Another case was in progress, and the back of the courtroom was packed solid with spectators, witnesses and relatives of defendants, but I noticed the girl the moment she entered. So did Pinckney. Her radiant pink porcelain beauty stood out sharply against the lined and grim and pinched anxiety of the other faces. Her hair was blue-black and hung to her shoulders. She wore the hooded camel-colored duffel coat affected by the British officers in Carinthia, secured in front with wooden pegs, and black riding boots. She was frowning and looking around for somebody.

There was a stir among the massed Austrian police -Gendarmerie, Kripo, Grenzpolizei- steaming in their heavy woolen uniforms on the benches behind the prosecution table. Pinckney had only to turn around and raise his eyebrows at Inspector Steinbrenner, who immediately slid forward in his seat:

"Gräfin Fyrmian, Herr Oberleutnant."

"Oh my! What's she want?"

But then he had to turn his attention back to the trial. Inspector Steinbrenner continued to whisper into my ear: The case involved one Aschauer, Hausmeister im Schloss Fyrmian, arrested 25. 1. 47 by Gendarmerie St. Gilgen, in possession of one (1) double-barreled shotgun, English manufacture, Marke "Greener." Die Akten liegen vor."

I pulled the file from under the stack in front of Pinckney. Photographs, front and profile. Decent-looking older man with walrus-type black moustache, shirt with no collar, usual jacket with hirshorn buttons.

ASCHAUER, Alois, Hausmeister im Schloss Fyrmian, born 7. XI. 89 Salzburg, son of Bauangestellter Alois A. & Katharina (Henft). Austrian. Roman Catholic. K.u.K. Rainerregiment 1917-1918. Married 6. V1. 23 Maria Felhieber, Zell-am-See. No children. Not member of NSDAP. . . .

The police prepared such detailed biographies for every single file, and before I could find out how the Hausmeister had been apprehended with an English shotgun -possession of a firearm being a violation of Military Government regulations that could, at least theoretically, carry the death penalty- the case was called, I had to give the file back to Pinckney, and the man was brought forward by two policemen. Inspector Steinbrenner and a suntanned green-uniformed young Gendarm rose from the crowd of policemen. Dr. Schmitthuber, wearing a stained, threadbare suit, a shirt with a frayed collar that looked a size too large for his scrawny throat, and a black necktie, came across from the advocates' bench where the Austrian lawyers sat. The usual group formed itself in front of the long raised table: the defendant, behind him two jailers, Dr. Schmitthuber on one side, the two policemen on the other. Behind the table sat Major French, flanked by the court reporter and the interpreter, both German girls. One of them read the charge in German, then the other one translated into English.

"Bekennen Sie sich schuldig oder unschuldig?"

As usual, the man wanted to make a speech at this point, everybody began to talk at once in German and English, Major French restored order by tapping his silver pencil on the desk, and Dr. Schmitthuber announced that the defendant wished to plead guilty to possession of a firearm but begged to be permitted to explain the circumstances.

I could not take my eyes from the Countess Fyrmian, whom the court attendants had squeezed into the end of the second row, where she now sat, leaning forward anxiously, frowning and biting her lower lip with two rather prominent front teeth. They were not buck teeth, just prominent, and they made her thin face even more beautiful. The frown of concentration brought her black eyebrows together. She did not seem to be wearing any makeup, but her cheeks were flushed. . . .

The Gendarm from St. Gilgen was making his report in prescribed Wehrmacht posture, heels of his ski boots together, chest out, fingers laid flat along the seams of his black trousers. There was not much to report. Defendant had been observed descending from the Salzburg train at the station in Strobl-am-Wolfgangsee. Defendant had been carrying a rucksack and walked out of the village into the open country. Defendant's manner of walking had attracted attention; the stationmaster had telephoned Bezirksposten St. Gilgen. Witness had been sent out on a motorcycle. "Angeklagter wurde auf der Landstrasse Strobl - St. WoUgang, bei der Ischllbrücke, gestelltl" His rucksack proved to be empty, but the diligent officer had made him unbutton the overcoat and. . . .

While the defendant stared stolidly at the American flag on the wall behind Major French, Inspector Steinbrenner and the Gendarm demonstrated how the dismantled shotgun had been draped around the man's neck with its own leather sling, so that the stock and trigger assembly hung down on one side of his body and the long blue double barrel on the other. That was the story. He had been taken to the police station and had been in jail awaiting trial ever since. The German girl at Major French's side finished her English translation.


"No further questions," said Pnickney.

