Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy #2)by Ken Follett
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Picking up where Fall of Giants, the first novel in the extraordinary Century Trilogy, left off, Winter of the World follows its five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh—through a time of enormous social, political, and economic turmoil, beginning with the rise of the Third Reich, through the great dramas of World War II, and into the beginning of the long Cold War.
Carla von Ulrich, born of German and English parents, finds her life engulfed by the Nazi tide until daring to commit a deed of great courage and heartbreak . . . . American brothers Woody and Chuck Dewar, each with a secret, take separate paths to momentous events, one in Washington, the other in the bloody jungles of the Pacific . . . . English student Lloyd Williams discovers in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War that he must fight Communism just as hard as Fascism . . . . Daisy Peshkov, a driven social climber, cares only for popularity and the fast set until war transforms her life, while her cousin Volodya carves out a position in Soviet intelligence that will affect not only this war but also the war to come.
"A consistently compelling portrait of a world in crisis." —The Washington Post
"Masterfully sweeping. . . . Political intrigue, amorous episodes, suspense, and drama. History comes to life." —The Louisville Courier-Journal
"[Follett] is so good at plotting a story, even one that takes on such a complex topic such as the World War II era. That's what makes Winter of the World so hard to put down. You want to know what happens next." —The Associated Press
"An entertaining historical soap opera." —Kirkus Reviews
"Gripping . . . powerful." —The New York Times
"This book is truly epic . . . The reader will probably wish there was a thousand more pages." —The Huffington Post
Read an Excerpt
Carla knew her parents were about to have a row. The second she walked into the kitchen she felt the hostility, like the bone-deep cold of the wind that blew through the streets of Berlin before a February snowstorm. She almost turned and walked back out again.
It was unusual for them to fight. Mostly they were affectionate—too much so. Carla cringed when they kissed in front of other people. Her friends thought it was strange: their parents did not do that. She had said that to her mother, once. Mother had laughed in a pleased way and said: “The day after our wedding, your father and I were separated by the Great War.” She had been born English, though you could hardly tell. “I stayed in London while he came home to Germany and joined the army.” Carla had heard this story many times, but Mother never tired of telling it. “We thought the war would last three months, but I didn’t see him again for five years. All that time I longed to touch him. Now I never tire of it.”
Father was just as bad. “Your mother is the cleverest woman I ever met,” he had said here in the kitchen just a few days ago. “That’s why I married her. It had nothing to do with . . .” He had trailed off, and Mother and he had giggled conspiratorially, as if Carla at the age of eleven knew nothing about sex. It was so embarrassing.
But once in a while they had a quarrel. Carla knew the signs. And a new one was about to erupt.
They were sitting at opposite ends of the kitchen table. Father was somberly dressed in a dark gray suit, starched white shirt, and black satin tie. He looked dapper, as always, even though his hair was receding and his waistcoat bulged a little beneath the gold watch chain. His face was frozen in an expression of false calm. Carla knew that look. He wore it when one of the family had done something that angered him.
He held in his hand a copy of the weekly magazine for which Mother worked, The Democrat. She wrote a column of political and diplomatic gossip under the name of Lady Maud. Father began to read aloud. “‘ ‘Our new chancellor, Herr Adolf Hitler, made his debut in diplomatic society at President Hindenburg’s reception.’”
The president was the head of state, Carla knew. He was elected, but he stood above the squabbles of day-to-day politics, acting as referee. The chancellor was the premier. Although Hitler had been made chancellor, his Nazi Party did not have an overall majority in the Reichstag—the German parliament—so, for the present, the other parties could restrain Nazi excesses.
Father spoke with distaste, as if forced to mention something repellent, like sewage. “ ‘He looked uncomfortable in a formal tailcoat.’ ”
Carla’s mother sipped her coffee and looked out of the window to the street, as if interested in the people hurrying to work in scarves and gloves. She, too, was pretending to be calm, but Carla knew she was just waiting for her moment.
The maid, Ada, was standing at the counter in an apron, slicing cheese. She put a plate in front of Father, but he ignored it. “ ‘Herr Hitler was evidently charmed by Elisabeth Cerruti, the cultured wife of the Italian ambassador, in a rose-pink velvet gown trimmed with sable.’ ”
Mother always wrote about what people were wearing. She said it helped the reader picture them. She herself had fine clothes, but times were hard and she had not bought anything new for years. This morning she looked slim and elegant in a navy blue cashmere dress that was probably as old as Carla.
“ ‘Signora Cerruti, who is Jewish, is a passionate Fascist, and they talked for many minutes. Did she beg Hitler to stop whipping up hatred of Jews?’” Father put the magazine down on the table with a slap.
Here it comes, Carla thought.
“You realize that will infuriate the Nazis,” he said.
“I hope so,” Mother said coolly. “The day they’re pleased with what I write, I shall give it up.”
“They’re dangerous when riled.”
Mother’s eyes flashed anger. “Don’t you dare condescend to me, Walter. I know they’re dangerous—that’s why I oppose them.”
“I just don’t see the point of making them irate.”
“You attack them in the Reichstag.” Father was an elected parliamentary representative for the Social Democratic Party.
“I take part in a reasoned debate.”
This is typical, Carla thought. Father was logical, cautious, law-abiding. Mother had style and humor. He got his way by quiet persistence, she with charm and cheek. They would never agree.
Father added: “I don’t drive the Nazis mad with fury.”
“Perhaps that’s because you don’t do them much harm.”
Father was irritated by her quick wit. His voice became louder. “And you think you damage them with jokes?”
