The Quiet Game
By Tom Gage
Karl Reinholt watched with amusement as a sea lion coaxed her baby into the sea. The furry, chocolate, 700 pound lioness with its broad, upturned snout growled at the two month old pup; ordering it from the rookery. The youngling, with his paddle-like limbs, waddled into the ocean off the coastline of Mar del Plata . The Banquina de Pescadores was the fisherman's wharf there, with its multicolored fishing boats known as the rainbow fleet; it doubled as a magnet for southern sea lions that gathered for scraps at the end of the day.
Karl touched a wooden match to his Cohiba cigar and took in a long drag. Exhaling, a thin column of smoke rose slowly over the bay; it was Thursday, March 3, 1960. On his afternoon stroll along the sea, he reflected on his years of exile in his new home in Argentina . He thought of himself more of a patriot to the fatherland than a Nazi war criminal. It had not been so dreadful here. He missed the fragrant pine forest that bordered his family estate, German Bier vom Fass, and most of all the fair frauleins. The senoritas with their dark hair and black eyes were so disappointing here in comparison to the perfect Aryan vision of womanhood back home.
Karl had money from his family. With money you never had to be alone to enjoy all the pleasures of this hide away. The seaside resort had been called the "elegant coast" by Europeans since 1581, with over five miles of sandy Atlantic beaches. Also called Mardel, it was Argentina 's entertainment capital, even surpassing Buenos Aires for live theater and musical events. It offered classic architecture, deep sea fishing, fine restaurants, crowded bars and a world class casino. Mar del Plata 's warm weather was a wonderful contrast to the stark, cold climate of industrial Sassniz , Germany , where he was born and raised. That was the home of the Reinholt steel mills, which his family had owned and operated for over 100 years.
In 1930, at the dawn of the Great Depression, Karl's father, Ernest Reinholt, faced certain bankruptcy. He would do anything to save the Reinholt Steel Mills. He was tired of the long succession of unstable government and continuous coalition changes. He could not stand the right-wing monarchist any longer. He feared the communists, and was ready for a radical change of government in Germany . That year, Ernest gave his allegiance, time, influence and money, selling his soul to the National Socialist Workers Party. The Nazi's motto: Common Good before Individual Good.
As the third Reich grew in power and physical strength, so did the Reinholt Steel Mills. Reinholt, with his new power, was able to drive many of his competitors out of business. Reinholt became a very ruthless man whom you did not want as an enemy. By 1935, Ernest had turned over the day to day operations of his empire to his oldest son, Fredrick. Fredrick was a smart man who would run the company successfully without becoming involved in politics. He quietly hated the Nazis, and his father's involvement in the movement. His father devoted full time to the third Reich as a Gauleiter. He was the leader in one of the thirty-four districts; the Nazis had divided the country into. One of the biggest dilemmas he had was his younger son Karl. The young man was causing problems again within the families business.
Karl Reinholt was a problem. Spoiled his whole life, he had grown up to be nothing more than a beer drinking bully. He had no social skills or conscience. His father and older brother recognized they were part of the problem, regularly covering for him.
Ernest had a solution to this problem. He would appoint Karl as Kreise to a town close to the Polish boarder called Hovenburg. The town was overrun with Jews, and it was time to crack down on them. Karl, as leader of the Nazi party there, would have total control of the town with the backing of his Waffen SS troops.
For the next ten years, Karl was the Nazi leader of Hovenburg. The little Hitler ruled with an iron fist and with cruel, reckless abandonment. Karl created hell on earth for the Jewish residents. He stripped them of all their rights, confiscated their real estate, and seized their family heirlooms, jewels, and other valuable personal possessions. Finally, in 1942, Karl rounded up the 17,000 Hovenburg Jews and transported them to the death camp at Auschwitz . In 1945, as the Third Reich crumbled, Ernest Reinholt committed suicide. Karl, now a war criminal, fled Germany . Juan Peron, the President of Argentina opened, his arms widely to rich Nazis like Reinholt. Karl changed his identity, learned Spanish, successfully found a beautiful hide away, and quietly settled down in hopes that no one would ever find him. He lived on the generous allowance provided by his brother Fredrick, who continued to run successfully the Reinholt Steel Mills of Sassniz, Germany .
Karl walked back from the port that was filled with ships, to the downtown area. What was my crime, he thought, carrying out official orders which made Germany a better place to live? I've done nothing wrong. And the cowards back home have turned their backs on us martyrs, who were only trying to drastically improve their lives. We should be considered heroes rather than hiding like rats.
