You never know what an act of bravery will do until you commit to it. The lives you saved may not be your own, but in the process, you will rescue yourselves through salvaging others. Today, find a way to impact a life, you may be surprised one day when the live you saved repays the favor.
This afternoon, we present something different, it’s an allegory about bravery in the midst, and not the absence of fear. We hope you enjoy “The Resistance Symphony”.
Hans Strauss put down the violin. “It isn’t right, the tempo is all wrong.” He picked up the clarinet and attempted the same melody. “One note more, that’s all that’s left, but how to do it?” “You’ll figure it out, we have to.” Hans rubbed his eyes. It was four in the morning, he and Sarah were tired, and scared.
He looked at his beautiful Sarah, her hazel eyes, her soft dark brown hair. He had to protect her, to find a way to save their lives in the midst of rescuing the others. If the Germans knew what they were doing, or who they really were, they wouldn’t even make the stage.
Instead, they thought they were the upstanding French composer and his wife. His parents had hid his Mother’s Jewish heritage years ago as a precaution when moving to France. He had hid Sarah’s lineage as well. They knew firsthand the bigotry some were capable of.
Hans and his wife were not content to sit and do nothing when Hitler invaded France. They joined the underground, working in plain sight, under the German’s noses. Hans was in no shape to fight physically. He was a short, dark haired, pudgy man with weak green eyes, but he could conduct.
At first, it was a small message here or there through a performance. Instead of the traditional arrangement, Hans made slight changes that everyone assumed were creative interpretation. The first piece was Beethoven’s ninth symphony. The Colonel, the local German representative even complimented him on the original arrangement.
Roland Aumont, the instrument maker, had several sons. Roland was an old man, his balding head clinging to a few brave white hairs. His gray eyes were as sharp as his mind, he made a brilliant smuggler. Hans would pass the code key to his friend, and a new musical instrument would be delivered in the country. In it was the way to read the message that enabled the underground to understand what Hans’ subtle musical changes were communicating. A troop movement, an attack plan, whatever it may be, they would know.
Hans obtained the information about the German’s movements through his best student, Wilhelm Kahn, a clerk in the Vichy government. Wilhelm was also a member of the resistance. He wasn’t as physically unintimidating as Hans, but he flew under the radar. The blonde haired, blue eyed young man seemed a perfect fit to the Nazis, little did they know that he couldn’t stand anything they stood for. Wilhelm would obtain as much information as he could safely, and pass it to Hans. Thy had developed a method all there own.
To the untrained ear, Wilhelm would make errors while practicing, and Hans would correct. Then he would record his student’s progress, just as he did the rest of his pupils. This way other students, like Colonel Ludvig Apfel, wouldn’t overhear anything. In reality, each mistake was a message that Hans recorded.
Apfel hid his violent temper through a calm and friendly appearance. When it suited him, he would allow flares of anger to show behind the mask. This was a far less messy way of wielding power over those around him. His dark cropped hair, blue eyes, and rigid countenance added to his reputation. He was compared to a smoldering gun, it could fire at any unexpected moment.
Hans would broadcast the information to the resistance through the symphony’s performances. A member of the resistance, unknown to all involved, was present in the audience. All went well until a message came that was too big for Hans to adapt a piece of music. He had hurriedly requested permission from the Colonel’s cultural oversight department to perform his own symphony.
Apfel, a lover of music, agreed enthusiastically. He assumed this was a piece that Hans had perfected over years of composing, it wasn’t. It was an entire symphony that he had to write in four days. “I hope it will be entertaining Hans. I expect nothing less than great if you intend to perform it for us.” “Us Colonel?”
“Yes, Major Mueller of the SS will be in attendance. I received a communique this morning, it was unusually short notice, but not unheard of. He has business that has brought him to Paris. Goodnight Hans.” “Goodnight Colonel.”
Sarah waited in the kitchen until he was gone. “Can you do this Hans? Isn’t there another way?” “I’m afraid not my love. If I do not succeed, hundreds in the underground will die. We must warn them that a major attack is coming. We must let them know without the Germans guessing.”
He wrote feverishly, then rewrote every note. Two days later, it was at least ready to run through with the orchestra. Hans would conduct, adjust, rewrite, and conduct again. It was almost comical as the violinist’s part tripped over the cello’s cue. The clarinet’s played when the drums were supposed to come in.
