I was already on vacation in Westerland. Hundreds of bathers were splashing in the surf. It was exactly like the day the murder of Franz Ferdinand was announced. A band was playing for the holiday crowds when suddenly, like white petrels, a flock of newsboys stormed across the boardwalk: "Walther Rathenau assassinated! "
Panic broke out and shattered through the whole Reich. Instantly the mark plunged - and continued straight down until it reached the millions and billions and trillions of fantasy, of madness. Only now did the real witches' sabbath begin; by contrast, our Austrian inflation- 15,000 to I - was child's play. It would take a book to describe what happened- and today such a book would sound like a fairy tale. ...
- Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday
SILENCE WITH VOICES
If you are raised in the Friendly Persuasion you learn to sit in silence. The silence can continue for a long time if nobody is moved to speak, but even as a little kid I was not restless or fidgety because I enjoyed the silence. They tell you to "Heed the intimations within."
What was I doing at First Day Meeting after all these years? And what a very strange one: the spartan living room of a third floor apartment in the Dorotheenstrasse, a dozen miscellaneous benches and chairs arranged to form a hollow square around the iron stove, from which a handful of glowing coals gave forth a little warmth and a little light, the cold November rain streaming against the windowpanes - and the faces. A few were sedate, serious, well-fed Philadelphia faces, appropriately composed; the rest were mostly gaunt, politely puzzled, the faces of the German guests.
I had fought it as hard as I could.
"Miss Boatwright, there must be a thousand people in Berlin who could interpret what is said at a Meeting."
"Not a thousand, I think, who were born into the Society of Friends, who have attended Meeting all their lives -"
"Does that really make such a difference?"
"I think so."
"Miss Boatwright, I haven't been to Meeting in. .. years."
"I know that." A long look. I understood what it meant. I dropped my eyes.
"Miss Boatwright, my German's not that good -"
"The people here assure me that thy German is the best they've ever heard from an American. That handsome Fräulein did her job. What was her name?"
It was only an experiment, Miss Boatwright told me. In addition to providing food, the American Friends Service Committee wanted to spread the Quaker Message to the Germans. "Our task is to interpret a friendly Germany to the rest of the world, and a friendly rest of the world to Germany. The Germans feel terribly isolated. We want to change that, by bringing all kinds of people into normal personal contact."
A few Americans directing the food distribution had started gathering for Weekly Meetings, and now they wanted to include some German "friends of Friends." Miss Boatwright therefore composed a polite letter of invitation, explaining the simple procedure of a Meeting for Worship - and here we were, a room full of silent faces including, to my surprise, the faces of Alfred and Sigrid von Waldstein.
Heed the intimations within?
In retrospect, the death of Walther Rathenau was a watershed not only for the Germans but also for me. Whether I had done right or wrong, I had thrown myself into their lives and into their history.
We only accomplished part of Christoph's mission. Kaspar was arrested, all three of us were grilled for hours, first by detectives, then by an icy middle-aged Untersuchungsrichter, the investigating judge who was preparing the case against the murderers, but the call on Dr. von Winterfeldt made the difference for us.
Within a few hours the police had caught all the participants except the actual killers. It was not the names I had obtained from Kaspar; it was their car again. They had rented the second car. After the murder, Techow, the driver, returned the car to the garage and carried off a duffel bag containing the long overcoats and the flying caps which had disguised them, but before he dumped the bag into the Landwehr Canal he checked the contents. One of the flying caps was missing. Techow sent his sixteen-year-old brother, a high-school student, back to the garage to look for the cap. By that time news of the murder was all over Berlin, the garage owner became suspicious, the boy became panicky, the police were called....
Each arrest led to others. Over eighty people were pulled in. Two weeks later the investigating judge released everybody except the inner circle: Tillessen, von Salomon, the Techow brothers and a few more. were held for trial by the Constitutional Court in Leipzig.
Kern and Fischer disappeared. We heard later that they sailed far out into the Wannsee and spent hours sleeping in the sunshine. They left Berlin, made their way to the Baltic, missed their connection with a boat that was to take them to Sweden, then switched back toward central Germany, hiding in the daytime and walking through the forests at night, the objects of an enormous manhunt. One night in July people noticed a light in what was supposed to be an empty castle on the river Saale, in the province of Thüringen. The police were called, the castle was surrounded, Kern appeared at a tower window, the police opened fire, and Kern was killed. Fischer put Kern's body on a bed, sat down on the other bed, and blew his brains out.
