Bliss Remembered, The Book
Horst laughed. "Please. My father made me join the Hitler Youth when we got back from Portugal, but I couldn't stand that. It's all rock climbing and camping out, make-believe soldier stuff. As soon as I went to college, I got the hell outta that. It's bad enough I'm gonna have to go into the navy for a couple years." And then he suddenly turned to look directly at me, moving closer, too. I'd never seen Horst so intense. "You were upset when we came down here yesterday."
"Well, not upset. Mostly surprised, I guess."
"You think I hate Jews, Sydney?"
"No, Horst. I don't think you hate anybody."
"Thank you, liebchen." Then he held out his hands, palms up, sorta shaking them, trying to put his thoughts together. "Look, let me try to help you understand. You can't believe how bad it was here. My family was so glad to get to go to Japan - and it wasn't easy there, either. The Japanese had taken our islands in the Pacific after the war, and so it was pretty sensitive for Dad. For all of us. Hell, nobody liked the Germans then. But just to get out of Germany. I mean, people were starving here. It was awful-chaos. And Hitler brought us back. He did. Not just economically, Sydney. We got our pride back.
"But I guess sometimes you need a villain to bring people together. The Nazis think so, anyway, and they said the Jews were responsible for everything bad. The Jews and the Cosi."
"Cosi-Communists. But look, they weren't any prize, either. There were fights, riots. And some of the Nazis were really bad guys-you know, bullies, thugs, riding the wave. And especially after they took care of the Cosi, they could run wild. And so that was the bad that came with the good." He stopped and thought for a moment before going on. "You know, though, we're not all that different from other people."
"I don't think you're different at all."
"Ah, no, I didn't mean me. And I don't mean you, but look at the way you are with the Negroes." I lowered my head and fiddled with that laurel wreath that I still had in my hands. "You go to school with Negroes, Sydney?" I shook my head. "You go to church with 'em?" I shook my head. "They live in your neighborhood?" I started to mention Gentry Trappe, but I knew he was a special case thanks to my father, so I just shook my head again. "And there's some Americans who even kill Negroes, aren't they? What do you call that?"
"Lynching," I said-very softly.
"Yes." Then he grabbed the laurel wreath from me and threw it into the back and took my hands. "I'm sorry. All that is so bad. But you're not bad. And I'm not bad."
"I wish I could stand on the street corner and shout about how we're wrong about the Jews, Sydney. I wish I could do something. But I can't. It would end my father's career. And the thugs would probably beat me up."
"Oh yeah. They would. But in your country, you-I don't mean you. I mean anybody. You have all your freedom. You can say something. You can do something about how the Negroes are treated. But who does? So who's worse? Us because we can't protest? You because you can, but you don't?"
"I don't know, Horst. I don't know."