"Der Staatsanwalt hat keine weiteren Fragen."

Dr. Schmitthuber, bowing and washing his hands in the air, begged permission to call a witness on the defendant's behalf. This was a surprise. The Austrian lawyers rarely called witnesses, did little cross-examining of police witnesses, in fact did little of anything except deliver Plädoyers, endless impassioned orations which lost whatever kick they might have had in translation, and bored the American officers who sat as judges.

"Dr. Schmitthuber, do you have any more questions for this police officer?" asked Major French.

"No, sir," said the lawyer, bowing and smiling. Pinckney was on his feet again, asking what Dr. Schmitthuber should have asked: Was Aschauer carrying any ammunition? The question was translated. No, replied the policeman. Defendant carried no ammunition of any kind.

Had his residence been searched?

That would be in the jurisdiction of the Kriminalpolizei Salzburg, as the defendant resided in a house in the park of Schloss Fyrmian.

Inspector Steinbrenner testified that the Kriminalpolizei had satisfied itself that no ammunition was on the premises at No. 3, Fyrmian Seegasse. Inspector Steinbrenner also volunteered the information that the defendant had never been arrested.

Dr. Schmitthuber again begged leave to call his witness. The Countess Fyrmian was on her feet, striding toward the table in her riding boots, still frowning. The cluster of men parted and she took position directly in front of Major French.

"I wish to address the judge in English." Her voice was soft but perfectly audible. Her accent was very slight.

"You may speak English," said Major French, "but please wait for your testimony to be translated into German, so that the defendant and the other witnesses can understand it. Please give us your name and address."

"Paola Hedwig Anna von Fyrmian. Fyrmian Seegasse No. 1, Salzburg."

Dr. Schmitthuber drew breath to begin his examination, but she paid no attention to him. "I wish to speak about Mister Aschauer. Mister Aschauer is in my employ. Mister Aschauer has been in the employ of my husband's family since nineteen hundred and nineteen. The gun -this gun Mister Inspector Steinbrenner holds, is my gun. It was the gun of my husband. Mister Aschauer was in Strobl for me. I ordered Mister Aschauer to take this gun to Strobl." She stopped, out of breath, and her face was more flushed than before.

"Frau Gräfin--" began Dr. Schmitthuber.

"When the Americans came to Salzburg we were ordered to give all weapons to the police. I sent Mister Aschauer to the military police post in Riedenburg with a handwagon full of guns -my husband's guns, my husband's brother's guns, and his own gun. I have here the receipt; June the twelfth, nineteen hundred and forty-five, signed by George W. O'Connor, Junior, Captain, M.P. You will see here four-five-seven-nine-guns, various hunting guns, some quite valuable. . . ."

Her eyes were flashing now, and when she spoke again the crowded room was spellbound, despite the fact that many of the spectators could not understand what she was saying. The girl beside Major French at first tried valiantly to translate into German, but the Countess would not let her catch up, and since the Major did not interrupt, the translation stopped.

"I have a small child, a little girl of three years. She is extremely sick. She weighs only ten kilos because she has not had enough to eat. The doctor told me that she cannot get better unless she can have more fats, and milk, and eggs. How can I get that for her? Oh yes, I received a letter from the doctor and I stood in line for two hours at the Ernährungsamt and received cards for more ration, a special ration card, but then we take the card to the store and they have no eggs anyway. We may buy two eggs per month, instead of one egg, but there are no eggs at all! No fat, no eggs, there is just nothing there at all! We know there is only one way to get such things for us, that is to go into the country with a rucksack and trade to the farmers something of value, something like American cigarettes and coffee."

Pinckney said under his breath, "She's getting herself in deeper and deeper." Major French leaned forward. "Madam, I have to warn you that these practices are flagrant violations of both Austrian and United States Military Government regulations, although this man is not being charged with such violations at this time--"

"Of course they are violations!" she snapped. "Have you ever seen a child, your own child, so hungry she is crying in the night? And I do not have any cigarettes and coffee anyway--" She paused for a moment and bit her lip again. "But one day we were taking books from a closet in the Schloss, we cannot live in the Schloss now, it is empty, but I wanted to take these books away so they do not rot, and behind the books I found this other gun. I don't know why it was in the closet. I did not put it there. Perhaps my husband's father left it there many years ago; the closet was in his apartment. But you see it is an expensive gun, a fine English shotgun, and I thought that perhaps a farmer might give us some eggs and butter for it. I asked Mister Aschauer to make some inquiries. He was told of some farms on the Wolfgangsee where they might be interested in such a trade, and so I sent him there to sell the gun for eggs. And then he was arrested."

