Author’s Note: The poignant story by Hans Christian Anderson touched me so when I first read it at age six. As I was working on "Checkmate: The Enigma of Reinhard Heydrich" I was inspired to write a completely different story to reflect the dark life in Germany after WW I.
This is an anguished tale, but unfortunately things like this can and do happen during hard times to many children in the world. At least this story has a happy ending - in the sense that the villains are punished. Most of the time they are not.
In 1931 Heydrich began his career in the SS by helping victims like the little match girl of my story with food and shelter in exchange for providing him with information. In the early years of the SS he had little or no money and had to rely entirely on his wits.
The story of Tristana unfolds when Reinhard Heydrich himself was around her age. His wealthy musical and intellectual family never suffered the harsh privations of Tristana and hundreds of thousands like her.
This tale is not meant for your enjoyment. Rather it is directed more towards enlightenment and Awareness. It is a morality tale. May God forgive us humans for being indifferent, uncaring and
Here is the story of The Little Match Girl as I perceived it.
The carved oak door of Fischer’s Pastry Shop swung open. The owner had recognized Herr Doctor Warburg striding into his shop. Warburg was as rich as Baron Rothschild.
“He is one of our best patrons. He always buys huge quantities of chocolates, sweets and pastries for himself and for his numerous family,” he reflected opening the heavy door before the Herr Doctor could do it.
“Good evening Herr Doctor Warburg,” he chirped in spite of the harsh wind and cold outside his shop.
“Ach! A very good and freezing winter’s evening to you as well Herr Fischer,” he replied. He took off his walnut colored peccary gloves, removed his hat lined in sable and handed both of these objects to Fischer. Then, he began to admire the irresistible bonbons on display.
It’s sinful to enjoy these chocolates when so many Germans are sick, starving and dying as a result of the War and the dire economic situation. Herr Fischer needs the business in these difficult times. I shall doubtless overspend but this a time of giving.
“Ah Herr Doctor. The snow is coming down fiercely. Pity those who are on foot or worse those without a roof over their heads," declared Herr Fischer.
In moments like these, I am glad that our family mausoleum is unlocked. My grandfather even had the foresight to build a fireplace and a small washroom with a water closet. In burial services they have come in handy. I hope some homeless people are using the Warburg Family Mausoleum to survive this harsh winter.
Tristana, the little match girl watched this scene unfolding from the street as the snow pelted her thin and afflicted body. She was all alone and she judged that she had no future. She was weeping but no one cared and no one looked at her. Life was hard for most. A vicious snowstorm was closing in on Berlin. People hurried by to get home. Most had threadbare winter coats. But the little match girl was beyond considering the terrible burdens of the others. Long ago, and she was surprised that she could remember that far back, her parents had taken her inside Fisher’s Chocolate Shop.
“Why should I not remember? That had been the first and last time. Then a tragedy devastated Germany and the German people. Dear Hans was such a good thief he often broke into the bakery at night and always found tidbits for me to enjoy,” she recalled sadly.
It was Christmas Eve in the Berlin of 1920. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it was the best of times for a few and the worst of times for the majority of folk. This winter was the coldest that they had experienced in 25 years. Every dark dawn squads of militias would roam the streets picking up the frozen and stiff as metal corpses and throw them roughly into a lorry.
“I’ve heard the wretched on the streets murmur that the corpses are placed in hot ovens and cooked. That’s where the poor get their slop to eat from all these charitable institutions,” whispered Hans.
“I don’t know any more what’s true and what isn’t in these miserable times, but Hans was not given to telling fables. Only three days had passed – an eternity. Now Hans was dead. A band of demons murdered him,” reflected Tristana, the little match girl.
Her past and present life appeared quickly before her eyes. She could see it projected on the windowpane of Fischer’s Chocolate Shop. She had heard tales that those who were about to die saw a carousel of their life. So be it. She stood motionless and let the past and present roll by her stricken eyes.
