Gestapo, Abwehr - and the more people she recruited, the greater the chance of accidentally bringing a traitor into the group and being betrayed. Guarding one’s mouth was hard enough when one wasn't doing something the state would consider treacherous. Hell, the rowdier students might easily be the spies. They hadn't been kicked out despite skimping on their lessons.
“We can send a message through the computer network to every student in the university,” Sven said. “I can make it look as though it came from outside the building. Hell, there are other campuses in other cities...”
“Yes, but they’ll stamp down hard,” Horst warned.
“They’d have to stamp on all of us,” Sven said.
“That’s one idea,” Gudrun said. “But I have another.”
She braced herself. “Do you recall distributing leaflets when you were in the Hitler Youth?”
“I never had to distribute leaflets,” Sven said, after a moment. “Is that something you had to do?”
“Yeah,” Hilde said. “While you boys were going camping and playing with weapons, we used to hand out papers exhorting greater efforts for the fatherland and other such pieces of crap.”
“It wasn't all wine and roses,” Sven objected. “They used to make us run for miles and chased us with whips.”
“Poor dear,” Hilde said. “At least you got to be away from home for a couple of weeks every year.”
Gudrun winced in memory. The Bund Deutscher Mädel - the female wing of the Hitler Youth - hadn't been fun. Maybe it had had its moments - she’d always enjoyed playing sports and she’d been healthy enough to avoid the public humiliations meted out to overweight girls - but she hadn't enjoyed it. Walking around in ugly uniforms and handing out leaflets to passers-by had been annoying. Even at the time, she’d doubted that many of the recipients did anything other than use the leaflets to start fires.
“The point is that we can print out leaflets of our own,” she said. “Wearing our old uniforms, we can then walk through the streets and hand them out.”
“The police will notice,” Sven objected.
“Not if we do it on a day when the real BDM is also handing out leaflets,” Horst mused. “It won’t take them long to discover what we’re doing, but they’ll have to sort you out from the younger girls.”
“And they’ll be having a competition,” Gudrun said. “They’ll have several groups of youngsters out on the streets, passing out leaflets, just to see who can hand out the most.”
Sven snorted. “Why don’t they just dump the leaflets in the nearest bin and claim victory?”
“Because if they get caught,” Hilde said with icy patience, “they’ll be forced to stand in the cold air in their underclothes, without dinner.”
Gudrun shuddered. The matrons - the thoroughly unpleasant women who ran the BDM - hadn't hesitated to pit one group of girls against the others. Those who won got to watch as those who lost were humiliated in front of their fellows. And then reports were sent back to the schools and homes, just to ensure the losers received further punishment. By the time she’d grown old enough to leave, she’d been thoroughly sick of the whole organisation.
“Maybe we can get a few of the matrons into trouble,” she said. Could they do it? Could they walk into one of the tents and exchange leaflets? God knew she’d never bothered to read the leaflets she’d handed out. But that would get the girls into trouble as well. “If the SS wants to ask them a few questions...”
“They’ll have contacts,” Horst said. “Better keep it as simple as possible.”
Gudrun looked at Sven. “Can you print out copies of the standard leaflet, but with our message inside?”
“Easily,” Sven said. “We have the equipment. It’ll just take us some time to print them out without being noticed.”
“And then we have to see when the BDM is handing out leaflets next,” Gudrun mused.
“It’ll be Sunday,” Hilde predicted. “They always try to hand out the leaflets to people coming out of church. If we can’t put together enough leaflets by Sunday, we can simply wait until the next Sunday.”
“There’ll be more of them on the streets too,” Horst added. “They don’t like taking the younger girls out of classes if it can be avoided.”
“And to think you men had it so much easier,” Hilde teased.
Gudrun coughed, loudly, before an argument could break out and turn nasty. “I have my old uniform at home,” she said. Her mother had never allowed her to get rid of it, even though Gudrun had begged to be allowed to burn the ugly piece of trash. “I can probably alter it to fit me with a little effort.”
“Better let me do it,” Isla said. “You’re not a good seamstress.”
“We also need to make sure we’re not recognised,” Horst said. “The girls can distribute leaflets in their old uniforms, but we will find it a little harder to pass unnoticed.”
Gudrun frowned. “You could wear your own uniforms,” she said. “Or we could borrow some others for you...”
“No one expects to see the Hitler Youth distributing leaflets,” Horst reminded her. “So we wear our regular clothes, but instead of giving leaflets to people we put them through letterboxes, as if they were advertisements. No one will think twice of it until it’s far too late.”
“I see,” Gudrun said. She looked down at the table for a long moment. “Sven and the computer experts will send messages to everyone, the day we start distributing the leaflets. Horst and the boys ready themselves to put messages through letterboxes; I and the girls prepare to start handing out leaflets in the streets.”
“Wear wigs,” Horst said. “Tie your hair up and wear a striking wig, one you can remove in an instant if necessary.”
