Chapter Twelve - Himmler at the end of his tether
The past year had been nerve-racking; many of my friends had died, some of natural causes, others at the hands of the executioner. And the heaviest demands of all had yet to be made on me. To enable Himmler to contact me without delay, I was obliged to transfer a number of my instruments and books to what the Gestapo called my "temporary quarters" at Hartzwalde. My ephemerides, tables, and stellar chronometers, which were indispensable for my work, were housed in a room vacated by Frau Kersten upon her return to Stockholm. I was allocated this room because it contained the telephone switchboard with direct lines to Himmler and a number of important departments; these were privileges which had been granted to Kersten by the Reichsführer. Moreover, this room was particularly suitable for meetings and conferences. It also contained a small writing desk for me to work at.
On March 2, Kersten arrived in Berlin by air from Stockholm and traveled on to Hartzwalde. As soon as he arrived, I began a series of interpretations for Kersten in connection with his "worldwide political tasks." As he walked into the room, he said, "Yes, the fate of Germany now rests on my weak shoulders." I smiled at his remark. Himmler was still ill, and Kersten traveled daily in a car supplied by the motor transport department of Himmler's military command post to massage him at the hospital at Hohenlychen, which was run by Professor Gebhardt.
While Kersten was away, I had to calculate and interpret his "problems" for him. Since I already had a large number of difficult and delicate matters to work out for Himmler, I found these additional tasks extremely disruptive. Moreover, when Kersten returned from his visits, he almost invariably inundated me with a whole host of additional questions.
"Just check up and see how my talk with the Reichsführer is going to turn out tomorrow. Can I do that with him? I just can't make him budge on this issue and don't know what to do or what further arguments I can put to him. He doesn't want to receive Bernadotte, but I want to bring them together. And then I must make progress with my own affairs, the ones I am negotiating for Herr Hillel Storch. Just have a look and let me know how they are likely to develop. Have you sorted out the other problems yet?" This was the way in which he greeted me virtually every day.
I then showed him my work and pointed out that there were various special astrological reports to be completed for Himmler which were due by March 10.
"Don't bother about the reports for the Reichsführer," Kersten replied. "He can wait. My affairs are more important. You must tell me exactly how I am to proceed. Come up to my room for a moment and look at my horoscope. Herr Storch intends to visit Germany to discuss the release of ten thousand Jews with Himmler. I have already made the arrangements, but on this occasion Himmler is being uncooperative."
Kersten had spoken to me about Herr Storch once before, and we had arranged to refer to him as "the bird" should we ever discuss him on the telephone between Stockholm and Hartzwalde. Kersten's statements and the way in which he described his relationship to Storch indicated that this gentleman was determined to come to Germany to negotiate with Himmler in person, rather than work through Bernadotte. And so when Kersten arrived for the negotiations on April 19 and found a small and very unassuming Jewish gentleman, who looked about him with frightened eyes and was introduced to us as Herr Masur, who was representing Herr Storch, we were more than a little surprised.
Kersten always spoke of Herr Storch with great respect: "He is a very big man, the most important man in the Zionist movement and in the World Jewish Congress. He will be bigger still when he goes to America, which he intends to do in the near future. Herr Wulff, you simply must meet this man. He is going to launch me in America; I want to open a practice there after the war. I need Hillel Storch to get into important circles. My dear Wulff, why don't you come with me? You'll make a lot of money there. We'll go into partnership. I tell you, I won't let you cast a horoscope in America for less than five thousand dollars. If the deal with Herr Storch works out, I'll be somebody. You want to earn money, don't you? You don't have to tell the Americans the truth when you cast their horoscopes. Tell them what they want to hear, that's the main thing, and make sure you're well paid."
My relationship with Kersten was by no means as friendly as he was trying to make out. But since I was a concentration camp detainee working under orders from Himmler, it goes without saying that I was unable to give Kersten the kind of answer I would have liked. So I contented myself with saying, "Herr Kersten, let's wait and see what happens. We can discuss the matter when the war is over."
