Marburg an der Lahn, Germany 8 November 1942
On the night of November 7, Obersturmführer-SS-SD Wilhelm Peis, a tall, pale, blond
man of twenty-eight, who was the senior Sicherheitsdienst (SS Security Service) officer in
Marburg an der Lahn, received the following message by Teletype from Berlin:
YOU WILL PLEASE TAKE ALL NECESSARY STEPS TO ENSURE THE SECURITY OF REICHSMINISTER ALBERT SPEER AND A PERSONAL STAFF OF FOUR WHO WILL MAKE AN UNPUBLICIZED VISIT TO THE FULMAR ELEKTRISCHES WERK AT MARBURG 8 NOVEMBER. THE REICHSMINISTER WILL ARRIVE BY PRIVATE TRAIN AT 10:15 AND DEPART IN THE SAME MANNER AT APPROXIMATELY 15:45.
The message from Berlin seemed more or less routine to Peis, and he at first treated it as such until early in the morning of the eighth when Gauleiter Karl-Heinz Schroeder--in a state somewhere between chagrin and panic--burst into Peis's sleeping quarters (Peis was not in fact asleep) and pointedly reminded him that not only had Speer taken the place of Dr. Fritz Todt as head of the Todt Organization--in charge of all industrial production, military and civilian--which made him one of the most powerful men in Germany, but that he was a personal friend, perhaps the closest personal friend--of the Führer himself.
The intensity of Schroeder's concern impelled Peis to double his efforts on behalf of welcoming the Reichsminister, and he rounded up half a dozen Mercedes, Horch, and Opel Admiral automobiles to carry Speer from the railroad station to the Fulmar Electric Plant--or wherever else he might wish to go. He canceled all leave for the police and the SD. And he dressed in a new uniform.
By this time Peis was less motivated by the concerns of the Gauleiter than by more pressing and personal concerns of his own:
The Reichsminister would certainly be accompanied by a senior SS officer--at least an Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) and possibly even an Oberführer (Senior Colonel). If this officer found fault with his security arrangements for Reichsminister Speer, Peis could start packing his bags with his warmest clothes. There was always a shortage of Obersturmführers on the Eastern Front, and a long list of SS officers already there who had earned a sweet sinecure like the SS-SD detachment in Marburg an der Lahn. Peis had long before decided that it was far better to be a big fish in a little pond than the other way around.
Peis set up his security arrangements at about seven in the morning, soon after Schroeder had left him; he personally checked his arrangements twice; and he was at the Hauptbahnhof forty-five minutes before the scheduled arrival of the private train.
The train itself, though it rolled into the station on schedule to the minute, was otherwise a disappointment. To start with, it wasn't actually a train. It was one car, self-propelled--not much more than a streetcar. And there were no senior SS officers to be impressed with the way Peis had handled his responsibilities. Only Reichsminister Speer and three others--all civilians, one a woman--stepped out of the car.
And even Speer himself wasn't in uniform. He was wearing a business suit and looked like any other civilian.
After the Reichsminister and his party reached the platform, Karl-Heinz Schroeder, wearing his best party uniform, marched up and gave a stiff-armed Nazi salute, then launched into his welcoming speech. Speer made a vague gesture with his hand in reply to the salute and cut Schroeder off at about word five.
"Very good of you to say so, Herr Gauleiter," Speer said, and then went quickly on. "I had hoped that Professor Dyer would be able to meet us."
Reprinted from THE SOLDIER SPIES by W.E.B. Griffin by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1986 by W.E.B. Griffin. Originally published under the pseudonym Alex Baldwin. First G.P. Putnam's Sons edition 1999. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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