By Alexsi Currier
Grandpa’s coin purse came from the leather maker’s shop on the corner of Engle Strasse, in our little Black Forest village. When he flipped the shovel-like cover open and let the coins spill into it, an inside flap and pouch was revealed. This Spring I was with him when he bought a new coin purse, and slid something shiny from the old pouch to the new.
“What’s that?” I asked. He pretended not to hear me, and started to stroll home along the path by the river. I joined him, changed the subject, and remarked that I had discovered that the Engelstrasse or Angel Street had been “Adolph Hitler Street” during the war.
Grandpa looked like a bee had stung him.
He answered softly: “Sometimes one man’s Angel is another man’s Devil. It isn’t always easy to tell the Devil from an Angel or an Angel from a Devil.”
Then he pulled out his coin purse, flipped open the lid, opened the inner flap, slid out the mysterious coin, and handed it to me. It was about the size of an American silver dollar. On one side was the Star of David and on the other side was a Swastika.
“You see,” my Grandfather explained, as I stood stunned by the coin in my hand, “My grandfather was a Jew. He lies buried under one of those headstones with the Star of David on it in the First World War German Military Cemetery, at Hohrod, just across the Rhine in Alsace. He gave his life for the Fatherland. After his death my father was raised by his Christian mother and our Jewish blood was forgotten or hidden.”
I stood speechless holding the coin, until I noticed the German inscription and read out loud: ”A Nazi travels to Palestine,” and flashed a puzzled questioning glance at Grandpa.
“Simple but almost unbelievable”, he replied “In 1933 Hitler’s Anti-Semitism brought on a raging International Boycott of Germany, threatening the total collapse of the economy and the Nazi government, that is, until an enterprising Zionist offered to front for Germany by selling German goods in exchange for German Jews being allowed to immigrate to Palestine. His deal was called the Transfer Agreement. The World Zionist Organization took it over and invited the SS Officer, Leopold von Mindenstein, for a six-month visit to Zionist settlements in Palestine.
The coin you hold was struck to commemorate his favorable articles about Zionism. The fact is that the World Zionist Organization succeeded in breaking the German boycott. The Transfer Agreement went into operation. Zionists in Palestine were rescued from the Depression. Some 60,000 German Jews, including many prominent industrialists, intellectuals, and professionals, immigrated to Palestine, bringing over $100 million in cash and manufacturing equipment. These emigrants enabled the Zionists in Palestine to develop into a viable modern economic entity, while in Europe the Jews were…well you know that story.”
“But Grandpa,” I stuttered, “Why have you carried this coin around for so many years”?
Softly Grandpa replied: “Because Sydney denied it. You know Sid Cohen, the American. He couldn’t accept it. When your great grandfather, my father, died, I found this coin in his wallet.
Even when Sid held this evidence in his hand he erupted in rage that I dared to suggest that Zionists and Nazis might be flip sides of the same coin. But when I held the coin in my hand I realized that my father had known.”
“Known what”? I asked.
“He had known”, Grandpa answered, “that if the Zionists, with their Transfer Agreement had not saved the Nazi’s from being crushed by the boycott then…then probably the holocaust would never have happened.”
Birds chirped, bees hummed, and the river rippled as the words sank in.
“And Zionism,” he continued: “is the flip side of the coin. Today it is a dream gone feral; descending through racism and a brutal occupation, toward a calculated final solution of the Palestinian question. I carried this coin all these years, to judge and convict me, if I ever failed to use every fiber of my being, to try to save Judaism from Zionism, to try to save Israel from the flip side of the coin, and lastly to honor my father, and my grandfather, who died for the folly of the Fatherland.”
He laid his bony, weathered hand on mine, saying quietly:“Israel can never ever last as a racially pure state, anymore than Ayran Germany could last, or the Islamic State of today can last”.
Grandpa’s voice trailed off.
The distant church bells chimed the quarter hour.
“I quit,” he abruptly blurted out. “The coin is yours now. I’ve tried long enough to play God and save Sidney from the blindness his tribal loyalty induces. I’ve researched, studied, and published. I’ve preached and lectured, argued and reasoned, but who gives a damn? Now Sydney and I have made a truce. We only talk about the good old days in Mexico, as we await God’s judgment and mercy. We couldn’t stanch the flow of blood. I am profoundly sorry that I have to leave that unfinished task to you.”
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com
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