“I mock them.”
“And that’s your substitute for argument.”
“I believe we need both.”
Father became angrier. “But, Maud, don’t you see how you’re putting yourself and your family at risk?”
“On the contrary. The real danger is not to mock the Nazis. What would life be like for our children if Germany became a Fascist state?”
This kind of talk made Carla feel queasy. She could not bear to hear that the family was in danger. Life must go on as it always had. She wished she could sit in this kitchen for an eternity of mornings, with her parents at opposite ends of the pine table, Ada at the counter, and her brother, Erik, thumping around upstairs, late again. Why should anything change?
She had listened to political talk every breakfast-time of her life and she thought she understood what her parents did, and how they planned to make Germany a better place for everyone. But lately they had begun to talk in a different way. They seemed to think that a terrible danger loomed, but Carla could not quite imagine what it was.
Father said: “God knows I’m doing everything I can to hold back Hitler and his mob.”
“And so am I. But, when you do it, you believe you’re following a sensible course.” Mother’s face hardened in resentment. “And when I do it I’m accused of putting the family at risk.”
“And with good reason,” said Father. The row was only just getting started, but at that moment Erik came down, clattering like a horse on the stairs, and lurched into the kitchen with his school satchel swinging from his shoulder. He was thirteen, two years older than Carla, and there were unsightly black hairs sprouting from his upper lip. When they were small, Carla and Erik had played together all the time; but those days were over, and since he had grown so tall he had pretended to think she was stupid and childish. In fact she was smarter than he, and knew about a lot of things he did not understand, such as women’s monthly cycles.
“What was that last tune you were playing?” he said to Mother.
The piano often woke them in the morning. It was a Steinway grand—inherited, like the house itself, from Father’s parents. Mother played in the morning because, she said, she was too busy the rest of the day and too tired in the evening. This morning she had performed a Mozart sonata, then a jazz tune. “It’s called ‘Tiger Rag,’” she told Erik. “Do you want some cheese?”
“Jazz is decadent,” Erik said.
“Don’t be silly.”
Ada handed Erik a plate of cheese and sliced sausage, and he began to shovel it in. Carla thought his manners were dreadful.
Father looked severe. “Who’s been teaching you this nonsense, Erik?”
“Hermann Braun says that jazz isn’t music, just Negroes making a noise.” Hermann was Erik’s best friend; his father was a member of the Nazi Party.
“Hermann should try to play it.” Father looked at Mother, and his face softened. She smiled at him. He went on: “Your mother tried to teach me ragtime, many years ago, but I couldn’t master the rhythm.”
Mother laughed. “It was like trying to get a giraffe to roller-skate.”
The fight was over, Carla saw with relief. She began to feel better. She took some black bread and dipped it in milk.
But now Erik wanted an argument. “Negroes are an inferior race,” he said defiantly.
“I doubt that,” Father said patiently. “If a Negro boy were brought up in a nice house full of books and paintings, and sent to an expensive school with good teachers, he might turn out to be smarter than you.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Erik protested.
Mother put in: “Don’t call your father ridiculous, you foolish boy.” Her tone was mild: she had used up her anger on Father. Now she just sounded wearily disappointed. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, and neither does Hermann Braun.”
Erik said: “But the Aryan race must be superior—we rule the world!”
“Your Nazi friends don’t know any history,” Father said. “The Ancient Egyptians built the pyramids when Germans were living in caves. Arabs ruled the world in the Middle Ages—the Muslims were doing algebra when German princes could not write their own names. It’s nothing to do with race.”
Carla frowned and said: “What is it to do with, then?”
Father looked at her fondly. “That’s a very good question, and you’re a bright girl to ask it.” She glowed with pleasure at his praise. “Civilizations rise and fall—the Chinese, the Aztecs, the Romans—but no one really knows why.”
“Eat up, everyone, and put your coats on,” Mother said. “It’s getting late.”
Father pulled his watch out of his waistcoat pocket and looked at it with raised eyebrows. “It’s not late.”
“I’ve got to take Carla to the Francks’ house,” Mother said. “The girls’ school is closed for a day—something about repairing the furnace—so Carla’s going to spend today with Frieda.”
Frieda Franck was Carla’s best friend. Their mothers were best friends, too. In fact, when they were young, Frieda’s mother, Monika, had been in love with Father—a hilarious fact that Frieda’s grandmother had revealed one day after drinking too much Sekt.
Father said: “Why can’t Ada look after Carla?”
“Ada has an appointment with the doctor.”
Carla expected Father to ask what was wrong with Ada, but he nodded as if he already knew, and put his watch away. Carla wanted to ask, but something told her she should not. She made a mental note to ask Mother later. Then she immediately forgot about it.
Father left first, wearing a long black overcoat. Then Erik put on his cap—perching it as far back on his head as it would go without falling off, as was the fashion among his friends—and followed Father out of the door.
Carla and her mother helped Ada clear the table. Carla loved Ada almost as much as she loved her mother. When Carla was little, Ada had taken care of her full-time, until she was old enough to go to school, for Mother had always worked. Ada was not married yet. She was twenty-nine and homely-looking, though she had a lovely kind smile. Last summer she had had a romance with a policeman, Paul Huber, but it had not lasted.
