The Aryan Connection
Over the years, as Anna’s priest, I heard her confession regularly. Later, as we became closer, I became her confidant. Anna lived many lives. She shared with me the burdens of each of those lives, as well as her failings. Unfortunately, each brought with it responsibilities. This woman had lived a life that many would say was impossible to believe. Hers had once been a life of position, great wealth and power. Anna could only obey and accept the inevitable. Her marriage to Hans had been one such obligation. Life for Anna had never been the fairytale it was meant to be. From her birth onward, it was filled with tragedy and sacrifice. She wasn’t to be one of the fortunate few who would live life in an ivory tower. She had little say. Anna simply became a recipient of many tragedies. Anna’s first husband, Hans Von Furstenburge, told her that he had traveled to Argentina on a Vatican passport provided by an influential Roman Catholic Cardinal named Benedetti. In fact, there was such a man at the Vatican. I knew him personally as a young priest.
The good Cardinal was one of many of the Fascist leaning Italian clergy who had chosen to align themselves with the Nazis against the Bolshevik threat. Understanding their satanic powers and corruption, His Holiness, Pope Pius, was a rabid anti-Communist. The threat was real and the Church fathers understood its implications. They’d seen what the communists had done to the Russian Catholics and other Christians before the First World War. Cardinal Benedetti wasn’t alone in his hatred and fear of these communists. But the Church fathers had deliberately chosen to look the other way in these matters of state, leaving the lower echelons of the Church to make indelicate decisions. In this way, their hands were clean. This didn’t, however, prevent them from receiving regular progress reports and acting upon them.
Through an elaborate Fascist transit network many German patriots were saved from the Allied inquisition. While awaiting transport, these German warriors were cared for by the clergy in remote Italian abbeys and monasteries and then secreted out of the country by a clandestine underground network run by nuns and priests. The entire process was efficient in its work. Italian seaports were used to discreetly transport these immigrants to South America. Merchant marine ships and luxury liners were used to move the precious German cargo abroad. Like clock work, the Italians kept a steady stream of Axis heroes moving across the Atlantic to the safe havens of South America. Upon arriving, the travelers were processed efficiently by the proper authorities that understood the world quite differently from the rest of humanity. Argentines of Italian ancestry were willing participants. After all, the Church herself had ordained these actions. And besides, the venture paid well.
And so it was that Hans Von Furstenburge, the young and handsome German officer, came to his new country. He was sent to the Brenners in Argentina and they became his new family. Hans was the best that the Fatherland could produce; tall, blonde, bronzed by the sun, and physically fit. Born for war, this perfect Aryan warrior was chosen by fate to conquer. His father, General Eric Von Furstenburge, was one of many Prussian officers who met the test of Aryan perfection. A senior officer in the Great War, Hans’ father could never accept what the English and French did to his nation and its proud army. He hated the English and especially the French for humiliating his beloved Germany. Early on, General Von Furstenburge trained his son to love Germany and its greatness. When Adolf Hitler came on the scene the General became an avid supporter. From the moment he first saw Hitler at a rally, he was smitten. The General saw him as the savior of his beloved Germany and its people. No one could dissuade him. Teaching Hans to revere Adolf Hitler became the General’s greatest passion.
Only these perfect Aryan babies could hope to achieve greatness. Every detail of his fine Aryan body carried the proscribed and proper measurements of the Super Race. The bloodline was Teutonic. Hans’ genes carried the imprint of Aryan perfection. His was the blue print for the future master race. This young boy was destined to rule the planet and rid it of all non-Aryan vermin. Hans was destined for war.
By 1932, the wheels were set in motion. From the beginning they were made to feel special. With time, Germany’s perfect children and young adults were given special attention. Nothing was too good for the future Master Race. Hitler had seen to that. Their food was of the highest quality and homes and furnishings were fit for young princes. Their clothing was made of the finest materials. It was into this world that Hans was inducted. His education was demanding. There was no idle time, no wasted moments. He excelled in every area. Mastering all subjects, Hans was an example to all of what German youth could be. Love of the Fatherland became part of his being. Reverence for his father, the Fuhrer, was Hans’ religion. Hans was reminded always that it was his duty to serve the Fatherland and theFührer. As the son of a general and founding Nazi Party member, he was taught that with position came power and with power control. This was the most dominant characteristic of the German people and a mantra to the Nazis. To control meant to be in control of one’s self first. By 1938, Hans was ready. His Prussian father had seen to that. Attending the Officer’s Corps, War College, he received his commission with honors. Hans was well-trained, physically fit, and prepared to lead. Born to the trade and a soldier in every way, he loved what he did.
