Episode 15 Meeting with Arnim

Ski Hiking at Grand Saint Bernard, the following part 2

The group arrived early, only one elderly man sat on a bench. Anke waved at them to advance toward the choir. She took a prayer book from a small cupboard on the right and showed her friends the seats in the stalls. They sat down and began to immerse themselves who in the book of prayers, who in the deciphering of the arrangement of the chapel. As another group of people entered, the man stood up to take his place in the stalls, in a place very close to the altar.

la chapelle de hospice du grand saint Bernard, Valais, Suisse

Peter was reading the book of prayers when Laurie on his right pushed him elbow to tell him in his ear that the elderly man sitting opposite them on the far left near the altar was called Arnim. Peter didn’t understand. Laurie told him that it was Anke who started this news.

Arnim is present in the chapel of the Hospice, in front of their group.

Laurie remembered this Arnim of the group of elders Frantz and Anke had spoken about at the weekend in Baden-Baden. It was him! What was he doing here and alone for sure? Françoise on her left asked him what they were talking about. He repeated the information in his wife’s ear. Anke was agitated and chatting with Frantz. The man kept staring at Anke and Frantz, and then he would regularly review each of the faces of the members of their group. Frantz tried to talk discreetly with Dan but the priest came out of the sacristy behind the altar and the celebration of the service began. They were reading the Saturday service.

Arnim had immersed himself in reading prayers.

Peter looked at him. Tall, the face elongated with thick and uniformly white hair, the skin of the face and hands tanned by the sun, the physiognomy of this person denoted a youth always visible. Man was not his age; his body was dry and muscular through constant physical exertion. He was classy and Pierre lent him a certain culture, but what was he doing here?

All the members of their group had perceived the exact importance of this news of Arnim’s presence and they looked at each other with anxious eyes as if they felt a bad turn of their story. The good faith of Frantz and Anke could not be questioned: they had not invited him!

They were following the board on the pages indicated they were turning in the missel. As the end of the service approached, the tension went up a notch with Frantz and Anke who stirred a lot and looked for each other’s eyes. Laurie turned to Pierre to tell him that she felt these two were making a maximum of guilt! She felt this weekend was going to end badly.

What if Frantz still asked Arnim to join them here, away from the world to make them a dubious deal? Pierre smiled at Laurie, he was not afraid of anything and especially not of Arnim. He told his friend: tomorrow they would make new connections with the Internet, so this old man could go to bed as early as tonight!

Laurie shook her shoulders and the poet realized that she felt that once again he did not have a sense of reality. But should the problems of others necessarily be part of his reality? Were the others ready to listen to his solutions, were they ready to listen to him talk about his reality as a poet?

The priest returned to the sacristy. Anke and Frantz hurried to drop their missels and leave the chapel. The others followed them down the hall. The door of the refectory was not open and they crowded there in front.

Arnim walked up in the middle of them to approach Anke and Frantz and greet them.

Dan, Patrick and Sepp huddled around them and Arnim waved to them to listen. He came alone to talk to them. He spoke in German, English and French depending on the person to whom he was speaking. That’s enough to convince them that Arnim knew the basics about them. As if caught in a trap whose aspects they did not yet know, they were forced to listen to him. They had ten minutes in front of them before lunch time. Could they go with him to the ski cellar?

The fourteen followed the elderly man who moved here as if he were at home. The cellar was deserted and sheltered from the thick walls, from the gaze they counted each other and the old man was physically no match for their group. They felt quite safe in front of Arnim.

He first went public to Anke and Frantz to tell them how pleased he was to see them again and especially to have been able to follow the promising beginnings of their club in Weinheim. Yes, Arnim knew everything and kept the elders group informed about what those two were doing. It was quite normal, questioned the old man, after all that this young couple had known about the past and leisure of the group of elders! How much money did they get for Anke’s wins? Arnim was pleased to see that the money was used mainly to start their business. Had she told them about those particular men she had met?

Arnim waved to Dan to invite him to let him speak.

He came to meet with them on his own initiative and no one else but him knew where he was tonight. Oh, he wasn’t here to revive old memories. Anke had made them spend a lot of money but the elders had enjoyed these special erotic games. They didn’t want to do it again, and he wasn’t there to invite new people. Arnim was acting alone.

