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ONE

Yesterdays rain was a bad memory, already half-faded from the streets. The sun the miraculous, impartial sun bounced and glittered on the shopfronts and apartment windows.

In the bathroom, the rusted pipes clanked and groaned, the shower dangled a thread of cold water. March shaved with his fathers old cut-throat razor. Through the open bathroom window, he could hear the sounds of the city waking up: the whine and clatter of the first tram; the distant hum of the traffic on Tauentzien Strasse; the footsteps of the early risers hurrying to the big Wittenberg Platz U-bahn station; the rattle of shutters going up in the bakery across the street. It was not quite seven and Berlin was alive with possibilities the day had yet to dull.

His uniform was laid out in the bedroom: the body-armour of authority.

Brown shirt, with black leather buttons. Black tie. Black breeches. Black jackboots (the rich smell of polished leather).

Black tunic: four silver buttons; three parallel silvered threads on the shoulder tabs; on the left sleeve, a red-white-and-black swastika armband; on the right, a diamond enclosing the gothic letter K, for Kriminalpolizei.

Black Sam Browne belt. Black cap with silver .deaths head and Party eagle. Black leather gloves.

March stared at himself in the mirror, and a Sturm-bannfuhrer of the Waffen-SS stared back. He picked up his service pistol, a 9mm Luger, from the dressing table, checked the action, and slotted it into his holster. Then he stepped out into the morning.


Sure you have enough?

Rudolf Halder grinned at Marchs sarcasm and unloaded his tray: cheese, ham, salami, three hard-boiled eggs, a pile of black bread, milk, a cup of steaming coffee. He arranged the dishes in a neat row on the white linen tablecloth.

I understand that breakfasts provided by the Reich Main Security Office are not normally so lavish.

They were in the dining room of the Prinz Friedrich Karl Hotel in Dorotheen Strasse, midway between Kripo headquarters and Halders office in the Reichsarchiv. March used it regularly. The Friedrich Karl was a cheap stopover for tourists and salesmen, but it did a good breakfast. Dangling limply from a pole over the entrance was a European flag the twelve gold stars of the European Community nations, on a dark-blue background. March guessed that the manager, Herr Brecker, had bought it second-hand and hung it there in an effort to drum up some foreign custom. It did not appear to have worked. A glance around the restaurants shabby clientele and bored staff suggested little danger of being overheard.

As usual, people gave Marchs uniform a wide berth. Every few minutes, the walls shook as a train pulled into the Friedrich Strasse station.

Is that all youre having? asked Halder. Coffee? He shook his head. Black coffee, cigarettes and whisky. As a diet: not good. Now I think of it, I havent seen you eat a decent meal since you and Klara split. He cracked one of his eggs and began removing pieces of shell.

March thought: of all of us, Halder has changed the least. Beneath the layer of fat, behind the slackened muscle of incipient middle age, there lurked still the ghost of the gangling recruit, straight from university, who had joined the U-174 more than twenty years before. He had been a wireless operator a bad one, rushed through training and into service at the start of 1942, when losses were at their height, and Donitz was ransacking Germany for replacements. Then as now, he wore wire-framed glasses and had thin ginger hair which stuck out at the back in a ducks tail. During a voyage, while the rest of the men grew beards, Halder sprouted orange tufts on his cheeks and chin, like a moulting cat. The fact that he was in the U-boat service at all was a ghastly mistake, a joke. He was clumsy, barely capable of changing a fuse. He had been designed by nature to be an academic, not a submariner, and he passed each voyage in a sweat of fear and seasickness.

Yet he was popular. U-boat crews were superstitious, and somehow the word got around that Rudi Halder brought good luck. So they looked after him, covering his mistakes, letting him have an extra half-hour to groan and thrash around on his bunk. He became a sort of mascot. When peace came, astonished to find that he had survived, Halder resumed his studies at the history faculty of Berlin University. In 1958 he had joined the team of academics working at the Reichsarchiv on the official history of the war. He had come full circle, spending his days hunched in a subterranean chamber in Berlin, piecing together the same grand strategy of which he had once been a tiny, frightened component. The U-boat Service: Operations and Tactics, 1939-46 had been published in 1963. Now Halder was helping compile the third volume of the history of the German Army on the Eastern Front.