Carla and her mother stood in front of the mirror in the hall and put on their hats. Mother took her time. She chose a dark blue felt, with a round crown and a narrow brim, the type all the women were wearing, but she tilted hers at a different angle, making it look chic. As Carla put on her knitted wool cap, she wondered whether she would ever have Mother’s sense of style. Mother looked like a goddess of war, her long neck and chin and cheekbones carved out of white marble; beautiful, yes, but definitely not pretty. Carla had the same dark hair and green eyes, but looked more like a plump doll than a statue. Carla had once accidentally overheard her grandmother say to Mother: “Your ugly duckling will grow into a swan, you’ll see.” Carla was still waiting for it to happen.
When Mother was ready, they went out. Their home stood in a row of tall, gracious town houses in the Mitte district, the old center of the city, built for high-ranking ministers and army officers such as Carla’s grandfather, who had worked at the nearby government buildings.
Carla and her mother rode a tram along Unter den Linden, then took the S train from Friedrich Strasse to the Zoo Station. The Francks lived in the southwestern suburb of Schöneberg.
Carla was hoping to see Frieda’s brother Werner, who was fourteen. She liked him. Sometimes Carla and Frieda imagined they each married the other’s brother, and were next-door neighbors, and their children were best friends. It was just a game to Frieda, but Carla was secretly serious. Werner was handsome and grown-up and not a bit silly like Erik. In the dollhouse in Carla’s bedroom, the mother and father sleeping side by side in the miniature double bed were called Carla and Werner, but no one knew that, not even Frieda.
Frieda had another brother, Axel, seven, but he had been born with spina bifida, and had to have constant medical care. He lived in a special hospital on the outskirts of Berlin.
Mother was preoccupied on the journey. “I hope this is going to be all right,” she muttered, half to herself, as they got off the train.
“Of course it will,” Carla said. “I’ll have a lovely time with Frieda.”
“I didn’t mean that. I’m talking about my paragraph about Hitler.”
“Are we in danger? Was Father right?”
“Your father is usually right.”
“What will happen to us if we’ve annoyed the Nazis?”
Mother stared at her strangely for a long moment, then said: “Dear God, what kind of a world did I bring you into?” Then she went quiet.
After a ten-minute walk they arrived at a grand villa in a big garden. The Francks were rich: Frieda’s father, Ludwig, owned a factory making radio sets. Two cars stood in the driveway. The large shiny black one belonged to Herr Franck. The engine rumbled, and a cloud of blue vapor rose from the tailpipe. The chauffeur, Ritter, with uniform trousers tucked into high boots, stood cap in hand ready to open the door. He bowed and said: “Good morning, Frau von Ulrich.”
The second car was a little green two-seater. A short man with a gray beard came out of the house carrying a leather case, and touched his hat to Mother as he got into the small car. “I wonder what Dr. Rothmann is doing here so early in the morning,” Mother said anxiously.
They soon found out. Frieda’s mother, Monika, came to the door, a tall woman with a mass of red hair. Anxiety showed on her pale face. Instead of welcoming them in, she stood squarely in the doorway as if to bar their entrance. “Frieda has measles!” she said.
“I’m so sorry!” said Mother. “How is she?”
“Miserable. She has a fever and a cough. But Rothmann says she’ll be all right. However, she’s quarantined.”
“Of course. Have you had it?”
“Yes—when I was a girl.”
“And Werner has, too—I remember he had a terrible rash all over. But what about your husband?” Mother asked.
“Ludi had it as a boy.”
Both women looked at Carla. She had never had measles. She realized this meant she could not spend the day with Frieda.
Carla was disappointed, but Mother was quite shaken. “This week’s magazine is our election issue—I can’t be absent.” She looked distraught. All the grown-ups were apprehensive about the general election to be held next Sunday. Mother and Father both feared the Nazis might do well enough to take full control of the government. “Plus my oldest friend is visiting from London. I wonder whether Walter could be persuaded to take a day off to look after Carla?”
Monika said: “Why don’t you telephone him?”
Not many people had phones in their homes, but the Francks did, and Carla and her mother stepped into the hall. The instrument stood on a spindly-legged table near the door. Mother picked it up and gave the number of Father’s office at the Reichstag, the parliament building. She got through to him and explained the situation. She listened for a minute, then looked angry. “My magazine will urge a hundred thousand readers to campaign for the Social Democratic Party,” she said. “Do you really have something more important than that to do today?”
Carla could guess how this argument would end. Father loved her dearly, she knew, but in all her eleven years he had never looked after her for a whole day. All her friends’ fathers were the same. Men did not do that sort of thing. But Mother sometimes pretended not to know the rules women lived by.
“I’ll just have to take her to the office with me, then,” Mother said into the phone. “I dread to think what Jochmann will say.” Herr Jochmann was her boss. “He’s not much of a feminist at the best of times.” She replaced the handset without saying good-bye.
Carla hated it when they fought, and this was the second time in a day. It made the whole world seem unstable. She was much more scared of quarrels than of the Nazis.
“Come on, then,” Mother said to her, and she moved to the door.
I’m not even going to see Werner, Carla thought unhappily.
Just then Frieda’s father appeared in the hall, a pink-faced man with a small black mustache, energetic and cheerful. He greeted Mother pleasantly, and she paused to speak politely to him while Monika helped him into a black topcoat with a fur collar.
He went to the foot of the stairs. “Werner!” he shouted. “I’m going without you!” He put on a gray felt hat and went out.
“I’m ready, I’m ready!” Werner ran down the stairs like a dancer. He was as tall as his father and more handsome, with red-blond hair worn too long. Under his arm he had a leather satchel that appeared to be full of books; in the other hand he held a pair of ice skates and a hockey stick. He paused in his rush to say: “Good morning, Frau von Ulrich,” very politely. Then in a more informal tone: “Hello, Carla. My sister’s got the measles.”
