Drowned baby TL
by Johnny Pez
DBTL 1: Point of Departure
20 April 1889
Klara Pölzl Hitler is shocked and dismayed to learn that her newborn
child Adolf has accidentally drowned while being washed by the midwife.
Klara has now lost a total of four children in infancy. She suffers
a mental breakdown, becomes terminally depressed, and dies a month after
12 September 1919
Anton Drexler, founder of the German Workers Party, is sitting at a party
meeting, listening to one speaker after another drone on and on. What
the party needs, he figures, is someone with the gift of gab, someone they
can use to mobilize mass support. Drexler looks around the room at
the two dozen or so party members he has been able to attract, and sighs.
While he's wishing, he might as well wish for the moon. He's just
as likely to get it.
2 February 1932
Heinrich Bruening, leader of Germany's third-largest political party, the
Catholic Center, meets with an ambitious army officer named Kurt von Schleicher.
Schleicher has a proposal for Bruening. Everyone, Schleicher explains,
expects Chancellor Alfred Hugenberg, leader of the German National Party,
to be elected President in the upcoming election on 13 March. However,
Schleicher has learned from a high-ranking member of the German National
Party named Ernst Röhm that there is growing dissatisfaction with Hugenberg
within the radical wing of the party. Gregor Strasser, the leading
figure among the radicals, would like to depose Hugenberg as party leader,
but knows he doesn't have enough support. Schleicher would like to
arrange a meeting between Strasser and Bruening to discuss the possibility
of Strasser leading the radicals out of the German National Party and into
the Catholic Center Party. With their support, Bruening will be able
to win the Presidency, and Strasser can become Chancellor of a new Catholic
It sounds feasible, Bruening says. Go ahead and arrange the meeting.
Schleicher leaves Bruening with a spring in his step. He has no intention
of letting Gregor Strasser become Chancellor of Germany, but there's no
need to let either Strasser or Bruening know that at this point. Schleicher
has already arranged for separate meetings with Röhm and with Strasser's
deputy Joseph Goebbels. There are many webs yet to be spun today.
8 May 1932
Alfred Hugenberg, newly-elected President of the German Republic, is uneasy
about his upcoming meeting with Kurt von Schleicher. He has heard
any number of rumors about Schleicher's role in the bizarre series of betrayals
and double-crosses that attended his election. The plans he had for
the composition of his government are in disarray. Strasser is in
disgrace, Ernst Röhm now heads a breakaway faction of the German National
Party, and Joseph Goebbels keeps urging him to arrange a coalition government
with Heinrich Bruening's Catholic Center Party.
When Schleicher arrives, he is accompanied by another man. Herr President,
says Schleicher, I would like to introduce you to your next Chancellor.
His name is Franz von Papen....
13 August 1932
President Alfred Hugenberg stares out of the window of his office.
From where he is standing, he can see at least half a dozen plumes of smoke
rising from burning buildings. Behind him he hears the voice of his
Chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher.
Herr President, says Schleicher, we must act now. Germany is in chaos,
Röhm's bully boys have turned Berlin into a battleground, and the Communists
are on the verge of open revolution. You have no choice. You
must invoke Article 48 of the Constitution and grant the government dictatorial
powers. It is the only way to take control of the situation.
President Hugenberg continues to face the window. Although the idea
fills him with foreboding, he fears that Schleicher is right. He has
8 October 1932
Ernst Röhm, Führer of the New National Party, nods in satisfaction
as his men drag the bodies of Alfred Hugenberg and Kurt von Schleicher out
of the President's office. From outside the shattered window, he can
hear his men chanting, Haut'se doch zusammen, haut'se doch zusammen! Diese
gotverdammte Juden Republik! Let's smash it up, let's smash it up!
That goddammed Jew republic!
Now, thought Röhm, we can cleanse the Fatherland of the Jews that
30 June 1937
Josef Pilsudski walks through the burned-out shell of the Reichstag building.
He is not looking forward to the upcoming meeting with Premier Blum and
Prime Minister Baldwin at Potsdam. They would be urging lenience in
dealing with the defeated Germans, and he is in no mood to listen.
His troops, many of them Jewish, have brought back photographs from the
concentration camps. Despite all he has seen in the course of an eventful
life, Pilsudski has been sickened. Perhaps he could arrange tours
of the camps for the British and French delegations. That might make
them see reason.
DBTL 1A: Operation Sealion
London, Great Britain
12 April 1937
Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister for his His Majesty King Edward VIII, sat
for a moment while digesting the report from his Foreign Secretary, Lord
Halifax. Great Britain's erstwhile Polish allies had just succeeded
in driving the Brown Army out of Danzig, thereby cutting East Prussia off
from the rest of Germany. Every attempt by the Germans to halt the
Polish advance had been overcome; the Poles were adding growing numbers of
tanks to their army's infantry and cavalry wings, and the Germans were unable
to stand up to them.
The previous winter, during the siege of Warsaw, Marshal Pilsudski had flatly
turned down Röhm's demanded surrender, and insisted that the war would
not end until the Germans had unconditionally surrendered to Poland and her
British and French allies. At the time, it had struck Baldwin as a
bit of typically foolish Polish bravado. Had Pilsudski consulted with
him, he would have advised the Marshal to seek a negotiated settlement with
Röhm while he still had at least some of his country left. Pilsudski
had not consulted with him, however, and Baldwin had concluded that Britain
and France would soon find themselves faced with the sticky problem of trying
to salvage something from Poland's defeat.
Now, four months later, Baldwin found himself facing the equally sticky problem
of trying to salvage something from Germany's defeat. Pilsudski still
insisted on unconditional surrender, and it was looking more and more as
though he would eventually force the Germans to do so, or else simply overrun
Germany. Baldwin found the prospect of a triumphant Poland only slightly
less alarming than the prospect of a triumphant Germany.
"Gentlemen," he finally said to his cabinet colleagues, "I must tell you
that I find the prospect of a triumphant Poland only slightly less alarming
than the prospect of a triumphant Germany. Is there any way to prevent
the Poles from taking over all of Germany?"
"Well," said Halifax, "of course the Poles won't be able to take over anything
that we and the French occupy ourselves."
"Which currently amounts to exactly nothing," said the First Lord of the
Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
"Is there any chance that we could, ermm, invade Germany ourselves?" wondered
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain.
"As we share no common border with Germany," Halifax pointed out, "this would
necessarily involve an amphibious assault on our part." Halifax did
not bring up the possibility of transporting an army to France and taking
part in a joint operation with the French army, since he knew that Baldwin
would never agree to any such thing.
"True," said Baldwin. "Winston, how long do you suppose it would take
for us to launch an amphibious assault on Germany?"
Churchill pondered the question for a moment, then answered, "Two weeks."
"Surely you're not serious," said Chamberlain.
"I am perfectly serious," Churchill responded. "We have been at war
with Germany for almost a year now, and I assure you the Royal Navy has not
been idle in that time. In addition to the blockade, we have been making
plans for a seaborne invasion of the Bremerhaven area. We currently
have all the landing craft, the ships, and the men needed for such an assault.
In two weeks, I can have a flotilla steaming across the North Sea.
And," he added, "don't call me Shirley."
"I say, Winston, wherever did you get the money for all this?" wondered Chamberlain.
"I'm don't recall allocating any funds to the Navy for an invasion."
"Oh, contingency funds," Churchill said in an offhand, almost evasive way.
"That sort of thing. A bit here, a bit there, and it starts to add
up. My staff handled that end for the most part; I concentrated on
The rest of the cabinet now pondered this new wrinkle in the situation.
"Mmmm," Baldwin said finally. "Very well, Winston. Set the wheels
in motion for a launch date on the," he checked his calendar, "on the twenty-sixth."
"Yes, Prime Minister," said Churchill.
"And I supposed we'd better let Monseiur Blum and Marshal Pilsudski know.
See to it, won't you, old boy?" Baldwin said to Halifax.
"Yes, Prime Minister."
"By the bye, Winston," Baldwin added. "What's this invasion plan of
yours called, anyway?"
"We decided on Operation Sealion," said Churchill. "It just seemed
DBTL 1B: Where Beer Does Flow and Men Chunder
13 May 1936
Joe Lyons, Prime Minister of the Australian Commonwealth, was a bit puzzled
when his Attorney General, Bob Menzies, turned up in his office the afternoon
after a Cabinet meeting. Lyons himself didn't set too much store by
official procedures and protocols, but he knew that Menzies did. Ordinarily
Menzies would have made an appointment with Lyons' secretary. The fact
that he had just turned up this way was a sure sign that big things were
in the offing, and Lyons was pretty certain he knew which big things.
"G'day, Bob," said Lyons. "To what do I owe the honor?"
"I've come here to see you about this morning's Cabinet meeting," said Menzies
in that ponderous way he had when he meant to Discuss Important Matters.
"You mean you still think we should declare war on Germany," said Lyons.
The Germans had seized Danzig and invaded Poland Sunday morning (typical
of Röhm, thought Lyons, to wantonly violate the Sabbath this way on
top of all his other wicked deeds), and Stanley Baldwin had finally, reluctantly,
followed the lead of Leon Blum and declared war Tuesday afternoon.
