The Loerber Brothers: Which One Is Your Favorite?
He remembered seeing the words in white lettering inside a black circle on a magazine page. And a crooked headline snaking across it asking Which One is Your Favorite?
And suddenly the names started hitting him like waves: Ziggy, Franzi, Sebastian and suddenly Speer knew exactly which one he was.
Yes?” asked the young man.
"You’re Manni of the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers.”
The young man turned back and dazzled them with his smile. Then he turned back to keep his eyes on the road.
That first day they visited ten different factories and at each of them, whoever was running it; the owner, the general director, the workers’ committee, or in one case, an elderly, one-armed, ex-infantry general, all immediately agreed to join Speer’s campaign. It was as if everyone’s fear suddenly evaporated. The day after that, they visited two mines, a railroad roundhouse, an electrical generation station and the Bayer Pharmaceutical Works, which was now host to an artillery battery. There too, everyone agreed not to obey the scorched-earth orders when they came in. “Let ‘em come here and try to tell us what to do,” shouted a bunch of electrical workers waving machine pistols in defiance. “We’ll show those Nazi pigs what for!” And even the artillery battery commander, under strict orders not to move an inch, readily agreed to relocate his guns away to a less sensitive spot. “They don’t have to know anything,” he told Speer. “None of it makes any difference anyway. Let’s keep the chemical works intact.”
And in each case, Speer and von Poser hadn’t done anything any different than what they’d done in previous visits. The only difference was that at some point, Manni would step in and say something completely unremarkable like, “I can understand your misgivings on this, but if you’d just let me explain something to you...” And then he’d say something that, on the face of it, wasn’t that different from what Speer had tried himself. But this time it worked. Whatever they asked for, they got.
Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, now also available on Kindle here.