Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Albert Speer, Magic, the Fall of Nazi Germany and the Story of the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers

Maybe my big problem as an author is that I don't properly grasp the concept of "Paranormal."

I just write novels about reality and if that reality happens to have what someone else considers "magic," that's kind of their problem.  I just consider it reality.  Reality is what exists and it has rules and, being reality, it's mostly gritty and messy and utterly, totally lacking in wonderfullness.  Okay, so people have visions, and can levitate and project ideas into other people's minds. They still have itchy feet and achey knees and if Franzi Loerber, one of my protaganists, has just managed to project enough psychic slippery onto a couple of stairsteps that an SS Major going down them has just flown ass-over-teakettles and broken his neck,   well Franzi is definitely going to be so wiped out from that feat, that all he's going to do is go find an empty chair and curl up into it and crash. To me, that's just reality.  But in book publishing, it's considered paranormal.

Both of my novels, Germania and Friend of the Devil, are full of encounters with the magical and the surreal and characters with abilities that are beyond their understanding. But I still think of it as realism rather than "Paranormal."

So you may wonder who the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers are and what all this happens to do with Albert Speer and the fall of Nazi Germany. Read on.

They were the toast of old Berlin. For ten years, during the raucous golden era before the Nazi takeover, the Magical Loerber Brothers were indisputably Berlin's most popular variety act.

What was it about the four young men that so completely captured the hearts of their audiences? Was it simply that they were identical? Or was it the way they somehow brought kitschy, lowbrow entertainment to a level which even the edgiest of the avant-garde found irresistible? No, it was something more than that. The brothers were magic. They were so magic, in fact, that even when the Nazis took over, none of them bothered noticing that they were Jewish.

But even magic has its limitations. In life, no one is ever truly exempt. What were they like ten years after their act had broken up, when they were pushing thirty and the Third Reich which had loved them so unconditionally was in its last bloody weeks?

Perhaps the best person to answer that question would be Albert Speer, Hitler's architect, armaments minister, and estranged only friend. At the time he ran into Manni Loerber, Speer was crisscrossing the industrial Ruhr in a lonely, fruitless rebellion against Hitler's orders to blow up everything before it fell into American hands. Manni was sneaking around the Ruhr, killing any Nazi Party official he could get his hands on. Speer needed help. Manni Loerber needed cover. And with Manni's uncanny ability to talk anyone into nearly anything, things suddenly began turning around for Speer. They were going so well, in fact, that Speer soon began believing that, like Manni, he could alter reality. Crazier still, he even started to think he had freed himself from Hitler.

What happened to Speer was not that different from what was also happening to SS spymaster Walter Schellenberg. After more than a year unsuccessfully trying to goad his powerful but hopelessly indecisive and superstitious boss, Reichsfuhrer SS Himmler, into deposing Hitler and ending the war, Schellenberg had just about given up hope. Then in walked Franzi Loerber, a low-level horoscope-jockey who'd spent the entire war buried in the bureaucratic depths of the Ahnenerbe, the SS mystical research institue. Franzi, it turned out, had an ability to calm Himmler and quickly turn his waffling into confidence and steely determination. Suddenly Schellenberg was back in business, or so he thought.

The normally crafty and suspicious Schellenberg should have easily figured out that Franzi Loerber was a Soviet mole, but he didn't, for the same reason Speer didn't really care that Manni Loerber was most certainly a British spy and assassin. They needed to believe in magic.

Then, of course, there are the other two Loerber brothers. There is Sebastian, whom everyone believes is long dead, only now he has turned up with the Blood of Israel, a Jewish underground group which is using his unique ability to project dreams to sow terror in their enemies' hearts. And then there is the normal one; Ziggy Loerber, the U-Boat ace, whose hatred of the Nazis runs nearly second to the aversion he feels toward his own nutball siblings and their carryings-on. Given the choice of a reunion or death, he would have gladly chosen the latter. But things don't always turn out the way people would like.

With Berlin falling and the war crashing towards its end, everything is thrown into chaos, and responsibility for continuing the fighting falls onto the shoulders of Grand Admiral Doenitz, head of the Navy and commander of the Northern Zone. With the war lost, all he wants is to die like a soldier. And he might have gotten to, had a telegram not arrived from Berlin, informing him that Hitler was dead and he was now the new Fuhrer.

In the midnight after Hitler's death, the remnants of Nazi Germany converge on Flensburg, a small port city on the Danish border where Doenitz has set up his capital. There they try to conjure up a rosy future in which their Nazi pasts do not matter. Some imagine glowing relationships with Eisenhower, the man they presume will now rule Europe like a Caesar. Others dream of escaping to Greenland to write their memoirs. Others try ingratiating themselves with the Allied Control Commission representatives wandering about. It's springtime and seeing Doenitz' government grow each day, people begin believing it might actually put down roots and last beyond the few days allotted to it through the world's inattention.

And into this world sail the four Magical Loerber Brothers. Though most have spent the war far from the spotlight, once in proximity of each other, their celebrity quickly catches up with them. Nobody cares that they are not the same people they were fifteen years earlier. In the public's memory, they are inseparable from the good old Weimar days and by extension, a portent of better times to come.

But to them, it is not so easy. While their reunion might be preordained by the stars, its tragic outcome is written in the war's lingering brutality and their divergent paths which can no longer be fully bridged by love, hope or magic.

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