Well here I am at five and three-quarters
It’s Christmas 1939 in a little Austrian village that’s now part of Hitler’s Third Reich and I’m just beginning to notice things. Like what my brother and sisters are about and why my parents are often crying and my father usually shouting when he isn’t crying. I think it has something to do with the war we’re fighting, which according to the wireless is due to The International Jewish Conspiracy, whatever that is. But that’s not all. I don’t know it yet, but I was born at the wrong time and in the wrong place.
Not that it wasn’t quite an achievement getting me born at all. I arrived too early, presented myself the wrong way round (Was I trying to climb back inside? You couldn’t blame me), there was no doctor, and the midwife had to yank me out like a cork from a bottle. No wonder I protested. No wonder my mother never had another child, either—both of us had had enough. But anyway there I was, a pint-sized runt, the last of the litter, and that’s how I’ve stayed.
Achievement or not though, you could say my getting born, or conceived for that matter, was really a big mistake. First of all there’s the as yet unraised question of my paternity. (Paternity’s going to be a favorite topic in my family.) And then there’s the undoubted fact, though I don’t know that yet either, that my mother Gabi is a Jew (she converted to Christianity in her teens), while my very Aryan father Willibald Brinkmann—if he is my father—is a Lutheran pastor who has a sneaking admiration for Hitler. (Many Lutheran pastors have, and for some of them it isn’t sneaking, either—they’re openly trying to prove that Jesus wasn’t really a Jew.) On top of that they don’t like each other anyway.
For all these reasons they each wish they weren’t married to who they are. But separation is just about unthinkable. For one thing, marriage is supposed to be a sacred union for Lutheran clergymen. For another, the only thing that can protect my mother and possibly us children is that she’s married to an Aryan. And Willibald’s admiration for the little corporal doesn’t extend so far that he’d actually throw us to the Nazi wolves.