Vienna, Austria 1967.
The old man came shuffling in through the door. Above it a sign read Rudolfsplatz. There was also a number 7 there. In his arms he bore a slew of mail. Mostly letters. He stumbled tiredly up the stairs to his office, where the walls were covered with stuffed bookcases. Some of the books were standing, while others were lying face down. His office desk wasn’t exactly tidy, nor could anyone call it cluttered.
He left the correspondence on the desk before turning around and hanging his hat on a coat stand. Next his coat found its way the same place. He then sat down on his office chair. Grabbing the correspondence, which was wound together by a thick rubber band. First he divided the normal sized letters from the large ones. Took a peek at the larger envelopes. On one of the larger envelopes, a so-called manila envelope it said, in bold lettering:
«Um dem verdammten Juden Schweine, Antisemit und Lügner Simon Wiesenthal». The writing was thick and clumsy. It had been written with a black, broad tipped marker.
To him, receiving mail like that had grown into more or less a routine. The Police had never ever found identifiable fingerprints on any of these envelopes. He never opened them. Just put them aside. Now and then he passed a bundle of them to the Security Police. What they did to them, he did not know.
He flipped through the rest of the letters. USA. Israel. Argentina. Germany (of course, he humored himself). Switzerland. Norway. USA. Yet another one came from the US. Three or four of the letters came from Israel. One more was stamped Germany.
Stop and haul!
Did it really say Norway?
It was a rather large envelope. It bore plenty of stamps. Maybe even to many. Three blue ones, with a picture of a ski hill. Two of them were red with a book and a religious symbol, which he presently couldn’t remember what was called. Yes. It most certainly said «Norge» on the stamps. Two more had a male person on them, one brown and one green. The philatelist in him stirred. He summed the value of the stamps. 480. What was the coinage of Norway? He couldn’t remember. Didn’t matter, anyhow.
He couldn’t remember ever having a letter from Norway. He felt the weight. The letter wasn’t very heavy, nor was it light. The address was written with a fine-handed cursive.
Now where was that blasted letter opener?
The old man looked around before finally eyeing the sharp tool. He cut open the end of the envelope and put his hand inside. A small bunch of papers came out. Eight, ten sheets maybe. All the pages were written by that same fine-handed cursive. The sheets were written on both sides. Included were three photographs. All of them were apparently of the same person, at different stages in life.
He put the photos on the table, looked at them, but couldn’t say that he was familiar with the person. Then he began to read.
Dear Mr. Wiesenthal,
I will begin by presenting myself. My name is Yutte Neumann. Presently. Originally my name was quite another. I am married to the man on the photos enclosed. Officially his name is Johann Neumann.
I do, however, have my doubts.
The letter went page up and page down. It was clear that the woman who wrote the letter poured out her very soul. The question was, however: Was it reliable, or was it a mere fantasy? Wiesenthal kept reading, and finally he reached the climax of the speculations of the writer. He had to view it as speculations – for now. In his line of work indisputable proof was a dire necessity.
On the penultimate page the speculations showed more meat to the bone. She suggested a name. Wiesenthal didn’t connect the name at first. At face value it was absolutely unknown to him. But what about the included pictures? Could these in any way help in identifying the man?
The woman asked his forgiveness. She could after all take a miss, she admitted, though she clearly did not believe so.
He rose and walked over to a filing cabinet. Opened a drawer and looked through a bunch of cartoon binders. Nope. To identify someone out of pictures that were not from the war, he needed help.He turned back towards the desk. Sat down. Grabbed the phone, but remained sitting quietly, as if pondering. His hands were gripping the telephone hard. Then he lifted the horn.
His fingers turned the dial, and let go. Tik-tik-tik-tik. A new number was turned. Tik-tik-tik-tik. More numbers followed. He could hear a clicking sound in the horn.
«Wiesenthal speaking. Is he available?»
It took a few minutes before «he» answered.
The old man presented his case. The problem. The potential speculations. The suspicion.
First he was told to make copies of the photos. Send them via Diplomatic Pouch through the embassy.
«Where did you come by this information?»
«It came through a letter. Suggestions that he might be living in Norway.»
Wiesenthal presented the arguments.
«I’ll send someone by rather. Give him the photos. He’ll take care of it. If further evidence is needed, he will be of help. If he doesn’t buy the allegations, we’ll just put it on ice for now. At least until something more solid should surface.»
«I understand,» the old man said.
Then he hung up.
The case was practically speaking out of his hands.