"Not only did Stalin believe them, he said, 'How much do you want for this information?' The damned fool actually paid them for it!" Gary must have told that story nearly a dozen times.
"You see, the Russians knew Hitler thought Jews were inferior. That was no problem to them because Russians themselves have been traditionally anti-Semitic. In Czarist times they used to round 'em up and kill 'em in what were called pogroms. What they didn't understand about Hitler, though -- heh, heh -- was that he considered Slavs a subhuman race. Heh, heh -- he hated them! In fact, Rosenberg used to measure the skulls of Slavic execution victims to try to prove they had smaller heads, and therefore smaller brains, than Germans."
My policy during such discussions was usually to maintain a tactful, frightened silence. Something about the way he laughed awakened the possibility that he was not sincerely a racist, that it was all part of his swaggering, 'bad guy' image. I didn't want to take my chances by provoking unnecessary arguments, though.
I was more comfortable when he spoke in terms of American Conservatism, a philosophy with which I disagreed but was in sympathy in that it opposed socialism.
"Have you ever heard of the Hoover Institution for the Study of War, Peace and Revolution?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. I was reading an article about it recently."
"What do you think of that organization, Kerry? Do you approve of the Hoover Institution?"
"Yes. I like the things I read about it."
Brother-in-law seemed enormously pleased -- as if my favorable response here were crucial.
That was a question he only asked once. Another such inquiry was, "What do you think of developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes? The Atoms for Peace Program?"
"I think it's a good idea."
Then he said something about an atomic power plant in Oregon. In those days splitting the atom in order to create electrical energy was something that seemed like a very progressive idea, since theretofore it had only been a source of explosive power for weapons.
Also, he spoke of a demonstration against the testing of the hydrogen bomb at Bikini. A protest took place in Times Square.
Goats had been used as guinea pigs in the H-bomb test, so
"they mounted a stuffed goat on roller skates and wheeled
it around Times Square with a sign hanging from its neck that said:
'Today me! Tomorrow you!'" That story he told two or three times.
That this Nazi seemed to approve of a peace demonstration annoyed me, again because it was out of character. I was not so radical as to believe in peace marches. What business had he taking a position to my left?
Like all Objectivists, I opposed conscription. Yet, in Ayn Rand's view, both war to protect American investments and advanced weapons technology were justifiable. Blind pacifism, though, was regarded as whim worshipping. Worrying about The Bomb was for fuzzy-minded socialists like Bertrand Russell.
"How to you feel about conservation, Kerry?"
Unlike other Objectivists, I was concerned about pollution of the natural environment.
"When I was a teenager I used to sneak up into the Puente Hills above East Whittier, early in the morning before sunrise, and pull up the surveyor stakes in a construction site for a subdivision they were building there. I love nature."
Brother-in-law gave me the impression he was about to become involved in a dynamic new ecology movement. In this connection, I think he also mentioned he had been initiated into an Indian tribe in New Mexico.
"Someday, Kerry," Brother-in-law said excitedly, "you will find yourself in a position of great power. You will not, however, be aware of who is supporting you."
Striding about the small room, wheeling and turning, he said: "No one will be able to touch you. It will be as if you are elevated upon a high pillar -- and," he paused dramatically, "there will be assassins at your disposal."
Whenever he became that dramatic, Brother-in-law was especially difficult to believe. To this day I think that speech was preparation for a time I would be deluded into thinking I possessed great power, in order to test my true loyalties. I think such a routine may be a regular feature of C.I.A. "false flag" recruitment.
Another time he asked, "What do you think of a government composed of many philosopher-kings, like sages on the side of a mountain, who are moved up and down this mountain of power according to their wisdom and abilities?"
Stripped of its majestic embellishments, this very much resembles the methods of the C.I.A. in supporting rivals to the power of a government slated for overthrow. Various individuals will be selected who for one reason or another are more or less incompetent -- making them easy to topple in turn when necessary -- but for whom considerable popular support can be marshaled. Then one faction is played against another in order to keep the Agency in control of the overall situation.
"And one other thing, Kerry. You know, if you expose the assassins -- you won't become philosopher-king."
"Of course not," I answered, figuring as usual I might as well humor this grandiose burglar with all these wild daydreams until I could get back to the sane people in the French Quarter. "I wouldn't expect anything else. I mean, it wouldn't make any sense for a king to expose his own guards."
That I would ever repeat anything in these discussions was the last thing I wanted this man to believe. After all, should he be serious -- no matter how deluded -- he nevertheless probably did have friends in the underworld. I was given to understand that if he suspected I would become a stool pigeon, Brother-in-law could arrange to dispose of me in short order.
Since I tend not to be much good at keeping secret whatever is on my mind, notorious blabbermouth that I am, I handled this problem by forgetting all about these discussions as quickly as I could.
Telling myself these thoughts were both unpleasant and improbable, I consoled myself by thinking that if by some chance they weren't, I was then already in so much trouble that worrying about it wouldn't do any good.
"Kerry, there are some men who are content to think of themselves as quite ordinary. There are other men who feel greatness within themselves from the day they are born."
"Exactly. What kind of man are you?"
"I've always felt that way -- that I am destined for great things. My friend in high school, Bob Doidge, used to call it megalomania. But I think that is what drives some people to rise above the common herd. Like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead -- he knew he was great. Without that sense of confidence, nobody would ever amount to anything."
"You know, Kerry, Hitler used to create myths about himself. For example, he said that before the war he was once walking in the forest and an old woman appeared who told him that someday he would be the ruler of all Germany. He said things like that," Brother-in-law asserted with approval, "to make himself more acceptable to the German people."
On another occasion he mentioned that when Hitler found himself involved in a struggle, he wrote a book about it. "That's something you might try when the time comes."
My ambition at that time was to become a novelist and a short-story writer. After becoming wealthy that way, I planned to travel the world engaging in dangerous adventures, in the manner of my heroes, Richard Halliburton and John Goddard. Then I intended to write non-fiction books about my adventures.
Writing a book about my political oppression seemed like an awkward, and lengthy, way to deal with it.
Like most Nazis I have known, Brother-in-law was also forever speculating that maybe Hitler was still alive and well in Argentina. Moreover, he claimed Martin Bormann had been spotted by someone after the war in the Swiss Alps, and that he had been briefly pursued.