Friday, September 5, 2014

Reich Government Finally Meets to Discuss Minister Appointments

Doenitz sat at the head of the table, correct and steely-eyed as always. Schwerin von Krosikg, the chancellor and foreign minister, sat to his left, while Speer, in charge of the economic portfolio, at at his right. The other ministers and advisors sat around the table, all of them looking very serious. Doenitz's government was now ten days old. At its inception, it had consisted of Doenitz, Speer, and von Krosigk, and a geographical realm that, besides northern Germany, included all of Denmark, Norway, Bohemia, and Crete, plus fragments of Russia, Latvia, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and even the British Channel Islands. Now there were more than a dozen ministries, several special departments, and more than sixty typists, clerks, and other staff members. The government's territorial jurisdiction, on the other hand, barely extended beyond the gates of the Marineschule.
They convened each day to have meetings, explore problems, issue orders, and attempt to establish some coherence amid the chaos. But what effect any of it had was hard to say. Whether their orders would be carried out, or, for that matter, even delivered, was largely beyond their control. The all-powerful Allied Control Commission was a bureaucratic hydra that stood in their way, without having any clear plan of its own. From time to time, its members would show up and nose around and issue orders and directives, whose meaning they usually seemed at a loss to explain. 
The discussion on fertilizers went on for another twenty minutes and then they moved to the next topic on the agenda: churches. The question was whether a portfolio should be added for religious affairs. Dorpmuller, the transportation minister, suggested it might be a good idea, given everything the German people had just gone through, indeed it was necessary, that a Christian moral culture be reinstituted in the state.
People bristled at the idea. "Are you suggesting that just because National Socialists weren't Christian, they weren't moral?" one of the ministers countered.
"All I'm saying is we need to go back to old, traditional values. For more than a thousand years the Germans have been a Christian people. We need to emphasize that point both to ourselves and to the world. I think it would also be a good idea to embrace the contemporary Christian theology of human dignity."
"Do you have anyone in mind?" asked Doenitz.
"Yes, I do, Grand Admiral. I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be a perfect candidate. Last I heard he was still alive. We should see if we can locate him."
While an aide was dispatched to make some calls, the topic changed to banking issues. There wasn't enough money on hand to pay state employees or to fund purchases of emergency foodstuffs from Sweden and Portugal. The question boiled down to asking the Allies permission to print an emergency issue of reichsmarks. They were discussing it when an aide returned to inform them that Pastor Bonhoeffer had been executed by the Gestapo two weeks before.
The afternoon meeting wound down and Speer trudged back to his office to find a young Luftwaffe colonel waiting for him. It took Speer a second to realize it was Werner Baumbach, whom he'd often run into while kayaking on the Havel back before the war.
By the look of him, Baumbach was the happiest man in the world. He'd just arrived in Flensburg and only now had it occurred to him that he'd survived the war in one piece. And on top of it, it was May and everything was in blossom and he'd seen his first women in several months and they were even more beautiful than he'd remembered them. He'd billeted himself at Schloss Glucksburg, a nearby castle owned by his friend the Duke of Mecklenburg-Holstein, and it was great!
"You Luftwaffe buys have all the luck," said Speer, trying to sound upbeat. "I just got kicked out of my quarters by the British." He told Baumbach how he and the rest of the government had been living aboard the Patria, an old Hamburg-Amerika liner docked in the harbor. But that morning they had been told to vacate it and were now crammed into the cadets' dormitories. He gave a sour look.
Baumbach laughed. "Well, that's great, then, Albert. You can stay with me! There's plenty of room, plenty of food, plenty to drink. Get your stuff together. Let's go!"
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, ebook version available on Kindle here).

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