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Authors: Jacques Chessex

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BOOK: A Jew Must Die
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“Great work,” says Ischi. He goes across to the dead man, bends over the body, laughs and launches a kick at the corpse.
“Heil Hitler!”

Heil Hitler!”
echo the four others, their spirits lifting.
“What now?” asks Ballotte.
“Now we get rid of him.”
“Hydrochloric acid?” Robert Marmier ventures again.
“Idiot!” exclaims Ischi. “You know very well it’s too slow. Is there an axe anywhere around?”
Robert and the others have turned pale.
“Or a saw?” Ischi goes on. “Butcher’s knives?”
“I’ve got the necessary,” mutters Robert.
“Get to work then!” orders Ischi. “Fritz, you’re the strongest. You cut up the body. The head, arms and legs, and remember to cut the legs in two! Then deal with the trunk. It won’t be easy, with his size. Look at
that paunch. The bastard! Getting fat like that at our expense. ”
The four men listen approvingly. Robert produces the tools. The axe, a solid saw, a long butcher’s knife.
“We’ll have to undress him first,” says Ischi. “And divide up his cash. I’ll work it out. The biggest share to the Party. I’ll look after everything. His clothes, no problem, we’ll burn them in the forest. We’ve found a place, Max and me.”
“And the body?” asks Ballotte. “What are we going to do with the bits?”
“I’ll look after everything,” repeats Ischi. “We’ll put all the bastard’s bits in milk cans and sink them in the lake off Chevroux. I know a fisherman in the harbour there. I’ve already arranged to borrow his biggest boat. That’s for this evening. After dark. Three hundred yards offshore, no one’ll bother us. Heh! Heh! The fish’ll do the rest.”
On Rue-à-Thomas, in the Marmier brothers’ cowshed, the killers have set about their gruesome task. After undressing the dead man, they hold the corpse by the four limbs and carve, saw and slice into it: first the hands, then the arms, the thick legs and the head, which gives them some trouble because the ligaments in the neck refuse to part and two of them are needed to tear it from the massive trunk.
Fritz Joss takes charge, thankful for the dreadful work, as if it afforded a kind of respite. The saw scrapes as it cuts into the Jew’s bone. Fritz doesn’t flinch, for he is used to this, having worked in a butcher’s shop as an apprentice cutter and sliced up several animals, a trusted worker for other bosses. The teeth of the saw
bite, the butcher’s knife slices, separating the groin, armpits and arms.
Blood flows abundantly; splinters of bone fly, and shreds of flesh. To cover the sounds of butchering, Max chops some wood in front of the door, whistling and bawling one of Fernandel’s songs:
Ignace, Ignace,
It’s a little name I love,
Ignace, Ignace.
It’s nice; it fits me like a glove.
It is 12:30. Max goes to fetch the three milk cans and sets them down in the cowshed, trying not to vomit. The stench of blood, lymph and fat is unbearable in the heat of the shed.
“You can’t breathe in here,” exclaims Ballotte. “Hurry up and finish, Fritz. We’re beginning to have enough of dealing with this Yid.”
Fritz Joss staggers in his effort. But the trunk resists. They have to turn it round and round to see where best to attack it. Finally they decide to chop it lengthwise
with the axe. The breastbone divides and the spine and ribs are split. The job is done. One Jew less on Swiss soil.
Hastily they cram the stumps, head and half the trunk into the first container; the other half goes into the second can, along with the arms and hands, and, lastly, the legs into the third. But it is difficult to stuff them in completely, and the feet stick out, pathetic signals of distress; even in the deep waters of Lake Neuchatel, they will rise to the surface at night, surrounded by squalling coots and seagulls. But what do a Jew’s two feet matter? The order to kill has been carried out. Dominion is nigh.
Heil Hitler!
In the meantime four animals have remained tethered to the railing in the market square with no one to take them away. They are the Godel, Brasey and Losey bullocks, and Cherbuin of Avenches’s heifer, all bought by Arthur Bloch earlier this morning and now bellowing in the oppressive heat.
At 12:30 Charly Bruder the butcher takes a first look at the situation; he recognizes the animals and remembers who bought them. Where can Arthur Bloch have gone? But Bruder the butcher is not too worried: Bloch must have gone for a drink with one of his clients; he’ll be back any time soon.
At one o’clock the animals are still bellowing, crazed by the sun. Charly Bruder decides to move them into the shade.
