By Randy Ford
Salvation? Where was her salvation? Pauline grew tired and asked, “Where was her salvation? She was bone tired. Pauline was tired of going out for the sake of going out … tired of it all. “Why am I stuck,” she asked. “I have a family at home, two boys and a husband, and they know. They know I’m tired … tired of it.” Still she continued to go out without joy. “You have everything you ever wanted … a husband … children … two boys and a husband. Why jeopardize it? But life was so complicated at home. She answered her own question by saying, “Life is so complicated at home.” And she asked, “ Do you love your husband? Did you ever love him? I once thought I did.”
And this is where we pick up Pauline’s story. It didn’t happen overnight. Such things only happen over time. Such things evolve. And the story changes depending on who’s telling it. The story is different depending who’s telling it. It’s different; yet it’s the same in many ways. And along the way things were forgotten. Things were forgotten willfully and intentionally, and other things were made up. By the time Pauline’s kids grew up they didn’t know what to believe … whom to believe and what to believe.
Pauline told her family that she turned to charity work to give something back to society. Was this true or not? Was there more to it than that? This was back in the 1920s. This was in Vienna back in the 1920s. It was a desperate time for many people in Vienna during the 1920s. So there was a need for charity work in Vienna, and there shouldn’t be a reason to question Pauline’s motives. Why she should be questioned.
Desperate and homeless people of Vienna then called on shelters in the Margareten District whenever they didn’t have any other place to go, and that was where Pauline frequently volunteered. Volunteered. Now Pauline husband had a problem with her volunteering … for not getting paid for charity work in the Margarenten District. He had a problem with it, but for her it was like doing penance for something.
This shelter was a place everyone knew of. This shelter drew attention to itself because it needed public support. Like so many charities then it need public support. It also needed volunteers, and Pauline chose to be one of them. She was searching for something and chose to work with poor people. She chose to work with poor people in a shelter. Pauline got great satisfaction from serving poor people. It met a need. She couldn’t explain it, but it met a need. And she felt safer there than at home. And it made her feel fulfilled when she had felt her life was wasted. And working at this shelter also earned her a certain amount of respect. Yet she was tired, tired of working with poor people. She loved her work; yet she was tired, tired of it. And she was tired of it though it earned her a certain amount of respect.
People running the shelter looked up to Pauline because she was someone they could count on. They counted on her. She knew they counted on her, and knowing they counted her made it harder. It made her work harder, which was harder on her, and they respected her because of her commitment. They saw her commitment. Here was a committed person … a committed person, and they knew she was wealthy from her clothes. She dressed well … couldn’t help but dress well. It was part of her, so she dressed well though it made her feel uncomfortable in the shelter. No one understood it. No one understood why Pauline showed up night after night. No one understood why she showed up night after night, rolled up her sleeves, and went to work … understood why she worked in a shelter. But every one at the shelter knew that she was on their side. She tried to smile. She tried to smile, though it hurt and though she was tired, bone tired, as she tried to make the most out of a disheartening situation. It could get pretty tiresome. It could get you down seeing lines, long lines of poor people. And it made Pauline tired: yet she showed up night after night. And she maintained a smile, and they knew that she was on their side without her having to say anything. Her actions said what she would not. Her smile said it. The way she conducted herself said it. People were amazed … amazed that she showed up night after night … and didn’t drop out. They were amazed and talked about her and wondered where she came from, but the answer to this remained a mystery.
This is where we begin. Pauline said nothing about her work to her family. This may seem strange that she could get away with it night after night and not say anything about her work to her family. It was odd, hard to explain. It was something that bothered Pauline. That she could get away with it bothered her, and it was hard to explain why she left comforts of home to work with dirty, poor people. Yes, they were all dirty and hungry, and she dressed well even when she worked with them. And she did it at a time when it was becoming increasingly dark and gloomy in Vienna. It was wintertime, dark and gloomy, and it was wintertime and falling snow in Vienna then was black. Snow then in Vienna was black before it hit ground. It was black because of soot … coal soot.
The war had just ended, and the world Pauline knew was gone, though people pretended it wasn’t or tried to revive it. War changed everything. War was the end of the world, and now the world had to start over. It was the end of the world for Pauline. And now she was trying to start over. It was the end of the world for Pauline because she loved her husband. And it was especially true in Vienna and especially hard. Maybe it was just as hard in Germany. Maybe? Pauline didn’t know, but she knew it was hard in Vienna. Yes, it was hard, though it didn’t concern Pauline so much. It didn’t concern her so much because she went through the end of the world, so how could it get worse? Yet it seemed to get worse, while worse seemed relative. It depended who you were. Worse depended on who you were. What was new? The end of the world! It was something that she waded through before she started working at the Margareten shelter.
You must believe that it was the end of the world for many of them. The end of the world! There was hardly anyone living then who hadn’t waded through the end of the world. But then, gaiety was by no means dead. Chestnut trees still bloomed in Vienna. They bloomed along both sides of Praterstrasse. And still alive were ritual tours down Carriage Way in the Prater. Ah, the Prater! Alive whenever a man still tipped his hat to a lady. Alive when wrapped in blankets in a carriage. Alive when rubbing shoulders with aristocrats. Alive! Alive! Alive while enjoying staged frivolities, as time ran out. And all of it harked back to how it was before the war. It all harked back to how it was before the war, but it wasn’t the same. It couldn’t be the same as it was before the war because the world ended. The world ended, so everyone was starting over. But after the war, who could really say what it was like. And who knew what was in store for them in the future, but we never know, do we?
Let’s not be dishonest. Pauline … throughout most of the war…while at first Pauline did her best to be faithful to her husband Fritz, had, during periods of weakness, found comfort in cafes where she invariably ran into men who helped her forget loneliness, sorrow, and pain. Penance. Penance was never easy. She never expected it to be easy. After the end of the world she never expected it to be easy.
During the war Pauline didn’t have children to worry about. During the war Pauline pretended to be single. She went out during the war because she was lonely and pretended she was single since Fritz was missing in action. Missing in action. Her husband was missing in action, but did it mean he was dead? So many men were killed, but did it mean her husband was one of them? Where was Fritz? Was he dead? She was lonely … lonely and had to get out. And men she met were soldiers home from the war, or away from home, or on leave, seekers and pretenders like Pauline, who also wanted to forget horrors of war. It was the end of the world, and people wanted to forget.
But it became increasingly hard for her to live with herself. Then one day she missed her period. This worried her a lot. At first she hoped that it was simply late. She hoped her period was simply late, as it sometimes was, and she would be allowed to continue her life without having to make what was a difficult decision for her. (She was a Christian convert, and it explained in part what she was going through. It explained why it was a difficult decision for her.) But when after weeks of fretting over her carelessness and she still hadn’t had her period … a cycle which had been more or less regular until then, she knew that she was pregnant, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She didn’t know what to do about it because she converted to Catholicism.
She began to drink heavily. And she drank mainly with strangers. She went to cafes and drank heavily with strangers. She preferred strangers. She preferred strangers when she drank. Most men she met went to cafes for the same reasons she did. Sometimes they went by themselves, and other times they went with friends. Some of them were also married, and most of them were also lonely and far away from home. With these men she drank and laughed, laughed and drank, hoping drinking would help her abort a burden that she certainly didn’t need or want. Sometimes they talked about people they met, or knew and not once did she run into anyone who knew Fritz. She was lucky in that way, or unlucky, depending. Not once did anyone say, “I served with him. I know your husband and served with him.” She kept hoping she would run into someone, someone who served with her husband … someone who knew him … who knew what happened to him. Knew he was dead. Or that he was shot, but survived somehow. Or anything that encouraged her. So for another month, from December to January, the coldest months of the year (in Vienna we’re talking about bitter cold, fierce winds and lots of snow, black snow from people burning coal), she went back and forth over whether to have a baby or not, and drank and drank, hoping drinking would take care of it.
It always hurt to think about the loss of an empire, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. People of Vienna tried to pretend that it wasn’t all gone … that they hadn’t lost an empire … that they hadn’t lost a war and an empire. And then they realized that they couldn’t get it back. Losers never win … if that makes sense. And people of Vienna began to see that their honor had been stripped from them and without honor they didn’t have much left. But life went on, and Pauline saw that she couldn’t hide or run away from a mess that she made for herself.
No, she couldn’t go back. She couldn’t turn the clock back. She didn’t want to go back and wouldn’t if she could. But she had regrets and knew she had to somehow clean up a mess.
Pauline came from a world that was carefully crafted. Vienna, magnificent Vienna. Gilded, favored Vienna. People of Vienna were all subjects of an Emperor and God. Back then Pauline didn’t have to worry about who would be in charge in the morning, or who the next Emperor would be, or how as a major power they would be viewed elsewhere; then war! And music stopped. With the clamor of war, music stopped. And after the war they no longer recognized themselves.
And after the war they were no longer rich, though Pauline had her old clothes. After the war there wasn’t enough of anything to go around. Far too many of them were without basics. There wasn’t enough basics to go around. And things continued to get worse. When people thought things couldn’t get worse, things got worse. And this was what Pauline saw every night when she went to work at the Margareten shelter. But there was more to it than that. For Pauline, there was more to it. Part of it for her was an uncertainty of not knowing what happened to her husband. What a mess! And most certainly she didn’t like the idea of being pregnant.
Too many people waited until they were mere skin and bones before they sought help at the Margareten shelter. Many of them were too proud to ask for help. People of Vienna tended to be proud and would rather starve than beg for something. As winter approached that year and coal became scarce and expensive, and rather than burn their precious furniture, many of them headed for the Vienna Woods with axes. And they didn’t ask if they could cut down trees … precious trees … valued trees. They didn’t ask. And only after it got very cold and they ran out energy, food, fuel and energy, did they humble themselves. They would rather freeze and starve than to humble themselves and ask for help. It wasn’t easy. And many of them had to walk across Vienna. For many of them it wasn’t a short jaunt to the Margareten shelter. It wasn’t an easy walk or easy to walk when they had to walk. Walked and walked. They walked with other people who didn’t have tram fare. They couldn’t keep their feet warm and would rest in parks before they walked some more. They were more wretched than people in most of the world were because they lost a war, and lost an empire, but there were people like Pauline who saw misery and offered help. But Pauline had her own problems: yet she offered help.
By this time Pauline was so frightened and lost, and so desperate that she actually considered ending it all. But she didn’t have courage enough to do it. She didn’t have courage enough to end it all. Throwing herself under a train seemed too ghastly to her. Instead she decided to punish herself by getting an abortion.
Morning inevitably came. Then Pauline would tell herself that she didn’t have to get up and would stay in bed until after noon. She would work most of the night, sleep most of the day, and it seemed like she hated sunlight. And almost every evening, she found herself heading for the Margareten shelter. Then once there she stood out because of her clothes. She could’ve dressed down, but she felt that she had to hold onto something. But in every other way she tried to be like everyone else, and she succeeded because no one there treated her like she were superior. They treated her like an equal. No one there asked questions about where she came from. But again she stood out. How could she not? People in charge welcomed her though. It was one of those people, a kindly woman, who first gave her an apron. It just kind of happened. She was accepted. She hadn’t expected it. At the time Pauline wasn’t prepared to make a commitment. At the time she wasn’t ready. She didn’t even know how she ended up at the Margareten shelter or remembered who suggested that she go there.
Most of the people who ended up at the Margarenten were lost. Many of them lost their respectability at pawnshops; their clothes became tattered and their homes were destroyed. One disaster usually followed another. And they all suffered from Post-Imperial Blues. There were many people in the shelter who had played a role in the rapid dismemberment of the Habsburg Empire, or saw it coming and did nothing about it. But they could always argue that it happened too fast for them to do anything, and it did happen over night. So they were naturally frustrated and angry and no one there was immune. .
People in the Margarenten shelter also noticed that Pauline rode trams … notice that she didn’t walk much … noticed that she wore expensive clothes and rode trams while most walked. She was one of the lucky ones. Pauline was one of the lucky ones who after the war held onto her clothes and her home. By then she had given up going to cafes and picking up men and had found a proper role for herself, which gave her a glimmer of hope. By then she had a mission. With social work, and her friendships at the mission, she felt better, but then she found out that she was pregnant.
Pauline had job security. She would always have job security. But she didn’t get paid. She was a volunteer, but she didn’t care, and people treated her decently. It was totally different from what she was used to. She didn’t mind working most of the night and was for the most part used to it before she started. Pauline had been a foxtrot lady. A foxtrot lady, there were many foxtrot ladies. Foxtrot ladies loved to dance, and because they danced so well they were treated like princesses. Pauline could’ve continued in that direction, and continued the pick up men, except for one thing: she was a married woman with a guilty conscious. For her it was as though she had to sacrifice herself for homeless and poor people in order to save herself. She felt she had to do penance.
But for whom was she saving herself? Where was Fritz? Was he alive? Was he still alive? All she was told was that he was missing in action, and she became angrier about it as time went by. She also admitted then that she had been very foolish. If she had seen disaster coming, she might’ve done more to avert it. When she couldn’t avoid disaster that was when she thought about jumping under a train or running away; but with war all around her, where could she go? She had to escape and escape she did. Those were terrible times. It was the end of the world. It was the end of her world, and as previously noted, she was also lonely. Her loneliness then became an excuse for her. She began to let loose and ballrooms and cafes she went to corrupted her. It got where she didn’t care anymore. That was when she got careless.
Vienna was ripe for political violence because the city was full of socialist, and they were held in contempt by black forces represented by conservative Christian Socialist. The Christian Socialist Party wasn’t as strong then as it would become, but it was still a force to watch. And a conflict between the two groups … between Christian Socialist and Socialist … led to people getting killed in the streets. And though Margareten Shelter and other shelters and soup kitchens scattered around city were part of a socialist experiment, Pauline tried to stay out of politics. At least, at first she tried.
Pauline was now fully engaged in helping people. It didn’t take much to get her engaged, and she didn’t have to look hard to find homeless and needy people. But then perhaps she wouldn’t have been interested had she not been looking for someone.
During those days she fancied that Fritz still might be found among lost men returning from war. Pauline thought maybe her husband suffered shellshock, and that was why he hadn’t showed up. She had seen shellshock, knew about shellshock, and hoped Fritz suffered from shellshock and would show up. She hoped he lost his memory and would show up. So she kept looking for him.
Pauline saw shellshock men wandering streets of Vienna and looked into shellshock faces wherever she went hoping to recognize one of them. She felt detached, as she looked and even detached at the shelter where she worked. She methodically looked. She methodically looked for Fritz. And she was able to compartmentalize. She was able to compartmentalize during the worst of times. She had her own problems, and they were overwhelming, so why would she want to take on anyone else’s misery? So she could look into shellshock faces without getting upset. She could compartmentalize. Compartmentalizing made it easier. And in many ways working was better than sitting at home, but with the end of the world she also lost her empathy.
Then when she saw those broken men and Fritz wasn’t among them she wanted to say, “Go away! I have my own problems.” She made herself go down to the Margareten and again once there she compartmentalized. She comforted them, fed them, offered them a bed and a towel, talked to them night after night but she didn’t take the experience home with her. She could compartmentalize and didn’t take the experience home with her. And Fritz never showed up. Not then anyway. But she never stopped looking for him. And couldn’t forget that she was pregnant. How could she forget that she was pregnant and particular since her husband wasn’t the father?
Pauline was a mess, knowing that she messed up, hating herself, feeling like a whore, and knowing that she had to do something that she deplored. She deplored abortionist. She rebuked their profession, and yet she knew that she had to see one. And it would be one more thing that she would lose. She would lose a part of her. She mourned but didn’t think she had a choice. Meanwhile Vienna started to recover. Reds had taken over. Reds … socialist … had taken over. Socialist took over and created resources where there hadn’t been any and tackled city problems head-on with a massive expansion of social services and public housing.
Then came along Frederick. Nobody told Pauline that she would run across someone that she would love. She never expected to run into someone like Frederick. She wasn’t looking for anyone except her husband. She wasn’t looking to fall in love. She wasn’t looking for a lover. She was only looking for her husband. She still hadn’t found Fritz when Frederick walked into her life. Then perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps she wasn’t meant to find her husband. So many men were missing in action during the war and were never found. And it was possible that Fritz didn’t want to be found, or that he wandered off, having suffered from shellshock and didn’t know where he was or what he was doing. .
Pauline felt more desperate than ever. Other women were getting their men back. To return to the life that she’d lived during the war, even on occasion, was no longer an option, but she would’ve given anything to be able to totally escape it. Night after night she fought an urge to slip back into her old routine. But even when she drank, and drank and drank to abort, she drank at home after work. Apparently she kept a routine of going to the Mannerheim so that she didn’t have to think, could work long hours and exhaust herself because she only found peace when she was exhausted. So she exhausted herself. She could only sleep when she was exhausted. She became bone tired. And she hadn’t yet decided what she was going to do about her pregnancy.
So, on the battlefield, after the war, after the final charge or retreat, dead remained in graves (rows of them, named and unnamed), but she wouldn’t go there to search. Was Fritz in one of them? Was he one of the unknown soldiers? Was he in an unmarked grave? She felt with every kind of certainty that Fritz was killed. She didn’t know but felt certain. She wanted to know but didn’t know where to start searching. She felt certain Fritz was killed and felt she needed to start a new life without him. So why not have a baby? Why not be a mother? She was married, so why not enhance her life with a baby? Why not raise him or her by herself? Other women did it. Many women did it after the war. She knew it wouldn’t be easy and knew she could do it, but there was something that bothered her. What bothered her? What kept her awake at night? What if she kept the baby? If she kept the baby, she was afraid it would be a constant reminder of her disgrace, something that she wanted to forget. She went back and forth. She couldn’t decide. She couldn’t make a decision. No one told her she messed up, and no one told her what to do about it, but they didn’t have to. Pauline knew.
The solution was simple. She could go away for a while (though she didn’t know where), have the baby, and then leave it on a doorstep of a convent, but seven months seemed like a long time. It seemed like a long time to put her life on hold. Her decision was to shut down … shut down all her emotions, to shove aside her religious objections, and get it over with as soon as possible. Seven months was a long time.
She actually knew of an abortionist. There was a doctor in her neighborhood. She knew him through a friend. She didn’t really know him. She normally wouldn’t go to this doctor. He wasn’t reputable. People knew what he did. Women used him though it was illegal. Her doctor … the one she used … had an office across town. She knew the abortionist by his reputation. So he didn’t have to hang a shingle out. He didn’t have to advertise. He didn’t have to because everyone knew who he was and what he stood for. In Red Vienna he practiced in the open and it sometimes made people feel uncomfortable and even angry. In Red Vienna it was more or less accepted, though it was illegal. As a sex reform physician, this doctor was a socialist. And as long as socialists were in power he had nothing to fear from the police. This doctor was known for his expertise, and this meant risks to his patients were minimal. He was a good doctor and prided himself in his safety record. He prided himself as a good doctor, but it didn’t mean he was ethical. He prided himself in his cleanliness. To say that he was ahead of his time wasn’t an exaggeration. All of this … except for the ethical part … was what convinced Pauline that she should go to him. She wouldn’t trust anyone else. She went by to make an appointment. She didn’t want to have to wait. She wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. And she didn’t want people to see her go in. She didn’t look up. She kept walking. It’s a wonder she didn’t trip on the sidewalk. The day she went in, luckily she didn’t have to wait, and no one she knew saw her go in.
Pauline’s decision troubled her a lot. Yet she knew that she had no other choice. Once she made up her mind she knew she didn’t have a choice. She hoped she made the right choice. She was sure of it, as sure as she could’ve been. And it affected her in three or four different ways: affected her mood, her attitude, and her outlook on life. It also led to confusion. She thought for some reason that with the loss of an empire and the end of the world that she shouldn’t expect life to get better. Then one day young Frederick walked into the Mannerheim and into her life, and she knew immediately that he didn’t belong in the Mannerheim. While she had no idea how she knew, there was something about his attitude that told her that Frederick shouldn’t have been there. He clearly didn’t belong there. He didn’t have to say anything. It was clear. She knew he didn’t belong in the Mannerheim. She knew in an instant. He didn’t belong there. And it startled her. And that made it easy for her to mock him. So she mocked him and mocked him, which was apparently what he wanted, and she laughed at him as she would a fraud.
From when she first saw Frederick she couldn’t keep her eyes off him. Pauline was fascinated and drawn to him. But he didn’t pay her any attention. (And it was the best thing he could do to get her attention.) Maybe if he had she wouldn’t have been drawn to him. By ignoring her he got her attention. And maybe if she hadn’t just had an abortion she wouldn’t have been so vulnerable and would never have wanted his company. Maybe she wouldn’t have craved his attention … craved his attention like she craved lemons. It should’ve been the other way around. He should’ve wanted her company. He should’ve been attracted to her. He should’ve been drawn to her because of her beauty. He should’ve craved her like he craved apples. And Pauline should’ve been leery, after her experiences with men and after what she had just gone through. She should’ve known better. She was an experienced woman and should’ve known better. It was too soon. She was married. It was too soon after an abortion, and she should’ve known better. There were many reasons why she should’ve known better. There were many reasons why she shouldn’t have been obvious. She tried to ignore him, but it wasn’t easy, while no one she knew was more contemptuous, so rude, and yet so engaging.
This was a man she thought would rescue her and who would become one of her slumming buddies.
There was a café or coffeehouse everyone went to. It was called Café Central. It was where Trotsky used to go for coffee. Even in those days Café Central wasn’t particularly cheap. And when you went there, there was no telling whom you might meet, or who might be pulling a political stunt. And it was where Frederick took Pauline after he suggested that they go for coffee. She shook her head when he asked. She shook her head when she meant yes. She meant to tell him no. She went with him in spite of having reservation about it. And Frederick should’ve been pleased when she went with him but didn’t act like he was. And Pauline didn’t know him well enough to know what was going on. She didn’t have to go if she hadn’t wanted to.
So from the beginning, Pauline let him call the shots. He chose Café Central. She had never been there before.
Frederick claimed that he took a bullet and won a medal during the war. He didn’t seem like he was bragging when he claimed he took a bullet. Had he wanted he might’ve gained her sympathy. He might’ve gained her sympathy had he wanted and couldn’t have chosen a better way to get it. She didn’t say anything. He talked about pain, shock, and humiliation of taking a bullet and had earned a right to talk about it. Still she didn’t respond. A waiter was polite yet unobtrusive. Frederick talked about the war. She didn’t want to hear about war. She had enough war. Along with coffee, a waiter served two cookies and water. This broke the ice. A waiter served water without ice because there wasn’t any ice and it was winter. But Pauline still mainly listened.
Pauline felt uncomfortable when Frederick attacked the Christian Social Party. The Christian Social Party was a favorite target of Frederick’s. And he assumed that Pauline was a socialist and that she would agree with him. Normally she wasn’t at a lost for words; normally she spoke her mind. Normally she knew when to open her mouth. Now for the first time she didn’t know how to proceed, and she was repelled and attracted to Frederick at the same time. One problem was that neither one of them could engage in small talk. Small talk would have only led to Pauline embarrassing herself. So she sat and sipped coffee and let him do most of the talking. And few men were more daring, more eloquent, and more polemic than Frederick. Few men were more intelligent.
It took several times of them going out together before she loosened up. With him it was totally different than how it had been for her with other men during the war. With Frederick it was totally different than it had been for her with Fritz. She didn’t flirt. Before she flirted with soldiers, flirted with soldiers on leave from war, flirted with them to help them forget war. During the war she was easy to get know, and she didn’t wait for a man to make the first move. During the war she often made the first move. During the war she thought she knew what she was doing. She had nothing to lose then and didn’t think she had a future, and if truth were told, she didn’t care. She had stopped caring. And she could’ve let it destroy her, but didn’t. And then, nagged by her conscience and fear, she moved closer and closer toward Rome while night after night she still frequented the same cafes. This led to her volunteering at the Margareten shelter. One thing led to another. Then she turned up pregnant.
That was how it was before she met Frederick. Frederick walked into the Mannerheim just after she had an abortion. Frederick walked into her life just after she had an abortion and she was still feeling sick because of it. She was mourning and sick. And it didn’t become her. Frederick could see that something was wrong. It was obvious. It was obvious to everyone. But at the same time that she was mourning she felt a great sense of relief. And to her it was a kind of judgement; to her she was paying for mistakes. And it made her more cautious, and she knew that she wouldn’t go through what she had gone through again. No matter what she wouldn’t have another abortion.
It didn’t take long for a new socialist city government to get to work. Overnight Vienna became a worker’s paradise. Everyone saw changes as the government tackled enormous problems … an empty treasury, massive unemployment, not enough coal, hunger, severe health problems, and not the least a need for housing. Mixed up with this disaster was an explosive political climate. Though socialists were in control, Christian Democrats were never complacent. This led to an explosive political climate. And Frederick realized then that though the government was doing all it could, there were still many people who were unhappy. He saw how unhappy people were. He was astute and saw it, saw it before many people did. And saw how this led to more unrest and political polarization. An increasingly difficult economic situation added more fuel to an already heated climate, and as you might have expected from someone as loud and coarse and rasping as Frederick was, he frequently called attention to himself. Frederick frequently called attention to himself because he wasn’t afraid to express his views in public. But it wasn’t the kind of attention Pauline appreciated. She didn’t appreciate it because she thought it could lead to him getting hurt.
She hated it when Frederick shouted from tabletops. Yet she admired him for it. She felt, not for the first time, that Frederick would make a great political leader. She saw his potential. But though he told her that he wasn’t interest in running for office, it didn’t mean she wasn’t terrified whenever he spoke out.
Pauline was more preoccupied with Frederick then than she was willing to admit. It was like she couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t stop thinking about him. She was fascinated and couldn’t help herself. His confidence and forwardness inspired her (though she wouldn’t have wanted him to know it), and her fear for him … well, it made her stronger, for how else could she have stood it. She told him, “You’ll be the death of me someday.”
Really? Pauline felt that he had no right to drag her into political debates like he did. Weren’t they all working as hard as they possibly could? She certainly was. And what more could they do? To think that they could do more was ridiculous. She asked him, “What are you trying to do? Set the house on fire?”
“They’re idiots.” Pauline knew Frederick was then talking about Christian Democrats.
Frederick used the word “idiots,” and it sounded very menacing coming out of his mouth. The Christian Democrats were gaining momentum then … it was clear … it was clear that they were gaining momentum, but Pauline couldn’t understand why people couldn’t disagree without it turning into a brawl. And all at once, Pauline knew that she loved this firebrand and this would explain why she continued to go out with him in spite of her fear. She said, “He says he’ll behave. Then he doesn’t.”
That should’ve told her that they were wrong for each other. They, however, in many ways shared similar values. They both believed in a socialist agenda and Pauline … at least she thought that through her work at the Margareten shelter that she was helping lay a foundation for a future utopia.
Pauline said, “I need to be with him to keep him in check. He knows how he sometimes frightens me. What am I going to do with him?”
Pauline was really frightened. She never knew what he would do. She told him, “If you want me to go out with you, you better not start something.”
He joked, “You can crawl under the table, if you wish.”
She said, “That’s not funny.”
“Do what you think you have to do.”
After he said that she knew that he won. She would give him that much.
For months now she followed a strict routine, tirelessly followed it, impersonating sweet Charity and ignoring her own needs, and without any romantic notions about what she was doing, and then Frederick came along and upset the apple cart (about which she intended to say nothing), and generally felt upbeat about. Now everything changed for her. It was as though, the end of the world … the war and the collapse of an Empire … all of it … had been part of a master plan, which when she thought about it made her feel better … if not good, better. And she gave much of the credit to Fredrick. And indeed she began to feel again. She began again to have feelings. And life for her was no longer dull and boring, and she regained some of the excitement she had experience during the war as a whore.
Frederick had to prove something to her. He also had something to prove something to himself. He had to prove that he was willing to get his hands dirty … that he was willing to roll up his sleeves and get his hands wet and dirty. But working with Pauline at the Margareten shelter was out of the question. Frederick refused to work at the shelter. It was too grim for him. It was too grim for him; yet he went there. He went there to see Pauline. And for Pauline it was a distraction.
Frederick wasn’t sure why he went to the Margareten in the first place. He didn’t know what caught his attention. Was it lines of people? Was it a congregation of people? Was it a congregation of working people? Was it a novelty for him? Later it would be Pauline. And after the war he still had family and friends. So many people had lost family and friends. And he still had a place to live. Vienna was so crowded that there were many people then that didn’t have a place to live. Frederick had an apartment, a large apartment with all the comforts that he had before war. He had comforts of home, warmth and food. So many people after the war lacked comforts of home, food and warmth. He had a place when so many people didn’t one. It was a place where he would’ve been safe. He felt safe there. It was the one place he felt safe. But he was a Jew. He was Jewish. He couldn’t forget that he was Jewish. People wouldn’t let him forget that he was Jewish. But he didn’t look Jewish. That was because he didn’t act like one or dress like one. Yet many Jews were leaders of the Social Democratic party. Sigmund Frued, Therodore Herzl, Max Nordau. Martin Buber, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Schnitzler, and Franz Kafka were all Jews. Still it wasn’t easy for Frederick to be a Jew. But it wasn’t a big deal to Pauline because (though no one knew it) she was a converted Jew.
Jews had become predominant in all spheres of life but, like everyone else, were far from perfect. Sixty percent of lawyers in Vienna and a substantial number of university professors were Jews, so it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone in Vienna to learn that Frederick’s father held a title of Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Vienna. Everyone knew Frederick’s father was a Jew.
Frederick was slumming when he first went to the Margareten shelter. He liked to slum and Pauline became one of his slumming buddies. Pauline was always happy when she saw him. Her face lit up when she saw him. He made her smile. She looked at him differently than she did other men, other men who came to the Margareten shelter, other men she met on the street, and he didn’t need to be there and that made him stand out. He didn’t belong there, and it was easy to see. Pauline didn’t know what to make of it, and it made her curious. She knew that he was educated. His use of language spoke of an education. And it was clear that he would never have associated with people Pauline served had he not been a socialist, and a very serious one indeed. It was well known that Jews and socialist were closely linked.
There was room in the socialist movement for all sorts of people. Frederick didn’t have to look Jewish to belong. But it was clear that he was gifted, and he liked to trumpet socialist ideas and ideals with chest-thumping pride. He did lots of speaking, again and again he spoke from tabletops, again and again he spoke with ferocity; so often that his outbursts became legendary. Sometimes these outbursts led to scuffles. It was what Pauline feared most. She fear it most because she didn’t want to see anyone hurt.
Pauline wished that she could’ve ignored Frederick. She wished she wasn’t drawn to him and had never gone out with him; but there was something that she couldn’t put her finger on that attracted him to her. And the more time she spent with him the harder it became for her to say “no” to him and the more it seemed like they were together, though she could’ve walked away at any time.
Frederick attended lectures at the university and therefore (and through his dad) knew prominent Jewish professors. Clearly he embraced intelligentsia. Clearly he was part of the intelligentsia. He felt comfortable in their circles. Yet he never mastered any one thing.
Still life couldn’t have been easy for either one of them. It wasn’t an easy time. There was too much uncertainty for it to be easy. Pauline still hadn’t heard anything from Fritz and didn’t yet have any indication whether he was alive or dead, and she seemed to most people to be melancholy except when she was with Frederick. She still loved Fritz and felt guilty as her relationship with Frederick progressed.
One day Frederick asked her, “What’s the matter?”
She said, “I was thinking how it felt like the world had come to an end…”
He didn’t let her finish. “Obviously it hadn’t.”
She said, “You didn’t let me finish.”
He said, “I don’t like that kind of thinking.”
“How else can you describe how it felt? You’re Jewish and I’m Christian, and we shouldn’t… Since I’m Christian, tell me how to vote.”
“Vote your conscience. I can’t tell you how to vote. That would be undemocratic.”
“They want me to vote against Jews. You know those people.”
Frederick knew those people and was willing to take to the streets and was capable of arm struggle in defense of the rest of the people. He was willing to face those people. He was willing to take to the streets and fight if and when he thought it was called for. He wanted to change the world. He thought he could change the world. No one could talk him out of it, and he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty … wet and dirty. Pauline worried that he would get his hands bloody.
Pauline often debated with herself. “He should’ve left it at that. When he said ‘I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty,’ he should’ve left it at that. Now I am following his lead. He has too great an influence on me. He says, ‘Don’t sweat the other side. We have only ourselves to fear.’ In many ways he’s too outspoken.” In many ways Frederick was too outspoken. But at critical moments he was inconsistent. All he said was, “We need a middle class and aristocracy in order to sustain progress we’ve made.” Don’t forget. He came from the aristocracy.
Pauline said, “If you’re having trouble helping poor people, and so on, you should go back to where you came from. I don’t understand why you’re here anyway.” He clearly didn’t belong in the shelter.
Pauline was off duty, in a small café with him. And Frederick was not with his usual circle (in Vienna, anybody who was anybody belonged to a circle) but was around people that he didn’t understand or know. These were mainly ordinary working people, who in spite of their frayed nerves were gulping down pastries and cups of tea filled with sugar. He said, “So I suppose it’s the Marxist in you.”
And as a Jew Frederick began looking for a middle ground between communism and nationalism. It was during a time when socialists were on the moved … when socialists were in control … when socialist ran Vienna. Yes, they controlled city government, and in less than a year they made great progress. Every where one looked in Vienna one saw progress. Yes, the city was recovering. Within a few years the socialist government constructed 400 apartment complexes … 64,000 new apartments in all… that together housed one-tenth of the city’s population. The largest was the Karl-Marx-Hof. It stretched for almost a mile along a major railway line. It was called Vienna Communal Housing, but it amounted to more than mere residential housing. Within its striking red and yellow stucco façade, besides apartments, it featured kindergartens, playgrounds, maternity clinics, doctors’ offices, libraries, laundries, and a host of social services. It was what Frederick was talking about when he railed against excesses of the working classes. This confused Pauline. It seemed to her that he was inconsistent. Frederick was Jewish and a socialist, and yet he criticized progress that was being made. It didn’t make sense. Socialist housing was an obvious symbol of what the working class could do. It was a symbol of what they could do if they worked together.
Pauline wanted more from Frederick. She wanted a commitment from him. She was looking for a commitment and for her it was more than philosophical. Pauline wanted him to recognize value … what she valued … value of her servile labor and sacrifices she was making. But even though Frederick wouldn’t give her this recognition she was still glad to have his company. She needed it, particularly then. She was lonely. She needed attention like she needed it during the war. She missed Fritz. She still loved her husband. So she used Frederick …”used” was perhaps not the right word … and needed him, or thought she did. But she knew she had to be careful … very careful because she didn’t want to get pregnant again.
Pauline had ignored herself after volunteering at the Obdachlosenhein. It was never a glamorous job. Hours and lines were too long and too, too draining. So only by thinking that she was part of something bigger than she was … as symbolized by the almost-a-mile-long Karl-Marx-Hof … and following a strict routine could she stick to it.
Pauline never missed a day. She never called in sick. Sometimes when she was sick she worked anyway. She gave herself totally over to it, to poor and hungry people, to all those tired souls and spent less and less time at home. Pauline became part of a highly charged political movement during a time when there was often violent conflict between left and right, and she never knew exactly where Frederick stood. This drove her crazy. It drove her crazy whenever he seemed to switch sides. And he didn’t seem to have any views of his own. He switched sides too often … switched side too readily, she thought. Pauline asked then with irony (or sarcasm, depending on her mood), “Who are you for anyway? You’re so inconsistent.” But he remained consistent in one way; he remained a firebrand. And he could argue either side.
Pauline was full of good intentions. But she was easily distracted. She told him, “It would nice to get some recognition for a change.”
He said, “You chose to get involved.”
She said, “None of us deserved what happened to us. None of us deserve to be without a place to sleep and without something to eat. I don’t intend to stop as long as there are squatter camps and unemployed settlers. I could’ve stayed home. If my husband were here I’d be a housewife. If my husband were here, I’d be doing something else.” If she were a man she could’ve torn Frederick to pieces.
She would’ve torn him to pieces not so much because he wouldn’t take a stand, but because she couldn’t change him. And from the beginning to the end of their relationship she never got through to him. She felt helpless. He said to her one day, “It’s going to all crumble. At the end of the day, buildings may be here, buildings may stand, but it’s going to crumble. The Karl Marx Hof will be here, but the rest will be gone.” She said, crying, “Oh, but you’re wrong. You’re so wrong!” That was the kind of thing Frederick liked to say, and it frightened her.
One day Frederick came in and told Pauline that he had been invited to join Freud’s circle. Freud’s circle! Freud circle was the Wednesday Psychological Society. And it met every Wednesday in a nearby café.
In the Wednesday Psychological Society they discussed new ideas; and one of those new ideas was the problematic social place of psychoanalysis. Almost all members of this group were Jewish Social Democrats. They had this in common. And it was an elite group, distinguished for its radicalism. Freud was in charge. Though Freud was in charge, he required everyone’s participation, and order was always determined by drawing lots from an urn. Frederick enjoyed being part of this group. He enjoyed the exchange of ideas, which were deemed to be “communal property” and could later be used by anyone without giving credit to a source. He liked the idea of ideas being communal property and took everything in like a sponge. And it gave him great pleasure to think that he was sitting around a table with some of his country’s greatest intellectuals. Frederick said to Pauline one day, “You must hear Freud.”
Pauline was less than enthusiastic. She thought of all the hungry people she saw everyday, and people who didn’t have a place to live, and those they had to turn away. She thought of all the work that still needed to be done … work that would never get done … and was less than enthusiastic about Frederick intellectual pursuits. There was still too much work to be done. She saw the need, how great the need was, and how much more they had to do. She felt proud of their accomplishments but saw how much more had to be done. Pauline had a hundred reasons for not wanting to join Freud’s circle and wasn’t interested in having her character analyzed. There was too much going on … in her brain … for it.
Frederick looked at her kind of funny, and said, “What are you afraid of? Other women show up. You’re good at showing up.”
She bowed her head and didn’t say anything else.
He said, “You have a whole week to think about it.”
For the next week Pauline fretted over it. It was a big step for her. It felt like a trap. “I don’t know, Frederick. I don’t feel like I would fit it. I think you’re misguided. I think it’s a man’s club.”
He lied by saying, “You wouldn’t have to say anything.”
It was Frederick’s first attempt to broaden her horizons. It shouldn’t have mattered to him. It didn’t matter to him that she was less educated than he was. It shouldn’t matter and didn’t matter. In a socialist world, it didn’t matter. It mattered more that she came from the working class … except it wasn’t true. She didn’t come from a working class family. She had money. You could tell she had money from the way she dressed.
His inconsistency worried her. It worried her and bothered her. It worried her and bothered her when railed against socialists. Yet he claimed to be a socialist. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense, and she tried to talk to him about it.
He said, “They’re all socialists.” … meaning all members of Freud’s circle were socialists … Jewish socialists.
She said, “I can’t be what I’m not. You must admit that I’ve come a long way.”
He didn’t know why she said you have to admit that I’ve come a long way. She never told him about her past, of course. So he didn’t know where she came from. She was married. She told him that she was married but told him that her husband was killed during the war. And it was huge for her to tell him that much, though part of it was a lie. And it was huge to her that she no longer picked up men in cafes.
Frederick wisely didn’t push her. When he decided not to push her, his acceptance and kindness then came out. He became solicitous to please her. And it was a very long time before he brought up Freud again.
“What did you mean when you said you’ve come a long way?”
