Voices just outside her door brought her back to the present with a jolt. “Jakob! Be careful!” Frau Liebherr called.
“Soviet soldiers have no business in the American sector!” the Social Democratic Councilman answered firmly as he started down the stairs.
The sound of something heavy smashing wood came from the stairwell as a man continued to shout. “Open up! Police!”
With relief, Charlotte registered they had stopped on the floor below. This wasn’t just Russian soldiers on a rampage. Probably it had to do with the black marketeers living one flight down.
“What’s going on here?” Herr Liebherr demanded.
“Out of the way!”
“I’m an elected official of this city. You have no right to bring Soviet soldiers into the American sector.”
“Take it up with the Chief of Police.”
There was a loud crack and Christian shouted, “There’s no need to break in! Can’t you hear Herr Dr Hofmeier is coming?”
Hofmeier? Not the three shady characters in the apartment opposite? Dr Hofmeier asked in a frightened voice muffled by the closed door: “What is this about? What do you want?”
“You are to come with us at once!”
“Why? Where? For how long?” His voice was clearer now, as if he’d cracked open the door.
Rather than answer, the police simply declared. “You may pack a bag.”
“A bag? What are you talking about? What is going on?”
“You will want underwear, toiletries and a change of clothes.”
“But why? Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll find out!”
“Either you pack your things, or we take you the way you are.”
After that, Charlotte heard a lot of clunks, crashes, bangs and scraping. Muffled Russian voices came through the floor, punctuated by laughs. The Soviets were probably plundering the apartment, taking whatever caught their fancy — as always. In the hallway, Herr Liebherr was still arguing with the police, demanding to see an arrest warrant. The policeman kept referring him to the Chief of Police.
In five minutes, it was over. Herr Dr Hofmeier was escorted out of the house carrying a suitcase with his personal belongings, while Christian and Herr Liebherr returned to the fourth floor. They stood on the landing separating their two apartments and talked. “I will go to the Chief of Police tomorrow,” Herr Liebherr declared firmly.
“I think the Americans need to be informed as well,” Christian added.
“Yes, I suppose so,” Herr Liebherr agreed unenthusiastically, “Not that they’ll do anything, but you can tell them about it. It’s your property, after all. You have a right to be outraged about it being plundered.”
“I don’t care about the things. It’s the arrest that bothers me. Can you tell me anything about Herr Dr Hofmeier that might make the case more comprehensible? The Americans are sure to ask. They’ll want to know if he might be involved in criminal activities that justified his arrest. I haven’t a clue. I’ve hardly seen him since I arrived.”
Herr Liebherr drew a deep breath. “I doubt very much that Herr Dr Hofmeier is mixed up in anything illegal. He has a steady and well-paying job at AEG which means he has less reason than most to engage in shady activities. He was a solitary man, unmarried, with no children, but he was an engineer. Although he’s been working for AEG for the last couple of years, during the war he was involved in the development of the V-2 rockets. I suspect that is what this is all about.”
“Do the Ivans consider the rockets criminal?”
“No.” Herr Liebherr replied wearily. “They simply want to build their own.”
“So why arrest Hofmeier? Why not hire him?”
“They didn’t arrest him. They kidnapped him. He will be sent to work in the Soviet Union. There have been thousands of similar incidents over the last couple of years.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish