When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, I was serving as a Kripo (criminal police) officer in Munich. By March of that year, Reinhard Heydrich and his henchmen had taken over all the police stations in Bavaria. From that time onward, I became a member of the Sicherheitspolizei or Sipo, the combined force made up of the Kripo and the Gestapo, fully integrated within the notorious Schutzstaffel (SS). The SS were all members of the NSDAP, the Nazi Party, as were the Gestapo, but the rest of us – those who comprised the original Kripo – were not all members of the Party.
Membership of the Party had always been optional for government workers, and perhaps fifty per cent of we Kripo in Munich had joined the Party before the takeover; the remainder had not. When it became clear that those carrying Party cards would be favoured in the promotion stakes, many of my colleagues joined.
A small number of us remained stubbornly outside the Party, and we suffered the consequences. We were allocated any and all manner of menial tasks; high-profile investigations were entrusted to card-carrying colleagues, even despite their lack of seniority or experience. It was only the most difficult, the most intransigent cases that arrived on my desk, and then only when my superiors had to admit, begrudgingly, that I was the only officer in the station who could solve them.
Of course all other Parties or affiliations were forbidden from the first meeting of the Reichstag in February 1933. That was when the Communist Party was outlawed and all 81 Communist elected members were barred from the chamber. Shortly after that, arrest warrants were issued for all of them, and they had to leave the country or suffer dire consequences.
The first case I was presented with after the SS takeover was dubbed the Mëhrelein affair. Kriminalkommissar Hans Mëhrelein, a close colleague of mine in the Munich station, was suspected of clandestine membership of the Communist Party. My instructions were to get close to him, worm my way into his confidence and prove the accusation. It was made plain to me that disproving the accusation was not an option.
A more unpleasant assignment I could not imagine. Hans was a colleague, older than me, with a distinguished police record and a lavish Weimar moustache. He was the one who broke the notorious Isar riverside murders and brought the killer, Heinrich Lasser, to the gallows. Of course, as soon as I attempted to get close to him, Hans knew exactly what was going on. He said nothing, but I knew he knew and he knew that I knew that he knew what I was doing. The whole affair was most distasteful.
After a week of fruitless meetings in beer cellars, unable to carry on the ridiculous charade any longer, I finally broke through the ‘Chinese wall’. I told him what I had been asked to prove. There was no danger that we would be overheard. We were in the Hofbräuhaus, surrounded by babbling tourists.
Sipping beer from his stein, his moustache was immediately covered in white froth. “How would you like to proceed, Saxon?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “You must be aware that Kriminaldirektor Mydas means to remove you from office. My job is to expedite his wishes.”
He wiped the foam from his moustache. “Regardless of my guilt or innocence?”
“Regretfully, yes. My hands are tied, Hans.”
“So what can I do to help you? A written confession, perhaps?” He took another draught from his stein, depositing a fresh coating on his moustache.
I raised an eyebrow at that. The man was offering to help me to destroy his career, to have him thrown in prison, where he might very well be tortured for the names of other Communists. His life would end on the gallows for sure, like Lasser.
“I would prefer a less drastic outcome, my friend,” I said. “Every problem has a solution. Perhaps if we put our heads together, we might find a way of saving your skin while still satisfying the Kriminaldirektor.”
We ordered two more steins of Hofbräu Original and got to work.
Two days later, I presented my report to Kriminaldirektor Mydas in his office. He read it slowly, his eyes bulging from his skull. When he’d finished, he placed the report on his desk, pushing it away from him as if it might explode in his face.
“Is this true?”
“Yes, sir, every word.”
“Mëhrelein is operating inside the Communist Party as an undercover agent of the Gestapo?”
“Yes, sir, and he has been for two years. His work has resulted in the arrest and detention of countless members of the clandestine Communist Party.”
“You can prove all of this?” He waved a podgy hand at my report.
“The information has been confirmed to me by a high-level contact in the SS.”
He reached for the report, flipped it over, and unscrewed the lid of his pen. “The name of this SS contact?”
“I’m sorry, sir, I cannot disclose the name of my contact. He made it plain that any breach of secrecy would be treated with the utmost severity.”
“He threatened you directly?”
“Both of us, sir.”
He blanched. “I see.” He frowned. “That leaves us with the Ouroboros.”
“The snake that eats its own tail? Yes, sir, I suppose it does.”
He screwed the lid back on his pen and placed it on his desk. Then he steepled his hands and tapped his front teeth. “So there’s nothing more to be done with this case?”
“There is one more thing you must do with my report,” I said, solemnly.
“You must destroy it.”
His eyes darted to the report. “Destroy it?”
“Yes, sir. You must burn it. It must never see the light of day. After that, the case will be closed.”
(C) Copyright JJ Toner