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Kindred Spirits, Distant hearts. Chapter 6

Kindred Spirits, Distant hearts. Chapter 6

"...I have to go. I have to meet them, don't you understand?”

Berlin. May 01st 1941


Despite the shocking revelations of recent days, nothing had changed significantly in her feelings but whilst she still loved her parents dearly Katarina now knew that she had to find out more about the family who had been totally unknown to her until just a few short months ago.

Her constant companion, Maria had told her as much about her family as Katarina had revealed about her own and she felt that they were very similar.

Of course, that made great sense in the light of what she now knew but it wasn't enough. Somehow, she needed to meet them and so she had made up her mind that she would travel to Munich to visit them.


The day before, they sat down and talked at length about what she wanted.

“Papa, I am healed enough now to at least sit on a train. It is driving me crazy just sitting here unable to work, unable to go anywhere, I have to go. I have to meet them, don't you understand?”

Siegfried sighed.

“Yes, I do understand, Katarina. This is very hard for your mother and I also but I suppose it is best that we get everything out in the open. Letters take too long. I have already written to Herman and Anna but who can tell how long the letter will take to reach them. We will go tomorrow.”

Katarina frowned.

“We, Papa?”

“Yes, Sweetheart, 'We.' I think we should all go as a family.”


The journey to Munich would take several hours, and so they found themselves on an already bustling platform at five that morning.

The train was in the platform, and they found a compartment and settled in for the long journey ahead.

Siegfried had checked the schedule and the connections. He had also telephoned a hotel near to the main station in Munich and managed to reserve two rooms. It had been quite difficult since so many hotels had been commandeered for use by the Nazis but, once again he had been able to use his position as a diplomat to secure the rooms in one of those hotels.


The journey was reasonably uneventful. Katarina watched the passengers come and go at each stop noting that most of them seemed to be soldiers of one kind or another. She also noticed that there were often men who seemed to take quite an interest in the passengers as they boarded and alighted, as though they were searching for someone.

After the third halt, she mentioned it to her father.

He nodded sadly.

“I see them,” he replied. “They are Gestapo. Always looking for somebody wherever you go.”

As he spoke, there was a commotion on the platform. One of the Gestapo suddenly pointed to a man who was about to board a train on the opposite platform.

As if from nowhere two soldiers in black uniforms appeared, running along the platform with guns in their hands.

She heard shouts of 'Halt!' and 'Stand still!' and space suddenly appeared in the crowd leaving the unfortunate man standing alone.

The victim looked terrified and slowly put his hand into the inside pocket of his jacket which he was holding open so that the soldiers could see what he was doing.

Pulling out what appeared to Katarina to be a small card, he handed it to the agent with clearly shaking hands.

Once upon a time, she thought, she would have been horrified by this scene, but now it was just another victim of a brutal regime. Something she had seen so many times before, so often, in fact, that she didn't even wonder what had drawn the authorities attention to him.

She also noted that the other passengers were just passing by, getting on the train and avoiding, what to them was, just another irritation that impeded their journey a little but otherwise of no importance.

On the edge of her consciousness, a whistle blew once, then once more and with a jolt, the train began to move, and she turned away from the drama and sat back in her seat with a sigh.

Their departure at that moment spared her from the sight of seeing the man being hit with the butts of the soldiers' rifles, breaking several ribs, and being dragged away semi-conscious.

His crime? He was a Jew and not wearing a yellow Star of David. What was to become of him, maybe no-one would ever know.


For a while, the three of them sat quietly, each lost in their own thoughts.

Katrina was amused when suddenly her mother snorted and sat upright with a startled look in her eyes. She had obviously drifted off to sleep.

To Magda's embarrassment, both her husband and daughter burst out laughing, but she soon saw the funny side and joined them in the merriment.

This small diversion was short lived, however as moments later the compartment door slid open.

The unhappy looking conductor asked for their tickets which Siegfried promptly produced for him to inspect.

Katarina wondered what made him so surly but her unasked question was soon answered.

As the conductor handed back the tickets, he was pushed aside by a very authoritarian looking young man wearing a black suit.

“Papers!” he demanded with only his flint like eyes darting from one to the other.

The conductor moved on with a sigh, leaving this arrogant young man to his business.

Both Magda and Katarina reached into their hand bags to retrieve their ID cards, but Siegfried stopped them and stood up.

As Katarina watched, her father seemed to grow before her very eyes, and the official seemed diminished before him.

“And just exactly who might you be to make demands in such an arrogant manner?”

Siegfried spoke quietly and yet with such menace that the young man's eyes opened wide then narrowed to mere slits, weighing up for a moment who this old man, in his eyes at least, might be that he dared to question his authority.

“Gestapo!” he snapped finally. “Show me your papers!”

Siegfried pursed his lips and took a deep breath.


He paused, the word spoken more like a statement than a question as were the following.

“And you expect me to take your word for that.”

Slowly, with eyes narrowed, the young man reached into his pocket and drew out his identity card, opening it inches in front of Siegfried's eyes.

The Nazi insignia was clearly visible to Katarina as he snapped it shut and returned it to his pocket.

