What would the United States be like if Hitler won the Second World War? In “Hitler Is Coming” by Martin Roy Hill protagonist Paul Klee is an OSS veteran and police investigator on temporary assignment to the post-war American SS to stop a plot to kill a victorious Adolf Hitler on his first visit to the U.S. From fascist cabbies to corrupt Party gauleiters, Klee wends his way through an America most Americans today never knew once existed.
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Free Extract from Hitler is Coming by Martin Roy Hill
It was a wet, miserable morning when I arrived at SS headquarters. Stepping from the cab, I turned the collar of my leather duster against the mist and tried not to get wet. No one trusted the rain much these days, even though the scientists said it was safe. It was 1946, only two years after the war ended. London and Moscow were still radioactive embers, but New York was starting to rise from its ashes. Nevertheless, even here in Washington, people still worried about radioactive fallout. Everyone had heard the stories.
I had, in fact, just come from New York where I had been following leads in a case of government corruption. Some construction magnate offering bribes to the wrong people—at least they were the wrong people for me. The Party didn’t like it when investigators tried to arrest their members. Oh, they didn’t mind us arresting the small fish, just the big ones. I’d caught the wrong fish. That’s why I was standing outside SS headquarters in DC, staring at the giant swastika on the top of the building that used to be FBI headquarters, dreading what waited for me inside, and cursing the doc who saved my life in Italy three years earlier.
I started toward the main entrance when I saw Bruno Hesse come out the door. Like me, Bruno had been a city cop before the war and we’d worked some cases together. He was a fat, balding little man back then, with a nasty opinion about everything and everyone, especially if you were a Negro or Jew. He wasn’t a very good cop. He liked beating up on anyone smaller than himself, or if he had help, someone bigger. He had been some kind of high ranking officer in the German American Bund, the U.S. equivalent of Hitler’s Brown Shirts, until the Bund was banished back in ‘42. Now he wore a different uniform, a black one with a high-peaked hat and double lightning bolts on his collar. He even sported a silly Himmler moustache and wire-rimmed glasses.
Bruno flipped his hand up in the kind of salute only the highest level Nazis get to use. He waited for me to return the salute, but I didn’t take the bait.
“Paul,” he said, “I was just talking about you with SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Günter. It looks like we may be working together again.”
He looked taller. I wondered if he were wearing lifts.
“My lucky day,” I said. “Where do I find this Oberst—whatever?”
“You may call him Lieutenant Colonel Günter,” Bruno said, with something of a sniff. “He’s taken over J. Edgar’s old office.”
“That helps,” I muttered and walked on into the building.
I’d only been in the FBI building once before the war, and I wasn’t Hoover’s guest. I remembered it as a non-descript building with drab government workers and an occasional photo of FDR hanging on the wall. Now it was a clean, freshly painted maze of hallways and offices occupied by severe, Aryan-looking men and women nattily dressed in Nazi black and death’s head skulls. Where Roosevelt once looked down at you benignly, Hitler now stared down with his messianic glare.
A young corporal stared at my credentials then at me, as if he didn’t trust his eyes. He finally handed my ID back with a haughty frown, and directed me to an office on an upper floor. I found the door and knocked.
“Enter!” someone sounded in crisp, German-tainted English.
SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Hermann Günter sat behind a desk the size of an aircraft carrier, and with as much clutter as a flight deck when all its planes are launched. He had a long angular face and hawkish nose, and thin, cruel lips that probably had never known a real smile. He wore a tailored SS uniform blacker than I was feeling just then. On a clothes tree behind him was an ankle length leather great coat, the kind that was becoming the style to wear. Pictures of Hitler and Himmler decorated the walls.
Guys like Bruno Hesse were a dime a dozen these days. This guy Günter was the real thing. A real German, a real Nazi, right down to the accent. You could almost smell the crematorium on him.
“Ah! Herr Klee,” he said in English, rising. “Come in. Come in.”
As he stood, he closed a folder that had my name and SS emblems on it. Seeing your name on an SS folder has a peculiar effect on you, like someone has just shot you in the gut. And I knew too well how that felt.
“Please sit. Sit.”
He directed me to an overly large leather chair, offered me a cigarette which I took, then lit one for himself.
“Forgive me, but Paul Klee…” He said my name slowly, hissing each syllable. “Any relationship to the degenerate Swiss artist Paul Klee?”
I shook my head and said, “I thought he was German.”
Günter regarded me with something like distaste. “Not at all,” he protested. “Quite Swiss. And probably a Jew as well.”
“Just for the record, I’m a lapsed Catholic.”
Günter considered what I said, then waved his cigarette in the air. “Yes,” he said, “so are we all these days.”
Günter returned to his seat and opened my file. “Captain Paul Klee, late of the OSS. Italy, I see. I, too, was stationed in Italy. Imagine, if we had met back then… I would have shot you on the spot.”
“Not if I shot you first,” I said, smiling.
He gave me another of look of Aryan distaste. “Yes,” he finally said. “And now here we are, sharing cigarettes and having a nice chat.”
He referred to the file again. “How long did you work with the Italian resistance, captain?”
“Until one of your Schmeissers rearranged my insides in mid-‘43,” I told him. “And I am no longer a captain.”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you yet,” Günter said, apologizing. “You are being seconded from your National Police to the SS. You will have the honorary title of Hauptsturmfuhrer—captain.”
