Munich Nights Chapter 3: “Departures and Arrivals”
In the 1928 elections for the Reichstag, the party did unexpectedly well and returned 12 out of 491 deputies. Walter then presumed that they were onwards and upwards. Maybe, at last, he speculated, the political tide had perhaps turned.
Obviously, all those tedious miles they had journeyed together on Himmler’s well-maintained motorbike, must have paid dividends through gaining those much sought after votes. Many being cast favourably it seemed, for the party, in the countries’ rural ballot boxes.
In the same year, Heinrich had the pleasure of proposing to Marga Boden. She was eight years his senior and accepted his proposal.
The couple also owned a poultry farm in Waltrudering outside of Munich, with fifty breeding hens. This, of course, was to help supplement his small party income.
Marga had impressed him with her Aryan looks it seems, although others thought them invisible.
The lady had previously managed or was the proprietor of a clinic in Berlin that specialised in homoeopathy and deep hypnosis treatment and in numerous natural remedies, offered to those wealthy clients then seeking that elusive elixir of life, if indeed there is such a commodity.
They often meandered to his farm on the way back from a party rally on the faithful ‘lady Cynthia’ to inspect and admire the farms’ assorted livestock.
Then after their arrival and of partaking of refreshments, Heinrich would happily educate Walter in the disparity between a rooster and a cockerel and other poultry problems of hen laying and maintenance. Always, nervous creatures, they seemed resigned for him to handle and even caress them, but Walter could never get close to them without them clucking away to safety. He once offered Walter a cuddly chick as a gift but was sadly declined. Gentle little innocents of course and it’s wicked to see today, the inhumane injuries they suffer in captivity in these so-called registered civilised ‘hen houses’.
Walter could still recall years later being present at the Himmler wedding. Maybe Goring put in an appearance? Maybe Hitler? But Himmler’s parents were absent for some reason. Of course, Rohm was out of the country then.
The following year Hitler appointed him Reichsfuhrer of the S.S. Himmler, of course, was honoured to receive such a title. He had previously been the deputy Reich propaganda minister.
During Walter’s many visits to Berlin on party business, he would encounter young Gudron Himmler in her father’s office. A delightful little girl he always remembered. In fact, their paths would cross surprisingly many times later in life.
In 1927 Hitler ordered ‘Joey’ Goebbels as Gauleiter (district leader) to ride to Berlin to ruffle some political feathers. The city then boasted more paid up communist party members than Moscow it was claimed. Yet somehow the party gained many new members in those dangerous days for Germany.
Walter never really warmed to the man as said before. Then in his later conversations however with Magda Goebbels, he witnessed a caring, supportive wife then frequently forgiving her husband of his numerous sordid sexual misdemeanours.
To him, the man had lacked all empathy for other peoples’ feelings, except for himself and Hitler of course. He once confided in his diary the salutation ‘Adolph Hitler I love you’. And had added saccharine-laced words. No wonder Hitler seemed to have had an affection for the personality of the so-called ‘poisoned dwarf.’
This fetching title, if you can call it that, was revealed to Walter by one of Goebbel’s many spurned mistresses. Walter was then assembling an incriminating file to be used against Goebbels during the war. This dossier, however, was later discarded on orders from Berlin.
Of course both the Goebbels world and his wife’s and Hitler’s and the couples six defenceless innocent children would all end in tears in that notorious bunker in Berlin when the Russian army was given carte blanche to do what they wished with such defenceless women.
Later the Goebbels children would be poisoned by their mother, concealing those draughts of death in cups of hot chocolate specially prepared for them for this wicked purpose.
Even then in those last periods of panic in Berlin, Magda must somehow have been still suffering under her husband’s idealistic influence.
Today it has long been suggested to dedicate a park or children’s play area in Berlin in memory of those lost forgotten children. But Walter doubted it would occur in his lifetime.
Karin would have been devastated if she had lived, in being presented with the display of the bodies of the six Goebbels children laid out in the garden of the Chancery on public display. To the children she was always ‘auntie Karin’ whom they all loved to welcome when she arrived to visit Magda, usually bearing gifts of chocolate, exotic fruit and colouring books for them to enjoy. She was also godmothered to three of the children Walter seemed to recall.
Some memories you can never erase or escape from, of course, they being forever trapped in the meadows of the mind. Those children and their pitiful plight, being one of many, that surfaced every so often from the depths of his mind.
Walter remembered that in Berlin during Goebbels tenure as Hitler’s angry agent, there were frequent street brawls between the browns and the reds with the blood of both flowing freely in the streets.
