Since I parked the car in the garage on Friday afternoon — yes, Kevin was true to his word — I’ve been existing on the living room sofa with trips down the hall to the bathroom. Somewhere I picked up a virus, flu, or just basic yuck that has left me feeling weak and miserable. Headache, body aches, fever, and digestive problems laid me low. I haven’t been this sick since I had a ruptured appendix.
I haven’t left you hanging like I did a year ago, but I haven’t anything to say right now. So, I will instead, post the new few chapters to Apple Pie and Strudel Girls.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)
Traveling from Lviv, Ukraine to Budapest—April 1940—Heidi realized she prepared the children as much as possible for the long journey to Budapest. Heidi never drove a car before because of the excellent public transportation in Berlin. In fact, she never sat behind the wheel of a car. Her only driving instruction was watching Dora push the clutch in, shift the gears, and press on the gas pedal. Heidi remembered she repeated this procedure three times before she reached a good speed.
Dora made operating the car look easy, but Heidi quickly realized keeping the car moving without killing the engine or grinding the gears proved to be more difficult than she ever imagined. Before they actually left Lviv, Heidi practiced on back roads with the children giggling in the backseat as the car jerked and hopped like a rabbit or groaned as she killed the engine. The children also learned when Heidi mumbled bad words, they shouldn’t laugh at all.
After the first fifty miles on the road to Budapest, Heidi shifted and clutched the car like a professional driver, and as they drove along, she kept the children entertained by teaching them German folk songs.
She feared she might run out of gasoline, but she told herself God would provide. Just to be safe-in case God might be busy–she filled several gas cans holding three liters a piece and put them in the trunk before she left Lviv.
The exhausting journey required Heidi to drive and read the map at the same time. She longed for adult conversation as she listened to the high-pitched voices of her young passengers. She chastised herself for not convincing Fritz to come with her, no matter what the danger.
The first checkpoint took place at the Ukraine-Slovakia border; she took a deep breath when a handsome Russian officer approached the car. She smiled at him. “Good evening, officer.” She spoke in German.
He spoke perfect German flavored with a heavy Russian accent. “Good evening, frauline. Papers please.”
Heidi handed him their documentation and remained silent as he looked over the papers.
“You are from Budapest? You sound like a Berliner.”
“Ja. I am. I attended a funeral of a relative up north and am going back to my home in Budapest. My husband is waiting for me.”
“Why are you out so late with three little children?”
“I hoped to get back earlier, but finding petrol is hard these days.”
His brow furrowed as he turned and entered the guard station. Heidi held her breath. She wondered why the officer returned to the small building. What a tragedy it would be if she failed to gain entrance to Hungary.
The guard handed Heidi a small note. “You can get petrol here, if you should need more to get home. Just tell the attendant Alexander at the border sent you.”
“You are very kind. Dunke.” Heidi flashed him a warm smile.
He stepped aside and waved her through the gate. She put the car in gear and her sweaty hand slipped on the shift lever as she pulled away from the guard shack. “Thank you children. You behaved perfectly. I am so very proud of you.”
A few miles after their encounter with the guard, David said, “You are a very good liar, frauline.”
Heidi laughed. “Ja Sohn, du hast recht.” (Yes, son; you are right.)
David laughed too. “Mutter Ich liebe dichand.”
“I love you too, David.” Heidi turned and gave him a quick smile.
Heidi drove west another two hours before arriving in the city of Budapest. She searched for a store to buy some bread and cheese because they all needed to eat. She fixed sandwiches and washed the food down with a bit of milk. She thanked God in a silent prayer for bringing them through to Budapest without incident. Now the last step of the journey lay ahead–finding the address of Fritz’s friend.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – May, 1940—The spring semester for Anna and Josie went faster than the fall semester. They spent less time being afraid of everything and more time becoming part of the campus. Both girls spent more time socially; in fact, they decided to pledge a sorority. They confessed their relief to each other when neither one of them got accepted. They surmised farm girls didn’t possess the posh clothing and manners the sororities wanted.