But there is still no sign of Arthur Bloch. At 3:00, Bruder the butcher and a few farmers emerging from the cafés decide to alert the police. “Arthur Bloch? He’ll have taken the opportunity to get up to some mischief. In some hotel. Or in the forest. He’ll turn up, don’t you worry.”
That evening, in Berne, Myria Bloch is worried, for her husband has not come home. Sensitive and highly strung, she has felt uneasy all day, and now she is panicking. She phones one of her daughters in Zurich, then calls a lawyer in Berne — a family friend, a member of the community. He will act first thing in the morning. First, call the police. Get things moving. Then hire Auguste-Christian Wagnière, the private detective from Lausanne, known for his doggedness and sound instincts. What is more, Wagnière enjoys the confidence of the local police and sometimes works with them; he knows the countryside inside out, is aware of Pastor Lugrin’s comings and goings and of the Nazi agitation in Payerne. He suggests to Myria Bloch and her daughters that they place an announcement in the two local newspapers,
Le Démocrate
Le Journal de Payerne,
accompanied by
photographs of Arthur Bloch and offering a reward for useful information.
Meanwhile Ischi, the gang’s leader, has no time to waste. By the evening of the 16th, the dismembered body of the Jew Bloch is submerged in the lake off Chevroux. No worries there, he won’t come up again. Next, dispose of his clothing. And share things out. His wallet? It contains five thousand Swiss francs, a lot of money for the time. Ischi divides them up: four thousand francs for the Party, just over four hundred for himself, and the rest divided between Ballotte and the Marmiers. Fritz Joss, the farm labourer who wielded the iron bar and butcher’s knives, gets only twenty francs.
Then they will burn the suit, waistcoat and underwear at Neyrvaux, in a cave in the woods.
La grotte aux chauves-souris
— Bat Cave. It is not far from Vers-chez-Savary, a remote hamlet. Fernand Ischi and his gang have often used it as a hide-out. Max Marmier gets on the motorcycle pillion, holding the clothes and a few objects. Lights out, they speed towards the woods. There, the clothes, hat and stick, even the Sonotone, are thrown in
a heap on the black earth and lit with a cigarette lighter. But the cave is damp, the fire fails to catch properly, and the clothes will not burn. Never mind. We mustn’t get caught. Just the other evening, when we were scouting the place out, those two boys that saw us. We’ll deal with them if we have to. Meanwhile let’s not hang around. A little earth to cover things, a few pebbles, a pile of dead leaves — no one’s going to come poking around here.
Ischi the ringleader and Max Marmier get back on the motorcycle and ride back to Payerne in the darkening inky night.
Late that night Fernand Ischi visits young Annah in the little room she rents on Rue des Granges, fondles her, takes his whip to her and makes her cry out until dawn.
Friday 17 April, Saturday 18 and Sunday 19: still no news of Arthur Bloch. But the most diverse rumours, lewd jokes, insinuations and gossip are rife in the cafés of Payerne. Arthur Bloch’s elder daughter comes to Berne to give her mother support. The younger says she is on her way. Myria has eaten nothing since Thursday, and is surviving thanks to her doctor’s injections.
On Monday 20 April, in Berlin, Wilhelm Furtwangler conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday. In the presence of the leaders of the
Nazi regime, dignitaries’ families and representatives of industry and the diplomatic corps, the Führer celebrates reaching the age of fifty-three. Josef Goebbels, Propaganda Minister of the Reich, marks the glorious occasion.
On Tuesday 21 April and Wednesday 22 April, the Bloch family’s announcement appears, first in the
Journal de Payerne
, and the following day in
Le Démocrate:
The public is advised of the disappearance of M. Arthur BLOCH, cattle-dealer, b. 1882, resident in Berne, last seen on Market Square in Payerne on Thursday 16 April 1942.
Description: height approx. 5ʹ7ʺ, rather stout, clean-shaven, wearing a small Sonotone hearing aid; grey-beige coat, grey hat, probably carrying a walking stick.
Anyone able to provide information of any kind is asked to convey it immediately to the investigating judge, District of Payerne-Avenches. The family is offering a reward of 1,000 francs to anyone providing information leading to the discovery of this person or helping to establish the circumstances of his disappearance.
The announcement is accompanied by two quite clear photographs of Arthur Bloch — on the left, dressed in a suit and white shirt, with a white silk handkerchief in his breast pocket, taken against a strange black background that already consigns him to another world. In the one on the right, wearing his hat down over his eyebrows, he has the look of some heavy-featured aviator or an American banker in a 1920s silent movie.
