Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.


 
 

WAR LUCK

1. WHAT YOU CALL HIM

When I wrote to John Demjanjuk’s daughter, she sent me a packet stating her father, the Ukrainian SS man, had been framed by an editor at a small pro-Soviet, anti-Ukrainian, New York newspaper in 1975.

I was interested in seeing Demjanjuk.  I had thought and dreamed about Nazis, but had never been in the same room with one.  (I usually dreamed about being in the same room.)

At the 1981 Demjanjuk trial, lawyers argued over forensics, among other things, at the federal courthouse in Cleveland. I looked on as the prosecution presented a handwriting expert who had studied over 4,000 signatures.  He said Demjanjuk’s signature on the prison guard ID card was the real thing, not a Soviet forgery.

The judge agreed on that and a few other things — after months of testimony — and revoked Demjanjuk’s citizenship.

Demjanjuk then spent some time in various American prisons for technical violations, such as missing his first deportation hearing.

In 1986 Demjanjuk was sent to Israel for a second trial.

A cop at the Sixth District police station watched a small TV hidden under his desk that day.  The TV was always on.  (I was covering the police news.)  The cop said, “Hey, there’s that guy — What You Call Him — getting off the plane in Israel.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t take a pill,” I said.

“For what?  He didn’t do it.”

“There are five witnesses,” I said.

“So what. It’s the past.  Let it die.  But the fucking Jews keep bringing it up.  He didn’t do it.  He was told to, or else.”

A lieutenant interrupted, “What would you do if somebody put a gun to your head and said, ‘Do it or else’?”

“He didn’t have to do it,” I shrugged.  I was down for the count with F-ing Jews.

Israel convicted Demjanjuk, and he was in an Israeli prison for years. Then Israel’s high court overturned its verdict on various technicalities and sent him back to America.

When Demjanjuk returned to the States, he went on trial again in Cleveland and was ordered deported.  Nobody wanted him until last year, when Germany said yes.

Demjanjuk turns 90 this Saturday in a German prison hospital.

Dem john’s luck.

Dem john yuck.

Damn john’s junket . . . Kiev Oblast, Flossenberg, Trawniki, Treblinka, Sobibor, Seven Hills/Cleveland, Jerusalem, Munich.

***

2. VOLKSDEUTSCHE

The building across from St. Edward High has two hair salons — one specializing in fades and buzzes, and the other for elderly women, all about perms and tints.

The tint shop is Martha’s.  In 1977 she bought the business from Hildegard, a fellow German. Martha is Volksdeutsche, an ethnic German from Poland.

Sometimes Martha sits in her shop all day and doesn’t get a single customer.  Her clientele is dwindling.  Whenever I come in, she hugs me and cries. This happens every single time.

She always talks about Jews.  Poles, too, occasionally.  She is not, as a rule, fond of Poles. “Every group has its devils, but the Poles had more than most,” she says.  She mentions several East Side Jews who hired her when she came over in the 1950s.  “Wonderful, wonderful people.”

I don’t know these East Side Jews.  Some West Side gentiles think all East Side Jews know each other.

I wonder how much of Martha’s war saga is true.

Martha is often late with her rent. That’s a pain but not a major one.  She’s good for it.

I hope her war stories are all true, but I don’t really want to know if they aren’t.

Martha says her mother rescued a Jewish girl in Kutno, Poland, during the war.  Martha’s mother — along with her Uncle Wilhelm and Cousin Hedwig — saw the little girl at a train station, exchanged furtive glances with the girl’s mom, took the girl home, and raised her.  The girl wound up marrying an Englishman after the war, Martha says.

Martha had Jewish ancestors who converted to Lutheranism in the 1800s, she says.

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5 comments

1 Irwin { 03.31.10 at 10:59 am }

What a travesty of justice that Demjanjuk is still around. It is offensive to the memory of the many witnesses who testified against him. My mother, a Holocaust survivor, never held a grudge against anyone. But she too wanted to see Demjanjuk hang for his crimes. I hope that it happens before he dies a natural death in prison.

2 Ellen { 03.31.10 at 12:07 pm }

I can’t imagine being in the same room with a Nazi. When I was in the Sound of Music, a friend of mine was playing a Nazi. When he was in the uniform, I couldn’t even speak to him, could barely even look at him.

So I’m thinking, maybe Martha could trim my bangs or something. I feel bad she has no more clients….

And check for my email and Facebook posting — a friend of mine, a child Holocaust survivor, will be coming to Case and Wooster to speak in the next couple weeks…

3 MARC { 03.31.10 at 2:35 pm }

I’m going to Germany next month to visit Aachen my mother’s birthplace with my children, wife and mother. We will be visiting the Catholic school she was enrolled in when the Nazis forced all public and private non-Jewish schools to expell their Jewish students. They will be erecting a plaque in memory or in honor of the students who were expelled. At least one of the students was later murdered in a death camp.

4 Bill Jones { 03.31.10 at 2:53 pm }

Bert,
Belated congratulations on your Maltz gig of music and live blog recitation. No doubt that giving the blog live delivers the nuances in your voice and body language to make a positive difference in comprehension. On the other hand, one’s own imagination can often make a connection with the time and place you’re talking about to heighten the impact of the story.

Alan Douglass was great. Your repartee with Alan, and Alan’s Satchmo vocal had to be some of the highlights of the evening.

Finally, it seems I’m the only one that liked “Berkowitz Kumin.” Fine with me. Still love it.

Special thanks for attributing most of the comments that appear here to me. May it happen in my day.

5 Conformer with cause { 04.02.10 at 8:30 am }

“Israel’s high court overturned its verdict on various technicalities ”

The “technicalities” being that it was proven that he could not have possibly been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka as accused. Indeed if he was Ivan the Terrible, he could not possibly be the low level guard at Sobibor that these completely new set of charges claim he is….

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