Classes went well. Josie didn’t experience any homesickness this semester; instead she stayed focused and happy. Her happiness faded the day Josie got a letter from her brother Johnny.
Hope this note finds you studying hard and not drinking too hard. (Ha, ha). Basic training is almost over, and I’ll be coming home for a couple of weeks around the first of June. Then I’ll ship out for Britain. We’re really needed because the Krauts are giving the Brits fits since France surrendered.
Mom said you planned to stay in Minneapolis for the summer. I’m enclosing train fare for you to come home. Please don’t disappoint me.
Josie’s eyes filled with tears as she gently put Johnny’s note down on her desk.Anna immediately noted the change in Josie’s demeanor. “Jos, what’s going on?”
“Johnny’s intending to fly with the RAF. He doesn’t say so in so many words, but I know him. If he can help someone. especially while flying a plane. Johnny will be the first in line.”
Anna studied the European situation in her Poly-Sci class, and even though Roosevelt said he would not declare war on Germany, he covertly sent ships, planes and tanks to Britain. The equipment not only aided one of the U. S. allies, producing the military weapons put vast numbers of Americans back to full time work. Churchill begged Roosevelt to start sending troops, but popular American opinion held fast not wanting to get involved in another European war.
Anna hugged Josie as she cried over Johnny’s letter. “He won’t be in combat. The letter doesn’t say anything about that.”
“He sent me train fare to go home.” She waved a few bills in the air. “I’m afraid he’s thinking we might not get another chance to be together for a very long time.”
“Then you go home. The summer session doesn’t start until the end of June. You can still keep your plans to take extra classes to graduate early.”
“I guess.” Josie sniffled. “I only wish you could be here, too.”
“I need to work to earn enough money for next semester. You can find me at the Hayward A & W on roller skates.” Anna tried to lighten the mood.
“Is Tommy going home too? You planning to date him?”
“He talks about driving up, but I don’t think his father will let him come. His family owns one car, and his father is tight with the keys. We’ll probably end up writing.”
“That’s too bad, but people tell you things in letters that they can’t say in person. That’s why I love letters.”
“True.” Anna said. “I’m counting on your letters, too. Don’t forget about me.” She smiled.
Josie took a tissue and dried her eyes. “I would never forget about you.”
“Just making sure, my friend.”
Paris, France-June—Few Parisians seemed concerned about the fighting going on between the French military and the Germans only two hours from Paris. Most people believed the French military possessed the numbers to fend off any German attack. After the Great War, the French invested in a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles, and weapon installations along the border with Germany. The fortification became named the “Maginot Line” and the French government believed their efforts would prevent their war-minded neighbors from successfully overrunning France again. Because they put all of their resources in the Maginot Line, they neglected to invest in tanks and other modern weaponry.
Germany had spent the last thirty years blaming the French and British for the rampant unemployment and hunger in their country due to the treaty of Versailles. Since Hitler became chancellor, Germany put her energy into building an efficient military machine. Their leader instilled a sense of national pride in the Germans with the desire to reunite all German-speaking people in Europe. Hitler also made it his quest to ensure the military was the best in the world. The result of his focus produced a strict, disciplined, up-to-date fighting machine. To enter France the Germans circumvented the Maginot Line and pushed through Belgium.
Normal day-to-day life went on in Paris. Theaters and music halls stayed open every night. Restaurants stayed crowded, and couples still walked hand-in-hand through Tuileries Gardens enjoying the perfume of the lime trees. People shut out the threatening sounds of six-inch guns that thundered in the distance because understanding war was coming again proved to be too hard. Most people didn’t realize the French military was ill-equipped and ill-trained and no match for their warring neighbors. While French soldiers rode horses, their attackers ran them over with tanks.
After certain defeat, the French government made an agreement with the Nazis to set up a puppet government in Vinchy. Marshal Henri Philippe Tetrain took charge and made a radio announcement in a feeble eighty-four-year-old voice telling French citizens the failure of their defense. “My heart is heavy as I tell you we must stop the fight.”