Carla felt herself blush, for no reason at all. “I know,” she said. She tried to think of something charming and amusing to say, but came up with nothing. “I’ve never had it, so I can’t see her.”
“I had it when I was a kid,” he said, as if that was ever such a long time ago. “I must hurry,” he added apologetically.
Carla did not want to lose sight of him so quickly. She followed him outside. Ritter was holding the rear door open. “What kind of car is that?” Carla said. Boys always knew the makes of cars.
“A Mercedes-Benz W10 limousine.”
“It looks very comfortable.” She caught a look from her mother, half surprised and half amused.
Werner said: “Do you want a lift?”
“That would be nice.”
“I’ll ask my father.” Werner put his head inside the car and said something.
Carla heard Herr Franck reply: “Very well, but hurry up!”
She turned to her mother. “We can go in the car!”
Mother hesitated for only a moment. She did not like Herr Franck’s politics—he gave money to the Nazis—but she was not going to refuse a lift in a warm car on a cold morning. “How very kind of you, Ludwig,” she said.
They got in. There was room for four in the back. Ritter pulled away smoothly. “I assume you’re going to Koch Strasse?” said Herr Franck. Many newspapers and book publishers had their offices in the same street in the Kreuzberg district.
“Please don’t go out of your way. Leipziger Strasse would be fine.”
“I’d be happy to take you to the door—but I suppose you don’t want your leftist colleagues to see you getting out of the car of a bloated plutocrat.” His tone was somewhere between humorous and hostile.
Mother gave him a charming smile. “You’re not bloated, Ludi—just a little plump.” She patted the front of his coat.
He laughed. “I asked for that.” The tension eased. Herr Franck picked up the speaking tube and gave instructions to Ritter.
Carla was thrilled to be in a car with Werner, and she wanted to make the most of it by talking to him, but at first she could not think what to speak about. She really wanted to say: “When you’re older, do you think you might marry a girl with dark hair and green eyes, about three years younger than yourself, and clever?” Eventually she pointed to his skates and said: “Do you have a match today?”
“No, just practise after school.”
“What position do you play in?” She knew nothing about ice hockey, but there were always positions in team games.
“Isn’t it a rather dangerous sport?”
“Not if you’re quick.”
“You must be ever such a good skater.”
“Not bad,” he said modestly.
Once again Carla caught her mother watching her with an enigmatic little smile. Had she guessed how Carla felt about Werner? Carla felt another blush coming.
Then the car came to a stop outside a school building, and Werner got out. “Good-bye, everyone!” he said, and ran through the gates into the yard.
Ritter drove on, following the south bank of the Landwehr Canal. Carla looked at the barges, their loads of coal topped with snow like mountains. She felt a sense of disappointment. She had contrived to spend longer with Werner, by hinting that she wanted a lift, then she had wasted the time talking about ice hockey.
What would she have liked to talk to him about? She did not know.
Herr Franck said to Mother: “I read your column in The Democrat.”
“I hope you enjoyed it.”
“I was sorry to see you writing disrespectfully about our chancellor.”
“Do you think journalists should write respectfully about politicians?” Mother replied cheerfully. “That’s radical. The Nazi press would have to be polite about my husband! They wouldn’t like that.”
“Not all politicians, obviously,” Franck said irritably.
They crossed the teeming junction of Potsdamer Platz. Cars and trams vied with horse-drawn carts and pedestrians in a chaotic melee.
Mother said: “Isn’t it better for the press to be able to criticize everyone equally?”
“A wonderful idea,” he said. “But you socialists live in a dream world. We practical men know that Germany cannot live on ideas. People must have bread and shoes and coal.”
“I quite agree,” Mother said. “I could use more coal myself. But I want Carla and Erik to grow up as citizens of a free country.”
“You overrate freedom. It doesn’t make people happy. They prefer leadership. I want Werner and Frieda and poor Axel to grow up in a country that is proud, and disciplined, and united.”
“And in order to be united, we need young thugs in brown shirts to beat up elderly Jewish shopkeepers?”
“Politics is rough. Nothing we can do about it.”
“On the contrary. You and I are leaders, Ludwig, in our different ways. It’s our responsibility to make politics less rough—more honest, more rational, less violent. If we do not do that, we fail in our patriotic duty.”
Herr Franck bristled.
Carla did not know much about men, but she realized they did not like to be lectured on their duty by women. Mother must have forgotten to press her charm switch this morning. But everyone was tense. The coming election had them all on edge.
The car reached Leipziger Platz. “Where may I drop you?” Herr Franck said coldly.
“Just here will be fine,” said Mother.
Franck tapped on the glass partition. Ritter stopped the car and hurried to open the door.
Mother said: “I do hope Frieda gets better soon.”
They got out and Ritter closed the door.
The office was several minutes’ walk away, but Mother clearly had not wanted to stay any longer in the car. Carla hoped Mother was not going to quarrel permanently with Herr Franck. That might make it difficult for her to see Frieda and Werner. She would hate that.
They set off at a brisk pace. “Try not to make a nuisance of yourself at the office,” Mother said. The note of genuine pleading in her voice touched Carla, making her feel ashamed of causing her mother worry. She resolved to behave perfectly.
Mother greeted several people on the way: she had been writing her column for as long as Carla could remember, and was well known in the press corps. They all called her “Lady Maud” in English.
