What we did not however know or even suspect at this time was that in our own immediate target area of the Western Command the revolt had been carried far further than anywhere else.
In Paris the Gestapo and SS men were, in fact, arrested and disarmed by the army-and kept that way for a night. I would like to think that our reports on what was happening in the rest of Germany and on the East Front had something to do with this. It is certainly true that the rebels in Paris believed the Putsch was a success long after the other plotters had discovered it was not.
To me, the most astonishing and gratifying aspect of the generals' coup was the way Hitler's Third Reich appeared to be doing its best to live up to the picture we had been presenting of it, a picture which I myself had always regarded as a propaganda caricature. But here were genuine German generals rising in rebellion against Hitler just as though `Der Chef' of Gustav Siegfried Eins were directing them. And the Gestapo and the SD had been shown up as the fumblers we had always said they were. It was incredible.
Even today I am still baffled by the failure of the Gestapo to discover the plot and nip it in the bud. For, far removed from the scene of the drama as I was at MB, I could have warned Himmler what Count Stauf£enberg was up to. I knew that Stauffenberg was in a plot against Hitler at least two months before he pushed his briefcase, with the time-bomb in it, under Hitler's conference table. For German officer prisoners gossiping together under the microphones of their country house prison camp in England had mentioned StaufFenberg as belonging to a group which intended to get rid of the Fuhrer. If the officers gossiped like this in England it seemed to me they must also have gossiped in Germany. But the Gestapo's big ears did not hear them. Or, if they did, they did not understand what they heard. Which was as bad, if not worse.
With all this to encourage us, the Soldatensender now demanded that an end be put to the war in order to save Germany. And in our self-appointed capacity as spokesmen of the `decent fighting frontline soldier' we turned the heat on Hitler himself, whom hitherto we had never attacked directly and in person. In a talk by Rene Halkett the day after the abortive assassination attempt we ridiculed the allegation that the time-bomb was of British manufacture and that the whole attempt was a British plot.
Rene Halkett (reading his script, a monacle jammed into his left eye) : "The British and the Americans and the Russians are the last people to want to rid us of the Fuhrer. On the contrary. The enemy can wish for nothing better than to have us led by a man who has never learned the soldier's trade, who relies on mystic inspiration, who, in his conceit and ignorance interferesin everything and everywhere. Why a fellow like that is for the allies-an ally!"
We defended the Officers' Corps, that sacrosanct Prussian caste, against the attack which the Nazi Labour leader Dr. Robert Ley had made on it in his sycophantic ecstasy over the tyrant's preservation. The Corporal, speaking in his best `Der Chef' style, tore into Ley to avenge the German `Peace Generals'.
" Herr Robert Ley is of the opinion," he drawled haughtily through his hawklike nose, "that German officers are a lot of ungrateful, blueblooded pigdogs to whom the Fuhrer gave back their uniforms only to have them come along and shove a bomb under his desk. High time, says Ley, that the National Socialist Revolution does the job it should have done earlier and exterminates the entire lot of them. Well, let us take a look at the fellow who says all this and the men he is saying it about."
After which introduction the Corporal proceeded to lambast Ley as a callous war profiteer who had grown rich and fat while children starved, who owned a whole string of town and country houses (addresses given) into none of which he had allowed so much as one bomb refugee.
" And men like Colonel Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg," he mouthed the title with just the right amount of unctuous Offlziers-korps deference for the nobility, "whom Ley calls a cowardly idiot-after he is dead-such men have been out at the front fighting the war which has made this Ley a multimillionaire."
Followed praise of Stauffenberg as a staff officer plus a brief history of his career. The Corporal stressed that Stauffenberg's promotion to the High Command of the Army had given him insight into `what was really going on', and that it was this which prompted him to take the action he had taken.
" If anyone is to be called ungrateful it is not such brave men as Stauffenberg, who had the courage to speak out and act for the good of the fatherland, but the lickspittle lackeys in the Fuhrer-headquarters who have been hushing up the facts in an artificial fog of sycophantic optimism." It was a fine virile talk put over with force and emotion. Many more like it followed. And each contained not just a rodomontade of invective and denunciation, but plenty of" inside information and `news' to widen the cleavage and fced the new `peace movement'.
Not many weeks had gone by after the Generals' Putsch when I received even more dramatic confirmation that the Gestapo and SD were not up to their jobs. They had not even been able to close the stable door after the bomb had burst. As a new recruit for my team I was being offered one of the men who had taken part in the coup. He had managed to escape from Germany to Spain and had now come to England anxious to continue from here the fight in which he and his friends had failed in Germany.
Bruce Lockhart rang me on the green painted secret telephone in my office.
" Are you with me?" came his husky, eternally anxious voice when we had `scrambled'. "C has just been through to me," he said, using the cypher by which the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service is known.* "He wants to know whether you would be interested in having one of the Twentieth of July fellows on your team. The man has just arrived in Britain. Might be able to give you some useful background. You're not to use him as a. voice though."
" Sounds fine to me, Bruce," I said, "But I would like to take a look at him before I commit myself."" Of course, of course. I'll fix it. When can you go?"
* In Britain the identity of the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service is kept a strict secret. Never is he referred to by his name, but only by the cypher C. And even that cypher until recently was only known to a few. Not for him the personal publicity which Allen W. Dulles, or J. Edgar Hoover get in the United States or General Reinhard Gehlen in present-day Germany. Or for that matter such as I accorded to the late Admiral Canaris in Germany during the war-much to the amusement and satisfaction, as he himself once told me, of C.
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