On Becoming Otto
Otto was beyond help. Cold and calculating, his emotional state was crafted to cloak his underlying truth. The role he played provided unhindered access and freedom of movement that was void of suspicion. Though his role was not what he expected, it was what he needed. Blindness through trust, so carefully hewn, ensured not a hint of conjecture about where in fact his obedience really lay. His uniform, tailored to deceive, provided the camouflage necessary to fully go about the business of playing his role to a tee.
Born English, third generation, he straddled two cultures. He was proud of his German heritage and celebrated its traditional celebrations. Every Allerheiligen, All Saints Day, November one, his mother would make a three-foot long braided sweet bread—Strietzel—which the family devoured. On Weihnachten, Christmas, he would place his shoes—at least until he realized his boots were a more bountiful choice—by the fireplace to be stuffed with nuts, fruits and chocolate. German folklore and fairy tales of Hansel and Gretel, Sankt Nikolaus, and the Pied Piper were an integral part of his life. In Manchester, where his family worked and lived, Germans were accepted. Yearly, Manchester surrendered its central square to celebrate Oktoberfest. Then, one day, life—subtly at first—changed. Growing war fever created hostility toward Germans. Early hints of what might lie ahead came in letters from his aunt and uncle who resided in Winnipeg, Canada. The letters spoke of German instruction being removed from curricula in public schools, orchestras refusing to play German music and hamburgers renamed “nips.”
He was a proud Englishman, too. When World War I broke out, he was the first in his class to join up. The possibility of killing Germans in trenches opposite had a sobering effect on him. He ...