Near the building in which The Democrat had its office, they saw someone they knew: Sergeant Schwab. He had fought with Father in the Great War, and still wore his hair brutally short in the military style. After the war he had worked as a gardener, first for Carla’s grandfather and later for her father, but he had stolen money from Mother’s purse and Father had sacked him. Now he was wearing the ugly military uniform of the storm troopers, the Brownshirts, who were not soldiers but Nazis who had been given the authority of auxiliary policemen.
Schwab said loudly: “Good morning, Frau von Ulrich!” as if he felt no shame at all about being a thief. He did not even touch his cap.
Mother nodded coldly and walked past him. “I wonder what he’s doing here,” she muttered uneasily as they went inside.
The magazine had the first floor of a modern office building. Carla knew a child would not be welcome, and she hoped they could reach Mother’s office without being seen. But they met Herr Jochmann on the stairs. He was a heavy man with thick spectacles. “What’s this?” he said brusquely, speaking around the cigarette in his mouth. “Are we running a kindergarten now?”
Mother did not react to his rudeness. “I was thinking over your comment the other day,” she said. “About how young people imagine journalism is a glamorous profession, and don’t understand how much hard work is necessary.”
He frowned. “Did I say that? Well, it’s certainly true.”
“So I brought my daughter here to see the reality. I think it will be good for her education, especially if she becomes a writer. She will make a report on the visit to her class. I felt sure you would approve.”
Mother was making this up as she went along, but it sounded convincing, Carla thought. She almost believed it herself. The charm switch had been turned to the On position at last.
Jochmann said: “Don’t you have an important visitor from London coming today?”
“Yes, Ethel Leckwith, but she’s an old friend—she knew Carla as a baby.”
Jochmann was somewhat mollified. “Hmm. Well, we have an editorial meeting in five minutes, as soon as I’ve bought some cigarettes.”
“Carla will get them for you.” Mother turned to her. “There is a tobacconist three doors down. Herr Jochmann likes the Roth-Händle brand.”
“Oh, that will save me a trip.” Jochmann gave Carla a one-mark coin.
Mother said to her: “When you come back, you’ll find me at the top of the stairs, next to the fire alarm.” She turned away and took Jochmann’s arm confidentially. “I thought last week’s issue was possibly our best ever,” she said as they went up.
Carla ran out into the street. Mother had got away with it, using her characteristic mixture of boldness and flirting. She sometimes said: “We women have to deploy every weapon we have.” Thinking about it, Carla realized she had used Mother’s tactics to get a lift from Herr Franck. Perhaps she was like her mother after all. That might be why Mother had given her that curious little smile: she was seeing herself thirty years ago.
There was a queue in the shop. Half the journalists in Berlin seemed to be buying their supplies for the day. At last Carla got a pack of Roth-Händles and returned to the Democrat building. She found the fire alarm easily—it was a big lever fixed to the wall—but Mother was not in her office. No doubt she had gone to that editorial meeting.
Carla walked along the corridor. All the doors were open, and most of the rooms were empty but for a few women who might have been typists and secretaries. At the back of the building, around a corner, was a closed door marked conference room. Carla could hear male voices raised in argument. She tapped on the door, but there was no response. She hesitated, then turned the handle and went in.
The room was full of tobacco smoke. Eight or ten people sat around a long table. Mother was the only woman. They fell silent, apparently surprised, when Carla went up to the head of the table and handed Jochmann the cigarettes and change. Their silence made her think she had done wrong to come in.
But Jochmann just said: “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, sir,” she said, and for some reason she gave a little bow.
The men laughed. One said: “New assistant, Jochmann?” Then she knew it was all right.
She left the room quickly and returned to Mother’s office. She did not take off her coat—the place was cold. She looked around. On the desk were a phone, a typewriter, and stacks of paper and carbon paper.
Next to the phone was a photograph in a frame, showing Carla and Erik with Father. It had been taken a couple of years ago on a sunny day at the beach by the Wannsee lake, fifteen miles from the center of Berlin. Father was wearing shorts. They were all laughing. That was before Erik started to pretend to be a tough serious man.
The only other picture, hanging on the wall, showed Mother with the Social Democratic hero Friedrich Ebert, who had been the first president of Germany after the war. It had been taken about ten years ago. Carla smiled at Mother’s shapeless, low-waisted dress and boyish haircut; they must have been fashionable at the time.
The bookshelf held social directories, phone books, dictionaries in several languages, and atlases, but nothing to read. In the desk drawer were pencils, several new pairs of formal gloves still wrapped in tissue paper, a packet of sanitary towels, and a notebook with names and phone numbers.
Carla reset the desk calendar to today’s date, Monday, February 27, 1933. Then she put a sheet of paper into the typewriter. She typed her full name, Heike Carla von Ulrich. At the age of five she had announced that she did not like the name Heike and she wanted everyone to use her second name, and somewhat to her surprise her family had complied.
Each key of the typewriter caused a metal rod to rise up and strike the paper through an inky ribbon, printing a letter. When by accident she pressed two keys, the rods got stuck. She tried to prize them apart but she could not. Pressing another key did not help: now there were three jammed rods. She groaned: she was in trouble already.
A noise from the street distracted her. She went to the window. A dozen Brownshirts were marching along the middle of the road, shouting slogans: “Death to all Jews! Jews, go to hell!” Carla could not understand why they got so angry about Jews, who seemed the same as everyone else apart from their religion. She was startled to see Sergeant Schwab at the head of the troop. She had felt sorry for him when he was sacked, for she knew he would find it hard to get another job. There were millions of men looking for jobs in Germany; Father said it was a depression. But Mother had said: “How can we have a man in our house who steals?”
