Enemy Combatant.

                                                                                  CHAPTER 1
                                                                TRAPPED IN HITLER’S GERMANY





Rose Freeman an American woman of German descent in her mid thirties and her son Robin who just turned twelve were visiting at her parent’s Gut. This German expression for a mix of cattle ranch and farm is common for Europe’s agricultural estates. The von Trenck’s Gut is situated in the Silesian part of Prussia, a very eastern part of Germany.

With the Blitzkrieg attack of Germany into Poland, despite Great Britain’s and France’s threat to declare war on Germany if Poland were attacked, this became the start of the Second World War. A sense of urgency for the Newmans to get back home to California grew strong and stronger. To her parents dismay Rose hesitated longer than her mother felt comfortable with. Now even her father urged her to get out of harms way and back with her husband and her new fatherland.  

This way it was late in November when Rose had packed their suitcases, and mother and son had taken a train to Hamburg. Things weren’t nearly as easy as she had expected. Getting tickets for a steamer had become an extraordinary feat. Despite the delays on the Reichsbahn, the two had arrived at the Hamburg harbor on the second day of December.

After a night at the hotel to rest up from the long trip, the two were finally there to get tickets for the voyage home. Early in the morning the two Freeman’s had taken a taxi to the embarkation point. Once inside the large embarkation hall with the ticket counter little Robin bored, but dutifully patient, sat on the two large suitcases, in part for a rest and also to protect the luggage. To Rose’s disappointment, hundreds of passengers had waited through the night to be first in line for the morning’s ticket sale.

The hours had slipped by and it was past lunch time. Breakfast at the hotel had been surprisingly good but by then Robin’s stomach was growling. Rose had been standing in line to get her turn for the two Hamburg to New York tickets. With forced patience Rose looked and counted the people in line ahead of her. Finally she gave up at three hundred. Once in a while her eyes flew to her son. ‘What am I going to do with Robin if I get stuck here? I can easily pass for German but Robin, his German isn’t good enough. I bet Jack is worried crazy.’

 Rose had kept a small suitcase with her and she sat on it to rest her legs. As new passengers came to join the line for tickets, time appeared to slow down as if it had been a film in slow motion. It was past noon when Rose called out to Robin. “Robin come here and hold my place for me. I got to go and get us something to eat.” ‘What is wrong with mom’ Robin speculated; ‘mom acts peculiar and jumpy, so very unlike herself.’ He got off his seat on the two suitcases and took Rose’s place in line. He had never seen her in as much of a tizzy as this.

“Mother what is wrong with you? You act so strange.” Rose gave him a troubled look and shook her head at him, signaling to keep quiet. A half hour later she came back with a hand rolled paper bag in her hand. She peeled the food out of the artful wrapping, and mother and son sat on the bags eating their late lunch with an occasional look at the two big suitcases.

Despite his stomach grumbling Robin looked on the eggs, sausages and the leaking pile of sauerkraut with disdain. “Mother didn’t they have any chips?” Rose only lifted her hand to cover her lips with her fingers cautioning him. “Robin, Robin, please just be patient. In a week this is all over dear, and you can have all the chips you want.”

The two ate with care not to get food on their clothes. Once they had finished with this late lunch, Rose took the paper and small food rest to the large waste paper basket near the ticket counter. It was late in the afternoon when the shipping line sales window closed. The whole line of people left and Rose was losing her patience. She quickly walked up to the window and repeatedly knocked on it till she had the sales agent’s attention.

He came back and opened it, stroking his bald head with his free hand. “Yes Madam what is it?” Rose had to catch her breath before she was capable to get her voice. “Look here my dear man, I have been waiting here since six this morning and now you close up?” The ticket salesman shook his head at Rose. “We have,” Rose hadn’t finished. “My husband is going to be in New York at the time this ship gets there and he travels five thousand kilometers to pick us, my son and me, up.” He repeated himself and started up again. “We have to close because we are sold out for this boat. I am sorry about that but I can’t help you madam. I wish I could.” Rose was tired and cranky but she saw people stopping to watch her, and it made her nervous enough to calm her down.

“What am I going to do?” She asked him in a kind of lost voice. Her soft voice and her despair must have touched the man. “Madam I am truly sorry, it will be,” he looked at a schedule on the counter. “It will be four days before the next ship sails for New York.” Rose looked at Robin and then back to the window. The ticket salesman brushed some dust particle off the lapel of his uniform, already with one hand on the window ready to close it, he shrugged his shoulders and suggested: “Perhaps it would be best to cable your husband with a new date of arrival?” He had been half nodding to himself as he slid the window shut.

Rose turned back to her son nodding as she walked over to him. “Robin we will have to get back to our room at a hotel and wait.” She looked out to the street and explained. “Let’s hope we can still get it back. I’ll go and get a taxi. You wait here with the suitcases.” Robin was too tired to talk. He watched his mother glumly.

The days rolled past them with a quick routine. Checking into a hotel closer to the harbor Rose hoped would save time for the next day’s effort to get tickets, but Robin was lacking confidence. Many times Robin wanted to tell her; ‘Mom why are we doing this? It is hopeless.’

The large number of women who walked the streets, occasionally approaching men, and the red lights on some of the buildings made it clear to Rose; they had landed in the pleasure district Hamburg was famous for. The hotel they had taken was frequented by sailors escorting call girls on their labors of the night. Rose looked at her son. ‘I hope he doesn’t understand what goes on here on the Reeperbahn.’ In the end she had calmed down; Robin at twelve had been too young to understand. He had watched the pairing off for a couple of hours before he asked: “Mother, what are these sailors doing with these ladies? What are those women telling them?” Rose brushed it off with; “Robin that is their business not ours.”

Early in the morning Rose got Robin up for breakfast at a restaurant filled with sailors of a large variety of nationalities, most of them trying to get over a hangover before boarding their ships. The restaurant was only a block away from where they were staying. The room on the second floor faced the street, and since the streetcar’s wheels screeched as it turned the corner Robin woke up not needing her to wake him up. Their room smelled of tobacco smoke and the bathroom stank of pee. To get rid of the smell Robin opened the first windows to the inside, and then the outer ones to the outside. Despite having seen this for all of three months he was still puzzled by it. Why, he wondered, didn’t they use the sliding double hung windows like the ones at home in Sausalito?

The night before their next ship was scheduled, Rose decided to celebrate. The two took the streetcar downtown to the center where mother and son sat down to have a good dinner for their last one. It was December the eighth. Rose had seen an advertisement for this dining room. She had made Robin put on his blue sailor suit and she had picked a dark red silk dress for herself. They both were wearing their winter overcoats especially bought for European winter weather. Rose had been in high spirits as had been Robin. The table linen was white and the elegant china was white with gold rims and the dining room’s lighting was provided by chandeliers.

The two were near the end of their dinner, just about to start on their dessert for which Robin had picked ice cream with strawberries, when the music from the radio stopped. “Volksgenossen und Volksgenossinnen” it had started out. “This broadcast is interrupted for an important announcement from the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. The Japanese navy and air force has bombed Pearl Harbor and destroyed the American fleet. As of today, according to Germany’s agreement with Japan, a declaration of war with the United States of America will be issued by our Führer.”

There was a short pause before the music started up again. Robin had been listening with a spoon of ice cream in his mouth which he swallowed quickly. “Mom did you listen to this? Are we at war with...” Rose had quickly put her hand over Robin’s mouth. “Shhh Robin,” She exhausted her lungs with sudden fright on her face. “Robin, Robin no more speaking English from now on. No discussion of anything about the war or us being from California.” She switched to German at this instant adding. “Robin please go and finish your ice cream.” Minutes later she lifted her hand for the Ober, he in restaurants of this caliber being the man who made out the bill and collected for it, making change from a huge leather wallet from his back pocket.

Next morning Rose left Robin at the hotel and walked over to the shipping line ticket window. She had changed her dress and in particular her San Francisco hat was not in sight anymore. Her hair was formed into a knot and she had a pair of white wool half high stockings on that reached just to below her knees. Rose had put on her low heeled Bavarian Haverl shoes which fit better into the general public and would make walking a lot easier as well. Rose took the streetcars instead of hiring taxies.

Before she even got to the sales counter she could already see the salesman shaking his head at her as she approached. The middle aged man in his railroad uniform, it seemed, was still exempt from military duty; he remembered the elegant young woman quite well, even though her little man was not with her today. There was no one there other than Rose. He leaned forward still shaking his head. He wondered what would happen to this woman who was so adamant about going to America, and at a time like this. “Madam I am sorry, no more ships this week for New York.”  She took the streetcar for her trip back to the hotel.

As she unlocked the hotel room door she heard Robin practicing his German. “Die Katze tritt die Treppe krumm.” He was still repeating the limerick which his mom said would help to get his tongue into the needed convulsions when learning the proper German pronunciation. Rose nodded her approval at Robin who gave her a questioning look. “So mom, what are we going to do now?” Rose shook her head with a grim look on her face. “Robin no more ships from here. We will have to try the train to Switzerland.” She packed her son’s pajamas, her night gown and their toothpaste with brushes while Robin watched her. “Die Katze tritt die Treppe krumm.” Rose couldn’t help but smile at him despite her feeling of deep despair.

By noon the two were on a train with the label ‘D-Zug’ on the coaches labeled to Innsbruck. Most of the day had gone by when the two arrived there. Rose was tired and couldn’t think of anything other than getting to a hotel to get some sleep. The boy found the city in its place, dropped far below and in between the mountains rising into the sky, overwhelming. When, after lunch, Robin found his mother having dozed off into an exhausted slumber he put on the new shoes his mom bought him to replace his sneakers, and decided to take a walk through the town.

After a few hours of walking through the old city he found an outdoors ice cream vendor with a cart under a large colorful umbrella. Robin was ecstatic when he found the man having his favorite flavors, chocolate and strawberry. While waiting for his turn to buy a double cone from the stall his eyes roved the streets aimlessly. There was this man standing at the corner who bore a striking resemblance to the man Robin saw at the railroad station on the previous day. It was that same man in his tight fitting black leather coat, a black hat with the brim pulled down into his face. The man wore dark brown riding boots and had that Swastika centered on a red armband in a white disk just like the German flag that flew on poles from the post offices. Even though he held a newspaper partly covering his face Robin had the impression the man was eyeing him. ‘I think I am going nuts. I have to stop this right now.’ 

‘Did I see this man before, not in million years?’ Still Robin could not help but search his mind. And then he had a picture flashing before his eyes, ‘yesterday at the railroad station when we got off the D-Zug express train from Hamburg to Innsbruck. Wasn’t this very same man who had been at the platform among the people waiting for arriving passengers? The thing that had stuck out was that the guy looked just like a civilian except for the odd shaped brown leather holster that was common on uniformed police men who always wore that helmet-like shako on the head. Robin remembered how, after he and his mother had come off the train, he had mostly been looking mom over from top to bottom, though it seemed he had given him an inquisitive look as well.’

As Robin stood at the corner licking his ice cream cone he was thinking.  ‘What is it that struck him so familiar about this man?’ Quick Robin had to lick the sides of the cone to keep the ice cream from running down his hand. ‘Yea yesterday he was watching mom. Pretty stupid, but that is not a great deal. A lot of men watch mom. Why is he watching me though?’ ran through his mind. It was puzzling the boy. ‘This man is wearing a uniform or is this some way of showing off a strong party attitude for something Robin had no understanding for. Did this swastika mean something?’