He sat pouting, feeling sorry for himself, at the Punta Mogotes beach. Karl enjoyed this place, with it colorful canvas tents and countless balnearios that line the sands. After his rest, and feeling much better, Karl passed the Rambla Casino, perhaps he would visit there tonight. Down the cobbled street was the Cathedral built in 1893, no concern of his as an atheistic. Up the winding, dusty, gravel of Falucho road, he marched to his favorite restaurant, Torreon del Monje. From the grand terrace looking south you could see endless blocks of tile-roofed chalets. It offered a panoramic perspective of the city's most appealing neighborhoods. At the edge of the veranda was a 288 foot vertical drop to the rocky Punta Piedras Peninsula . Sitting at his usual colorful, tile inlayed table Karl felt so daring when he enjoyed drinks and dinner high over the sea. Reinholt unpacked his antique chess set, a keepsake from the war, and arranged the chess pieces on its board. He sometimes studied games of past chess masters, recreating their moves from books during dinner. Today it would be a game played in 1909 by chess masters Marshall and Capablanca.
Karl liked the attention here. The restaurant manager Juanito and his pretty sister Bernardita obviously showed him the kind of respect he deserved. She brought him a large goblet of Ginebra bols and a huge plate of asados. After wolfing that down, he had another large goblet of wine with three churros, filled with dulce de leche. He was licking his chubby, little fingers when he looked up and gazed into the shadowy, piercing eyes of a European man towering over him.
"Bueno tardes", the stranger greeted.
"Bueno tardes" Karl replied.
The European man reached down and picked up a white pawn and a black pawn. With one piece in each hand he extended them in front of Reinholt. Karl was delighted at the challenge to play chess with a new opponent and selected the right hand, a black pawn. The newcomer smiled, sat down and moved the white pawn to king four. Karl did the same (1. P-K4 P-K4) and the chess match had begun. Little did Karl know that his dark eyed challenger had patiently waited twenty-five years to the day for this game.
The defender moved his knight to kings bishop three. Reinholt moved knight to queen bishop three (2. N-KB3 N-QB3). Bishop to bishop four, bishop to bishop four (3. B-B4 B-B4)
standard moves. Pawn to bishop three, knight to bishop three, basically nothing unusual. (4. P-B3 N-B3). The dark eyed stranger advanced his pawn to queen four and Karl captured it (5. P-Q4 PxP). Reinholt was having a great time playing chess with someone who actually understood the moves. This type of opening has been known in chess for over 500 years as the "Giuoco Piano" or the "Quiet Game". The game was going to be anything but quiet. As the European captured Karl's pawn, he leaned over and whispered in German.
"I was born in Hovenburg. My name is David Steinberg; and I know who you are." He watched in delight as the colored drain from Karl's face. Reinholt acted as if he never heard him. With a shaking hand he made his first bad move, retreating his bishop to knight three (6. PxP B-N3).
Steinberg thought back to his childhood, when the nice neighbors back home all turned against the Jewish families of Germany . David was raised in one of finest homes of Hovenburg. Steinberg's father was a second generation physician. David had a loving mother and younger twin sisters, Sarah and Rebekah, who he adored. Life was good until January of 1933.
That year the Jews became the "Untermenschen" the sub-humans. Nazi thugs stopped Germans from shopping in Jewish shops. By 1934, all Jewish shops were marked with the yellow Star of David or had the "Juden" written on the window. The Steinberg's watched many of their neighbors lose their businesses. David's classmates at school were taught anti-Semitic ideals. He was openly ridiculed by teachers and bullied on the playground by pupils who went unpunished. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were passed; the Jews were deprived their right to be German citizens.
Starring at the pathetic Nazi monster in front of him, David moved knight to knight five, whispering again in German. "You utterly destroyed my family."
Karl needed to collect his thoughts and appear as if nothing was wrong. He made the safe move of castling (7. N-N5 O-O).
Steinberg recalled the first time he encountered Reinholt. He was 15 years old; it was March 3, 1935. Two motorcycles roared up in front of the house, escorts for a large, black touring car with swastika flags on each side. Reinholt and two SS Waffin soldiers forced their way into the spacious home and barged into the den where David and his father were playing chess. He commanded them to pack their bags and leave the house within one hour. David's father stood in protest, only to be hit in the stomach by a SS rifle butt. David, in a rage, flew at Karl; the large man threw the boy to the ground and repeatedly kicked him. David's mother and twin sisters entered the den and were horrified by what was going on. Reinholt seemed amused as he once again barked the order for the Steinberg's to leave their home within the hour. David's family moved in with relatives and Karl Reinholt took over their large house for himself.
"You sent my parents and twin sisters Sarah and Rebekah to Auschwitz !" David growled as he advanced his pawn to king five. "You took our home and possessions." Pointing to one of the black rooks, "see that chip at the base of that piece? I did that when I dropped it as child. You have the nerve to still use my father's antique Jaques of London chess set."
