Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Doenitz Blows Cool When Giant, Uber-secret Flying Boats Show Up in Flensburg

Rather than drive directly back to the Marineschule, Cremer drove to a hillside overlooking the tiny harbor. There must have been a hundred ships and boats crammed in there; U-boats, destroyers, freighters and tankers, along with dozens of tugs, gunboats, patrol craft and minesweepers. None flew flags. Floating on the glistening water, in the bright morning light, they looked colorless, except for streaks of red oxide and rust.

“Let me show you something,” said Cremer, pointing to the far corner of the harbor. Ziggy looked and to his utter shock, saw that there was a scattering of seaplanes and behind them, three monstrous four-engine flying boats bobbing in the water. He couldn’t believe it. Until now, the only flying boats he’d ever seen had been much smaller British Catalinas. Early in the war, there had been a lot of enthusiastic talk about some getting built for the German Navy. But since, as the saying went, everything that flew belonged to fat Hermann Goering, a man with a pronounced antagonism towards naval affairs, the matter was apparently shelved. But now, here, a few hundred meters from him, three of them floated like a fact of life.

“My God,” exclaimed Ziggy, “I didn’t even know we had any!”

“Neither did the Grand Admiral,” said Cremer giving a bitter smirk. “Needless to say he flew into a rage when they suddenly appeared the other day. They’re special operations stuff. Flew in two days ago from Bornholm, right when the Russians were moving in. They’re part of something called KG200, a top secret unit no one has ever heard of, not Jodl, not Keitel, not even anyone from the Luftwaffe High Command. Officially they’re Luftwaffe, but under SS command. Of course your friend Westerby seemed to know all about them. Apparently he believes Himmler ordered them here for his getaway.”

“Do you think it’s true?”

“It could be. It’s just that the SS has vanished once they found out that the British were looking for them. Nobody has seen neither hide nor hair of Himmler in days. We heard he was up at Field Marshall Busch’s headquarters for a while, but then Busch withdrew his hospitality and no one knows where he is now.

“So why are the flying boats here?”

“That is the big mystery,” mused Cremer. They just showed up here one morning, like a flock of snow geese. Doenitz had the pilots brought in and demanded they tell him who ordered them to come here. They say they don’t know, that it all comes from a secret source.”

“So what did they claim they’d been using those boats for?”

“Supplying weather stations in Spitzbergen and Greenland.”

“What a waste!” sighed Ziggy. “Think how many U-boat crews we might have saved if we’d had access to them.”

“That’s what the Old Man said."

For a minute, neither of them said anything as they continued to stare at the huge, floating aircraft.

“So how is everything here?” asked Ziggy. “Are things calming down at all?”

“Oh sure, a little,” answered Cremer. “The night the surrender got announced, there was a lot of howling. A mob of U-boat officers stormed into the Old Man’s offices demanding to speak to him. It was about three in the morning. Ludde Neurath sent them all away. He told them the Grand Admiral was sleeping, that they had their orders and they were to follow them and keep their mouths shut. It was really quite a performance. I never imagined Ludde Neurath had it in him. Half of those guys were senior to him. But at the moment, yeah, things are quiet. I don’t know how long that will last. Anything could set it off.”
(An abbreviated version of this chapter appears in Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008; Kindle download available here).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bluesman Drives the Devil to the Crossroads

Mr. Stevens Explains the Devil's Proposition to Bluesman Herbert T. Barrow. And Why He Dresses Like a Preacher.

“I’m not a preacher,” says Stevens.

“Well then, why you go around dressing like a preacher?”

“Hey, it’s a free country, innit? Listen,” he says, “you can look high and low in this world of ours and you’d be hard pressed to find any evidence of God’s existence. Ain’t that right?”

“Boy howdy,” I say. “I’ve certainly never seen any.”

“On the other hand, evidence of the Devil’s existence is everywhere you look. But the only reason you don’t acknowledge this is that you insist the two deities are linked together.”

Hearing him put it that way, I let out a laugh. “The two deities, that’s funny. I almost like that!”

“No, no,” he says, excited. ”Just one. You only need to believe in the Devil.”

“The Devil? Shit!”

“No! The Devil is your friend,” says Stevens. “The Devil’s proposition is the only one that makes any sense.”

“And what is the Devil’s proposition?”