The Great War had created so many homeless, hopeless, dispossessed and deprived human beings. There was no work to be found anywhere. Men and women lay in wait on dark street corners to kill someone the moment they left their work places in order to show up the next morning (if they survived the night) and volunteer to take the job. Even rag pickers found it impossible to make a decent living. More often than not, they resorted to despoiling the dead on the streets and in the parks.
"Lord knows we have to eat at least once a day.”
Tristana remembered her handsome father Tristan, he of the bluest eyes. Something in the war made him blind. Her grandparents had starved to death a year ago. A man called Fink had sent men over to their apartment and informed them that they had no home. He owned the entire block of apartments from now on.
"You have until tomorrow afternoon to move with your belongings."
"We have some fine furniture and don’t you deny it because I used to work in a factory which made them until my illness got the better of me,” rasped Mutti.
Fink sent an ugly man with warts and a nose like Pinocchio to look over the furniture He offered a pittance. Never mind. It was money. It could help Mutti and Papa for a while. But Papa wandered away by himself one day and never came back.
“Tristana, your papa went to die in peace somewhere. I can feel it. He did not want to be a dead weight on us. I am not sure if he was or not. But I will miss him. Soon, I too will die. You might have a better chance of survival as an orphan because of your incredible beauty,” she said in between her bloody paroxysms of coughing.
Mutti’s tuberculosis consumed her in a few months. There was no money for medicines. She died in her daughter’s arms on a dimly lit pavement away from the traffic. A numb Tristana followed a silent funeral procession for several dozen paupers who had died that day. They were laid to rest in a mass grave with no markers save a rotting wooden cross.
Hans had befriended her. Both his parents had committed suicide. In that horrible funeral procession, he could not help but notice the girl with golden plaits, which reached almost down to her knees. Her azure eyes showed no tears. Her flawless fair face betrayed no emotion. She clasped a rosary round her decrepit woolen gloves and stared straight ahead. She looked neither to her right nor to her left.
Hans was fourteen to Tristana’s twelve. He was tall and well built. Hans was a master thief. For a while, they survived quite well. He knew which restaurants threw out food which was edible and which factories had poor or no security. He stole batteries, warm coats, blankets, scarves and hats for them. Best of all, he found a massive mausoleum in the cemetery of the rich. He had managed to break the lock and they slept inside its foyer, beside a warm fire, which Hans built with the long matchsticks he stole from a factory famous for making them.
“We are going to sell the flowers of the rich cadavers in the cemetery. That will help us along. I found a factory which makes the best matchsticks and together with that, we could have a hand to mouth existence until better times come upon us,” said Hans.
So Tristana peddled the flowers and the matchsticks to the well-dressed passersby in the streets where the most expensive stores were located. Sometimes she worked at night close to the theaters and cabarets. The people involved in the nightlife of Berlin seemed to be the most generous and devil may care people she had ever known. She begun to frequent the area but she soon discovered that some of these creatures of the night turned out to be blood sucking vampires and sewer rats.
Hans always came before midnight to escort her to what they both now called home – the mausoleum of the princely family of von Eisenach.
“Where are you going my Golden Lady? The night is young. You still have some clusters of violets and a dozen matches in your basket. I’ll buy them all but you must come to the theater tomorrow morning. I will audition you personally. I just might have a role that is perfect for you. Here’s my card. What do you say?”
"Thank you sir but I must first talk this proposal over with my cousin Hans who has come to accompany me,” replied Tristana.
The well dressed, small and fat man did not reply. He was counting the marks he would pay for the violets and the matches. One of his assistants took all the violets and the matches from her basket without a word.
A disgusted Hans had observed the lewd leers the fat man was giving the pristine Tristana. He took her arm and begun to lead her away.
“Hey girl, you forgot your money,” he yelled.
“No, she did not. I don’t think your intentions are honorable,” declared Hans not bothering to turn around to address the man.
Tristana did and stopped in her tracks. “I agree with Hans. Keep the flowers, the matches and most of all keep your money. The answer is no.”
The fat man clocked his head towards them and barked softly to his men, “Follow the girl and her bastard companion. Report back to me. I’ll find a way to fix them up good for the Yule.”
