I'll See You Down There
Stendal, Germany. 1938
Harald waited for Sigi to compose himself…
Sigi took two brisk steps and then did what he had promised himself… the most perfect swallow-dive, arms outstretched, as if coming off the high-board at the pool. The static-line snaked out behind him… a jerk… and he was floating, floating slowly towards the ground.
Harald clipped on and followed him down, listening to the youngster's howls of glee… What had terrified many recruits was for him… pure pleasure. Harald smiled, the boy would never be able to go back to an office or factory job now. Even returning to school to await his enlistment was going to be an anticlimax. He looked forward to being terribly pestered for the next few months. There was no chance of it being the only jump before they gave Sigi his own 'chute on enlistment… his very own 'chute came after six jumps. Perhaps they would need to think about that… What did you do with a balloon-qualified recruit who already had his own parachute…
This was going to require some thought.
Then he had another sinking feeling, and not just because the ground was coming up to meet him.
He had realised just as he landed… in a month the recruits of the present intake would be finished with the balloon… they would move onto the airfield… and a Junkers Ju52 plane, and so would Sigi's ambitions! What was worse was that Gott wasn't going to want to be left out of that thrill either… God! This was going to require a subtle solution… He needed to discuss it with the major… sooner rather than later!
Harald rose to his feet, and realised that the landing had been a lot less traumatic than usual. Even for experienced instructors, landing was always a controlled crash.
Then Sigi ran up, calling…
"Harald, you did a Gott-landing!" Harald thought about it… indeed he had.
The morning spent playing at Gott-landings, as Sigi termed them, had altered his style… Now he no longer jumped in the style he was supposed to teach the recruits… Was there no end to the problems that these kids brought to his door!
He put that thought to one side for a moment… Sigi had just done the most perfect first jump ever seen… well the first authorised one… well the first almost-authorised one.
"That was the most perfect first jump I have ever seen! I shouldn't have told you if you were a recruit… but that one was perfect!"
He hugged the boy.
Realising too late what he was doing Harald let go and smartly stepped back!
"I don't know what you plan to tell your father, but if I was him I would be proud beyond… well, beyond pride. What you just did was exceptional!"
"I don't think I shall tell him anything… It's a bit late for him to start being proud of me. So long as you are… that's all I need for now!"
Were these enlistment papers or adoption papers that Sigi needed to fill in?
They went to the office and filled in all but the parental signatures for Sigi's enlistment.
Sigi was very subdued. He understood the seriousness of what he was doing.
This was a special day and a special opportunity.
For every boy of his generation, to serve in an elite corps was a dream fulfilled.
Now, it was all his, just as long as his father signed, his mother didn't veto it, and… provided he passed the physical. None of these he really worried about.
The gatekeepers of Valhalla were on his side… today.
When Sigi finally left for home, Harald received an order to go round to the major's office. He knocked and entered with the easy familiarity and strict discipline that marked relationships across Fallschirmjäger ranks.
"So Harald, I hear that your young protégé can dive!" Said with a smile.
"I heard that rumour too… It would appear that it really was discipline that kept him in the basket last time."
"I hear he was shouting how much fun it was all the way down!"
"Also true… I was afraid that he'd taken his eyes off the ground and would get smacked in the face."
"But he didn't?"
"No indeed he didn't… By the time I landed he was up and watching… and he had the sense not to distract me as I landed!"
"I gather it wasn't your usual crash-landing either?" The major had eyes and ears everywhere.
"No indeed sir… I'd been trying to see how the youngsters landed so lightly… Sigi today spent nearly three hours on the high tower trying to perfect what his friend was demonstrating last week. I was copying what he did, and in the excitement of the youngster's jump, I did what I'd spent all morning doing, a roll instead of knees and elbows."
"It was successful?" The major had a reputation for being open to new ideas.
"Yes indeed. I landed safely and with less strain on my forearms. But, more to the point we jumped from the high tower for three hours, with no injury and no discomfort afterwards. Normally two or three jumps and you need a break… Young Sigi did three hours and then jumped from the balloon!"
"Remarkable! And you say there was no discomfort?"
"Well if you land awkwardly, on a lumpy mat it strains your ankles but Gottfried had ideas on that too."
"Yes, I hear that removing the safety mats is one of them!" The Major sounded sceptical.
"Not exactly. That was only to make it easier for him to plant his feet together firmly… He says that the real problem is the design of our boots, perhaps it's as simple as the way we lace them…These young men are full of ideas!"
