" Mr. Delmer," he said, "My friends have given their lives in the attempt to rid Germany of Hitler. They believed that we Germans must ourselves liberate the world from this Satan. I understand your unit consists largely of Germans . . ." I nodded in confirmation, ". . . although it is of course under your direction. I shall be happy to join my fellow countrymen in their work. Anything that you ask me to do, whatever it may be, I shall consider a continuation of the war my friends and I have been waging against Hitler. May I ask you to do the same?"
"Of course. I will most certainly do that Dr. John. I must say that you will find that your attitude coincides exactly with that of the other German members of my team." We shook hands. "But now there is the little matter of your name," I said. "I usually give my associates English names in place of their German ones you know. But as `John' sounds so English I think I'll give you a German name for a change! How would you like to be called Oskar Jiirgens ?"
Otto John stood up, made a little mock bow and clicked his heels. "Oskar Jurgens," he said, introducing himself in German style, and then roared with laughter.
When he was brought down to me in the country a couple of days later, I immediately made him a member of my `household brigade' at R.A.G. and I did not regret it.
Quite apart from the many excellent suggestions with which `Oskar Jurgens' came up at our mealtime conferences in R.A.G. the psychological impact of his presence among us was immensely stimulating. For he, in his person, provided living evidence that, suppressed and submerged, another Germany still survived which it was well worth trying to excavate from under the debris. A Germany which recognised its collective responsibility for Hitler and the need to expiate the infamies committed under the Fuhrer.
For me, in particular, this was an encouraging discovery. I had, of course, long been aware of the peace feelers put out from time to time by German diplomats and others who claimed to be speaking and acting on behalf of Germany's `Inner Opposition'. But while I considered that it was well worth fostering this opposition, particularly where army leaders were involved, I refused to accept it as a sincere moral force. I was convinced that these overtures sprang not from a genuine repudiation of Hitler's war of conquest, but from an opportunist desire to insure against its possible failure. Moreover I had been impressed with the all too transparent strategic intentions behind many of the peace feelers. They were simply aimed at splitting the alliance. One group of emissaries from the socalled `Resistance' wanted to make a deal with the AngloAmerican West, while the German Armies continued the fight against the Russians with Anglo-American backing. The other wanted to make peace with the Russians and renew the old Reichswehr alliance with the Red Army. So I approved the lisping brush-off our Stockholm embassy's cultural attache Roger Hinks had been giving German opposition approaches with his immortal, "If you'll feel my peace, gentlemen, I'll feel yours."
In Otto John, however, I was getting to know a very different type of German Resistance leader. From him I was hearing, too, about such fellow plotters of his as Dietrich and Claus Bonhofer whom I had, of course, heard of long before but who, it now became clear to me, were not just trying to lay off a bad bet. They were inspired to action by a deep Christian conviction of the need to expiate their nation's crimes. I was now convinced of their complete sincerity even though they had accepted as fellow conspirators men whom I still dismissed as mere opportunists.
Otto John told me how he had joined the opposition to Hitler through his friend Claus Bonhofer under whom he was working in the legal department of the Lufthansa Airways concern. John's blond hair, blue eyes, and pink cheeks, with their air of super-Nordic health and zest, coupled with his Lufthansa job had given him the entree to the pilots' mess of the Fuhrer's personal Courier and Transport squadron. From these pilots he had learned the secret of Hitler's impending march into Prague in 1939 and had been able to warn Admiral Canaris, who was the head of Germany's `Abwehr' espionage and used his position to provide cover for more active plotters of the resistance inside his organisation. That had been his first intelligence coup for the `inner opposition'. Most productive of all the information which John gave me was his account of Himmler's flirtation with the Resistance. As a result I laid on an operation which I called `Himmler for President'. This was a rumour campaign to suggest that the ambitious Himmler was out to double-cross his wounded Fuhrer, remove him from power, and take his place himself. The story which John had told me made me feel that such a campaign might not be too far from the truth.
In August 1943, John said, Himmler had received Professor Johannes Popitz, a Conservative politician, who just after Hitler took power, had served as a minister in Goring's Prussian cabinet but was now one of the leaders of the `Inner Opposi-tion'. Popitz had expounded to Himmler the hopelessness of Germany's position, the urgent need of peace with the West, and he had given it as his considered opinion that a separate peace with the West was possible, if Hitler was removed and Himmler ruled in his stead. The Western powers, Popitz had argued, were scared of letting the Russians get too strong. They would be only too pleased to shore up Germany as a bulwark against Bolshevism providing the Germans rid themselves of' their unfortunate Fiihrer and the unspeakable Ribbentrop. What was needed in Hitler's place was a man who was strong, but humane and reasonable.
Himmler was impressed. He was even more impressed when he received a similar lecture from another Nazi turned Resistance leader. This was Himmler's personal friend, the lawyer Dr. Carl Langbehn. And he authorised Langbehn to travel to Switzerland to find out from his contacts there how the Western allies would react to the suggestion of a separate peace with a Himmler Germany. So Langbehn duly travelled to Switzerland on the same mission with which Himmler in the last weeks of the war was to entrust the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte.
Langbehn's mission, however, had leaked out, and to save himself from the wrath of Hitler, Himmler had him arrested shortly after his return to Germany in September 1943, I was, of course, sorely tempted to put out the story just as John had told it to me with only a few embellishments added to bring it up-to-date. But I refrained. For I had no desire to excite the suspicion of Stalin with stories of German proposals of a separate peace with the West. So instead, I laid on the `Himmler for President' campaign. It is not one on which I look back with pride and satisfaction. For in at least one of its features it was far too light-hearted and flippant and made a silly prank out ofsomething that should have been a serious subversive operation.
We started off well enough however with reports of preparations by the SS to seize munition stores belonging to the army as well as other strategic points in the Reich. We quoted speeches and articles about Heinrich Himmler which we said were part of a new propaganda drive to popularise and glamourise the Reichsfiihrer SS as the `people's friend'. We revealed alleged instructions to press photographers issued in connection with the `popularisation campaign'.
" The personal photo-reporter attached to the Rcichsfiihrer SS, SS Sturmbannfuhrer Paul Kurbjun, after careful study of the physiognomy of Heinrich Himmler, has come to the conclusion that the left side of the Reichsfiihrer's face has a kindlier expression while his right profile gives a more masculine and martial impression. SS Sturmbannfuhrer Kurbjuhn has accordingly decreed that for internal service use in the SS pictures are to be issued showing predominantly the right side of the Reichsfuhrer's face while the left side is to be preferr.°d for shots showing the Reichsfuhrer SS in friendly conversation with folk-comrades or with children."
Next we reported that Field Marshal von Rundstedt had complained at the way the SS Hauptamt (Headquarters office) was issuing directives to the National Socialist leadership officers, the Nazi equivalent of the Communist Political Commissars, at divisional level without going through the normal channels of the Army High Command. Rundstedt feared, we said, that the next move would be for Himmler to issue strategic and tactical orders direct to army units. In yet other items we revealed the grave concern of the Reichsfuhrer SS concerning the wounded Fuhrer's failing health, both physical and mental, and his preparations to replace him should the need arise. We reported too the counter-intrigues of Bormann and SS Obergruppenfuhrer Muller. All this was fine. It presented an entirely credible picture of a dying despotism in its last agonies of disintegration. Alas, in my eagerness to support this picture with documentary `evidence' I went much too farwell beyond the bounds of what was plausible.
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