Three huge men crept into the vault. In spite of the blazing fire and the heavy blankets it was zero degrees in the vault. Outside it was fifteen degrees below zero. Both the young girl and boy had chronic bronchitis and did not realize that they snored. They slept in a stupor. This made it easier for the thugs to approach them. Two men stabbed Hans in the heart and in the abdomen. Thankfully he never felt the pain. One could say that he died peacefully in his sleep.
It was different for Tristana. A wad of chloroform was pressed tightly against her nose. She lost her senses quickly. She was placed in the back of a Mercedes limousine and taken to the Venus Theater where the fat man was waiting. The fat man was unable to get an erection unless he watched one of his actors perform a rape.
“Boys listen up. We are going to do it differently this time. We are going to cast lots for this exquisite virgin.”
An attractive actor Sol won because he had the longest piece of paper. They all laughed because Sol was priapic. He had a permanent erection. Sol raped Tristana repeatedly.
“Be sure you film this in bright light. That golden hair almost to her knees is so biblical. I am excited just looking at her lying naked and unconscious,” remarked the pornographer known as Fat Maury to everyone in the Underworld.
She remained in that condition for several hours. The wicked men brought her back to the vault and gave her another dose of chloroform for good measure. There was a great deal of blood, which had congealed around the marble floor where Hans lay dead because the door had been deliberately left open. Under orders from the Boss they placed Tristana underneath the blankets and wound them tightly around her.
“If she dies from the cold, I will have all of your testicles and penises on a platter,” growled Maury. He paused to light a cigar, puffed on it, savored its aroma and continued.
"This Nordic Goddess could be my new porno star. Many a Captain of Industry will pay a great deal of money for a maiden like her. There are plenty of Jewish and gentile doctors who will be only too happy to stitch her up and she’ll be a virgin again, blood and all. She’ll come around when she realizes that there is no way out, now that her cousin is dead. She’ll beg me to help her. We won’t have long to wait,” declared Maury.
Hans was sick. He would not reply to her calls and entreaties. When she touched him and felt him hard as petrified wood, she screamed. Then she saw the frozen blood that surrounded him, Tristana screamed yet again in sorrow.
"No! No! Nooooo!”
Hans was dead. She tore at her hair. She screamed and screamed wishing she could wake up the dead. It was futile. Her voice was completely gone. No one heard her. She realized that she hated the dead for being so useless and helpless.
“I know who did this to Hans. I know who raped me. I am still bleeding because of those fiends. I have been taught to forgive but that was in another time and place. Revenge is what I am after. Those who say that revenge makes you feel empty are wrong. I will feel very good about it,” she vowed.
She went from twilight to darkness to light. After long hours had passed Tristana had formulated a plan. She interrupted her thoughts because someone was being buried. She could hear the metallic sounds of their shovels as they hit the frozen earth. The men were cracking loud and obscene jokes. But Hans was heavy and the effects of the chloroform and the rape had left her drained. She needed help to bury Hans, but where?
“Think Tristana, think long and hard. You are now alone in the world. Those men might rape you again. They might accuse you of murdering Hans. You dare not trust them. Most of all you dare not trust the authorities. The man responsible for these crimes against Hans and you, probably bribed most if not all of the police in that district of Berlin. How will you distinguish which one is honest or dishonest? You must not allow yourself to trust anyone.”
She waited until all the sounds had ceased. She decided to leave Hans inside the foyer of the vault. He deserved a lovely resting place where they had both been serene despite their hard life. Hans had taught her how to break locks. She would stay in the cemetery but she would look for another mausoleum as far away as possible from this one.
“Those slimy monsters will surely come back to get me,” she wrapped herself even tighter to stop her trembling.”
“Revenge. Avenge. Always remember. Revenge. Avenge.” The words kept circling around her head.