Their chant changed. “Smash Jew papers!” they said in unison. One of them threw something, and a rotten vegetable splashed on the door of a national newspaper. Then, to Carla’s horror, they turned toward the building she was in.
She drew back and peeped around the edge of the window frame, hoping they could not see her. They stopped outside, still chanting. One threw a stone. It hit Carla’s window without breaking it, but all the same she gave a little scream of fear. A moment later one of the typists came in, a young woman in a red beret. “What’s the matter?” she said, then she looked out of the window. “Oh, hell.”
The Brownshirts entered the building, and Carla heard boots on the stairs. She was scared: What were they going to do?
Sergeant Schwab came into Mother’s office. He hesitated, seeing the two females, then seemed to screw up his nerve. He picked up the typewriter and threw it through the window, shattering the glass. Carla and the typist both screamed.
More Brownshirts passed the doorway, shouting their slogans.
Schwab grabbed the typist by the arm and said: “Now, darling, where’s the office safe?”
“In the file room!” she said in a terrified voice.
He marched her out of the room.
Carla started to cry, then stopped herself.
She thought of hiding under the desk, but hesitated. She did not want to show them how scared she was. Something inside her wanted to defy them.
But what should she do? She decided to warn Mother.
She stepped to the doorway and looked along the corridor. The Brownshirts were going in and out of the offices but had not reached the far end. Carla did not know whether the people in the conference room could hear the commotion. She ran along the corridor as fast as she could, but a scream stopped her. She looked into a room and saw Schwab shaking the typist with the red beret, yelling: “Where’s the key?”
“I don’t know, I swear I’m telling the truth!” the typist cried.
Carla was outraged. Schwab had no right to treat a woman that way. She shouted: “Leave her alone, Schwab, you thief!”
Schwab looked at her with hatred in his eyes, and suddenly she was ten times more frightened. Then his gaze shifted to someone behind her, and he said: “Get the kid out of the damn way.”
She was picked up from behind. “Are you a little Jew?” said a man’s voice. “You look it, with all that dark hair.”
That terrified her. “I’m not Jewish!” she screamed.
The Brownshirt carried her back along the corridor and put her down in Mother’s office. She stumbled and fell to the floor. “Stay in here,” he said, and he went away.
Carla got to her feet. She was not hurt. The corridor was full of Brownshirts now, and she could not get to her mother. But she had to summon help.
She looked out of the smashed window. A small crowd was gathering on the street. Two policemen stood among the onlookers, chatting. Carla shouted at them: “Help! Help, police!”
They saw her and laughed.
That infuriated her, and anger made her less frightened. She looked outside the office again. Her gaze lit on the fire alarm on the wall. She reached up and grasped the handle.
She hesitated. You were not supposed to sound the alarm unless there was a fire, and a notice on the wall warned of dire penalties.
She pulled the handle anyway.
For a moment nothing happened. Perhaps the mechanism was not working.
Then there came a loud, harsh klaxon sound, rising and falling, that filled the building.
Almost immediately the people from the conference room appeared at the far end of the corridor. Jochmann was first. “What the devil is going on?” he said angrily, shouting over the noise of the alarm.
One of the Brownshirts said: “This Jew Communist rag has insulted our leader, and we’re closing it down.”
“Get out of my office!”
The Brownshirt ignored him and went into a side room. A moment later there was a female scream and a crash that sounded like a steel desk being overturned.
Jochmann turned to one of his staff. “Schneider—call the police immediately!”
Carla knew that would be no good. The police were there already, doing nothing.
Mother pushed through the knot of people and came running along the corridor. “Are you all right?” she cried. She threw her arms around Carla.
Carla did not want to be comforted like a child. Pushing her mother away, she said: “I’m fine, don’t worry.”
Mother looked around. “My typewriter!”
“They threw it through the window.” Carla realized that now she would not get into trouble for jamming the mechanism.
“We must get out of here.” Mother snatched up the desk photo, then took Carla’s hand, and they hurried out of the room.
No one tried to stop them running down the stairs. Ahead of them, a well-built young man who might have been one of the reporters had a Brownshirt in a head lock and was dragging him out of the building. Carla and her mother followed the pair out. Another Brownshirt came up behind them.
The reporter approached the two policemen, still dragging the Brownshirt. “Arrest this man,” he said. “I found him robbing the office. You will find a stolen jar of coffee in his pocket.”
“Release him, please,” said the older of the two policemen.
Reluctantly, the reporter let the Brownshirt go.
The second Brownshirt stood beside his colleague.
“What is your name, sir?” the policeman asked the reporter.
“I am Rudolf Schmidt, chief parliamentary correspondent of The Democrat.”
“Rudolph Schmidt, I am arresting you on a charge of assaulting the police.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I caught this man stealing!”
The policeman nodded to the two Brownshirts. “Take him to the station house.”
They grabbed Schmidt by the arms. He seemed about to struggle, then changed his mind. “Every detail of this incident will appear in the next edition of The Democrat!” he said.
“There will never be another edition,” the policeman said. “Take him away.”
A fire engine arrived and half a dozen firemen jumped out. Their leader spoke brusquely to the police. “We need to clear the building,” he said.
“Go back to your fire station, there’s no fire,” said the older policeman. “It’s just the storm troopers closing down a Communist magazine.”
“That’s no concern of mine,” the fireman said. “The alarm has been sounded, and our first task is to get everyone out, storm troopers and all. We’ll manage without your help.” He led his men inside.
