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Northeastern Germany. September.
Geese waddled across the Brandenburgian dirt road, plucking at grass and worms here and there. An old peasant, his beard long and white, sat on a nearby bench beneath an oak as old and gnarled as himself, watching the birds on the puddle-strewn path. It had rained the other day, but the September sun was still warm.
He knew something was going on in Germany, and more so, in the nearby mansion, but since he had passed the age of eighty he had no longer followed politics. Chancellors and Kaisers and Führers came and went; the only constant was the land he and his family had worked for generations.
A screech and a howl shook him from his thoughts. Incomprehension stood written over his face as the column of gray trucks, led by a low, gray car roared around a corner down the road at a breakneck speed. His eyes widened as they came closer. The leading car honked a few times, then, without slowing down, plowed through the remaining geese.
Water from the puddles splashed, and the air filled with white feathers, but as soon as the chimeara had appeared it was gone again, leaving the old coot sitting on his bench, his heart pounding so hard it seemed to want to jump out of his chest.
The captain in the leading car stared ahead intently, brushing a feather aside. With Berlin finally secured, they had taken the first opportunity to make their move. He hoped they would be there in time.
“Can't we go faster?” he yelled over the sound of the engines under the car's long snout.
The driver beside him kept his eyes focuses on the street as he answered him through clenched teeth: “Not on this road. It's a miracle I haven't killed us all yet!”
“There!” the officer pointed out. “The gate houses!”
The column raced through the opening in the wall, drawing dust clouds behind it. The two small gate houses lay deserted. A wide driveway led to the huge manor that had been built in the style of an oversized hunting lodge.
The trucks came to a slithering halt as their drivers in unison hit the brakes. As if a valve had been opened, soldiers with automatic weapons began to pour from their backs.
“Find him!” the captain commanded. “Search everywhere! I don't care if you have to take this whole toy house apart, but find him.”
Platoons broke into squads, each one accompanied by a radio operator, and they vanished into the house. Two more platoons secured all exits of the huge house, while more soldiers set up machine guns on the perimeter.
The captain waited impatiently.
“Clear!” came the first reply over the radio. The next one also read “Clear!”, as did the next, and the one thereafter. Clear was bad. Clear meant he was not there any longer.
One by one, the squads reappeared again. A young lieutenant – as a matter of fact, they were probably of an age – approached him, his MP-40 leisurely slung over a shoulder.
“The house is empty. It's possible there are hiding places in there we don't know off, but right now I'd say the bird's flown out.”
In the distance, the engines of an airplane roared, and shortly thereafter the familiar shape of a Junkers Ju 52, an Auntie Ju, rose from behind the cover of the nearby woods, heading north. Newly promoted Captain David Weissbaum drew his lips back in a silent snarl. “As if on cue,” he muttered, then looked at the lieutenant. “Send a message to Berlin, Baumer. We failed. Göring's gone.”
The Cabinet War Rooms at Storey's Gate were abuzz with activity, but General Alan Brooke, the head of the Great Britain's GHQ Home Forces – and therefore the man directly responsible for preparing the islands against a German invasion – noticed early on that it was no longer the tense, nearly panicked atmosphere he had experienced there earlier this autumn. There was still a war going on. Nobody needed to be reminded of that little fact, he the least of all people. However, the looks he caught on the faces of officers and WAAFs1 when he moved through the underground anthill under its massive protective layer of armored concrete were busy and filled with a blossoming, calm confidence. It was a good omen.
An armed sentry stood at attention when he approached, then ushered him into the room. He paused there for a moment, taking in the scene.
The walls of the comparably tiny room where covered with a plethora of maps, and the smoke of pipes and cigars hung heavy in the air, giving the ventilation system a run for its money.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff had their heads together in one corner of the room, but Field Marshal John Dill caught the sight of him and winked him closer. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff - and Brooke's direct superior – listened with one ear to what the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound, was telling him, the stem of a pipe clutched in the corner of his mouth. He drew his attention off the navy man and welcomed Brooke.
“Good to see you, Alan. You know Air Chief Marshall Portal?”
Brooke nodded his greetings, receiving curt nods in return. The Chief of the Air Staff had replaced Cyrill Newall only two weeks prior after the latter had had one heated exchange too many with the prime minister. He was not exactly sure where he and Charles Portal stood vis-a-vis one another.
Dill produced a silver-framed pocket watch from his coat. “Well, gentlemen, since we're all here now, I say it's time to go and meet Winston.”