"We owe it to England to stand by her side in her moment of crisis," Menzies
"Mackenzie King doesn't seem to think so," Lyons pointed out. "He says
that the war for Danzig isn't Canada's war."
"Mackenzie King is a fool," Menzies responded. "He'll live to regret
his selfishness. When England triumphs over her enemies, she'll remember
who kept faith and who didn't."
Bob was really laying it on thick. Lyons said, "If King is wrong he'll
pay for it in the time-honored fashion, by being voted out."
Menzies shook his head. "That's not good enough. The Party don't
wish to be found on the wrong side of this question."
Now we come to it, thought Lyons. "Just how much of the Party are we
talking about here?"
"Enough," said Menzies with uncharacteristic simplicity. "We wish you
to reconsider your decision on the war."
"And if I don't?"
"Then it will be my unpleasant duty to inform you that you no longer enjoy
the Party's confidence," said Menzies.
Lyons tried to reason with Menzies. "Bob, can't you see that this is
the wrong war with the wrong enemy? The Japanese are becoming more
aggressive every day. We can't allow ourselves to be distracted by
what's happening in Europe."
Menzies insisted, "This is a matter of principle."
Lyons put his head in his hands. "Then you'll have to give me the boot.
I've no intention of sending another generation of young men off to be killed
in some pointless Gallipoli."
"It won't come to that," said Menzies reassuringly. "You'll see.
After all, it's not as though they'd let Churchill plan another amphibious
DBTL 1C: Who Can It Be Now?
Off the coast of Bremerhaven, Germany
26 April 1937
Private James Heather Gordon of the 6th Australian Division gripped the side
of the landing craft with grim determination. They were close enough
now to see the spires of Bremerhaven's churches silhouetted in the growing
At 28, Gordon was old enough to remember the accounts of Gallipoli that had
appeared in the newspapers. He remembered seeing the long casualty
lists. After the war, he had listened to veterans talk about the terrible
ordeal, the pointless infantry charges, the months spent under Turkish fire,
and the final ignominious withdrawal. And there wasn't a veteran of
the Gallipoli campaign alive who didn't curse the name of Winston Churchill,
who had masterminded the whole fiasco.
And now here he was, along with the rest of those Australians foolish enough
to volunteer, about to do the exact same bloody fool thing all over again.
There had been a couple hours of shellfire from the invasion fleet, but that
had ended half an hour earlier, and it was eerily quiet. Gordon was
suddenly thrown off his feet when the deck below him gave a sickening lurch.
He was picking himself up when the drawbridge at the front of the landing
craft dropped slowly open, and a gush of icy water washed over the deck.
Up ahead was fifty feet of water with a dense wall of marsh reeds beyond
Gordon followed the other men of his company as they dropped stolidly off
the end of the drawbridge into knee high water. He spared brief glances
to left and right where he could see a line of other landing craft disgorging
other men. Then he was out of the water and trudging through muck.
He hoped to God someone up front knew where they were going, because he didn't
have a bloody clue.
The muck slowly became more solid, and the marsh reeds gave way to woods.
Gordon continued to follow the men ahead of him, all the time wondering when
the Germans would open fire.
The woods had given way to a road that bordered tilled fields with some scattered
farm buildings when they saw their first German. He was leading a horse-drawn
wagon loaded with turnips down the road, and he seemed flabbergasted to see
soldiers surrounding him. He raised his hands above his head and gabbled
away in German.
A lieutenant who spoke German questioned the man for a time, then addressed
the men. "He wants to know if we're the bloody Polacks!"
That brought a loud laugh from Gordon and the other men. The lieutenant
continued, "He says the only German troops he knows about are a gang of fifty
stationed in the town. All the rest have been sent east to the fighting."
Gordon didn't really believe it. There *had* to be German troops around,
waiting to lure them into a trap. The lieutenant told off a squad of
men to keep watch on the road, and led the rest of them on into the field
beyond. To his right Gordon could see more men going off down the road
into Bremerhaven. As he passed the wagon Gordon reached in and grabbed
a couple of turnips, the spoils of war.
Past the field were some more woods, which debouched onto another road, this
one with houses scattered along its length. Gordon waited uncertainly
beside the last of the trees, certain that the houses must conceal German
troops. A sergeant saw him standing there, glared at him, and bellowed,
"Move your arse, soldier!"
Gordon followed half a dozen men as they ran across the road to the nearest
house. He crouched down below a window, then gingerly reached across
to the door, giving it a couple of knocks. After a bit the door opened
to reveal a balding, middle-aged man in a dressing gown. "Ja?
Was ist?" he said as he looked incuriously at Gordon.
"Sorry to disturb you, sir," said Gordon as he touched the brim of his hat,
"but I'm with the Allied army. We're here to conquer your country.
Mind if I pop in to see there's no soldiers hiding in here?"
The man gave an exasperated sigh, opened the door, and stood aside.
Gordon entered, wandered from room to room, apologized to a middle-aged woman
he interrupted in the loo, and finally left the house.
"Sorry for the inconvenience," he said to the man in the dressing gown.
The man gave another exasperated sigh and went back in, slamming the door
Gordon gave a shrug. "Right," he said, "which way to Berlin then?"
DBTL 1D: With Enemies Like These
27 May 1936
Jose Maria Gil Robles y Quiñones had considerable misgivings about
the upcoming meeting. "Father, are you sure this is a good idea?" he
asked his companion. He spoke in French, a language both were comfortable
"Quite sure," answered the Father.
The door to the apartment opened to reveal the face of Indalecia Prieto y
Tuero. He looked as uncertain as Gil Robles felt.
As Gil Robles entered the apartment, he noticed another man standing by a
half-opened window. Was it an assassin? But no, the man's hands
were empty. Suspicious nevertheless, Gil Robles asked Prieto, "Who
"A visiting colleague," Prieto answered, also in French. "No need for
you to fear him, it was he who convinced me to meet with you. He is
Tomasz Arciszewski of the Polish Socialist Party. I would be interested
to learn the identity of your companion, though."
With dawning understanding, Gil Robles said, "It was he who convinced me
to meet with you. He is Father Stefan Wyszynski." Gil Robles
and Prieto spent a long moment looking at each other.
"A subtle pattern begins to emerge," said Prieto.
"Father," Gil Robles asked, "are you by any chance acquainted with Señor
"Ah, you have found me out, my son," said Father Wyszynski.
"Found us both out, I should add," said Arciszewski. "We are here at
the behest of Marshal Pilsudski."
"And of Cardinal Pacelli," Father Wyszynski added. Gil Robles, at least,
was impressed. As Secretary of State to Pius XI, Cardinal Pacelli acted
with full Papal authority.
"I assume," said Prieto, "that we are meant to discuss the recent uprising
that has troubled our nation." Seventeen days earlier, General Emilio
Mola had attempted to depose the Spanish government. Army garrisons
all over Spain had risen up in support, and General Franco had flown in from
the Canaries to assume control of the rebellious troops in Spanish Morocco.
Gil Robles himself had been tempted to bring his own CEDA organization into
the coup attempt, but he had finally decided that Mola's uprising was too
uncoordinated to succeed. Most of the rebellious army troops had been
subdued, and Mola had been captured. News of Franco's flight from Spanish
Morocco the day before promised to bring an end to the last holdouts there.
The coup attempt had failed, but Spain remained in turmoil. The rising
had precipitated union militants to seize power in Barcelona and Valencia,
and the central government in Madrid was hard pressed to maintain control
of the country. Spain might yet dissolve into chaos.
"Spain is a troubled land," Arciszewski confirmed. "You need some great
cause to bring you all together."
"And we believe," said Father Wyszynski, "that Poland can be that cause.
Both of you have spoken out to denounce the unprovoked attack upon our nation
by Röhm's vile minions." It had been Röhm's attack, in fact,
combined with Manuel Azaña's election as President of Spain, that
had convinced Mola that the time had come to strike.
"Together," Arciszewski continued, "you can both persuade Azaña and
the Cortes of the need to come to Poland's aid in the present emergency."
"What need has Poland of our aid?" asked Prieto. "The British and French
are already your allies."
"And what allies they have been," said Arciszewski sarcastically. "Winston
Churchill seems to be the only man in England who actually wants to fight
the Germans. And two weeks after declaring war, Leon Blum has yet to
mobilize the French army."
"Blum may fear," said Prieto, "that if he does so the troops will choose
to attack Paris rather than Germany. After the example provided by
our own dear General Mola, I cannot blame him."
"Nevertheless," said Father Wyszynski, "this still leaves Poland fighting
alone against Röhm's brutal hordes. Frankly, we will take all
the help we can get."
"And look at it from your point of view," said Arciszewski to Prieto.
"Even with the leaders of the coup fled or captured, you still have an army
you can't trust to defend you. Very well, send them to defend us instead."
Gil Robles spoke up. "While it is true that the ignominy of the German
attack on your country is one of the few things the people of Spain can currently
agree upon --"
"Except for Largo Caballero," said Prieto with distaste. His rival
for the leadership of Spain's Socialists, Francisco Largo Caballero had,
predictably, chosen to echo Moscow's view of the German-Polish war as a morally
neutral battle between two equally reactionary regimes.
"Except for Largo Caballero and his followers," Gil Robles agreed, "that
is still no guarantee that they will support a declaration of war on Germany."