Carla heard her mother say: “Oh, no!” She turned and saw that Mother was staring at her typewriter, which lay on the pavement where it had fallen. The metal casing had dropped away, exposing the links between keys and rods. The keyboard was twisted out of shape, one end of the roller had become detached, and the bell that sounded for the end of a line lay forlornly on the ground. A typewriter was not a precious object, but Mother looked as if she might cry.
The Brownshirts and the staff of the magazine came out of the building, herded by firemen. Sergeant Schwab was resisting, shouting angrily: “There’s no fire!” The firemen just shoved him on.
Jochmann came out and said to Mother: “They didn’t have time to do much damage—the firemen stopped them. Whoever sounded the alarm did us a great service!”
Carla had been worried that she would be reprimanded for causing a false alarm. Now she realized she had done exactly the right thing.
She took her mother’s hand. That seemed to jerk Mother out of her momentary fit of grief. She wiped her eyes with her sleeve, an unusual act that revealed how badly shaken she was: if Carla had done that she would have been told to use her handkerchief. “What do we do now?” Mother never said that—she always knew what to do next.
Carla became aware of two people standing nearby. She looked up. One was a woman about the same age as Mother, very pretty, with an air of authority. Carla knew her, but could not place her. Beside her was a man young enough to be her son. He was slim, and not very tall, but he looked like a movie star. He had a handsome face that would have been almost too pretty except that his nose was flattened and misshapen. Both newcomers looked shocked, and the young man was white with anger.
The woman spoke first, and she used the English language. “Hello, Maud,” she said, and the voice was distantly familiar to Carla. “Don’t you recognize me?” she went on. “I’m Eth Leckwith, and this is Lloyd.”
What People are saying about this
“A consistently compelling portrait of a world in crisis.”—The Washington Post
“Masterfully sweeping.”—The Louisville Courier-Journal
“Gripping…powerful.”—The New York Times
“An entertaining historical soap opera.”—Kirkus Reviews
Meet the Author
Ken Follett burst into the book world with Eye of the Needle, an award-winning thriller and international bestseller. After several more successful thrillers, he surprised everyone with The Pillars of the Earth and its long-awaited sequel, World Without End, a national and international bestseller. Follett's new, magnificent historical epic, The Century Trilogy, opened with the bestselling Fall of Giants. He lives in England with his wife, Barbara.
- Hertfordshire, England
- Date of Birth:
- June 5, 1949
- Place of Birth:
- Cardiff, Wales
- B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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These imbeciles who do book reviews based on COST should put a sock in it and go to the library. If you can't afford to buy a book, don't complain and post a bad review when readers are looking for reviews about the CONTENT of the book. Most, if not all people who read book reviews are not interested in your sob stories about how you should get all your eBooks for free because you feel entitled. I'm sure you don't think twice about spending twenty bucks on junk at your local Walmart. Second book in trilogy is as good as or even better than the first. Can't put it down, except for when I have to work. Ken Follett is a master at creating characters that are so colorful and fascinating that I wish I could step into the book and meet them. The amount of historical research that Follett had to do is amazing. Maybe he should do all of that research and writing for free...
Good Lord--what happened?! "Fall of Giants," the first book in the proposed trilogy, is a wonderful, "grab you" read. It was like the best comfort food on a dreary day, and I read it in one long sitting. Waiting for this, I was terribly excited...and and utterly crushed to find this next volume largely unreadable. It's a huge disappointment. ***WAY too many characters, WAY too many plotlines and little to no in depth characterization--there's no time! Therefore, it becomes not only difficult to keep track of who they are, where they are--but to care about them. That was not a problem in "Giants," but here? This rambles to the point where, at times, I found myself skimming. With the exception of Lloyd and Robert (who, unless I missed it, just disappears in the first 150 pages and is never mentioned again)--the rest? Uh--whatever. "Pillars of the Earth" also proved Follett can masterfully handle a large scope...but this does not work. ***Tries too hard to be too many places; there seems to be a need to have ALL the characters in history's hot spots: Berlin, Pearl Harbor, Midway, the Solomon Islands, meeting Hitler, being in Parliament, seeing Churchill, rescuing Blitz victims--it's too much and begins to read as too contrived. (Long lost and now estranged brothers suddenly finding each other as one is dying in a RAF battle...come on) ***Ponderous pace and writing; while "Giants" moves swiftly, getting us involved in the characters' plights, this is wooden. At times, the prose is mechanical, leaden--no elegance or grace. Minute battle details that lose attention quickly--then areas brushed over that would probably grab our attention. If half the characters, half the scope and half the length were cut--we'd still have a 500 page novel--and a gripping, intriguing read. This is mind boggling and pretty much tells me that even if part three takes another two years...no matter. I won't be reading it. Oh--so disappointed.
Following the "Fall of Giants" this second installment in the Century Trilogy follows the five families from the Nazi encroachment in Germany in 1933 through World War II and the atomic bomb. Follett paints a portrait of an atrocious period in our world with an interwoven web of darkness, hope, crisis, and despair. Presented through American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh perspectives, the characters play out this drama with harmony and discord. Even staunch Follett fans will find it somewhat difficult to plow through this latest tale. Although the historic accounts and the inclusion of real historical figures add a wonderful dimension, too often the characters get lost in tiring repeated opinions, political and moral discourses, and lengthy literary proselytizing. The style is leaning too much towards James Michener's sweeping verbose sagas and further from Mr. Follett's gripping, memorable narratives originated in "Pillars of the Earth." I am on the fence about reading the third installment.
