By: Zachary C. Osgood
As the children that run through the streets of Brandenburg while they kick a tin can down the sidewalk, they must be cautious of not running into the soldiers that walk down the sidewalk or avoid running into the streets where canvas covered trucks transport troops. It is June of 1941, for nearly three years, the loyal soldiers to the Fatherland have been fighting off the allied powers on the Western Front or the men fighting in North Africa.
Amongst these children that frolic along the streets, are two young boys one by the name of Hines Linkmeyer, at age nine he is the youngest of his three other siblings. One an older brother of one year, Wilhelm, who plays with him. His oldest, is his brother Peter by the age of thirteen, who is his second oldest is his sister of twelve years, Ava. Their mother of age thirty, Hildagard, and their father Hans, of age thirtysix.
The can hits the street with a cling and a clank, and Hines runs for the can.
"I'll get it!" Hines yells as he runs into the street.
"Hines no!" his brother Wilhelm shrieks.
But as Hines grabs the can in the street, a truck with cargo of soldiers screams to a stop with a blare of the horn.
"Stupid boy!" the driver yells in anger.
He gets out of the cab, runs up to the boys and pushes him to the curb.
"Foolish boy!" the soldier booms, "What were you thinking? You could have been killed!"
Suddenly a hand grabs the armymans shoulder.
"Relax Koroff," an officer says emerging around the soldier, "It was merely an accident."
The officer with the rank of a captain reaches down and picks up Hines can and hands it to him.
"Dear boy," the captain said, "You must be careful next time."
"Hines!" Wilhelm runs over to his brother and hunches down to him.
Hines looks back to the officer.
"Hines is it?" the captain said, "Is this your brother?"
The captain lifts Hines to his feet.
"Yes sir," Hines said quietly.
"Look at me," the officer said lifting Hines and Wilhelms heads, "Ah, you will both make fine German soldiers one day, fight for our Fuhrer and our Fatherland!"
The captain pulls out two little candies from his pocket, and gives one to each of the boys.
"Now," the captain said, "Run along! And watch for automobiles next time."
"Thank you captain and yes sir!" the boys said in unison.
Hines and Wilhelm run back to the sidewalk and play once more with their friends.
"Hines," Wilhelm says to his brother, "What were you thinking? What will mother say?"
"Nothing," Hines said plopping the candy in his mouth, "Because we will say nothing, and she won't know."
"'She won't know'? Hines, look at your clothes, they are dirty from the street! She will notice as soon as you walk into the door."
Hines starts brushing the dirt off his jacket and pants.
Wilhelm shakes his head, "Come on," he said, "Lets go home."
Hines races his brother around the street corners, until they reach their house, and though the door. Their mother drops her dishes in the sink and looked at them both.
They look like a mess, stockings dropping, panting for breath, and hair drenched in sweat. But their mother does not revert her stare from Hines.
"Hines?" Hildegard said in a questioning tone, "Why is your jacket dirty?"
"Oh, well," Hines said, "I fell."
"He fell in the street!" Wilhelm laughs, "He nearly got killed by an army truck!"
"Shut up!" Hines yells punching Wilhelm in the arm.
"Stop it!" their mother yells.
Peter walks in with their sister Ava.
"Whats going on?" Peter asks.
"Hines got into trouble again," Wilhelm said.
"What kind of trouble?"
"An army truck nearly hit him!"
"Yes! But the captain was a nice man and let us go with candies."
"Oh, well thats good. Because you know, if it was Gestapo or SS, I don't think they will treat you that way, they will take you away and-"
"Shht!" Hildegard hissed, "Do not speak of that, they could be listening." Hildegard whispered that as she walks to the window and looks out to the street, "Now both you two! Go! Hines get cleaned up, your father will decide what to do with you when he gets home."
Hines and Wilhelm run out the room to wash up.
"When will you tell them the truth?" Peter asks his mother.
"I don't know what you mean," Hildegard said returning to her dishes.
"You know damn well."
"Watch your mouth."
"Mother. They must know. They must know what they are capable of, if you don't, they will just get into trouble again. And that time may not end well."
Hildegard drops her dishes, closes her eyes, and breathes deeply.
"I can't tell them," Hilda said quietly, "It is just too much for them, they are just boys."
Peter walks up behind his mother.
"Fine," he whispers, "If you won't tell them, I will make father tell them."
