Thursday, February 27, 2020

Read an Excerpt from the Upcoming Novel Forbidden Love by Mary Hagen


The love Penn Schwartz and Hannah Dresser have for one another is forbidden under Nazi law. Because she is a Jew, she has been stripped of rights as a German citizen. He is a Luftwaffe pilot and to love a Jew can send him to prison. If she so much as kisses him, she can be shot on the spot. Since they were in their teens, they have loved one another, but their families object to their love, too. The Dressers fear the Schwartz who are loyal Nazis will report them to the Gestapso. The Schwartz fear Penn's association with the Jew will cost him his position in the air force. Can the love between the two survive and will they survive?


Chapter One

Penn faced the window with his back to his father who sat in an overstuffed chair in their parlor. He continued to harangue him about Hannah. Penn had knots in his shoulders and his hand were stiff with tension. He tried, unsuccessfully, to tune out his father’s words but to no avail.
“You must stop seeing Hannah Dresser. For God’s sake, the woman is a Jew, the scum of the earth, vermin. Your career in the Fuehrer’s air force is at risk as may be your life if you continue to see that rodent.”
Penn turned toward his father who sat with his back straight and his hands gripping the arms of the chair, his eyes snapping in anger.
They congregated in the room next to the living room of their large home before dinner. The picture of the deposed Kaiser no longer graced the wall above the fireplace. His father had replaced it with one of Hitler who glared down at them with penetrating eyes.
“She is not a rodent. She is a woman, one of the most beautiful women in Germany. I love her more than I can express. Do not speak of her in such insulting terms.” Penn said, glancing from his father, to his mother who neither looked at him nor made comments to him but stitched silently on her needlework with hard jabs of the needle. Like every good Nazi in Germany, his parents had turned on their Jewish friends including the Dressers. Disbelief flowed through his mind at the hostility toward their longtime neighbors and friends.
“You took an oath to honor and obey the Fuehrer, yet you choose to ignore his orders on this matter of the Jews. They’re no longer citizens of Germany. You’re bewitched, submitting to bestial lust, perpetrated by that monster woman.” His father drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair, not bothering to contain his disgust. “You realize you put your mother and me, your sister, your two nieces, and her husband in danger, not just your own position in the new Germany.”
The threat was not lost on Penn, but he would not give up Hannah. “The Dressers have lived next door to us since Hannah and I were children. Dr. Dresser saved Mother’s life three years ago. Have you forgotten? You and Mother have been friends with the Dressers for as long as we’ve been neighbors. Now you find them unacceptable because they are Jews.” Incredulous to him, his parents had become such rabid anti Jews.
Bernhard responded, “The Jew was in touch with the devil. It was not his medical knowledge that saved Helga, but outside forces of good we cannot know about.”
Penn threw his hands in the air. “My God, Father, have you lost your senses? How can you make such a statement?”
“You”Bernhard shook his finger at Pennforget your place in Greater Germany. The Jews are finally being held responsible for the loss of the war the terrible economic struggles we’ve had until the Fuehrer came into power. Now we are prospering. My business is once again profitable. I am hiring men. None of this would have been possible without the Fuehrer.”
“Hitler is a maniac. He’s surrounded himself with hoodlums.”
“He is our Fuehrer. Pay him respect. Nations around the world consider his work a model to follow in improving economic conditions. They are impressed with our resourcefulness, our industry, our organization.” Bernhard banged his glass on the end table next to his chair splashing wine across the top.
“They are blind. Hitler will lead us into war the minute nations like England deny him what he wants. Your plant is manufacturing parts for tanks. Do you think Hitler will do nothing but look at the finished products?”