The CIGS made the start, and Brooke and the others followed him through the adjacent offices, map rooms and concrete corridors. The group stopped in front of a door that looked no different from all the others down here, but the deep, rumbling voice that answered Dill's knock from within was unmistakable.
The air in Winston Spencer Churchill's office was impregnated with an irritating amount of cigar smoke. The Prime Minister studied the newcomers' faces with dark, searching eyes from under that heavy and deep-set, bulldog-like brows of his. A lonely cigar fumed from within an ashtray, and Churchill waited until Brooke and the others had seated themselves, remaining completely still as he sat there, dressed in his blue, air force-like battle dress he so liked to wear.
Two more men occupied the room with him, and they had turned to welcome the newcomers as they entered. General 'Pug' Ismay was the prime minister's personal military attache, and quite probably the Joint Chiefs' biggest ally in dealing with Churchill's often eccentric and impatient nature.
The second man was the only one in civilian attire. Lord Halifax, the Foreign Minister, had seated himself on the opposite end of Churchill's massive desk, sitting cross-legged and patient, wearing a gray suit and tie. He looked up from a pile of papers and nodded appreciatively at Brooke, Dill and the others.
“Gentlemen, let's begin, shall we?” rumbled the prime minister's deep, rich voice. “What news do you have for Britain and me?”
Dill exchanged glances with his colleagues to decide who would begin, but Halifax took the decision out of their hands.
“'Utter turmoil' would probably best describe it.” He took one quick, final look at his papers before he continued. “As far as we know, there's a shooting war going on inside Germany, and there are at least three governments claiming to be the legitimate ones: one in Berlin, one in Prague, and then there's Göring in Sweden as well. Our embassies have gotten half a dozen peace feelers extended into their general direction during the past three weeks. Göring has sent Dahlerus to negotiate again,” Churchill groaned, “and he seems to be exerting some limited influence on the Swedish government. But overall, I am afraid we know very little of what's going on inside Germany, except that it's apparently serious. The only thing that we know for sure is that Hitler and much of his inner circle are, indeed, dead. That much has been corroborated by the Spanish and the Swiss.”
“I don't mind the Hun tearing himself apart, but like old Shylock I'd rather have him leave me a pound of flesh to cut from his bones myself,” Churchill rumbled.
Brooke never really knew if the man was jesting. Most the time, he was not.
The Prime Minister took up his cigar and deeply inhaled its smoke. “There will be no talk of peace; not until we know who we are talking with, and most certainly not unless Germany provides us with something tangible. In the meantime, let them butcher each other, and the more, the merrier,” he scoffed, raising his eyebrows as if to underline his point. “Still, I am of the opinion that retribution for their bombing campaign should come from British hands.”
That was apparently Portal's cue.
“Prime Minister, Luftwaffe air raids are decreasing in number and size, and the ones still attacking are increasingly disorganized. The only force still attacking in good order is the Air Fleet from Norway, but 13th Group is handling them on their own. With the enemy in disarray, we've been able to shoot down an ever growing number of him. There has not been a raid against southern England with more than fifty airplanes during the past ten days.” Portal shook his head. “It seems almost as if it's largely individual commanders acting on their own, without central control. Air Marshal Dowding claims that at this rate, he will have all groups of Fighter Command at full strength and fully reconstituted by the end of the month.”
“And what do you think, Mr. Portal?” Churchill leaned forward.
“I think, Prime Minister, that the worst is over. We have inflicted high losses on the enemy. He has been unable to achieve his objectives, and the breakdown of his government and his line of control has left him in utter disarray. And there is this.” With a knowing smile he produced a number of aerial photographs from a folder he had carried under his arm.
“The Channel ports,” Churchill murmured as he inspected them, then shot Portal a glance over the rim of his glasses. “They're empty?”
Brooke involuntarily leaned forward to take a look himself. The P.M. was correct. Even from the height those photographs had been taken it was clear that the invasion barges which had crowded every harbor between Antwerp and Cherbourg were gone.
“Yes, Prime Minister, they're empty. The recon flights over the other harbors along the northern French coast support the picture: the Germans have called off the invasion.”
Churchill's look was skeptical. “Are you certain, Chief of the Air Staff? Couldn't the Germans simply have taken them inland, along the French rivers, to fool us?”
Portal shook his head. “Several recon flights recorded long rows of barges being towed back along the Dutch coast and into the Rhine during the past week. I wanted confirmation first before breaking the news, but I sent out a couple of our Blenheims to harass them.”
