Context: Gretchen Muller, under the wing of her uncle Dolf, is observing and learning the ways of the society.
Hitler rose and kissed the backs of her hands. Beaming, he stepped back and surveyed her. Somehow, he always remained reassuringly the same.
In the twelve years she had known him, his appearance hadn't altered: his lank brown hair still flopped over his forehead, even though he faithfully combed it flat every morning; his pale blue eyes were still clear and direct above his sharp cheekbones, his mustache still a dark smudge above his thin lips, and his face still angular and half-starved, as though he were continually hungry but didn't care enough for his personal comfort to eat. Today he wore a brown pinstripe suit. The bulges beneath his jacket came from the items he always carried--a pistol and a cartridge belt. His whip lay on the table.
"Helping your mother like a good girl, I see," he said.
Flushing, she slipped the kerchief off her head. "I was cleaning the carpets. Dust gets in my hair if I don't cover it."
"Never be ashamed of an industrious look," Uncle Dolf said. "The true German woman works hard in her home."
The elderly ladies perched on the flowered sofa nodded. Even Frau Bruckner, the human chimney. All of them were knitting, more scarves for Hitler, probably; Gretchen saw the beginnings of a swastika motif in one of them.
"Won't you stay for tea, Herr Hitler?" Mama asked.
"No, no. An unexpected guest is an unwelcome addition at table." As Hitler glanced at Gretchen, she realized they were face to face. Without even noticing, she had grown to match his five feet eight inches. Although she saw him at least once a week, they were usually sitting, chatting at his regular's table in a restaurant or lounging in his parlor. How odd it felt, to see eye to eye with this man who always seemed so large that his presence filled a room as soon as he opened his mouth.
"It's no trouble," Mama said. "Feeding a man who appreciates his food is a true pleasure for me. What you need, Herr Hitler, is a wife to look after you. I declare, you are wasting away!"
"I can't have a wife when Germany is my greatest love." Hitler bowed. "As charming as you ladies are, I must excuse myself. I came to invite Gretl to join me at the Alte Pinakothek." He extended his arm for her to take, and Gretchen smiled. Uncle Dolf always used such courtly gestures.
"I should love to go to the museum, Uncle Dolf." She didn't even need to look at her mother for permission. No matter how many chores remained, Mama always allowed her to go with Uncle Dolf, wherever and whenever he wished.
In the front hall, he waited patiently while she fetched her pocketbook and hat. As they stepped out into the slanting sunshine, he smiled and said, "Few things are as pleasant as a young lady's company."
He had often said those words to her, when he talked about music and painting, explaining how a girl's mind was made of wax and needed to be molded into its proper shape. How soft and malleable she felt, sometimes, when his electric-blue eyes pinned her in place and his thundering voice stormed out endless words.
Just as a father would, he had told her. His mind touching hers, forming it into the right sort of brain for her, the National Socialist girl he always said would someday become a golden, shining example of womanhood for the other German ladies to emulate. She was so proud that he had chosen her to mold into that perfect girl.
About the book:
Gretchen, the Nazi poster child, and Hitler's favorite pet, with her honey blonde hair and crystal blue eyes, falls in love with Daniel Cohen, a notorious Jewish reporter as they try to unravel the mysterious circumstances under which Gretchen's father died, battling their way through dangers in a politically explosive Germany that is getting more & more lethal for Jews.
Excerpt from The Secret History
- Donna Tartt
Excerpt from The Shining
- Stephen King