Hines had listened to his Peters conversation with his mother, he sat on the steps to the second floor just behind the door into the kitchen. He could hear every word of their conversation and he wonders what is Peter wants him and his brother to know.
Now Hines sits on his bed pondering what there is to know, about what could the Gestapo or SS possibly do to him. He knows he must keep his distance from the Gestapo, but what could they do to him? At school, sometimes an SS officer would come in and walk down the aisles and look upon our work. Hines would listen to the sound of their boots hit the school floor, and never look at them unless called upon, the officers would hardly ever give a grin, but when they did, it was cold.
The SS would always motivate us to join the Hitler Youth (HJ), they would tell us that at age ten, we would be signed up to the Jungvolk. Hines is nine, the following day after his birthday in a few months time, he will have to join the Jungvolk. His brother Peter, is thirteen, on his birthday, which is soon to come, will be automatically enrolled into the HJ. Peter would spend four more years in the Hitler Youth, before he is sent to the fighting front.
Hines sister Ava, has been placed in the Jungvolk. Their duties are as followed, "Kinder, Kirche, Küche", which means "Children, Church, Kitchen". Ava has never seemed to enjoy the Jungvolk, Hines has heard her speak with his mother about the things they are to do with her while and after she is in the HJ. She seems scared about some of her duties, Hines doesn't know many of them, but he does know one of them is to provide as a nurse to wounded troops.
"Hallo Familie!" Hines hears the sound of his father Hans downstairs.
Hines runs down the stairs while fighting with Wilhelm into the kitchen.
Hines and Wilhelm great there father with a hug.
"Father?" Peter said to his father, "We need to talk in private."
"Of course Peter," Hans said, "Hilda darling? Will your pour me a pint of beer? And kids why don't you go gather wood for a fire? It is rather cold."
"Yes Papa," Wilhelm said and takes Hines with him out back to gather wood.
Meanwhile, Peter and Hans walk towards the basement door.
"Papa," Peter said closing the basement door, "I tried telling Mama, but she refuses to listen. It is concerning Hines and Wilhelm."
"What have they done this time?" Hans laughs a little.
Peter and Hans walk down the rickety old wooden steps to the basement floor.
"Hines, this time, Papa," Peter said, "Hines was nearly killed by an automobile, this one a truck full of soldiers. From what we were told the officer let them go, but I fear it may happen again, but with the wrong men."
"I see," Hans mumbled.
"I am afraid Papa, Wilhelm and Hines must know of what the Gestapo and SS are capable of-"
"If they don't know," Peter continues only quieter, "How much they can hurt them, they will not be as cautious as they should be."
"I understand," Hans mumbles, "I just hate to fill their heads full of those awful things they can do, it can scare them for the rest of their lives."
"Unfortunately yes," Peter said, "But unless they don't know, their lives are in greater danger."
Hans goes silent for a moment.
"Alright," he said at last, "I will tell them, go, bring them down."
Peter nods, "Yes Papa."
Peter goes upstairs and finds Hines and Wilhelm setting chopped pieces of wood in front of the fireplace.
"Hines, Wilhelm," Peter said, "Come on, Papa needs to talk with you."
Hines and Wilhelm get up from off the floor and follow their brother through the kitchen and into the basement.
"Yes Papa?" Hines asks Hans.
Hans pulls out two stools and sits down on one that is behind him. As for Peter, he sits down on the basement stairs, clasps his hands, and looks to the floor.
"Now kids," Hans said, "There is something that I must tell you both. Your mother and I have been wanting you to hear this when you got older, but now I feel it must be known now."
"What is it Papa?" Wilhelm asks.
"Its about what happened today with the truck. Now, what happened today, you were lucky, the officer let you go without harm. But….you must know, there are other people that can harm you….There people in the Gestapo and SS, that can really hurt you both….They can find any way to harm you."
Hines and Wilhelm pay close attention to every word their father says.
"Wh-what can they do Papa?" Hines said a little loud.
"Shh!" Hans said, "Not so loud."
Hans sighs, "The Gestapo can take you away, they can imprison you and torture you both….They don't care who you are, they won't care that you are both children….They can even kill you….The SS are vicious, they can even kill you for looking at them wrong….In towns across Germany, they have hanged people in streets for all to see. We don't want to see you both dead….Please children, keep your distance from these people, do not look at them, and do not speak to them unless spoken to. Do whatever they say."
Hines and Wilhelm are silent.
"Yes Papa," Wilhelm said quietly.
Peter can remember when his father told him about the Gestapo and the SS.