She then told him about picking up men. He was shocked. Once he knew Pauline thought that he wouldn’t have anything to do with her. Her pulse raced. She wanted to tell him everything. She would’ve told him everything … would’ve confessed everything … told him more if he hadn’t stopped her. Frederick told her that it didn’t matter. Of course, it mattered, and they both knew it, but he was willing to set it aside. Frederick didn’t like hearing about such things. He was afraid to hear more. He took her out to a café, hoping to show that nothing changed. But both of them saw clearly that it had. They were close, and yet they weren’t. As a gentleman, he wouldn’t allow himself to let disappointment show. But she could tell that things weren’t the same.
He said at last, “I’m sorry for you. Maybe you should talk to Freud, but I’m no longer suggesting that you attend his circle.”
So, though she wouldn’t go to either Freud’s circle or his clinic, and even though Freud’s clinic was free, Frederick could say that at least he made an effort.
Pauline now went to the Obdachlosenhein every morning. She worked there all day and part of the night. She said she loved it. She loved it and hated it at the same time. She had a love/hate relationship with her job. Even when Pauline worked into the evening. Even when need was overwhelming. It gave her a reason to live. “Now is a time for sacrifice,” she said. “Sacrifice? There’s nothing attractive about sacrifice.”
“I have to do something. I can’t stay at home. If I stayed at home, I would be bored to death.”
Frederick had no response, and so she asked him, “What are you contributing?” It was something she wanted to ask him for a long time.
Frederick finally said, “It takes more than bricks and labor to build a house. I’m doing my best to keep a mixer going. It takes everyone, not just workers. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s easy enough for you to talk about sacrifice. You’ve found your place. You find satisfaction. You find satisfaction helping poor people. You’re appreciated. You set your own pace. You don’t have to work and set your own pace. What more would you want? What more would make you happy. No one is making you work so much.”
And Frederick was right. No one was making her work. She didn’t have to work. She was a volunteer and could easily stay home. No one said she had to work so much. After this she spent less time at the Obdachlosenhein and more time with Frederick.
From their windows, residents saw a great city expanding lopsidedly away from the Danube. Pauline didn’t live far from the Margareten. Pauline went occasionally with Frederick to the Prater. The Obdachlosenhein where she worked was inside the Margareten and a good distance from the Prater. She walked to work more often than she rode a tram. She could walk. She lived close enough to walk. She had money for fare. She wasn’t starving. She had a place to live, and had tram fare when she needed it. She was lucky, luckier than a lot of people, but she felt that she needed exercise and fresh air, so she walked as often as she could. . But children that she saw begging on the streets always bothered her. And reminders of Fritz and the war still were everywhere, so she never forgot that she was married.
They were still hanging dissenters and deserters. There were still public executions in Vienna. Pauline always looked at photographs of hangings of deserters in the newspaper. She looked to see if she recognized them. She wouldn’t have admitted that she was looking for Fritz. Pauline asked, “When are we going to put it behind us?” Pauline wanted to put as much as possible behind her.
“It takes time. You know it takes time.”
“But is it necessary? And they beat sick women, oh my, why? They hang people in public, why?”
Frederick said, “I don’t know. Some things don’t make sense.”
“I must confess that I’m disgusted by it. And I’m afraid … afraid for you.”
“I can be afraid for you. I’m serious. You don’t seem to realize how dangerous it is. You could be killed, if you don’t watch it.”
Besides circles, Frederick went to meetings. There they planned and strategized.
He said, “We need to be prepared.” They knew that the other side wouldn’t be silent.
“Well, yes. We can’t wait until they attack us. It’s only a matter of time. It’s only a matter of time before they attack us. We know it. It’s only a matter of time. They’re against us. They hate us. They’re planning right now. So we have to plan and strategize. Yes, it’s only a matter of time.”
They all knew what they were up against. They had all been through enough to know. They had all been on the front line for a long time.
“And we know who they are. They? They? Who were they?”
With 100,000 unemployed men in Vienna, 6,000 families homeless, 2,500,000 persons on the verge of starvation, and 80% of children suffering from rickets, it added up to a crisis and in spite of all of the progress Social Democrats were making: meetings in small rooms: makings of a mob, Christian Democrats carrying clubs and placards and shouting, “More bravery for our Viennese blood!”
Frederick was looking for a fight. He was itching for one. His blood was boiling. He exclaimed, “Those Christians Democrats! They hate us.”
The idea that Pauline could control a firebrand like Frederick was unrealistic. It was unrealistic for her to think she could control Frederick. And she knew it. After she was around him for a while she knew it … knew it would be fool hearted for her to have been unprepared for the worse. And it was why she held back … why she didn’t totally commit herself to Frederick, and besides she was still married. And this was when, caught between a need for companionship and commonsense and knowing that she wasn’t free, she began to realize that she was faced with a decision. She was faced with a big decision. And this was when she began thinking about what would be best for her. And about her personal safety. It was why for a while she stopped seeing Frederick.
They met secretly in a small room. It didn’t take much to get them started, but the hardest thing was to keep them in check. And it was early on before they had uniforms and a clear ideology, but one thing was clear: they were against the Reds. They were against communist, socialist … call them what you will. It didn’t matter what you called them. And unlike many men in Vienna, most of them, if not all of them had jobs and dressed like they were important. They left wives and children at home and met after work. And most of them survived war intact, except now they felt threatened. Three main sources of their anger were socialist who controlled city government and inflation that was quickly eating away their income, and taxes. Soon they wouldn’t be able to put shoes on their children’s feet. Soon they wouldn’t make enough money to buy bread. Soon they would have to carry a wheelbarrow of paper to buy a loaf of bread, and they wondered what it was going to be like within a year or even a month. How would they survive when they couldn’t feed their families?
Like other Christian Democrats, they tried to avoid the Margareten District. Instead they met in small rooms in the center of Vienna. And when time was ripe they paraded with their placards in front of City Hall, and claimed a place there, giving people an alternative to socialism. They gave people an alternative to communism. And they made no attempt to hide their feelings. They hated Reds, they hated communist, and they hated Jews and communist and made no bones about it. A park in front of City Hall was as public as any place in Vienna. They occupied this park. It faced the Ring and was close to the University and the Burg Theater. They thought that more the public saw them, more support they’d have, and more people they had on their side, greater chance they had of changing things. But they were still very weak. They didn’t have support they would have later on, and were indeed weak, and it would actually take some time before they were strong enough to change the course of events.
These small groups of Christian Democrats were getting ready to pounce while Pauline’s firebrand was getting more and more vociferous. He was attracting attention, getting attention. And that was when Pauline, to his mortification and sorrow, told him that she wouldn’t go out with him again.
This lasted for a month or two. During this time he kept coming around the Obdachlosenhein. He kept coming around the Obdachlosenhein to see Pauline while pretending to be hungry, and it embarrassed Pauline. At the same time inflation continued rise at rapid rate, and no one knew how high it would go. And Christian Democrats blamed it all on ruling Socialist. Christian Democrats were the ones who worked and paid taxes, and everyone … especially those who paid taxes … knew that not only their taxes were going up but also new taxes were being added to pay for social programs. This outraged Christian Democrats. They were paying higher taxes, and it outraged them, outraged and energized them. It brought more people into their ranks. It gave them more of a voice, and it also gave rise to Jew-baiting. Jews were ultimately blamed. Jews were ultimately blamed for everything. People sought simple answers, and the simplest one was to blame Jews. And since most Jews were Social Democrats, and Social Democrats ruled Vienna, Jews were at fault.
Frederick never kept his feelings secret. He was very vocal about them, while Pauline was the opposite. Frederick, who was not afraid to buck the establishment, was also critical of people on his side of the political divide. He thought there shouldn’t be a divide. And he insisted on honesty, so everyone who knew him knew where he stood. He was very honest, and if you made one mistake, he’d nail you for it. On such occasions it was better not to argue with him (he usually got the better end of an argument) and because of it he didn’t make many friends.
Elsewhere in Austria Christian Democrats had the majority. Elsewhere Social Democrats were shut out of politics. They weren’t considered nationalists. They were mostly Jews and weren’t considered nationalist. They were Jews and socialists. Hence they were demonized. For the most part they kept to themselves or moved to Vienna.
Meanwhile processions and demonstrations in front of city hall continued, and they continued without causing much of a stir. But it irritated Frederick. It irritated him to see them marching around with placards. These demonstrations actually didn’t amount to much. In the beginning no more than a few dozen braved the cold, and then cold, wind and snow. Numbers would grow in the spring. Numbers grew when it got warmer. Numbers grew, and they got louder. And no one knew where it would end, but after a while most people outside the group stopped paying attention to them. Frederick even began to enjoy walking past them, going out his way to do so and enjoyed feeling superior. And as an aristocrat, he forgot that he should’ve been out there with them … out there demonstrating … out there demonstrating in front of City Hall. Sometimes one of them recognized him and called him by name.
And that was when Otto Bauer, Karl Renner, and Max Adler were in power and Frederick’s friend appeared, and his life took another turn.
This friend, Herr Lippert, was someone Frederick knew from his university days. They knew each other from college, and Herr Lippert was someone who sometimes showed up when Frederick least expected it. This time, after a long time, Herr Lippert shot Frederick a look of contempt. They liked each other. They were friends, yet Herr Lippert showed him contempt. While contempt wasn’t easy for Herr Lippert. He was a likable guy. Yet reasons for his contempt for his friend seemed clear enough, and Herr Lippert wouldn’t have said anything had they not recognized each other. Herr Lippert broke ranks with the protestors and said, “Frederick.” And called out, “Frederick!” But Fredrick kept walking, and didn’t want to acknowledge his friend since he (his friend) was among those protesting in front of City Hall.
Frederick also knew that if he stopped he might end up in a fistfight. He wasn’t interested in fighting then. Frederick wasn’t interested in fighting a friend, particularly since he was outnumbered. But Herr Lippert chased after him, chased after him, yelling, and, in a way people often did, he began to say what he thought about people who ran the city. Frederick didn’t argue. This was strange because he liked to argue, but he knew better not argue here in front City Hall … argue when he was outnumbered, and it could end up in a fistfight, and when he liked to boast about progress that the socialists were making. All these things he often touted, while preaching to the choir more often than not.
Frederick didn’t want to be recognized by the crowd that assembled in front of City Hall. He knew many of them. And he had gone to school with many of them. And was recognized as an aristocrat, so he was easily recognizable. And he knew what they were plotting. He knew they plotting something nasty, so he looked away as Herr Lippert talked to him.
Herr Lippert asked, as directly as he could, “How do you like paying more taxes?”
Frederick asked in response, “Is what I think any of your business?” He had to restrain himself to keep from blurting out something that he’d regret.
Herr Lippert said, “Aren’t we all paying more than our share? Aren’t we paying through the nose? Aren’t there too many people with their hand out?”
Frederick tried to ignore him and wouldn’t face him.
Herr Lippert went looking for him the next day and knew where to look. Herr Lippertr said, “I know where you’ve been hiding. But will you answer me?” Frederick didn’t respond directly but took him to the Obdachlosenhein. “Now, don’t you see what will happen if we don’t help them?” The question obviously mattered to Frederick, though Herr Lippert had a ready response. “To me it’s an example of social meddling. Communism won’t work. You know communism won’t work.”
“It’s not communism, my friend. It’s socialism. We need to be clever! It boils down to packaging. Red Vienna is the winner! I’m voting Social Democrat.”
“Then you might as well not vote!”
More debating followed. Philosophical stuff, mainly, once they got started. Frederick had been listening to Freud. He rather enjoyed Freud. He enjoyed participating in Freud’s circle. He rather enjoyed it. And Frederick could see how he and Herr Lippert would never agree. He said to his friend, speaking quite loudly, as though he wanted everyone at the Obdachlosenhein to hear him, “If we don’t help these people we’d have a revolution on our hands. Now they’re the clay out of which we’ll create a new working class.”
Herr Lippert then said with irritation, “Clay? That seems farfetched to me.” It didn’t make sense to him. Herr Lippert thought that these people should be made to work. They should be made to work and not just fed. It wasn’t as though there was a lack of things for them to do, but then who would pay them. That was a dilemma. Who would pay them? To Herr Lippert it was quite a dilemma because he knew that with the fall of the empire the ability to pay workers had diminished. And he didn’t want to pay more taxes.
In time Herr Lippert met Pauline. That was when the rivalry between the two men really began, though neither one of them admitted it.
There was no escaping the winter now. In the beginning there was only a little bit of coal and a lot of starving people. There wasn’t enough coal and food to go around. Then very soon people started trooping out to the Vienna woods for firewood, and with the added worry of a Spanish influenza epidemic both men realized that they wouldn’t be spared. Spanish influenza touched everyone in some way. This seemed to change Herr Lippert. It frightened him and changed him, and Herr Lippert, more than Frederick, finally conceded that if more wasn’t done for homeless people, poor and homeless people, all society would soon be headed for an implosion.
There was no escaping it now. Herr Lippert felt trapped, and Frederick was astonished and awed at how quickly he changed. Herr Lippert felt like some higher power had conspired and trapped him when it would’ve been easier for him to stay on the other side. It would’ve been easier for him to not get involved.
Frederick felt differently and … in spite of his ranting and raving … he was never emotionally moved. He was able to compartmentalize. He remained a cold man in many respects, and used mockery whenever he didn’t know what else to use. But he couldn’t resist bating Herr Lippert. They, therefore, were the opposite of each other.
Then the time came when Herr Lippert had to decide which side he was on. He couldn’t continue to be dishonest. Like Frederick he came from an aristocratic family, except he was Catholic. He grew up in a Catholic home. And he finally realized that something had to be done and that there wasn’t any entity big enough or willing to tackle a job that seemed impossible besides the government. And Herr Lippert couldn’t get over Pauline any more than Frederick could and couldn’t get over her commitment to the Obdachlosenhein. And soon, like Frederick, to not see her would’ve been tantamount to giving up wine, and he couldn’t see himself giving up wine. And once he was identified with the Social Democrats, he couldn’t simply go back to his Christian Democrat roots.
And around the same time Frederick also began showing up at the Obdachlosenhein again. This meant the two men often ran into each other there. And this soon became awkward. And more or less every day they talked to each other and consequently grew closer. They were soon as close as they had ever been. Soon they were as close as they could be considering that they were rivals, and they would’ve been even closer had it not been for Pauline. Competition between them had always been there and had been there before either one of them ended up at the Obdachlosenhein. Though they both liked to talk politics, it never seemed like they were talking about the same issues when often they were. Frederick always took an intellectual approach, while Herr Lippert’s views were more of the kidney-and-dumpling variety. And their differences were as pronounced as differences between dark beer and Grinzing wine.
So it wasn’t long before they made a spectacle of themselves. There was one thing that helped though. Pauline was too busy to pay them much attention. So they were often seen off in a corner somewhere. They would be talking. Loudly sometimes. Privately, they liked each other, something you wouldn’t have known it from listening to them. They liked to argue. They got into long arguments. They were unlikely to agree on anything. They often argued and rarely agreed on anything. While Frederick was full of himself. People could very quickly see it. Pauline still didn’t totally trust him. That made Herr Lippert seem more attractive to her, though she was flattered by attention they both gave her.
Her anxiety, when she saw both of them arguing, could’ve been avoided had she clearly chosen one of them over the other. Anyone seeing the three of them together wouldn’t have guessed that there was a rivalry. On the surface, there didn’t seem to be any problems.
Acting as pals when they went out, they looked like they were having a good time. Herr Lippert would notice just how Pauline held her head. He was very sensitive. He was sensitive, while Frederick seemed cold. Herr Lippert noticed little things about Pauline … little things he liked. And she liked the way he dressed. Why yes, he dressed better than anyone else. They both liked to dress up. Regardless of the occasion Herr Lippert dressed to kill. He was dapper. With a cane and a top hat, he was dapper. And then she would think, “But it’s nonsense. It doesn’t matter how a person dresses. (It mattered to her, but would she acknowledge it?) Most people can’t afford to dress well. And what does it say about him? You’d think that he’d feel out of place. You’d think both of them would feel out of place.” But yet she wouldn’t choose Herr Lippert over Frederick. She would, for instance, see Frederick and think, “He has remained loyal even when I’ve treated him poorly. He is truly remarkable.” And with this going through her head the three of them often went out, but it was foolish for her to think that she could make them both happy.
All this she kept to herself. And it sometimes made her feel melancholy. She never talked about her sadness. She never talked about Fritz and how she missed her husband. She didn’t like to dwell on sadness. She wondered what the two men would say if they knew. With her arms linked through arms of two men, she blossomed. It helped her, and sometimes she forgot that she was married. Sometimes she forgot herself. Sometimes … sometimes she forgot like she did during the war. Only now she knew to be careful. And she was regaining confidence.
They often went to cafes and nightclubs together, where she was usually more coy than erotic. She took her cue from rosy-cheek girls they frequently saw, and it mortified her when she realized how easier she could fall back into a life that she knew during the war.
Hoping the men would believe her, she would sing, “You see, I’m so inexperienced.” And she sang other songs when she felt like singing. She must’ve been thinking of Fritz when she sang the familiar refrain:
The pretty girls of Wien, Wien, Wien
Will dress themselves them in mourning
And stand around my catafalque
He is gone, gone, gone
Who was truly a genius,
And toujours gai!
But she didn’t think that the song quite fit. She had never considered Fritz a genius, and if anyone she knew were a genius, it certainly would be Frederick. And if the truth were known, drinking bored her. They used the phrase “drinking their brains out” or something like it. She would let her guard down when she was drunk and would wind up saying foolish things about loving them both. And how could she love both Fritz and Herr Lippert? Usually then nothing was resolved by the time they took her home, because maybe she was simply a flirt, and by then she would have retreated into melancholy and would spend the rest of the night in her bed alone.
This was how things stood. Her nature, how deceiving. Seemed sincere. Her loneliness can only be imagined; when with the attention of two men and with everything she did at the Obdachlosenhein she shouldn’t have felt lonely. She felt disgusted with herself, though her work brought out her best qualities. She couldn’t make sense of the world or understand why she was spared. She missed her husband. To her she was being punished. Penance, she called it penance, and that was why she put so much of heart into the Obdachlosenhein. She felt that it was the least that she could do, after sacrifices her husband made. Now with two men in her life, she couldn’t get too excited about them.
This was the story Pauline would tell Fritz. It took Fritz a few years for him to come home, and he didn’t give an explanation as to why it took him a few years after the war to come home. He needed to give an explanation, but he didn’t give one. Pauline expected an explanation. She deserved an explanation, but Fritiz didn’t give one. His story was quite different than hers, but she never heard him tell it. He simply said he got lost.
Fritz said, “You asked me why I didn’t come straight home after the war. All I can say is that I got lost, and it took time. Time for what? I can’t say.” He wouldn’t say. “Now that you know, what do you think?”
Pauline said, “I despise you.”
“It doesn’t surprise me.”
Pauline said, “I despise you and hate you.” She was lying. “You say you got lost.” She didn’t believe him. “You made me wait. Wait for what? I was worried, sick with worry. How could you get lost?” She couldn’t understand. How could she understand?
Fritz said, “I have no excuse. I know it was hard. I can’t give back those years. All I can give now is my love. All I have left to give is love.”
“Meanwhile you expected me to wait.”
“I knew it was a struggle for you. I knew you were struggling. I wish I could say that I was injured. Then you’d have an explanation. I wish I could explain it. All I can hope for now is that you’ll forgive me.”
Frederick and his friend Herr Lippert knew each other at the University of Vienna. One day Frederick chose to wear a red shirt, and when Herr Lippert saw him in it, he asked, “What’s this?” It was a question that Herr Lippert wanted to ask before because this wasn’t the first time Frederick wore red to school. Frederick smirked. But when Herr Lippert repeated the question, he simply said, “Red is a wonderful color.” Herr Lippert was caught off guard. But he kept smiling, waiting for his friend to say something more, and at last Frederick took the bait. “It’s no secret, is it?” Everyone knew why people wore red. He wouldn’t have worn a red shirt if he didn’t want to make a political statement. From then on the two friends were rivals.
Both of Frederick’s parents graduated from the University of Vienna, and they wanted their son to graduate from there too. They were both teachers, so Frederick didn’t have a choice. Or did he? Most students who went to the University of Vienna came from privileged families, and there weren’t many of them who were willing to give up their privileges. Frederick himself in the beginning had very little awareness of people outside his circle. He was like most everyone else at the university. At least like most students were right after the war when most students felt lucky to simply be alive. It wasn’t until Frederick stumbled one day into the Margareten District that he became aware of how bad off most people were in Vienna. It was like he’d been living on another planet, and this made the impact harder than it otherwise would’ve been. It was the first time he saw hunger, and it was the first time he felt hunger though he was never hungry. It was the first time he saw people who didn’t have a place to live. Before he saw people on the streets who didn’t have a place to live, but he didn’t see them. He walked right past them without seeing them. He didn’t pay attention. His mind was elsewhere. Where? Who knew. It was the first time he saw people swallow their pride and lineup for food. He saw hunger for the first time. He felt hunger for the first time, though he never went without food. It was the first time he saw people line up for food and a cot, and he had to blame someone. Things had gone terribly wrong. After the war his family still ran in circles they ran in before the war. They had the same friends, though many were missing, so consequently they rarely ventured outside their circle. And their circle was concentrated at the university and within the inner ring of Vienna. Frederick always used trams when he went places like the Prater, the Grinzing, and the zoo. He took set routes on trams. He never took alternate routes. And his routes largely skirted neighborhoods that were impoverished. He was more interested then in having a good time than anything else. This was before the war and afterwards before he matured and made the kind of noise that he became notorious for. Had he been more adventurous his parents would’ve objected, and then came a day when he decided to make a show of looking for something and ended up getting off a tram and walking through the Margareten District. It was closer to the inner-city than he thought. Into the Margareten District he walked though it was raining. That was how Frederick learned that in a world outside of his family’s circle there was a world where people went to bed with empty stomachs and without a roof over their heads. That was when he opened his eyes for the first time. Frederick didn’t know about the Obdachlosenhein before then. He didn’t know about the Obdachlosenhein before he stumbled upon it. And he saw half-starved people for the first time … lining up for a hundred time or a thousandth time for a meal and a cot made him think and he went back to the university he went back determined to find out more about what was going on. After some weeks he went back to the Margareten District and the Obdachlosenhein. It took a while before he went in. And he wasn’t sure then that he wanted to go back, but he was drawn there by a sense of guilt. Frederick wasn’t a socialist then a Jewish socialist then, and knew very little about Social Democrats. He lived in ignorance, sheltered all of his life, up until then.
Frederick’s blood pressure shot up … his blood boiled whenever he saw a hungry kid. He became angry when saw hunger, and he now saw hunger everywhere. Once his eyes were opened he saw hunger everywhere. Frederick loved his mother and when he was very young he would use what money she gave him to buy her bonbons and sweets: Cream Slices a la Sacher, Spunge Roulade, Plum Jam Turnovers, and her favorite, Malakov Chocolate Tortes. But gradually he realized that there was more to life than indulging in the sweeter side of Vienna. He saw and learned more about the times in which he lived. He understood that to get to go to the University of Vienna was a privilege reserved for a few whom could afford to go, and though he felt thankful, Frederick began to break away from his parents and his friends. And the more he emerged himself in academics … and he was highly motivated … the more he rejected where he came from.
Frederick entered the university thinking that he might become a doctor. He decided to become a doctor when actually he didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to study. He then began to think that he might drift from one discipline to another and go through college without getting a degree. He thought then that he didn’t need a degree. He thought then that he didn’t need a degree when his parents insisted that he get one. So he took classes in a number of fields and as far a field as the History of Carolingian economics under Alfons Dopsch and the History of Renaissance art under Josef Strzigowski. (His parents knew Dopsch and Strzigowski, so they didn’t at first object. They didn’t at first see what he was doing.) Frederick also took courses under Hermann Swobodo, who was very much into the theory of rhythms of Ernst Kries, which indirectly led to an introduction to Sigmund Freud. Sigmund Freud by then had his weekly circle. Now Frederick would never have received an invitation to attend Freud’s circle had it not been for Swobodo, and Frederick would not have gone to Freud’s circle on his own. His professor took him and the two of them bought coffee and sweets before they joined the group gathered around a big round table. All details of these meetings … meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society are well documented in books written by colleagues and friends of Freud. These details didn’t coincide with details Frederick kept in his brain, like clothes members wore and sweets they ate. These meetings became an extension of Fredrick education (though they didn’t lead directly to a degree) and were awarded him because of his brilliance. Other students in Swobodo’s classes, and many of them were also bright, had no idea that their professor favored Frederick, and probably wouldn’t have been interested in going anyway. They weren’t interested in the theory of rhythms of Ernst Kries. Most of them took Kries’ course only because it was required. Frederick took it because it sounded exciting to him. And he could take it because he wasn’t working toward a degree.
Frederick went more to Freud’s circle for stimulation than for an idea of retaining anything. He left his own opinions at home, though Freud made everyone participate. Frederick always bought the same sweet. They all drank coffee.
Freud handed out cigars. Freud always tried to get members of his circle to smoke with him. Freud thought it bonded them. Consequently most of them were more or less cigar smokers. They had to be cigar smokers. Freud thought, “It helps, it helps. It helps stimulate coherent discourse.” Then Freud remembered his cocaine days. “It was important then. Cocaine was readily available then.” Then they drew lots … drew lots from a huge urn. They would continue from there, and Frederick preferred to be last. Frederick ate his sweet, drank his coffee with his sweet while he listened. As he heard someone declare that “addiction is a symptomatic form of infantile suckling.” Infantile suckling? Intriguing. Freud interrupted at that point. Freud was always interrupting. He never liked any suggestion that any of his work in psychoanalysis had any connection with his early use of cocaine. Another participant said, “But the primal horde throws itself on the father. If I’m correct, I am my father’s son and not my mother’s. And I can’t help it. All that I am comes from my father. All of this mom-and-pop business is nonsense. It all goes back to the father. Maybe many generations from now we’ll have evolved differently. But we won’t know it, will we? And I don’t think we want to jump the gun.”
They never got to Frederick whenever he was last, and he said as little as possible during the meetings. And this wasn’t typical Frederick. After that he despised his father more than ever.
One evening after the three friends started going out together, Frederick thought that he’d get a row out of Herr Lippert, get something out of him at least, when he said, “We’re all idiots.” But Herr Lippert saw where he was going with “we’re all idiots” and didn’t respond. He saw that Frederick was trying to get a reaction from him that would lead to an argument. They both liked to argue, but this time Herr Lippert wasn’t in the mood. He had certainly been around Frederick long enough to know him, and after all the arguments they had he knew to keep his mouth shut. He asked himself, “What possibly could he be referring to?” Herr Lippert decided that it really didn’t matter: he’d wait and see. So he left it and went onto another topic.
Frederick continued his thinking in his head. “We’re all idiots if after the loss of a war we don’t want to die.” But that didn’t sound right because there was a break in his logic somewhere. So he dropped it and said, “We’re all idiots because we don’t go out more often.” Not talking about what he was feeling bothered Frederick (it always bothered him), and it would be something that he’d talk about (if he got a chance) the next time he attended Freud’s circle. With his friends, he therefore left his “we’re all idiots” comment without ever bringing it up with them again. He didn’t need to bring it up with them.
But Herr Lippert still wondered why his friend used such a strong term as “idiots.” It later bothered him that he ignored it. And he meant to bring it up but didn’t. Herr Lippeert thought that there had to be something treacherous behind the remark and he very quickly realized that he avoided a trap. He loved to argue, but this time he avoided a trap. And he passed a test, a test Frederick contrived.
If it had been some other time, before the loss of a war, the two men, as members of the elite, would’ve embarked on a grand tour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. If it had been before the loss of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they would’ve gone on a grand tour. A must see for them then would’ve been Trieste on the Adriatic. The two friends would feel at home then there, since they’d recognize architecture and coffeehouses (some of the names of coffeehouses would be same as those in Vienna) that dominated Trieste. It was exceedingly beautiful on the Adriatic. Trieste was an exceedingly beautiful city. They would’ve fallen in love with it and perhaps chosen to live there along with many of the most famous artists and philosophers of the day. But they wouldn’t get to go. They would never see Trieste. By the end of the war (the day before the signing of Armistice) Trieste was occupied by the Italian Army. Hostilities, of course, interfered with most plans young people had then; everyone was drawn into the war one way or another. And then afterwards there was too much chaos to travel conformably, especially after their country suddenly become too new, too small, too Catholic to have much influence in an increasingly complicated Europe. Frederick and Herr Lippert may have wanted to travel, but they would’ve been discouraged. They could’ve traveled but would’ve been discouraged. But it didn’t take long for Frederick to develop other interests, and his friend was steered in a different direction by his parents. In time they both entered the University of Vienna. They remained friends for a while. And they both, growing up before the war, suffered the same humiliation as their nation. The two however vowed to carry on, and for the rest of their lives they suffered through whatever they were confronted with. It was far from easy and by and large out of their control.
Their stories could’ve ended then. Like so many stories, theirs could’ve ended. They could’ve easily given up, but they didn’t. As their lives converged, they could say that their lives had been shaped by many of the same events.
Frederick thought, “We’re sitting on a tinderbox, and one spark could set it off. They really hate us and our people, and where it will lead nobody knows. (Who hated them, and who were his people?) We’re called many names, but they can’t deny us citizenship. We’re Austrians. We’re all Austrians and will always remain true to our country. Too many people here now want to be German. Yes, we’re called many things. Socialist, yes! Unpatriotic, no! We’re all Austrians, but too many people now want to be called German. But with the way things are going, I don’t expect to live long.”
One day not long afterwards he said, “I’ve been thinking about the future, Pauline. I’m not sure I believe in one.”
Pauline said, “Why do you say that? No one knows but you’re young and should have a very long life ahead of you.”
Frederick didn’t argue with her. Later Pauline said, “I wouldn’t work at the Obdachlosenhein if I didn’t believe in a future. Not long ago I was as pessimistic as you sound.”
Herr Lippert added, “Not long ago there wasn’t much to hang onto. Without you, I wouldn’t have much to hang onto.”
“People may disagree with our politics, but they can’t deny that we making progress. All I’m saying now is that if I weren’t working at the Obdachlosenhein I would have questions like you do, Frederick.”
Fredrick said, “We need to do more.”
Pauline said, “As far as I’m concerned I’m doing my part. Sometimes I think I’m doing more than my part. I can’t do anymore. But I haven’t seen you get your hands dirty.”
“I will in time.”
“Frederick I see that she’s working on you. But it takes more than workers to win the day.”
“That may be true. I don’t know, but it may be true.”
“We’ll need philosophers to carry us forward, and Karl Popper is a prime example. If you don’t believe it, you are a fool.”
“That may be true too.” And that ended the discussion.
A few days later Frederick could be seen standing beside Pauline ladling soup. He hadn’t hesitated when she told him that they were short handed, and he soon found himself standing beside Pauline ladling soup. He was grinning and looking like a pro. Grinning? Yes, but he hadn’t been converted … converted yet. He had seen hunger by then. He had felt hunger by then but hadn’t been converted. It was the last thing he expected to be doing … ladling soup for hungry people, and it looked as though he had changed. The efficient way in which he ladled soup, the fast pace in which he filled every bowl impressed everyone, and he could’ve had the job permanently if he had wanted it.
They stood in line together, father, mother, and daughter, like other families in need. They stood near the back of a line at the Obdachlosenhein. Maybe they should’ve been at the front of the line, and would’ve been if they got there earlier. They waited their turn. They waited until it was almost too late. The father worked and was paid a little money: a starving wage, not a living wage, and by the time they paid too much for a small one-room flat, which because of inflation and a tax they subleased and shared with a young, single man, they didn’t have enough money for food. With hardly enough room for a family of three, adding a person meant they lived on top of each other. Still they managed. They managed. They didn’t have a choice, and at night the daughter and a single young man slept on the floor in opposite corners. The girl was not yet ten. They shared a sink, a toilet and water with all the other people who lived in flats on their floor. Whenever they went to the WC in the middle of the night, they had to step over each other. They had very little privacy (privacy was unheard of in their building) and sometimes had to wait their turn in the hall for the WC. They also took turns bathing out of a single basin and with water heated from on top of a stove, and how well they managed depended on timing.
As soon as she saw the value of their money slip, and it became harder to obtain basic foods with ration cards, this mother began hoarding and depending on smugglers. What little fortune they had came from investments that brought them nearly 5,000 kronen a year. At first, with what this father brought in, it seemed like 5,000 kronen a year was more than enough to live on. And as long as they watched it, they thought they wouldn’t have to worry. At first, they didn’t worry … didn’t have to worry, but this changed over time. If it hadn’t been for inflation and food shortages, they wouldn’t have had to go to the Obdachlosenhein.
Unfortunately within a very short time, they lost three-fourths of their fortune. Lost it! Lost it! They didn’t know what to think. They asked their banker, “Why, don’t you think the krone will recover again?” “Recover!” the banker said with a laugh. “Just try to get what is stamped on this note and you’ll see.” They tried to recover what was stamped on the note without success. They went to the bank, to their banker without success. “Yes, but ours are government securities: surely there can’t be anything safer than that.” It didn’t matter that the government secured their notes. “My dear lady, where is the State that guaranteed these securities? It is dead. It no long exists.” And her husband’s War Loan had already become worthless. Even so, she thought if they were resolute they’d find a way. They’d find a way, she thought. They had to find a way. She never gave up. Then her husband caught the flu. He caught the flue and almost died from it and couldn’t work. Flue came quickly. Flue struck indiscriminately. Scurvy was also dreaded. But she never completely relented.
The four of them woke up in a cold flat and found themselves without food. They were without coal and food. They woke up knowing that the money they had wouldn’t buy them enough food to keep them alive and they soon started exchanging their belongings for wheat and potatoes. They lived that way for awhile. They lived that way until they exchanged almost all of their belongings for wheat and potatoes. And almost before they could savor apples their young tenant stole, the thought of what they’d become torment them. They were tormented by starvation. And they almost starved before they went to the Obdachlosenhein. They almost waited until it was too late, and that was why they found themselves at the back of the line.
And torment wouldn’t go away. It hung around all the time. They were corrupted out of need and tormented. By the time most respectable Austrians reached that point they broke the law, unless they were prepared to starve. Thank God for the Obdachlosenhein.
One day she watched a large group of people on Ringstrasse pull mounted policemen off their horses and then slaughter the horses in the middle of the boulevard. People were desperate, they were hungry, and they slaughtered horses of policemen to eat. They were hungry and angry, bony from starvation and dressed in rags. At least that day they ate meat, and horsemeat tasted good to them.
While rioters clamored for bread and work, and with almost universal want, there was also a display of wealth. There were wealthy people. There would always be wealthy people and those who profited from inflation. These were people who went to nightclubs. These were people who could afford to go to nightclubs, and they sought out each other and listened and danced to jazz. And many of them made this deal with themselves: they would continue to place their profits in the stock exchange as shares rose to unlimited heights.
A sacrifice had to be made. Father’s gold watch was exchanged for four sacks of potatoes. And when potatoes were gone the family, while still relatively healthy and dressed better than their neighbors, went to the Obdachlosenhein. Mother thought, as they stood in line, “What are we going to do to survive?” Father told her not to worry. “We’ll make it somehow. I know you’re worried. But things will get better soon. I know they will.”
Then when she heard “but things will get better soon,” she wanted to shake him. She wanted to shake sense into him. “What more would it take,” she thought when she could shake him. She continued, “We’ve lost everything, and you continue to smile. It’s your stupid way … to smile instead of frown. It’s how you are. It’s how you’ve always been, while I carry everything on my shoulders. Now we’ve had to lower ourselves to this or starve. And yet you still smile … smile instead of frown. I give you that … your smile … because I know you, but I can’t say that I can forgive you for it, but given the circumstances, you’re acting and looking like a buffoon. You should be frowning. Now look sad. Don’t look proud.” He cringed then, as they emerged at the head of the line. And she ended by saying, “I’ll never forgive you for this. I never will.”
And then he took two trays and handed his wife and daughter one each. Then taking one for himself, he greeted Pauline and Fredrick with a smile. He smiled as they helped serve him, and his family ate the best meal that they had in weeks. As they proceeded down the serving line … as he ushered his family down the serving line, he put on a big show by greeting each server with a word or two, and a smile. His wife was not surprised. He liked to show off. And it irritated her, but she didn’t say anything. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. He knew he irritated her. He saw it, but he thought that he behaved in a proper way. And what his wife thought she would’ve been too embarrassed to say. When it came to buffoons he played the part well.
This didn’t sit well with him. Going to the Obdachlosenhein … being in this situation didn’t sit well with him. And he knew he would get it when he got home. And his wife couldn’t wait to get home to give it to him. And when, scornfully, he looked back at her he saw … what he hadn’t seen before … he saw that she was frightened. He saw she was frightened and thought, “She’s desperate. She hates me and she hates our daughter and now considers our daughter a burden. This is what it’s come down to. But things could be far worse. At least we’re not camping out in the Vienna woods and living on mushrooms. (Thank God for the Obdachlosenhein.) And I’m hopeful. But I can’t deal with her, not with the way she has been … the way she’s been acting. I’ll stay calm and ignore her. I won’t give her any reason to attack me.”
His ignoring her only made it worse. It made her more angry. And made her extremely unhappy.
“She’s hopeless. There is nothing more I can do for her.”
She said, “He’s impossible. There is nothing more I can do. Can’t he see my tears? He doesn’t come to me when he sees me crying. He’s as cold as a fish, yet he smiles. I’ve asked him why … why he smiles. He said, “I can’t let you drag me down. I don’t know what else I can do”
After that she didn’t know what to say to him. It was something that she didn’t understand, and he didn’t know what to say. How he could be so optimistic…so hopeful? She tried, tried to be a good wife. He told her that everything was going to be all right. How was everything going to be all right when the world ended? And she wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe that everything was going to be all right. He said that he didn’t want to depend on anyone else. He didn’t want to come here. He didn’t want to come to the Obdachlosenhein. Did he think she liked it?
“There must be something she’s not telling me.”
“I asked him. He said it’s confusing. He has work. It’s full-time work. Yet he doesn’t make enough money to live on. There was a time when he didn’t have full-time work, but now he does, except we were better off when he worked part time, or so it seems. Then we didn’t have much money. Now we have all the money in the world, but it’s not enough to buy anything. But he’s not discouraged. He’s confused but not discouraged. How can he not be discouraged? I’m the one who should be confused. He comes home with a wheelbarrow of money, and he’s smiling like he’s accomplished something. A wheelbarrow of money, but it doesn’t buy anything. He thinks I shouldn’t worry. But we’re starving and I shouldn’t worry? I think he’s fooling himself. He’s listened too much to socialist. Down with all politics. Let’s be practical.”
“But one shouldn’t rely on their emotions.”
“There he goes again.”
“Coming here was your idea.”
So rather than argue, they stopped communicating. Nothing else essentially changed.
Pauline saw her one day sitting with her eyes close and when her husband and daughter weren’t in sight. There was such unhappiness there that Pauline was overcome with pity. She had seen so much unhappiness; yet … She thought, “I used to be like her, all alone with people around me. But now I’ve found something to live for. You obviously don’t realize what you have, and because of it you … you do stupid things.”
Some days later the two women talked. “This is hard for you, isn’t it? But if you want, you could volunteer here, and maybe it would help. It’s helped me.”
The woman was pleased, but she didn’t indicate it.
Frederick reached a turning point when Freud began paying more attention to him. The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society circle still met once a week at the same time and place. They met at the same café and around the same table each week. Of course the participants had their differences, but their focus was narrow. With a disarming and straightforward manner Freud kept it that way. It was a very nice group, and Frederick made as many friends there as enemies. There was nothing ever said about Frederick. It was as though he didn’t feel isolated and depressed, or imprisoned by demands of the bourgeois. It felt like he belonged. There was someone taking notes. They tried to record everything. But they never recorded expressions that came across Frederick’s face.
