Four men sat in silence, in comfortable high back, red leather arm chairs, waiting for Adolf Hitler to speak.
The German Chancellor was reading a document presented to him by SS Gruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst, the intelligence service of the SS, and was scrutinizing every detail.
The silence was magnified due to the sheer size of the Führer’s office. A silence, Heydrich felt, that seemingly bounced from the dark wood panelled walls up to the high ceiling then back onto the walls again. Continuing the process, appearing to grow louder each time.
Hitler continued to study the document intently. Heydrich, calm as always, sat watching his Führer, confident the plan he had devised was as good as any could be.
Heydrich looked to his right, where Rudolph Hess, the Deputy Führer, sat looking nervous. He always did on occasions such as this, when he was unsure of what the Führer was reading.
Hess knew, as did all senior members of the Nazi Party and the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces, that locked away in a filing cabinet at his headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht Strasse, Heydrich kept files on each of them and if it suited his will, he could end, not only their careers but also their continued existence with one word in Hitler’s ear.
Heydrich wondered why Hess looked so uncomfortable, What had the little man been up to? He thought to himself. Something to make enquiries about later.
Heydrich filed it away in his head, along with all the other pieces of information stored there. Information he was always able to produce at a moment’s notice.
So many people wondered how he remembered everything, a form of conjuring trick they thought.
However, for Reinhard Heydrich it was nothing so elaborate as that. It was simple really, he believed that knowledge was power and in the Third Reich, power was everything.
Heydrich shifted his gaze from Hess and cast his blue eyes around the huge office, the morning sun light shone through the windows, bathing the room in a warm yellow glow. The office had been lavishly furnished, with many examples of fine art and architecture. Everything in the room was big, something Heydrich always thought had been intentional in order to make visiting dignitaries and diplomats feel small and insignificant in the presence of Germany’s leader.
At the far end of the room there was an ornate and grand fireplace, surrounded with gold, above which hung a portrait of Hitler. A round table was positioned in front of the fireplace, with a long comfortable sofa and six arm chairs.
He looked back at Hitler, who was sitting behind his large leather topped mahogany desk and waited.
“It could work, my dear Reinhard.” Adolf Hitler finally broke the silence and looked up from the document. He stared into the narrow eyes of Reinhard Heydrich. “It will work.”
The Fühirer’s office was silent again and Hitler continued, “And with assistance from Joseph,” he glanced at Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Propaganda Minister who sat crossed legged in a chair to his right, “there will be no doubt whatsoever that we will be justified in launching our attack on Poland.”
Goebbels placed the Dresden china coffee cup he was holding back onto the saucer he held in his left hand and uncrossed his legs, “When I am finished, mein Führer, not only the German people but the rest of the world will believe that Poland was the aggressor and that they attacked us. We shall simply be seen as defending ourselves from these outrageous attacks.”
The Minister of Propaganda’s face looked cruel as his thin lips curved slightly into a smile, “In fact, even the damned Poles themselves will believe they attacked us.”
Hitler smiled, “And when would this…” he chose the word carefully, adding emphasis to it, “this incident take place?”
Heydrich responded immediately, “The thirty-first of this month, mein Führer.”
“And where?” asked Hess,
“Tell him, Herr Gruppenführer.” Hitler told Heydrich,
“There will be several attacks by what appears to be Polish forces at various points along the border. The most significant will be at Gleiwitz.” Heydrich informed Hess.
“Why Gleiwitz?” asked Hess, “What’s there?”
“A radio station. Very isolated. The Poles will take it over for a short period.”
“For what purpose?”
“Simple.” the single word was spoken by the Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler, who until that moment had remained silent. He continued, not looking up from his task of polishing the glass of his silver pince-nez. His voice, as always, was soft and dangerous, “They will begin a series of broadcasts, in Polish of course, to the German people.”
Heydrich continued, “These Poles will broadcast nationalistic statements being extremely aggressive toward Germany and the German people. There will be shooting in the attack thus providing us with the justification we require with which to retaliate.”
“And who are these Poles?” Hess asked,
“Members of the SS.” Heydrich replied, “Handpicked, reliable men, led by Sturmbahnführer Naujocks.”