Hans wanted to burst into tears, but he could not. He would sigh, alter, and begin again. All he wanted to do was for he and Sarah to escape to America. Hans was resolved, “After the war, we will go and forget.” Many times he had questioned if he had made the right choice.
The night of the performance, everyone important person was there, including those who would communicate Hans’ message. The Colonel found Hans before the performance. “I have a surprise for you Herr Strauss. I have been persuaded by Major Mueller to authorize a broadcast of the music across France.
Hans was ecstatic inside, but he dared not show it. “Thank you sir! The musicians will be nervous, I hope we will not let you down.” The Colonel’s eyes turned cold. “As do I Herr Strauss, as do I.” That killed any excitement Hans had felt a moment prior.
“Herr Strauss, I am Major Mueller. The Colonel has shared with me your brilliance. I too am a student of music, might I have a copy of your music … as a souvenir?” “Why of course.” Hans had to force his hand not to shake when he handed him the copy. Mueller gave him a strange look, but surely he hadn’t noticed anything.
Mueller was taller than himself or the Colonel. That wasn’t hard considering that Hans and Apfel were short men. Mueller, at six foot three towered over the two five foot seven men. His hair was slicked back to the point of seeming greasy. As a good soldier, his brown eyes seemed focused on everything around him.
Now, on top of everything else, Hans had to worry about Mueller. ‘Would he see the pattern?’ ‘How could he get Sarah to safety before the symphony ended?’ He stepped into his private dressing room and splashed water on his face. He looked out at his city through the window. “A tour, yes, a tour. If we survive tonight, we’ll escape tomorrow.”
It felt as if it were the longest walk that Hans had ever made, but he made it. He took his position, lifted his baton, and begin to conduct. The symphony built slowly to a swell, then began to filter off as strings of lighter elements played in tandem. The melody was strong, then subtle, then surprising. He had built in at least two swells, and ended with a crescendo.
Everyone applauded at it’s completion. The Colonel and Major Mueller were the first ones to reach Hans. He told himself that they hadn’t expected anything, but he was nervous nonetheless. “Wonderful Hans, wonderful! How I wish they could hear this in Berlin, live I mean.” “Perhaps we could make a trip there, my Wife and I. If I could be allowed to conduct the orchestra there, a special performance.”
Major Mueller spoke. “You would do that? I’ve seldom seen a musician willing to leave Paris.” Hans tried to balance his response. “I love Paris, but this could open up a new level for me. My own symphony, it’s opens up new possibilities you see?”
The Major answered slowly. “Yes, yes I see. If the Colonel will arrange it, I am returning tomorrow on the train. You and your wife will be my guest. Goodnight Herr Strauss.” Hans blood ran cold, what had he done? His Mother’s old saying about out of the frying pan and into the fire came to mind. Now what would he do?
His plans were compromised, he would have to make arrangements. Could Sarah fake an illness? ‘Then she would at least be safer in Paris wouldn’t she?’ No, he had to get a message to the underground, they must help.
All this flooded his mind as people congratulated him on his triumph. He hadn’t noticed Wilhelm and Roland until they were in front of him. “My friends, join Sarah and I for a late supper… In celebration, please.”
The two agreed and made their way to Sarah and his home. Hans went through his problem almost as soon as the doors were shut. “You must help us. My intention was to disappear on the train, we cannot risk Berlin.”
Roland looked at a box on the fireplace. “Hans, have you always had this box?” “Yes, but what does that matter?” “Tell me, do you know what it is?” “Yes, A box!” “No, it’s a puzzle box.” Roland pushed the side to reveal a small empty compartment.
He looked at his friend, “Do you see?” “Yes, but how?” “There isn’t time, but Hans you must trust me. It will not seem good at first, you must trust me.” “Yes of course. “You will meet me at the station tomorrow. I’ll have a very special suitcase for you. Tomorrow night at 6:00, push it just as you saw me push this one. Hope will be there.”
Hans and Sarah hurriedly packed everything, and anything they thought they would need. They went to bed, but neither slept. Roland met them at the station the next morning. Hans lowered his voice. “Can’t you tell me?” “No, for your own safety, I cannot, but when it happens, trust me.”
