“You don’t understand, Sarah. I would have preferred him to value me for what I was then to give me five hundred thousand — or even one million — dollars after he was dead. I don’t want his five hundred thousand dollars — much less any claims to property taken from Uncle Otto and Aunt Anna by the Nazis. I don’t even want to think about it — Uncle Otto’s beautiful home on Schwanenwerder, his optician’s office on the Kurfuerstendam. I can’t deal with it — or what they did to him and Aunt Anna and our cousins. I don’t want to.”
Sarah looked down chastened and David turned pointedly to look out of the window although he saw nothing. He was desperately trying to work out what his father had been thinking — and what on earth he was going to do with this unwanted legacy. They did not speak again until they reached the Savoy.
On arrival, Sarah excused herself to freshen up before dinner, and David went straight to the American Bar, where he’d arranged to meet his friend Kiwi at six-thirty. The pianist was playing lively if muted jazz on the piano and a group of well-dressed Americans were at the bar talking earnestly in agitated but subdued tones. Without looking at them, David cocked his ear to listen to what they were saying. They were discussing the latest meeting of the Allied Council of Foreign Ministers, which had just ended. These men, whoever they were, were predicting that tensions with the Soviet Union were going to escalate.
“The problem is that there has to be currency reform in Germany, and the longer we delay it, the more damage is done to the economy of Europe as a whole.” One of them declared emphatically. “As it is, the Soviets print money without any kind of restraint or accounting. Their bank notes are worthless so people can only live by barter. The real currency of Germany is cigarettes — and since the Germans don’t produce cigarettes, we are turning an entire nation into criminals against their will. It’s nuts!”
“What I find most appalling is that the real thieves — the Nazis who enriched themselves through conquest and theft all across Europe — have the valuables with which to profit from this barter economy.” The speaker spoke in a soft, educated American voice, but his words struck David like a kick in the gut. He held his breath to listen as the speaker continued, “The very people who ought to be behind bars are making new fortunes, while honest people have nothing left to sell and turn increasingly to crime — or prostitution — just to stay alive.”
David couldn’t move as the words played again in his head, “the Nazis who enriched themselves.”
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