“I must stop behaving like a frightened rabbit,” she affirmed. Off went the blankets. Tristana stripped naked. She threw her torn dress and underwear into the fire. Then she walked out into the snow, which was coming down in sheets and cleansed herself. The snow numbed her sore intimate parts. This was a ritual she would perform frequently during the day as a way of purifying herself. It also assuaged the pain. Back inside the mausoleum, she took an inventory of all of Hans’s clothes, equipment and toolbox.
“Ooh! What’s this? It looks like a small bomb, and here’s a hand grenade. That will surely come in handy, so will the Swiss knife. There are all kinds of scissors, screwdrivers, hammers, and small wrenches. I’ll take them all with me to the new place.”
She cut Hans’s shirt into strips and used them as a pad to stanch the bleeding. It seemed to help. His thick woolen trousers with their cuffs cut off seemed perfect for staying warm and so did his sweaters.
“I’m off to look for a new home,” she told herself resolutely.
The way of death of the rich aroused shock and fury within her. Her poor Mutti thrown into an unmarked pauper’s grave with dozens of other wretches. Hans lying on the floor of an aristocratic family’s mausoleum. His mother and father as suicides were not accorded consecrated ground. Consequently, all suicides were buried in the woods or on land not blessed by a priest. She saw that with her own eyes. His parents did not share the mass grave in which Mutti lay twisted and broken. The men in the burial detail wore black hoods over their heads. They threw the corpses of all those who had chosen suicide – a quick death instead of a slow one by starvation and disease into a pit next to Mutti’s. She remembered with anguish her maternal and paternal grandparents dumped into mass graves because the deed to their tombs had been illegally acquired by rich speculators.
“I would not believe it if I were not seeing it with my own eyes. Some of these mausoleums are bigger and taller than houses. Each seems to be more spectacular than the other. Even in death, the rich never stop competing.”
One mausoleum caught her eye. It had a tall, marble angel in the center of its outer garden and it was holding a little boy and girl in both hands. The legend Warburg was above the immense building made entirely of the whitest marble she had ever seen. There were no locks on the carved doors made of wrought iron. Above them she read the words, “Welcome. Meditate on Life.” She entered the vaults in awe of this family who did not shut out the world even after death. There was a tall silver candelabrum with six arms, which stood upon high column. She had seen one before in Mr. Fischer’s chocolate shop but nothing as ornate as this one. Warmth long forgotten penetrated her whole being. The bright chandeliers hanging from the ceiling gave off heat in such an enclosed space.
“Deliverance! This will be my new home until I figure out the where, what and how of the direction my life is going to take. It was a piece of cake to move all their belongings.
“Thank you dear Hans, you have been a good thief in taking only the necessities for our survival. Most of all you have been a good friend. I will never forget you. You will be richly rewarded wherever you are.”
Tristana decided to err on the side of caution. She put a huge lock on the heavy wrought iron gates, which stood astride the garden. Now she could relax for a while as she worked on her plan.
“I don’t have the acrobatic ability of Hans to penetrate warehouses. He was like a spider, the way he could ascend and descend buildings. I have no training as a pickpocket. I’ll be caught in no time and every policeman will abuse me. I refuse to prostitute myself. I can forage among the garbage cans of expensive restaurants. I’m just a girl. Surely the husky men and women will fight for their territory. Hans knew street fighting. All those avenues are closed to me. But I can go in a blaze of glory, “ she ruminated.
The Venus Theater will be the setting. I lost the card the fat fiend gave me but it will be easy enough to find him in the theater.
She dressed with care. Hans had stolen only the best clothes. She would never be taken for the starving match girl that she was. Her expensive shoes called Mary Janes seemed a bit loose but never mind. Tristana let her long blonde locks fall to below her knees. She longed to die in splendid misery.
The snow was so thick she could not see ahead of her. "Revenge. Avenge. Guide me,” she commanded. They did. Through winding alleys, trafficked streets and broad platz she ploughed through. Determined. Resolute. Unflinching.
Fat Maury could not believe it.” Are you trying to tell me someone calling herself The Golden Girl has asked to be received? Are those the words she used? Don’t just stand there you idiot. Escort her to my office.”