From my knowledge of Kersten I assumed that he was trying to make me more pliant in the hope that I would help him with the projects which he intended to submit to Himmler. I knew that he had no intention of taking me to America. He nonetheless continued to talk about
"You need only say the word. When I return to Stockholm, I'll tell Herr Storch what we intend to do. He'll get us passports now, for any country in the world. I can arrange all this for you."
"I hope they're not false passports, Herr Kersten," I said. "With all due respect to Herr Storch, I cannot believe that he is so powerful that he can obtain passports for any country in the world. Either the passports cost a lot of money or else we would be interned the moment we set foot in our new land. How can Herr Storch procure valid passports for each and every country? What sort of price does one have to pay for such privileges?"
Kersten replied, "For the time being you need pay nothing. Later, when everything has been arranged, some form of recompense can be worked out."
That is precisely what I had envisaged. "My dear Herr Kersten,'' I said, ''I find transactions of this kind most uncongenial."
"But, Herr Wulff," Kersten protested, "there is absolutely nothing to worry about. I know how to obtain the necessary documents. You need fear no unpleasantness for yourself or your family."
"I would still like to think about it, Herr Kersten," I replied. "I will let you have my decision in a week's time."
"I can understand your caution," Kersten said. "But let me explain how it works. There's nothing to it really. And, anyway, we know one another so well that there's no need for me to be secretive. If that were the case, you could hardly advise me. And you have always advised me very well."
I raised my hand to cut off his hymn of praise, and he continued with his explanation: "It's like this. Herr Storch has lots of passports in his office, mostly for South and Central American countries like Haiti. They are all perfectly genuine and are obtained from the countries concerned. Naturally, somebody with access to the passport departments must have stolen them in the first instance. But they all have numbers, and the signatures and endorsements are completely genuine. The numbers are recorded so that subsequently the authorities will know that these passports were issued by Herr Storch's office. This will ensure that they are recognized as valid. Perhaps Herr Storch has some sort of agreement with these countries. I wouldn't know about that. But believe me, Herr Wulff, you can rely on Herr Storch. If you want me to, I can arrange everything immediately."*
* A large number of such passports were issued at that time; Kersten's secretary kept a list of them. Schellenberg's officials in department VI also knew that Kersten was able to procure passports.
I still suspected that Kersten was trying to trick me into serving as his personal slave overseas. My experiences during the past two years had led to this suspicion, for Kersten had kept me fully occupied with unpaid work. "Herr Kersten," I said, "you will realize that I must think about this grave step."
Before he left for Stockholm, I thanked him for his offer-and declined.
Meanwhile, Kersten had been in Germany for a week, looking after Himmler. Today of course we know from his own book The Kersten Memoirs, 1940-45 that Himmler's welfare was simply a pretext and that he had really returned on his own account, for what he called humanitarian reasons! The precise nature of Kersten's "humanity" and the personal interests which it was intended to promote soon became apparent.
Ever since the beginning of 1943, Schellenberg, Goverts, and I had been working for Hitler's downfall and had hoped to persuade Himmler to enter into peace negotiations with the Allies, release all concentration camp inmates, and repatriate all foreign prisoners. Without this token of goodwill an armistice would, of course, have been impossible. We knew that Hitler would not and could not make peace. His motto, with which the great majority of the German people disagreed, was: Conquer or perish!
Himmler had known about our plans since the beginning of 1944, and in May of that year, when he had consulted me on astrological matters, we had discussed their implementation for hours on end. For years thousands of Germans had fought or been imprisoned and subjected to fearful torture in Gestapo cellars for this same idea. Generals had sacrificed their lives in order to overthrow Hitler.
And now, at the beginning of March, 1945, Herr Kersten had appeared with his ridiculous list of a few thousand names and another "special" list (which contained just a few names) in the hope of averting the "worst consequences" in the name of humanity. It was unnecessary for a Herr Kersten to undertake such a mission. Action had already been taken in this sphere and had unfortunately already claimed many victims. But Kersten's mission was backed in the first instance by the Swedish government, which wanted to liberate Scandinavian prisoners. The interests of the World Jewish Congress came at a later stage.