Walking along one of Innsbruck’s narrow inner city streets, built probably well before the American Revolution, though there were portions with sidewalks built to reach right into the houses, like in Roman towns. Robin had just finished his ice cream when he came to a halt at a poster among a whole slew of them mounted on a large wooden signboard with a five inch frame as on an oversized picture frame. These were propaganda posters, which among other things are to warn people with illustrations.

There was a strangely foreign looking man in tweeds and a farmer’s style hat, his ear pressed against a door and the words, Achtung Feind hört mit! Written in large letters across it, or the one with the picture of a railroad freight train and the promise; Räder rollen für den Sieg! In bold and underlined. There was one that looked just like the man he saw just half an hour ago. It was the picture of a man in the same black leather coat, riding boots dark hat and the red armband with the white circle with the black swastika in the center, left arm’s sleeve. The poster showed a strong face with a large chin jutting out front. The writing underneath the placard reads ‘Volksgenossen for our safety, GESTAPO watches over our enemy.

Robin turned and looked around as he crossed an intersection with streetcar rails running through the center. It was late in the afternoon, a bunch of men hurried along with those typical brown leather briefcases; it seemed they were coming from work. Three men in tuxes with white ties, which signified they were waiters going to work, the evening shift. A couple of BDM girls in their blue skirts and white blouses were passing by him, not without giving Robin a curious glance.

A small group of Hitler Youth boys in their brown shirts, corduroy shorts and black ties wound through these leather knots. Dagger-like Fahrtenmesser hung on their belt. Whatever Robin might have seen; ‘…the leather coated man from the GESTAPO has disappeared’ Robin thought. ‘I am so silly there is nothing to worry about.’ But the thought was indelibly scorched into his brain. 

 The boy rode around town till it started getting dark, before he decided it was time to get back to his mother. Robin retraced his steps for an hour to get back to the hotel. Rose woke up and not finding her son she had questioned the hotel staff and especially the dark haired porter whom Robin had taken a liking to the previous evening. The man had been real helpful with their luggage when they arrived last night. It was to no avail. When Robin finally showed up she had been furious with him.

 “Robin where the hell have you been, what happened? You drive me nuts when you disappear and I don’t know where you are” Rose went on and on as if the world had come to an end. At first the boy stunned by her vehemence found it difficult to understand her rapid German speech. He saw people stopping to watch and all the attention from strangers became embarrassing. In an effort to slow his mother down all he could say with a low warning in his voice was; “Mutti, Mutti.” Rose looked around at the staring people and suddenly got a hold of herself when she realized the attention they were getting; exactly what she had been telling her son to avoid at all cost. All she could think of was that she would have to be way more careful. At last Rose thoughts calmed her down. ‘Tomorrow we are in Switzerland and out of Germany’. Just the feeling it gave her was enough to make this last day a good one.

Cheerfully, the next day, the two were at the railroad station ticket counter for the last and final time to get out of Germany. It seemed that their bad luck had followed them. As Rose put her wallet on the counter and asked. “Two tickets, second class, to Zurich please.” She got the disappointing answer. “Sorry Fräulein the trains are reduced to one a day and unless you have a special permit, it is only for Swiss citizen.”

For a moment Rose was stunned, and then wordlessly she showed her American passport. The station master was summoned, who after looking at her documents advised her. “Madam with our new rules you will have to get two special Ausreise visa permits for travel to the west.” Rose nodded; she took pencil and paper out of her bag, she wet the point of the lead pencil and asked him. “Good, where do I get this permit?”  The station master tilted his head to the east. “That will be in Berlin madam.” Rose made a supreme effort to hold her temper in hand while she wrote down the addresses.  The next day again mother and son were on a D-zug to Berlin.

This time it took them two full days and nights to get to the country’s capital. Rose took a hotel close to the American embassy where, when she asked for help, she found all the important officials having left the country. Her next trip was to the German visa section for her exit papers. This turned out to be a never ending shuffle from one office to the next. While Rose spent a day at one office waiting for papers, she found that by the time she finally got to talk to the bureaucrat in charge the day was shot. The effort, if she was lucky, would get her five minutes to explain her dilemma. The standard answer was always: “Madam I am sorry to waste your time but this is the wrong office for your problem. Let me check and see which the proper authority for your exit papers is.” It mostly turned into a new address or worse, into a telephone number.

On the evening of December the twenty second she was finally exhausted enough to give up. Rose came home to the hotel and wearily she conceded, telling Robin who had been staying back in the hotel room. “Robin this is too late for us. The people are losing their interest in us because their minds are already on Christmas. So I have mailed a letter to Grandfather, telling him we will be staying at the Gut until after the holidays.”  

Robin had been reading dime novels to pass the time and he had gotten tired of the smelly room. “Great Mom, we can always come back next year.” He jumped up quickly and started to pack away his books and the little blue race car with its differential to the rear wheels which Rose had bought for him to help him while away the time.

                                       CHAPTER 2

                                  NAZI NET CATCH


Next morning the two got on the train to go back to Granddad’s ranch. Ranch was perhaps a misnomer for some five square miles of farm land with its hundreds of years old mansion. The German word was Gut a peculiar term with the double meaning of estate as well as good. Von Trenck inherited it from an uncle who died without having children of his own to leave it to. It was a large and well cared for place in need of more tender loving care than with the wars shortages at the time would have been available .

Robin had spent most of the summer and then a part of his sixth term school time into the fall at his grandparents. Now it appeared they were going to be stuck to the end of the war, which could last as long as to the summer of forty-two. They were lucky with the schedules and so it was just about noon that mother and son arrived at the railroad station. Robin had been looking out the window at the winter snow. When he recognized the coach he yelled out. “Look mom Granddad sent the sleigh.”

Laszlo the coachman was there with the sleigh. It was the one thing which Rose needed to regain some composure. “Yes Robin that is so lucky for us that granddad has picked the right train to send Laszlo for us.” As soon as the coachman saw the two disembarking he came over to take care of their luggage.

“Good morning Baroness. Herr von Trenck is so glad you finally decided to come back home.” Still surprised Rose asked him about his timely presence with a laugh. “Good morning Laszlo.  How did my father know at which train to meet us?” The gray-haired man in his sixties shook his head. Falling back to her old name he explained. “Baroness, he sent me to every train that came from Berlin. He didn’t want to take any chances.” Barely an hour later their sleigh glided through the estate’s gate and minutes later up to the mansion’s front entrance.

Rose was so relieved to be at her parent’s home. There were tears in her eyes when her mother Maria came down the steps to hug her and Robin. “It is about time Rose, it is almost Christmas. Dad has been worried sick since you wrote you couldn’t get out and back home because of this terrible war.”

It was later in the evening when dinner had been served and the help was in the kitchen eating, that her father, sipping on a glass of wine, confided: “Rose I am very concerned abut these events. It is a delicate matter and not good for people here to find out. I think your chances of getting home are getting worse and worse as time passes.” Maria with a frown nodded, looking at Robin with a serious face. “Yes dad is right Rose. You both will have to stay here for a year, till the war is over and done with.”  The old Von Trenck had pulled a cigar case from his pocket, opened it with a slow deliberation and extracted a fat Cuban cigar from it. He brought a penknife from his vest pocket and cut the tip off.

“Rose, I think this war will be over by this time next year. We can’t have Robin here without his going to school. It will be too obvious to the neighbors, not to speak of the help.” Von Trenck rolled his cigar for a few moments and with a look at his wife he slid it between his lips, and took a box of matches from his outside pocket. Slowly he picked a match from it and pressing the coated end against the sandpapers end he ripped it across with a sudden move. The flame lit up and he held it to the cigar, puffed twice till it started to glow.

For a moment Rose opened her mouth to speak, and then thought better of it. Robin had his ears primed and he had a great smile in his face. “Mutti does that mean we can stay here for the year?” He dwelled on this for a moment, then with a thoughtful look he turned his face to her. “Mother what is Dad going to do?” He looked from Rose to his grandfather and talked half to them and half to himself. “What does this war declaration mean? Is dad going to join the army and come here and fight with granddad?” But now all three of them looked at Robin shaking their heads. “Gee that seems crazy mom.”

Von Trenck took his cigar out of his mouth and cleared his throat. “There is one thing about this need for Robin having to go to school. I have an old friend running a military academy in Vienna. It is the Theresianum. It was taken over by the German military for cadet training of the Reich. I will write to him and see if Robin can apply there.” Maria gave her husband a searching look. “This is Albert the colonel isn’t it? The one who’s life you saved at Verdun?” She nodded her head at him. “But dear why waste time? Give him a call, that will speed it up.” The old man chuckled for a few seconds. “Well there is an idea sweetheart. I guess that is what I’ll do first thing tomorrow morning.”

Rose had listened intently. She turned to her father with a questioning smile. “Dad do you think this can work? It sounds like the best way of hiding Robin. Do you think his German knowledge is good enough?” The old Trenck half nodded and shrugged his shoulders. “Rose I think if he wants to he can do it. By the time the students get to know him he will have improved enough. What do you think Robin?” Robin was trying to finish his dessert before he talked. “Granddad you are right. I am already getting better every day I am here and after all I have already had four months of living and speaking here. With what I learned from you mom and then here since the summer shouldn’t that be enough?” Rose looked at her father with a questioning look. “What do you think daddy?” Her eyes went from him to Robin and then to Maria. Her mother with a half smile and a worried frown to boot turned to the old von Trenck.

“Tomorrow morning I will talk to Albert.” He looked at Robin, a cautious look in his eyes. “Robin my boy this is very important. You must not let what do you call it; let it out of the bag? Now maybe our school system is more advanced then what you are used to.” Robin nodded with a smile. But he had a twinkle in his eye. “Granddad I will watch it and my English should make up for it. I mean what can they possibly teach here in third grade of high school?”

The whole family seemed happier now. Rose was still ill at ease when she asked. “Father, so when will he have to go to school and did you say Albert’s Theresianum is in Vienna?” Her father nodded with a smile. “Rose, Albert doesn’t own the school; it was created by Maria Theresia in the mid eighteenth Century.” He looked at his daughter with some concern before he explained. “Rose, if Robin gets accepted there he will be given a uniform and he will have to stay there. It is a boarding school with dormitories, dining rooms, swimming pool, horse stables. They have boxing rings and a military tight discipline for the boys. On weekends they invite girls to dancing parties at the school.” Rose listened with a surprised face. Robin shook his head at his grandfather. “School dances granddad, that is so groovy.” He looked at his pants and his shirt. “Uniforms, what kind of uniforms are you talking about? I have never had to wear a uniform at school.”  Rose shook a finger at him. “It is time to get to bed. Say good night Robin and off to bed you go.” Robin gave his mother a sheepish look then he got up, and with a “Good night granddad, grandmother, and mom.” he left the dining room to go upstairs to this huge bedroom with its twelve foot ceiling.

His room was large enough to house a family. There were six oil paintings on the walls. Instead of running water, there was a wash commode with a reddish marble top in front of a mirror framed in a gold lacquered frame.  A flowered porcelain basin with matching jug completed the washing arrangement. A highly polished walnut desk with a dozen open compartments for letters, sealing wax and a couple of seals for closing envelopes with the family crest, sat against the second window. The walls were covered in silk tapestries and a table with two matching chairs finished in a glossy black with mother of pearl insets.

Even the bed was double size. What had amazed Robin when he first started to use it was that the bed’s mattress was in three parts each side filled with horse hair. The mattresses were not supported by box springs as he was used to at home in California, but sat on top of boards running across from left to right. His down pillows were about three foot square and he had seen the chamber maid fluff it up and air it out in the open window no matter what the weather outside may have been. Having a maid clean up after him was Robin’s most exciting change from at home in the States.   


