NACHT UND NEBEL by Peter Nolan Smith

Count-No-Count phoned my apartment in the East Village on a sunny morning in the summer of 1982. He was calling from Hamburg with an offer of a job as ‘tursteher’ at his nightclub BSIR. THe pay was $150 a night, free accommodations, and all I could drink. Being dead-broke I answered, “Ja.”

I spoke bad German with a Boston accent thanks to my Bavarian teacher Bruder Karl at my high school south of Boston. My stay in Hamburg was pleasant throughout the warm season, but the coming of autumn brought the cold rain, gray fog, and dark days. The sun’s traverse of the sky descended each day approaching the winter solstice like a frisbee weakening in flight. Even worse was how German the Germans became once the tourist had fled south to southern climes.

There were Nazis on the streets. The bad weather brought them out of their hiding places and I walked through Jungfernstieg spotting various members of the Waffen SS and Gestapo. Maybe it was my imagination playing tricks with the shadows, but their eyes didn’t lie about what they had seen in Russia, Poland, France, or Germany. They were not extras in a Hollywood movie. These men had not only obeyed orders, they had carried them out to the letter.

Of course the young Germans were obsessed by the ghosts of the pasts.

“We are the Porsche Reich, not the Fourth Reich.” Count-No-Count told me on many occasion. His best friend was a Reeperbahn pimp, Nigger Kalle, the son of an American sergeant from Harlem and a local woman from Hafenstrasse. A black Zuhalter was an anomaly in Hamburg, but his right-hand man was SS Tommy, a deadly killer without any humor. Te two of them controlled the six-floors of the Eroscenter and the thousands of Huren for their boss. Nigger Kali was always good to me. In truth he was my boss and not Count-No-Count.

SS Tommy believed in the Second Coming, but he was not a real Nazi. Not like those old men who had done things no one liked to speak about at parties or even behind their backs. Still when SS Tommy presented me a large bill for having sex with a blonde girl at BSIR, I handed him the keys to my car and left Hamburg that evening without saying good-bye to anyone. The Rechtung was for 20,000 DMs or $12,000. Everything had been itemized on his list.


I escaped from Hamburg, knowing that SS Tommy was not a Nazi only because the Nazis had not won the war.

I considered myself lucky.

This autumn I have been living in Luxembourg. Triers, the ancient Roman city of 70,000, was a 45 minute ride on the train. I took the express in the morning and expected SS Tommy to be waiting on the platform. Maybe not him, but one of this minion or a neo-Nazi. They have become very active in the East. On the Moselle I studied the faces of the young and old. I didn’t see a single Nazi. It was, as if their genes had been erased from the race.

In town the only broken glass were from broken bottles and not the windows of Jewish homes and synagogues.

I ate a bratwurst and drank a beer.

I visited Karl Mark Haus. He had been born in the old city. The street is in the heart of the sex zone. Nothing was happening in the afternoon. As I stood outside the house and old man passed by me and muttered under his breath, “Juden.”

“And fuck you, you old Nazi.” My comment made him turn his head. “Ja, du alte arseloch.”

I rushed him and he cringed in expectation of a blow. His uplifted arm stopped my blow.

“Gehst heim,”I said in my German tainted by a Boston accent.

He was about 91. I was 59. One blow would have put him in the hospital and I would have gone to jail.

Some things never change.

“Nicht war.”

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