Koenig visited and brought her books, including the poetry of Wilfred
Owen. They talked of her childhood and of his past. She
learned that when France had fallen, he immediately joined De Gaulle,
which greatly upset his wife, Madame Koenig, a Nazi sympathizer,
because it meant her husband's "defection" officially branded him a
Susan Travers and Koenig began to have a relationship, after much
hesitation on her part--she feared it would only lead to
heartache. And for a time, they lived together. Their
relationship is complex, and while I cannot comment on it at length,
she, likely, cared more deeply for him than any man. They were
fighting for justice together, and each in their own way were
beautifully determined. As the war intensified, Koenig felt they
should live separately. He put the war effort ahead of all else,
saying to her, something I respect very much, "What my men can't have,
I can't have."
In January 1942, the 1st Free French Brigade, comprised of nearly 4,000
persons were ordered to mobilize, their crucial purpose to prevent the
Axis (German and Italian) forces from gaining control of the Suez
Canal. Ms. Travers writes: "So far Hitler's armies had seemed
invincible.... We were all determined that this should stop."
Koenig advised her that desert life was very difficult; there would be
no dishonor to stay behind. She insisted on going. They
were headed for Bir Hakeim, Libya.
Now, Hitler's Stukas, or dive-bombers were releasing armor-piercing
shells that on impact, maimed, scorched and disfigured all they
met. Ms. Travers describes the courageous men on the ground hour
after hour, day after day--"men who were half-starved and parched and
yet determined not to surrender." In his essay "A Woman Is the
Oneness of Aesthetic Opposites," Mr. Siegel writes of Hard: Soft.
a determination comes to women which can hold its own with that of
Napoleon or a boulder in a city park. And women are also pitying,
sympathetic, moved to give up their notions because of the plight of
sentences describe Ms. Travers' who, after an attack, tended to the
wounded, encouraging their spirits as well as she could.
The German forces outnumbered Koenig's army 10 to 1, yet astoundingly
they held out for 15 days. De Gaulle telegrammed Koenig: "Know
and tell your troops that the whole of France is looking at you and you
are her pride."
Meanwhile, the French position was pounded with 1,500 tons of 500lb
high-explosive bombs, and it was apparent they could not survive
another day. So Koenig, after night fall, with nearly 3,000 men
dependent on him, decided they would break out, and La Miss, driving
him and his top aide, would lead the massive convoy out straight
through enemy lines, taking them by surprise. Shortly after they
began, "We found ourselves [initially] trapped under heavy fire in [a]
well-lit corridor...." Ms. Travers writes,
were falling around us like rain... showering our car with burning
metal. The German cannon were upon us, and all the vehicles
stopped, unsure of where to go or what to do next....
They made it through the first of three rings of enemy lines.
Yielding to the facts before her, I think Ms. Travers was beautifully
determined. When they finally reached their rallying point many
miles away from the German lines, Koenig greatly feared that only their
car had made it through. She fell into an exhausted sleep, and,
awoke an hour or so later,...in the afternoon.... Sitting up blearily,
I thought I was hallucinating. What I saw was a thin line of men
and vehicles on the unbroken desert horizon.....To my astonishment...I
suddenly recognized the raggle-taggle group winding towards us as the
remaining survivors of Bir Hakeim.... The general stood beside me,
clasping his chest and trying to catch his breath.... We...rush[ed] to
meet our friends and colleagues, each of us overcome with emotion....
of the 3,700 men at Bir Hakeim had managed to cross enemy lines in the
dead of night as they had somehow managed to follow the tracks of Susan
Wrong Determination Interferes with Love
After the war, she
became an officer in the French Foreign Legion, stationed in Tunisia, a
French Protectorate, where she met Nicholas Schlegelmilch, an NCO in
the Legion, whom she later married. The purpose of the Foreign
Legion after WWII was very different--to protect French colonial
possessions throughout the world. Unfortunately, Ms. Travers
makes no distinction between the Legion's determination to fight for
justice during the war and its determination to fight for French
conquest after, which hurt her life very much.
In 1948, Nicholas was sent to fight in Indochina, to try to keep
France's colonial possession, Vietnam, and make sure the Vietnamese
would not own their own country, a purpose the United States would
continue in the most brutal, unjust war in American history.
Soon, though, he became very ill. And a year later when he
returned, he didn't want to have anything to do with his wife.
Ms. Travers wrote that she had no idea what happened in the Far East,
and he did agree to stay with her because of their two
children. How much their activities in the Legion after
WWII badly affected their lives cannot be underestimated. I've
seen that when two people support injustice together, they despise each
Meanwhile, recognition of her right and ardent determination during the
second world war came in 1956, when she was awarded France's high
tribute--the Medaille Militaire, "For bravery in the face of the enemy
at Bir Hakeim." Fittingly, it was pinned on her by her
comrade-in-arms, General Marie-Pierre Koenig (show photo), then
France's Minister of Defense, who said to her, "Well done, La
It was a very big thing in my life when I began to know Michael
Palmer. His thoughtful and eager interest in so many things
encouraged new perception in me--his care for sports, history, the Big
Bands, humor, and his deep love for Eli Siegel and Aesthetic
Realism. We came to care for each other, discussed getting
married, and I was very happy. Soon, though, I began feeling that
now my life was settled, and I no longer had to think so much.
But as weeks went on, there was growing tension between us. In a
class, I said I thought Michael was disappointed in me because I was
too quiet and smooth. Ellen Reiss said, "Aesthetic Realism shows
the purpose of knowing a man is to like the world. Do you have
another purpose?" "Yes," I answered.
ER Do you see Michael Palmer as a take-care-of-Lynette Abel machine?
LA I think I do.
you care for a person you want that person to love what's true....Miss
Abel has gotten to have a quiet determination...taking another desire
and putting it ahead of her first desire [to have good will].
thank Ellen Reiss for what she said, and for her steady desire to
strengthen the best in me. My happy determination to know Michael
and through him the whole world grows with each year, but it's not big
enough! I want to change more, be deeper and wider as to my
husband and all people, and I'm so glad that through studying Aesthetic
Realism I know I will.
Last March, Michael and I celebrated our 9th year of marriage.
I'm grateful for his criticism, which I need to be the person I hope to
be. And I love him for encouraging my expression in these
years. It is an honor to work together--and we are proudly
determined to have Aesthetic Realism known, because nothing is more
needed for the safety and happiness of people all over this globe.
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