At the edge of the park was a hillside that overlooked Flensburg harbor. Ziggy lit a cigarette and stared out at the ships anchored there. Apart from all the U-Boats, there were destroyers, corvettes, minesweepers, patrol craft, and even a cruiser. And in all of them, probably not more than a few dozen crew still aboard. They were dead ships, the German Kriegsmarine was a dead navy. The victors would divide them among themselves. A few ships might live on a few years as workhorses or testing vessels. The rest would be broken up for scrap, used for targets or just sunk.
Then he realized the flying boats were gone. Cremer must have already got them towed up to the cove. Manni definitely
had a clever idea. Had the flying boats remained there in plain view, they’d quickly stop seeming special and simply fade into the mosaic of rusting, derelict warships. But now, having been revealed and then promptly hidden, their mystique would exert itself deeper into the imagination, making the prospect of flying away in one all the more tantalizing. And that is precisely how they wanted Himmler to react. He wondered when he’d hear again from Manni
So where was Franzi right now? Could he feel his way toward him? Once it had been easy to do, but he hadn’t done any of
it in so long that he no longer even knew where to start. Ziggy kept trying to imagine Franzi somewhere, in a forest or a house or inside a vehicle, but each time he did, the idea failed to grow into anything real. He knew he was going
about it the wrong way.
Was it possible he’d lost his ability? And what was that ability anyway? What were the mechanics of perception? Perhaps if he just focused on one thing, Franzi, was he far or near? What were his eyes seeing? What was he thinking? What did his skin feel? Warmth or cold? Cold or warmth? Cold. Dry or damp? Dry. What was he smelling? Cooked
cabbage and tinned beef, cold and greasy on a plate. Cigarette smoke, open window and a night breeze, smell of pine. Pine trees outside the window, the wind blowing through them. They were in a farmhouse, inland, but still close
enough to smell the sea. They were keeping within reach of Flensburg. There was a forest nearby, men hiding inside it. Lines of kubelwagens hidden under camouflaged tarps. They were staying put, waiting for something to come. Inside
everyone was tense.
Ziggy opened his eyes. A bluebird was looking at him from a nearby branch. It chirped and then flew away. Ziggy went back to the office.
Back at his desk, there were more supplicants awaiting him. One by one, he sent them away, not bothering to
trouble the Grand Admiral about any of them. In the middle of the afternoon, the door opened and in walked Wolfgang Luth. “Hello Number One,” he said.
Ziggy looked at him. The moment he had dreaded had arrived. “Hello, Sir,” he said.
Luth looked surprised. “When did you get so formal? How’ve you been? I heard you went to see Eisenhower. Is he as
nice as they say? Come on, Loerber, tell me what you’ve been up to? Seen any of the old gang?”
“Oh,” said Ziggy, “besides Captain Cremer, I haven’t seen much of anybody. I’ve been pretty busy.”
Luth gave a sour, but good-natured look. “Busy? Sitting at a desk? What’s going on with you, Loerber?”
Ziggy shrugged. But somehow he couldn’t come up with anything resembling the usual banter.
Luth looked at him and his expression grew serious. “I sent you congratulations when you got oak leaves on your
Knight’s Cross. I wrote you again when you got the diamonds. You never wrote back either time. I told myself you were busy but now you’ve been here a week and you haven’t even dropped by to see me once. What’s going on?”
Ziggy shrugged noncommittally, but his heart was pounding.
Luth continued. “When you didn’t write back, I knew something was wrong. I wrote you again and you didn’t write then
either. What is it, Loerber? I’ve done something to offend you, haven’t I?”
Ziggy said nothing.
“You should tell me what it is,” said Luth. “This is the time when we need to stick together. You know I’ve always
considered you my brother and if there is something wrong, then for the sake of our brotherhood, you should tell me what it is. This war has been bad enough. We shouldn’t go into peacetime bearing grudges. It’ll poison things.”
Luth was looking at him earnestly and Ziggy knew he was expecting an honest answer. He remembered again the times they’d stood together on a deck, witnessing the death groans of a ship they’d torpedoed as its insides ripped apart. “Yes, I do have something to say to you.”
“Then say it.”
“I’m a Jew.”
Luth stared at him a very long time. “I see,” he said finally. “So I suppose there’s nothing more to say, then.”
Ziggy said nothing.
Luth turned and walked away.
(Excerpt from Germania, first published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster, now also available on Kindle here).