"Your voices command the attention of many in Spain," said Arciszewski.
"Together, they will command even more attention," Father Wyszynski added.
"The shock of seeing the two of you acting in concert will see to that."
"Now we come down to the crux of it," said Gil Robles. "Father, in
good conscience, how can I act in concert with a man who is so hostile to
Eyeing Arciszewski sourly, Prieto said, "My Polish colleague here has spent
the last two days convincing me that the government has, perhaps, gone too
far in its effort to reduce the Church's role in Spain. It should prove
possible to modify the Constitution to remove the more objectionable anticlerical
"The Socialists would agree to that?" said Gil Robles skeptically.
"Most of them," Prieto admitted. "The ones who are not in Largo Caballero's
"There will be enough in agreement to effect the changes," said Father Wyszynski,
"provided that the parties on the Right do not obstruct them."
Gil Robles sighed. "The CEDA I can guarantee, and probably the Carlists
will go along, but who can tell about the Falange?"
Father Wyszynski smiled. "Do not worry about the Falange. Cardinal
Pacelli has already seen to them."
"So it is agreed?" said Arciszewski. "The Socialists will agree to
amend the Constitution to make it less odious to the CEDA, and the CEDA will
join the Socialists in calling for war against Germany."
Again, Gil Robles found himself exchanging a searching look with Prieto.
"Agreed," he said gingerly.
"Agreed," Prieto echoed. "I have to wonder, though, even if we do persuade
Azaña to call for war and the Cortes to ratify it, how can our forces
reach Poland? The Czechoslovaks will not allow us transit, nor the
Russians, and certainly not the Germans."
"The Romanians," Gil Robles blurted out. "It must be the Romanians."
"Absurd," said Prieto. "The Romanians are in even worse shape than
we are." Like Mola, Corneliu Codreanu had seen the German invasion
of Poland as a signal to seize power. The Romanian Army, under newly
appointed Premier Ion Antonescu, had succeeded in thwarting Codreanu and
his Iron Guard, but Romania remained in an unsettled state.
Father Wyszynski said, "Cardinal Pacelli --"
"And Marshal Pilsudski," Arciszewski interjected.
"-- are seeing to it that General Antonescu understands the importance of
allowing the Spanish Army to pass through Romania."
"And once they are in Poland," Arciszewski said, "their battle against the
reactionary Brownshirts --"
"-- in the defense of their Catholic brethren --" Father Wyszynski added.
"-- will unite the Spanish people," Arciszewski concluded.
"So you propose to bring peace to Spain . . . " said Prieto.
" . . . by plunging our nation into war," said Gil Robles.
"Exactly," said Arciszewski, as Father Wyszynski nodded in affirmation.
Once more, Gil Robles found himself exchanging a look with Prieto, and he
knew they both shared the same thought:
What a strange people these Poles were.
DBTL 2: Passing the Torch
22 September 1937
General Stanislaw Skwarazinski hadn't expected the invitation (which actually
amounted to an order, of course) to appear at the Belvedere Palace for an
interview with First Marshal Josef Pilsudski. It was rumored within
the Polish Army that Marshal Pilsudski was declining in health, but Skwarazinski
hadn't paid much attention to the rumors. After all, how could Marshal
Pilsudski be dying? The Marshal was eternal.
Skwarazinski had been to the Marshal's private office on a number of previous
occasions, and he found it the same as always, stark and severe. A
large plain desk covered with a disorganized mess of papers and a half-finished
game of solitaire, a few chairs, some filing cabinets, and the red-and-white
Polish flag standing in the corner.
Pilsudski himself, however, was shockingly different. Still in his
plain Army uniform, but now hunched over the desk, his hands shaking, his
face pale and drawn. It took a moment for Skwarazinski to recover
from his surprise, come to attention and salute.
Pilsudski motioned for Skwarazinski to sit down. "No need to stand
on formality, my child. I have important things to tell you, and you'll
probably wish to be seated when you hear them."
Relief warred with unease within Skwarazinski's breast as he sat.
When the Marshal addressed you as "my child" it was a sign that he was in
a good mood. And his voice was as strong as ever. But Pilsudski's
words struck Skwarazinski as ominous. Unwillingly, he remembered again
the rumors about the Marshal's health.
Pilsudski's next words confirmed Skwarazinski's worst fears. "My
child, I am dying."
Without conscious thought, Skwarazinski rose to his feet. "Marshal,
Pilsudski motioned Skwarazinski back to his seat. "I'm afraid so.
Doctor Slawoj tells me it is a cancer, and incurable. He gives me
no more than six months to live."
Skwarazinski, who had led men into battle as recently as a year ago, found
himself weeping uncontrollably. "Forgive me, Marshal," he muttered.
"No, no, my friend, go ahead," said Pilsudski. "It is a fitting tribute.
And best to shed your tears now, for you will have to face the future with
clear eyes. When I am gone, you must lead Poland in my place."
"I, Marshal?" said Skwarazinski, stunned.
"You, my child. There can be no other. The whole nation honors
you for your bravery and heroism against the Brownshirts."
Skwarazinski had never quite understood the public fuss that had been made
over his role in the war. True, he had led the cavalry charge that
had turned back the Brownshirt attack during the Battle of Warsaw.
But he had simply been following the Marshal's orders. It was equally
true that he had broken through the German siege lines at Berlin, and had
stormed the Reichstag building, but again he had simply been doing his duty
as a soldier in the Polish Army. And finally, it was true that he had
personally planted the Polish flag atop the Brandenburg Gate, a bit of grandstanding
which, in retrospect, he found rather embarrassing. But that had been
nothing; less than nothing. He still couldn't bear to look at the
photograph that had been taken of the event.
"And more important," Pilsudski continued, "you've been to the camps."
Skwarazinski didn't need to ask which camps the Marshal was talking about.
He meant the concentration camps that the Brownshirts had set up in Germany.
Skwarazinski himself had liberated the Sachsenhausen camp and taken its
Commandant, Horst Wessel, prisoner. With his own eyes, he had seen
the hideous conditions the inmates had been subjected to, the walking skeletons
they had been reduced to, the piles of corpses that they were fated to join.
And he had seen the yellow Stars of David sewn onto the prisoners' tattered
uniforms. Before that day, Skwarazinski had been just than another
unthinking Polish anti-Semite. Sachsenhausen had changed him.
"I've always said," the Marshal stated, "that anti-Semitism has no place
in a great nation. I've spent the last nineteen years fighting to
keep Dmowski and his National Democrat minions from turning Poland into
another Imperial Russia. When I am gone, you must take up that fight."
"How can I?" said Skwarazinski. "I'm only a soldier."
"No, my child, you are more than that. You have become the nation's
idol. Tomorrow, I will announce that I am resigning as War Minister
and Inspector General of the Army, and I shall recommend you for my replacement."
After a time, Skwarazinski said, "Even so, the National Democrats are strong,
The Marshal chuckled. "Not as strong and determined as they were
six months ago. You are not the only man who has been changed by the
camps. Many within the National Democrats have found the pictures
from the camps disturbing. There is a growing movement within their
ranks to disavow anti-Semitism. The National Democratic Party is splitting
in two. When it happens, you must be ready to pick up the pieces.
The Peasant Party will follow anyone who promises them land, and we now
have all the land we need in Germany." Pilsudski chuckled again.
"Röhm did all the hard work of breaking up the Junkers' estates, and
we get to enjoy the spoils. An unexpected gift from our enemy."
A coughing fit now consumed the Marshal for several seconds, and Skwarazinski
sat paralyzed, uncertain what to do. Could Poland's savior being dying
even now? But the fit passed, and Pilsudski was able to resume his
"You will have one more set of allies in your task," he said. "The
German people themselves."
"What do you mean?"
There was a gleam in the Marshal's eye as he explained. "The National
Democrats have been unswerving in their demands. They want the outright
annexation of the lands we have conquered in Germany, and I intend to give
it to them. Of course," he added, "they haven't yet realized that
with the land will come the people living on it. Fifteen million Germans
will suddenly become part of the Polish nation. A full third of the
population. The National Democrats don't know it, but they've just
made the Poles a minority in their own country."
The Marshal's eyes were no longer on Skwarazinski. "All along, I've
said that Poland should be a federation. A commonwealth, as it was
in the great old days. Now, there is no choice. We cannot subjugate
the Germans, and we cannot expel them. We have no choice but to live
with them on equal terms. And where the Germans go, the other minorities,
the Ukranians and Lithuanians and Jews, will follow. And you must
show them the way." With a sudden return to focus, Skwarazinski found
himself pinned by the Marshal's gaze. "You, *Marshal* Skwarazinski!
You must finish the task that I have begun! It is my final command
to you. Will you obey?"
"Marshal, I will!" Skwarazinski exclaimed.
"Very good, my child, very good. Now go. I must prepare for
my speech tomorrow." With one last chuckle, the Marshal added, "And
so must you."
DBTL 3: 1939 - Where Are They Now?
This is part three of the "Drowned Baby Timeline", the drowned baby in
question being Adolf Hitler. It's the morning of 1 September 1939.
JOSEF KIEMENS PILSUDSKI has been dead for a year and a half. His
defeat of the invading Brownshirt army from Germany was his last service
for the nation he helped recreate.