He had usually abhorred violence unless it was required in protecting the state from its many enemies. In the past, Walter had frequently favoured violence as a vehicle as a means to an end. He had never regretted regulating its many uses either.
His old mentor Captain Ernst Rohm had, after trying to ferment some unrest, by initiating a revolution in the country, failed.
Later, of course, Hitler would view Rohm as a potential and dangerous rival for the leadership and loyalty of the party. The captain being one of the few men he would later possibly fear and maybe loathe.
The Munich police were observing Rohm in daily surveillance. Walter was, by then, receiving regular reports concerning the captain from his contacts within the force. Rohm probably was aware of the covert surveillance on him.
Later, then thoroughly disillusioned, Rohm reluctantly resigned his commission from the army. Then marching later into the swelling ranks of Germany’s unemployed, as a civilian. He had then discarded his ceremonial sword, uniform, cap and pistol for a hat, a business suit and umbrella.
Walter suspected it was the conclusion for his controversial career.
After learning Rohm was finding it difficult in seeking employment, Walter was able to dispatch a message to him through one of the station’s sergeants. He simply requested a meeting at some out of the way café or bistro. He assumed that both of them would naturally require some privacy.
Rohm quickly responded with a time and place which suited them both.
This was to take place the seedy ‘Café Einhorn’ then located in Emanuelstrasse in the Schwabing district, conveniently situated close to the busy claustrophobic underground.
This region of the city would be prominent in an unexpected way in his life, as an enforcer during the war, then rooting out all opposition to the state.
Walter had become familiar with this Bohemian district pre-war of course, later more so during the war. Then with its university and cheap students accommodation, he was able to recruit paid informants for police work.
In fact, Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were guests of the state for a few weeks in 1943 in Munich. This being when they were organisers of the ‘White Rose Movement’, then a proscribed organization. Later the ‘Edelweiss Pirates’ would enter his official orbit of the investigation.
A very sweet girl he recalled but very deluded and dangerous to the state security apparatus. Walter later recalled that a popular film was produced about her some years ago and her failed struggle with the regime. And no, he had not paid to view the film himself.
Walter was, in fact, one of the last men to speak kindly to her before her execution in 1943.
All of the events then concerning her spoken words as written by the witnesses at the time of her execution, were correct as far as Walter could remember.
When he was supervising her interrogation, he was reminded of his little sister, whom she had resembled.
So, perhaps here was his personal reason for what he was about to perform in Sophie Scholl’s final moments.
He would later question his motivation if that’s what it was as being simply a humanitarian deed.
However hours before her execution, Walter had decided to stage a ‘mercy mission’ of his own to Stadelheim Prison (still standing). There she was being detained and being prepared for execution.
He would be unable to save her life of course, but he could suppress her sufferings.
Even hours before his arrival at the prison he still questioned this unexpected and out of character decision that he had decided upon to undertake.
Maybe it was simply because he and Miss Scholl had both been weaned in the Lutheran faith practised by their devout mothers. Or perhaps she reminded him of his sister Eloise, who possibly shared Sophie’s naive notions for an idealistic world emerging from the ashes of a post-war Europe.
Then as a convicted enemy of the state, Sophia was alone and anxious and awaiting her punishment. Judgment had been issued against her and a death sentence had been demanded of her young life.
Walter remembered that no resistance had been placed before him in entering that penitentiary. Simply then by producing his authority card personally signed by Reichfuhrer Himmler of course, allowed him access to all prisons and police stations in the Reich.
None dared or were asinine enough to argue with the awesome authorised signature of Heinrich Himmler.
After his arrival in the guardroom, he quickly ordered the agitated desk sergeant to supply a cup of warm milk and have it brought to Sophie’s cell immediately.
He offered the man no explanation nor was any offered. Then he walked briskly towards Sophie’s cell followed by a female warder discreetly walking behind, who naturally avoided all eye contact with him.
He speculated if ‘uncle’ Ernst Rohm had himself been restrained in one such cell in 1935 in this very wing, later to be murdered by two cowards whom he had known well. He had discovered later that ‘uncle’ died proclaiming ‘all revolutions devour their own children.’
Still, correct it seems in an era of political turmoil.
Ernest’s mother had later refused an offered state pension. She had called this gesture simply ‘blood money’.
The murder of Rohm was still a wound that ran deep in Walter’s heart and always would be. It was a simple fact that he could not have saved or offered more aid for this man who had shown so much concern for Walter’s own family’s future welfare.
After dismissing the warder, Walter then witnessed Sophie. There alone confined in a small damp depressing dungeon.
