As promised, today I give you another sneak peek into the book that consumes my thoughts. Of all the characters in the book, this one is the most difficult to write emotionally. I don’t like tapping into his head. It’s ugly there.
This is a young man named Frederick Herrmann. He is a German. He is a Nazi soldier and his deepest desire is simply to be seen as a man by his father, who also happens to be one of Hitler’s confidants. Frederick’s story is sad. It is an inside look at the making of a monster and I have to force my imagination to go to places that are unnatural and dark. It is this character that I fear writing the most.
And so I give you a small snippet of my Antagonist – Frederick Herrmann.
As a boy, I often listened to my father speak with his fellow soldiers about the growing need to create a pure Aryan race. My earliest memories reside in the dusty garden of our home, my mother moving in and out of the house at the bidding of the powerful men. I moved the dirt in circles not because I enjoyed it, but because it gave the appearance of youthful ignorance. My play made me invisible to the men of stature and allowed me to listen and glean.
As I dragged my fingers through Munich’s hallowed Earth, I learned the ways of manhood. I listened closely as my father and the others spoke, their eyes steely blue. Thin lips organizing the mobilization of the masses. As a boy of only four, I knew of the shameful death at Feldherrenhalle that left true German Nationalists martyred at the hands of a misguided Bavarian government. I learned of a man who was to be greater than all others. I heard of his bravery, of the Putsch he ignited against the Beer Hall.
The night after I listened to my father retell the story, my mother forced me to wash the mud, my cloak of invisibility, off of my hands an feet. After the forced cleansing, I stood before the mirror in my small bedroom imagining what this man they called Hitler must look like. Grabbing the stick I’d brought in from the garden, I marched back and forth, steps of power masked in the body of a child. I was the great, brave Hitler…until my mother came in and ordered me into my bed.
“You must never pretend to be that man again,” my mother hissed, tucking the covers around me so tightly that my chest constricted with each breath. “This game your father is playing is dangerous,” she said, her breath hot on my cheek. “Don’t become like him.”
The last words were a vapor. They wafted from her lips to my ears and locked inside my memory.
That was the night I began to hate my mother.
Two days later, I would see him for the first time. When Hitler entered the room I stopped short. We were inside the house, which left me without the protection of the dusty Earth. The floorboards creaked and the hollow walls reverberated my heartbeat like a warrior’s drum.
After greeting my father formally, Hitler turned and locked eyes with me. I could not hide and so I stood still, awed by his presence. He was not a tall man. My father, in his great stature, dwarfed the mighty Hitler. But the confidence that the future Fuhrer possessed made him a giant to me.
“Hello, boy,” he said. His voice was stiff. It wasn’t warm or friendly. I made him uncomfortable. I knew it and so did my father.
“Leave us, Fredrick,” my father barked and I immediately obeyed. I learned quickly to never disobey my fathers’ command. As I hurried from the room, I heard him speak again. “Train him right, Tomas,” Hitler said evenly. “Train him right and someday he will be a part of history.”
He was right.
It never occurred to me that I might do anything else with my life. I am the son of a German Commander. My father stood in the presence of the Great Furher. Would I be anything but a soldier? Could I be anything else?
©Kelli Stuart, 2012