tHE STRANGE BUT TRUE STORY OF
ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S NAZI BELT BUCKLE
Foreward by the author
My fascination with Hemingway is a lifetime
obsession. I read The Old Man And The Sea as a teenager. That is how
it began. I was hooked on Hemingway as surely as one of those marlin
swimming in the Gulf Stream.
Over the years I have read most everything
Hemingway wrote and a great number of the books and articles that
have been written about him.
Certainly, it influenced me to take up
journalism as a profession. It was as a reporter in Miami that I met
and interviewed Hemingway’s Key West friend and fishing buddy
Charles Thompson and his wife Lorine. I was producing a television
series on Hemingway’s Florida at the time. I had arranged an
interview with Hemingway’s younger brother Leicester that didn’t
happen. I cancelled the interview when Leicester told me he would
answer any question I asked him as long as I did not ask him about
Earnest. It had to have been difficult for Leicester living life in
the shadow of his famous older brother.
Journalism enabled me to travel the world,
and, at every opportunity, to trace the writer’s footsteps. I stood
in the room where he was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and in the
entrance foyer of the Topping House in Ketchum where he blew his
brains out with a shotgun.
In Cuba, I walked down Obispo Street after
late night drinks at the Floridita, searching for his ghost on the
way back to my room at the Ambos Mundos. I sat beside his grave in
the Ketchum Cemetery and saluted the sunrise over the Sawtooth
mountains with Havana Club rum. I celebrated my 60th
birthday at la Consula in Spain where Ernest celebrated his.
My forte as a reporter has always been
features, the unusual, the quirky, and the out-of-the-ordinary
stories. That is why I became interested in Gott Mit Uns. Strolling
through a flea market in Germany where I lived at the time, I
noticed a ‘Gott Mit Uns’ buckle on a seller’s table. This was rather
unusual in that display or sale of such Nazi relics is against the
law in Germany. I recalled mention of the buckle in several
Hemingway biographies and memoirs.
A journalist’s curiosity took control. I
decided it might be an offbeat and whimsical subject to pursue.
Hundreds of books have been written about Hemingway, but no one had
ever approached the subject from such an unusual perspective. I
thought there might be a story there and I was right.
While my objective was to research the
history of the Hemingway buckle and perhaps even find the previous
owner, this is really the story of my journey, of the unusual and
sometimes strange paths this quest has taken me, and of the people I
met along the way.
In the course of my research, I have come
to the realization that some questions likely will never be
answered. It has been 45+ years since Hemingway killed himself. It
was hard to separate fact from fiction even when he was alive. Many
of those who might know are themselves dead.
I have endeavoured for credibility’s sake
to select and identify my sources carefully, to separate fact from
conjecture, and to clearly identify the latter as my own.
This book is part biography and part
autobiography, Hemingway’s and mine. It is a history, a war story, a
travelogue, and most notably, it is a detective story.
Hemingway’s Gott Mit Uns buckle was
bloodstained on two occasions; when Hemingway shot and killed the
German soldier who was wearing it, and when he shot and killed
himself. The spectre of death runs through this narrative like the
pin stripe weave on a well-made suit.
This is the story of my Quixotic search for
a literary Holy Grail of sorts, Hemingway’s Gott Mit Uns.
Lancing, West Sussex, UK
September 16, 2007