The train works its way through tunnels; tree-clad bends and Jurassic rock. Soon we will enter the Bavarian plains. Everyone is silent. I rest my mind and look out the window. My father is there in his uniform, the winter uniform of the North: white fur hat and white coat with fur collar, cigarette in hand, smiling at the photographer. It is one of the very small photographs my parents keep in an old box of grey carton somewhere on a shelf in their wardrobe. Black and white. It’s a world that was there long before mine and it’s troubled.
[. . .]
In a small drawer, my father keeps a few, very few memorabilia, as scarce as his words. Among them is a little, brown notebook. He carried it in his pocket somewhere along the Norwegian border. What made a young man, a plain soldier, carry pen and paper? What made it worthwhile to preserve the moment at a time when elf-sacrifice loomed over a generation in every instance, to scribble down short notes of an unknown fate in a minefield of a no-man’s-land? The notebook has names and addresses in gothic script, names from “the other side.” They spoke to each other, each man in a different language, a different uniform, not knowing what the next order would be.