There was no disagreement about the ugly weight that was everywhere in Vienna, and they were all for standing up and fighting for the poor. Some of those who spoke out were direct. They said socialism was not so much political or a theory as a way of life. Some talked about it giving hope to people throughout the city … talked about socialism that way.
Frederick tried to be philosophical about it, but it wasn’t easy. He said to Pauline, though as a rule he didn’t admit his weaknesses, ”I feel intimidated by Dr. Freud. I go anyway, hoping that I won’t be embarrassed. They all know me by now … know how easily I’m embarrassed .”
Pauline said, “It’s done a great deal for you. You gain something every time you go. You can’t deny it.” He thought, “What does she know? It was a mistake to bring it up. She doesn’t understand. No one does. She’s found her spot. I’ve yet to find mine.”
Frederick wondered what made Pauline tick. Now that he thought about such things, thanks to Freud. And he now worried about things that he never worried about before … thanks to Freud. He owed Freud so much. But … not surprisingly … he didn’t want to delve too deeply. He could see himself getting entrapped and didn’t want it.
But when Pauline cut him off he was spared humiliation, which Frederick knew would happen if she delved too deeply. Then came an opportunity for them to share other things, such as music and German history and mythology, thanks to Wagner. Wagner’s music made for more than one memorable evening. Why Wagner more then than ever before? Why Wagner at all? Why music when people were getting a short stick? It pleased Frederick to display his knowledge about music and to win Pualine’s gratitude by taking her to see The Merry Widow, for with joyful melodies and intensity of sentiment they could forget what they couldn’t change. There was no use pining for a life that they didn’t have. There was no use pining for a lost empire. They still had music. They had. Johann Strauss! But they didn’t have Kurt Weill yet, and that was too bad for his music would mirror much of the mockery that they saw around them. And that was how they tried to escape, when Gumpendorferstrasse and the Obdachlosenhein got too depressing for them.
Herr Lippert still hung around too. And everything about Frederick so consumed him with envy … Frederick’s looks, his intelligence, his demeanor, his confidence …that Herr Lippert wore himself out trying to compete, first because he was so competitive, and then, when he discovered it wasn’t working, by sulking. So he did stupid things, said stupid things, and came off looking stupid. But he discovered that Pauline cared for him anyway.
They all thought Social Democrats were doing great things. They saw what Social Democrats were doing and thought it was great. It didn’t look like other groups were doing as much, but how could they do more than Social Democrats because Social Democrats controlled city government? Their idea of great things included state-of-the-art kindergartens, playgrounds, maternity clinics, libraries, laundries, and swimming pools, and when people of Vienna thought of big accomplishments they always thought of Karl-Marx Hof, a housing project that stretched along the Danau for almost a mile. Yes, socialists were breaking new ground, and fewer people were doing without. Yes, there was progress in Vienna, and they assumed that progress would continue. It was an assumption many people had, and there was no reason for them not to think it. And Herr Lippert, more than his friend Frederick, experienced more of a change on a personal level because he had further to come.
Karl-Marx Hof embodied more than bricks and mortar and was something solid that Herr Lippert could show his parents and all of their friends. When he switched sides, his parents and friends were naturally disappointed in him. Now he had something to show … something concrete and solid to show … something concrete and solid to show people who were disappointed in him for switching sides. They were not only disappointed but also disagreed with him. They couldn’t believe he did an about-face. Then, back then, every visitor to Europe, who was interested at all in reform, housing, and social progress, toured Karl-Marx Hof. Herr Lippert’s boasting soon turned to gloating … when he showed people Karl-Marx Hof. It was like it was his building … like he built it … like he built it from start to finish. He boasted and gloated and many of his old friends couldn’t stand it. Many couldn’t understand how he could do an about-face and considered him a traitor. And he heard it from unexpected quarters. And he heard it before he ever gave one of his infamous tours of Karl-Marx Hof. And he wanted his parents to see it as soon as it was finished.
Herr Lippert didn’t expect his parents to appreciate the Karl-Marx Hof, but they did. They didn’t expect it to be as massive as it was or for it to have lush interior courtyards as well as kindergartens, playgrounds, maternity clinics, libraries, laundries and a host of other social services. They were pleasantly surprised. They were surprised and couldn’t deny that progress was being made. Herr Lippert’s parents had every reason to be scornful because money that was used to build Karl-Marx Hof came from their taxes, but they weren’t scornful. This was blatant socialism, but they were surprised instead of scornful. .
Herr Lippert’s parents could’ve easily reacted harshly and joined ranks of enemies of the working class. Amazingly they were impressed and proud of their son’s involvement. They saw during their son’s tour an accomplishment beyond what they imagined possible. They looked hard and saw progress. Their son expected them to be critical, but they weren’t. They were of a mind to criticize, since they thought like rich people, but they reserved comment.
The day Herr Lippert gave his parents a tour of Karl-Marx Hof was sunny and warm and very bright and welcoming after a very long, dark winter. It was a welcomed change after a long-dark winter. Everyone welcomed the sun. Everyone opened windows after a long, dark winter and welcomed the sun. Herr Lippert’s parents were already in a mood to forgive their son because of pleasant weather. All pleasant memories of excursions they took together were relived that day: sunny strolls through Rathauspark and Stadtpark, romps outside Belvedere Castle, concerts in the Volksgarten, and fragrances of azaleas and rhododendrons in late April. They relived pleasant memories before the war.
Herr Lippert recognized Othman Spann from photographs in newspapers. Othman Spann was a professor of political economy at the University of Vienna, and was someone who had great influence with Christian/anti-Marxist students. Herr Lippert had seen him before and had heard him speak but hadn’t known that he and his parents were acquainted. He should’ve known they knew each other because of his parents’ position at the university. And Othman Spann looked exactly like he did in his photographs, so Herr Lipert recognized him as he approached. He also recognized how the professor looked preoccupied and saw how when he looked up and saw Herr Lippert’s parents, he tipped his hat and smiled. Herr Lippert never expected it. And it caught him off guard. Herr Lippert never expected to see such a tribute from such a famous person. And then before he knew it the great man and his father were engaged in a friendly conversation. He never expected this either.
A few weeks later, his father gave him Gesellschaftslehre, one of Spann’s books. Herr Lippert had never read anything by Spann before. Even so Herr Lippert knew that Spann was one of the most important thinkers in Vienna and thought that probably he wouldn’t agree with him, but he read Gesellschaftslehre anyway. Unlike his friend Frederick, his political views weren’t set, which was due to his parents’ influence. Spann advocated replacing the capitalistic system with a strong authoritarian state, and Spann advocated it because he thought you needed a strong man to reign in capitalists.
Herr Lippert knew very little about Spann’s ideas. Spann’s ideas had quite a following, and though Herr Lippert shared some of them like those about capitalism, he hadn’t really thought about it enough to come up with a replacement for capitalism. Herr Lippert knew what he knew about Spann from a lecture he attended and from talk in the halls of the university, but he hadn’t taken Spann seriously. That is he didn’t take Spann seriously until he started reading Gesellschaftslehre. Up until then Herr Lippert hadn’t formulated his own ideas, hadn’t given it much thought, hadn’t cared enough to give it much thought, so he switched parties … switched from Christian Democrats to Social Democrats and was easily influenced. Herr Lippert knew names of other thinkers … thinkers whose views coincided with Spann’s and who helped whip up anti-liberal and anti-socialist fervor, and because of them he knew Spann’s reputation without really knowing much about him. Herr Lippert loved his country and clung to a hope that Austria might regain greatness that it had before the war. He hoped that Austria would once again have an empire. He dreamed of it. He dreamed of the day. And seeing progress that was being made in Vienna, represented by construction of the monumental Karl-Marx-Hof housing project … the size and scope of the project impressed him … brought him hope, but progress was being made by socialists and not their rivals. Herr Lippert didn’t want to acknowledge negative results of socialist policies … didn’t want to blame socialist. He didn’t want to blame socialist for hyperinflation and food shortages, but these problems were hard to ignore. And there didn’t seem to be an end in sight to inflation, as value of money decreased and prices rose every day, and there came a point when money wasn’t worth anything. So Herr Lippert couldn’t ignore a nightmare, no one could, and this made him feel vulnerable, and extremely so.
Now after running into Spann, in the Voksgarten after a concert (Strauss, of course), and amazed that his parents knew him, he asked, “The Versailles Treaty was illegal, wasn’t it dad?” Herr Lippert knew about the Versailles Treaty … everyone in Austria and Germany did and everyone felt the affects of it. Herr Lippert knew about the treaty, read about it, and felt it placed too heavy a burden on Austria and Germany. But he knew too little about economics to understand how it came together. So it seemed like a bad movie to him. He loved to go to movies, so Herr Lippert saw most things in terms of movies. Only during this movie, when it got really bad, he couldn’t get up and leave. Like everyone else, he was living it.
Even without an understanding of economics Herr Lippert still related to what Spann wrote about. He liked that Spann expressed an optimistic view of Volk (people). Like socialists Spann was optimistic and even bullish and saw it as transforming, and this was with a romantic tradition that placed great importance on personal and emotional feelings. The more Herr Lippert read the more enthusiastic he became. He became more enthusiastic but he didn’t pick up on what Spann meant by Volk (“the universal use of the term appears in opposition to individuals”). In the end Herr Lippert rejoined the Christian nationalist … switched parties again. And he switched parties again without fully understanding ramifications of the move. It was also something that he didn’t talk about. It wasn’t something he shared with friends. Herr Lippert still valued his friends and didn’t want to lose them. He still valued going out with Frederick and Pauline, though he now didn’t agree with them. And he remembered one of the things that his father used to tell him. His father use to say that there was an epic struggle going on with Jews and socialist on one side and Christians on the other, and that there was no common ground. And Herr Lippert agreed and thought, “This bias is one of the things I’ve inherited.”
Spann gave him a reasonable alternative to socialism. Herr Lippert hadn’t intended to shift his allegiance again. Until he read Gesellschaftslehre he hadn’t intended to. And though he may have been naïve and confused, and as such impressionable, Herr Lippert wasn’t by nature a joiner, but he had a rebellious streak, and having a rebellious streak would’ve normally meant he wouldn’t listen to his father. That however didn’t prevent him from reading Gesellschaftslehre, or from being impressed when Spann and his father conversed in a friendly manner. Herr Lippert then began dropping Spann’s name. In conversations with his friends he brought up Spann. And then, out of a renewed sense of independence, he spouted off some of the philosopher’s ideas, gauging weight of them by reactions he did or didn’t get. He spouted off Spann just as Frederick spouted off Freud. Eventually it became a contest … a pissing contest. And eventually Herr Lippert couldn’t keep his feelings hidden. Eventually they slipped out. And then, because of reactions he got (particularly from Frederick and Pauline), Herr Lippert became even more conflicted. He couldn’t help himself, as he became more conflicted, angry and felt ashamed of himself. That was when he decided to go talk to Professor Spann, for after all they were now connected
Professor Spann, professor of economics, spoke first. “Of course I know your father.” But Dr. Spann, a strong advocate for a Christian corporate state, only knew Herr Lippert’s father by his last name. They were simply acquaintances. But Herr Lippert didn’t mind. Their meeting was friendly … friendly and productive. Professor Spann invited the young man into his office, and their conversation would’ve been longer had Dr. Spann not appeared to be impatient. Impatient and busy, short and sweet, but at least it was an introduction, and that was all Herr Lippert wanted.
At first Herr Lippert hadn’t paid any attention. At first he was in a different world and wasn’t aware of a lot of things. At first he didn’t care, and while red posters began to appear, Herr Lippert didn’t bother to read them. Though intent behind them was clear, he didn’t take time to read them. Then they … they, they, whoever they were … began to demand to see everyone’s papers. Then everyone had to carry papers, and they called themselves representatives of the Volk … representatives of the people … Volk. What! And they demanded to see everyone’s papers. And Professor Spann asked Herr Lippert if he belonged and when he didn’t admit that he wasn’t the professor assumed that he was a member. That’s when Professor Spann began talking about Communist dilettantism and seemed to confuse them with socialists. Herr Lippert understood from that that the professor didn’t like socialists and wasn’t friendly to Jews and that the professor himself blocked appointments of two Jews to the university (one was named Lazarsfeld), while calling Jews an enemy. Yes, they were Jewish, they were socialist, and just happened to be committed to empirical social research. Dr. Spann opposed such research and considered it “individualistic.” And Dr. Spann rejected fact finding in favor of theoretical research. What?
Professor Spann said, “It’s those students of mine, really. It is also worth pointing out that even if Lazarsfeld racially, politically and intellectually had been acceptable, there was no way that expensive empirical social research could have received funding here.”
Herr Lippert asked, “Who is Lazarsfeld?”
The professor whispered, “He’s an upstart, who wants to replace me. He was a student here … like you … and like you he was active in the Socialist Student Movement.”
Herr Lippert thought, “That’s why I hadn’t heard of him.” And then said, “I wasn’t part of the Socialist Student Movement, nor am I part of it now.”
“For some reason I thought you were. In order to do empirical research like Lazarsfeld wants to do, you need machinery and money that the university doesn’t have. The university can’t afford it. Because of war, it can’t afford it. Because of inflation, it can’t afford it. The university is bankrupt, and we can hardly exist on what they pay us.”
Herr Lippert wondered how they got off on Lazarsfeld and said, “It must be hard then on everyone.” Then, as though speaking to himself, he said, “It must take a lot to get a position here.”
“I hope you haven’t come to ask me to sponsor you.”
From there Herr Lippert tried to make the best of the situation. “I am a student and will need an advisor if I pursue a post-graduate degree in economics.”
“You must know that I’m against empirical social research.”
“I am too, sir.” Herr Lippert didn’t know what he meant by empirical social research.
“And you’re not a Jew. I know your dad, and you’re not a Jew. If you work hard, you should have a future here.”
That was where the meeting ended, and Herr Lippert felt like he was left hanging. He felt left hanging and ashamed of himself for not being more direct.
A few days later there came a letter from Professor Spann, which went to Herr Lippert through his father. It suggest that he look up Herr Lazarsfeld at the Forschungestelle, where they needed people to conduct market research for such commodities as beer, butter, chocolate, coffee, milk, vinegar, shoes, and perfume. The letter was handwritten and signed by Dr. Othman Spann.
Herr Lippert thought, “He can’t do this to me. I’m not a Jew and don’t need his help. I wasn’t looking for an advisor. But he’s making me feel like a Jew.” Herr Lippert was definitely disappointed. He felt let down by Professor Othman Spann. Now he began to understand how politics worked.
Herr Lippert easily went back and forth: one day he claimed to be a Christian Democrat, the next a socialist. He didn’t have an allegiance to either side then. He switched from Christian Democrat to Social Democrat, and after reading Gesellschaftslehre back to Social Democrat. So he could’ve happily gone to work at the Forchungsstelle with Lazarsfeld, though he would’ve preferred to have stayed at the university and studied under Dr. Spann. Herr Lippert was adrift and didn’t know where he’d end up. And he still had no idea of the historical significance of things. No one did. No one saw the future. Everyone was for change, but no on saw the future. When he first went with Frederick to the Obdachlosenhein he went mainly out of curiosity and had no intentions of getting involved. He had not intentions of getting involved until he met Pauline.
The Obdachlosenhein was a charitable institution and as such relied on volunteers. That was what the public was told. It was what they were told, and what they expected. And because socialists established the Obdachlosenhein it was thought to be a political front and why it wouldn’t have been would’ve been inexplicable. There were posters, of course, on walls; and there were slogans used that were very direct. And patrons and staff were expected to follow rules, and those rules were posted at the door where everyone could read them. When Herr Lippert asked about propaganda … what he saw as propaganda posted on walls … he was told not to pay any attention to it, but that rules were necessary. But he read propaganda on the walls in spite of himself. He had been a Christian Democrat and read socialist propaganda but no one had explained to his satisfaction why one system was better than the other. A picture of Marx probably didn’t mean much to him either, though Karl-Marx Hof certainly impressed him. The size and scope of Karl-Marx Hof impressed him. Herr Lippert, not knowing how strict they were and with a rebellious nature, didn’t take any of it seriously. At that point, he didn’t really care.
Yet something strange was happening to him. Gradually, getting into a routine … the routine Obdachlosenhein imposed and seeing how people were helped, Herr Lippert began to see what could be done if the working class was given half a chance. He began to see positive changes … and it bothered him at first … that the old order hadn’t responded in the same way. And one day he saw with great clarity what he had to do.
His parents naturally supported Christian Democrats and respected Dr. Spann … respected his ideas. After reading Gesellschaftslehre, Herr Lippert considered Dr. Spann a great teacher and wanted to be an associate. Then Dr. Spann turned him down. Without giving him a chance, Dr. Spann turned him down and Herr Lippert began to see things differently. He was disappointed, and with disappointment, he saw things differently. In some ways he became more determined. And his eyes were opened, and he no longer felt loyal to his parents. Now their anti-anti-anti attitude… now his parents anti-anti-anti attitude … anti-Marxist rhetoric, ant-democratic ideas, and anti-Semitism bothered him. By then many of his old friends, in college and outside it, thought he became a Marxist. He hadn’t become a Marxist. He wasn’t a Marxist. But he adopted some Marxist ideas. “The important thing,” he said of Marxism, “is that people have to work. Tyranny doesn’t help anyone.” Herr Lippert then could be, as it were, just as outspoken as Frederick. Except he never got into a fistfight or joined a private army like his friends on both sides did, while he was one of a few who was able to remake himself.
After a while Herr Lippet’s association with people on both sides was regarded with suspicion. How could he be on both sides? People were suspicious because they didn’t know where he stood. Did he stand for anything? They didn’t know, so he began to alter things about himself (or say things) to suit those around him. At one point Herr Lippert tried to find a job as an ordinary laborer (in hopes of gaining credentials he didn’t have). It occurred to him that he had to have callused hands and had to be seen as a working man if he wanted to get anywhere within the Socialist movement. He let drop, in fact, in conversation that he was a socialist and had been one all along (a lie of course) but was afraid to speak his mind.
It occurred to him that if his parents hadn’t been among the privileged class that they certainly would’ve been leading the revolution. As it was they put their money and time into the Austro-fascists movement; but then, they certainly weren’t Jewish and giving up any of their privileges and wealth for workers would’ve seem ridiculous to them. They obviously saw progress was being made and knew of their son’s conversion (though they never understood it). Herr Lippert, on the other hand, espoused things that he heard at the Obdachlosenhein. Still he spoke of his parents in loving terms. He loved his parents though they stood at opposite poles of the political spectrum to him. They didn’t understand him, didn’t understand his conversion, but they loved and accepted him. Their relationship worked because of a tacit agreement to never discuss politics or philosophy. As long as they didn’t discuss politics or philosophy they got along. Still pulling away from his parents exited him, and it gave him a feeling of power. With independence came power.
It felt particularly good when Frederick one day out of the blue said, “I’m glad you’re one of us.”
The three became inseparable. Pauline was the catalyst. Without her, they wouldn’t be inseparable. They wouldn’t be friends. She had a way that drew people to her and was more committed to the Obdachlosenhein than the other two were. They both loved her. They both loved her, and she adored them. Herr Lippert and Frederick, both aristocratic, both academics, hadn’t felt in the beginning like they belonged at the social service agency. And they wouldn’t have kept volunteering had it not been for Pauline. Pauline made them feel comfortable. Pauline helped them find a home there. Frederick explained how he felt by saying, “I was oblivious to suffering.” And Herr Lippert, sheltered before then, also hadn’t suffered. He hadn’t felt suffering before he showed up at the Obdachlosenhein.
Frederick thought workers were noble, exotic and noble, and Herr Lippert didn’t appreciate them at all until he earned calluses … until he showed up with calluses on his hands. It took Herr Lippert longer than Frederick to appreciate working people. He had further to go. It took him even longer to realize that the world would be better place if workers were placed in charge. Frederick would always remember when Herr Lippert showed blisters on his hands and bragged about working a few days as a laborer. He said, “I earned these, and it felt good.” Pauline understood what he meant. Frederick saw a change in his friend, but both men were aristocratic and hadn’t changed completely. Frederick said, “I’d be more impressed if you were a Jew.”
Herr Lippert asked, “How do I become one?”
“You’re born one, silly.”
“This is serious business.” Prejudice was still with them.
“Yes, unfortunately Jews are blamed for everything that goes wrong.”
In spite of his background Herr Lippert softened his attitude concerning Jews. And there he was, entangled in a Jewish-socialist institution and he didn’t feel threatened, and he didn’t know whether Pauline was Jewish or not; with a face shaped like hers, she could’ve been Jewish. It didn’t really matter, did it? It didn’t matter since there were many prominent Jews then in Vienna. He asked Frederick, “Is Pauline Jewish?”
“She once was. You know how people change. People can change. Look at yourself.”
Herr Lippert thought, “I have. I’ve certainly changed … changing all the time. It’s foolish to think that people don’t change. Look at our professors and look how many are Jewish. Look how many Jews are working here and what they are accomplishing. I wouldn’t mind being a Jew, if I were born one. So Pauline is a Jew.”
Frederick didn’t understand why they were having this conversation; and until then Herr Lippert hadn’t known that Pauline was once a Jew, and in spite his liberal views, he couldn’t see how Pauline could be both a Christian and a Jew. When she was in her Christian mode Pauline opened her heart to people … people who came to the Obdachlosenhein; in her Jewish mode she craved order. Now with that picture of her in his head, Herr Lippert loved her even more and felt glad to learn a little more about her.
Herr Lippert was very careful about what he revealed of himself. He knew he had to be careful. Caution was called for, and it was becoming increasing dangerous to be open. He had to be careful what he said, but he revealed more as it became easier for him to be around Frederick and Pauline. He saw that he had more in common with them than he imagined. It surprised him that they had so much in common, and he felt that they had somehow made a transition from their pasts in the same way Vienna had. This gave him optimism. And seeing how much progress was being made, he had every reason to feel optimistic. Thus he felt bonded in a way that he hadn’t felt before, and he practically lived at the Obdachlosenhein.
Yes, Herr Lippert loved Pauline. He saw her as often as he could and saw that Frederick loved her too. They both loved her, but their rivalry wasn’t always apparent. It wasn’t always apparent because the two men also really liked each other. They genuinely liked each other, and they would’ve shared Pauline in a communal way if it had been possible. And Frederick thought he knew women. He thought he knew how women thought and why they acted the way they did. Herr Lippert not so much. He was less sure … less sure of himself because he was younger and had less experience. And good manners seemed, almost, to be as important as they were before the war; they all respected people who had good manners.
Herr Lippert knew very little about Pauline’s past. (He wanted to know more but was afraid to push it. He didn’t want to seem pushy or needy.) Herr Lippert knew Pauline had been married. It wasn’t that she wasn’t married … since a husband wasn’t around he assumed that she was a widow. A widow woman! Yes, a widow, which made her even more attractive. Openly erotic! Yes, openly erotic, which, as you might think, didn’t make it easier for him. He was troubled. If she were married, would she be so erotic? It didn’t make sense to Herr Lippert. It didn’t make sense that she could be prim and proper and then openly erotic and with a man on each arm. The three of them went to the Theater An der Wein to see Lehar’s operetta, THE MERRY WIDOW. The three of them had seen it before, knew Lehar’s music, knew it almost by heart, and enjoyed themselves immensely. Afterward Pauline teasingly suggested that if she had money she’d be easier to love. Yet she had money. She was a tease, and both men loved it. Both men protested and then realized what they were doing. Yes, both men loved her. And they didn’t think of themselves as poor. They didn’t think of themselves as rich or poor. And in their mind as a Jew Pauline certainly couldn’t have been poor and the two men felt it odd that she suggested that she was. This bothered Herr Lippert. It bothered Herr Lippert more than it did Frederick. And instead of turning her flat into a replica of Maxims (a Parisian nightclub), hiring waiters and grisettes for the evening to impress two gentlemen, as the merry widow did in the operetta, Pauline invited them over to her place for rolls, pressed chicken, currant jelly, baked apples, cake, and tea. (It wasn’t anything you’d serve if you were trying to impress someone). This was probably a mistake. It was no doubt a mistake for her to invite them both to her home at the same time. But now … after eating her rolls, pressed chicken, currant jelly, baked apples, and cake, and drinking her tea … Herr Lippert thought he understood Pauline better then than he had before. And he found that he was wrong about her.
Then Herr Lippert said one day, “I’m going to take Pauline out.” But he didn’t know that Frederick had been thinking of the same thing. He didn’t know his friend had plans of his own. “I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, Frederick, but Pauline fancies me.”
Frederick thought she fancied him more and felt jealous, especially because for the first time in his life he didn’t feel confident, so he said, “I wish you luck.”
Herr Lippert then asked, “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
And Frederick couldn’t admit that he didn’t have one. “Of course I do.
“And what is her name? I might know her.”
“I don’t think you do.”
Herr Lippert never got her name out of him. And later, during the same conversation, he asked, “And what does your girlfriend do?”
“She ‘s a middle-class flapper, who doesn’t need to work but does. She works as a shop assistant, engages in sports, goes dancing, wears makeup, and is very sexy. I met her in the Grinzing, sipping new wine.”
A new woman sipping new wine at the Grinzing: this image intoxicated Herr Lippert. He wanted to meet this woman because he realized that the woman Frederick was talking about could’ve been Pauline, except Pauline was a social worker and widowed.
“She seduced me the first time we went out.”
“No, no, not a whore! She’s a new, liberated woman.”
A new, liberated woman! Herr Lippert was envious, but he decided not to show it. Instead he said, “Free love is not without risks.”
“I know. I know. We talked about it. We were careful and practiced withdrawal. It takes great restraint … withdrawal.”
“And you exercised it. Restraint? You restrained? Frederick restrained … a new man.”
“Don’t get carried away.”
They went by tram to the Grinzing. That was where, several months before, Frederick met Bridget and had the adventure he talked about. It was what Herr Lippert also had in mind when he and Pauline made their way into a small courtyard garden where they could relax with each other and relax with either coffee or wine. The vintners’s house advertised new Heuringer, and Pauline was anxious to try some. It was a good sign. New wine and a sexy woman was a good sign as for as Herr Lippert was concerned. The owner of the house told them that he had the best Heuringer in Grinzing, and it would’ve been hard to disagree with him. They both chose wine. Herr Lippert felt inspired, not so much by Pauline … she seemed distracted for some reason … but by what he envisioned happening after dinner when he had her alone in his flat. Herr Lippert ordered another bottle of wine, knowing that one bottle wouldn’t be enough, and they sat and drank and talked while they waited for dinner.
Herr Lippert said, “I hope we can be very honest. We’re living in a new age, which requires new thinking, especially in a place like Vienna where people like us are …”
“I’ve looked forward to this day for a very long time.”
“We haven’t known each other for very long.”
“That’s true, but … I thought from the first day that I saw you …”
“Didn’t you start this conversation out by saying that you hope that we can be very honest? Herr Lippert, you’re a dangerous young man. First you try to disarm me. Then you take me to a romantic place, and then … then you unfortunately behave typically.”
Herr Lippert said, “This is all new for me, but you were aware of it, weren’t you?”
Yes, it was obvious. Yes, Herr Lippert was too obvious. He was trying too hard. And she caught him off guard with a remark. Though he had been out with her before, with Frederick, and they were friends, Herr Lippert now felt unsure of himself.
He saw her in a new way. She was an attractive woman, an experienced and older woman, widowed, which made him wonder … With her experience, Herr Lippert thought, she could have her choice of men, and she certainly had other suitors, Frederick for one. He wondered about her relationship with Frederick. Was there more to it than it seemed, Herr Lippert wondered. He had never known a woman like Pauline. She didn’t fit a mold, in that she could be flirtatious and joyful while at same time serious and sincere.
They were sitting together at a small table, and while he looked into her brown eyes, he pressed a knee against hers. To his surprise she moved her knee away, and he made more of this than he perhaps should have.
She noticed but said nothing. He felt relieved. And Pauline herself continued to smile and treat him like nothing had happened. When time came for them to leave, he didn’t suggest that they go to his flat like he planned. He chickened out. Because of a remark and her reaction to his advances, he chickened out. He never knew if Pauline would’ve gone with him to his flat, and he couldn’t have known that if she had it would’ve ended of their friendship. He didn’t have courage enough. He chickened out, and it was a good thing.
The next day, as usual, he went to the Obdachlosenhein. Frederick and Pauline were working the serving line, and he saw that they hadn’t changed, when he expected everything to be different. He didn’t know what to expect, but he didn’t expect things to be the same. Nothing had changed; yet he felt odd.
In this setting of communion and sharing and wholesomeness … where there was an extraordinary outpouring of generosity, the like of which he hadn’t seen anywhere else, Herr Lippert wasn’t sure now he belonged. Now he could scarcely bear to look at Pauline. He knew he revealed too much of himself to her and couldn’t bear to look at her. She seemed humble. He felt humbled. He felt awful and humbled. She greeted him with a smile he had grown to expect. He expected a smile. And it made him feel relieved, and when he saw a smile and before they said a word to each other he saw that she wasn’t going to embarrass him. He felt relieved; yet even then, he found it hard to join his friends. And it was hard even though he had a set job to do. And after he put on an apron, all he could say was “I’m sorry I’m late.”
Of course Frederick made a snide remark, but Pauline very simply said, “We missed you.”
“Can we talk … later … when we’re finished?”
“Why not? We’re friends.”
“I was hoping we still were.”
“What?” Frederick asked. “What’s going on?”
“What? Frederick, you can be part of it. There’s nothing going on.” And Herr Lippert was amazed at how quickly he recovered.
In the evening they all went to Café Central for hot chocolate and cake. They had no trouble getting in. Again, amazingly, there were few people there, and most of those who were there were regulars who came at least once a week for a meeting of some sort. The waiter who served them was as much a fixture as a lone person who showed up every night to think and write. Café Central was known to the whole city and was a meeting place of intellectuals and bohemians. With crystal chandeliers and a vaulted ceiling, the place had a feel of the bourgeois, yet here was where more than one revolution was hatched.
They watched people arrive. They watched people arrive at appointed times for this or that … for this circle and that, and while they watched Frederick remembered times that he attended Freud’s circle there. He still occasionally went to Freud’s circle, knowing that Freud wasn’t happy with him because he missed too many meetings. A waiter placed him, placed him with Freud, and Frederick was pleased when the waiter asked him, “The usual, sir?” It made Frederick feel important to have a waiter know in advance what he wanted. So Frederick paid for everything. He paid for everything though it was expensive; and he took charge while he paid attention to what his friends were saying.
Pauline asked, “How does it feel to be an honorary guest of Café Central? How does it feel Frederick? You must like it, and to sit with Freud.” A little later she said, “All right. We’re going to start a revolution, organize our workers, and take our inspiration from…”
“Here? Trotsky! Trotsky sat here and hatched a revolution.”
“No, silly, Karl Kraus. And yes, here … and now. Karl Kraus, let’s have a little theater.”
Frederick made a face when Pauline mentioned Karl Kraus, while the idea of Trotsky starting a revolution in Café Central appealed to him. The idea that a single man could inspire so many people inspired Frederick. He wanted to inspire people. He wanted to be a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand Karl Kraus’s sardonic attacks insulted people, and Kraus also sought inspiration in Café Central. For Kraus the end of mankind hadn’t come yet, but it would come soon enough.
Up four flights of stairs, on the top floor, a worker’s flat overlooked a central courtyard that was about 60 yards across and served as a playground. Each flat had an inner balcony that opened onto a courtyard, though the workers rarely had time to enjoy it. But when they were home wide windows gave them plenty of light. The flat had two rooms, a kitchenette, with running water and a small WC, which wasn’t typical for Vienna where a majority of tenants had to share bathroom facilities with their neighbors. The hallway was narrow, but it was lined with windows, which were routinely washed (along with WCs) by tenants who took great pride in cleanliness.
Pauline called the housing development “a workman’s palace”. The fellows weren’t so sure. From the outside Karl-Marx Hof looked like a fortress. But on the inside it looked spacious, though flats were small, so rent was reasonable while it varied depending on the floor. Close to shopping, the building however was like a small city, and that was what socialist builders had in mind. Here was excellent housing at low rents, but it was public housing, so it was burdened by restrictions.
The flat Pauline went to was sparsely furnished but pleasant and personalized with a table and chairs. There were enough chairs for everyone. Pauline arranged the meeting. It would’ve been too much for the fellows. By no means was the subject taboo, but they wouldn’t have been interested in details. Though details were important, the fellows were more interested in action, for after all whom wouldn’t be interested in copulating.
Pauline, letting her chin rest on her knuckles, brought up the subject of birth control. “There’s a common misconception that Catholics don’t practice it. That is wrong. But it’s time for women to take control. Men have had control for way too long. Why do we have to constantly be on trial and forced to accept the male point of view? Just as men do we have needs and wants. They need to learn that they’re better off when they satisfy us first. Then think of yourself. We deserve it … earned it. It’s our right. I don’t suppose any of you have thought of this before.”
Pauline couldn’t help thinking about how much she missed her husband.
She said, “Sometimes it’s hard when you want to please your husband.” Pauline often gave the same lecture to large and small groups. “We need to make them understand that it’s better when it lasts longer. We all know that, so we have to help our men.” And then she closed the meeting by stressing the importance of healthy motherhood and eugenic hygiene, all for the sake of their children.
Pauline knew it was only a start. She knew they had a long way to go. She knew that they still lived in a very masculine world, but a door was opening, and she was helping open it. Later in the evening after working at the Obdachlosenhein, she was put to a test. During the war, she went through an abortion, and she didn’t want to go through one again. She made up her mind. She wouldn’t go through it again. Her life back then, back then during the war when she felt lonely and picked up men, was something that she lost control of. It went on longer than it should have, and she definitely didn’t want to go back there. Now she walked down the same streets, which were very busy, with people going places and starting over again. No time for making the same mistakes now. No looking back. A tram to her flat. There was a time when she wouldn’t have gone home alone. A different tram for Herr Lippert. How long could she hold him off? How long could she hold him off without hurting his feelings? He was a man and she still lived in a male dominated world. Going back to her flat alone thinking about Herr Lippert and thinking about things that he couldn’t imagine, and thinking about Frederick and about how she thought that she loved him, thinking about the two of them. What was she going to do? She knew it wouldn’t last, so she tried to put it out of her mind. She found that she was pleased with herself, after all. She was doing good and pushing forward socialist causes. She was a changed woman. She vowed to never return to the streets.
When she next saw Frederick she asked, “How do you feel about me?”
“I’m not sure.” (He’s not sure?) “But I don’t seem to get enough of you.” (He likes me. Does he love me?) “You’re different.”
Later Frederick could kick himself because he realized that he lost an opportunity. He realized Pauline was fishing and could kick himself. Frederick knew that he liked her, but there was something about her that put him off. Her wartime flings and given that she was married was hard sometimes for him to swallow, for she was open to him about her past, when he wasn’t sure that she should’ve been. She was always more honest than he wanted her to be. As far as he was concerned, she was too honest. Frederick would have to change his thinking to what he espoused. He had a ways to go and suspected it. He wanted to have sex with Pauline. Then why didn’t he ask her? She was straightforward and would either say yes or no. What did he have to lose? She would either say yes or no. He believed that she wouldn’t turn him down. He believed she couldn’t resist him, and he believed that men gained leverage over women by having sex with them. But he didn’t see it happening with Pauline. This was bad news. It shook him. When he realized it, it was a blow. So he rejected the idea of having sex with Pauline. He didn’t know she would’ve said yes.
When he next saw him, Her Lippert asked Frederick, “What do you think of independent women?”
“Seriously. It’s more of a challenge, but we can’t go back. Herr Lippert, you can always find yourself a Christian girl. Your trouble is you won’t get off the fence. You’re either committed or you’re not.”
“You’re surer of yourself than I am and know where you’re headed and what you want.”
“I’m not always sure. Women of the new society sometimes frighten me, but we can’t turn back. We’re not in charge anymore. They no longer play by rules, and it can be brutal.”
“Don’t I know it. So that’s what’s going on with Pauline.”
“She’s not ready. When she’s ready she’ll loosen up.”
“What you talking about?”
“Don’t play coy with me.” He knew what he was talking about. But Frederick didn’t like competition and of course would’ve preferred more certainty.
As time went by Frederick adjusted to a new reality. Pauline became more assertive. It felt aggressive. She chose when and where … when to woo or let herself be wooed … wooed at her own pace. Frederick would have to trust that soon or later she’d come around. She’d come around … come around if he didn’t push it. He had to accept facts … that in a new society women had a choice. In love she had a choice. Like a man, she had a choice. In a new society she was free and unhindered. And Pauline did come around. And a little while afterwards Frederick said to Herr Lippert, “It’s a new day.”
Herr Lippert looked at him inquisitively and asked, “Are you sure?”
If anybody had asked him, Frederick would’ve tried to convince him or her that class rule had come to an end. It was over. It was over forever. Women had won, and with it the end of mastery of men over women. Frederick, though, without admitting it still clung to a notion that roles of men and women in society were different. This would’ve upset Pauline (if she had known it). It was not where she was headed. Socialists were on the move and were in charge and were redefining roles of men and women, and Marxism confirmed it. But it was still new … too new, so new and strange; and still a majority of people in Vienna weren’t convinced. They weren’t convinced, but during the war women joined the workforce and there were far more women than men, and these two things contributed significantly to emancipation of women. They met at the fashionable Blu Palais Hotel, a neutral place across the street from romantic Stadtpark (not far from the State Opera, Stephansdom, and the most exclusive places to shop); and they had a great time. But the evening was expensive for Frederick, and it didn’t seem quite right to spend so much.
There was one thing that bothered Frederick about Pauline. (Actually there was more than one thing that bothered him.) Always a rebel, Pauline had belonged to the bourgeois and only after the war had become a socialist. She hadn’t told anyone what prompted her switching, and Frederick questioned whether she was a socialist at heart. To someone who didn’t know her background and saw how enthusiastically she threw herself into social work, her credentials to them seemed impeccable, but Frederick still had doubts. There was something there that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. For one thing her aristocratic bearing set her apart from many working women he knew, many who had joined the movement before she did and many whom never really trusted her loyalty. She stood out, and not just because of her dress … it was her bearing more than her dress. The first time that she and Frederick went out, she told him that she was married to an army officer or widowed since he hadn’t come home after the winter offensive in the Carpathian Mountains. “That could only mean that he was either dead or captured by the Russians.” He asked her one day, when he got the chance, “Have you given up hope that your husband will ever returning?” She answered simply “no”. Still she considered herself a widow. At least she was honest. Frederick shook his head and said, “For your sake, I hope he shows up.”
“For the sake of the boys, I hope and pray he does.”
Boys? This was the first that he heard that there were children involved. Boys? He wondered who was looking after them. Boys?
After the war everything changed. The war changed everything. The war affected everyone in Vienna, and changed most people. The world changed, and much ink was wasted trying to explain what happened. Kraus was writing a play about it, and he read part of it for a few people. He went to the Café Central, in a mood for it and read part of it there. Kraus sought refuge in the Café Central. He frequently sought refuge there. He read a scene about a wounded officer in a hospital. It wasn’t very long, but it moved Pauline to tears. But there was a lot left unsaid, and the singsong manner in which it was read somehow made it more disturbing. As Pauline listened she felt close to Fritz, though she didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. She didn’t know if Fritz would come back and missed him. And when at the end the playwright asked for feedback, she said, “I wanted to know more about the patient.” But instead of sympathy, the playwright showed loathing. And he lashed out at Pauline in a way that she didn’t deserve, as he shouted, “Who are you, and what do you know about writing plays?”