Assigned to Rommel’s Africa Corps, Hans would distinguish himself in battle against the English. It wasn’t because he was fighting for the Fatherland; Hans fought because he loved winning. He also loved the smell and sounds of battle; war was in his blood. Distinguishing himself in battle, he was decorated with the Iron Cross for bravery. Shortly thereafter, Hans received a promotion to Captain. Later, while serving in France, Captain Von Furstenburge wouldn’t allow the weak French to stop Germany’s plan for the total conquest of the French people. Again, Hans distinguish himself by ridding the new German territory of partisan traitors. Holding the dogs at bay, he would rather destroy all the partisans than allow them to remove Germany’s yoke. And he did. He killed as many men, women, and children as was necessary. Fighting long and hard, Hans defeated the best the French had. He was celebrated as a man who exemplified the German superman, Hans was a fighting machine. Finally, at the age of twenty-eight, he was honored by a thankful Germany and promoted to colonel.
When the Americans landed in Normandy, Hans was ready. The Germans were the best fighting machine the planet had ever known. They fought the Americans on the beaches and into the forests. City-by-city, he and his men fought them. But there were too many and they could put hundreds of tanks into the field. If destroyed, they were simply replaced. No matter how many he killed, more Americans came. His men died valiantly for the Fatherland. But just the same, they died. As the months went on, men were replaced by boys. Although they fought well, they too died. In the end, the Americans were too many and too well-armed. It was over. By late summer of 1945, even Hans knew the war was lost. Though the Germans were better soldiers, they couldn’t defeat a foe who could field three times the number of soldiers and materiel.
Country-by-country, they came closer. The Russian Eastern Front had fallen and the Russians were closing on Berlin. Finally, the invincible German army was in retreat everywhere. It was over. Even Adolf Hitler couldn’t stop the inevitable. Germany was defeated. She’d been bombed into submission. Her factories were demolished and her airstrips were no longer in existence. The once proud German navy was completely destroyed. There was no longer a Germany to fight for. Fortunately for the chosen and many other German warriors the fall of the Reich had been planned for. The SS and the High Command had developed contingencies for just such an outcome. A list of its precious chosen Aryan guard was kept and updated daily. Each and every officer who had served the Fatherland was tracked. Name, age, rank, and location were meticulously kept and filed for just such a moment. Sealed orders which bore the Fuhrer's own signature would be the Fourth Reich. The Aryan future was to be protected at all costs. Decisions had been reached, orders drafted. The chosen were gathered by sectors and assembled by the local SS. When they arrived at the gathering places, all was ready to carry them to safety. Transportation orders awaited them.
It was said that the German Bishop, Alwa Hudall, had imposed upon His Holiness, Pope Pius, to assist in these efforts. The two had known one another since the Pope was the papal nuncio to Germany. Over the years, they had become close. Safe houses in the Alps had been prepared years in advance. These Alpine ski lodges and houses were well stocked with food, clothing, and medicine. No detail was left to chance. New identity papers with the appropriate backgrounds had been carefully crafted. Clothing, money and necessary travel documents were prepared. As planned, the Catholic Church was alerted. Abbeys and monasteries in Italy were prepared to receive the precious German cargo once across the frontier. The future of the Fatherland wouldn’t be jeopardized.
As Hans had confided to Anna, he was one of the lucky ones. By escaping to a foreign country, he was protected. He lived with fellow Germans who understood his plight. He fared far better than many of his comrades. Yet, he was never free of his past. It was to haunt him always. Unable to forget his actions, his psyche would forever hold him responsible for his sins. Hans couldn’t control the little voice in his head the ones that constantly reminded him of his deeds as a German officer. He was tormented day and night by the voices of those he had killed. Hans couldn’t run and hide. He slept little. His body was strong and his mind keen, but the relentless voices were wearing him down. Daily, they made their accusations against him. His body grew tired, his mind and soul were frayed and in pain. These tormentors would give him no rest. Even Helga and Clause’s kindness couldn’t help him.
One fateful morning, Hans Von Furstenburge was awakened by noise coming from downstairs in the Brenner villa. As he turned his head toward the window, a bright shaft of light streamed into the bedroom through slightly parted drapes. Its warm glow washed over his face. Turning over onto his back, Hans placed his arm over his face to protect it from the piercing shaft of sunlight. As Hans lay there, he didn't want to get out of bed. He felt guilty, but he didn't want to get out of bed. His military training had conditioned both his body and mind to awaken early. But these days, there was little to awaken for. Turning his body slightly, he grasped the silver bell next to his bed on the night stand. Ringing it, he signaled the houseboy that he was ready for his breakfast. As he lay there waiting for the boy to deliver his breakfast, thoughts of his past rushed into his mind. Even though he had been in Argentina for over four years, he had not yet grown accustomed to the absence of war. In a twilight dream state, Hans could hear the groaning of men wounded in battle. The sounds of tanks rumbling across the open battlefield, tank tracks squeaking and grinding over rock and dirt, played in his mind. For a moment, his thoughts transported back to the sounds of small arms fire. In the distance could be heard the familiar sound of machine guns firing rounds in rapid succession. The shouting of orders to defend or attack were being given. There was also the smell of diesel fuel and smoke from burning tanks. The sounds and sights flooded his mind and then disappeared as quickly as they had come.
