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Escaped March 12th, 1938
Hurriedly, a young, pale-skinned blonde Austrian woman holding a file folder strutted through crowds of people at Salzburg, Austria’s airport. Dodging around suitcases and people, she made her way to a tall, dark man examining passports and boarding passes from behind a large metal, wood-topped desk.
“These are the most up to date ‘no fly’ lists, as of this morning March 12th, 1938, straight from London, Paris, Rome, Berlin,---” she began, but was cut off.
“That’ll do, Katharina,” the tall man, Conrad interrupted. “I have no time for this, can you see the line before my desk? Tell Anna I need more ink ribbons and paper….”
As he spoke, a taxi pulled up in front of the rain covered glass doors of the airport’s lobby. A dark haired woman wearing a tan trench coat and sunglasses despite the weather stepped out of the backseat door. Her expression gave a haughty air; something about the way her lips curved downwards. A man in a navy suit appeared from the other side and lifted the trunk lid. Out came two suitcases, then a black lockbox. After closing the trunk, the man cast his eyes about nervously through the rain and around the crowds. He chucked a few bills through the passenger window and he and the woman dashed out of the rain.
Katharina had just finished her conversation with Conrad and scurried back to her secretary’s desk. She didn’t see the couple dashing through the double glass doors, and the three collided, suitcases, lockbox and all. The woman’s sunglasses clattered to the ground and the man struggled to maintain his hold on the lockbox.
“Ach du liebe! Entschuldigung,” (“Oh my goodness! Excuse me,”) Katharina cried, reaching for the woman’s sunglasses, only to find them snatched out of her hands. Embarrassed, she nodded to the man and rushed away.
Safely at her desk, Katharina watched the couple make their way through the line at Conrad’s desk. The woman still had not removed her sunglasses, a suspicious behavior.
Conrad looked up as the pair made their way to his desk. The lady slid off her glasses, pulled out two identification cards and two passports. The man, named Leonard Vole, was an Englander, while she was Romana Garde, a native Austrian. Conrad checked the no-fly list, found them clear, stamped their papers and hurried them along; the line had grown immensely. As the duo rushed away, he noticed a small card dropping out of Ms. Garde’s coat pocket. Conrad was in no position to run after her, and the demanding customer next in line prevented him from putting someone else on the job.
A few hours later, after Conrad’s line had been processed, he stood up, stretched, and saw the card lying on the ground. Strolling over, he picked it up. It was an identification card of a native Austrian, reading Romaine Hildegard. The face on the card likened exactly to the Romana Garde that had dropped the card from her coat pocket.
Slowly, realization came to Conrad. This ‘Romana’ had given a false name, passport and identification! He dashed to his no-fly list and scanned down to the H’s. There it was; Romaine Hildegard! Wanted for perjury. He had been fooled. Conrad’s palms began to sweat and he sprinted for the boarding entrances. Looking wildly around, he saw no sign of the couple. His mind swirled in a tornado of thoughts.
Then he realized that if he simply kept quiet, nothing would happen. He would maintain his job and everything would be fine. Straightening his jacket and smoothing his hair, he walked placidly back to his desk and took his seat, plunging straight back into paperwork.
Suddenly he felt watched and uncomfortable. Looking up slowly, the end of a pistol stared him directly in the face.
“Don’t move,” said the pistol’s commander. Conrad dropped his pen and papers, lifting his hands in surrender. A man in a black uniform stood before him, holding the pistol. What was happening?
“This is the Fuhrer of the Fatherland’s command,” a voice boomed. Shouts and shrieks rang out throughout the airport. “Salzburg is now under the occupation of the Third Reich. You will cooperate.”
Conrad gulped in fear.