Its like working at the Volkswagen works in Fallersleben, said Halder. He took a bite out of his egg and chewed for a while. I do the wheels, Jaeckel does the doors, Schmidt drops in the engine.

How long is it going to take?

Oh, forever, I should think. Resources no object. This is the Arch of Triumph in words, remember? Every shot, every skirmish, every snowflake, every sneeze. Someone is even going to write the Official History of the Official Histories. Me, Ill do another five years. And then?

Halder brushed egg crumbs from his tie. A chair in a small university somewhere in the south. A house in the country with Use and the kids. A couple of books, respectfully reviewed. My ambitions are modest. If nothing else, this kind of work gives you a sense of perspective about your own mortality. Talking of whichFrom his inside pocket he pulled a sheet of paper. With the compliments of the Reichsarchiv.

It was a photocopy of a page from an old Party directory. Four passport-sized portraits of uniformed officials, each accompanied by a brief biography, Brun, Brunner. Buch. And Buhler.

Halder said: Guide to the Personalities of the NSDAP. 1951 edition.

I know it well.

A pretty bunch, youll agree.

The body in the Havel was Buhlers, no question of it. He stared up at March through his rimless spectacles, prim and humourless, his lips pursed. It was a bureaucrats face, a lawyers face; a face you might see a thousand times and never be able to describe; sharp in the flesh, fudged in memory; the face of a machine-man.

As you will see, resumed Halder, a pillar of National Socialist respectability. Joined the Party in 22 thats as respectable as they come. Worked as a lawyer with Hans Frank, the Fuhrers own attorney. Deputy President of the Academy of German Law.

State Secretary, General Government, 1939, read March. SS-Brigadefuhrer. Brigadefuhrer, by God. He took out a notebook and began to write.

Honorary rank, said Halder, his mouth full of food. I doubt if he ever fired a shot in anger. He was strictly a desk man. When Frank was sent out as Governor in 39 to run what was left of Poland, he must have taken his old legal partner, Buhler, with him, to be chief bureaucrat. You should try some of this ham. Very good.

March was scribbling quickly. How long was Buhler in the East?

Twelve years, I guess. I checked the Guide for 1952. Theres no entry for Buhler. So 51 must have been his last year.

March stopped writing and tapped his teeth with his pen. Will you excuse me for a couple of minutes?

There was a telephone booth in the foyer. He rang the Kripo switchboard and asked for his own extension. A voice growled: Jaeger.

Listen, Max. March repeated what Halder had told him. The Guide mentions a wife. He held up the sheet of paper to the booths dim electric light and squinted at it. Edith Tulard. Can you find her? To get the body positively identified.

Shes dead.

What?

She died more than ten years ago. I checked with the SS records bureau even honorary ranks have to give next of kin. Buhler had no kids, but Ive traced his sister. Shes a widow, seventy-two years old, named Elizabeth Trinkl. Lives in Furstenwalde. March knew it: a small town about forty-five minutes drive south-east of Berlin. The local cops are bringing her straight to the morgue.

Ill meet you there.

Another thing. Buhler had a house on Schwanen-werder.

So that explained the location of the body. Good work, Max. March rang off and made his way back to the dining room.

Halder had finished his breakfast. He threw down his napkin as March returned and leaned back in his chair. Excellent. Now I can almost tolerate the prospect of sorting through fifteen hundred signals from Kleists First Panzer Army. He began picking his teeth. We should meet up more often. Use is always saying: When are you going to bring Zavi round? He leaned forward. Listen: theres a woman at the archives, working on the history of the Bund deutscher Madel in Bavaria, 1935 to 1950. A stunner. Husband disappeared on the Eastern front last year, poor devil. Anyway: you and she. What about it? We could have you both round, say next week?

