Part 40: A Clandestine Nocturnal Operation

The plan was quickly conceived: The terraced garden that belonged to Hans’ parents’ house was at the foot of the village hill. The dismantled walls and doors could be dragged unseen from the mountain into the garden at night. Freshly we set to work.

Over the course of several days, we loosened so many nails and screws in the twilight that the dismantling could be accomplished in just a few steps. The night of decision came. Almost silently, we disassembled the house into its component parts, but then a severe problem presented itself: The rather large roof was much too heavy for us to carry, but somehow the work we had started had to be finished.

Like ants, we tugged, heaved, and pushed the heavy part and finally heaved it over the wall, which was only knee-high, because the garden was fortunately almost two meters lower. The back, the side walls and the doors were no problem. Deep in the night, the thieves’ raid was completed, and the loot lay well hidden under leaves and branches.

The other day, the benches with the four poop holes and the three partitions were enthroned on the mountain. The whole thing was reminiscent of a stormed medieval castle. The reactions of the people were divided. Some laughed at the successful prank, others demanded clarification of the brazen theft. We pricked up our ears and waited. Nothing happened, other news distracted from the action. Three weeks later we built our new ‘home’ in a hidden corner of the garden, even with a window, floor, and a small cannon stove. Hans made a workbench and some shelves. Now we could retreat undisturbed at any time in any weather.

The farmer’s son-in-law had returned from captivity. The farm was not big enough for two farm workers’ families. Father knew that blood is thicker than water and saved himself the dismissal. A coal mine was to be opened in the neighboring village. As a trained miner, father sensed an opportunity. But after just a few months, the project had to be abandoned. A sudden, massive water inrush in the shaft put an end to the development work.

In a last-ditch effort, the miners saved themselves from drowning. After this failure, father ‘grabbed’ the ‘pinto’ – as he often said – and he went back to the chemical plant, abandoned a few years ago, with his operetta musician friend Martin. The two men now lived with many other job and home seekers in the barracks camp where our Italians and mother’s French bus drivers had to live during the war. Everything was still the same, only the barbed wire fence and the guards were missing. Now I was standing in for my father at home. We were no longer ‘self-supporters’ without a peasant’s allowance but lived on food ration cards like everyone else. Nevertheless, we did not have to go hungry. In the countryside, there were many ways to supplement our daily bread. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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