Tomas was shaken awake early the next morning. It was a curious experience to be in a place so full of light. The sun came through the spaces between the boarded up windows and cast long shadows upon the floor, the stacks of clothing appearing as long mountains of blackness in the dusty room.
Jan’s blue eyes were oddly bright in the strange light as the short blonde looked at him, whispering that he needed to get up, if only for a minute. Tom groaned softly and stretched before turning to Wilhelm and tickling his side to awaken him. Wilhelm took much longer to sit up than Tomas had and Jan looked strangely distressed by his leisurely movements.
“We are leaving,” Jan said once Wilhelm was fully awake and blinking up at him. “All of us. We need to go somewhere but we will return as soon as we are able. Please, stay here and keep silent. We cannot afford to be discovered again.”
Wilhelm looked puzzled at his announcement but said nothing. Tomas glanced at Max, who had his uninjured arm around Christian’s shoulders. They were dressed in heavy dark brown coats that Tomas did not recognize and looked grimly determined. David stood next to them, also clad in unfamiliar clothes. He looked equally determined and Tomas grew concerned. David had never left the apartment in the time they had stayed there yet now he was leaving to go somewhere Tomas did not know.
“We will go with you,” Tomas said. Wilhelm gasped dramatically and gasped at Tomas but his brother was firm in his resolve. He would not let gentle, beautiful David go. He might not return if he did. Tomas would rather accompany them on whatever task they had decided upon than let the waif-like man strain himself.
“That is unnecessary,” Christian said curtly. He sucked his cheeks in and glared at Tomas. “You will make it harder for us should you come.”
“If Wilhelm and I stay here,” Tomas said, glaring back at Christian, “there is the possibility that we will wait for a very long time. We have little food and no water. Should something happen to you, any of you, we would not know. We could spend days here waiting for any news of what had occurred. Wilhelm is too weak to go more than a few days without sustenance.”
There was silence as Tomas and Christian held each other’s gaze with enmity, both wishing silently that they had never met. They had no liking for one another and nothing in common other than their intense hatred for the other man.
“There is sense in what you say,” Max said. Christian’s lips thinned into an angry line but he kept quiet. “Come with us then. But, I tell you this: what we are about to do is dangerous. There is a likelihood that we will be harmed.”
“We will go,” Tomas said. Beside him, Wilhelm nodded. They stood up and gathered their things.
“Leave them,” Max said as Tomas grabbed Wilhelm’s case. Tomas stared at him.
“Surely, you cannot mean-” he protested. “My violin-”
“Leave it. Your instrument will only be in the way,” Max said.
They left the shop, Max and Christian leading the way. Jan and David followed behind them silently. The sun shone down on their bodies as the cold air leeched the warmth from their bones. The streets were empty, filled only with cement rubble and trash.
It was a forlorn sight, made even more so by the lack of words between the members of the group. Tomas walked next to Wilhelm. He did not see where they were going, he did not care where they were headed. His violin was gone, completely and utterly gone. He had left it behind and for what? Another day’s food? Protection?
Tomas had given up everything once again. In the last few months, he had lost his home, his livelihood, and his friends to follow Wilhelm on a winding journey from Magdeburg to the streets of Hamburg, keeping only a few clothes and his violin in the process.
“They have stopped,” Wilhelm said softly in Tomas’ ear. “They want to say something now.”
Tomas nodded and looked at the men assembled before him. Christian’s eyes, as ever, were cold and hateful. Max looked strained and plainly unhappy, standing awkwardly next to Christian as though he were itching to wrap his arms around Christian and bury his face in the crick of the black-haired man’s neck. David looked down at his feet and even Jan seemed troubled.
A building stood behind them surrounded by barbed wire and high wooden fence posts. Signs warning against entry were posted on the outside and guards stood ready by a guarded gate.
“What is this place?” Tomas asked as Wilhelm moved closer to him. “What are we doing here?”
“Timo,” David said ever so softly. He lifted his head, his blue eyes meeting Tomas’ in a beautiful plea for understanding. Christian frowned and Max took in a deep breath.
“Our friend is here,” he said, looking from Wilhelm to Tomas. “At least we think he is. We hope to…visit him and perhaps leave here with him.”
“How?” Tomas asked skeptically. “There are guards guarding the gate. Do you have guns to fight them with?”
“There is a wall on the near side of that gate that we can scale. Beyond there, it is easy to get inside. People live there, in a sort of town that is locked away from the rest of the city. It is very small but you will be surprised by how many people live inside.”
“You have done this before?” Wilhelm asked. “You are sure this is possible?”
“Yes,” Max said. “Many times. Sometimes when one of us would leave the apartment, we would come here to see Timo and…others. There are no ‘others’ anymore and we are running because we have nowhere to go. There is nowhere safe in Hamburg or any of the other cities nearby. We, Jan, Christian, David, and I, have discussed this. We will take Timo away from here and leave ourselves. This city is too dangerous for us. Most of our friends are dead. You said you wanted to come with us. Do you still want to?”