                            CHAPTER 3 

  <>                                                                                ROBIN’S WORRIED DAD

The phone was ringing on the desk of the Major. A young corporal picked it up. “OSS offices, Major Meyer’s desk.”  The voice on the other end was surly and short; “This is Captain Freeman for Major Meyer.” The corporal swiveled in the major’s chair, coughing, before he deigned to answer; “The Major is out at the moment, can I take a message?”  The corporal had his feet up on the major’s worn yellow wood desk, his eyes were on a calendar with a pin up girl on the January page, but hearing steps in the hall way he quickly took them off the desk, and generously offered; “Captain Sir, I hear steps approaching, and it sounds like the Major.”

Now his eyes were on the door and as it flung open he saw his words confirmed. Meyer stepped into the office of OSS for European intelligence. Telephone in hand, the corporal jumped to attention, reporting with an air of serious importance; “Major Meyer Sir, a Captain Freeman is on the phone for you.” Meyer nodded, taking the receiver out of the corporal’s hand. “Hello Jack, what is cooking?”  Freeman on the other side shifted the phone from his left to his right, creasing his forehead with a frown seemingly searching for words “Harry I am in a bind here and,” he paused looking out the window before he continued; “I don’t want to say this on the phone. Can we meet for ten minutes so I can talk to you?” The major chuckled; “Come on Jack, what could it be that we can’t talk about on the phone?” Captain Freeman spoke softly, hesitating, and with pauses between his words. The tone of his voice alone was enough to tell he was uncomfortable with what he was saying: “There is a man in your office. He is about to fly to Europe and do a—. “Freeman slowed, but Meyer’s nervous voice almost barks at him interrupting the captain, his mind in turmoil, frantically wondering. “All right, all right this is enough.”

 ‘How in hell did Jack get to know about his orders to drop into Germany for a deep cover assignment? The general had assured him it was a top secret mission and no one was to be trusted with this information except OSS personnel of two radio operators and their commanding colonel Frank. They were his pipeline; “Okay, okay, where are you? I am on for this cup of coffee.” Robin’s dad in his neat khaki uniform with the short Eisenhower jacket and two bars on the collar turned to look.

His eyes wandered along the row of chairs at the counter across the dozen booths, searching. Finally his eyes caught the window with a coffee cup painted on and large artistic letters in reverse. Words are painted on the window. Slowly he reads it from behind and the right to the left “Greek Bistro? It’s five blocks west from your office.” Meyer looked through the door at his orderly wondering; ‘Does the man have any idea what is going on from my end of the conversation? All I need is one more person in the know.  Not a chance and I better find out where the leak is. A spy doesn’t get protection from the Geneva convention just a bullet in the head, not however before some nasty days of medieval type torture with a few new inventions added in.’ He agreed: “I’ll be there in half an hour.” As his three month training demanded, he swallowed Jack’s name just in case.

Captain Freeman looked for a booth away from the crowded part of the restaurant. Slowly wandering across to the rear he slid  into the Naugahyde covered seat, patiently moving the salt and pepper back to the wall, his eyes on the entry door. A waitress with a pen behind her ear, fresh lipstick, and her hand stroking back her hair comes over to the handsome Army Captain without a wedding ring on his left hand.

“Good morning Captain, what can I get you?”  Freeman his mind elsewhere came back to where he was. He opened the menu from behind the small fence at the wall and with a quick look he nodded at her: “Okay miss, how about a coffee and,” he pauses perusing the second page as he read; “Apple pie a la mode?” He looked up to her and smiled at the young woman. She blushed just a little and hurried off without a word to him. His eyes were on the door when a minute later she put down his coffee, a plate with the pie and with a round ball of ice cream at the side, and spoon, fork, and knife rolled into a paper napkin.

Jack Freeman nodded at her with a slight smile than seeing how she had made an effort to serve him fast obviously neglecting some other customers to serve him first, he nodded at her saying; “Thanks a lot missy.” Her happy smile was wasted on him as he eyed the window to the outside.

Jack sipped his coffee and took a bite from his apple pie when Meyer walked in. First Jack lifted his hand to make it easy for Meyer to see him, then failing that he stood up. Major Meyer walked over to his friend’s table and sat down with a look around observing that Jack had picked the most private location in the place; with a glint of satisfaction in his eyes he lifted a hand at the waitress for service.

He had a certain air of being at home here, as if he belonged. Still watching her while he greeted his friend, just barely shaking his head at him with his face between concern and surprise on Jack with his captain’s bars. He pointed at them asking: “what happened to you buddy?” Then in a more serious voice “Hello Jack, where the hell did you hear this. A man’s life is at stake if this comes out.” Jack looked at his friend Meyer in civilian duds smiling, and with a shake of his head he unloaded his news;

Harry, my wife and Robin my son got trapped in Germany. I need to go and get them out. The problem is that I am not qualified for this kind of duty, but my info is, a friend of mine who speaks perfect German is about to get…,” He waved his hand at Meyer. “…to go?”  Even though the tone made it a question Meyer knew it wasn’t.

The waitress had arrived and handed him a menu. He waved the menu away and ordered; “Miss, a cup of coffee please and one of those.” He pointed at Jack’s apple pie. She turned and went away before he looked back at Jack and lifting his hand to his mouth asked; “Write down the address and anything else you know, like relatives, friends, ex-husbands, lovers, employers. A picture, the latest you can lay your hands on. How old is the boy?”  Jack reached into this pocket, and brought out three pictures showing Rose and Robin separately, and together on one of them. He brought a Mont Blanc pen out and a folded piece of a blank letterhead. Uncapping the pen he wrote quickly and clearly.

Jack Freeman had filled half the page and slid it over to Harry with a friendly smile, putting his hand on it while the waitress set down his cup of coffee and pie in front of him. She had left and he looked at the sheet of paper with a quick look; “Wow, you had all this prepared. How good is Robin’s German? Can the boy talk well enough to pass for German? Rose obviously can.” He stirred sugar into this coffee and took a sip. “Where could they possibly hide him, any ideas?” Jack silently shook his head. “Harry, I haven’t got a clue. Do you think they would take me for this job?” Meyer shook his head at him. “Knowing your family is in there, I doubt even I would consider you for this.”

“Is there anything I can do to help? There are two people in addition to her parents you could go to for help.” He emptied his cup and fiddled with the saucer while he explained; “I wrote their names and address at the top.” Harry munched his pie shaking his head with doubt in his eyes. “Jack, the sheer fact you found out about this scares the shit out of me. Who told you and who else knows?” Jack looked at his friend with a cool look. “Harry I spent five days looking and reading before I saw your name. All I wanted was to get chosen so I could go myself.”

Meyer’s eyes sweep the restaurant, and then he looked at Jack wondering. ‘If Jack could find out, who else did? Who else? I may as well tell him.  For all I know this may well be the last time I have a chance to talk to Jack’ he thinks as he explained to his friend: “My chances of coming out alive are probably less than one percent. I am perfect for this job. I speak German like a native, besides, I have no family. There is nothing to hold me back and nothing to worry about either.” There is a good chance I can get a job working for the government.” Jack with face at intense attention listened, gradually changed to a mischievous look.

“As long as I thought they might let me go I tried planning this. Ideally a job with the Gestapo would be perfect. It will provide a car to travel, a weapon. It will also provide full cooperation from the people you need to watch out for the most” Meyer started to listen with a look of concentration.

He pulls a fountain pen from his pocket and a piece of cardboard from the napkin dispenser. He doodled some and wrote down Gestapo, job, uniform, car, hmmm and doodled showing wheels and the outlines of a Beetle. “Besides, who would dare to suspect a trusted member of the meanest of the bunch? Ha” Meyer looks at his friend with an open mouth.

“Jesus Christ Jack, you would be the perfect handler”. Meyer laughing picked up his cup, took a sip of his coffee and promised; “I will have plenty of time once there. I’ll have enough money not to have to work and a lot of things I am not allowed to tell you.” He looked at the penciled information on the cardboard thinking. ‘I will have to memorize all this and then burn it.’ Meyer with a sweeping look around to assure no one was listening admitted with enthusiasm: “You are right Jack a paycheck from the Gestapo. It’s brilliant.”

The OSS major pulled a booklet from his pocket, opening it halfway he glances at the foldout, showing German uniforms. His finger slid over the picture of a man in black uniform with a swastika arm band on his left sleeve, a brown leather holster on his right and black leather boots up to below his knees. Shaking his head he grumbled: “Can’t you just see me wearing such an outfit, swastika and all?”

The waitress came to fill their cups and Meyer wasn’t too happy. He asked her: “Can I have the bill?” She reached up to her ear fetching a pencil and taking a pad she asked: “Together or separate?” Meyer waved his hand at the table: “It is my turn.” She wrote in a dollar and twenty-eight cents for the two pieces of pie and coffees handing him the sheet: “Thank you sir.” and left.

Meyer picked up the bill saying: “Jack this isn’t the place to talk. Lets go to my place or better yet to the office.” The two friends got up and left Meyer leaving two quarters tip and paying at the register with a dollar and four bits. As the two walked away he confided: “Jack first you knowing what I am to do scared the hell out of me, but now I think this can help me.” With a slight laugh he conceded: “I maybe even make it back in one piece?”

Back at the office Meyer ordered the corporal: “You may as well go for lunch corporal, the captain and I have some details to work out and I won’t need you.” The corporal nodded with a: “yes sir,” and taking his cap he left. The major took a bottle of Scotch from his desk drawer and a couple of glasses pointing at the chair beside his desk he poured the two glasses half full: “Soon this is not going to be available. So what else have you thought of?”

Captain Newman took his hat off, and placing it on the desk he grabbed a pencil and started to write explaining: “Here are the addresses for the von Trencks, my wife Rose’s parents. He is of the old guard and anti Nazi, but a veteran of the first war he will still stand for his country. Don’t be careless. Here is a distant cousin’s address. She is married to an Austrian and may be of help. In Bavaria you will find this friend who will help you, but he will be short of money.”

Jack continued writing and told the OSS man: “Best of all there are papers of a dead friend who employed a man by name of Meier just like yours except spelled with an I instead of a Y.  I have this man’s address here. I can assume his identity. He spent time as a German MP. It’ll be a perfect cover for me, well okay, for you too.” he permitted with a disdainful shrug.

Finally Jack shoved the paper across to his friend. “That is all I have. Just for God’s sake help my boy and be careful, will you? You ought to stay here and I should go instead. You do know that, don’t you?”

Jack’s friend was going through his notes when Colonel Mc Dowell entered his office asking: “Major what is going on here?” His voice was low but serious, as he continued: “Your life is at risk in what you are about to do and.” Major Meyer lifted his hand: “Sir, excuse me sir?”

The Colonel stopped with a blink of surprise in his eyes for the interruption. “Major?” Meyer pointed to his uniformed friend Newman. “Sir, the captain has been in Germany for years and he knows people, relationships and situations I can use. Matter of fact some of what he has told me may well be crucial in saving my bacon sir?” The colonel looked at Jack with a grim face asking: “Captain you do realize that what Major Meyer is doing is top secret. You aren’t even supposed to be in these offices. They are off limits to all but who work here”

His voice was low and very serious as he mustered Jack who was standing, facing him at attention. “Yes Colonel sir I am well aware of this. As the major said, I have thought back to all I have seen in Germany and I had hoped to get a chance to go over there myself.  I have given Major Meyer all I know about how and where he can get help.” The Colonel nodded with a lightening of his mien.