“Hah!” Churchill's hand slammed onto his desk. “That's more how I like it. Give them something to think about!” He drummed his fingertips on the desk in a fast rhythm. “When can you give them more, Chief Air? I think it is time to repay the Hun for his savage attacks against our cities. When can you give me a raid of a hundred, two hundred, three hundred RAF bombers against his cities?” he looked at Portal apprehensively.
“Not this month, Prime Minister. And most likely not the coming month, either,” he exchanged quick glances with his colleagues. “Our industry's still geared towards fighter production. Changing that will need some time, and I and Air Marshal Dowding agree that our first priority should be learning the lessons the battle so far has provided us with.” He could see Churchill's impatience growing and held up one hand as if to stop the P.M.'s reply before he even had time to utter it. “However, with the threat of an invasion waning, I certainly will be able to muster a suitable force of our Whitleys, Wellingtons and Hampdens – maybe even a few of the new, four-engined Halifaxes – sometime around, say, December?”
“At least for the rest of October, I'd say some of those bombers will serve Britain's security better if they remain attached to Coastal Command and the sector commands,” CIGS John Dill interjected thoughtfully. “Even though from what Air Chief Marshal Portal has reported it seems that 'Case Cromwell'2 is no longer imminent, I'd advise to err on the side of caution here. If the Germans have shown us one thing during the past twelve months, it's that they are a tricky and resourceful lot.”
Portal tilted his head to one side under the prime minister 's piercing gaze. “Bomber Command should be able to handle this either way. And yes, it is my assessment of the situation that 'Case Cromwell' has come and passed. The weather is already too bad as it is, and it'll only get worse from now on. Just as important, the Germans haven't been able to gain air superiority over Kent and Sussex, and going by their recent performance, they never will.”
Churchill harrumphed. “Well, for once it is good news in these four walls. Keep it up. I want it so that every plane the German sends across the Channel is shot down!”
“I'll relay that order to Air Marshal Dowding,” Portal answered evenly, and 'Pug' Ismay, who stood behind Churchill, could not hide his smile. As if the very statement had not been exactly what Dowding had built the British Air Defense System and Fighter Command for!
“Fine then. If indeed the dreaded moment has passed on, what else is there to say? First Sea Lord?”
Dudley Pound cleared his throat. “What the Navy knows supports the findings of both the Chief of the Air Staff and Lord Halifax. Enemy uboat activity has dried up during the past twenty days. Uboats are returning to their bases after their hunts, but no new boats are putting to sea. They've either been put on hold, or there simply isn't anybody to command operations. Either way, as a result our shipping losses are the fourth lowest since the beginning of the war. The enemy's surface units are also all accounted for.”
General Alan Brooke was conflicted. He had focused on developing a mobile reserve which was to swiftly counter attack the enemy forces before they were established. Standing down from 'Case Cromwell' would allow him to further train the forces of the Home Guard and the regular units under his command. He explained as much. “Sir, in position as they are right now, GHQ forces are well-poised to defeat the enemy's attack, but ill-equipped to be turned into the fighting force I intend them to become. And I also mean that literally. We lack munitions and arms. A squad of English country boys in a trench, lead by a man with experience in the Great War; that may very well be a formidable defense. But men sitting in trenches cannot be properly trained.”
Dunkirk had cost the British Army most of its heavy gear, down to machine guns and mortars. Brooke knew only too well that the Home Guard lacked in everything but fighting spirit.
“What do you suggest, General?”
“I think it's time to stand down most of the Home Guard except the ones directly on the beach sectors, Prime Minister. That way, we still have those defenses manned and strong. At the same time, we can get back to training the rest of them.”
Churchill looked each of his Chiefs of Staff in the eyes. When he met no resistance, he nodded. “Good, make it so. Gentlemen, what else is there? News from the East and the Mediterranean?”
“I'm afraid, 't is so. The Greek government reports Italian units massing in Albania, and General Wavell has signaled about probing attacks in Egypt,” Dill stated somberly.
Churchill clapped his hands like an eager schoolboy. “Then let's focus our attention there...”
The glass in the high windows of what had once been the seat of kings and emperors shivered softly, the roar of the engines outside momentarily threatening to drown all conversations inside the gold and marble-filled rooms of the largest castle of the world. A pair of two-engined Messerschmidt fighters swooped down low over the seemingly infinite towers of Prague Castle, waggling their wings as if to salute the men below, before their path left his field of vision again. Werner Best irritatedly watched them as they vanished into the overcast sky above the provisional capital of Germany – true Germany – before he returned his attention back to the scene unfolding around him.