Because of Himmler's hesitation and his reluctance to stage a coup d'etat, the position of the concentration camp inmates was daily becoming more desperate. Hitler's orders-which were passed on by Martin Bormann-were that all the prisoners were to be killed and the camps blown up, orders which fortunately could no longer be executed because of the military situation. The efforts of the Swiss Red Cross to obtain the release of Jews and other prisoners, which had begun earlier in the war, were still being continued in 1945, although by that time they were of course greatly hampered by the worsening conditions within Germany.
After submitting his list to Himmler, Kersten had tried again and again to obtain his approval. But by March 10 he had still made no headway at all. Himmler was not prepared to release such a large number of prisoners because it was bound to arouse comment and might well come to Hitler's notice. Later he authorized the release of individual prisoners and in the end agreed to a figure of 1,800. But he refused to sanction the tens of thousands which Kersten had asked for on behalf of Hillel Storch.
Even after Himmler had given permission for certain prisoners to proceed to Sweden, there were still considerable difficulties. Disease had again broken out in the concentration camps, and many of those in the Eastern provinces had been evacuated. The transport situation was desperate. There was an acute shortage of motorized vehicles, and rail transport was out of the question because of the severe inroads made on the rolling stock by enemy action. The seriousness of the situation was made apparent to me in a conversation which I had with Dr. Brandt.
"How am I to arrange transport for so many prisoners?" he said. "We need all our trucks for military purposes. We haven't even enough transport to supply food to the camps. People just issue orders. Not a day passes without my receiving senseless orders from someone. In many cases we simply do not know where to locate these prisoners who are due for release. We lost all control months ago." In view of these difficulties, Sweden had offered, at the end of 1944, to provide transport for several thousand Poles, Belgians, Frenchmen, etc.
On March 10, Kersten, who had returned from Hohenlychen, came to my room and said that Himmler wished me to report to him the next day for a consultation. Since it was too early to assess the outcome of the last batch of astrological reports, I was led to assume that Schellenberg, whom I hadn't seen for a month, had arranged this meeting. In this I was wrong, although it was not until the following day that I discovered my mistake. At ten o'clock the next morning we left Hartzwalde in a Volkswagen which had been sent from Himmler's headquarters. Our route-via Menz, Furstenberg, and Ravensbrück-took us through what was virtually a forward area. Long columns of refugees passed us moving westward, while the carcasses of dead horses and makeshift crosses with inscriptions recording the lives of children and old people who had frozen to death signposted the road to the east.
When we left Hartzwalde, a fine rain started to fall which enveloped the countryside in a gray mist. But soon the weather cleared and the sun broke through, gilding the quiet lakes and fields of Brandenburg. By then the thaw was well under way, and our route often appeared impassable. Beyond Menz the road become worse and worse; deep gullies, mounds of earth, potholes, and damaged vehicles hindered us and made our journey extremely difficult. But our old Volkswagen, which had been pretty badly battered in the war, got through. A few miles before Hohenlychen the roads improved.
It was only when we were on our way to Hohenlychen that I discovered that this visit had been negotiated not by Schellenberg but by Kersten. I was extremely surprised by the instructions which he gave me for our discussion with Himmler. I, for my part, intended to hand Himmler various astrological reports requested by Schellenberg, including a new mundane horoscope for the year 1945, and then to discuss once again the desirability of overthrowing Hitler and arranging an immediate surrender.
While he was giving me his instructions, Kersten appeared nervous. "But, my dear fellow," he said, "you must use the new horoscope to convince Himmler that my negotiations with Hillel Storch are important for him. You must support my project so that I can win Himmler around and get a written undertaking from him, which I can give to Hillel Storch in Stockholm." Previously Kersten's deceit and adroitness had usually succeeded in getting his plans through, for Himmler, like most frightened people, when they are ill, had to cling to somebody, and he chose his masseur. But although Himmler was very distressed at that time, Kersten had been unable to exploit his condition in order to further his plans for the liberation of Jewish prisoners on any really large scale. Himmler so far had granted only trivial concessions and authorized the release of just a few prisoners.
