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FIVE

Across the city the day died. The sun dropped behind the dome of the Great Hall, gilding it like the cupola of a giant mosque. With a hum, the floodlights cut in along the Avenue of Victory and the East-West Axis. The afternoon crowds melted, dissolved, re-formed as night-time queues outside the cinemas and restaurants, while above the Tiergarten, lost in the gloom, an airship droned.


REICH MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS SECRET STATE DOCUMENT

DISPATCH FROM GERMAN AMBASSADOR IN LONDON, HERBERT VON DIRKSEN


Account of conversations with Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, United States Ambassador to Great Britain


[Extracts; two pages, printed]


Received Berlin, 13 June 1938

Although he did not know Germany, [Ambassador Kennedy] had learned from the most varied sources that the present Government had done great things for Germany and that the Germans were satisfied and enjoyed good living conditions.

The Ambassador then touched upon the Jewish question and stated that it was naturally of great importance to German-American relations. In this connection it was not so much the fact that we wanted to get rid of the Jews that was harmful to us, but rather the loud clamour with which we accompanied this purpose. He himself understood our Jewish policy completely; he was from Boston and there, in one golf club, and in other clubs, no Jews had been admitted for the past fifty years.


Received Berlin, 18 October 1938

Today, too, as during former conversations, Kennedy mentioned that very strong anti-Semitic tendencies existed in the United States and that a large portion of the population had an understanding of the German attitude toward the JewsFrom his whole personality I believe he would get on very well with the Fuhrer.


We cant do this alone.

We must.

Please. Let me take them to the Embassy. They could smuggle them out through the diplomatic bag.

No!

You cant be certain he betrayed us

Who else could it be? And look at this. Do you really think American diplomats would want to touch it?

But if were caught with it Its a death warrant.

I have a plan.

A good one?

It had better be.


CENTRAL CONSTRUCTION OFFICE, AUSCHWITZ, TO GERMAN EQUIPMENT WORKS, AUSCHWITZ, 31 MARCH 1943

Your letter of 24 March 1943 [Excerpt]

In reply to your letter, the three airtight towers are to be built in accordance with the order of 18 January 1943, for Bw 30B and 3e, in the same dimensions and in the same manner as the towers already delivered.

We take this occasion to refer to another order of 6 March 1943, for the delivery of a gas door 100/192 for corpse cellar I of crematory uI, Bw 30a, which is to be built in the manner and according to the same measure as the cellar door of the opposite crematory u, with peep-hole of double 8 millimetre glass encased in rubber. This order is to be viewed as especially urgent


Not far from the hotel, north of Unter den Linden, was an all-night pharmacy. It was owned, as all businesses were, by Germans, but it was run by Rumanians the only people poor enough and willing enough to work such hours. It was stocked like a bazaar with cooking pans, paraffin heaters, stockings, baby food, greeting cards, stationery, toys, film Among Berlins swollen population of guest workers it did a brisk trade.

They entered separately. At one counter, Charlie spoke to the elderly woman assistant who promptly disappeared into a back room and returned with an assortment of bottles. At another, March bought a school exercise book, two sheets of thick brown paper, two sheets of gift wrap paper and a roll of clear tape.

They left and walked two blocks to the Friedrich Strasse station where they caught the south-bound U-bahn train. The carriage was packed with the usual Saturday night crowd lovers holding hands, families off to the illuminations, young men on a drinking spree and nobody, as far as March could tell, paid them the slightest attention. Nevertheless, he waited until the doors were about to slide shut before he dragged her out on to the platform of the Tempelhof station. A ten-minute journey on a number thirty-five tram brought them to the airport.

Throughout all this they sat in silence.


KRAKAU

18.7.43


[Handwritten]


My dear Kritzinger,

Here is the list.

Auschwitz | 50.02N | 19.11E

Kulmhof | 53.20N | 18.25E

Blezec | 50.12N | 23.28E

Treblinka | 52.48N | 22.20E

Majdanek | 51.18N | 22.31E

Sobibor | 51.33N | 23.13E


Heil Hitler!

