The Reichsbank Gold (Department 89 #2)

When Germany is under attack, a lethal response is required.

February 1945 : With the war nearly over, the Nazi regime moves their entire cash and Reichsbank gold reserves, from Berlin to the salt mines of Merkers. But some of the gold is stolen and is never found again.

September 2017 : A fierce national election campaign is being fought out in Germany. Extreme right-wing nationalists, connected to a major election candidate, are terrorising the streets and murdering at will.

Decker is given an order by the German Chancellor to stop the violence. But little do they know that the missing Reichsbank gold and a long-lost Nazi icon will light the spark that will make Berlin explode.

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Exceptionally well written, a pleasure to read and highly recommended to anyone looking for good reading.
Amazon reviewer

It was a cold November morning in 1923 when Adolf Hitler and General Erich Ludendorff decided to march on the Bavarian Defence Ministry.

Their options were rapidly diminishing. Their attempt to seize power by force was floundering, and was in danger of failing completely. After storming into the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall and holding its three thousand occupants hostage, they had finally managed to convince Gustav Von Kahr, state commissioner of Munich, and his cohorts to come over to their side. 

Not that they had much choice in the matter. Hitler had delivered a speech in which he had gained the support of the very crowd he was holding against his will. But just when he thought he had succeeded in his power grab, Hitler had left the beer hall, and from there everything had gone rapidly downhill. Von Kahr and his friends were eventually released, and confusion was giving the authorities time to get their act together.

Now, the following morning, with failure imminent, Hitler realised they had to do something radical to regain the momentum. That was when Ludendorff announced they were going to march. Two thousand Nazis to the Bavarian Defence Ministry. What they would do when they got there was anybody’s guess.

“Why the hell did you release Von Kahr and his men last night?” hissed Hitler to Ludendorff, when he was sure no-one was listening.

“You made yourself unavailable Adolf, having somewhere else better to go” shrugged Ludendorff, “somebody had to make a judgement call.”

“If that is your judgement” declared Hitler, “then I have to start seriously questioning your abilities.”

“I can leave anytime Adolf” said Ludendorff, airily. “Remember you need me more than I need you.”

Which was true. Hitler was using Ludendorff’s legendary status as Germany’s First World War commander to gain prestige and credibility. To lose Ludendorff now would be the final nail in the coffin.

“So what would you suggest, General Ludendorff?” said Hitler, gritting his teeth.

“Why, it’s simple. We march of course.”

“Of course” said Hitler sarcastically, “march. Why didn’t I think of that?”

The march started out with the flag bearers in front. Behind them were Hitler, Ludendorff, Alfred Rosenberg, and Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, who had his arm interlocked with Hitler’s. Surrounding them were other supporters, as well as the brown-shirted Nazi stormtroopers led by Ernst Von Roehm.

Things started out more or less well enough. Munich residents stood by the side of the roads, watching, which Hitler took to be a good sign. At least they were not protesting. But just when he thought he might be able to grab victory from the jaws of defeat, they arrived at the Odeonplatz. There waiting for them was over a hundred armed soldiers – and they were definitely not on their side.

The marchers stopped. For a moment, there was silence and a stalemate as each side sized up the others. Then a shot rang out.

Nobody knew who it was that fired that shot. But it was what provoked the gun battle that followed. Bullets were fired and bodies fell. Four police officers and sixteen Nazis were eventually killed, including Scheubner-Richter.

But Hitler was nowhere to be found. He had run away.

* * *

Merkers – February 1945

The long line of trucks drove slowly and carefully along the narrow uneven road. They could not drive very fast due to the pitch darkness caused by the blackout, which meant switching the headlights on was impossible. Roving Allied bombers, which now had total command of the skies, could at any moment fly overhead and drop their payloads if they saw the briefest flicker of light appear. Considering what was in the back of the trucks, being randomly bombed would be an unmitigated disaster.

Driving the lead truck was an army sergeant. He was only in his 20’s but the war had aged him greatly to the point where he looked almost double his actual age. He looked permanently exhausted and disillusioned, and dirt covered his entire face and clothes. A week’s worth of growth on his face completed the dishevelled appearance. His uniform had not been changed in quite some time, but the dulled and scuffed black Iron Cross on his tunic still managed to stand out as an impressive sign of the man’s bravery in Russia.

