Fiction Excerpt: 'The Jewish Candidate'
In his debut novel, SPIEGEL ONLINE International editor David Crossland posits the question: What would happen if a Jewish candidate ran to become chancellor in Germany? An excerpt addresses the dangerous phenomenon of xenophobia and neo-Nazism in the country today.
In the opening chapter of "The Jewish Candidate," Frank Carver, a reporter for the fictitious London Chronicle, is posted to Germany to cover the country's most-fascinating election campaign since World War II. Rudolf Gutman, the first Jew to run for chancellor, is promising to free Germany from the shackles of its past.
But Gutman is in danger. Neo-Nazis secretly guided by Hermann von Tietjen, the brilliant, crazed leader of the popular Free National Party, plot to assassinate the candidate, using cash and contacts of old SS men to hire a killer.
Alerted by a tip-off, Carver and local freelancer Wolfang Renner race to clinch the scoop of their lives, while Tietjen covers his tracks with a devilish gambit that plunges the nation into terror.
As the clock ticks down to election day and the noose tightens around Gutman's neck, their quest turns into a lone, bloody struggle for survival that brings them face to face with modern Germany's dark secret. Will they unmask the assassin in time?
What follows here is a chilling excerpt from "The Jewish Candidate," published this month by London's Peach Publishing and available for purchase as an e-book on Amazon websites in the United States, Britain and other countries. Although a work of fiction, the issues explored in the tome couldn't be more contemporary given next month's opening of a massive trial of the murderous National Socialist Underground terror cell. The case is already the subject of intense international media coverage, and it is likely to raise troubling questions abroad about xenophobia that still persists in Germany seven decades after the war and almost 23 years after reunification.
Berlin , Saturday, August 4
David Khosa gazed out of the train window as it rolled through the northern suburbs of Berlin towards the Baltic Coast. After almost a year of hard studying at the Technical University, he was looking forward to his first weekend out of the city since he arrived from Cape Town.
Only three more months left to complete his postgraduate course in electrical engineering and he would be able to return home to pick a well-paid job and marry his fiancee Mbhali, the most beautiful woman in southern Africa. That description always irritated her because it implied there may be an even more beautiful woman in northern, western or eastern Africa, or on another continent. Thinking of her always made him smile. He looked around and saw a young blonde woman sitting across the aisle staring at him. He nodded and said "Guten Tag." She frowned and turned away with a hint of disgust on her pretty face. As if she had caught a whiff of dog shit.
Three more months. When he first came to Berlin he had been so excited, despite the separation from his love. Berlin was such a positive symbol for the world. No more divisions. The fall of the Wall coincided with the end of Apartheid. Everything about it fascinated him, from the Red Army soldiers' rude graffiti on the interior of the Reichstag parliament building to the brilliantly refurbished grand museums, the grand old boulevards, the hidden remnants of the Wall, the Holocaust memorial.
But it only took a few weeks for the fascination to pass. Why did people here look so miserable? What did they have to be sad about? They were rich, everything worked, their lives were incredibly easy. The cool reception he got from many ordinary Berliners as soon as he left campus reminded him of the bad days back home. The way some people on the street and in shops looked at him made him feel uncomfortable. That indignant look as if he had done something wrong, or was about to. The first time he went to a public library, he noticed that one of the staff followed him down the aisle and watched him from a few meters away. As if he was going to slip a book into his bag. Or make a bonfire of Goethe's works and dance around it chanting.
He had worked hard to polish his German and knew it well enough to realize that strangers were addressing him with the informal "Du" rather than the formal "Sie" they reserved for fellow Germans. It was a little thing but it irked him, and he wondered if the whole of Europe was like this.
Even before he left Cape Town he had been warned about attacks on foreigners in eastern Germany. But he was 28 and knew how to look after himself. And he was determined to make the most of his time here. He shut his eyes and thought of the sandy beaches back home. His tutor Bernd had told him he must visit the Baltic island of Rügen before he returned to Cape Town. "Great beaches. You'll feel at home, David." He was looking forward to renting a "beach basket," a covered wicker bench unique to German beaches, and watching the sunset.
The train was a cherry picker. It stopped at deserted, run-down little towns. At Eberswalde, three skinheads got on the train, cackling loudly and carrying a crate of beer. As they moved down the aisle, one of them spotted David, pointed and shouted "Look, a Negro! From Hottentottenland!"
The three skinheads sat down next to the blonde girl and watched David. Two of them looked like twins. They had expressionless blue eyes. Doc Martens boots, military-style trousers and bomber jackets. Their eyebrows were almost white. The third man was obese, with a flabby gut spilling over his jeans. He wore a black T-shirt with some Gothic writing. He stank of sweat.
As David looked around, he noticed that the relaxed chatter from the handful of other passengers in the carriage had stopped and given way to an expectant, nervous silence. The fat youth leaned over and gawped at him. "Eh you," he snarled in English. "You fucking Neger. You go home to Hottentottenland!" The two others started making ape noises and sniggering. They clinked their bottles. David looked at him, shook his head and turned away. He couldn't believe what he was hearing.
The man raised his voice, feigning offence. "Hey, fucking Affe I talking you! You hear me? I talking you! This is Germany. We want no Nigger here. This is a clean country. Hey Neger, Nigger, I talking you!"
He was shouting now. David could smell the beer on his breath. He knew he should move to another carriage but the rage welling in his gut wouldn't let him. He didn't want to give them the satisfaction. No one in the carriage spoke out.
- Part 1: 'The Jewish Candidate'
- Part 2: Paralyzed by Horror
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