After looking over Meyer’s shoulder at the notes he asked: “Does the captain have clearance, Major?” Meyer winced and admits: “No sir, he doesn’t have clearance, but,” He was interrupted by: “Major call security and have the Captain get clearance at once. Do you hear me?” The Colonel turned about without waiting for an answer and stomped out of the office.


                        CHAPTER 4

                            WHO YOU KNOW


At breakfast next morning Granddad apprised him of having an appointment for the early days of January in Vienna for an entrance examination to the Theresianum. The next two weeks Rose spent every moment possible to help Robin improve his German to a point which would protect him from giving away his American origin. She had even gotten hold of a third grade high school math book for the third grade high school for which he was expected to be tested.

Mother was taking most of his clothing away. She went to town on a buying streak. “Robin no more blue jeans or sneakers from now on”. He ended up with a new wardrobe of shorts including a pair of Lederhosen, and a suit made from wool that the German chemical industry had conjured up from wood. Robin didn’t like the new suit’s textile too much since the long pants that come with the suit quickly developed bulges at his knees. “Mom this stinks, look at my knees.”

After some thought Rose nodded at him. “I know dear, but Germany is short of imports ever since the war started. We have to make do with it just like the rest of the people.” Good naturedly she laughed at him. “It’s so much better for you to fit in with the other boys. Maybe the uniforms are still of a real wool. Best you don’t mention it to anyone.”  Then she cautioned him. “Robin, Granddad getting you into a military school is a perfect way of covering up where we come from. Please be careful and don’t blow it, if it comes out we all will get into very serious trouble.”

Rose was concerned about her father’s machinations with his friend Albert, the school principal. If Robin was discovered we all will end up in jail or worse. It was just one more frightening thing on her mind. Just thinking about it raised goose bumps on her arms. ‘Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? , was what she hesitated asking Robin ‘Now will all our lives be in the hands of my twelve year old boy?’ It made her blood run cold and she needed quickly to move these unbearable thoughts into the back of her mind. It was difficult ‘but who,’ she wondered, ‘will suspect a kid as pleasant as her Robin?’

The week after New Years Rose took Robin on the train to Vienna. Granddad’s letter to Albert the colonel was in her bag and the intent was to change Robin’s name from Freeman to Von Trenck so as to not arouse any suspicions. It was almost two full days on the train before mother and son checked into Hotel Sacher across the street from the Opera. They were a day early so Rose took her boy for a walk down to the single towered Stephan’s Dome.

Robin’s mom pointed out the Turkish cannon balls lodged in the dome’s walls from the Turkish attempt of taking Vienna. As the two were looking up the tower Robin was stumbling over a woodblock reaching up from the pavement. “Look Mutti what is this thing doing here?” Rose was happy to have things to talk about while escaping her fears. “Robin this is the iron stock reaching back perhaps as far as the middle ages. The smith journeymen coming to Vienna would bring a hand made nail here to drive it into this wood block.” Rose pointed to the tree stump which not only stuck four foot out of the ground, but also had a girth of some six feet. “You see this Robin, there are thousands of nails driven into this old stump each one made by a blacksmith for their journeyman’s test.”

The next day was when Rose and Robin took the streetcar to the fourteenth district where the Theresianum School was for him to take the entry exam. The two showed up at the Favoriten Strasse address of the castle which the Empress gave up for use as a military school. The streetcar stop was half a block away from the forbidding looking oak wood front gate. Rose pushed a large bell button on the side of this wooden double door. A shrill sound emanated from the interior and shortly after this a buzzing sound combined with a slight movement of the door to the inside allowed the two to enter.

To the left of the open door there was an office with a large window, which showed a man in military uniform. He majestically waved them over to his window, and then lifted a hand as a wordless command asking them to wait for a moment. His other hand depressed a bell button in response to which a boy with a short haircut in a heavy dark blue winter uniform that cried out wool and a ten inch dagger at his left came to the front. The gate guard nodded at Rose. “Frau von Trenck the commandant is expecting you.” He turned to the summoned boy. “Take them up to the colonel’s office.” The student offered the guard the German salute then he turned smartly to Robin. “Follow me please.” He turned and quickly walked over to the ten foot wide stone staircase. Rose and Robin stepped up their speed and followed the boy upstairs.

There Rose met the colonel Albert Goring who was her father’s friend of more than twenty-five years. The boy knocked on a large door. “Herein.” The word was loud and clear. The boy shouts “Jawohl.” He opened the door, then stood aside to let Rose and Robin enter the office. “Ah Rose! How is your father?” The colonel took off his spectacles and his eyes fell on Robin. “Good, so this is Robin.” He got up walked around his desk and shook Rose’s hand. “Father is fine Herr Oberst”.

The tall man in the colonel’s gray uniform with the green tinge and the leather covering the seat of his pants which were stuffed into his riding boots and silver epaulets on his shoulders laughed out laud. “My dear Rose I remember you from when you were what, about five years old?” He asked. “How about calling me Uncle Albert?” Rose laughed, still shaking his hand, but her thoughts were on whether Uncle Albert knew why Robin was applying for the Theresianum. Then she wondered how dangerous this thing they were doing with her son might or might not be for him and for her father. ‘Am I underestimating my father and perhaps the colonel as well?’

Colonel Goring was looking at his best friend’s daughter, not showing his curiosity. Doesn’t this woman who was a child last time he saw her know that old friends are something one doesn’t betray? Her father, who retired at the end after the capitulation in nineteen eighteen, hung up his uniform and went back to his Gut. The colonel had no doubt that his friend knew Albert was aware of Robin being American. In a small way it amused him to be in a position to put one over on an establishment run by this noncom upstart Hitler. “Yes Uncle Albert. I remember you brought me a huge box of chocolates and mother a silk scarf from Geneva.”

“My boy,” He turned to Robin and reached out for his hand. “I hope you are ready for us here.” He turned to Rose. “You do know the entrance examine takes a whole week, don’t you?” Rose shook her head with a look at Robin. “No Uncle Albert we didn’t know. I guess I’ll have to take the hotel room for the week then.” “Rubbish, my dear girl, you will come and stay with us of course.” He pointed at a chair for her and motioned her to sit down, which she did carefully, folding her skirt and properly crossing her legs below her knees.
”But Uncle Albert I don’t want to be a burden.”  Oh Rose my dear girl, it will be a welcome change for an old man. Doris my wife died last April in a bomb attack by the British. It will be good to hear a woman’s voice instead of my orderly’s.”

After the interview Rose took a taxi and moved her things from the Sacher Hotel into the colonel’s apartment on Radetzky Strasse. At dinner, which was almost formal since Frank the orderly served dinner with aplomb, the officer brought to light some experiences of the nineteen fourteen war. Rose started to find a brand new picture of the happenings of these years when she was a teenage girls going to high school. The comradeship of these men was something she had never imagined. What she learned showed a picture of her own father that brought out nobleness she had never been aware of before.

At these dinners with the colonel Rose developed a new depth of understanding, which aroused a pride in her for both her dad as well as for this friend of his. Was this what Robin would become she wondered and a new valuation of her son took place. Her little Robin would be like these men? It changed her stay here in Vienna from a week of drudgery to an enlightening experience. Albert was amused to see his friend’s daughter gaining in understanding what men like her father were all about. ‘This is almost like having a daughter of my own.’, runs through his mind. ‘I will see that this boy Robin has a chance to learn what surely these American schools can’t possibly provide for him.’ The colonel found Rose’s a pleasant dinner guest and at the week’s end he found he was sorry to see her leave.

Meanwhile Robin was being run through the tests on math, in English, in German and history. His test scores in math, German and history, largely thanks to the preceding weeks of preparation urged on him by von Trenck, come out in grand style. The English test made it look like he should be advanced to the next grade, which was no surprise to Albert the principal. The physical education tests were a matter of their own. He had to walk across a beam at ten feet height to show balance and fearlessness of heights. Then he together with a dozen of other aspirants was asked to jump off the five meter board at the school’s swimming pool.

This brought him a strange new advantage. Only one of the applicants knew how to swim, which was an amazing discovery for the California boy who was used to having private swimming pools in many of Marin county homes without regard to all the schools having their own. Robin was one of the last students in line to jump, so he jumps in prematurely without the PE teacher being prepared to fish him out as was necessary for most of the others.

As he was used to at home he jumped in and proceeded to swim the length of the pool and back. While the teacher was not overly pleased with what seemed to him; ‘This kid is acting up a bit too much but a little bravado is a welcome change here. It is good to have a student who helps to install some degree of daring in his class. This boy Robin will be a help to teach the boys to swim. I will have to mark Robin down for assistant in the swimming classes of the future.’

The riding test got a little strange. What was the matter here, this saddle felt all wrong, it was way too small and no horn to hold on to. ‘What was wrong with their horses anyway that they have saddles half the size of ours like they want us to fall off?  Am I out of tune? Why English saddles? Granddad didn’t tell me about English style instead of the western cowboy type I am familiar with.’ Robin still came out being favored since he was the only student applicant who knew not only how to get up on the left side of the horse, but actually managed to take it through the horses three paces of walk, trot and gallop.

That test week’s Saturday Uncle Albert informed Rose that Robin had done exceptionally well and that she could send him back to Vienna as early as the end of January. It was with a certain sadness Albert sees Rose leaving, but he was happy that the boy had succeeded entering his school, which to the best of his knowledge would protect her boy from Germany’s tightening security. ‘Maybe I can to some small part repay what the old von Trenck did for me’. These were his thoughts as they had their last dinner for which he had Frank serve a bottle of his best vintage Rhine wine, which was a bottle of ice-wine.

It was a couple of weeks later that Robin checked back into the Theresianum on Favoriten Strasse. The first exercise was to get his uniform, which consisted of a kind of light brownish summer shirt with breast pockets, black shorts and for the winter a dark blue heavy wool suit with a thick overcoat with a fitting cap. Not enough of that, he received a dagger to wear for festive occasions and for going out. The dagger was something Robins finds odd for a school boy, but then the bad fit of the clothes he finds unacceptable. So he returned to the Kammer room and shows the sergeant responsible.

“Sergeant please look at this. The sleeves are reaching to my knuckles and the pants don’t even cover all my ankles.” The Kammer Bulle looked at Robin with a smile. “Yes, is it Robin?” he asked. The new student nodded at him. “Yes that is my name.” He looked around, but he was the only one wanting an exchange. “I am sorry to bother you. Is it permissible to get a better fit than this?” The soldier had already gotten replacements for him and as if by a marvel, Robin who tried it on in front of the large dispensing window found the new uniforms a nearly perfect length.

In these next few weeks the California boy would have a lot to learn from the military instructors that taught here. Meanwhile Rose at the Von Trenck Gut had her worries about the boys ability to fade into the strange and alien environment of the new school. “Daddy please tell me that Robin will get along and not be found out by the security people.” The old von Trenck stopped reading his book when she asked him. He shoved his glasses up on his nose and tilted his head to the left. “Rose, Albert will watch over the boy and that you can depend on.” “Are you sure he knows about our problem?” She questioned him. “Rose dear you have asked me this same question a dozen times. I have no new information to give you.”

Hardly a night goes by that she didn’t worry about her son while Robin went through the training that stemmed from the middle eighteenth Century when the Empress of the Austrian Empire gave up her castle in Vienna’s countryside to establish this training school for her officer’s corps. At times Robin felt like an outsider among all these European boys of Germanic descent. This hit him particularly when they sang those military songs proclaiming honor of death, marching with comrades and victory. His mind wanders to thoughts ‘Boy am I lucky that when we sing this stuff no one knows that I just move my lips barely getting a sound out.’