STANISLAW SKWARAZINSKI has been First Marshal of the Polish Army, Minister
of War, and Inspector General of the Armed Forces for almost two years.
As the foremost hero of the German War and Pilsudski's hand-picked successor
as "uncrowned King of Poland", Skwarazinski has greater control over the
Polish government than either President WALERY SLAWEK or Prime Minister JOSEF
ERNST RÖHM, ex-Führer of Germany, has been dead for two years,
having committed suicide just before the fall of Berlin to the Polish Army
on 28 June 1937.
REINHARD HEYDRICH has been dead for two years. Head of Röhm's
Ministry of Security, he committed suicide after being captured by the Polish
Army on 29 June 1937.
HORST WESSEL has been dead for two years. Commandant of the Sachsenhausen
concentration camp, he was executed by Pilsudski on 8 July 1937.
HEINRICH HIMMLER has been dead for five years. Appointed Minister
of Agriculture by Röhm, Himmler became involved in a bureaucratic turf
war with Security Minister Heydrich, and was arrested and executed for treason
JOSEPH GOEBBELS has been dead for just under seven years, a victim of Ernst
Röhm's initial purge after gaining power in October 1932.
STANLEY BALDWIN is Prime Minister of Great Britain. His successful
prosecution of the Danzig War against Germany has made him the most popular
PM of the century. However, he has tired of public life, and plans
to step down before the year is out. His most likely successor is his
Chancellor of the Exchequer, NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN.
BENITO MUSSOLINI is Duce of Italy. Events in Germany following the
Röhm Coup forced him to postpone his planned invasion of Ethiopia in
1935. Despite his declaration of war on Germany in April 1937, Mussolini
has been unable to increase Italy's influence in Europe. His current
timetable calls for the invasion of Ethiopia to begin on 1 February 1940.
FRANCISCO FRANCO is living in exile in Buenos Aires, having fled Spain
following his unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Republican government
in May 1936.
JOSEF STALIN is General Secretary of the CPSU. He deeply regrets
that Röhm's invasion of Poland occurred before he had finished purging
the Red Army of unreliable elements. Poland's alliances with Finland,
Estonia, Latvia and Romania have complicated his plans to restore the territorial
integrity of the former Russian Empire.
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT is President of the United States. He has
started to make plans for his retirement in January 1941.
LEON BLUM has been Premier of France since 2 May 1936. His successful
prosecution of the Danzig War against Germany has enabled him to continue
his pursuit of social reform.
PIERRE LAVAL is Military Governor of the French Zone of Occupation.
His task for the next five years will be to prepare southern Germany for
statehood as the Republic of Bavaria. He has already begun intriguing
to have himself named President of Bavaria.
WINSTON CHURCHILL is Military Governor of the British Zone of Occupation.
His task for the next five years will be to prepare northwestern Germany
for statehood as the Republic of Hanover. He is rather surprised by
the number of the Zone's inhabitants who wish to form a monarchy under King
George's brother, the Duke of Windsor.
EDWARD ALBERT CHRISTIAN GEORGE ANDREW PATRICK DAVID WINDSOR, formerly King
Edward VIII, was given the title of Duke of Windsor after abdicating in
September 1937. Although he and his wife Wallis currently live in
France, they are planning to relocate to Hanover.
Ex-Kaisar WILHELM HOHENZOLLERN is still in exile in the Netherlands.
He too is surprised by the popularity of his young cousin of Windsor in
the British Zone, and dismayed as well. He hadn't suspected the Hohenzollerns
were *that* unpopular.
WERNER KARL HEISENBERG is the director of the recently renamed Maria Sklodowska
Institute in Berlin. Together with OTTO HAHN and FRITZ STRASSMANN,
he is preparing a paper on the mechanics of uranium fission.
LISE MEITNER has been dead for four years, a victim of the Dachau concentration
camp. Her arrest by the Brownshirts was a sore point between Austria
and Germany throughout the Röhm era.
ENRICO FERMI is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rome.
He occasionally corresponds with his colleagues LEO SZILARD in Cambridge
and ALBERT EINSTEIN in Princeton, New Jersey.
HERMANN GÖRING, ex-fighter pilot and widower of the Baroness Carin
von Rosen, lives in Los Angeles with his second wife, INGRID BERGMAN.
KONRAD ADENAUER survived a three year stay in the Buchenwald concentration
camp, and has regained his old position as Lord Mayor of Cologne.
KAROL JOSEF WOJTILA, inspired by his country's victory over the Germans,
has chosen to follow in his father's footsteps and enlist in the Polish
ALBERT SPEER is an architect in Berlin.
GELI RAUBAL SKORZENY is a housewife in Vienna.
ANNE FRANK has been living in Amsterdam since her father moved the family
there from Frankfurt am Main in 1933.
DBTL 4: The Armored Dream
1 September 1939
The President of Poland and his cabinet generally met once a week, at 10
AM Friday morning. The event was preceded by a less formal meeting
two hours earlier by the President, Prime Minister and War Minister, during
which all of the actual business was conducted.
On Friday, 1 September 1939, War Minister Stanislaw Skwarazinski began
the earlier meeting by telling his two colleagues about a dream he had had
that morning. "I was standing near the old frontier with Germany,
a few miles west of Poznan. Nothing very remarkable, just an open field
with some trees scattered across it. Until the panzers came into view."
"The what?" said President Walery Slawek.
"Panzers," said Skwarazinski. "That's the word for tank in German,
and these were very definitely German. And not just one or two.
There were at least a dozen in view, rolling across the field, followed
by squads of infantry."
Prime Minister Josef Beck said, "I don't think the Germans had a dozen
tanks altogether when they attacked us three years ago."
"These were nothing like Röhm's tanks," said Skwarazinski. "These
were state-of-the-art, easily as good as anything the French have."
The other two men were suitably impressed. It was generally acknowledged
that the French had the most highly mechanized army in the world.
"In the dream," Skwarazinski continued, "I was able to see past the field
for many miles, all along the old German border, and everywhere I looked,
I saw the German panzers. I could see aircraft overhead as well, also
German, also state-of-the-art. Whenever the panzers met our men, the
men either broke and ran, or stayed and died or were captured. The
panzers were unstoppable. The aircraft were able to bomb our cities
There was silence for a moment after Skwarazinski finished, then Slawek
said, "This is certainly an interesting dream, but I for one don't see how
it could come about."
"I've been giving the matter some thought since I woke up," said Skwarazinski.
"If Röhm had embarked on a rearmament program as soon as he came to
power, and had not invaded three years ago, then the forces at his command
now would be similar to those I saw in my dream."
"Of course," said Beck, "Röhm couldn't embark on any rearmament program
then, as he hadn't gained control over the Reichswehr at that point.
Building up the strength of the regular army would have been building up
the strength of a rival power."
"Not to mention," said Slawek, "the economic turmoil that his policies
provoked. Röhm was lucky to have enough mess kits for his army,
never mind tanks and planes."
"I was able to comfort myself with similar logic," said Skwarazinski, "until
a thought occurred to me. What if those panzers have red stars decorating
them rather than black crosses?"
Slawek sniffed. "We whipped those red puppies twenty years ago, and
we can do it again today."
"Can we?" wondered Skwarazinski. "Twenty years ago, Russia was suffering
from the effects of six years of invasion, revolution and civil war.
The Russia we face has had two decades to recover from those experiences.
Also, the Red Army was still in its infancy. All they could send against
us was infantry and cavalry. They had no artillery to speak of, few
aircraft, and no tanks at all. But now..."
"Yes?" said Slawek.
Skwarazinski shrugged. "We just don't know. Stalin is fanatical
about maintaining security. He kills hundreds of people every year
on suspicion of espionage. Naturally, this makes it almost impossible
for us to infiltrate any real spies into Russia. For all we know, the
Red Army could be in no better shape than it was twenty years ago.
Or it could be as highly mechanized as the French army, and three times the
size. We won't really know until he uses it against somebody.
In the meantime, I think it would be prudent for us to assume the worst,
and plan accordingly."
"The Marshal," said Slawek, by which of course he meant Skwarazinski's
late predecessor, Marshal Pilsudski, "often expressed his concern over the
need to modernize the army and the air force. Unfortunately, there
just wasn't enough money. We already spend a third of the government's
revenue on military appropriations just to maintain what we've got."
"That was before the war," Skwarazinski pointed out. "Now we've got
the resources of our German conquests to draw upon. I propose that
we do so. I also believe that we should investigate the possibility
of developing new weapons for ourselves. The British have been experimenting
with jet aircraft, and I think we should start our own experimental program.
And what was the name of that German fellow who was here in Warsaw last
month, the one with the rockets?"
"Von Braun," said Beck.
"That's him," said Skwarazinski. "We may want to consider funding
his proposals as well. The Marshal always believed that Russia was and
always would be our greatest enemy. The Russians have never reconciled
themselves to our independence. It is not a question of whether they
will attack us, only of when. When they do, I want Poland to be ready
to meet them."
