In February 1936, David Frankfurter, then a student at the University of Bern, killed Wilhelm Gustloff, Nazi Gauleiter of Switzerland. A Swiss court sentenced Mr. Frankfurter to eighteen years imprisonment, but he was released in 1945, after serving nine years of his sentence, and is now living in Israel. He here tells the story of the act that changed the course of his life. The narrative as we publish it has been translated from the German by Ralph Manheim, and is excerpted from a book which Mr. Frankfurter wrote with the assistance of the Israeli journalist Schalom Ben-Chorin, and which has been published in a Hebrew translation in Tel Aviv.
So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee (Deut. 13:5).
Of course a plan like this, standing in the sharpest contradiction to my nature, my education, my general beliefs and religious attitudes, the kind of project that must always be the exception that negates all maxims, could not have developed in a straight line. . . .
But it was my firm conviction that the disgrace of the Jewish people could only be washed away by blood. And gradually an awareness grew within me that it was I who should perform this terrible act of vengeance. It may sound pompous and yet for the sake of truth it must be said: I felt myself to be an insignificant weapon in the hand of God. . . .
A Jewish student of philosophy, whom I had met at the kosher pension where I ate lunch, played a critical role in the maturing of my plan. One afternoon we were sitting in a pleasant little cafe in Bern, with wooden booths where we could talk undisturbed. The conversation, as might have been expected, turned to the terrible situation of the Jews in Germany, and I believe I made some general remark about the need for taking up arms against the ferocious Nazi beast.
At this, my friend pulled a little revolver out of his pocket and said: “See, I’ve just bought this gun for a few francs from a gunsmith in the Aarbergergasse.”
For a moment the revolver lay before me on the table and my fingers itched to grasp this implement so indispensable to my plan. Could it be that simple to procure firearms in this country? Why yes, no license was needed, the name of the purchaser didn’t even have to be registered. You could buy a gun as easily as a pack of cigarettes. . . .
And yet I was hesitant and heavy-hearted as I went to the Aarbergergasse. Quite a number of cheap revolvers were on display in the gunshop. They bore no manufacturer’s name and had evidently found their way to Switzerland in connection with the Spanish war.
Several times I sauntered past the door of the shop. Once you buy a gun, I said to myself, you must act. The purchase of the gun was a long step forward on the road from conception to deed.
At last I gave myself a jolt and went inside. A woman waited on me. To avoid attracting attention, I spoke Swiss German, which I had meanwhile learned so well that I was often taken for a native. The saleswoman showed me the mechanism of the revolver, a six-shooter; she packed it up and threw in a few rounds of tracer shells. My weapon had cost only ten francs, hardly more than a shirt.
No one in the store had noticed how excited I was. But the moment I stepped out on the street, I myself knew that my destiny was sealed. The pledge was in my coat pocket.
And yet many weeks were to pass before my attack on a representative of the new Amalek, Hitler-Germany. The time was not yet ripe for the pistol shots that were to echo through the whole of Europe. . . .
The news from Germany made it plain that the Nazi poison was eating deeper and deeper. The summer of 1935 brought the Nuremberg laws. By this travesty of justice, anti-Jewish discrimination received the sanction of an official code. The case of the journalist Berthold Jacob, whom Nazi agents had lured back to Germany from Switzerland, showed me that Nazism did not stop at frontiers, but was spinning a web over every country in Europe. My bitterness mounted with every day that passed, but I had not yet found my specific target.
Then in November the name of Wilhelm Gustloff captured my attention. A deputy named Canova had raised certain questions in the Swiss parliament with regard to the activities of the Nazi “Gauleiter” for Switzerland—this was Gustloff.
At the time of the First World War (in which he had not taken part), Gustloff had come to Davos, the famous health resort, to be cured of a lung ailment. A native of Schwerin, in Northern Germany, he had never acquired Swiss citizenship, but for many years had been employed by the Swiss government, preparing weather maps in the Davos meteorological institute.
He had joined the Nazi party in 1923. In the fall of 1934 he entered upon full-time political activity, resigned from his position at the weather station, and became National Socialist Gauleiter for the “Gau” of Switzerland. . . .
Under Gustloff’s leadership, Davos became a hotbed of Nazism. On the Kurpromenade, arms flew up in the Hitler salute, Nazi emblems marred the beauty of the lovely resort town, meetings and parades were held continually. Gustaloff compelled all German citizens to take an oath of loyalty to the Fuehrer, and he had ample means of putting pressure on those who opposed his decrees (denunciation in Germany, withdrawal of passport, boycott).