He gasped at the ravishing beauty striding toward him. She was clothed in an elegant and expensive ensemble. Her soft leather shoes matched the tone of the voluminous Louis Vuitton case she was carrying. She did not give him time to speak.
"Let’s dispense with the pleasantries. I haven’t much time. Before I listen to your proposal you must tell me the circumstances concerning the murder of my cousin and my rape. Otherwise it’s no deal. And don’t think you can chloroform me again. My companions are waiting nearby. If I don’t show up in ten minutes, there will be a shoot out in your Venus Theater. Yes, you monster. Your theater will be penetrated and raped, you might call it that.”
Tristana sat down without being asked and stared blankly at her malefactor. His name and last name was emblazoned in gold on his desk: Maury Stein.
“I did it for your own good. You can become rich. A celebrity. A star. Your cousin stood in the way. I’m sorry that my men acted beyond their authority. They did not mean to kill him, they only intended to cut him a little across the arm,” lied Fat Maury easily and tonelessly.
“I don’t believe you. What’s done is done. Who raped me? Answer me.”
"Listen you shiksa, what’s the big deal? Many girls and boys get raped every hour of the day. What are you whining about? You are not mutilated are you? We got doctors to fix you up, don’t worry.”
"Listen to me you tub of lard. You are adding insult to injury. I know what shiksa really means. What hole did you and your kind crawl out of? You can’t even speak German properly. I repeat time is short. I would like to meet my rapist or rapists. Then you can explain what it is you have in mind for me. That’s not too much to ask is it?”
Maury studied the girl briefly and saw nothing but Deutsce marks above her head.
She’s alone, she has no money or will run out of it soon enough, she’s frightened. Just to make sure she does not become angry like today, after I’ve told her a little bit about her work, one of boys can inject her with cocaine. In a week she’ll be a full-blown addict and will do everything I say without question. What harm could it do for her to meet Sol and the others?
She refused to shake hands with any of the men. The one called Sol treated her with an almost obscene familiarity. He’s my violator.
The other three men looked like light-skinned gorillas with long hooked noses. The cold-blooded killers of dear Hans.
She wanted all of the men to let their guards down. So she decided to use her meek little girl manner and let revolting Herr Stein do all the talking. As he did so, he shoved a set of photographs for her to look at. She did not recognize herself at first. Then it all became clear. Stein’s theater was Pornography. What was she doing naked with a man who looked liked Sol? No, it was Sol. He was raping her!
I don’t remember any of this because I was knocked out with chloroform or ether. If I weren’t in such a rage I would be puking out my soul. But everything’s that happened to me has changed me. All the more reason to carry out my mission to the end. I am going to rid Germany and the world of such a monster together with his employees.
Tristana did not know much about the bomb and the hand grenade she was carrying in her case. She knew enough if her instincts served her correctly.
I have a few matchsticks left. I will use them to light the bomb fuse, I have ten seconds if that, to throw the hand grenade. One explosion will surely set off another. I will have my revenge for my rape and Han’s death will have been avenged.
She hoped that this office, which was above the theater, would come crashing down and cause a conflagration. It was too early for any performances. On Christmas Eve there was no matinee. The evening shows started at 10:00 in the evening.
God forgive me. I wish everything had turned out differently. The war, my father Tristan’s death, Mutti, both sets of grand parents and Hans all dead. Only I am left mutilated and violated. Maybe the spirits will be merciful because I have killed a filthy predator and his followers who prey on the young and the innocent.
By the time the fire fighters came it was too late to save any one inside the Venus and the Apollo theaters. Indeed, both theaters burned to the ground, and only charred remains of survivors were found.
“At least 100 people died in the fire, but I am afraid that we will not be able to identify any of them. Besides it’s Christmas Eve and no one will volunteer to work overtime. The Department has no money to pay them in any case," declared the Chief.
A lone witness, a young man who lived a block away thought he heard a series of explosions. But sure as the devil exists, he was not going to give out this or any other piece of information. His sister Sigrid had died last year from syphilis because of her work for that scum Stein.