I've been waiting for this book for 2 years. I'm so disappointed. His other trilogy books grabbed me by the end of the first 20 pages and never let go. I kept reading and kept hoping it would get better. No such luck. I read Fall of Giants in one day. I couldn't put it down. This book just seems bloated and I have really no desire to lose sleep in order to find out what comes next. I haven't been this heart broken since Tom Clancy started to suck.
I thought the book was wonderful, but I feel that Follett, despite all of the detail included, left out one of the most significant aspects of World War II, namely the holocaust. Yes, he made allusion to the death camps, but only briefly. He had his characters present at almost every important event of the time, so why not at least one scene describing SOMEONE being present to fully describe the horrors found ehen the Americans and the Russians liberated the death camps?
I listened to the book on CD (all 25 of them!) and loved every minute of it. The reader, John Lee, has an amazing ability to give each character his or her own voice. I had no trouble following the characters or the plot. This book gives a sympathetic face to the many Germans who were not Nazis and it gives the reader a glimpse into what it was like to live during the rise of Naziism. It also gives the reader a picture of what life was like for the Germans during the Russian occupation. This book puts a different face on World War II, both in Germany and in Russia. Follett's portrayal of Stalin is quite illuminating. This is not a rehashing of hundreds of other fictional books that take place during WWII. I enjoyed Follett's interesting characters, his description of daily life in Germany and Russia, and even some of the flawed characters (Fitz, Eric, etc.) show a touch of humanity and dimension of character. It is with great anticipation that I await the third book in this trilogy. For those who did not enjoy reading this book, I suggest that you listen to it. It's a marvelous way to enjoy this lengthy, multi-faceted book.
As someone who never really got into history, this series has really grabbed me. I love reading the perspectives of families in different countries. I did have a hard time keeping up with all of the characters in this book, but overall, i thought it was excellent.
This is a forum for people to discuss the book and talk about whether they liked it or not.. its not b and n fault its 20 dollars. Its the publisher. Stop being cheapos. Its 1000 pages for goodness sakes thats 20 bucks for a few weeks of reading. Sheesh
I love this second installment in the trilogy. I actually like it better than the first one. I think it might have something do with the fact that I know more about the history of this era. The characters are fully fleshed out and the history is fascinating. What more could you ask? You get a great story and a history lesson all wrapped up as one.
You have to remember that follett writes 1000 page books. If you go through all of that effort, you want something back.
Fast paced and chock full of historical information about events leading up to WW II. It made so many issues clear and gave a scary insight that makes it easier to understand the present. I am anxious to see what the final book will be. I have not read anything by Mr. Follett that I didn't fall into.
As always Ken Follett writes a wonderful book with in depth characters and well researched historical facts. Even though the book was very long, I read it in a few days. I truly hope he continues to write these very well researched historical books.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume--Fall of Giants, but this volume just didn't measure up. I could certainly tell the author was English when he had one of his American characters refer to the hood of a car as the "bonnet". That is a definite English term. Also, portions of the story line pertaining to World War II seemed to have been lifted from a Hollywood movie script (think Midway). Disappointing. I may read the third volume once it is published but I won't be anxiously waiting for it. Too bad as the author is better than this particular book.
I'm almost done with this book.. and I'm going to hate to see it end.. That's how good it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wish we didn't have to wait so long for the next book.
This book spent FAR too much time going back over details from the first book. Every new section had some of the same reminders and I found it very annoying. This book could have easily been 150 pages less and maybe the cost wouldn't have been so ridiculous. I doubt I will be interested enough to buy the third one. This book didn't even come close to the first one. I was throughly disappointed.
At 20 bucks it's a bargain. 1000 pages of great writing.
This is a very, very long book, and I am still reading it. The book is most enjoyable, informative with a good bit of World War II history thrown in. Follet has done a wonderful job of re-introducing the main characters and introducing their off-spring. This book is meeting my expectations and has been well worth the wait. A very good read!
I am almost finished with this book, and I can hardly put it down. The storyline completely holds my attention, although I had to use a "cheat sheet" to keep the families straight for the first hundred pages. Now, I feel related to all of them and I enjoy the connections they make among the countries. The bonus for me is the research and clarity shed by Follett on World War II which my father fought in. I am giving these first two books to my brother for his birthday although he doesn't often read fiction. I think that baby boomers and seniors will especially enjoy this trilogy.
This sequel to Fall of Giants was fantastic. It picks right up where the other left off and I found myself reading it for hours at a time because I could just not put it down. And yet when it ended I wanted more. I can hardly wait till the final book comes out ( I hear the end of 2014). Follett makes you want to know what happens to his characters and their offspring
Ken Follett captured history through the eyes and events of several familys during our darkest time. I reccomend all of Follett's books. He is a master writer, story teller and historian.
Fantastic second installmenr
Had to pace myself....could have finished very quicky but wanted to be sure did not miss anything. Book gave characters opportunity to grow, learn from past errors...will surely read this book and Fall of Giants again.....while waiting for last book.
I'm always intimidated at first by the sheer size of Ken Follet's books. I read "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End' in their (fat) paperback versions and loved them, but even so, I waited awhile to decide to start his next series, The Century Trilogy, just because I wasn't sure I was ready to take on the weight of the books. Enter the Nook Book versions of "Fall of Giants" and "Winter of the World" -- problem solved, and as always his stories never disappoint. Tracking families from the first book through the second somehow deepens the connection to the stories, and you can suspend any disbelief that these interconnected characters managed to be first-hand witness to almost every major event of the 20th century. Now I can't wait for the final book of the trilogy (Nook version of course)!
I enjoyed this so much more than Fall of Giants........didn't want it to end. Can't wait for the next one!