I have been totting up the times that I swore never to return to Germany.
The first was in the summer of 1936 when I saw only a bit of the surface scum, but it was enough. A bunch of youngish beer bellies in brown shirts surrounded an old man and woman, poor people from my quick glance at them, who were on their hands and knees. I thought, but could not believe, that they were scrubbing the pavement. Whatever they were doing was hard and wrong, and these louts were jeering at them.
I was using the Weltkriegsbibliothek in Stuttgart for research. The librarian, a thin grey-faced woman, spoke in whispers, saying that they had a new director; she did not know how long the library would stay open. The library documented the Great War of 1914-18, hardly a popular subject, a record of defeat. One afternoon the new director arrived on horseback. He was young, blond and handsome in his brownshirt uniform. He galloped through the trees and untended high grass, and swung from his horse into an open French window. The building was an elegant old house in its own small park. He made a lot of noise in that silent place. The librarian listened with a strange expression; I was unused to the look of fear. Then he rode off, laughing. Though he had gone, the librarian would not answer questions about him or the former director.