Pretense for War
Alfred Naujocks and his team arrived in the town of Gleiwitz—four miles inside Germany on the Polish border—and checked in at the Oberschlesischer Hotel. Feigning to be engineers in search of suitable resources to mine, they awaited their orders.
Throughout the summer, Hitler had repeatedly accused Poles of attacking ethnic Germans in Poland. Many of those incidents had been fake, created by agitators which had been sent by him. By August, Hitler had made up his mind to invade Poland, but he needed a creditable excuse, something that smacked of dramatic provocation to justify his actions. Hitler passed that responsibility over to Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SD, Sicherheitsdienst, to devise a scheme to justify the attack.
Heydrich had created an efficient tool within the SD, the Einsatzguppen, tasked with carrying out Hitler’s darkest and dirtiest requests. The scheme Heydrich came up with, codenamed ‘Operation Himmler,’ was an attack on the Gleiwitz radio tower. The person Heydrich chose to head up the Einsatzguppen unit to carry out this attack, scheduled for August 25, was one of his most trusted agents, Alfred Naujocks. Head of a subsection within SD Ausland (foreign section), Naujocks oversaw falsifying documents, passports, and identity cards for SD agents acting abroad.
August 25th came and went. No orders to activate ‘Operation Himmler’ had been received by Naujocks. Over a week had passed since he and his team arrived in Gleiwitz and he was becoming antsy.
“Damn it!” Naujocks gazed out the open window. I don’t how long we can keep up this charade. The warm breeze felt good against his skin. I miss my family. He felt tension building up in his neck and shoulders. What will happen to me once this operation is complete? Will I and my team become loose ends that Heydrich must clean up? I do not want to die. Not that way. It is for my Fatherland that I do this operation. I am not merely a means and an instrument in this totalitarian state. Or am I? Am I not a person with feelings and convictions? Yes. But I have become a servant to a demonic state. An automaton like the others. If I introspect more, I may discover that I too have become a man without a soul. The people strolling below my window appear happier and freer than me. Their laughter is intoxicating. The sounds of their voices inviting. Not guarded like mine. He closed the window and left his room to mingle with the townsfolk. He needed the respite to forget the awful deeds he would soon commit.
On the evening of August 28th, Naujocks received a knock at his hotel room door. Opening the door, he was surprised to find Heinrich Muller, head of Gestapo, staring back at him. Muller was a smallish, thin-lipped man with piercing grey-blue eyes. He was called “Gestapo Muller” to differentiate him from an SS officer with the same name. He did not wait to be invited into the room.
“We have much to discuss.” Muller sat in one of two armchairs. “Events are accelerating.” He to...