Chapter Forty-Five Plus1

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If not, please return to primary Chapter Forty-Five…

          “Great grub and brew in Allemagne, though…Rhineland wine…”

          “Sorry, veal schnitzel doesn’t exactly agree with me,” Reese Paulen sneered, “Give me good brisket any day.”

          “Dunno, doc, schnitzel with a nice Neckar Riesling,” I warmly recalled that little candlelit stube off the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg. “Those Germans know how to live, all right. I must admit I had a blast over there.”

          “So I’ve been led to understand,” he said obliquely, glancing off to Crissy’s scrubby shoreline dunes, crawling with loose, waterlogged dogs. “Sadly, they know how to kill, as well. Look, if the Germans didn’t invent anti-Semitism, they did happen to systematize, mechanize it—all but perfected it in the process.”

          That kidddie-tech clique thinned considerably once we came upon more eco-industrial worldly themes. Past the obligatory genuflections, before an isobarically steamy geothermal globe, a Palermis wave energy tidal converter sphere, some propellered wind-power number boasting vast turbine farms, came the heavier, more plaintive urban concerns. Reuse household bags and bottles, chimed one tote and thermos plastered EcoGlobe; another, caked with crushed plastic, aluminum cans and cel phone casings reminded that residential recycling began at home.

          Fair, easy enough. But that neighborly everyday message led to weightier workaday lifting. Junky scrap metal, rusted sheetmetal and twisted rebar added to a right-side globe that called for waste reduction audits in commercial recycling. The next globe out came earthily dripping with hazardous substances and landfill run-off. In a plea for green manufacturing, it stood heavy on the corrugated metal ribbing, the melted rubber hosing and lead-pipe winch. Whew, cool it with all those energy deficient TV screens and computer monitors: way too tubular for these parts

          Lightening up some, the globe show replenished its greening theme, top to bottom. In these idealized worlds, urban heat islands should plant green roofs to the benefit of all god’s species—better yet, grow full organic roof gardens to lower urban air temperatures and boost overall nutrition in the bargain. Would that green offices became more eco-friendly by communicating electronically instead of killing more CO2 absorbing trees, or putting office gear on timers: climate preaching like that, only the skyline depicted here as an archetypical power hog looked hauntingly familiar to me.                                                       Globes on parade

          “Huh, mechanize,” I did a second take. “But that was then, doc, this is now…”

          “Can you spell latency? After all, this was a people who brought us two world wars, who produced Hess, Himmler, Goebbels and Eichmann—who twisted the salutary little Sanskrit swastika to their own perverted will, then perpetrated the largest atrocity in modern history. The worst such persecution and genocide since the Romans sacked Jerusalem’s Temple and massacred ‘revolting Jews’ in 70 CE…”

          “I know, I know, okay? I was stationed over there for a year, personally touched the swastikas stamped into the banisters of our headquarters barracks, an old Waffen SS kaserne. Still…”

          “Still nothing,” Paulen huffed, lasering on a full-frontal of an incoming runner in tight tangerine shorts and jogbra. “We’re talking about Martin Heidegger’s Bildung BS, mad Dr. Mengele, Goering spreading rabid raccoons across Europe. These were case study pathological monsters…”

           “Yeah, but Germany had its share of moral Nazi resistance—a ‘Good Germans’ underground hiding Jews in their homes…that took real guts at the time. “Ever been?

           “Have never had the displeasure. Yet none of it could countervail the utter evil and banality of das Fuhrer and his Hakenkreuz stooges. That little weasel ordered the annihilation of innocent people who, by any count, added so much to Germany’s civic and cultural life.

          “Well, you can’t say everyday Germans haven’t paid the price for that mayhem—the Allied leveling of Berlin, firestorming of Hamburg and Dresden, Nuremberg. They’ve even made questioning anything about the Holocaust downright illegal. So is the German government or the German people?”

          “Hmph, equivalency nothing—as if that compensates for all the Jewish lives exterminated, property and art looted. Degenerative art, my eye,” Paulen turned to dwell upon her swaying pony tail. “And for the CIA harboring those Nazi criminals after the war for their rocket science. No token restitution attempts or dreary Murdered Jew memorials can alter that horrific history.”

          “C’mon, not that Deutschland hasn’t suffered other consequences ever since,” I replied, instead scanning for that Saturn dirigible amid the aircrafty western sky. “I mean, the world watches it like a hawk. And with all its guilt trips, it patrols itself just as much—like, with dumping political candidates for Israel bashing or slurs accusing Jewish ‘Taetervolk’ of causing the Bolshevik Revolution. And nobody polices German anti-Semitism more than Jewish groups themselves—just ask writers like Martin Walser, even Gunter Grass.”

