And I guess it was the food.  The prison food.  I started bringing him plates from the mess hall.  Left overs to compensate for the poor offerings given to the men we were guarding.  I’d bring him his food and sit outside the bars.  Sometimes I ate with him.  And afterwards I’d smoke with him.  That’s when we began talking.  Not just about the world of Huck Finn, but about music, and I learned he could do more than just whistle, and he told me about his family—his father—and what it was like growing up in Germany before the war.  What it was like after the Great War, his country stooped in a depression, the economy in shambles and so many things destroyed…  I guess his father knew.  And now Schultz knew.  In seeing me.  Seeing America, as a prisoner—the clarity after a long sickness.  And maybe that’s what his father knew it was—a sickness.  What fear does to you.  It makes you sick.  You no longer know who you are—what your world is—and you don’t trust it.  You don’t trust yourself.  You just know you don’t want to be afraid no more, and it makes you desperate.  You can do a lot of things you don’t think you’re capable of doing when you’re desperate, when you’re looking for ways out of your unhappiness.  It makes you listen to things you would normally ignore.  And you rationalize.  You rationalize your morality…  The Nazi Party made promises to people that were desperate.  People sick with fear.  Their propaganda for the defeated.  Their scapegoat educated to children.  What’s interesting is Schultz had Jewish blood, from his mother’s side of the family.  And what his father had to do, what he had to do to family records so his son could join the military…  It was just a good career.  A way his son would be alright, would be able to support himself, and have things, have the things that take that fear away.  He was a father looking out for his son, maybe even aware it wasn’t right—what was happening outside the windows of his shoe store, what was happening to his neighbors, his country…  This what makes it human, I guess.  Not political.  Not bad government or good government.  Not the stability of an economy.  The building of machines for money.  It was all this, but it was also just people.  Given that gentle nudge in the balance between fear and unhappiness and the promises for a better life—pushed into things under the influence of a drug, that opiate for domination—an illusion.  That illusion to feel in control again—those lies you’ll believe as temporary relief from your fears.  People responding to this ugliness in different ways.  Some embracing it.  Some just trying to tolerate it in others.  Some even more afraid, afraid of what their fears have brought.  What makes us human lost in a crowd, and you’re pushed into moving, moving in a direction you may not want to go.  What started the movement the mystery, at least the deeper meaning of it.  For the mechanisms are easy, easy to manipulate.  It’s easy to manipulate people out of fear.  And maybe after the long sickness, after even the fear causing it is eaten away—you see the humanity once again.  You see the deeper meanings for what you chose as a scapegoat.  This maybe why Schultz got lost in Huck Finn, and why he was able to talk to me.  And he remembered his father and understood.  He understood what any father would do.  How you can lie and be dishonorable in your world if the world given you is lies and things you can’t honor.  Sometimes it’s the only way.  It’s the only way to be who are and be happy.  It’s the only way the world gets changed, I guess, and it begins this way, it begins in your world and what you really hunger for…  No, the prison food wasn’t that great, and Schultz’s English was poor at best—broken and accented—but it’s amazing what you learn about people when you eat with them.

            –David Threnody, on Nazi Germany—from his journals 1966 to 1975

 

Advertisements