This past night, I dreamed that I worked for Hitler during WWII. Because of my interdisciplinary education, I was able to pass as a professional elite in his private residence. I got picked up one day as I was passing the street, hurrying to shop for my family. I was grilled about my destination by a gendarme. I was dressed as a very stylish 1920’s mademoiselle, and made a firm assertion in my unaccented German that I was on my way to der schloss–the old palace where he had taken up residence. I seemed to have impressed that lone guard so much that he cleared the path to the front door and escorted me with an entourage.
From the moment that I entered, my survival instincts kicked in. I knew that I would have to remind and prove to everyone what my training was, just to make it from hour to hour. Hitler’s paranoia infiltrated every rank, and everyone was a suspect for wearing the wrong color eyeliner. I was fortunate that I had dressed in clothing that matched my assertion. I was wearing a beautiful maroon and beige tweed wool coat. It was full-length, but only two buttons were closed. This allowed for my outfit to be seen peeking through the coat. I had a beautiful wool skirt with large pleats in dark chocolate fabric. The pleats were sewn flat for the upper half to be form fitting around the hips. The ribbed sweater and silk blouse with starched collar completed the outfit. I wore brown silk tights and beautiful leather shoes with a small pump heal and Mary-Jane strap with a stud button. My hair was long and turned up into a French bun under a wool felt hat with a brass buckle. In a way, I almost looked like Mary Poppins–modest, sexy, stylish, but beholden of superpowers.
Once inside the palace, I had to re-introduce my credentials to everyone who paused to check on me. Instinctively and against all reason, I chose the arts over a practical profession, although any excuse was up for grabs in that situation. Every time I asserted that I was a Maestro, they pushed me further and further into the staff quarters where experts prepared to be of service. Somehow, being the Maestro set me apart from others who were shoemakers, plumbers, and chefs. I was regarded as a true professional, and somebody who was worthy of being spoken to in high vocabulary. I was given the largest storage space for my clothes, which was a house closet converted into a locker for personal belongings for those who were in the expert quarters. These were actually house closets converted to costume racks like those in a backstage dressing room near the props.
My closet was located directly next to Hitler’s dress clothes closet. The room was vacant with only a small round table and wooden chairs. The dusty pink carpet was a remnant of the previous tenant who used this room as a back-quarter conference area near their bedroom. We were expected to sit there and wait on command. Hitler’s door was right in that room. He was on the other side, loudly pacing and cursing as he used that room to prepare himself mentally and physically for each task. We were expected to sit there and wait for him to overcome his anxiety and to be able to demand some request from and of us.
Since I was the only one trained in the social sciences, I was also the one that he turned to as a full-time therapist. When he was too flustered to figure out if he should put on his left or right sock first, he would come to me and ask for instruction. Those instructions were shrouded by mundane tasks, but truly held a double meaning as he was asking about invasions and strategies. Using his socks, clothing, or what he should eat for his next meal, we discussed everything in true psychoanalytic fashion. Since Freud was all the rage at the time, I was able to earn his respect for what I was observing, witnessing, or analyzing from his experience.
Hitler was a known classical music snob, and it terrified me that he would grill me before every public performance. However he was too anxious with his own daily tasks such as combing his hair to perfection to involve himself with that. Instead, he conceded and allowed his staff to select the experts for his use, and for his disposal on a whim. Within an hour of my arrival to the palace, there was already one public meeting where Hitler was expected to entertain high-ranking officials. I rushed to the podium, grabbed the conductor’s baton, and conducted the orchestra without knowing what they would be playing. I had never seen the score before nor had I rehearsed any of the conducting. Yet I flapped with that stick as thought a gun was held to my head. I succeeded in demonstrating my competencies to the highest bidder.
When we returned to the room, Hitler was mingling in the expert room and cozied up to me. He thanked me for that wonderful Wagner rendition. He used the encounter to ask me more about what I thought of his outfit. His insecurities were pouring and leaking and dribbling and flooding the space. None of the other experts were capable of standing up to his constant grilling about his appearances, and many were shot and left for dead.
Next to me at the round table was an artist who was hired to draw all of the scenes that had occurred. He was a sketch artist with impeccable skill for drawing faces. He was always on edge, worried that he was drawing Hitler with one extra strand of hair. One day, a small Aryan child was at the table. He was obviously a child of high-ranking people allowed in that back room. He was watching all of us draw sketches to help the artist practice. He was fascinated with my drawing of the sketch artist’s face. I had started with his hairline first. The boy grabbed my pencil and insisted that he knew how to do it better. He began boldly adding strokes to the hair until it looked like a child’s caricature. He seemed embarrassed when he noticed the ruined sketch, but covered it up with some excuse of “there, I fixed it”. I hated this kid and his privilege, arrogance, and pomp.
One of our jobs was to go through every published scientific article in the German archives as well as captured libraries. We were expected to revise the manuscripts to reflect scientific findings that Hitler imagined. For example, a study about lab rats being killed from poisonous gas was edited to reflect that the rats had a genetic (non-Aryan) predisposition to susceptibility to safe gasses. Because we were the experts, nobody in the palace reviewed our work. We sat with a calligraphy pen rewriting all of the science of the past 100 years. Whatever we wrote was final. As the lone expert, I also pranked Hitler by sometimes putting lyrics into those articles, or curse words from other European languages. We knew we could have fun with this because we were the only peer-reviewers in this ridiculous charade. Still, we did those pranks only when Hitler was out entertaining, just in case he would pass through the round table and read something fishy.
The days flew by in a whirlwind of velvet gowns, concert apparel, and singing roles in entertainment productions. About three months into the war, we were waiting for Hitler to get dressed for yet another public appearance. From his breathing alone, I was able to sense that he was in full-blown panic, pacing his room like a maniac. I took a large orchestral score with me and tapped lightly on his door. I asked, “herr Hitler, may I sing for you from today’s performance to make sure that you approve of the musical selection?” The door was flung open by a purple faced steaming scrawny shell of a man. He was haggard and angry. He didn’t just fly over the cuckoo’s nest, but he was laying golden eggs in them. As I began to sing the opening note without a reference point, which indicated my perfect pitch, he visibly began to calm. When some rational thought returned, he asked again about my role in the palace. I reminded him that it was my job to cultivate the finest musical selections to fit each mood. I gave him an example of an upbeat Wagner score to demonstrate power, and contrasted that with a soprano aria to indicate mellow mood setting for evening when entertaining the ladies. He was so impressed and reassured by my extensive knowledge, that he used me as his right-hand pretty-thing as he went from one public appearance to another. From that moment, he insisted on having me on hand at all times as a representation of his sanity. He relied on me to keep him calm and powerful as the way he wanted to be seen. Through the arts, I became his therapeutic adviser.
I woke up reassured that I have selected a career in my current life that would not only help me help the masses. I don’t have to be Hitler’s right-hand man anymore. I already hold the power within my own abilities which was granted to me through the through my exposure to the arts. I am alive and kicking because of music. For most of my life, I faced death for my choices, but my choices always won.