With the benevolent protection of the Swiss deputies Motta and Baumann, Gustloff founded no less than forty-five local Nazi group, fifty “bases of operations,” and twenty-one party headquarters in Switzerland. He had under him a whole army of informers to report on the activities of every German and every Jew. He disposed of unlimited funds and his organization was growing steadily. On Nazi holidays he brought in Gauleiters and other big party officials from Germany for mass meetings, and Nazi youth groups held military maneuvers under his direction in the border zones.
After Gustloff’s name was brought up in the parliament, the press was full of his activities. It soon became clear to me that there could be only one target for the weapon that I really wanted to fire at Hitler—this accessible target was Wilhelm Gustloff.
My original motives had been to retrieve the sullied honor of the Jews and to create a beacon for the world. To these was now added a third motive: to save democratic Switzerland, which had favored me with its hospitality and brought me away from the Nazis into contact with truly democratic people.
But I was not yet ready to act. One winter day I drove out to the public rifle range at Ostermundingen. The place was deserted. A young employe went into the pits and worked the target for me in return for a small tip. I fired six shots—two of them were bull’s-eyes, not bad for a beginner. I held my revolver in a trembling hand. Before me stood the concentric circles on a white disk. But beneath them I could see the detested face, the little mustache and the oily forelock combed down over the right eye, the mask behind which an inhuman brain was hatching out plans of mass murder. I saw before me the hideous caricatures of Jews which appeared week after week in Streicher’s Stürmer (officially banned yet available in Switzerland) marking minds that were often perfectly innocent with a monstrous travesty of the Jewish face, demonic and ridiculous at once, which could only be hated and despised.
Pull the trigger, fire! said my inner voice, and I fired upon the gigantic imaginary foe behind the target . . .
I left Berne carrying only a briefcase. But it contained the one thing that I really needed for my journey—the revolver.
What baggage does a man need who has resolved to write “finis” to his own life? Naked we go forth from the womb, and naked we return to the womb of the earth—taking nothing with us but our deeds. And I was determined to take with me into the land of truth a deed whose implications could not be measured. Not for a moment did I ask myself whether I should be able to hold my own before God’s judgment seat. My own conscience was my guide. And my conscience proclaimed in a loud voice: This is what you must do!
By way of Zurich my journey led to the clear mountain world of Davos. In the train I had an encounter which would have been entirely irrelevant under normal circumstances. But now it took on meaning. The conductor started a political discussion with me. The subject was of course Nazi Germany. Resolutely and passionately this simple man of the people rejected the violence and injustice of Switzerland’s great neighbor country.
Here spoke the true vox populi, the voice of the simple man from the mass, and in my present situation it became for me the vox Dei, the voice of God, demanding vengeance for the spilled blood of Israel.
Yes, these simple people of Switzerland would understand me, perhaps with less reservation than the majority of my own Jewish brothers, whose feeling had been vitiated by the centuries of exile.
We arrived in Davos about four in the afternoon; the sky was darkening. It was my first sight of the world-famous health resort. I went to the Hotel Metropol-Löwen, a good middle-class establishment, and registered under my own name. I had after all nothing to hide. What I had to do I meant to do openly. Gustloff should not be killed from ambush, he should not fall by the hand of an unknown—no, I meant to confront him openly: Jew against Nazi.
Only as I entered my room and slowly closed the door behind me, to gather my thoughts in solitude, did it occur to me that the Sabbath was beginning. This was the hour of grace, when Princess Sabbath, the bride of Israel, is greeted in all the synagogues, when the angels of peace are invited to the festive board, when the candles flicker, and bread and wine stand in readiness for the blessing.
And in this hour of peace, in this pause in the work of Creation, I was to go out and—commit murder. My weapon fell from my hand.
It was a slow, restless night Despite several sleeping tablets I found no sleep. Only toward dawn did I doze off for a while. My unalterable resolution pursued me even in my thin half-slumber—but still there was somewhere in my soul a last forlorn hope that I might, in some miraculous way, escape my inexorable fate.
A radiant winter day rose over Davos. The mountain world lay before me in its virginal majesty. The winter sun glittered on the snowy summits—the mood that lay over this Sabbath, which I could not but regard as my last, is perhaps most clearly expressed in the prologue in Heaven from Goethe’s Faust:
Die unbegreiflich hohen Werke
Sind herrlich wie am ersten Tag.
(His sublime, inscrutable works
Are as glorious as on the first day.)