Karl Kraus didn’t lash out simply because Pauline posed a threat to him or his beliefs but because he really wasn’t looking for criticism. When he asked for feedback, he wasn’t looking for criticism. Kraus then said, “Forgive me. I asked for it. I deserve it. The play’s a montage. Depicting a war didn’t give me much leeway. I wasn’t trying to write a well-made play, and my stage is much bigger than a room. It’s much bigger than a stage. So please forgive me. You didn’t know what I was trying to do, so you meant no harm. And I asked for it. To show you that I bear no malice, wine is on me.” Pauline and her companions went to Café Central just to see people like Kraus and Freud. Both celebrities now recognized them. “So it’s you,” Kraus would say whenever he saw Pauline after that. It became a personal joke. But they could only take so much of Kraus. Pauline liked his poetry best and his attitude towards death. “Beneath the Waterfall.”
Far behind me is all the woe and weakness.
How constant is the waterfall;
How does this sunny land bless all
My crowding thoughts before night’s darkness.”
Kraus satirized psychoanalysis like he satirized everything else. Now when Freud went anywhere he looked for Kraus who he at first courted. It wasn’t long before Freud outright detested the author of the Frackel and took every opportunity to express his contempt. It got downright nasty. It turned into a feud. Typically Kraus fired back with something that showed off his genius and had a huge following in Vienna. But few people stood by him, so what we had, in Vienna especially, were people who admired Kraus but followed Freud.
There appeared one evening at the Café Central a man, who was obviously a homosexual. Everyone could see he was a Homo. This man … this Homo! …ordered champagne for everyone. He ordered champagne sitting at a table, and he offered a toast. He was trying to make an impression by offering a toast. He got everyone’s attention. He was in his late twenties, also obviously Jewish and was carefully dressed, which seemed in character for him. Frederick introduced him to Herr Lippert and Pauline, “Let me introduce a friend,” and the four of them finished off a bottle.
Herr Lippert, feeling uncomfortable, but knowing that he had to keep his feelings to himself, said “Great champagne.”
The Homo said in a feminine voice, “Not many people come here for champagne, but I do.”
Herr Lippert didn’t know how to take this man. He didn’t know what to think … what to say. He was baffled. He didn’t know why Frederick would have a Homo for a friend. (Herr Lippert didn’t know he wasn’t Frederick’s friend.) But Frederick and Pauline seemed to accept him, and Herr Lippert decided he had to accept him too. He decided he had to give the Homo a chance. But homosexual and Jewish! But Homo! How it didn’t seem to bother Frederick and Pualine. How being Homo. Being Homo didn’t bother them, though it made Herr Lippert feel uncomfortable … Herr Lippert … who came from a Christian family who generally never associated with Jews except in a business setting. To someone who never accepted Homos it felt uncomfortable … uncomfortable and awkward. But champagne helped break the ice.
Frederick’s friend wasn’t shy, and Herr Lippert saw this immediately. And it made him feel uncomfortable.
Herr Lippert asked, “Do you attend the university?”
Frederick’s friend said, “I work now. It’s my obligation. I’m a socialist, part of the movement. It’s what I have to do. It won’t be so important twenty years from now. Twenty years from now everyone will be a socialist. But we can’t wait until then. There are many things we have to do, and if we can get everyone working there isn’t a limit to what can be done. And I drink champagne to remind myself where I came from. And I’m not looking to flaunt laws. I believe in law and order. In the future, as we move forward, I hope there will come a day when I won’t have to worry. I believe that day will come. So I help out. I draw plans and seek bids … you have to have plans and seek bids. Competition is good. Sometimes my plans are accepted. Sometimes not. When they’re accepted, I come here and break out champagne. Frederick knows all this. My name’s Ludwig.
“Sorry Ludwig, I should’ve introduced you.”
“My mistake, I should’ve reminded you.”
Herr Lippert asked Ludwig later that evening, “Who are you, really?”
“I’ve had to be a jack of all trades, Herr Lippert. You asked who am I, really. Housing we build says who we are. Housing we build is our lasting monument. Our flats are not rabbit hutches, but houses fit for the proletariat. And they are affordable. I use to think that it was enough to provide people only with basics. Now I know I was wrong. People also need places to live that are ecologically friendly, places with greenery and with cafes, medical services, and a wide variety of communal facilities, all under the same roof. Socialism has taught me this. In the evening after work, or on Saturday or Sunday, you’ll find families enjoying outside without leaving their building. It’s the socialist way. They’ll have a place to picnic, without having to go to the Prater. And on rainy days. We have libraries. Imagine it. A few years from now. 5,000 houses. I promise you we’ll deliver. Yes, they’ll have little patches of green front and back. Yes, they’ll have their own private entrances. And I’ll get a piece of it … a piece of the business. I’m not greedy. All I am asking for is a little piece. We’ll all get our fair share. It doesn’t matter who we are. We’ll all get our fair share. But it worries me. How Christians don’t like Jews. And Homos. How Christians don’t like Homos. How Christians don’t like us. It worries me. Why are you looking at me funny?”
Herr Lippert thought, “Christian against Jews! When I look around I see Jews everywhere I look … in city hall, leading companies, and owning banks, and are overwhelmingly socialist and progressive, more Jews in the movement than on the other side, so what does Ludwig have to worry about?”
It was in a circle of like-minded socialist that Herr Lippert saw Lugwig again. Such circles had sprung up all over Vienna. Neither one of them attended this circle before, but it didn’t stop Ludwig from again showing that he was full of self-importance. Ludwig was confident and full of self-importance, and perhaps over confident. This probably stemmed from feelings of inadequacy, but in retrospect he deserved credit he gave himself, but to people like Herr Lippert he came off sounding like a braggart.
Lugwig said, “So we meet again.”
Herr Lippert greeted him with a smile, which showed that he was working hard to overcome prejudge.
Ludwig said, “I’m against most basic assumptions. I’m against them because assumptions don’t move us forward. So far we’ve come. So far to go. So much on our own, but opposition is growing. We can’t accept normalcy because it’s merely a rendition of reality. But I want to hear from each of you. And why don’t we put it down on paper. If it’s worth discussing, it’s worth keeping a record of it. Think of it as an exercise. No polemics. We must be practical.”
Everyone, except Herr Lippert, wondered whom this guy was who came out of nowhere and tried to dominate the discussion. And as soon as Ludwig suggested putting their ideas down on paper, the circle changed and egos of each individual emerged. Before then the circle was an informal gathering. They were all friends or colleagues, so before then it was a friendly gathering. There was a feeling of closeness up until then, and rivalry, though it existed, was left at the door of the café. Social Democrats all of them, each had published something. Publishing was required for most of them. And well versed in the phenomenological approach or feeling for nature or missing links between this school and that. And most were Jews. Most were Jews except for Herr Lippert., and while all were recent converts to the Social Democratic cause, depressed men, full of grievances; and men who would never have gathered had they not been friends.
Ludwig agreed to write everything down. It was like he thought that he would get paid for it. He volunteered and was very thorough. Very meticulously, he wrote with very small lettering. He was happier now that he had a job and was part of a circle that seemed to accept him. He and Herr Lippert became regulars, and each time Herr Lippert went Ludwig would be there meticulously writing everything down. They came from different places. Each member came from a different place and Ludwig made it clear that they should avoid assumptions because the consequences would lead to you ought to. For the first time Herr Lippert felt like applauding Ludwig. This surprised him. It was something that Herr Lippert vowed he’d never do. It surprised him because, though he never admitted it, he admired this homosexual Jew, this Homo, and in that way he began overcoming prejudice.
Ludwig loved being the center of attention, and he was a mover and shaker, a go-to man and politician. His ambition was part of it. It wasn’t as if he would run for office, but it was an assumption people made. Ludwig could also be fussy and full of advice for everyone. Sometimes this worked for him, and sometimes it didn’t. Frederick didn’t particularly like him. They clashed. They were similar in many ways and clashed. Never mind him, that’s Ludwig for you, let it go. Pauline said, “The movement needs him.” Needed Ludwig.
Eventually Frederick capitulated. Now it was Frederick who first introduced Ludwig toHerr Lippert and Pauline. It was Frederick’s doing; yet he didn’t particularly like Ludwig. Then the outspoken firebrand, a small man with a loud voice, gave in and went along with his friends and accepted Ludwig into their circle. “Because the movement needs him, needed Ludwig.”
Beneath a veneer Ludwig was solicitous and Frederick saw it while Herr Lippert and Pauline seemed unaware. Ludwig made himself indispensable. He knew how to make himself indispensable, and Frederick felt that the last thing that he needed was another rival. Ludwig hung around, made sure he was the center of attention, and never grew tired of bragging. He built his reputation around it.
A little later Frederick took Ludwig with him to one of Freud’s Wednesday meetings. The discussion that day focused on the libido … the libido and how to control it. Freud held the view that a group of people were unified by a specific goal and were pulled together and held together by a Fuhrer figure, and were connected to him (the Fuhrer) by their libidos. Ludwig certainly had an overactive libido.
And Ludwig was always in demand. Besides being a man behind monumental projects he was in demand as a speaker. Ludwig even signed a contract for a speaker’s tour (something unprecedented for a homosexual) and this showed how liberal socialists were (on the condition that he control himself and not flaunt his sexual preference). In many respects he had become a poster child, only he wasn’t a child.
Ludwig was accepted more readily than Frederick. Frederick worked at it, worked at being accepted, while for Ludwig it was easy. And Frederick didn’t understand it and was naturally jealous. He could’ve learned from Ludwig had he allowed himself … three or four suggestions would’ve helped the firebrand, but Frederick wasn’t in the right place for it. Ludwig soon got to know everyone who belonged to Freud’s Secret Ring: Sandor Ferenzi, Otto Rank, Hans Sachs, Karl Abraham, and Max Eitingon (while Frederick never belonged). And Ludwig learned their response to those who had gone their own way like Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Stekel, and Carl Jung. They met every Wednesday and came from different parts of Vienna with briefcases filled with papers they’d written and wanted to share. (Ludwig always took notes) And they were all very busy, intelligent, and prominent, but none was more prominent than Freud. They looked ordinary but looks were deceiving.
Ludwig fascinated Freud. Here was a homosexual Jew, and he fascinated Freud. Ludwig was much younger than Freud whose career was well established by then. Ludwig sat through several meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society without saying very much. He took notes, copious notes and didn’t say much. When it came his time to say something Ludwig didn’t say much, but he took notes. This was unusual for him, but this gave Frederick an opportunity to impress people, which was important to him because he wanted to become part of Freud’s Secret Ring. The meetings began and ended in the same way every time with Freud saying a few words, and Ludwig wrote down every word Freud said, which impressed Freud more than what Frederick had to say.
And after Ludwig got the attention he craved and Frederick expressed his disgust, they caught up with Herr Lippert and Pauline at the Café Central. When they were seated, Frederick said, “I think I’m in. I think Freud has accepted me into his Secret Ring.”
Ludwig said, “So you’re going to be a psychoanalyst.”
“Good Lord, not Frederick!”
“She’s right.” And this was true. This was true because Frederick knew that he wasn’t cut out to be a psychoanalyst. “Something else will come along. I will connect with Freud in some other way.”
Herr Lippert said, “I’m sure you will.”
They had become friends, best friends. But they weren’t sure about Ludwig. While Frederick was abrasive, he was endearing to Pauline. But Ludwig was too full of himself to be close to anyone. Still he was a politician and too sure of himself and Frederick thought he needed to be brought down a notch. And maybe all of this came from an effort to compensate for being a homosexual Jew. And at the same time Frederick took it too personally.
Remember this was during a time in Vienna when Jews were blamed for everything from food shortages to bank failures. And homosexuals weren’t accepted, when homosexuals were not accepted and were persecuted like Jews were. And Pauline surprised Ludwig. Here was a Catholic socialist woman who totally accepted him.
The four of them now went out together at least once a week. Sometimes they went to the Grinzing to drink wine, or to the Prater to do sports, relax and ride the giant Ferris wheel.
And sometimes they went together to look at one Ludwig’s projects. Ludwig specialized in large communal housing, four or five stories high and designed to ease a housing crisis. Explaining, Ludwig said, “We want to give every worker a place to live. But with lots at a premium, we’ve had to build up.” Frederick thought Ludwig was showing off again when he didn’t need to. Pauline was already impressed not only with what Ludwig was saying, but also by his confidence and knowledge, and by his accomplishments. And just as he felt when he first walked into the Obdachlosenhein and saw Frederick doing women’s work, Herr Lippert was also impressed. And it changed his impression of Ludwig.
Herr Lippert said one day, to goat Frederick, “What do think, Frederick-boy? Looks like you’ve got competition.” Now both men knew Ludwig was a homosexual. By then it was common knowledge.
“What are you talking about?
“Homo!” As soon as he said this, Frederick regretted it. At the same time Frederick remembered going to Pauline’s flat and remembered nothing happening and wondered what was wrong with him. Homo! Frederick remembered every detail about going to Pauline’s flat and how nothing happened, and wondered what wrong with him. He had a chance and worried about it and wondered what wrong with him. Now he suspected that Herr Lippert knew that nothing happened, and it made him worry even more. It made him think. Homo! Why was he spending so much time at the Obdachlosenhein? He didn’t need to answer his own question. But if there were something, what do I care? Then why do you impersonate sweet charity? Impersonating sweet charity indeed! Frederick knew he protested too much. Why not! It doesn’t matter. She’s married and has two children. It wasn’t true. It did matter. It did matter to him. And it was also true that the war produced many women like Pauline … widows with kids. Again he protested too much. Homo! A widow with two kids, an idea he thought about a lot.
Frederick became obsessed. Why else did he spend so much time working at Obdachlosenhein doing women’s work? Frederick looked disturbed, when he asked, “Can we assume that we’re a whit happier?”
Frederick was thinking about how much the world changed since the war. All four of them talked about it. Whenever they went out together, they talked about it. They tried to sort it out. And whenever they talked about it, Frederick looked serious. They were all serious, but Frederick looked serious, and it worried Herr Lippert. He wondered what was wrong. And he was worried. He was worried because he saw what he thought was an attempt on Pauline’s part to play the three men off of each other. And what he didn’t want to lose was Frederick’s friendship.
At last Herr Lippert said, “It’s like we’ve both been stung by a queen bee, stung by a queen bee, and she’s taken off with a drone. But actually, if you think about it, the two of us are where we shouldn’t be. We’re doing women’s work. We should leave social work to women, like it’s meant to be. You should be in some business, and I should go into politics. Ludwig, of the three of us, is the only one on course, and he’s free from the queen bee. It must be wonderful to be free of the queen bee.”
And Frederick felt humiliated, exposed, and wanted to crawl under the table. Instead he reached across it and shook hands with his friend.
Herr Lippert said, “It’s better this way.”
“You think so?” Frederick left thinking, “Herr Lippert is right. It’s better this way. It’s better to clear the air.”
Valuing his friend, Frederick began thinking of Pauline and the Obdachlosenhein. Yes, he agreed with Herr Lippert. It was woman’s work. They were doing woman’s work, but he couldn’t resist working there. Frederick took a tram to Kastanienallee and the Obdachlosenhein. As he was crossing the street to No. 2, he saw Pauline and knew he couldn’t stay away from her. He was caught. He was trapped and couldn’t stay away from Pauline. And hence he couldn’t stay away from Obdachlosenhein. She didn’t see him because she had her head down. Would he follow her or not? Yes, it was woman’s work. Seeing her go into the building confirmed it but hadn’t the world changed? And weren’t they part of the same movement? Weren’t all four of them socialist? Frederick had no wish to go into the Obdachlosenhein immediately. For once, he would be late.
Frederick felt better. But at the same time he felt miffed. Miffed, as if he were exposed. It was like he was exposed … not that it mattered, really … when he realized that he and the world hadn’t changed as much as he thought.
Some days later he went back to the Obdachlosenhein. (He was no longer working there every day.) He went back there, and like other times he put on an apron and began serving soup. He spoke to Pauline without giving her an explanation as to why he hadn’t been there in days. Frederick liked keeping Pauline guessing. He liked keeping her on her toes by being mysterious. It was easier to be mysterious than having something to say, and when he felt he had something worthwhile to say he said it. This meant he didn’t say something until he figured it out for himself. He still volunteered. He could afford to volunteer. It wasn’t that he needed money. He didn’t need to work; but Frederick knew that the heart and soul of the socialist movement was found in what they were doing at the Obdachlosenhein. Maybe it was women’s work, but it was important work.
Frederick began thinking that serving soup was like serving the Eucharist. Now Frederick wasn’t a religious man; yet he thought serving poor, hungry people soup was like serving the Eucharist. All the elements were there. All the elements were contained in the act of feeding people. It was simple, needn’t be explained, and it was easy enough. He didn’t need to question why. He just had to show up. He had only to be there. And being a Jew didn’t keep him from feeling fulfilled. Being a Jew meant many things, but it didn’t keep him from feeling fulfilled. Yes, the world changed after the war, and he was changing too.
Herr Lippert brought up a problem. Frederick was also haunted by it. Until the war, there hadn’t been a crying need for women to enter the workforce. During the war that changed, and now with a shortage of men, they had taken over many jobs outside of the home. Frederick tried to work it out in his mind. Had there been a biological change? It occurred to him that women didn’t need to plead their own case as long as they were needed. As long as women were needed, but where did it leave men? There was a shortage of men. It was that simple. Maybe? This brought him back to his and Herr Lippert’s situation. He knew they had to get used to it. And he knew there wasn’t anything he could do about it. Both he and Herr Lippert were too young to fight in the war. Instead as boys they worked with women as they organized food supplies. During war everyone was mobilized. There were few exceptions. They worked along side their mothers and sisters and waited until they could join their brothers and fathers on the front. They got used to working beside women. They got used to it until the fall of 1918 when everything ground to a halt. In the end (with the two boys never leaving Vienna) the status quo seemed intolerable to most people, and men and women had gotten used to working side by side. Then one day Frederick stumbled into the Obdachlosenhein. He wasn’t looking for the Obdachlosenhein. He hadn’t intended to work there, but they seemed shorthanded. Now come on! There was more to it than that! Yes, there was Pauline. Anyhow, he got hooked, and because of his experience he didn’t have a problem adjusting to working there. Because of his experience, he didn’t have a problem working beside women.
Pauline amazed him. She could talk about anything. He was surprised by what came out of mouth. Nothing seemed taboo to her. Was this the new woman? Was this liberation? In spite of himself Frederick wasn’t sure … he wasn’t sure he liked it.
A part of Pauline’s mission, as she saw it, was talking to women about sexuality and how they should take care of themselves, how they should have their needs met, and how they should do this for their own health and the health of their children. As Frederick saw it, there was hysteria involved. And from listening to Pauline, he was amazed by how free she was. Later he felt misled, and this showed how little he knew about women. Maybe it had to do with timing. Maybe his timing was wrong. And maybe he was trying too hard, maybe. And as he served soup, work began to define itself. As he worked beside Pualine, work began to have meaning. Maybe it had meaning before. Maybe it had meaning before and he didn’t see it. Or maybe he hadn’t thought it through.
Frederick: along with Herr Lippert, and Pauline preparing ground for the Socialist movement just as Ludwig was designing its monuments. Living a philosophy. Living a philosophy as well as being a part of a movement, a persuasion, and aligned with all honest, scientific-minded thinkers in Vienna. Aligned with them and aligned with progressivism, positivism, and a city government and then standing opposed to Catholicism, fascism, and other dark forces. And here Frederick was right in the middle of it. In spite of Herr Lippert’s assertion that work at the Obdachlosenhein made him feel good, there had to be more to it than that. And from working Herr Lippert began to understand why he worked there. Still the idea that he was doing woman’s work bothered him. He bristled when he thought about it. He bristled when he thought how Herr Lippert planted it in his brain.
To waste all those brains. And now that Frederick figured out where he belonged he wanted to do more, and he thought of his friend Herr Lippert. They had much in common, and Frederick saw it when they first met. It was what brought them together. This was also a problem. Oh, Herr Lippert, when would you ever learn? And it was the thing that Frederick held against Herr Lippert the most: Viennese charm was as much at odds with the world as Herr Lippert. You couldn’t trust Herr Lippert. Or hold him accountable. Pity to waste all those brains.
They met for lunch at Café Central. Herr Lippert was late, fashionable so. Herr Lippert said, “See that man sitting over there. That’s Othman Spann.” Frederick of course knew Othman Spann and indeed he recognized the middle-age man because he had taken his class at the university. And yes, it was same man he saw tip his hat to his parents, the same man who knew his parents. But Frederick hadn’t become a convert in the same way Herr Lippert had.
Oh, Herr Lippert, when would he learn?
Herr Lippert then said, “Your girlfriend is coming. I ran into her this morning … before she had a chance to get away.”
And from the tone of Herr Lippert’s voice Frederick knew that he was in for a surprise. Two small boys accompanied her, and it wouldn’t have been remarkable had she brought them with her before. With children in toe, Pauline looked different. She looked different though she was dressed like she always had. She sat the boys down, making sure that they sat up straight, and from the attention she gave her children Frederick understood that, in spite of all the changes and added pressures brought about by war, some things remained the same for women. And he saw it wasn’t the same for men. Still, for her to appear with her children was in itself a progressive statement.
The talk was mainly about service at Café Central, which was unusually slow. Some of it was also about Othman Spann, who hadn’t acknowledged Frederick. And why should Othman Spann acknowledge Frederick? His classes were large. He was a very popular professor; yet one would’ve thought that his courtesy wouldn’t have failed him. Okay, the two tables represented opposite ends of a political spectrum, for a famous split between Freud and Spann had already occurred. (Frederick and Ludwig still went together to Freud’s circle, and Ludwig still took notes.) Frederick said, “I’m disappointed in him. I’m disappointed in the university. You’d think it would open its door and let more workers in. And there’s a myth about education. That it’s really necessary.”
Pauline asked, “What does he want?”
“You know what Herr Spann wants. He thinks we need a benevolent dictator. Whenever I look at him I can hear him call for one.”
Pauline said, “Then let’s not let him spoil our lunch. Herr Lippert, I’ve taken your advice and plan to spend more time with my children.”
“Can you risk it?”
“Frederick, that’s an odd thing to say.”
He had seen a different side of Pauline. He had to give her credit. Day after day he worked beside her at the Obdachlosenhein. Day after day they worked together, but after seeing her interact with her children, it was like he saw her for the first time. He never pictured her being a mother, so it seemed strange that she would be one. Afterwards, he said to Herr Lippert, “They’re well behaved. They are not at all like their mother. They must look like their father. They must be like their father. One might not have an impact on me, but two sons. Two sons!
They must miss their father. And raised by a nanny. They must miss their mother. It seems sinister to me. I can see how it would be hard for Pauline, and it must hurt over time. I wouldn’t like it. Perhaps it’s the price we have to pay, a price we all pay, but I wonder … I wonder if it’s worth it.”
Frederick now thought of Pauline differently. Seeing her with her sons changed everything, but he didn’t say anything to her about it. And whenever Frederick needed reassurance, he asked Pauline about her boys (while he never asked her about their father). Frederick went to see them a few times. He knew he couldn’t be a substitute father. Yet he went to see them and took them places. He took them to the Prater, and they rode the Ferris wheel there. He did other things with them, but he didn’t try to become a substitute father. He thought about them a lot. And he cried for them, when he thought about their father and about him not coming home from the war
Frederick said one day, “To think she’s had two children. I wonder how she’s kept her figure.” Frederick also spoke about her personality. He wondered how she kept her sense of humor. She didn’t quite fit his image of a femme fatale, but she had spunk. She had spunk and was sexy and beneath the surface and what he took for calculated aloofness, he saw a vulnerable human being. He told Herr Lippert, “She’s a bundle of nerves. But lo and behold, I think she loosening up.”
“What?” She had spunk. “I suppose this means you’re still interested.”
Frederick’s cockiness gave him away. There were times when he thought that he was getting somewhere with Pauline, and there were other times when he knew that he wasn’t. He kept hoping, kept hoping. He guessed he kept hoping because he liked a challenged. They went to the theater together. They met sometimes in a museum. They discovered that they liked similar things. He was a son of an actress who never became famous. Her name was Constanza. People generally liked Constanza. She was assured and elegant and had many of the same traits as Pauline. When people first met her, though they may have never seen her on stage and without anyone telling them, they often knew that she was an actress. They said, “She has something special.” Constanze now taught theater at the university. She therefore had more than a single ambition. She had four children and now was a grandmother and well on the way to having a second career. She would’ve been happier had she become a star. She now felt disappointed and unhappy with Frederick. She thought that he was throwing his life away.
Frederick said, “Haven’t we come a long way?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure that we have.”
“Frederick’s right. We have come a long way.”
“Frederick is always right.”
“He feels I should spend more time with my boys. Frederick knows what it’s like to have a mother who is never around. He’d tell her now what a bad mother she was. He wants to do it. He wants to hurt her. He loves her but wants to hurt her. It’s all very involved, and I can’t say that I understand it. But we’ve talked about it. He’s quite open. His openness is what attracted me to him. But he’s such a baby, a crybaby, who make’s his opinions known. He’s not one those people who looks disapprovingly and says absolutely nothing, so he browbeats me for not spending more time with my boys. So what has he done? He’s adopted my sons and says he did it for me. He actually did it for himself, but won’t admit it. Now we know what he really thinks. He believes women have their place and that place is at home. And I thought he was one of us. Just kidding. I don’t know what we’d do without him.”
Frederick said, “There’s a big difference between philosophy and reality. Spouting philosophy is easy whereas reality is difficult. Women can’t escape what they were made for. I look up to women.”
“You better. It’s complicated, especially for women, juggling everything, and too often it’s considered our fault. It’s always been like this. That’s how we’re kept in check. Look at you squirm! The two of you and you’re supposed to be progressive. The two of you should know better. Survey men, even today you’ll find most men feel women are stupid, and I thought you two were exceptions. You’re both educated and well to do. You could go anywhere, do anything, so working with me was a choice. Very rich women used to go into social work. It was a pastime for them, and some of them felt that it was their Christian duty, but since then, since the war, it has become a social necessity, which can’t be ignored without dire consequences. Some of us are making a career of it. We have enemies, of course. They want to keep us in a box. … in a box, at home and pregnant. It’s been an education to see how far they’ll go. At this point they’re willing to give us room, which they call “women’s work.” Have you heard of women’s work, gentlemen? Calling it that somehow makes certain tasks acceptable, and it brings women more into the orbit of men, while competition between the sexes is increasing.”
“Frederick is ill-mannered and often loud and disagreeable, not the kind of man you’d think I’d be attracted to. He looks disheveled and wears socks that don’t match. But he knows how to impress people, and his roughness is an act. He likes for us to think that he’s promiscuous, but he has only recently become a Marxist. He thinks Marxism will set him free, but Marxism will only take him so far. He doesn’t know we know. He doesn’t know that we can see through him. He’s like that all the time. At least he’s consistent. We’re lucky it’s happening here in Vienna. As you know, it’s not in the rest of Austria. Marxism isn’t accepted in most of Austria. Of course we’re making mistakes. I imagine it’s impossible not to make mistakes. Mistakes should be acceptable. I imagine most workers don’t care, as long as they’re paid. Most workers aren’t interested in philosophy. Other than that, most of them don’t know what they want. You saw how quickly Herr Lippert switched sides (forgetting Herr Lippert was well to do and not a worker). I imagine most workers are just as capricious and look to see which way the wind is blowing before they take off in the morning. Forgive me, Herr Lippert. But it’s true, isn’t it?”
“Maybe I misjudged you. Both of you have the same backgrounds, rich squires, and I’m privileged too. We’ve never had to scrape for food. Vienna is full of young men like you two, intellectuals, and full of ideas. Some of them are socialists. Some of them are Marxists. Frederick had sense enough to drop out of the university and come to work for us. He had enough sense to drop out of the university. And because of it he earned a great deal of respect, but it’s hard to know who’s genuine, how to sort wheat from chaff.” Then she turned to Herr Lippert and said, “And it’s harder when someone has been a Christian Democrat and has been a disciple of Herr Spann. Hard to know! Now hear me out! You both are welcome, and I shouldn’t be suspicious. You’ve been more reliable than I ever expected. You’ve cultivated a relationship with me. Note that I use the word cultivated. And I have begun to rely on you two, but you have to understand I have to … to keep a cautious eye on you. I don’t want to one day be disappointed. Can’t you see why it seems strange to me … that it seems strange to me that you both invest your time in women’s work? You see I’m not as liberated as you might think. Appearances are too often deceiving. I was taken aback when you two showed up. Impressed. Even flattered. This wasn’t typical behavior. But to me it showed how far we’ve come, and where we’re headed.
“Now you’re not so sure? “
“No, no, don’t get me wrong. I’m appreciative.
This wasn’t a typical conversation for them. But it showed how close they were, and gave them an opportunity of becoming even closer. They were looking for opportunities. After a moment of silence, Frederick said, “I’m glad.” Frederick remembered how close they came to sleeping together. He remembered each time and how close they came. He wanted to sleep with Pauline, and they came close to doing it. And he thought he would try again. There were opportunities, times they went out together, dates sort of, during which they enjoyed each other’s company. Obviously they liked each other, so what was the hang-up? Obviously he loved Pauline. Maybe it was because he loved Pauline. Maybe it was because he was sensitive, and in spite of his turbulent nature, he knew how to charm a lady. After all he was Viennese … something that shouldn’t be forgotten … and naturally he loved to waltz and his timing on the dance floor was perfect but as it turned out it was all for nothing. His intellectual ability was his greatest asset. Still women always baffled him. And to satisfy them he played charades. A woman’s place … he couldn’t forget … a woman’s place was set, but now he saw that it was changing. He had to adapt. Everything was changing, and he had to adapt. His academic upbringing should’ve prepared him, should’ve, but he was far from being an expert. Now he was faced with a challenge. A modern woman! Faced with a modern woman! Modern was the way he described Pauline, but since she was also a socialist she was also direct and outspoken. Pauline didn’t beat around the bush. She never beat around the bush. She never had. She made her needs known, and Frederick felt tormented by it because her needs didn’t include sleeping with him. (Was she then sleeping with Herr Lippert? Was she sleeping with anyone?) But Frederick hadn’t given up. He’d do something different, in someway seduce her. He would do something different and make it so that she couldn’t refuse him. It became his mission. He saw an entry through her boys.
So Frederick kept trying. And he kept his fingers cross. He wondered how she could resist him.
On another day Herr Lippert said, “Pauline has something that we don’t have. It can only be described as social duty, whereas we can afford to be generous. You’ve seen her flat. It’s small, especially for two boys and a nanny. (Frederick failed to tell him that he hadn’t seen any sign of either the boys or a nanny.) I suppose that there’s hardly room for anyone else. But how would I know? I haven’t had the same privileges that you’ve had.”
One morning Frederick knocked and waited for some time at Pauline’s door. At last she let him in. Frederick hadn’t seen her in her house robe before. As he looked around to see if he could see any sign of the boys, or a nanny, he was already looking ahead. Pauline felt very flustered over how he burst in unannounced. Frederick saw her frustration and felt sure that it was over being caught in her house robe, which made him want her even more. She also seemed to be rushed, which Frederick didn’t pick up on. Pauline, oppressed-looking, then allowed him to sit down.
Frederick said that he came over because he couldn’t stop himself. He said nothing else about why he came over (he always assumed that people wanted to see him), nothing about barging in the way he did: he spoke only about himself. He should’ve asked about her boys.
Frederick looked confident and tried to put his best face forward, and as soon as he began talking Pauline willingly forgave him. He said, “I couldn’t sleep last night.”
She said, “I’m sorry. How can I help? No, no, no, I’ve got to stop that. It’s too awkward now. It was different before the war and in the nineteenth century. We were all helpers then. Not that we aren’t now, but it’s different. I don’t know if you can understand what I mean. Everything is different today. You’re a man, and we were bred differently. Now that person has vanished. We now cut our hair differently and more and more of us wear overalls. We’ve had to fill a gap. Maybe if we hadn’t had to fill a gap maybe there would be less conflict now. Maybe we would be less aggressive. Maybe. But many things we did back then were superficial. I’ll tell you how it was. Everything was so superficial. When I was married I thought I found a man who’d take care of me. I knew from the beginning that Fritz wanted a family. (It was the first time she used her husband’s name.) I knew from the beginning that Fritz wanted a family, preferably boys, and he got his wish. I gave him boys. Fritz had great plans … he, he, he … they were all his plans. He was a proud member of the Honvedseg regiment, and I was proud of him. Of course, he introduced me to his family and friends, and they were all conservatives and Christians, and most of them, if not all of them … I mean those who I know who are still alive … are today conservatives and Christians. So now you know. When … notice I didn’t say if … when my husband Fritz comes home, I’m sure we’ll be a divided household because I’m sure he’ll be a Christian Democrat. How does this sit with you? When he comes home … not if … when he comes home.”
When her words sank in. Frederick quietly excused himself. There was nothing else he could do but excuse himself.
Pauline was older than Frederick, and those additional years made her wiser than him. She might’ve been in her late twenties, though she came across as being older. But their age difference shouldn’t have mattered to either of them.
Frederick thought that he had his emotions under control. He thought this while his hair often stood on end. And he prided himself on how tough his skin was. When they eventually went out again, he asked Pauline, “Do you really like men?” When Pauline hesitated, he said, “All men are not the same. I know you agree. For example, take Herr Lippert: he wouldn’t have accepted rejection like I did. He would’ve been more insistent. I’m not a modern man. There’s no such beast. It doesn’t matter who you are: Christian or Jew. We’re more alike than I thought. Now I’ve contradicted myself.”
She said, “I’ve told you my life story, but you’re not my priest.” So obviously she had something to hide.
Then changing topics he said, “You’re something else. I know you like me.”
“I like men.”
“That’s a good thing. I admire your strength.” As she looked at him, she wondered what prompted this comment: I admire your strength. “I mean…”
“You don’t need to explain. I don’t need an explanation.”
Frederick had looked forward to this evening. He was perfectly dressed for the occasion, dressed from head to toe, in an expensive-looking Knize suit with a tie to match; his shoes made of calf leather were custom-made and spoke of wealth. Pauline wondered whom he was trying to impress.
Frederick, passing her rolls, asked, “Why did you marry your husband?”
She said, “We were young and impetuous.”
Frederick asked, “How young?”
“My, what’s with you tonight? I’ve never seen you dressed like you are. I knew you came from a notable family, perhaps royalty and that made all your work at the Obdachlosenhein suspect. I knew from the beginning that you were after something. I played along. I thought of accepting. All men are the same. Women are different. You should’ve seen yourself, and you should see yourself now, so it’s hard for me to take you seriously.”
Frederick asked, “Then don’t I remind you of someone?”
Pauline said, “Yes, of course you do. But it all ended with the war. For most of us, war was the end of civilization. We were rich and fetish in Vienna, and we ruled an empire. But we didn’t know how rich we were. Then with war it was hard to adjust. But of course, you know this. It was hard without our husbands. Many of us had to work for the first time. Others … others were caught in situations that we now regret. When you have to go looking for … for … let’s say a livelihood … you make mistakes.”
“Mistakes? Yes, mistakes were made. And mistakes are being made now. I’ve made mistakes. You’ve made mistakes. Everyone makes them. So?”
“So. Like I said, you’re not my priest and let’s leave it at that.”
Frederick said, “My sister had to marry someone she doesn’t love.”
“That’s too bad. I still hope she finds happiness.”
“She’s made the best of it.”
“We generally do.”
“Females are amazing.”
“Stick and stones may break our bones but … so your sister finds herself in an unhappy marriage. That’s how we’ve learned how to spade … you know … spade … spade as in gardening. Sometimes the ground is very hard … too hard. But I’m not saying your sister should stay in an unhappy marriage. I however can’t speak for her. I certainly wouldn’t speak for all women. Thank God for war! God, I can’t believe what I just said.”
Frederick said, “This woman is trying to put one over on me. It’s what you’d expect.”
“I don’t think men have a clue what women go through. And I think that if we could do without them we would. They were bred a certain way. It’s all fault of a recessive gene. Not many people know that.”
“I’ll ask Herr Freud the next time I see him.”
Frederick and Pauline carried on in front Herr Lippert. It didn’t matter to them. Herr Lippert had grown used to it and said nothing. Trying to be provocative, Frederick said, “Our friend here can’t imagine that I haven’t seduced you. It’s so typical. How men think … so typical. He doesn’t think that we can be just friends.” Pauline responded with a smile, but she may not have heard what was said because her mind was off somewhere else. She didn’t think that she was attractive; at least not as attractive as men thought, while at the same time she knew that they were attracted to her. She caught Herr Lippert’s gaze and held it. She knew that he thought she was irresistible.
Their food came. They ate leisurely and enjoyed it. They topped it off with tarts.
Frederick said to Herr Lippert, “Eat your heart out.” Frederick knew what his friend was thinking and added, “Now don’t try to deny it. You’re jealous. But I assure you that Pauline and me are simply friends.”
Pauline said in response, “Listen to you two bicker. I like you both so don’t fight. I want to remain friends, so don’t fight. Of course, I’m flattered, and if either one of you had been around during the war, you could’ve gotten whatever you wanted from me. And within a week or two you would’ve been gone and I would’ve forgotten you. But I’m thankful that you didn’t know me then and that we’re still friends now. Too often it was my fault and there were less fortunate souls in the world. I didn’t know if I still had a husband. I hadn’t yet learned what to do with time, and I made a mistake … a big mistake. I don’t particularly want to go into it now but … My husband hadn’t come back, and I made a mistake. It was as simple as that. Who am I kidding? And he’s not here now for me to beg his forgiveness. Not here for me to stroke his hair and say I’m sorry. You thought I was respectable. Yes, yes, respectable. I’ve known my share of bastards, and in the end, those relationships proved as insubstantial and pointless as a game of spades.
Herr Lippert cleared his throat. In a way it was a victory for him. Pauline, turning away from Frederick, and looking away from Herr Lippert, sat still. All three of them sat without moving for what seemed like a long time, but it was only a moment or two.
Herr Lippert said, “I don’t believe any of this. Concerning the woman question…”
“Freud says what?”
“I come from the old school, I guess. Not many people think the way I think these days. But there are reasons why women are built the way they are … why their hips are wide.”
“Perhaps you’re old fashion enough to think that women are inferior?”
“No, no, no. “
“I think we’ve played our part, but do we have to go through this again? I don’t feel guilty. You don’t know how many times that I’ve approached men on my knees. In terms of Herr Freud’s free association, hypothetically speaking, a woman is left with dreams of what might’ve been while she tries to hide her sin beneath petticoats.”
“But petticoats are …”
“Exactly. That was my dilemma. I don’t think either of you understand. I have a problem with how women are treated. When we quite rightly thought of ourselves as the center of the world, we were suppose to be sexless and knew, like Herr Lippert says, what we were built for. Often men think we were put on the earth for only one think. We’re often treated like we don’t have a brain. We haven’t forgotten … Herr Lippert thinks we’ve forgotten that we were put on earth to bear and raise children. And he’d like to think that we don’t have brains. So here we are. Here we are faced with a dilemma. I don’t have a petticoat to my name. And I think I know what would happen if I didn’t have a brain. You are men, and you would like me to be an evil nymphomaniac. I hate to disappoint you. I am not a nymphomaniac. And as I see you salivate, it confirms that you’ve been undressing me with your eyes. Both of you have … been undressing me with your eyes. Then it makes me your nude. I feel naked. I feel violated. Do you want me to lie down? It’s something to think about, isn’t it? You see I know where your minds are and that we live in dark corners. I’ve lived in dark corners. We’ve had fun, and who would deny us fun, only let’s first make sure that we know what we’re doing. Let’s make sure we know. Let’s make sure we know how to protect ourselves. Do you want me to pose for you? I will; of course I will, if you want. I’ll be your nude … your ugly nude. I’ll take my clothes off. I’ll take them off for you. But what would it make me? A lady or a tramp? And I would like for you now, before you answer and before you decide, to agree to give up something too.”
