East Beach

Chapter 1 - A Crack in the Wall 33

we have no foreign debts, no internal debts, no income tax.” Chou En-Lai said.

This is a very simple man, Robert thought. I would never have guessed he is an intellectual and a head of state. He does not give the impression that he is one of the most powerful men in the world.

Glancing around the room, Robert noticed a big world map on the wall, where Chinese leaders kept track of enemy troops and equipment. Muller suddenly realized that the leaders of the superpowers could not telephone each other at the first sign of trouble. They spoke through diplomats and couriers, coming face-to-face only at elaborately staged official summits.

He thought, how idiotic can these guys be? If there is an incident in Korea, Chou En-Lai should be able to pick up the phone and call Nixon. Robert made a note that direct phones should be installed in the offices of every head of state.

“China was not prepared to join the United Nations,” the Premier said. “We had not reviewed anything because we were certain the vote would be against our country, or the Americans would find some other way to prevent our arrival at the UN. Recognition in the UN came earlier than we expected. China will go slow and prepare itself.”

“It was really just the U.S. that was in the way,” Waldheim said. “Almost everyone else was in favor of it, but so many of our member states are dependent upon assistance from the U.S.”

Chou En-Lai smiled. “I accompanied Dr. Kissinger to the airport at the end of his second visit. He was about to step into the airplane when he turned and shouted at me over the sound of the engine”—the Premier cupped his hands around his mouth—“‘And China will never get into the United Nations without Taiwan!’”

With this, Chou En-Lai looked directly into Robert's eyes and nodded. His eyes were filled with gratitude and respect. The Premier escorted them to the exit.

As they shook hands, Robert thanked him in Chinese. The Premier raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I didn’t know you could speak Chinese!”

“Hen shao-very little,” Robert hastened to add.



Chapter 4 - The Exodus 105

“This is no time for me to leave!” Robert said.

“You’re wasting your time here.” his mother said. “Do you want to lose the whole year? If you don’t qualify for the baccalaureate, you can’t go to university. Then what? Do you want to be drafted?”

“I can make up the time. This is more important than school.”

“What’s so important? Listening to old men make up stories about war? Reading your books? Do you think you are any help to me while you’re hanging around here? The Germans won’t do anything during the winter.”

“All right, then why don’t you come too?” Robert said.

“I’m not leaving, not while your father is here. He needs me here, but you don’t have to stay.”

“You don’t even know where he is, and I promised—”

“Your father would agree with me. There will always be another war as long as people live and breathe, but our lives have to go on. Do you want what’s best for me?

“I want the war to stop!”

“How are you going to do that? Do you want them to make you into a soldier so that you can shoot those boys across the river?”

“No, I—”

“Or how about Hitler? He’ll give you a job. They’ll put you in the Arbeitsdienst as fast as they can write your name.”

“That would be insane.”

“The Boches could walk in here tomorrow if they weren’t still busy with Poland and Czechoslovakia.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Get away from here. Go learn how to think.”

“I am thinking! I’m reading Erckmann-Chatrian, and I have plenty of books that Mr. Hehn—”

“Hehn! You keep an eye on your Mr. Hehn, and you’ll see. He’ll be playing the German card before we see the end of this.”

“Mr. Hehn happens to be the best teacher in the school, and what’s the matter with reading Goethe and Schiller?”

“Hehn is a librarian, he’s not a teacher, and he lives in the past. You’re reading books now, and that’s good. But books are supposed to lead you into the world, not take you from it.”


Chapter 8 - Escape 176

Robert’s family greeted him with grim faces. His father handed him a blue sheet of paper. Robert was ordered to report to the German Army at 6:00 a.m. on the following Monday—four days away. He read the notice carefully and sat in the living room in silence. He reminded himself that optimism could accomplish miracles, even in the worst circumstances.

“Do you still have that bottle of French champagne, Papa?”

“Yes, but why do you ask me that? Certainly you don’t intend to celebrate your induction into the Nazi army?”

“Of course not. First I’ll get rid of this notice and then we will celebrate.”

“You are crazy,” his father said, shaking his head. But he went down to the cellar to look for the champagne.

Robert walked down the steep hill and marched into the office of the Kommandantur. It was swarming with draftees. He demanded to see the official who had issued such a ridiculous notice.

“You people come here to Alsace-Lorraine,” he said to the German official, his voice heating up. “You tell us how smartly you are going to run this country. That’s all we ever hear about in school. What are we supposed to think of people who are so poorly organized that they send me this notice right before my final exams? I’ve killed myself to prepare for those tests. Is this what you mean by orderly administration? It’s nothing but bad management. If you continue like this, you will alienate the entire population of this region!”

The officer stiffened. “It’s not our fault if you don’t keep us informed. How are we supposed to know everything? Sit down and wait your turn, like everyone else.”

Robert shook his head with disgust.

“Next!” the German exploded.

Robert stood by the wall in the waiting room with his arms folded, glaring at the Germans behind the counter. Finally he was ushered into the office of the Kommandant, an enormous man in his late 50’s.

Robert started to explain that he was studying law and economics in Heidelberg when the man interrupted him.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Preface

Chapter 1 — A Crack in the Wall

Chapter 2 — Children of War

Chapter 3 — The Miracle of Life

Chapter 4 — The Exodus

Chapter 5 — The Funny War

Chapter 6 — Occupation

Chapter 7 — Birds in Flight

Chapter 8 — Escape

Chapter 9 — The End to War

Chapter 10 — Victory

Chapter 11 - Lake Success

Appendix - Books by Robert Muller

Bibliography

Index

Source Notes

 

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