          “Nice try, Herbert, but you can’t hang that on the Jews. Besides, none of this has stopped the jackboot eruptions—take Kurt Waldheim…”

          “Uh, that’s more, like, Austrian…”

          “Ahh, yes, the Anschluss—home of the right-wing Freedom Party and neo-Hitler Jorg Haider himself. Where victimized Jews are still being cheated out of their due property and restitution.”

          “Haider, dead at 58, car crash—for what that’s worth…”

          “Mox nix, German neo-Nazis still know no bounds. Worshipping ‘Mein Kampf’, Molotoving Holocaust museums, tossing pigs’ heads or blood into Jewish cemeteries. Indeed, marching in Dresden to denounce the firebombing of ‘Florence on the Elbe’ as a Holocaust-equivalent war crime. The unmitigated gall, yet they keep gaining parliament seats in the process. Seems the shock troops can’t help themselves—anti-Semitism is in their blood, must be in their water, or that incessant boozing they do…”

          “Yet I’ve read where more Jews are settling in Germany lately than any other country. They’re even opening a huge new synagogue in Berlin,” I kept coming up dry, red buttons and blimp-wise, as coastal fog built in steadily over the bluffs, then barged through the Golden Gate. “To the point where Tel Aviv is complaining to the German government to stem the flow away from of Israel. What about that?”

          “Poor displaced Russian Jews who don’t know any better. At the end of the day, there remains no love lost for Jews and Israel among Germans and Austrians as a whole.”

          “Guess guilt and historical obligations are no basis for a friendly relationship,” I replied, that B-25 circling around for another pass over the bridge. “But all I know is German kids seem to love ‘Springtime For Hitler’. They don’t know or care that much about what their grandparents did—it’s just not on them anymore. And you know what? I loved Oktoberfest and ‘Student Prince’ myself—even tune into a little Wagner now and then. So shoot me…”

          “Well, how about Oberammergau while you’re at it? Feeling the Passion, ” Paulen sighed. “Look, all Jews ultimately wanted back then was to be accepted—not necessarily embraced—just accepted as legitimate Europeans for all they contributed and accomplished. Instead of being considered rootless leeches who didn’t want to be loved, just wanted to be paid.”

          “So now they aren’t even accepted as legitimate Middle Easterners in their ancestral homeland.”

          “Not yet, anyway, but the jury is out on that. Next you’ll be dredging up the haavara agreement or Thirteenth Tribe nonsense,” Paulen said, fixing as was I on a gate bridge tower reflection in the adjacent Tidal Marsh’s rippling surface. “Nevertheless, before you open that can of bait, let us replay how the world fiddled and kow-towed in the 1930s as an unemployed, draft-dodging house painter pushed the Weimar Republic off the stage, and his National Socialists seized power. How Berlin’s ‘Enlightenment’ book burnings led to firing up German xenophobia with Leni Riefenstahl’s Arayan rhapsodized ‘Triumph of the Kill’ and the 1936 Olympics…”

          “Well, Jesse Owens and Joe Louis had something to say about that agitprop, right?” I shadowboxed a one-two punch. “Max Schmeling did go down like the Hindenberg…”

          “Yet Lindbergh, Philip Johnson and ‘Irish Joe’ sang Hitler’s praises as he ignited an anti-Semitic rage that sparked Kristallnacht, ‘The Jew Suss’, and a heinous campaign of tightening the screws on Germany’s Jews,” doc evoked everything but the pointer and podium. “Then after Neville Chamberlain gave Nazis a wink and nod to roll over their European neighbors, Hitler fired up the ovens and trained his machine guns on Babi Yar.”

          “Yeah, but nobody knew that crap was going down then—except maybe Il Duce. Hell, there was insanity all over the continent. Who really knew what all was going on? It was, like, devour or be devoured, total chaos from what I heard myself over there.”

          “Nobody wanted to know, my friend! Meanwhile, the Nazi machine festooned Germany and Poland with their horrific daisy chain of concentration camps as a means of ‘purifying’ their greater Aryan nation.”

          “Heil and heartless,” I allowed, following the bomber as it crossed overhead paths with a China-bound 767, albeit with 10,000-foot vertical cushion of contrailed airspace. “Who can argue that?”