"Well, so long as they don't get anyone killed!" The major could see the downside of allowing fifteen year old schoolboys to jump.
"Now… You said that you have a problem with the boys?"
"Not exactly a problem, Herr Major, more the need to plan how we maintain their enthusiasm and perhaps use it to recruit not just them but other members of the local Jugend, the banns that are within reach of us here. We have the perfect mouse-trap. The boys are fascinated by the jumping. We can perhaps use it to recruit the cream of the local Jugend… We can stop them looking to the SS for an elite career!"
Harald knew the buttons to push with senior officers and the difficulty in competing with the SS for the best recruits was a good button to use…
It's not just the SS either… I was thinking as I watched Sigi take his jump… Once he had done that, there was no possibility that he would ever want a different career. There is something addictive about the adrenalin rush.
The major thought about that…
"If we can identify kids that are gifted in agility or second languages… and courage of course. That would indeed help recruitment… and… We would know who was going to be joining us a year, maybe three years, before they signed up. Yes, I think that could work well. So, you think these two lads are just the start?"
"Yes, sir." Harald replied. "Sigi, the boy who jumped today is typical. By the time of the next intake he will have sat his school exams. If he turns out to be officer material he'll have the right exam grades for officer school… Though, he will have to fight first, at the rate things are going."
"So, how shall we organise this? Do you have any local contacts other than the two boys?"
"The other boy… Gottfried… his father is a local Party official. We'd already been discussing what we could offer his son in exchange for his involvement in my landing experiments. We're well beyond all that now, but the ideas we were discussing still apply."
The major looked interested. He trusted Harald's judgement and was intrigued to discover what he had been up to.
"So, what had you thought we might do for him?" He asked.
"The local Jugend-banns have a tradition of inviting parents to give little talks to the boys… somewhere between career and social and Party guidance. I gather it's pretty tedious for the kids… well-intentioned, but tedious."
"So you suggested talks by us on military matters? Yes, I can see that would work… more fun than how to become a teacher or baker!"
"Not, just military matters… We can talk about the stress we place on languages and the culture of our allies and enemies… We can encourage kids to take their schoolwork more seriously. That alone will make us popular with their parents!"
"Yes, and they can visit here, watch training jumps…" Said the major… Harald cut in…
"Indeed and maybe jumps from the high tower as prizes for good work… Prizes for the best of them, but for us a chance to see which ones have the makings of a worthwhile recruit."
The major was intrigued… "That way we would already know who we want… before they have even thought about it as more than just fun! If they jump off the high tower just for excitement as a kid then we can be sure that they won't wash-out during real training later. We ought to be able to halve the wash-out rate… at least halve it"
Then he asked…"But what of the other youngster, he's too young to recruit, but obviously daring and agile…"
"Yes, and very intelligent… I'm sure that he's officer material… If he can be taught some discipline without spoiling his spirit!"
The obvious extent of Harald's thoughts caused his senior officer to ask…
"So, you have a solution… Clearly you've been thinking about it… I suspect you already know what you want me to do!"
He knew that he was being worked.
"I think we should combine our support with Gottfried's father's standing in the local Party, and… support the son's application to a Napola." Harald paused to gauge the reaction to his scheme.
His suggestion had not been a spur of the moment idea. He had been hatching his plan for a few weeks.
Gott he believed, was clearly destined to become an officer. These days, unless you had really powerful Party connections it was best to start at the bottom… promotion was rapid but largely based on personal achievement and family position in the Party hierarchy.
Gott's father, as a Party official was a good start. But, the way to turn a minor Party advantage into a major one was to add Fallschirmjäger support to his father's Party connections. Together they could get him a place in a Napola, one of the National Socialist Party residential high-schools. The Napola aimed to turn well-connected youngsters into high-flying recruits for the civil service, police and military… the Party apparatus.
The SS and Fallschirmjäger both looked with favour on Napola graduates.
Gott was already fifteen. If a move was to be made then it needed to be made soon. There was still time for him to have three years of Napola education if they moved quickly, perhaps less if the needs of war pulled him out before he was eighteen. Even two years training would be a good start. After that, a few years in the Fallschirmjäger ranks to battle-harden him and see him promoted as an NCO, and after that… officer school.
"So, one boy is destined for senior NCO and his younger friend may one day command us…" The major smiled at the prospect.
"Yes, and hopefully remember who it was that got him started!"
"Yes, that too…" The major smiled at the idea.