But what had men made of this divine world, which might have been a paradise? The accursed symbols of the Nazis had penetrated even into the peace of this mountain world. On the Kurpromenade, a sign showed the way to the house of the “National Socialist Party Leader, District Switzerland”—my way.
The shadows grew longer and the Sabbath departed from the earth. Many hundreds of miles from here my father would be saying the blessing over wine, herbs, and fire, accomplishing the symbolic division between the consecration of the Sabbath and the week of man’s work. The division between life—and death.
My last day of grace had passed. Now, now I must act. And still I could not. Still there was something soft and hesitant within me. It is so easy to conceive an idea and so infinitely hard to realize it—when this realization means nothing less than the destruction of another man’s life and one’s own.
Sunday passed in inactivity. I watched a skating race, and yet how far outside of this merry activity I already stood. What goal did these people pursue? A bright flag. I can still hear the voice of a Hungarian lady, cheering her lover, encouraging him to race faster and faster over the glistening ice, to summon up his last strength—for what? To be first to reach the little flag.
And where was my goal? The sign on the promenade pointed to it, to the home of Wilhelm Gustloff, “National Socialist Party Leader, District Switzerland.”
On Monday I took a long walk up to the Jewish sanitorium, the Ethaniya. I saw the director and, as though I had years of life ahead of me, we discussed the possibilities of an interneship when my studies should be completed. I was like a dead man, attempting to return to the land of the living.
How did I fill in the slowly passing hours of this last period of waiting? Mostly with a long, long inner dialogue.
With the clarity of one who knows himself to be on the brink of the grave, and from this vantage point casts his eyes back over history, I saw before me the destiny of Israel, an unfortunate nation. Bleeding from a million wounds, it dragged on its painful mission as the suffering servant of God among the nations. Why had the Jews to suffer so immoderately? . . .
When I awoke on Tuesday morning, after another restless night, it occurred to me that this day is known in the Jewish popular tradition as “Ki Tov,” because in speaking of this day the book of Genesis twice used the words “ki tov”—that it was good. On this Jewish lucky day, my plan was bound to succeed.
On the afternoon of this Tuesday, February 4, 1936, I sat alone in my hotel room. Before me lay two postcards by which I wished to take my leave of my father, my brothers, and my sisters. I don’t remember how long it took me to write these few lines. My hand grew heavy. I had the remote feeling that I should soon be reunited with my beloved mother who had gone before me to that other world of which we know nothing and which yet, in the decisive moments of our lives, rejoices us with an intimation of its presence. I sensed that something more than nothingness awaited us beyond the grave.
“My dearly beloved father: I have always given you much sorrow and worry, and little joy. I cannot go on. Forgive me; it is not hard for me to leave this life, knowing that you will never doubt my boundless love for you and my blessed mother. Be strong and trust in God as you have always done. You have Alfons and Joe, Ruth and Naomi, who will still give you much pleasure. I have lost my faith in myself and mankind. I cannot go on. My last wish is that you say Kaddish for me. I hope soon to be united with my dear mama before God’s judgment seat. Be strong, you and the children. May God in his mercy give you and all Israel a better fate. Farewell. Your unhappy son, David.”
“My dearly beloved brothers and sisters: For the last time I send you greetings, with a prayer that God in his mercy may keep our dear father and you healthy and strong. You alone shall know what moves me to depart from you and the world. I can no longer bear the sufferings of the Jewish people, they have destroyed my joy in living. May God avenge all the wrong that has been inflicted upon us Jews. I myself hope to be an insignificant tool in His hand. Farewell and forgive me, I could not do otherwise. Even in death, Your faithful brother David.”
My head sank down on the table. I barely noticed that the chambermaid had entered and was glancing down, no doubt with some surprise, at the melancholy guest.
In the pocket of my jacket I had a cigarette box, in the bottom of which I had noted the exact “plan of action” (in the Yugoslavian language):
The sentence must be carried out on Monday 3/2, at 9:30 A.M. First call up and ask if he is home. If he does not come out and cannot be seen, attempt to escape; otherwise, go through with the suicide. One or two shots in the chest Revolver in right-hand pocket of jacket, not of overcoat, ready to fire. As soon as I am in the room, suddenly pull it out, fire three shots at his head or chest.
But the time had passed for the execution of this plan. I no longer felt it possible to proceed so systematically. What was the use of telephoning? I knew the way, and I knew the flat-roofed, blue house at Kurpark Number 3. Without announcing myself, J must go there and carry out the mission that had been imposed on me by the hardest of all taskmasters: my own conscience.