Another long silence, while everyone looked at her.

Major French said quietly, "Countess Fyrmian, I must advise you that your statements here can subject both you and this defendant to prosecution in the Austrian courts."

The interpreter looked at him and then repeated his words in German. The Countess bit her lip and looked at the floor. Major French continued. "Now this man has pleaded guilty of possession of a firearm and the only question before me is the imposition of sentence."

Before the interpreter could finish with that, the Countess looked up and said, "Major French, I believe I am the guilty person, because it was my gun and I sent Aschauer to sell it, so if someone must be punished it should be me."

Major French leaned forward without waiting for the translation. "Madam, may I just ask whether you would have considered making such a statement before a National Socialist court, in this room, two years ago?" None of us had seen him betray emotion during a case, but now there was a noticeable ring of irritation in his voice. "If your servant had violated some German regulation involving a stiff prison sentence or perhaps the death penalty -I don't know whether counsel has told you this, but I can refer a weapons case to a General Military Court- in a situation like that, under the previous administration, would you have come in here and asked the judge to punish you instead of your servant?"

The Countess put her chin up and looked him in the eye. "No, sir, I would not, because a Nazi judge might have had me hanged or put into a camp to die, and I do not wish to die! But we are told every day, in the newspapers and on the radio, that the Americans are not like the Nazis, the Americans are teaching us to be democratic instead of fascistic, to be fair instead of unfair, to be merciful instead of cruel. That is why I dared to come before you and explain exactly what happened, to tell you the truth, with the hope that you would not punish this man for obeying my order."

Then she swallowed hard and looked down again, while the German girl tried to translate what she had said. A murmur arose in the audience. The men around her shifted their feet nervously while Major French glared down at them.

"Well, does the defendant have anything to say?"

"Will der Angeklagte etwas sagen?"

The little Hausmeister had watched the tense exchange without understanding a word of it. Now he shrugged his shoulders, smiled with embarrassment, and mumbled something in dialect.

The German girl leaned forward to hear. "The times today are very hard," she translated.

"Yes, they are," said Major French dryly. "Prosecution?"

Pinckney stood up. 'If the court please, while the arguments presented by the Countess Fyrmian have no legal relevancy to the case, I believe the absence of ammunition might influence your Honor's view as to the sentence, as might the fact that this man has no previous convictions, or even arrests, of any kind." He sat down as this was translated, then had another thought and stood up again. "The court might also consider referring this matter to the Austrian authorities for possible prosecution under the black market regulations."

"No previous arrests?' Major French turned to Inspector Steinbrenner.

"Nein, Herr Major. Nie verhaftet, nicht vorbestraft."

"All right." Major French sat up in his chair, put his elbows on the table, and speaking slowly so the girl could keep up with him, said, "Mr. Aschauer, the sentence of this court is that you be imprisoned for three years at hard labor. The sentence is suspended during your good behavior. Your file will be turned over to the Austrian prosecutor's office for such action as they may deem appropriate under local laws. This court will recess for ten minutes." Then he got up quickly and walked out the door behind his chair.

The policemen and Aschauer stood in a silent puzzled group while the German girl and Dr. Schmitthuber explained what had happened, but the Countess Fyrmian turned on her heel and strode out of the room, passing directly in front of the table where Pinckney and I had come to our feet. She had put up the floppy brown hood over her head, but we could see that she was crying.

"What did you make of that?" asked Lieutenant Pinckney, lighting his cigarette. We were standing at the head of the stairs in the echoing hall of the Landesgericht, a little apart from the crush of police and witnesses and spectators.

"Well,that's the first weapons case he's given a suspended sentence to," I said. "All the judges are tough on weapons."

"Damn right, and so they should be. One thing we don't need is Krauts running around the countryside with guns. That is Strengstens Verboten and we mean positively. Why'd the old man go easy on this one then?" Pinckney's blue eyes twinkled. "What did you think of the Gräfin?"

"That's the most beautiful girl I've ever seen," I said, and Pinckney threw back his head and roared with laughter, so hard that angry faces turned toward us. "Oh you do, do you? Well, let me tell you something, son, you got a lot of company. As a matter of fact, that's why he let her Hausmeister off like that. I know what got to him; it was when she said so emphatically that she had no cigarettes or coffee to trade. Nearly everybody in that room knew she could have had all the cigarettes and coffee, and all the eggs and butter and PX food for that matter, that her little old heart desires, or that her baby needs to get well now. And Major French knows it as well as anybody.