The daily early morning run of a full kilometer in the Empress’s Park Robin found to be a lark. Getting drummed out of bed at five thirty in the morning was a little early but after a week of this exercise all he could think is; ‘wow it changes the day for me and how will I ever be able to give this up.’ Taking a shower right after this morning run with all thirty class mates crowding under the eight showerheads was a blast. Getting dressed and making his own bed well enough to bounce a pfennig of it like a tennis ball.

‘These Germans soldier instructors are nuts all right. I am lucky Karli my student friend in the next bed to mine is doing his third year.’ He had two demerits before Karli showed him how to wedge the sheets under the mattress in one fast and easy two handed force move. Robin’s first thought was; ‘who can do all this in the few minutes allowed. By the second week all this activity fit into the timeslot with two minutes to spare. ‘Wow again mom is going to be real surprised what I can do.’ Meals were a new experience. No speaking permitted during the first course which was soup.

Two weeks after Robin joined the class Karli moved in beside him for school homework time after lunch. “Robin I can’t hack the spelling of my English”. He looked over to the desk of the officer in charge shoving his school book over to Robin. ‘What am I going to do? Karli is a great help but what if?’ Then without further hesitation he ran his pencil over Karli’s two page essay crossing out the needless u in forty, penciling in the missing ugh in through, adding the second o for too, exchanging the k for a c in secret in half a minute he has Karli’s work almost correct. He left a few mistakes in for good measure. ‘Are they watching us? Should I? Hell the daily issue is be a good comrade. What else can I do?’ Karli, his eyes on the officer of the day pulled his book back and quickly made his corrections. At the end of the day the notes are read out. “Karl Krieger you have a two minus. Robin Von Trenck you, one minus.” And on it goes.

Karli lifted his fist above the desk with a smile of victory in his eyes. After dinner when they got to spend time at the games room he invited Robin for a game of chess. Karli had two stripes on his uniform and when he sat down with his American friend the rest of the platoon size class left the two at a safe distance. Karli gave Robin white for a first move. When Robin moved his first two pawns out for the start his new friend smiled; “good move Robin, I owe you one.” ‘What the dickens is he talking about,’ shot through Robin’s head. Then it hit him.  ‘The boy isn’t talking about chess. He is thanking me for the English lesson corrections.’

They played three games, after that Karli took Robin over to the counter, dropped two ten Pfennig pieces on the table top for soft drinks both for him and Robin. “You know Robin,” he says, “You have got a good head for language. You should go for intelligence like those officers with the red stripe down their pants legs.” Robin laughed at him. “Why? What are you saying Karli? It isn’t anything important is it?” The boy shook his head at Robin’s ignorance.

“Kamerad you have a gift that will keep you alive. Young officers have a short life span. Even Generals have a small chance of survival. My numbers are that about a hundred generals on each side get killed in a war. Your talent isn’t just a way out, it saves lives even General’s lives.” He laughed at Robin’s frowning face. “The men’s lives you save, they will know and will be thankful.” Robin nodded at him thinking. ‘If you just knew you would be shocked. What luck to find a friend like Karli. May be now I won’t have to worry so much? If I tell mom she can stop worrying too.’   

Rose suffered most at night when her thoughts centered on her boy. Von Trenck had given it a full month before that next evening’s dinner he sat down with her. “Rose mein Mädchen, Robin is fine. Those boys stick together like glue. He is a smart and pleasant boy. He will find a couple of Kameraden and men will stick together through thick and thin.” Rose put down her book, a tear was running down her cheek. “Daddy, daddy how can you say that? They are all German boys and he is an American, what do they care?” Her father ground his teeth head shaking; “Rose boys are men, just a little smaller. Robin is a smart friendly boy. There is a bonding going on I don’t really know how to explain it to you.”

He stroked her hair as Rose’s fingers trace the salty tears down her cheeks. “I am such a cry baby dad you must be embarrassed.” The old man’s eyes are far away then he got up, walked over to the fire place and lit a cigar. It was as if he were on another planet when his mind was on the battles of Verdun and many others.


Robin had his first leave to go to town since he had joined the school. He had his parade boots on and the dagger with the inscription ‘Blut und Ehre’ on its blade. The red armband with the round white circle had the center marked by the black swastika. He didn’t really see it till he saw its reflection in a pastry shop window on the Ring Strasse. Two men in large overcoats with black hats, a yellow Star of David sewn on their lapels, cast down their eyes when he crossed their path. With a grim, quiet look the two stand aside to let him pass. ‘What the hell is wrong with these men?’ Robin puzzled. Karli had offered to go with him and he explained. “They are Jews. The law is they have to wear the Star of David in yellow on their sleeves.” ‘Cripes,’ the thought ran through Robin’s head ‘The Freeman are Jews, am I a Jew too?’ He touched the swastika on his arm biting his teeth till it hurt.

The pocket money they received each week almost burned a hole in his pocket. Walking down from the Sacher hotel towards the Stephan’s Dome Karli saw a window full of pastries. “Stop Robin lets go and get some cake.” Robin turned and his eyes feasted on a Dory Torte between a Sacher, a Dobosch Torte and a Linzer Torte. It was too much to resist. “Karli lets go and get them.” The two friends sat down at the small tables with the round marble tops. Karli proudly told Robin about the Conditors of the Austrian Empire.

“The Princess came to the Conditors and she made a bet with her cousin she would get all of Vienna to eat Ice cream with a fork.” The waitress placed the first piece of Linzer cake in front of Karli. Since he as far as Robin was aware of, had not ordered anything Robin was confused. “How did this happen? I never saw you order.” With a big smile Karli took his fork to get a first taste of his favorite dessert before he continued.  “Sitting down at the Sacher Conditorei the Princess orders Ice cream. When a minute later the bowl with her order is placed in front of her she turns to the waitress;Would you please bring me a fork Fraulein?’ The waitress in her black dress in white blouse with her white apron making big eyes at the Princess, nods at her; “at once your Highness.” and quickly she brings a fork which the royal guest uses to eat her frozen dessert. Half the guests who had Ice cream sitting in front of them stop eating it, hailing the waitress for a fork.

After this royal demonstration all of Vienna’s burgers ate their ice cream for a week long with a fork.” Robin caught a waiter at the next table and asked for a piece of Dory Torte and a pot of coffee. “Interesting story Karli but how come you got the Torte without ordering?”  Karli smiled at Robin; “Simple my dear cohort, I come here every Friday and order the Linzer Torte as a first.” He took another fork loaded down with cake to his wide open mouth.

The two boys in their uniform had exhausted their appetite to the fullest and after having used up their time of weekend furlough they were taking a streetcar home to the school. Karli turned to Robin with a questioning remark. “Did you see that GESTAPO cop sitting four tables over to the side?” Robin had seen the man and felt he recognized him from a month earlier. It had worried him to a degree, but he decided to disregard the man. Karli mentioning it arouses his fear again but he wanted to avoid all suspicion at any cost saying “What are you saying Karli? Was he watching you?” The boy didn’t seem to care. “Forget it Robin he did pay a lot of attention but it could not mean us anyway.”

                        CHAPTER 5

<>                                                                                          CAVALRY TRAINING


Robin’s class of thirty had a new breed of instructor at the front desk. The teacher had stapled the large print of a horse over the blackboard. His uniform pants had a leather seat, below his hip they flared out but below the knee the cloth slipped into the high riding boots which were adorned with spurs. The silver rim some five millimeter thick on his epaulettes indicated his rank was sergeant. His voice boomed out into the high ceiling classroom. “Heil Hitler Cadets! I am unteroffizier Lindner. The weather has turned warm and soft early this year therefore even though it is only the middle of February we shall start to teach you the tradition of horse handling.”

With his spurs ringing as he strode up to the illustration, he pointed his riding crop at various parts of the animal. “This is the head, neck, mane, back and.” In rapid succession he took less than ten minutes going through the horse’s body naming each part. Robin had not slept well and he was still tired enough to yawn. Quickly he raised his hand to cover his mouth. It was not fast enough to escape the instructor’s sharp eye. 

With a few steps the noncom officer stood at his desk. “Good morning,” the soldier looked at his name plate; “Trenck am I boring you?” The classmates broke into a snicker. Robin snapped to attention. “Nein Herr Unteroffizier.” Lindner turned to the class. “Attention!” His command came quick and precise and the laughing classmates turned silent as if someone had turned a switch to off. With a snap the class jumped up at attention. “Follow me.” Followed by Robin and his class mates the sergeant walked out of the school room through the long castle hall ways, courtyards into the park to the stables. Four young corporals in riding boots were tightening the saddle straps on a mare and three geldings. Sergeant Lindner walked into the barn and returned with a fifteen hand high saddled black stallion.

“The first thing you must do when learning to ride a horse is to mount it.” His left hand holding the bridle raised his left foot up and slid it into the stirrup and with a slight crouch he propelled his body up placing his leather covered behind into the saddle. He did all this without taking his eyes off the boys even for a second. The first four boys, Robin was one of them, stepped up to the geldings and the mare.

Freddy, the boy next to Robin, was on the right side of a white and brown pinto. While Robin took the rains of the nearest animal, he whispered to him; “Freddy, from the left only.” He ran his hand through a saddle cinch running across the horses belly to make sure it was tight, then he precisely, as the instructor before, he raised his foot into the stirrup and did a copy of the man swinging up over the rump of the horse and placed himself into the little leather contraption that carried the name English saddle. Lindner with barely a smile coughed before he sounded off. “Yes Trenck, left side only.”  Unless you have a circus horse.” Robin mumbled it in a voice he was sure no one could hear.

“What was that Trenck?” Shocked, the boy drew a breath of air through his teeth thinking; ‘damn it does this Lindner hear everything?’ “Sorry Sergeant I was just thinking.” The soldier’s eyes were on him. “Yes Trenck may we hear your thoughts?” How am I going to get out of this? He wondered. “Unless it is a circus horse, Herr Unteroffizier, is what I was thinking.” Lindner nodded at him. “Interesting Trenck, where did you learn this?”

‘At the Barney circus in San Francisco ran through his mind which he just stopped himself from saying out loud. “My mother once rented a horse from a,” Robin started to sweat. “Zigeuner.” He exhaled till his lungs were flat. ‘Wow, I almost said Gypsy. Lucky I know the German word from mom’s love for List’s Hungarian music.’ The gelding Robin had picked was dancing unruly and it helped to distract the instructor’s attention.

With a quick motion the sergeant tapped the neck of his mount with the end of his crop. The stallion took of without a second’s delay. The horse made a fast round and then the two were back with the students. With a quick tightening of the reins Robin had stopped his animal from following Lindner’s horse while the other three animals were held back by the handlers. “Well Trenck why don’t we give your friends a view off what is coming to them?” He turned his animal, giving Robin a wave with his hand to follow him. Robin, with a shrug of his shoulders, freed his horse and jammed his heels into the side.

The gelding was quick and ready to follow to the track which was studded with hurdles. It was barely a minute before Robin caught up with the instructor’s horse. The two, with Robin just trailing by a few feet, go from jump to jump. The Sergeant kept his eyes on the student behind him with a pleased look. Then he turned his horse to the right to a higher set of hurdles. Shortly before he straightened out his body and with a jab of his spurs touching his whip to the neck of his mount he now at a fast gallop raced to what looked like a double sized hurdle with the boy at his animal’s tail. There was a ditch right after the jump which widened the distance to some ten feet. The stallion lengthened its stride and took off with aplomb.

