Mary was going down the memory lane, looking at old pictures of herself when she worked as a maid, they were all black and white, nearly seventy years old and had turned yellow with age.
She had turned eighty seven this month, her eyesight was good for her age and her memory still sharp.
She lived alone in a small house in a dusty town near Bavaria in Germany. She was the only member of her family alive as her parents and siblings had all gone from this world a long time ago.
She remembered their small cottage at the foothills of the Alps, where she was born, it was a remote ,impoverished village away from the hustle and bustle of the city. She lived with her parents and siblings, ' twin brothers' in abject poverty.
Her father was old and sick, her mother would go every morning to the town nearby to work in rich peoples' homes to earn and make ends meet.
They didn't have money to pay school fees so she and her brothers would while away their time tending to their two goats and a handful of chickens.
One day her mother got to hear of vacancies in the Berghof for young girls to work as maids, a huge palatial house belonging to the "Fuhrer".
The salary was very good along with boarding and lodging. Her mother readily agreed to send Mary to work there as it would be one less mouth to feed, and extra money that would be handy.
She remembered vividly the day her mother had come home early from work,
"Mary, please pack all your belongings, tomorrow you are going to "Obersalzberg" !
"But why mother?"
"They need young girls to work at the Berghof, it's the Fuhrer's house.
"Who is the Fuhrer mother?"
"You are asking too many questions girl. Now off with your packing", her mother was annoyed.
"Mother, I don't want to leave you and Pa, I want to stay here with you all".
"How selfish you are Mary? The are paying good money, any other girl would be so grateful to get this opportunity".
"I don't want to hear anymore on this topic. Just pack your belongings and be ready tommorow. I will put you on the bus to Obersalzberg and from there you will walk up to the Berghof".
Her father was not happy with the proceedings. He argued with her mother.
"She's only a child Laura!"
"Child ? She will be 13 next week but she can pass off as as a 15 year old she's tall and sturdy "
No one could argue with her mother, her word was law.
She was handed a battered suitcase which was too big for her handful of clothes.
Mary was nervous and scared as this was the first time she would be away from her family. She would miss them all especially her twin brothers to whom she was very close emotionally.
Next day Mary woke up early, she hugged her father and brothers and bid them a tearful goodbye and set out to a new beginning of her life.
Another girl named Lizzy from the same village accompanied her and they both started their journey to Obersalzberg, a city which they had only heard of.
She still remembered the first glimpse of the Chalet, it was mammoth, something she had never seen before and she was frightened. She wanted to turn back but the images of her sick father and starving brothers egged her on. After a lot of checking and rechecking of their belongings the guards let them in.
There were other young girls who had come to work from different villages all looking a bit nervous. All standing quietly looking lost.
She and the girls were given ill fitting uniforms to wear before presenting themselves to the lady of the house who they knew later as Eva Braun.
They all were made to stand in a line and greet the lady holding up their right hand without making eye contact and say,
"Heil kind lady"
The lady had blonde hair and kind face. She inspected them for sometime, and gave out a few instructions.
"Welcome to Berghof, it is a great privilege for all of you to serve the Fuhrer".
"You will work diligently and in silence".
"You will be loyal at all times".
"There will be no fixed working hours, whenever the need arises you should be ready".
"For this, every month a handsome remuneration will be paid to your families".
"You are all dismissed now".
The meeting was short and curt and they all went about doing their chores.
Mary was mesmerised by the huge house and felt she would be lost there. she was assigned to clean the bedrooms which belonged to the Fuhrer and Eva Braun, they had seperate bedrooms adjacent to each other.
Fuhrer's bedroom was simple and sparsely furnished with a huge bookshelf, while the other room was fancy with a huge wardrobe, dressing table and a love seat facing the huge windows.
Mary was given a tiny room for herself with a warm bed, a luxury for her and Mary knew then that hunger and sleeping on hard wooden floor will be something of the past.
She remembered, her meal at home always consisted of goat cheese and eggs but now it would be a different story and she was grateful for that.
As days passed she got into the humdrum of things thinking how privileged and honored she was, to get such a job, but she had no inkling that she was working for an evil monster who would be responsible for the death of millions of innocent people.
Everyday, she went to clean the bedrooms with one of the senior maids ,only after the Fuhrer and lady Eva had left their quarters, which would sometimes be in the afternoon, a gaurd was always present outside, they had to work in silence and walk out of the room without making a sound.
