Phantoms of Breslau

Phantoms of Breslau by Marek Krajewski

Book: Phantoms of Breslau by Marek Krajewski Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marek Krajewski
Friday at nine in the morning. That’s all for today.”
    “What about me?” Mock asked. “What I am to do?”
    “Let’s go, Mock,” Mühlhaus said. “I’m going to introduce you to somebody.”

BRESLAU, THAT SAME SEPTEMBER 2ND, 1919
NINE O’CLOCK IN THE EVENING
    Doctor Kaznicz was Professor Hoenigswald’s assistant. He specialized in experimental psychology and described himself as a disciple of Freud and Wernicke. He held lectures and classes in psychoanalysis at the University of Breslau which took the form of experimentation on students. From these experiments he drew generalized conclusions which led the more malicious academics to state that “the psychology practised by Doctor Kaznicz is no more than a study of students”. His probing questions, which frequently touched on personal behaviour, initially annoyed Mock a great deal. Later, realizing he could not allow there to beany more victims, he lowered his guard and told all he knew about the people he had met or been in contact with in as much as this contact may have inspired in somebody a desire for revenge. He did not mention Wirth, Zupitza or the nurse in Königsberg’s Hospital of Divine Mercy. Kaznicz’s assistant noted everything down carefully in a thick copybook and looked imploringly at his master for at least one nod of approval. The master, however, barely acknowledged his helper and merely nodded when Mock offered him ever bolder confessions from his childhood and youth. He would then smile encouragingly and repeat the same thing each time: “I understand.”
    Mock heard these words clearly even as he lay in his bedroom alcove kissing a bottle of cognac. He cradled it in his arms, bestowing it with a tenderness no woman had yet received from him apart from those in his imagination and dreams – apart from the nurse in Königsberg, who may not even have existed. Behind the curtain, Mock’s father settled himself to sleep on his rickety bed, while in the alcove his son caressed his mistress Booze. “I understand,” Mock heard, and recalled the more interesting fragments of the psychological interview conducted over eight hours by Doctor Kaznicz. He pictured the psychologist’s wise eyes, and his faint smile through the thicket of his black beard when Mock recounted how he had tormented fat Erich Huhmann in the yard of their Waldenburg primary school. Twelve-year-old Mock, along with some other children, had poked his finger into Huhmann’s stomach and chest. The latter had cowered, struggled, squirmed; brick-red patches spread across the skin of his cheeks, blood ran from his nose and stained his buttoned collar, neatly ironed by his mother. Erich Huhmann fell to his knees among the bushes surrounding the yard; Erich Huhmann begged for mercy; Erich Huhmann begged heaven for the fiery sword of vengeance; Erich Huhmann dug a long needle into the bodies of the murdered sailors.
    Mock acknowledged that this thought – that fat Erich Huhmann, taking revenge on him for past humiliations, could transport the bodies of the murdered men and break their bones – was absurd. “People change,” he thought, “grow up, grow strong, cultivate past hatreds.” Paying no attention to his father’s grumblings that he could not get to sleep because of his son’s creaking bed, Mock reached for his jacket which was hanging over the chair and pulled out a notebook. He took a large swig from his bottle and wrote down Huhmann’s name.
    “I understand,” Mock heard Doctor Kaznicz say again and recalled another confidence he had shared that day. Schoolboy Eberhard Mock washed out a flask and test tube, then sat at a stone table in the chemistry laboratory. He had got the highest mark for proving that the salts of certain heavy metals do not dissolve in water to produce precipitation. Envious looks from the other boys. His body found no support, his arms flapped at his sides, his shoes slid forward along the floor, his hand grabbed the tray that held

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