March smiled. Youre very kind.

Thats not an answer.

True. He tapped the photocopy. Can I keep this?

Halder shrugged. Why not?

One last thing.

Go ahead.

State Secretary to the General Government. What would he have done, exactly?

Halder spread his hands. The backs were thick with freckles, wisps of reddish-gold hair curled from his cuffs. He and Frank had absolute authority. They did whatever they liked. At that time, the main priority would have been resettlement.

March wrote resettlement in his notebook, and ringed it. How did that happen?

What is this? A seminar? Halder arranged a triangle of plates in front of him two smaller ones to the left, a larger one to the right. He pushed them together so they touched. All this is Poland before the war. After 39, the western provinces he tapped the small plates were brought into Germany. Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia and Reichsgau Wartheland. He detached the large plate. And this became the General Government. The rump state. The two western provinces were Germanised. Its not my field, you understand, but Ive seen some figures. In 1940, they set a target density of one hundred Germans per square kilometre. And they managed it in the first three years. An incredible operation, considering the war was still on.

How many people were involved?

One million. The SS eugenics bureau found Germans in places youd never have dreamed of Rumania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia. If your skull had the proper measurements and you came from the right village you were just given a ticket.

And Buhler?

Ah. Well. To make room for a million Germans in the new Reichsgaue, they had to move out a million Poles.

And they went to the General Government?

Halder turned his head and glanced around furtively, to make sure he was not overheard the German look, people called it. They also had to cope with the Jews being expelled from Germany and the western territories -France, Holland, Belgium.

Jews?

Yes, yes. Keep your voice down. Halder was speaking so quietly, March had to lean across the table to hear. You can imagine it was chaos. Overcrowding. Starvation. Disease. From what one can gather, the place is still a shit-hole, despite what they say.

Every week the newspapers and television carried appeals from the East Ministry for settlers willing to move to the General Government. Germans! Claim your birthright! A farmstead free! Income guaranteed for the first five years. The advertisements showed happy colonists living in luxury. But word of the real story had filtered back an existence conditioned by poor soil, back-breaking work, and drab satellite towns to which the Germans had to return at dusk for fear of attack from local partisans. The General Government was worse than the Ukraine; worse than Ostland; worse, even, than Muscovy.

A waiter came over to offer more coffee. March waved him away. When the man was out of earshot, Halder continued in the same low tone: Frank ran everything from Wawel Castle in Krakau. That would have been where Buhler was based. I have a friend who works in the official archives there. God, he has some stories Apparently, the luxury was incredible. Like something out of the Roman Empire. Paintings, tapestries, looted treasures from the church, jewellery. Bribes in cash and bribes in kind, if you know what I mean. Halders blue eyes shone at the thought, his eyebrows danced.

And Buhler was involved in this?

Who knows? If not, he must have been about the only one who wasnt.

That would explain why he had a house on Schwanen-werder.

Halder whistled softly. There you are then. We had the wrong sort of war, my friend. Cooped up in a stinking metal coffin two hundred metres under the Atlantic, when we could have been in a Silesian castle, sleeping on silk with a couple of Polish girls for company.

There was more March would have liked to ask him but he had no time. As they were leaving, Halder said: So youll come round to dinner with my BdM woman?

Ill think about it.

Maybe we can persuade her to wear her uniform. Standing outside the hotel, with his hands thrust deep in his pockets and his long scarf wrapped twice around his neck, Halder looked even more like a student. Suddenly he struck his forehead with the flat of his hand. I clean forgot! I meant to tell you. My memory A couple of Sipo guys were round at the Archiv last week asking about you.

March felt his smile shrink. The Gestapo? What did they want? He managed to keep his tone light, off-hand.

Oh, the usual sort of stuff. "What was he like during the war? Does he have any strong political views? Who are his friends?" Whats going on, Zavi? You up for promotion or something?

