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Briquets . . .

The guard who relieves Andor Gutman at six each night is Arpad Kovacs. Arpad is a Roman candle of a man, loud and gay.

When Arpad came on duty at six last night, he demanded to see what I'd written so far. I gave him the very few pages, and Arpad walked up and down the corridor, waving and praising the pages extravagantly.

He didn't read them. He praised them for what he imagined to be in them.

'Give it to the complacent bastards!' he said last night 'Tell those smug briquets!'

By briquets he meant people who did nothing to save their own lives or anybody else's life when the Nazis took over, who were willing to go meekly all the way to the gas chambers, if that was where the Nazis wanted them to go. A briquet, of course, is a molded block of coal dust, the soul of convenience where transportation, storage and combustion are concerned.

Arpad, faced with the problem of being a Jew in Nazi Hungary, did not become a briquet. On the contrary, Arpad got himself false papers and joined the Hungarian S.S.

That fact is the basis for his sympathy with me. 'Tell them the things a man does to stay alive! What's so noble about being a briquet?' he said last night.

'Did you ever hear any of my broadcasts?' I asked him. The medium of my war crimes was radio broadcasting. I was a Nazi radio propagandist, a shrewd and loathsome anti-Semite.

'No,' he said.

So I showed him a transcript of a broadcast, a transcript furnished to me by the Haifa Institute. 'Read it,' I said.

'I don't have to,' he said. 'Everybody was saying the same things over and over and over in those days.'

'Read it anyway as a favor,' I said.

So he read it, his face becoming sourer and sourer. He handed it back to me. 'You disappoint me,' he said.

'Oh?' I said.

'It's so weak!' he said. 'It has no body, no paprika, no zest! I thought you were a master of racial invective!'

'I'm not?' I said.

'If any member of my S.S. platoon had spoken in such a friendly way about the Jews,' said Arpad, 'I would have had him shot for treason! Goebbels should have fired you and hired me as the radio scourge of the Jews. I would have raised blisters around the world!'

'You were already doing your part with your S.S. platoon,' I said.

Arpad beamed, remembering his S.S. days. 'What an Aryan I made!' he said.

'Nobody ever suspected you?' I said.

'How would they dare?' he said. 'I was such a pure and terrifying Aryan that they even put me in a special detachment. Its mission was to find out how the Jews always knew what the S.S. was going to do next There was a leak somewhere, and we were out to stop it' He looked bitter and affronted, remembering it, even though he had been that leak.

'Was the detachment successful in its mission?' I said.

'I'm happy to say,' said Arpad, 'that fourteen S.S. men were shot on our recommendation. Adolf Eichmann himself congratulated us.'

'You met him, did you?' I said.

'Yes' said Arpad, 'and I'm sorry I didn't know at the time how important he was.'

'Why?' I said.

'I would have killed him,' said Arpad.

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