Meanwhile, Kersten continued to harangue me: "You can easily tell Himmler that it is written in his horoscope that he should release the Jews so that Herr Storch, a very powerful man, can obtain concessions for him from the Swedes and the Allies. A Jew is prepared to plead for Himmler! That's how you must put it to him! And if he gives me the necessary authorizations today, we two will share a bottle of champagne this evening and work through the other plans tomorrow." It seemed that Kersten had turned a completely deaf ear to Dr. Brandt's recent statements to the effect that Germany's transport situation was far too bad to permit the evacuation of large numbers of people and that, with the best will in the world, even Himmler could not provide transport for more than a few small groups.
"Why don't you try to persuade Himmler to put an end to the whole rotten business?" I asked. "The air raids, which have claimed countless victims and brought great misery to the German people, would then cease and the concentration camps would be automatically opened up. Himmler has been aware of Germany's plight for the past two years. Why don't you try to convince him of the need for a coup d'etat?"
Kersten then became very agitated, repeatedly urging me to get his own plan accepted before discussing these other projects with Himmler. But I was not at all interested in helping Kersten, especially since I would have had to falsify Himmler's horoscope. As I saw it, it was not simply a question of helping the Jews. What was needed was an end to this whole senseless war, in which so many people were still being slaughtered.
"My dear Herr Kersten," I said, "I shall interpret Himmler's horoscope in accordance with astrological practice." I then asked,
"Does Schellenberg know about this project?" Schellenberg knew nothing about it. The visit to Himmler was Kersten's idea!
Later, when I told Schellenberg about this enterpris, all he said was, "So our fat friend has been up to his tricks again!" Kersten's demands really were outrageous. But although I had no intention of binding myself, I eventually agreed to help him with his mission for Hillel Storch in some small way.
The questions with which Kersten had constantly plied me during the past few days at Hartzwalde and the investigations and calculations which these had necessitated were far more than a practicing astrologer expects from a single client; it had been sheer drudgery. As a result, I had decided that as soon as I returned from Hohenlychen, I would contrive to leave Hartzwalde as soon as possible and would inform Schellenberg of my decision after my arrival in Hamburg. All I had to do was find some plausible pretext. At that particular moment, however, there was no suitable argument that I could have advanced. I wondered if I should plead illness.
The nearer we came to Hohenlychen, the more the tension grew. Eventually we passed through military checkpoints and an iron gateway into a sort of park containing isolated groups of small buildings. Our passes were inspected by the SS guard. Kersten, who was a well-known figure, greeted the men at the guardpost with a jovial "Good morning to you" and not with "Heil Hitler"! We then drove along gravel paths to an open space, where we parked. Everything was spick and span. On one side of the parking lot stood rows of cars; on the other a motorcycle detachment had left its machines. When we arrived, we found Kirrmayer waiting for us at the top of a small flight of steps leading up to the first-floor level of a detached house, which served as Himmler's temporary residence. The house was closely guarded on all four sides by Kirrmayer's men. As usual, Kersten greeted Kirrmayer in a friendly and jovial fashion. I merely nodded to him. We were shown into a guardroom and asked to wait.
At last the door opened and a short, stocky, and rather corpulent man with deepset eyes entered the room. Kersten greeted him coolly and then introduced me. This was SS Obergruppenfuhrer Professor Gebhardt, Himmler's physician, who looked at us inquisitively before asking us to go into the adjoining room.* We found ourselves in Himmler's sitting room, a small room, its French windows leading to a balcony which I had noticed from the outside when we were entering the house.
* Gebhardt was executed for war crimes in 1947.
