This is the second part of this report. For this to make any sense, I recommend that you read The Modern Golem: Part One – Recollections of Prague – C.R.
4th September 2011
After many months of correspondence, the mysterious ‘Mr Smith’ finally agrees to meet me in person. He insists that we meet in the daytime, in a crowded area, so I suggest a coffee shop located in amongst the bustle of St Pancras.
Mr Smith agrees.
When he arrives, I am surprised by his advanced age. Indeed, even with the aid of a cane, he can barely walk.
We shake hands and take a seat at a table. I order us some coffee, and Mr Smith pours a large amount of something golden from a hip flask into his cup. I decline his offer of the same.
After some initial pleasantries, he begins to talk about what has brought us here. He has a thick Israeli accent, but his English is impeccable.
“I worked as an assistant to Dr Bentov, one of several. The Israeli government set up a laboratory for him in the desert. State of the art, not a shekel spared. And this during a time when all the country’s money is supposedly tied up looking after the thousands of refugees who were coming every year.
“But Bentov was special, and the government knew that. Sure, he was a grouch, with a nasty temper, but you could understand after everything he’d been through. And he was brilliant. An exceptional mind.
“They built the Foundation for him.
“Most men of science refute everything spiritual, but not Bentov. Bentov sought a way to reconcile the scientific with the mystic, the natural with the supernatural. And he did it.”
“To what end?” I ask.
“That is simple, Dr Gotobed. Revenge.
“Bentov created a weapon from metal and clay, a weapon that the Lord himself breathed life into. A weapon without a soul.
“At least, that’s what we thought.
“I sense you don’t believe me, Dr Gotobed. Well, let me ask you this: have you heard of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre? Part of their remit was to track down surviving Nazis and bring them to justice, with mixed results. The Wiesenthal Centre had hundreds of investigators at their disposal, and several teams of agents out in the field. At the Foundation? Just Dr Bentov, his six assistants, myself included, and our very own sword of vengeance.
“Our modern-day Golem.
“And she never failed.”
Kurt Backe, a doctor at the Birgen-Belsin concentration camp, fled Germany in 1945, using one of the many Nazi ‘ratlines’ to escape to South America. He eventually settled in a small town in Panama under an assumed name and found work as a General Practitioner.
His true identity was discovered in July of 1977. However, the Panamanian government refused to deport Backe, warning the Israelis not to come after him.
In the August of that year, Backe’s housekeeper claims a tall, dark haired woman walked into the house one evening and killed the doctor with a single blow to the head. His body would later be found stuffed into the trunk of a car parked at Tocumen International Airport.
“We built nine iterations before we achieved the desired result, Bentov refining the process and the formula each time.
“For the tenth iteration, we used clay from the banks of the Vltava and the Elbe, and a new metal the Americans had given to us. They didn’t tell us where it came from. It possessed all the properties of steel only substantially lighter. Bentov used it to make a skeleton and a clockwork heart. He spent months on that, putting it all together and inscribing the formula onto it.
“We named her Ten.”
Otto Fuchs, an SS guardsman at the Dachau concentration camp, resurfaced in Argentina in December of 1977. A week later agents from the Wiesenthal Centre visited a hotel in Buenos Aries with the intention of extraditing Fuchs to France to stand trial.
By the time they arrived, Fuchs lay dead, killed by a single blow to the head.
“My job was teaching her how to interact with people. I found it tough going; she had a habit of taking everything literally.
“She asked me once if we’d made her just to kill people. I explained about the Holocaust, about how the men she would be hunting needed to be brought to justice. I think she understood. But that’s why I struggle to believe that she didn’t have a soul. If that were true, why would she care?”
Klaus Ittner was a senior SS officer, responsible for the murder of hundreds of Italian Jews. He escaped to Bolivia after the war, where he fell under the protection of the US intelligence service, ostensibly for his help with Anti-Soviet operations.
The Wiesenthal Centre discovered his location in 1980.
The US government sent word to the Israelis that Ittner should be considered off-limits and not be targeted.
A US security detail squirrelled the former SS officer away to the mountain town of Sorata, where they thought he could be kept safe.
Less than 48 hours later, Ittner and the security team were dead, all killed by blows that resulted in massive blunt force trauma.
One witness reported that a tall, dark haired woman, a stranger to the town, had descended from the mountains on the evening of Ittner’s death.
She did not stay.
“She used to call me after her kills. I don’t mean the Foundation. Just me. She sounded… sad.”
Over the course of January 1978, a further nine suspected Nazi war criminals were found dead in Bolivia, all killed in the same manner.
“Bentov died in his sleep in 1981. He never trusted anyone else with his formula, so it died with him, and the Foundation closed.
“As for Ten, she called me one more time. She asked if she could now consider herself ‘free’.
“I didn’t know what to say.
“She told me that she would be coming here, to London, to try and live like a person. I won’t ever forget that conversation.
“I never heard from her again.”
An assassin created from metal, clockwork and clay, animated by God and taking out former Nazis in South America? Even with all the things I have seen and heard over the years, this does seem rather far-fetched.
And yet, when I ask Mr Smith if he has any proof to back up his claims, he hands me a sealed file and gets up to leave. Before he goes, I ask him why he is telling me all this.
“Because, Dr Gotobed, if she is still around, and she decides she needs help or guidance, she will come to someone like you.”
“Like me?” I ask.
“Someone who will believe her.”
Inside the file is a communique, on paper headed with the official seal of the United States government, sent from US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to the then Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yitzhak Shamir, dated the 11th of March 1980.
It reads thus: ‘This policy of pursuing Nazi war criminals no matter what is putting serious strain on international relations. Call off your bitch, or we will do it for you.’
The reply came, not from Shamir, but from the Bentov Foundation.
It rather tersely states: ‘You are more than welcome to try.’
Still not convinced by all this, I mentioned Karl Bentov to an acquaintance of mine, an old friend from university who worked for the foreign office in the early 90’s as a liaison to Yaov Biran, the then Israeli ambassador.
She told me that whenever Biran found himself presented with a challenging diplomatic issue, he would often lament the fact that there was no longer a Bentov Foundation to take care of it.
My acquaintance tells me that she never understood the reference.
Dr Thomas Gotobed