Peter Muller was my best friend from the early days of Public School right into High School. We did everything together and he almost lived at my house. He would be there for lunch, dinner, and Special events like my Parent’s Anniversary parties. I didn’t know Peter’s parents at all.
Unlike my Mom who was a Grade Mother and took every opportunity to join us as a chaperone on school trips, Peter’s parents never seemed to be involved. In fact when it came to athletic competitions or school plays they never showed up. I met Mrs. Muller once at the Sunnybrook Supermarket and she didn’t have a lot to say to me. She was quiet and basically ignored the fact I existed My Mom was also there grocery shopping. Peter seemed somewhat embarrassed that his Mom wasn’t very warm, but that didn’t stop us from throwing a honey melon around the aisles like a football. When a store employee started to yell at us, my Mom walked over and simply said, ‘’Don’t worry about it, this is how I determine if a melon is ripe. I’m buying it, the boys were doing me a favour.’’ That was my Mom. Peter’s Mother didn’t come near the scene.
In High School, Peter was my ‘’Ride or Die’’ guy, we did everything together and I considered him my closest friend on the planet. In Grade nine, we both had a crush on Marg Liscal and that didn’t work out very well for either of us. She ignored us both to become the girlfriend of Paul Camliki who was a jerk, but we both agreed that you can’t win them all and went back to normal life.
My Dad was a very entrepreneurial guy and like my Grandfather and Uncle, he loved building. So, as soon as my family immigrated to Canada we got into the home building business and they grew the business to a substantial size. Peter and I both had summer jobs with the company and we did very well. We were both saving for University.
I was planning to go to Carleton University in Ottawa for the Journalism program and Peter wanted to go to Queens University in Kingston for a law degree. He had dreamed of being a Lawyer for as long as I could remember.
As mentioned earlier Pete spent a ton of time at my house and he always felt comfortable and welcome. The same wasn’t true at his place and one day I found out why and it was devastating. Mr. and Mrs. Muller both worked for General Motors. My Muller was on the line and Mrs. Muller was in the parts office. She had to reconcile the parts that arrived at the plant with the orders that were sent out. They both had mind-numbing jobs. General Motors decided to reward their hourly workers with a huge picnic to celebrate the millionth car that had come off the line. Mr. and Mrs. Muller decided to attend and Pete and I decided to play tennis. He invited me over to his place and we would go from there. In all the years I knew Peter I had been in the Muller’s backyard exactly twice. I remembered thinking how manicured the lawn was and how the garden didn’t have a weed. They took their property maintenance very seriously.
I rode my bike over to Peter’s house and the garage was open so I walked in. There were a number of closets in the garage which I found very strange. I wondered what was in them. It was absolutely none of my business, but I had seen Peter opening closets at my house so I did the same and I almost fainted on opening the first one. It held a huge Nazi flag and uniforms with Nazi symbols on them. I could only think one thing, What the Fuck? I opened the other cabinets and there were glass cases and inside of them were decorative Nazi pins. In one case there was a Nazi helmet and a dagger with a swastika on it. I was flummoxed. I closed the doors just as Pete entered the garage.
‘’You ready for tennis, I am going to kick your ass.’’ I was stunned, my legs felt like water and I didn’t know how to respond. Could it be possible that Fritz and Ilse Muller, the parents of my Best friend were Nazis? We had never discussed Peter’s parent’s background. I knew that Fritz spoke with a German accent and was always very curt when he spoke to me, but I had just charged it up to his being introverted and not a friendly guy.
I didn’t say anything and we left the garage and went to the local tennis club. We waited for our turn on the court. Pete was in a great mood and wanted to tell me about the Residence he had seen at Queens. ‘’It was super cool with great guys and girls. I attended a floor party and it was wild.’’ Pete kept talking but I didn’t hear half of what he said, my brain was in another place. I kept thinking about my Great Grandmother Sarah who had been killed in Bergen Belsen by the Nazis and other relatives like my Great Uncle Jupe who had been murdered by them. I knew Pete was a good guy but had his parents been participants in the genocide?
We played three sets of tennis and he wiped me out. I could normally beat him easily, but my head and heart weren’t in the match. He was oblivious and thought he beat me because of great play. It was hot out so we headed over to the local Seven-Eleven to grab slurpies. I was paying for them (it was a set rule that if you lose, you pay for the drinks) when I decided to ask Peter about his parents. It was a huge mistake. We rode our bikes over to North Oshawa park and sat down under a tree to drink our slurpies and chill.
‘’Hey Pete, we’ve been friends forever and you know everything about my family, but in all the years you’ve never said much about yours. Like when did they come to Canada. How’d they end up in Oshawa?’’
Peter was no fool, he knew there was a reason I was asking. ‘’My parents were in Germany, they didn’t think it was cool there so they came here. My Dad had an older brother working at the Selpa Steel manufacturing plant and he was able to get them jobs at GM. It worked out great for everybody and here I am. Why are you asking all of a sudden?’’ I was sipping my slurpee and trying to figure out how to ask if they were fucking Nazis.
‘’Well, you know my Dad and his family left Germany in nineteen thirty-eight. They left because of the Nazis. When did your folks leave?’’ I could see that Peter was getting agitated. ‘’What does that have to do with anything? Dude, we’re friends we don’t need to look at the past. Fuck that shit, I’m not my parents.’’ I agreed. ‘’You’re right, screw it. Tell me about the girls you met at the Floor party at Queens.’’
We didn’t hang out anymore that afternoon. I made up an excuse about having to go with my parents to visit an Aunt, and we said we’d catch up at school on Monday. I went home, went to my bedroom and tried to think about what I needed to do.