DBTL 5: St. Elsewhere
By the terms of Poland's first postwar Constitution, ratified on 17 March
1921, the President was chosen by the two houses of the Polish legislature,
meeting jointly as a National Assembly. The decision to choose the
President this way, rather than through direct popular election, was the
result of two circumstances: first, the universal expectation in Poland that
Josef Pilsudski would be chosen as President; and second, the fact that the
1921 Constitution was written by Pilsudski's political enemies. These
two circumstances also explain why the post of President was made largely
ceremonial and most of the power in the government was vested in the lower
legislative house, the Sejm.
As it turned out, Pilsudski was not interested in serving as Poland's President,
describing the office as a "gilded cage". When the National Assembly
met for the first time on 9 December 1922 to elect a president, there were
five candidates, the top two being Count Maurycy Zamojski, a wealthy
member of the National Democrats (and thus an enemy of Pilsudski), and Gabriel
Narutowicz, a close friend of Pilsudski.
Zamojski led in the first round of balloting, but failed to gain the necessary
majority. The contest remained deadlocked through three more rounds
of balloting. Finally, on the fifth ballot, the "minorities" parties,
those representing Poland's Lithuanian, German, Ukrainian and Jewish minorities,
sided with Narutowicz, giving him a 289 to 227 victory over Zamojski.
The National Democrats and their right-wing allies were furious that Narutowicz
had been elected with the support of the non-Polish nationalities parties.
They began denouncing him as "Narutowicz, President of the Jews", and most
of the deputies and senators from the Right refused to attend Narutowicz's
inauguration on the 11th. Five days later, when Narutowicz was attending
the official opening of the annual winter exhibition of paintings at Warsaw's
Palace of Fine Arts, he was assassinated by a right-wing painter, art professor
and critic named Eligiusz Niewiadomski.
During Niewiadomski's murder trial and execution, he was acclaimed by the
Right as a national hero. Niewiadomski's funeral was made into a political
event, complete with speeches and flags, and his grave became a nationalist
shrine. Over the course of the next few months, over 300 babies baptised
in Warsaw were given the uncommon name Eligiusz.
In 1937, following the liberation of the German concentration camps where
Ernst Röhm's New National movement had murdered seventy thousand people,
including fifty thousand Jews, the Polish Right suffered a schism.
Efforts by the leadership of the National Democrats to condemn anti-Semitism
led to the exodus of some forty percent of the party's membership.
These breakaway National Democrats joined with the Falanga, the Polish fascists,
to form a new anti-Semitic party called the National Socialists.
The year 1941 saw the sudden appearance in Poland's various universities
of a group of freshmen students named Eligiusz. These students almost
invariably held extreme nationalist political views, generally with a strong
anti-Semitic component, and it wasn't too long before all the major universities
in Poland had informal "Eligiusz Clubs". When Boleslaw Piasecki, "Duce"
of the National Socialists, learned of these informal campus groups, he
proceded to organize them into a national collegiate "Society of St. Eligius"
which served as a recruitment arm for the radical Right.
DBTL 6: Eagle and Chrysanthemum
25 May 1940
Konoe Fumimaro was curious to meet Josef Beck, his Polish counterpart.
There were dark rumors associated with Beck. It was said that his
appointment as military attache in Paris in the 1920s had been cut short
due to some scandal, though whether the scandal involved stolen documents,
insulted military officers, or sexual misdeeds varied depending on the source
of the story. On the other hand, the reason for his rapid rise to power
within the Polish government was well understood; it was due to his close
ties with Marshal Pilsudski. Pilsudski himself had appointed Beck to
the post of Prime Minister shortly before the German War broke out, and Pilsudski's
successor, Marshal Skwarazinski, had kept him on in the post.
In a way, Konoe regretted Poland's victory over Germany. It was bad
enough having to deal with men named Ribbentrop, Heydrich and Kaltenbrunner.
Now he somehow had to fit his lips around names like Skwarazinski, Raczkiewicz,
and, heaven help him, Wieniawa-Dlugoszowski. He supposed he ought
to be thankful that it was Beck rather than the latter gentleman who was
Another reason to regret Poland's victory was Konoe's inability to speak
Polish, in spite of three years of determined effort to learn the language
of Europe's newest Great Power. Konoe spoke Japanese and English,
while Beck spoke Polish, French and German. Hence, the need for translators
to be present.
After the necessary social preliminaries between the two men, Beck expressed
his admiration for the Zeros he had seen fly overhead during the welcoming
festivities. This, Konoe knew, was Beck's way of nudging the conversation
towards business. It was (judging as best he could from the translation
of Beck's comment), a moderately subtle effort, which was certainly to be
expected from a former diplomat like Beck.
Konoe responded with thanks and an appropriately humble suggestion that
the fruits of Japanese military engineering were only a trifle compared to
the skilled product of Europe's impressively modern production system.
It was an interesting mental exercise to listen to his flowery comments
as they were translated into Polish.by Monseiur Beck's aide, Colonel Kalinowski.
When the meeting ended he would have to ask his own translator how well
Kalinowski had succeeded in conveying the sarcastic overtones of his paean
to Western technological superiority.
After a brief pause, Beck responded by asking that Konoe forgive him for
having the temerity to contradict his host, for in his opinion the Zero
was easily the equal of anything Europe had to offer, and his own country
would find its own air force immeasurably improved by the addition of several
squadrons of Zeros.
After a few more translated volleys between the two men in which Konoe
insisted that the Poles could do far better, and Beck insisted that nevertheless
the Poles would be interested in acquiring some Zeros, Konoe finally agreed
that regardless of the aircraft's intrinsic lack of any worthwhile merits,
Japan's economy would be well served by the export of a hundred or so to
Poland. The final terms of the sale could be worked out at a later
date by the relevant members of the two nations' trade delegations.
Beck expressed his pleasure at this sign of the fruitfulness of Japanese-Polish
cooperation, and wondered whether there might not be other areas where the
two nations could assist each other. This, Konoe knew, was Beck's
way of broaching the chief item in his agenda. Beck was about to reveal
to Konoe the primary reason for his visit to Japan. Konoe responded
with cautious approval of the idea, and inquired whether his guest had any
specific proposals in mind.
Monseiur Beck did indeed have a specific proposal in mind; it had been
inspired, he said, by the recent incidents between the Red Army and the
Kwantung Army in the Manchukuo Protectorate.
As Konoe had suspected, Beck's proposal was related to the recent border
clashes between Japan's forces and those of the USSR. The Japanese
Army was currently attempting to restore order to China. Its efforts,
unfortunately, were being hampered by the actions of a number of Chinese
factionalists, most notably Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Tse-Tung. It had
become clear to the leaders of Japan's mission in China that at least one
and possibly both of these factionalists were receiving covert assistance
from the Soviet Union. Diplomatic overtures to the Soviets having proven
ineffective, the mission leaders had attempted to halt the Soviets' interference
by more direct means. Unfortunately, the effort had not been entirely
successful. Konoe encouraged Beck to elaborate upon his proposal.
It stood to reason, said Beck, that in the course of those incidents the
Japanese would have gained considerable practical intelligence concerning
Soviet military forces; intelligence which no other nation possessed.
Any other nations which might in the foreseeable future have to engage the
Soviets militarily would find such intelligence invaluable.
Konoe agreed with Beck that such intelligence concerning Soviet military
capabilities would indeed prove valuable to those nations which, like Japan,
shared a common border with the USSR. However...
Here Konoe allowed himself a considerable pause, as though to marshall
his thoughts. Beck displayed no signs of impatience during this interval.
His expression indicated polite attention. Konoe approved. Beck
was indeed proving to be a seasoned diplomat.
It should be understood, Konoe continued at last, that Japan's chief concern
was and always had been China. China was Japan's natural hinterland.
The whole of Japan's foreign policy ultimately revolved around China.
Any state that interfered with Japan's developing relations with China would
be viewed with disfavor. This was currently the case with the Soviet
Union. However, if the Soviet Union were to cease such interference,
Japan would cease to view the Soviet Union with disfavor. For that
reason, it would not be in Japan's best interest to commit itself to any
permanent anti-Soviet alliance. Any associations it did take part in
with respect to the Soviet Union would have to be conditional on the Soviet
Union's own actions with respect to Japan's mission in China.
By the same token, responded Beck, would it be fair to say that any state
that assisted Japan's developing relations with China would be viewed with
Konoe agreed that it would indeed be fair to say so.
In that case, said Beck, I do indeed have a specific proposal to assist
Japan. The Polish Army includes a cryptanalysis section which is, if
I may say so, second to none. The only limitation they face is our ability
to intercept foreign transmissions. I propose that we be allowed to
set up listening posts along the whole of the Soviet-Manchukuo border.
This will double the amount of traffic we are able to intercept from the Soviet
Union. In return, all of the intelligence we acquire will be passed
along to your own military forces. I need not point out how useful
such intelligence would be in your efforts to eliminate Soviet "interference"
Konoe considered Beck's proposal. The Poles were indeed highly regarded
for their code-breaking expertise. If the Kwantung Army could intercept
Soviet contraband and keep it out of Chinese hands, pacification efforts
in China would be significantly improved.
And the clock was ticking. The United States had, for whatever inexplicible
reason, demonstrated its opposition to Japan's Chinese mission, and there
was growing sentiment in the Army and Navy on the need to launch an offensive
operation against the Americans. Although the warmonger Roosevelt
would be leaving office soon, there was no guarantee that his successor
would be any less belligerent.