Several people are heard from over the next few days. Arthur Bloch was spotted in the train to Berne: the same heavy build, the same clothes, but the missing man was fair-haired. Could Bloch have dyed his hair? Another confuses him with a certain Braun, a cattle-dealer from Basle who stayed at the Hotel des Alpes in Payerne, but M. Braun isn’t Jewish. Another confused him with a Monsieur Dreyfus, who also stayed at the Alpes. Others had come across him in Boulex woods, in the company of a woman. And others in the Hotel de la Gare, with the same woman. The most useful evidence is provided by two young boys from the hamlet of Vers-chez-Savary, who had found some dark clothes, a hat, a stick and a Sonotone - a sad little list - in an isolated cave. These
seem to have been the same youngsters who had spotted Fernand Ischi and Max Marmier reconnoitring the place a few days before.
At last a serious search begins. Wagnière gets his people moving. In Payerne, where the police have dispatched investigators, tongues have begun to wag, rumours and suspicions have acquired direction. The Nazis were the killers. The Fifth Column. The vice tightens. No doubt remains. It was the garage Gauleiter.
But curiously, instead of horror at the disappearance, or the uneasiness it spreads, inspiring compassion or sadness, in the cafés there is still sniggering, coarse jokes and loaded comments about “Jewry”, “profiteering” and “parasitic” businesses. Copies of
Je suis partout
continued to circulate among prominent citizens. Never, since Hitler arrived on the scene and the Kristallnacht persecutions, has such a welling of hatred towards Jews been witnessed. And even those who would denounce Fernand Ischi and his gang at the trial still mock the Jews and their age-old terrors. A cattle-dealer has disappeared? An interesting turning of the tables: that’s what people think in Payerne, awaiting further developments with a snigger.
Friday 24 April, 8 a.m. The weather is mild over Payerne: cool air, birdsong and bird calls from the lilacs and lime trees already in bloom. On the Corcelles road, a squad of Swiss national police and two constables from Payerne are waiting for Fernand Ischi at the Riollaz Bridge, which crosses the railway line among rusting warehouses, abandoned workshops and the premises of the Beauregard brewery. Further north, across the countryside, run rails nostalgic for trains whose locomotives belch black clouds of smoke. Further up the street, Ischi is about to leave home. Punctual, dapper, erect, he strides towards the policemen. And he is most likely armed. They caution him. Ischi does not resist. He is put in a holding cell in the town’s jail.
He is searched. On him they find a firearm, the indispensable Walther 7.65, a few keys, several passports, an identity card, thirteen ration coupons, an open packet of Laurens Red cigarettes, five Disch caramels, a ticket for the Swiss Romande lottery, two letters postmarked Berne and two Nazi propaganda booklets.
Close-shaven, hair cut short, prominent ears facing forwards. Jacket and trousers of the latest fashion, of combed grey-green wool, very close-fitting, with a half-belt in the back to lend a military look. Laced shoes of a casual style, light-brown leather, with thick crepe soles. Oddly, a green Tyrolean felt hat, tilted back on his head, gives him this morning the air of a guard or delivery man from the Berghof or Berchtesgaden. And a persistent scent of eau de Cologne.
Yes, he’s an anti-Semite and has never concealed the fact. Yes, he thought that liquidating a Swiss Jew would provide a conspicuous example. And anyway, to hell with you, your police and your laws. In any case, Germany will have us out within the next few weeks. Do you think the Legation will allow us to be humiliated? He heard about Bloch’s death from the newspapers. But yes, it was
he, the leader, Fernand Ischi, Party chief and Gauleiter, who ordered the Marmier brothers to bring the Jew to Rue-à-Thomas and kill him there. He knows nothing about cutting up the carcass. But if they did it, they were right. The fat swine! No pity. He makes no mention of Georges Ballotte or Fritz Joss. The Jew’s dismembered body has been sunk in Lake Neuchatel.
Early that afternoon two senior police officers, Inspectors Jaques and Jaquillard, arrive in Chevroux by car, escorted by a squad of motorcycle police. The light is idyllic on the spring shoreline. Two of the sinister milk cans are resting on the bottom, four metres deep. From the third, floating half submerged, a man’s feet protrude, surrounded by squalling gulls. Along with the legs, they find half of the trunk, split lengthwise, and the intestines, lungs and heart. The police inspectors give the order for the three containers to be conveyed to the hospital in Payerne.
BOOK: A Jew Must Die
9.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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