Ansel stared at his friend Heinrich as they crossed the Elsenstag bridge. It was close to midnight and the bridge was deserted.
“You can't be serious, Heinrich; he's a madman, a lunatic!”
Heinrich stopped and whirled to face him, his black overcoat flapping in the wind like a vulture's wing. Hissing at Ansel he spoke softly.
“You do not know of what you speak, my friend. This man will be the savior of our people. He has plans that you cannot imagine.”
“Indeed, I know that he has plans,” spat Ansel. “I think I know of some of those plans. Remember the beautiful Rykestrasse synagogue? Have you seen what was done to it?”
“You mean the place where the Juden mocked us and their leadership preached against us? Is it that place you speak of, Ansel? Ridding ourselves of those vermin is one of the most important things we have been doing.”
Ansel stepped back from his old friend.
Heinrich dropped his cigarette and ground it out with a black boot.
“It is clear that you have been gone too long from your homeland, my dear Ansel.”
“Heinrich, I don't believe that I know you any longer. What has happened to you? You were going to be a priest. Does God mean nothing to you now?”
Heinrich stood looking at Ansel oddly, his blue eyes bright under thick black hair.
“God,” he said, slowly. “God is my reason for doing what I do. Do you not know how much he hates the Juden for what they did to his son, the Christ?”
Ansel stared at his old friend in disbelief, feeling the gulf between them widening. He spoke slowly, as though to a child, or to one demented.
“My friend, is that what they are teaching you? I don't believe that God hates anyone, nor would he have us hating anyone. You surely know that our hate is one of the reasons Christ died; one of the sins he paid for on the cross.”
“Yes, Ansel, and the hatred of the Juden is the worst of all. They hated Him so much that they nailed Him to that cross. You do not see that?”
“Lord, give me wisdom, please,” Ansel prayed silently.
Aloud he said, “Always the Juden have been blamed for crucifying Christ, but it was all of mankind who did that. How, for instance, is the hatred of the Nazi for the Juden no less a sin?”
“Our Fuhrer has told us what is right and what is wrong.” Heinrich's words were vicious bites, forcefully enunciated.
“He may be our Fuhrer, Heinrich, but is he our God?”
“As close to God as one can get,” he retorted.
“Is that why he's burning all the Bibles, then? Is he making God over in his own image?”
“You are treading on dangerous ground my friend!” Heinrich's eyes blazed as he took a step closer to Ansel, who stood unmoving.
“Permit me to say one more thing then, or perhaps just to ask a question. Does not the true God love life and did he not create man in His own image? Including the Juden?”
Heinrich turned to stare out over the intricately laced bridge railing.
“Ansel,” he said softly after a moment, sighing. “One cannot swim upstream against the current.” He turned to look at his friend. “There are those who have been killed for much less than you are saying. We must be careful now.”
“On the contrary, Heinrich, any dead fish can float with the current. Perhaps now is the time for those of us who know the truth...”
“Your truth, Ansel, your truth. It is childish truth! We believed these things as children! Now, things are different. Now we have grown-up truth. The world is not as simple as our parents would have us believe.”
“Truth is truth, Heinrich.” Again, it was as though he was speaking to a child.
“There is one truth; one God.”
“Ansel,” Heinrich's voice was low and threatening. “You must never speak such things again.”
Gathering his courage, Ansel tried once more.
“And Who made you Heinrich? Who made you? Was it the Fuhrer?”
Covering his ears, Heinrich cried out “No, I can't hear you! I won't hear you!”
“Any dead fish, Heinrich,” Ansel sadly breathed. “Any dead fish.”
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