The wall was part of a broken down building quite far from the gate and was too easy to climb in Tomas’ opinion. They were up and over in little time, and walking through the empty streets in minutes. It looked no different from the streets outside the compound. There were no people to be seen or heard. It was eerily empty, not even guards patrolling the streets as Tomas had expected.
They walked for a long time, seeing no one and hearing nothing but the wind among the buildings.
“Where is everyone?” Wilhelm whispered.
“I do not know,” Jan told him, his brows knitted in worry. “There should be people everywhere. It is only midday.”
Max raised a finger to his lips, indicating silence.
“Guards,” he said when Jan frowned at him. They froze but it was too late. They had been heard. Two men dressed in brown uniforms walked towards them, holding large, black rifles at the ready.
“Halt!” one of them yelled out, raising his gun at them. “Who are you?”
Tomas felt Wilhelm’s hand tighten around his wrist with incredible strength. He glanced at his brother. Wilhelm was sickly pale, his eyes wide with fear.
“We live here,” Max said calmly. “We were just going to visit our friend. He lives on this street, a few houses down. We mean to cause no trouble.”
The guards looked at each other.
“We have documentation, if you need to see it,” Max continued. He stuck his hand into his right-hand pocket. “Here, let me-”
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
The gunshots were so fast that Tomas never saw them. One second, Max was reaching into his pocket, the next he was on the ground and Christian was screaming. Max had the most stunned expression on his face, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. Tomas moved to knelt beside him.
“Stop!” the guard snapped, his voice quivering. “Don’t move, any of you! Leave him!” he ordered, pointing his gun at Christian. Tomas saw tears coursing down Christian’s cheeks but the guard took no notice of them as he told Christian to stand and back away from Max’s lifeless, bleeding body.
“This compound was liquidated two days ago,” the other guard said, the barrel of his gun pointed at their faces. “You are hereby under arrest for trespassing. We ask again, who are you?”
“Don’t answer him,” Christian snapped, his arm flinging back to protect Jan and David. He lifted his chin at the guard whose gun was pointed directly at his heart. “We have no documentation so we cannot tell you our names. Anything we tell you would be impossible to confirm. You will have to take us to your commander.”
“We do not have to do anything,” the guard sneered. “We could kill you right here with no consequences.”
“And you would have to dispose of our bodies,” Christian countered. “I doubt your commanders would appreciate cleaning up six bodies. For all you know, we are respectable Party members interested in meeting our friend who is a guard here. Imagine the trouble of all the paperwork for killing the sons of a high-ranking official.”
“You are related to a Party member?” the other guard asked curiously.
“Yes,” Christian said. “But I have no documentation on me, as I said, so you will have to take us to your commander for confirmation.”
The guards murmured to each other, seeming to come to a decision quickly.
“Come with us,” they said.
They followed the guards. David was shaking and his face was whiter than Wilhelm’s while Jan and Christian seemed stoic except for the wetness on their cheeks. Tomas had no words. He had not particularly liked Max but to see him dead had been horrifying. Max had done nothing the rest of them had not done, especially in the eyes of the guards before them. None of them was more innocent than the next. What would become of them? Would they die as Max had, left to bleed out from bullet wounds on the street?
“Here you are,” one of the guards, the one who had killed Max, said. He shoved David in the back, making him stumble and fall to the ground. Tomas jerked back only to be pushed by the same guard. He fell into David, who had started to cry and shake uncontrollably. “The ‘commander’.”
Tomas looked up and met the steely gaze of another man in uniform. He looked no different from the guards who had led them there. He leered down at Tomas and David.
“And who might these boys be?” he asked, chuckling. “Trespassers?”
“They say they are the sons of Party officials, real important people,” the guard said. He nudged Wilhelm in the back with his gun and grinned cruelly. “But they have no papers with them. We shot the other one-“Christian flinched. “-a couple of streets back.”
“Indeed? No papers?” the commander asked with feigned interest. He smiled coldly, far colder than Christian had ever smiled, and chuckled. “Then I guess we can put his friends to work burying his body before we kill them.”
“No!” Wilhelm cried out. “You cannot kill us!”
“Why not?” the commander asked. “If you have something valuable, I am certain we could negotiate something. Do you have gold on you? Anything of worth?”
“N-no,” Wilhelm admitted. The guards behind them grinned.
“Get these men some shovels,” the commander ordered. “And gather that other body. I want them to dig their own graves.”
They were soon outfitted with shovels and led to Max’s body. David was shaking so badly that he dropped the heavy shovel several times. Each time the guard laughed and ordered him to pick it up, his guns pointed at David’s tear-stained face.