Over dinner, I revealed everything to my parents. I told them what I had seen in the Muller’s garage and how evasive Peter was in giving a straight answer. I knew his parents or at least his Dad was a Nazi I just didn’t know what to do about it. My Dad did. He called Bernie Cohen who was the head of B’Nai Brith in Toronto and gave him all the details. Bernie got in touch with Josh Ramp who was involved with the Canadian Jewish Congress and they both got in touch with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which was based in Austria.
I hung out with Pete but it felt different, it felt like he had kept a secret from me for years, and as a best friend we weren’t supposed to do that. I still trusted him, but it was different. I think Peter must have sensed it because he also became more distant.
I saw Peter hanging out in the auditorium by himself looking pale and nervous. I walked over and shook my head. ‘’Dude, I can’t believe what’s going on. Your Dad was a Fucking Nazi. I know you’re not one, but holy Fuck.’’ Peter looked at me with venom in his eyes. ‘’Fuck You. My Dad made mistakes. He did things he wasn’t proud of, he had to survive. He renounced the Nazis and he and my Mom were just trying to live normal lives. But no, you had to get fucking involved. I know that day you were in my garage you looked in the closets and saw their stuff. Fuck man, we’ve been friends forever and you didn’t even discuss it with me. You fucking squealed on them. You have ruined their lives and mine. I’m not a Nazi but I gotta tell you, I hate your fucking guts. I’ll never talk to you again. Your parents had it easy, your Dad came here and got breaks, my old man didn’t. He worked his ass off and just wanted to be left alone. Fuck, he knew you were Jewish and we were best friends, and he never tried to stop me. What the fuck man, now he is going to have to go through all kinds of shit to clear his name for just following orders.’’
I looked at Peter Muller and saw somebody I didn’t know. His statements were ludicrous. We had given up everything in Germany to come to Canada to start over. My Grandfather, Uncle and Dad had worked their asses off to get ahead. His dirt bag Nazi Dad was killing people without having any second thoughts about it. His Father’s statement had just said he supported Hitler and now Peter was saying he renounced the Nazis. He allowed his son to be friends with a Jewish guy, how big of him. Nice cover, you can’t randomly kill Jews in Canada even if you wanted to. Why did Fritz Muller hang on to his Nazi memorabilia if he was so anti-Nazi. My relatives were murdered by people like his Father, and maybe his Mother. People like his Dad had escaped the law and justice, but not this time. Not Fritz Muller, if he did the crime, he was going to do the time. He would not be able to clear his name, history knew who he was and so were the few remaining witnesses who who would identify him. I hoped he hung.
Peter turned and without a word started walking out of the auditorium when a man in a suit came running in. He embraced Peter. Peter ignored me ‘’Uncle Frederich?’’ I then heard a laugh that gave me chills up and down my spine. ‘’Don’t worry Peter what those Fucking Jews try, I have already hired Doug Eastley to be your Father’s lawyer. He will fight the deportation order and it will take years. Those Fucking Kikes will not be able to move him. By then you will be finished law school and you can continue the fight.’’ He then laughed again and for the first time noticed me standing in the back of the auditorium. ‘’Who’s that?’’ Peter looked back at me and I waited to hear what he had to say. ‘’That, that’s, that’s my friend. We better get going, I know the media wants to talk to me, but I have nothing to say. I’ll meet you in a minute Uncle Frederich, I just need to talk to my friend for a second.’’ His creepy Uncle left the auditorium.
He walked back to me and looked me in the eyes ‘’Dude, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t blame you. I have never felt close with my parents, and your family has always been there for me. We have been best friends our whole lives. I was in shock till I saw my Uncle Frederich who is a card carrying Nazi. I am not ever going to defend my Dad and Mom. If they committed crimes that caused people to die, they will have to face the consequences of their action. I know our friendship is fractured but I don’t hate you and I never will. I talked shit. I know I said some dumb things, but even though I come from horrible people, I’m not them. I promise to act like I always have, I don’t want to know from Nazis and I don’t ever want to be like one. Dude, things might get intense and I might have to move into your house for a few months to escape pressure, I hope that will be okay. Dude, we’re brothers.’’ There was a moment of silence, and the shaking of hands and then we walked out of the auditorium together.
When Peter reached the front of the school and stood on the steps looking at the media, his Uncle Frederich ran in front of him. ‘’My nephew will now tell all of you that this has been a big misunderstanding and his Father is innocent. Go ahead Peter tell them.’’ I watched my friend Peter Muller clear his throat. ‘’Uh, this all came as news to me. I’m in Grade thirteen and looking forward to going to University. I want to be a lawyer and the first rule of law is honesty, so I am going to be honest. My Uncle Frederich here is a strong Nazi supporter, he talks racist crap all the time and I hate being around him. My Dad has never renounced his Nazi past, and I believe he still gets together with Nazis here in Oshawa that he knew in Germany. If he is found guilty, I hope the full force of the law is thrown at him. I don’t want to talk about this anymore because I still have to live with my parents for a few more months, before I go to University. I doubt I will ever have anything to do with them once I leave home. There is no excuse for what the Nazis did to the Jewish people and I will never defend their actions. I will never defend my Father’s actions.’’
The media had tons more questions but Peter ducked out, Uncle Frederich tried to grab him but Peter gave him a shake off. He saw a familiar face and jumped into the back seat of a car in the parking lot and was driven off. It was my Mom ‘’I’m very proud of you Peter, I know that couldn’t have been easy, our door will always be open to you. Now let’s go to the supermarket, I have a few things I need to pick up, and boys, a quick reminder don’t throw the honey melon around like a football.’’