"I shall make a few phone-calls, the sooner we have a set of Napola application forms the better." The major hurried off in the direction of his office.
Harald looked pleased with himself. With luck they had two excellent recruits in prospect, as well as a new way of recruiting the cream of the local Jugend. It had been a good weekend, in so many ways!
A few days later, Harald arrived at Gott's home. He was invited to dinner.
Gott's mother, at his papa's insistence had cooked a fine casserole. It wasn't wise to enquire too closely as to the species… Whatever it had once been it was now a very fine casserole!
Harald had brought a good red wine, the major had provided it from the Officer's Mess, and the meal went decidedly well. He got on well with Gott's father and they retired to the drawing room afterwards. A serious discussion followed, where Harald set out his plan for Gott's accelerated promotion to senior officer rank, provided it was what he wanted. He was careful to project his plan as a simple extension of the Party-man's own plans for his son. Gott's papa was feeling very pleased with himself… A son at a Napola would enhance his own Party standing as well as his son's.
Gott was summoned from the kitchen, where he had been helping his mama to clear up.
"Gottfried. Harald and I have a career-proposal for you… Between us we have a plan!"
"A plan for what, Father?" Gott sounded nervous. The last two plans his father had come up with had involved Public Health and Sanitation… He hoped that Harald's involvement meant a plan that he wouldn't need to sulk over until it was forgotten.
"I have influence in the Party!" His papa said pompously.
"And I have the influence of the Fallschirmjäger, or at least the Commanding Officer at the training base has. You remember the major?" Gott nodded… "Well, he has taken my suggestion to the CO and he has agreed to it!"
"Agreed to it?" Gott was still no wiser.
"Agreed to support your application to be enrolled at a Napola!"
All was now clear!
"A Napola? Surely not, you need to be… well, I'm certainly not… seriously? a Napola?"
Gott paused to breathe… "Seriously? You can do that?"
Gott couldn't believe it. A place at a Napola was like winning the state lottery! A guaranteed future! But what sort of future… He didn't fancy the SS, rumours were already spreading. They said that involvement with them was… distasteful, unless you were that way inclined… towards the distasteful that is. Gott was pretty sure that he wasn't.
"Yes." Harald said. "There are military members on the interview board as well as Party. The Luftwaffe member would make it clear that the Fallschirmjäger wanted you admitted."
"But, why… why would you do this… for me?" Gott was a bright boy, he could sense that there was more to this than just Harald being kind to his protégé… His father lacked influence to aid a Fallschirmjäger, so this was presumably the regiment's plan, and not his papa's."
"The Fallschirmjäger need well-educated officers, officers who are acceptable to the Party. They aren't coming from the gymnasia, the high-school system anymore. But for you, a few years in a Napola, a year or two experience with the regiment and then officer school. By the time you are twenty four I would expect you to be a major. By thirty I would hope to salute a lieutenant-colonel."
"But why me?"
"Because you are agile, brave and determined… and because you jumped without needing to be ordered to!"
"But Sigi jumped and he was praised for his discipline and for waiting until he was ordered to jump!"
Gott' father was wondering what this talk was… jumping? … orders?
His son was just as confused.
"The difference is that Sigi is a future NCO. Even senior NCO's should do what they are ordered to do. On the other hand, a Fallschirmjäger officer needs to have the initiative to do what he believes needs to be done… An order may come too late to be of use!"
Gott understood now… The Fallschirmjäger wanted him, and what the Fallschirmjäger wanted they could undoubtedly get. He had already been told that Hermann Göring ensured that they received anything they needed.
If they needed him… then he was spoken for!
The only thing left to do was to crash to attention… He was wearing his best Jugend uniform, so the smartest of salutes, and a huge grin seemed the most appropriate way to accept. A Napola!
The letter requiring him to attend for an interview board arrived a month later. It coincided more or less with Sigi's invitation to a medical examination and interview at the base. For both boys their lives were changing… forever.
It took a morning for Sigi to be accepted into the ranks of the Fallschirmjäger.
It would take over a week of testing for Gott to enter the more rarefied and selective ranks of a Napola intake.
Berlin-Potsdam, Germany. 1938
Gott presented himself at the Napola assessment board in Berlin-Potsdam. The assessment was to be thorough and would take eight days.
First, a panel examined the documentation to establish his racial credentials. Not only mustn't he have any Jewish ancestors but there mustn't be any Slavs either. In fact anyone east of Berlin seemed suspect as a relative, or south of Bavaria… even Bavarian didn't seem quite blond enough for the panel!