          “Indeed, the Gestapo monsters made a science out of genocide,” Paulen spouted. “Not to mention big business—Hess and Himmler laid it out in blueprints, protocols and deportation orders at the Wannsee Conference. The eugenics studies, emigration charts, high-capacity crematoria—Heim’s and Mengele’s diabolical human experiments.”

          “Right, I saw ‘Holocaust’ reruns on the tube, and the RKO newsreels back in the day…my own storm und drangful day…”

sr dingbats

          Further along the Bay Trail, it appeared EcoGlobes envisioned good, green governance as city fathers incentivized such energy efficiency, nothing less than pure tax and transcend utilitarianism, spawning clean streets, green fleets, carbon-cutting mass transit, ribbon-cutting verdant plazas and parklands. Step on it, moving on—bring out the LED traffic lights, keep your engines tuned and tires pumped, stop idling those pollutobile buses and cars.

          That was the ticket: fuel efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, light emitting diodes, plug-in hybrids, red masses, solar generated enviro-impact, clean energy, fossil fuelishness, CFL bulbs, chaos theory, waste streams, geo-positive intersections, Kyoto, carbon footprints, population bombs, green sustainability, global DNA, carbon offsets, REC (renewable energy credits), heat absorption, climate initiatives, geothermal hotspots, butterfly effects. The globes just kept coming, the prosyletic heat on their messages had become an anthemic trailside blur. But one eco-thread rang crystalline clearer as we plowed through this whole-worldly avant pop undertaking: These EcoGlobes were taking on a curiously Middle-American air.

          “Then, as you well know, the Nazis considered it their sacred duty to rid Europe of vermin who had caused Germany’s demise in World War I, ushered in Versailles treachery, and had connived to cheat good Aryans ever since. The pushy parasites who now were conspiring to take over the world…”

          “Yeah, what was up with all that, anyway?  A little before my time, even if not my Uncle Early’s...” 

          “Hitler was a rejected Bohemian artist who was abused by his martinet father as a child,” Paulen recounted, gazing along the marsh’s mallard squawky contours, and a Spanish-tiled white Visitors Center across Mason Street just beyond.

          “Had a Great Santini complex, huh? Haven’t I read that his father was half Jewish?”

          “Conjecture, anecdotal tattle at best. However, we do know Hitler was inspired in prison by Hans Gunther’s ‘Racial Typology of the German People’ and other anti-Semitic screeds, then wrote ‘Mein Kampf’ and began speechifying on Aryan superiority. Sure enough, your common Germans bought in.”

          “Guess they were beaten down by World War I and inflation by then,” I ventured, a stacked Husan container ship slipping in under the foggy bridge deck. “And pretty damn bitter about it…to the point of blaming the self-interested Halakha judeo-moneylenders.”

          “Poor, poor Huns, what with all that Berlin decadence and Weimar ennui. But, see, Hitler had a problem. It wasn’t enough to just ship the commie Jews to Madagascar, or line them up in firing squads and dump their evil carcasses in pits,” Paulen said snidely. “No, that was too slow a process of elimination, and was taking too heavy an emotional toll on his soldiers. He needed a ‘Final Solution’, and put German industriousness to work on a precision system of deliverance…to solve the Jewish question by removing them altogether.”

          “That’s Germany,” I dodged, thinking back on the Mannheim Bahnhoff and Heidelberg strassenbahns. “Trains always running on time…”

          A soaked to the basecoat Portuguese Water Dog bounded over a right side dune, chasing an equally drenched Gordon Setter up from the Bay shoreline, through stunted shrubs and scrub brush. Homing in on us as though we had pockets full of sirloin Milk Bones, they guessed wrong, naturally so. Their canine instincts having failed them, Porshie—as he was being called in by his master from the crest of a sandy beach path, waggled my way, ears downcast in mild distemper.

          So he pawed even closer to me along the trail’s low post and wire net sand fencing, squared his paws and began shaking off cold sprays of saline in our direction. Then he hiked his hind leg territorially against the fencepost nearest my splattered jeans, before scooting back toward his leash mate. This only made me realize I had to go my own self, like a hand dipped in a warm bucket of water.

         “Yes, but these were trains to nowhere, a grotesquely ordered nowhere, by the boxcar load. Tidy, coldly efficient camps, hellholes with suitably solid structures, pretty flower boxes trimming the windows. Only the windows were sealed shut from the inside, in human warehouses crammed with sick, starving Jews too weak and frail to resist the horrendous fate awaiting them. Impounded, hounded, staggering about in styless, brown pin-striped suits.”