Robin had given his gelding a free head and lacking the spurs he encouraged it with a smart lash of the whip. It was the only thing he knows of that he can do to follow. It proved to be not quite enough. The two clear the hurdle with no problem but it was not enough to manage it across the ditch. His Gelding stumbled with its feet in the soft ground and the two took a tumble. At the last moment Robin loosened his grip, sliding his boots from the stirrups, he somersaulted off into the fresh spring air and into the ground with its spare grass cover, as the animal took its fall.

By the time Robin had gotten up to dust the dirt off his uniform, the instructor had stopped at his side, getting off his horse he checked the boy and then the slowly rising animal. A somewhat worried look dissipated quickly when he saw both the boy and animal were all right. There was a new appraisal in his eyes. “I don’t think following you close was the mistake that caused the tumble Sergeant. Do you?” with a slight shake of his head he answered. “No Trenck, it’s just that the horse knew better than you. I think from now on I better keep an eye on you.” It was exactly what the American boy was not looking for. ‘Damn it again,’ Robin thought, ‘why am I sticking my head into a noose at every turn.’

For the rest of the day he kept his need for being unobtrusive foremost in his mind. ‘I am not going to show off. I am not going to show off, I am not going to show off’ continued to rattle his brain and with his increased anxiety the riding experience had blown into him, he stayed in the sidelights as best he could. ‘Why’ Robin searched his mind ‘am I doing these things to myself? Where is my brain? Mom always says I should think before I jump. Is this what she is telling me? From now on I am going to watch it.’

The riding instructions were going ahead with success and a new course set in. Weapon handling was next and training in marksmanship was the instructor’s next goal. The first mention came in the week of March. ‘I know how to shoot a twenty-two rifle just as I knew how to ride a horse. I have to let them show me and not be a smart ass.’

This time a gray green bus came into one of the castle’s center courtyards. The class sized platoon of boys that made up Robin’s classmates got in for a drive to a target range. As soon as the vehicle stopped in the wide open field the boys were ordered out. Rows of targets on the far side and high benches for support of the twelve year old cadets’ who lined up to receive a carbine each.

Despite the warmer weather the NAPOLA boys were in winter uniforms. Except for the instructors the whole range was dressed in the dark blue wool. As Robin’s turns come he couldn’t help but be excited having a well polished short nine millimeter carbine stuck in his hands. The thoroughly oiled bolt action weapon was a well used old gun that had obviously seen better times, but it was the heaviest rifle the California boy had ever held in his hands. Robin went to the center of the class to be out of view of the sergeant. He looked around and all the boys were so centered on the new tool that he felt it safe to explore this new toy.

Robin turned down the bolt and slid it back and out of the action. A lot of wear showed under this kind of scrutiny, but the action was smooth and easy to use. “Cadets form a line to pick up your ammunition. You each will receive ten rounds so be careful. These are life rounds and dangerous. Do not, repeat, we do not load until an instructor tells you to.”  There were now six infantry men in addition to the Unteroffizier (sergeant)  Lindner who were supervising the class.

By the time the boys had lined up in front of the targets which were at two lines of one and two hundred meters distance Robin calmed himself down. ‘No showing off’. Better to miss than to hit those large bull eyes.’ By the time it was his turn the boy felt secure looking at the class to learn ‘who will know what?’ Under close supervision the boys had now all loaded their weapons. Orders were to aim for the black center circle of the paper target sheets at the other side of the field. The order came. “All are now to fire and try to hit the black marked X.” Sporadic shots started out and slowly the firing became steady. Robin aimed at the center knowing full well it was the wrong thing to do, when Sergeant Lindner walked behind him and prodded the boy. “Well Trenck now that it is not a horse what are you going to do for us?”

‘Wow’ his mind was frantic with indecision, ‘what do I do now?’ For a whole minute he had been looking at the X in the target and not dared to pull the trigger. The closest private urged him “Well Trenck how is our horse boy doing?” another was goading him with; “what are we waiting for, das Mittagessen (lunch)?” With a deep breath Robin aimed and shot, worked the bolt action to funnel a new cartridge into the breech and shot again. Unhurriedly he took his time but shot and reloaded and did this till the magazine was empty. He had blindly aimed and shot with sweat running down his brow. Lindner ordered; “bolt out of the carbines and in your right hand.” The seven military men scrutinized the weapons for a couple of minutes, heads nodding to the sergeant.

A minute later the two corporals walked the range and called out the hits. “Nine, nine, nine, three and white.” Three steps and the next target was checked was the verdict. The same three steps and one of them stopped next to Robin’s sheet. “One X, nothing in the white.” there was a pause and then the corporal with a frown that carried across the range. “Maybe two or three X on number eight, but no separate holes.”  The man hesitated. “Come on Meier who is number eight anyway. You see any holes in the wood?” In obvious disgust Meier shook his head at Lindner. “Should I give you some spectacles Meier?” The corporal shook his head once more, and then he ripped the paper off and walked back to the firing benches.

A voice called out. “Number eight is Von Trenck Sergeant.” Lindner looked at Meier, approaching him. “What have we got here?” He held up the large paper and stuck his finger into the only hole visible. The sergeant looked down the line of students chewing on his unlit cigarette. “Did you put up new targets Meier?” His eyes showed more doubt to the corporal than words could convey. His mind was on his life and he thought. ‘God help those poor, stupid boys. In a couple of years they are nothing but cannon fodder.’ Then he caught himself. “Well it is more than one for sure, but where are the rest?”

He looked at Robin with an accusing eye. The boy shrugged his shoulders with a guilty frown. “Sorry sergeant I probably missed by a mile.”  He looked at the frowning soldier. “I promise, I will try better next time?” For a moment the instructor wore a poker face, then without a further word he walked away as the checking and firing continues. 

The second round of firing Robin closed his eyes when he pulled the trigger and it worked perfectly. Only two holes are spread out over the sheet. ‘Oh god I have to keep out of trouble for mom’s sake, mine and granddads too. I’ve got to.’ Robin Freeman the boy from Sausalito, California, lost in Hitler’s Germany swears to himself.


                                CHAPTER 6




The rifle range was number two in the school’s basket of instruction. While it was going on, the grenade yard was next on the teaching schedule. Again the same busses that were used for the gun training came into the same center courtyard to take the high school’s third graders to the grenade training ground. It was way out of Vienna that the twenty nine boys, one had already been dropped from classes, were ferried to for instructions in the use of grenades.

The terrain was a torn up large sand ditch which had the marks of trees and bushes torn by the explosives of the German military over years of abuse. At the stop where they got to leave the busses, two wooden boxes awaited the boy’s pleasure. It was not the long handled Stiel handgranaten but the egg shaped style. “Do not pull the pin boys until you are told by one of your teachers.” The words rang loud and true from Unteroffizier Lindner’s lips. ‘These are the most serious words he has ever said to us.’ This ran through Robin’s head while he picked up one of the ball sized metal death dealers.

Sergeant Lindner took a grenade out of Karli’s hand. “Come on Krieger you have had this course all of last year. You should help teach this clas,s not play at it” Karli smiled at the soldier and explained. “All right Sergeant I’ll help.”  He threw the grenade to Robin. The boy caught it and turned it in his hand as if it were a baseball ready for a pitch. “Robin throw it, I pulled the pin already.” He yelled. He caught the friend by surprise, but not enough to scare him. For a moment Robin held on till he comprehends the danger and with a sudden move he propelled the dangerous metal egg away into the sand ditch. The weapon barely hit the ground before it went off.

The Unteroffizier was vivid with anger at Karli. “Krieger you are out of this school as of right now.” Losing his friend was something Robin didn’t want. His head spun. ‘Karli is my best and maybe my only friend in this school. What am I going to do?’ “Unteroffizier Lindner please don’t do it. He is one of our real Germans. We don’t have any better than him.” Lindner was stunned as he turned to Robin with new respect. ‘There is more to this boy than I thought, not just a protégé of the colonel ‘Damn this Trenck boy, there is real comradeship. The best kind one can find too.’ His eyes half closed he looked at the two boys, hiding his admiration under a stern stare. ‘I have to let this slip for the sake of the good of the school’ He shook his head at Robin then he turned to Karli. “This once I‘ll let it go Krieger, but no more fun and games, do you hear?” Karli saluted him and yells; “Jawohl.”

Robin stood at the hand grenade box, his fingers stroking the weapons. ‘Damn it I almost lost my only friend here. Why did our Feldwebel (Sergeant) make an exception for Karli? Last week Fred got kicked out for a lot less.’ Corporal Stahl slowly recovered from his shock seeing the chief instructor wash this Krieger boy’s breach of the rules under the table. ‘What is wrong with Lindner? When did we ever make such an exception for any Cadet? Look at Trenck. What is going on with this boy? Who ever heard of a student defending another about to be kicked out? This boy was pretty strange that was for sure. Look at that.’ “Trenck what are you doing with the grenades? Have you found a good one?”

Robin came out of his reverie with a shock. “Sorry corporal. No they are all the same.” The corporal kept his lips tight, still puzzled by this last occurrence.  “All right Robin that is your name isn’t it?” Robin nodded with a “Jawohl.”  Robin gave the corporal his full attention. “Take one grenade and allow yourself three steps then throw it as far out to the sand pit as you can.” Robin picked one of the metal eggs, pulled the pin out and trying to remember baseball he swirls his body with as much force as he can muster, he let go of the weapon, his best. The steel gray tool went up at a forty-five degree angle and slowly rotated to the indicated depression. One full second went by and it seemed to last forever. He saw the dust thrown up and a fraction of a second later the sound of its explosion hit his ears. The chief instructor Lindner had followed the exercise.

 “Not bad for a first try Trenck. Stahl go and show the cadets how it is done properly.” The corporal picked one grenade from the wood container, he turned to be seen by the whole class, pulled the pin and with the ease of someone who has done this many times he propels the weapon high into the air and an amazingly far distance, way into the test ground.  Under the watchful eyes of the sergeant the group had been watching with concentrated attention. “Cadets this is the way to throw a German egg hand grenade. You each will find five in the box. Use them well.”    

Robin turned to the Sergeant with a questioning look which the instructor recognized. “Well Trenck what is your question?” The boy straightened up, pointing at the boxes of grenades and queried. “Herr Unter offizier why is it that we waste good grenades? Couldn’t we learn using grenades without a live charge?” For a moment Lindner looked out to the sand pits his mind on the cadet. ‘Where do we get these children from? Is it that we want to kill off the best minds the Fatherland has to offer? What am I doing here? I should go to the front fighting our enemies not help to destroy these boys.’ He turned to Robin. “Trenck you are right. In peacetime we were using dummies. As of last September we have orders to use live ammo and grenades. The purpose is to speed you boys up. Amazing enough is that the speed of learning has gone up considerably since the new policy has been in effect.” He looked down at the boy. “Does this answer your question cadet?” A surprised frown on his face Robin had listened. He nodded slowly. “Yes I understand.” The instructor’s eyes were on the boy. “Trenck this is a good kind of question. It tells me you have what it takes.” With a look at Robin he added. “Carry on Trenck.”

It was a week later that at a hand grenade training session a cadet Dieter by name, dropped his grenade after pulling the pin. It just happened that Robin stood next to the boy. The instructor corporal’s voice rang out loud and clear. “Take cover, a live grenade, fire in the hole.” With his throwing hand he reached down, scooping the live grenade up a few inches he lobbed it much like a bowling ball. Robin used all the strength he could muster at his most desperate speed.