“So, Herr Voigt, now I know who you are but do you know who I am?”

The Gestapo agent was starting to look a little nervous. Now he wasn't sure whether this tall, middle-aged man was someone of importance or if he was trying to put him off the scent of something or other with fake bravado.

He looked at the Nazi party badge on Siegfried's lapel and recognised it immediately as the type worn by officials.

Deciding that prudence might be the best option, just in case, he answered in measured tones trying desperately to keep his anger in check. If it turned out that this arrogant man was no-one to be afraid of, then woe betide him.

“No,” he said slowly, “Obviously I don't since you have not yet identified yourself.”

“No,” Siegfried repeated. “You don't, do you?”

He opened his own Identity Card and emulated the way in which the Gestapo man had produced his, snapping it shut just seconds after holding it in front of the bemused man's face.

Although too fast to read details, the agent had seen it for long enough to catch Siegfried's surname and note the obvious insignia of the Auswärtiges Amt or the AA as it was known, the Foreign Office.

“I, I'm sorry, Herr Langsdorff, I didn't know, I have to check everyone.”

Siegfried didn't give a millimetre.

“Then I suggest that you are polite until you do know, Herr Voigt!”

Suddenly, the now seemingly smaller man straightened himself and snapped his heels together.

“Heil Hitler!” he said sharply and turned away quickly without waiting for Siegfried to return the salute... which he didn't.


Sliding the compartment door closed, Siegfried breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief and returned to his seat beside Magda.

“One of these days you are going to get yourself into trouble!” she chastised him. “Why didn't we just show him our papers and let him be gone?”

“Because they are vile, arrogant people. What they get away with is disgusting and if I can put the fear of...” he paused, thinking. “...of Himmler into one of them from time to time then I have done my bit for humanity.”

Magda took his hand whilst Katarina watched silently from the seat opposite.

“Just don't get carried away.”


They had passed through Nuremberg little more two hours before, and the train had been held there for some time. Now they had stopped again.

It had been a very long and tiring journey, and Katarina was beginning to wonder whether they would arrive before sunset.

As she looked out of the window, a freight train passed across, ahead of them from another line. It consisted of wooden wagons, and she wondered idly what was in them. They appeared ventilated so she thought it could have been foodstuff perhaps or even cattle maybe.

Since the wagons were unmarked, she decided that she could never really know what the contents were so she stopped even trying.

The last wagon passed and now she could see that the train was slowly negotiating a junction onto a single line which curved steeply to the left. At the head she could see the plume of smoke rising from the chimney of the black locomotive as it hauled its heavy charges around the tight radius.

Her idle musings were brought to a sudden end with a jolt when their train began to move once more.

As it gathered speed, it passed through a small station, too small for this train to call at but because they were still moving reasonably slowly, she could clearly read the name plates on the platform.

Dachau meant nothing to her, she had never heard of it and had no idea how far it was from Munich. She was tired and really wanted to be off this train. Ten hours was enough for anyone, and they had still not arrived.


It was a further thirty minutes or so before Katarina became aware that the countryside was slowly giving way to houses and then the track they were on was joined by others until there were many.

They were moving slowly now and she saw a huge building right in the centre of the vast expanse of railway lines and on the front was a nameplate, München.

“At last,” she thought. “We are here.”

The train passed under a big steel bridge. Katarina noticed it, particularly because the railway lines were so numerous at this point that the bridge required six complete spans to cross them all.


To her relief, the train finally squealed to a stand in the platform inside the huge canopy of the main station.

Siegfried led them from the train and towards the barrier at the end of the platform where, just like everywhere else they went, their papers were checked along with their tickets.

“Do you know where the hotel is situated, Papa?”

Knowing that her father had travelled to so many places around the world, Katarina wondered if he had journeyed as extensively around Germany. She couldn't recall him mentioning that he had and he usually told them where he was going whenever he went away.

Siegfried smiled.

“Yes, Sweetheart, I do.”


The Hotel was only a few minutes from the station, across the road and along two blocks.

Whilst they stood for a moment waiting for a tram to pass Katarina took a moment to look around her.

Munich was very different to Berlin, even in just the small part she had so far seen. What they did have in common though was a plethora of huge hanging flags in bright red featuring the swastika. They seemed so wrong somehow, so out of place.


The hotel itself, the Stachus, was quite grand but the two, small rooms they were to occupy were at the rear with only a view over the courtyard.

“I'm afraid that I am not permitted the better rooms here,” Siegfried said apologetically in answer to what he thought his wife and daughter were probably thinking. “The rooms at the front are only for the high ranking officials.”

Katarina smiled but said nothing; she knew enough about her father's business to understand that all the foreign ministers were aristocratic and no matter how hard he worked, her father could never reach those levels.

“I suggest we leave our cases here and go and eat before we get the tram to Pasing.”

They all agreed, but her nerves were beginning to get the better of Katarina. Suddenly, she wasn't hungry and once settled in the dining room merely picked at her food.


The view from their table beside a window captivated her, however.