Tomas was so focused on David and his silent tears that he did not notice the queer glint in Christian’s eyes or the way he suddenly hefted his shovel. It was not until the guard cried out and collapsed to the ground that he realized what Christian had in mind.
Jan was on the man in seconds, kicking him and yanking the gun from his hands, pulling the strap over his head with difficulty. Guards came racing from by the gate. There were few of them but more than the five men. Jan turned his stolen gun on them and opened fire with imperfect aim. One man fell and others screamed out in pain before the gun jammed and Jan dropped it, ducking out of the way of the others. The guards seemed too stunned to shoot at the men.
Christian was up, using his shovel to hit the guards in the knees and stomachs, making several double over in pain. Tomas grabbed Wilhelm and pulled him out of the way of the swinging shovel, holding Wilhelm into his chest to try and protect him. David fell in beside them and Tomas held him, too, protecting him from the gunfire and chaos.
Tomas stared at Christian and Jan in horror, believing for all that he was worth that he would die then and there when Christian grabbed Jan by the shoulder and yelled an order at him. Jan ignored him and tried to get away but Christian stopped him.
“Jan, go! Take David and the twins with you. Run as far as you can, as fast as you can. The first train station you get to, buy a ticket. Here, take the rest of the money,” Christian said, pulling a wad of marks from his breast pocket. He shoved them into Jan’s hands, ignoring Jan’s pleas.
“Take it, Jan! Fucking go! Get out of here!” Christian ordered, his eyes wild.
“No, no, no, no!” Jan cried, shaking his head and grabbing Christian’s sleeve, “You have to come, too. Don’t leave me, Christian, please, I can’t- no, no, no!”
Jan grabbed Christian and hugged him tightly, his breathing ragged. Christian looked at Jan sadly, hugged him for a moment, and pulled him back, lifting his chin until they were eye to eye.
“It’s over for me, Jan. Max is dead. There’s nothing for me out there. Now, go!” Christian yelled, shoving Jan away.
Jan bit his lip and took Wilhelm and David by the hands. He nodded to Tomas and they set off running. Tomas looked back once to see Christian pick up his shovel. Christian’s face was set in a grim line as he hefted it over his shoulder. He snuck behind the guard who had shot Max and, with a near silent blow, slammed the shovel into the guard’s neck. The man crumpled to the ground, Christian glared defiantly at the other guards. Tomas thought for a moment Jan’s friend would turn and follow them but he lifted the shovel again and slammed it into the skull of the next guard and the next. Tomas sucked in a disbelieving breath, certain that now Christian would run towards them- and saw Christian arch back and gasp as bullets tore through his back. He fell, the shovel clanging down on the hard street.
Tomas closed his eyes. Jan tugged at his wrist and then Tomas followed, a cold anger seeping through him.
They found their way to the train station and bought the tickets in silent despair. Tomas did not even care where they were going; he simply needed to leave and forget everything that had happened that day.
Tomas stroked the silent boy’s hair. Sometime in the night as they rode the train, David had fallen asleep and had listed against him. Wilhelm was also asleep, his head on his lap. Wilhelm seemed so different now, so much quieter and more sensible than he had been in the last year.
Jan stared out the blackened window, his face an unreadable mask.
Tomas Kaulitz returned safely to Magdeburg with his twin brother, Wilhelm. They found Tomas’ friend Georg and together the three emigrated from Germany in 1944. They settled in New York City where they sought political asylum under the United States government. Wilhelm would continue to pursue his dreams of becoming a famous singer, Tomas at his side.
Tomas never forgot the sweet faced boy with the sad eyes. For almost twenty years on the anniversary of their escape from Germany, he would remember David and wish that he could see him again. Tomas wrote letters to David that never got sent. He composed songs for the boy and wrote poems but with only a first and a possible last name, he never found David.
David Bonk and Jan Werner went into hiding in northern Germany. For three months, they stayed in abandoned apartments, continuing to sabotage Nazi soldiers to the best of their abilities. On November 16, 1944, unable to keep going with so many friends gone, David Bonk committed suicide. Jan Werner disappeared the next day.
In 1955, Gustav Schäfer returned to Germany, along with the last of several thousand Heimkehrer, German POWs from the Soviet work camps. He and the other interred men were broken in body and mind, many suffering for the rest of their lives from the abuse suffered under Soviet control. Documentation of the men returning from the Soviet Union has, in recent years, been closely related to post traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. The Heimkehrer became a symbol of broken Germany after the end of the Nazizeit. Within the post-WWII German community, the Heimkehrer and their experiences in the Soviet labor camps were associated with the horrors inflicted by the Nazis, in many regards surpassing Germany’s horrific guilt over the Holocaust. Broken men, broken women, broken homes, Germany was defeated.