He looked embarrassed for a second. “And stuff your bras too,” he added. “You want to draw their eyes to your chests rather than to your faces.”
Gudrun blushed. “We don’t want to look too old,” she said. “Passing for a sixteen-year-old isn't going to be easy.”
“Most people won’t notice as long as you look striking,” Horst assured her. “Just make sure you are striking in ways you can easily remove, if necessary. If the SS start looking for a red-headed girl, you can walk past them because you’re blonde.”
“Clever,” Sven said. “How do you know all this?”
“I was in the Hitler Youth,” Horst said.
“So was I,” Sven said. “And we were never shown anything like this.”
“Of course not,” Horst said, crossly. “You, you see, were in the Hitler Youth here. I was in the Hitler Youth in Germany East. You went on camping trips, we went on partisan hunts; you pretended to build fortresses, we dug trenches and sited mortars; the only danger you faced was a minor injury or a belting from the supervisors for falling asleep on watch, we ran the very real risk of being shot. I have more practical experience than any of you in remaining concealed.”
“I’m glad you’re with us,” Gudrun said. She'd known that Horst was from Germany East, but she hadn't understood the implications. “Do you have any other pieces of advice?”
“Getaway vans,” Horst said. “We hire a handful of vans, fiddle a little with their number plates and use them to get away from the scene. The distributors can change in the rear while the drivers get them to safety.”
Leopold snorted. “And when someone makes a note of the number?”
“That’s why we change it,” Horst said. “Not much, not enough to make it obvious, but just enough to mislead someone watching from a distance. We return the vans in perfect condition and no one asks any questions.”
Gudrun nodded. “Good thinking,” she said.
“We won’t have long,” Horst added. He ran his hand through his hair. “I’d honestly suggest not sticking around for more than an hour, at the most. Someone will report the leaflets to the police and then they’ll move in and try to catch us.”
“Your father is a policeman,” Leopold said, looking at Gudrun. His voice was thoughtful. “Is there no way you can keep track of his movements?”
“He doesn’t take me to work,” Gudrun pointed out, sarcastically. The very thought was absurd. Her father would have refused, she was sure, if she’d ever asked. “And how am I supposed to hand out leaflets with him right next to me?”
“We could monitor the police radios,” Sven said, before Leopold could manage a sharp rejoinder. “It isn't as if it’s difficult to adapt one of the radios to tune into their bands.”
“That’s illegal,” Isla protested.
Horst snorted. “And handing out illicit leaflets isn’t?”
Gudrun smiled. “Let’s be brutally honest, shall we? We’ve already crossed the line.”
“That’s true,” Horst agreed.
“If any of you don’t want to help distributing leaflets,” Gudrun said, “say so now.”
She waited. Her throat was dry. Everything they’d done so far might be excused - they were among the best and brightest of the Reich - but actually handing out leaflets would get them in deep trouble. They’d be kicked out of the university, at the very least; it was far more likely they’d go to jail or be summarily exiled to Germany East. Or...
“I think it has to be done,” Hilde said. She looked down at her hands. “I’m sick of this! I’m sick of not knowing what’s happened to my boyfriend!”
“I’m sick of having to watch my words,” Leopold said. “Of being worried that the next person I talk to will report me to the SS. And of being told I’m not allowed to ask questions.”
“And if there are hundreds of others who feel the same way,” Gudrun said, “all we have to do is get them working together.”
“No,” Horst said. “All we have to do is make them realise that there are others who feel the same way.”
He leaned forward. “The state works hard to ensure that no one asks questions,” he said, flatly. “We are taught not to ask questions from birth until death - and, because none of us ask the questions we want to ask, we never realise that there are others who feel the same way. It may be too dangerous to add more recruits to our little band, but if we can prime the rest of the population to feel the same way... others will start their own groups. The SS will be unable to keep track of us all.”
“I’ve heard about what happens to people the SS take away,” Isla said, nervously.
“It isn’t pleasant,” Horst agreed. “For the moment, we say nothing if we are taken into custody, nothing at all. And we don’t write anything down.”
“Save for the leaflets,” Sven said.
“We can also pay children to take the leaflets and hand them out,” Horst said.
“Too risky,” Gudrun said.
“The SS wouldn't brutalise children,” Leopold protested. “Their parents would never stand for it.”
“They’ll do whatever it takes to root us out,” Horst said. His voice was very firm. “Whatever it takes. Once we start the ball rolling, we have to be committed to the very end.”
“And, if that’s true,” Sven asked, “what do we want?”
“The truth,” Gudrun said.
“Freedom,” Hilde added.
“Free elections to the Reichstag,” Leopold said. “Let the Nazi Party fight to win elections.”
“They won’t like the challenge,” Horst said. He gave Leopold a long considering look. “And that is why we have to brace ourselves for the moment they push back. Because they will.”
Gudrun nodded. “I think we’re committed now,” she said. She smiled grimly at their expressions. “I think it’s time to become traitors.”