Black Boomerang - Chapter One - Sefton Delmer
THIS is Frankfort on the Main, November 1960. I am taking a look at the 9 p.m. performance in a little suburban cinema. The seats are hard and uncomfortable. My knees are crammed painfully against the wall of what the woman in the ticket office calls 'the V.I.P. Box'. From under the door cold gusts of mist blow into the hall. UGH! Those two lovers clamped together in the corner of my "box". They are devouring each other with the cannibalistic Salivation of mating frogs. And their moans! Ugh and Ugh again.
But I stay on.
On the screen is a thriller drama about the last war. It is all booming guns, marching steel helmets, Secret Service, and bombs. Yes, this is Frankfort, November 1960. And this, presumably, is what the German public wants. Or what the film producers think it wants.
The German Wehrmacht, it seems, was fighting two enemies during the last war, the allies and the Nazi Party. Brave young heroes from the Army, the Kriegsmarine, and the Luftwaffe, are constantly shooting it out with the Gestapo and the SS. It is just like listening to one of those speeches of old man Adenauer, when he is talking about the Eichmann affair. The Germans were all against Hitler-all except a small Nazi minority. The rest were victims of Hitler and Himmler, just like the Jews and the Poles.
Aha! Here at last is what I have come to see. The hero, a young naval officer who had been denounced by his Nazi concierge to the Gestapo, has fled to Britain. And here now he is being led blindfold up the broad steps of a lovely old Palladian country mansion, near London they say it is, to see the boss of the British Secret Service outfit who has invited him to come and help fight Hitler. The boss is a potbellied fellow with a beery looking ginger moustache, lots of fluffy ginger hair and pro-tuberant hyperthyroid eyes. He is a terrible cynic. As he talks to the German hero-who is, of course an idealist, though a bitter and somewhat disillusioned one-the British boss con-temptuously twirls a huge globe. He explains to the hero some of the dirty things that he will have to do now that he is irrevocably committed as a traitor.
The hero has met the boss before. He knew him as a British newspaper reporter in Berlin. The secret operation the boss is directing is the German Soldiers' Radio Calais, which as we have been told at the outset, was neither a Soldiers' Radio, nor German, nor situated in Calais, but a British counterfeit which had the unique purpose of causing confusion among the Germans and giving instructions to foreign Resistance Groups.The boss is a slick operator, and has his agents everywhere. During R.A.F. bombing raids dark-skinned, oriental looking creatures in raincoats pop up among the ruins of Essen, switch on secret transmitters, which they carry around in attache cases, and flash him a quick signal reporting what has been hit. While a Nazi party leader is having a knock down quarrel with heroes of the Luftwaffe on an airfield near Paris, one of the French workers who are looking on breaks open a loaf of bread, takes a transmitter out of it, and taps out a quick message about the quarrel to the maestro.
The boss even has his men inside the Gestapo. And that is how he gets a chance to show that under that cynical surface a human heart is beating after all. (This picture, of course, is all in favour of 'forgive-and-forget', `Anglo-German friend - ship', and `European Unity'.)
When he learns that during the impending evacuation of Paris the Gestapo and SS men mean to murder all their hostages old pot-belly is shocked. Terribly shocked. He calls for volunteers. Leading his rabble from the country mansion our German Resistance hero in the vanguard-he parachutes into Paris and descends on the Gestapo gaol. Only to find that the good chaps of the Wehrmacht have had the same idea and got there first. Tableau. The two parties stand facing each other with their guns. Among the good Germans of the Wehrmacht-they have freed the prisoners- is the hero's own brother whom the wicked boss has been suborning the hero to kidnap. Now the fat British boss gives in and cheerfully lets the good anti-Nazi Germans of the Wehrmacht withdraw in their lorries under a white flag of truce ...
So that is that. Thank heavens it is over and I can now shuffle out of here and find somewhere to have a drink and think about this picture.By rights I should sue the producers for libel. That ludicrous last scene with me letting those Wehrmacht fellows get away in their lorries. I should have been court-martialled, if I had really done anything like that. Well, prosecuted anyhow. Yes, I, Denis Sefton Delmer. For I was the boss of the Soldatensender Calais.
The Soldatensender was a real life operation, not merely a piece of German film fiction. I was the fat man in the mansion. And there are quite a few people in Germany, Britain, and America who know this, even though it is supposed to be an official secret.
Ah, here we are. This looks a good little place. It has those plain, scrubbed looking deal tables which I like.
"Herr Ober, what I would like is a large Bommerlunder Gin, a Dortmund beer, and a plate of rye bread, butter, pickled gurkins, and your coarsest farm Leberwurst. Have you got all that? Splendid!"
I did, of course, have German anti-Nazis working with me, but they were not a miserable obsequious rabble like this lot in the picture. Wehrmacht men too were in my team. They were prisoners of war. But there was nothing going on like the nonsense that goes on in this film. Real life at the Soldatensender was remote from this uncouth fantasy.
"Ah, thank you very much, Herr Ober. That looks good. You can bring me another double Bommerlunder right away."
But how ironic is this legend of the good upright patriotic Germans of the Wehrmacht being the bitter enemies of the Nazi Party and the Gestapo! How ironic that this legend should now be the justification for all those things happening I hoped would not happen. For the Germans forgetting that they were responsible for Hitler, for their rearmament, and the revival oftheir ambitions of territorial conquest. (`Restoration of Germany's lost territories' is what they call it today.) For the return of Hitler's judges and civil servants to key posts in the new Germany. Ironic, because the propagation of that legend was the work of my unit and my men. The work of `Der Chef' and of the Soldatensender Calais. We bolstered and built up the legend to help in the overthrow of Hitler. Now, in this flourishing, rebuilt, reinvigorated Germany it is being used to summon back his ghost.
" Herr Ober, another double Bommerlunder, and another beer. That Leberwurst is perfect. A pity we don't make it in Britain."
Odd. I have seen myself tonight being played by an actor in what is called a screen drama. It should have been a flattering experience, a piece of massage for my ego-like getting my name into Who's Who for the first time, or being mentioned in a history book. But I feel no elation. For today this legend is dangerous. And the truth which it hides is so very, very different, both about the war-time Germans, and about me, and about the Soldatensender.
As the reader if he has persistence will see for himself. But first I must tell the story of how I ever got to the point of having to do with secret things. For a long time I thought I never would.
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