Konoe knew that Japan would inevitably lose a war with the Americans, no
matter what the Generals and Admirals said. Japan's only hope for
survival lay in bringing the Chinese operation to a successful conclusion
before the military convinced itself that it had to strike against America.
At last Konoe spoke. I believe that your proposal merits serious
consideration. I will of course have to consult with my cabinet colleagues
before I can give you a definite answer, but I foresee no insurmountable
DBTL 7: Going Home
Los Angeles, California
19 January 1940
Hermann Göring sat staring at nothing, alone in his office except
for a bottle of whiskey. The weather had quite obligingly chosen to
mirror his mood, and a steady downpour washed against the windows.
He ignored the knock at his office door, ignored another set of knocks a
minute later, then ignored a third set a minute after that. However,
his lucky streak ended after that; instead of giving up and going away,
his visitor chose to enter the office unbidden.
Göring was not quite indifferent enough to ignore his unwelcome visitor
completely. He looked up from the empty surface of his desk to see
who it was. It was Lothar von Richthofen.
"Hey, Fatty," said von Richthofen, "going to offer me some of that?"
"Lothar," Göring eventually said, "what in God's name are you doing
"Would you believe that I just happened to be passing by and decided to
"Clever boy," said von Richthofen. "The truth is that I've come all
the way here from Berlin specifically in order to see you, and you still
haven't offered me a drink."
"I've only got one glass," said Göring distractedly.
"That's all right, who needs a glass when you've got a bottle?"
Göring thought about it for a moment, then pushed the bottle a few
centimeters across the desk in von Richthofen's direction. The latter
briefly bowed in thanks, then reached over and grabbed it. A quick drink
brought a smile to his face.
"Not bad," von Richthofen said. "When did you start drinking whiskey?"
"It's a habit I acquired here in America."
There was a long pause which ended when von Richtofen said, "This is the
part of the conversation where you ask me why I'm here."
"In fact, old comrade," said Göring, "I don't give a rat's ass why
"I'm glad you asked me that," said von Richtofen serenely. "The reason
I've come all the way here from Berlin to see you is to offer you a job."
"Word travels fast," Göring observed. "It's only been three
days since Herr Hughes shitcanned me."
"Frankly, I'm surprised it took him as long as it did," said von Richthofen.
"The rumor has it that you've been a worthless lump of blubber ever since
"Don't say it," Göring growled.
"-- the divorce became final," the other man finished diplomatically.
"If you're here to give me a recruitment pitch," said Göring, "you're
making a damned poor job of it."
"The recruitment pitch comes later," said von Richthofen. "This is
still the friendly greeting."
The next word Göring used is one that has no exact English counterpart,
but countless idiomatic equivalents.
"Tsk, tsk," said von Richthofen, "such language."
Göring sighed. "Very well, Lothar, make your pitch and scram."
"That's better," said von Richthofen. "All right, then. I'm
here on behalf of a gentleman who wishes you to continue the work you were
doing with Herr Hughes."
Göring squinted at his friend. "How the hell do you know what
I was working on with Hughes?"
"The gentleman I mentioned has certain sources of information that are
unavailable to most people."
Göring felt himself becoming mildly interested for the first time
in months. "Can you tell me the name of this gentleman who wishes
me to design jet aircraft for him?"
Von Richthofen gave an overdramatic glance around the room before saying,
"His name is Stanislaw Skwarazinski."
Göring was astonished. "Are you crazy, Lothar? You want
me to go to work for the Goddamned Polacks? After what they did to
Now the smile left von Richthofen's face for the first time. "Us,
Hermann? *Us?* I didn't see *your* fat ass being shot at back
in '37. You were sitting pretty here in America with your high-powered
job and your great big mansion and your pretty little movie star wife.
You didn't have to sit by helplessly and watch a dim-witted pervert start
a war he didn't know how to win. And I've got news for you -- the 'Goddamned
Polacks' are treating us a whole hell of a lot better than we would have treated
them if we'd won. We got off lucky, and some of us still have enough
of the wits God gave us to know it."
There was still anger in von Richthofen's eyes when he added, "So what's
it going to be, Hermann? Are you going to screw this opportunity up,
just like you've screwed up every other opportunity your life's been blessed
with? Skwarazinski wants someone to build him aircraft, and God help
us, he thinks you're the man to do it. I've pretty much come to the
conclusion that he's out of his mind, but that doesn't matter. The
offer still stands. Do you want to come back with me and try to make
something of your life, or would you rather stay here and drink yourself
Göring noted absently that he was still clutching his glass.
He looked down at the centimeter or two of amber liquid swirling around the
bottom. Then he stood up from his desk, and stiff-armed the glass
into the office's ornate (and non-functional) fireplace.
Hermann Göring was going home.
DBTL 8: Where Do We Go From Here?
It is 5 February 1940. Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini sits in a
finely crafted chair within the Palazzo Venezia and broods. He has just
suffered the most serious setback of his life.
On the morning of 1 February, his armies invaded Ethiopia. On the
afternoon of 2 February, he received a joint communique from Prime Minister
Attlee of Great Britain and Premier Blum of France informing him that if he
did not agree by noon today to withdraw his armies from Ethiopia, Italy would
be placed under a total economic embargo, the Suez Canal would be closed
to Italian commerce, and the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland
would be blockaded by the Royal Navy.
Half an hour ago, Mussolini agreed to withdraw from Ethiopia.
Just like that, Mussolini's dreams of a new Roman Empire dominating the
Mediterranean have vanished like a soap bubble. Italy had suddenly been
demoted back to the status of a secondary power. Mussolini himself was
becoming worried, just a little, that his own grip on power might have just
loosened, never to recover. It is unthinkable for him actually to be
deposed, so he does not think that, but he does worry about the loss of some
of his political power.
He wishes that events in Germany had not forced him to postpone the invasion
for four and a half years. He wishes that the British and French had
not become so unyielding since their victory over the Germans three years
before. He even finds himself wishing for a few brief moments that
he had never decided to invade Ethiopia in the first place.
However, Mussolini is not a man to let failure, even failure on such a
grand scale, stand in the way of his ambition. Very well, so Italy
will not achieve greatness through military conquest. If that road
is closed to him, then he must find another.
Sitting within the Palazzo Venezia, Benito Mussolini begins to ponder his
DBTL8A: When a Problem Comes Along, You Must Whip It
6 February 1940
A uniformed attendant had just spoken the six most frightening words in
the Italian language: "Il Duce will see you now." Enrico Fermi, Professor
of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rome, summoned up whatever reserves
of courage he possessed and followed the attendant through a pair of monstrously
ornate doors into the august presence of the most powerful man in Italy.
Later on, Fermi would recall that the room itself was so lavishly decorated
that it made the doors seem sedate by comparison. At the time, he
had no attention to spare for the decor, for all of it was focused upon
the figure of Benito Mussolini. Il Duce was standing facing a pair
of floor-length glass windows which opened out onto a balcony. As
soon as Fermi entered the room, Mussolini turned to look at him.
The eyes Fermi found himself facing were those of one accustomed to command,
of one having authority, and not fearing to use it. The mouth was
thin, hard, ruthless. When the face brightened into an affable smile,
Fermi found himself letting go of a breath he hadn't known he was holding.
"Professor Fermi," said Il Duce, "it was good of you to make the time to
"Not at all, sir," Fermi managed to gasp out, "it is an honor."
"True enough," said Mussolini. "I'll tell you why I asked you here.
As you are no doubt aware, my recent attempt to expand our country's influence
overseas has met with a serious setback. It seems that, having won
themselves vast colonial empires, the British and French have no wish to
see anyone else emulate their example."
Fermi, who regarded the invasion of Ethiopia as a collossal blunder and
welcomed efforts by the British and French to put a stop to it, prudently
"However unfair their actions might be," Mussolini continued, "we Italians
must perforce accede to them. There can be no military triumphs won,
no empire built. Italy must find some other way to make her mark upon
the world. And that is where you come in, Professor."
"Me?" One word was all Fermi could manage at this point.
"You, Enrico Fermi! Italy must find a new field in which to gain
dominance, and I have decided that that field shall be science! You,
Professor, are the most prestigious scientist in Italy, a Nobel laureate!
You must be the leading force in the new Italian Rennaisance!"
"I?" Fermi replied monosyllabically once more. "What can I do?"
"You must find me some project, Professor," said Mussolini. "Some
grand undertaking that will establish at once Italy's preeminence in matters
scientific. Surely you must know of something! Some theory which
must be established, some device which must be assembled. Something!"
Afterwards, Fermi was unsure just what it was that sparked the idea he
came up with. Possibly the way Il Duce had phrased his request/demand.
At the time, all Fermi knew was that, without quite thinking the matter
through, he said, "Well, there was a paper which was recently published
by Heisenberg of the Sklodowska Institute in Berlin."