[Signed] Buhler [?]


Tempelhof was older than the Flughafen Hermann Goering shabbier, more primitive. The departures terminal had been built before the war and was decorated with pictures of the pioneering days of passenger flight- old Lufthansa Junkers with corrugated fuselages, dashing pilots with goggles and scarves, intrepid women travellers with stout ankles and cloche hats. Innocent days. March took up a position by the entrance to the terminal and pretended to study the photographs as Charlie approached the car rentals desk.

Suddenly, she was smiling, making apologetic gestures with her hands playing to perfection the lady in distress.

She had missed the flight, her family was waiting The rental agent was charmed, and consulted a typed sheet. For a moment, the issue hung in the balance- and then, yes, as it happened, Fraulein, he did have something. Something for someone with eyes as pretty as yours, of course Your driving licence, please

She handed it over. It had been issued the previous year in the name of Voss, Magda, aged twenty-four, of Mariendorf, Berlin. It was the licence of the girl murdered on her wedding day five days ago the licence Max Jaeger had left in his desk, along with all the other papers from the Spandau shootings.

March looked away, forcing himself to study an old aerial photograph of the Tempelhof airfield. BERLIN was painted in huge white letters along the runway. When he glanced back, the agent was entering details of the licence on the rental form, laughing at some witticism of his own.

As a strategy it was not without risk. In the morning, a copy of the rental agreement would be forwarded automatically to the Polizei, and even the Orpo would wonder why a murdered woman was hiring a car. But tomorrow was Sunday, Monday was the Fuhrertag, and by Tuesday -the earliest the Orpo were likely to pull their fingers out of their backsides March reckoned he and Charlie would either be safe or arrested, or dead.

Ten minutes later, with a final exchange of smiles, she was given the keys to a four-door black Opel, with ten thousand kilometres on the clock. Five minutes after that, March joined her in the parking lot. He navigated while she drove. It was the first time he had seen her behind the wheel: another side of her. In the busy traffic she displayed an exaggerated caution which he felt did not come naturally.


SKETCH OF INSTALLATION BY MARTIN LUTHER

[Dated 15 July 1943; handwritten; 1 page]


The lobby of the Prince Friedrich Karl was deserted: the guests were out for the night. As they passed through it towards the stairs the receptionist kept her head down. They were just another of Herr Breckers little scams best not to know too much.

Their room had not been searched. The cotton threads hung where March had wedged them between door and frame. Inside, when he pulled Luthers case out from beneath the bed, the single strand of hair was still laced through the lock.


Charlie stepped out of her dress and wrapped a towel around her shoulders.

In the bathroom at the end of the passage, a naked bulb lit a grimy sink. A bath stood on tiptoe, on iron claws.


March walked back to the bedroom, shut himself in, and once more propped the chair up against the door. He piled the contents of the case on the dressing table the map, the various envelopes, the minutes and memoranda, the reports, including the one with the rows of statistics, typed on the machine with the extra-large letters. Some of the paper crackled with age. He remembered how he and Charlie had sat during the sunlit afternoon, with the rumble of traffic outside; how they had passed the evidence backwards and forwards to one another at first with excitement, then stunned, disbelieving, silent, until at last they came to the pouch with the photographs.

Now he needed to be more systematic. He pulled up a chair, cleared a space, and opened the exercise book. He tore out thirty pages. At the top of each sheet he wrote the year and the month, beginning with July 1941 and ending in January 1944. He took off his jacket and draped it over the back of the chair. Then he began to work his way through the heap of papers, making notes in his clear script.


A railway timetable badly printed on yellowing wartime paper:


Fatherland

and so on, until, in the second week of February, a new destination appeared. Now almost all the times had been worked out to the minute:


Fatherland

and so on again, until the end of the month.