Pauline took a tract out of her purse and handed it to Herr Lippert. At the same time she looked at Frederick. She said, “I’m sure your friend Herr Freud has seen this. We’re distributing them everywhere. The ideas in it are not new. It concerns health of women. Men find it awkward, but by and large it is important for them too. Of course, I know how to walk and talk, and it’s not my job to inform you boys. This concerns health of women. I know we’re accused of getting away from Christian ideas, or shall I say age-old Christian ideals, as exemplified by Virgin Mary and Eve. I know it’s rather controversial still.”
Herr Lippert said, “I’ll digest it later.”
Each point, each page conveyed the same message: “women aren’t sexless”: healthy women aren’t sexless. They have sexual desires and erotic instincts that are normal and that these desires needn’t be denigrated or sublimated. In other words, motherhood or nurturing seeds of future generations wasn’t necessarily a woman’s primary role. And she has other choices other than becoming a lady or a tramp. Choices and protection were themes that were clearly laid out.
Both men looked through the tract. As they handed it back and forth, Herr Lippert remained unmoved and Frederick was puzzled. Frederick may have seen the tract before. At least he wasn’t dismissive like Herr Lippert was. Pauline held herself up straight and waited impatiently for a response. Herr Lippert, more than once, started to give a response while Frederick felt aroused. To him it was erotic material. To him it was suggestive, erotic and suggestive like previous conversations with Pauline had been. It aroused him while Pauline hadn’t said anything titillating after suggesting that she could become their nude. But how could she top this suggestion given that they were in a public place, but Frederick didn’t need more to get his imagination going. He found himself, to his surprise, thinking about his own body, and then he began to think about his penis. Here he was in a public place thinking about his penis. Sitting beside Pauline, who had turned away from him, he thought about his penis. And as he thought about it, he started stiffening. So he scooted forward, up under the table, hoping she hadn’t noticed.
Pauline, certainly by then, was aware of Frederick’s weaknesses, and could’ve exploited them. He began to fidget. Once or twice he shook his head. And then he signaled for Herr Lippert to hand him the tract again. He seemed agitated when Herr Lippert handed it to him. He had to be careful not to say anything out of hand. “Sigmund Freud, held that the libido was an inherently masculine trait, and that sexual desire in a woman was abnormal.” Frederick stared at the ceiling because he hated to admit that he had trouble with the tract. He wanted to be modern. He wanted to be open, but it was hard for him. There was a very long silence.
Frederick finally said, “Pauline, I admire what you’re doing.”
Herr Lippert remained as he had been, unconvinced, and silence returned. The dinner was over. When the three of them spoke and said good-bye, they were friendly to each other. They two men left together. It took Pauline a little longer to gather up her things. She gazed at the tract before he put it back into her purse. She then whispered, “What have I done?” She had surprised herself. She knew the she shouldn’t have shown the tract to the men. The tract was meant for women and not for men and was readily available, so why did she embarrassed herself?
Over time she came to some conclusions. The first one was that men didn’t understand women, and she didn’t pretend to understand men. Until then, though she had an abortion and given birth to two children, her body was foreign to her. Now, unexpectedly, she became aware of secrets that eluded her. Until then she hadn’t enjoyed her body. Until then she hadn’t been given permission to enjoy sex. Then as she began to enjoy her body, she resented anyone who forced her into a mold. And she didn’t mind sharing her story, particularly with other women. But unlike many other feminists she advocated employment for all women and not just widows, orphans and spinster who through misfortune were denied a male provider. This unfortunately intimated men, including freethinking men like Frederick.
Pauline’s feminism took Frederick by surprise. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. It threw him off and he bemoaned the loss of a doe-like lovelorn female or someone he couldn’t manipulate. Pauline had seemed pliable. Now he couldn’t seduce her. To his surprise he couldn’t seduce her, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Then he began to think that she was heartless, cold and heartless, even frigid when she was the opposite.
It could’ve meant the end of their relationship when he realized that there was nothing more that he could do about it. His imagination took him only so far. Though he loved a challenge he would’ve preferred some action: not making headway damaged his ego. Now, when nothing right. She suddenly became more affectionate, and he wondered what he was doing differently. Still, while she invited him up to her flat, she would still only go so far.
But Pauline felt that they were making headway. She saw progress, while Frederick didn’t. She saw headway and thought that he might be an exception. She said, “You’re a very sensitive man, and I like it. I like the way you take care of me. I like the way you don’t push me. Not many men would be so considerate. It’s very good. But feel free to go out with someone else.”
Pauline continued to hand out tracts to women who came to the Obdachlosenhein. Occasionally she heard from their husbands.
Pauline said, “It’s an uphill battle. Women are conditioned, and men take advantage of it. I don’t necessary believe that the happiest women are mothers. I see too many women worn to a frazzle. I see too many women wore down by their children. Too many men want passive women, and too many women want men to take care of them. I’ve learned not to expect too much.
Frederick asked, “Why are you on this crusade?”
“You of all people ask me that. You know me. I can’t help it. They’re always looking for ways to put us down. It’s everywhere. It’s how it’s always been. It’s like we have to bide our time and wait for men to ask us. But it’s not a socialist view, a modern way. It doesn’t help.
So Frederick listened and bought into it. And she loved him for it.
This was shortly before Fritz returned. It happened kind of naturally now that Pauline didn’t feel pressured. Yet as they entered her flat, which they had to themselves, they hadn’t planned it. At the door he said that he couldn’t stay but for a few minutes, but when they were inside he sensed that she didn’t want him to go.
When Frederick said that he could only stay for a few minutes Pauline panicked. She became flustered and panicked. She had been thinking about him all day and felt disappointed when he said he could only stay for a few minutes. And Frederick saw what was going on. He was surprised. She seemed vulnerable, and it was something that he hadn’t seen in her before. It was like she was caught doing something when she thought no one was looking. She might have been looking at herself in a mirror, fascinated by what fascinated men most, and this image reminded her that she was a desirable woman. Yes, it caught him by surprise. And it was a little while before Pauline could compose herself, and it took him a little while to digest it.
Pauline’s flat was too small for her taste and would be even smaller, with her two boys and a nanny, when her husband Fritz came home. It wasn’t something that she wanted to think about then.
Pauline walked with Frederick to the front windows, and said, “The average flat here is this size and used to be home for at least four people. Now it’s usually home for twice that number. Most streets are dead ends, and Vienna River runs through here. Maybe you haven’t heard of Vienna River. Even now you can look out and remember when it was less hectic. What I didn’t like then was that marriage was incompatible with freedom, or at least it was for me. Even before the war I was working on it with my husband, and then war came and it became more than something that I carried in my brain. It was you who liberated me: you a man who didn’t insist on getting his way. It probably sounds like a joke now because I knew that you wanted to seduce me, but you weren’t like other men. During the war it would’ve been different. During the war I was a tramp. Imagine. A vamp! A tramp! At a time like that, we couldn’t afford to wait to be asked. And I was in great demand. I married well, of course, though I knew that there was a possibility that he wouldn’t come home. And so here we are. It takes a modern woman who believes in sexual freedom to be brave enough in this situation to take corrective steps.”
They left the window and went into the bedroom. Pauline, sitting on the bed, was prettier and more desirable than ever.
Frederick said, “One day you might regret this. Are you sure you won’t feel like a tramp again? But you know what the risks are?” He started unbuttoning his shirt. “This is where you start.” It was what he had been waiting for.
Pauline looked at him funny.
Frederick asked, “Aren’t you going to undress?”
Pauline felt confused. She wanted to but had to be sure. To want to and to believe in sexual freedom should’ve made it easy, and it would’ve been devastating at that point if Pauline couldn’t do it.
Frederick said, “It’s pretty much up to you. We can postpone this until you’re sure. I’m assuming, of course, that you’re husband is dead. You’re not a tramp, Pauline. I don’t believe you’re a tramp, and I don’t believe you ever were. You may feel at this stage that having sex with someone is of no consequences. But I think that you love me. I know I love you”
They should’ve known better. Pauline let Frederick do all the work. It was what was expected of her. She was ready this time. But did it feel like work? What was wrong? She lay there like a doll and accepted it for all that it was worth.
There was no contract, no strings attached, and they both knew it. All Frederick could hope for was that she loved him as much as he loved her.
Frederick said, “It’s a start. I know what you’re afraid of. Have I earned seconds?”
“Thirds, fourths, fifths …”
When he went down for a second time, it was enough for the day. But the wretchedness of the position it placed her in … tormented as a married woman and tormented by her past … showed on her face. Frederick thought that she, in a fragile and beautiful way, was simply frightened. And it made him feel superior.
Frederick wanted to see more of her. But he was nervous about it. He would’ve found it hard to explain why he was nervous. They loved each other, seriously: it was just that the situation was awkward. And he wasn’t sure why it felt awkward. He said at one point, “I suppose the main thing is that we love each other. I’m glad we’re willing to take a chance. You’re smarter about these things than I am. I’m not as free as I’d like to be.”
Four or five weeks later they met Herr Lippert at Café Central for a late-night coffee. Frederick got there early. He saw Freud sitting alone and recognized him immediately by his beard and cigar but didn’t want to get involved in a conversation with him. Frederick was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to hide anything from the now famous psychoanalyst. Frederick felt that Freud could see through him. He didn’t want his secrets known. Frederick purposely avoided the doctor’s couch. He didn’t want to talk about his secrets and avoided the doctor’s couch while everyone was talking about it. Both men, of course, knew each other, since Frederick was a member of the Psychoanalytic Society. As soon as he saw Freud he saw Pauline.
Pauline was with Herr Lippert. Seeing Herr Lippert with Pauline made Frederick jealous. Little things made him jealous but not so much so because Frederick knew that he didn’t have a right to be jealous. They lived in a modern world where jealousy was considered bad form. Pauline flirted with both men. In a modern world she was allowed to flirt with both of them. She was easy with both men and was quite attractive in pants rather than a dress. But her thoughts weren’t on Herr Lippert. Pauline’s thoughts were on Frederick. To a large extent Frederick and Pauline left Herr Lippert out when they teased each other. Herr Lippert sensed it, saw it, felt it and saw that there was a change in their relationship. Frederick and Pauline were more loving than they were before. (If he had the nerve, Herr Lippert would’ve approached Doctor Freud himself. It was now possible for him. He had been introduced to Freud, and he knew Freud’s theories about sexuality … even in infants. He knew Freud’s theories about sexuality, which commented on Viennese society.)
Pauline was critical of Freud. But didn’t she believe in sexual freedom for herself and others, and had acted on it knowing risks were involved? Wasn’t she a modern woman? Herr Lippert, by contrast, believed in it for men and for women. He believed in sexual freedom for men but not for women. Frederick’s beliefs about this were in flux.
Frederick thought, “In the real world women like Pauline are resented. And she’s right. Of the three of us, she’s the only one who’s honest. Herr Lippert and I are cads.”
Afterward Frederick and Herr Lippert talked about this evening and Pauline.
Herr Lippert said, “She’s a doll. You’re a lucky man, Frederick, and you don’t know it. The strange thing is that you two don’t act like lovers. She says you are (lovers) and you keep it a secret. You don’t need to hide it from me. It doesn’t matter to me. I can tell that she likes you. I can tell that you like each other. I can tell she likes excitement, gaming, and intimacy. Yes, you’ve won, but you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Like I said she’s a doll, and you’re a lucky man.”
Frederick said, picking up on what Herr Lippert said, “You’re right. She is a doll, and for me it’s a problem”
“Are you mad? Are you?”
“Frederick said, “Believe me, I wish it were different. I wish we were really free. I know that she doesn’t want to take another lover, but she wants to be loved. I know she doesn’t want to be a doll. Pauline, in addition to everything else, is a human being. Believe me, I know what she’s worth and I don’t want to do anything to cheapen her. I’d rather be discreet and selective, while she talks about it freely. It shouldn’t be anyone else’s business, so I’d rather keep it a secret. In some ways she’s more masculine than I am. Yet she lies there like a doll and approaches it from all directions.”
For many weeks Frederick came and went from Pauline’s apartment. She gave him a key, and then he discovered that Herr Lippert often went there too.
Pauline’s lack of inhibitions upset Frederick. For some time it made him uncomfortable. Herr Lippert embarrassed him too. Frederick didn’t like it that his friend knew more about his relationship with Pauline than he did, but he let it slide. Knowing that Herr Lippert went to her flat didn’t help either, especially after Frederick laid claim to her and thought that his jealousy was justified. He thought of confronting Herr Lippert and said, “For your information, Pauline and I love each other.”
But he never confronted Herr Lippert. He didn’t confront Herr Lippert because that week Fritz finally returned from the war. Mystery solved, Fritz wasn’t dead. Mystery solved, Fritz wasn’t killed during the war. Mystery solved, but with more questions left unanswered, such as why Fritz returned from the dead and where had he been. When Fritz returned, a situation that had been barely tenable suddenly became totally untenable … except that Frederick and Pauline really loved each other. Pauline’s husband Fritz, with no idea of what was going on, and suddenly appearing and demanding what was rightful his, moved his family to a place big enough for him, Pauline, two boys, and a nanny.
Newspapers and radio had carried news from the front, but only people who were there knew what it was like. Shortly after Fritz returned Frederick went, as he and Pauline frequently had, to Café Central expecting to see someone he knew. It seemed strange that Doctor Freud wasn’t there. Doctor Freud wasn’t there, and Frederick didn’t see anyone he knew. He expected to run into Herr Lippert, or expected to run into someone he knew. Sitting at a table alone he overheard someone say that their children were like “little aliens” and couldn’t help but think about Pauline and her two boys. “Little aliens” … it was an isolated comment unrelated to the rest of their conversation, and Frederick felt at once a sense of loss. He had been avoiding the Obdachlosenhein. He always associated the Obdachlosenhein with Pauline. And after he learned of Fritz’s return, he stayed away from the Obdachlosenhein. Frederic couldn’t stand thinking about working beside Pauline there. It was too painful.
A week later he ran into Herr Lippert. He asked him if he’d seen Pauline.
Herr Lippert said, “Frederick. I’ll tell you the truth. I must tell you the truth. Pauline told me that her life was over. She said because her husband returned her life was over, and I don’t know whether to believe her or not. Oh, I assume she’s carrying on as best she can and putting up a brave front. And I know how much you two care for each other. So why don’t you fight for her? Why don’t you show up at the Obdachlosenhein? Why don’t you show how much you care for her? She believes in sexual freedom. Now let’s see if she really believes in it. But I know for you that it’s a problem. I know that it’s a hang up for you. That however was then. But now! Now your attitude needs to be of a man overcome by passion, sexual passion. You need to show your metal. You need to find what Pauline found, and I guarantee you she’ll respond. I know she’ll respond. So go looking for her … fight for her. You’re every bit a man her husband is. You need to remember that she was hurt by his absence. That’s all. Go to her! Go to the Obdachlosenhein and see what transpires. Want to wager?”
“You seem sure of yourself. You seem sure of yourself. Have you talked to her?”
“I know Pauline.”
“And that’s suppose to make me feel better? I thought I knew her.”
“You have to go with the times, Frederick. You know that.”
“Go with the times.” Then Frederick said, “I have plans for tomorrow. We’ll have to see about Wednesday. I’ve been extremely busy.”
Wednesday went by without Frederick going to the Obdachlosenhein. It took a while for him to come around.
Frederick always knew how to find Pauline. He knew how to find her … where to find her. Both of them were creatures of passion, though they liked to come across as rational people. They did things, and thought about consequences later, so it shouldn’t have surprised Frederick when a letter came from Pauline. Dear Fredrick, In life there are always moments of madness … when we lose control of our senses. You must know that I love you. When he read this, Frederick thought, “Yes, yes, I know. Perhaps it’s the only thing I do know.” And in this case passion and despair hit him at once. “And why not?” Because he wasn’t as free as he wanted to be, and she wasn’t completely free because she was married. “I’m glad I know enough now not to show up at her front door.”
While staying away from the Obdachlosenhein, Frederick now saw Pauline more than he had before. Something definitely changed; yet they saw each other as often as they had before, and a catalyst was Pauline’s husband. But they feared exposure now and avoided their old haunts. And those excursions with Herr Lippert and other friends were no longer possible.
Fritz looked handsome in his pike gray uniform. He had always looked handsome, but in his pike uniform he looked especially so. But he had changed. War had changed him, changed him like it changed everyone else because war took away from him a zest for living.
Pauline told Frederick, “He has lost his spark. The war won’t let go of him now, and he’s trying to take me down with him. Fritz can be mean. My guess is war is mean, and it rubbed off on him. And he’ll never forgive me. I know he won’t forgive me for moving on. You know me. I’m honest and open, so I haven’t kept many things from him. That wouldn’t be me, but Frederick you’re safe. He doesn’t care enough to come after you. And I expect he’ll regain his position with the court. But the court doesn’t respond well to scandal. A spat between a husband, a wife, and a lover would be disastrous for him. So you don’t have anything to worry about. He might ask me to leave. But I doubt it. It would be scandalous. And I won’t leave him. I wouldn’t want to give up my boys.”
Frederick then received a letter from his father. It seemed screwy to receive one from him. The two of them hadn’t maintained a relationship, suggesting that there was a rift, but there hadn’t been one. They would’ve been close had Frederick chosen to teach like his father wanted him to and like he had at one time thought he would. Frederick now couldn’t imagine teaching like his parents at the university and stifled by a routine. (He had a routine but felt teaching would be stifling.) For that reason he generally didn’t deal well with his father, while his mother still slipped him money when he needed it.
His father wrote in longhand, when he could’ve easily dictated it.
Dear Frederick, You know that your mother and I worry about you. I haven’t written you before now because I kept thinking you’d drop by or at least call. I know that you and your mother stay in contact. I write now because I heard something that distresses me, and I’m taking a risk by writing because I don’t know what your reaction will be. You know that I’m an active member of the Christian Democratic party. Well, I was all in favor of you going to the university. How I didn’t object and didn’t mind paying for it. Well, I’m not going to beat around the bush. I’m disappointed, Frederick, and this I know you’re aware of. You also know that I’ve supported you and will continue to do so (I keep track of the money your mother sends you), but it doesn’t keep me from being disappointed. I know that you’re having an affair with a married woman, but that’s not what I’m concern about … not at all. Have your fling. It’s none of my business. But her husband is a clerk of the court, and he talks about fighting Americans towards the end of the war, life in trenches and loss of men. These days he prides himself on being a family man. I understand he has two sons, and it seems like he’s married to a woman with an independent streak. That makes it hard for him. None of this is unusual, and I know that these days everybody has to find his own way.” Frederick asked himself, “How in the world did he find out?” “…and of course you will say it’s none of my business. You’re over twenty-one. You have a right to make your own mistakes. We all make mistakes. We all make them. I understand this woman is very attractive and let’s say knowledgeable. I also happen to know that, though she may claim to be a Catholic, her parents were Jews. Your mother is quite happy to wait and see what develops, but it may surprise you to learn that she’s worried … worried … worried about your association with Jews. I don’t know where this thing will end, or how it will work out for you. Well, I thought you should know that the word is out.
Frederick wondered, “Who talked to him? If they knew, who else did? But this didn’t change anything, or did it?”
After reading his father’s letter it occurred to Frederick that he hadn’t seen his parents for some time. He hadn’t seen them; yet they knew about Pauline. He hadn’t told them about Pauline; yet they knew. How did they know?
When he went by his parents’ flat Frederick didn’t have courage enough to ring the doorbell and left without seeing either of them. No one could say where he is mother was, but his father would’ve been at work. Frederick could’ve gone by the university. He could’ve seen his father. He knew his father would be in his office. He could’ve seen his father. He didn’t like his situation. He didn’t appreciate his father’s letter. It was like …especially after his father’s letter … stigma was attached to his relationship with Pauline. Why were they concerned? And it was like the world hadn’t changed … and that they weren’t living in a modern age. And his father wrote that he and Frederick’s mother were worried, but never said what they were really worried about. They didn’t know Pauline, and Frederick felt that his father didn’t personally know Pauline’s husband (though professionally they may have run into each other). Nevertheless Frederick felt exposed, and it took wind out of his relationship with Pauline, and it was when he tried to break it off with her again.
Frederick’s sister also wrote him. She was the last person he wanted to hear from. He felt ashamed that he hadn’t stayed in touch with her though it would’ve been easy enough. Frederick’s sister still lived in Vienna, and it wouldn’t have taken much for him to go by her flat. As her older brother, shouldn’t he have checked on her?
Dear Frederick, I wonder if you know how much our parents are worried about you. I, of course, know that you can take care of yourself and suspect that you know what’s good for you. But I wonder if by doing missionary work you’re taking full advantage of your education. You know that our father would like for you, with your degree, to join the university with him…if you aren’t careful. Oh, I don’t mean to be … to sound … like a big sister when I’m not one.”
Then Frederick learned that his sister ran off with a bookish writer. She married him, but there were complications that she didn’t explain. She went against her parents’ wishes in the same way that Frederick had. He had to give his little sister credit but wasn’t sure he liked the idea. He could hear his father say, “He’s not worth a tinker’s damn.”
She wrote: “Richard and I don’t plan to have children. Richard has convinced me that there are too many mouths to feed in the world. Of course he has seen much more of the world than I have. I’m sure you two will get along. You have much in common.” Frederick already hated Richard and, like his father, thought his sister made a mistake. “Richard and I are on our honeymoon in Bavaria. Richard has some socialist friends here. As you know, like in Vienna, socialists control the government of Bavaria. When we get home, I’ll bring him by so that you can meet him.”
Frederick thought, “Bavaria and a socialist! He had to be a socialist.”
And in due course she introduced Frederick to her new husband, and the two men didn’t have much to say to each other. They didn’t live far from Frederick. His sister insisted on it, and she dropped by Frederick’s place every other day, and often ran into Pauline there. Frederick never wanted anything. She never asked for help or advice. Richard never came with her. Pauline may have been willing to offer her sympathy had she been willing to share difficulties that she was having with Richard, but had that happened Frederick no doubt would’ve perceived it as a threat. He already chafed at his sister’s attempts to control him. She never took such an interest in him before, and she always managed to drop by his flat at the most inopportune time. It made it awkward. It took a toll on his relationship with Pauline. Then while he was worried about hurting his sister’s feelings, Frederick also worried about whether Pauline understood. So in her new aggressive way, and without knowing it, his sister turned Frederick’s life upside down. That was when he decided to confront her.
He started out by saying, “I don’t think you realized.”
She said, “Oh, yes, I do. You’re frustrated. You want children of your own.”
“That’s nonsense. My guess is that you’re projecting your own needs onto me. I never bought the idea that you didn’t want children. But certainly it’s none of my business.”
“What I mean is that it’s hard to know for sure. Never is a long time. The way the world is it’s hard to know.”
“So then we have something else to wait for, and after that there’ll be something else.”
A few days later, after Frederick told her about his conversation with his sister, Pauline said, “It’s sad.”
He thought, “It is. Maybe she really comes to see me. Maybe she’s looking for something that she can’t find at home. He is a writer. We all know what writers are like.” Then he repeated Pauline, “Yes, it’s sad.”
“But we’re all free. You’re free.”
“And so are you.”
And Frederick realized that she echoed him as often he did her.
He thought, “But I’m afraid it won’t last, though she hasn’t given me a reason to be afraid it won’t last. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ll just have to let it happen. But I don’t like waiting. Since the end of the war I haven’t had to worry about tomorrow. I can’t go back. Then my sister shows up. My married sister! And there are complications, but I refused to fight her battles for her. I don’t want to fight those battles. I have my own battles to fight. Why do I waste my time in a relationship that’s not going anywhere? When I’m free to go? Yet it’s a terribly hard thing do … maybe I’m not so free … maybe. And it wouldn’t do any good to confront her husband. Or try to possess her. When I know that I’ll never have her outright. Now it’s easier not to think. I get things mixed up by thinking. The trouble is that I love Pauline and I know that she loves me. But where am I then? I don’t know how to walk away, after she’s touched me, held me, kissed me. This is Vienna, and she believes in sexual freedom, and I should be the happiest man alive. But maybe I should find myself a whore.”
Frederick telephoned Pauline late one morning, and said, “Pauline, I can’t see you ever again.”
“That’s silly, Frederick. It’s not fair to me or fair to you.”
“I know it isn’t fair. But it isn’t fair the way it is either. I’ve been thinking, and I know thinking is dangerous. I want you all to myself, want desperately to make love to you this very minute. I want you. I love you, but I know it’s not possible, and when I think about your boys and their father, I become ashamed and resentful. I don’t like feeling ashamed or resentful. I don’t like it in me. I don’t like being a fool.”
“Oh, Frederick. I’m not a piece of cheese.”
Except this didn’t end their relationship.
They still saw each other at socialist meetings and at the Obdachlosenhein. They would speak. They would see each and speak. Frederick wondered how long they could restrain themselves and why he continued to torture himself by showing up at the Obdachlosenhein. Except Pauline didn’t seem to care. Pauline didn’t seem to care, and this bugged Frederick more than anything.
Other people at the shelter weren’t aware of what was going on. Even Herr Lippert didn’t know, and it might’ve been that he didn’t want to know because he still carried on his own liaison with Pauline. Except why hadn’t Frederick found himself a whore? Pauline was married, so why not a whore for Frederick? She had two children, and besides a husband she maintained a liaison with two other men. And she told Frederick that she loved him, and he never knew if she was telling him the truth or what she was telling her husband and Herr Lippert, and if she wasn’t telling the truth she was still somehow able to keep a straight face. Eventually awkwardness subsided, and there was a truce of sorts.
They were seen everywhere together. Pauline and the two men were seen everywhere together. The two men couldn’t stay away from Pauline. It was strange, a strange situation. More like siblings than lovers. Family. More like family. But if you could believe Frederick, he really intended to stay away from Pauline. She and Frederick sometimes still made love. They had to sneak off to do it. They would go to a hotel. An extravagance, but it was worth it. Pauline would rearrange her schedule. The man who rented them the room was friendly, and staff was more than helpful. Accommodating. Never questioned them. Luggage? No. And then of course he knew that they weren’t brother and sister. It was the kind of thing that called for discreetness.
In many respects each rendezvous was for the times quite conventional, and if she hadn’t been redeemed by the return of her husband (considering her compromising situation) she could’ve easily ended up in the gutter (some may argue that she had been there before). If Frederick hadn’t be so taken with Pauline … and followed his instincts … he would’ve instead found himself a prostitute.
That afternoon he waited for her on the Graban, a hundred yards from St. Stephens and a five-minute walk from the Habsburg Palace. It was arguably the busiest street in Vienna and arguably the busiest hour. He walked past the Pestsaule without looking at it. He wasn’t sure that she would come. He was never sure. A little after noon he was drawn into the Graban Cafe. By then he felt foolish and despondent and ordered coffee and a pastry. Feeling foolish and despondent, he talked with the waiter who talked with a strange accent. He felt a need to talk to someone. “French post cards? Very risque, sir?” The waiter quickly took them out of his shirt pocket and showed one of them to Frederick. “Nice?” They were two nudes, one chained, with tight curls. Interested, Frederick bought one. The café was quite busy, filled with fancy dressed women in cloche hats, which caused him to think, “What the hell do you think you are doing?” There were plenty women and still not enough men. Frederick wasn’t thinking about Pauline but was thinking about women around him. Luckily, they weren’t paying attention to him. Then he realized that he couldn’t hate Herr Lippert … he couldn’t hate him for having a liaison with Pauline. At that point, he wanted to say to his friend, “I know you. I recognize you. We’re the same. We’re both fools.”
Later, not wanting to go home with just nudes in his pocket, Frederick found himself a woman. He didn’t consider the price. She led him to an upstairs bedroom. He didn’t want to talk while she would’ve talked had he wanted to. It didn’t take long. The whole time he was thinking about Pauline. Now this woman wasn’t a substitute for Pauline, but she would do. Recklessly they didn’t take precautions. Though she was an older woman, he would worry about it later and about how they should’ve taken precautions and how he should’ve thought of Pauline. She said to Frederick, “I used to be on the stage. I used to be an actress.” He didn’t know whether to believe her or not, or if she was acting then. She said, “You don’t have to be gentle with me. I not a doll.” But out of courtesy he held back. He didn’t want to hurt her. Before Pauline, he wouldn’t have held back, and it all seemed mechanical to him. He remembered the postcard of the nudes in his shirt pocket. He thought, “Perhaps I can’t buy what I want.” At that moment the woman said to him, “Enough.” A few seconds later he climbed off of her. It didn’t matter then. He just wanted to get out of there.
A few days later as he was walking past St. Stephens he saw several streetwalkers standing on a corner. The wild things wore thin dresses and short sleeves and had rolled their stockings down to showoff their knees. They wanted to showoff their knees. The older one was dressed to look younger than the other two.
Frederick thought, “Keep walking!” He still had the photograph of two nudes in his pocket, only by now he had lost interest in them.
He had no idea what he might do. Pauline … for more than a week he hadn’t seen her when he could’ve seen her almost any time he wanted. Frederick could go to the Obdachlosenhein where he knew that she was working, or if he really wanted to talk to her, he could wait for her to come out. Frederick knew then that he could never hope for more from Pauline. He wanted more. He wanted more than occasional sex … and yes he knew that he had a vamp on his hands. Still he held out hope.
In the meantime Frederick had lots to do, and in a way it was to kill or be killed. So he hid from Pauline and thought of continuing his life without her. And he spent most of his time writing. He wrote, wrote about women. And it seemed like he was trying to forget Pauline and had curled up in a shell. There was no time for Freud, no note from Herr Lippert, he avoided Café Central: nothing that would remind him of Pauline and most of all he tried to stay away from whores. It was depressing. Sex with prostitutes was even more depressing. It became for him tantamount to alienation and more of an extension of his imagination than having contact with women. He didn’t consider whores to be women. Frederick was presented with a choice, and there was something about each choice that wasn’t satisfying. But prostitution, even as bleak, commercial and risky as it was, seemed less of a threat than continuing his relationship with Pauline. This was what it came down to. Frederick felt alone, forgotten, alone in Vienna, and felt that his life was over. A little later he equated it with a stillbirth. Six months later he came out of hiding. It took six months.
There was no sign of Pauline at the Obdachlosenhein. No one had heard from Herr Lippert in a long while. Frederick just knew that something dreadful happened, and this was when he reached rock bottom. He went by all their old haunts and asked around. He looked for Pauline everywhere. He walked past her apartment and milled around outside until he felt self-conscious. In search of her, he did things that he would normally never do. He was desperate. He was desperate, and in his desperation he approached her door but didn’t have nerve enough to knock. Much to his chagrin he learned nothing. He would’ve given up completely had he not seen the boys with their nanny come out of the building.
After seeing their father, one could see a resemblance, one would know who belong to whom and one was left at the end knowing for certain who their father was.
The whole disquieting mystery was finally solved in a most unsettling way when Frederick one day happened to see the whole family together, and they all seemed happy.
Frederick thought, “Let it die. Let it fade away. Let me move on. I shouldn’t have gotten involved anyway. It was unhealthy and wrong. Let me be satisfied with happiness I had.”
And then one day he received a couple of letters from Pauline.
“Dear Frederick, I think I owe you an explanation. I know that sometimes I have been a fool. I know I’ve been fool hearted. All I can say in my defense is that I am a creature of passion. Otherwise I don’t have an excuse. And it’s not easy to be a mother in modern times. And each woman seems to be affected in a different way. And that’s how it should be. I want you to know that I love you, but I can’t see you right now. So don’t approach my boys. They don’t understand. I’m afraid they will never understand. I’ve been open with Fritz, I could never deceive him, but it’s still awkward. I trust you understand.”
Suffering Frederick found hope in Pauline’s letter. He found hope because she acknowledged her love for him and admitted that she was a creature of passion. Yet she seemed cool and distant. He didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. He couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t see him.
Another letter came a day later, and it wasn’t any more encouraging. In it she didn’t suggest that they see each other. She wrote instead about religion, family, and peace.
“When I was a girl I was taught to cover up my body and was made to feel that it was ugly. Other natural things happened that seemed to confirm it, and there were no books then to help us and all horror stories came from other girls, and we were really on our own except for what our mothers told us. I felt that I had to write to you about this so that you’d know that I was never as free as I pretended to be. I allowed you complete liberty … and if I see you I would allow it still …because … I have to be honest here. During the war I did things … things … do you understand what I mean by things … and if it was alright to do those things during the war, then it was alright to do them afterwards, at least as long as my husband was missing.”
Pauline wanted to see him. She wanted to see Frederick. She did and she didn’t. He answered her letter immediately. And then he worried and worried that her husband might get his hands on his letter. He knew almost nothing about Pauline’s husband, nothing about his temperament. Pauline had rarely spoken of her husband or nothing of substance. She rarely spoke of him because she thought he was dead. It was possible though that she also loved her husband, genuinely loved him the same as she loved each man. Something like that explained how she could seem so sincere with each of them. Frederick thought of her being with his friend Herr Lippert, now his enemy: she told him that she loved him too? Thinking about her having sex with Herr Lippert filled him with rage. But if he saw Pauline he knew that he couldn’t control himself and he saw himself giving the game away. There was an easy solution. If only he could stay away. If only he could forget her … go somewhere … go somewhere where he could get his mind off her. He considered Salzburg, but it didn’t seem far enough away or exotic enough. “Does she think I’m made of stone?” he asked himself. This line of thinking led him to feeling like Pauline seduced and then decapitated him. At times he could strangle her.
But as soon as he saw her again, all his anger faded away, and he forgave her. She was as affectionate as ever. She seemed the same. And what was amazing was that she seemed even more uninhibited. When he was with her it didn’t matter that she was married. But when they were separated loneliness and pain returned. In her arms he felt strengthened by her love; only then to have cruelties and lack of peace and security overwhelm him. But then he began … with Pauline as she waited for him … to use indifference as a weapon. But there was no need for it. There was, so to speak, no way that he could change her. No game or ploy made a difference.
Yet a spell she had over him didn’t break, as Frederick spent even more time walking streets of Vienna, and when he did he felt even more sad and alone. It was an excuse he was looking for. He thought he needed an excuse. It was an excuse he gave himself, an excuse he needed … an excuse for picking up a prostitute. Frederick wouldn’t listen to reason and never considered looking elsewhere for what Pauline wouldn’t give him. He loved Pauline, truly loved her, and he told himself it over and over again. It was like he needed to tell himself it. He heard her voice, her beautiful voice, he loved her voice. He heard her voice especially at night when she wasn’t around. He heard her voice on his walks. On his walks, he’d think that he’d seen her … he knew her walk, loved her walked, so how could he have been fooled? She always got lost and relied on him. Now he kept her waiting. Arriving late gave him a sense of power, and her vulnerability made him feel protective. It was easier then to see through her, and he was tender then when he otherwise wouldn’t have been, and there was nothing mechanical about their lovemaking.
Frederick remembered the fast time they kissed … at the door of her flat before she invited him in. She told him that she lived alone. He knew it was a lie. He said, “I believe you.” And it wasn’t true. Why did she lie? He had no reason then not to believe her, and things progressed from there very much to his satisfaction. And to this he added his own brand of truth and falsehood. While she tried to tell him her story. She said, “I’m always honest.” Yet she lied. That evening he didn’t see evidence of another man (though he didn’t look in her closet or dresser). “I have to tell you that I’ve been married.” And there was no mention of children. And then she told Frederick, “I’m afraid, I’m not very conventional. You’ll have to accept it. I’m not conventional. It should be easy for you. If you’re a true socialist. You must accept it. Blame it on the war. Blame everything on the war. We’ve made great strides since the war.” He pursued her then with relish and to his surprise she returned the favor, and when they were finished they both wanted more. He said to Pauline then, “You’ve won.”
“But I didn’t know we were involved in combat.”
He then encouraged Pauline to talk, when he really didn’t care about her ideas. He tried to understand her point of view without realizing that there lay between them a deep philosophical chasm. Soon, from what she said, he began to understand that she not only was “once” married but that she missed her husband. Frederick thought, “Does she just see me then as a substitute?” But he pushed this idea out of his mind.
That was when she first spoke of her guilt. She always wanted freedom … freedom of a man. Instead she ended up married, became a mother, and resented it. Back then they lived an ordinary life, and she waited for it to change. And like ordinary people, they settled down. She insisted that they hire a nanny and yet hated to admit that she rather enjoyed breast-feeding. She wanted to cry. She wanted to breast feed her babies, and it was frowned upon. She hated her body, and yet wanted to breast feed babies. It made sense to her … breast-feeding. But it didn’t make sense to Frederick that she’d tell him this. None of it made sense to him. Frederick said, “I think I understand.”
“I wanted to be a father at one point. And a good one. I wanted to be like my father. Successful. We were so much better off than many people around us. So much better off. Everything may have changed except that.” And he knew that Pauline would never give him a child.
Later after they started seeing each other again Pauline said, “Here’s one for you. For centuries men have had the best of everything, and no one had it better than my father did. He grew up in a rich estate-owning family and inherited his share. He came to Vienna as a young man. He lived extravagantly and ran around with the likes of Herman Bahr and Adolf Loos. My father knew Adolf Loos. My father was somewhat like you. He remained a Jew. I disappointed him. I disappointed him when I converted, and the wonderful man told me everything that I did wrong. After he and my mother married he had courage not to modify his sexual appetite. People didn’t expect him to change. He didn’t have to change. He didn’t change. And he got away with it then because he was a man. Mother didn’t object. It was the way things were. My mother just grew fat having babies, and I suppose they had a lustful relationship. Compared to my father, my mother was solid, like a stone, hard, but without her my father would’ve squandered everything. So he and my mother lived happily until he died unhappily with much of his fortune still intact, and no one really knew my mother because she rarely went out. You can see then how I take after my father. Maybe I came along at an inconvenient time, and my mother had to stay home. Here was this dowdy, unhappy woman breast-feeding one child after another. No, that’s wrong. She wanted to breast-feed her children. Then maybe she wasn’t so unhappy. So then I have her as a model. With my father and my mother as models how could I go wrong? It’s remarkable how I take after my father. He knew that happiness doesn’t last long. He knew that happiness wouldn’t last long, so he grabbed every moment. Writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau became interesting to me, very interesting. There was a period in my life when I wanted to run away, cut my hair as short, and live in the woods. Dad and I liked to hike together. We liked to hike in the Vienna Woods. You’d think that he wouldn’t like to hike.”
And Frederick saw where she got her wildness, her primitiveness, and became a free spirit. It both excited him and frightened him. Her primitiveness and wildness excited him, and he liked to imagine her running naked through the woods. He thought it explained so much of her nature. It drew him closer to her.
One day he asked her if he could photograph her naked outdoors in the woods. He couldn’t bring himself to ask her directly, so he wrote:
“There’s this man who knows you. He is, in fact, in love with you. He loves you and wouldn’t do anything to hurt or expose you. You know who he is. He also knows you well and loves you for who are. He would also go as far as bet that you would go even further than you have if you were given half a chance, and he has a proposition. He recently saw work of Kokoschka and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and felt inspired. That’s where his heart is now and would like to make use of his camera and you as his model. And he promises not to show your face.”
In a black-and-white photograph, which was slightly out of focused, Pauline sat naked on a log with her back to the camera. He made a garland for her hair. Her hair was long and covered her front with a garland for her hair. He kept his word and didn’t show her face. Frederick thought she looked beautiful. She felt brave but not brave enough to keep a copy for herself.
