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Authors: Ben Elton

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Two Brothers

BOOK: Two Brothers
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About the Book

Berlin 1920

Two babies are born.

Two brothers.

United and indivisible, sharing everything.

Twins in all but blood.

As Germany marches into its Nazi Armageddon, the ties of family, friendship and love are tested to the very limits of endurance. And the brothers are faced with an unimaginable choice...

Which one of them will survive?

Ben Elton’s most personal novel to date,
Two Brothers
transports the reader to history’s darkest hour.

Contents

Cover

About the Book

Title Page

Dedication

The Girl on the Cart:
Berlin, 1920

Tea and Biscuits:
London, 1956

Twins:
Berlin, 1920

Another Baby:
Munich, 1920

An Operation is Cancelled:
Berlin, 1920

A Whimper and a Scream:
Berlin, 1920

A Proposal:
London, 1956

Brand New Model:
Berlin, 1921

Rhinemaiden:
Berlin, 1922

District and Circle Line:
London, 1956

Money Gone Mad:
Berlin, 1923

Young Entrepreneurs:
Berlin, 1923

Funny Money:
Berlin, 1923

Renewed Acquaintance:
Berlin, 1923

A New Job:
Berlin, 1923

Hot Hot Hot!:
Berlin, 1923

St John’s Wood:
London, 1956

Too Much Jazz:
Berlin, 1923

A Screaming Three-year-old:
Munich, 1923

Modern Jazz:
London, 1956

A Very Proper Little Girl:
Berlin, 1926

The Saturday Club:
Berlin, 1926–28

Two Parties and a Crash:
Munich, Berlin and New York, 1929

Fighting over Dagmar:
Berlin, 1932

That Man:
Berlin, 30 January 1933

The Penny Dropped:
London, 1956

Final Match:
Berlin, 1933

Thirteenth Birthdays:
Munich and Berlin, 1933

Visitors to the Surgery:
Berlin, 1933

Hope Lost:
London, 1956

Opening up Shop:
Berlin, 1 April 1933

The Banks of the Red Sea:
Berlin, 1 April 1933

A Quiet Day at the Store:
Berlin, 1933

Law Student:
London, 1956

A Party Is Announced:
Berlin, August 1933

The Fischers Throw a Party:
Berlin, 1933

Auf Wiedersehen:
Berlin, 1933

Further Briefings:
London, 1956

A Friendly Nazi:
Berlin, 1934

Unfriendly Nazi:
Berlin, 1934

Party Interrupted:
Bad Wiessee, 1934

Aryan-free Zone:
Berlin, 1935

Beached Dolphin:
Berlin, 1935

New Laws:
Berlin and Nuremberg, 1935

Romantic Gesture:
Berlin, 1935

The Adopted Son:
Berlin, 1935

Family Trees:
Berlin, 1935

A Country Excursion:
Saxony, September 1935

Blood Family:
Saxony, 1935

Fate Sealed:
Berlin, 1935

A Spontaneous Drink:
London, 1956

Into Exile:
Berlin, 1935

Making Contact:
Berlin, 1936

Weekly Visits:
Berlin, 1936

Rejected on Grounds of Race:
London, 1956

Personal Sacrifices:
Berlin, 1936

On the Embankment:
London, 1956

Reichssportfeld, Grunewald:
Berlin, 1 August 1936

A Holiday in Munich:
1937

Frieda’s Other Children:
Berlin, 1938

English Conversations:
Berlin, 1938

The Night of the Broken Glass:
Berlin, November 1938

Rain on the Beach:
Lake Wannsee, November 1938

The Last Meeting of the Saturday Club:
Berlin, February 1939

The Morning After:
The German–Dutch Border, 1939

Early Breakfast:
London, 1956

From Untermensch to Superman:
Berlin, 1940

A Marriage is Discussed:
Berlin, 1940

Final Briefing:
London, 1956

Mixed Marriage:
Berlin, 1940

Old Friends:
Berlin, 1956

Further English Conversation:
Berlin, 1940

Recognized:
Calais, 1940

The People’s Park:
Berlin, 1956

German Hero:
Berlin and Russia, December 1941 and January 1942

Park Bench:
Berlin, 1956

The Jewish Hospital:
Berlin, 1943

Continued Conversation in the Park:
Berlin, 1956

Jew Catcher:
Berlin, 1945

Between Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood:
Berlin, 1956

Two Women:
Berlin, 1945

In the Garden of Innocence:
Berlin, 1956

Girl on a Pavement:
London and Berlin, 1989 and 2003

Afterword:
Biographical Reflections

About the Author

Also by Ben Elton

Copyright

TWO BROTHERS

Ben Elton

Two Brothers
is dedicated to two cousins, my uncles:

Heinz Ehrenberg, who served in the Wehrmacht
1939 to 1945,

and

Geoffrey Elton, who served in the British army
1943 to 1946.

