Little Herma was chosen. Schoolteachers had selected the very best from the classrooms of Salzburg, but Herma was the one chosen above all the rest. At eight years old, she displayed classic Aryan features: blonde hair in two neat braids down her back, fine porcelain skin, good posture. The teachers were careful to select only those students whom the Führer would want to see. Little Rudy, for instance, with his dark eyes and flat nose, would remain behind.
“What is your full name, child?” The headmaster bent down to look in her eyes. Herma was afraid, but she wouldn’t let him see. She answered in a clear voice, “My name is Hermenegilde Zazilia Zeinzinger.” Her lower lip trembled, but she clasped her hands tightly behind her back and stood straight, in her blue school uniform. Her beloved teacher, Fräulein Knauss, smiled down at her, and Herma smiled back. Fräulein told the headmaster who her parents were, and where they lived, and where her father worked, and the headmaster nodded with approval.
Two days later, the Führer would ride into Salzburg in a big black automobile, and Herma was supposed to step out of the group of children with a bouquet of flowers in her hand, to present to the Führer. She didn’t know why they picked her, and she wished they hadn’t. That morning, she whispered to her friend Sophie, “I wish you were giving him the flowers!” Sophie’s blue eyes brightened at the thought, but a frown wrinkled her little forehead as she whispered back, “But you were chosen, Herma! Don’t you want to do it now?” Herma shook her head, braids bouncing on her shoulders. She had heard her mother speaking to Frau Treffen who lived upstairs, saying there was nothing special about the Führer. Frau Treffen told her to be careful, but Herma’s mother kept talking. “My little Herma was selected because she’s pretty. Her sister Margarethe isn’t even included in this group. Why? Because she is too fat? Not blonde?” The more her mother spoke, the more Herma did not want to give the flowers. Her sister Margarethe was left out. It wasn’t fair. Her mother didn’t like this man, so Herma would not like him either.
Herma took Sophie’s hand and they walked into the school. At the classroom door, Herma stopped in front of Fräulein Knauss. Still holding Sophie’s hand, she looked up at her pretty teacher and said, “Sophie should present the flowers.” Sophie tried to run away, but Herma held tight to her friend’s hand. Fräulein Knauss tilted her head and looked down at both girls. She looked very stern and Herma knew she was in trouble. “I won’t do it,” she added.
And she didn’t. To avoid a scene, Sophie was the girl who stepped forward to present the bouquet to the Führer. Herma stayed in the group and smiled with the others. The Führer patted Sophie on the head and raised his arm, and everyone in Salzburg raised their arm, too.