“What are you going to do if I try to sell this photograph?” he teased. “Or put it up beside Otto Mueller’s “Gypsies.” Isn’t it art? Or should I make only a copy for me?”
“I trust you.”
“We come and go, but art endures. Well, now that you’ve done this, what’s left for you to do?”
Frederick thought, “She always surprises me. She may also surprise herself. I don’t have to go anywhere now. I’ve seen everything. And when my time is up, I can say I’ve had it all. And when Pauline looks elsewhere, as I know she will, I’m prepared. I know happiness rarely lasts.” He worried like this because he knew that he wasn’t prepared to lose her and thought, “She’s playing me for a fool. She has led me by my nose. And all this time I’ve let her.”
When he next met her, he asked, “Pauline, will you run off with me?”
“For me it is.”
“Run off with you? Where would we go? I couldn’t do it.”
Later he asked her, “Remember when I wanted you to run off with me?” She frowned. He said, “I wouldn’t expect you to abandon your boys. I wouldn’t expect you to.” She looked confused. He dropped the subject. Later, after she thought about it for a while, she said, “I would, you know … only … I would run off with you only I have my work with women.”
“And you love your husband.”
“Frederick, don’t! You know that there’s more to it than that.”
“I was thinking about us only going away for a week. My family has a hunting lodge near Mayerling.”
“A hunting lodge near Mayerling. Near but far enough. How convenient! Why haven’t you suggested this before?”
“You would’ve thought it sinister. After Crown Prince Rudolf …”
“How romantic! No, I wouldn’t consider it. Now …”
And then a few weeks later a letter came from Pauline.
“I’ve been thinking about your proposal, though I don’t know why I should trust you. Mayerling is close enough for an afternoon tryst, especially if we take a train, but I don’t think I’m in the mood for murder or suicide. But why did it have to be Mayerling? About other matters. Why don’t you find another woman, Frederick? You have no future with me, and you know it. I don’t understand why you hadn’t suggested going to Mayerling before now. I trust you, but Mayerling! You know that I love you, but you don’t know half of it. Mayerling!”
Frederick thought, “I’ve made a mistake.”
But, as always, he was able to undo his mistake, but they stayed away from Mayerling. He couldn’t however stay away from Pauline or undo a mess they created. Undoing it would’ve been easy now. He knew that he could easily find another woman, and it bothered him that he brought up murder/suicide at Mayerling.
So there was no way that he could get out of an intimate quadrangle that he found himself in. He and Pauline could share their most intimate thoughts, and that was important to him. Yet he wondered if he could hold onto her. He wondered if there was even a chance that he could hold onto her. He wondered how long he could stand sharing her with other men, though he would be the first to praise her for rebellion. And besides a lover, she became his idol. She became his idol while she devalued herself. Then while years went by, and he remained in this quadrangle, Frederick tried to deal with lies he told himself. Lies, lies, liar! Did he really fully accept and support emancipation of women? Did he feel cheated? Didn’t he feel cheated when he said he didn’t? Did he have his jealousy under control? To stay in a relationship with Pauline, he had to misrepresent his true feelings. And he never told her how he really felt. They never talked about his jealousy. He lied while she held nothing back. And wasn’t Pauline asking too much of him? Mayerling was spoilt for him, and he never went back there. (Remember he inherited a hunting lodge near Mayerlin, and nearby it there was a much larger hunting lodge where the tragic deaths of Prince Rudolf and his lover occurred. And was this murder/suicide was simply a tragedy or a conspiracy? Conspiracies were everywhere.
The three males would have gone on sharing her indefinitely had it not been for the matter-of-fact way Pauline handled the whole thing. To her it didn’t seem like a big deal. To her it seemed easy enough. Frederick and Herr Lippert wanted more discreetness, and Fritz was too afraid to confront Pauline. He knew that his wife changed during the war. They all changed during the war. War changed them. And Fritz knew of her infidelity. He didn’t approve of it, but he knew. She told him. He would’ve liked to have an obedient wife, but his worry about losing her kept him from pressing the issue. It was the same old unsatisfactory way that he dealt with so many things; like his duplicity with Christian Democrats and later with Nazis. And all this while he tried to act reasonably. He acted reasonably and held onto his job with the court. No one there knew that there was anything wrong. No one there knew what was going on. And all this while Frederick and Herr Lippert were sexually involved with his wife.
Fritz wanted to put an end to it, but he had too much to lose, though he felt that he already lost his wife. So he didn’t do anything. He tolerated it because he didn’t want to start over. He tolerated it because he didn’t think that he was able to start over. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. And he wasn’t in touch with changes that occurred and certainly didn’t believe in women’s emancipation, but he didn’t know what he could do about it. He thought, “I have my sons to think about. They need their mother. I can get my needs met somewhere else.”
That was how Fritz lived with Pauline’s infidelity, though he hated it, and was how he rationalized his own behavior, though it certainty didn’t carry risks like … at least not risk of scandal like Pauline’s behavior did. The one thing, however, that he was most afraid of were diseases that Pauline could bring home.
And Fritz wished that he had come home from the war sooner. If he had, he thought, maybe things would be different and maybe he would’ve been more a part of big changes that occurred. His wife’s promiscuousness bothered him, just as promiscuousness of any married woman would, while he didn’t see anything wrong with men being promiscuous. Men were allowed to be promiscuous. They were expected to be promiscuous. This was a double standard or contradiction Pauline faced every day.
At last they got off by themselves, away from the flat, with boys at school and he taking an afternoon off from work. Just an afternoon, no more than a few hours was all the time they had. Perhaps because they knew that it was all the time they had Fritz and Eva moved quickly from flirtation to intimacy, but for now Fritz wasn’t about to take advantage of his own flat. Never far were hotels where they could go and where no one cared who they were and where whatever they did was totally accepted. Eva was fleshier than Pauline, and she acted like creatures of the opposite sex thought she was supposed to act. She was supposed to be provocative and sexy. She was supposed to pretend to be less intellectual than Fritz. She was supposed to be a creature of passion, of desire rather than of intellect and in many ways the opposite of Pauline. She wasn’t supposed to have a mind of her own. She wasn’t supposed to stand up to Fritz.
They went into a hotel. At that hour the lobby wasn’t busy, and a hallway they passed through was just as vacant. At that hour only a clerk and a bellboy saw them. Nether clerks or bellboys counted. Her red lips were moist and welcoming, but Fritz didn’t spend much time there. They didn’t have much time. He left foreplay almost immediately and began undressing her before she had a chance to say anything because they didn’t have much time. The way from there was familiar to both of them. It was familiar territory. What they each did and how they each responded … familiar. But there was a negative side to this for both of them too. Fritz still loved his wife very much, and Eva wanted her boss to respect her, and here they were in bed together, and he felt like his life was ruined.
Air inside the room was hot and stale. There wasn’t a fan. Most of the year there wasn’t need for a fan. Looking out a window after opening it, Fritz saw men and women walking down the street, and he checked the time on a clock on a lamppost. They didn’t have much time. He thought, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, but I can’t turn back. And I’m not sure I want to. I’m not sure of anything.” So he took Eva to a hotel whenever he could.
Then he slipped one day and made love to her in his study. Pauline was out with Frederick … that was her story … or was it with Herr Lippert (Fritz never knew) … and remember this was back in 1920 when Frederick and Pauline took frequently hikes together in the Vienna Woods, and she allowed him to take a naked photograph of her. Thus Fritz’s dream was shattered, a dream he maintained while he recuperated in a military hospital far from his native city.
Fritz woke up in a military hospital without knowing how he got there. He was among wounded men who couldn’t immediately go home. His wounds were so horrific that he didn’t want his family to see him.
Later he wouldn’t talk about it, and would only refer to these events as a dream, and in the middle of the dream was a nurse who he swore looked like Pauline. She enchanted him, though he was suffering from what would later be called shell shock. “You’ve gone through hell. It’ll take time.”
“Am I going to make it?”
“You will, Fritz. It will just take time.”
“You’re telling me the truth, aren’t you?”
“You know I am. There’s no more war for you.”
“I’m not thinking about war. I’m thinking about home.”
She said, “It’s too soon for you to be thinking about home. Instead you should be thinking about recovering. I’ll come back later.”
When she came back, he said, “It was a bad day. Big shells started coming over as soon as the sun gave the enemy a target. One burst in our trench and killed a man next to me and knocked me out with a concussion. I knew by the crash we were done for, but I can’t explain burns I have. I was one of the lucky ones because I didn’t die of dysentery.”
Lying there he thought that his life was over, but was it a portrayal of his feelings? He admitted that the years that he and Pauline had together were good. They were good years. Then did he really feel that his life was over? Pauline gave him more than five good years … two sons and more than five good years. Then war came along. Now he was confined to a hospital bed, and he wanted to take his life back. But it was out of his control. What if he had control, what would he do differently? He didn’t know. But first things first.
He didn’t know what he’d find at home. He was afraid to write. He was afraid to have someone write for him. He was afraid he wouldn’t get better, so he didn’t write. Yet he hoped that Pauline was still waiting for him. He missed his boys. He missed his wife, and he hoped they were waiting for him. He dictated a letter to a nurse and then had her tear it up. He was uncertain about himself, and that was understandable. The nurse was very understanding.
Any letter from Pauline would’ve been a godsend. Was the game over? No, the game went on. He didn’t know what he expected, but he never expected Vienna to have change as much as it had. In many ways it seemed like it was neglected and it made Fritz heart’s sink and wonder what he fought for. During the war the city became increasingly ungovernable. Now the Social Democrats were in charge, and to him no one seemed happy about it. Waltzes had become outdated, since they consisted of turns and change steps, and many of the old buildings needed paint. Yes, the city was neglected, and Fritz wondered what he fought for. But the city itself had been left largely untouched. It was never invaded. Yet it wasn’t the same.
They still had their old flat, with the same old, heavy furniture in it. He could count on having the same old flat, only now with a live-in nanny it was more crowded than ever before. (He would have to find a bigger place.) It had basics. And beds, chairs, lamps, and tables made him feel at home. After living in trenches, it felt like home. Only he had to give up on having Pauline around because she was into social work and her extracurricular activities. And all of it tore him apart. None of it, he thought, would’ve happened had he not gone off to war. He felt sure that if he hadn’t gone to war he could’ve kept Pauline home. He could’ve kept her home where she belonged. He blamed war. It was war’s fault. He however wasn’t given a choice. He would have to adapt … change … something that seemed impossible to begin with … and gradually from things she said Fritz understood that Pauline had had many lovers … understood that she had many lovers while he was fighting a war. She had many lovers and still carried on several affairs.
Within days after returning to Vienna he began wandering around the city. After feeling impotent during the war, he felt shaky, even afraid, and he felt that he had to prove himself before he disappointed his wife. Until then he avoided sexual contact with Pauline, and it bothered him that she didn’t seem to object. So he wandered around the city looking for a vamp. He told himself that he wasn’t interested in tramps and felt sure that he knew the difference between tramps and vamps, so he looked for vamps. Sometimes he went into cafes, but never in one where he thought that he might run into someone he knew and where he thought he’d be recognized. He was on a mission. He never denied it. Yes, a mission! And yes, things had changed. Yet in some ways things hadn’t. He had to admit that he liked looking at women with cropped hair. There were short skirts to contend with. Corsets were gone. Even proper ladies abandoned them. Then he thought, “But it’s too much. They’ve gone too far. I’m the man. Though the world has changed, and they’ve proclaimed who they are, they’re risking everything. I’m the man. Our children need their mother. They hardly see her. They hardly see their mother. It isn’t fair.”
Sometimes in the evening he looked for Pauline in cafes without knowing what he’d do if he ever saw her in one with someone. He never went by the Obdachlosenhein to see if she was working like she claimed she was. For a while he tried to recoup what he lost during the war. And carnage of combat accustomed him to violence, so there was no telling what he would do if he found Pauline with someone. Fritz asked himself, “How long can this continue? What do they expect?”
He asked Pauline, “What’s happened to you? Do you expect me to be happy about this?”
Pauline said, “I have no expectations. You could take possession of me, but I’m not sure you’d want to because I’m not sure what would happen then. Maybe in time you’ll see things differently. Unless you’re willing to … Please don’t hate me.”
“I could kill you. It would be easy for me now … easy for me to reach that point. I know how to kill now.”
“I’m sorry. I guess we’re both reaching for something.”
“We thought Turks possibly raped and looted our city. We didn’t know that they never reached the outskirts. What I want to know is if they had captured Vienna would you have welcomed them with open arms? No, don’t tell me.”
“You’re thinking of the wrong war, Fritz.”
“It’s a waste of time. A waste of time! It was a waste of time.”
On his first day home Fritz asked Pauline, “Was it as long for you as it was for me?” His fear was heightened by feelings of vulnerability during the war, and he seized on everything he could … memories, possessions, and relationships … to recoup what he lost on the battlefield. He also tried to reject all changes that occurred while he was away. He tried to reject everything that was new to him … like all changes Pauline made to their home while he was gone. He tried to hang onto the past. She wanted to buy new furniture and rearranged everything. He objected but still felt like a stranger in his own home. .
But somehow he survived without people knowing what he was going through. Battle scars were real enough. Not all battle scars showed but were real enough. And he did everything he could to keep them from showing. Soon he found himself waiting for Pauline to come home. He found himself waiting and waiting for her to come home. He didn’t know what was going on. He had to find out what was going on. And then he was confronted with Pauline’s infidelity. And it threw him for a loop. He hadn’t anticipated it. He should’ve anticipated it. It broke his heart, and he vented by cursing her. He should’ve anticipated it. He intended to move out, but he didn’t know where to go. He didn’t know where to go. He didn’t want to leave. It would’ve helped had he been a drunk. There was no way that he could ease his way out, so he ended up staying.
He felt like a stranger, a stranger in a flat with only a few things that belonged to him, and he couldn’t sleep at night. The only comfort he found came from Eva, his boys’ nanny. And just as he began to notice her, he began to depend on her, and just as he was beginning to depend on her, she agreed to give him attention he needed … attention Pauline wouldn’t give him.
He couldn’t believe his luck. It meant that he didn’t have to roam the streets any longer. He didn’t have to search for a vamp. He had a vamp in his home, but he knew that he had to be careful. Unlike his wife, he couldn’t afford scandal. Unlike her, he didn’t run around with radicals. Unlike his wife, he wasn’t a socialist. And there was no use arguing with Pauline. He’d been through that. He knew that he couldn’t change Pauline, and he wasn’t about to tell her why he gave up trying. He still loved her and he couldn’t believe it when he started to love Eva too. He eventually loved two women … loved two women at the same time. And since he knew that Pauline had her own strange ideas about love he knew that he didn’t need to explain to her how he could love her and Eva at the same time. Pauline was important to him because she was the mother of his children and Eva was important because she anticipated his needs. So he loved both women.
How did it begin with Eva? One morning in his study she startled him when she came in there. Up until then he hadn’t really noticed her. She was very slim, tall for a woman, and wore a light, cotton dress. She said, like she knew him all her life, “So you’ve finally come home.” She then confidently sat on the arm of the sofa next to him and began to flirt. She said, “We’re glad you’re home, sir.”
“I’m glad to be home.”
“Frau Pauline has missed you, sir.”
“I missed her too.”
“I’m sure you did, sir.”
“You don’t have to call me ‘sir.’ He enjoyed chatter and didn’t care about depth in women.
“For some time now I’ve been studying you,” she said out of the blue.
“Oh, you have?”
“And I kind of know what you like in women.” And as they talked, Pauline came to mind. Having had a chance now to see how women changed while he was away, he wondered, “Why couldn’t Pauline be little like Eva?” He had been accessing women since he returned and to him the “ugliness of their nakedness” subverted his ideal. Now here was a woman who hadn’t cropped her hair. This made him admire her. This made him admire Eva. Eva suddenly became serious, got up from the arm of the sofa and left the room. He said, “I hope I haven’t gotten off to a bad start.”
Around the same time he met his vamp. She was a woman of mixed race, and he went out with her for the purpose of killing all desire. He literally thought about consuming her and tried not to be frightened by his urges. “All men have urges, just as all men drink and all men smoke.” He however wasn’t a rapist. He had seen too many women raped during the war and had seen what happened to men if they didn’t keep their urges in check. This went on for more than a year. Then he made his move on Eva, and all of his urges calmed down. Pauline’s absences and Eva accessibility would further altered the situation. It didn’t become a crisis as long as they made love in the dark. But there would continue be uneasiness that only passion cured.
But it couldn’t have been easy for Pauline. She didn’t have much of a home life. It might’ve been her fault, but she missed not having a home life. And without much of a home life, she didn’t have a close relationship with her sons. She said she missed it. And sometimes she made an effort to be with them. Sometimes she and Eva took them somewhere. Sometimes they took them to someplace like the Prater and rode the giant Farris wheel. And every night, whenever she got home and before she went to bed, she checked on them. She always checked on them. In those early days she was naive. She didn’t see how her behavior affected them. As far as she was concerned, the only problem was she couldn’t juggle everything, and it seemed like she was being pulled in too many directions.
Of course she hadn’t completely changed. She’d say “I am the only one here with a mind,” but she knew it wasn’t true. If she were a man, it wouldn’t have been so hard. If she were a man, she wouldn’t have been looked down upon. Sometimes she felt like a tramp. This was true when for the most part she acted like a lady. It would’ve been easier for her had she never married. Unlike most women she didn’t need marriage. She wasn’t like most women.
The whole family went one Sunday, not long after Fritz returned, to her father-in-law and mother-in-law’s home. It was a big affair. Fritz’s whole family was there. Fritz’s whole family and a few old friends were there. In those days few people had servants, save for very rich people. Still Fritz’s parents had a cook, who on this occasion also served the meal. After they ate people separated according to gender, women excusing themselves so that they could gossip and men went where they could smoke. Pauline knew that these women didn’t totally approve of her, but she didn’t really care. Pauline hadn’t stayed in touch with them and would’ve rather have gone with the men or the children who were turned loose. Eva had the day off. Eva had a rare day off. Now Pauline envied Eva because she didn’t want to be there. She didn’t like her in-laws. She expected them to say something snide, but they didn’t. The women, in fact, didn’t talk about her at all. They didn’t talk about her at all, and it was like she didn’t exist. When it came time to go they said goodbye without giving each other hugs, and for Pauline and Fritz, silence continued all the way home.
Pauline had clearly benefited from and enjoyed her freedom. These circumstances rather than her family’s position and wealth protected her. She later said, “They don’t know what to make of me.” Fritz’s father gallantly tried to hang onto the family’s wealth. It hadn’t been easy. There were quite a few failures. He hedged his bets and insolated himself against inflation. He believed that expansion of free markets, division of labor, and private capital investment was the only possible path to prosperity, and he believed that socialism was disastrous, so he threw his hands up when he learned that his daughter-in-law was working at the Obdachlosenhein. He blamed inflation and later the depression on them (socialist) but never encouraged Fritz to go into business with him. They spoke about it once. He surprised his son when he told him that he thought it would be a mistake and felt pleased when Fritz took a job with the court. So that he’d be insolated. There would always be a need for courts.
About people his daughter-in-law worked with at the Obdachlosenhein, he told Fritz, “They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re ruining our country. They’re dividing us when we need to come together. They’re where they are because most of them refuse to get their hands dirty.” In those days even workers hadn’t totally bought into socialism and by and large kept their heads to the grindstone. They didn’t appreciated being told what to do. But it would change within a decade. Now they were being offered socialism and were told what was good for them.
Those were days when women could have many lovers (in socialist circles) and could escape criticism for it. That was when lovemaking between Pauline and Frederick, between Pauline and Herr Lippert, and between Fritz and Eva was most intense. As was stated before, Pauline loved all three men, and Fritiz loved both women, but with liberation, for Pauline, came a sense of dread and fear. For one thing she didn’t want to get pregnant again, and she went through pain of an abortion … physical and emotional pain … and once was enough. There was too much emotional and physical pain associated with the abortion. There was birth control (she preached birth control), but she wasn’t sure that she could rely on it. Frederick vied with his friend Herr Lippert for her affections, and she didn’t know how to say “no” to either one of them until one day she realized that if she didn’t choose one she’d lose everything. Then out of fear she dropped Herr Lippert, and Frederick, a notorious philanderer, would eventually break her heart.
Pauline knew what marriage to a respected court official entailed. She knew she had to give an appearance of respectability. She also knew she couldn’t keep her marriage alive. But there were sons to think about. There were two boys to think about, and they were a reason she stayed with Fritz. She thought about leaving him, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She couldn’t because of her boys.
They lived two tram rides from the court, down a narrow street, on the top floor of a four-story apartment building. Pauline said she that would’ve been willing to live in the Karl Marx Hof, except flats there were too small to accommodate her sons, she and her husband and live-in help. If she were on her own, she would never need more room, but she wasn’t on her own. She also knew that by not living on her own, she was accepting Fritiz’s authority. So she tried to get along. This was when she learned that she couldn’t have everything.
Pauline used to worry about what people thought of her. She wanted to make a good impression. She had her sights on being the best wife and best mother that she could be. Then war came along. With war she knew she couldn’t keep it up, and this was also true after she went to work at the Obdachlosenhein. She also knew that members of her family would be the first to disapprove of her. She wouldn’t have gone to work at the Obdachlosenhein had Fritz not gone to war. She wouldn’t have had freedom and wouldn’t have met people responsible for her conversion to socialism. But this wasn’t a tipping point. She always had a rebellious streak, and no one could dispute it. Fritiz saw it. He later tried to put himself in her place. He tried to imagine what it was like to be abandoned for as long as she was and quickly realized that he might’ve strayed too. He had his own indiscretions to contend with, his dark side. It gave him a different perspective than he would’ve had otherwise. Though it wasn’t something he was proud of, it was something that wouldn’t surprise anyone. To keep a mistress was common. Many men kept mistresses, and many men had more than one household since there was a shortage of men. They however generally managed to juggle everything, with two women and in some cases two families; it was generally easier for them than what Pauline faced.
One day, when she went shopping with Eva, Pauline began talking about men in her life. They were having lunch in a café, and no one could hear them because the place was packed. Eva expected to hear something about Fritz, about some things that were going wrong in their marriage, or some juicy gossip … that sort of thing. Eva expected it, but she didn’t hear anything about Fritz. It was like Fritz didn’t exist. This surprised Eva. Eva didn’t understand it. But Eva was surprisingly supportive. She was supportive, and it gave her permission. In this regard Pauline thought she was blessed.
Eva actually knew more about Pauline’s marriage than she did, and it was the first time that they talked like this. They had an opportunity before but simply hadn’t done it. If Eva had been in Pauline’s shoes she would’ve settled for a conventional marriage. She would’ve been happy in a conventional marriage. She would’ve been happy with constraints of a conventional marriage. Constraints wouldn’t have bothered her. And she would’ve married Fritz in a heartbeat. Without thinking, Eva said, “We can’t have everything.” When Pauline asked why, she said, “It doesn’t work that way.” Pauline chronicled her various romantic relationships without naming names and wasn’t quite sure why she did it. Eva felt like saying, “You can’t act like that when you’re married” but restrained herself. Normally an employer wouldn’t confide in an employee in this manner. Normally an employer wouldn’t have admitted what Pauline admitted (or confessed) to Eva, and it felt awkward. Still Eva felt excited, as the two women picked their way through what turned out to be a thorny conversation. And Pauline saw that Eva had greater insight than a household servant normally had, while she knew her husband and knew that he was attracted to Eva. Pauline suspected that they were having an affair. She suspected it and because of it she looked at Eva with new respect. It was even liberating, though she was tired of complications … complications as they arose.
Pauline never liked to play charades. She didn’t like to play games because she knew that hard feelings would come along the way. She didn’t want hard feelings and was determined not to have any. But some things were inevitable, some things were better left unsaid, and she knew it. Sometimes people couldn’t help themselves. Unfortunately thorns hurt.
In the beginning the life she lived was an adventure. Sometimes it was a struggle. Otherwise she didn’t see anything wrong with it. And for a while it seemed like destiny would work for her: freedom, chance to be a well-rounded human being and not having to be either a lady or a tramp. She was lucky. She didn’t have to chose between a career and a life centered round her husband. She didn’t have to choose between her children and a career. At the same time it was still very new and wasn’t accepted by everybody.
Conventional marriages hadn’t yet become an artifact. Perhaps they never would. Perhaps there would always be tradeoffs. Pauline knew one thing: it was better to have an intellectual match than be restrained by marriage.
Like it or not, she was still a mother and like so many women she had difficulty reconciling this with who she wanted to be. At first she was nervous about leaving her boys with Eva. At first she was nervous about leaving her boys with anyone. She didn’t want to leave them because she didn’t want to get a look from other people that she knew she’d get. But if she was going to fulfil her destiny she didn’t have a choice. Like was said before, she had the most trouble with her family. They didn’t accept her. They didn’t want to accept the person that she became. They thought that she was headed for ruin. They thought she should feel ashamed of herself. So because of it “working all the time” liberated her. Of course, she didn’t work all the time.
Sometimes on Sundays she and Frederick went to the Vienna Woods and hiked their favorite trails, and sometimes afterwards they went to their favorite tavern in Grinzing where they drank and sang. She often thought back to the afternoon when she posed nude in the woods for Frederick … a picture of her sitting on a log with her hair hanging down over her breasts … and knew that she looked beautiful. She knew she looked beautiful and knew how to use her beauty. Then why did Frederick say he liked ugly nudes? She wondered then if Frederick would prefer it if she looked ugly. Would he prefer it if she looked like and acted like a whore and worried that that might be how he viewed her? Why did he prefer ugly nudes? She then wondered, “Am I ugly? And he says he hates women.” Then how could he hate women when he loved her? Maybe he only hated some women.
It would be different after the Crash of 1929 in the United States and the Civil War of 1934 in Austria. With victory of Christian Democrats, Fritz seized more control over Pauline. With defeat of Social Democrats (or socialism), he asserted his rights. And as he saw it, and for Pauline’s sake, it was a matter of survival. It was a matter of survival, as the Social Democratic movement became illegal and most socialists were driven into exile. It became a rough time for Pauline, as she was forced to adjust.
The Obdachlosenhein only closed its doors for a short while. They were forced to close but reopened as soon as they could. And when they reopened under a Christian banner, services they offered remained basically the same. For a small fee men still had a choice of a bed in dormitories on the upper four stories or a private chamber with a lockable door, a light bulb, a bed, a small table, a clothes hanger and a mirror. Hitler never went back there after he left there. Pauline continued to work there … worked in the mess hall and socialized with men in the reading room and the library. There was no evidence that Pauline met Hitler, but she likely did.
When it first opened, the Viennese press praised the Obdachlosenhein as “fantastical quarters, a paradise on earth” and as a “wonder of elegance and inexpensiveness.” Frederick and Herr Lippert now didn’t show up as often as they once did. They weren’t seen there often, though they didn’t go into exile like so many other socialists did. Switching allegiance was relatively simple for them, not too difficult since they weren’t Jewish and came from the “right” circles. They both graduated from the University of Vienna, which helped, and had studied under Othman Spann, a conservative philosopher, sociologist, and economist, and since the professor was as anti-Socialist as one could get … this made it even easier for the two men. The only rub Frederick faced was that he’d been a member of Freud’s circle, and to be a member of Freud’s circle and Spann’s circle at the same time was hard to imagine. It wasn’t easy to do, but Frederick felt that he had to disavow Freud. And just as no man truly wishes to be viewed as weak, and since flip-flopping was considered a weakness, Frederick had to be extremely careful. We can only judge him by what we know because we can’t see inside his heart. The only thing that we can say for sure was that he and Herr Lippert somehow survived a very tumultuous time. We have to leave it at that.
Clashes started in Linz and took place principally in Vienna, Graz, Bruck an der Mur, Judenburg, Wiener Neustadt and Steyr. In Vienna the uprising (also known as the February Uprising or Februarkampfe) lasted only a few days and centered around housing projects and socialist strongholds such as the Gemeindebauten and the Karl-Marx-Hof. But while Frederick, Pauline, and Herr Lippert could’ve easily been directly involved in fighting, there was no evidence that they were for had they been they probably would’ve been killed or driven into exile. There was Fritz’s pull; there was pull that the families of Frederick and Herr Lippert had; and they all had a tremendous amount to lose. Pauline’s grandfather had been a Habsburg nobleman, who made his money in a myriad of ways. Some of the ways were legal and some were illegal. He helped endow the university and was very proud of it. He sent all three of his daughters to Paris to study. It was no secret that he wanted them to marry Christians, though Pauline’s mother married a rich Jew. And Pauline’s grandfather built a huge country estate, a very quite and peaceful place. Pauline used to go there as a little girl and remembered particularly horses that ran wild there. Pauline’s grandfather was very much at home in forest and fields of his estate. He loved the wildness of the country and maybe it was why Pauline loved the Vienna Woods. His lands were extensive, and they were not far from Vienna. There he surrounded himself with the best of everything. There he enjoyed a long period of peace and stability, so he had an opportunity to build a large entomological collection comprised of insects from around the world, which meant that he traveled everywhere. Pauline often got to sleep in the master bedroom with her oma, with its classy bedside tables and lamps. If it was hard for her after the war to make a transition from being rich to being relatively poor, it was harder for her because of memories she had of her grandfather’s estate. She would’ve liked to go back there, though she knew that if she did it wouldn’t be the same.
And with her background, it was hard for her to be at ease with herself. She couldn’t forget her grandparents, her own parents and others, and how they never approved of her lifestyle, not just to question her “immorality” but also her commitment to the Obdachlosenhein, where she came in contact with homeless and immoral men. There were also those who admired her for it. She imagined what her parents thought, though she never confirmed it. Yet they never totally disinherited her and approved of her marriage to Fritz. They were particularly proud of their grandsons and for while, during the war and Fritz’s absence, practically raised them for her. And those people who somehow found themselves caught between or straddled the political fence were much more likely to have advance information about how police and paramilitaries (or Christian Democrats) would react to the Schutzbund barricading themselves in the Gemeindebauten and the Karl-Marx-Hof. It’s hard to say if Pauline had advance information or not, or how she, Frederick and Herr Lippert avoided fighting. Later it became clear that they couldn’t have without help. Anyway, when fighting broke out, they weren’t around. In their case, it proved that they weren’t stanch socialists, or else they were cowards. They must’ve known in advance that Chancellor Dollfuss would order Karl-Marx-Hof shelled with light artillery, endangering lives of thousands of civilians and destroying many apartments. Since they weren’t there, they avoided the disgrace of surrender.
It seemed strange when you thought about it. But people didn’t know the whole story: that Pauline, Frederick, and Herr Lippert did resist fascism but in ways that assured their survival. They may have lacked loyalty to the “Austrian nation,” but Pauline remained committed to helping people. And she had quite another idea about the future of the country. As long as private armies roamed around and separate camps fought each other, she couldn’t see how Austria would survive. So she and Fritz agreed to send the boys with Eva to their grandfather’s estate, and no one knew how long they’d have to stay, even though they could see that fighting wouldn’t last long.
Both sides were armed, initially only with rifles and grenades, and socialist held fortified positions in their huge housing projects. But Austrian military turned against socialist fighters with the use of light artillery and easily overpowered them. Their surrender came after many apartments were destroyed. Rather than risk lives of thousands of civilians, they gave up, or they sacrificed themselves instead of having everything they built destroyed. Maybe it was hopeless. Maybe it was hopeless from the start. It was definitely hopeless after chancellor Dollfess ordered shelling. Several hundred people (including paramilitaries, members of the security forces and civilians) died. Over 1,500 were arrested. Authorities then tried and executed nine socialist leaders under provisions of martial law. Many others were forced into exile. Then the Socialist Democratic Party and its affiliated trade unions were banned completely.
It terrified Pauline. And she became paralyzed. She wouldn’t go out, nothing interest her, and some days she never left her bed. But soon it became apparent to her that she had to defy Fritz and admit that cowering wasn’t helping her. She had grown resentful and had to get out.
Pauline knew that she and Fritz couldn’t go back to the way they were before the war. She said, when they began to talk, “I know that I’ve made mistakes.” But there was more to it than that. As she explained, “I suppose when you were away you thought that I’d wait for you, I mean, you thought that I wouldn’t change. But I’m human. I was never your typical bride, and I’ve always been adventurous. The more I tasted it (adventure), the more I had to have, and the more I had … we can’t go back. But I’m no longer angry. I know that I’m at fault. I hated staying home. I can’t stay home. I remember how bored I was and how the boys got on my nerves. I was really thankful for my parents and of course for Eva. As I turned my responsibilities over to them (my parents and Eva), I know that your parents didn’t approve. I know it made them very unhappy. I know it made them feel very uncomfortable. I know … I know. And when I went out, I was only thinking of myself. I used to think, ‘These people don’t know me. They don’t want me to have a life, and they don’t understand.’”
It got where she didn’t see her boys for weeks. They lived in their grandparents’ house, with Eva looking after them and with Eva living there too. And all that time no one outside the family knew that anything was wrong. And there was so much chaos around them that they got used to it. Normal was no longer normal. Because there was such a shortage of men, it wasn’t unusual to see women working outside of the home. But something else happened here: Pauline started picking up men, soldiers on leave from the front, lonely men who matched her need for sex. This went on and on. It wasn’t unusual. Pauline then wasn’t as careful as she should’ve been. And blamed herself when she got pregnant. An abortion hurt. That was when she hadn’t heard from Fritz and thought he might’ve been killed. So many men were. She had written him. Because he never wrote her back, she never knew. She never knew if he got her letter … letters.
Pauline now went back to work at the Obdachlosenhein. They needed her more than ever. It felt good to feel needed. It became time for Pauline and Fritz to live separate lives, but it didn’t happen. They still lived together. And it didn’t seem like they learned their lesson. It didn’t seem like they learned anyhing.
It wasn’t long before she started seeing Frederick and Herr Lippert again. All three of them fell into the same routine. All three of them fell back into the same traps. And it took a fair amount out of them. More out of Pauline than the men. It took more out of her because she had to negotiate with each of them and successfully did up to a point. And there was no question that she was taking a chance. She took a chance because one of them or all of them could’ve gotten fed up with her. And it was like she enjoyed tension, and there was always tension between them. And that was when she had to get off by herself and looked for peace and solitude in her beloved woods. Without a doubt she’d seen happier times.
Pauline made sure that Fritz knew that she’d leave him if he wanted her to. She let him know he was in charge.
She still loved Fritz. She told him so. Then she said, “I wish I knew what I was doing.” She may have been naïve, but she always had a backup plan. There were times when one of them would explode, and she felt helpless. But this feeling of helplessness never lasted long. And she knew they all loved her. And she loved them. She never doubted it. She only doubted herself. Then she’d say, “They don’t have to put up with me.” And that was where she’d leave it.
Fritz was important to her because of her sons. Frederick came before Herr Lippert. And Herr Lippert … well, she liked being with him. But she could’ve dropped anyone of them, though it wouldn’t have been easy. So she stayed with all three of them. Remember this was Vienna. And conservatives may have won a victory. But not totally … not total victory yet. Or perhaps they were living on borrowed time.
So you could say they got a reprieve. Fritz allowed Pauline to stay, and the boys with Eva came home. There was not a sign of discord in the flat. Now that’s hard to believe. It was all so artificial, and accommodation was a game they played. Fritz was more affectionate than he had ever been, but he overdid it. At one point Pauline caught him with Eva, and when she went into his study and found them in an embrace, she turned around and walked out. But it didn’t make her angry. It just made her think, “It’s what I deserve.” She pulled herself together, and before she went back into his study, she cleared her throat and waited a minute. Fritz considered his study his sanctuary. Pauline was puzzled over why he kept the door open, but it turned out that he wanted Pauline to know about his relationship with Eva. It actually increased his pleasure, though it made Eva uncomfortable. Eva wanted to resign but didn’t. She tried to talk to Pauline about it but couldn’t. They couldn’t avoid each other, and every day they looked at each other with envy. Pauline actually felt relieved. Fritz would already be at work, for he didn’t have the luxury of sleeping in. Eva took care of the boys. She fed them and made sure that they were clean and dressed for school. It was what she got paid for. She felt ashamed of herself for getting involved with her employer, but also enjoyed his attention and affection. She enjoyed herself and her employer. She should’ve known better. Pauline thought she should’ve put a stop to it, but that was before she realized that it was what she wanted. Pauline thought that she was free, free without pretense, make-believe, and with only a few complications. It was uncanny. It was unconventional and unbelievable, and it had gone too far for Pauline to fix it.
She never wanted to know explicit details of her husband’s relationship with Eva, and it worried her when she tried to imagine consequences, and there was no denying that it hurt her whenever she allowed herself to accept the blame. So she wanted to keep as much of her for herself as possible. She knew who she was and wanted to keep it. And others around her never fooled her. She felt that she could take lovers or leave them. But she was unwilling to ditch any of them.
She had the closest relationship with Frederick. They were so close that they could read each other’s faces. She wrote him notes in her lovely handwriting. He kept all of them and would reread them from time to time. He kept a passport and still hoped that one day that he could convince her to runaway with him. Money wouldn’t be a problem. They both had money, and they both teased each other about it. But Pauline wasn’t ready to give up everything. Still they talked about it, and if things ever got really unbearable at home she was willing to accept his offer. For insurance she kept a stash of money hidden where she knew she could find it.
One day Pauline came close to doing something foolish. She had done other foolish things on other days, but this was really foolish. She confronted Eva. And Eva stood her ground. As soon as she confronted Eva, Pauline knew it was mistake, a big mistake. It was before Pauline saw anything and confirmed her suspicions. What her sons might’ve seen worried her more than anything else. Pauline thought that they shouldn’t be drawn into it. She thought it had nothing to do with her sons.
As far as Pauline was concerned it was all right for Eva and her husband to have an affair, but they needed to be discreet about it. She believed in setting strict boundaries and had been very careful herself not to embarrass her sons in any way. That was what she confronted Eva about. She wanted to clear the air and make sure Eva understood where she stood. She wanted to make sure Eva understood. It was easy for her to re-create what was going on in Eva’s head, and she felt better after they had their little talk. Still it was foolish. It was unnecessary. It was foolish and unnecessary. But both of them felt better, though Pauline hadn’t exactly rolled over when she made it clear that a nanny’s principal duty was to care for children. Nothing else mattered to Pauline …while she knew that she was incapable of meeting Fritz’s needs. During the war she was robbed of so much. Since the war she felt that she didn’t have a claim on anyone. And she felt lost and stuck. The more she thought about it, the more stuck she felt. Sometimes she couldn’t think of anything else. She felt tormented, and that was when she was most likely to seek a sexual fix.
She told Frederick one day, “I’ve been talking to Fritz. He says that he’d like to meet you. I think it’s sick. Why would he want to meet you? Of course he knows about us. I don’t keep anything from him. Just like I don’t keep anything from you.”
Frederick said, “Do you think I want to talk to him?”
Pauline said, “I told him it wasn’t a good idea. I told him that I didn’t want to spoil it and that I didn’t know how you would react. I know you would react. I don’t want to spoil it. I don’t want to spoil it with any rules except for one: no matter what my boys have to be protected. And I’m serious.”
“I know you’re serious.”
She said the next day, “I’ve talked to Fritz again, and he agrees.”
That day Frederick and Pauline agreed to go away together for a weekend. She called Fritz and told him exactly what she was doing and when she’d be back. But there were other things going on.
