Because the obvious legal issues, I’m going to keep this very vague.
My dad survived the Holocaust and came to the US afterwards. He had a pretty good career here but personally and emotionally, he was a total wreck–multiple wives, children out of wedlock, alcoholic and abusive. All of his kids, myself included, had a pretty miserable collective upbringing, though I think he had mellowed out a little bit by the time I came around (I’m the youngest)… Or maybe he was just exhausted.
Anyway, he was active in a number of Jewish-American and Holocaust survivor groups. Somehow, through these groups, he learned that the guard who had tormented (possibly even raped him, though he was vague on this point) him at Buchenwald was living in a certain South American country. I remember him sitting at his desk on Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, writing letters to congressmen and international organizations, demanding that this guy be taken into custody.
Nothing ever came of it. I went off to college and, at one point, had the opportunity to go help a professor of mine with some research in the certain South American country. While there, I did some research of my own and became pretty sure that I knew where this guy was and who he was. Keep in mind that this was a different time–no internet, corruption even more endemic than it was now.
I graduated and went into finance (I’m a Jew, laugh it up) and, after less than a year with my firm, got offered a pretty plum transfer to the certain South American country. I took it without hesitating and began making plans.
Again, different time but it wasn’t hard: being an American with money gets you lots of things in this world, after all.
The time came and despite almost chickening out, I did it. It was messy and not nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be. I wanted to make a big, self-righteous speech but the guy didn’t speak English. I repeated my dad’s name a bunch of times and started crying. He seemed to understand and he started pleading with me but to no avail.
I was paranoid for about a year after that. I don’t think I slept a wink for three or four months after it. But again, it was a different time. People died in this country all the time. I stole a few things from his apartment to make it look like a robbery gone bad–on cop shows, they always know it was a premeditated murder if nothing was stolen. I never went near his neighborhood again and I never heard anything from the police.
I told my dad about it and he didn’t believe me. He was so far gone at that point, though, drinking till he passed out every day, I don’t know why I did it. I was young, I wanted to be some bad ass action hero. I had this view of myself as some sexy, international man of intrigue, not the dumpy, overweight stats nerd that I am.
My dad died a few years after. I never told any of my siblings, though I did tell my mother. She just cried and we never talked about it again. I’ve told my wife and my business partner–they’re probably my best friends in the world and were more supportive and understanding than I deserved.
I don’t have much sympathy for the man I murdered–if he’d been shot by GIs or rebelling prisoners during the war, I don’t know if it would have been all that different. Mostly, I’m just angry at myself for risking my future like that and wasting that time, those years in my twenties that should have been great, being miserable and paranoid, and thinking that somehow, it was going to make up for sadness we grew up with.
Producer’s note: this story was excerpted from a deleted user’s Reddit account.
image –anna gutermuth