He made me take back the ten koruna. At the door, his wife pressed a brown paper parcel into my hands. Sandwiches, she explained. I had liked the sausages so much…

I ate the sandwiches on the road into Pisek. The breakfast had been a big one, but I was still hungry. I found a twenty-koruna note in with the sandwiches. I couldn’t think of a way to return it to them, so I put it in my wallet.


A wonderful people, the Czechs, I thought. And I thought again, for perhaps the hundredth time, what a shame it would be to deprive them of the pleasure of hanging Janos Kotacek.

Chapter 4

I didn’t begin looking for Neumann at once. I walked into Pisek and asked first how to find the German neighborhood. The first clerk I approached became quite indignant, pointing out that the stigmata of national origin, like the false boundaries of class lines, had crumbled under socialism, and that thus such a concept as a “German” neighborhood was dialectically obsolescent. The next clerk I tried was less colorful but more helpful. He told me that most of the Germans in Pisek lived in the northeast corner of the city, and told me approximately what streets to take if I cared to walk there.

Whatever effect socialism may have upon the stigmata of national origin, Pisek very definitely had a German neighborhood. You could not mistake it. The signs of business establishments were all in that language, and nine out of ten street conversations were conducted in it. Here, I felt, they were more likely to know Neumann and less apt to become suspicious of anyone who came looking for him. I tried a grocer and a druggist with no luck. The butcher shop next door to the druggist proved more rewarding.

The butcher said, “Neumann? Neumann? Ah, little Kurt! Of course I know him, two blocks over, one block down, the gray house with the blue shutters. Number 74. But what would you want with little Kurt?”

He gave me no chance to answer the question. “Ahah! But your business is not with Kurt at all, is it?” He wiped his fat hands on his apron. “The daughter, eh? Oh, they come from far to see that one. And who can blame them?”

“Well, I… you know her?”

“Don’t be shy. And who doesn’t know Neumann’s Greta? But a word to the wise-” He leaned forward, winked lewdly. “ – You’d better spout off with the old Nazi line, you understand? The old Hitler bullshit. Instead of love and marriage whisper to her of purity of race and living space for the expanding German nation. The old Aryan routine. But take care that you only whisper or” – a throaty laugh – “or, by God you’ll have the damned Czech police there in bed beside you!”

When I rang Neumann’s bell I half expected the chimes to ring out the first four notes of “Deutschland Über Alles.” But there was only a flat buzzing sound, and then the door opened, seemingly of its own accord. I did not see the man who had opened it until he spoke. I had been looking over his head.

-- Advertisement --

He was certainly no more than four and a half feet tall. His head was large, with straight black hair combed to the side in a partially successful attempt to hide a large bald spot. His complexion was dark, his teeth pointed and yellow.

“Herr Neumann?”


“Heinz Moll told me to see you on a matter of the most urgent importance.” I looked around furtively, a needless precaution, as I had already made reasonably certain that no one was following me. “May I come inside?”

He snapped erect and tried to click his heels together. The effect was lost. One of his thin legs was shorter than the other and ended in a clubfoot encased in a built-up shoe. It did not lend itself to the military bearing he was trying to project.

“You will follow me,” he said.

I followed him. The sitting room where he took me was clean and comfortable, furnished with an over-stuffed sofa and matching chairs, a small upright piano, dark draperies, and a worn imitation Oriental rug. He motioned me to the couch, closed the drapes, and sat down in one of the chairs.

“I suppose you wish to get out of the country,” he said. “You are too young to have served the Fuehrer, no? No matter. It is not easy to move a man out of Czechoslovakia. This filthy police state. Between the Slavs and the Jews, a decent German has little freedom these days. But it can be done, a man can be moved across any border. And, in the meantime, you will be safe here.”

“I don’t want to escape from Czechoslovakia.”

“Oh? That is unusual.”

“I am here illegally, with the police searching for me. My mission is here, in Czechoslovakia. In Prague.”

“Most unusual.”

“You know of Janos Kotacek?”

“The Slovak? The papers have been full of it. The fool returned here and was captured.”

“He did not return. He was kidnapped in Portugal.”

“The swine!”

“Yes. It is my task to rescue him from his captors.”

“You alone?”


He nodded thoughtfully. “It is a noble task,” he said. He got to his feet, took one of a pair of crossed dueling sabers from the wall over the piano. “Of course, Kotacek is a Slovak. A Slav. He is in no sense a German. But one cannot deny the work he has done for the cause.”

“He is an important man.”

“No doubt.” Neumann slashed air with the sword. “It is the mark of German maturity that we are able to make use of the best of the inferior races. Years ago I heard a speaker explain that the Slovaks might be considered the Slavic equivalent of the Germans. It was at a rally to develop support for the Slovak Republic. Such men can be very useful to us. And I don’t have to tell you” – the sword sang viciously – “that after our ultimate victory, our allies among the inferior races will be suitably rewarded. Men like Kotacek will be sterilized, of course, but there will be no need for actual extermination. It is one thing to improve the racial characteristics of mankind. It is quite another to reward valuable service.”