Reinholt scratched his short red scalp, temple sweating. He required more time to think though this nightmare. "No comprendo," he responded in Spanish as he retreated his knight to king one (8. P-K5 N-K1).
David remembered the last time he saw his family. His twin sisters Sarah and Rebekah were crying and needed to be pulled away from hugging him. His mother and father, arm in arm, starring proudly at their son as tears rolled down their faces. It had been a very hard decision, but one the family had finally agreed to. David and his cousin would leave Germany and travel to Palestine . They had relatives who lived in a Kibbutz near Haifa . The boys would become part of the Zionist movement and start a new life in a new land. At least until Germany became normal again. David's father needed to stay in Hovenburg and treat his Jewish patients. He had confidence in the German people to come to their senses soon and over throw Hilter and his Nazis.
The two set off on foot to the Polish boarder. Safely out of Nazi Germany, they traveled by train from Warsaw , Poland to Athens , Greece . From Greece they sailed on the Mediterranean Sea to Haifa in Palestine . Not far from there was the Valley of Jezreel . The two teenagers settled in and became hard working farmers in the collective community, or Kibbutz, which would be their new home.
David slammed his queen to rook five "Your days as a fugitive are through!" That play could mean mate in one move if Karl was not careful. He needed the game to last longer; he required precious time to plan an escape; to somehow make this all go away. Locking eyes with David, seemingly blameless and with a sincere, gentle voice he whined in German, "You have me mistaken for someone else." He moved his pawn to kings rook three to prevent mate on the next move (9. Q-R5 P-KR3).
During the first years, David received a few letters from his family in Hovenburg. The messages were on the whole cheerful, but he could read between the lines as life back home became more unbearable for the Jews. After 1938 no one in the Kibbutz received any mail from anyone in Nazi Germany.
David adjusted well to his new home in Palestine . He was an energetic young man and was accepted by the members of the Kibbutz. One afternoon, while David was working in the barley fields, he spotted Esther for first time. Just like Boaz when he first saw Ruth in this same land, he desired to know who she was. Dark haired with hazel-eyes, wearing baggy, black shorts with an over sized man's long sleeved shirt, the small framed goddess captured his heart. She had lived with her parents in the Kibbutz for the last ten years. The family had fled Russia in hopes of a better life in Palestine . The two eventually fell in love, and in 1940 David and Esther were married; he was 20 she was 18.
David's knight captured Karl's pawn and threatened his queen. "Members of the Mossad are waiting outside for you!" David sneered.
Now in a panic, Karl needed to know precisely what was going on. He needed to stall this game. Reinholt, ignoring the last comment, moved his queen out of harms way to king two. (10. NxP Q-K2) If he could only move himself out of imminent danger.
In 1941 David and Esther became active members of the Palmach, an elite ready reserve for the Haganah. They were full time soldiers, who worked 14 days on kibbutzim and trained another 10 days. From 1946 until 1947 the Palmach concentrated on helping to facilitate Jewish emigration to Palestine . During those years, David tried to discover what had happened to his family. They had just vanished. Like all the Jews from Hovenburg; just vanished without a trace. In 1948, when the War of Independence began for the new state of Israel , the Palmach was the only ready standing army available to repel the Arab attacks. David and Esther fought valiantly side by side during the war. The Palmach sustained heavy casualties. Esther lost her brother Joseph while capturing the port in Haifa .
David's knight captured a pawn and checked Karl's king. "This game and your freedom are just about over." Steinberg chuckled.
Reinholt needed to remain calm and plan the best way to escape the restaurant. Not looking up he steadily moved his king to rook one. (11. NxPch K-R1).
After the war David moved to Haifa and started an import/export business with his fellow comrades in arms. With their control over the Port of Haifa , they all rapidly became very successfully businesspeople. Israel was now at peace, and David, rich beyond his wildest dreams, could focus on another important task
.to track down and bring to justice Karl Reinholt.
Knight to bishop seven check, David moved and causally said "Do not even think about trying to run."
Karl looked David straight in the eyes and mustering up all the courage he had replied "Why do I need to run from anyone?" He then moved his king to safety on knight one. (12. N-B7ch K-N1).
David slammed his queen to rook eight and cheered. "Checkmate you swine!" (13. Q-R8 mate). Steinberg clicked open his silver Zippo lighter and touched the flame to his Chesterfield cigarette and inhaled deeply. Leaning back in his chair he said "Why do you need to run? Is that what you're asking?"
Karl knew the next few minutes could change his life forever. Now walking on very thin ice, a new game much more complicated than chess was unfolding. Karl needed to appear to be fearless and resistant. The Argentina government would not let these filthy Jews, from a state most of the world did not even acknowledge, kidnap their citizens. Folding his hands he calmly replied. "I do not have to run from anyone, I did nothing wrong during the war. I acted "under orders", I was just a "cog in the machine", and I only did what I had been told. The Nazi government's at fault, and not me for what had been perpetrated on the Jewish people."
