Spark of Life

Spark of Life by Erich Maria Remarque Read Free Book Online

Book: Spark of Life by Erich Maria Remarque Read Free Book Online
Authors: Erich Maria Remarque
V.1.’s are nothing in comparison, however effective they may be. London lies in ashes. England is being blasted all the time. New York’s skyscrapers are heaps of rubble. We occupy the major ports of France. The invasion armies are having the greatest difficulties with reinforcements. The counteroffensive is going to sweep the enemy into the sea. It is in immediate preparation. We have accumulated powerful reserves. And our new weapons—I’m not allowed to say more about them—but I have it from the highest authority: victory is ours in three months. We’ve got to hold out that long.” He stretched up his arm. “Back to work! Heil Hitler!”
    “Heil Hitler!” thundered the group.
    Neubauer left the Town Hall. About Russia he hadn’t said a word, he thought. Nor about the Rhine. Least of all about the broken West Wall. Hold out—that’s easy for him. He doesn’t own anything. He’s a fanatic. He hasn’t an office building near the railroadstation. He doesn’t own shares in the Mellern newspaper. He doesn’t even own any building ground. I have all that. Supposing it all goes up in the air—who’ll give me anything for it?
    Suddenly there were people in the street. The Square in front of the Town Hall was packed. On its steps a microphone was being installed. Dietz was going to speak. Smiling, unmoved, the stone faces of Charlemagne and Henry the Lion stared down from the façade. Neubauer climbed into the Mercedes. “To the Hermann Goeringstrasse, Alfred.”
    Neubauer’s office building lay on the corner of the Hermann Goeringstrasse and the Friedrich’s Allee. It was a large building with a fashion store on the street level. The two upper floors consisted of offices.
    Neubauer had the car stopped and walked round the building. Two display windows were cracked; otherwise nothing was damaged. He looked up at the offices. They lay in the fog of fumes from the station; but nothing was burning. There could be a few cracked windowpanes there, too; but that was all.
    He stood for a while. Two hundred thousand marks, he thought. It was worth at least that, if not more. He had paid five thousand for it. In 1933 it had belonged to the Jew, Max Blank. He had demanded a hundred thousand for it and had made a fuss and complained that he was losing enough on it as it was, and wouldn’t let it go for less. After two weeks in the concentration camp he had sold it for five thousand. I have been decent, thought Neubauer. I could have got it for nothing. Blank would have made me a present of it after the SS had had their fun with him. I gave him five thousand marks. Good money. Not all at once, of course; at the time I didn’t have that much. But I did pay it after the first rents came in. Blank was also satisfied with that. A legal sale. Of his own free will. Attested by the notary. The fact that Max Blank had accidentally fallen down in the camp, lost an eye, broken an arm, andotherwise hurt himself had been a regrettable incident. People with flat feet fell easily. Neubauer hadn’t seen it. He hadn’t even been present. He hadn’t given any orders. He had only arranged to have Blank taken into protective custody, so that overzealous SS-men couldn’t do him any harm. What happened after that had been Weber’s business.
    He turned round. Why was he suddenly thinking of this old story? What was the matter with him? All this had been forgotten long ago. One had to live. If he hadn’t bought the house, then someone else in the Party would have done so. For less money. For nothing. He had acted legally. According to the law. The Führer himself had said that his faithful followers ought to be rewarded. And what was this trifle he, Bruno Neubauer, had gotten hold of compared to what the big shots were getting? Goering, for instance, or Springer, the Gauleiter who had risen from a hotel porter to a millionaire? Neubauer hadn’t stolen anything. He had only bought cheap. He was covered. He had receipts. Everything was

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