The depth of sorrow, a reading of “Prague Fatale” by Philip Kerr

PragueWWII

 

The year is 1942, and the gods of war appear to be still smiling to the conquering nazis. Bernie, back from the Ukrainian front, is in Berlin, already besieged by restrictions, lack of petrol, lack of good bier and of most amenities. In the West, German cities are now targeted by allied bombers.

There is a dead body, on a railway track, near the Jannowitz bridge. It seems to be that of a foreign worker, a Dutchman. Then there is an incident, at Nollendorf Platz station, when Bernie gallantly saves a young woman from an attacker who disappears in the night. Soon afterwards he is called upon by the Gestapo to help on another case, another body in a small park nearby…

As Bernie starts his investigations fate catches him up, in the icy person of his nemesis, Reinhard Heydrich, now protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Bernie is summoned to Prague, seemingly invited to a party organised for “intimate friends”, in celebration of Heydrich’s new post. Foolishly, Bernie takes the young woman with him, the one he rescued at Nolli.

Prague is in the hands of the SS and the Gestapo. Resistance suspects are arrested, tortured and summarily executed. At Heydrich’s residence, Bernie meets a group of nazi officers, and among them a young captain, like him recently returned from the Eastern front. As Bernie spends the night with his girl, the young captain is murdered, and Heydrich orders Bernie to lead the investigation…

Bernie solves the riddle, only to realise, too late, his mistake and to be forced to hopelessly witness the demise of the girl in the hands of the Prague Gestapo. But soon Heydrich himself is assassinated by Czech resistants… This is a bitter, devilish story, with many twists and surprises, as Kerr immerses his reader in the horrors of Prague in 1942.

Picture from “World War II in Prague”

#VisDare 60: Patience #WritersWednesday

PatienceI thought I recognised him: the steady gaze, the strong hands, the broad shoulders, now a little stooped. Of course he had changed as all of us, all of us still living that is. The long untidy hair was in sharp contrast with the close-shaven head of my memories.

The shabby civilian clothes did not compare with the stiff black uniform he he had worn with pride, then, before the fall. The black uniform of assassins and torturers.

Behind us children were playing, one of the old clocks chimed. The shivering sound reminded me of the present: the war was over, the city was now free.

And yet, it was inhabited by ghosts: those of the traitors and their victims.