Was it resignation or relief that was revealed in her eyes as she gazed up at him? He seated himself on a small three-legged stool placed in front of a smaller table opposite her. Now he and she were almost face-to-face, with her head resting on her forearm, which was on the table.
Then slowly turning her saddened eyes upward she gazed at him first in shock then surprise. He spoke as he cupped her small face in his ungloved hands asking:
“Do you remember me Sophie?” he whispered, “do you?” She nodded. He then was aware of angry abrasions showing on her face and arms. The result of an assault on her frail body at the hands of one of his officers he suspected.
Now clothed before him in only a loose simple prison gown, she looked similar to a small child being prepared for bedtime. She certainly did not resemble a twenty-one-year-old enemy of the state, of which she certainly was.
Then because of Walter’s prepared plan, she would never experience the pain of any prison punishment again. She had suffered enough he reasoned. He then leaned forward and held her frail body close to his.
Again he whispered: “Sophie … in a few minutes time you will be taken to a prepared room, there you will be informed that there will be no reprieve. You will be restrained and taken to be executed by guillotine. Do you know what this means?”
Somehow that gruesome word ‘guillotine’ released some misty memory of long ago that his own mother had conveyed to her children from her own Bible. Perhaps from the Book of Revelation, he speculated?
Did he then sense a shadow of relief somehow sweep across Sophie’s face at this frightening fate that was awaiting her? Was this because she had become aware of what was to follow?
He had decided not to inform her of what was waiting for her in that prison cellar, then still drenched with blood deposits on walls and floors from earlier executions.
For Sophie sadly then, the frailty of youth was ending, but the fatality of death was just about to emerge and liberate this maid of Munich.
“The cutting blade will be sharp and prepared for its designated purpose…that of severing your head from your body…. but if it fails…. and it has done many times Sophie, it will have to be used several times to tear your head from your body. I don’t want that to happen to you. I will not allow it to happen to you!”
“Now listen very carefully. Sophie, you are a brave girl and you always were…. but events have changed, you must now listen to me. When a cup of milk arrives, I want you to swallow it all very quickly, do you understand…. all of IT!”
She nodded as he emphasised the last word.
“But you must do as I say…. and be brave. Then I promise no more pain can ever hurt or harm you ever again.” She nodded as he felt her now warm breath settle on his face. She was rather like a trusting child he thought about to be taken out for an ice cream treat. Again somehow his sister’s simplistic smile slipped into his mind, but he could not allow memories to impede what he was about to perform for her.
Time was now his immediate enemy if he was to succeed for Sophie. Then almost as if expecting the ordered cup and saucer arrived containing the warm milk. He dismissed the nervous guard with a wave of his hand. Then he reached into his uniform pocket and very carefully subtracted a small envelope containing a white crushed powder substance that he had concealed.
This was the barbiturate ‘Nembutal’. Today he would probably select ‘Zolpidem’, with additional opiates if available.
For now, this would serve its designated purpose, at least Walter expected it to.
Then swiftly sprinkling it into the milk and stirring it with an HB pencil he eased it towards her whispering: “Drink it quickly Sophie now…all of it please….someone will be here in few minutes to take you away.”
She did as Walter requested ingesting without harm and he was grateful. Then quietly looking him in the eyes with affection she whispered: “Thank you, sir, God bless you.”
Then her eyesight began to flicker and fade. He wondered if she was aware of what she had just swallowed at his plea, he somehow doubted it.
He held her face close to his and whispered: “Soon Sophie you will begin to feel very tired … I want you to think of something very happy that happened when you were a little girl … something that meant a great deal to you. Just close your eyes and sleep, sleep.”
This was, in fact, a powerful sleeping draught that he had administered to her that would quickly render her almost unconscious, or so he hoped before that blade came crashing down on her thin vulnerable neck as he waited anxiously.
Minutes later the perspiring prison governor with the Reich Chaplin entered with two guards on either side of him. He looked surprised to see Walter but offered nothing in the way of a question as to why he was there. Walter offered nothing as reason for his presence in the cell. No one defied Himmler’s signature, nor had the courage to counteract his command.
On the governor’s orders, the guards lifted her up and placed both her arms over their shoulders and then walked her out of her cell. Walter followed.
She was unable to walk of course and was dispatched along the corridor with her bare feet trailing behind her, on the rough stone floor.
In a small curtained room a court official informed her that reprieve had been denied. Then the death sentence was signed.
She was then escorted to the execution chamber; the usual clinical procedure was carried out as per prison regulations. She was quickly placed face down on to a cutaway wooden block. Her hair was tied in a bun, her arms were secured behind her back.