“Don’t be weak, don’t be meek. You see something you want, take it. Somebody gets in your way, knock them down. Do anything you want. Satisfy your cravings. Don’t regret anything. Life won’t last forever, so enjoy it while you have it. You’re going to Hell anyway. All the Devil asks is that you give him your soul.” Stevens smiles sweetly, like he’s proud of his explanation.

“And that’s why you’re heading to the Crossroads? To trade in your soul for something?”

“Not exactly,” he says with a grin. Then I see the sign for the Highway 61 Crossroads.

(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle) .

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Reichsminister Albert Speer Pays His Respects to a Dead Jewish Acrobat

Except for the old lady who owned the house, everyone else was gone.

Ziggy stared down at the body. Looking at his dead brother, he still didn’t know what to feel. Regret? Loss? Inconsolable sadness? None of them were there. Perhaps they’d come later.

Manni came over and sat down across from the body.

Ziggy looked over at him. “He told me you were an assassin,” he said.

Manni looked at him like he wasn’t sure he was an imbecile. “And you’re a U-Boat captain with the Knight’s Cross,” he answered. “How many ships did you sink?”

"Including my time with Luth, fourteen.”

"That’s a lot of ships,” said Manni.

"Manni, do you feel the British gave you enough respect?”

Manni blew a burst of air through his nose, letting Ziggy know that what he’d said was funny, though not amusing.

"Where were you when Father died?” asked Ziggy.

"In Canada,” he answered. “Did you hear where Franzi was?”

Ziggy shook his head.

Manni offered a wry smile. “Tibet.”


"Ahnenerbe field trip.”

"Did he find anything?”

"Besides a bad case of the clap? I don’t think so.”

The door opened and the old lady gestured at Manni from the threshold. He got up. “Look,” he said, “we’re going to have to decide what to do about Franzi. We’ll talk about it when I get back.” Then he followed the old lady into the hall, closing the door behind him.

Ziggy stared down at the threadbare carpet and the stray threads splitting off from the worn spots and suddenly knew the path that lay ahead for Franzi. Himmler’s group wouldn’t stay together much longer. It wasn’t possible. Things were so unstable now that even the slightest obstacle would cause them to fray and spin out in different directions, and once that happened, Franzi would be free. He saw it with diamond-sharp clarity.

He looked at Sebastian and suddenly the sadness was tearing him apart. If only he could have known this. How long had he been dead? He looked at the reddening sky outside the window. Twenty four hours, the same as eternity.

He stood up and went over to the body and brushed his hand against Sebastian’s hair. He found himself remembering the old days when they were performing. Had he ever known how brilliant he was? Had he ever looked beyond the top hats and tails, the five-six-seven-eight razzmatazz and seen what the rest of the world all took for granted? That the seedy glamour and corniness were nothing more than a picture frame in which genius ran free? Ziggy had hated the reminiscing too. But they really had been something. Better than cartoons, as good as jazz.

The door opened. Ziggy looked up and saw Manni re-entering the room, followed by a man in a dark suit. It was Speer.

"Ziggy, you’ve met Herr Reichsminister Speer, haven’t you?” said Manni. Speer put his hand out and Ziggy shook it. “Please, allow me to extend my condolences over the death of your brother,” said Speer.

"Thank you,” said Ziggy.

Speer looked down at Sebastian’s body and tears welled in his eyes. He turned to Manni. “Honestly, Herr Manni, after all we’ve been through, I didn’t imagine anyone’s death would bother me this much, but it does. I don’t understand why.

"It’s funny how you hope for things. I thought that with the war ending we’d all get to see you perform again.” A tear ran down his cheek. He gave a polite bow and left.

Ziggy and Manni returned to their chairs. They sat for a while, then Manni said; “Sebastian is dead. That can’t be changed. Now what are we going to do about Franzi?”

Ziggy spoke quietly. “I’ve got a feeling that Franzi’s time will come soon. And when it does, he won’t need our help.”

"Is this something that you suspect, or are you getting premonitions?”

"No and yes,” said Ziggy.

Manni looked genuinely amazed. “I thought you didn’t do this anymore.”

Ziggy shrugged.

The hostess gestured at Manni again. “We’ll talk about this later,” said Manni. “Let me see what she wants.”
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, now also available on Kindle here).