He flicked an ash, then returned to the interrogation. “Once again, captain. How long were you with the Italian resistance?”
I figured he had the answer in the file so I told him.
“I dropped in by parachute in late ’42, about the same time as Operation Torch in North Africa,” I said. “I operated until the summer of ’43 when I was shot. An Italian doctor who worked with the resistance saved my life. It took me months to recuperate. By the time I did, Italy was pretty much out of the war. I spent the rest of the war on the invalid list.”
I was lying in an evacuation hospital in Naples when the news came that New York was destroyed, followed by London and Moscow. The Krauts launched a single giant A-10 rocket at each city. The A-10 was basically two V-2 rockets stacked one on top of the other. The Krauts only needed one A-10 for each city. Their atomic warheads did the rest. With Churchill and Stalin vaporized, Britain and Russia surrendered within days. Roosevelt held out until the pro-Nazis in Congress forced him to capitulate two weeks later.
Günter didn’t look up from the file. He just grunted and said, “Saved by an Italian resistance doctor. I should have him shot.”
“You already did,” I said.
Günter’s thin lips curled downward, not in sadness, but satisfaction.
“Tell me, captain, did you enjoy New York?”
“Not particularly,” I answered. “Not much to do there with Broadway turned to radioactive dust.”
“Hmm, just so,” he said. “But you did find some way to entertain yourself.”
“I was simply trying to do my job. I wasn’t aware there were two sets of laws, one for Party members and another for everyone else.”
Günter shook his head. “There is only one set of laws, captain. But there are also…” He waved his cigarette in the air again, trying to find the word he was looking for in the smoke. “There are politics, yes? Politics. That has always been true, here in America, as well as in Germany, no?”
“Is that why I’m being—what did you say?—seconded to the SS?” I asked. “To keep a tight rein on me?”
The Kraut pursed his lips in thought, then nodded. “In part,” he said. “You have Major Hesse to thank for suggesting that.”
He stood and walked around the desk, and sat on the edge looking down at me.
“You are being attached so we can make use of your knowledge of partisan operations,” he said. “You will help us ferret out those who still resist the… peace… between Germany and the United States.”
“Resistance?” I said. “I didn’t know there were any resistance fighters in this country. You’ve already arrested all the Commies, not to mention the Jews. Those of us who fought in the war are too tired of fighting to continue. Those who didn’t—well, there was a reason they didn’t. They were either too busy getting draft deferments or they were on your side to start with.” I put my cigarette out and accepted Günter’s offer of another and leaned back in the chair. “Like Major Hesse.”
Günter smiled sardonically and nodded.
“Yes, Major Hesse provided us with good service both before and during the war,” he said, “and he has been well rewarded for his service. So were many others in the Bund.”
“And elsewhere,” I said with distaste. It was discovered after the surrender there were at least twenty members of Congress who were either Nazi sympathizers or paid German agents. “Quislings.”
“That’s a nasty word, captain” Günter said. “Many in Norway regard Minister-President Quisling a national hero and a patriot.” He waved the subject away. “But let us not argue politics. Let us talk about your assignment.” He paused for effect, then looked straight at me before speaking again. “Hitler is coming.”
Günter nodded. “The Fuhrer is making his first visit to your country. He will arrive in two weeks to meet with your President Prescott, and to present Herr Ford with another Fatherland honor.”
After the surrender, the Kraut-lovers in Congress had deposed FDR and, with the approval of the Party, appointed Prescott president. Before the war, both Prescott and his father-in-law were big time bankers and fanatics for fascist politics—so much so they helped fund the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. Prescott kept right on aiding the Krauts even as our Army was fighting them in North Africa, right up until he got his hands slapped by a government too timid to actually put him in prison for treason.
Henry Ford was an admirer of Hitler as well, and had already received a couple medals from “Der Fuhrer” back in the Thirties. Some of the Panzers that kicked our butts at Kasserine Pass in ’42 were built with the help of American companies like Ford and GM.
“Is Der Fuhrer planning to dance another two-step here like he did in Paris?” I asked.
Günter’s thin lips got even thinner.
“I don’t think so,” he said, dismissing my remark. He reached around the desk, pulled a file from a drawer and handed it to me. “We have reliable intelligence that there will be an attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer during his visit. I want you to make sure it does not happen.”
“Me? Why the hell should I care if Hitler buys the farm? All I ever got from him was a belly full of lead.”
“You care for the same reasons you did in Italy, captain,” Günter said. “Because if anything happens to Hitler, there will be retaliatory executions on an unimaginable level. You supported the resistance in Italy. You know what I mean.”
I nodded. I’d watched from a distance as the SS rounded up entire villages and shot each person in retaliation for partisan attacks. I led many of those attacks, and the knowledge that what I had done was responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent men, women, even children, had haunted me ever since.
“This time it would be your own people,” the Kraut said slowly, obviously enjoying my discomfort. “And we have much more efficient ways of retaliation, as you witnessed in New York. That’s why you will care about what happens to the Fuhrer.”
He stood up and lit another cigarette. “You were OSS. You worked with partisans. You were also a police officer and know how American criminals work. You’re the perfect man for this assignment.”
I opened the folder and glanced at its content before looking back at Günter.
“It’s in German,” I said. “I don’t speak that much German.”
Günter picked a book off his desk and tossed it in my lap. It was an English-German dictionary.
“Considering the situation,” he said, “I think it’s time you learned.”
END OF FREE EXTRACT
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