A knock at the door and a youthful Spanish voice asking to gain entry startled him back to reality. Hans shouted at the young boy to enter. In came Ramon with a large breakfast tray heaped with food. The breakfast tray with its mountain of food had been difficult for the thin young man to carry up the massive staircase to Hans’ room. As the strong aroma of coffee filled the room, Hans sat up in bed. Argentines of the upper class weren’t accustomed to eating such heavy breakfasts. Their normal breakfast consisted of coffee, juice, and a small bun with condiments. This was a German breakfast of large German sausages, mountains of eggs, and potatoes. In the Brenner household the morning meals were meant to keep German traditions alive. Served steaming hot from a large silver urn, the coffee was German coffee. The bread was black German bread. This was a worker’s breakfast. It was also a soldier’s breakfast.
Asking if he should place the tray on the bed or the adjacent table, Ramon stood rigidly awaiting his orders. Still not comfortable with Spanish, Hans motioned toward the veranda. The young boy immediately placed the tray on the table next to the French doors leading to the veranda. Grabbing the large heavy drapes that covered the doors, he parted them. As Ramon opened the French doors, the cool morning air rushed into the stuffy room bringing with it the sweet aroma of flowers. The houseboy then gathered up the tray and walked it onto the veranda. Placing the tray on the table, he stood by patiently waiting to serve.
Hans rose from the bed and grabbed a robe from the valet chair. He pulled it over his large muscular frame. As he turned toward the veranda, he caught a glimpse of himself in the full-length mirror. Even now, several years after the war, his body was still strong and hard. He was still youthful looking and handsome. This wasn’t ego; it was a statement of fact. Women had always found him attractive. Even the French women, who hated the Germans, had found him irresistible. Pleased with his physique, this easy life hadn’t yet made him soft. As he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, Hans noted that he needed a shave. He also noted that his sky blue eyes were reddened by the drinking of too much brandy the night before. His handsome large cleft jaw was strong and massive. Fine, thin eyebrows bleached by the summer Argentine sun, contrasted with his golden tanned face. A slightly lined, high forehead was framed by close cropped hair, blonder now after the years spent in the North African Sun. Hans' short military haircut continued to be his choice, the fine blonde hairs bristling as they stood straight up.
Walking quickly onto the veranda, Hans seated himself at the table. Looking at Hans and knowing that he could be volatile, the young man asked only, "Café, Señor?" As the young boy efficiently placed the linen napkin on the master’s lap, Hans nodded his reply. After his coffee was served, Hans waived the young man away, feeling uncomfortable at being served. While sipping his first cup of coffee, Hans looked about the veranda. His patron had placed large concrete urns strategically along its parameter. Staggering them every five feet along the balustrade, they were full of bright flowers and fragrant plants. Herr Brenner had hung red clay flowerpots on wrought iron hooks from the ceiling above the veranda balustrades. The pots full of colored flowers had a dazzling effect, even on a battle hardened soldier.
Hans still couldn't understand the man. Yes, they were both Germans, but from two different German worlds. His was the recently deceased new Germany, with its large mausoleum like structures, created to be commanding and to obtain the desired propaganda effect. A large autobahn had been built by Adolf Hitler’s new Germany to carry his people at high speeds in newly manufactured German cars. But even he knew the true design. In fact, this autobahn was meant to rapidly deploy German troops from one end of Germany to another, efficiently and effectively. It had also been constructed as a potential secondary landing strip for Luftwaffe fighter aircraft. Nothing was left to chance. Each design of the new state had a hidden purpose, to facilitate war. Herr Brenner’s world went back to a Germany of an earlier time, one with no supermen or Aryan destiny, to a time long before the first Great War. Hans believed Herr Brenner to be a fool. With his romantic view of a Germany that had undergone several major changes since his leaving her, Brenner seemed rooted in the past. Still respecting the aristocracy and the institutions they created, Herr Brenner could never understand or accept that they had been supplanted by a higher order of German loyalty. The new loyalty was to their race rather than to an antiquated feudal system and its traditions.
Hans could also see where the two German worlds converged. All around him was the orderliness of the German mind and the fruits it produced. It could be seen in the size and construction of the villa, with each part of the structure well thought out. The interior finishing work of the house was a testament to the details a master carpenter had exacted from each and every piece of wood. The stone work and masonry was uniquely German, with each block fitting perfectly in place, large and solid. The design of the other buildings also demonstrated superior German engineering and craftsmanship. Their relationship to the overall scheme of the property was always proportional. Even the neatly trimmed gardens, fruit trees, and grape vines were laid out in a uniform fashion.
But there was one detail of planning that was somehow out of place, the placement of the stables. Unlike other estancias which he had visited, the Brenner Villa’s stables were situated outside the high protective walls of the main housing complex. Hans had once asked Clause, why he’d decided to venture away from the traditional placement of the stables. Brenner responded that the horses should remain free. Pressing Brenner on this point, he responded in a somewhat irritated manner. Herr Brenner told him that not all things had to be perfect. Later he said, for things to grow and improve there had to be room for difference and uniqueness. Otherwise, there was the danger of stagnation, of crumbling. "This," Herr Brenner said, "was the course of nature. All things were subject to change and transition. Only man in his arrogance attempted to forestall change through total conformity. Man could learn from nature. Nature allowed for both uniqueness and variety. In this way, she achieved the needed balance, ensuring the continuation of life on the planet." Clause’s words had remained a puzzle to Hans.