Heinrich Himmler was seated in an easy chair and asked me to sit beside him. He had just woken and smelled of soap and cheap cologne; his complexion was fresher than usual, and he seemed to have made a reasonable recovery. Kersten's treatment had evidently helped. The masseur meanwhile had made himself comfortable on an old-fashioned sofa. Simple curtains made of beige and brown muslin with a red and green pattern hung on either side of the French windows. An old-fashioned lamp hung from the ceiling; it had a shade of clouded glass with a crooked fringe of beads. The whole decor was vulgar and commonplace. Heinrich Himmler had been living here, in this inelegant room, since the beginning of the year, when Hitler had threatened to dismiss him. He wore his uniform but no decorations.
Himmler greeted us with a wry smile and discussed his state of health; he spent a long time asking me questions about his personal life and when he would be fully recovered. Kersten then began to talk about his projects, speaking quietly and totally without expression. This discourse of his provided Himmler with an opportunity of lecturing us on honor, greatness, and loyalty, qualities which he claimed for the Germans but denied to the Slav, Mongol, and Latin races. When he mentioned the Mongols, I had difficulty in suppressing a smile, for as I had noted before, his own eyes had a rather Mongol slant.
Kersten now reacted with some heat. "But in the case of my friends Wentzel and Dr. Langbehn," he interposed, "you yourself broke your word of honor by arresting them, Herr Reichsführer, so you can hardly talk about the Germans' great sense of honor." Himmler grinned and explained that in this particular instance the special tribunal had been more powerful than he, adding that the police inquiries had clearly shown that these two gentlemen had been involved in a conspiracy.*
* This was not true, for Dr. Langbehn had been arrested before July 20, 1944, on a trivial offence, which had had nothing to do with the assassination plot.
Himmler then turned to me again and talked about the predictions which I had made in respect of his own horoscope, one of which concerned an accident on December 9, 1944. "It's a strange thought, isn't it, Herr Wulff," he said, "that on December ninth I actually had an accident which might well have proved fatal. I was driving at night, and 130 feet above the Black Forest railway, I ran off the road and down the hill onto the tracks just as a train was approaching. We only just managed to get out of the way in time. The accuracy of your horoscope is phenomenal."
"I am greatly reassured, Herr Reichsführer," I replied.
"I did not expect the first rectification of your nativity to turn out so well. But it looks as if we have succeeded in establishing your exact moment of birth. That is a great relief. Perhaps this will convince you that you should give serious thought to the other predictions I made and consider very carefully my advice about our 'May plan.'" (The May plan was the cover name agreed upon between Himmler, Schellenberg, and myself for our projected coup. Kersten, who did not know the name, looked at me inquiringly with his large childlike eyes.)
"You have heard about Herr Kersten's plans," Himmler then said to me. "What do you think of them?" There was not a great deal that I could say. There were no objections to these plans on astrological grounds, and I advised Himmler accordingly.
"I can't possibly grant Herr Kersten such concessions," he replied. "He is asking for the immediate transfer abroad of a large number of Jewish prisoners. But this can't be done without Hitler's approval, because the transportation of such a large group of prisoners would not pass unnoticed and could not be kept secret from the Fuehrer. He was horrified when he heard that my SS men were releasing Jews and gave strict orders that anybody doing so in the future was to be shot. Consequently I can authorize only some of the suggestions submitted to me in this plan."
Kersten and Storch had agreed on four major points: (1) that the imprisoned Jews should be allowed to receive food and medical supplies from abroad; (2) that all Jews should be moved to special camps which would be under the control of the International Red Cross (and which the World Jewish Congress hoped it would gradually be able to maintain from its own resources); (3) that the individual persons named on the special list which Kersten had brought with him from Sweden should be released at once; (4) that a large number of other Jewish prisoners should be released and sent abroad, initially to Sweden and Switzerland.