When Kaspar Keith was released from the Alexanderplatz he didn't come home.
The rain beat against the windows and nobody seemed moved to speak. The Germans were certainly not going to say anything before the Americans, and the Americans - I was pretty sure - would wait for Miss Boatwright, so the question was: how long would she wait?
One obstacle to the self-awareness that is supposed to develop inside you during silent worship is "selfish or degrading desire". That's what we were taught.
Here I am waiting for God to speak within me, but the emotions I feel are insatiable appetite - and shame. The thing with Bärbel and with Baby is completely out of control. Does Miss Boatwright know? If not, it won't be long. But the worst is that Falke knows and Mutti Bauer knows, and they seem to be all for it! Baby goes to school now, Bärbel poses, Mutti cooks, Falke runs around to the galleries trying to sell the pictures we produce - and I pay for everything, because I've never had so much money in my life.
The money doesn't come from painting.
When my forward delivery contracts came due in September the mark had fallen so far that one dollar bought 1,200 marks on the Amsterdam Exchange. After I settled my contracts and paid Waldstein & Co. what I owed them I still had a profit of $2,000.
"No more forward contracts," said Dr. Strassburger. "Nobody wants to take the other side. I would advise you to leave five hundred dollars in Amsterdam and use the rest to purchase stocks on the Berlin Exchange. That only requires twenty-five percent margin. You can give us a note for the balance. If the stocks go up in price, you sell enough to pay your note."
"And what if they go down?"
He shrugged. "You still have five hundred dollars in Amsterdam."
"But I'll owe you more than that."
"Correct," said Dr. Strassburger, looking at me calmly across his folded hands.
I did what he suggested. By the middle of November my shares had gone up but I didn't reduce my note. I bought more stocks.
It is hard to explain how it was. I didn't even have to go to a bank like the other speculators. I would get up quite late and Meier would serve my breakfast and then I would telephone Christoph, who would tell me how my stocks were doing, I should sell this and buy that, pay off one note and renew another.... I tried to enter each transaction into a little cash ledger I carried around with me.
Each time a note came due the marks in which it was payable had depreciated to a fraction of the original principal amount. I didn't understand how the banks could operate this way until it was explained that they were allowed to discount -that is, sell - their customers' notes to the Reichsbank, so in effect the government was financing the whole crazy system. In any event, I kept accumulating more stocks in steel companies and coal mines and chemical plants - and more debts to Waldstein & Co. Once in a while I sold some stocks to pay my expenses, which amounted to very little in terms of dollars but which had become the principal support of the Keith and Falke households.
Heed the intimations within.
Sigrid von Waldstein had smiled when she saw me, and I was glad. Bobby's reaction on the day of the murder had reflected the reaction of his family: an instinctive drawing back, sort of looking at us with different eyes. Despite Dr. von Winterfeldt, Kaspar's name appeared in the newspapers. Only once, when he was released, but that was enough. The Waldsteins didn't like this connection. Christoph felt it at the Bank. I felt it when I telephoned Lili to ask if she wanted to go sailing on Sunday. She would like to go sailing but she had to visit a cousin in Potsdam....
Helena and Sigrid intervened. Of course I wasn't there, but I could imagine Helena shouting at Baron Eduard: Christoph was trying to keep his crazy brother out of it! And he did keep him out of it, the judge let Kaspar go, and Peter Ellis wanted to help the family-
- and Walther Rathenau is dead! They should have called the police.
The police would not have done anything! I told you what Gerichtsrat Winterfeldt said -
That's his uncle. The wife's a Ludendorff ....
In the end they let Alfred make the decision.
Miss Boatwright stood up.
As she had suggested, I stood up too. She spoke very slowly and paused after every phrase, and I tried to translate.
