The new story of Marcelo Birmajer: Cacho and Hanna

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Cacho Kotz landed in Jerusalem in 1961, therefore totally unexpected for itself. At the age of 25, she worked in the magazine advance, writing a column on Buenos Aires sightseeing tours. He has also published, more sparingly, a page of reviews of Argentinean songwriters.

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Kotz himself composed tango lyrics and aspired to participate in a trend that would renew this art. One of his songs had been performed and recorded by the Guariales trio, with incipient success. Between the two columns, the Copyright of the published song and many other orders, he made his living, in a small apartment, with no other responsibility than his own person.

Suddenly Poriceno, editor-in-chief of advancehe does something he never does: he offers Kotz – the heavy smoker – a cigarette, waits for him to light it, lights it and asks him: – You speak German, don’t you, Kotz?

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Kotz nods, surprised. They don’t take care of each other. They also respect and appreciate each other.. Kotz is infinitely grateful to him for giving him a job.

– Do you know Israel?

Kotz shakes his head no.

– We sent him to cover the Eichmann trial. Three months, at least. Maybe four. It remains until the final discussion.

Kotz learned German from his maternal grandfather, Herman, whom he adored, who died early. That language, for 1961 set in the crime, is the only thing that remains of that grandfather. In reality, a distant cousin of his German grandfather lives in Israel, with whom Herman never spoke again. It was not clear in the family that his grandfather kept German, much less that he taught it to Cacho.

But now that clandestine transmission works. He’s somewhat daunted by the challenge, but it’s also a prodigious opportunity. The next day he leaves for Israel with a labyrinthine flight connection. Israeli airline El Al has not taken off from Ezeiza since Mossad command captured Eichmann in Buenos Aires.

Cacho lands in Tel Aviv and is immediately taken by taxi to Jerusalem, along a road lined with palm trees and tropical heat. But in the capital of Israel there is an intemperate, unsuspected climate that he doesn’t know whether to call humid. He spends the night in a hotel, alone, reviewing a tango on a wife. The next day he is accredited in the judicial seat where the German genocide is judged.

Among the journalists who followed the event, the famous philosopher Hanna Arendt, also German, and also Jewish, like Kotz, stands out. Kotz’s Argentine nationality, given Eichmann’s trip, is relevant.

Almost with the same transience with which he presented himself at Poriceno’s desk, he offered him a cigarette and sent him to Israel; At the end of one of the days, the lost cousin of the German grandfather appears: Bern. He is about the same age as Cacho’s grandfather, a late septuagenarian, would have been at the time, and bears some physical resemblance. But his face more dry, austere, contained.

Unlike his grandfather, but just like Cacho, Bern smokes like a chimney.

He takes it spontaneously, introduces himself, takes him for a walk in Jerusalem. They visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. Upon exiting, they return to the center of Jerusalem. The city is cut off. On the other side, the Old City, the Wailing Wall, remains in Jordanian hands.

Bern and Cacho are sitting in a café. Everything in Jerusalem is convenient, discreet like the face of Bern. They speak in German.

Dazzled by the accumulation of events, Cacho cannot specify the moment when his great-uncle’s conversation? Bern alternates between confidential and potential, and explains that, contrary to what is believed, Hanna Arendt, very critical of the Eichmann trial, maintains a frequent and friendly correspondence with the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, since the end of the war; and even some secret face-to-face meetings.

They were known to have been lovers up until Hitler’s election as chancellor, or up until Arendt’s exile, Bern points out, but the revelation is the intense continuity of the bond.

The question is the following: a student of Heidegger has direct contact with another Nazi criminal, still on the run, the infamous Josef Mengele. Arendt’s connection to Heidegger could lead to the achievement of a certain clue, in a letter, which would lead to the whereabouts of the monstrous “doctor” of the death camps.

-We believe that it would not be impossible -concludes Bern-, from what we know about you, that you were able to make an appointment with the outstanding German intellectual.

Bern pauses, letting a veil of irony hover over the definition, lights yet another cigarette and notes as part of the outburst: – Go to your room.

“But we never exchanged a word,” Cacho retorts.

– They asked me to transmit exactly this: “That he recites one of his tangos in German”.

In the remaining days of the trial, Cacho shows an accomplice closeness with Arendt. In fact she recites one of her tangos; they go out drinking, hidden from public attention. In two nights each will return to their respective country: Arendt in North America.

It’s the moment she has to ask him if he wants to go up to his room. The age difference is present from the first meeting; but as Bern’s “associates” and Bern himself well understood, Cacho managed to convince her of a reciprocal singularity, of an enigmatic sympathy.

However, Arendt does not take this step. Cacho has no choice but to force the protocol: – If you invite me, I will recite a tango that you will never forget.

He shakes his head, not smiling, and holds out his hand to send him away, obviously forever. There the options ran out. You will not be able to deliver to Bern. Arendt is about to cross the front door of her hotel, a bellboy beckons her to enter.

Before leaving, Cacho can’t help but ask him: – But… why so with Heidegger?

Arendt turns abruptly, as if taken by surprise. He doesn’t answer. From the features of this woman in her fifties, Cacho deduces two possibilities: that she herself does not know the answer; or that the answer is so obscure that she doesn’t even dare speak it.

Source: Clarin

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