As part of his mission to monitor the relations of the elders group, he had followed the new relations of Frantz and Anke and from sources he could not reveal, he knew everything about their company, what was happening in the evenings of their night club. He knew exactly who they were. Arnim turned to Dan to tell him in English that he was an American officer based in Pirmasens before a next promotion that would soon affect him elsewhere.

He turned to Pierre to congratulate the poet in French for having captured the voice of Laurie’s father. Peter couldn’t hold back the force boiling in him, he grabbed the old man by the collar and stuck him to the wall. The poet also knew who Arnim was and he was ready to slap the former Nazi. Peter, in an uncontrollable fury, shook this innuendo to tell him straight in his eyes and in his ears that if the old man had no modesty to stand aside from the world after the disaster of his life, he, poet, would send him away so that he would realize how a life can be evaluated and what the weight of an act of love and the weight of a crime can be!

Arnim was begging to be freed from this hug that was hurting him. Laurie intervened to calm Pierre. Arnim apologized and immediately admitted that he had been very interested to listen to the poet’s lecture in Nancy. This revelation threw astonishment into the group. They were being spied on!

Arnim reassured them, he knew that his approach was criticizable and he was ready to explain himself on the smallest moments of his life but they, did they know everything that was happening in their club lately? Did they notice these people who were trying to sell drugs among customers? Had they counted the Turkish Muslim girls who came freely to the club to dance naked? Did they know that boys from some of these Turkish families had been ordered by their fathers to come and publicly correct them and then abduct them after destroying the premises? Did they know that two mafia groups interested in the erotic atmosphere of the place felt that they could put under their control this novice and naive management team which, moreover, had the great wrong to compete with their establishments where the youth used drugs and where their prostitutes sold themselves?

Plans were being made to begin with racketeering them and then to remove them from the market.

Arnim, through his network of indicators, had become aware that on a coming weekend, these gangs would actually meet to raid the club and frighten the public, commit damage, that the following week Muslims would be ready to get their young daughters back.

The leaders of these criminal groups considered intolerable the spirit of the activities carried out by the young people in the club: to carry out cultural projects, to reject alcohol and drugs, to discover love and sincere feelings, to discuss the hours to change the world and to engage the youth in the humanist path and the fight against crime and misery, to organize the protest and make it legitimate, to recite late in the night prayers while holding hands to magnify the energy of love with which they communicated: all this made us think of Socrates who corrupted the youth of his time in a similar way by teaching him reflection and criticism, if not denial loyalty to the interests of the world’s powerful.

So they had to disappear like the philosopher!

The group listened with amazement to the news. Arnim delivered them in the tone of sincerity. The eyes turned spontaneously to Peter to question him on the way to proceed.

The poet weighed the tone of the voice and the expression with which the old man had spoken of Socrates. All this sounded right. Peter could only accept Arnim’s scholarship to infer that he was an interlocutor with whom dialog was possible if not necessary.

The poet went to meet the group’s looks to invite them to open the dialog with Arnim. Barbara and Sandra said that they had noticed a few shady guys among the audience lately who weren’t participating in the activities but were watching.

As for girls of Turkish origin, they knew several and some were indeed very active. Their bare bodies naturally took lascivious poses far more suggestive than those painted by Ingres on the theme of serail or harem. These poses stemming from a past culture where the woman courtesan, in secret dominated the power of men, were today confronted with the violence of barbaric fundamentalism.

Frantz assured the others that Arnim had always been frank and honest with them, that they had to take seriously the information he brought. Suddenly, everyone started talking to each other at the same time and a panic breeze passed through the cellar. They saw only one solution: close the night-club immediately and plunge back into anonymity! They had to go back to Amadeus and Regina and settle for these meetings!

The looks surreptitiously interrogated the face of Peter and he observed his companions smiling discreetly.

Annoyed, they turned to him, but Laurie screened. The poet had already spoken and what did they have to change? Would closing the dialog with Arnim not also stifle theirs with a fear they had no use for? Should they, like so many of their contemporaries, cuddle up in fear and stress in a society where silence is the common law, a sign of the small man’s eternal obedience to his cowardice pitifully hidden behind this current cult of “Sam suffices” and which makes it possible to momentarily forget that one lives in a cynical and revolting system of power?