Having finished his breakfast, Hans rose from the table. As he did, he looked out on the vineyards and smiled. The sweet aroma of the flowers filled the air, somehow giving him a feeling of contentment. This was something he’d never known. After taking a long second look at the vista in front of him, he headed toward his bedroom.
Bathing quickly, Hans walked from the bathroom into the bedroom. He stood before the vanity mirror. Taking a straight razor from the cup in front of him on the dresser, he brushed it in a backwards and forward motion against the long leather strap until the blade was sufficiently sharpened. Shaving was to him a game. Hans prided himself in never cutting or nicking his face. After every few strokes, he dipped the razor in the basin of cold water. He then moved it over the surface of his face, carefully removing each hair of his beard. When finished, he rubbed the fingers and palms of his hands over his face, feeling for any whiskers he’d missed. When sure that none were missed, he splashed the cold water over his face, again and again, in hopes that somehow it would wake up his entire body. Then reaching for his silver horse hair brush, Hans combed his short cropped, golden hair.
Once finished, he turned and walked toward the massive armoire at the corner of the bedroom. Reaching out, he opened the heavy, ornately carved wooden doors. Brushing his hand over the many fine suits Frau Brenner had given him, he noted the high quality of the fabrics. Once Hans found the one he thought flattered him most, he pulled it out and tossed it onto the bed. Hans would have never treated his military tunic with such disrespect. During his military career, Hans handled his uniform with respect. The uniform of a German officer was a special thing, a symbol of a great nation. As such, Hans always took great care while placing his uniform upon the valet, smoothing it as he hung it. But this was a different world, one which demanded nothing of him.
Walking over to the dresser, Hans opened the drawer where his neatly pressed white shirts were kept. Choosing one of the many shirts that Frau Brenner had purchased from the little Italian tailor, he unwrapped it. Putting it on, the crisp white shirt was well starched, much like his white military uniform tunic shirts with the stiff collars. The feel of the expensive shirt made Hans almost happy. He would wear a silk tie that matched his mood. Choosing one of the red ties, he placed it across the gray pin striped suit. "Yes, this is the one." He commented out loud. As he stood in front of the full length mirror, Hans pulled on his trousers. Then he sat on the long Queen Anne bench in front of the large four poster bed pulling on his knee length black socks. Next, he used the ivory handled shoehorn to insert his feet into each black loafer. Quite unlike his tall black German officer’s boots that fit him so well, they were loose. Hans missed the way his boots hugged his calves. More than that, he missed his uniform. Standing, he buttoned his pleated trousers. Reaching to the bench for the smooth black leather belt, he pulled it through each loop in the trousers. It was thin in comparison to the wide officer’s uniform belt that had held his holstered Luger pistol. He had never become accustomed to it. Quickly buckling himself, he reached for his tie. Pulling the silk tie around his neck, it hugged the area below the upturned shirt collar. With a quick movement of the hands the knot was tied, the collar turned down and the tie straightened. He then tucked his crisp white shirt into his trousers. Taking a final look at himself in the mirror, Hans was satisfied. His tanned face looked pleasing against the fine white shirt.
Remembering his military watch, Hans walked over to the bed and stopped abruptly. This was the same watch that had seen him through Hell and back. It had become a part of him. Turning toward the dresser, he picked it up and strapped it across his left wrist. He then reached into the open the drawer for his wallet. Placing it in his back trouser pocket, Hans lifted his coat off of the bed and put it on in one fluid movement. He then took one last look around the room and opened the door. Smiling as he walked into the hallway, Hans closed the door tightly behind him. He walked hurriedly through the hallway, bounding down the large staircase.
The tall elegant Frau Brenner was waiting for him as he reached the landing below. As she looked at Hans, he was taken by her wide inviting smile. It was the smile that a proud mother gives as she gazes at her handsome son. Frau Brenner’s perfectly straight, gleaming white teeth complimented the beauty of a well kept, middle aged German woman. She wore her dark blonde hair in a bouffant style that gave her an appearance of understated elegance. Helga Brenner looked many years younger than her true age. She had always kept herself fit and trim. The light cotton summer dress she wore was both cool and flattering. Her penchant for wearing pearl earrings and necklaces, added to her allure. She was every inch the lady.
They could have been mistaken for mother and son. Hans was over six feet in height and Helga had to stand tiptoe to deliver her motherly kiss on his cheek. Placing her long slender arm around his waist, she held him close as they walked together into the foyer. She had taken him into her home and into her heart. From the moment they first met, they’d felt comfortable with one another. It’s that feeling that one has when meeting a kindred spirit for the first time. They had both felt it, but never shared it with one another. Perhaps it was that they saw so much of themselves in each other. For her part, Hans was a welcomed addition to her empty home. He was the son she had always wanted. For him, she was the mother he had secretly longed for. His own had been conspicuously absent most of his life. Madame Von Furstenburge had preferred to attend posh parties, galas, and take frequent vacations, rather than spend time with him and his father.