The weapon flew out into the field as he straightened his head to step behind the flag pole at his side for cover. For a moment the nervous crunch of his teeth was the only sound to be heard. It was barely fifty feet out when the grenade detonated with an earsplitting bang. As he looked around he saw everyone, including the instructors, had hit the deck. There they were, laid down with hands folded over their heads. The sounds of falling fragments were for a moment all he could hear.

The sergeant was the first to get up and dust the dirt off his uniform. “Trenck,” He paused with a calm look at Robin. “Von Trenck, I owe you one.” He turned to cadets and instructors getting up. “We all owe you. This will not be forgotten I promise.” He turned to the closest instructor corporal. “You know what to do. Teach them.” He walked over to the busses took a cigarette out of his jacket and lit it. Drawing deeply on his cigarette he looked at his students musingly. ‘What a bunch those boys are. A man can’t do anything, but be proud of them. Look at you my boy I wonder what am I doing to you? When the colonel told me to pay attention to you I resented you. What a find you are. How wrong can I be? What I would give to have a son like you.’

Robin’s life after this accident changed considerable. There were those who tried to keep out of his way. A feeling somewhere between awe and thanks made the boys give him privacy where it was a rare commodity. The rest went out of their way to do him favors. Soon the whole school knew who Robin von Trenck was. ‘God what did I do? I was supposed to keep my nose clean. Here I can’t go to the john without being watched. Granddad will be furious. I am going to try and be as quiet as I possibly can.’

By the weekend a two sheet report landed on the principal’s desk. The episode was explained in detail. Albert saw Robin’s name on the heading. ‘What did the boy do to get a special report? Is this going to develop into a fiasco? What the hell do they teach these boys in American schools for such a report?’ by now he had read the first lines. ‘Well this is not bad. Who would have thought one of these no-good kids could do that well?’ Colonel Albert was relieved. By the time he finished the report he was laughing loud enough to have his attendant come to see if help was needed. “Colonel what is wrong?” He found the man laughing and in tears. He had even taken his spectacles off. “Schulze just come here and read this.” He waved the two sheets of paper at the young officer.


                                    CHAPTER 7


                                WEAPONS TRAINING


Easter was over and warm May weather made the school’s outdoor activities pleasant, even though the administration had the students switch to summer uniforms. The light brown shirts were more comfortable and the black corduroy shorts combined with the knee socks made full use of the warmer weather. The short black cravat drawn through the beige leather knot felt kind of funny to Robin. It was enough to make him want to stay with the blue wool uniform. ‘If dad could just see me now, would that be funny?’, he thought. Slowly his skin turned brown and the knees sported scabs from the falls he took.

The new schedule was a swim every other day. At first Robin worried about getting a sun burn but nothing happened which was puzzling him till he looked at the map. Vienna was as far north as the middle of Canada. Though the day’s sunlight brought warmth to his face it lacked the burning power he was used to at home in California. A new course had been added.

Ever since the grenade incident Robin felt comfortable with the Unteroffizier Lindner so the change of territory the bus took the class as of recently diminished to twenty six students made Robin just feel like being on exploration of a new field. The two large boxes in the rear of the bus were marked Panzerfaust. When they finally, after arriving at the firing range, opened the wooden crates Robin found they were filled with RPGs, that is rocket propelled grenades. The oversized gas pipes with the odd shaped head which supposedly would penetrate several inches of armor didn’t really look all that dangerous.

Lindner pulled the first one out and aimed it at a truck that instead of wheels had eight feet of tracks for bad terrain at the rear. The vehicle had a dozen of baseball sized holes decorated with burn marks on the visible side. “You take the Panzerfaust up on you shoulder like you see me do and aim through the sights and pull the trigger.” The instructor turned around looking at Robin who stood just behind him. “Trenck?” The boy responded quickly. “Jawohl!” “Standing where you are you would either be dead or badly burned from the rocket’s exhaust.” Robin jumped aside as if he had been struck by lightening. “That is much better cadet.”

Carefully the sergeant handed the Panzerfaust to Robin. “The corporal will use a radio control to drive the truck you see there toward you. It is your job to fire at it to stop its advance. Just think it is a battle tank.” He turned to the corporal and gave him the order. “Stahl start the truck now.” The corporal turned a knob on the radio in his lap and the armored tracked vehicle’s engine revved up with a deafening roar. It was a frightening racket and the thing started to look large and larger as it ran at the boy.

Robin was frantic. ‘This thing is dangerous. It scares the hell out of me. How am I supposed to stop it? I am supposed to shoot it? Cripes I sure wish dad was here.’ Robin quickly got even more frantic. He wanted to yell for help but the noise stopped any kind of communication. ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot.’, ran through his mind and at the last possible moment that was what he did. Unlike the rifle there was no backlash, just a fuzzy noise and a streak of fire flying at the tracked terror. The very second the rocket hit the armor drilling a hole into its side the corporal turned the knob on his radio control to stop the truck, though it was barely a yard from where Robin stood, the empty tube in his hand on jittery legs. All he could think was; ‘Wow mom that was a close one.’

Lindner turned to the boy with approval. “Well done Trenck.” Someone started to clap his hands one, two, three, four, as Robin turned to look and see who one by one the rest of the boys join in following Karli who was that first one with the applause. ‘Why is all this fuss just for shooting at the armored truck?’ He thought desolately taking the emptied tube of the weapon to the wood box and dropping it on the cover. Robin didn’t look too happy about his performance.

‘I am still getting too much attention. Maybe getting me into this NAPOLA school wasn’t such a good idea’ He picked a new Panzerfaust out of the box and carried it back to the firing range. With a shrug he handed it to the sergeant. “Herr Unteroffizier I think this is enough for today, isn’t it?” Lindner smiled at the boy. “Cadet Trenck for a first time that was damned fine shooting back there. The damn racket from the engine usually rattles you boys enough to miss. I don’t remember anyone hitting it on their first try.”

The last addition before the summer holidays start was the half track driving sessions. By this time the class had shrunk down to twenty three cadets. The two busses were getting to be more than ample. Arriving out at the firing range the boys found three undamaged track vehicles. The corporal divided the boys up into three groups. Lindner had already been waiting for them. “This is a change for you cadets. We’ll not shoot at them but learn to drive.” He looked at the separated class. “Each of the corporals will take one of these trucks and show you how to run them.” He waved at the group Robin was in and waved them to one truck with beige camouflage colors.

“Well cadets who wants to be first?” Robin was planning. ‘I have to stay back at the rear so no one sees I am here’. He cautiously faded back more and more till he was at the rear of his training group ‘I have to watch my back and not be conspicuous.’ He bent down retying his laces as a ruse. Seeing the cadets in their group were reluctant Karli turned back to Robin. “Look at that Robin. Why don’t you show those ninnies?” Lindner had a big smile on his face nodding.

“Yes Trenck come here help us get the ball rolling before we get all embarrassed”. As Robin got up an alley opened for him, hands pushing him to the forefront as despair ran through his head. ‘Damn it all here I did it again.’ Sweat broke out on his forehead as he walked to the heavy tracked training vehicle. Lindner was climbing up on the driver’s seat waiting for the boy to get in next to him.

Robin slid into the right hand seat turning to the instructor. “Watch this Trenck. You check the gear lever to make sure it is in neutral position.” He had  placed his right on the knob that the gear shift lever extended to between the two front seats and wiggled it, then he reached over to the dash next to the armature which showed engine rpm’s and the odometer inside the round speedometer. “After a ten second warm up this knob turned to the right will start the engine. Look at the red light here. It will glow brightly telling you that now it is time to turn the same knob one notch more to start the engine.”

The engine started off with a roar that was deafening. ‘I should cover my ears.’, was Robin’s thought. ‘Nobody cares so it’ll just make me stick out again.’ The sergeant stepped on the clutch remarking.  “Next you step on the clutch and move the gear lever to where it shows one. With your right foot you depress the accelerator to bring up the rpm’s just like this, you see?” he pointed to the rpm dial. “Now slowly you let the clutch pedal rise until.” The engine noise dropped and the tractor started to move forward. Lindner reached to the dash and turned the starter knob back to the left. The engine stopped abruptly while the sergeant already jumped off the truck.

“Trenck it is your turn now. Don’t worry about it we all have to start sometime.” Robin nodded with his eyes flicking between the dials on the dash and the gear shift lever. He had slipped across the center to the driver’s seat. His hand on the gearlever, he rattled it making sure it was in neutral. The loose control stick seemed to be ready to start. He put his hand on the starter knob, turned it right with his eyes glued to the glow plug light. ‘The damn thing lights up too fast. I am going to screw this up badly. Damn this school.’ Robin closed his eyes and with his foot squeezing the pedal he completed the turn that he saw just a minute ago start the engine.

The tracked vehicle jumped forward with a wailing engine noise, dropped down and as the machine moved under him in just a few feet, stopped and the engine choked, turning silent. ‘Now I broke the stupid thing. There will be hell to pay. I am going to get kicked out.’ In despair he scratched his head. ‘Mom will be so disappointed.’ He looked at the instructor lifting his hands helplessly. Lindner shook his head at him, “Never mind Trenck. You forgot to make sure about the transmission being in neutral. Next time you make sure and keep the clutch down while starting the engine. Go and try again.”

A look at his fellow cadets showed no attempt at ridicule, no laughter. Robin kicked the clutch down, turned the starter knob and the engine started up within just seconds. With teeth biting down on his lips he pressed down the right pedal, the engine howling, he slowly let up the clutch pedal. His foot slipped early and the monster jumped into forward movement.

‘Oh god it’s running.’ He wiped his sweat off his brow and looking ahead he saw a boulder in his way. ‘Okay now this is just like a bike I have to turn’. It took the full muster of his arms’ force to get the wheel twisted far enough. Just in the nick of time he managed to avoid the boulder by a couple of feet. After this it got easier every day. True, once a day at least, he managed to stall the doggone machine, but in general he as well as most of the class mates learned to keep it going. Training came to a stop just a few days later. Summer holidays were here.

Second class train tickets for the D-zug (express train) arrived at mail call a week before they were going home. When on their last city leave, gave Robin a chance to go to the city center he decided to buy presents for mother and his grandparents from his pocket money savings. Karli came along if for no other reason than a chance to fill up on Dobosch and Sacher cake.

While doing some window shopping a couple of girls in their blue BDM skirts and white blouses stopped to look into the same windows. Karli shoved his elbow into Robin’s side getting him to pay attention to them. The kid shrugged with a negative headshake. ‘What does Karli think? They are shopping just like we are.’ His friend gave him a scornful look.

He turned to the girls. “Heil Hitler,” he draws the words together so it sounds more like Heitler, “How about a cup of Cocoa?” Robin turned to look. The one nearest to him, a tall blond with blue eyes, turned to him with a smile. “If you show us your dagger we will.” She nudged her dark haired friend who raised her hand to stroke her full hair back from her face. Robin touched his sidearm but moved just in time to avoid another elbow.  Karli pointed at Robin then at his own chest. “This is Robin von Trenck and I am Karli.” The slim dark haired girl pulled on her tie. “Hilde, and I am Anna.” Hilde nodded at them. “You are cadets at the Theresianum aren’t you?” Robin smiled at her. “How did you know?” “Oh we get invited to the dances there. It would be hard to miss the uniforms, especially the daggers.” Anna put in her thing explaining. “It is a lot dressier than the Hitler Jugend Fahrtenmesser.” The four turn to the south side for the large Conditorei.

