third reich book

Marginalia
by Courtney Watson

inside cover1

It was the first estate sale of the year, an event of note in my sleepy corner of Virginia. The house was unremarkable except for the master bedroom, which had been converted into a library. The former owners, deceased, had been history buffs, and resting at eye level was a copy of Rise and Fall of the Third Reich — a book described as an account of the nightmare empire built by Hitler. When I opened the front cover, I discovered a Christmas tag taped over a map of Axis-occupied territories with yellowed Santa Claus stickers. Written in blue over the Atlantic Ocean, a sweep of ink brushing against the golden Reichsadler, was merrily inscribed “To Auddy With Love, Mabel 12-25-60.”

The 1200+ page book was well-read, with sentences underlined in green and purple. There was urgency in the arrows and questions and comments in the margins, with special attention paid to Karl Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Holocaust. Auddy commented on every mention of Eichmann, and such was his obsession that he left a bit of treasure for me to find 50 years later. Taped to the final page of the book was a fat yellowed envelope adhered with cracking brown tape labeled “Adolf Eichmann’s Death” in capital letters. In it was the end of the story, a folded page of newspaper detailing Eichmann’s capture in Argentina and subsequent execution on the gallows of Tel Aviv’s Ramleh prison, the first in Israeli history. I like to imagine that Mabel read the article before Auddy, and saved it for him.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves and learning about who people are—who they truly are—through their possessions. I’m deeply interested in marginalia and the story it tells, which is why I’m always on the lookout for books wherein the reader has visibly interacted with a piece of text; there is something fascinating, to me, about that conversation.

Courtney Watson1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Courtney Watson is a writer and college professor in Roanoke, Virginia, where she directs the Humanities & Social Sciences program at Jefferson College of Health Sciences. Her writing has been published in Long Story, Short, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 100 Word Story, and more. She is co-founder and co-editor of Rum Punch Press.