They had become close these past months. Only this closeness would have allowed this familiarity between them. "Hans," she said in a motherly tone, "where are you off to this morning?" Not wanting to be asked questions, Hans tried to leave quickly. As he did, Frau Brenner asked if she could accompany him. He attempted to dissuade her. Hans said he needed time alone. Helga wouldn’t take no for an answer. She insisted playfully that he wait and she left to get her coat. When she arrived, he explained that he would rather be alone. Hurt, her eyes began to fill with tears. Hans was confused but moved by this genuine gesture of emotion. It was undignified for a German officer to be treated as a child. After all, he had been decorated with the Iron Cross for bravery under fire and promoted twice. If the war hadn’t ended so badly, he was sure that he would have been given the baton of a Field Marshall. Surely he was entitled to a walk by himself. But there she stood, crying over what he had said. He’d never meant to hurt her or anyone else. Hans was confused and angry with himself. Frau Brenner was the last person on earth he wished to hurt. As his eyes welled up with tears, he felt himself losing control. Feeling frightened, as if under attack, his skin became clammy, sweaty. His breathing rapid, Hans was having difficulty regaining his composure. The fear began to mount as he fought to catch his breath. Unable to help himself, he went out of control as his fear turned to terror.
He could hear himself shouting that he had simply followed orders. Hans was no longer in control of his emotions. A shocked Frau Brenner looked at him in confusion. He shouted again at the top of his lungs, "I was only following orders." There had been too much war, too much blood spilled. But it was the guilt that he could no longer cover over. Frau Brenner had started a small crack in his manly facade that was now quickly becoming a fissure. Years of denial had come to an end; Germany was lost. Alone in this new world, all his comrades were now dead. Having always stood alone, Hans believed that he needed no one and nothing or so he had thought. As he tried to fight back his tears, his body began shaking violently. His hands trembling, Hans tried to hold on. Hans’ facial muscles twitching, he shouted, "What’s happening to me?" Frantic, he was no longer able to hold back. Suddenly, the ghosts of the young children of French Partisans he’d killed appeared there in front of him. With haunting eyes and bloody clothing torn by bullets, there they stood. Screams of terror filled the air as the little ones called to him, begging to be spared.
Colonel Hans Von Furstenburge was being violently torn from the present and transported back in time to relive the horrors of war. Next, appearing in front of him was the helpless wounded English soldier he’d shot at point blank range. On his knees, the blood spurting from the gaping hole in the Englishman’s face, the lad asked why. Again and again, Hans could hear the boy asking him why. How could Hans explain away the Englishman’s execution? What words could excuse Han’s actions? Yet the Englishman demanded an answer. There in front of him now were the faces of the children of partisans he’d ordered executed by firing squad. They were all there in the room with him. Death surrounded his soul. Hans could see their fear and hear their cries for help as they walked toward him, begging him. Needing forgiveness for the suffering and pain he’d caused, his face became contorted. As the pain and hurt of the little boy in each man began pouring out of his soul, icy cold fear and terror crept into Hans’ being. In his heart, he understood sin. And he’d sinned greatly.
Nazi actions had been cloaked in words of honor. But in truth, it was the callus murder of innocent children. "I was only following orders. I was only doing my duty!" Hans shouted at the ghost-like figures. As if to defend his criminal actions, Hans’ ravings grew louder. His eyes took on the vacant look of insanity as his shouting alerted the household. His soul could no longer contain the evil of his life. In an attempt to leave their host, a lifetime of pain, fear, and hurt were pushing their way through the rib cage and muscles of Hans’ chest. He fell backwards onto the floor, as if being pushed by some power greater than he. Hans clutched his chest hoping to hold in his rapidly beating heart. He tried in vain as it smashed against the wall of his rib cage.
Helga could see the terror in his eyes as he stood again straining to recover. He was fighting for oxygen while trying to remain standing. In a futile attempt to save himself, Hans reached out with his hand toward anything, anyone. Helga could see the child in him reaching out to be saved. It was the sheer terror of a soul coming to grips for the first time with the knowledge of a great evil within. His disciplined body, one that had been hardened by war over the years, was trying to respond to a mind sending a million pent up messages. But even brute animal strength couldn’t overcome this black nothingness, this emptiness in his soul. The spirit which God gives to all men was operating here and now. Hans’ battle hardened mind and body betrayed him as he crashed onto a coffee table. It collapsed under his weight. "Clause!" Helga's shrill scream of terror pierced the air. "Help us, Clause help us!" Her shouts grew in intensity.
