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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, August 03, 1947, Image 123

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1947-08-03/ed-1/seq-123/

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THE GIRL FROM WURZBURG
Continued from preceding page
■nee which rose from a source dammed up
for years and now shining in her eyes.
He stood up in his sturdy shoes. “The oth
ers are almost new. I hardly ever wear them.
You see, they pinch too.”
She said eagerly: "They can be stretched
— if you put them on lasts over night.”
They went on talking about his shoes,
and then at length about her beechwood san
dals, whose crossed straps left her slender
toes tree.„. But it did not matter what they
talked about. Johanna felt as dearly as he the
unspoken feeling behind every word they said.
Steve looked at her white legs outlined
against the dark-green grass. He said thought
fully: “Lots of the girls at home don't wear
stockings other.
Then, stimulated by her questions, he de
scribed in i matfer-crf-fcact tone the things
that little people in America enjoy — thing*
that little people in Europe do not even dare
to think about When he mentioned casually
that many servant girts in his country owned
cars, Johanna thought utterly amazed. “Well
then. I surely wouldn’t mind being a m»iH in
A m.. ; I- 1 N
America.
Br now the sun had gone down. The willow
bushes wore gossamer-like evening veils, and
the fkxffy mist floated close to the surface of
the water. Steve asked: “Where did you put
on your dress? I didn't see any house near
by.”
"The willows over there are rather high.”
Johanna started to get up, and he helped her
As they walked toward the willows, he si
lently took her hand, and she did not with
draw it. It felt good to have him hold her
hand...
The goat shed had no door. In the opening
hung a sheet, which Johanna had found in
the charred ruins of her parents’ home. Holes
had been burnt in it as big as a child’s hand.
Johanna could not patch it, because needles
and thread, like a thousand other things,
were no longer obtainable.
In the shed stood an iron cot, a chair, a
table — nothing else. Steve could not stand
upright under the low ceiling.
“But where do you cook?” he asked.
Johanna shrugged her shoulders and point
nH tKo turieforl twimor • **TI»«*
much help either; there is no alcohol.”
He looked around — a plan already form
ing in his mind — and discovered a round air
vent near the unplastered roof. "There’s
plenty of room for a stove in this corner, and
the pipe could be led out through this hole,”
he said.
But there are no stoves,” said Johanna.
She was thinking: ”1 let him hold my hand;
and now here he is in my bedroom — such as
it is.” She was confused, and did not know
what to say next. Finally, after a moment of
hesitation, she asked, “Why don’t you sit
down?”
Steve, too, felt the strange tension which
develops between two people who are yearn
ing for each other and are alone in a room for
the first time.
Johanna sat down on her bed. She tried un
successfully to pull the hem of her short skirt
over her knees. The glance they exchanged
about this helped them to feel more at ease.
Now these two, for whom nothing during
the past half hour had been unimportant,
once more talked of unimportant things. Out
side, the many-voiced cricket choir sang.
The evening song of the frogs had begun from
far and near. Johanna could see" Steve’s face
only, when he drew on his cigarette.
Finally he got up. “Well, I’ll be going
now.” They were standing in front of the
8
sheet which hung in the doorway. Steve bent
down to her.
"Don’t — please don’t,” she —But
there was longing in tar voice, too.
Toward evening on the following day. Steve
hauled a pushcart over the unevm ground
through the willows, loaded with a bucket of
day. old bricks to which cmiurimiM
still dung, and old stove pipes and iron
plates, for which he had searched all day ka^
m the nibble heaps of the town’s encfless ruins.
After her daily bath in the riser, J«i»nn«
had. <kied herself and her hair in the and
then fallen asleep on her non cut. worn out
with hanger.
Stese knocked several tinea on the door
post and finally entered. She sna lying on
her hack, knees drawn up a little, hands under
I
The table, the bed and the chair stood at
the right of the open door. In the left-hand
corner was the space for the stove. Together
Steve aad Johanna brought in the bricks and
the pipes, and together they carried the heavy
hurtert of day, discussing how the stove
should he built. Their manner was exagger
ated? r—ttrr of fact, as though they had
onrupirSrly forgotten the kiss.
Then Johanna ran down to the river for
a pail of water — and suddenly stopped dead.
The fearful oppression in her breast had van
ished. "That he should be building a stove
for me!” she drought. "That he should be
doing this!”
Steve had brought everything with him —
hammer, trowel, chisel, T-square, spirit-level.
I
NEXT WEEK — Special Issue I