I must be. He told himself to relax. It was probably only a routine check. He must remember to ask Max if he had heard anything about a new screening.

Well, when theyve made you head of the Kripo, dont forget your old friends.

March laughed. I wont. They shook hands. As they parted, March said: I wonder if Buhler had any enemies.

Oh yes, said Halder, of course.

Who were they then?

Halder shrugged. Thirty million Poles, for a start.


The only person on the second floor at Werderscher Markt was a Polish cleaning woman. Her back was to March as he came out of the lift. All he could see was a large rump resting on the soles of a pair of black rubber boots, and the red scarf tied round her hair bobbing as she scrubbed the floor. She was singing softly to herself in her native language. As she heard him approach she stopped and turned her head to the wall. He squeezed past her and went into his office. When the door had closed he heard her begin singing again.

It was not yet nine. He hung his cap by the door and unbuttoned his tunic. There was a large brown envelope on his desk. He opened it and shook out the contents, the scene-of-crime photographs. Glossy colour pictures of Buhlers body, sprawled like a sunbathers at the side of the lake.

He lifted the ancient typewriter from the top of the filing cabinet and carried it across to his desk. From a wire basket he took two pieces of much-used carbon paper, two flimsy sheets and one standard report form, arranged them in order, and wound them into the machine. Then he lit a cigarette and stared at the dead plant for a few minutes. He began to type.


To: Chief, VB3(a)

SUBJECT: Unidentified body (male)

FROM: X. March, SS-Sturmbannfuhrer 15.4.64

I beg to report the following.

1. At 06.28 yesterday, I was ordered to attend the recovery of a body from the Havel. The body had been discovered by SS-Schutze Hermann Jost at 06.02 and reported to the Ordnungspolizei (statement attached).

2. No male of the correct description having been reported missing, I arranged for the fingerprints of the subject to be checked against records.

3. This has enabled the subject to be identified as Doctor Josef Buhler, a Party member with the honorary rank of SS-Brigadefuhrer. The subject served as State Secretary in the General Government, 1939-51.

4. A preliminary investigation at the scene by SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Doctor August Eisler indicated the likely cause of death as drowning, and the likely time of death some time on the night of 13 April.

5. The subject lived on Schwanenwerder, close to where the body was found.

6. There were no obvious suspicious circumstances.

7. A full autopsy examination will be carried out following formal identification of the subject by next-of-kin.


March pulled the report out of the typewriter, signed it, and left it with a messenger in the foyer on his way out.


The old woman was sitting erect on a hard wooden bench in the Seydel Strasse mortuary. She wore a brown tweed suit, brown hat with a drooping feather, sturdy brown shoes and grey woollen stockings. She was staring straight ahead, a handbag clasped in her lap, oblivious to the medical orderlies, the policemen, the grieving relatives passing in the corridor. Max Jaeger sat beside her, arms folded, legs outstretched, looking bored. As March arrived, he took him to one side.

Been here ten minutes. Hardly spoken.

In shock?

I suppose.

Lets get it over with.

The old woman did not look up as March sat on the bench beside her. He said softly: Frau Trinkl, my name is March. I am an investigator with the Berlin Kriminal-polizei. We have to complete a report on your brothers death, and we need you to identify his body. Then well take you home. Do you understand?

Frau Trinkl turned to face him. She had a thin face, thin nose (her brothers nose), thin lips. A cameo brooch gathered a blouse of frilly purple at her bony throat.

Do you understand? he repeated.

She gazed at him with clear grey eyes, unreddened by crying. Her voice was clipped and dry: Perfectly.

They moved across the corridor into a small, windowless reception room. The floor was made of wood blocks. The walls were lime green. In an effort to lighten the gloom, someone had stuck up tourist posters given away by the Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft: a night-time view of the Great Hall, the Fuhrer Museum at Linz, the Starnberger See in Bavaria. The poster which had hung on the fourth wall had been torn down, leaving pockmarks in the plaster, like bullet holes.