Across the wide open space in front of the hotel, the other side of the busy thoroughfare was an old archway with a large centre opening and a smaller one either side. It reminded her of a medieval castle entrance.

“Karlstor,” he father said, seeing what was holding her attention.

“Huh?” she replied, not realizing she had been so deep in thought.

“The arch. Karlstor. It is one of the gates in the old city wall and has been here since at least the fourteenth century. The area in front is Karlsplatz although most call it Stachus.”

Katarina listened in awe of her father's remarkable knowledge of this city, considering that he lived in Berlin and then she slowly realized.

“How do you know so much about Munich?” she asked.

It was a question that was more to verify her thoughts and the answer she received merely confirmation.

“Your mother and I were born here and grew up here. We never mentioned it because, well, we didn't want you to ask about why we moved. Do you see?”

Katarina nodded.

“Yes, I think so. I want to know all about it one day, the place where I was born too?”

Magda smiled.

“When we get home we will tell you all about this beautiful city, Sweetheart. We have both missed it so much. So very different to Berlin although...”

Her voice trailed away, and she looked at her husband.

“It is different now. You were only a few months old when we took you to Berlin.”

She lowered her voice to little more than a whisper and leaned towards her daughter.

“No Nazi flags everywhere and no soldiers in the streets.”

There was a moments silence until Katarina, seeing that her parents were no longer eating, pushed her own plate to one side.

“Can we go to see Maria now, please? I can't eat at all.”


The suburb of Pasing was several kilometres from the city centre, and the tram seemed to take an age to get there and then a short walk until they found themselves in front of the house where Katarina had been born twenty-three years before.

She had never felt so nervous in her whole life and felt sick in the pit of her stomach. Her whole body felt as though it was vibrating inside and she thought that if she were to try to take a single step, her legs would simply collapse.

Magda took her hand, and her father put his arm around her shoulder and held her tightly.

“I hope they received my letter,” he said.

Without another word spoken, they moved as one, walking up the path to the front door.

Again they stopped, fearful and uncertain, Siegfried's arm raised, poised to knock and yet seemingly afraid to actually lift the cast iron knocker.

Katarina's heart was beating so loudly that she thought they surely could hear it inside the house.

The knocker fell, once, twice and a third, weaker time.

They waited and Katarina's ears hissed as she subconsciously held her breath.

A light appeared from somewhere inside, the sound of a key being turned in a lock and a bolt being drawn back and then, the shining black door opened.

Katarina found herself unable to speak. She had met Herman Kaufmann once, last year but then he was just the father of her friend. Now, the man she was facing in the doorway, that same man, was her biological father and she was afraid.

Siegfried was the first to speak.

“Hello, Herman,” he said quietly. “Did you get my letter?”

“Letter? Oh, yes, yes we did. Just this morning. I, I...”

For a second or two more they stood silently until Herman regained a little of his senses.

“Oh Lord, I'm so sorry. Please, please come inside.”

He stood back and opened the door wide to allow them to enter.

“Anna is in the living room,” he said and ushered them down the hall.


Anna was standing beside her chair, wringing her hands with worry and nerves when they entered.

To Katarina, it was like walking through a fuzzy dream. Not quite a nightmare but just as frightening.

As soon as she laid her eyes on Katarina, Anna clapped her hand to her mouth and tears immediately filled her eyes.

“My baby!” she cried, her voice little more than a cracked whisper.

Katarina went to her and gently put her arms around her waist and hugged her.

She didn't say anything because she didn't know what to say. She couldn't call her 'Mama' because even though she was her mother, Magda was, still held that title and always would.


It was an exceptionally difficult moment for them all. Siegfried and Magda could only stand and watch, hand in hand, wondering what Katarina was thinking.

Katarina, on the other hand only wanted to reassure them that she accepted the situation and didn't blame anyone but in her heart, she still had only two parents, the ones who had raised her from a baby. The ones she had grown up with. Anna may have given birth to her, but she was a stranger, as was her husband.


Katarina stepped back after a moment and wiped her eyes. Now that the tension had finally been broken she found herself able to speak again.

“Mama and Papa have told me everything,” she began. “I admit that I was very upset at first, it was a shock as I am sure you can imagine, but I do understand, now I have had time to think and I want you to know that I don't blame you at all.”

She stopped for a moment and turned towards Siegfried and Magda.

“I need to tell you, though that these are my parents and I love them dearly.”

Anna smiled and wiped her eyes on her handkerchief.

She studied Katarina for a moment.

“I am pleased, Katarina,” she said at long last. “We would not want it any other way. When we made the arrangements for your future that was how we planned it. We couldn't ask Siegfried and Magda just to look after you until our fortunes improved, that would have been too cruel. We wanted you to be a family in your own right and that is why we didn't contact each other for so many years. Who could have known that you would find out in the way that you did. I think God must have had a hand in it.”

She took Katarina's hands and looked at her, studying her.

“You really are so very much like your sister.”

She smiled sadly, and another tear fell from her eye and rolled down her cheek.

At the mention of her sister, Katarina looked around.

“Where is Maria?” she asked.





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