Drowned baby TL

                                                                      by Johnny Pez

                                                                     contibutions by:

                                                                       Jussi Jalonen
                                                                       Dan McDonald

                                               Parts 1-10           



DBTL 1: Point of Departure


20 April 1889
Braunau-am-Inn, Austria-Hungary
 
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 baby Adolf.


12 September 1919
Munich, Germany

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
Berlin, Germany

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 Center government.

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
Berlin, Germany

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
Berlin, Germany

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 no choice.


8 October 1932
Berlin, Germany

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 stain it.


30 June 1937
Berlin, Germany

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 planning."

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 appropriate somehow."



DBTL 1B: Where Beer Does Flow and Men Chunder

Canberra, Australia
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 insisted.

"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 landing."



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 dawn light.

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 it.

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 behind him.

Gordon gave a shrug.  "Right," he said, "which way to Berlin then?"


DBTL 1D: With Enemies Like These

Madrid, Spain
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 in.

"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 is he?"

"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 Prieto's guest?"

"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 the Church?"

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 articles."

"The Socialists would agree to that?" said Gil Robles skeptically.

"Most of them," Prieto admitted.  "The ones who are not in Largo Caballero's pocket."

"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

Warsaw, Poland
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, no!"

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, and determined."

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 talk.

"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 BECK.

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 in 1934.

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 Army.

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

Warsaw, Poland
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 practically unopposed."

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

Tokyo, Japan
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 Prime Minister.

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 favor?

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" in China.

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 problems.



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 here?"

"Would you believe that I just happened to be passing by and decided to drop in?"

"No."

"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 you're here."

"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 us?"

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 to death?"

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 next move.


DBTL8A: When a Problem Comes Along, You Must Whip It

Rome, Italy
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 see me."

"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 remained silent.

"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 this paper?"

"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?"

"Yes, sir."

"And could you yourself do this, Professor?"

"Well," Fermi prevaricated, "it would require prodigious resources.  The technical--"

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

Rome, Italy
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 it."

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 atomic bombs."

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

Rome, Italy
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 done before.

"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 Renzo.

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 Prison."

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

Rome, Italy
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 Sicilian accent.

"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 Fermi fearfully.

"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 to decide."

"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 'Carmine'."


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 developing."

"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

Klaipeda, Lithuania
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 generate results."

"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 the world."

"And yet we are making deals with this clichéd omnivorous bear," said Merkys.

"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."


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