Few days after working there she got a glimpse of the 'Fuhrer'. She found him to be a very ordinary looking person with a funny moustache on his face looking very stern and serious. She also learnt that his real name was 'Hitler' and Fuhrer was just a title.
Regularly there would be plenty of guests for dinner, Mary would help in the kitchen cleaning the dishes, most of the food would be returned untouched from the dinner table, which they would scrape out in a big pot and share it among the maids.
Many rich and famous would come to visit the Fuhrer and once she had the privilege to serve the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor among the other dignitaries.
Exotic food and wine was served daily at the Chalet but the Fuhrer ate vegetarian food and drank only tea. The plethora of dishes were for the guests who graced the dinner table.
Eva and Hitler never made their relationship public and very few were aware of their relationship. The maids only heard rumours about them but no one spoke openly about it as they didn't want to jeopardize their chances of working in the Berghof which had certain perks. They could travel freely in the city and people always looked up at them with certain respect.
Living inside the Berghof, they were not aware of what was going on in the outside world. News started trickling in about the war but nothing was confirmed. They were safe inside with the numerous guards and soldiers guarding them.
All of a sudden the routine of the Berghof was disrupted, there was a great deal of activity and constant flow of Nazi officers coming in for discussions which would go on way beyond midnight or even later. There were heated debates and raised voices which could be heard right upto the kitchen.
Mary and the other maids would have to serve beverages to the officers on demand and they hardly got few hours of sleep.
Everyone was tensed and agitated and the air was thick with tension inside the chalet, little did young and innocent Mary know that the Fuhrer and his officers were plotting the genocide of the Jews. They planned to annihilate all the jews in Europe. A crime which would go down in history as the most immoral act against mankind.
These activities stopped after few days and everything was back to routine. The Furher was spending less time in the Chalet now and would be days before he returned to the Berghof.
One day Mary saw the Fuhrer standing in the garden and she was shocked to see him looking old and haggard, his shoulders were hunched and he was in deep thought, smoking furiously at his cigar.
She had never seen him doing it before, she realised then that he was in much mental agony and that something was amiss.
The guards were speaking openly now, about the American army who had reached the Austrian border and any moment they would attack the 'Berghof '
.She could see fear lurking in every corner as they all were afraid of being killed or arrested.
One morning Mary woke up to an empty house and the silence was eerie. She ran to the kitchen where all the maids were huddled together whispering.
She learnt from them that Hiltler and Eva Braunn had absconded from the Chalet in the middle of the night along with some trusted guards.
The helpers and few guards were left to deal on their own with instructions, they should not leave the Berghof, no matter what.
Mary knew they were in deep danger and she must get out of there or she would be killed along with the others.
One night she along with Lizzy escaped from the Berghof with the help of a guard.
Along the way she saw the destruction and Nazi soldiers everywhere, houses were destroyed children running helter skelter. People looking lost moving around aimlessly and she realised the gravity of the situation.
With great difficulty she managed to reach her village. She was returning after four years and a lot had changed in the meantime. She had left home as a child but returned as a matured young lady wise beyond her age.
Her mother was old and frail, Mary learnt of the holocaust from her and also about the most heinous crimes committed by Hitler on the Jews.
She looked around but her brothers were missing.
"Mother where is Paul and Lucas?,
She asked her eyes searching for them.
"And where is Pa "?
Her father was bedridden and she was taken aback not to see him in the house.
Her mother started sobbing.
"They took them away".
"But why mother? She was shocked.
Her mother told her how her twin brothers were taken away forcibly by the Nazi soldiers, mistaking them for jews and they never returned. Her father died of heartbreak after hearing the news.
Mary hugged her mother and they both were sobbing thinking of their loss.
"Promise me Mary you won't tell anyone that you were working for that despot.
"Everyone hates him and they may cause you harm if they know you were working for him".
Mary agreed as she knew her mother was speaking the truth.
Many people had escaped from the concentration camps with horror stories which shook man kind. Mary and her mother looked after them and nursed them. They took in few children who had lost their parents and fed them till some relatives came looking for them.
Finally the American army came and the prisoners were free from the death camps, the soldiers were appalled to learn about the atrocities committed by Hitler and his army against the jews.
Not a single eye remained dry after hearing about the plight of the Jewish prisoners.
Her mother passed away soon after, as though she had remained alive only to meet her daughter.
Mary had promised her mother that she won't divulge to anyone the fact that she worked for Hitler. For more than seventy years Mary kept a secret, a fact which she was once proud of, now, was a matter of shame
Her secret would now go with her to the grave.