Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Florian Kalbeck's The House of the Linsky Sisters

We went over to the place where there was “some Jew-woman” to be seen. It was a fairly young woman with a pail of water and brush kneeling down in front of a shop window, scrubbing, with mute intensity and ignoring everything around her, to clean some writing off the shutters. There were, in fact, two inscriptions. One, in large, hastily scrawled letters, read, “In Dachau!!” Underneath it, in smaller and neater handwriting, was written, “The Jewish owner of this shop hung himself in Dachau Concentration Camp.”

Toni tried to persuade the woman to go home, and offered to accompany her. She raised her head and looked at him, but her eyes didn’t seem to see him. Toni repeated his offer, but she just said, “I'm sorry, I have to clean that off,” in a toneless voice, a high voice, still young but dead. “I'm sorry.” And she went on scrubbing. Then I tried to talk to her, woman to woman, but she didn't react. I touched her on the shoulder and she started violently, then fell to the floor, whimpering and covering her face with her arms. I looked at Toni, he gently shook his head, and we walked on, slowly, unsure what to do.

We had hardly gone fifty yards when we heard voices, young men's voices. We turned round. It was the two SA boys we had seen before, standing in front of her. “Come on, Jew-woman, let's see what's being cleaned off.” They read the inscriptions out loud. “You can't scrub that off, it's strictly forbidden. But if you're a good girl, we won't tell anyone.” The woman asked, in her toneless voice, “Who are you?” One of the men laughed and grabbed one of her breasts. “Customers, Jew-woman.” She tried to resist, screaming in her horribly high voice, faint and yet piercing. One of the Stormtroopers twisted her arms behind her back and held her, while the other started to tear her clothes off. Maenads? – Young thugs! What were we waiting for? I shouted, “Toni!” but he was already on his way to the scene. He grabbed the one in front and threw him to the side, the other let go of the woman. They were so taken by surprise that Toni had plenty of time to upbraid them in a sharp voice, used to giving orders, I had never heard before; he did it with such an air of authority, that the two young thugs had no alternative but to pull themselves together and give a reasonably snappy “Heil Hitler” before disappearing.

Together we tried to comfort the young woman, who had clearly been in a disturbed state, but had been brought back to reality with a vengeance. In a protective gesture, Toni put his coat round her shoulders. We led her away, as gently as possible, and I kept asking her where she lived. But suddenly she tore herself free and dashed off as if the devil were at her heels. Toni ran after her, but she must have twisted and turned like a hunted rabbit, and he lost her. He came back, out of breath and with his coat, which she had thrown down, over his arm. He just stood there for a while, not saying a word, but panting and staring into space. Then he suddenly expelled his breath vigorously and shook himself.

“Let's get on with our walk.”