They boarded the train, and were shown to a private car. Major Mueller met them. “Ah, Herr Strauss, I see you are early. We must eat lunch this afternoon. I wish to hear your views on Wagner.” “Very good sir, thank you.”
Hans had put off the lunch using the excuse his Wife was ill. He checked his watch more the closer six o’clock came. Finally, he and Sarah went to the suitcase and pushed the button. In it, was a small statue of a blind woman. Just after he opened it, there was a policeman at the door of the carriage. “Stop! You are under arrest, this was reported stolen last night.”
Major Mueller was with the policeman. “The Inspector contacted me on the train. He asked if anyone had planned a sudden exit from Paris. I told them about your idea. Though I didn’t figure you for a thief.” Inspector Chastain, a very plain looking, gray bearded man, finished the interrogation. “It was reported stolen from the museum last night. I suspect that is why you wanted to leave so quickly.”
Major Mueller looked at them. “What is your plan Inspector?” “They will exit the train with me, and we will take the necessary steps to return them to face justice.” Mueller started to laugh. “Somehow I think justice for them involves an unnamed couple boarding a train for somewhere far from either Paris or Berlin. I thought you were no Inspector, but I had to be sure.”
“What makes you say that Herr Mueller?” Hans said attempting to act indignant. “You’re not that good an actor my friend. Fortunately for you, I am. My name is Captain Maurice Cerf of the French resistance. You’ll be safe soon.”
Hans sat down quickly. “How?” “You’re last piece was almost discovered. I volunteered to rescue you. We hadn’t figured out how I would get you both out of Paris though, so I must thank you for that.”
Sarah spoke, “Roland and Wilhelm, what will happen to them?” “Roland left this afternoon for Switzerland. A cousin, long dead, was reported ill. His family is safe. Wilhelm eloped with the girl that dumped him two days ago. Her Father said that they would have gotten back together anyway, but a trip to England sped up the reconciliation.”
“They were just allowed to leave?” “Yes, you see The Colonel’s letterhead was used. Of course he didn’t write it. The Colonel took to his bed after a late dinner. Something in his drink made him sleepy. I expect he’s waking up about now to fill the cords around his wrists, and the handkerchief in his mouth.”
“I was an actor before the War. I have excellent penmanship.” The fake Inspector Chastain spoke. “I’ve heard of you Captain, though we’ve never met. You’ve saved a great many lives today.” “Not as many as Hans. We had no idea the Germans were about to attack. Early reports indicate it would have crippled the resistance, but when they acted this afternoon, we were already relocated.”
“Thank you Captain for my Wife and my safety.” “You are welcome, and thank you. Would you remember your performance of the ninth symphony and its message?” “Yes, it was actually the first recorded message that I sent.”
“It was also the one that saved my life. I was on the run from a mission gone wrong. My instructions were to make it to a safe house a few miles away. About a mile before the farm house, the resistance members met me. They had been warned that their position was exposed.”
“Within minutes of meeting them, we heard the explosion. Had we been there, all of us would have been lost, including the woman that I later married. You see, I had to save the life of you and your wife sir, to repay the favor.” The two men shook hands.
Hans remembered that day, he was so scared that he had entertained thoughts of not going through with it. He knew though, lives would depend on what he did. What he never considered was that very act would save his family’s lives.
Prior to leaving the train, Cerf asked Hans. “What will you call your new symphony?” Hans laughed. “We have resisted fear and force to do what is right, regardless of the consequences. So what else could it be called? The Resistance Symphony.” The Captain returned his grin, “Viva La Resistance!” “Ouis, Viva La Resistance!”
Hans and Sarah escaped first to Switzerland, and then to America safely. They raised four children there. Captain Cerf and his wife went on to live long and peaceful lives in Paris. Roland and Wilhelm immigrated to Canada where they enjoyed watching their families prosper.
One of the greatest symphonies ever composed is that of a family who love each other. Regardless of the noises around them, they are blessed by God to make a beautiful harmony, that is volumes above the sounds problems make. Don’t allow the distractions of everyday to mute the melody of those you love. Instead, of focusing on the fight, celebrate the music!