Even this superman of the Third Reich couldn’t cheat God. For this was God’s moment in all His power and glory. Hans was now experiencing the terror of facing the living God. Held in God’s grasp, he could no longer defend the killing of innocents by saying that he’d only followed orders. There would be no escape. No power in heaven or earth could escape the payment that had to be made for sins. The Eternal One was calling the soul to task for the sins of its host. Sobbing uncontrollably, he was no longer the invincible Aryan warrior in his beautifully tailored uniform. No longer able to rely on his superior German Teutonic racial bloodlines to save him, Hans was stripped of all that by God. All that was left was a child in raw tormenting pain. The cold, logical mind which plays so many games with itself, to protect the soul from itself, was splintering. The rational mind was now at risk. The animal man in Hans tried to stand, but was unable. As Colonel Hans Von Furstenburge collapsed for the last time, he did so as a broken man, a wounded soul. The intertwined core of body, mind, and spirit had been undone. The only thing left of the great Nazi warrior were his shouts of terror and alternating child-like whimpering which could be heard throughout the villa.
Across the foyer, her face pale and full of fear, Helga called to her husband. Now in the room, Clause didn't know quite what was happening, only that he had to do something. Moving as a man many years his junior, adrenaline coursed through his large body. He lunged almost as an animal protecting its young, he instinctively thrust toward Hans. Clause moved to shield Helga from a threat he didn't understand. Landing hard against a crouching Hans, both men crashed to the ground. Clause’s massive body finally between them, only then was he sure his beloved Helga was safe. Now Herr Brenner wasn't sure whether to wrestle the young man down or hold him close, as one would a hurt child. In a moment, all was quiet as Hans lay shaking in Clause’s arms, moaning as if wounded. There was relief in the air, if only for the moment. It was over.
Helga joined her husband and Hans on the floor among the broken pieces of furniture and family heirlooms. Clause held Hans gently as he sat on the floor. In a state of total mental collapse, Hans moaned from deep within. A broken man, a child frightened out of his mind, Hans shook his head backwards and forwards repeating the words, "no, no," in a monotone voice. His eyes only offered a blank stare as he clutched Clause’s shirt with his white knuckled hands. As a comforting Helga stroked his golden hair, Hans fixed his helpless gaze upon her. For one sane moment of recognition, he knew who she was. Her mother’s heart was aching as she saw her once brilliant, strong, son broken and shattered before her. Calling her mama, Hans said the word sweetly, gently as if he were a little boy again. Helga’s heart was broken as one by one, like tiny pearls, tears rolled down her cheeks. As Clause held the young man in his strong arms he looked at his beloved Helga. When their eyes met they said a thousand words of comfort to each other. Each understood, though they spoke no words between them. Both loved the shattered young man who lay on the ground next to them. They would be strong for him and each other.
Giving no thought to the weight of the young man, Clause effortlessly lifted Hans in his arms and stood. Holding Hans close to his chest, he carried him across the large foyer to the sofa. There he placed him gently down upon it. Clause then reached for a sofa blanket and covered the sleeping boy. At that moment, Colonel Hans Von Furstenburge, hero of North Africa, recipient of the coveted Iron Cross was to them a little boy. He needed them far more than either could have ever suspected. Sitting on the edge of the sofa Helga ran her fingers gently through his golden hair. Instinctively, she sang the German lullaby her mother had sung to her as a young girl when she was ill with fever. Singing her song for over an hour, Hans was finally calm.
Sleeping soundly, Hans was quiet now. Helga stood and turned toward her husband knowing the large man would gather her up in his arms and comfort her. The gigantic man moved affectionately toward her. Reaching out, Clause pulled her into himself. He surrounded her with his large body. She cried hard, sobbing deeply. Her face buried in this wonderful man’s large chest, Helga needed him more than ever. Hans too would need this gentle giant as never before.
Once Helga was in her room resting, Doctor Schmidt was called to diagnose Hans' condition. Arriving in short order, the doctor was prepared for the worst. The old doctor had seen this before, during the First World War. As a young physician at an army field hospital at Ardennes, France, he had treated many cases of this type. Fortunately for Hans, he’d been exposed to several acute cases. This condition was a form of extreme nervous exhaustion. However, it was far more. Explaining to Herr Brenner that this was a disorder caused by the trials of war, the doctor would make no promises. The human body could endure much, but the mind was a far more fragile instrument. Before leaving, the doctor administered a sedative which would cause Hans to sleep for a long period of time. Writing a prescription on a pad, he handed it to Frau Brenner instructing her as to the dosages and the times at which the medication was to be given.
Turning to Clause, he said that in these cases, one could only hope. As the two walked out, the doctor cautioned Clause that only time and a great deal of rest might help the patient recover his strength. The doctor made no further promises of recovery. He only cautioned Herr Brenner that in some rare cases of this type, patients had to be institutionalized. When pressed by Herr Brenner to explain his prognosis, Doctor Schmidt solemnly advised him that Hans could be one of the unfortunate few. "These," he said, "spend the remainder of their lives in mental institutions, unable or unwilling to recover completely." He then assured Clause that he would pursue the matter further with specialists. It was late when the doctor shook Clause's hand and left the villa.