“Of course.”

“Though there will be no need to sterilize Kotacek himself, I suppose. He must be very old.”

“And an invalid.”

“Ah. And it is very important for him to be rescued?”

“It is vital.”

“Your name?”

“Tanner. Evan Tanner.”

His brow furrowed. “That is an unusual name for a German. You are not a Slovak yourself, are you?”

“I am German. But I was born in America and have always lived there.”

He nodded solemnly. “Then we can understand each other, you and I. To live in a foreign land and long for the glory of one’s true home. We Sudeten Germans were forgotten for years until the Fuehrer spoke out for us. No doubt it is the same with our countrymen in America. Forced to live among inferiors, forced to see pure Aryan blood polluted by Jews and Slavs, separated unfairly from one’s homeland.”

He returned the saber to its place on the wall. “How is it for those of us in America?”


“Ah, but it is bad everywhere. I read an article in an American magazine once. I wonder if there was any truth in it?”

“What did it say?”

“That the Fuehrer is alive and living in Argentina. I suppose it is a lie, but one wonders.”

“One may always hope.”

He straightened up again. “You speak wise words. One can always hope. No man who has served as such an inspiration, as a force for the salvation of Germany, as a leader in the struggle for the development of a finer, purer race, no such man is ever truly dead.” His right hand leaped up and out; his clubfoot snapped against his good foot. “Heil Hitler!”

I echoed his words.

For the next hour or so Neumann was drunk with enthusiasm. It was Nazi racial theories, even more than Pan-Germanism, which filled him with zeal. He talked about the Jewish menace and the manner in which Communism had evolved from the fusion of Slavic and Jewish racial weaknesses. He discussed the dangers of Chinese expansion and asked my opinion of a pamphlet he had read recently which suggested that the Chinese were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

“There is food for thought there,” he said. “One can readily detect the Jewish cleverness behind the mask of Oriental inscrutability. If the Japanese are the Germans of the Orient, then surely the Chinese are the Orient’s Jews. Don’t you agree, Herr Tanner?”

“It seems possible.”

“Even the appearance has points of similarity. Not the skin color. That of course is deceptive. But consider a Chinese without his yellow skin tones. The sly eyes, the hooked nose-”

“Pardon me, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chinese with a hooked nose.”

“I presume you’ve heard of plastic surgery?”


“Of course. Don’t be naïve, Herr Tanner.”

He plunged onward, but came up with nothing quite as provocative as the Jewish-Chinese theory. It was tempting, certainly. I couldn’t quite see it as the basis of neo-Nazi philosophy, but surely something could be done with it. Perhaps an organization designed to promote the Jewish religion on the Chinese mainland. I’d have to see about it when I got back to New York.

“But I am talking too much,” he said at last. He was not the first person in the room to have realized it. “There is work to be done. You need information, of course. You must know where Kotacek is being held, what is being done with him. I am very good at discovering things, Herr Tanner. I can move through the city and speak with the proper persons and learn a great deal.” His lips curled in a sudden smile. “This may surprise you, but I have found that people do not fear me. They are not afraid of me and speak freely before me.”

He took my arm. “I will show you to your room. It was my wife’s room when she was alive. She died several years ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you, but it was a blessing when she passed on. My Trudy was in poor health all her life. A weak constitution. She was never the same after Greta was born.”

My room was large and light and airy, overlooking a small garden where flowers grew in properly disciplined rows. “Sleep if you are tired,” Neumann said. “I will see Greta and tell her of your arrival. She is completely trustworthy. She shares our views.”

“You must be proud of her.”

“I am. It is such as she who will bear the Übermensch – the Superman. But it is devilish hard to keep the Jews away from her. They lust after her. If those swine-” He shook his head violently. “I will send her home. She will cook for you. Perhaps she will go to Prague with you and help you with this Kotacek. Only see that the filthy old Slav keeps his hands off her. I beg that much of you!”

I had seen the father, and I had now learned that the mother had been sickly all her life. I thought of the butcher: The daughter, eh? Oh, they come from far to see that one. No doubt they did; she probably worked in a carnival sideshow.

I stretched out on the bed, picked up a pamphlet from the bedside table. It was in German. The title was The Myth of the Six Million, and it exposed Auschwitz as a legend created by the Jews of Moscow and Wall Street, acting in concert to defame the German people in the eyes of the world. There was an abundance of marginalia penned in by a tiny crabbed hand, and extensive passages were underlined in blue ink and further accented by marginal exclamation points. The pamphlet’s thesis had three main points: that no Jews had been exterminated, that the number killed did not even begin to approach six million, and that next time the job would be done properly.

-- Advertisement --