Karli leaned close to Robin’s ear. “I want to sit with Hilde.” At the little table the white round marble top was really meant for two, not the four of them. Hilde turned to Robin flinging her massive blond mane back “Where do you live Robin?” Robin seemed a little confused. ‘What am I going to say to her? I certainly can’t tell the truth can I?  Sausalito would freak her out.’ “I live in East Silesia.” He looked at the girl with white skin, red lips and had an insecure feeling growing in his stomach.

‘Jeepers I really like that girl.’ He wracked his brain about what to say but nothing came to mind. ‘Wait, she asked me where I live. I can do that too can’t I?’ Relieved Robin turned to her. “So, where are you from Hilde?” She gave Robin a smile warm enough to melt butter; “I am Viennese. Born here and raised here and my name is Hildegard.” Karli stepped on Robin’s foot. Robin felt it, gave him a nasty look and moved his foot out of the way. ‘Can he not see there is nothing I can do if she wants to talk to me?’

Karli kept on trying to squeeze in with Hilde, but she barely answered his question she was so engrossed with Robin. Finally Karli took the hint and started to chat with Anna. Robin found a lot of things about German boys he didn’t know. Many of his prejudices grew faint and some disappeared entirely. By the time he got on the train going home, that was of course to his Grandparents in Silesia, he had a whole new view of his class mates.

The trip toward Breslau was growing lengthier each time he went. The war pushed the German Army to ever increasing efforts in transporting war materials. The railroad tracks were more and more tied up by freight trains with the ultimate priority. It took the Freeman boy nearly two days to make the return trip. Night bombings run by the British, forced the railroad and cars on the Autobahn to dim their lights so far the traffic had to slow down for safety’s sake. Headlights were equipped with hoods that stopped the lamps from being viewed from the sky.

For Robin this summer on the Von Trenck’s ranch turned out to be an exhilarating experience. Not only did he get to ride the horses, but also since he had learned to drive a half track Granddad allowed him to go out in the field driving the farm tractors. The old Von Trenck invited the boy for a hunt in the ranch owned forest. “Is it save for Robin to go hunting dad? Isn’t it too dangerous?”  The old Gentleman snorted at his daughter. “Why Rose, Albert wrote.” Her father stood up straight. “According to him Robin has proven a safety factor at the academy. He has not only learned to drive the tractors, shoot a bazooka, but rifles as well as any of the cadets.” Rose gave in. “If you say so dad I guess it is alright.”

By the end of the summer holidays Robin had told Rose about all the things he had found out about Germany, the boys he lived and went to school with.  “Mom you don’t have to worry any more. There is stuff to learn that I would never even have heard about at home. Dad will be real proud of me when we get home.” He gave her a confidential smile. “May be us getting stuck here isn’t such a bad thing.  My friend Karli is a great guy.”

Rose listened to her son, with her eyes searching him and her parents, her mind roving through the happenings of the last ten months. ‘What is happening to my Robin? My god where will this take us? For all we know his dad is conscripted into the army of most likely the army air corps, him having a pilot’s license already. What does dad think about all this?’ “Robin please go upstairs, get a jacket and some boots so we can go for a walk.” The boy ran upstairs to his bedroom and she turned to her father.

“What is happening to Robin Dad? I am getting worried.” The old von Trenck looked at his daughter wondering. ‘Is she worried about Robin because he has adjusted to our crazy war?’ “Rose, Rose, he has to fit in or we are in serious trouble. I am glad he can accept this fiasco with calm feelings. Can you imagine how difficult it could be for him to deal with being stuck here? For Robin to sit here, in the middle, with this war between his country and our Germany, it well could be a disaster and leave him lost forever” He had lifted his hands in a gesture of helplessness looking at his girl.

Rose opened her mouth to speak but he waved her off. “No Rose, please listen to me. He is doing better than I ever dared to expect. Albert wrote and though he doesn’t say anything, I can tell he knows Robin is American. He has lost any remnants of his accent. He is positive; I can’t even fathom how he does it except his youth helps him. ‘My poor girl she can’t even imagine how worried I have been for these last few months that he will spill the beans and get kicked out, or worse, get thrown in jail.”

Rose had been looking at her father’s face. ‘God, dad has done all this for him and I have no understanding. I guess I am out of touch with this new Germany under Hitler. Here I am doing nothing but adding to his troubles.’ She ran her hands down her dress looking at her hands. “Forgive me daddy. I am so selfish; I forget the danger we are putting you and mother in.”

Her father looked at her with a face trying to add to her feeling of safety. “Rose, wars are like hurricanes. They strike and do damage to us all. Luckily we are out of harms way. At least I think so.” He put his arm around her shoulder. “Come on lets get you a coat for your outing with Robin.” His grandson was coming down the stairs slipping into his jacket.  His cheerful smile brought a release from worry to her.

Worried as Rose was she decided to pack her bag and join her son on his way to Vienna. It was two days later that the mother and son team arrived at the huge train station in the center of Vienna. Despite having seen this huge building three times Robin was still awed by the sheer size of the barrel domed glass and steel structure. It was a long stretch on the streetcar and after the two jumped off the low steps to the sidewalk Robin remembered he had to buy a new ticket book for the next four months of his stay here at the NAPOLA.

As he handed the ticket vendor his five mark note one of two policemen who have been checking identity papers of passengers at the streetcar stopped in front of Rose. “Your papers please Fräulein?” he said. Rose took her bag from her arm, opened it and searched for a minute. Finally she gave up and shook her head at the cop. “I seem to have left my papers at home.” The stern voice of the policeman carried to Robin who turned and stepped back to his mother with his right hand up in the Hitler salute he yelled; “Heil Hitler.” The cop turned to him; “Heil Hitler.” then not seeing anything to attract his attention he admonished Robin; “Alright run along now my boy.” turned back to Rose. Robin urged; “Mother we have to go quick so I am not late for colonel Goring.”  The policeman turned to Robin; “This woman is your mother?” he asked.

Robin nodded yelling in his best military tone; “Jawohl, she is my mother. And she has to take me to the Theresianum so I am not late sir.” A streetcar had come to a halt in front of them. People were getting off and two who had waited until now got on looking at the three on the sidewalk. The officer made a stern face and rebuked Rose but not Robin; “Miss or madam you are in violation. Seeing that you are this boy’s mother, which is commendable I shall let it pass this time. I better not see you here without papers ever again. You hear me?” Rose nodded contritely; “Yes I shall be careful not to forget my papers again.” She took Robin by the arm “let’s hurry Robin or you will be late.” And they walked off with the cop glowering after the two before he turned to the streetcar and its passengers with a mien of; there you are that is how we do it.

    As they got out of earshot Robin looked at his mother with a worried frown; “Mom what is wrong with you? How could you forget your papers? You are the one who always tells me not to rock the boat and to toe the line.” Rose looked back at the cop and then walking up to the school gate she explained; “Robin my papers are from fifteen years ago.” She shuffled him through the wooden gate to the inside. Robin shook with a nervous frown; “I hope you get back to granddad’s and don’t come here ever again.” He shook his head; “No identification papers holy cow. With Dad dropping bombs on Hamburg and Berlin we hare in serious trouble.” Rose kissed him and turned to leave. For a moment he stopped, watching her with a worried frown.

    Robin’s class platoon went marching through Vienna. The walls were decorated with posters warning about; Feind hört mit!!! Enemy listens in!!! The illustration showed a dark haired man with a Polish farmer’s hat, his ears at a door. And: Räder rollen für den Sieg!!! Wheels are rolling for Victory!!! Showing a couple of trains loaded with tanks and trucks, steam blowing from the locomotive’s smoke stack. The class was singing Erika and in memory of one of their instructors having been killed at the Russian front ‘Ich hatte einen Kameraden!!!’ He translated it to English to get a feel for it; ‘I had a comrade!!!’  

    A whole year had gone by for Robin while learning how to do math, getting a vocabulary in French, barely enough though to form more than a few sentences. The emphasis of the instruction was on fighting, shooting Panzerfausts, the German rocket propelled antitank grenade. Lessons in driving the armored semi track with its front wheels and the rear chains were used to select the more talented drivers. Robin was found to be a natural and he saw so much similarity in driving them as he saw his dad’s Nash sedan. Dozens of new students were replacing the ones who had been kicked out often for a wrong look at the instructor or for being late to class.

 For Robin the horses were the most enjoyable experience. The instructors were called to the front once more and a new regiment of man now with arms missing, half his face gone from one instructor who had to take out a British tank in Africa. The year had gone by like a flash. Again they were marching past the railroad siding with the signs warning of the enemy and assurance for a victory. The walls had gotten dirty and the paper signs were in tatters as the platoon marched, stopping at the fountain for a drink of water. Robin cupped his hands for the water and drank from it when his eyes strayed to the railroad tracks where he saw some twenty GI’s loading wagons with crates. He walked over to them looking at the guard with his rifle smoking a Lucky Strike which one of the Prisoners had offered him.

    A corporal stopped working looking at Robin with disdain. He turned to a couple of the other prisoners remarking; “Look at that chump. The dumb bastard is looking at us as if he had never seen an American before.” A second with sergeant stripes stopped to look commenting. “Don’t talk you never know who it its. He might be a Gestapo guy.” Robin couldn’t help but laugh at that. Three more stopped to look at him pulling chocolate bars from their pockets. One glowered at him; “fucking bastards those are: look at the swastikas on their sleeves.”  A private gave Robin a nasty look swearing at him; “Asshole what are you looking at?”

 Robin shook his head at him; “What is wrong with you guys are they treating you bad?” One close to  Robin working without interruption stopped, dropping down the box in his hands he squinted at Robin; “Shit boy you talk like a California kid.

Where did you learn that?” All but two stopped working to look at him. One corporal agitated almost yelled at him; “Fucking Nazi bastard.” Robin looked back at the class still drinking and chatting then turned back to the corporal shaking his head at him; “Not every German is a member of the party. Why are you so nasty?” Robin pointed at himself; “I am not and my grand father isn’t either.” He pointed at the chocolate bar. “I haven’t had a Baby Ruth since we left home. Yours looks smaller than I remember it. Is it still a nickel?” Robin turned back to his platoon when the sergeant called to him. “Where are you from kid? You want an O’Henry?” He was pulling a couple of chocolate bars from his pocket.

Robin shook his head at the soldier smiling; “No thanks sergeant, I’ve got to stay away from you guys or you know what.” The corporal was still displeased with Robin. “That swastika on your uniform doesn’t it signify you are Nazi?”  Robin had turned to see what his unit was doing. He saw Karli looking his way with a smile on his face. Robin looked at the corporal slowly shaking his head showing surprise at the man’s ignorance looking at the man’s name tag; “Miller you haven’t got a clue about any of this. If you survive long enough you may learn about some of this.” He waved off any answer; “Good luck guys you may need it more than I.”

The commanding cadet was yelling near the top of his voice; “Antreten!” His class of thirty-something NAPOLA students went back to standing in columns of three. Those in the front row looking to their right for the proper distance from each other. The private spoke out loud; “Look at those kids they know how to do this better than any of us.” The sergeant added; “Yea look again, they speak better American than you do too.”
             Robin’s platoon commander ordered; “Still gestanden. Rechts um, im Gleichschritt marsch!” As his platoon turned right and walked away in step with each other Robin turned his head enough to see the POWs watch them march away with faces that showed a new respect. I wish I could change places with them he thought. The pleasant way they treated each other was a far cry from the permanent respect in his unit. Then again how come they were here as prisoners of war? Maybe he was safer in this uniform; he glanced down on his boots and up at his armband. What would it look like to have the Stars and Stripes there instead of the swastika?