Now their envy had turned truly vile. The outrageous things they were saying about him! That back in the old country, he had become the Germans’ henchman in his village after Hitler's 1942 invasion. That he had turned on his own Circassian people. That he had worn the reviled Waffen SS uniform. That he had led roaming Third Reich “execution squads” that gunned down Jews and Communists.
That he was, in short, a Nazi.
Tall and lanky, with a bushy mustache, a ruddy complexion, and a handsome face that suggested any number of ethnicities, Soobzokov had gone by many names and identities since the war: his given name of Tscherim Soobzokov, or “Tom,” as the New Jersey politicos he had befriended called him; Sergei Zarevich, Kerim Lafsoka, or Abdel Karim Showabzoga, as some of his official papers identified him; the more American-sounding “Kenneth Desnew” on overseas spy trips for the CIA; and, of course, Nostril, his code name in agency files.
His accusers from the old country knew him by yet another name: the Fuhrer of the North Caucasus, some called him.
It was slander of the worst kind, the old man insisted. At first, he had tried to write it off as the just the vicious gossip of the Circassian immigrants in New Jersey. Hadn’t there been similar smears and talks of Nazi ties spread by the Communists against dozens of other good Americans since the end of the war? Good men, respected men, men like him. These were solid citizens who, like him, served their new country well but were accused of Nazi ties nonetheless: German rocket scientists in Alabama, doctors in San Antonio, a successful businessmen in Northern California, an Olympic coach in San Diego, an architect in Philadelphia, even a prominent bishop in Michigan.
All innocent, like him; all victims of lies, Soobzokov told anyone who would listen.
The public was oblivious to it all. For that, at least, Soobzokov was grateful. Even the powerful people who heard the whispers—the FBI, the INS, the occasional congressman—seemed blissfully uninterested for the most part. It was a brutal time, those war years, and whatever had happened was so long ago. No one cared, thank God.
Yet somehow, three decades after the war, his past was now becoming quite public. The talk had gone from rumor to news, with his tiny hometown paper in Paterson, New Jersey, printing a few stories on the Nazi claims against him. TV newscasters had picked up on the innuendo, too. Soobzokov figured his ethnic rival—that scoundrel Dr. Jawad Idriss, a good-for-nothing fabricator who thought he was the real leader of the local immigrants in New Jersey—must have gone shooting his mouth off again with his outrageous Nazi accusations. Grist for a lawsuit, perhaps.
That was bad enough. Then, just a few days earlier, Soobzokov was named in a story in The New York Times with a list of more than three dozen suspected Nazis living comfortably and quietly in America, divorced from their hidden pasts. The good name of Tom Soobzokov in The New York Times! Calling him a Nazi! Immigration officials, under pressure for failing to do anything about supposed war criminals living in the United States, had grudgingly turned over the list to a pesky New York congresswoman, Elizabeth Holtzman. A Jew, of course. Soobzokov didn’t trust Jews. He had confided as much years earlier to the CIA; Soobzokov “would be ashamed to work for a Jew,” a note in his file read. Now this Holtzman woman was demanding action and making his life miserable. He was seething as he told his old friend Grunz about all the accusations that were being slung at him.