A rusty paper clip had mottled the edge of the timetable. Attached to it was a telegraphic letter from the General Management, Directorate East, of the German Reich Railways, dated Berlin, 13 January 1943. First, a list of recipients:


Reich Railway Directorates

Berlin, Breslau, Dresden, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Halle (S), Karlsruhe, Konigsberg (Pr), Linz, Mainz, Oppeln, East in Frankfurt (O), Posen, Vienna

General Directorate of East Railway in Krakau

Reichsprotektor, Group Railways in Prague

General Traffic Directorate Warsaw

Reich Traffic Directorate Minsk


Then, the main text:


Subject: Special trains for resettlers during the period from 20 January to 28 February 1943.

We enclose a compilation of the special trains (Vd, Rm, Po, Pj and Da) agreed upon in Berlin on 15 January 1943 for the period from 20 January 1943 to 28 February 1943 and a circulatory plan for cars to be used in these trains.

Train formation is noted for each recirculation and attention is to be paid to these instructions. After each full trip cars are to be well cleaned, if necessary fumigated, and upon completion of the programme prepared for further use. Number and kinds of cars are to be determined upon dispatch of the last train and are to be reported to me by telephone with confirmation on service cards.

[Signed] Dr Jacobi

33 Bfp 5 Bfsv Minsk 9 Feb. 1943


March flicked back to the timetable and read it through again. Theresienstadt/Auschwitz, Auschwitz/Theresienstadt, Bialystok/Treblinka, Treblinka/Bialystok: the syllables drummed in his tired brain like the rhythm of wheels on a railway track.

He ran his finger down the columns of figures, trying to decipher the message behind them. So: a train would be loaded in the Polish town of Bialystok at breakfast time. By lunchtime, it would be at this hell, Treblinka. (Not all the journeys were so brief- he shuddered at the thought of the seventeen hours from Berlin to Auschwitz.) In the afternoon, the cars would be unloaded at Treblinka and fumigated. At nine oclock that evening they would return to Bialystok, arriving in the early hours, ready to be loaded up again at breakfast.

On 12 February, the pattern breaks. Instead of going back to Bialystok, the empty train is sent to Grodno. Two days in the sidings there, and then in the dark, long before dawn the train is once more heading back, fully laden, to Treblinka. It arrives at lunchtime. Is unloaded. And that night begins rattling back westwards again, this time to Scharfenweise.

What else could an investigator of the Berlin Kriminal-polizei deduce from this document?

Well, he could deduce numbers. Say: sixty persons per car, an average of sixty cars per train. Deduction: three thousand six hundred persons per transport.

By February, the transports were running at the rate of one per day. Deduction: twenty-five thousand persons per week; one hundred thousand persons per month; one and a quarter million persons per year. And this was the average achieved in the depths of the Central European winter, when the points froze and drifts of snow blocked the tracks and the partisans materialised from the woods like ghosts to plant their bombs.

Deduction: the numbers would be even greater in the spring and summer.


He stood at the bathroom door. Charlie, in a black slip, had her back to him and was bending over the wash basin. With her hair wet she looked smaller; almost fragile. The muscles in her pale shoulders flexed as she massaged her scalp. She rinsed her hair a final time and stretched a hand out blindly behind her. He gave her a towel.

Along the edge of the bath she had set out various objects a pair of green rubber gloves, a brush, a dish, a spoon, two bottles. March picked up the bottles and studied their labels. One contained a mixture of magnesium carbonate and sodium acetate, the other a twenty-volume solution of hydrogen peroxide. Next to the mirror above the basin she had propped open the girls passport. Magda Voss regarded March with wide and untroubled eyes.

Are you sure this is going to work?

Charlie wound the towel around her head into a turban.

First I go red. Then orange. Then white-blonde. She took the bottles from him. I was a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl with a crush on Jean Harlow. My mother went crazy. Trust me.

