The shouts continued to ring out as objects were thrown and broken, yet he remained completely still in his hiding place behind the wall. Jonas had originally built the secret space in the wall for his violin. The moment he found out musicians were being taken away like the others, he knew that he needed to hide his violin; to protect his precious violin from the destruction would surely befall the instrument. When he saw the large army vehicle with the Nazi flag pull up outside of his neighbors’ house, Jonas panicked and squeezed himself into the small space and pulled the piece of wall back into place just as the group of Nazi soldiers swarmed into his home.
Jonas held onto his violin possessively; the instrument had been passed down to him from his father, who in turn had inherited it from his father. Tears streamed silently down his cheeks as he held desperately onto memories of happier times. When the Nazis first occupied Austria, Jonas was wary of the intimidating presence of the soldiers. However, when large groups of people began to go missing, he knew that there was a very valid reason to be seriously afraid; he saw that the Jews, the Gypsies, members of Parliament were being dragged from their homes at all hours of the day and of the night. The list of people being taken grew longer and longer each day. Now the musicians were disappearing and Jonas knew that it was only a matter of time before he too was snatched from his home.
“Es ist leer, lass uns weitermachen!” shouted one of the soldiers (*It’s empty, lets move on!)
The footsteps stomped and pounded their way out until the sound suddenly disappeared as quickly as Jonas’s fellow Austrians disappeared from their homes. Jonas guessed that they had gotten back into their automobile because a few seconds later, the truck roared to life so that the soldiers inside could claim the lives their next victims.
Jonas continued to wait; he was terrified that the deafening silence could be a trap. ‘What if there are still soldiers here waiting for me?’ thought Jonas as his muscles continued to protest being shoved into an uncomfortable position due to the limited space of his hideout.
An hour passed before Jonas decided that he was once again the only occupant in the house. Slowly, he pushed against the false door until he stared open mouthed at the inflicted damage that had taken place. Jonas couldn’t believe what he saw, the gorgeous black grand piano was lying in pieces, the ebony and ivory keys callously scattered across the floor. His furniture was torn beyond repair, the white stuffing seemed to have exploded from the cushions; as he gently lowered his violin to the floor, he crawled out of the tiny space. His eyes traveled to the pictures of he and his parents, and to the pictures of his wife and children. Each frame had been smashed and thrown around the room.
He picked up one of the photos that contained the smiling faces of his wife and children, he allowed the tears to fall onto the broken glass. Jonas had been trying to find them for months, he was able to raise a little money here and there playing his violin, so that he could travel to France to find them. Numbly, he hung the photograph back onto the wall. He proceeded to do the same with the other pictures. He gazed at his parents; they had encouraged his musical talents from a young age. When he had told them that he was to play with the Austrian Orchestra, they had been so proud of him; they had dressed up in their best Sunday clothes to come and watch him play.
Jonas had met his wife Hanna at the Orchestra; she had waited until everyone else had left before seeking him out to tell him that she thought he had played beautifully and he should be playing solos. Hanna had asked him if he would write a song for her, Jonas had smiled and promised that he would. Five months later they were married and nine months later their first child, Tobias was born, followed a year later by Flora; their twins Maximillian and Sofia were born two years later.
Jonas had learned of his family’s disappearance from his parents in law’s home in Marseille from their neighbor who had been a witness to the horrifying experience. He had felt his world ending the moment he read the telegram. He felt guilty for not traveling with them; Hanna had told him that he must play with the Austrian Orchestra once more before they were forbidden to play. Jonas had promised to join them a week later. When he had received the news of their disappearance, he knew he could not sit by and do nothing; he had gathered up his violin and began to play in the street for just a few schillings a day. Jonas found work here and there in cafés', however, restaurant owners were too scared to hire anyone they thought the Nazis would disapprove of. Work grew more and more scarce each and every single day. Jonas refused to give up, he would do anything to be reunited with his loved ones!
He picked up his violin, placing the hand made instrument in a large bag and strapped the bag to his back. Jonas discreetly opened his door, looking both ways before locking the door behind him; he pulled his hat further down his head to cover his face. The last thing he needed was to be arrested, if that were to happen, he might never find his loved ones. He shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his beige coat as he walked down the wet cobblestones. Jonas knew of a couple of restaurants that he had not yet begged for a job. He sent a silent prayer of help towards the heavens that he could play his violin for the rest of the evening. He would taken payment of any kind so long as it helped him in his search.
He finally made it to his destination. Jonas pulled the heavy oak doors open and stepped inside, the smell of freshly baked bread caused his stomach to growl in protest, reminding him that it had been awhile since he had last eaten. The host approached him carefully, the two men stared at each other; each knew that one wrong move from either of them would most likely cause them to be arrested. Fear and suspicion had gripped their beloved country.
“Hallo, guten Abend.” greeted the host quietly, “Kann ich lhnen helfen?” (*Hello, good afternoon…Can I help you?)
“Ja.” replied Jonas nodding, “I play the violin, will you hire me for the evening to play for your patrons?”
Before the host could turn him down, Jonas quickly added:
“I do not ask for much in the ways of payment…perhaps a loaf of bread and two schillings. Please, I do hate to beg yet I need the money to find my wife and children.”