In this agreement a figure of 10,000 Jews was mentioned. The whole operation was being backed by the Swedish government, which had set up a headquarters in Lübeck and placed a large number of buses and trucks at the disposal of the organizers. Himmler readily agreed to the first three points on Kersten's agenda. But he refused point-blank to authorize the release and evacuation of the 10,000 Jews or of the additional Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian prisoners requested by the Swedish government. During the course of this visit I discovered that Kersten had made no headway at all during the past few days (from about March 2 on); every one of his ploys had proved ineffective. He was now afraid of falling out with Himmler altogether, for this would have jeopardized his whole project and with it his hopes of acquiring Swedish nationality.
When I asked Himmler why he was not prepared to release the Jews mentioned on the Swedish lists, he replied, "I cannot do that, Herr Wulff. The Führer already knows about the Swiss transactions involving the release of Jewish prisoners. Kaltenbrunner submitted a report about it, and his views were endorsed by Bormann. In this case my hands are completely tied." He then dropped this disagreeable topic and moved on to a new theme. "Herr Schellenberg tells me that you wish to review the political situation in the light of your mundane horoscope for 1945," he said. This horoscope was not very encouraging for Himmler. The charts for the first two quarters of the year, which I proceeded to explain to him, revealed catastrophic constellations for the Hitler regime.
Meanwhile, Kersten leaned back in the corner of the sofa, taking no interest whatsoever in my interpretations. He was aware that his personal requests had not been granted and that I had not made Himmler compliant, as he had hoped I would. His expression was neither bitter nor gentle but rather showed a studied coolness.
The conversation then turned to the Yalta Conference, which Himmler had told me to evaluate in astrological terms. I had drawn up a mundane horoscope for the Yalta Conference a month in advance. The constellations presented a positively shattering picture, which I did not attempt to soften in the telling. But, despite these hopeless prospects, Schellenberg had refused to despair and with typical Capricorn stubbornness had continued to press Himmler about his coup d'etat. However, Himmler did not give in to Schellenberg either. He could not afford to, because his differences with Hitler had now become critical.
"Dear Herr Reichsführer," I said, "why don't you carry out our May plan? The worst consequences might still be avoided, and you yourself could improve your position despite the Führer."
"What you and Herr Schellenberg are asking of me, Herr Wulff, is a breach of loyalty," Himmler replied. "I have sworn on oath to the Führer, and although you may think it sentimental, I simply cannot break it. And have you considered the possibility of a popular revolt? How will the masses react if I arrest their Führer? True, if there should be riots in the streets, I could have them crushed by my SS-that would not be too difficult. But I have sworn a soldier's oath to Hitler, and I cannot break my oath. I owe him everything. No, gentlemen, that is impossible, I cannot do it." Himmler spoke these words in a quiet and steady voice. As he did so, he gave me a long, serious look and then continued:
"You say that the constellations are extremely negative at present. Can you tell me which parts of Germany will remain unoccupied? What does your dial say about that?" Himmler pointed to my pocket chronometer, which I used for a special kind of calculation to save time. Himmler had very little time left. The situation was deadly serious. If he did not abandon his ridiculous attitude, he would be dragged down into the abyss.
"If I remember correctly," I said, "we have already pointed out that you should have got one of your trustworthy men to carry out our plan long ago."
"Yes, yes," Himmler interposed. "But who can be trusted nowadays? It would be terribly difficult to stage a coup now. Right now I'm not well; I feel quite weak. From a military point of view it would be feasible, but I cannot undertake the task. If this operation is to succeed, I would have to replace the heads of every department; men like Kaltenbrunner and Muller would have to go, and they would have to be replaced by people I can trust. Kaltenbrunner is the least reliable of them all. But if I were to remove him and Muller, Bormann would notice it at once and take countermeasures at Hitler's headquarters. And, anyway, Kaltenbrunner would not hesitate to send a report to Bormann behind my back. No, it would be far too dangerous to replace him now."
"But, Herr Reichsführer," I replied, "you could replace these men at the last moment and have Kaltenbrunner and the others arrested. I am no military expert, but I imagine that it would not be difficult for you to carry out this operation successfully."
"So now I am supposed to overthrow my Führer," Himmler exclaimed. "Herr Schellenberg even wants me to have him murdered."
