“Korvettenkapitän Cremer,” asked Doenitz. “Did you not suggest to me several days ago that we move the flying boats out of Flensburg harbor to the patrol station to the north?”
“Yes, Grand Admiral, that is correct,” said Cremer. He stood rigidly at attention, the way they always did when
reporting to the Old Man. Ziggy was next to him, waiting for when the Grand Admiral’s wrath got directed at him, while in chairs a few feet away, two Allied officers glared at them with undisguised malice.
“Didn’t you also inform me that you were placing lookouts in the surrounding hills to keep an eye on them?”
“Yes, Grand Admiral.”
“So then, logically speaking, you should have known anything that might have been going on up there.”
“Yes, Grand Admiral.”
“But yet you profess to know nothing of the incident which took place last night. How is that?” Doenitz regarded them
both icily. He was furious. Twenty minutes earlier the British and American
officer had stormed into his office, accusing him of secretly moving the flying
boats out of sight in order to allow a large number of former Nazi officials to
escape. To defend himself, he called in Cremer and Ziggy, the two men who were
supposed to keep him on top of these things. But instead everything they were
saying made him look like a liar, or worse, a fool.
“Well?” asked Doenitz.
“Grand Admiral,” Cremer began. “At the time the incident at the cove took place, my men and I were involved in an
operation at Schloss Glucksburg, assisting a British unit in an attempt to
capture Reichsfuhrer Himmler, and therefore could not leave to investigate.”
Doenitz sat still, like an iceberg which had just become infinitely colder.
The British colonel raised his eyebrows incredulously. “Really?” he asked. “We are not aware of any effort by our
forces to subdue the Reichsfuhrer.”
“Why wasn’t I informed about this?”asked Doenitz.
“Because it was a secret operation,” volunteered Ziggy and immediately regretted it.
“Secret? Secret from whom?” asked the American.
“Sir, we were asked not tell anyone so as not to jeopardize the operation’s success.”
“Told by whom?”
“A British intelligence officer named Major Westerby.”
The two Allied officers exchanged significant glances. For a second, Ziggy thought he saw just the tiniest glint
of relief in Doenitz’ implacable mien, that perhaps this was all just a misunderstanding and that his trusted captains were merely doing what they’d been ordered.
“Were you?” asked the British officer. “And when did he call you to action?”
“Last night around 8:30,” said Cremer.
“You’re lying, Captain Cremer,” said the American.
“Captain?” asked Doenitz. “I expect you to tell the truth.”
“I am telling the truth,” said Cremer.
“Captain Cremer,” said the American. “Major Westerby has been dead for two days.”
“Murdered,” the British officer added.
Ziggy felt the coldness which always came over him whenever he learned a friend or former shipmate had died. Poor
Westerby, he thought. He’d been right about the danger Franzi was facing.
“Actually, the request came from Major Westerby’s adjutant,” Ziggy said.
“Oh?” said the British officer. “And who might that be?”
“His name is Manni Loerber.”
There was a very long silence. The British officer stared at Ziggy. Doenitz stared at Ziggy. The American looked
like he didn’t know what was going on.
“Manni Loerber?” asked the British officer in a shrill voice, like he knew he was being pointedly insulted. “Manni
Loerber of the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers? Is this your idea of a joke?”
“My brother,” said Ziggy.
“Grand Admiral,” the British officer turned angrily to Doenitz. “What is going on?”
“Captain Cremer,” said Doenitz, coldly as before. “Explain what your subordinate is talking about.”
“Sir?” asked Ziggy.
“Not another word out of you, Loerber,” said Doenitz. “Captain Cremer, report.”
“Major Westerby approached us with his adjutant Corporal MacDonald, who it turned out was really Captain Loerber’s
brother Manni, who then called us last night to provide support for an
operation against Himmler. He never said anything about flying boats or
anything going on in the cove, only to expect Himmler’s arrival sometime
shortly after 10:30 at Schloss Glucksburg. But since the flying boat blew up at
precisely 10:30, I assume he must have had something to do with it.”
“Corporal MacDonald?” countered the British officer. “I know for a fact that Major Westerby never had anyone
working for him with that name.”
The American jumped in. “I think we can stop this part of the discussion right here.”
“But Colonel,” protested the British officer, “if this Corporal MacDonald knows something, shouldn’t we..."
The American cut him off. “This discussion is closed, Colonel.”
Ziggy watched them stare at each other; the British officer red with indignation, the American angry at having had to
reveal that he’d been holding back on some key information. The British officer looked away from the American and, facing the window, asked, “So then, Captain Cremer, was this joint operation you describe successful?”
“No, the Reichsfuhrer and his men got away.”
“Perhaps this phantom operation was actually just a way of helping Himmler to escape?”
Doenitz bristled. “Colonel, I can assure you none of my people have been helping Himmler in any way,” he said.
“We have been scrupulous in observing to the letter the terms of the surrender agreement and any suggestion to the contrary is an affront to the Navy’s honor.”
But the American was already in a hurry to wrap things up and get out. He stood up, forcing his British counterpart to
do the same. “We’ve heard enough, Grand Admiral,” he said. “We’ll be making our recommendations to Supreme Headquarters. I can assure you that neither General Eisenhower nor the EAC will take any of this lightly. Good day, gentlemen.” And with that, they walked out.
(Excerpt from Germania, published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster, now also available on Kindle here).