Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Speer at Glucksburg, the Night Before His Arrest

Manni helped Speer back to his room. Speer sat down on his bed while Manni rummaged through a dresser and found a pair of pajamas for him. “Do you need help getting into them?” he asked.

Speer shook his head. “Sit down, Loerber. Let’s have a last drink,” he said pointing to a nearby chair. Manni sat down while Speer brought out a bottle of schnapps and two glasses from a bedside table. He poured some into each glass and handed one to Manni. He raised his glass to Manni. Manni did the same to him.

“Happy Days,” said Manni.

“Happy Days,” answered Speer.

They drank. Manni drained his glass and set it down. Speer held on to his almost-empty glass and looked hard at Manni. “Am I a fool, Loerber?” he asked.

“Herr Reichsminister?” asked Manni.

“I mean it, Loerber. Tell me the truth. Do you think I am a fool?”

Sitting in his chair, Manni brought himself respectfully to attention. “Yes, Herr Reichsminister, I do think you are a fool.”

“Please tell me why?”

"Herr Reichsminister, is there any point?”

“Just tell me the truth.”

“Because you expect the whole world to see it your way,” said Manni. “You think that all you have to do is explain it to them, factually, in a helpful, reasonable voice, and the world will lose track of what you’ve done. Because you act candid, you assume they’ll accept your explanation that all you were was just a talented technocrat doing his job, no different from all the other people just like you who are doing the same thing all over the world. You think your reason and your irony is enough to keep the shit from touching you when the fact is you’re already up to your ears in it.”

Manni thought for a second, then added, “But beyond that, of course, I think you’re a great guy to work for.”

“And that’s why you’re still here?” Speer asked.

“That’s right.”

“You’re a spy, aren’t you?” said Speer.

Manni Loerber smiled like he’d just been paid a compliment. “And when did you come to that conclusion?” he asked.

Speer slowly shook his head. “In the Ruhr,” he said.

“You knew back in March and you haven’t done anything about it until now? I feel good about that.”

“You are a spy,” said Speer again. “Who are you working for?”

Manni answered proudly. “Herr Reichsminister, it was my honor to serve His Majesty, the King of England.”

Speer didn’t say anything for a while. Then he quietly muttered, “I guess I ought to be relieved it wasn’t the Russians.”

“Well I wouldn’t be too relieved,” said Manni. “It is my unfortunate understanding that all the best information got siphoned off by Soviet counter-spies and sent to Moscow.”

Speer thought about it. “Either way, Germany died.”

“I gather the Allied prognosis was that it was necessary to kill Germany in order to save it,” answered Manni.

“And your prognosis, Herr Loerber?”

“I don’t have one,” answered Manni. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

Speer smiled bitterly. “And I thought you were my friend. You betrayed me.”

Manni shook his head. “No Herr Reichsminister, it wasn’t betrayal.”

“It wasn’t? What was it?”

“It was serving two masters, Herr Reichsminister. And if I hadn’t served you well, we might have had this conversation sooner.”

Speer looked away, fuming with anger and humiliation.

Manni remained standing at attention. “Do you know what this is now?” he asked. “Herr Reichsminister, it is the end of the line. We are at the moment before the axe comes down. I heartily recommend you get some sleep. If you get up early enough, maybe you’ll get to eat breakfast before they come for you.”

Speer looked back up at Manni. “So what did the British pay you?” he asked bitterly.

“Thirty pieces of silver, what do you think? Listen, I’m a Jew, I’d have done it for free.”

“Suddenly everyone’s a Jew,” said Speer.

“I’m sorry,” offered Manni.

“Don’t be,” said Speer. “I’m sure I’m going to hell anyway.”

“Goodnight, Herr Reichsminister.” Manni turned to leave.

“So you’re a Jew?” asked Speer.

Facing Speer again, Manni smiled and gave a curt bow.

Speer shook his head angrily.

“If it’s any consolation, Herr Reichsminister, you almost succeeded in killing us off,” said Manni.

“So that’s what it is now?” said Speer. “You’re blaming me for that? You know I didn’t have anything to do with that.”

“Please, Herr Reichsminister,” said Manni. “Welcome to the rest of your life.”

“So what will become of me?” asked Speer.

“I don’t know,” said Manni. “I doubt they even know what they’re going to do. Ultimately these things tend to take on a life of their own.”

“Unless of course they just decide to kill me on the spot,” suggested Speer.

“That is always a possibility,” accepted Manni. “I don’t know anything other than it’s the Kibosh.”

“Kibosh?” asked Speer.

“It’s one of those American words,” said Manni.

“Ah,” said Speer.

“So what will become of you, Loerber?” asked Speer. “Will you go to London?”

Manni let out a short laugh. “I hope not,” he said. “I’d like to return to Berlin.”

“There’s not a lot there, you know,” Speer pointed out.

“Oh, I know,” answered Manni. “I’m not in that big a hurry. I’ve still got lots of friends in Hamburg. Some of them must be alive. I’m sure I’ll find something there.”

“So you’ve got it all figured,” said Speer.

“Only for the next day or so,” said Manni.

“I guess I should sleep,” said Speer.

“You’ll thank me in the morning, Herr Reichsminister.”

“I’m sure I won’t,” said Speer. “Do something for me, will you?”


“There’s some reports on my desk on the left-hand pile. Bring them to Galbraith. I’d like him to see them. Do this for me, Loerber.”
(Another chapter left out of the published version of Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008; Kindle copy available here).

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