A clatter outside signalled the arrival of the body. It was wheeled in, covered by a sheet, on a metal trolley. Two attendants in white tunics parked it in the centre of the floor a buffet lunch awaiting its guests. They left and Jaeger closed the door.

Are you ready? asked March. She nodded. He turned back the sheet and Frau Trinkl stationed herself at his shoulder. As she leaned forward, a strong smell of peppermint lozenges, of perfume mingled with camphor, an old ladys smell washed across his face. She stared at the corpse for a long time, then opened her mouth as if to say something, but all that emerged was a sigh. Her eyes closed. March caught her as she fell.

Its him, she said. I havent set eyes on him for ten years, and hes fatter, and Ive never seen him before without his spectacles, not since he was a child. But its him. She was on a chair under the poster of Linz, leaning forward with her head between her knees. Her hat had fallen off. Thin strands of white hair hung down over her face. The body had been wheeled away.

The door opened and Jaeger returned carrying a glass of water, which he pressed into her skinny hand. Drink this. She held it for a moment, then raised it to her lips and took a sip. I never faint, she said. Never. Behind her, Jaeger made a face.

Of course, said March. I need to ask some questions. Are you well enough? Stop me if I tire you. He took out his notebook. Why had you not seen your brother for ten years?

After Edith died his wife we had nothing in common. We were never close in any case. Even as children. I was eight years older than him.

His wife died some time ago?

She thought for a moment. In 53, I think. Winter. She had cancer.

And in all the time since then you never heard from him? Were there any other brothers and sisters?

No. Just the two of us. He did write occasionally. I had a letter from him on my birthday two weeks ago. She fumbled in her handbag and produced a single sheet of notepaper good quality, creamy and thick, with an engraving of the Schwanenwerder house as a letterhead. The writing was copperplate, the message as formal as an official receipt: My dear sister! Heil Hitler! I send you greetings on your birthday. I earnestly hope that you are in good health, as I am. Josef. March refolded it and handed it back. No wonder nobody missed him.

In his other letters, did he ever mention anything worrying him?

What had he to be worried about? She spat out the words. Edith inherited a fortune in the war. They had money. He lived in fine style, I can tell you.

There were no children?

He was sterile. She said this without emphasis, as if describing his hair colour. Edith was so unhappy. I think that was what killed her. She sat alone in that big house it was cancer of the soul. She used to love music she played the piano beautifully. A Bechstein, I remember. And he -he was such a cold man.

Jaeger grunted from the other side of the room: So you didnt think much of him?

No, I did not. Not many people did. She turned back to March. I have been a widow for twenty-four years. My husband was a navigator in the Luftwaffe, shot down over France. I was not left destitute nothing like that. But the pension very small for one who was used to something a little better. Not once in all that time did Josef offer to help me.

What about his leg? It was Jaeger again, his tone antagonistic. He had clearly decided to take Buhlers side in this family dispute. What happened to that? His manner suggested he thought she might have stolen it.

The old lady ignored him and gave her answer to March. He would never speak of it himself, but Edith told me the story. It happened in 1951, when he was still in the General Government. He was travelling with an escort on the road from Krakau to Kattowitz when his car was ambushed by Polish partisans. A landmine, she said. His driver was killed. Josef was lucky only to lose a foot. After that, he retired from government service.

And yet he still swam? March looked up from his notebook. You know that we discovered him wearing swimming trunks?

She gave a tight smile. My brother was a fanatic about everything, Herr March, whether it was politics or health. He did not smoke, he never touched alcohol, and he took exercise every day, despite his disability. So, no: I am not in the least surprised that he should have been swimming. She set down her glass and picked up her hat. I would like to go home now, if I may.

March stood up and held out his hand, helping her to her feet. What did Doctor Buhler do after 1951? He was only -what? in his early fifties?