Laurie spoke to express her common position with Pierre.

Tomorrow, they would connect to the Internet and everything that happens in the club will be known to the correspondents of this network and the others, of this ever silent majority of self-righteous people. For once, if this silent majority is interested in telecommunications networks, it will find an exact answer to its suppositions and it will no longer have to foment delusions where order, morality and reason come to complete a millennial atavism that fiercely rejects any novelty, any progress, any change that momentarily makes you leave a position of security for an enriching experience of acquiring new knowledge and projects you into a better mastery of your future, beyond your familiar border inherited from the culture of your group.

All they had to do was film what was going to happen and broadcast the images of the bandits to multimedia correspondents. They had to carry out an international investigation and bring down these criminal organizations! First of all, they would be transparent with their public and they would warn them. If the crime proliferates in the shadows, they had to make sure the light didn’t go out or that emergency lamps were ready!

For Laurie, we had to continue, continue and fight with the same weapons as the others!

The major obstacle in their enterprise was not these bandits of the great and small roads but the outdated institutions of our society which cannot stop the hordes of criminal militiamen or worse, use them to scare the people and leave them in the belief of their monopolistic power, in their ill-founded authority.

Crushing these few gangs of assassins could only be a salutary exercise in view of larger missions! Laurie was only an American officer’s wife, but she was certainly able to lead her husband to war and win it, if that was her will as a woman!

For the psychologist in the Army Health Service, overcoming fear seemed like nothing more than a child’s play.

Dan also explained himself. He asked if Arnim intended to continue to provide them with such valuable information and why did he do so?

The old man regained a confident smile and replied that he would continue to inform them but that the cause of his actions was too long a story to tell before the meal. Could he join their group and eat at their table? Sleeping in their dormitory and tomorrow descending with them the combe de l’A to Liddes and then climbing into one of their cars to find his car in the parking lot of the tunnel above Bourg Saint Pierre of France?

Arnim’s cold assertiveness was disconcerting. They could only accept!

In secret, they thanked Pierre for making them dream during his conference of a new organization and social communication in front of which, the problems raised by Arnim were basically only peripatetic. Laurie was right.

When leaving the ski cellar, some faces had still not regained their former joviality. Worry added to the fatigue that was becoming heavy, undermined the expressions of Dominique, Gérard, Carine, Françoise, Werner. Sepp, Barbara, Sandra and Patrick were already reacting and facing the future with determination.

The refectory rustled like a beehive.

Their large table was waiting for them and they rushed to the soup.

Photo from the Hospice of Great St. Bernard website.

Sepp lingered to spot in the audience his Bellissima showers and having recognized her, they addressed a smile and a hand movement. Sandra, when she was seated next to him, asked him if he could use his good graces with this Italian woman to ask for asylum in her country in case their affairs went wrong.

Anke raised the question with Arnim: why didn’t you come here, call them, call them at the nightclub? Arnim asked them if they thought such information could be said crudely on the phone or in the atmosphere of their club.

When he learned of this hiking project at the Grand Saint Bernard and in the comb of the A, Arnim realized that he had an unexpected chance to make a fruitful contact with their group. Here, they could explain themselves with the sincerity of the mountain people who never hide a danger, a weakness, a burgeoning fatigue and who always help each other to get to their destination. Arnim was talking to them with this mindset. Here, they had the evening, the night and all Sunday to get to know each other, to communicate, to give time to find the moments of confidences, emotional sharing that would seal their interpersonal contract, their trust.

He had understood the novelty and the interest of the club’s approach towards young people, but how far would this enterprise take them? Arnim had done his math, too. Low membership in the club, ridiculously low consumer prices, and a profusion of electronic and video means were to yield little in the way of profits. Arnim from memory, quoted the figures from the first three months’ balance sheet. Were they seriously thinking about this pace of building their club near Baden-Baden?

Frantz, in shock, asked him if he was playing consultant. Arnim, always unfazed, went on to offer to pay the money himself to build the club. Laurie looked at Pierre and they smiled at each other.

Peter asked him where the money came from.

Arnim replied that he came from the same fund that had been used to pay Anke.

