“The Trial of Herman Schmitt (Part 3)”
21 October 2005
They are half way through breakfast when Hines speaks up, “They have some evidence on Herman we are not aware of.” Shapiro, who absolutely hates being surprised, drops his fork into his plate and about gags on the mouth full of food he is trying to swallow so he can talk. “What? What evidence? When did you hear about this?”
Hines looks past Shapiro to a group sitting at another table, “I met Braun in the hotel bar last night, by accident, and he let it slip that they did not present us with all the evidence they have on Herman. I tried to get him to tell me what the evidence might be, but he held fast and I could not get it out of him.” Shapiro is beside himself. “You talked with the prosecution team without my permission; without me being there? I ought to send you home right now and would but I have plans for you in the trial. What exactly did Braun say?”
Hines is uncomfortable now. She has not been treated like this before by any lead counsel and can really do without it. “Like I said, we met in the bar by accident and talked about the case some and he thinks they have a conviction and I said we thought not and then he said they had plenty of evidence to convict to include some we did not know about. That was it. I did try to get him to tell me what evidence they had, but he wouldn’t. Said prosecution is not required under court laws to reveal everything to defense. I don’t know, that is what he said.”
Shapiro has calmed some from the initial surprise and has taken to eating some toast. “Ok, we have to know what evidence they have, so Jones, you go talk to Herman again and make sure he has told us everything and then try to get in touch with his 2 sons and see if they know anything. Hines, do you think you could get Braun to reveal what they are keeping from us?”
“I don’t know,” says Hines, now looking right at Shapiro in defiance of his scolding of her, “but I can try. I think he might have a thing for me and maybe I can use that.”
“Good, keep working him and I will begin doing some more research on our good old Mr. Herman. God, what could they have beside what we have already seen, which could be worth entering into evidence? I mean they have the design documents and witnesses. What more could be more damaging?”
Jones, who has not said a thing since Hines exploded the quiet breakfast finally speaks up, “Don’t think it is worthwhile to talk to Herman’s sons as they did not even know about the concentration camp designs until Herman was arrested.” “Don’t care,” Shapiro responds, “I know, get them to go through anything they might have of Herman’s and see if they can find any documents or anything, which would be damaging in court.”
Finally, the table goes quiet and they finish their meal but there is now tenseness among the three and with the trial to begin only in days, all their stomachs are beginning to churn. Paid up, they all stand and begin to leave the hotel restaurant when in comes the prosecution team. They acknowledge each other but no words are exchanged. Braun looks at Hines and expects a smile or eye contact but gets neither. “Those long legs and those nylons,” he thinks, heading on into the dining room.
Adolph and Henrick are up early. Henrick has not slept and again is talking to just hear himself talk. They find a place near their hotel for some breakfast and then catch a taxi to the court.
When the taxi pulls up in front of the court, they cannot believe that this hotel is the court, but the taxi driver assures them and they pay him, get out, and walk into the hotel lobby. “Herman Schmitt. We are here to see Herman Schmitt. We are his sons,” Adolph says looking around the lobby at all the people coming and going. “Oh, also, could you please call the room of Mr. Isaac Shapiro. He is one of our father’s defense attorneys.”
The court official at the old hotel front desk picks up a phone and places a call to Shapiro’s room but gets no answer. When he places the receiver back on the hook, “I will leave a message for Mr. Shapiro that you two are here and want to meet with him. Now, please follow this guard to your father's holding room.” And with that, Adolph and Henrick are off across the lobby to the elevators and up to the floor where Herman is being kept.
“Father,” Henrick cries out when he sees his father and rushes towards him, all out of character for Henrick or Herman. Herman hardly knows what to do when Henrick proceeds to hug him ever so tightly. Adolph intercedes, “Father, glad to see you. What is happening with your case? Have you met with your defense team yet? What are they saying? Is there any hope your case will not go to trial?” Adolph’s words have wedged themselves between Herman and Henrick and Henrick finally lets go of this father and backs up a step or 2. Herman still shaken by the hug and the apparent mental state of his son can only stand silent for a moment.
