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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Chapter 11 - I don't like Germans

Tales of a Teenage Spy - The Life and Times of Gábor Rimner

Chapter 11 - I don't Like Germans

One day, it was probably 1972, I was rummaging among my dad's clothes in the wardrobe for the spare ignition key to the car, when to my amazement I found three German passports- for myself, my mother and father. Naturally, when he came home, I asked him: “What the hell is this? How come we have three German passports?” “What? What have you been doing in my cupboard?” he blurted back. I told him, I'd been looking for the car keys. “Well, we plan to settle in Germany,” he said, as if it were like going out for tea. “Uh? Why haven't we discussed this?” “What is there to discuss here? You don't want to go back to Hungary?” he said, as if that solved the matter. “No, I don't, not at all. But why Germany? I don't like Germans.” I admit, this was pure prejudice. You see - and this was despite my German ancestry from my father's side - at that time, I was somehow convinced that the average German doesn't have feelings. Germans were people who had a style of living and manners that were totally beyond me. “OK, but you won't be living in Germany. You will be going to Stockholm.” “Uh? Stockholm? How come? What's going on here?”

“I've got you a scholarship to the University of Stockholm.” “Scholarship? What scholarship?”

This was all new to me. And it was quite a shock. It turns out that my father planned to take the family to near Hannover, where my uncle, his younger brother lived. He would work with his brother, also an architect, who had a big, private office. As for me, I would go to university in Sweden, and on graduation, aged 22 or so, I could go where I wanted – that was his plan, only now revealed. “If you don't want to live in Germany, no problem. You could travel to wherever you want to,” he said. Well, that was when I became angry. I felt he was controlling me in exactly the same style that he loathed when it came to the authorities in Hungary, trying to force his plans onto me, without as much as a thought to ask. It was total hypocrisy. And I exploded.

“I'm not going to Germany! Fuck your passport and your German citizenship!” and with that, I stormed out of the room. We never spoke about German citizenship again. This incident marked another change: it was the first time he had been forced to explain anything to the family regarding plans. Previously he'd been the master planner, and the family had meekly tagged along. No more. I don't know what happened to those passports. Maybe I have a German citizenship that I don't know about. But there was a second result: it forced me to think about my future, because I would be finishing secondary school the next year and my father's contract was ending. On top of this, he had a skin problem, caused by the dust in the atmosphere. He could barely hold a pencil, his hands were so full of sores. In the event, we might all have to leave the Sudan even earlier than planned. If I didn't like what my father had invented for me, then I should do something for myself. It was a realisation that would soon have life-changing consequences.

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