Sympathy filled the man’s eyes; though the host remained silent for a few more minutes, Jonas knew that tonight may very well be the first paying job he has had in weeks. The man moved aside and gestured for Jonas to follow him; they walked to the furthest corner of the room from the tables.
“You will play behind here and stay out of sight; the soldiers come here often.” Instructed the Host in a hushed whisper, “You must stay here until everyone has left; do not move until I come for you. I will bring a little food for you; would you like anything to drink?”
“Eine tasse tee bitte?” whispered Jonas as he took his violin out of its case, “Danke schön!” (*A cup of tea please…thank you very much!)
Soon the restaurant filled with boisterous Nazi soldiers, the sound of the enemy being so close for the second time that day caused Jonas to tremble violently. He took a sip of the tea the host brought him a few moments earlier to calm his nerves; he rested his chin against the chinrest and raised his bow. As was custom for him before he began to play, he pleaded silently for mercy and this time protection as well that he would be safe for another night.
Jonas closed his eyes and took a deep breath, slowly he began to coax a sweet melody from his shining chestnut colored violin that had been made by his grandfathers’ hand. The sweet notes floated into the air; his fingers skillfully moved across the strings that rested just above the fingerboard.
He remembered his wife smiling with pure happiness when he had played this very song shortly after they began their courtship; Hanna had cried with happiness when he told her that he had written this sonata just for her. Now he played his wife’s song in a restaurant filled with soldiers that would kill him in an instant; Jonas continued to play, with his eyes still closed he could imagine his sweet Hanna sitting in front of him with a beautiful smile on her cherry colored lips.
Jonas could hear his children squealing with laughter as they danced around him while he played fun fast paced folk songs. Tears flowed down his beard covered cheeks, he played with his whole heart and spirit; he continued to play through the evening.
He didn’t realize that the host was standing in front of him, a look of awe on the man’s face as he watched the musician play. The music was so sweet and so pure in a time that was in desperate need of something beautiful. This war seemed to drain the happiness and beauty from their world, Jonas’s music brought back a piece of that beauty.
Jonas played the last note of his song before looking up at the host; a sad smile formed on the musician’s lips as he stood. Once he had returned his instrument to the bag and strapped it onto his back once more, he spoke to the host.
“Danke.” whispered Jonas nodding his head once (*Thank you.)
“Nien, danke!” replied the host gratefully (*No, thank you!) as he handed Jonas a loaf of bread with meat and cheese along with five schillings
Jonas’s eyes grew wide at the five schillings, he looked up to protest. Before he could utter a single word, the host stopped him and simply stood aside, giving Jonas enough room to pass. Grateful, Jonas passed by and quietly exited the restaurant.
Jonas walked quickly along the cobblestone streets; he was eager to get back home. He hated being outside at night now, Jonas always tried to be back inside the safety of his home by nightfall. Nighttime seemed to be the most popular hour for people to disappear, he walked even faster as he saw his home come into view.
He thrust his key quickly into the lock and dashed inside, sliding the bolt back into place. Without a second thought, Jonas quickly hid his violin and the money into the wall where he had been hiding hours earlier. He slid the wall back into place; knowing that his instrument and earnings were safe, Jonas sank gratefully onto the armchair. Though the chair was torn and falling apart, Jonas began to drift into a restless sleep.
Jonas didn’t hear the vehicle drive up and park outside his home. Oblivious, to the danger lurking outside his door.
Without warning, shouts filled his home, Jonas jerked awake as he felt his body being thrown to the ground. Boots began to viciously kick at him, pain exploded from his ribs and his head. His hand felt the blood pouring from his nose and mouth. Though the voices shouted obscenities and insults at him, Jonas couldn’t quite hear the cruel shouting.
The beating continued as Jonas felt the cast iron poker slam into his back and legs, laughter sounded in the distance. ‘I am going to die this night.’ thought Jonas sorrowfully as he knew he would never find his family now
Through swollen eyes, Jonas glanced over at the pictures on his wall; with a gasp, he saw his sweet Hanna and darling children standing there, watching him. ‘This cannot be a dream…yet there they are.’ speculated Jonas trying to come up with a logical explanation.
His Hanna smiled at him; she held her hand out to him, and gestured for him to join them with her other hand. Jonas smiled. He knew that he would be joining his wife and children shortly; he knew now that they were spirits, and that they had come back for him.
“I am coming.” gargled Jonas softly as he stretched his hand towards them
Jonas didn’t hear the gun being loaded, being cocked and aimed. All he could see was his family waiting for him, Jonas knew that his violin would be safe behind the wall. He knew that one day, someone would find it and coax sweet music from its strings.
“I am com…” whispered Jonas his eyes fluttering shut
The single gun shot filled the room. The laughter faded as the soldiers looted the house before hastily leaving the home that was once filled with so much love and laughter.
Jonas looked down at his body briefly before he turned towards his family who lovingly and eagerly embraced him. Before Jonas left with his family to a happier world, he glanced once more to the spot where his beloved violin was hidden from view; the shining chestnut colored instrument would continue to be safe in this dangerous time. His violin would play the silent song until it could be found and loved once more.