The Second World War: PART 2 - Otto Krause - Berlin (1944)
On the afternoon of March twenty-sixth, the Hotel Adlon at number seventy-seven on the Unter den Linden, with its somewhat beige exterior and flat copper roof, became the scene of an abhorrent crime.
It certainly had one of the best views of the Brandenburg Gate and was a very long and very glamorous hotel. The interior was glamorous in the more traditional sense of the word mind. The street was plagued with huge nondescript structures from the Kaiser Wilhelm II period. The Adlon was one of them. It was glamorous, certainly, but for a time long forgotten in Germany, and one that wouldn’t dare to be recalled. One could argue that the Adlon was on one of the safest streets in Berlin. This was due to the fact that it was seven hundred yards east of the Platz der Republik. And, if you’ve been to Berlin, this is indeed where the Reichstag is. That was certainly the most guarded street in Germany when the Chancellor was in office. However, the day after March twenty-fifth, a terribly grey Prussian day to for that matter, the Adlon gained the title.
At three o’clock precisely fifty men who made up the Nazi High Command strode into the boardroom on the fifth floor. Their leader was already in his seat. No greetings were exchanged. The men filed round the long table, twelve sat, the others filled the room. Nobody smoked or drank. They remained very still as their leader crossed his legs and sat back in his chair.
Adolf Hitler completed his inspection of the faces before him. As he had anticipated, the only pair of eyes to slide away from his gaze belonged to Hermann Göring. The typed leaves of paper that scattered the table reiterated that the final total was seventy-six. It was the greatest the German Army had ever incurred and now, with rumors of an Allied invasion stirring from across the Channel, it was up to the High Command to maintain order in Europe.
They were in the library conference room of the Adlon. Its north and east walls were lined with ten book shelves. First and second editions were arranged neatly in alphabetical order by the entrance. A single lit lamp bisected each book shelf, complementing the soft color palette of the ceiling above. Nobody in the room had noticed. Cherubs and Roman gods were painted in soft pinks and watery browns. The Fuhrer sat beneath Jupiter at the head of the table.
Leaning against the window, his eyes fixed firmly on the back of the Fuhrer’s head, was a Gestapo man.
This man’s name was Otto Krause and he was born in Darmstadt to a German father and an Austrian mother. He was a lean, tense character in his early forties. Hatchet faced; the look of a man who had killed and was eager to do so again. He had a muscular jaw, complementing his rather cold grey-blue eyes. His mistress said he had a ‘cruel mouth’ and cruel it certainly was. As the look in the Fuhrer’s eyes turned from mere disappointment to anger, Krause’s mouth lips thinned and formed a sneer.
Hitler’s hand slapped the table with a bang, echoing like the shot of a pistol in the vast meeting room, startling each of them.
‘Seventy-six!’ he cried. ‘Seventy-fucking-six. All of them pilots. Right under the nose of the ruddy Luftwaffe.’
He served them a questing look. The slob that ran it was Hermann Göring and he shifted in his chair uncomfortably.
'You’re slipping. We need to be quick, we need to ruthless, we need to show strength. No compassion. Life never forgives weakness. Survival of the fittest I always say. Only the strongest of the strong can remain victorious, successful even. And we need to be these coming days. It’s the only way to deal with them.’
‘Mein Fuhrer,’ somebody said. ‘The Geneva Convention…’
Hitler turned his head, the sentence fell silent and it sang in the full room. Krause noticed that his left hand was tracing small, erratic circles in the empty air as he thought.
‘Drawn up by a load of Jew bankers notheless.’
The hand stopped waving and tapped the table erratically.
‘Fifty,’ he said. ‘No less and that’s an order.’
He pushed his seat out with his bottom and found his feet. The other Nazis leapt to theirs and raised their arms in salute. The Fuhrer turned on his heel and left the room, accompanied by two guards and Otto Krause. The rest of the High Command returned to their seats and unrolled charts for the Lower Silesia area of Germany, near the Polish-German border. General Arthur Nebe took Hitler’s place at the table. Krause closed the door behind him.
Outside the street was icily silent. Krause, slipping on a pair of tight leather gloves, followed the three men in front of him through the golden double doors from the lobby. At that moment, a four-door 1940 Mercedes-Benz limousine screeched to a halt in front of them. One of the soldiers held open the door for Adolf Hitler and he raised his right leg to climb in.
The Supreme Leader stopped, glancing over his right shoulder. ‘Kraus?’ he simply said.
‘The two Roger’s were on that list sir.’
‘I’m volunteering myself for the task,’
Hitler smirked, stepping away from the vehicle and closing the gap between him and the Gestapo officer. The driver closed the door. Krause remained perfectly still, standing perfectly straight.
‘But are you up to it?’
‘I believe so,’ Krause said.
‘Then they’re yours.’
Hitler raised his hand and his driver held the door open once again. As he collapsed into his seat he said, ‘Don’t fail me Krause.’ And with that the 770 Mercedes rattled off at took the corner on Pariser Platz in fouth, leaving Otto alone. He lit a cigarette, inhaling a deep lungful of smoke and, after a moment, he let it out with a long reflective hiss.