Chapter 16 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 16

Once again the view of the mountains from his mountaintop retreat at Berchtesgaden was breathtaking. Adolf Hitler, however, did not even notice it. He was too angry. His military leaders were failing him. First, the campaign to destroy the Soviet Union for once and for all was bogging down badly in the mud of southern Russia. Field Marshal von Paulus was complaining about the lack of resources he possessed as well as the unexpected tenacity of the Red Army. Hitler was beginning to have doubts about von Paulus’ suitability for high command. The Russians were inferior people and should have been crushed. Yes, it was a very long way from Berlin to where the battles were raging, but von Paulus had an army of more than a million men with several hundred thousand others buttressing his flanks. There was yet another army protecting his lines of supply from hordes of partisans who were causing incredible damage.

Hitler ignored the two men standing behind him. Their turn would come. In the meantime, he would have someone draft a memo to von Paulus that would light a fire under him. The Russians would collapse if they were pressed, he was certain of that. Yes, the terrain was awful and going to get worse the farther east they went, but it was bad for both sides. The route of attack had been chosen because it largely bypassed the Ural Mountains to the north. Once around the southern flank of the mountain range, von Paulus was to split his army and send one half north to destroy the Red’s new production facilities, while the southern half continued eastward, conquering as it went. The Soviets might think that their land went on forever, but they were wrong. They would have to capitulate soon.

First, however, he had to convince his generals that this could be done. He also had to deal with his admirals, two of whom were standing behind him, looking like school children who’ve been caught doing something bad. Well, he thought, they had.

“Admiral Raeder, when will the relief convoy sail for the Americas?”

The commander of the Kriegsmarine, Germany’s navy, winced but did not look intimidated.

“My Fuhrer, there will be no convoy. We do not have the transport ships to send and we do not have enough of a navy to protect the ships even if we did have them.”

“Explain yourself, admiral,” Hitler said, his voice dripping acid.

“As you well know,” Raeder said with thinly veiled sarcasm, “we would require several hundred merchant ships to send a relief army of sufficient size to Canada and it would require that fleet to make several trips and it would have to be well protected. We simply do not have the warships to convoy that fleet. Please recall that we said that we would not be prepared to fight either the U.S. or Great Britain on the high seas for several years. I believe our victory over England and Russia caused us to believe that a large German navy was no longer necessary. Instead, iron and steel that could have been used to build surface warships went instead to build the tanks and planes von Paulus is using to defeat the Soviets.”

Hitler seethed. “I gave you three hundred U-boats, which is what you asked for. With them, you said you could sweep the seas of enemy ships. When I suggested that a picket line of submarines be employed to protect relief convoys, I do not recall hearing any objections from you.”

Raeder shook his head sadly. “And that is because we underestimated the problems our submarines would have. The Americans have proven to be extremely skillful opponents. As of this date, at least thirty of our subs have been killed with a likelihood of many more. All sub captains are expected to check in by radio each day and at least twenty have not been heard from in several days. We are afraid they have been lost as well.”

Hitler was aghast. Fifty subs destroyed? The Reich no longer had the resources to replace them. Raeder was correct. With England neutralized and the United States run by Jews and cowards, Germany had focused on developing the weapons necessary to destroy the remnants of the Soviet Union, a job that von Paulus appeared to be botching.

“What about our surface fleet? We can send the Tirpitz along with our other warships, can’t we?”

“When the Tirpitz was first launched,” said Raeder, “she was one of the largest and most modern battleships in the world. She and her sister, the Bismarck, were almost unconquerable. Now, the Bismarck is sunk and the Tirpitz just one among many equivalent battleships. The Americans have a number of massive new battleships with more under construction. In addition to the Tirpitz, we only have two smaller battleships, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisnau, and a handful of heavy cruisers that could form a battle line, and that includes our remaining pocket battleships.”

“And what about our beloved allies?” Hitler asked. “What can they contribute?”

“The Italians have a few capital ships remaining,” Raeder answered, “but they are locked in the Mediterranean because the Americans control Gibraltar. That and the fact that Mussolini is afraid they will be sunk and he will be disgraced. Both are likely, by the way. His warships sacrificed armor for speed and cannot slug it out with the Americans or even the British if they finally show up. The French have but one battleship and one out of commission aircraft carrier.”

“Speaking of which,” Doenitz injected, “the Americans have a number of aircraft carriers now operating in the Atlantic, along with unsinkable air bases at Gibraltar, Lisbon, Oporto, Iceland, and they even now have a small base at Greenland that they are enlarging. They also still have a base at Gander, Newfoundland.”