They told me that I did all right, but of course I can't remember any of it. She didn't offer any words of welcome or explanation - nothing of that sort. She must have plunged right into her thoughts; they might have been about anything at all, just a few simple sentences, perhaps about the need for individuals in different countries to speak to each other as people, instead of nations speaking to each other through emissaries. Then she sat down, I sat down, the room was silent again.
"Do you think I should resign from the Bank?" Christoph had asked one evening in July. His parents had returned from Pomerania, and his mother was eating dinner with us.
"Why should you do that?" I answered.
"In view of the circumstances, perhaps it would be the honorable thing."
"What circumstances? You haven't done anything wrong, you haven't done anything dishonorable - "
His mother suddenly spoke up: "Of course this would never have happened under the Kaiser."
"What wouldn't, Mother?"
"This whole ... scandal. They would not have made a Jew the Foreign Minister."
"Mother! You think it was Rathenau's fault that they shot him?"
"These people are powerful enough already. The banks, the law courts, the newspapers, the department stores ... now they are going to be cabinet ministers, they are going to govern Germany?"
"The Kaiser had no more faithful servants, Mother. You know that."
"Perhaps. That doesn't mean we want them to rule us, does it?" Frau Keith wiped her mouth with her napkin, rolled it into the silver ring and left the table. She was crying.
We had not heard a word from Kaspar.
One of the Americans stood up, a reedy pale young man with heavy spectacles. The past months in Berlin reminded him of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. He had translated it into English. He then began to read his English version without pausing for me to translate, but of course I could not have translated back into Rilke's words anyway. I didn't know what to do.
Alfred von Waldstein stood up. "If I may do so, I would like to repeat that poem in German, as Rilke wrote it."
Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr gross.
Alfred recited all three verses from memory. Then he sat down. And he looked at me.
On the eighteenth of July all the newspapers reported the deaths of Kern and Fischer at Castle Saaleck. I was with Bärbel that evening and didn't get back to the Villa Keith until after midnight. On my bedside table was a piece of crested notepaper.
My father has asked me to discuss the Rathenau matter with you and Peter Ellis. I would be glad to see you both at No. 4, Pariser Platz on the 20th at six o'clock.
Their townhouse, in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate, was supposed to be closed for the summer, but the moment we rang, a young underbutler opened the door, led us through huge echoing hallways, through a living room filled with ghostly lumps of white-draped furniture, into a cool, dark library. The curtains had been parted just enough to let in some evening sunshine and to reveal a glimpse of city garden - grass and shrubbery and a fountain in front of a high brick wall.
Alfred turned away from the window, shook hands politely, and motioned us into the leather armchairs by the empty fireplace.
"I'm drinking some sherry. Will you join me?"
"No, thank you," said Christoph.
"No, thank you," said I.
Alfred nodded to the butler, who backed out and closed the door.
A woman stood up, a small thin woman of middle years, with transparent skin and mouse-colored hair tied back into a bun. She spoke in German, very slowly, so I stood up and tried to translate.
"I feel that the people of other nations hate the German people and I wonder why this is, because we do not hate the people of other nations. My son was killed in France, but he did not hate the French soldiers, and I do not hate the French soldiers. The War was not started by the people; the War was started by the kaisers and the ministers and the generals. Germany fought alone against the world, fought alone four years, and of course we were beaten, and now the people who beat us want us to pay enormous unbelievable sums in gold and coal and iron and steel, sums so high we cannot possibly pay them. Why is this? I do not understand it. I want to say that the Quakers are the only people from the other side - the only people I have met - who brought not only food for our starving children but also offered us a hand in friendship. And we will never forget it."
She sat down. I sat down.
The day after our interrogation at the Pariser Platz I got up later than usual, ate breakfast alone, and telephoned Christoph at the Bank. There was not much to report: the mark was falling steadily, my German stocks were becoming more valuable every day, I was to sit tight. Neither of us mentioned the Waldsteins.
"Are you going to Neukölln this afternoon?
"Yes, of course, my lessons. . ."
"My friend, you are not getting in trouble, are you?"
"What do you mean?" Of course I knew what he meant, but why bring it up now, in the middle of a business call?
"Helena has heard stories about you. The artists are beginning to talk."
"About my pictures?"
"Not so much about your pictures as your models."
