Rangsdorf, East Prussia.
April 20 1943
In a game of will
Always play your strongest cards
Deploy them wisely.
ROARING down from the leaden overhang, the Junkers Ju 52/3m utility transport sagged onto the functional landing strip. Rolling along the tarmac, its thick ersatz tires hissed to a halt in a shallow pool of rain, and the port hatch swung open.
The SS officer who stepped to the ground stood very tall, his strong scarred face tanned under the long-peaked Bergmütze. The divisional band on his sleeve declared Das Reich. Raising the collar of his leather greatcoat against the damp breeze coming off the bitter Baltic, he turned back to the open door of the plane. Someone handed down a leather rucksack, and the giant splashed away through pooled rainwater towards the gleaming Mercedes limousine with its bright metal swastika standard, raising his right arm stiffly as he approached its driver.
“Heil Hitler, Herr Oberst Kempka!”
“Heil Hitler, Herr Oberstürmführer!”
Colonel Kempka’s polished heels clacked out a pistol shot greeting on the brisk air. He swung open the passenger door of the big Mercedes with a smile.
The new arrival climbed into the car and sat back in the dry warmth, unbuttoning his coat, looking at the tall crop-headed young man in brown Party uniform on the opposite side of the seat. He watched the glass partition slide shut as Kempka took the driver’s seat, then smiled at his companion.
“Ach, Putzi. This must be quite an occasion.”
“It is, Otto, it is. You look well recovered, fully convalesced. How are things in Berlin these days?”
“Fine. I have a nice private place in Schöneberg, right by the Volkspark. I do a lot of thinking there.”
“I know it. A pleasant walk—and such a good market there on weekends.”
“Thank you for your signal. I am highly honoured when the Führer sends his right-hand man with his personal chauffeur in his personal vehicle to greet me. What a great comfort and pleasure.”
The young man smiled. “As Press Attaché the honour is all mine, Herr Oberstürmführer. We all feel great affection for you and your exploits at the Russian front. I was lucky, as I happened to be free to leave. You were nearly blessed with Herr Jodl, a non-smoker. Now, if you wish to enjoy a smoke, please go right ahead, while I brief you. Relax.”