“Yes,” Herman finally says, sitting down in a chair he has parked by the large windows looking out over the city. Henrick and Adolph sit down on a large sofa along one wall, Henrick closer to his father than Adolph. “Yes, I have met with them several times now and they do not want me to testify but I keep telling them I must. Maybe you could talk to them for me and convince them that I must defend myself. I did nothing wrong, I tell you, nothing.”
“Father, my wife has left me,” Henrick blurts out. “She says she cannot live with the son of a Jew killer. What am I to do father? My work. I have stopped going to work as they all hate me there and I am sure I have lost my job by now. Father, you must help me.”
Herman doesn’t know what to think or say. Here he is, in this strange city, in this prison cell waiting to be tried for something he did not do and one of his son’s is crying about loosing his wife? He thought he had taught his 2 sons better than this. He thought he had raised them to be strong like him, like any good German.
“Henrick, get a hold of yourself. What is all this acting the way you are? I am sorry your wife left you but once I am found innocent, she will come back to you. You are a good husband and father and she knows that. Get a hold of yourself.” Herman finally responds, standing up and beginning to pace along the wall of windows.
“Why is it they do not want you to testify Father?” Adolph pipes up to ease the tension between his father and Henrick.
“Oh, they say that no matter what I say on the witness stand, it will not help me but only hurt me but I do not care. I am an old man and I must defend myself. Yes, I designed the equipment used in the concentration camps but I never killed anyone using the equipment or any way else. It was the times, I tell you. Everyone hated the Jews and Hitler said they had to go and so I just did my job, that is all.” “But Father,” Adolph, now standing himself and moving about the room, “Lots of Jews, innocent people, were killed using your designed equipment and if your defense thinks you should not testify, I think then, you should not. Don’t you have to trust your defense people that they know what they are doing? Like, you, me, we know nothing about designing a bridge but if we did try a design and a real bridge designer stepped in and said we had better make some beam larger or whatever, wouldn’t we listen to him? Seems to me, this is like that. You are just going to have to listen to your defense team. They have to know what is best for you.”
“No!” Herman turns towards Adolph with an angry look on his face, “I do not have to listen to anyone. This is my life and I will defend it the way I see fit. If you and your brother would rather not be at the trial when I speak, then just pack your stuff and go back home. I do not need you here. What good are you to me anyway? You know nothing about what I did or did not do during the war. Just go back home and leave me alone.”
Henrick begins crying, still sitting on the sofa, face now down into his hands.
“Oh, Henrick, shut up. You disgust me.” says Herman sitting back down into his window chair. “Jews. Everyone so concerned about the death of some Jews so long ago. Many Germans were killed in that war too you know. Friends of your dear mother and mine. Jews. Everyone is so afraid of the Jews now, makes me sick.”
“Father, do not say such things,” Adolph says, not believing his own ears. He has never heard his father say anything like what he has just heard. “Oh, if he gets on the witness stand and says anything like what he just said, they are going to hang him for sure,” Herman thinks, not knowing what to do or say next.
“Father, I think we are going to leave now and try to find Mr. Shapiro and talk with him. I know you say you do not need us here but we are going to stay and be here with you, so if you need anything, just ask us when we come each day to visit. I am sorry for Henrick but this has been hard on him and he will get better in the days ahead, I am sure.” And with that, Adolph tugs on Henrick’s shoulder and leads him out of the room and down to the hotel lobby.
“Can’t you tell me what you all have on Herman, we do not know about?” Hines finally gets out, lying on her back, able to breathe and talk again after being on top of Braun for at least 40 minutes. Hines is always on top as it gets her the control she must always have.
“Come on now, just because you fucked me, isn’t any reason to think I am going to tell you anything,” Braun manages to get out, his breathing also still fast from Hines working him so hard. “Well I will tell you this, it is going to hurt Herman big time.”
“Oh, thanks for that.” Hines says turning away from Braun. “At least he was a decent fuck.” She thinks.