She squeezed her hands into the rubber gloves and measured the chemicals into the dish. With the spoon she began to mix them into a thick blue paste.


SECRET REICH MATTER. CONFERENCE MINUTES. 30 COPIES. COPY NUMBER

(The figure had been scratched out.)

The following participated in the conference of 20 January 1942, in Berlin, Am grossen Wannsee 56/58, on the final solution of the Jewish question


March had read the minutes twice that afternoon. Nevertheless, he forced himself to wade through the pages again. Around 11 million Jews are involved in this final solution of the Jewish problemNot just German Jews. The minutes listed more than thirty European nationalities, including French Jews (865,000), Dutch Jews (160,000), Polish Jews (2,284,000), Ukrainian Jews (2,994,684); there were English, Spanish, Irish, Swedish and Finnish Jews; the conference even found room for the Albanian Jews (all 200 of them).


In the course of the final solution, the Jews should be brought under appropriate direction in a suitable manner to the east for labour utilisation. Separated by sex, the Jews capable of work will be led into these areas in large labour columns to build roads, whereby doubtless a large part will fall away through natural reduction.

The inevitable final remainder which doubtless constitutes the toughest element will have to be dealt with appropriately, since it represents a natural selection which upon liberation is to be regarded as a germ cell of a new Jewish development. (See the lesson of history.)

In the course of the practical implementation of the final solution, Europe will be combed from west to east.


Brought under appropriate direction in a suitable manner the toughest element will have to be dealt with appropriately

Appropriate, appropriately. The favourite words in the bureaucrats lexicon the grease for sliding round unpleasantness, the funk-hole for avoiding specifics.

March unfolded a set of rough photostats. These appeared to be copies of the original draft minutes of the Wannsee conference, compiled by SS-Standartenfuhrer Eichmann of the Reich Main Security Office. It was a typewritten document, full of amendments and angry crossings-out in a neat hand which March had come to recognise as belonging to Reinhard Heydrich.

For example, Eichmann had written:


Finally, Obergruppenfuhrer Heydrich was asked about the practical difficulties involved in the processing of such large numbers. The Obergruppenfuhrer stated that various methods had been employed. Shooting was to be regarded as an inadequate solution for various reasons. The work was slow. Security was poor, with the consequent risk of panic among those awaiting special treatment. Also, this method had been observed to have a deleterious effect upon our men. He invited Sturmbannfuhrer Dr Rudolf Lange (KdS Latvia) to give an eyewitness report.

Sturmbannfuhrer Lange stated that three methods had been undertaken recently, providing an opportunity for comparison. On 30 November, one thousand Berlin Jews had been shot in the forest near Riga. On 8 December, his men had organised a special treatment at Kulmhof with gas lorries. In the meantime, commencing in October, experiments had been conducted at the Auschwitz camp on Russian prisoners and Polish Jews using Zyklon B. Results here were especially promising from the point of view of both capacity and security.


Against this, in the margin, Heyrich had written No! March checked in the final version of the minutes. This entire section of the conference had been reduced to a single phrase:


Finally, there was a discussion of the various types of solution possibilities.


Thus sanitised, the minutes were fit for the archives.

March scribbled more notes: October, November, December 1941. Slowly the blank sheets were being filled. In the dim light of the attic room, a picture was developing: connections, strategies, causes and effects He looked up the contributions of Luther, Stuckart and Buhler to the Wannsee conference. Luther foresaw problems in the Nordic states but no major difficulties in south-eastern and western Europe. Stuckart, when asked about persons with one Jewish grandparent, proposed to proceed with compulsory sterilisation. Buhler, characteristically, toadied to Heydrich: He had only one favour to ask that the Jewish question in the General Government be solved as rapidly as possible.


He broke off for five minutes to smoke a cigarette, pacing the corridor, shuffling his papers, an actor learning his lines. From the bathroom: the sound of running water. From the rest of the hotel: nothing except creaks in the darkness, like a galleon at anchor.


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