It was now dark in the room. The last night of my life (as I could not help seeing it then) had fallen. I loaded my revolver. A ghostly calm had come over me. The hour of decision had struck.
When I left my hotel at about half past seven, it was black night. On the Kurpromenade I met two acquaintances from Bern, Frau Kaufmann and her daughter, whose house I had frequented. They invited me to tea. What an irony of fate: to be asked to tea on the way to execute the blood verdict.
Lord, that all this still existed. Prosperous Jewish ladies who had come up here for the air. Carefree people, spending vacation days between the Promenade and five-o’clock tea. People untouched by the events of the time, that made it impossible for me to breathe even here in the purest air of Europe.
I was through with myself and the world. In the silence of my room I had uttered the prayers with which a Jew takes leave of life. Viddui, my confession of sin, and Shema Yisrael, the eternal and immutable invocation of God’s oneness, that battle-cry of Israel, with which our martyrs entered the fire, that cardinal creed of Judaism, inscribed in every Jewish heart with the blood of our holy men. And softly I added the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. Was it for my mother or for myself?
But now none of the softness of this hour of leavetaking remained in me. Now my heart was as hard and as cold as the snow that crackled beneath my feet. Like a second I, standing outside myself, I coolly observed every step, every motion that I made in the next half hour.
Now I stood outside the enemy’s house. Beside the door there was a sign: Gustloff NSDAP. I rang. A woman called down from the second floor landing and asked me what I wished. I heard my own voice echo in the stairwell: “Is Herr Gustloff at home and can I speak to him?” The woman—in this moment of hyperaesthesia I knew she must be Frau Gustloff—answered in the affirmative. I mounted the stairs. Each step brought me closer to the most terrible moment of my life.
Frau Gustloff showed me in and asked me to wait in her husband’s study. I sat in a chair facing Gustloff’s desk. In my overcoat pocket my hand convulsively clutched the revolver.
My eyes fell on a large, framed picture of Hitler, with a personal dedication from the Fuehrer to “My dear Gustloff.” And under the arch-enemy’s picture, Gustloff’s “dagger of honor” which as an SS-leader he was entitled to wear. “Blood and Honor” was inscribed upon it, but underneath, in invisible letters, was another motto, the words that the Nazi gangs shouted as they marched through German cities: “Wenns Judenblut vom Messer spritzt dann gehts nochmal so gut.” (“When Jewish blood spurts from the knife, things will be twice as good.”)
Blood and honor. . . so be it. Now I would speak to this representative of the world’s biggest gang of murderers in his own language, the only language he understood.
From the corridor I could hear the sound of a man’s voice speaking on the telephone. Gustloff seemed to be speaking with one of his accomplices. I heard something about “dirty dogs” or “Jewish swine” who would soon see something.
An uncontrolled rage rose up in me. If I hesitated for so much as a moment, the picture, the dagger on the wall, and the brutal voice on the telephone, mouthing threats and vilification, restored my determination.
I had not long to wait. In the passage by which I had entered scarcely five minutes before, the man appeared: a giant, filling the whole doorway. Goliath. “Here I am!” That was his greeting.
Aside from that, not a word was spoken between us. And yet in that second everything was said that needed to be said. I pulled my hand from my pocket and aimed the revolver at Gustloff. The hammer clicked, a misfire. A shell fell to the ground. With frantic speed—for Gustloff had already grasped the situation and was rushing toward me—I took a step backward and fired again.
And now a shot rang out and the enemy was hit. Then I fired a second, third, and fourth shot into him, a fifth went into the wall. Gustloff staggered and fell, and lay before me in a pool of blood. Goliath, Goliath!
I ran out through another door, hung with heavy portières, and found myself in a dark room. Yet somehow in my lashing haste I found the way out. Frau Gustloff came running into her husband’s room, and I can still hear her cries ringing in my ears.
With the smoking revolver in my hand, I ran through the corridor and down the stairs. Alarmed by the shots and the woman’s cries for help, people rushed out of neighboring houses. “Make way or I’ll fire,” I heard myself shouting. I brandished my weapon in the face of everyone who tried to bar my path. I was like a madman. I fled, and yet I had already pronounced judgment on myself.
