Young Hitler

In the private Berlin study of the Rabbi for the largest Jewish Temple in Germany, late-evening tea is being served.

In five years’ time, this country will be the centerpiece of the first of two great wars. These dual conflagrations will be separated by a generation, and they will have a single human connection that will result in an impact upon the world with a severity that cannot even be imagined in the serenity of this 1909 vesperal scene.

As the blond, liveried butler pours tea for the Rabbi and his wife, an apparently benign smile of imperceptible malignancy crosses his face. After serving, he leaves.

THE WIFE: Dear, do you notice how Klaus always makes us feel as though we are the servants?

THE RABBI: What are you talking about? The whole staff acts that way. Our Teutonic heritage gives all of us that ramrod-spine attitude.

THE WIFE: That’s not exactly what I’m talking about. I mean that he—and they—seem to harbor the impression that some of us are “more Teutonic” than others.

THE RABBI: There you go, again. What must I do to convince you that all of us Germans, regardless of the religion we practice—we’re all Germans, for Christ’s sake!

THE WIFE: I’m not the one who needs to be convinced. Well, I’m tired; I’m going up. I hope you don’t have that same dream again.

THE RABBI: Remember, it’s not just a recurring dream; it has chapters, already. I’m up to the point where this guy has just received a letter from some kind of institute. How boring is THAT?!

THE WIFE: Uh-huh. Good night. (She kisses her husband’s forehead.)

THE RABBI: Güten-nacht, Liebschen.

ABOUT A YEAR EARLIER

In the neighboring country of Austria, a wide-eyed, 19-year-old from the provinces arrives in the capital city of Vienna. He is an artist of some talent, and feels that his small town is too restrictive. So he comes to the big city with a plan. He has written to the Institute of Culture, asking that he be accepted as an art-scholarship student. He has now come to Vienna to await the response to that letter. It is his first time in the large city, and he hungrily sets about to sample all of its venues of culture.

The young man finds lodging in an inexpensive rooming house. Another young man from his home town also has an application in to the Institute of Culture. He is a pianist, and seeks a musical scholarship. Mainly for the purpose of sharing expenses, the artist—who is otherwise a loner—invites his musician friend to share his modest accommodations. The artist, now a cultural connoisseur, takes it upon himself to squire around his newly arrived compatriot. The artist is particularly fond of the opera, and they would spend many hours at the back of the theater, in the standing-room area. His favorite composer is Richard Wagner, and he would seem to be transported by such works as “Tristan und Isolde” and “Die Meistersinger.”

In time, the musician receives his acceptance, and commences study at the Institute. The artist, on the other hand, is rejected—an act that he internalizes as a personal affront. It causes his already fragile ego to react badly to all of his surroundings. The slightest thing would set him off. He becomes annoyed with his roommate’s practicing, and virtually anything would cause his now-sullen temperament to lash out.

After a school break, the musician returns to their mutual dwelling in Vienna, only to discover that his companion has moved. It is not until many years later, and under very different circumstances, that he learns what became of his former roommate. Unbeknownst to the musician, his artist friend had submitted a second application to the Institute of Culture. He is equally unaware that THAT application, too, has been rejected. The second rejection, in time, would result in calamitous consequences that interminably would reverberate against the walls of history.

The artist looks around for a scapegoat upon which to lay the blame for his having been rebuffed. As he watches the Hassidic Jews—with their distinctive dress and hairstyle—walk along the streets of Vienna, he draws upon an ugliness that was prevalent in his small-town life—as well as in the sophisticated Viennese salons of the elite. That is the unHoly Grail upon which he will forge a philosophy that would, in time, literally light the fires of hell upon the earth itself!

THE RABBI AND HIS WIFE ARE ASLEEP

In the downstairs hallway, the grandfather clock is striking twelve. Suddenly, a bloodcurdling scream rends the darkness! The Rabbi’s wife, discombobulated, turns on the nightstand light. She looks at her husband and notices that the blood has gone completely out of his face.

THE WIFE: What on earth...! You must have had a proper nightmare this time. That other dream just wakes you up, mumbling.

The Rabbi: No, it’s the same dream. The fellow gets a letter that says, “Dear Herr H...”—-I couldn’t make out the name, just the letter “H”. At that point, the fellow actually explodes into a vision so horrible that I can’t even describe it! Right after that, a feeling of unbearable anxiety for our people came over me. I know, I know—our history is never any great comfort—but THIS was different. I can’t explain it; it makes no sense...

bodies at Auschwitz

Originally written for a Braille Institute Workshop, 2003

Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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