“Which is doubtless part of the reason the Americans are so able to seek out and destroy our U-boats,” Raeder added. “Sometimes it seems like they actually know where they are or are going to be. We have badly underestimated their technology.”

“More Jewish science,” Hitler muttered angrily.

The Fuhrer paced the balcony. A strong cold wind had begun to blow, but he ignored it. “Here is what will happen. Despite von Paulus’s whining he will press on and destroy the Soviets, no matter what the cost. Once Russia has been crushed and capitulates, the United States will find that she stands alone. She will then negotiate with us and we will be in a position of strength despite the failings of the Kriegsmarine.”

Raeder stiffened. Hitler had been responsible for starting the war before the German navy was ready and Hitler was the one who’d starved it of ships and men in order to feed the insatiable needs of the army. Dictators have short memories, he concluded ruefully.

“Then what of our army in Canada, my Fuhrer?” Raeder asked.

Hitler laughed and clapped his hands. “Why it is all Guderian’s responsibility. He has so often told me what a great general he is, now he will have a chance to prove it. I will promote him to field marshal, which is what the arrogant man has always wanted, and order him to never surrender. Canada must be defended to the last. They must hang on until von Paulus’s inevitable victory changes things. I will have Himmler instruct whoever is in charge of the Gestapo in Toronto that many hostages must be taken and used. They will be executed if the Americans appear like they will win. The Americans are cowards. They will never permit those deaths to happen.”

The New York Stock Exchange had been founded in 1792 and first operations took place in a room at 40 Wall Street. The exchange had grown into world prominence and finally moved to its present location in 1903.

All of this meant nothing to Reinhard Krenz and his three companions. Dressed in dark business suits, white shirts and conservative ties, they attracted no attention. Nor did anybody think that the very large briefcases they carried were anything unusual. Accountants and lawyers often needed to carry large volumes of paper.

Despite recently announced gas rationing, traffic was heavy. Cabs and buses moved slowly along with a dwindling number of civilian cars and trucks, while messengers on bicycles darted between vehicles, taunting danger.

The four men entered the building. They were scarcely noticed by the security guards or the police out front who were keeping traffic moving. Krenz and the others were barred from entering the trading floor but easily made it up to the gallery where they looked down at the teaming throng of traders buying and selling stocks. At first they were surprised and stunned by the sheer volume of sound coming from the trading floor. It was as if every one of the several hundred men below them was hell bent on out-screaming the others.

A very tense Krenz whispered to a comrade, “If this is how the Jews make their money, it’s no wonder they are so corrupt and incompetent.”

They broke up into two pairs and separated themselves by several yards. They laid the suitcases on the floor and unsnapped them. A couple of spectators seemed curious, but did nothing. Krenz touched his hand to his nose. It was the signal for hell to begin.

Two men pulled out submachine guns and began to shoot others in the gallery, while the other two began throwing grenades onto the trading floor below. Within seconds, the gallery was cleared of all but the dead and wounded, while scores lay in bloody heaps below. Now the screams were even louder than before, which pleased the assassins. Let the Jews die, Krenz thought.

It took only a few seconds to empty their satchels of grenades. Taking their submachine guns and extra clips, they shot their way out onto the street. A security guard shot and wounded one of the Germans and was killed for his efforts. New York Police officers raced towards the building, their revolvers drawn as thousands of terrified people streamed down Wall Street, impeding their progress.

Krenz noted with pleasure that a number of New Yorkers had been trampled in the rush. Another of his men went down under a hail of police bullets. Out of ammunition, Krenz dumped his weapon in a trash can and joined the throngs of people running in panic. A couple of cops saw him, but he was quickly lost in the great numbers of people. A few blocks later, the entrance to a subway beckoned. He ran down along with a horde of others and got on the next train. He didn’t know where it was going and he didn’t care. He had struck and the center of Jewish control and was proud. Better, he wasn’t in any danger of being captured which meant that the cyanide capsule he had in his pocket could stay there. He would report back to Stahl for his next assignment.

Only a few days after arriving at Lambert’s house, Sherry Piper and he became lovers. They hadn’t planned on it, but it seemed so logical and comfortable. They were united in their hatred of the Nazis, she for her brother and he for Mary Bradford. For the first couple of nights, he had chivalrously slept on the couch while she had the bed. He informed the neighbors that Sherry was his cousin from Windsor who had fled the fighting. He didn’t think they all believed it, but neither cared.

On the third night, he had just settled down under a blanket on the lumpy and uncomfortable couch when she simply walked out of the bedroom in her nightgown and grabbed his hand. “Enough,” she said as she pulled him to his feet and they went into the bedroom.

