A Brief Encounter: Overview
The sun was beaming down onto the hills of Konstanz, a small and low-lying village, very close to the border with Switzerland. The men were walking to the station. They had been walking a long way and were very tired. It was late in the evening. They stopped off at a small cafï¿½ where they ordered some water and some crisps each. They paid and walked the final few metres until they arrived at the small and derelict station. There, they were stopped by a small group of soldiers, wearing their green, olive-coloured suits. They asked the men for their papers. The men handed their tatty papers over very reluctantly. They checked the papers and then told the exhausted men that they were not allowed to cross and that they had to see the general of the area.
The tired men slowly walked the few steps across the battered platform, accompanied by the tired soldiers. On the other side of road, there was a small, brick-walled hut. They walked slowly up to it. Inside the general was reading the local newspaper, slouched back in his leather chair.
‘Ah, hello,’ he said calmly.
They did not respond but looked around the little building. On the wall, there were lots of photographs of the squadrons in which he must have trained as a pilot.
‘You know that there are a group of fugitives from a German concentration camp, where are you from?’ he said.
‘We come from France. We are going to Zurich to greet our friends from school,’ Francois said.
‘You are the fugitives, aren’t you?’ he said, ‘you have caused us enough trouble.’
‘We are not the…’
‘Yes you are,’ he said interrupting, ‘we have been told by General Heimlich back in Munich. Remember him? He has sent us a telegram of what you look like and your names.’
They stood still, looking at the photos. The sun was dying down as the evening started to approach.
‘We are not the fugitives, we are going to Zurich to see our friends,’ Francois said very persuasively.
The general was not to be moved. He stayed there, smoking his pipe casually.
‘You are; because I know what you look like, so there is no point in trying to plead your case; and even if you are going to Zurich, you do not have the right papers to do so,’ he replied.
‘That is absurd!’ Raphael said. He stamped his foot on the ground loudly.
‘What is happening to us, then?’ said Francois.
‘No, don’t say that; I want a reason why we are being refused entry. Go on then, why?’ said Raphael.
‘The general from the camp in Munich has told others, and me, that three men of French origin have escaped. They match your figures and so I have to enquire as to who they are. He did not say any names so I will phone him now. If you could wait for a second or two,’ he replied.
He picked up the phone from the other side of his wooden desk. He dialled the number carefully and slowly. He then listened in.
‘Ah, hello, is that General Heimlich?’ he enquired.
‘Yes,’ was the reply from the other end.
‘Hello, this is General Fuser, here in Konstanz,’ he replied.
‘I have three young men here, who say that they are French. They say that they are visiting some friends in Zurich. What are their names?
‘Francois, Raphael and Danni. They must be returned to Munich,’ he replied.
‘Ok, thanks, bye,’ he responded.
He put the phone down onto the desk quietly.
‘Ok then,’ he said calmly.
‘General Heimlich has ordered that you be returned to Munich at once. You will get the next train, which leaves in ten minutes.’
‘What!’ said Raphael.
He started to shout at the general. He was restrained with difficulty by two of the soldiers and they were led of the building to the other side of the destroyed station.
They picked up their bags and headed for the furthest platform. They were accompanied by the same soldiers. The train rolled into the station slowly. A pile of travellers got off it and dispersed into different parts of the station. The distraught men then got onto the train and it quickly left. The hills of the village quickly disappeared as the train gradually got further away from the ruined station.
‘How long will the journey be?’ Danni asked Francois.
‘Oh, only an hour. We will be there by seven,’ he replied.
By now, the sun had died and it was beginning to get dark. The station was approaching and there were lots of people waiting patiently on the station platform. Also, there were a group of soldiers with General Heimlich.
They were escorted of the train by the soldiers and taken to General Heimlich. The men were led to a car and then driven a few minutes to the familiar site of the Munich Concentration camp. When they arrived, there were about two hundred men, lined up against the fence, watching them arrive. All of the men quickly walked into the general’s office. He was furious.
‘Right then, you know why you are here. Why did you try to escape? We monitor all of the paperwork very closely. You will not escape again, though I am sure you will try again.’
‘You will face a bad punishment,’ he said to them.
‘I think that two weeks isolation will do you a bit of good. If you do it again and then get caught, you will be in front of a firing squad.’
They looked around the room with a sense of concern. It was cold and windy outside and the only light was from a car over the hills in the distance.
‘Do you hear me,’ he shouted to them.
‘Yes,’ they said timidly.
‘You will be monitored very closely by the soldiers, and I will see you every two days. Also, there will be cabin checks every week,’ he said very angrily.
‘You have caused me enough trouble, and you will be punished.’
‘Yes,’ they replied quietly.
The fugitives walked out of the room escorted by soldiers. When they neared the entrance, there was a huge cheer for them. The distraught men walked into the compound, surrounded by captives, congratulating them on what they had done. General Heimlich stood outside his office, pondering what to do with them next.