In the novel that I am presently writing, the young American, Philip, has just arrived, via train, in Strasbourg, France, very near the German border. The year is 1937. A young lady, Lili, who has recently left Germany, has arranged for her father, Hezekin, to drive Philip out of Strasbourg and into the Alsace countryside of easternmost France.
In chapter 13 of Smoke, the novel, we hear Philip Marlowe and Hezekin Eschen converse, as Hezekin is driving the Renault to a farmhouse in the country:
“Konzentrationslager,” said Hezekin.
“They are special prisons for Jews, where they are concentrated in camps to do slave labor,” said Lili.
Philip’s American mind could not fathom it. “What is so special about you Jews that—“
Hezekin raised his voice: “From ancient times, God has called us out of slavery, and we will never, never submit to it on this earth—not from Pharoah, not from the Fuehrer!”
“What slavery are you talking about now, in 1937, with you a businessman, providing for your family?” Philip retorted.
The voice lowered. “Philip, the Nazis are building slave camps now!” His voice was tense with urgency, eyes flashing with offense. “The SS has built one at Dachau, and they have taken my son, my one and only son, and they have locked him in there with barbed wire all around the camp. What do you call that?”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“Now you have, my friend. You are not in America now. This is the old world, the world from which your ancestors—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln—the world of tragedy, and hope, from which they sprung, the world from which their ancestors fled!”
“If this is true—“
“It is true, my friend!