As promised in my last post, the following quote from McCurry’s War describes a meeting McCurry and his German friend Horst Wachter attend to learn more about the neo-Nazi movement. To set it up, during a party McCurry and Wachter held, McCurry’s German landlord interrupted and demanded that the music be played at a very low volume. When McCurry refused, the landlord went into a tirade that was too fast and furious for McCurry to understand. When the landlord left, Wachter interpreted:
Basically he said, ‘You godforsaken, foul dog Americans think you’re so high and mighty. Well, you’re lucky Hitler went mad or we’d be ruling you right now.’ He just misses that feeling that he is part of a superior race of human beings.”
Wachter then asked if McCurry would like to see this attitude in action and that evening they left to attend a meeting of one of the neo-Nazi groups.
“We’ll walk there,” Wachter said, grabbing his keys and turning off lights on their way out. “Don’t wanna give ‘em any way of finding out who we really are.”
As they walked along, they passed more homes that remained bombed-out shells, something McCurry still found astounding. He pulled out a cigarette to settle his nerves. Knowing Wachter didn’t smoke, he didn’t offer any.
“You would think,” McCurry said after taking a few puffs on his cigarette, “that the number of bombed-out buildings that still exist would serve as a reminder of the pain and suffering that resulted from Hitler’s leadership.”
“They don’t look at it that way,” Wachter said.
Today’s adults are the children of Nazis, Wachter explained, whose parents have passed on to them a system of beliefs spawned by Hitler. They believe the only reason Germany lost the war was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy perverted their beliefs and turned other countries against them.
“They also believe they will regain support for the movement, and I’m not always so sure they’re wrong.”
The pair soon arrived at the home where the meeting was being held. It was clearly an old mansion that had at one time probably housed leading citizens of pre-war Berlin. Even in the dark, though, it was apparent it had fallen on bad times. Some of the window shutters were askew while others were missing entirely. In places the cast iron gutters had broken their restraining straps and hung at an angle, producing an odd slash across the face of the building. Magnificent windows facing the street appeared to be shrouded in wartime blackout curtains, making it nearly impossible to determine if anyone occupied the building while adding to its sinister appearance.
The property, surrounded by a decorative iron fence, was completely overgrown with weeds and vines, some of which had started to creep up the outside walls of the structure. As they approached the front gate, McCurry detected a somewhat repugnant smell. He guessed this was the result of frequent outside drinking parties and the detritus left behind. To the casual observer, the building had the appearance of just another gutted home left to crumble following the war, which is probably precisely how its occupants wanted it to be perceived.
Opening the gate, Wachter said, “When we get to the door, just stand behind me and let me do the talking. These are dangerous people. So just keep cool and keep quiet.”
Walking up the pathway leading to the front door of the main house, McCurry was surprised at how the dark seemed to envelop them. The building’s silhouette against the night sky was an ominous sign to McCurry, leaving him unsure about whether he should go forward or turn back. Before he could make up his mind, Wachter knocked on the front door. It was opened by a giant of a man who was the stereotypical version of Hitler’s Aryan race. At least six-foot-six, he had blonde hair, blue eyes and muscles that strained against his black tee-shirt.
“Yah?” the monster inquired.
Speaking in German, Wachter introduced himself and McCurry as Reinhard Nicklaus and Karl Schulz. He said that Hans Dorfman had told him of the meeting and suggested he stop in to see what heroic Germans were doing to reclaim their homeland. The monster, who introduced himself as Adolph Zimmermann, told them to follow him. After traversing a hallway that seemed to stretch on forever, they turned right into a huge room that must have been a formal ballroom in the old mansion.
Holy shit, McCurry thought. This is surreal. On the wall facing them was a large Nazi flag. By McCurry’s estimation, it had to be at least forty feet across the top by twenty-five feet down. Since the ceiling must have been at least forty feet high, the bottom of the flag was still a good five feet off the floor. In front of the flag was a long table where apparently the leaders were going to sit, providing a dramatic stage designed to inspire awe. On the wall to the right was a gigantic photograph of Hitler. Under it was a flag holder with several parade flags. There were at least one hundred fifty men in the room, most in groups of ten or twelve. Chairs that had been set up facing the Nazi flag.
“You, sit here,” said Zimmermann, pointing to two chairs in the last row. He then strode off toward the front of the room.
McCurry leaned over toward Wachter and asked, “Who the fuck is Dorfman?”
“Auf deutsch,” Wachman whispered back, reminding McCurry that the men in this room wouldn’t take kindly to a person speaking English. “He’s a regular customer at the kiosk. Shows up on schedule weekly for the latest porn. It’s kind of a mutual trust relationship,” Wachter said with a wry grin.
Before they could say any more, everyone started taking their seats in the rows in front of McCurry and Wachter. When the leaders entered the room, distinguished by being the only ones in uniform, they filed behind the table and turned to the audience. Everyone rose and gave the Nazi salute, exclaiming as one “Seig Heil,” or “Hail Victory.”
“You may be seated,” said the leader at the center of the table. “I am informed we have two guests with us this evening. Would you please stand.”
McCurry and Wachter realized he was referring to them, since they were in the back row by themselves, and stood up.
“Herr Schulz and Herr Nicklaus, you are welcome to our gathering. As fellow Aryans, we hope you will join us as soldiers in the new army that will one day rise up and rid our country of these occupying foreigners and the vermin Jews who still remain within our midst. By joining us tonight, you are sworn to secrecy. The penalty for violating our trust is death. Do you understand?”
“We do,” McCurry and Wachter immediately responded.
“Sehr Gut. Seig Heil!”
The two returned the salute and were told they could be seated. McCurry realized his hands were sweating. He took a furtive glance toward Wachter, who looked a bit more pale than usual. To those who didn’t know him like McCurry, he would probably look normal.
The rest of the meeting was conducted pretty much like a Rotary Club might operate back in the States, McCurry thought. The only difference was that reports and other business weren’t put to a vote for approval. The minutes from the last meeting were read. The leader called on the club’s treasurer for a report, which indicated there was nearly ten thousand deutsche marks in their account.
Shit, thought McCurry, that’s more than twenty-five hundred dollars. These guys must have some influential backers.
The final report of the evening dealt with plans to build a secure armory. The leader said arrangements for a large shipment of weapons and ammunition had been made through another of their organizations based in West Germany.
“We are getting stronger by the day and in the end we will prevail,” he proclaimed. Extending his arm in the Nazi salute, he shouted “Sieg Heil.”
Everyone rose and the building boomed with their enthusiastic “Sieg Heil” response.
As members started filing out of the seating section and moving toward tables along the sides of the room filled with food, McCurry and Wachter thought it would be a good time to make a quick retreat. As they started down the hallway to the front door, a booming voice rang out, bringing them to a halt: “Herr Schulz. Herr Nicklaus. You’re not going to leave us so soon, are you? Come. Eat. Drink. Meet some of the other members.”
Wachter turned and said, “That is very kind of you, mein Leiter. We were very much inspired and look forward to coming again, but we both work the night shift and need to get back to our homes.”
“Well then, at least let me walk you to the door. We meet the first Wednesday of each month. That means I can expect to see you again next month, yes?”
“By all means, Wachter said.
“Just remember my warning about what we do to traitors. But I am sure neither of you would fall into that category.”
As they reached the door, the leader pulled it open for them and then gave them the Nazi salute, which McCurry and Wachter returned.
“Stay safe,” he said, as he closed the door behind him.