Tulse Luper – 4. Cherries

From the testimony of Hugo Vanhoenacker, a railway employee in Antwerp during the Second World War.
—It was in 1940, about a month or six weeks after the Blitzkrieg, services were starting up again, not to the normal extent. There were still many displaced people and no real organisation, but we were in a better position than Rotterdam or Brussels, mainly because we were not on the direct line from Köln, which was still busy with troop transports.
He showed me an Austrian diplomatic passport, but he spoke to me in French. A man called Lefrenik, demanding to know where the station master was. He said it was an urgent matter involving espionage. With him, he had two German policemen, or maybe Gestapo. I brought them to the Superintendent’s office and waited outside.
After a while, the man Lefrenik came out, and the Superintendent called me in. He showed me a photograph, and said the authorities had been alerted that an English spy was in the area and might try to use the railway. All railway workers were to be circulated the description.
Then, I think it was two days later, the Germans arrested him, it was the man in the photograph, he was caught while he was buying a ticket to Brussels, late at the afternoon, I think. While he was under their arrest, they locked him in the Superintendent’s private quarters. There was a German directly outside the door, and also a German outside the window in case he tried to escape that way.
The Superintendent was pro-German, but even he was unhappy with this. He thought it was a personal slight, and also his family had to vacate their quarters while the Englishman was detained.

The contents of this suitcase, located on a mountain peak: approximately 60 cherries, contained in a glass bowl. The mountain peak being the south summit of Nevado Tres Cruces, in the Atacama region of Chile, at around 6000 m.
The placement suggesting exultation, complication, extremity, achievement, concealment, pioneering, interfacial, frontiersman, and all gradations among.

—It was strange for several reasons. Other people were arrested for being spies, especially during the early days of the war. I’m sure not all of them were, but probably some were, of course. Anyway, these others were taken away immediately, we never saw them at all, straight to the headquarters set up in the centre of Antwerp. After about six hours, a car, with this Lefrenik, and black-clad SS men, came and took the Englishman. He wasn’t handcuffed when they went. They would have been armed, of course, but none of them were carrying weapons openly.
I think he was an Englishman; he did look like an Englishman, I suppose, but I never heard him speak, in any language. What I remember most is that there had been a bowl of cherries set on the table in the room where the Englishman was, the Superintendent’s wife always had them at that time of year, to provide a decoration to the house. Good cherries, and not one had been touched. There they all were in the bowl and not a discarded stone anywhere, I checked afterwards.
How did he resist the impulse? I don’t know. The idea that a man could have denied himself to eat any of the cherries was most interesting to me. Six hours, he was in that room, and not one was touched. If he dared not in case of punishment, I could have understood it, but in his position it was quite likely he was facing death anyway. At the very least, surely, he was going to be sent to the camps.
So why not eat some, all, of the cherries? Why not?

Tulse Luper – full index »

These suitcases represent the world according to Tulse Luper.

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