Entering a solid two-story building that houses Gasthaus Stiefler on the ground floor, I survey several morning drinkers before walking to a stocky mid-sixties man made sterner by a frowning gray mustache, wait for him to take another sip of wine and set the glass down, and say, “Herr Customs Official, I have most important business to discuss with you. May I?”
“Ja, please sit down,” he motions to a chair.
I set my briefcase on the floor.
“It’s about your son.”
“Still getting bad grades and being smart aleck?”
“I’m afraid it’s much more serious than that.”
“What is it?”
“Let me show you.”
I open my briefcase and begin placing large pictorial books and thick biographies on the table.
“Here, look at these,” I say, presenting photos of his son addressing a half million erect storm troops at a Nuremberg Party Rally, cowing groups of generals, denouncing Jews, declaring war on Poland, and later the United States, and of Polish cities destroyed, Russian cities demolished, and German cities jagged and charred. Then I offer mountains of corpses and bones from Auschwitz and Maidanek and elsewhere. The old man, increasingly grim, says nothing.
“Please take these home. And read the biographies.”
“My son’s thirteen. This is preposterous.”
“You know it’s true.”
“I do not, and I don’t like your tone.”
“You know the boy’s disturbed.”
“I acknowledged his problems at school.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have beaten him.”
“Do you have children?”
“Then you don’t know how to raise or discipline them. I do.”
“I’m not implying you’re to blame.”
“Blame for what?”
“That my boy’s somehow going to cause forty years from now.”
“I simply ask you to do some homework. You’re retired and have plenty of time.”
“And then take action.”
“I often warn what’ll happen if he keeps causing trouble.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“What do you mean?”
I stare at him.
“Fool. I’ll kill you before I kill my son.”
“I simply ask you to consider saving fifty million people.”
He snatches his glass and throws wine in my face before lunging and grabbing my throat. He’s much stronger than his son ever will be, and I’m blacking out when the old man gasps, loses his grip, and collapses. Other patrons, long his friends and acquaintances, push me away and carry him to a leather couch.
“Get the doctor,” one shouts.
A man runs outside. Another says, “No doctor can help now.”
“You killed him,” the bartender tells me.
“Nonsense. He was the most essential man in the world. Please, all of you, take a look at the evidence. You can save millions of lives.”
“Get the police,” shouts the bartender.