And then the coolness of the night surra. rounded me. A few yards away from the house, I blundered into a snowy field where I zig-zagged for a time. All was silent around me. But there was buzzing in my ears, and my heart pounded as though it would burst. I threw myself down and pressed my burning face into the cold snow. Over me the stars glittered. Cold and calm is creation, I thought, immutable is the course of the stars. And yet, hadn’t something just happened that transgressed against their primal meaning? I have killed. Yes, I have killed, because the power that stood behind my victim dared to tamper with the fundament of creation. Did not Kant write that the stars above me and the moral law within me form an eternal harmony together? I have not disturbed this harmony but rather restored it by an act that had to be done and now has been done.
And yet my task was not completed. The hardest part of it was still before me. I had still to carry out the sentence against myself. There must be no escape. My act must not be debased by any cowardly evasion. The sentence against Wilhelm Gustloff has been carried out; the sentence against David Frankfurter remains to be executed.
I must have spent about twenty minutes tramping about in the snow, beneath the eternal stars in that fearful night. I still held the revolver in my hand. In that time I lived through my whole life.
Now I lay feverish in the snow and pointed my pistol first to my heart, then to my temple. The scenes of my past ran before my inner eye like a film strip. Childhood and youth, the loving atmosphere of my home, the fierce, arrogant hatred I had encountered in Germany. What a contrast. But this contrast summed up my whole life.
What have you lived for? asked a soft but insistent voice within me—and my answer had been the shots which had just been fired at Kurpark Number 3. I had not lived in vain. I might have failed in many things, but it had not all been in vain.
I don’t remember whether I simply couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger or whether I had used up all my cartridges. My memory fails me and the trial records, which would surely supply the answer, are not available.
I picked myself up. The damp snow clung to my clothes. What was I to do now? I had put my gun back in my pocket The sentence had not been carried out.
Was I to take flight after all? Betray myself and the purity of my deed? No—there was no turning back. If I could not carry out the judgment myself, there was only one thing to do: I must give myself up to the police.
In the house next door to Gustloff’s, I saw a light burning. It was Kurpark Number 2. I mounted the steps and rang. A bent old man opened the door. His wife, who was no less aged, stood behind him. I didn’t want to frighten the old people and summoned up all my self-control. Forcing a natural tone of voice, I asked if I might use the phone. They led me to the telephone and showed me the phone book. Today it seems surprising to me that in those moments of mortal agitation I found the number of the police station at once. It was about a quarter after eight when I rang the station house. I felt sure that the old people must be scared to death. Should I say in their hearing that Gustloff’s murderer was speaking and they should come to pick him up? No, I had acted alone, and now I must suffer alone. No one should be drawn into my trouble. And least of all these perfectly innocent, unsuspecting old people, into whose tranquil home I had been led by chance.
“This is Kurpark Number 2,” I heard my own voice speaking into the mouthpiece. “I suppose you know what has happened at Number 3, next door. You can obtain exact information here. Send someone at once.” Then I hung up and left the house, to wait for the policemen downstairs.
But impatience drove me on. In extreme agitation I went back down the Kurpromenade by the same way I had come. (I had never expected to pass this way again.) Two detectives who had been sent out after me must have passed me in the night, but we did not recognize one another.
Trembling with excitement I rang at the wicket of the police station in the town hall. A young policeman looked out and absently asked me what I wanted. “I suppose you’ve heard what happened at Kurpark Number 3,” I stammered. “I’m the murderer.”
As I spoke these words, the cold sweat stood out on my forehead. Puffing steadily, I had finished my cigarette. I had dragged my feet this far, but now they seemed to fail me. All I wanted was to stretch out somewhere and get my breath after the terrible exertions of the past hour. But at this point rest was out of the question.
The reaction of the policeman on duty was completely unexpected. He didn’t pounce on me—he didn’t handcuff me. He didn’t say: “I arrest you in the name of the law,” the way they do in novels. Nothing of the sort. He just smiled placatingly. He simply didn’t believe me.
It is well known that after almost every crime that attracts any attention a number of people report to the police and confess. A pathological desire for attention impels totally innocent persons to accuse themselves of the most monstrous crimes. The uniformed man behind the desk seemed to take the view that he had to do with a masochist Accordingly he asked me to prove that I had shot Gustloff. (Actually, at about the same time, a young man had been making himself conspicuous outside of Gustloff’s house. He had inquired so persistently into the circumstances of the crime that in the end he had been arrested, but had immediately been released. The police, however, had interpreted his actions as a diversion to detract attention from the real culprit)
I reached into my coat pocket and laid the revolver on the desk. Now the policeman changed color and recognized that I was speaking in dead earnest He put the weapon away in his drawer and asked me to identify myself. I handed him my papers, offering the additional explanation that my Yugoslavian pass had been deposited in Bern. I gritted my teeth to preserve my composure while attending to all these formalities, although I sensed that my strength was fast dwindling.