That was when the Luftwaffe representative intervened and said that Gottfried was wanted for the Fallschirmjäger. They didn't want blond Nordic types. For infiltration and sabotage… his dark hair was an asset. The racial purists gave up and the inquisition moved on!
Having established that he was racially pure enough to be worth educating, there followed nearly a day of medical testing.
Gott was grateful to the leaders of his Jungvolk and Jugend banns for their naturist tendencies… He spent nearly all that day naked, being moved from queue to queue as one thing after another was tested. One boy was abruptly terminated when he asked whether they were being tested for their ability to resist the cold… The medical staff seemed to have no sense of humour… and even less patience.
Some of the medical tests were quite strange, like the rapidly spinning platform to test Luftwaffe sponsored pilot-candidates, checking their ability to resist becoming giddy.
Their eyesight and hearing had to be perfect. Physically they needed to be fit and have a good physique… the staff at the Napola had no intention of wasting time on weaklings. They were there to perfect the boys… not to do the things that parents and schools should already have done.
At the end of each day the number of boys still there for the evening meal decreased.
On the third day they started to be tested for intelligence; arithmetic, their knowledge of German poetry and literature.
An SS officer examined their knowledge of Teutonic history and Nordic legends.
Gott had always been a keen reader, and his father had taken him to see Wagner's Ring Cycle. Even though he had gone to sleep in a quiet passage he had seen enough to keep the sinister blond in black as happy as a sinister blond in black is ever likely to get.
They had a language test, writing a letter and taking dictation in English, plus a Latin translation.
Physics unsurprisingly tested their understanding of the parabolic flight of projectiles, and less relevantly how a refrigerator worked.
Gott was still surviving… the food was good… the dormitory was warm enough. You just needed to be happy about being shouted at. He had survived both his father and five years of Hitler Youth leaders. They had all been older than he and given to shouting, so Napola shouting was easy to cope with.
There was a lot of emphasis on sport. Being good at a sport helped, but the assessment team were more concerned with how hard they tried.
Collapsing after a run seemed to be almost as well received as having run well.
Diving in the indoor pool… Gott came off the 10m board with no hesitation… He had after all dived from more than twenty times that height.
The horse-riding was a challenge for him, he had never ridden a horse. He decided he had a talent for it. He may well have been wrong. His talent mostly consisted of falling off, but he was uniquely well qualified for that. When they said that they could try to jump some low fences… if they were capable… Gott tried… and those were some of the best falls he had ever managed!
Boxing came as a surprise… The boy he was paired with was the same age but much bigger than Gott. He found himself under the bigger boy's guard and quicker, and more agile… Gott was also much more aggressive. Gymnastics had given him heavy shoulders and strong arms. The other boy went home with a sprung rib.
He was on a roll. The Luftwaffe representative actually patted him on the back. He then stood quietly with Gott, his arm around his shoulders, reassuring him. Gott was clearly distressed at having terminated the boys assessment. He watched while his opponent was carried away.
The Luftwaffe man said "Don't worry about him! He'll get another chance, I shall see to that. He is another that the Luftwaffe want. We are looking after him too! You've only introduced a short delay in our plans. Don't worry about it."
Then, he clapped Gott on the back and sent him off to get dressed, and to have his eyebrow stitched.
Later that day they were taken to a pistol and rifle-range to see what the Hitler Youth had succeeded in teaching them. Gott had the highest score that week… so the Luftwaffe officer told him.
The officer took the opportunity to say quietly that when he asked him questions on the last day he was to speak boldly. The questions he asked would relate to his activities at the Fallschirmjäger camp and would put him in a good light. It would allow the Luftwaffe officer to speak up on Gottfried… and the Fallschirmjäger's behalf.
He said "It's not just getting you through this board that I'm here for… It's to keep you out of the SS! There are five of you that we want. Unfortunately, three of the others are blond!".
Gott grinned at him, and said even more quietly… "Please do, their uniform is nice, but all that Death's Head stuff is creepy! Anyway, I want to jump from aeroplanes… I think I could be good at that!"
The final day was spent mainly sitting around. There weren't as many as there had been yesterday… Numbers had continued to dwindle. Gott felt bad about the boy he had injured. They had been chatting before they were paired to fight. The other boy too wanted to become a Luftwaffe officer. Gott hoped that he would get another chance… being injured fighting ought to be a good reason for acceptance!"