The Girl on the Cart

Berlin, 1920

FRIEDA STENGEL WOKE from a dream filled with tiny kicks to find her nightdress and her bedding soaking wet.

It was past dawn but the coming of day had done little to relieve the darkness and gloom of the long freezing night that had preceded it. Her breath hung heavily in the dull light as she shook her husband awake.

‘Wolfgang,’ she whispered. ‘My waters have broken.’

He sat up in bed with a jolt.

‘Right!’ he said, staring about wildly, struggling to surface. ‘Good! Everything’s fine. We have a plan.’

‘I’m not in labour yet,’ Frieda said soothingly. ‘No pain. No cramps. But they’re on their way, that’s for sure.’

‘Keep calm,’ Wolfgang said, tumbling out of bed and tripping over the boots he’d left close at hand for just such an awakening. ‘We absolutely have a plan.’

Frieda was expecting twins and so had been guaranteed a place in a hospital for the delivery. The Berlin Buch medical school was several kilometres across the city from Friedrichshain, where they lived. As she struggled into her clothes Frieda could only hope that the babies were in no hurry.

Wolfgang took his wife’s arm and they groped their way down the five flights of stairs from their apartment to the street below. There was a lift but it was ancient and rickety and they had decided that the tiny iron cage was not to be trusted for such a crucial journey.

‘Imagine if we got stuck and you had the babies between floors,’ Wolfgang joked. ‘It’s only licensed for three people! That bitch of a concierge would probably report us to the housing collective.’

The sky that lowered over the young couple as they stepped out on to the icy pavement was so dark and so grey that it might have been forged from iron in the furnaces of the famous Krupps foundry in Essen and then bolted above Berlin with rivets of steel. Berlin seemed always to be huddling beneath such gunmetal skies. The war winters and those that followed had been cruel indeed and as the wet and frozen early morning workers hurried past the young couple, bent low in the teeth of biting eastern winds, it was hard for Frieda and Wolfgang to remember that there had ever been any other season in Berlin but winter. That there had once been a time when every tree on Unter Den Linden had dazzled in garish bloom and up and down the Tiergarten old gentlemen had removed their jackets and girls had gone without stockings.

But spring and summer were a distant memory in that February of 1920, a dream of better times before the catastrophe of the Great War exploded over Germany. Now the skies seemed always to have been beaten out of cannons and to thunder as if just beyond the horizon in the fields of Belgium and France and across the endless Russian steppes real cannons still roared.

There were of course no taxis to be found even if they could have afforded one, and inevitably the trams were on one of their regular strikes. The Stengels had therefore arranged to borrow a hand cart from the local greengrocer.

Herr Sommer was waiting for them when they arrived outside his shop, with the cart and a bouquet of carrots tied up with ribbons.

‘Pink and blue,’ Sommer said, ‘because Wolf assures me you’re going to have a boy and girl. An instant family, all the bother done with in one go.’

‘They’ll both be boys,’ Frieda replied firmly. ‘So watch out for trouble, they’ll be pinching your apples in a few years!’

‘If I have any apples,’ the grocer replied ruefully as Wolfgang began to push the cart away, slipping and clanking across the icy stones and cobbles.

Just then there was a burst of automatic gunfire somewhere in a nearby street, but they ignored it, as they also ignored the shouts and the screams that followed the clattering boots and the sound of breaking glass.

Gunfire, boots and breaking glass were just the sounds of the city to Wolfgang and Frieda, they didn’t really notice them any more. As commonplace in Berlin as the cry of the newspaper vendor, the bird song in the parks and the rattle of the trains on the elevated railway. Everybody ignored them, keeping their heads down, hurrying along, hoping not to be delayed in getting to whatever queue it was they were planning to join.

BOOK: Two Brothers
13.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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