“And the proof, Herr Gruppenführer?” Hitler asked the question,
Heydrich glanced quickly at Hitler then turned his attention back to Hess, “Bodies will be left at the locations of these attacks. Some in Polish uniform and others, as with those at Gleiwitz, will be in civilian clothing.”
“Polish uniforms? And where will they come from?”
Christ. Thought Heydrich, Why all the damned questions?
“A plan is already underway to obtain the required uniforms. There is a barracks at Chorzów, in Poland, that will shortly be broken into and we shall have everything we need. The bodies will be those of specially selected prisoners from Dachau.”
“A sound plan indeed, would you not agree, Rudolph?” Hitler asked Hess,
“Indeed, yes, mein Führer.” Hess then added, “And, if the prisoners are already in Dachau then they’re already dead.”
The other men in the office laughed at Hess’ observation,
“At Gleiwitz there will also be the body of Franz Honiok.”
Hess spoke again, “Honiok? Is he in custody? I wasn’t informed.”
Franz Honiok was a forty-three year old farmer from Silesia, known to be a Polish sympathizer, who had fought with the Poles during the 1921 rebellion by Silesian Polish nationals.
“At present he is not in custody, however the Gestapo will apprehend him soon and the final detail of this plan will be in place.” Heydrich responded.
Himmler spoke again, “We will arrange for the Wehrmacht to be kept away from the sections of the border in which these attacks are to be carried out. We do not need their blundering interference with our plans. The order to local commanders will be signed by myself and countersigned by the Führer. No-one would dare challenge that.”
Hess nodded, genuinely impressed by the proposed plan, “No detail appears to have been overlooked.”
Adolf Hitler spoke, quietly at first, his voice then beginning to rise, “None at all. These attacks will be the flame we require to spark the conflict which will lead to Poland’s demise and the heroic German victory. Polish land will be ours, this great Reich, in which we are privileged to live and serve will grow and continue to grow.”
Heydreich could see the German leader was beginning to work himself into a frenzy, something all too common on occasions like this. He watched it build, transfixed, lusting for more.
Hitler continued, “From Poland we will have the springboard we require into the east. From there we can begin our noble quest to rid the world of the Bolshevik’s. That beast in the Kremlin will be next and Russia will go the same way as Poland.” He slammed his fist down hard onto the map of the German-Polish border that lay spread open on his desk and paused for breath before continuing, flecks of spittle escaping from his mouth.
“I will not rest until Stalin is before me, here in Berlin, here in this very room, on his knees begging for a mercy that will not be shown.”
The other four men remained silent, waiting for Hitler to cease or continue. After a few minutes the room remained silent, Hitler’s breathing was gradually becoming steady once more. Hess steered the conversation back to Poland and the planned operation,
“And the English, mein Führer. What about their guarantee to Poland?”
Hitler sneered, “The English, the English? What can they do, so far away on their little island?”
“But they have provided Poland with a guarantee their borders will remain intact.”
“Rudolph.” Hitler was smiling now, calm once more, “Rudolph, the English will do nothing. Look how that fool Chamberlain rolled over like a good puppy over Czechoslovakia.”
Himmler sat nodding slowly in agreement as Hitler continued, “He walked away from Munich believing he had achieved something. Achieved a victory. That is precisely what I wanted to believe. He had achieved nothing.”
“And France?” Hess hardly dared ask the question,
“France?” Himmler laughed and Goebbels joined him, “The French are even more placid than the English.”
There was general consent around the desk.
Himmler continued, “Why, we could even turn our attention to them after we have dealt with Poland.”
“A very sound idea, Reichsführer.” added Hitler, nodding, “Perhaps they should suffer the same fate?”
“If France were eliminated the English would not have a single ally on the continent.” Heydrich could see the Reichsführer’s mind begin to work, formulating ideas and transforming suggestions into plans.
“They would not be in a position to land troops and fulfil their ridiculous promise to Poland.”
Hitler spoke slowly, “An interesting thought, Reichsführer, a very interesting thought indeed. One however, we shall save for another day. At present we will focus all our energies into this Polish affair. England and France can wait. Their turn will come, of that I can assure you. But for now they can wait.”
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