My ride with two Nazis…
At the beginning of the 21st century I took a train ride through Austria with two Nazi’s. We were on our way to Linz, the home of Ars Electonica and Hitler. I was going for the art, they were going for a lovely weekend to get away from their ungrateful children.
The two people I was comfortably sitting with were not the new breed of Alt Right, nor were they politically “right”: they were (as the train travel enveloped) elders who had been Nazis and had never left Austria. They found me delightful.
Well, he did not. He, Grey haired and elegant, a cane with a silver tip and a ring with a small emblem on his pinky would not look at me. His wife, rotund and adorned in silk spoke to me of their yearly sojourn to the American South — their favorite place in the United States. They loved tennis and the Williams sister. She invited me to the lunch car.
I was hungry — for more information — and went with her though could only drink water. I should have eaten more (she did insist I have broth) though her relentless yammering about America being so lively and fun and friendly had me rapt. Then, she told me I reminded me of her daughter and not the new generation of dreadful young people making a mess of the world.
When we returned to our seats in the small compartment he was still looking away. She wanted to know more…what was my background, where were my “people” from:
Her: Oh, yes. Lovely!
Me: Also, Hungary.
Me: Also, Kiev.
Her: You are a Jew?
Me: (…and here is was, because I am technically 1/2 Jewish, though in that moment every part of me was my relatives dead and gone)….YES.
Her: Well, you must be wrong about Russia. I am sure about Hungary with you…you are so intelligent. An intelligent Jew is so distinct and that is you. The Norwegian, thank goodness! No, no Russian in you….you are far to….advanced for that!
As she said this I felt my grandfather who had escaped the pogroms and The Klan and this woman when the family fled Kiev to stay alive, some 100 years before.
Then, as though to make the point more clear, we started to enter a tunnel. At that moment another train raced past us. It was a freight train with heavy doors adorned with bolts. Within me, I was in that train. I would have been in that train, diverted north or south to the best extermination camp available for an intelligent Jew like me. It was a relief to see that train — to finally BE of that train.Yet, I sat in total horror wondering how many heads had been bashed in by the old mans elegant stick. How many of us had this woman turned in for fun? I felt horror because the Nazis before me were so friendly, lulling and seductive with their hate. I choose to stay in my seat and feel it; it was a gift to the present, and a gift to our dead.
We got through the tunnel. I was shaking. She could see it. Then, smiled at me.
Her: Oh my dear, so lovely to meet you! When we are in America we should see you. We can go see the Williams sisters play. Though not if the father is there. That one? Well, he’s the worst kind of Nigger there is. Yes?
Nazis marched in our country last week and plan to keep going. It does not matter if they are shipped in to each of our states or live in the shadows and slime out in the night with cheap torches. They have had a strategy for a long time and if you fit their equation as a threat, yes, they want you.
My my, I keep thinking, how that Nazi lady loved me.