“I see one of them coming out now!” whispered one of the sailors, pointing to a shadowy spot at the foot of the castle wall. Peering through his binoculars, Ziggy made out a dark figure coming out of the ground. It was Franzi, creeping along the bank, looking like he had no idea what to do next.
“Signalman, flash your light at him,” ordered Cremer. “Let him know we’re here.” The
signalman held out his pocket torch and did as he was told. Franzi seemed to
notice it, but still made no attempt to get into the water. “What is he waiting
for?” hissed Cremer. “He needs to get moving before they start shooting at
By now, the shooting had been going on for twenty minutes and was at its height.
The British were pouring gunfire into the castle entrance, but to little
effect. Though they had the forecourt, the SS still had both ends of the bridge
and were shooting down from the castle’s high windows.
“Signal him again,” whispered Cremer.
Franzi looked in their direction and lowered himself down the bank, his feet sliding into the water. He pushed away from the bank and began swimming toward them. Almost immediately there was a burst of machinegun fire from one of the castle windows. Franzi submerged into the water and re-appeared a few seconds later back at the bank.
“Covering fire!” shouted Cremer. Several of the sailors began firing their rifles at the
man in the window, but he remained where he was, shooting back at them,
seemingly unconcerned about the prospect of getting hit.
“Captain,” shouted one of the men. “Here come some Tommies.”
Ziggy turned and saw a group of British soldiers crawling out from the forecourt and working their way along the side of the building toward the moat.
“Cease fire,” shouted Cremer. “Everyone down.”
Still unaware of their presence, the British soldiers came to the corner of the
forecourt nearest the moat and started shooting at the castle entrance. The SS
returned the fire, forcing the British back behind the edge of the building.
Immediately four of the Tommies broke away from the wall and made for the tall
grass where Cremer’s group was hiding. Two were lugging a heavy machinegun, the
others a tripod and belts of ammunition.
“Everyone stay down. Nobody shoot,” hissed Cremer.
A few seconds later, the four Tommies found themselves surrounded by Germans with rifles. “Get down and not a word from any of you,” said Cremer in English. Startled, the four soldiers dropped to their knees and put their hands up.
“We’re trying to get one of our men out,” he told them. “Don’t interfere with us and
we won’t interfere with you. Deal?”
“You are not SS?” asked one of them in oddly accented English.
“No, Navy,” Ziggy answered. Then something occurred to him. “You’re not British, are you?”
None of them said anything.
“You’re Blood of Israel.”
They remained silent.
“Your enemy is across the moat, remember that,” said Ziggy.
“All right then,” said Cremer. “We’re going to be giving covering fire. We won’t
shoot at you. Take your position and good luck.”
As quickly as they could, the four ran to their new positions on the bank. A moment later they had the gun set up and were pouring fire into the castle entrance.
Cremer stood up and waved his arms. “Come on!” he shouted to Franzi. “Get moving!”
Franzi let go of the bank again and began swimming toward them with forceful strokes.
The men in the windows opened up again with their machine guns, which hit the
water only a few yards from Franzi, but he kept swimming.
“More covering fire,” shouted Cremer.
By now the shooting was going on in all directions; from the castle, from inside
the forecourt, from the bank next to it, from the windows and the bridge. But
the hundred yards of water which separated the opponents prevented any of it
from having much effect, other than keeping Franzi pinned down in the middle of
it. He would dive under for stretches of twenty or thirty seconds, then come
back up at nearly the same spot, and resume swimming erratically before being
forced under water again. It was obvious that at the rate he was going, he
would never make it across.
Ziggy tried to think. They had to come up with something quick! Something to make the
shooting stop. Something to entice Himmler and his group into breaking out. Something to- Lightning over the castle. The words jumped into Ziggy’s head and kept repeating themselves like the lyrics to
a music hall song...lightning over the castle...lightning over the castle...lightning over the castle...He tried
to push it out of his mind, but it kept coming back. Lightning over the castle.
“Give me the signal pistol,” he said to Cremer.
“Give it to me!”
Cremer handed it over. “What are you going to do?”
Ziggy didn’t answer, but raised the pistol high in the air and fired it, sending a white hot meteor blazing into the sky. It exploded in a blinding, molten burst, before drifting slowly to the ground.
Ziggy cracked open the pistol and removed the massive spent shell. “Quick! Give me more rounds,” he told Cremer.
“I’ve only got two,” answered Cremer, handing them to him from inside his coat pocket. Ziggy loaded a fresh round and fired it, then the other one. As they watched them explode, a hush came over the battlefield.
Now what? thought Ziggy. In another second everyone would realize it was all a bluff and start shooting again.
But then they heard Himmler's screeching, excited voice echoing from the castle’s entrance,
“It’s the sign! It’s the sign! The prophesy is being fulfilled. Three lightning
bolts over the castle. My time has come. Macher, Grothmann, stop what you’re
doing. We must leave this moment. Our Karma, Macher! We’re invincible!”
A moment later the two Mercedes and the Horch darted across the bridge and into the forecourt. There was gunfire, but the cars never slowed and a few seconds later they were back outside, roaring down the road and disappearing into the
“I don’t believe any of this,” Ziggy heard one of the men saying.
Over on the lake, he could see the splashes and ripples as Franzi quickly swam
towards the shore. He seemed to be doing all right. In another few minutes,
he’d be there. The fake Tommies on the bank had already removed the machine gun
from its tripod and were carrying it away as quickly as they could, but the
ones at the forecourt wall had turned to face Cremer’s group, their rifles at
the ready. One of them was running back to the forecourt entrance.
“I’ve got a feeling they are about to declare our little truce over,” Cremer said to Ziggy.
A minute later, the Tommy re-emerged with a man who looked like he might be their
leader. He waved for one of them to come over.
“I’ll go,” said Ziggy and began walking towards them. The man came forward, walking
quickly and keeping his hands out by his sides, palms open. They stopped a few feet from each other. Back
by the forecourt, the soldiers had assembled in a line, looking like they were ready to start fighting again.
“Hello,” said Ziggy in English.
“So what’s this about?” the man asked in German.
“You tell me,” said Ziggy.
“Who’s this person in the water?”
“That’s not your concern,” said Ziggy.
“You’re one of the Loerber Brothers, aren’t you? Then you’re also a Jew. You should be
helping us instead of them,” he said.
“I just did help you,” answered Ziggy. “Now I want you to go and leave my men alone.”
“That gold belongs to us.”
“Well go look somewhere else. We don’t have it,” said Ziggy. “Don’t take it out on us
just because you screwed up the whole thing.”
“Don’t think the matter is settled yet,” the man said. “We’ll talk again.” And he waved to his men that they were leaving.
(Excerpt from Germania, published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster, now also available on Kindle here).