The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

I love idioms.

And one of my favorites idioms is, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

I fancy reading weird stories, waving my index finger in the air and saying, “That proves it, truth is stranger than fiction.”

I consider, “How many times have I said that idiom over the last 60 years?”

Too many to count.

I wonder, “Who came up with that remarkable phrase?”

Well, it turns out that Lord Byron wrote it in his 1819 epic poem, Don Juan.

“Tis strange but true for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction if it could be told.”

So when I read the TOI headline, “Senior US cop who displayed Nazi sign, made Holocaust jokes gets $1.5 million payout,” I stand in shock.

My mouth spits out three words.

I abbreviate those words in order not offend my reader’s virgin ears.


“WTF is going on?”

Even with all my anger, I stay in focus and keep reading.

I think, “Now they’re paying cops big bucks for displaying Nazi SS rank insignias and telling Holocaust jokes. What a f***** up world. What’s next?”

I try to imagine how much more money this racist cop would have been paid if he praised the Führer, grew a Hitler mustache, threw a few Nazi salutes in police headquarters and said, “Six million weren’t enough.”

Who knows.

But  the cop, Derek Kammerzell, knows the meaning of  chutzpah,

He starts negotiations with the city at  $3.1 million.

I ponder, “What are this guys roots?”

You’re right. His name gave it away. His blood is contaminated by German ancestry.

I wonder, “How will Kammerzell spend this shitload of cash?”

A pilgrimage to Germany and Austria.

A hike to Hitler’s birth place.

A lunch at the Wolf’s Lair.

A visit to the site of the Führerbunker in Berlin and to Wannsee.

A side trip to the camps.

A buying spree for Nazi paraphernalia such as an autographed copy of Mein Kamp, some Iron Crosses, some swastika flags and some SS skull rings.

I keep reading the article and learn:

Derek Kammerzell reached the rank of assistant police chief in Kent, Washington;

He worked for the city for 27 years, when he was accused of pasting Nazi SS insignias above his nameplate on his office;

The insignias consisted of an oak leaf and two diamonds and they were worn by members of the Obergrupperfuhrer in Hitler’s dreaded Schutzaffel  (SS);

Members of the Obergrupperfuhrer  were responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews and others;

Kammerzell insignias stayed above his nameplate for four days.before he was ordered to remove them;

Kammerzell claimed, “I didn’t know about the signifigance of the insignia. I thought they were  for high ranking cops with German lineage;

Kammerzell also told Shoah jokes to other officers,

“My grandfather died in the Holocaust—when he got drunk and fell out of a Nazi guard tower;”

The city found a photo of Kammerzell wearing a Hitler mustache and lederhosen doing a “Heil  Hitler” stiff arm salute;

Kammerzell claimed that in the photo he was only waving not saluting;

For these infractions and dumb lies, he was only given two weeks of unpaid leave.

For me two weeks with no pay seems a little light for a 27 year veteran of the force playing Nazi wannabe while on duty.

Well some pissed off Kent residents agree with me and they get the Kent mayor to put Kammerzell on “paid” administrative leave and demand his resignation.

This was not the brightest move, since the second penalty imposed by the city is considered an example of taking an extra bite out of the apple—double jeopardy—meaning disciplining someone for the same violation twice.

So the city to avoid litigation and possibly having to reemploy Kammerzell, decides to resolve the matter by paying Kammerzell $1,500,000 in exchange for his letter of resignation.

So you may ask, “Mort, what did you learn from this racist-cop-hits-the-jackpot story?”

What can I say, only one thing, that the truth is stranger than fiction.”

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort was a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal. He has recently taken on the post of president of the South Florida Writers Association.
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