Karl Marx Hof survived shelling, and after the fighting most of its residents continued to live there. They continued to live there but they weren’t as happy as they once were. It had been a monument to socialism. Karl Marx Hof was one of the greatest monuments to socialism in Vienna. It had been a great time for workers. There were artist and writers also around. Now many of them were gone, and those who were left were struggling. Most of them were muffled. Many of them asked, “Who would’ve thought that they would steal it from us? Neo-fascists don’t speak for us, so they carry clubs.” This was something one often heard. “We mustn’t let them spoil it for us. We must hang onto what we have.” So most of them remained loyal to a political creed that went with the address.
And Pauline, as a so-called fallen woman, had to ask herself if she was heading down a “joyless road.” During socialist days she was considered liberated. Now as a fallen woman, she found herself in an alpine hideaway with Frederick, and she seemed happy. This was good. This was different than what was expected. Now she no longer picked up strangers. At the end of war that was to end all wars, she stopped that reckless behavior. Abortion taught her a lesson but had she really learned from it. Still she and Fritz had what was considered a “provocative marriage,” and she knew that people who viewed it from the outside looked down on her for it. Times had radically changed. Yes, times had radically changed for second time since the war. While changes after World War I (with nouveau riche people and stock market speculators wallowing in luxury, homeless and unemployed living in barns, women selling themselves for a bit of fresh meat, and with sex orgies, whorehouses, and murders happening everyday) were radical, changes after the civil war were just as radical, if not more so). There was a revolution, and Pauline acted like there hadn’t been one. Pauline later said, “It was something that I should’ve paid more attention to. I may not have been afraid to be myself, but I should’ve been more prudent. I may have been choosier than I once was, but maybe I needed to be even more so. If I’d been less accessible, I may have caused less heartache. I never considered Frederick to be the jealous type.”
She got back home without incident. And she felt safe at home. Fritz and she, as if by agreement, never talked about her weekend with Frederick. They never mentioned him, but Frederick was always there in the background. And what about Herr Lippert?
As friends, they all remained close though they had squabbles. They had disagreements, but most the time it didn’t amount to much, and when it occurred they quickly got over it. You might say that when they let their lust get the better of them that they were doing nothing more than trying to escape from a terrible reality. Passionate lovemaking, during a three-hour lunch break, was about the extent of it with Herr Lippert; anything more would’ve taken more finesse. So we see the same people repeating themselves, and Pauline worrying about whether or not she was heading down a joyless road. It was a wonder that they remained friends. This all came with the territory.
In the beginning Pauline saw this life as exciting. She liked attention and like the way she successful juggled and/or maneuvered her way through the most complex set of circumstances, and how they were able to remain friends through it all. Yes, she thought of them as friends, friends first and friends foremost, though it was not always easy. From the outside it seemed superficial.
In the beginning Pauline looked for an antidote for feeling abandoned, when most able-bodied men left their women behind, and she jumped at a chance to be with almost any man. She thought that she was filling a need, and maybe she was filling a need. In the beginning she wanted to remain anonymous, knowing that she probably would never see men who picked her up again. She didn’t want to answer questions, so she never asked any. But when questions were asked she usually made up something. She however was safe because questions were rarely asked. And usually it didn’t take long for them to get down to business because they generally knew that they didn’t have much time. But then after a year or so she began to want something else … and she came to this conclusion after she became pregnant, which had a sobering affect … and then she wanted more stability. The last thing that she wanted was for her life to be altered again by an accident.
It was around then that Frederick and then Herr Lippert came into her life. It was still an adventure to go out with Frederick, but his unpredictability was predictable. In some such ways going out with Herr Lippert was similar and full of promise like going out with Frederick was, but in many ways, they were opposites. She could predict what Herr Lippert would say, where he would take her, and what they’d end up doing, whereas with Frederick she never knew what to expect. She preferred suspense. She loved spontaneity.
These friends understood each other better than they wanted to be understood. They understood each other, saw through each other’s lies and remarkably looked through the same prism. In some ways they formed a perfect triangle and shared truth and falsehood, lightness and heaviness, courage and cowardice. It was also remarkable that they did things together.
Pauline, we know, came from an aristocratic family. They were Jewish and obsessed with money, so they constantly worried about inflation and deflation, or any fluctuation of currency. They hedged their bets by investing in gold and silver. They talked about it all the time, and they lived accordingly. They faced disaster before and saw it coming before most people did. So they hedged their bets with gold and silver, which they hid in Switzerland. The idea was that if and when currency became worthless (and even if banks collapsed) they’d have a cushion or something real they could rely on. Though they couldn’t prepare for every contingency, they were more prepared than most people. Sometimes they seemed overcautious. To Pauline they were sometimes too cautious. But what they really wanted was to buy insurance, when there was no such thing. There were no guarantees. Having experienced world war and its aftermath, they knew there were no guarantees. At the same time they were far-sighted and kept a step ahead everyone.
Fritz could’ve easily remained a casualty of war, but instead he returned to his position as a clerk of the court. He liked law, though he didn’t have gumption enough to become an attorney so he never became a judge. He still lived with great pain, and that was because he came home from war to an unfaithful wife. And it seemed to him like everyone knew it since Pauline didn’t keep it a secret from him. She was honest, too honest, to honest as far as he was concerned. At the same time Fritz, who was not rich like his in-laws, couldn’t support a mistress. This was why he fooled around with Eva, his sons’ nanny, who incidentally was a Jew, and he did this in spite of strong anti-Semitic sentiment in Vienna. It was the beginning of the end for Austrian Jews, and Fritz would be among the first to know it.
It was the beginning of the end for Eva too (as well as any hope of her ever becoming anything other than a servant), and Fritz would know it too. Fritz was in a position to know. But he refused to admit it. He refused because he loved Eva, loved a Jew, just as he loved his wife who along with her parents were converted Jews. While people often said, “Once a Jew, always a Jew” and made scapegoats out of them, particularly if they were rich. Fritz actually rarely thought about it. He also never considered women in his life whores. This broad-mindedness came from Pauline herself. Some of it rubbed off on him. It rubbed off on him because he secretly admired Pauline’s openness.
Fritz couldn’t help but be influenced by many ideas about women that were floating around then … how he considered it normal for women to act and look like whores and then blame them if they got raped. He also found it exciting that both he and Pauline were having affairs, so he never made a scene. Remember they were adults living in age when little girls were taught to exaggerate their sex appeal long before they reached puberty, and sex seemed to be on everyone’s mind.
Eva, whenever she wanted to, could turn herself into Fritz’s little whore. She was petite, full-breasted (she would’ve describe it as heavy-breasted) and didn’t need surgical enhancements like so many women then did. She was not deformed or disabled in anyway and looked attractive and could’ve easily turned sex into a commodity, which she thought she hadn’t because she believed that she and Fritz weren’t breaking rules. They certainly knew what they were doing and knew where each other stood, and it helped that they knew that Pauline didn’t care. At least at first Pauline didn’t. But times were changing. For one thing, after the civil war Christian Democrats came into power and National Socialist were making noises. Nazis had begun beating up people and marching around with noticeable arrogance. Among other things what distinguished them was that members of the Nazi party were handpicked and had to be racially pure. But no one then predicted that within a few years that they would control the country. Fritz then would say, to no one in particular, “Things were worse before, and they couldn’t gotten much worse,” and Eva and his wife often looked the other way, and if Fritz had looked closely he would’ve seen expressions of grief on their faces. But before then and even during the Great Depression, when things got far worse, male dominance was abetted by a moral double standard: Pauline and Eva were denigrating themselves, while men were rarely criticized for having affairs or keeping mistresses. Sometimes Fritz saw how Pauline seemed melancholy, yet he couldn’t see how he could help her and perhaps knew that they had gone too far to start over. Still he gave her every opportunity to talk about it. They were sensitive to each other in this regard, but found that they really didn’t have anything to say to each other, and maybe they realized that real communication needed to be an exchange.
Pauline and Fritz had basically the same upbringing. And, since no one can really see him or herself, they both relied on cues and perhaps knew each other too well … just as Frederic and Herr Lippert wasn’t surprised by anything the other did.
This lifestyle was almost universally condemned after the civil war, the civil war that marked the end of Red Vienna. This was when conservative Christian Democrats took over and dramatically altered society. Before then society was divided. It was divided between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. It wouldn’t be long before Nazis began calling the shots (not only that but they also made way for the Anschluss). Ironically conservatives (Christian Democrats) would be among the first to suffer political persecution, which meant that they didn’t have as much clout as they thought they had. Though no one guessed the ultimate outcome.
Sometimes Frederick, Herr Lippert, and Pauline still dined together at Café Central. It was still one of Vienna’s finest cafes and was best known for its cake. It hadn’t changed since Herr Bronstein (aka Trotsky) hung out there. Frederick always looked for Freud, though the 82-year-old father of psychoanalysis had already left Vienna (along with most members of his “pornographic” circle). Café Central’s large, airy dinning room was not nearly as busy as it once was. Gone were great Jewish philosophers, poets, and leaders that so impressed Frederick, but service there was the same. Their waiter was a Hungarian immigrant. For some reason this waiter seemed rushed and didn’t show as much courtesy as they expected. Still he was civil; but their expectations were high. You wouldn’t go to Café Central if your expectations weren’t high. The three of them were used to high standards, and it was why they remained loyal to Café Central. Their waiter was sweating because he came from a table filled with Nazis. You could see he was feeling humiliated and hurt. But in spite of humiliation and feeling hurt, he carried on, and Frederick suspected that he was Jewish. He looked Jewish. He could’ve been part Turkish. No one could’ve known for sure. With his black curly hair he didn’t fit a stereotype, but Frederick still thought he looked Jewish. Sweat poured from his light brown brow, but he never referred to any abuse. He just kept going.
Frederick and Pauline talked afterwards about it. Pauline said, “Our nanny is Jewish. That means her mother was Jewish. Her father probably was too. The owners of the café would certainly know. But don’t they know that they’re putting their business at risk? I don’t know what we’ll have to do about Eva. I know that Fritz won’t want to do anything.”
Frederick didn’t respond. But whenever he remembered the sweating waiter who had been less than courteous, he thought, “Who will save this man? Who will save us all?”
It got worse before it got better. But for now things remained basically the same. There were only portents of what was to come. And when the main wave of emigration of Jews began in March of 1938 everyone half expected it.
There was no way people wouldn’t have known … could’ve known the extent of it. Authorities wanted to keep it a secret, but then too they didn’t want to frighten everyone. There were over 176,000 Jews living in Vienna then, and an estimate of 250,000 in Austria. Thousands would soon emigrate. Herr Lippert saw some justification for it (though he knew it was wrong). An abrupt end of prosperity seemed to justify it. Order and logic also called for it: call for order and the logic behind expulsion of Jews. And then the more Pauline felt threatened the more she distanced herself.
But many people around her closed their eyes and tried to carry on their lives as if it wasn’t happening. They closed their windows, pulled down shades, and shut their eyes. Not that they could be totally oblivious to a mass exodus (and later deportation). They had to know neighbors were leaving (and later being hauled off). Sometimes Pauline viewed it as an opportunity for homeless families and refugees she still worked with. She saw how it provided needed housing when housing was needed. She told herself that she could only do what she could do; and yes, some terrible things were happening, but what could she do to stop it? What could she do? She didn’t think she could do anything to stop it. She’d gone through too much to feel confident about being able to change anything. So she tried not to worry and tried not to think about what would happen if authorities found out that they were harboring a Jew. Yes, she knew what was happening to Jews. She knew it wouldn’t be pretty and was afraid that even Fritz’s position with the court wouldn’t protect them.
This was when she cut off Herr Lippert again and insisted that her husband and Frederick be more discreet. They all talked about it, and Herr Lippert said he understood. Whenever she was uncertain, she cut off Herr Lippert. It was hard on Herr Lippert and hard on each of them in a different way. None of them were happy. None of them liked changes, but they didn’t have a choice. Or they thought they didn’t have a choice. This was when Pauline and Fritz got closer, closer than they had been since the war. Fritz’s greatest worry … greater than a possibility of losing his job … was that Pauline would expose Eva. But then to his surprise Pauline seemed to soften and came close to embracing Eva. He watched Pauline grow closer to Eva and embrace her, and he didn’t know what to make of it. And the most intense part of their conversation was when shouting stopped. They actually talked. They stopped shouting at each other and talked and because of it their future seemed clearer. Pauline never expected it. She didn’t think they could come to an understanding. Pauline felt vulnerable. She had always felt vulnerable: for hadn’t her grandmother been a Jew, just as Eva’s grandmother had been one? Pauline felt vulnerable as she looked into an uncertain future, indeed vulnerable as she grew closer in mind and consciousness to her husband and decided to save Eva because exposing Eva might lead to her exposing herself.
To Pauline it seemed strange to be at peace with herself when there was so much turmoil around her, and it seemed strange how it caused her to think in a new way about her family and Eva, especially Eva. And it made her to make contingency plans. Like her family, she and Fritz stashed gold in Switzerland, gold because they didn’t trust the schilling. Their friends and neighbors were equally wary. Their friends and neighbors all stashed gold in Switzerland.
Fritz didn’t adapt as quickly as she did, but then things heated up. Anti-Semitism increased. There had always been anti-Semitism in Austria. Now it was increasing. Still there were attempts to mitigate it, as feeble as it may have seemed. After the civil war, anti-Semitism increased. War unleashed it. And courts had to respond, though there was as much dissention within the courts as anywhere else, and just like everywhere else racism, demagoguery, xenophobia and anti-Semitism were winning out. Fritz had to deal with it every day. He had to deal with it constantly; whereas Pauline could shield herself. She had her work.
The government became more and more authoritarian. Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss created an authoritarian regime, and most people were caught off guard by it. (Dollfuss’ majority in Parliament was marginal, with his government having only a one-vote advantage.) And people had their own struggles. Their situation wasn’t improving. Most people then worried about surviving, when for far too many people survival became literally a life and death struggle, and during a time when Nazis, communists, and Social Democrats (and the Schutzbund) were all banned. Only the Vaterlandische Front was permitted. It was also a time when social work wasn’t sanctioned. Fewer people wanted to do it. This put pressure on Pauline, and Fritz worried about it because of Pauline’s direct involvement.
But in his heart and until the bloody end and his assassination by the Nazis, Dollfuss remained a nationalist and lived for an independent Austria. Opposed to the Nazi swastika, he promoted instead the Kruckenkreuz (the ‘crutch cross’, technically known as the Cross of Jerusalem) as a national symbol, a white cross with cross pieces at the end of each arm, and outlined in red. Dollfuss’ stance proved dangerous and might’ve been what cost him his life. Dollfuss had survived one other assassination attempt, when a bullet that struck him in the chest was deflected by his snuffbox (a second bullet grazed his arm). Unlike Mussolini and Hitler, Dollfuss was diminutive and was not magnetic or messianic nor did he pretend to be a superman. But still it was frightening to see a man so obsessed with power. It was terrible how conformably Dollfuss fell into the role of dictator and how easily he could order men to their deaths and simply move on. He also didn’t trust equals and those supposedly his superior by birth. But unlike Hitler who spoke with a strong regional accent that to most Germans made him sound like a clown, Dollfuss sounded normal. Such a contrast; yet Hitler prevailed; both men were bizarre, but perhaps Dollfuss was more so because he looked like a large midget. Most women towered over Dollfuss. Even so he towered over men. His childlike (5 ft 1 height) dimensions never made a difference.
There was almost immediately a Nazi challenge to his authoritarianism, but Dollfuss survived at first or until Nazis resorted to brute force. Nazis were brutes, by nature brutal. Dollfuss never had an easy go of it, but he always appeared sweet-tempered, generous, and affectionate. People loved him because he seemed forgiving and sincere, or so it appeared. But it didn’t keep him from being assassinated, while the assassins plan to take over the government and then unite it with Nazi Germany failed. So there was a kind of rough logic to how things turned out.
Some of the same principals were now at work for most people. Austria was still independent, but people were now more aware of Nazi danger. It touched them all. They felt uncertain, so everyone tried to hang onto what they had. And then they realized that the tighter they held onto whatever they had the less it was worth. They knew they were losing out. No one else around Pauline held onto what they had tighter than Herr Lippert, Herr Lippert who tried to frighten them with his vision of disaster, but it was Pauline and Fritz who stashed gold in Switzerland. Herr Lippert had switch sides again, and would again, and like many of them ran with the tide. Herr Lippert would become the ultimate insider (even more so than Fritz who worked for the judicial arm of the government). In the beginning Herr Lippert like to boast of his connections, in particular his connection with Dollfuss. After the assassination it would become Starhemberg. The prince (Starhemberg) clearly had a lot to do with Herr Lippert getting involved again in politics, and Frederick and Pauline talked among themselves about how dangerous this was. Had Herr Lippert known the prince before he met them? Had Herr Lippert’s family known the prince’s family from way back when Ernst Starhemberg led the defense of Vienna against the invasion of the Turks in 1683? Both families were well connected and among the richest in the country. It didn’t matter, though, since Frederick and Pauline never felt like Herr Lippert was above them.
Herr Lippert gave them inside scoop on what was going on (gossip and news that they wouldn’t otherwise hear). Herr Lippert liked to talk and talked about hunting and riding with great men. But then after a while Herr Lippert talked less about them. Perhaps he sensed something in the air … something that bothered him. He however never shared what it was with his friends. Yet they could sense something was wrong. Though whenever Nazis were brought up, Herr Lippert wasn’t afraid to denounce them. This surprised them, and they found themselves amazed at how little they knew about their friend. And amazed that they all remained friends.
Herr Lippert went to work for Ernst Starhemberg. When they found out that he went to work for Ernst Starhemberg, none of his friends faulted him for it. Herr Lippert oddly became easier to live with then. He told Frederick one day, “You could do a lot for our country by doing what I’ve done. You can do it. It’s just a matter of holding your nose. I know that you know how … know how to hold your nose. You weren’t originally a Social Democrat. You switched sides then. Now we need a change, and fascists offer us one. Hold your nose. Join! We need to do something to get us out of this slump. Frederick, they’re better than any alternative I see. Help keep Germans out. Help keep Austria free. You know what they tried, how they murdered Dollfuss. Come on, Frederick. You could make a difference. I could speak to Ernst for you.” Herr Lippert also said, “But who am I to tell you what you ought to do. You have to follow your own conscience.”
In response, Frederick laughed and said, “That’s the trouble. You’re assuming I have a conscience. By now you should know better. You can’t do business with fascists and expect anything good to come out of it. Eventually they’ll sell us out.” And Herr Lippert could see from the way Frederick talked that he was quite serious and that nothing he could say would convince his friend.
Fredrick was more adamantly opposed to Starhemberg than he ever let on. He could never trust someone who took part in Hitler’s beer-hall putsch in 1923. But now Starhemberg was vice chancellor, and it was 1934, and everything had changed. Nazis’ attempt to take over the country failed, but they were still a threat, and how could anyone know for sure what side Starhemberg was really on. Frederick told Herr Lippert that he made him really think. Frederick made it sound like it was very hard for him … when Frederick was urged to join the Fatherland Front and he talked about joining for many weeks. But then he knew (and frequently heard from Pauline) that attacks on socialist and workers was continuing under Kurt Schuschnigg (Dollfuss’ successor). Then it came out that Starhemberg in a telegram congratulated Mussolini over Ethiopia, and they heard no more from Herr Lippert about Starhemberg.
So Herr Lippert was caught in the middle … the Mussolini business was only part of it…as Schuschnigg and Starhemberg pulled the country in different directions. Still not many Austrians saw a disaster looming on the horizon. Most of them still had their shades drawn down. And maybe it was because they were mired in their own personal disasters or like Fritz and Pauline had stashed gold in a Swiss bank. (Fritz and Pauline also had as an asset a home in Vienna, and it was far enough away from the Karl Marx Hof to escape shelling.) By then Fritz had shown his loyalty to the court and considered it an investment. As long as he watched himself he thought he could sit on the fence because no one knew what was going to happen. No one had a crystal ball. There were no assurances, particularly when both Schuschnigg and Starhemberg resigned and Schuschnigg said he would form a new government and Starhemberg said “tomorrow I leave for Rome.” Starhemberg went on to say, “There I’ll talk to Mussolini. Tomorrow, who knows who’ll lead Austria.” Starhemberg had already ordered commanders of the military to only take orders from him … only from him. That left Schuschnigg with no choice but to wire Mussolini and give him “his friendly assurances.” So a threat was clear, but many people still didn’t see it.
By then Herr Lippert had begun talking about getting a second passport … making Fredrick think that he was thinking about leaving the country … and he actually talked about going to Argentina or Brazil. Fritz also brought up the idea. He talked to Pauline about it one Sunday. And about sending their oldest son Karl to Texas. Why Texas? Because Fritz knew that there was a colony of German speaking people there … there in Texas. There were people Herr Lippert knew who had already moved to Argentina, and he heard how well they were treated. And like in Texas there was enough land for everybody, and everybody said how nice it was, though once you left cities it could get pretty rough. People who knew him couldn’t believe it when Herr Lippert started talking about homesteading in Argentina or Brazil, much less knew what he was talking about. No one who knew him could picture him living on a ranch and raising cows and goats and plowing soil with oxen. No one could picture him sticking to it for very long. And no one really thought that he’d end up in Argentina or Brazil, or that any of them would.
Who would’ve known that South America would eventually become the home of Fritz and Pauline and that their oldest son Karl would immigrate to Texas? They couldn’t have conceived it. Pauline still worked three or four times a week at the Obdachlosenhein, though it was risky. People still woke up to the waltzes of Strauss on the radio and went to the opera to see DER ROSENKAVLIER, and heaven knows how many prayers or novenas or whatever they said in between because we know that most of them prayed every day. They prayed for salvation. They prayed for salvation of Austria. And there were plenty of reasons for why they prayed. By this time Hitler had begun his slow game of cat and mouse with Schuschnigg and Starhemberg, just as they were playing the same game between themselves. For years Nazis had been protesting the Jewish press (they wanted to shut it down), so much of this went unreported, and then Schuschnigg met with Hitler. For the record, the two men shouted at each other behind closed doors, and perhaps Schuschnigg did what he could because a German commander had already ordered soldiers to the Austrian border for “special maneuvers.” While the German army moved into place to the tune of the famous World War I song “Over there”, Austrian radio reported that Austria hadn’t made its decision yet. In the end the guilty would be called to account, but not before both countries were destroyed.
Authoritarian rule of Schuschnigg hadn’t been easy for them to accept, and they knew that Austria was in deep trouble, but with Hitler! Bleak, it seemed extremely so.
Pauline said, “Fritz, maybe we should pack up and leave Vienna. Herr Lippert has been talking about homesteading in Argentina. He says…”
But Fritz never listened to her. He wouldn’t listen to her. He had too much to lose. He thought he had too much to lose, and they knew then … it was something they all talked about … that Hitler would eventually invade Austria. They knew Hitler. Hadn’t Pauline met Hitler? And it was for just such a catastrophe that Fritz and Pauline bought gold and stashed it in Switzerland (to not be able to get to it was something that they never considered). Dealing then with banks of Switzerland was no trouble for someone with gold and extra money to bribe someone, and an official of the court would certainly know how to manage it.
Schuschnigg’s mood remained somber throughout January and February of 1938. He struggled and rarely slept. He tried the whole time to save Austria, while Hitler strengthened his control of Germany. In desperation Schuschnigg even welcomed back Social Democrats. It wasn’t a good sign, but Social Democrats accepted what was given them. But by then it was too late. By then Hitler was too strong to stop. By then Schuschnigg was an invalid and could do little else but accept Hitler’s demands. If the situation hadn’t been so dire their hearts (Frederick’s and Pauline’s) might’ve gone out to Schuschnigg. They would feel sorry for Schushnigg because they felt he asked for help. He asked them for help. And then, abruptly, the invalid capitulated. But not before he called up Austrian reservist, while all Hitler had to do was call his bluff.
But the end also meant the end of a reprieve for the Social Democrats. Rearming of them … rearming Social Democrats was used as an excuse for the invasion that occurred. Pauline knew then more than ever that she had to rely on Fritz, and then for any number of reasons someone could build a case against him. So she suffered, as she watched a calamity unfold. She watched the end of Austria, which involved her family in ways that she couldn’t have imagined. She listened to Chancellor Schuschnigg on the radio say, “This day has placed us before a serious and decisive situation. So I take leave of the Austrian people with a German word of farewell uttered from the depth of my heart: God protect Austria!” And it seemed so strange to Pauline, God Save Austria! since she was cast as an enemy of Austria (since she remained a socialist and since the new temporary chancellor, Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart, immediately requested Germany to send troops immediately into Austria since “arming socialist had reached an alarming degree”). The idea that she was an enemy of Austria wasn’t easy for Pauline to accept (she loved her country), and she blamed it on scheming … scheming of Dr. Seyss-Inquart and Hitler. Scheming … she couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe it when she heard Herr Doctor call for peace and order and nonresistance. It was a disgrace, and it was not abstract. She was an enemy … an enemy of Austria … an enemy of her country. It was very real, and Herr Doctor made it very easy for Germans “…any opposition to the German Army should it enter”…should it enter! …”Austria is completely out of the question … out of the question too for the executive, whose most important duty is maintenance of peace and order in this country!” Anschluss! Anschluss! Horse shit! Yes, it was very real and easy work for Hitler, and it was personal for many Austrians like Pauline and Frederick, as they gained German citizenship.
Shortly after that they all went to Café Central for lunch. It was Herr Lippert’s idea. He said he wanted to see if it had changed. They hadn’t been there since Anschluss, and they’d heard that business there had picked up. They took a tram to the café, a short ride relatively and, after the hysteria caused by Hitler’s parade, a relatively quiet one. Gone were the German bombers that flew overhead during Hitler’s triumphant entry into Vienna three days after Anschluss, but they saw German soldiers and swastikas everywhere (they knew enough to wear Nazi safety pins and were told to not go out without identity papers.) When they approached one (a soldier), Herr Lippert gave him a Nazi salute, and called out, “Heil Hitler!” And Pauline surprised herself by her response. Herr Lippert spoke for them. Referring to Frederick he said, “He’s deaf and really dumb, but he’ll learn. I’m his teacher.” Herr Lippert was loud and friendly with the soldier, overdoing it little, perhaps in an attempt to make light of Frederick’s indiscretion. It worked, while Pauline resented play-acting, how Herr Lippert could make light of something that hurt so much. There were Nazi swastikas hanging outside Café Central. To see this, hurt. And as Herr Lippert led the way, they found a noisy place.
Café Central couldn’t boast that Hitler ate there after Anschluss like Restaurant Imperial could. Still the place was packed. Business was good. Indeed, business had picked up, and by and large this was not only caused by a great influx of people (mainly soldiers) into the city, but also because essentially the place hadn’t change. Only now, there was available more Viennese-brand gossip and news than ever before.
They found an empty table. Since most of the tables were taken, they were tempted to go someplace else. But waiters, on the ground floor at least, had everything under control, and Frederick didn’t see anyone he knew.
An old friend of Frederick’s then came up to the table. They didn’t invite him to join them. They didn’t offer him an empty seat. Frederick didn’t stand up or even acknowledge him. The man’s face was pained and white while he stood there without knowing why he came into the café. By then there weren’t any tables left. Remember the place was full of Nazis. They had an extra chair and room for him, yet they said nothing to him. Frederick thought, “He’ll go away. Why doesn’t he? Why doesn’t he go away?” And Frederick acted like he didn’t know him. But he did know him, and they had been part of the same circle that met at the Café Central each week, Freud’s circle. The friend was a Jew. The friend finally said, “I don’t need to say the obvious. This place has changed. Have you seen Herr Doctor lately?” Frederick didn’t respond. Everyone knew that he was asking about Dr. Freud?
When Frederick next saw him, a month or so later, he was standing on the sidewalk. They were both standing watching bullies force a child to scrawl the word “Jude” across the front of his father’s store. The old friend simply said, “It’s a bad time.”
Frederick, in a whisper, said, “Yes, that’s why I’m thinking about leaving Vienna for a while.” This was when the two men really looked at each other for the first time. The other man said, “Better now while you still can.” And then without regard to people standing around them, “Why doesn’t someone stop them? But we’re just as bad.” By then both men had become agitated. “I never thought I’d see this in Vienna.”
Frederick was off somewhere else. He said, “It should be easier to travel now, but I suspect it’s not. Throughout Germany I suspect it is for some of us. But there are too many people on the move … to escape this I suspect. It’s happening all over the place.” Frederick led his old friend without a word to a side street where they felt relatively safe. They remained there until the main street cleared. Frederick said, “It’s a bad time with all the shop-burning and looting. It’s hard to know what to do.” Then forgetting his friend was a Jew, he said, “It’s not a good time for Jews, but all of us have to be careful. Who’s to say what to do? Why am I talking with you in this way? Here and now? When there are too many ears. Look at the woman over there. Look how she’s staring at us. Now see how she’s beckoning? She’s too obvious. She won’t last long. Ignore her. It’s better that way. She may look harmless, but you never know. I keep asking did this have to happen. My friends and I have talked about it … did it need to happen? Like we’re talking now, and we don’t have answers. I’ve told them, ‘I have to leave.’ They ask me, ‘Where will you go?’ I don’t have answers.” And having told his old friend his story, which was risky at best, Frederick made some excuse about needing to be somewhere else and before walking off wished him well. And after that, every time he passed that street corner, he wondered whatever happened to his old friend. He wondered because he never saw him again. It was during a time when things seemed to take a turn for the worse and he tried to stay away from people in general.
Bad time or not, Pauline tried to stay on an even keel. So she continued to work at the Obdachlosenhein two or three times a week.
Frederick soon got to know Nazis first hand. Of course, he saw a lot of them around town, and it didn’t take long for them to knock on his door. It didn’t take long. The knock came in the middle of the night. They were looking for Jewish people who lived across the hall. So they knocked on his door. Why did they knock on his door? Sometimes they could overdo it, and this time they asked, yes asked, to search his flat. What were they looking for? Why did they search his flat? Remember he wasn’t Jewish, nor did he by the remotest stretch of the imagination look Jewish, but still they went through his flat looking for subversive material. Luckily, knowing perhaps what lay ahead, he got rid of incriminating literature after they (socialists) lost the civil war. Then instead of letting Gestapo men and women complete their work without hindrance, he became full of mischief and started helping them pull out books, especially books with red covers. They didn’t appreciate his help (while they automatically assumed that books with red covers were subversive). Yes, he got to know Nazis. Yes, he got to know them well. And they got to know him. He got used to a new flavor they brought to Vienna, but he couldn’t say that he appreciated it. He couldn’t say he liked the taste. He still liked being with Pauline. They liked being with each other. She was someone that he could talk to. But the Nazi takeover of Vienna happened so suddenly that he didn’t have time to assimilate it. There were many people he knew who weren’t as lucky as he was … those who were forced to leave or who were duly taken away. Few people knew about everything, but Pauline’s husband (Fritz) was one of those people who had to have known … known everything. He was in a position to know everything. But there was as yet no way of knowing that so many people would end up in concentration camps and so many of them would die. There was no shortage of eyewitnesses. There was no shortage of people who saw violent and dramatic events; but as crazy as it may seem, who wanted to believe that it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true. They wanted to close their eyes. They wanted to believe that it was only a few crazies from Germany that created pandemonium as “all hell opened up!” And men and women were shrieking the name of one man. “Heil Hitler! Sieg Heil! Heil Hitler! Down with Jews! Hang Schuschnigg!” Yes, people felt that Schuschigg betrayed them. That much they could agree on. “One people! One Reich! One man! One victory!” What? And then one night, a mob, estimated at more than 80,000 people, looted Jewish Leopoldstadt. For Frederick it wasn’t like being in Vienna anymore. It wasn’t for him like being anywhere in the world. For him it was a world without culture, and a world without Freud and all other intellectuals who fled Vienna or were killed that made it seem like the end of civilization. Yet while he somehow tolerated it, he basically curtailed going around Vienna.
Herr Lippert said to Frederick one day, “Have you any idea what’s going on?” Parliament had been reduced to a gauhaus, or madhouse, and Frederick didn’t appreciate his friend’s sarcasm. They had just past Nazi party headquarters in Schwarzenbergplatz. Frederick wished that they had avoided it, and maybe they could’ve, but Herr Lippert insisted that they go that way. Herr Lippert insisted on it. Normally afternoons this time of year were warm, very warm, but on this particular day there was a chill wind blowing through the plaza. It was cold and windy. Everywhere you looked there were swastika banners hanging on buildings blowing in the wind; and they were never taken down. Rain or shine, they were never taken down. Frederick wanted to ignore them, just as he wanted to turn back the clock. Herr Lippert didn’t think that way. He was easier going, which irritated Frederick and made him wonder about him. Could he trust him? Could he trust his friend? Was Herr Lippert a camp follower, pretending to be a friend? Was he so gullible as to believe Nazi propaganda? So Frederick was never truly candid with Herr Lippert. Still they remained friends. Years before he could’ve/would’ve said anything to his friend. Frederick wanted to shout “Nazi raus! Nazi raus!” … except then he wouldn’t dare. Then it was something he only said in private, only when he bathed, and then only to himself. He realized then that he’d have to find someway to live with a new reality … a new normal.
Herr Lippert seemed to shrug everything off. He didn’t take it seriously or seriously enough, which Frederick found hard to accept. Frederick couldn’t lie to himself, couldn’t lie even though he couldn’t see a future. In the beginning, in Vienna, most people were jubilant, except for Jews. When the Germans marched into Vienna, most people were jubilant. But Frederick wasn’t one of them. It would’ve meant he would have to pretend that he was happy, but he wasn’t into pretending. He hated having to act like he didn’t despise Nazis. To some extent he didn’t know what to believe, or whether it should concern him.
Much of the truth Frederick picked up from Pauline. And he saw how she was torn and worried and knew that Eva was a Jew. The two of them (Frederick and Pauline) remained very close. Frederick worried because he knew Pauline was a converted Jew.
Frederick had to learn to take one day at a time. To survive, he established a routine, which didn’t suit him. He tried to vary it, tried to keep it simple. He thought, “I can’t stay in Vienna.” But where would he go? So his life was uncertain. So what was new? Both he and Pauline enjoyed their holiday together, but he knew that she wouldn’t abandon her sons. She hardly listened to him whenever he talked about moving to somewhere like Switzerland. She said, “I hope you won’t be gone long.” She dismissed him as easy as that. He knew then that he couldn’t leave Vienna. He knew he couldn’t leave Vienna without her.
Frederick was always on time. He’d rather have to wait than make her wait. And she knew that Fritz wouldn’t raise a stink as long as she and Frederick were discreet. That much hadn’t changed. They used out-of-the-way hotels and always took the back ways to get there. A routine by then, once or twice a week. They never wasted time. They never felt they had much time. There was never enough time. Time was precious. They rode trams, sometimes through Schwarzenbergplatz, past Nazi headquarters, and when they did Frederick always mumbled under his breath, “Nazi raus. Nazi raus.” Then there was a soldier standing on every corner, and what resistance there was, was as uneasy, filled with tension and uncertainty as Frederick was. Any attempt to rally socialists and communists didn’t gain traction. These people … people like Pauline, Frederick, and Herr Lippert … were too afraid to meet, meet even in secret. Sometimes in a café there would be an opportunity for a quick nod but never more than that. It was too dangerous. Like people playing at living, Frederick and Herr Lippert went along with the majority of people.
Frederick would say, “See that fellow over there? I used to know him. I wouldn’t admit it now, but I knew him.” They knew each other.
“What’s his name?” Herr Lippert would ask.
“I’m trying to think” would be Frederick’s response. “The last I knew he was involved in that … you know … I’m afraid I’ve forgotten his name. I don’t think you would want to meet him. I don’t know much about him. I’d go up and introduce you to him, if I could remember his name. This is embarrassing.”
After quick nods were exchanged, Frederick paid the bill and left a tip. As they left the café … without further acknowledging the person they were talking about … they past in the doorway a member of Hitler’s Brown Army. All members of Hitler’s army took an oath that started like this: “I swear by God, this holy oath, to the Fuhrer of the German Reich and People. Adolph Hitler …” Did Frederick and Herr Lippert know this? Yes, everyone knew it. This soldier in the doorway was like most others. He wouldn’t have given Austrians the time of day if he hadn’t been there, and if you happened to have been a Jew, well … forget it. But Nazis thought that they were very sensible about it. No mercy or any such nonsense was allowed. That he was a Christian and would be given a Christian burial was true, but had he happened to be a Jew … well … forget it. If he happened to be a Jew he wouldn’t have been in Hitler’s Brown Army. Are these things among the things that the two men would’ve known? Yes, everyone knew these things. It was something that Frederick, at least, would’ve thought about. Yes he was curious and would’ve loved to have confronted Hitler’s soldier, confronted him and ask how he justified on religious grounds what he was doing. That was where he differed from Herr Lippert, which could be attributed to his friend’s lack of curiosity. But then, too, Herr Lippert had always been more conservative than Frederick.
As he was thinking about occupying Austria, Hitler never imagined the joyful and thunderous reception he received in Vienna. He couldn’t have foreseen adoration of thousands upon thousands of people who came out to see him. For many of them it was the chance of a lifetime. For Jews it was the opposite.
Until then Frederick hadn’t given much thought about race, and he had many Jewish friends. Then after Hitler’s triumphant return to Vienna, Frederick thought that it would be unwise to associate with them. Yes, he had many Jewish friends he wouldn’t associate with. For many years he lived in a comfortable second-floor flat and across the hall from him there lived a Jewish family. He knew them for almost as long as he lived there. And he saw how happy they were. They were very happy, but after Anschluss it became apparent that things drastically changed for them. Before then Frederick went out of his way to be a good neighbor. They even shared an occasional meal. But be assured that he wasn’t overly friendly for he always tried to strike the right balance. He could trust Pauline, so he told her that they had been good neighbors. “If you needed something, you knew that you could count on them, and I trusted them with keys to my flat.” And, again, he began to understand what it meant to be a Jew when after Anschluss he didn’t see his neighbors across the hall hardly at all. Then they disappeared. For Frederick it was a rude awakening, and he often wondered if they were still alive.
And just as it was the end of the road for some people, it was a new beginning for the majority of Frederick’s neighbors. It happened suddenly. No one could see very far ahead, and there were surprises in store for everyone. By March 12, 1937 Rome was no longer Rome, and Athens was no longer Athens, and you could say the same thing about Vienna. The old city was finished. Some people thought it was the end of civilization (just as some thought it at the end of the last war), while Hitler triumphed and life improved for most people. Who would ever have thought that Austria would ever have a comprehensive social security system? Or that workers would be guaranteed basic rights that would afford them protection from arbitrary dismissal? Or that more than 200, 000 desperately poor people would get relief and that the working class would get extended health care benefits? But what amazed Pauline most were large-scale construction projects that were launched to provide affordable housing, which reminded her of her socialist days and the Karl Marx-Hof housing project. Even cultural life was greatly encouraged, with the promotion of music, fine arts and literature. But regardless how wonderful all this was, and as teasing and tempting it was, people weren’t completely blind. Light never traveled far in darkness of the night, during which Nazis carried out much of their dirty work. And not all Nazis were happy. Austrian Nazis were among those who were dissatisfied; more than dissatisfied they were angry. They disliked drill and discipline imposed on them by Germans.