“Of course not. He’s keeping us from being overtaken by the Bolsheviks. I’ll hear no more of this. You must never see Hannah Dresser again. Jews are hideous figures and they smell. They are intent on destroying fine young men like you. They are our misfortune.”
“Hannah is not hideous and she doesn’t smell.” Penn’s laugh was harsh. “I don’t care if you are my father, I will not listen to such trash from you.”
His father’s face turned red. His mother held her needle between her forefinger and thumb, but did not take a stitch. She looked at Penn with a warning in her eyes. “You must not speak to your father in such a manner,” she said. “Your father deserves your respect. That Jew is having such an influence on you. She wants nothing more than to deflower you.”
Penn laughed. Deflower me?
Standing up, his father faced Penn. Penn towered over his father, who grabbed his shoulders and shook him, his face red with of anger. “You are still my son. What I say is what you shall do. I expect obedience. I’m interested in your future. If you keep on the road you’re following with this relationship with Hannah, that revolting Jew, you’ll end up destroying all of us.”
Surprised, Penn said nothing. He removed his father’s hands one by one from his shoulders and sat down. His words held truth. He should curb his tongue. Any one of the servants in the house overhearing their conversation could turn him into the authorities for consorting with a Jew and bring disgrace on the family.
“You took an oath to honor and obey the Fuehrer when you joined the service.”
“I took an oath to Germany, not Hitler.” Penn emphasized each word. “I’ll never become a Nazi.”
“He is your Fuehrer. Speak of the great man with respect.”
How could he regard a man who denied the rights of a group of people? Forgetting his decision to watch what he said, he shot back, “I cannot accept such a person. He is in indolent man bent on destroying us. We’re losing valuable citizens because of him.”
“Nonsense. Absolute nonsense. He’s our Savior.”
His mother put her sewing aside and stood by Bernhard’s side. She held out her hand to Penn. “Take it,” she said when he ignored her. “We must remember we’re a family, a circle of love and respect.”
Reluctantly, Penn held his mother’s hand and then clasped his father’s hand. Melancholy enveloped him. He had no freedom in his beloved Germany, swept into dust by Hitler.
“I know the perfect German girl for you,” his mother said. Penn’s shoulders sagged.
“I’m not interested in a German girl,” he said. “Do you forget, I’m twenty-six? I make my own living.”
Helga patted Penn’s cheek as though he was still a child. “You may be a captain in the air force, but you live in our house. Hannah is not the same as us. You cannot possibly love someone so different.” Without pausing, she continued, “You remember Sonja Grosser. She is the beautiful daughter of a general and can do so much for you. She’s always had a crush on you.”
To stifle his frustration, Penn straightened the lapels of his jacket, and ran his hand through his hair. “Sonja is an empty-headed silly girl and not of my taste.”
Compared to Hannah, Sonja was stupid. Her pale skin and equally pale eyes were without merit. Beautiful Hannah with dark blue eyes was like a goddess compared to the girl. Thinking of Hannah sent his heart racing. He had to see her, run his hand through her silky brown hair, feel her lips against his, hold her tight in his arms. She had skin as smooth as cream. A deep longing rippled through him. He would continue to see her, in secret if necessary, to protect himself from his father’s wrath and them from the Nazis. Someday, he intended to marry Hannah, but first she must agree.
Turning his back on his parents, he walked through the large great room used for entertaining to the entry hall, picked up his hat, and reached for the doorknob.
“Where are you going?” his mother called after him. “Surely you’re staying for dinner.”
“I have other plans. I might stay at the barracks tonight so don’t wait for me.”
“You’re going to see that damn Jew. Did you not listen to one word I said?” his father growled.
“I heard every word.”
His father clicked his heels together. “Heil Hitler.”
Penn refused to return the salute. When out in public, everyone had to Heil Hitler. In his home, he would never stoop to such a ridiculous gesture. His father may be a loyal Nazi. He would never become one, but he needed to watch his words and actions.