After that, they decided to work as a team. She would get a job close to the German headquarters in Toronto while he continued to use police resources to keep tabs on the Nazis.

Like everyone in Toronto, they were terrified of what the war would bring. American planes flew overhead and they could frequently hear the bombs exploding on German bases or other military targets. Sometimes they could see smoke where a target was hit, and, on rare occasions, a secondary explosion would follow. Sometimes, too, Lambert’s job would take him to where civilians had been killed or wounded. The American planes probed constantly for evidence of German men and equipment. There were no more planes of any kind at close by Malton Airport in Toronto. It was just too easy a target for American planes.

Like many people he regretted the civilian cost, but recognized that such casualties could not be avoided. He could only hope that there weren’t too many of them and that the battle for Ontario didn’t last too much longer.

With funds supplied by the OSS, Sherry started a catering company and quickly got contracts to provide food for the German’s cafeteria.

“A little poison would solve a lot of problems, Sam said one night while they lay in bed. If you don’t want to kill them, why not something that’ll give them flaming diarrhea for a couple of months?”

“It is so tempting, but you know we’re not going to do it. Our controllers want information. Killing will have to wait.”

“Just not too long, I hope.”

She kissed him on the cheek. “And now my little catering company will be feeding the American prisoners.”

His eyes widened and he smiled, “How many prisoners are there?”

“In the camp north of here, maybe three hundred, and that doesn’t count the civilians the Nazis are rounding up. They will have to be fed as well. Why, are you thinking of helping them escape?”

“Selectively, perhaps,” he said thoughtfully. “I don’t think the OSS or anybody else could handle a large number of escapees. Seriously, where the devil would they go? To the south you have the battle lines, while to the north you have many thousands of German troops in hiding. It’d be nice to think we could bus them all to Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan, but it ain’t likely. No, the vast majority of prisoners might just be better off right here than wandering around and maybe getting shot.”

“Of course you could change your mind, couldn’t you?” she said as she tucked her head on his shoulder.

Easily, he thought as he wondered just how to work this knowledge to his advantage. Maybe poor Mary Bradford would be avenged someday soon.

The military flight from Washington to New York was solemn. The slaughter on Wall Street had stunned everyone. So far, censorship had kept knowledge of the total number of dead and wounded from the public. The world only knew that a pair of madmen had shot up the New York Stock Exchange and a number of people had become casualties. The facts would dribble out after the shock of the assault had waned.

On board the almost empty converted DC3 were Grant, Captain Art Baldwin of the Provost Marshal’s office, and Alicia. FBI agent Richard Dunn had taken an earlier and faster plane, courtesy of the feds. There were serious concerns that the escaped German agent, Heinrich Stahl, had been the brains behind the attack. It was believed that Stahl had killed a cop in DC along with a young burglar. Alicia and Baldwin had actually seen Stahl and it was hoped they could provide information.

There had been some discussion about including the now disgraced Dr. Morris Langford in the group since he’d had a direct conversation with Stahl, but the decision from higher up was to exclude him. It was feared that involving him might lead him to believe that the government was taking his claims about breaking German codes seriously. Tom was convinced that the U.S. had broken German codes and Alicia was leaning that direction as well.

With sirens screaming, NYC police vehicles took them directly to the police gymnasium that had been converted to a morgue. The first person they met was New York Police Commissioner Lew Valentine. He had a well-deserved reputation for integrity and was credited with cleaning up the corruption that had been rampant before his appointment.

“Mayor LaGuardia would be here to great you himself,” Valentine said, “but he doesn’t want to draw attention to you or what’s in this building. Anywhere he goes, the press is on his tail. Normally, he loves it, but not right now. If this is the work of Nazi madmen, then we don’t want panic to ensue. We have told the press that any army personnel they see are experts in ballistics. Obviously, we want any German connections kept secret.”

This was easily agreed to. Their first task, and it was a repugnant one, was to examine the corpses of any dead men to see if they recognized Stahl. They didn’t think they would, but it had to be done in case he had managed to get himself shot. Seventy-four men, along with twenty-nine women, had been killed, either by grenades or by gunfire. They were wrapped in tarpaulins and laid out in neat rows on the floor. Some of the bodies were badly mutilated, and the stench from torn flesh and ripped bowels was almost overwhelming. Everyone wore masks across their mouths and noses, but it only helped a little. Stahl was not among the dead.

FBI Agent Dunn was nauseated, but kept control. “Almost all of these people had some identification on them, but we were concerned that it might be phony. Therefore, we had to have you check. Now we can release them to their families. Quietly, of course.”

