“You know Loerber, I think you and I are going to make a great team,” said Schellenberg as he and Franzi walked down the fifth floor corridor. Only a week had passed since he’d joined Himmler’s staff and this was the third time he and Schellenberg had lunched together, sitting off in a corner at the senior SS staff dining room. After seven years lost in the Ahnenerbe’s perpetual mystic twilight, the shine was back on Franzi Loerber. And it felt good.
“Thank you, Herr General,” said Franzi. “I am honored to be working for you.”
“Just bear in mind one thing,” cautioned Schellenberg. “Right now you and I have only one goal.”
Franzi nodded. They’d been over it a dozen times already. Eisenhower had made it clear
there would be no peace with the West until Himmler seized power from the
faltering Fuhrer. And Franzi, owing to his calming and persuasive abilities, would
now act as Schellenberg’s spear point in that effort.
The task was proving to be a challenging one to say the least. Though he had
succeeded several times in getting the Reichsfuhrer fired up to the point
where he’d storm off to the Fuhrerbunker to “show Hitler what’s what,” each
time something conveniently went wrong and his determination fizzled out just
short of the breech. Even so, Franzi had brought him far closer to action than
Schellenberg ever had, and Schellenberg remained convinced it was now just a
question of seizing every opportunity to get Himmler to move.
“Another thing to keep in mind, Loerber. Since you’re now part of the team, I might as
well let you in on this little secret. Count Bernadotte is going to be coming
down here very soon and he’ll be bringing with him senior representatives of
the World Jewish Congress to meet with the Reichsfuhrer. They say they’d be willing to
settle things with us because they recognize that what happened to the Jews was
not really the SS’ fault.”
“That’s good news, Herr General.”
“Indeed it is, Loerber.”
Franzi didn’t see how this was possible. After all that had happened in the camps,
after so many millions brutally murdered, how could anyone believe an offer
like that could be anything but a ploy? Maybe this whole thing with Eisenhower
was also a ploy. Why wouldn’t it be? It wasn’t like he was under any obligation
to play fair with someone like Himmler.
There was muffled rumbling in the distance. The Soviet artillery was finally within earshot.
They turned the corner and continued down the corridor back toward the
Intelligence staff offices. Several colonels and majors sprang to attention as
they passed. They offered salutes which Schellenberg and Franzi returned
without comment. Schellenberg was all right, Franzi thought; very collegial and
incredibly bright, especially compared to some of the thugs who’d risen high in
the SS ranks. He probably didn’t even hate Jews. That’s what made it so
difficult to reconcile the crazy things he said with the grim reality around
them. There had to be things nobody else knew about; secret deals,
behind-the-scenes relationships which allowed Schellenberg to retain his
blue-sky optimism. Franzi reminded himself that the man he was talking to was
the most informed person in all Germany. He would know it if the Western Allies believed the Russians would turn on them once the victory against Germany was complete.
Schellenberg continued. “I don’t have to explain how important an agreement like this will
be to the future of Europe. It is imperative Hitler be already out of power when they arrive, so that the
Reichsfuhrer can have a free hand to make deals on behalf of Germany. Use any method you can think of to motivate him. We cannot let this thing fall through!”
(Excerpt from Germania, first published by Simon & Schuster in 2008, now also available on Kindle here).