Mussolini was immediately interested. "And what was the import of
"It has to do with an experiment I conducted six years ago, bombarding
uranium atoms with neutrons in an attempt to create an artificial transuranic
element. The results were rather confusing, even inexplicable, or
at any rate inexplicable by me. However, Heisenberg and his colleagues
at the Sklodowska Institute have come up with an elegant hypothesis which
would explain the results perfectly. You see, I was attempting to
add neutrons to the nucleus of the uranium atom in an effort to create a
larger element. Heisenberg hypothesizes that what actually occurred
was that the neutron bombardment caused the uranium nucleus to fission,
to break apart into smaller nuclei. He further hypothesizes that the
breakup of the uranium atom would be accompanied by the release of more neutrons,
which could in their turn react with other uranium nuclei, causing them to
fission as well. If the hypothesis is correct, then it would allow
us to create a self-sustaining cycle of fissioning uranium nuclei."
Fermi returned from his flight through the realms of physics to find Il
Duce looking at him in puzzlement. Fermi knew that Mussolini was an
intelligent, educated man, but it was clear that he had been unable to follow
the Professor's explanation.
"To summarize, sir," Fermi finished, "it may be possible for humanity to
tap the power of the atom."
The glazed look vanished from Mussolini's eyes, to be replaced by excitement.
"Atomic power, Professor?"
"And could you yourself do this, Professor?"
"Well," Fermi prevaricated, "it would require prodigious resources.
Mussolini waved that aside. "Resources are not a problem. The
British and French have just demonstrated with insulting ease how worthless
our military preparations have been. If Italy can make no military
conquests, we have little need of strong military forces. Would half
of our military budget provide you with the resources you need?"
"I, er, I believe so, sir."
"Then it is done," said Mussolini with finality. "You will be appointed
director of a government project to create an atomic power plant.
Go and prepare a list of what people and materials you will need and report
back to me in a week's time. A *secret* project, mind you! I
don't want to go to all this trouble just to find out that the British or
the French have beaten us to the punch! Go, Professor, and begin planning
for the --" Il Duce paused for a moment, then a smile split his face.
"Begin planning for the Prometheus Project! Go!"
Enrico Fermi went.
DBTL 8B: Now Whip It, Into Shape
27 July 1940
As work progressed on the Prometheus Project, Enrico Fermi found himself
growing more and more concerned. It went without saying that he could
not express his concerns openly, for who knew which remarks might be overheard?
So Fermi kept his concerns private for months, until chance allowed him
the opportunity to unburden himself.
When Fermi had first begun organizing the Prometheus Project in February,
he had particularly sought out the assistance of the man he personally regarded
as the most brilliant scientist in Italy. Although he had won no awards,
and (being a temperamental man of eccentric habits) had never even held
an academic position, there was no doubt in Fermi's mind that Dr. Emilio
Lizardo would ultimately make the difference between success and failure
for the Prometheus Project.
Approaching Lizardo had been a delicate task, for the man had suffered
considerable scorn from the more conservative members of the scientific
establishment. Nevertheless, Fermi had known (well, hoped at any rate)
that the challenge of creating the world's first nuclear reactor would overcome
Lizardo's antipathy towards bureaucratic encumbrances (to say nothing of
his dislike for the Mussolini regime). In the end, Fermi's hope had
been borne out, and Lizardo had agreed to take part in the Project.
Keeping the great scientist was almost as much work as getting him had
been, but Fermi knew that the benefits justified the effort. Already
Lizardo had constructed a centrifugal device which had enabled them to refine
uranium at an astonishing rate. At their present rate of progress,
Fermi calculated that they ought to have enough material to build a self-sustaining
reactor by the end of 1941. Possibly even sooner.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lizardo had surprised all who knew him (Fermi most of all)
by falling in love. He had met a girl named Claretta Petacci, and
they had chosen today to get married. As Fermi and Lizardo fulfilled
the traditional roles of best man and groom by standing together in a small
side room in some church or other, uncomfortable in formalwear, Fermi had
at last unburdened himself to his friend.
Not knowing any other way to broach the subject, Fermi had simply blurted
out, "What if he decides to build a bomb?"
"Do you mean Mussolini?"
"I don't mean Louis B. Mayer."
"Are you sure the thought will occur to him?" said Lizardo. "He is
a busy man, after all. He has all of Italy to boss around."
"He is not a stupid man," said Fermi, "and he takes a great interest in
this project. He even named it. He did not understand much about
nuclear physics when we started, but he can and will learn. And it is
not as if the idea is an unlikely one. After all, one of our greatest
problems in building the reactor will be to insure that it does *not* blow
up. Sooner or later, he will realize that a reactor can be built to
explode on purpose. Assuming of course that he has not already realized
it. No, my good friend, the day will inevitably come when Mussolini
will come to us and say, 'How soon can you build me an atomic bomb?'
What answer do we give him then?"
Lizardo, who had been fulfilling the traditional role of groom by pacing
back and forth, slowed to a halt as he considered the problem.
"We could," he suggested, "bury our beloved leader in doubletalk, to the
effect that a bomb would require decades of technical progress to create."
Fermi shook his head. "And if he should go to another physicist who
does not share our misgivings? Our lies would be exposed at once,
and we would be lined up against a wall for our troubles."
"True," Lizardo admitted sadly. "And we might well face the same
fate if we admit that a bomb could be built and then refuse to do so."
"At the very least," said Fermi, "we would be expelled from the Project
and replaced with less consciencious men."
"Or else," said Lizardo, "we could agree to build the bomb, and then sabotage
Fermi shook his head. "Sabotage would only be a temporary expedient.
We would eventually be found out, and certainly executed."
"Perhaps," said Lizardo, "we could flee to France or Britain. Then,
at least, we could be certain that Mussolini would not have a monopoly on
Fermi shuddered. "My friend, the only thing I can think of that would
be worse than a warring nation with an atomic bomb would be two warring
nations with atomic bombs."
Lizardo finally sighed and said, "Enrico, at this point all I can do is
quote the illustrious American President Chester Alan Arthur. 'When
a problem comes along, you must whip it.' The problem of the Fascist
bomb has not yet come along. If and when it does, then perhaps we will
see a way clear to whipping it."
Then the door to the little side room opened, and it was time for Dr. Emilio
Lizardo to face a future of wedded bliss.
DBTL8C: Shape it Up, Get Straight
21 October 1941
Dr. Emilio Lizardo, Deputy Director of the Prometheus Project, was astonished
to find three policemen waiting in the living room of his apartment.
He was even more astonished when he saw his wife Claretta in uniform as well.
His first fleeting thought was that this was one of Claretta's peculiar
erotic games, but this was far more extreme than anything they had ever
"My flower," he said in wonderment, "what is going on?"
Claretta remained silent. One of the uniformed men stepped forward
and said, "Dr. Emilio Lizardo, I am Renzo Chierchi, Chief of Police.
I am here to arrest you for treason against the Italian Kingdom."
"Treason? What? Why?"
"You are charged with planning to sabotage the Prometheus Project," said
Lizardo turned to his wife. "My love, tell him he is mistaken!"
Renzo said, "It was your wife who alerted us to your planned sabotage."
Lizardo looked pleadingly at his wife. "Claretta, how could you?"
At last Claretta Petacci Lizardo spoke. "I was simply doing my job,
Doctor Lizardo," she said expressionlessly. " I am an agent of the Organization
for the Surveillance and Repression of Antifascism. I was assigned
to monitor the leadership of the Prometheus Project."
Renzo continued. "Agent Petacci reported your conversations with
Director Fermi about preventing Il Duce from using your atomic reactor to
build explosive devices. Now that work on the reactor is nearing completion,
you and Fermi are being removed from control of the Project."
"What will become of us?" Lizardo mumbled.
"Professor Fermi and his family will be subject to house arrest," said
Renzo. "You, Dr. Lizardo, will serve a life sentence in Regina Coeli
Once more Emilio Lizardo cried out, "Claretta, how could you?"
Now, for the first time, emotion entered her voice. "I did it for
Il Duce," she said with chilling intensity. "I would do anything he
asked of me. Anything."
Broken, Lizardo meekly followed the uniformed men out of his apartment.
DBTL 8D: Go Forward, Move Ahead
13 May 1942
All in all, thought Enrico Fermi, house arrest was not such a bad thing,
especially when you considered the fate of poor Emilio, rotting away in
Regina Coeli. They had allowed him to keep his books and his radio,
and he was allowed to keep up with the various physics journals he subscribed
to. Although he himself was not allowed to leave their apartment, Laura
was permitted to travel with a police escort to the market to buy food and
other things, and the children were able to go to school.
He had gotten to know the various policemen who were charged with guarding
himself and his family. Thus, it was a considerable surprise to him
when the apartment door opened one evening to reveal an unfamiliar face in
the familiar police uniform. It was also a deviation from the familiar
pattern of the day's events, and thus potentially dangerous.
"Good evening, Dr. Fermi," the new policeman said. He had a pronounced
"Good evening, officer," Fermi responded cautiously. "What can I
do for you?"
"As a matter of fact," the policeman said, "I am here to find out if there
is something I can do for you."
Was he hitting Fermi up for a bribe? If so, would he get in trouble
for offering one or for refusing to offer one? "What do you mean?" said
"I mean I'm here to offer you and your family the chance to escape." said
the policeman. "I'm an agent for Polish Military Intelligence."
Fermi quickly discarded the possibility that the self-proclaimed Polish
spy might actually by an OVRA agent trying to trick him into an act of treason.