Separated into their year-groups they were called one at a time to meet an interview panel who asked them questions about their Hitler Youth experiences and established their National Socialist credentials. Gott explained that his father was a Party official who took a close interest in his son's Jugend activities and monitored his voluntary work.
They examined his knowledge of Germany's new battleships, tanks and aircraft…
When it was nearly over… The SS officer on the panel, tall blond and… yes, sinister, asked Gott what branch of the Party's activities interested him most.
"The military sir!"
"Wehrmacht, U-boats, Luftwaffe or the SS?… You seem to have enough courage for the SS!"
Gott remembered what the Luftwaffe man had said, and fired straight from the shoulder.
"Why not the SS?" The SS man looked surprised at such a blunt rebuff.
"Oh sir, please… the courage and loyalty of the SS is very… attractive, but… "
"Sir… I'm too short. My hair's too dark… I couldn't expect to progress… and…"
"Sir… I'm told that I'm far too undisciplined! The SS require discipline and everyone tells me that my habit of acting first and thinking afterwards will get me killed one day!"
He tried to smile disarmingly, but the SS man was not disarmed… perhaps armed, his pin pulled out and on a four-second fuse!
"What makes you think you are suited to any branch of the military?"
If the SS thought that then he had at least got Plan A in place.
"Well sir, with my dark looks, and I'm good at languages at school… and at gymnastics… I think that operating behind the enemy lines with the Fallschirmjäger would be something I could be much better at."
"Then, the Fallschirmjäger are welcome to you!" Plan B was in place.
The Luftwaffe member of the panel slipped smoothly into the questioning…
"Do you know much about the Fallschirmjäger?"
"Yes sir, I live very near their base at Oranienburg… I've spent some time at their training school at Stendal with my Jugend bann… and afterwards was invited to return, to practise with them… They were interested in how my gymnastic skills altered the way I jumped."
The Wehrmacht officer looked up startled… "Jumped! How old are you?… Fifteen, what do you mean "jumped"?"
"Well sir, initially it was onto mats from the fuselage trainer, but that was easier without the mats because its easier to plant your feet and tumble…"
"I can see why they thought your approach curious!" The Luftwaffe smiled, the SS glowered and the Wehrmacht were bewildered.
"And, after the fuselage?" The Wehrmacht asked.
Gott glanced at the Luftwaffe officer who smiled and nodded as if to say "Go for it!"
"After that we went up in the barrage balloon to watch the recruits make their first jump. I had five ascents in the basket and saw twenty jumps made."
"So you went up in the basket five times… How many times did you come down in it?" The Luftwaffe man had appeared to suddenly realise who Gott might be, and his broad grin told him to tell the truth…
"Four sir! The instructor turned his back on me… I took that as permission to jump!"
He turned to the SS officer… "Honestly sir, I was serious about lacking discipline!"
"He didn't order you to jump?"
"No sir, but he hadn't ordered me not to either… Then he turned his back and stood away from the gate… so I jumped."
"Was it what you expected? The fall?" The Luftwaffe asked… He asked from curiosity, he was a pilot and pilots didn't lightly abandon a perfectly serviceable aircraft.
"Oh yes sir…" Gott replied in a dreamy voice.
The Luftwaffe officer was laughing openly now…
"I had heard rumours, but I hadn't expected to meet you!"
"I didn't realise until now that it was this young man!" He told the panel.
He took a mental step back.
"I hear he… I mean you… have become a sort of mascot at Oranienborg. You continue to train with them?"
"Yes, sir… They are very friendly , and I love the balloon and the high tower!"
"Well, it sounds like the Fallschirmjäger are the only branch of the armed forces likely to make proper use of your lunacy!" That was the SS officer, he had finally found a smile to wind up the questioning.
"So we are agreed that he is one for the Fallschirmjäger?" The Luftwaffe officer said hopefully.
"Well he is certainly not one I would want to be responsible for!" Was the opinion of the Wehrmacht.
The SS officer simply waved his hand in a rather you than me gesture and said "Definitely yours, and I wish you luck General!"
General! Gott did a double-take… He was familiar with corporals and majors, even colonels, but… he hadn't realised that the man that had befriended him, that was speaking up on his behalf… was a Luftwaffe-General!
The Luftwaffe General spoke to him afterwards, congratulating him on how he had handled the SS man.
Then he asked more seriously… "If you had been ordered to not-jump and the instructor had turned his back, would you have still jumped?"
"No sir, I would not… But I would have sulked!" Said with a grin.
It was the perfect answer.