"Have you heard from Helena today?"
"No ... I'm sorry, Peter, there is another call for me -"
I finished my coffee and went upstairs for a moment. The telephone rang. Meier appeared in the hall below. "Fräulein Elizabeth von Waldstein, Mister Ellis."
Oh look how brown you are! she said. And look how white I am, like chalk. Sailing on the Havel again? Oh I would like that so much. Will you ever take me sailing? You'd take Bärbel. if she asked. You don't really like her better, you like her boobs and her ass. In that last picture, the two of us on the bed, you made me look like a boy. It's because we didn't have food, you know, when I was growing. I was hungry all the time, so hungry I couldn't go to sleep at night, and when I did sleep I had dreams about chocolate cake ... one time, I was very little, some fellow brought Mutti a chocolate cake and it was so good but it made me sick to my stomach, I had to puke....
Don't worry, they won't be home for an hour at least. You like me to do that? Mmmm ... You like that? That's better than Bärbel does it? Mmmm?
Now that you're giving us the money for butter and eggs, I'm going to look like Bärbel, you wait. It won't be long. Yesterday Mutti beat an egg into a glass of milk and I drank the whole thing and I wasn't sick. And she wouldn't let Bärbel have any. It was all for me.
Or would you rather have me looking like a boy? Is that why you painted me that way, lying on my stomach like that? Bärbel on her back and me with my popo in the air ... You want to do it to me like I was a boy? Hm? You sure? Some men just love that -pretend I'm a boy when I'm really not a boy, so it's all right to do it that way. It hurts a little but I'll do it with you.... No? You sure? Why did you pose me with my ass like that, looking like a boy? Oh don't be mad. I know you're not a homo, I'm teasing you.... But you like this, don't you? ... Mmmm? ... just tell me I do it better than Bärbel.... Tell me you love me better than Bärbel- or I'll stop!
One of the older Americans stood up, so I stood up too. Again I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was something appropriate to the occasion and he said it slowly, waiting for me to translate. I think he spoke about the history of the Society of Friends, how it originally developed under extreme oppression in England, how it prospered in the United States, how it has changed, how it is organized today, that it was the intention of certain Friends here today to continue Weekly Meetings at this location and that all persons interested in participating were sincerely welcome. For those who would care to stay for a short visit, coffee will be served in the room next door.
He sat down and shook hands with Miss Boatwright. Miss Boatwright turned and shook hands with me. The Meeting was over.
first pages of book
PROLOGUE - THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 1922
I. HOW I GOT THERE
1. PARIS 1922
2. VERDUN 1916
3. IT'S STEALING MONEY, ISN'T IT
4. WHERE WERE YOU IN 1919?
5. RELIABLE TROOPS
6. AN ISLAND
7. BISMARCK FOUND THEM USEFUL
9. THE LITTLE HOUSE
10. INDIAN CROSSES
11. ANOTHER PART OF TOWN
12. A VIEW OF THE GENDARMENMARKT
13. TWO FOR TEA
14. ON THE TOWN
15. A VIEW OF THE HAVEL
II. WHAT HAPPENED
17. THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 1922
18. MONDAY, JUNE 19, 1922
19. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 1922
20. FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1922
21. SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 1922
22. WHAT HAPPENED?
III. THE WITCHES' SABBATH
>23. SILENCE WITH VOICES
24. THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS
25. SAME SONGS, DIFFERENT SINGERS
26. THEY'RE ONLY GOING TO HIRE HIS VOICE
27. INFLATION WORKS IN DIFFERENT WAYS
28. SMALL CHANGE
29. WHY NOT PAINT LILI?
30. COLD WIND IN MAY
31. ROLLING THUNDER
32. WALDSTEIN'S VOICE
33. THE MATTER OF A DOWRY
34. A RUSSIAN WORD AND A GERMAN WORD
35. THE MARCH ON BERLIN
36. A PIG LOSES MONEY ALL THE TIME
37. THE ARTISTS' BALL
IV. STRIKE TWELVE ZEROs
38. AMYTAL DREAMS
40. PROFESSOR JAFFA'S PROGNOSIS
41. THE OTHER SUBJECT
42. ROLLING HOME