It was toward the end of the rainy season of 1949 that my employers sent me to investigate some business in southern Brazil. I was commissioned by Hills Brothers, Folgers, and MJB, to search out some new coffees that might suit their individual blends, and I was to arrange to have those coffees shipped to them. I was seeking many millions of dollars in beans. A new coffee producing area was coming into the world market from the Brazilian state of Parana, and according to all of our sources these new beans were of inexplicably fine quality. Clearly the trees had been planted and tended properly, and the beans had been harvested in a manner superior to that which we had come to expect from the Portuguese Brazilians.
I flew out of Sao Paulo to Curitiba in the state of Parana, and ventured by horse and by jeep to the town of Londrina, and thence by horse and by mule and, sometimes, by jeep, to a new and wild town called Arapongas. This town of Arapongas was far from civilization and from law. Arapongas was a town of men, and the men carried guns and knives, except for the blacks and the half-breeds, who carried machetes. Arapongas had dirt streets lined with tents. One stone building housed the bank. Several shacks were constructed of small logs and canvas, and a few rooms were available in these shacks. Each room had a hole in a corner of the floor, and chickens and pigs fought for whatever dropped through that hole. A small board and a stone covered the hole most of the time. Sometimes a mule train arrived from Londrina, bearing supplies. Some of the local farms sold food in an outdoor market. Near the town was what was billed as the biggest tree in the world, and I went there and it was big, very big, and the mules rode around it slowly.
Farther from the town, nazis had constructed a formidable coffee plantation with large houses of logs and canvas, with stables and outbuildings for the storage of beans and the quartering of servants. These nazis were they whom I had been seeking, they who had done such a fine job with the coffee beans. Their current project was the cutting and the piling and the burning of miles and miles of heavy forest.
They had large crews of peasants in camps, guarded as slaves must be guarded. The peasant workers were, I noticed, very heavily fed, for the labor was indeed arduous. From the big houses to the nearest unsullied woods was about 500 yards. In these immediately adjacent woods was a great canyon that made it impractical to cut and to burn those woods, and numerous were the Indians who lived beyond the verge of that wooded canyon. Servants commanded by the Germans, would during the day, deploy baubles along the verge of the woods, baubles such as beads and the links of broken chains, shards of pottery and glass, shell casings. And in the early dusk the nazis would toss back their schnapps as they sat on their huge porches and used the incoming Indians for target practice. The Indians didn't ever quite understand what was occurring, for they wandered childlike and enchantedly among the precious baubles in the clearing. There were several such forward camps of Germans, and the same sport was enjoyed in each camp I visited. Once when I returned to our office in Londrina I was informed that one of these outposts had been discovered with its inhabitants brutally murdered, and that small arrows had been found fledging the unclean bodies, and spears.
Those Europeans who told me of this atrocity were in deep sorrow among themselves, mournfully pondering the subhuman savagery among which our honorable white races must serve. As I gazed from face to face in our offices, and as I realized the bitter outrage which was struggling to the surface in each personality, I must confess that I very nearly giggled. I was very young.