The General then said "Your parents will be informed of the result of the assessment board formally… I shall personally inform the Fallschirmjäger at Stendal that they need a new mascot… For the next two years their present one will only be available during vacations from his Napola."
That was how Gott was told that he would find his name on the list of those accepted.
Gott grinned, and they exchanged salutes.
"Good Luck. You have two years to learn a little discipline… but, not too much mind!"
"Thank you sir, for everything… and… please send my good wishes to Stendal. Please tell them that I shall join them on my seventeenth birthday!"
When they went to collect their suitcases from the entrance hall of the building, there was another surprise waiting for Gott, and the other successful candidates. Instead of being taken back to the railway station, they were taken by bus directly to their assigned Napola. One of the boys asked about needing more clothes, and was informed that everything they needed was waiting for them… including paper and pens to write home to tell their parents where they now were.
From now on the State and Party would provide everything they needed.
He was surprised to find that it wasn't his parents that sprang to mind when he thought about missing people… it was Sigi and Harald.
He hoped that Harald would look after Sigi.
He was pleased when his bus pulled away, in the direction of Spandau. The Spandau Napola used the buildings of the old Prussian School for Gymnastics.
Gott took that as a good omen.
Spandau, Germany. 1938
They were told that their rank was Jungmann, the equivalent of cadet in other countries. The Jungmannen were indeed jung… Gott was already much older than most. The youngest were only eleven years old. The oldest were seventeen rising eighteen.
He had no intention of staying that long. He wasn't here for fun, or to pass the time while he waited to leave school. All he wanted was the education that would ensure a successful career in the Luftwaffe. The Fallschirmjäger wanted him here, and that was sufficient reason to stay… But it wasn't a reason to stay longer than necessary.
He reckoned that he should be able to complete his final exams a year early and leave at seventeen.
That wasn't quite two years of strict discipline… Even he should be able to last that long.
Discipline was indeed strict… There was a long list of things that were forbidden to the Jungmannen… incorrect uniform, being in the city without a cap, shopping in the city, entering a dance hall. All these would bring not just punishment for the individual but collective punishment for everyone in their room, or worse, in their hundred. Collective punishment would mean further punishment at his comrades hands, with teenage lack of restraint it could be out of all proportion to the crime. He got that message very quickly.
One of the rules he did welcome. Gott was happy about the dance-halls ban… It saved him from needing to explain why he wasn't in a hurry to meet the girls there. His room-mates asked if he'd had sex yet… He answered "yes" with complete honesty.
He had no reason to explain that his sexual experience was extensive, but exclusively with his best friend.
The instructor responsible for their group of bedrooms had them line up on the first morning and walked down the line telling every fifth man to step forward. When a fifth of them were a graphic example he said…
"One in five of you will fail to make the grade or will be sufficiently injured to be unable to finish the course. Three-quarters of the original applicants aren't here today… Others were sent home simply because they asked if they could delay their start for a few days to see their parents… That wish was granted. They have returned home and will not be coming back. It's very hard to enter a Napola… it's very easy to get sent home. Work hard, be courageous and be careful… Be one of the four out of five who finish the course… with a guaranteed career ahead of you!"
The one in five hurriedly returned to their place, hoping that it would be their only experience of being the one in five.
They were taken in groups to see the facilities, classrooms and science labs, stables and garages. They would soon have a course to qualify them to drive both vehicles and motorbikes… The garage had about twenty of each. There were gymnasia and indoor swimming pools with ten metre boards… The list went on and on, no expense had been spared in equipping the school. Even the class-room chairs were upholstered, no more wooden benches to keep you awake… If you slept, everyone in your group would be punished, so… no sleeping!
After lunch they were taken to the flying-field, to see the gliders that would prepare those destined for the Luftwaffe. Gott looked forward to that… It would be another chance to get into the air.
On the walk back he asked the instructor if there was any chance of parachuting from a balloon… He felt sure that the Luftwaffe would help, if he asked them to! The instructor smiled and said that he had heard about Gott's exploits… Perhaps, when he had learnt some discipline.
Gott thought that perhaps they had never thought of parachute training. The instructor seemed to have taken the idea seriously… not a bad first day, not a bad day at all!
In the evening they were settled down in the bedrooms they shared in groups of five or six. Paper and pens were in the writing desks and they were told to write home. The instructor said that they should seal the envelopes, he would provide stamps. That surprised one or two…
"Won't they be read before they are allowed out?"