On the governor’s nodded command, the sharpened shiny blade descended, severing her head from her frail body. Walter still speculated years later that she had experienced nothing, as he watched her bloodied head roll into a bloodstained bucket.
That sharpened cutlass that had swiftly assaulted her undernourished body bringing a final ending had achieved its prime purpose. Justice from the state had been administered.
Walter was convinced Sophie suffered no pain. The opiate he had prepared and given to her would have rendered her almost unconscious. Before he departed the prison he returned to her unoccupied cell and retrieved that incriminating cup.
No point in leaving any evidence that just might just descend into hostile hands he thought. By performing this so-called ‘mercy mission’ for the suffering Sophia Scholl, he had facilitated his own conscience, but would it be enough?
In later years he was never able to be quite sure as to why he had performed this deed. Now almost sixty years on he suffered no penitence whatsoever of what he had willingly performed to ease the passing minutes of her brief life. He had never divulged this act of mercy to any other person. He had never accepted any argument to answer for this activity. Nor would he ever do so by word of apology.
The cafe where Walter had arranged to meet Rohm was merely a ‘dive’, known then as the ‘Cafe Flanders’. However, the food was nourishing, affordable and the company was sometimes cheerful.
Some years ago he had read in some gastronomic food feature supplement in a Sunday paper, that it had surprisingly evolved into an upmarket Turkish kebab restaurant, then boasting an awarded five star Michelin guide recommendation for its exotic cuisine. Walter was usually very cautious of these so-called recommendations by so-called conceited chefs moonlighting as journalists. Because simply when a certain establishment under the same chef and management leaps from two stars to a five-star recommendation in a short period of time, something is rather suspicious.
Maybe he pondered it, the probing policeman’s mind still practising after all these years. Many trained habits never desert the mind it seems.
As he entered the cafe and was seated near the open window he was aware of some old S.A. men nearby smoking and talking animatedly, maybe they had learnt that Rohm their old commander-in-chief was expected to make an appearance. And appear he did right on time.
The old soldiers then leapt to attention and saluted him with admiration. He graciously returned it with affection. Then he walked over appearing tired and seated himself. This offered Walter the unique opportunity to observe “uncle’s” changed and dramatic appearance.
Gone was the spit and polish of a proud soldier of the Kaiser’s army that seemed to have evaporated. It seemed also he had shed some weight. Now wearing a striped brown soiled double-breasted suit that might have been purchased from a Salvation Army hostel. Well, maybe it had. His once white shirt was faded with frayed threads displayed on the collar rim, a slim green regimental tie displayed recent butter and beer stains. His cracked brown shoes were worn down at the heel. On the toe of one shoe was a faint shine seen just about through the dust. Yet it seems he himself was impervious about his demeanour and decline of his fortunes. Now it seemed he was simply philosophical about everything that was about to occur in disrupting his life.
“How are you, Walter? You look well. I must admit the life of a policeman obviously agrees with you.”
He paused as Walter ordered coffee and sandwiches. Then adding: “Try and get into the criminal branch after your promotion and the political section as well, that’s where the power in any police force always resides and flourishes.”
As we waited for our orders to arrive, he leaned forward and whispered: “Thank you for seeing me, Walter. It’s much appreciated and means a great deal to me.” Then their order arrived.
He then devoted his attention to sample a ham sandwich as Walter sipped his coffee and listened and watched his old mentor carefully. Through mouthfuls of food, he informed Walter that he had been employed as a brickmaker but failed to finish the quota that the factory expected.
He had attempted to sell encyclopedias door to door. “But people need food on the table Walter, not books arranged on bookcases gathering dust.”
He had even attempted in trying to provide grave plots. “But the only orders I received were from family friends of my dear mother, and yes I’m still living at home.”
Walter enquired discreetly about his immediate employment prospects: “Well I’m giving piano lessons … you didn’t know I played did you? I frequently perform for family and friends with private recitals.” He laughed as he finished his sandwich.
“But enough about me. What about you?”
He then enquired if more sandwiches could possibly be ordered and Walter quickly complied.
“When are you going to take your detective exams Walter?” he asked quietly.”Because I’m hearing that you could be an important asset to the Munich Police. And when the party reaches power, as it will, we will require first-class men like yourself to serve and unite this wounded nation of ours.”
Walter replied nervously: “I wish I could uncle, but I lack the confidence.” He quickly interrupted him saying firmly: “Confidence is just a state of mind Walter, but time is short and can never be relived,” he remarked brushing crumbs from his already soiled suit.