After all, he was already under arrest for treason, and if the Fascists
wanted to throw him into the Regina Coeli, or execute him, they had no need
to use trickery to do so.
"You wish for me to go with you to Poland," Fermi stated.
"Not with me," said the policeman-who-was-a-spy, "but with colleagues of
mine, and yes, Poland would be your destination."
"So that I could help the Poles build their own atomic bomb."
"You would not be under any obligation to do so, but I'm sure the Polish
government would appreciate any assistance you chose to render."
Fermi sighed. "I once told my colleague Dr. Lizardo that the only
thing worse than a warring nation with an atomic bomb would be two warring
nations with atomic bombs. You tell me now that I would be under no
obligation to help the Poles build a bomb. Will the story change once
I am in Poland?"
The Polish spy with the Sicilian accent said, "There is a professorship
waiting for you at the Sklodowska Institute. If you like, you can spend
your time creating artificial elements, and we will be pleased to let you
do so, for the Commonwealth needs brilliant scientists at least as much as
it needs weapons designers. However, if you should ever decide that
Poland ought to have an atomic bomb as well, we would not refuse your help."
"Would my family and I be in danger if we chose to attempt escape?"
"I will not lie to you, Dr. Fermi," said the spy. "There will be
some danger involved. If you are caught, you know that you cannot expect
to return to house arrest. You may even be executed by the Italian authorities."
Fermi nodded. "I appreciate candor. How long do we have?"
"Naturally, the sooner we leave, the better, but you have at least an hour
"I must discuss this with my wife," said Fermi.
The spy nodded. "Do so," he said.
Fermi went into the bedroom where his wife lay in bed reading. When
he explained the situation to her, she said, "Of course we must leave.
I do not want Nella and Giulio growing up in a prison, even if that prison
is our apartment. You tell this man -- what is his name?"
"I didn't ask."
Laura Fermi rolled her eyes. "Tell this nameless spy that we will
be ready to leave in ten minutes." So saying, she rose from the bed
and began to dress.
Fermi returned to the apartment's living room, where the spy stood waiting
calmly. "We will be ready to leave in ten minutes."
"Thank you, Dr. Fermi."
"Incidentally," Fermi said, "what is your name?"
The spy smiled now for the first time. He said, "You may call me
DBTL 9: Are We Not Poles? We Are Devo
Warsaw, Polish Commonwealth
31 May 1940
Gregor Strasser was President of the Brandenburg Bundestag. By the
terms of the Polish Law of Devolution, this also made Strasser the Secretary
of State for Brandenburg in the Polish Cabinet.
Strasser often reflected on the odd path that had led him to his current
duel role. Eight years before, he had been one of the leaders of Alfred
Hugenberg's German National Party. Then the machinations of General
von Schleicher during the runup to the Presidential election of March 1932
had led to his expulsion from the Party. With his political career
in eclipse, Strasser had retired from public life.
Following the Röhm Coup in October, Strasser had fled Germany to avoid
the fate of his brother Otto, arrested and executed by the Brownshirts during
the post-coup purge. Five years of exile in Warsaw had ended with
the conquest of Germany by the Poles and their British and French allies.
Strasser had returned to his homeland, and had won election to the Polish
Sejm following eastern Germany's incorporation into Poland.
A year ago, Strasser had been part of a parliamentary coalition which had
passed the Law of Devolution, allowing for the creation of autonomous regions
within the Polish Commonwealth. Brandenburg had been the first of
the autonomous regions (or devos as they were popularly known) to be created
under the law. Brandenburg's delegation to the Sejm now met as a body
in Berlin as well, as Brandenburg's legislature, and Strasser found himself
in the uncomfortable position of trying to wear two hats on one head.
Every Friday morning, an hour before the Polish Cabinet met, there was
an informal meeting between President Slawek, Prime Minister Beck, War Minister
Skwarazinski, and the Secretaries of State for Brandenburg, Prussia and
Galicia. Strasser knew that there was an even earlier meeting between
Slawek, Beck and Skwarazinski during which all the real business of the
subsequent meetings was conducted. He was realist enough to know that
the current state of affairs was the best that he, and Brandenburg, could
reasonably hope for.
President Slawek opened the meeting by saying, "Gentlemen, we believe the
time has come to augment your number. We wish to introduce legislation
into the Sejm to grant autonomy to Central Lithuania."
"Why Central Lithuania?" said Strasser. "I was under the impression
that Silesia would be next in line to be granted autonomy."
"I'm afraid this was my idea," said Skwarazinski. "Matters in the
eastern part of the Commonwealth are coming to a head, and I feel that we
need to act now in order to prevent a potentially dangerous situation from
"I knew that there was a certain amount of agitation in the east," said
Strasser, "but I had no idea it had become, as you say, potentially dangerous."
"After I returned from my visit to Japan," said Beck, "every Communist
party in Europe suddenly began denouncing Poland as a reactionary imperialist
aggressor state. The Popular Front alliances in France and Spain have
ruptured, and the Blum and Prieto governments are in danger of falling.
The Communist parties in Estonia and Latvia are demanding that their governments
end their alliances with us. The Lithuanian Communists have just as
suddenly become staunch supporters of the Smetona regime, and half an hour
ago we received news that Molotov is planning to make a state visit to Kaunas."
Strasser was well aware of the history of Poland's postwar relations with
Lithuania. The Lithuanians had claimed Vilnius and the surrounding
territory, but after the Polish-Soviet War the Poles had seized the area
and set up a puppet state that they called Central Lithuania. In 1922
the Poles had annexed Central Lithuania outright. Pilsudski, who was
himself from Vilnius, had opposed the annexation, but being out of power
at the time was unable to prevent it. Ever since, the Lithuanians had
refused to maintain diplomatic relations with the Poles.
"I see," said Strasser. "You fear an alliance between the Bolsheviks
and the Lithuanians, and by making Central Lithuania into a devo, you hope
the lure the Lithuanians into your own alliance."
"We hope to do more than that," said Skwarazinski. "We hope to persuade
the Lithuanians to unite with Central Lithuania under the Polish Commonwealth."
"If that is your hope," said Strasser, "then I wish you luck, because you're
going to need it. Smetona would sooner lose his right arm than allow
Lithuania to come under Polish rule."
"At the very least," said Skwarazinski, "union with an autonomous Wilno
will be a more attractive prospect than outright Polish dominion. Some
in Lithuania will regard the gain as worthwhile, or so I hope." He sighed.
"We walk a narrow tightrope here," he said. "If we are too bold, we
will provoke a war with the Soviets for which we are unprepared. If
we are too timid, Stalin will think us weak and move against us, and again
we will have war. I do not know if we can walk that tightrope, but
I intend to try."
DBTL 10: In Between
20 June 1940
Prime Minister Antanas Merkys heaved a long, heartfelt sigh of relief as
a motorized launch carried Soviet Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov across
the placid gray waters of the Baltic to the waiting Red Navy cruiser.
"I swear," said Merkys, "that man would take your heart as collateral
on a ten kopek loan."
His companion, President Antanas Smetona, said, "A disturbing individual,
no doubt of that."
"Terrifying would be more like it," said Merkys, as the two men retreated
to their chauffeured limousine. "I understand the reasoning behind
his visit, but that doesn't mean I have to like it." Although Molotov
liked to present an unreadable face to the world, Merkys had seen his eyes
sizing up their little country the way a butcher sized up a side of beef.
As their vehicle began twisting its way through the port city's streets,
Smetona said, "You can't deny that Molotov's visit has already begun to
"That much I cannot deny," said Merkys. Even while Molotov had been
touring the countryside around Kaunas, the Polish Sejm had voted to make
the area around Vilnius, which the Poles called Central Lithuania, into one
of their autonomous "devos".
"Now begins the tug-of-war," said Smetona. "The Poles will try to
draw us into a union with Central Lithuania under their 'commonwealth', while
we try to draw Vilnius into a union with ourselves and out of Poland altogether."
"And all the while," said Merkys, "the Russians sit and watch like a hungry..."
"Bear?" said Smetona.
"I was hoping to provide a less clichéd simile," said Merkys.
"There are some clichés which cannot be avoided," said Smetona.
"As long as there are Russians, there will be the cliché of the Russian
bear, because there is too much truth in the cliché to set it aside."
"But there are indeed no more Russians," Merkys pointed out. "They
are Soviets now."
"The Soviet Union is only a mask," Smetona responded. "The greatest
Communist front organization of them all. Take away the mask, and
you will find the same old clichéd Russian bear, waiting to consume
"And yet we are making deals with this clichéd omnivorous bear,"
"Merely discussing the possibility," said Smetona. "We say what we
want, and Molotov says what he wants."
"And what Molotov wants," said Merkys, "is a Soviet naval base in Klaipeda,
and Red Army troops garrisoned in Lithuania. Quite frankly, given
a choice, I would rather see Lithuania become part of Poland."
"Our task," said Smetona, "is to see to it that Lithuania does not face
that choice." He sighed. "We walk a narrow tightrope here," he
said. "If we tilt too far in either direction, we will lose our balance
and fall, and Lithuania will become the possession of one side or the other.
Our only hope for independence is to maintain our current attitude, despite
the shifting winds of international events. I do not know if
we can walk that tightrope, but I intend to try."
To parts 11-20