"You mean the Major--"

"Oh no, not him, but plenty of others. Plenty of others, including some very big guns indeed, one especially, back in '45. Not just your common or garden variety field grade officers, either. Silver stars, my boy. Captured black Mercedestouring cars, with pennants and motorcycle outriders. Receptions at the Kavalierhaus, Schloss Klessheim. Champagne and caviar. Nothing but the best for the Countess Fyrmian."

"But what happened?"

"Nothing," said Pinckney. "That's the point, she wouldn't play. Keine Interesse in the occupying power, apparently. And all the nice things that would have gone with it. A rare bird, at least in this town, so don't get your hopes up, Junior. But I guess the old man respects her for it."

"What happened to her husband?"

Kaputt," said Pinckney. "Hauptmann of Gebirgsjäger. Bought it in Italy somewhere, I understand. You ought to go out and look at her Schloss, it's on a little pond the other side of the Mönchsberg, in the suburbs. Little yellow rococo palace, beautiful, but it's all crapped up now, abandoned German field hospital, the windows are broken. Probably lives in one of the small houses around the lake. I guess she's having a tough time, but there are a lot of gentlemen in this garrison who would have been glad to help her out. Ach du lieber Augustin!" Pinckney. rolled his eyes.

"Sir, will the Austrians do anything about the black market charge?"

Pirickney shook his head. "What charge? Intent to go out hamstering? They'd have to lock up the whole town if that was actionable. No, I only suggested that to give French a way out. The whole thing looked funny, the girl making a speech in English and getting her Hausmeister off, the high-and-mighty have a special in with the Militärregierung or something, so this way it sounds like something more will come of it, but nothing will. Well, there's the good Inspector waving, I guess the Major wants to go back to work-"

previous chapter, next chapter



1961 - A Point of View
[1] The annual meeting of the stockholders of the Boatwright Corporation
[2] What are you going to do about Boatwright and what are you going to do about yourself?
[3] Have we learned anything this evening, Doctor?
[4] Producing results?
[5] Alexander's Feast
[6] How'd you like to go over to Salzburg for a month with me?

1947 - An Island
[7] You're not going to Berlin. You're staying here.
[8] All right, we're the Military Government.
>[9] The Americans are teaching us to be democratic instead of fascistic.
[10] Well, this is Fasching.
[11] Letters after Ash Wednesday
[12] Say Boris is at Schloss Fyrmian.
[13] THE AMERICAN ACADEMY IN EUROPE - Prospectus for the First Session
[14] Learn to think of people as individuals.
[15] Parlez-moi d'amour, redites-moi des choses tendres.
[16] Not one thing left to show that you've ever been on earth? - "Sources of Soviet Conduct"
[17] A Countess, a Prussian Officer and a Ländler
[18] Now this part of your life is over and I'm sending you home.
[19] A father who's too busy to watch his son die. - The Spring of 1961
[20] I cannot sell Schloss Fyrmian to the Academy.

1961 - A Change of Air
[21] The first thing I saw was the Festung Hohensalzburg far in the distance, silhouetted against the shadowy curtain of the high mountains.
[22] Next day at the Academy we got to work - Graham, you know what Fleischer did?
[23] Im weißen Rößl am Wolfgangsee
[24] Brockaw writing a thesis on Austrian baroque architecture? - Boatwright Corporation and Boris Fleischer, plaintiffs
[25] You know there a Mr. Devereaux? Mr. Armistead Devereaux?
[26] I think always of Peter Devereaux.
[27] It sounds like an act of desperation, and it won't hold up in court.
[28] In those Oklahoma Hills WHERE AH WAS BOW-AHHHN!
[29] ... that we should meet again like this . . . I think perhaps there is a reason.
[30] "Is there here an American by name of Brockaw?"
[31] This is Boris Fleischer!
[32] "Does Hans work for Gehlen?" Paola shook her head. "More the other way around."
[33] Won't you please come home? Everybody needs you, I most of all.
[34] With this Waffenstillstand you have time now.
[35] You're going to regret this for the rest of your life!
[36] We Europeans would not do it. None of us. - People think you need medical attention.
[37] Will they trust you?
[38] Some things about the U.S.A. are perhaps rather important, and to us impressive.
[39] You're going to need a good lawyer.

version: March 2, 2004
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Arthur R.G. Solmssen, Joachim Gruber