“I’m serious Walter. I’m asking you to think seriously about those exams because I am convinced you can and will succeed in life. Now, Walter, I wish to share some news with you in confidence because old uncle still has a few surprises up his sleeve.
I have an important contact in the German embassy in Bolivia. By the way, do you know where that is?” He smiled as he waited for the answer. Walter shook his head like a fool asking tentatively. “South America?”
“The capital is La Paz and my old army contact informed me confidentially that the government is trying to secure an officer such as myself to the train up the Bolivian army to squash skirmishes on the border with Chile.”
“Well I have already dispatched my letter of application to the Ministry of Defence, so let’s see what develops next shall we?”
Then a look of resignation spread across his face as he lowered his half-digested sandwich saying mournfully: “I’m finished here Walter…. well politically in Munich you know. Adolph still refuses to answer my letters.”
“Walter we have to grasp our chances when they are offered to us or they may never come again. And this may well be my final throw of that proverbial dice.” A silence then settled over the two men. Each in his own comfortable orbit.
Seeing he was then preparing to leave, Walter reached into his pocket and withdrew a small envelope containing some money for his immediate expenses. He hoped it would be accepted.
He then pushed it across the table whispering: “Towards the fare, uncle”.
Rohm looked surprised and protested. But Walter said quietly: “Pay me back when you can… when you return to Germany.”
The envelope then disappeared into the old soldier’s suit pocket. “Thank you, dear boy, I will never forget this kindness from you,” said an emotional Rohm. Walter was then aware of tears in his eyes as he stood up to depart. He then embraced Walter who discovered it was an original experience to him simply because he had never been embraced by a man before.
Some memories can never be erased it seems. This was one of those. The two men bid their farewells and Walter watched him depart doubting that he would hear from him again.
Much to Walter’s surprise, some two weeks later, he received word that the old soldier was finally departing for Hamburg and could he, Walter, be present to wish him a bon voyage?
He quickly agreed.
When he arrived at the train station he witnessed Rohm in the crowd. Then simply wearing an overcoat that was far too large for him with a soft slouch hat, clutching a small cardboard suitcase. He now looked abandoned and awkward.
The crowd around were oblivious as to who he was and what role he had performed in manufacturing the fledgeling Nazi party.
Walter conversed briefly with Rohm, informing Walter he would be in future correspondence with Heinrich. Rohm felt very apprehensive about the way events had turned out for him, ‘but maybe it was all for the good’? he said rather reluctantly.
They then uttered their final farewells with a firm handshake and a brief embrace.
Rohm mentioned again those police exams, encouraging Walter to seriously consider what he said.
Then he observed Rohm walk alone through the steam towards the waiting train soon departing from Munich for Hamburg. There later to be transported by sea to an unknown lifestyle awaiting him in Bolivia.
Walter knew he owed so much to the concern and kindness of Ernst Rohm for his own family’s future welfare. He vowed he would not overlook this kindness from the old captain at any time in the future.
(Ernst Rohm departed on December 14th 1928 on that fine old ship the S.S. Cap Polonio with apparently a first-class ticket secured in his wallet. Sadly the ship was decommissioned in 1935).
When he arrived at the Munich police station the following afternoon for his shift, the old desk sergeant attracted his attention with a wave of his arthritic hand.
He had the habit when things were quiet to study the daily newspaper. Then removing a chewed pencil stub from his ear he would lick the lead and underline certain words that captured his eye.
Walter once enquired as to what he was performing with the pencil. He replied with the universal symbol of silently tapping his bulbous veined nose. Walter quickly understood.
Walter then examined the daily station incident/log book, when his sergeant interrupted him speaking sternly: “Kyper, there’s been a handbag snatching in the Marienplatz. It seems doctor Auers’ daughter has furnished us with a full detailed description of the thief.”
He produced a prison photograph of a full face and profile for Walter to identify which he did immediately. The criminal was a small-time offender known as ‘Jimmy the dip,’ or in other words, a pickpocket.
It seemed out of routine Walter surmised, that Jimmy had changed his modus operandi from ‘lifting’ wallets from suit pockets to handbag snatching. Very strange behaviour indeed.
(Criminals are akin to cheetahs; they rarely change their spots or their hunting habits).
After leaving the station, he boarded the tram as instructed, travelling out to the suburbs. Then later alighting, he soon located Jimmy’s tenement room.
A gentle knock on the door and Jimmy opened it immediately with fear etched on his unshaved face. After hearing what the article was that he had been instructed to retrieve, it was quickly offered to him and the door was shut on Walter.
Later after arriving back at the station, he offered it to the sergeant.
“Well, I don’t want it! Return it to the lady herself and get Rudi to drive you,” he shouted at Walter.
He then consulted the report sheet, with the pencil secured behind his ear.
“Ah yes, she lives in Obermenzing, a very salubrious area. Captain Goring occupies a villa there with his wife Carin. I believe the lady is not always in the best of health. Very sad. So smarten yourself up lad and remember you are representing the Munich police in all its glory.”
With that dismissal, he returned to his newspaper underlining those mysterious words he had a fascination with for some reason.
With those official orders ringing in his ears he later eased himself next to his appointed driver and departed for the suburbs of Munich. The young man later informed him as they drove past secluded villas, with many being distanced from the road, that this noticeable building was the home of Captain Goring.
The captain, he learned, had been a World War I hero who had flown many missions with the famous ‘Red Baron,’ and a decorated flyer of distinction, he was informed with pride, from his driver.
His wife Carin it seemed sadly suffered from frequent occurring health ailments. A dignified and respected lady he had heard from all who had met or been acquainted with her.
The Goring couple had been inseparable since the failed putsch of 1923. They then had to depart quickly from the German police, later being domiciled in Italy and Sweden. The captain then in a poor state of health after his injury in the Munich putch.
Obermenzing was an area Walter perceived of pricey privacy for the residents who resided there. In this world surmised Walter, there are three classes of people. The upwardly mobile and these were those pleasantly abiding in their attractive mansions and coffee coloured exterior decorations. They resided and revelled in their status and felt invincible.
Then there were those on the downward descent for whatever reason.
Finally, those who will always stay stationary, neither journeying up or down, confined to permanent poverty.
Probably a large percentage of any population could be classed in this last category. These were the future voters that the party would liberate, urged Heinrich and hopefully witness a new Germany become a proud nation again.
Then they arrived at their destination. He climbed out of the car, dismissed Rudy, informing him that he would return to Munich under his own steam.
The house was a double fronted pseudo Tudor design and stood arrayed before him like a silent sleeping sentinel. Unusually a castle turret was on full display from which a naked flagpole could be seen (but no flag fluttering).
Walter later learned that it had been designed as a fully operational observatory and boasted an original “John Cetti” brass mahogany telescope secured to a tripod. Seen secured to the wall was a polished brass plate announcing that ‘Doctor Christopher Auer M.D’ resided here.
He understood that the doctor was a qualified homoeopathic practitioner with many distinguished prelates and politicians and others celebrities seeking his professional prognosis for there ailments.
On either side of the high wrought iron, steel-tipped double gates were two stone red brick pillars. Perched on either side were two stone falcons gazing down suspiciously at any approaching strangers coming to their house or nest (see note at end of the chapter).
The house was discreetly situated being set back from the road. He then walked over the noisy gravel path, it being sliced through the perfectly manicured lawns and raised flower beds. These were displayed on each side of the trimmed green edges. His eyes were then directed towards six elevated classic copper beech trees. They had caught his interest because each had been numbered in whitewash paint at the base of the trunk. He wondered why and for what reason. A single sycamore tree stood alone on one of the lawns. It was surrounded by a cluster of yellow roses. A vintage bugati car also caught his attention.
Smoothing back his hair and wiping the dust from his shoes on the back of his uniform trousers he paused, moistened his lips and then knocked on the heavy foreboding brass knocker. Fashioned naturally into the shape of a falcon.
A minute later a young girl answered it and peered out at him. “Fraulein Auer,?” he enquired. Yet somehow knowing this was not the owner of the stolen handbag. His suspicion was correct it seemed.
She blushed in an innocent girlish manner saying deferentially: “Oh no sir, I’m just Gertrude, the family maid.”
She beckoned him to follow her saying: “Do come in.”
Once inside, she requested him to be seated on a tall uncomfortable high back chair that offered no armrests for relief. She then departed in search of her mistress, he assumed. It was a majestic hallway that was displayed before him.
The ceiling boasted deep mouldings and was fashioned into the shape of flowers then positioned into the plaster. Heavy dusty damask velvet curtains somehow silenced any sound both inside and outside. It was all very grandiose to a country boy like Walter.
Also on display were paintings depicting much of Germany’s proud past. Now sadly preserved in dust and dirt. They seemed somehow to stare down at him from darkened walls. He of course then was unaware of who these celebrated artists were, or what historical events they were portraying.
In fact, his awareness and appreciation of the arts were then appalling. He also noticed heavy Victorian gothic furniture sharing the hall with a tall grandfather clock that silently stole away the minutes of all the lives in this household. Tick Tock … Tick … Tock.
A doleful mounted stag’s head gazed down onto him with sadness or suspicion, or both, in its glazed eyes. It being permanently positioned above that now chiming clock.
Finally, a darkened hall table came into view. Occupying the centre was a gold-plated dish piled with unopened mail supposedly for doctor Auer or his daughter.
Next to it was an unusual antique Egyptian dinner gong with a soft felt hammer or striker to summon the hungry guests to dinner. He speculated that this was perhaps Gertrude’s daily duty amongst other chores she must perform.
There seemed in this house more of the nineteenth century displayed than the twentieth century. Had time remained dormant in doctor Auer’s house he wondered?
He sat and waited with some apprehension now. A stimulating summer breeze then quietly entered the hallway disturbing his reverie. It seemed to arrive from the direction of two open French windows from a spacious room overlooking an overstocked garden.
Suddenly a voice from above slowly descended down like coloured confetti asking: “You must be officer Kyper, my kind knight in shining armour arriving from our wonderful Munich police”?
He turned, stood and looked up in sheer admiration at the apparition that had appeared above him. He watched as she slowly descended that ornate circular staircase towards him.
He could still see her years later so vivid in his mind’s eye after almost seventy years. Karin Auer had now entered the upper hallway and more importantly into his life.
Then to him, she was a pinnacle of perfection. He had never seen any vision of her like or would ever again. Never had he witnessed such loveliness even in the grandest of the world’s art galleries.
Karin Auer in height was just under five foot nine inches with striking Nordic symmetrical facial features that one was first attracted to.
Her long straight blonde hair was then somehow piled high above her head. She was smiling down at him and had just returned from riding in the park, as he was later to learn. Then seen before him, wearing white jodhpurs with black knee-length leather boots shone to a parade ground perfection.
She did not display sharpened spurs he noticed. She always argued passionately it was appalling to inflict this punishment on an animal. She also displayed a short green jacket nipped in at the waist. Under this, she wore a white high-necked lace voile jabot pinned securely under her chin. Secured to her left lapel was a small black enamel badge with a silver swastika finishing it off for effect, purchased from the ‘Jaeger’ store in Berlin he later learned.
The impact however on him was startling.
Himmler once referred to her as the original ‘Norse maiden’ of the party. As usual, he was correct in this statement of her bearing and beauty.
Then pausing on the last stair, she offered her hand and introduced herself with a captivating smile on her face.
“I’m Karin Auer, how do you do.” Seven words from her that would forever change his life.
He was unaware then of the etiquette of greeting a woman such as her. Was he to gallantly kiss her hand or just hold it gently? He settled fortunately for a firm handshake replying: “Officer Kyper at your service Fraulein. “Then for some foolish reason he bowed his head before her… and no, he declined from clicking his heels. Descending to that (dangerous) final stair and still gently holding his hand she looked at her retrieved handbag with interest, then still secured under his arm.
She raised an eyebrow in surprise saying: “You brought it with you, how kind…” He stepped forward saying: “One returned stolen handbag Fraulein.”
She accepted it with a smile and a nod. Then she slowly released the clasp and then cast her eyes over the concealed items perhaps mentally counting them. Again an aroma of her scent escaped from the confines of the bag. Finally snapping the lock shut she said with gratitude.
“Yes… thank you… everything seems to be here. I’m so pleased and very much beholden to you officer Kyper and to our wonderful Munich police of course, for returning it to me so promptly. I was, fortunately, able to offer a description to your desk sergeant of the suspected perpetrator.”
She paused and lowered her eyes saying sadly: “I suspect he must have been one of our poor soldiers reduced to stealing and begging for money to feed himself and his family, poor man. It’s so wicked and wrong that he and millions like him have suffered on those battlefields of blood…”
She paused and he then witnessed pangs of pain and passion in her eyes as she continued claiming that: “So many of our brave soldiers and millions like him were betrayed by those Jewish money criminals. Then only to be stabbed in the back by those Jewish financiers funded by those wicked wolves of Wall Street as our soldiers fought and died horribly for their country. “It’s scandalous that our returning soldiers like him and so many others, suffered for our country bleeding and betrayed on those wasted battlefields, are forced sadly to turn to crime.”
Her voice had tapered away as she then turned and looked wistfully into that overflowing garden stocked with flowers, shrubs and imposing copper beech trees. Interestingly he had noticed earlier that all were numbered at their base in a whitewash paint in the same fashion he had first noticed in the front of the house. He wondered why and what was the relevance? However, he was not oblivious as to what she had just claimed in her use of acrimonious accusations against the Jews and the Jesuits. A rather competing combination he thought.
He understood that it was delivered directly from her heart. This was her privilege. They were now living through the Weimer democracy and no longer a monarchy. Sadly he then realized that he hadn’t the heart or inclination to inform her that the criminal who had seized her bag had never served a day in any army in his life, neither had he the inclination to do so. He was just another common career criminal serving no one’s interests but his own enjoying his own petty secretive vices when he could.
In fact, he was about just surviving on the streets of Munich like so many others of that criminal class in which Walter had come across. Always searching for new schemes and opportunities at someone else’s expense to line their own pockets.
Hadn’t he also secured too many cold steel handcuffs on so many criminals of this class? Now he speculated just where he had heard that same dangerous diatribe that fell so naturally from her lips some minutes ago? Didn’t those accusing anti-Semitic words sound very familiar to him somehow? Perhaps uttered by someone, somewhere and very recently? But where he could only speculate? He could not remember. His mind was now simply akin to an unoccupied loft.
Then Fraulein Auer turned slowly towards him enquiring with a softer tone and a smile: “As you have come all this way you must stay for tea. I do insist.” She then linked her arm through his and led him unresisting to a large room that overlooked a delightful garden stocked with a portmanteau of pots, plants and pines. That arresting aroma still lingering from the newly mown lawn seemed then to have permeated the living room.
She then gently pulled an embroidered bell strap dangling over the high stone sunlight fireplace. Within minutes the young maid he had encountered at the door, came trotting in as if expected.
“Gertrude, we would like some tea if you please.” She requested with consideration.
Then turning to him, she enquired with a raised eyebrow. “Officer Kyper, I can offer you some Darjeeling tea … very refreshing … or some minted beverage … or perhaps a Persian pomegranate … or maybe some good old reliable Earl Grey?
Now, what would be your preference? You must be very thirsty?”
She looked at him with a mischievous smile. He was, in fact, to witness this performance of hers many times in the future. But he simply did not know what refreshment to accept. In fact, he had never heard of or tasted any of the offered selections. He decided very quickly answering: “Earl Grey, I think Fraulein if you don’t mind?”
Trying to sound undisturbed as he could in his choice of beverages he hoped she would not notice his nervous response.
“A wise choice if I may say so, and can we now dispense of the officer and Fraulein titles, it’s much too formal don’t you agree? Do please call me Karin and may I be permitted to call you… Walter?”
Again with that mischievous smile waltzing around her mouth, he was simply captivated by her.
Then he quickly realised that he had not informed her, as to his name or his police rank, when he had first entered the house. How did she know this? He certainly had not informed the maid in the hallway.
As they seated themselves, he turned to her and enquired: “How did you know my…..?” She dismissed his question with a wave of her hand saying with a smile: “How was I aware of your first name? Well, you see Walter, my closest friend Carin Goring who lives nearby, informed me all about you when Hermann introduced you to her some weeks ago outside the party headquarters.”
“Do you remember? Do you know what she said to me?” ‘That young man will go far, but he needs a guiding hand if he is to aid our party in that long road ahead to an ultimate victory’.
So, had this meeting been prearranged somehow he wondered suspiciously? And how? And staged for whose benefit and why? Then sensing perhaps his unease she enquired with that bewitching smile yet again. “You will stay and join me for some refreshment? It would give me the greatest of pleasure if you accepted Walter.”
Then Gertrude arrived with a tray laden with sandwiches, cakes and other fragile delicacies. She then quickly placed it onto a small occasional table and silently departed as she had arrived.
He then simply offered no resistance to what was occurring and materialising before him.
This young woman now seated politely before him tempted Walter to sample perhaps a watercress or egg sandwich? It was the first occasion he had ever enjoyed such a delicacy and it would certainly not be his last. An unknown and unexpected future was about to display itself before Walter Kyper due to the arrival of Karen Auer into his life.
P.S. With regard to the wrought iron gates of the Auer household, it is understood that in 1945 that the American U.S.O organization appropriated the house as a weekend rest centre for its serving officers. Unfortunately on the night of Thanksgiving in 1945/6, two Military police jeeps collided outside the house demolishing the gates and the plinths. The stone falcons were fortunately rescued and stored in the gardener’s summer outhouse. It is rumoured that the comedian Bob Hope stayed several nights as a guest in the house at some time. But this has yet to be confirmed.
To be continued….
© Copyright G. Patrick Battell
(All Rights Reserved)