Excerpt from The Green Sofa by Natscha Wurzbach
From the Chapter Four: Evacuation to the Countryside
In the “living room” my father was sitting on the couch, leaning forward, his face in his hands. Above him, the Führer picture was hanging on the wall, and the Führer was fixing me with his steady gaze, as I knew it from school. I sat down beside my father, but didn’t dare to touch him. After a while he took his hands away from his face, stood up, took the picture down, and hung the picture of my mother, just as big, in a silver frame. It showed her in half-profile, tilting her head back, as if she wanted to give her dense mane of hair as much freedom as possible and turn her face to the sun. Outside, the expected storm was coming down. We seemed infinitely far removed from our Munich apartment, from its spaciousness, the furniture we knew. Would the green sofa survive the bombing attacks?
During that night I heard urgent whisperings from the adjoining room, then my mother’s weeping, then the creaking of the bed frame. The thunder went rumbling, exhausted, back and forth between the mountains. The next morning, the sun was shining. I went to the rabbits and hoped that everything would be all right again. Then I see the postman coming. Right after that, my mother runs out of the house, toward me, embraces me in tears, seeks consolation. What she says does not get through to me; what she wants, I resist. Then a strange automobile drives up, two men with snap-brimmed hats and tightly belted trench coats get out. My mother runs to the garden gate. I run away, hide behind the hedge, and look through a hole at the road. My mother is talking to the men, gesticulating vigorously, showing papers. After a while of back and forth the men get back into the car and drive away.
I stayed sitting behind the hedge, tearing off one twig after another, running each through my fingers, crushing the leaves in my fist. Only after a while did I go back into the house. My parents were sitting on the narrow beds, facing each other. “You see how good it was to do these tours,” my mother was just saying. “After all, they can’t just come and take away the husband of an artist with the KdF.” I was told to go into the other room, and from there I tried to catch something of my parents’ conversation. They spoke in whispers, then got louder, then fell back into whispers again. What I could make out was: “Accusation of contempt for the Führer” – “reduced to a fine”– “will they be satisfied with that?” It was there again, that fear of the gas creeping across the floor. Could my parents do something about it? It seemed to me that even my grandmother’s battle cry: “If you knew who I am!” would be of little use here.