A New Year was coming.
It was another chance to set everything right. To celebrate the year’s milestones and mourn its losses. She would go out tonight. She would have a good time. Like she always did.
There was something about the great cathedral in Cologne. She was an atheist of course, but its presence always comforted her. Maybe, it was because she grew up here and called this city home. She and her boyfriend, Georg, always came to the cathedral on the New Year. It was as close to ritual as they got.
She had a lot to be proud of this year. There was that promotion at work, the new dog she and Georg had adopted. They named the little mutt Angela, after the Chancellor. Not that they were political.
But she couldn’t help but swell with pride when the Chancellor opened up Germany to all those poor souls from Syria. Yes, how proud she was. In fact, she and Georg went down to a train station to welcome the refugees to Germany. To their home. In fact, they had even talked of housing a migrant family in their house. It was big enough. In fact, far too large for just one couple and their two dogs.
“The poor wretches,” she remembered. Most of them were young men, which surprised her. How lonely they must be, in a foreign land. There was one young man that stood out to her that day. He was about thirty, and he had the look of hunger in his eyes. She saw that look before, when she volunteered in South America years ago. His eyes were almost as black as his hair, the tattered clothes he wore spoke of a long journey. But there was his face, hunger was on it, but so was something else. Something she had never seen before. Unlike South America though, the hunger she saw wasn’t just desperate it was "ravenous." Yes, ravenous, as if the face of a starving wolf. Briefly, she was afraid. She was ashamed for it. It was then that she committed to housing one or more of these lost souls, she needed to atone.
This year, they would do it. She remembered when she told her parents. How shocked they were! But they did not want to say anything, after all the pain their own parents brought to the world, they were always sensitive to being seen as “racists” or being against “progress.” In fact, she heard her mother whispering secretly to her father when she thought she was out of earshot, “I know I should be more supportive, but it just seems dangerous and strange.” “Aha,” she thought, it was just like her professors told her, all of the old generation were closet Nazis!
“Not me,” she thought. She was compassionate, broad minded. A good university education and summers spent in South America made her what she liked to think of as a citizen of the world. “After all, we have a duty, as Germans to atone,” she pondered. She couldn’t shake a maternal feeling either, perhaps it was because she and Georg had decided not to have children, that she felt so much for so many. “It would be selfish just to keep that love to just my child,” and her thoughts started to trail. The cathedral loomed large ahead.
As these thoughts and memories bubbled up she and Georg walked closer towards the cathedral. All of these people, and all of these new faces. This will be the year she thought, the year the world starts to love Germany. She’ll be able to travel without foreigners giving her Roman salutes, or boorish Americans expecting her to know every detail of the Third Reich. Yes, this would be the year she could be proud to be German.
They walked past a group of refugees. She was so proud, she was practically beaming. It was a new year, a new Germany! She called out to them and they waved back, and even smiled. There was something sinister about those smiles, at least that’s what Georg thought.
The countdown had begun. They had a prime location very close to the cathedral. Zehn, neuf, acht, sieben, sechts, fünf, und so weiter. It had come and gone in an anti-climax, like every year before. She and Georg embraced, and kissed. They were warm and she was happy and in love. If only everyone could know this happiness she thought. Especially those poor refugees, if anyone deserved it they did. That’s when she knew what she had to do, she had been so selfish.
She would go to those refugees she saw earlier. She would offer their home, she would bring them happiness, the time was now. It was a new year, and she had to do her part to build the new Germany. It would be a Germany of love. A Germany for everyone. She broke away from Georg.
She started to leave. He asked her where she was going? “You’ll see!” she called back. She had to do this alone, otherwise it would never get done. Though supportive in principle, Georg was far too apprehensive about their plans. It was always next month, next month.
Sometimes she thought he wasn’t really committed to their plans. That he let his own irrational fears get the best of him. But he always came to see she was right.
He wouldn’t object if she just took action. Yes, that’s how it always was with men these days. She ran on. Back to where she saw the men earlier. They were still there.
The lights from the cathedral cast a shadow. They flickered on the men in the alleyway. They were smiling, and so was she.
Snow began to fall. Georg did not know where she went. He would never see her again. In fact, no German would…
The invasion has begun, it’s time to wake up!