And just as he greatly encouraged cultural life by promoting music, fine arts and literature, so too did Hitler want to destroy Vienna’s café tradition. He considered it a cancer. He considered café life a cancer. He said, “It made lazy Viennese more lazy. They must give up the old habit of sitting in cafes and go to work. Nothing should get in the way of work.” But without cafes Vienna wasn’t Vienna, and it wasn’t long before the whole atmosphere changed. Where had gaiety gone? Where was Heurige? What happened to the refrain wine, women, and song? Then what was better than going to a café? Where else could people go to drink and sing? Where else could they go and sit for hours and write and compose? And in cafes there were few inhibitors. And with gaiety and old music gone, and inhibitors in place, many writers, poets, and musicians disappeared. It was all right for a while (some even said it had been a fake culture) but how could they have concerts without conductors, or operas without composers, or plays without playwrights, or poems without poets? And what did people think when books were burned? Yes, it was all right for a while, but it was bad for the soul. If there was unpleasantness to be observed, wasn’t it better to pull down your shades than to go back to when your money wasn’t worth anything and there was chaos everywhere?
And maybe at last Pauline reached a point in her life when she realized that she couldn’t solve all problems of the world. Maybe she could see that the world had always been a mess. She said, “Maybe Karl Kraus got it right when he said, ‘Progress makes purses out of human skin” (though she didn’t know how close to the truth she was when she quoted Karl Kraus). It was truly dark. It was truly dark for neighbors down the street and across the hall. It was truly dark for Frederick’s neighbors, as they hid for a while and were so quiet that Frederick never knew that they were there.
Karl Kraus had just died. Karl Kraus, maybe it was good that he died before butchery began (though it was already in season). Then too it was too bad. Maybe if he hadn’t died when he did more people would’ve paid attention to his words when he said “even war enthusiasts will unwittingly point out the cruel butchery during war when calling it Mordshetz (an Austrian word for great fun that can also be read as murderous chase).” There was a time in Pauline’s life when she was more in tune with Kraus than she was then, when he would’ve been more than an artifact of a bygone age. It was when distinctions between lady and tramp and Madonna and Whore were blurred, and they could’ve been talking about her. She heard music inside her head, and a small window to the past opened up to her, and we can bet what she heard was a waltz composed by Johann Strauss Jr. “Wien du Stadt meiner Traume. Wien, Wien, oh Wien!”
The entrance was down a dark passageway. It was a dark place. It didn’t advertise, and not many people knew about it. There were a few tables and only enough room for a few people. There was a small dance floor and only enough room for a few people to dance. Three couples were indeed dancing, but they weren’t waltzing. There wasn’t enough room to waltz. They’d have to wait for the next ball to waltz, and it was so dark that it wasn’t easy to see who was dancing. The place suited Pauline and Frederick.
They found back in a corner the last empty table. Scattered throughout the room were other lovers, secretive lovers for why else would anyone go there. After their eyes adjusted they saw that some lovers were of the same sex, but this didn’t shock them. They anticipated seeing them … lovers of the same sex … since they’d been there before. The owner moved between the tables and seemed strangely detached.
Frederick wished he had courage. He wished he could stand up to Nazis. But maybe it was less courage than defiance … less courage than defiance that he was looking for. What happened? He hardly recognized himself. But then how would he avoid Nazi scrutiny? Then how would he survive? Was there something he and Pauline were missing? He wondered “Was there something he was missing?” As he watched lesbians and queers hold hands he wondered. And to their peril lesbians and queers were obvious, foolish and hence seemed to be asking for it. They could’ve easily been arrested on charges of sexual perversion. Frederick thought of his own illicit affair with Pauline and was now uncertain about it. He thought of Herr Lippert too. Could they still trust him?
Pauline herself was ambiguous in another way. She was less passionate. She was less passionate about her relationships than she once was. She was less passionate about her work. She was less passionate about everything than she once was. She was still excited by sex but less excited by relationships since it had become harder to be open about them. She had always been open. They now had to go to dark places, secret places. Her relationships changed just as society changed. Before she and Frederick could hold hands and kiss in public. Before she and Herr Lippert could go to a hotel without fear of exposure. Gone were those days. Gone were the days when they felt they could be open. . .
Frederick and Pauline drank wine together. It relaxed them. They looked at homosexuals dancing together and wondered. They looked at lesbians dancing together and wondered. What were they thinking! They had to have been aware of changes. They had to have been aware of dangers. What were they thinking? Weren’t they worried? Why were they so careless? Watching them dance Pauline and Frederick felt connected to them and affection they show each other seemed natural, even normal. When two men or two women held each other there was no awkwardness about it, and from the way partners laughed and talked it was apparent that they were lovers. And it seemed deeper than sexual attraction. And it seemed like each one of them had it; whatever it was they had. It made Pauline envious. But of course with her background, and in spite of her Catholic faith, she was more open-minded than most people were. In a dark room she could see that these couples felt relatively safe, but were they really? Was anyone safe?
Frederick, with a devilish grin, asked Pauline to dance. At first she declined. Then she saw that he was dead serious and wouldn’t accept rejection. He longed to hold her tight. He longed for her. He frowned when she resisted and pretended to be angry until she gave in. “I don’t know how long we can keep this up. But now that we’re here … for at least tonight … let’s be ourselves.” And how could she resist his grin?
They could’ve stayed all night. They could’ve dance all night and drank wine until they were drunk. But Pauline had something else in mind. Then after dancing for a while she suggested that they go upstairs. But before he agreed he insisted that they finish a bottle of wine. She said that they could take it with them. He thought she looked beautiful and said as much. He looked in her face and saw love in her eyes. She got up and signaled for him to follow her. He did with a bottle in his hand. There was a small hotel on the second and third floor. The owner of the dark dive also owned the hotel, and he raked in money because of the connection and because he rented rooms by the hour. He charged a lot because he knew he could be closed down at any time.
Pauline thought she looked unappealing with her clothes off. But Frederick was turned on by it. She had put on weight with each pregnancy: two boys and extra pounds for each one. She never counted the one she aborted and shouldn’t have. She never mentioned it to anyone in her family. Frederick didn’t know about it either, but he wouldn’t have cared. But he was exceptional. He had a child of his own that he didn’t recognize. It was in the past, his past, and just as he had things in his past that he didn’t want to share she had things too. They didn’t think that secrets they kept from each other would harm their relationship.
And so far it hadn’t. But then, she wouldn’t know what would happen if she revealed everything. Yet she considered herself to be honest, and was honest about most things, too honest as far as her husband was concerned. But Pauline became less sure of herself, or less sure enough to be sure of herself around men, and needed reassurance. And she was less sure of herself around some men than others. Within a few seconds she could tell which men she could trust and felt that she could trust Frederick.
She could relax around Frederick. She trusted him. She didn’t trust many men, but she trusted Frederick. She had learned not to trust men. Pauline could be herself around Frederick because she trusted him. Around him she could be the bouncy, knowing self that drew people to her. Herr Lippert was still in the picture, though it had become complicated, complicated for all of them. It had always been messy. The three of them still sometimes went out together, but they were no longer a threesome. Pauline would walk between them as the two men acted as her protectors.
Herr Lippert could no longer be counted on. Herr Lippert couldn’t explain what happened, why everything changed. With Hitler there was more seriousness. Attitudes were really changing, though sex remained a commodity. There had always been things about Pauline that attracted him and repelled him but now Herr Lippert felt more conflicted than ever. It wasn’t working for him. And now he questioned whether it had ever worked. It? Whatever it was he thought he had.
Herr Lippert knew that Pauline was a converted Jew, converted to Catholicism, while her husband and boys were Lutheran. Pauline’s husband, cuckold twice over, remained a riddle. Why did he tolerate it? Why hadn’t he put his foot down? It didn’t make sense. Herr Lippert couldn’t make sense out of it. He started to say that it didn’t make sense except for sex. Sex, sex, sex! It was always sex. He would miss sex, but he could always get sex. It was easy. He could always get sex, even when Pauline cut him off.
And just when Herr Lippert thought he had it figured out he would let her manipulate him again. And she did it over and over again, and he cursed for allowing it. It made him feel bad and like a puppy on a leash. He felt bad, and there was no reason for it.
So he oscillated … swung back and forth and was torn between past and present and infected by Nazi fervor. It was like he had been converted to a new religion. Nazi fervor was like a religion, and it turned his life upside down. He was thirty-five years old and didn’t know if he would survive or not.
Participating in a threesome had always been a choice. He could’ve walked away. It was his choice, and it seemed satisfying when it wasn’t. Now Herr Lippert knew for sure what he wanted: that he wanted monogamy. Sexual attitudes had changed, were changing, and he was changing along with them. But what about Pauline? Yes, she’d been passionate, very passionate. And was it more than sex? More than lust? More than excitement? Had it been genuine? Was she faking? Two men on a string. Maybe three. He couldn’t be sure. Then there was Frederick. Frederick saw her more often than he did, and Herr Lippert knew that they were having sex.
Pauline always shied away from making commitments. Besides she was married and had two kids. At one point Herr Lippert found comfort in this. He wasn’t ready to make a commitment then, and they were close enough to suit him, and he thought he knew where he stood. But times were changing. And if times weren’t changing he would’ve been happy with the status quo.
The three of them however still went out together, while Herr Lippert became more and more dissatisfied. By then their circle of friends had dwindled. Many of their friends emigrated or simply disappeared, and there were fewer and fewer places they could go. So more and more often they went to dark dives where they could get away with almost anything. And it wasn’t worth it to expect more out of life because life seemed so temporary.
One evening Pauline sat down with Herr Lippert and tried to have an honest conservation with him. She told him that she’d been thinking and wanted to put everything on the table and that she wanted to make sure that there weren’t any hard feelings or misunderstandings because she valued their friendship. The story later was that Frederick pressured her to dump Herr Lippert, which she didn’t want to do. She instead wanted to hang onto the past. Herr Lippert supposed that she was feeling some of the same things that he was.
He then decided on the spur of the moment to end it with her, and she seemed to agree that it. She said she agreed … agreed it would be in everyone’s best interest. But they would remain friends. How could they remain friends? Friends? Friendly? Really? They told no one about this arrangement and agreed that they wouldn’t tell anyone. It became their secret. When she thought about it later, Pauline didn’t feel good about it. She thought it was dishonest. Dishonesty never suited her.
Nazis were now in complete control of Vienna. And Pauline was in a state. The future seemed dim to her. She and her husband had just sent their oldest sons to live in America, and she thought that she couldn’t count on Fritz.
Every once and while the three friends still got together. Again and again Pauline told them about feeling frightened, about how Fritz’s position didn’t guarantee anything, and about how her youngest son was talking about joining the police force. She didn’t approve of her son joining the police force, but what could she do about it. And Pauline still worked at the Obdachlosenhein, but since it was a socialist institution (and she was known as a socialist) she didn’t feel safe there either. She didn’t feel safe in Vienna. So she was really counting on her husband … more specifically she was counting on his position with the court … and as long as he performed his duties to the satisfaction of his superiors she felt relatively safe. This became more and more important, as motives of Nazis became clearer
She said, “I try not to think about what’s happening, and where we’ll be tomorrow, or whether there will even be a tomorrow.” She didn’t like what she was seeing. She didn’t like what going on. Unfairness was too much for her to bear. She sometimes burst into tears in a public street, as she looked at a Nazi banner, and it had less to do with sadness than agitation. She later asked Fritz, “What do you think will happen?”
Fritz had always been careful about what he said. He never talked about politics, and Pauline said that was why he was able to make each transition. He didn’t let it bother him. He was able to make each transition because he didn’t let it bother him. Fritz had plans for his children, one was sent to America, while the other became a policeman. They were to stay out of politics. It was a rule, a rule Fritz had. They were to stay out of politics. People must never think of them as political. But how could a clerk of the court stay out of politics? Fritz repeated it to them over and over again and tried to set an example. And thinking about this, Pauline wept when she saw a swastika. And she wept when she looked at a Nazi banner. Most of the time she tried not to look. She preferred to keep her eyes closed.
With Fritz it was different, and with Fritz she was indifferent. It wasn’t simply because they led separate lives. It wasn’t simply because of infidelity … infidelity they each enjoyed, or because she didn’t care for him any longer, and she didn’t want to make life harder for him … or make it harder for any of them. It was much more complicated than he or she liked to admit. They enjoyed freedom, she said, with their affairs and an openness that would’ve been a scandal had they not lived in Vienna. Even when Fritz first found out about her affairs with Frederick and Herr Lippert, he took it in stride. He took it in stride, which bothered Pauline. After the war, Fritz seemed detached. Cold was how Pauline described him. Cold and detached. She didn’t know what to think. She couldn’t walk in his shoes, and she didn’t know what to think because she didn’t know much about what war did to men and didn’t know that it wasn’t physical wounds that bothered him the most. Unseen wounds (you could call them scars) were more troublesome. And as years went by the more troublesome they became.
Frederick told her what he knew … what he picked up while attending Doctor Freud’s circle. (He missed Doctor Freud.) He did that for Pauline, and he’d do it for anyone. (He liked to hear the sound of his voice and hear himself talk.) It made him feel important, almost like Doctor Freud himself. Frederick could strike up a conversation about almost anything, and he knew something about almost everything. He had been a good student and could’ve been a professor at the University of Vienna. But Frederick decided when he was very young that he wouldn’t concentrate on anything, which became an excuse for his lack of success. He excelled in many fields, but was never exceptional. He knew how to read people and navigate through difficult situations. He knew how to get along. He could confront Pauline without upsetting her. He was her rock. And as her lover and her rock, he enjoyed power over her. He was the opposite of Fritz. He liked to make big gestures, while Fritz liked to remain in the background. Whether or not Frederick exposed himself too much was something Pauline worried about.
Still Pauline worried more about her own situation than whether or not Fritz would be exposed and extradited like so many people then were. She wondered how all those people were making out. She worried about them. There was never any word from them. They were rounded up and mostly had to leave all of their belongings behind … forced to leave their flats and businesses. Fritz said, “They’re being sent to refugee camps until they can be resettled. I’m told they’re treated humanly.” Pauline didn’t want to think about it too much and thought it was probably true because her husband would know. Fritz never said much more to her about it. She was thankful that she didn’t look Jewish and didn’t have Jewish-looking children, which proved, as far as she was concerned, that she didn’t have much Jewish blood in her. She supposed that if she did she would’ve looked Jewish. She considered herself lucky. It helped her to know that Jews were being treated humanely.
She hadn’t seen her husband in days. They had long stopped making time for each other. And when they were in the flat at the same time, she was usually asleep. She didn’t worry about it. She didn’t worry about him because she knew that Eva took care of his needs. He was busy, extremely busy. Pauline knew he was busy. He said, “It doesn’t look like it will ever let up.” And he knew why it wouldn’t. He said, “Nazis are making it difficult. They want to do everything by the book. Their red tape is exact, except for Jews. We don’t see many Jews in our courts. If we had to handle them, it would be a nightmare.” Pauline never knew if he saw many Jews in court or not.
With less celebrating in Vienna, there was more talk about getting everyone back to work. There was little of substance in newspapers. Government had clearly clamped down on newspapers, but it didn’t seem to matter. Most people were thankful for change. Most people were thankful order had been restored.
Pauline and her circle of friends found less pleasure in their lives. Some of this had to do with Pauline worrying all the time. But the main reasons were that they didn’t feel as free as they once had, and sex didn’t excite them like it once had.
Pauline use to keep track of when she had sex. She used to keep track so that she would know when it was safe. She used to practice safe sex. After her abortion she practiced safe sex. And sex become mechanical and dull, especially with Fritz. She kept a calendar. This ruined it for Fritz, and she lost interest. At a later stage she cut Fritz off. And sometimes he complained. Pauline wished things were different but …
Pauline had always been willing, always ready and that was one reason Fritz didn’t complain about her infidelity. Now that also changed. Now he became angry. He became frustrated and angry, and it also affected his relationship with Eva. It caused him to need Eva more than ever. He now had an excuse. He clung to Eva, and their closeness was not based so much on sex as on need. And since he didn’t have Pauline (and perhaps hadn’t had her since the war) he thought he had a good excuse for his own infidelity. Eva gave him attention he needed. Pauline gave him nothing. So he thought about dumping Pauline. He thought about divorcing Pauline. Only there was a problem … several problems. He had his boys to think of. He had his job to consider, and Eva was Jewish. Before he got emotionally and sexually involved with a Jewish woman he should’ve had his brains examined, but it wasn’t so critical then. It wasn’t so critical until Nazis took over.
Pauline announced that she was leaving for a few days. This news didn’t surprise Fritz. He half expected it. He half expected she would leave. He wasn’t surprised because she hinted she would, but because it became a pattern. It didn’t worry him. She would come back. He knew she would come back. And while she was gone, he and his boys would be taken care of. But still it touched off fears that he didn’t want to think about. It always raised a possibility that Pauline wouldn’t return. It raised a possibility that something could happen to her. Even Eva seemed concerned.
Of course the boys would’ve liked to go with their mother. They always missed their mother. But they were in school and to take them out of school would’ve been unacceptable to both parents. Both parents didn’t want to see their sons’ lives disrupted or want to involve them in a big mess. But of course they were involved. Eva said, “They know what’s going on. But it’s important to keep their lives as stable as possible. It isn’t fair to them. We must keep everything from falling apart.”
Pauline tried to make it up to them by taking them to lunch. Even though the boys didn’t know that she was thinking of leaving they were suspicious. There was about them a strictness that suggested that they were subjected to suppression. They were teenagers, polite for teenagers and mature for their age but needy. They were the same in many ways, yet different in manner and in ways that mattered. Karl was the oldest, and he seemed a little more detached than Niki. Niki was more like his father, but unlike him in that he could be explosive. Both of them were sensitive young men.
Niki, hunched over in his chair, chin to his chest, asked in his way, “Going again? Who with this time? Why can’t we go?” But Karl, who was two years older than his brother, wasn’t paying attention. Karl was more absorbed in his meal. Karl took his cue from his mother, who didn’t have a ready answer for Niki. Karl knew the answers and understood (actually Niki knew too) that nothing they could say could change their mother’s mind. Instead of answering Niki, she closed her eyes and was able to hide anger and shame. She was able to hide anger and shame inside her. She knew that she wasn’t a good mother and felt ashamed. And she was angry with herself because she thought that there was no way that she could make it up to them. It hadn’t worked out the way she hoped. And rather than try to make it up to them she gave up. She didn’t know that it wouldn’t take much … maybe only a word or two. And it would’ve been easy then, easier then than later when the boys would’ve been older and less receptive. It would’ve been a chance they were all waiting for.
By the time they reached home it was a little after three in the afternoon, and they were surprised to find Fritz standing at the door. The first thing they thought was that something terrible had happened; and this made them worry about Eva. And the second thing they noticed was that Fritz didn’t seem upset. But he had to have come home early for a reason, and in that second, they could see that his eyes were sparkling. What was wrong with him? Pauline knew … in fact they all knew … that her husband wouldn’t have been home at that hour unless something out of the ordinary happened, or unless … but then his eyes wouldn’t have been sparkling. Information comes to us in different ways; words don’t have to be involved; and the most expressive tools that we have are our eyes. But this time the expression Fritz had on his face … the sparkle in his eyes frightened Pauline.
Two weeks later, at the end of a vacation, which required taking the boys out of school, it all seemed worth it. It hadn’t fixed everything by any means, or had it glossed over a big mess. It was still a big mess.
It was a strange event, full of fun and laughter, during which none of them believed it was happening. They stayed in the same chalet they stayed in before the war; this time they needed two suites. And while it was tempting for Pauline and Fritz to request separate beds (when, from what we heard they were barely speaking), they both said later that they enjoyed sharing a bed and never admitted that it would’ve been better had they shown more restraint. But this vacation by and large went well. There were awkward moments, but they were few and far between. The boys, for the first time in a very long time, had their parents to themselves, and as for Eva, they left her behind. This seemed odd at first.
Afterwards there was a period of time when they felt close and did things as a family. It was odd considering what was going on. But they knew it wouldn’t last, couldn’t, considering, and they’d would look back on it with wistfulness.
It was only a matter of time before old patterns reemerged. Perhaps old ways were too ingrained or temptations were too great. It was a combination of things. Pauline still felt obligated to the Obdachlosenhein while Fritz and Eva … at first when the two of them were alone they behaved themselves, but they were only human. It was inevitable then that Pauline and Frederick would start seeing each other again.
As for Pauline and Frederick, it was different this time. They never rushed. They always acted like it would be their last time together, and long afternoons, in dark rooms, were cherished. Alone, with curtains drawn and street noise muffled, they could almost forget everyone else. They could almost forget Nazis. And on the surface, and for a short while, everything seemed perfect. They always requested the same room, and in it were furnishings that reminded them of a bygone age. There was even a stock photograph of Emperor Franz Joseph, whiskers and all. Pauline couldn’t help but smile when she saw it for the first time, but thankfully she didn’t have to worry anymore about getting pregnant. She thought of grandeur and glory, and there was sadness about it too. It was not the room. It was not anything in it, or seeing Emperor Franz Joseph’s photograph. It was said to have been an old, cheap hotel. It was sad that times had changed. Rates were certainly low, but this room … like this hotel … was filled with antiques … reminders. This gave it class. This made it special.
So unexpectedly she found herself feeling close to Fritz again. She tried to put the past behind her, tried to find some footing in the present, lose herself in the arms of a lover, but couldn’t keep from thinking of Fritz. She was thinking of Fritz and not Frederick, as Frederick held her and cruel thoughts kept coming to her. Cruel thoughts kept coming to her, and it was like she was still on vacation with her husband … like on a vacation before the war. It had been only a few months since they shared a room in a chalet near the Croatian border where they romantically recreated a vacation that they had there before the war. But now she was in a hotel room with another man, and it didn’t feel right. She was in a hotel room with a man she loved, and it didn’t feel right.
There had been many lovers in this room. The sheets weren’t clean. There had been many lovers, and many of them involved in adultery, and it’s highly unlikely that any of them were there as often as Pauline had. Now the world was closing in around Pauline, but on the surface it didn’t seem that way. On the surface she seemed happy and seemed to be enjoying herself. She never admired Fritz more. She wished that she could start over with him. She never admired Fritz more and wished that she could start over with him, but of course it was too late.
And all this time she was in the arms of Frederick … in a hotel full of reminders and dirty sheets and in the arms of Frederick who she also loved. She knew that she loved Frederick and knew she loved her husband too. It seemed like a great piece of luck that she found Frederick when she did. It seemed like a great piece of luck that he walked into her life when he did and when she didn’t know if her husband was alive or dead. She never expected to fall for Frederick and thought it wouldn’t last, like it hadn’t with others. They came together, she alone, he alone during the war. They found what they were missing. They were full of desire. It wouldn’t have happened had Fritz been around. At the same time she still loved Fritz, and she could hardly bear the thought of her husband being with Eva. It was crazy. It was messy.
She said, “I wish I weren’t married.” He said, “To your husband?” So he, poor man, was what was standing in the way. She said, “Period!” He said, “You don’t mean it.” She said, “I do. I wish I weren’t married. I do and I don’t.” He said, “Then do you want to stop seeing me?” She said, “No. But I was just thinking what it would be like if I weren’t married.” He said, “Then we could get married.” She said, “And what if I didn’t want to.” He said, “Then we wouldn’t get married.” She said, “That’s what I like about you.”
When she came home she made no excuses to Fritz. She didn’t have to. He knew where she’d been and whom she’d been with. He simply said, “I’m glad you’re safely home.”
The routine at home was fairly well set. It hadn’t varied much over the years, and that was what they were all counting on. The boys were attending school and that meant that Eva had a flat to herself most of the afternoon. Pauline slept in most mornings, and Eva used this time to get shopping done. It was a routine that everyone hoped wouldn’t be disrupted by any shenanigans of the new regime. They hoped that there would be fewer shenanigans this time around. It was because of signs of progress that they were hopeful. Signs of progress gave them hope. All of the things Hitler promised now seemed attainable, or else they misread history. Hitler kept his promises. Nazis were on a roll. People didn’t have hindsight to rely on. History wouldn’t judge them until later, and few of them knew what was happening to their deported Jewish neighbors. Some people said that they were being sent or were immigrating to places around the world such as German East Africa, Shanghai, or the United States. But they didn’t know. They didn’t know what happened to their neighbors. They didn’t know what happened to them when they moved or were deported. There had been precedents, but they didn’t know them. And no one saw consequences … no one saw that they were heading for a major war.
Pauline still worked at the Obdachlosenhein most days, but she cut back her hours to spend more time with her boys. What had been almost totally Eva’s domain was now shared between the two women, which complicated Fritz’s life. It led to more conflict, but he could hardly cheat on Pauline with her in the house. The situation was awkward.
Pauline was responding to changes that came with a new era. It was no longer common to hear women referred to as tramps or vamps. To call women either name was considered poor taste and a sign of social decay. Pauline also spent less time with Fredrick and totally cut off Herr Lippert. And to her credit she did it without making a scene.
Trying to juggle everything was a strain … was a strain for everyone. Pauline’s needs matched Fritiz’s, but now they had to satisfy their needs differently. Everything they knew before … ideas regarding promiscuity, sex appeal, and worst of all sexual assault, and Fritz’s and Pauline’s justification for infidelity … now it all changed when Nazis came into power, and as people were pressured into conformity.
Perhaps people even then realized that their houses were on fire. Not literally yet Apokalypse like later when bombs started falling, but something was wrong when Christianity became a substitute for sex. Pauline changed her priorities, and it changed her. It was a change that almost everyone went through, one of many changes … some for the better and some for the worst. “It was time I grew up.” This explained it. It was time she grew up.
Pauline gave her boys more attention, though they no longer needed so much from her. They were almost grown and didn’t need as much from her. Still Pauline made a conscious effort to give them more time. She took them places. She took them to museums and did things with them that they would always remember. For the first time she relaxed around them. For the first time was able to relax around them. Pauline was amazed, amazed at herself and amazed at how she was able to relax. She was amazed how much she changed. It brought back memories of how it was when they were first born … how it was before the war … before Eva. Like on a vacation that they took … a vacation in mountains near the Croatian border, where they were together as a family, and like before the war and before Eva took over caring for the boys.
None of them realized then that they would never get another chance … that things were about to change again, things would change for good, and things would never be the same … again. Again. War again would change everything.
Apokalypse hadn’t reach Vienna yet. During the previous war, it came close, but somehow Vienna was spared. Close but spared, a reason to smile, pleased because Vienna hadn’t burned, pleased that people could still go to the opera house and the concert hall. But there were a great many people who weren’t pleased with Vienna, particularly young people. They said in their severe way, “We need to be more like Thor!” City dwellers should have been warned by their tone, but they continued to smile and say, “Perhaps we’re not quite like Thor, but Hitler is. And he’s going to root out those who caused our problems. Then there were a few who asked, “How dare Hitler compare himself to god?” Thor was mythical. Hitler was real. Thor’s was a reign of blood during ages of thunder. Then maybe then a comparison between Hitler and Thor was appropriate. But they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight. So not many of them complained, and whenever they saw a swastika banner they didn’t tear it down since it offered them a sense of hope when they hadn’t had very much hope.
They soon discovered that Hitler meant what he said. Hitler kept his word, but an impression that he was a violent man who was holding himself in check wouldn’t be recognized until they started losing the war. But a deportation of Jews started almost immediately. A thousand deportees from Vienna arrived in the Lodz Ghetto on October 9, 1941. They were prominent people … physicians, engineers, professors, famous chemists, dental technicians … and twenty Christian women, twenty Christian women who came along with their husbands and children. They were treated well and brought with them a lot of their things, so it seemed then like deportations could be carried out humanely. At first they were moved in second-class railway cars.
They blamed Jews and Reds for everything that went wrong. At a certain point they began treating them badly. They began treating Jews and Reds badly. They did it to friends and neighbors, and Pauline’s family saw it. She was a mixed-race person herself, and she saw it, and knew that she shouldn’t let people know she was a mixed-race person. She was born a Jew and converted to Catholicism. Hitler was Catholic, which gave her some comfort. She had to find something to hang onto. She had to. She had to and turned to religion and found comfort in knowing that Hitler was Catholic. Hitler was a religious man. Pauline also had her husband. She relied on his position with the court, and she never wanted to seem ungrateful … to the court and to her husband. To his colleagues, Fritz praised her. He praised his wife. He said, “My wife is not an ordinary person. For years she has given herself to the Obdachlosenhein. We need more people like her, people who are willing to help the less fortunate.” And he said it without trying to sound self-serving. Hitler actually frightened Pauline, though she never said it.
As the family spent more time together, they spent more time in the Vienna Woods, where Pauline always looked for fawns, satyrs, and wolves. Pauline loved the woods. She had gone there since her childhood. She loved woods, exercise and fresh air, hearing birds, various calls of birds, and it always brought back happy memories. Harmonies of the “Tale of the Vienna Woods” always brought back happy memories. She loved the cartoon “Tale of the Vienna Woods” and watched it over and over again; only now it seemed unpatriotic to watch it. The thought of a satyr saving a fawn always delighted her. The thought now of a satyr reaching a fawn in time to save her from wolves somehow seemed less likely. And it pained her. This was why she took her boys to the woods to look for fawns. But she didn’t want to seem panicky.
They still went to cultural events at the Hofburg. They still went to the opera house, and the concert hall, and she loved to dress up. She still got all excited about pomp, pomp, fancy dresses and tails and finery that went with the Opera Ball. But Fritz thought he couldn’t dance. Fritz was a drinker and couldn’t dance and preferred drinking all night in a less formal setting like the Grinzing.
And if truth be told, they never regained what they once had. Pauline felt that she was getting nowhere in her effort to change him. He could never match Frederick, and perhaps it was unfair of her to compare the two. But for a while there they were able to fool themselves. There for a while Pauline was able to drag her husband along whenever she decided to go out in the evening. It was a concession he made. It was a small concession, a small one considering what was at stake, and they all knew what was at stake. It was not a time for promiscuity. It was a time to be upstanding. He knew he had to be careful. He knew that he had to toe the line. Yes, too much was at stake, and appearances mattered. He could lose everything and knew it. It was a wretched position to be in … to have to be on guard all the time. It got on his nerves. The boys were almost grown then. Though she wasn’t needed, Eva still lived with them, and she found that she had time on her hands, too much time and spent much of her time walking around Vienna, though it was risky for her. At the same time Fritz drank more. That was when he began to lash out at everyone. Fritz’s work with the court doubled during this period, and there were times when he didn’t come home until late at night. He was still well regarded. He knew how to get along and was very efficient. He had always been like that … very efficient … but it was more important now. But it was getting to him, since he was asked to rubberstamp deportation of people like Eva. That was the main reason he drank so much.
Pauline never confronted Fritz about his drinking because she knew what he was going through. For her it was a form of revenge. His weakness made her feel strong. It was how she could get even. One afternoon she came back with the boys from a hike in the Vienna Woods and found him drunk on the sofa. The boys simply accepted it while Pauline knew that there was something terribly wrong. Now she had to be careful. She didn’t want to set him off. She didn’t want to ask him too many questions but was afraid that he’d been sacked or something worse. What could be worse? Then she decided to say nothing and allow him to tell her what the problem was. He never did.
For years Fritz dreamt of a promotion and a promotion meant less pressure. He’d been passed over before. Now he was passed over again and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He bought himself several bottles of wine and finished two of them before Pauline and the boys came home. The courts were a sham. Fritz knew they were a sham. There were too many people to process, and times were uncertain, and Fritz didn’t know if he wanted to be a part of it any longer. He’d been through these moods and stresses before and had always gotten through them, but what bothered him more than anything else was that he didn’t have a choice. What bothered him more than anything was that his life was being decided for him.
This was why he came home early and drank himself silly. Fritz knew that he couldn’t quit, knew he was stuck, and that their lives depended on it. But he decided to keep his family out of it. He decided to keep his family in the dark. The less they knew the better. For their safety he compartmentalized his life, and he wanted to keep it that way. This wasn’t new because since the war they’d lived separate lives. And this included their sexual lives, and in some oblique way it was all tied together. Pauline could see disappointment and strain on her husband’s face. She could see it in his eyes. She felt sorry for him. Whenever she saw him in this funk, she felt sorry for him. Yes, she still had feelings for him. She felt sorry for him, but he wouldn’t talk about it. Pauline thought that she could read him but never knew what he was thinking. So she never knew that he was jealous of her lovers. She never knew how much he loved her. She never knew. And she felt sorry for him because he couldn’t communicate. Now she was jealous because she wanted to know what was bothering him and he wouldn’t tell her. And thinking of all the times that she withheld something from him, she felt weak and helpless rather than strong.
Fritz was now part of the Nazi machine. He was part of Nazi brutality. And he knew more than he ever let on. He was in the middle of it, and it was why he was able to shield his family. It was why he shielded them, which left open what to do about Eva.
Pictures of deportation played in Fritz head whenever he saw Eva. And their lovemaking became more hurried and less frequent. It became more hurried and less frequent as he got busier and since Pauline was spending more time at home. He was now the one who was rarely home in the evening. Fritz would say, “Chickens have come home to roost.” “Chickens have come home to roost” was one of his favorite sayings. It was something he would say, or he wouldn’t say anything. And perhaps even then he knew that things would never be the same. That was when he began making contingency plans, plans if they were ever forced to leave Austria. And he thought that he would send his oldest son first.
Months passed. And Pauline felt more helpless than ever as she watched Nazis with their successes become more and more entrenched. At the same time she felt more secure, as she relied on Fritz more than ever.
Pauline said to her husband one day, “We have to be careful. You know that we do, don’t you?”
He said, “It’s true.”
She said, “We can’t be too careful, Fritz.”
He said, “I know. I wish it weren’t that way.”
“You speak up, Fritz. You would make a good judge. I know there’s a huge turnover.”
He said, “I don’t need headaches, Pauline. This way I just do paperwork.” He tried to reassure her in this way.
She said, “I think your crazy. You don’t just do paperwork. They make you sign everything. Judges don’t sign anything.”
And he knew that she was right. He’d get blame. He knew he would get blamed for everything. Did she mean that if he were a judge he wouldn’t get blamed? He could always say that it wasn’t his decision, couldn’t he?
She said, “You’re caught in a no win situation. You know what I mean.”
A little later she came back to him and said, “I have an idea. Why don’t we emigrate.”
“Where would we go?”
“I’d like to think we could go somewhere.”
“I’ve been thinking about sending Karl to America. If you agree, I can arrange it. I want it arranged before I approach him with the idea. It would be less of a risk if we sent him first.”
She felt great pity for Fritz, and didn’t believe it would be less risky. She agreed that it’d be prudent to send Karl to America.
They now lived in the Margarenten, near the center of Vienna.
Pauline said, “We must remember that Karl feels very close to his brother and wouldn’t want to leave him behind. But he wouldn’t say this to you. He’ll do what you want him to do. He’ll try to make you think that it doesn’t matter to him, that he’s not just going along with the idea, and that he really wants to go.”
The Margenten had changed a lot with the coming of Nazis. A synagogue, located on Siebenbrunnengasse, was destroyed during Kristallnacht. The district was now bustling, since the Austrian Southern Railway and the freight station Matzleinsdorf were located in it. It would become even more important during the course of the war. Still getting around was easy. Surrounded by the Vienna River on the North and the Gurtel belt on the west and the south, there was always transportation available. During this period there were more boarded-up storefronts than normal, but most were quickly reoccupied. Widespread graffiti was covered over almost as quickly as it appeared, and it was encouraging to those who kept track. Vienna was cleaner than ever, but everything was in flux.
Their building looked like all the others on the block. It opened onto the street and was built right up to the sidewalk. It was six stories high, with storefronts occupying the bottom floor; and the façade was decorated with a mint design. The entrance was in the exact center of the building, and there were usually people coming and going.. Each flat had two or three windows that opened out onto the street, which remained closed and shuttered all winter. Ah, but the first day of spring!
All the buildings on the block were connected by firewalls because fire had once been a major concern. Neighbors rarely spoke to each other, but the man next door to Pauline and Fritz acknowledged them whenever he saw them.
This neighbor was a Hungarian or a Slav. He avoided eye contact whenever he could. He usually went around bare cheasted. He wore ragged shorts and was bare cheasted and didn’t care. Without looking at them, he would plod down to the WC, which everyone on the floor shared. They all spoke German, though they rarely spoke to each other. Eva knew his name, knew where he came from, and would’ve been a friend had it not been for Fritz. But she believed that she could count on him. But there was never an occasion for them to socialize; too much separated them. All the time he lived next door he eyed Eva and Eva eyed him, and he would’ve invited her into his flat had she not been taken. As it was, they matched courtesy without saying anything.
This neighbor was hiding and spent most of his time in one of his rooms. He never introduced himself to any of them, though he was never discourteous. He never had an expression on his face. This small Jewish man … he was obviously Jewish, more obviously one than Eva … never spoke. He was not young. He was not old. He had had a wife. They would never know it. They never knew that he had had a wife. Immediately there was shouting in the street. The man sat down in an armchair and somehow knew that they were looking for him. He knew they were looking and would find him. He sighed and took a deep breath, with his eyes closed. His door was already locked. And all the time men in the lobby, on the stairs, at his door, were looking for him, he still didn’t respond. He saw now that he didn’t have a chance. He rubbed his legs, anticipating what would happen next. He had prepared himself for this moment. He prepared himself. It would’ve been impossible for him otherwise. It was impossible for him. He realized after it was too late that he could’ve avoided all this if he had obeyed his instincts. He had contacts in Shanghai, and he wasn’t a poor man.
Capture came quick. When the man was surrounded, though he was frightened and filled with rage, he went calmly. Eva was surprised by the affect the event had on her. She was surprised. She was surprised that she could talk about it. For the first time she feared for her life. She saw it go down, watched from a window as her neighbor was dragged off. “They knew he was hiding there. How did they know he was hiding there? They knew. They know everything. They have eyes everywhere, and they aim to get us all. They will keep at it until they succeed. But if I can’t trust Fritz who can I trust?”
When she told Pauline about it she said, “It was terrible.”
Pauline said, “I’m glad you told me about it. I’ll ask Fritz what he knows. But … but we didn’t know anything about him. We didn’t know he was a Jew.”
Eva said, “He was Jewish. Isn’t it enough to know that he was Jewish? To think that I’m Jewish too. That’s what I have to live with. I’m Jewish … and what it means to be Jewish … for all of us … all of us who are Jewish.”
Pauline let it pass. She no longer had a quarrel with Eva. Eva had been very good with and dedicated to her two sons, very good indeed, too good in some respects. And if there had ever been mistrust, it had disappeared by then. Mistrust: it wasn’t a time for it. Mistrust now belonged to another time, or a part of their lives that had run its course. They had each played a part and could’ve rebuked each other. It would’ve been easy, but it would’ve torn them apart. Sometimes when the two women talked they were drawn together in a way that it made them inseparable. For a time they became inseparable. But Pauline felt that it was important to maintain distance for she knew that she had more in common with Eva than she wanted to admit. And she felt just as vulnerable … naturally vulnerable. And concerning housekeeping she completely trusted Eva.
And Pauline wasn’t surprised when she heard about what happened to their neighbor. She always said that this was what Hitler was going to do; that in spite of all the progress there would be those who would get hurt. It seemed like it had always been that way … someone was always getting hurt.
So they carried on. So they had to carry on. They carried on the best they could. They didn’t have a choice, or it seemed. They wanted to live. The flat next door soon had new occupants (a couple with two small children moved in almost immediately). But the situation wasn’t totally dark for the Hertzels. Fritz kept his job with the court. They had also saved enough money to send their oldest son Karl to Texas, and Fritz had connections to pull it off. Until Karl was safely in Texas they couldn’t start planning for themselves. It was part of a deal Fritz made with Pauline. So Pauline was both right and wrong. She was both right and wrong to worry. Eva used her employers (directly and indirectly) to delay the inevitable, but she couldn’t forget what happened to their neighbor. Pauline was as happy as she could be. She could still rely on Frederick. It was something that he hadn’t abandoned her, and they occasionally ran into Herr Lippert, and she began to think that it all might work out. Soon afterwards her youngest Niki joined the police force.