“We believe in Adolf Hitler because he made life better for us,” Rudolf said, trying to keep a calm demeanor, but his right eye began twitching. “Before Hitler, under the Weimar Republic, there was no work for the German people because of the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles. The Führer brought food to our tables, gave us work for our hands. He is our leader, our strength.”
The teenager digested that for a moment and then countered, “Yes, but he’s led you into this awful war. Germany is losing…”
Rudolf’s face, burned brown from the Arizona sun, blanched. He wanted to strike out against this idiot who voiced such blasphemy, but he knew the trouble he would be in if he did. Instead, in a measured tone, he said, “Don’t be so sure of that,” and then he abruptly turned from the source of his enmity, his eye still twitching against his fierce will. Rudolf quickly found another patch of weeds in an adjacent cotton row to hack into, hoping it would alleviate his wrath.
Moments later when Rudolf glanced back at the farmer’s son, he saw a quizzical look, as if the youth wanted to say more, but the guards called the men together to take them back to Camp Papago Park. Rudolf carried his hoe to the shed at the end of the field and turned it in; he was glad for the end of this day and the disrespectful questions by the American.
Back in his barrack, Rudolf removed his boots and placed them carefully at the foot of his cot, and then he stripped off his clothes, filthy with the dust of the cotton field and his sharp-smelling sweat. He dropped them on the floor, one on top of the other in a messy pile, and then sat wearily on his cot in his underwear. The interminable heat was even more stifling in the small barrack, and Rudolf’s longing for the green of his beloved homeland permeated his being. Disgusted with his circumstances, Rudolf’s thoughts turned easily to the conversation with the American bastard.
He pondered the heresy of the question about German fidelity to Adolf Hitler and then his mind roamed through his knowledge about democracy. Considering it from all angles—what he had been taught in the Third Reich and what he had viewed himself as a prisoner of war—Rudolf determined the American democratic system was a farce. It was beyond logic that every citizen could have a voice in their government, and the turmoil of the failed Weimar Republic imposed upon Germany after WWI certainly proved that.
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