Black Boomerang - Chapter Four cont - Sefton Delmer
There was nothing, however, that I could do about it. Hitler and
Franco had just met at Hendaye and reports were coming through which
spoke of German and Spanish preparations for an assault on Gibraltar.
Christiansen understandably wanted me to be on hand nearby, if it took
So early one dark and foggy November morning I said goodbye to Isabel in Poole, and took my seat in the heavily curtained cabin of a B.O.A.C. Flying-boat. Five hours later, having successfully run the gauntlet of the Luftwaffe interceptor planes in the Atlantic, we slid down on to the waters of the Tagus River in neutral Lisbon.
My expedition to Lisbon provided little in the way of headlines for the Express. For Hitler abandoned his Gibraltar project just as he had previously abandoned the invasion of Britain. Nevertheless, looking back on it now, I see the weeks I spent in Lisbon as one of the most important assignments of my life. In the first place, because it finally persuaded the Security men to lift the barrier against me, and secondly because it gave me a fresh and intimate contact with Germans who had been living and working in Hitler's Germany, now at the apex of its power.My Lisbon refresher course in German affairs proved of vital importance to me when, a few months later, I began to forge the new weapon of psychological warfare which twenty years later was to become the subject of that German thriller film.
Who were these Germans who so obligingly brought me upto-date on Germany? They were Jews. Men and women, young, middle-aged and old. In return for a fat payment to the SD or the Gestapo, they were being allowed to bypass the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and travel instead to Lisbon, in order to emigrate to their relations in North and South America.
With two friends whom I had engaged to help me-one of them, amazingly, was Albrecht Ernst, the German left-wing journalist whom I had first met during the Spanish civil war, when he was the deputy chief-of-staff of the Communist General Kleber in besieged Madrid, I surreptitiously contacted the Jews as they arrived, and questioned them about life in Germany.
Not by any means all of them were old and decrepit. A surprisingly large number were young and strong. And many had been working in German armaments factories. From them I picked up a great deal of interesting information and colourful gossip, all of which I carefully noted down, meaning to use it for a series of articles on `Inside Germany'.
I learned the names and foibles of the foremen, engineers, and Nazi party officials in the munition workshops where the refugees had been working. I learned what they had been manufacturing, and I also learned many of the new German war-time expressions. But above all I got the feel of life in Hitler's war-time Reich.
Not all the Jewish refugees were ready to talk to the questioning British reporter and his assistants. Some were still so cowed, that they feared the Gestapo might catch up with them even here in Lisbon, if they talked. Others still thought of Germany and Austria as their Fatherland, and despite all that had happened and despite their emigration they still preserved a stubborn remnant of their old German national loyalty. Somehow I found these old Jewish men and women, with their unhappy love for Germany, even more tragic and pitiable than the others. In my work during the years to come I was to think back often to one old couple in particular. They remained for me always a supreme example of the almost mystic hold which the conquering-hero figure of Hitler had over Germans-even outcast Jews.
Dr. Bloch, a wizened and bent little man of seventy-one, had been a medical practitioner in Hitler's home town of Linz. And even now in the autumn of igq.o, after all that had happened to him and his race at the hands of this Hitler, it was Dr. Bloch's great pride that he had been the Hitler family's physician and that little Adolf had sat on his knee and called him `Uncle Doctor'.
Ernst had discovered the old man in one of the parties of emigrants and he took me along to meet Dr. Bloch and his wife in the sleazy back street boarding-house where they were staying. I was anxious to find out from the doctor among other things all that I could about the medical history of Hitler-for there had long been rumours that he suffered from a congenital disease.I plied the old man with questions. I thought he would be only too ready to reveal the secrets of his persecutor.
But Dr. Bloch was an oyster. " I have never disclosed anything concerning the illness of the family Hitler," was his tantalising answer, "and I never shall!" "
Do you know, Herr Delmer," his wife chipped in, "Adolf Hitler had not forgotten my husband? When he drove through Linz in his Mercedes after his entry into Austria in 1938 at the time of the Anschluss, he passed our house, and as he passed, he waved up at our window with a special smile."
The old doctor nodded confirmation. "That is to say, my dear, that is what they told us. You see," he turned to me, "as Jews we were not permitted to be at the window when the Fiihrer passed." " Did the Fuhrer grant you any privileges for old times' sake, Herr Doktor ?Preferential treatment as compared with other Jews in Linz, for instance?" I asked. The old man smiled wistfully.
" I had hoped that perhaps I would be permitted to continue to practise in Linz. I thought that perhaps the Fuhrer would recall how I attended his mother in her last illness. But it was not to be. All that the authorities would concede was that I should be allowed to open a new practice in Vienna-an impossibility for me at my age. I was too well-known in Linz as a Jew, they said. It would compromise the Fuhrer if I were allowed to go on being a doctor there. He could make no exceptions." But, added Dr. Bloch, he was allowed one privilege not accorded to other Jews. He was allowed to continue to use the telephone. From the way he told me about this `exceptional favour' I could see he felt that Adolf Hitler had done his best for his old Jewish family doctor, the man who had looked after him as a child, and who later when young Adolf was an untalented art student in Vienna, had bought some of his uncouth watercolours to encourage him and help him financially.*
Nor did Dr. Bloch have anything but friendly feelings for the people of Linz or bear them a grudge for what had been done to him at the end of his long life of service among them. " Before my wife and I left," the old man said, "many of my friends and former patients came to see us despite the danger to themselves. They tried to dissuade us from leaving and making this long trip to join our son in New York. They were very kind." He smiled a little to himself as though at a pleasant memory. " `Uncle Doctor' they said to me, `how can you think of emigrating to the United States at your age? And Auntie too? Stay with us. Things will soon be different.' I think in Linz they really loved us. Don't you think so too, my dear?" he asked his wife. But Frau Bloch could not answer. She had tears in her eyes.
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