Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Killing of Wolfgang Luth: Who? What? When? ... Why?

“So who is Blood of Israel?” Ziggy asked.

Sebastian gave an ironic smile as he refilled their glasses. “Better you should ask who isn’t Blood of Israel?” Ziggy waited for him to elaborate but instead Sebastian said, “We’re buying land in Palestine, at least my group is. Putting in kibbutzes, nice places, everybody gets along, everybody shares. We’ve started raising vegetables, fruit, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, olives. Have you ever seen an olive tree, Ziggy? They’re incredible.”

Then Sebastian’s face darkened. “But of course, that’s just our group. There are others; anti-socialists, ultra-socialists, revisionists; the Jabotinsky’s, Lehi. More than you can keep track of. Most of the time we work together okay, but now it’s getting funny.”

“Is that what happened at the cove that night?”

“Honestly, I don’t know what happened. All I know was the day before there were all these Jabotinsky-types dressed as Luftwaffe. The next day they were gone. Even I get told only so much.”

“So how do we know this isn’t going to happen again?”

“Relax, there’s not that many people involved. And we only came up with our current plan yesterday when we got the fuel. Plus, the flying boats attracted too much attention. Everybody suddenly wanted to get into the act. No one will bother to think about midget submarines at all.”

“So how did you get the fuel?”

Sebastian shook his head and laughed. “I don’t mind telling you it was truly epic. The kinds of things that happen. We arrange to pump some from the minesweepers and right before we can do it, what happens? They get ordered north by the British. We divert a tanker truck full of diesel from the British, what happens? It gets hijacked by some Scottish infantry who for all I know probably have a deal going with Danish gangsters who’re taking over all the trucking in this part of Germany.”

“And then I realized the solution was right here under our nose. The German Navy might not have a drop to spare, but the Marineschule keeps a nice little store of its own for training cadets in handling large harbor craft. The British didn’t even know about it. It was just a question of finding a way of getting it released to us.”

“I’m telling you, it was a lot easier when the war was still on. Things were a lot more cut and dry. See a guy in an SS uniform, your first thought isn’t how can I get him to do things for me, it’s how do I slit his fucking throat for maximum effect and still get away.”

“And that’s what you did the whole war?” asked Ziggy.

“Well not the whole war. The real killing campaign only started this year, when it became easy to send people in. Before that, we’d infiltrate people into SS units and get information from them, occasionally blow something up, but mostly just basic intelligence stuff. Not that different from what Manni was doing.” Sebastian paused a moment, then added, “In fact, Manni’s been doing plenty of assassinations himself. He won’t tell you that, but our people spotted him in the Ruhr. Once he even got one of our people out of a Gestapo jail, without even knowing who he was. Just went in and did it. It’s not what the British hired him to do, but you know Manni, he likes to do things on his own.”

Ziggy shrugged. “War turns us all into killers.”

The parlor had striped wallpaper, peeling and weathered at the edges, with groupings of tiny framed paintings. There were so many, it was difficult to focus on any one. Ziggy looked at Sebastian, who had fallen silent, a troubled look on his face. His eyes avoided Ziggy as he stared at the wallpaper. Finally, he spoke. “Manni doesn’t think we should go to Palestine, ”he said quietly. “He thinks that once we get Franzi out we should take the gold and fly to Spain. We can keep the fuel money. Nobody knows about that.”

He paused again, rubbing his fist against his lips. Then he stared back at Ziggy. The light had gone out from Sebastian. Now all he looked was tired and desperate.

“I want to get away from this shit, Ziggy.” Sebastian dug his thumb and forefinger into his eyes. He let out a sniff. “I don’t want to keep doing this Blood of Israel. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the killing.”

Ziggy stared at Sebastian. “But what about Palestine, Sebastian? I thought your dream was going to a kibbutz and raising olives?”

“Fuck olives,” mumbled Sebastian. “I’m tired of all this.”

“Tired of being a Jew?”

“No! Yes! No, of course not!” Sebastian let out a long sniff. “I’m tired of the cause. I just don’t want to be part of it anymore. I don’t want people pointing at me and saying ‘do you know what he did?’” Sebastian gave a sheepish grin. “Besides, how long would I last on a farm? A half hour? Fuck Palestine. Let's just go to Spain.”

Ziggy had to laugh. “If we go to Spain, we’ll spend the rest of our lives with everyone thinking we’re Nazis.”

“I don’t care,” sniffed Sebastian.

“How many times can you put the past behind you, Sebastian? I’m sick of new beginnings.”

Sebastian suddenly brightened. “But don’t you see? It won’t be a new beginning at all. We’ll be going back together, to what we were.”

“And how are we going to pay to get to Spain?”

“With the gold the SS gave us for the fuel.”

“What are you talking about?”

“When the SS agreed to give us gold to pay for the fuel, we still know Manni would have one of his own people taking over the fuel dock and we’d get the fuel for free.”

“Take over from whom?”


“Luth was in charge of the fuel?”

“He was rector of the Marineschule, wasn’t he?”

“Well yes, so you would have had to pay off Luth to get the fuel?”

“Yes, that was where everything stalled.”

Ziggy looked at Sebastian and suddenly felt everything crumbling around him. “You killed Luth?”

“Hey, we made him a nice offer and he wouldn’t take it. He acted like a complete prick. He even asked if we were Jews. Can you imagine that? After all we’ve been through, to have some God damn Nazi prick ask, ‘Are you Jews?’ I mean the nerve of some people!”

“You killed...Luth?”

“What do you care? It’s one less Nazi in the world. And he was a real Nazi, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” said Ziggy, staring back at Sebastian. “He was also my captain.”

“I know who he was.”

They stared at each other in leaden silence. “Why did you have to kill him?”

“I beg your pardon, Zigmund, but do you think I need an excuse to kill a Nazi? You really have been in the Navy too long.” Sebastian shook his head incredulously. “If you have a problem with it, try remembering that we’re doing this for Franzi and to bring those SS bastards to justice.”

“And you killed him over fuel oil?”

“I did it for Franzi!” Sebastian’s irritation was now in the fore. “I mean this is stupid, Zigmund. You need to get over this. We’ve got a big task ahead of us and there’s not any point talking about some fucking dead Nazi.”

“It’s not about Luth,” said Ziggy, calmly staring at his brother as if from opposing cliffs. “It’s about Cremer and the men. If they knew any of this, they wouldn’t want to help you. And I’m not going to drag them into it. This is not how the Navy does things.”

Sebastian was furious. “Who the hell do you think you are? You’re suddenly too good for us? Have you already forgotten what you were a part of?”

Ziggy shook his head. “I’m through with this. I don’t want to talk to you again. Keep away from me and Cremer.”

“You’re going to let Franzi die, just so you and your men can keep your white gloves immaculate? I’m not going to let this operation go down because of your willful, high-handed selfishness.” Sebastian stared hard at Ziggy. “Don’t for a moment think we’re going to let you back out.”

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

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