It took Hans several weeks to recover from the initial physical shock. Blessed with a strong body and an even stronger constitution, his eating habits slowly improved. But his mind was another matter. The sweaty nightmares that had haunted him for years intensified. These episodes sometimes lasted for days, making his recovery slower. And there were many setbacks. When awake, he suffered from radical mood swings. He went from happiness and joy to abject depression. Medicines helped little; it was Helga’s maternal caring that turned the tide. Progress was very slow and Hans demanded constant care. Persistent and patient, Helga remained at his side. Throughout the long nights, she was close by. It was in these months that Helga would learn about the young Colonel. Talking out loud during nightmares of the war, Hans divulged much. These nightmares were filled with the horrors and violence of war. Killing and more killing filled his dreams. He had lost many close friends. As he relived one death after another, Hans cried for his fallen comrades. She was able to piece together his past by listening closely to his rambling. But finally, the frightening nightmares passed but only after weeks of broken sleep and fitful nights. Slowly his mind began to accept these horrors and to compartmentalize them. In time, Hans was able to discern reality from his frightening past. Nights became calmer, more restful. Days were more peaceful.
Helga was now aware that this young man had never known love or peace. She pitied him. As the days became weeks, he was himself once again. The Hans, who had known only duty, honor and war had returned. But yet, he wasn’t quite his old self. This was a different Hans, less the machine and more the reflective human being. Opening up to Helga, he spoke honestly of his mother and father. He shared their failings as parents and talked with her about his childhood of loneliness and pain. Finally, Hans began speaking of the war and its brutality. Over the following months, Hans spoke a great deal and Helga listened. She allowed him talk out his pain and fears.
Hans had never been a religious man. His father assured him that man made his own destiny by the work of his hands and the sweat of his brow. "God," Hans was told by his father, "was a remote figure who chose not to interfere in the lives of men." His parents were Catholics in name only. For them, God was an abstract concept, as remote as the end of the universe and as lifeless as a stone. Until their deaths during the war, their true religion had been the pursuit of money and power. They had placed their faith in things and people. His only experience with religion and the clergy had been on those rare occasions at the Catholic cathedral when his parents and he attended a baptism, marriage or funeral. A humanist, Hans had little use for a god with only a passing interest in humanity. Without a personal acquaintance with God, he couldn’t understand him in human terms.
But during the war, God made himself known to Hans. In those moments before battle, he said silent prayers to this god his father had promised was deaf. There were moments when he tried to reach out to this silent entity through a simple soldier’s prayer. He asked to be allowed to survive the battle, nothing more, nothing less. And Hans had survived. But this time, God made himself known to Hans in a very different way. Hans had come to believe that God had insisted upon a face-to-face meeting that day of his collapse. After that painful visit, Hans believed that God had cleansed his soul. He was given that rare gift, a second chance at life. Hans Von Furstenburge was now a changed man. Improving rapidly over the next few weeks, Hans wasn’t as tired, slept much better and was no longer up throughout the night. Hans slept through with the aid of sedatives provided by the doctor. His eating was better. Although not totally recovered, he could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. He was beginning to accept himself as never before. God had given him this, he was sure of it.
A bit groggy from the sedatives, the feeling usually lasted for several minutes after he awoke in the morning. A well rested Hans finally got out of bed. When he was able to focus his eyes, Hans found his pale thin reflection in the dressing mirror standing next to his bed. He was sure that a strong cup of morning coffee would help him get past it. To his surprise, he found Frau Brenner standing next to him with a worried look on her face. In a motherly tone of voice, she asked if he was feeling well. Hans was slow to respond. When he did, Hans tried to assure her that he feeling quite well. As he did, Hans reached out to her and gently kissed her hand. For the first time since he’d known her, it was he, who was reaching out. This had been an involuntary action on his part, surprising both of them. A very different Hans smiled broadly. It was the smile of a comforted child, reflecting genuine affection. He loved her as a mother and she could feel it. This was quite a departure for Hans.
His days of soldiering had left him unemotional, almost clinical. Battle allowed for no emotion. Men depended upon each other to retain composure under duress. There was no room for emotion in war, only cold hard logic. Always tentative with his expression of emotion, he’d never been given to sentimentality. It was a foreign thing to him. Taught to be reserved and aloof in their personal dealings, both Hans and Helga were a bit uncomfortable with his overt act of emotion. It wasn’t very German. Each thought it best to not discuss Hans’ new found feelings. Hans and Helga had said all they needed to say. Leaving him alone, she went downstairs to attend to her household duties. Hans fell back to sleep. The next few days would prove to be better. Hans’ recovery was progressing nicely. He was better now, more sure of himself.
There were several more months of recuperation before his strength returned to him. Finally, he felt himself ready now to face the world outside. Hans no longer viewed it as a cold harsh place where nothing mattered. He’d come to understand that life had other sides, other dimensions and he was ready and willing to explore them. Feeling for the first time in his life that he had been given a second chance, the darkness had lifted. Today would be his first outing since his meeting with the god within.