Reinhardt Heydrich was pacing the room; not quite like a caged tiger, no. More like a predator eager to make his move. His boots echoed hollow as he walked up and down the huge, lavish chamber. From the walls, the still eyes in life-sized portraits of long dead monarchs seemed to watch him with cold disapproval.
Going by his face, for Konstantin von Neurath the new Reichsführer's steps could just as well have been whip cracks. The old career diplomat sat in a high-backed chair to the left side of the huge map of Germany and central Europe that so far had served as the background the Heydrich's musings. Werner Best thought the old weasel really did look his age today. Not that this was any surprise, really. In a time of less than two weeks, the old party apparatchik had been completely marginalized. It was a pure courtesy of Heydrich that he was even allowed to take part in this meeting.
He forced his thoughts back to the ongoing conversation.
“...no, the traitors now occupying Berlin have not tried to get in contact with me or my government. But if they do, I assure you we'll have only one answer for them!” The hand of the heavyweight man in the long black robes slammed flat on the long polished table. He nodded as if to convince himself of his words before he continued in a gruff voice. “And that answer is no! Thrice-damned no, I say!” The man's double chin quivered as he spoke. “The Slovakian people owe their independence to Germany and its late Führer, requieascat in pacem3. I would dishonor his legacy, no, I would dishonor my own country did I not help you!” Jozef Tizo's fleshy, pink face contrasted sharply with his short, military haircut as the President of Slovakia vehemently shook his head. A big, boorish man with a booming voice, the catholic priest looked out of place, both in his own clothes and in this meeting. Going by his mannerisms and appearance, one had few problems imagining him on a construction site or in a butcher's shop, chopping up meat.
“I'm glad to hear that, Father.” Heydrich's voice – in contrast to his blazing eyes - was impassive as the tall, hawk-faced man stopped his steps and focused on the Slovakian leader. “But I take it the Slovakian people will do more to help than give me words of support once the day of reckoning comes?” A thin smile crept onto the new Reichsführer's face.
The others in the room carefully avoided the ice-gray eyes' stare, pretending not to have heard the implicit threat in the man's question. If he had heard it, Jozef Tiso seemed unfazed by it. Folding his thick hands over his stomach, he leaned back in his high-backed chair and produced a broad, generous grin.
“We Slovaks are people who stick to our word. General Pilfousek has promised that two divisions of Slovakia's finest soldiers are ready to move. All you have to do, Reichsführer, is give the command, and forty-thousand Slovakians will march into battle to fulfill our pledge.”
A brief nod was all the answer Tiso received for his boastful claims, but Heydrich seemed content for the moment. He turned on his heels, diverting his attention back to the huge map. It was dotted with small swastika flags.
“With every passing hours, gentlemen, I receive more and more cables from city after city, district after district,” Heydrich spoke without facing the men his words were addressed to. “Pledges of allegiance, congratulations to my ascension as the new leader of the one, true Germany, reports and inquiries as to how the traitors shall and will be dealt with.” His voice had taken on the form of an even sing-sang. “And dealt with they will be. They struck hard, but now they're sitting in the ruins of their own making, and there, I will bury them in the rubble.” The sudden change of tone and pace took everyone but Best aback. “We know who they are. We know who their supporters are. We will hunt them down to the last man. Treason knows only one punishment.”
That he had made clear to the handful of men gathered in this ornate hall in more way than one. Even before they had arrived to meet Reinhardt Heydrich, the former head of the Nazi party's security service and now self-appointed Reichsführer of the German Reich, their cars had driven up the Hradschin, the mountain on whose back the palace had been erected. The road had been flanked by a long row of gallows. Posters reading Verräter4 had been pinned to the swaying bodies of dead men and women. The experience had set the mood for their meeting.
“It is just a matter of time until I will be in full control and the National Socialists are restored to power. Resistance will not be tolerated, gentlemen, and the wheel of progress cannot be turned back. This is the time of national socialism. There comes a point when we all have to chose sides. For the true Germany and I, the choice has already been made: for the Aryan people, against the Bolsheviks and their Jewish masters.”
If you did not chose my side, your were the enemy. There was no need to speak the words as the sentiment was plain to see for Jozef Tiso and the other two men who had, in effect, been summoned here.
For a moment, all eyes in the hall stared silently at the large map. Then, a cough broke the spell.
István Csaky's hands trembled as he pressed a handkerchief against his lips. His whole body shook in a spasm of coughing, the endeavor covering his face with glistening sweat.
Best shot his superior a worried glance, but Heydrich watched in silence as the man's body slowly calmed down again.