Tom laughed, “Quietly? Don’t you think somebody’s going to notice a parade of bodies being taken out in hearses and a host of obituaries in the papers?”

Dunn grimaced. “Not my decision. Nor was it my idea to say that we had all the Nazis already bagged. Off the record, the Director is raising holy hell with anyone who thought we were safe. I’m just thankful I wasn’t involved. Much too junior, you know.”

They had three more bodies to view. The dead Germans had been isolated from the others. Again, none of them was Stahl. All had been shot multiple times.

“I understand one of them lived for a while,” Alicia inquired. Her complexion was a little green, but she was holding on.

“Yes,” Dunn answered, “but he didn’t answer any questions. Not surprisingly, his last words were Heil Hitler.”

“And there definitely was a fourth man,” said Tom.

“Absolutely,” said Dunn. “He was seen shooting and he was even briefly chased down Wall Street until he got lost in the crowd that was running away. We think he ran down a subway. Some tourists had taken pictures and we’ve had them developed. Unfortunately, they don’t show anything useful.”

“Any chance the fourth kraut got shot and is dead somewhere, like in an alley?” Tom asked.

“One can only hope,” Dunn said.

Alicia looked distastefully at the three dead Germans, their bodies now covered by sheets. She was astonished at how well she had gotten through the ordeal of seeing so many mangled dead bodies. But then, she thought, the Americans were innocents and the dead Germans were monsters who had slaughtered them. She had no pity for them.

“Did the dead Nazis give you anything useful?” she asked.

“A little,” Dunn said with a small smile. “These guys had some receipts on them for dry cleaning and such and we were able to identify where they lived by showing people in that neighborhood their photos that we sent by Associated Press Wire Photo. Obviously, we’ve been sending a lot of planes back and forth. Regardless, we found that four men had been living in a rooming house and at least three weren’t coming back. We’re checking for anything useful, but I doubt that we’ll find much. The Germans weren’t that important and it’s becoming clear that Stahl wasn’t staying with them.”

Baldwin had been quiet up to now. “For a variety of reasons, I’d like to be able to check on that apartment and its contents.”

“The Director might not like that,” Dunn said grimly, “so let’s not tell him.”

Tony Romano’s ankle had healed quickly. Either it hadn’t been broken or not broken that badly. Still, he thought it was a good idea to keep using the crutches he’d been issued. The more helpless he appeared to the Black Shirt guards, the better were his chances of escaping.

He’d concluded that the Black Shirts were a confused bunch. Some of them wanted to brutalize the prisoners, but others said not to. It was clear that they were worried about the direction the war was taking. Some of the guards openly grumbled about the possibility of Germany losing and admitted that a number of their group had folded up their shirts and gone home.

In the evening the guards changed and some of the few Italian soldiers who remained in Toronto took over. Since Tony spoke the language, he and the Italian guards had a number of pleasant conversations. It was clear that many of them, including some officers were trying to figure a way to get out of the army and on to the United States. Desertion was not a moral problem for them. They felt that Mussolini was a buffoon who had betrayed them by sending them all the way to Canada. They did admit, however, that they were much better off than some of their comrades who were supporting the German invasion of Russia. They just didn’t want to get killed in what they saw as a hopeless war fighting for Germany against the overwhelming might of the United States. It occurred to many of them that they could soon be trying to kill some of their own relatives who’d emigrated years earlier.

They understood that it might be a very long time before they saw Italy again. It was another reason to hate Mussolini and Hitler and try for a new life in the United States.

Life in the camp wasn’t unpleasant, just boring and frustrating. The food was decent, brought in by an independent caterer, and they’d made the barracks livable. Better, they were beginning to get and send mail. Tony’s been able to inform his family that he was okay. He didn’t bother to burden them with news about his ankle. He’d been delighted when they’d responded and been even more delighted when his girlfriend, Nancy O’Connor, wrote and said she would wait for him and, yes, an Irish Catholic girl and an Italian Catholic boy might be a good match.

The rest of his crew were in the camp as well, but they seemed to resent the fact that they’d been shot down and blamed him for it. They were right, of course.

Another reason that the POWs were treated well was the presence of the Red Cross who watched the camp like hawks. The German military who were in charge of the camp were routinely informed of problems which they tried to solve. The German soldiers might have behaved like barbarians in Poland and Russia, but not in Canada. The camp where civilians were interned was run by the Gestapo and life was not as pleasant. Food was enough to sustain them, but it was nowhere near as plentiful as the American POWs had, and the same held with the living conditions. Tony had found that the Gestapo was led by some swine named Neumann and it was widely believed that he was responsible for both the martyrdom of some Canadian girl as well as the attempt to ship Jews to Germany.