? This Week gives its entire issue
to the year's most moving story:
a report on the heart and mind of
a world scarred by war, two years
after victory. What are people
anywhere thinking, talking about?
In order to get the. answers. This
Week correspondents and photog
raphers combined forces with the
Documentary Unit of the Columbia
Broadcasting System. Together they
traveled 50,000 miles through
Europe and the Pacific, retracing
the paths of the war. Using cameras
and recording equipment, they cap
tured for our Special Issue and
CBS’s special August 14 broadcast
the lives, the faces and the voices
of average people all over the world.
In England and Hawaii. Normandy
and Guam, Paris and Tokyo, Ber
lin and Hiroshima, they talked to
thousands of men and women —
and children. The result is a fasci
nating and significant report to
America's veterans, and everybody
who shared the war with them.
her head. She was again wearing the white
woolen panties, and across her breast was the
blue silk scarf.
She had expected him to come. But nobody
on earth, not even Johanna herself, could
have said with certainty whether in the sec
onds before falling asleep her unconscious
wish to reveal to him so much of her loveli
ness had induced her to stay half dressed.
Steve’s mouth tightened. It was not a «mii»
— it was the feeling of taking something
she was not giving him of her own free will.
But he could not turn his eyes away.
VTv»w«,c wmi an awe which ne naa ieit
only as a child in church, he wanted to steal
away, hut she opened her eyes and her lips a
little. Still half tost in sleep and dreams, she
stretched out her arms to him.
His kiss fully wakened her. She drew back
and looked wordlessly at the man about
whom she had been dreaming.
Steve could find no words either. Like
mountain climbers who have lost their way
on a steep precipice, they could move neither
forward nor back. Each read the unsfvdren
thoughts in the other’s face.
The stove pipe on the tilted pushcart start
ed rolling off, and fell with a clatter. Re
lieved, Steve hurried outside.
Johanna slipped into her dress. But the
kiss, the first in her life, was with her still.
She had to sit down on her bed before she
had the strength to fasten her belt buckle.
Then the sensation flowed up and down her
arms as they hung limp at her sides. Fear
looked from her eyes. ..
First he knocked off the ancient mortar from
a number of bricks, and by and by four walls,
squarely fitted to each other, began to take
shape. In the front wall he made an opening 1
for the firebox, and on the top laid an iron
plate with removable lids, on which Johanna
could roast a turkey — if she had a turkey.
Squatting on her heels beside him, she
thought: "I’m watching America in uniform 1
building a stove for Europe.”
It was midnight before Steve had finished, '
and sat back to survey his work. It was a
brick cube, with an ornamental projection at '
the top and the bottom, and reminded him !
of old brick houses which he had seen while '
on leave in New York City; only it had no '
wwuuws, anu instead or a rront ooor, tnere 1
were the little iron doors to the firebox. The s
pipe passed through a vent near the roof,
and rose three feet above the shed. Over the 1
pipe, as protection against the rain and for 1
his own particular satisfaction, Steve had put *
a pointed tin chimney hat *
f
The two of them sat on the floor in front a
of the stove. "Wonderful!” said Johanna,
deeply moved. j
Steve grinned at her, showing his white, r
even teeth. Johanna felt like saying, "You t
dear one!” t
They went outside. A waxing moon hung
over the ruins where Wurzburg had been, c
and in its light, the area looked like a vast 1
expanse of pale white bones. Steve and f
Johanna looked at the scene, silenced. r
“Do you hate us? Because we destroyed t
your town?” asked Steve, in the voice of
someone whose conscience is bothering him
Johanna answered, after a long pause: “Not
when I think things through.” She lowered
her head, and several seconds passed before
she murmured: “But one does not always
think thing* through.”
“Then you hate us."
His words unloosed her tongue and the
flood gates of her memory. She began to talk,
living again everything she had been through.
suffering it anew:
“One Sunday morning the Freudenheiins’
were taken by the Gestapo. They were fur
dealers in Gerber Street — small stuff only,
mostly rabbit skins They were good-hearted
people, and harmed no one. First they were
led through the town, back and forth, and
then they were killed in the marketplace.
Th^ fiatlirtltor Ruth mv frwsnH* rn
little children we played together. But Ruth
wasn't lolled. She was taken to Poland and
put in a house. You know what I mean. She
was seventeen — the same age as I... Hans
told me later that he saw her in that house...
Hans had been engaged to Ruth.”
Johanna understood next to nothing about
world politic*. She had judged events — the
unleashing of war by Germany, the rkvasta
tkm of innocent people — only from tbe angle
of her own experience. She knew nothing —
and yet everything, because she knew every
thing intuitively.
On that Sunday morning her wounded
heart had turned away from her triumphant
father and everything he stood for, from
everything that was happening in Germany.
There could be nothing good in it, since it
bad begun with the slaying of the Freuden
beims. She was in the marketplace when it
happened and. paralyzed with horror, began
to scream only when the blood-smeared
corpses were dragged away by their feet
As she raised her head now, Steve saw in
ler eyes a look of guilt that seemed to ask if
le could like a girl linked by fate to those
vho had caused this nameless suffering in
Europe. It was a dark and heavy look.
Shuddering, he felt the presence of a bloody
{host between him and Johanna, separating
them. He turned away. After a silence,
through which he looked into the distance at
he pale white stretch of ruins, he said, quite
jbviously including himself: “Lots of us think
hat in many cases more was destroyed than
vas really necessary... That’s bad. Isn’t it?”
Johanna did not answer, did not move.
Conscience and a sense of guilt stood between
hese two, and nothing could bridge the gap
nit their own hearts.
Steve brought her to her door— the hang
ng sheet — said good night and left. Johanna
tood still in the goat shed. She wished she
ould cry, but she couldn’t. She leaned
gainst the door frame for a long while, an
nnocent participant in the world’s infamy,
i prisoner of fate.
Four days later, Johanna was slowly mak
ng her way back through the ruins of the
own to her shed. At the rubble heap where
er parents’ home had stood, she stopped
rom force of habit, for now and then she
ound something she could use at the little
hed in the willows.
People she knew passed her on the narrow
athway which had been dug through the
ubbish. They greeted her silently, each with
tie same ghostlike smile — from nothingness
j nothingness.
Suddenly she saw something colored lying
n top of a charred rafter, and recognized a
thograph of Bismarck which had hung in her
ither’s study. But it did not stir her; she had
0 moving memories of her parents’ home...
1 little cloud of dust from the rubble pile rose
Continued on page 20
TW—ft* 3-4 7

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