That is the strange thing. She opened her handbag and took out a small mirror. She checked her hat was on straight, tucking stray hairs out of sight with nervous, jerky movements of her fingers. Before the war, he was so ambitious. He would work eighteen hours a day, every day of the week. But when he left Krakau, he gave up. He never even returned to the law. For more than ten years after poor Edith died, he just sat alone in that big house all day and did nothing.

Two floors below, in the basement of the morgue, SS Surgeon August Eisler of Kriminalpolizei Department VD2 (Pathology) was going about his business with his customary clumsy relish. Buhlers chest had been opened in the standard fashion: a Y incision, a cut from each shoulder to the pit of the stomach, a straight line down to the pubic bone. Now Eisler had his hands deep inside the stomach, green gloves sheened with red, twisting, cutting, pulling. March and Jaeger leaned against the wall by the open doorway, smoking a couple of Jaegers cigars.

Have you seen what your man had for lunch? said Eisler. Show them, Eck.

Eislers assistant wiped his hands on his apron and held up a transparent plastic bag. There was something small and green in the bottom.

Lettuce. Digests slowly. Stays in the intestinal tract for hours.

March had worked with Eisler before. Two winters ago, with snow blocking the Unter den Linden and ice skating competitions on the Tegeler See, a barge master named Kempf had been pulled out of the Spree, almost dead with cold. He had expired in the ambulance on the way to hospital. Accident or murder? The time at which he had fallen into the water was crucial. Looking at the ice extending two metres out from the banks, March had estimated fifteen minutes as the maximum time he could have survived in the water. Eisler had said forty-five and his view had prevailed with the prosecutor. It was enough to destroy the alibi of the barges second mate, and hang him.

Afterwards, the prosecutor- a decent, old-fashioned sort had called March into his office and locked the door.

Then hed shown him Eislers evidence: copies of documents stamped geheime Reichssache Top Secret State Document and dated Dachau, 1942. It was a report of freezing experiments carried out on condemned prisoners, restricted to the department of the SS Surgeon-General. The men had been handcuffed and dumped in tanks of icy water, retrieved at intervals to have their temperatures taken, right up to the point at which they died. There were photographs of heads bobbing between floating chunks of ice, and charts showing heat-loss, projected and actual. The experiments had lasted two years and been conducted, among others, by a young Untersturmfuhrer, August Eisler. That night, March and the prosecutor had gone to a bar in Kreuzberg and got blind drunk. Next day, neither of them mentioned what had happened. They never spoke to one another again.

If you expect me to come out with some fancy theory, March, forget it.

Td never expect that.

Jaeger laughed. Nor would I.

Eisler ignored their mirth. It was a drowning, no question about it. Lungs full of water, so he must have been breathing when he went into the lake.

No cuts? asked March. Bruises?

Do you want to come over here and do this job? No? Then believe me: he drowned. There are no contusions to the head to indicate he was hit or held under.

A heart attack? Some kind of seizure?

Possible, admitted Eisler. Eck handed him a scalpel. I wont know until Ive completed a full examination of the internal organs.

How long will that take?

As long as it takes.

Eisler positioned himself behind Buhlers head. Tenderly, he stroked the hair towards him, off the corpses forehead, as if soothing a fever. Then he hunched down low and jabbed the scalpel through the left temple. He drew it in an arc across the top of the face, just below the hairline. There was a scrape of metal and bone. Eck grinned at them. March sucked a lungful of smoke from his cigar.

Eisler put the scalpel into a metal dish. Then he bent down once more and worked his forefingers into the deep cut. Gradually, he began peeling back the scalp. March turned his head away and closed his eyes. He prayed that no one he loved, or liked, or even vaguely knew, ever had to be desecrated by the butchers work of an autopsy.

Jaeger said: So what do you think?

Eisler had picked up a small, hand-sized circular saw. He switched it on. It whined like a dentists drill.

March took a final puff on his cigar. I think we should get out of here.

They made their way down the corridor. Behind them, from the autopsy room, they heard the saws note deepen as it bit into the bone.


PART TWO WEDNESDAY 15 APRIL | Fatherland | c