THE BEER

2019-11-08

THE BEER

No Sir! The beer is the beer. For me, all the same.
My father was fussier. Only Okocim-beer or Żywieckie-beer.
But those were the old days. Now, no one can see the difference.
I drink what comes up. Yes, Sir, I am always thirsty in the morning time.
That on my hand? It is an old story from jail.
I was young. I was stupid. So I was caught and jailed. But it was in the communists' time.
My father said I inherited it after my grandfather because it has jumped him over.
My father was a good man. Too decent. Not like me.
Grandfather? I remember him well because he liked to tell me his stories from the time before and during wartime.
He was a kid when he became a member of a gang.
He was so agile that there was no better to crawl over cornices and open some windows.
When they had to admit him into the gang, he climbed the gutter pipe up to the third floor and made access to the apartment!
There were the people of honor people in the gang. They had a code.
They did not touch the poor, only the rich.
They made no difference, whether it was the Polish or the Jewish flat.
No. But only those rich who lived among the Poles.
Places with too many Jews were difficult to rob because even a little Polish rascal looked different from a Jew. In the Polish quarter, such a heist was a piece of cake.
They also did those riches on the streets in the evening. Also those who looked like the riches.
They had some kiddos in front of the restaurants.
When a drunken mister was leaving the restaurant into the dark, the gang had a message about it at the latest in a quarter of an hour and could free him of unnecessary belongings.
They did not do any "wet" work because the human body was sacred.
It changed a bit during occupation time because the conditions were also different.
The Jewish flats they had in mind were looted before they could get an occasion to come into them.
When the Poles moved in, there was nothing to steal.
So they got a partnership with a policeman.
To trace the Jews. Those who were leaving the ghetto.
Not close to the ghetto, but those places where the Jews went to do business.
That policeman was a clever one. And a good comrade too.
It had started when he caught one from the gang.
Lefty, the head of the gang, was nearby at that moment.
Lefty had a look. And he had a talk. So they came to an understanding.
If the Jews were trying to do some business outside the ghetto, the gang had to have its share.
When they spotted a Jew, they followed him until he got the goods. Then they robbed him.
If he looked strong or very wealthy, they called our policeman.
Then the Jew had to buy himself out.
If he had not enough money, he had to write to his family in the ghetto.
The kiddos run into the ghetto to deliver the note.
Then it was agreed the place the money had be delivered, and the Jew was relieved.
It always ended satisfactory because they were moderate and trustworthy.
If they promised let the Jew go, they always let him go.
And the Jews could still do the business, only for an extra payment.
Some even praised the arrangement because they could hire the kiddos to watch and avoid other pranks.
No. The gang did not cooperate with the Germans. Or with the other policemen.
Our policeman explained to Lefty that it would not be a good business.
If you deliver the Jew to the Germans, it means the end of the business.
If you let him go, you can milk him several times more.
And no wet job. Because if it spreads, the Jews could change the territory to do businesses.
It worked well, although there were several Jews who tried to resist. These pacified our policeman. Several times, he came and personally punished the crank.
Everything went well until there was one who did not understand anything.
My grandfather was with Lefty when it happened. The kiddos had spotted a well-dressed Jew. He was dumbfounded when Lefty stopped him.
Lefty kindly asked him what he was carrying, and the Jew grunted that it was not his business.
So he got a couple of knocks. But he was stubborn and said he would report this to the police!
Do you want the police, you bastard?! Fine! They called in their policeman.
The policeman came and checked his papers. Then ordered him to take off his pants. There we got you!
But still polite. The Jew could go free against some gratitude. But the Jew said he had nothing to give!
So maybe any address? To send kiddo to bring what was needed?
No! There was no address!
Suddenly he smacked Lefty, who felt like a cut-down tree.
The policeman put the hand on the holster, but the Jew knocked him on the head and ran away!
Fortunately, my grandpa was there. He pulled out the policeman gun and fired at the bastard.
It was the first shot of his life, but he hit him, although it was over five meters distance!
Lefty and the policeman got up and approached the lying man. He was still alive, but his stomach guts were visible. So what would they do? They could not deliver him to Germans because he could start singing about what happened.
Let him go? He might survive and get someone to take revenge.
They did not found other solution than to finish him off. So they did it.
And you know what? When they searched his body, they found ten gold coins!
Grandpa was still full of rage when he talked about it.
"Imagine what a jackass! He risked his life for those stupid gold pieces!
And made murderers of us! What a scoundrel!
What? Are you leaving now?
Then Goodbye! I will stay here for a while.
And thanks for the beer!

Alex Wieseltier
May 2020

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