Backing his coupe out of the long driveway leading to the house, Penn drove with no thought of a destination, his love for Hannah and their dilemma on his mind. She had refused to marry under the cloud of anti-Semitism in present Germany. What would happen to her and her family? Uneasy stabs of pain filled him with worry. Perhaps they should leave Germany if she could convince her father. Only when she was out of the reach of the Nazis could she marry him without repercussions from the Hitler gang of ruthless, brutal, pitiless men.
Penn drove aimlessly for over an hour struggling with the senseless but controlling minds of the Nazis. Unable to understand what was happening to Germany, he parked his coupe several blocks from Hannah’s home. Before exiting, he sat in the darkness afraid to think of a future for Hannah and him. The policies of the Hitler party made no sense to him. The Nazis would destroy his country.
When he started his car, his lips were dry, but he had to see Hannah. The homes were in an upscale neighborhood of a tree-lined street on large lots. Each mansion sat far back from the street. Like his home, the Dressers sat in the middle of a half an acre of land surrounded by tall evergreen trees, with scattering of oaks and lindens. He parked his car two blocks from her home and walked the rest of the way. Unlikely, his father would see him with the high shrubs along the fence between the properties. If he did, it would send him into a tantrum, and he might report the Dressers to the authorities as troublesome Jews to rid the neighborhood of them. Instead of going to the front door, he went to the kitchen door, and knocked. The Dresser’s housekeeper, Ethel Oster, opened it.
“Captain Schwartz. Come in. The family has finished eating and is in the parlor.”
Penn knew the layout of the mansion almost as well as his own home. In his youth, he had been best friends with Jacob Dresser, Hannah’s older brother. He had loved her since they were children, and she had tagged their heels everywhere Jacob and he went.
“Penn.” Dr. Dresser stood, his voice distant. “Hannah is in her room. Ethel, please fetch her.” He indicted with his hand Penn take the chair next to him.
Filled with uneasiness, Penn instead sat across the room from Dr. Dresser. Mrs. Dresser did not look at him but continued to read her book or acted as though she was. A cold knot settled in his spine. “Is Hannah indisposed? Is she sick?”
Mrs. Dresser laid her book on the side table. “How are your parents? We no longer enjoy visits with them. I do miss Helga.” She ignored his questions.
“They are well.” He wanted to ask how they were managing since Dr. Dresser could no longer practice medicine, but he did not want to bring up an unpleasant topic. How fortunate Hannah had her work at the Charite Hospital. She had a reputation as the best nurse on the staff. Jew or not, they kept her working. Hannah spoke little of the activities of her family.
“And you?” Dr. Dresser stood, fidgeted with the fire in the fireplace stabbing hard at the log with the poker, and returned to his chair without glancing at Penn.
Penn smiled. “I fly most days, something I love doing. My little fighter is easy to handle, the country below beautiful. Our Germany.” Penn included the Dressers in our Germany. “But Hannah? You did not tell me. Is she sick?”
“No. No.” Dr. Dresser rubbed his chin with his fingers and avoided looking at Penn. He cleared his voice.
“Is it something else?” Fear descended into his stomach, the emotion hard to contemplate. He was overwhelmed with the wickedness of a government gone astray and the threat to innocent people and his Hannah.
“Yes.” The doctor ran his hand over his thick gray hair. He coughed. “You must no longer see Hannah.”
“Impossible. I love her with all my soul. We are as one. She loves me. I will not agree.” Threads of steel filtered through his words. He looked at Mrs. Dresser who had encouraged their love, but no longer. Tonight, she did not smile at him.
Straightening himself in his chair, Dr. Dresser’s eyes, so like Hannah’s, were hard. “You are one of them. Your aim is to destroy us. I must protect my daughter to the best of my ability. We cannot trust men like you.”
Shame enveloped him, shame for his beloved Germany, shame for his part in the Luftwaffe, shame for his family and the road his country followed. “I’m not a Nazi and I do not believe in what they are doing to the Jews. You’re a good German just as I am. I, too, want to protect Hannah.”
His Germany had produced men like Goethe, Beethoven, Bach, Einstein, and other great thinkers and artists. How was it possible they had sunk to such depths of intolerance? The answer was emblazoned on the faces of the people. Hitler had restored national pride and prosperity to the country. His father was growing rich, damn the consequences, as were other industrialists.
“You may feel as you do, but by visiting us, you run the risk of someone denouncing us to the Gestapo and we’ll be sent away.” Dr. Dresser clasped his hands under his chin. “I’ve heard rumors the camps are intolerable and more are under construction by orders of Goring, your commander. We must keep a low profile, conform as much as possible to the wishes of Hitler and his regime. To resist is futile.” A deep sigh escaped his lips.
Penn agreed with him even though Himmler in the newspapers had assured the public the prisons were models of good care and fairness to the prisoners. Such a lie. One person could not take on a system as powerful as Hitler and his Nazis. His hands shook. Germany’s future appeared bleak, but he had to take care not to endanger his own family as well as the Dressers.
Just outside the parlor, he heard Hannah’s soft footsteps, music to his ears. He stood as she entered the room. Her eyes were red as though she had been crying. He stepped toward her to kiss her. She turned her head away from him catching his kiss on her cheek.
“You’ve heard what Father had to say?” Her voice trembled as she stumbled to a chair. Her face wore an expression of despair mixed with disappointment and fear.
“We are not to see each other.” Penn knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. “Nothing is going to drive us apart. I promise my love and protection to you. We’ll find a way.”
When she looked up at him, he searched for a flare of hope in her wet-rimmed eyes. Cold ice settled over him. Worry prevailed in him with thoughts of a dark future with violence and chaos everywhere around them.
How lovely Hannah was dressed in a plain white blouse and dark gray skirt. Even though she had been crying and her eyes were red, her blue eyes rimmed with long black lashes, were stunning. He could not stop himself from running his finger under her chin and tipping it up to look at him. He whispered, “I love you, my beauty, with all my being.”
She gave him a weak smile. He resisted the urge to bury her angel face in his shoulder and hold her against his body. His blood stirred hot in his veins with his love for her. As quickly, his blood turned cold with dread at their dilemma under the Nazis.
He stood and faced Dr. Dresser. “Hannah and I will continue to see one another. Neither you nor my family nor the Nazis can tear us apart.”
His life would not be easy or simple but he could not stay away from Hannah. His broad shoulders sagged under thoughts of what they would face, face together as man and wife. They would marry in Switzerland even though the country remained on friendly terms with the Nazi Government. All marriages between ethnic Germans and Jews had been banned. Pure Germans married to Jews had been ordered to dissolve their marriages and abandon their children. He vowed to himself, Hannah and he would marry and never separate, Hitler be damned. No one needed to know.
“Hannah, my love, get your coat. We’ll take a drive. We have much to discuss.”
She glanced at her father and her mother. Her father scowled his disapproval with such severity his message was evident. Break away from Penn. Her mother returned to her reading without comment or signal of her thoughts.
Together, they walked through the great room, furnished with dark mahogany chairs and tables, the floor covered with an expensive Persian carpet much like his home. They went to the front hallway and retrieved her dark wool coat from the closet. Penn glanced up the curved staircase in search of Jacob who approved of his relationship with his sister, Hannah. He was nowhere in sight. Stepping out of the carved oak front door, Penn did not care if his father spotted them together. He tucked her arm under his, her slim body pressed against his side. She was his love the only woman he would ever love.

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