“Do you realize the full meaning of what you’ve done?” asked the surprised official, who presumably had never heard of a murderer giving himself up to the police with a full confession. “Yes,” I said firmly. “And I don’t repent of it. What I have done, I have done alone. There is no one behind me. I belong to no political group—but I hate the Nazis because I am a Jew.”
For a time I was left unmolested, for the police official realized that my present state made further questioning impossible. Then I was led up the stairs to the large council chamber in the town hall, where I was permitted to sit down. Here I remained for about an hour, without handcuffs and treated with perfect politeness. Then the door opened and an elderly man in a dark suit entered. This was Salomon Prader, president of the kreis (township) of Davos. He was followed by several officials, some of them wearing the uniform of the cantonal police, some in civilian clothes. And with them came Frau Gustloff, who dashed up to me and cried out: “That is the murderer!”
Now that she was standing right in front of me, I was able to get a good look at her. She was a woman of about thirty-seven, tending somewhat to plumpness, neither pretty nor homely. At this moment I was strangely impressed by her power of self-control. Her eyes showed that she had been crying, but there was no sign of the horror she must have lived through in that hour. She laid her hand on my forehead, thrust my head far back (there was something almost sorrowful in her gesture), and said: “You look so kind. You have such good eyes. Why did you do it? Did you know Gustloff personally?”
I could not answer. Something choked me. My words stuck in my throat. Good eyes—she had said. That was a good joke. The German racial sense seemed to have abandoned this “noble Aryan” at the moment of confronting me. She apparently regarded me as a democratic-minded Swiss, who had acted in protest against the rape of his country by the Nazi Gauleiter. And this idea no doubt accounted for the moderation she imposed on herself.
“If you had known him,” she continued in a soft voice, “you wouldn’t have done it. Why did you do it? Did you have personal reasons?”
Now my power of speech returned. I did not leave my seat. I looked at the dead man’s wife and flung the truth straight in her face: “No, not for personal reasons.”
“Why did you do it then?” she screamed in mounting agitation.
“Because I am a Jew!” I replied coldly.
Then the dike burst, her self-control was gone. That was more than she could bear. That a Jew had dared to avenge the disgrace of Israel upon her husband, that Gustloff had fallen by a Jewish hand, that was intolerable. She began to scream hysterically: “Scoundrel!” she shouted, and turning to the twenty-odd people in the room she began to lay bare her heart. She accused not only me but the Jews in general of everything that was vile and criminal in the world. “The Jews, the Jews, the Jews!” her voice filled the council chamber. Her voice broke, she worked herself into a boundless rage, strangely contrasting with her previous calm. Finally they had to lead her out.
Herr Prader remained with me for a few minutes and asked for a brief account of the crime. How often in the next few weeks and months was I to repeat this same story, at bottom so simple and obvious. He was polite and reserved, and indeed none of the officials or policemen present betrayed the slightest brutality or incorrectness. On the contrary. In these little people, I felt a definite sympathy, sometimes concealed, sometimes perfectly open. They all knew that my bullets had struck a common enemy.
At about eleven that night Dr. Dedual arrived in Davos. This was the examining magistrate appointed to the case by the state’s attorney’s office in Chur. Accompanied by a corporal of the criminal police, he had hurried over the snow-covered roads to examine me—for the greatest importance was attached to this case from the outset.
This tall, blond man, with his well-proportioned face, his hard mouth surmounted by a little mustache, now began to fire questions at me with a clear resonant voice. This went on for two hours—until one in the morning. His eyes bored into me as though to illumine the innermost comers of my soul. But throughout the hearing Dr. Dedual was polite and perfectly correct. His duty was to reveal my guilt, but he did not abuse his office to attack me in any way.
Dead tired, I was taken up to the town hall tower, the “Gugi,” as it is amiably called in Switzerland; here a tiny, ice-cold cell received me. A bunk with a straw tick, a cracked pitcher, and a battered porcelain basin were its only furnishings. Through the little barred window I could see the stars, the eternal consolers. The walls were scribbled over with all sorts of obscenities and curses (against the police). These were the visiting cards of my predecessors, the thieves and tramps who had been locked up here for the night.
Only those who have been deprived of their freedom, only those who have languished between prison walls, will understand the horror that befell me when the door clanged shut behind me. I was under arrest. I was no longer master of my will. The sufferings of a long imprisonment had begun.