When he finally began to talk, the man's voice was weak and wheezing. “The Regent has been approached by the new,” he stopped and shook his head, “by the traitors in Berlin. However, Hungary right now is more interested,” he coughed again, “is more interested in hearing from you what you intend to do. After all, you claim the succession of Germany's legal leadership.” István Csaky looked nothing like his age of forty-six years. The Hungarian foreign minister of two years was a withered, gray-skinned shell, but his mind – whatever the condition of his body – was still sharp.
“What I plan to do, Mr. Csaky, is to march into Germany and restore order and the rule of nationalsocialist creed,” Heydrich responded with the level conviction of a man who had spoken the very same words a thousand times already in his mind. “My question is: will your government fulfill its obligations and help me to do so? Already, I have half a million men armed and ready to march on Berlin.”
Best's head rocked up and shot Heydrich a quizzical glance at the mention of that number. However, the new Reichsführer's former deputy held his tongue.
The Hungarian minister took a deep, rattling breath before he pushed himself out of his chair and walked over to the wall-sized map, the hand with the handkerchief half-raised just in case. For a few seconds his thin frame remained motionlessly in front of it while Csaky's reddened eyes studied its features.
“With all due respect,” his thin, weak voice nonetheless lacked just that, “your claims of control are not mirrored in your own map, right?” He shot Heydrich a thin-smiled glance over his hunched shoulders. “Oh, yes, Austria is yours, as is everything below a line...,” he readjusted his glasses, “from Trier in the west to Posen in the East, it seems. But these,” the diplomat plucked a small swastika flag from the map, “are far and few between in the north, and in the occupied territories. I don't question your confidence, Reichsführer. However, as a representative of my country, I am obliged to ask questions before I recommend the Regent to make a decision. I hope you understand that.”
Admiral Miklós Horthy had taken up the position of regent for the Hungarian throne in the absence of a monarch. He was fiercely nationalistic and in support of a 'Greater Hungary', but he bore no great love for national socialism.
Werner Best watched his superior intently.
Heydrich was a perfectionist. Some had even gone so far and called him the prototypical Aryan Übermensch5, for he excelled in almost everything he did.
But Best knew the man better than most. Behind the polished facade lay a character eaten up by envy and vanity. The Reichsführer was no diplomat, and his vain strain left little if any tolerance for criticism.
Clasping his hands behind his back, his jaw tightened, and Heydrich's mind was working behind those merciless eyes. The moment took less than a blink of an eye, but Best had noticed it nonetheless. The stress of the past weeks was taking its toll on his commander. When Heydrich spoke, his face was again a still and stern mask.
“True enough,” he allowed himself a mirthless smile. “The Ruhr area, Berlin, and most of the territory north of the line you mentioned elude my grasp at the moment, and the Wehrmacht units in the west apparently have decided to stick their heads into the sand, like one of these strange birds... like an ostrich.”
Best noted silently that Heydrich had also chosen to withhold the fact that those units had very well moved: they had taken out the local SS and SD6 units within a matter of hours after the coup had taken place, detaining most of the security apparatus. At least to Best, they could just as well have yelled their allegiance from the top of their lungs. Still, true enough, they had not moved ever since.
“I'm still waiting for news from Denmark, but Norway is loyal, as is the General Government: Poland.”
Csaky's eyes curiously wandered to the north of the nation whose resistance had started all this. He blinked. “What about Danzig?”
Heydrich scowled. “Wehrmacht troops entered the city several days ago. We've lost contact with local SS and loyalist forces around nightfall. A minor setback, really. We've got forces all around them.”
A new spasm of coughs caught the Hungarian off guard as he tried to respond. His whole body wavered back and forth, and Best – and it seemed, old von Neurath as well – was close to jumping to catch the man. But the spasm subsided, and so did the traces of resistance in Csaky. He nodded weakly.
“I will advise the Regent to recognize your government as the successor to that of Adolf Hitler, and you as his de facto heir. Hungary signed an alliance with the German Reich. That would be you.” He smiled weakly and carefully walked back to his chair.
Best had to hide a satisfied smile. Better the devil you know, he thought. Hungary's lack of... enthusiasm for the party's policies was no secret, but half a million loyalist7 troops were as convincing as the best argument.
The last remaining person to speak up was as different from Csaky as the night from the day.
Mihail Sturdza, the Romanian foreign minister, sat the furthest away from his Hungarian colleague, as if to underline the strained relationship between their two nations. Earlier this summer, the Hungarians had used German pressure to cut a slice of land off Romania.