“Penny for your thoughts, Tony.”

It was Major Bryant, the second highest ranking officer in the camp. He was also the head of the escape committee. “I was thinking you had some good news for me, sir.”

“Tony, there’s no doubt that your escape plan is solid, but there are concerns that there might be reprisals against us if you made it out.”

“Understood, sir, but what about reprisals against me if they find out that I sank four of their precious submarines?”

It was becoming common knowledge that the German navy was suffering very high losses to their submarine fleet. If they got their hands on someone who’d sunk four of them, they would likely interrogate him until he divulged just how they were able to find and kill so many. To the best of his knowledge, he was the only sub-killer who’d been captured, and he was certain that interrogation would rapidly become torture. He’d heard of people standing up to savage torture, but had also been told that everyone broke sooner or later. This might present a problem since he really didn’t know all that much. In the U.S. he was considered a hero. He didn’t want the SS to know about his exploits, even though they’d been somewhat offset by having two planes shot out from under him.

Bryant picked up a small rock and tossed it a few feet. To anyone in a guard tower, they were just two guys talking. “You know there’s no way we can get you back to the States even if you do escape. You’d have to hook up with some local guerillas and work with them. Any idea how you’d do that?”

Tony grinned. “I was kind of hoping you’d know, sir.”

Koenig snapped to attention and smiled as Guderian entered his spartan office in the well-hidden underground bunker.

“Congratulations Field Marshal.”

The newly promoted Guderian flipped his cap onto a hook and snorted. “It’ll look marvelous on my tombstone, don’t you think?”

Koenig didn’t know quite what to say, so remained tactfully silent. Rumors that the general would be promoted had been rampant, but it had just become official. Heinz Guderian finally had his field marshal’s baton.

Guderian continued, “So now I am joining such as von Runstedt, Rommel, and von Manstein.”

“They are all great generals, sir.”

“Indeed, although I have my doubts about Rommel. Also on the list of marshals is that drunken drug-addict Hermann Goering; Keitel, the ass-kissing toady; and von Paulus, the clerk who managed to win at Stalingrad because the Soviets collapsed. I will not say it is an empty honor because it is something I always wanted and felt that I deserved. However, the quality of marshal’s in the Reich has been diluted greatly.”

Koenig was stunned to hear Guderian talk like that. Now that he worked directly for the general as a personal aide and occasional driver, he and Guderian had gotten close, or at least as close as a high ranking general and a captain ever could be. Guderian had started using Koenig as a means of sounding off about his problems, but there had been nothing like this.

“Of course you never heard me say anything of the sort, did you, captain?”

“I heard nothing, sir, and I know even less.”

“Excellent, now what are the latest reports on the war with the Soviets?”

“According to Berlin, our troops are advancing steadily against determined last ditch efforts by remnants of Red Army forces.”

Guderian rubbed his eyes and sighed, “Which means that von Paulus is getting the shit kicked out of him. Soon, von Paulus will request permission to make a tactical withdrawal in order to reorganize his forces. The Fuhrer will deny it and the heavily augmented Sixth Army will be surrounded and then be overrun by the Red Army, which will be a catastrophe of the first order for the Reich. Indeed, it might even threaten the existence of the Reich. When threatened with the extinction of his army, Von Paulus will ask permission to surrender, which will also be denied. It will then be strongly implied that von Paulus should kill himself because German field marshals don’t surrender. And that, young captain, is why I said my new rank will look good on my tombstone.”

Koenig was shocked. “You would kill yourself, sir?”

“When I joined the army, I fully understood the risks and dangers involved. Death is part of our profession, although it is far better to inflict it than to endure it. While suicide might be preferable to spending a lifetime in the mines of Siberia, or even being hanged as a war criminal, killing myself is not on my agenda. Being killed in battle is acceptable but regrettable.”

He laughed. “That too would look good on my tombstone. Now, how is von Arnim?”

“I visited him this morning and there does seem to be some improvement. He may be conscious and he may be trying to speak. The doctors aren’t certain.”

“Which means he will not resume command in a hundred lifetimes. A shame. He is, or was, a decent general. And what of the air war? Is it safe to step outside?”

Koenig laughed. “Perfectly safe, at least for the moment. American planes have made several visits, but have caused no serious damage.”

“Good. Remind me to again pay my compliments to those in charge for the excellent job they did hiding our army. When Patton moves eastward again, as he must, we will be more than ready for him. We bloodied his nose the last time, even though we were forced back a few miles. This next time will be different, very different.”