Shapiro has been working the phones back to the states for hours, having some researchers there going through anything they can find about Herman and the war. Nothing. They come up with nothing Shapiro does not already know about the charges against Herman. “What can they have?”
The telephone rings again and it is the clerk at the front desk: Herman’s sons are here and want to speak with him. “Oh, great. Maybe they can shed some light on this. Where is Jones?” He calls Jones’s room and gets no answer. Only place he could be is with Herman and so he tells the desk clerk to have the 2 men escorted to Herman’s room and he will meet them there.
5 minutes later, he is waiting outside Herman’s room and he can hear Jones talking with Herman inside. "Good, now maybe we can get to the bottom of this" Shapiro thinks and just then, Herman’s 2 sons appear out of the elevator following a guard and when they all meet, handshakes are exchanged but that is it. Shapiro speaks no German and Adolph and Henrick speak no English.
Once inside, Herman is startled to see Shapiro with his 2 sons. He is already agitated by Jones’s questioning and now here are his 2 sons to make matters only worse, he is sure.
All sit down on various chairs and the sofa and Shapiro begins. “Herman we have learned that the prosecution has something on you we do not know about and it could really hurt us, you, if we are surprised in the court room and are not ready to respond. Do you have any idea what it could be?”
“I have been asking that for over an hour now,” Jones says to Shapiro "and he has no idea what we are talking about. Says he was given the design job, did the work, oversaw the installation and that is it. We know everything, he says.”
Adolph speaks up, “Father, Mr. Jones asks us the other day to go through your things to see if we could find anything, which could hurt you at trial but my wife could find nothing. Is there someplace else we should be looking?”
through my things! Who said you could do that?” Herman, raising his voice to
make it clear he is not happy at all. “No, I threw most all my papers away
when your mother died and what I kept, you have at your home Adolph. Besides, I
only ever had technical stuff and what could that all mean now? "
“We don’t know what anything means to the trial at this point Herman, that is the problem.” Shapiro says to Jones who translates for Herman.
“Well, I just have no idea what any of you are talking about. There is nothing you do not know about me or those damn Jews!” Herman is angry now. If he had his way, he would fire all the lawyers, send his sons home, and just defend himself. Why not? Seems like everyone thinks he is guilty of something, so what difference would it make?
“Father, think, please think. Is there anything at all you have not told us about those times? I don’t know. When you were at the concentration camps overseeing the installation, did you witness any murders? Did you beat or abuse any of the Jewish workers?”
“No, no, no!” Herman cannot stand it anymore. “Get out! Get out all of you. I did nothing wrong then and I have no more to say to any of you, so go, get out.”
“Father,” Henrick pleads from his position on the sofa, “Think of me, my family, Adolph’s wife and family. Please father, anything, anything at all you can remember. Please, if not for you, then for me and Adolph.”
Herman stands and goes to the windows. “How could he have raised such a whiney son?” he thinks staring out over the city. God how much he would like to just be walking down there on the streets, looking in the shop windows, talking to people on the park benches or back in his nice chair in the nursing home day room, so quiet and peaceful in the day room. Just a damn nightmare is all this is. Some bad food at dinner and now I am sleeping crazy.
“Henrick, shut up and sit down. I am sick of your whining. I know nothing more than I have already said to anyone about those times. Yes, I was at the concentration camps but I only paid attention to the details of the installation. I had no interest as to what was going on around me, as it did not concern me. I had pipe, which had to be cut and joined and canisters of gas to be attached and controlled. I was and am an engineer and that is all there is to it. Now like I said before, go, get out and do not come back here. Your whining only disgusts me and makes me look like a poor father in front of these Americans.”
Silence comes over the room. Shapiro listens to the translation from Jones and nods to Adolph and Henrick that it is time to leave.
“Goodbye father,” Henrick says, walking towards the door. "I know you do not mean all those things you are saying now and I forgive you. Adolph and I will be at your trial everyday, you can count on it.”
The door closes, Herman hears the key turn in the lock, locking him in again and he goes the bed and lies down. His head is hurting.