Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Speer and Baumbach: Drunk at Schloss Glucksburg.

Placing his feet on the table, Baumbach pushed himself even further backward to get a fuller view of their visitor. The man just stood there looking so comically angry that it made Speer giggle. Then suddenly he realized the man was Himmler and in an instant the drunkenness dried up in him. He struggled to his feet. “Reichsfuhrer, I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you!” he said.

Boiling with anger, Himmler stepped into the room, followed by several tall SS men with machineguns in hand. He smiled icily. “It was a nice try, Speer,” he said. “But once again you were not successful.”

“Whatever are you talking about, Reichsfuhrer?” asked Speer. “I haven’t done anything.”

“You’re not the Reichsfuhrer,” protested Baumbach. “The new Reichsfuhrer is Gauleiter Hanke. I know. I personally flew him to Prague in a helicopter.”

“Be quiet!” Speer hissed. “I’m sorry, Reichsfuhrer, he means no disrespect. Please, is there something I can do for you?”

“What makes you think, even for a second, that you are entitled to my gold, Speer?” seethed Himmler. “I never took your things. Why are you trying to take mine?”

“But I haven’t done anything,” said Speer.

“Done anything?” Himmler cried. “You and your friends just tried to kill me, tried to take my gold! But it didn’t work.” Himmler gloated and raised his finger threateningly. He started accusing Speer of foiling his escape plan, taking over command of KG-200, blowing up his flying boat and oddest of all, selling him to the Jews. And now he was here to settle accounts.

“No, Reichsfuhrer, you’re completely wrong. I-, we- haven’t done anything. We’ve been just sitting here getting drunk all evening. There must be a misunderstanding. Isn’t that right, Werner?” Speer turned to Baumbach, but he had fallen asleep on the couch.

For the first time Himmler stared at Baumbach. “What’s Baumbach doing here? He was supposed to be on the airplane, dead.”

“Sorry?” asked Speer, thoroughly confused. But then, seeing that Himmler’s confusion was even greater than his own, he stepped forward and the next thing he knew, some other part of himself, shrewd, implacable and unaffected by alcohol, had commandeered his mouth, laying out iron-clad reasons why neither he nor Baumbach could have had anything to do with the incident Himmler had escaped from. He assured Himmler that he had never, ever done anything disloyal to him- in fact, he had spoken up for him to Doenitz that very day.

He went on, making complex explanations, and to his surprise, saw Himmler nodding at the different points he was making. Then Himmler waved him to silence. “In that case, Speer, yes, there is something you can do for me.”

“Yes, just tell me what it is, Reichsfuhrer, and it’ll be done at once,” Speer heard himself say.

“I need another airplane, Speer.”

“Yes, of course, Reichsfuhrer,” said Speer. He suddenly felt the waves of drunkenness washing back over him. He wanted to sit down. He wanted to get rid of Himmler quickly so he could go lie down. He wanted to go to the bathroom, but he knew he couldn’t ask Himmler to hold the thought a second while he left the room.

“I need it now, Speer.”

“Yes,” agreed Speer. “Let me see what I can do.” An airplane. He imagined snapping his fingers like a headwaiter. An airplane at once for the Reichsfuhrer! “Airplane?” he repeated. “Yes, ummm, come to my office first thing in the morning and I’ll have it taken care of at once,” he said.

Himmler glared at him. “Not in the morning, Speer. Now!”

“Yes, Reichsfuhrer.”

Himmler was getting angry again. Speer tried to summon up the eloquent person inside himself to explain for him again, but that person seemed to have wandered off. “Ummm, unfortunately under the current circumstances,” he paused to stare at the swimming ceiling, “my current brief as Grand Admiral Doenitz’s chief of ummm, economic and industrial,” his knees were beginning to buckle, Himmler’s face now a grotesque caricature of something from some other time. “Does not allow, allotments of unauthorized,” he imagined having pliers to grab words with, the words like fish, fish like airplanes. “Ummm, airplanes to, ummm current or former members, of the previous government, in accordance with Grand Admiral Doenitz’ explicit, explicitly express, uhhh...agreement with the Allied Control Commission.”

Allies?” shouted Himmler. “It would seem to me, Speer, that you are considerably more concerned with insinuating yourself into their good graces than with preserving Germany’s life spring! You always thought you were better than the rest of us, that you were exempt, just because you were the Fuhrer’s favorite. Now you think because there is a new order taking hold in Europe, you can just disassociate yourself from us and become part of it. Well it’s not that simple. They have to have a reason to want you.

“Let me tell you something else, Speer. There are still numerous changes about to take place, changes which you couldn’t begin to grasp. Being able to design buildings isn’t enough. Now they’re going to want someone who knows what’s going on in the streets, someone who understands the forces of destiny, of karma. You’re nothing more than a grubby little technocrat, Speer. You will never be Eisenhower’s architect!”

Speer felt the words cascading past him and wondered how long it would take for Himmler to tire and either shoot him or just go away. He was staring past Himmler and his aides to the doorway and to his shock saw Manni Loerber wedged between two men like he was their prisoner. Speer stared at Manni, but Manni looked away as though he didn’t know him. What was going on?

And somewhere in his drunkenness, Speer remembered that time in the Ruhr when he’d told him, “If you ever want to trap Himmler, all you have to do is wait outside my office for him to show up in the middle of the night.

“...for the karmic convergence requires very specific...”

ThenSpeer noticed a shadow moving behind the men in the doorway. From nowhere a hand clapped itself over one of the troopers’ mouths. The other hand was clutching a knife which plunged into the man’s neck. Immediately the body went limp and was pulled noiselessly into the darkness. A moment later the same thing happened to the other trooper. The way they were taken, both seemed almost compliant in letting their throats be cut.

The assailant emerged, looking directly at Speer, finger on his lips. It was Manni, clearly Manni. He smiled at Speer for a second as he tapped his brother on the shoulder. A look of sudden understanding flashed through his eyes, then he too disappeared.

Suddenly there was machinegun fire outside. Himmler’s aides sprang to action, pushing Himmler behind them, running up to the doorway and firing shots into the corridor. There was a rapid exchange of fire farther down the hall.

“They’ve killed Bauer and Schmidt!” somebody shouted.

“How’d they get in here?”

“I don’t know.”

“We have to go now!” one of them shouted. “Reichsfuhrer, stay behind us!”

Speer pitched forward, collapsing onto the thick carpet. He gazed up to watch Himmler and the others leave. Outside there was a gun battle going on. But he couldn’t tell what was real anymore and what wasn’t.

(Excerpt from Germania, first published by Simon & Schuster in 2008, now also available on Kindle here).

No comments:

Post a Comment