          “Wasn’t just Jews though, right? Some Catholics, Russians, Roma, the disabled—totally unnatural selection.”

          “Merely incidental by comparison,” Paulen dismissed. “As we well know, the main course was Jewish, by the millions. The sturdier, more useful among them were slave labored to death, the rest herded into shower chambers where Zyklon B pellets were dropped down roof hatch chutes by SS goons. Gas trapped, unsuspecting victims panicked, screamed, and clawed the walls for their lives; that is, before succumbing en masse to the prussic acid. Took all of twenty minutes, then their naked corpses were piled into cattle carts by other, barely surviving Jews who wheeled them to the ovens, or bulldozer heaped them into huge cremation pits that burned skin and bones for months on end. But of course not before camp guards could pilfer all their worldly goods and mine the gold from their teeth. Even monster frauleins got in on the butchery.”

          “Sprecken sie sindustrial complex…” I stuck close to the professor as we stepped it up around a strolling group of touring Euros, their video cameras panning the entire Golden Gate tableau.

          “Try industrialized killing factories,” he countered. “Simply tick off the attractions. You say you love things German, so go ahead, pick your favorites from a hall of fame line-up. Their showcase mothership at Auschwitz-Birkenau—four-star, state-of-the-art facility complete with luxurious Bunker One, showers wall to wall; the Mengele Mayo clinic and an in-house snuff brothel in Block 24, overlooking the scenic rotting cadaver pits. Or might I interest you in Dachau, perhaps Treblinka’s special volume rate—over 1,275,000 dead in 1942 alone, 99% gassed and gone within two hours of arrival. Check for yourself. It’s all in the Nazi archives. Indeed, poor Himmler couldn’t keep up with the sub-human trash disposal of such a murder machine.”

          “Well, uh…I cant help but recall of Baden-Baden or Rothenburg in the fall,” I said, casting diversions, couldn’t bear to think about the newsreel footage, all that carnage. “Really, there’s nothing like Bad Durkheim and Oktoberfest.”

           Having been spared the spraying, doc pointed leftward past a storm-tracker globe, back out over Crissy’s Tidal Marsh, another ruckus of gulls and Cormorants ruffling feathers around some entrails a passing pelican had let slip in haste. The marsh’s tide at lower ebb, we could spot flapping Godwits and the rare white-breasted western snowy plover picking at mudpies in the exposed, nutrient-rich marsh flats before higher tide could drown their bounty.

          Here was serenity of a sort, which extended beyond the Crissy lagoon and huge concrete commissary turned sports complex, clear up to the steady hum of the Doyle Drive climb. Still, even this rare urban calm couldn’t stanch nature’s other call, so I coaxed Paulen onto a curving slat wood pathway that led to a lone, thick stand of Monterey Pine nearer the shoreline, and blessed bodily relief.

Crissy Tidal Marsh

          “Then how about taking in souvenirs of Buchenwald’s applied biology and genetically diseased experiments,” he continued enroute, “the corpse-composted beech trees? Or the charming boutique compound at Bergen-Belsen and Ravensbruck, reading totenbuchs, savoring the fragrant aroma of seared flesh at Sobibohr? The forced Deutschmark counterfeiting racket at Sachsenhausen. The exclusive rape and maiming spas at Nordhausen were always nice come fall, as well. And you always could join the Brown Shirts dancing merrily on fresh mass graves.”

          “All right, already,” I snapped, bladder pressing in down belowflashing painfully back to Uncle Early. “I happen to know something of Langenstein-Zwieberge, okay?”

          “Do you know, by the way, if anyone lifted a finger to stop the insanity while two of every three European Jews perished? Nooo,” Paulen took to surveying the broad, emerald expanse of Crissy’s upcoming Historic Airfield, these days a long, grassy commons. “Average everyday Germans ‘knew nothing’—their indifference was appalling. Brits had their own blitzes to deal with. And as American Jews begged the Allies to bomb German railways and invade the death camps, our esteemed generals dragged their well-polished combat boots, and warplanes, much as that B-25 passing by uselessly overhead.”