In reply I referred Himmler to Hitler's horoscope: "Hitler will not die at the hands of an assassin," I said. "His constellations indicate a mysterious death. You could succeed if you arrested him."
"But how can I arrest the Fuehrer now that he is ill?" Himmler rejoined. And then he repeated his famous dictum, which we had heard so often: "I have built up my SS on the basis of loyalty. I cannot give up this fundamental principle." And then Heinrich Himmler- a man feared by millions-said softly and almost plaintively, "I will make this confession to you, gentlemen-I simply cannot do it!"
Himmler never seriously contemplated this immense undertaking, which would have ended the dreadful and totally destructive scourge of war and brought peace and security to the world. He was too weak to make the kind of sacrifice for the country of his birth that was demanded from millions of German soldiers. He was no veteran soldier, tested in battle, who would rise up to put an end to this bloodbath. The mask he presented to the world to hide his insecurity was unctuous and mocking. He demanded sacrifices from his SS men, but where was his own sense of sacrifice, where was his willpower? Even a person with no great acumen or skill in interpreting facial expressions must surely have realized that this Heinrich Hirmmler preferred to allow his compatriots to suffer rather than take decisive action to relieve them.
Not even his own impending doom could make him change his mind. On that morning in Hohenlychen, Himmler barricaded himself behind the inflated, fairground balloons of his own mad fantasies. I tried in vain to discover some sign of cruel grandeur in him. His face revealed no trace of the grim severity of a Spanish inquisitor or of the ferocity of the butchers of the French Revolution. Heinrich Himmler was begging me in almost pitiful tones not to press him with this frightful project, not to ask him to break with a man who had brought misery to millions of his countrymen. Fatal constellations, which were recorded in his natal chart, were now bearing down on him and could not be averted. At that moment I felt how intolerable it was to see opportunities and yet be powerless to act. I had already overcome one inner crisis in August, 1944, and now a second was building up within me. In the end I found comfort in the thought that I had done everything I could and had left nothing untried.
Himmler led a miserable existence amid the bloodstained files and card indexes at his headquarters; his life was a foretaste of hell. Scorned and despised in every corner of the world, branded as the meanest of all creatures, he was now the unhappiest of all creatures as he sat in Hohenlychen and gently begged, "Don't ask me to explain anything more, don't ask me to describe the things I have experienced and had to live through in the past few months-I can't do it!"
All this time Kersten did not say a word. I expected that he would now press Himmler for a final decision on the Jewish prisoners. But he remained silent-not for tactical reasons, not in order to present an impenetrable front, but because he was at the end of his tether and
simply did not know what to do next. If Kersten had followed our conversation closely, he would have realized just how bad things were for his pitiful patient. Himmler was in need of a doctor and in even greater need of a priest. But Kersten did not budge. He simply sat there thinking about the deals which he could or-on this occasion-could not make, and as far as he was concerned, his patient Himmler, a man who already knew what it was to live in hell and was threatening to suffocate in the blood which he had spilled, was no more than a pawn in his important transactions in Sweden. Kersten was supposed to be an instrument of charity. But where were his healing hands now? In his desperate condition
Himmler stood in dire need of them! But Kersten remained completely passive.
Himmler's meaningless platitudes about his loyalty sounded like a record played too often. I suddenly found the atmosphere in the room more oppressive; its confines seemed positively frightening. I looked out of the window in search of relief and saw the cheering sight of early spring sunshine glinting in the park of Hohenlychen. This was not the time to surrender myself to barren conjectures about Himmler's fate.
Himmler asked if I had received any news from Hamburg. I had already sent him a report on the destruction of the Hamburg docks, and he now learned that the reports on the bomb damage in our cities submitted to him by subordinates were far from accurate.
Next we turned to the question of armaments.
Aircraft production had virtually come to a standstill; hardly any engines were being built. How the heroic German pilots were able to continue their resistance against the superior Allied air forces was a mystery.
