“My father, Franz Josef Schennach, was a gendarme, Hauptmann, in Tirol. After the Nazi took over, he had to prove that he was Arian. He could not prove this,” Anna Stenson said. She looked across the room from her chair.
“Brown eyes go to Africa… They taunted me. At school. Only the blue eyes would stay in Europe, if Hitler won. I was hoping he would not,” she said adjusting the hem of her skirt.
Doctor Gross rubbed his mustache as he sat at his desk under the ceiling fan that cut the air with a clickety-click, clickety-click.
“You do not speak much, do you?” She asked, pausing, her lips tight as a hint of a breeze outside stirred the leaves of the trees.
“The smell in here is also strange.
“And by the way, yesterday, I turned 44. For your information.”
She watched a beetle buzz through the open window. “So many flying things?”
Then her eyes opened big. “I told Altmann, he came to my birthday party of course, I told him about a man at my father’s funeral who was dressed in black. Baggy black coat, black hat. This man reached into the deep pockets of that coat and gave me coin. It was 1939. I was five.
“Now I know his name was Isidor Schennach. I often asked my mother who he was. She never answered, changed the subject and said don’t ask so many questions. Someone at the funeral told me to call him Uncle Isidor.” Anna Stenson rubbed the bridge of her nose.
“Papa used to sit me on his knee und bounce me – humpaaa humpaaa rider, humpa humpa,” She smiled then her look turned solemn. “He disappeared after work one day. A few weeks later, Mama get a postcard from him, saying he was on a train, on his way East, did not know where to, said he would ask someone to mail the card.
“Later he was at the railroad station in Buchers on the Moldau, in the Czechland enroute to Poland, and I noticed this only recently, but his title on a picture was no longer Hauptmann, but Hauptwachmeister. They were sending him to Majdanek to be a guard?
“And today I typed in Isidor’s name and found he died at the concentration camp in Dachau. Prisoner No. 43651. Altmann had asked me a question and that is why I looked.”
She pushed back against the chair.
“I do not like the air in here.
“The odor is not correct.
“When will you talk?
“Ja. Well. Then I will finish the story, since I started it.
“Papa died in Buchers. Pneumonia, they said, only two weeks after he arrived. His body, or I should say his coffin, was sent back on the train to our home in Tirol, but I never saw his body.
“I grew up thinking every tall man in uniform was Papa.
“There. I am finished talking. I really don’t know why I am here. I was shocked what I had found out today. I am asking you. Why am I here? Since you are the source you must tell me,” she said.
“Source?” Doctor Gross asked.
“Yes. You seemed to have arranged this meeting, if that is what it is,” she said, pushing her black hair back. “If you think that I am not in charge of my faculties, then you are sorely mistaken.”
She looked at the ceiling. “Who else is here?”
“Millions,” Doctor Gross said. His eyes glanced at the office door then across the courtyard to the iron gate where the arch above read, Tribunal Düsseldorf. “Millions were marched through the gates but only a few have come through that one.”
Dr. Gross lifted his head as he took in a deep breath and held his pointy chin parallel with the floor for a long second, then he picked up the tongs on the plate and dropped an ice cube into his glass.
“Is Uncle Isidor here?” She asked, looking intently at the doctor.
“Materially?” He asked.
“Yes materially? What kind of question is this you give me?”
“Is he wearing a baggy black coat?” The doctor asked.
“He could be here then.”
“Papa! Oh – oh my God. Mein Gott. Mein Gott.” Anna Stenson brought her hands to her face.
“What is he wearing?”
“He is in uniform.”
“Oh! Papa! Papa is here. Papa is here! Papa is home! May I see him? Please may I see him?”
“Momentarily, I …”
“Is Mama here?”
“But why not?”
“She is not here.”
“She, but, but, thank-you. Thank-you for talking to me.
“I would like to see Papa now, Doctor Gross.”
“Who sent him to Poland?”
“The Nazis of course.”
“Yes, but who in particular? Someone must’ve signed the order from your town.”
“Hans Leitner. He was the head Nazi in Jennbach. Momma told us to be very careful with him. Lived on the top floor. They threw the others out. We had part of the second. My best friend was Katia, his daughter. They had many swords hanging on the wall,” she said.
“Hans Leitner,” he said, writing on a tablet. “What did you feel about this man Leitner sending your father away?”
“I did not know about those thing then. And nobody helped me to figure them out. Mama and everybody kept their lips zipped.” She brought her thumb and index finger and moved them across her lips. “I look for other Schennachs my whole life. It is a very rare name. Not until I typed in Isidor,” she said, looking out the window. “Am I criminal for not knowing?”
“Criminal?” Dr. Gross asked.
“Yes. We who survived. We did not feel the pain. The fullness. To be so close and survive. Somehow this must be criminal.”
“Your memory is improving Ms. Stenson,” Dr. Gross said. “I will see you next Thursday, same time.”
“Suddenly you have taken interest.” She quipped. “It was good Papa died in ’39.” She lifted her nose and sniffed. “It’s the bomb shelter smell. How did you capture it?”
Doctor Gross took a sip of his drink then moved his eyes up at the ceiling fan, clickety-click, clickety-click.