          “Hey, but there were some heroes, like Schindler, right? And there were bigger battles that had to be fought, fish to fry at the time on so many fronts. Hey, I’ve been in Europe. I’ve seen the obstacles, traveled up and down those autobahns, believe me…”

          “Of course, mere measly Jews—just about took the Russians to finally storm the gates of Hell, and not until nearly 1945. That’s what led the Nazis to forced marches and blowing up their crematoria. When the Allies got around to prying open the death camps, they were shocked, shocked to find all the heaps of stenchy bodies, the starving, diseased stick men in tattered striped pajamas with yellow Juden stars just begging to live—weeping, delirious naked women with dead infants in their tattooed arms.”

          “Yeah, well, I’ve heard a little about that nightmare scenario…through the family grapevine, so to speak.” I couldn’t help but replay Uncle Earlys apparent late-inning battlefield demise, bookended in my rearview headstream by good grocers Arnold and Mordecai.

          “Thus I assume you heard all about the SS henchmen fleeing their mass murder scenes in gas vans, cowards surrendering on their knees or popping cyanide pellets—commandants like Hess escaping in drag.”

          “That’s when the liberated concentration camps became displaced persons camps, huh? Allied troops trying to supply survivors food, medical and homes? Even some Arab countries pitching in to help…”

          “Chaos upon calamity—the only ID they had were camp inmate cards. God knows, if a Jewish state had been created via Balfour earlier on, that entire European Shoah wouldn’t have happened at all. Nice commemorations every year, though…lots of speeches and balloons,” he paused. “You know, I can recall when this whole open space was two weedy runways where we could ride our bikes with abandon.”

          “I ran on the old military airstrips many a time. Hear the site actually comprised San Francisco’s first airport,” I replied. “But hey, I’ve also read the Shoah survivors’ tales like everybody else, from just about every true-life angle—even some untrue. And it’s not like there hasn’t been some measure of payback since then. I mean, like Simon Weisenthal, Elie Wiesel, and all—scouring the earth for Dr. Death, the Angel of Death and other fugitive Nazis to this day, or show-trying 80 and 90 year-olds.”

          “Hmph, as if a few piddling arrests atone for six million deaths. You know, barely ten percent of those Nazi criminals were ever prosecuted, hard as legal eagles like Ben Kaplan tried at Nuremberg, or Theocrat strove to chase them down ever since.”

          “It’s just that the Holocaust was so long ago now, and Germany’s outlawed anything Nazi. Gotten where comedies are being written about Adolph and his cartoon dunderheads—his personal globe’s been on eBay, maybe his skull’s been sold and resold, for all we know. I just wonder if some numbness and fatigue hasn’t set in…most everybody’s in one way or another moved on.

          “Fatigue? You think the deniers are fatigued,” Paulen erupted, brushing aside a couple of shouting, sponge football chucking grade schoolers. “The neo-Nazis of the world? Iranians and most of Durban II?! The vicious deniers who spew on about a Holocaust myth perpetrated by Henry Morgenthau Jr., attacking Elie Wiesel as a Zio-Nazi. Unregenerate nonsense, the Holocaust was real and is central to Jews’ historical narrative, part of the Jewish DNA. Remember that post-war vow, my friend—never forget, never again!”

          “I guess so long as ‘never forgetting’  doesn’t lead to vengeance. Theres a difference between a just cause and just a guild-tripping cudgelthat’s all I’m sayin’…” It left me wondering how I got myself roped into talking about any of this troubling stuff in such a beautiful setting as this, Liverpool Lil’s steakburgers notwithstanding—finding it harder and harder to hold back.

          “One doesn’t follow from the other, whatsoever,” he said curtly. “And the quarrel isnt with the Palestinian people, per se—its their immediate proximity, the ground they claim. But the salient point here is Europeans didn’t want Jews surviving on the continent at all, and now don’t even want them to survive back in the Promised Land. I was born and raised in-Euro, so to speak. I’ve been down that road and back again. I’ve seen all the darkness, and now I see the light, believe you me, and am simply seeking a degree of compassion, historical rectitude and understanding wherever I can find it…”

          “Compassion? Understanding? What more is there to understand?”

          “Point taken, Hee-bert, you can’t help it if you are caught up in raving Allegmania.

          So I like Germany,” I spouted, eyes bouncing globe to globe. I did my time there, made the damn best of it, okay? That doesn’t mean I personally condone in any way what happened back in WWII, let alone what may be going on now. Been years since I was in country, can only go by what I’ve read…

          Just as I can only go by what I hear.

Care for more?

Chapter Forty-Six. Tilting at religion
amid the wind and fog, horizons distend,
deeper truths and shibboleths emerge…

Return to Chapter Forty-Five
Jettison to Chapter Forty-Seven