Himmler was aware that no new aircraft were being turned out, but the soldiers and junior officers on his staff were told that production was continuing at the same rate as before, although nobody who was at all we1l informed believed this.
Himmler then told me about the new air-to-air rockets and missiles which were supposed to be taking such a heavy toll of the enemy air forces. He had already spoken to me about these new weapons in the spring of 1944, when the prototypes had been built. Since then, however, it had not been possible to produce them in sufficient quantities, certainly not on the scale that would have ensured final victory. I pointed this out and asked whether it wasn't too late to cling to such hopes. I reminded Himmler of Von Rundstedt's offensive of December 7, 1944, when the First American Army had been driven back into Belgium and Luxembourg and the German air offensive had thrown the Allied troops into disarray. Although Von Rundstedt's success had been short-lived, Himmler's optimism had been understandable at that time. But today optimism was out of place. Once again I urged him to move against Hitler.
Once more Himmler excused himself on the grounds of loyalty to the Fuehrer and went on to talk about the V weapons, which were said to be uniquely devastating. This was no mere fairy tale; the effect of the V1's and V2's was already well known-especially in Britain. But when I asked whether there were sufficient stocks of these weapons, Himmler gave an evasive reply. So it was by no means certain that they could turn the tide for Germany. There were also reports of other secret weapons that were ready for mass production, all of which tended to contribute to Himmler's vacillation.
He went on to talk about a quite different missile, one of incredible power. Cities like New York and London, he said, could be wiped off the face of the earth with the help of this new weapon. This particular report was not entirely unfounded but meant little now that the Allies had already crossed the Rhine and the Russians had reached Küstrin, Stettin, and the Oder River and were threatening to occupy the whole of the Brandenburg region.
I had already heard about these new missiles and their enormous destructive power from Franz Goring in February, 1944. What he had told me was basically true, for work was already being done on the German atom bomb at the time.
Franz Goring also told me that the new missiles had been tested. According to him, a large town was especially built near Auschwitz concentration camp and some 20,000 Jews, mostly women and children, were sent to live in it. A single missile was then fired into the settlement. In the ensuing explosion, which developed a heat output of 6,0000 C at its center, the whole town and the entire population were burned to cinders in a flash. Stories such as this also reached Himmler's ears. Was it surprising, then, that he pinned his hopes on the effect of such weapons? Was it surprising that he hesitated to depose Hitler?
At the end of our conversation Himmler again asked me for my opinion of the international situation, which I summarized in a few brief words, finishing by reminding him of our agreement and of Schellenberg's plan. Kersten and I then quickly took our leave. It looked as if Himmler were moved by our departure, for tears trickled down his cheeks, but I put this down to his shattered nerves.
The mist which had covered this beautiful Brandenburg lakeland district on our journey to Hohenlychen, transforming the landscape into vague, almost invisible forms, had completely disappeared. The warm rays of the March sun had cleared the air. We were heading for Fürstenberg. When we reached the main road, we saw an enormous mass of refugees moving westward in small groups. They were not the first groups we had encountered, and they were soon to be followed by an endless procession of human misery. When we reached Hartzwalde that afternoon, more refugees had arrived there with stories of German women who had been raped by the Russians.
Kersten avoided talking to me on the way to Hartzwalde, so I was able to work out a plan for returning to Hamburg as quickly as possible. I had thought of a reason which would justify my departure. But in the event this proved unnecessary, for upon arrival we were told that a priority telephone call had been received from Hamburg. I then learned that at midday on March 11 there had been a heavy air raid on the city, in which my own house had been completely demolished. My wife wanted me to come home as quickly as possible to arrange for the removal and storage of some of our damaged possessions. This news made it possible for me to leave Hartzwalde early the following day. That evening Kersten, who was extremely agitated because I had not complied with his wishes, tried to pick a quarrel with me. When I failed to respond, he walked out on me and retired to his own room, presumably to work on his diary. I wanted to leave Hartzwalde at once. But since there was no car available, I had to wait until the following morning. I could no longer endure Kersten's persistent demands.