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Past Mistake

Georg waited patiently in the Tiergarten, the park within central Berlin, hidden in a copse of maple and plane trees close to the zoo. It was the first of February 1933 and he felt a pang of excitement and fear comingled. Soon their plan would reach fruition but for now the most dangerous part was still to come.
He thought back to his time in Prague, 1968, and the turmoil of Soviet oppression that had swept the continent since the end of the war exactly twenty years earlier. A sense of change had begun that January when Alexander Dubcek was elected First Secretary of the Party but Georg held little hope. So he had "slipped through the sponge-like quantumness of time. A cold spring awaited his country and this had seemed the only way out. The death of one man bringing peace to the multitude. His lover, Kveta, had calculated the odds. Then together they had struggled hard to create the means to literally fall into time. To calculate exactly where, and when, he would arrive. And it had to be Georg. He had no wish to kill a man, even one so vile, but he felt a stronger repugnance in allowing Kveta to kill. Besides he was the historian, the one who knew most about Berlin between the wars.
He went through the events of the day again recalling each incident that history--as it was for him--had recalled it. Hitler was working upon his Proclamation to the German nation somewhere within the Chancellery--he had assumed the title Chancellor only two days previous. Spending the day writing and rewriting his speech for that night.--"More than fourteen years have passed since the unhappy day when the German people, blinded by promises from foes at home and abroad, lost touch with honor and freedom, thereby losing all. Since that day of treachery, the Almighty has withheld his blessing from our people."--Scraps of paper held his thoughts and ideas but even after lunch he still had no real draft to work with. Frustrated he would leave the Chancellery to walk through the Tiergarten hoping for inspiration. There he would be alone; without his guards; vulnerable.
Georg felt for the knife within his pocket while glancing around nervously. A gun would have been so much easier but metal traveled poorly through time and so he was left with a fine wooden blade of hardest ash. It was nearly one and the chancellor would begin his frustrated walk at 1:33 pm, reaching the most secluded part of the park at precisely 2:07 pm. Georg increased his pace, swerving through packs of Berliners as they promenaded in the bright February sun. His mind raced alongside his walk. Thoughts echoing out as each step brought him closer.
After this day's events Germany would pause and lose its way. A weaker Germany would allow the Russians to expand when war inevitably came. Even if by 1948 they had all but lost--the Americans joining their British allies upon finishing their own war in the east by '46--Europe was carved up and Georg's own land became part of the communist expansion. His people now were held captive by ideology and fear. A different, stronger, leader could have held the Russians at bay. Could have kept his people free; and if all went well today he would bring about that regime change that was so desperately needed.
He reached the western side of Tiergarten at 1:48 pm. He felt his body shake involuntarily as the emotion of the coming event seeped backwards into his soul. To kill in the name of thousands; that had been a motif of the last war. Shells had been dropped on civilians in untold numbers. Dresden, Coventry, London. The list of cities afflicted by war seemed endless. Better a hundred die now to save a thousand, or tens of thousands in some distantly vague future. And Georg had seen this "future." He lived it and knew of the cruelty that bubbled unheeded beneath its surface. To kill one man but free a million from fear? Was that a price he was willing to pay?
He waited between tall elm trees. A man strode purposely deep in thought a large grey overcoat hiding his uniform. He was average height, around five feet nine inches but even with a cap pulled down over his face Georg knew who he was, as always his distinctive moustache gave him away. He stepped forward hesitant, waiting. Suddenly there was movement from his right and a burly man with reddish hair stumbled out, a luger in his hand.
Georg almost froze. To see Mark Lange up close, to hear him as he gave his famously addled speech about the "gas-chambers" and "the horrors you will impose,"--confusing for a generation of people until the end of the Second World War and the realization of what had occurred--was electrifying. He had to physically push himself forward willing his body into action. With two steps he was at Lange's side. He brought up his knife and forced it up and into the larger man's side keeping the pressure on so as to push Lange aside and away from the Chancellor. The gun went off but Georg could see that the bullet had finished in the dirt yards away from Hitler.
He drew the knife back and thrust it into the man again, falling over him as Lange collapsed in a bloody heap. Georg lay alongside the dying assassin and smiled. History would be changed; the world would be different now that he had killed Hitler's assassin. The Chancellor would now live and so the possibility that he would become a great leader, a Fuhrer, able to lead a strong Germany. Willing to hold back the Soviet threat. Georg felt his body slipping away back to his own present and he felt peace, knowing that he would enter a different kind of spring in Prague in 1968.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, September 27th, 2019
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