Were Csaky was small and sickly, the tall Sturdza carried with him an air of arrogance representative of his long aristocratic lineage. He was older than his Hungarian counterpart, but compared to him, he looked alive and attentive, and there was one more thing that set the two men apart: Mihail Sturdza was a fascist, an anti-Semite, and a high-ranking member of the equally disposed Iron Guards, the ruling faction of Romania. They were eager to please their German role models.
Sturdza was no exception, even if he hid it behind the calm demeanor of a professional poker player. “Pacta servanda sunt8,” he stated calmly before rising from his seat. “Romania's position is one of unconditional support for Germany. It has been, and will always be that way. You will get all the oil and fuel you need to bring this,” his lips curled upwards in a cold smile, “internal affair to a swift end. Nonetheless, we are allies, not vassals, yes?”
The Romanian diplomat did not wait for an answer, but the hidden sharpness in his tone made his position on the matter nonetheless clear. He positioned himself in front of the map, with his back turned to the rest of the attending politicians and diplomats.
“Earlier this year, my country not only had to agree on a 'readjustment' of its borders with Hungary.” Sturdza put as much scorn into this sentence as the present company allowed him to. And there was still the matter with Bulgaria, but that would have gone too far. “But far more detrimental was the loss of Bessarabia to the Bolsheviks. It deprived us of a substantial part of our harvest. Worse, we've lost good defensive terrain, the Bolsheviks simply went in and killed 45,000 of our soldiers, and now they are standing six hours off the fields of Ploesti.” Spinning around on his heels, he focused his eyes on Heydrich.
The new Reichsführer met his gaze with a level stare. “What do you want? A guarantee of security?”
“Paper is patient, Reichsführer.” Sturdza's voice was a cool baritone. “Romania needs German troops, German weapons, German advisers,” he stated matter-of-fact.
“Conditions?” Heydrich sounded anything but pleased.
Sturdza apparently was not fazed by man's reactions. “You're asking a man to somersault while his neighbor is holding a blade to his throat. Is it any wonder such a man would be reluctant to do the deed?” he chuckled. “It's simple: we need your help. Otherwise, we won't be able to help you. The oil of Ploesti is of no use to you if it's in the hands of the Soviets.”
Admittedly, that statement carried with it an undeniable logic, Best thought glumly. Irregardless of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939: how likely was it that Judeo-Bolshevism – as the late Führer had called it – would support the very creed which had written its destruction onto its banners?
Heydrich had seen it, too. With a start, he nodded his agreement in almost simultaneously closed the meeting. Feet shuffled, chairs were pushed back, and a flurry of farewells were spoken that all had one thing in common: the feeling of relief about getting out of there.
Old von Neurath remained on his seat, uncertain what to do until a cold stare from Heydrich made it unambiguous that he would have to leave, too. Miserable and relieved at the same time, the career diplomat was the last to leave the room.
Heydrich waited a couple of seconds after the two-winged doors had closed before he addressed Best. “Your impressions?”
Best weighed his words carefully. “Tiso was in our pocket all along. He knows which side his bread is buttered on. We'll get his troops, though I'll leave an assessment of their quality to the Waffen-SS. Csaky... well, we knew the Hungarians aren't too thrilled about anything that doesn't serve their goal of a Greater Hungary, but I'd say the meeting left enough of an impression on him to get things done.”
“And the Romanian?”
“Sturdza believes that the Jews had a hand in the loss of Bessarabia. So does his government. As long as we encourage them to do whatever they wants in this regard, the Iron Guard will back us up, sir. As for their demands: do we fulfill them?”
Heydrich ran a hand across his face. He suddenly looked very tired. “Talk with the SS and get everything organized. Give the Romanians what they want. I don't give a damn about their dead, but we need that oil. As long as they help me crush the traitors, they'll get their support.” He sighed.
Best made a note, then turned to leave. Halfway across the room, he stopped to face Heydrich again. “'Half a million men', sir? We don't even have half that many.” His voice mirrored his concerns.
“Not yet, Best. But very soon, we will. And then, I will unleash hell.”
1 WAAF = Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
2 Case Cromwell was the British code term for the expected German invasion.
3 Latin for rest in peace.
4 Verräter = traitor.
5 Übermensch = super-human.
6 SD = Sicherheitsdienst, the Nazi party spy organization.
7 When Best talks of loyalist troops, he means loyal to the Nazi cause.
8 Pacta servanda sunt; Latin, roughly translates as: treaties must be adhered to.