It was Christmas Eve, 1978.
The terrorists in the West Berlin school were making the captive children sing carols.
Children’s voices came across the waste of snow in front of the school, the distant mass of the buildings showing no light from its windows. At first, Corrie thought they were singing “The Red Flag”–the tune was the same–but then he made out the words.
“O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, du kannst mir
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hocherfreut!
O Tannenbaum . . .”
The group of terrorists at the school were from the same terrorist organisation, Red Phoenix, as the people who had carried out the shootings at Leonardo da Vinci airport, the people who had killed his mother. He felt his stomach beginning to tighten. He had switched on the television to watch a cartoon version of “Hansel and Gretel,” and the afternoon news report immediately preceded the children’s programme.
Lilli, his grandmother, who had come through into their kitchen from her house next door, walked into the living-room behind him, drawn in by the German words. He turned to face her.
“What is that song?”
“‘Der Tannenbaum.’ The fir-tree,” she answered quietly. The words had awoken memories for her.
He thought of the special television news programme for the deaf on Sunday evenings, a digest of the week’s events, when subtitles appeared at the bottom of the screen as the newscaster spoke.
Lilli sat beside him, looking at the television.
“The song tells us the fir-tree is a symbol of faith. It is always green, in summer, and in winter also, when it is snowing. We learn from it hope and steadfastness.” She pulled a face as she spoke the last word, and looked interrogatively at him.
He nodded. The word was right.
“The fir-tree is noble and alone. It comforts and strengthens us.”
Kindergarten av Peter Rushforth. Utgitt i 1979.