Conspiracy by Andy Marino

Conspiracy by Andy Marino

Author:Andy Marino
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

The shelter that Max and Gerta found themselves in was a reinforced train tunnel on the border of Dahlem and the Grunewald forest. It was part of Berlin’s sofortprogramm—emergency program—which resulted in the construction of three flak towers and five hundred public bunkers.

Max had never been inside a public shelter before. He was surprised to find that it was divided up into dozens of rooms, but also relieved—this would make it more difficult for Herr Siewert to track them down. The room they chose to settle in was sparsely furnished with wooden benches and a few bunks, which were already full of small children. There was a toilet in one corner, hidden behind a pair of wooden screens that could be opened and closed for privacy.

Bare electric bulbs were strung from a line of wire that ran the length of the ceiling, and the floors were dabbed with glowing blots of phosphorescent paint. Max thought of his classmate Joseph’s description of the wall of paint that was supposedly bright enough to read by. The walls in this shelter were bare concrete, unpainted except for a slogan above the doorway:

Gehorche den Regeln. Hilfe deinen Nachbarn.

(Obey the rules. Help your neighbors.)

Max and Gerta sat down on the corner of a bench, squeezing into the only available space. All around the room, Berliners were calmly unpacking decks of cards, books, and newspapers. It would be hours before the all clear, and people had learned that it was better to keep busy than to sit and stare at the walls and listen to the bombs, wondering if they were coming closer or if it was just their imaginations.

Max removed his scarf and unbuttoned his coat, wincing at the pain in his shoulder. He was sweaty from the sudden flight from Herr Siewert. The air inside the shelter was musty and close, and he wondered if he ought to start cranking the hand-operated air pump that crouched like a robot from a science-fiction tale in the corner of the room.

The bunker muffled the air-raid siren, but Max could still hear it wailing thinly, like some trapped animal. The flak was a riot of dull bursts that he felt in his stomach.

He glanced at their neighbors on the bench—an elderly couple in pajamas and overcoats, sharing a newspaper.

He whispered to Gerta, “Do you think he followed us in here?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “He wouldn’t want to be outside in a raid any more than we would, so he had to have gone to a shelter somewhere. And this was the closest one.”

Max couldn’t help but stare at the door, half expecting Siewert to burst through at any moment, a pair of Gestapo agents at his side. But there was only a little boy, younger than Max, who peeked in curiously until his mother shooed him along.

Seated on the bench on the opposite wall was a large family—Max counted four young children and two parents, along with a grandfather hunched like a carrion bird over his newspaper.


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