Remember what happened in Germany on the week-end of June 30, when seventy-seven Nazis bit the dust, murdered by order of their Fuehrer?
Well, it now turns out that it was all an accident. Hitler has ordered the companies which insured the lives of the departed to pay their beneficiaries double indemnity, under the clause which doubles the face of a policy in case the insured should meet accidental death.
This casts a new light on the affair. It also invests the word “accident” with a new and heretofore unsuspected definition, which should come in very handy for future reference.
Our big Funk and Wagnalls office dictionary furnishes Adolf a certain sardonic approval of his ruling as to the meaning of “accident.” It defines the word as follows:
“Anything that happens; an occurrence, event. Especially anything occurring unexpectedly or without known or assignable cause; a contingency; as, ‘accidents’ of war.”
No insurance company can deny that the seventy-seven deaths of the bloody week-end were thoroughly in accordance with the above terms. Unquestionably they happened. Certainly they were “occurrences, events.” Indubitably they were unexpected, at least by the victims. That they were “without known or assignable cause” goes without saying.
As we run our finger a little further down the column in the dictionary definition, however, we strike a snag. We find, for instance, that an accident is “any circumstance, accompaniment, or attribute regarded as present by chance, and therefore non-essential.”
This “non-essential” business is what sticks in our throat. It seems to us that the insurance companies have a good ground here for appeal from Hitler’s double indemnity decree.
If we were a lawyer for the appellant, we would be inclined to contest the edict somewhat as follows:
“Our beloved Reichsfuehrer has described these seventy-seven deaths as ‘accidents,’ which, according to the big office dictionary in the Jewish Daily Bulletin editorial rooms, are ‘non-essential’ attributes of any given situation.
“We respectfully wish to point out to the court that murder can by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as a ‘non-essential’ element of the Nazi credo.
“Murder, bloodshed and brutality, as we all have learned, are of the very essence of our beloved Reichsfuehrer’s policies. They constitute its raison d’etre. How, therefore, can we term those seventy-seven deaths ‘accidents’?”
This plea probably wouldn’t get us very far. Maybe they’d put Adolf himself on the stand, to make a bum of us and our logic. We admit he could shoot it full of holes just as he did his seventy-seven devoted followers with an argument along the following lines:
“On the week-end of June 30, according to a statistical survey, God, in His Almighty Mercy, chose to strike down seventy-seven of our comrades in the full bloom of life.”
Here, if he were doing a conscientious job, he would ogle the jury, wink provocatively at its most susceptible-looking member, and dab furtively at his eyes with a lace handkerchief.
“No one with full knowledge of the situation can doubt for a moment that it was all an unfortunate accident.
“Take my beloved brother-in-arms, Captain Ernst Roehm, for instance. Ernst, if you will recall, ‘died’ twice that week-end. His first ‘death’ came, according to my official announcement, when he committed suicide.
“When my guards looked into his cell the next day, however, they discovered that the unforeseen accident, which we already had announced, hadn’t happened yet. Ernst still had his pistol, and the single bullet in it hadn’t been fired.
“That placed us in a very unpleasant light. Here we had given our official word that an accident had happened to Ernst, and Ernst himself was refusing to heed the command of the inscrutable fates.
“What followed we’ll leave to your imagination. Something must have slipped, probably the trigger finger of one of our guards, who appreciated the meaning of the word ‘accident’ in all its implications.
“May I point out in passing, gentlemen of the insurance companies, that these seventy-seven accidents did not entirely deplete our store, and that we have many more similar accidents ready and waiting for those who cavil over measly little matters like paying double indemnity on insurance policies to the heirs of those poor unfortunates?”
But here, if we were the appellant lawyer, we would have a little accident of our own. Moved by Adolf’s oratorical eloquence and his unquestioned logic, we would break down into tears, withdraw our case and rush to the nearest laundry.
A. J. B.