I don’t know it yet, but we are here only because my father’s marriage to his no longer loved or loving Jewish wife cost him his fashionable parish in Germany. No sooner had the Nazis been voted into power there than a trio of brawny Brownshirts turned up on his doorstep and told him to go and find another twig to perch on. He was offered a refuge in England by the Bishop of Chichester, but his patriotism prevented him from going to a country which might one day be at war again with the Fatherland. (Patriotism’s going to be another favorite family topic.) So he found a parish in neighboring pre-Nazi Austria, which he should have known was more or less like jumping out of the fire into the frying pan. It didn’t take long to feel the heat again. I’d only just had my fourth birthday in fact when our German brothers marched into Austria amid general jubilation to unite us with the Fatherland and rid us of the malignant Jew, whatever that was. (I thought it was something like the rats in the coal cellar.)
[Being the patriarch of a half-Jewish/half-Aryan family, the narrator’s father is concerned with procuring . . .]
Those Aryan certificates involve Willibald in a lot of extra work, by the way. Worthy citizens who want to keep their official jobs or join the Party often have to track down their parents’ and grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ baptismal records all over the Reich, and then get the local pastor to authenticate them—all, as Willibald frequently complains, without payment to the pastor. A bitter pill for him to swallow, especially when he thinks of his own children’s unsatisfactory ancestors, but it’s no fun for the aspiring Aryans either. Imagine how much trailing up and down and across the country that entails for those poor people, from city to city, town to town, village to village! And the fear that they might find a Solomon or a David right at the last godforsaken hamlet when all the rest were spotless! Everyone going back to their father’s birthplace and their mother’s birthplace and then all their parents’ birthplaces—it’s like a rerun of the census of the Jews when Christ was born, only this time the Slaughter of the Innocents is going to be a far, far bigger do.