“Why do we believe in Germany and the Fuhrer?”
“Because we believe in God, we believe in Germany which He created in His world, and in the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, whom He has sent us.”
“Whom must we primarily serve?”
“Our people and our Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.”
“Why do we obey?”
“From inner conviction, from belief in Germany, in the Fuhrer, in the Movement and the SS, and from loyalty.”
“Good!” The instructor nodded. “Good. Reassemble in thirty-five minutes on the south sports field. Jost: stay behind. The rest of you: dismissed!”
With their cropped hair and their loose-fitting light-grey drill uniforms, the class of SS cadets looked like convicts. They filed out noisily, with a scraping of chairs and a stamping of boots on the rough wooden floor. A large portrait of the late Heinrich Himmler smiled down on them, benevolently. Jost looked forlorn, standing to attention, alone in the centre of the classroom. Some of the other cadets gave him curious glances as they left. It had to be Jost, you could see them thinking. Jost: the queer, the loner, always the odd one out. He might well be due another beating in the barracks tonight.
The instructor nodded towards the back of the classroom. “You have a visitor.”
March was leaning against a radiator, arms folded, watching. “Hello again, Jost,” he said.
They walked across the vast parade ground. In one corner, a batch of new recruits was being harangued by an SS Hauptscharfuhrer. In another, a hundred youths in black tracksuits stretched, twisted and touched their toes in perfect obedience to shouted commands. Meeting Jost here reminded March of visiting prisoners in jail. The same institutionalised smell, of polish and disinfectant and boiled food. The same ugly concrete blocks of buildings. The same high walls and patrols of guards. Like a KZ, the Sepp Dietrich Academy was both huge and claustrophobic; an entirely self-enclosed world.
“Can we go somewhere private?” asked March.
Jost gave him a contemptuous look. There is no privacy here. That’s the point.” They took a few more paces. “I suppose we could try the barracks. Everyone else is eating.”
They turned, and Jost led the way into a low, grey-painted building. Inside, it was gloomy, with a strong smell of male sweat. There must have been a hundred beds, laid out in four rows. Jost had guessed correctly: it was deserted. His bed was two-thirds of the way down, in the centre. March sat on the coarse brown blanket and offered Jost a cigarette.
“It’s not allowed in here.”
March waved the packet at him. “Go ahead. Say I ordered you.”
Jost took it, gratefully. He knelt, opened the metal locker beside the bed, and began searching for something to use as an ashtray. As the door hung open, March could see inside: a pile of paperbacks, magazines, a framed photograph.
Jost shrugged. “Sure.”
March picked up the photograph. A family group, it reminded him of the picture of the Weisses. Father in an SS uniform. Shy-looking mother in a hat. Daughter: a pretty girl with blonde plaits; fourteen, maybe. And Jost himself: fat-cheeked and smiling, barely recognisable as the harrowed, cropped figure now kneeling on the stone barracks floor.
Jost said: “Changed, haven’t I?”
March was shocked, and tried to hide it. Tour sister?” he asked.
“She’s still at school.”
“And your father?”
“He runs an engineering business in Dresden now. He was one of the first into Russia in ’41. Hence the uniform.”
March peered closely at the stern figure. “Isn’t he wearing the Knight’s Cross?” It was the highest decoration for bravery.
“Oh yes,” said Jost. “An authentic war hero.” He took the photograph and replaced it in the locker. “What about your father?”
“He was in the Imperial Navy” said March. “He was wounded in the First War. Never properly recovered.”
“How old were you when he died?”
“Do you still think about him?”
“Did you go into the Navy?”
“Almost. I was in the U-boat service.”
Jost shook his head slowly. His pale face had flushed pink. “We all follow our fathers, don’t we?”
“Most of us, maybe. Not all.”
They smoked in silence for a while. Outside, March could hear the physical training session still in progress. “One, two, three… One, two, three…”
“These people,” said Jost, and shook his head. “There’s a poem by Erich Kastner- "Marschliedchen".” He closed his eyes and recited:
“You love hatred and want to measure the world against it.
You throw food to the beast in man,
That it may grow, the beast deep within you!
Let the beast in man devour man.”
The young man’s sudden passion made March uncomfortable. “When was that written?”
“I don’t know it.”
“You wouldn’t. It’s banned.”
There was a silence, then March said: “We now know the identity of the body you discovered. Doctor Josef Buhler. An official of the General Government. An SS-Brigadefuhrer.”
“Oh God.” Jost rested his head in his hands.
“It has become a more serious matter, you see. Before coming to you, I checked with the sentries” office at the main gate. They have a record that you left the barracks at five-thirty yesterday morning, as usual. So the times in your statement make no sense.”
Jost kept his face covered. The cigarette was burning down between his fingers. March leaned forward, took it, and stubbed it out. He stood.
“Watch,” he said. Jost looked up and March began jogging on the spot.
"This is you, yesterday, right?” March made a show of exhaustion, puffing out his cheeks, wiping his brow with his forearms. Despite himself, Jost smiled. “Good,” said March. He continued jogging. “Now you’re thinking about some book, or how awful your life is, when you come through the woods and on to the path by the lake. It’s pissing with rain and the light’s not good, but off to your left you see something…”
March turned his head. Jost was watching him intently.
“…Whatever it is, it’s not the body…”
March stopped and pointed at Jost. “Don’t dig yourself any deeper into the shit, is my advice. Two hours ago I went back and checked the place where the corpse was found -there’s no way you could have seen it from the road.”
He resumed jogging. “So: you see something, but you don’t stop. You run past. But being a conscientious fellow, five minutes up the road you decide you had better go back for a second look. And then you discover the body. And only then do you call the cops.”
He grasped Jost’s hands and pulled him to his feet. “Run with me,” he commanded.
Jost broke into an unwilling shuffle. Their feet clattered on the flagstones.
“Now describe what you can see. You’re coming out of the woods and you’re on the lake path…”
“Please tell me!”
“I … I see … a car…” Jost’s eyes were closed. “…Then three men… It’s raining fast, they have coats, hoods — like monks…Their heads are down…Coming up the slope from the lake … I… I’m scared … I cross the road and run up into the trees so they don’t see me…”
“They get into the car and drive off…I wait, and then I come out of the woods and I find the body…”
“You’ve missed something.”
“No, I swear…”
“You see a face. When they get into the car, you see a face.”
“Tell me whose face it is, Jost. You can see it. You know it. Tell me.”
“Globus!” shouted Jost. “I see Globus.”