He bathed and shaved off several days of stubble. Dressing quickly, Hans was ready for his day trip. Being given a second chance to live and love, he would make the best of it. When he finally left the comfort of his room, Hans said his familiar wartime battle prayer. He asked God to get him through this one battle. Walking down the hall, he felt a tinge of fear. But it was when he prepared to walk downstairs that the fear really began to take hold. It took a great deal of courage for him to walk down the staircase. The fear increased its grip on him as he walked through the foyer. For a moment, he stopped and looked around remembering his visit with God in every frightening detail. The thought of it sent a shudder through his body. But there was also a strange comfort knowing God was real. As he turned to walk toward the large front doors of the villa, there was a bounce in his step. "Frau Brenner," he called out, with a glint in his eyes, "don't hold dinner for me. I shall sup at the Café Del Sol in town." They both laughed as he closed the front entry doors of the Villa behind him. Frau Brenner watched through the windows of the foyer as Hans stood at the top of the landing overlooking the courtyard. Hans seemed unsure of himself, afraid.
The stone steps faced outward from both sides of the platform and led down to a second larger platform. A wrought iron railing had been built on both sides of the stone steps, securing the walker from falling when the steps were made slippery by heavy winter rains. There was no need to call out. Ramon was well-trained and in fact, awaited any opportunity to drive the automobiles. Hans standing on the landing was a signal for Ramon to run and bring his Mercedes Benz to the parking area. Soon, his car arrived and he walked down the steps to the parking area. Hans smiled at Ramon, something he’d never done before. Ramon took notice and returned his smile. The door was held open by Ramon, as Hans slid onto the driver’s seat covered in soft, rich leather. He reached over and put on the driving gloves that had been placed on the seat next to him. Adjusting the rear view mirror, he placed the automobile in gear and was off. He drove along the circular driveway toward the large entry gates. An efficient Ramon pulled them open just in time to see the beautiful car speed away.
The day was warm and the breeze gentle as Hans sped down the long stone drive leading to the main road. It was too beautiful a day to waste. As he drove along, Hans began releasing the latch which held his convertible top in place. Pulling the auto to the side of the road, he exited the vehicle and forced back the leather top into the back of the auto in the area behind the seat. Satisfied that the top was secure, he slid once again into the driver’s seat. He placed the auto into gear and was off again. Argentina of the nineteen forties had few cars. Its government in pursuit of modernization had seen fit to construct large fine roads. The ruling class wanted Argentina to lead the way for Latin America. Her cities and roads would be the finest in all of South America. The well paved, wide roads were made for speed. Enjoying road racing, Hans wanted to see what his auto could do. He had the country road to himself for some distance. A precision instrument made for power and speed; he gave it all she had to give. With the top down he felt free as the wind blew through his hair. Before closing on the town, only the occasional farm lorry or wagon interfered with his enjoyment of high speed road racing.
He’d driven several kilometers on the empty road when a large horse drawn wagon loaded with produce pulled onto the road ahead of him. The driver of the wagon was having difficulty with the high-spirited horse. As Hans slowed to a stop, he felt sorry for the animal. Perhaps, if this farmer had placed a less heavy load on the wagon, the animal might have felt less encumbered, he thought to himself. Waiting as the farmer finished cursing the over burdened animal, he finally moved the large wagon onto the roadside.
Placing his auto into gear, he moved to pass the wagon which was only partially on the road. Now past the farmer, his auto once again coursed ahead picking up speed quickly. As his auto took the next turn, Hans could see the beginning of a fence line which divided the Brenner's land from that of Don Castillo, whom he had never met. Hans could make out the form of a lone rider in the far distance. It appeared to be a gaucho riding the fence line looking for damage. Closing on the rider, he could make out more detail. It was a woman riding close to the fence at full gallop. Riding hard, she handled the Arabian well. The animal gave in willingly to her commands. Whoever the woman was, she was an experienced horsewoman. She didn't seem to notice his presence as his auto closed in on her. Slowing down to match the speed of the horse, Hans was now able to see her profile clearly. He was taken with her beauty. She wore the traditional black Spanish riding outfit and long black riding boots. The woman’s thin brimmed Andalusian hat sat low on her forehead, just above the eyes. Her straight blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She had a fine strong jaw line and long elegant neck.
Noticing the auto keeping pace with her, the young woman turned her head to get a better look at this stranger. As she did, she gave Hans a look of arrogant contempt. It was the practiced look that the aristocracy has mastered so well. It meant to warn Hans to keep his distance. As the road and the fence line came closer together, Hans noted her fine porcelain skin and large round blue eyes. Her beauty was enhanced by her high cheek bones and fine thin nose. As the fence line and road began to separate, they were gradually distanced from one another. Soon, she was only a lovely vision in the distance. Making a mental note, Hans would inquire about her later. He seemed to recall that the Don had a young daughter. When Herr Brenner spoke of her, he referred to her as his little girl. Surely this could not be her. This was a young woman of some twenty years of age, too old to be the Don’s daughter. Han’s thought she must be a visiting relative or family friend. Soon, the beautiful young woman passed from his mind.
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