Frantz asked him if this fortune came from a hidden spoils of war that he had been managing ever since. Arnim went from imperturbability to coldness to mark the distance he put in his response. Yes, that was correct and to his knowledge, some similar treasures still existed in Europe and even in Switzerland on bank accounts or in some private collectors who kept master paintings stolen by the Nazis.

With a smirk, he reminded them that real material wealth consists in living luxuriously with the interests of capital alone. Yes, Arnim admitted to them that for a long time their group had been rich in order to benefit from the fruitful investments made from the spoils of war, but that today, on several occasions, they had to draw on the capital itself.

The one he managed more or less openly with the group of elders had been one of the few to escape the direct grip of the former Nazis. It had been stolen from them and its management had been ensured, of course, by Germans but not by nostalgic Nazis, but by nostalgic ones for a humanist Germany, strong and radiant in Europe, the only one capable of closing, one day away, the files of the crimes of Nazism and of making people forget the destruction of their country.

Arnim stopped. He ascertained that in the hubbub of the refectory his voice carried no further than the two people on either side of him or who were facing him. He tried hard to make them realize that this was the first time since the end of the war that he had spoken so openly on this issue, and it was not free. He strongly suspected that some neo-Nazi groups in need of money for their projects in Russia, Serbia and Eastern countries had discovered his secret and, to put it bluntly, Arnim needed help.

He could no longer count on the group of elders who were getting much too old and he had thought that Frantz and Anke’s group, by organizing itself in the face of external threats, could possibly protect him too with his investment in the club. Love and Peace, the two fundamental values of humanity could bring together the humanist mission that the group of elders had given themselves with this mission that their group of couples was pursuing to found a new humanist and spiritual movement

Freed of this secret, the old man calmly waited for the reaction of his interlocutors.

Methodically, he used this silence to re-evaluate the Lasswell communication scheme he had employed. The coding and decoding of his information had been respected, the noises had not been able to significantly alter the transmission of the message… so others had to understand it!

Arnim’s attitude became clearer but seriously complicated the club’s future.

Dan no longer believed it possible to keep such historical secrets today and preferred to avoid this ill-founded financial borrowing.

Werner intervened loudly to declare that, if it had not already been dark, he would have already gone home. Considering that he was still in Switzerland, in his country, he still felt safe and did not want to add to the unease caused by Arnim’s comments. Barbara had spoken to him on several occasions about the sums deposited by the Nazis during the Second World War in Swiss banks and insurance companies, especially in Basel and Werner knew that Arnim was a living link with this scandalous story and that he could throw to the public many detestable revelations.

Frantz received Werner’s angry look and looked down.

Peter watched this old man who at his age, going alone into the mountains, had to confess worrying secrets in a pitiful way if not at the limit of ridicule to ask equally lamentably for help and protection.

Arnim, before the silence of his interlocutors, began to pale when he realized that he had said a little too much.

Peter decided to drive the nail. If this man said true, then he had the courage to speak, to say the unavowed words, and he was on the path of the translation of the unspeakable, the path of the production of the sacred. He was on the way to the poet and as fellow poets, they had to help each other!

Pierre wanted to know if it was possible to establish an interpersonal first-level contract with him, as Arnim had mentioned, before considering whether to integrate Arnim into their community. He suggested that at the end of the meal, one or two people stay with him and Arnim to discuss certain things. He wanted to put Arnim to his questions to get an idea of what to do with the relationship. Pierre knew that all the first nights he spent outside his home, no matter how comfortable the place was, he slept very little. So rather than stand still under the blankets, he’d rather talk to Arnim.

The latter had no choice but to accept the interview or face an automatic refusal by the group as to its possible protection. Laurie immediately offered himself, Dan thought it prudent to accompany him. Frantz was almost automatically designated. Gerard hesitated and then offered himself.

Frantz asked the brother of the hospice if it was possible for them to use the meeting and reading room on the second floor until late at night. When the agreement was reached, they went back to their dormitory.

Photo from the Hospice of Great St. Bernard website.

Frantz took his notebook and some writing and a headlamp. Arnim set up his things and the small group came back down to the reading room. Anke only found Patrick to accompany him to the twenty-hour mass, the others were too tired.

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