Emma gasped as she listened to the new leader’s speech. “Marta. We are defeated. The Germans are coming to Paris. Our army surrendered!”
Marta sat silent staring out the window. She had tried to put Germany and the Nazis behind her and now they would be in her life again.
A few days after the radio announcement, the Nazis marched into Paris with great fanfare. Emma came home crying. “Why did this happen, Marta? The Nazis parade up and down the streets with their synchronized heavy goose-steps in their properly creased uniforms. If I didn’t hate them so much, I might call their appearance impeccable. Their parade lines are perfect, projecting how superior they believe they are. They stare straight ahead, ignoring us like we are invisible. When I went for lunch, they still paraded. Even tonight, they parade. Oh, Marta, what will we do?”
Marta took Emma in a close embrace. “We will get up tomorrow and face the day. But we will keep our eyes wide open.”
After their initial show of grandeur, the Nazis paraded through Paris for three more days. Parisians looked on as their lovely city changed in front of their eyes. Tanks rumbled through the cobblestone streets. The swastika flag flew over the Eiffel Tower. Throughout the entire city Nazis spread their presence like an untamed virus.
A week after the occupation, Emma and Marta shared a light supper of soup and bread. Out of the blue, Emma said, “We must be careful of what we do in public from now on. We must keep our affection for each other behind closed doors. At work Eloise spoke about how Nazis persecute homosexuals in Germany by deporting them to camps.”
Marta added. “Give them a few weeks and Jews will be ordered to wear gold stars on their jackets to keep them separated from the general population.
Emma continued. “I think you are right. After the Jewish stores suffered destruction in Germany, I didn’t think the situation could get worse, but then the SS herded large numbers of Jews and relocated them somewhere. I never learned where they went. Asking about the whereabouts became strictly forbidden.”
Marta frowned, “It is so hard to believe my father follows Hitler. How can Vater swallow such lies about a superior race?” I saw Hitler speak many times, Emma, and Hitler oozes power and charisma which hypnotizes audiences. He tells the throngs what they want to hear, and they blindly follow.”
Emma said, “Your father is looking for a savior. Hitler professes he will raise the German race to greater heights than any civilization in history. I say; if you tell a lie, tell a big one because people are more apt to believe the myth.”
Marta added, “Especially if one eliminates any opposition.”
A letter from Leisel arrived shortly after the Nazi takeover of Paris. As Marta slit the envelop open, she wondered what her old friend thought about the invasion.
I am so happy we are sisters once again now that Germany triumphed over France. You must be happy you are once again united with the Fatherland.
Franz marched into Belgium and onward to Paris. I believe he is in your adopted city right now. Wouldn’t it be lucky if you reunited your friendship? He is so handsome in his uniform; he must stand out. Oh Marta, I love him so much. Thank you for giving him up.
In his letter before the battle he wrote, “Our destiny pushed us all the way to Paris. We never doubted we would be victorious over all of Europe.” All of Germany is rejoicing in our military success.
During Franz’s deployment, I keep myself busy painting and stenciling the walls of our little home. Franz sent me several pieces of artwork he acquired. I love the way the rooms are turning out with these beautiful additions. If I did not read the newspapers, I would not believe we are at war. People are jubilant and we suffer no shortages.
A group of officer’s wives accepted me into their clique. My letters often speak about my loneliness without you and Heidi, so hopefully this group will put an end to my complaining. We meet once a week for a fine dinner; this week we enjoyed a bottle of French wine one of the girls received from her husband. I must admit the French do make fine wine!
Up until my marriage with Franz, I hung on to getting approved to enter the university. Now, though, I realize studying in Berlin proved to be a delusion. Plus, I can’t wait until Franz returns home, and I can give him the happy news we are expecting a baby around Christmas time. I hope you’ll share in our good news, too.
I hope you and Emma are well.
All my best, Leisel
Marta felt sorry for Leisel. Her loneliness and disappointment blinded her to the truth and broke her spirit. Even the brightest person can rationalize lies when they suffer alone. Does she really think the French willingly invited the Nazis to overrun their country? No one wants to be invaded by a foreign power.