"You'll have a tough time with that defense when you're on trial in Israel ." David responded.
"Don't try to scare me Jew. You're not taking me anywhere, I have rights in this country and money to protect me," Karl sneered.
Taking another drag on his cigarette David smiled "You had money. You don't anymore. Listen to this, at the formal request of the Israeli government, the US State Department contacted your brother Fredrick. They notified him that they would no longer be able to provide anymore financial aid to his steel mills as long as he was supporting Nazi war criminals. Fredrick was more than cooperative in helping us find you after confirming that funds would stop immediately. He said you'd been a millstone around his neck his whole life and he was glad to have it over with."
Karl was now white as a sheet, his mind raced. I have no savings I've always lived from payment to payment. I'll be penniless in just a few weeks. He mumbled, "my brother had promised father he would always protect me. I can't believe he has betrayed me".
David explained. "You better believe it. One of the members of the Mossad, who lived thru the death camps, has a high power rifle pointed at your skull as we speak. He would want nothing better than to blow your head off. So don't try anything! Now let me tell you about what your life is going to be like. We have been planning for weeks how to take you out of the country without arousing the suspicions of the Argentinian authorities. When we all leave here today we'll travel in two cars up to Buenos Aires , where we have a safe house. We have an Israeli passport for you that we only have to add your picture to. You will then be put into an El-Al airlines uniform and then drugged. We will inform the authorities, as we safely carry you into the plane, that you are a pilot and have a serious medical condition and must fly home to Israel at once. You will be put on trial in Jerusalem for crimes against the Jewish people, and crimes against humanity. After you're found guilty, you will be hung; and the families of Hovenburg will be avenged."
Karl recognized his life was over. Betrayed by his family, penniless and in the hands of filthy Jews bent on his destruction, what was left? Reinholt pushed back his chair and slowly walked to the edge of the grand terrace. He stared down the 288 foot vertical drop to the rocky Punta Piedras Peninsula . He heard the distant waves hitting the rocks far below. Karl could turn around and take his first giant step toward Jerusalem or take a giant step off the terrace and into peace.
David watched Karl walk over to the edge of the terrace. Steinberg began to pack up his chess pieces into a box. It was nice to have his fathers chess set back. When he looked up again, Karl was gone. Justice had been served.
David left Torreon del Monje with his chess set under his arm. He began to walk down Falucho Street toward the coastal city. Steinberg hoped God would forgive him for lying. David smiled as he thought about it. There were no Israeli secret service waiting outside, there was no betrayal by his brother or any US aid for the steel mills, there was no outrageous plan to abduct him out of the country. It was all made up. David had expected if Karl was pinned in a corner with no hope, he would do something desperate. His plan had worked.
Eighteen months ago, Steinberg had traveled to the Reinholt Steel Mills of Sassniz, Germany . Using his import/export business as a back drop, he met with a junior account executive of the mills, about setting up a line of credit. David took the junior executive to dinner, followed by drinks. After numerous shots of Jagermeifter, the young man became David's best friend. He joked to Steinberg about his boss having a nincompoop brother who they had supported for years, and who lived in a run-down village in Argentina called Mar del Plata .
Steinberg reported his findings to the Mossad. The Israeli secret service advised him that Adolf Eichmann had been sighted in the same area and was the first priority over anyone else. He was urged not to do anything that would interfere with his capture. David was alone on his hunt; as he journeyed to Mar del Plata . It took him only two days to find Reinholt. He interviewed casino dealers, prostitutes, and bartenders about an over weight, red haired man who spoke broken Spanish with a heavy German accent. Karl was an easy target, the only thing he needed was a bull's-eye on his fat stomach.
A few days after his chess match, before leaving for home, David had dinner with agents of the Israeli secret service in Buenos Aires . They shared with him that they were hot on the trail of a fellow who met Eichmann's description. Steinberg told them of his encounter with Reinholt and of his suicide. They all had a big laugh over David's account of how they were going to smuggle Karl out of the country. Two months later the Mossad actually used David's plan to capture and bring Adolf Eichmann to justice.
David was tired and was ready to put Karl Reinholt behind him. In the Kibbutz he was taught, not to look back, but to only look forward, because that's the direction they were going. David was now free to live that way. It was time to return to his life in Israel , and to think about all the good things God had provided for him. He could not wait to hold Esther again, his childhood bride; and Sarah and Rebekah, his beautiful, and adoring twin daughters. They would be waiting for him in their lovely home in Haifa overlooking the harbor and the Mediterranean Sea .
from the May 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine