Excerpt from “Underground” by Bryn Beorse
TO KIDNAP A HEAD OF STATE
I was part of an international band assigned to kidnap Hitler. First we had just assigned ourselves. Following this, we were assisted and egged on by an ever-growing crowd of notables, including intelligence bosses, generals and statesmen until the supreme personality in the Allied leadership turned us down.
Wars tempt us to play along the surfaces, though in the centers sit dictators, the Hitlers and the Stalins, players whose pawns are soldiers who form cushions protecting the crimes and the criminals. Rather than fighting these innocents with our own innocent soldiers, airmen, swabs and spies we craved to hit the center.
Our plot developed almost by itself. Hitler was so notoriously kidnapable. No other person in history was such an obvious fraud and so reckless.
Stalin may have been comparable as a person, but he was much better protected and, despite his monstrous acts, he had more sincere followers all over the world. His Secret Police effectively hid the smoldering sentiments of his victimized subjects. Above all, we were never in a shooting war with Stalin’s Russia.
With Hitler everything fell into place. We were in a hot war with him, or rather with is Nazi party. ‘We had ample proof of widespread discontent in Germany. Half of Germany’s top men were eager to risk their lives in any effort to rid Germany of a nightmare.
The Nazi Party’s first serious challenge to Germany and the world came with the depression in the early twenties, which caused a quarter of the votes to be cast for the Nazis in 1924. During the boom of 1928 the Nazi vote sank to a fraction then rose to 44 per cent in 1933 when Germany shared with us “the Great Depression”.
I lived in Germany at that time and watched how this crisis evoked memories of the early twenties when millions starved. This frantic mood upped the Nazi vote. Still, 44 per cent is no majority. Through lies, blackmail and a few well-planned murders Hitler sailed into power. Therefore it was not surprising that a strong anti-Hitler underground sprang up immediately. Among its leaders were Generals Beck and Hammerstein, top army men, later joined by generals Rundstedt and Rommel, famous wartime army commanders. Among civilian members were Leipzig’s mayor, Lederer and Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt, both later to become Chancellors of West Germany. The approaches of this group to allied statesmen and church leaders have been widely publicized. There was another side to the story that may now be revealed.
Having owned a business in Berlin (“ORIENTALISTENGEMEINSCHAFT”) and even being able to pronounce this name, I was considered a linguist of note and a point of contact. My escapades in occupied Norway had further endeared me to British intelligence. In the summer of 1943 while Londoners slept in the subways with suitcases for pillows, occasionally surging to the surface to laugh derisively at the German raiders, Germans ranking from buck privates to generals arrived fresh from Hitler’s headquarters to M.I.5. Colonel Malcolm Munthe of that body, tall, polished, patient, listened for hours as they talked. In response, a plan of operations emerged which the sober minds of the merely fact-finding M.I. 5 were not permitted to even dream. Colonel Munthe called on a general of a bold operational unit. The general’s worry wrinkles deepened appreciatively.
Our German guests had painted a picture of anguished confusion at Hitler’s war headquarters. Irate generals would come bursting in, pleading for or demanding changes in important commands. Hitler fumed, a real hassle would develop and often just because the generals had already made the changes without consultation, hoping Hitler would comply.
Our plan took off from there. We proposed to be the next such group of irate generals, elevated into the highest ranks by the matchless art of London tailors, aided and abetted by proper insignia and decorations. Instead of pleading for decisions already made, we would invite Hitler to come along with us to make his own arrangements. We would invade the sacred area of Hitler’s in aircraft properly marked and flashing the right signals. Landing, we would make our way SOFORT to the FUEHRER, preferably by exclusive use of the weapons of wit, though, if necessary, aided by hardware.
From that point on circumstances would be our guide and decide for us whether we could have the best, the next best or the third best. The best would be if Hitler could be persuaded, without hardware, to go along to our “headquarters” and make the “desired” changes. He might go by his own private plane or our plane. In any event, we would in due time have the course changed to England. The next-best would be to have the same accomplished with a bit more substantial persuasion. The third-best would be if we should have to shoot our little mustachioed friend, a course that might break our tender hearts but … and well, yes, of course, there were even grimmer possibilities.
Any of the alternatives were likely to rid the world of Hitler, though the chances of survival of the mission members were slim indeed. This was our least worry. We, prospective participants, had entered this war to win, whether this took dying or not. And what satisfaction dying in a worthy and decisive endeavour. An earnest resolve was aglow in us as our plans matured and were reinforced with countless but important details. No one could have been more serious than we as we envisioned our children and grandchildren answering when asked how daddy died: In fighting Hitler in person — rather than battling his cushion, the innocent little buck privates down to eighteen years of age.
The General with the wrinkles, at least, was sufficiently impressed to take the plan to — would it not be preposterous for a mere agent and adventurer to boast where?
There were whispers about a British cabinet meeting, a secret session dominated by handsome Anthony and thunderous accord. Then onward went the plan — said the whisperers — to higher stations across the ocean.
I watched the flaming V-I robots thunder over London. When silence struck and they turned downward, I ran for shelter – something I bad never done before. I would not miss my trip with Hitler. Also, I counted the days until these raids would be over — thanks to us.
Days trickled into weeks. These, in turn, strung into months. We spent the waiting time improving our plans, shopping around for adequate aircraft, painters, outfitters, experts on markings and signals. Everything was kept up-to-the-minute. We filled in new details every day, tightened the structure, secured loose ends until we became scientifically convinced we must succeed – a sound condition for any mission though almost never realized.
We took comfort from the fact that while we, the mission members, were but a handful, our ideas were widely shared. Allen Dulles, later to become head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Trevor Roper, noted British historian and Intelligence Officer, repeatedly advocated collaboration with the German Underground for disposing of the Hitler regime. Of course G.I.’s or all units, British tommies and little German teenagers with guns were already talking our language. And British General F. C. Fuller, who knew of our plan, took time out to write a series of articles in the LONDON PRESS intended to weaken two Allied dogma we feared might stop us.
“We must defeat the Germans so they know they are beaten,” was one oft-repeated statement. General Fuller pointed out that the Germans we would cooperate with, representing at least fifty-six per cent of the nation, needed no such prompting – and that the rest could not be taught – and did not matter.
“Unconditional surrender,” was another slogan. General Fuller wrote that any surrender implied conditions and that “unconditional surrender” was simply an anomaly.
We were proud and grateful to have a man of General Fuller’s stature secretly, yet openly, rooting for us and that the British permitted him (and others) to write freely against officially-accepted policies. We began to feel success in our bones.
Six months had gone when Colonel Munthe called me to his office. I looked at his face and was surprised it did not show the signs of victory I had so surely expected. Word had come to the General with the wrinkles, who had told it to Colonel Munthe who now told it to me:
“We won’t play.”
Again there were whispers. August personnel among the Allied had argued that on such a momentous decision Stalin must be called in. From that moment on, people in the know lost faith. They knew he would never go along.
Why would he consent to a plan that would end the war while his armies were still far from Berlin and other coveted points? Besides, continuous war would permit him to get rid of more undesirable Russians at the front or through purges fitting into a war hysteria. And he wouldn’t mind a few more Americans and Englishmen killed either, in addition to his own undesirables.
A huge cross of fire roared outside the windows of the M.I. 5, then stopped and turned nose down, right toward our building. My whole world seemed to me as certain of destruction as the target for that robot.
I was ready for it. A deafening explosion shook the building and long after shattered glass tinkled and rustled. Then I awoke as from a bad dream and collected my unbroken limbs and numbed mind for new battles.
Such was the tragic story, tragic for the millions of men, women and children of all participating nations who were killed and whose lives were worse than wasted because the plan to end the war at a time when it had served its purpose was rejected.
What about the future? Should we just plan to kidnap any head of state who is waging war on us?
No, the message of the story is simply that we should keep informed about any country we may go to war against — informed about its temper, its nature, its leaders and their standing, character, stability — just as some of us were informed about the Germans and their Nazi leaders.
On the basis of such up-to-the-minute information we will know what to do and whether a thrust against the center may be tried.