The Hitler Next Door
“Hitler? As in Adolf Hitler?”
“I don’t know of any other,” Simon said.
“I didn’t ask you if you knew of any other Hitlers. I asked if you meant Adolf Hitler when you said you realized Hitler was living next door to you.” The tone this was said in was not pleasant.
“Sorry… Yes, I meant Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler lives next door to me.”
He sighed. “I’m really not sure even where to begin with that. When did you begin to think your neighbor was Adolf Hitler?”
“I knew as soon as he moved in.”
“How did you know?”
Simon stroked his once full head of hair. “I don’t know… just knew. I just knew he was Hitler the moment he moved in. I can’t explain it rationally, I can’t. But I knew right away.”
“You just knew?” The incredulous look that accompanied this question only frustrated Simon further.
“Look, I know how it sounds, ok? I know how it sounds, Adolf Hitler living next door. It’s improbable. I know that. But I swear to God, he’s Hitler. I just know it.”
“Adolf Hitler is dead. He has been dead for a long time. He killed himself.”
Simon laughed. “Really, you think so? You really think so? What, because the Soviets said he killed himself? Those records aren’t reliable.”
“You don’t think that the records of what happened in world war two are reliable?
“No, I mean… yes… wait… Argh. You’re putting words into my mouth. I mean, some no, some are not reliable, but of course most are.”
“Just some?” This was said in a voice that rubbed Simon the wrong way.
“I mean about Hitler. Not in general. I’m just saying that it seems possible that he faked his death and escaped as the Soviets… don’t look at me that way. I know how it sounds. But I’m telling you, he somehow faked his death and he is living next door to me! Why won’t you believe me?”
“I didn’t say I don’t believe you. I’m just confused about this whole thing, and I’d like to make sense of it. Do you know what year Adolf Hitler was born in?”
“He was born April 20th, 1889,” Simon answered.
“Uhh… you know his birthday offhand? Why is it you know Adolf Hitler’s birthday offhand?”
“I looked it up. I wanted to … don’t give me that look.”
“I’m not. Please answer the question.”
“Argh,” Simon said with a dry throat. He sipped his water and tried to calm himself. “You don’t believe me, I know you don’t believe me. I looked it up. At first I thought, no way this guy could be Hitler, ‘cuz Hitler’s way too old to be alive… but I dunno… People are getting to live older and older, and if the Chancellor of Nazi Germany didn’t have access to life prolonging technology, a technical country like that, who would have? You see what I mean?”
“Oh, I see what you mean very well. How old would you say your neighbor is?”
“I don’t know… I can’t know, that’s my point. He looks like he’s in his sixties. But he’s obviously older since he’s Adolf Hitler.”
“Would you describe your neighbor, please?”
Simon rolled his eyes. “Fine… I don’t know, maybe five foot ten, a hundred and fifty pounds. He’s old, very quiet, keeps to himself, which makes sense because Hitler wouldn’t want to draw attention to himself. He’s very clever.”
“I see. Would you say you can describe any other feature of your neighbor?”
Simon paused to think. “Uh… he has dark hair? Just like Hitler, you know, just like old Adolf.”
“And he’s African-American.” This was stated flatly.
“Oh… yeah. You see, that’s how clever he is.” Simon tapped his temple with his finger. “He’s really thought this out.”
“I’m sure he did… Mr. Strudelgruber, Simon… How long have you had a shaved head?”
“How long have I…? Oh, that’s right,” Simon Strudelgruber said as he patted his bald head, “the hair. I forgot. A week. I had to shave my head. I got lice from my dog Hermann. Or it was from the other one, the German Shepherd, Heinrich. The shampoos didn’t work.”
“You shave your head… and you have dogs named Heinrich and Hermann…”
Simon had a confused look on his face. “Yeah, I do… Why are you asking? They’re named after my two favorite authors, Hermann Hesse and Heinrich Heine. I don’t get…”
“They’re not named after the Nazi leaders Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler? And you shaved your head because of lice, not because of any affiliation with a Neo-Nazi party?” This was delivered even more flatly.
“A member of…? What?” It was then that Simon realized where all these questions had been leading. “What?! No no no! No no no, no you’re so taking that out of-”
The judge banged his gavel as the courtroom erupted. “Mr. Strudelgruber, please answer the questions as asked and refrain from raising your voice or I will hold you in contempt.” Judge Fiddlestein’s hatred was obvious.
The prosecuting attorney turned to the jury and sighed, before walking back toward the witness’s box to ask his next question as Simon began to panic.
“So, you believe that your neighbor, Mr. Charles Montgomery Davis, an African-American male in his sixties who has lived next door to you for only a month, is Adolf Hitler. You believe that he somehow escaped from Germany as the Soviets were closing in, received some sort of treatment that significantly reduced his age, and moved in next door to you? This is what you’re telling me?”
“Yes, but… that’s not fair. You’re making it seem ridiculous. It could happen, it could happen!” Simon’s face began to flush.
“Mr. Strudelgruber, do you have any knowledge of how a swastika came to be spray painted on Mr. Davis’s front door?” The prosecutor smiled.
“Yeah, I painted it there,” Simon chimed enthusiastically.
A collective gasp was heard in the courtroom. Simon’s face dropped.
“Oh come on!!! No no no no, that’s not fair, I thought he was Hitler and I was trying to warn everyone that a Nazi lived there!!! No no no!”
The judge banged his gavel again. “One final warning Mr. Strudelgruber! You will-”
Simon started shouting again over the judge. He’d finally had enough.
“No! This isn’t fair. I know he’s Hitler. You’re trying to make me look like a skinhead who was terrorizing a black man! I’m not! You don’t understand, you don’t understand! I’m not a skinhead, my dogs had lice… Look, he is Hitler. I’m telling you, he is Hitler. I was trying to warn everyone. Don’t you people get it, don’t you get it? He’s going to kills us all! He’s going to kill us all! LOOK AT HIM!!!”
Every set of eyes in the courtroom turned to Charles Montgomery Davis, the elderly African-American man sitting all alone in the last row. His gnarled arthritic hands rested on the back of the seat in front of him; his sorrowful eyes hung beneath a weakly furrowed brow, betraying the intense sadness he had so bravely tried to suppress, but was unable to; his jutted frame swayed ever so slightly, as he tried valiantly to keep himself upright while a cloud of grief that hung about him at all times oppressed him bitterly. Every heart in the courtroom broke, and all the eyes returned to Simon, filled with anger and outrage. The verdict had yet to be formally passed, but the outcome was obvious to all.
Yet no one in the courtroom heard the tiny laugh that came from “Mr. Charles Montgomery Davis” when all the backs were turned to him once again as he muttered, “Schachmatt, mein freund; checkmate.”
He locked eyes with Simon and smiled.