"Why would we read them? You are Jungmannen… We shall tell you if something is a secret, and if you don't like it here you are free to leave! Tell your parents to expect your old clothes back. You will be supplied with everything… including food, that you need. They should not send you money. You won't need money. The administration will issue a small allowance… That is as wealthy as you need to be."
Uniforms were basic, a sort of stripped down Luftwaffe uniform worn with a Jugend armband. Most of the time they were to wear shorts. On Sundays they would have the dress uniform for which they had been measured, although the dress uniform remained part of the future… a distant part!
One strange idea… it was how things were, but made no more sense than that, was that when visiting town or in the countryside they were to wear Jugend uniform. Maybe that was to prevent them taking advantage of their status as Napola Jungmannen… In town, they would be nothing special, all the kids in town wore Jugend uniform.
They slept with the curtains open and the moonlight streaming in. It made it easier to find the door if they needed the latrine during the night. They couldn't turn a bedside light on and wake everybody else… not least because they had no bedside lights.
It was nice to be able to relax at the end of the day listening to their friends' gentle snores… snores that came after the other noises that they made as discreetly as possible. There was a lot of discussion of girls they had known (or had vaguely met at the homes of school-friends in Gott's case). Later it would seem strange that they didn't… ever… discuss what went on after dark.
They had been there about two months when Gott was woken by the sound of Gerhard returning from the latrines. He looked like a ghost in the moonlight as he crossed the room to his bed. As soon as he got into bed he started to play with himself. Gott thought that perhaps he hadn't done anything earlier or perhaps he was simply more… active… than the rest of them. It was a grand sight… the way his face screwed up as he reached the part where he needed to be quiet, and then the couple of jerks of his whole body as relief came to him.
Gerhard had been facing towards him, with his eyes tight shut… then they snapped open, and he was looking directly towards him. It didn't occur to Gott to pretend sleep… in time. So they lay there simply looking at each other and wondering what the other was thinking. Then Gott smiled tentatively and Gerhard winked slowly, turned over and went to sleep. Gott lay there thinking about what he had seen.
Each day the bugle sounded at 05.45h., dragging the boys from their beds, some more unwillingly than others.
That morning both Gerhard and Gott were the last to leave their bedroom. They collided in the doorway.
"Sorry!" Gerhard said. "I hope you slept well!"
"What do you think? I'm surprised I slept at all!" Gott replied with a slight grin.
"I'll be quieter next time!"
"Oh, not on my account… live and let live. Next time it might be me waking you!"
Gerhard looked relieved… He had feared that Gott would be difficult… Though, he had been happy to see that he smiled last night. They continued with the others to their run in the forest.
When they returned to the parade-ground they took their assigned places for Appel, the roll-call. Bugles and the raising of the flag followed, and then they were released for breakfast. Closer friends than they had been the previous day, Gerhard and Gott sat together for breakfast… with their room-mates, but side by side.
For some reason Gerhard caused Gott to think about Sigi. It was nice to have a friend again.
The two boys took to each other. Perhaps they had both needed companionship beyond that of mess-mates. Gerhard had a friend he was missing and Gott told him almost everything about Sigi and how much he had relied upon his friend. Perhaps, in talking of those lost companions, they sensed in each other the real thing that they had in common, but couldn't articulate… yet.
Each night they went to bed, and unlike the others would wait to pleasure themselves. Without ever actually discussing it, they waited until everyone else was asleep and then while looking across the room to each other they would quietly beat off. There was something special, something companionable about sharing the experience. Nothing was said, nothing was seen, just a gentle motion of bed clothes… a grimace, and then a smile, perhaps a wink and then… sleep.
It was quite a few nights later, after a particularly tiring day that Gott fell into bed promising himself that everything discipline demanded… teeth, wash, shave, hair… everything would be looked after in the morning! Within moments of his head hitting the pillow he was asleep.
Going to sleep early didn't mean that he slept longer. It just resulted in him waking earlier than usual. His watch said that it was only 04.00h, almost two hours before a bugle would rouse the school. He lay quietly for a while, running his tongue over his furry teeth. That made his mind up, and taking his sponge bag and razor he headed to the ablutions to do what he ought to have done the night before.
The ablutions still had the chill of night on them and he was grateful for his dressing-gown. He postponed washing and started with his teeth. Then he washed his face and shaved. After that he felt better able to face the tepid water and wash cloth.
It was the mirror that did it… the sight of his morning erection reminded him that he had gone to sleep too quickly for his usual relief. He thought for a moment 'Was Gerhard disappointed?'. The thought was insistent and thoughts of washing were forgotten for the moment. He started what he had missed the night before. Then he stopped, put his dressing-gown back on and went back to his solitary pleasure.
Meanwhile, Gerhard had been woken by Gott's departure from their bedroom. He too had missed out on solitary relief the previous evening and now his need too was pressing. Early morning didn't seem a good time to rely on his mates remaining asleep, so he slipped out of bed, dressing-gowned against the chill, and went to the latrines. He had expected to see a door shut… Gott must be somewhere. He took a whiz and then went to the ablutions to wash. What he saw from the door made him stop… quietly he watched as Gott masturbated.
Gott had his eyes shut and was concentrating on the job in hand. Gerhard let out the breath he had been holding… Gott's eyes snapped open and looked straight at Gerhard in the mirror. He was about to say something… stammer an apology, an explanation… but Gerhard put a finger to his lips and stepped into the room.
"I missed you last night." Was all he said. Then after a pause…
"Do go on. Don't let me stop you…"
He loosened the cord of his gown and slipped his hand inside… his own motion became unmistakeable.
Standing at the hand-basins, facing the door, there was a short wall between them and the door, that temporarily shielded them from anyone approaching… Side by side, they quietly masturbated.
They were early for Appel but late for breakfast… It wasn't the best morning run they had managed, perhaps their stamina wasn't what it might have been.
They tried not to make early morning relief a regular thing, but sometimes they fell asleep from exhaustion and then an early morning happened. If discreet under-the-covers, across-the-room by-moonlight relief was insufficient then one of them would leave for the latrines and the other would follow a few minutes later. The latrines were not romantic, and were even colder than the ablutions, but it would have been more difficult to explain a middle of the night wash than a middle of the night piss.
Eventually it was bound to happen. As they stood there bringing themselves towards completion they heard the sound of heels on the tiles in the corridor. They quickly moved apart to opposite wall urinals, and looked up in apparent surprise at the instructor who strode in…
"I saw a light… what are you young-men doing here at one o clock in the morning?"
"I needed the toilet, sir…" Said Gerhard.
"And he woke me up when he fell over the rug… and then I needed one too!" Gott added.
"Well, get done, and get back to bed, or you'll be late for breakfast again. You need to buck your ideas up… fewer late night drinks for a start!"
They listened to his heels clicking into the distance.
"I don't know about you but that has quite spoilt my mood!" Said Gerhard.
"We need to be more careful!" Was Gott's take on it.
The solution they found was to use neither the latrines nor the ablutions… instead they took up extra training runs… for fitness… before the afternoon meal. There was a place on the forest trail where they had a good view down the hill, a place where they could see anyone following them. It took them a few months before simply watching each other wasn't sufficient. It was Gerhard who said…
"Did you ever… in the Jugend, at camp…?"
"You mean, with another boy… like this?"
"No, I mean Yes… I meant touched each other… kids do I think…"
"Oh yes, not recently… but yes, it was fun… with someone I trusted!"
"Do you trust me?" Gerhard asked… his voice quivering with nerves.
"Are you sure?" Gott said.
"That we can trust each other?"
"No! That we want to do this… We can't undo it if we do… It changes us!"
"Yes, I'm sure. It's what I want… You are what I want… Yes, I'm sure."
For a moment they held hands in the woodland glade, still looking out over the school and fields.
Gerhard drew Gott towards him until their chests met, and then their heads were resting on each other's shoulder… Gott's dark hair mixing with Gerhard's auburn curls. Even after so long the Napola's barber had not managed to get Gerhard's hair under control.
Gott was very fond of Gerhard's hair.
Gerhard searched for and held Gott in his hand, Gott shuddered at his touch and reached for his friend.
That time, they did no more than that.
At that moment, while sex had been the most important thing in the world as they ran into the wood, now…
"It's so lonely here, so many people and no-one to love."
"There is now… You can love me… If that's what you want."
Gott felt a cold wetness on his face… He was crying, and so was Gerhard.
"What about the ones at home?"
"We'll just have to love them too… and our families… there's so much love and there was no-one here to share it with!"
"There is now!"
Gerhard had simply hoped for a mutual relief among the trees…
What they now had was so much more, but… they had used up all the time available if they were not to arouse curiosity… and that was unthinkable.
Wiping their faces they ran out of the woods and down the hill. It was a new world, a different world and there was no changing it back.
There was love, and now there was danger.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]