The SS officer in the passenger seat of the truck, SS Major Bruno Eckers, wrinkled his nose in distaste as the smell of the army sergeant’s clothes reached his nostrils. But wisely he decided silence was the best course of action. At this stage of the war, a loud-mouthed SS Major would probably find himself in a ditch with a bullet to the back of his head. He was all too-aware of how precarious his personal situation was, and how much the balance of power had shifted. Once nobody would dare question the authority of the SS. Now the army would shoot you in less than a second without breaking a sweat.

Eckers was not pleased to be here, but he had been ordered to by SS Chief Heinrich Himmler himself. The gold and cash reserves from the Berlin Reichsbank were being transferred to the salt mines in Merkers for safe-keeping, after the bank had been bombed by the US Air Force. Himmler had spontaneously decided this would be an ideal opportunity for the SS to hoard all of their ill-gotten spoils too. Gold, silver, money, diamonds, bearer bonds, taken mainly from concentration camp prisoners who took all of their possessions to the camps, thinking their stay was temporary. Or those who tried unsuccessfully to bribe their way out. 

Ever since leaving Berlin, Eckers cursed Himmler for making him the one to escort this cursed loot to its new hiding place. What had he done to deserve this? If he was caught with this stuff, he would never be able to explain its presence, and he feared the consequences. Therefore he resolved to make his escape as soon as an opportunity presented itself without putting his life in danger.

“Stop here” grunted Eckers to the driver, “we need to take our bearings. This damn darkness isn’t helping.”

The truck slowly moved to the side of the road, and ground to a halt, its wheels crunching in the stone gravel. Eckers hopped out, and as the other trucks in the line also stopped, others took the opportunity to jump out to stretch their legs and some relieved themselves in the bushes. Two of the men however from another truck came forward towards Eckers, grim-faced. 

They were senior civilian Reichsbank employees ordered to escort the money to Merkers. Werner Veick was the head cashier of the foreign currency department and Otto Reimer was the head cashier of the Reichsmarks department. Both were extremely unhappy to be far away from home and their families – and in a dangerous war zone to boot, even though Berlin was not exactly a safe haven anymore either. The Russians were virtually knocking at the door.

“Why have we stopped, Eckers?” demanded Reimer. His dislike for the SS officer was intense and undisguised. Ever since leaving Berlin, Eckers had heavy-handedly taken command. His arrogance and intense rudeness had made him no friends.

“We’re lost” said Eckers bluntly, “or haven’t you noticed? The blackout isn’t helping us get to our destination quickly. We need directions.”

He pointed to a house. “Wait here by the trucks. I will see if anybody is home.”

The house was dark, but these days that meant nothing. The blackout meant the owners could be at home with the curtains tightly drawn, praying that tonight wouldn’t be the night when their home got bombed to smithereens. Instinctively, Eckers looked to the sky, as if he could hear a bomber in the distance. 

When he shook his head and cursed under his breath at his paranoia, he approached the front door. As he did so, he unbuttoned the flap of his holster and gripped the butt of his gun. These days, you could never be too careful. Caution was why he was still alive and his comrades were not.

“Open up!” shouted Eckers, “this is the SS. By order of the Führer, open this door!”

Even though the war was in its final stages, the SS was still feared by the populace, and people like Eckers used that to full advantage.

For a moment, there was silence. A fuming Eckers was about to repeat his demand when there was a shuffling and scraping behind the door. The lock turned quietly, and the door opened a crack. A pair of frightened eyes looked out, as if silently imploring Eckers to go away.

“Relax old woman” said Eckers gruffly, “I only want directions to the Commandant’s office in Merkers. We’re lost.”

The eyes looked past Eckers and she could see the line of trucks at the end of her road. Taking a breath, she opened the door wider, and smiled hesitatingly at the SS Major.

“You missed the turning, Herr Sturmbannführer”, using the correct SS-equivalent rank to Major. “You need to turn around, and take the next right. Keep driving on and eventually you will see a signpost for Merkers. You’re not far. The signpost was turned the opposite direction to confuse the Americans, so make sure to go the right way.”

Eckers swore silently. Turn around? On this road? There was barely enough room to fart, never mind turn a long line of heavily laden trucks around.

Muttering a thanks to the woman, Eckers went back to the convoy and said to the army sergeant “we need to turn around. We missed the turning.”

The sergeant responded by grounding his cigarette into the gravel and glowering at Eckers. He too knew better than to vent. That was why he was still alive.

Therefore it was another forty-five minutes before they finally found the signpost for Merkers, and another ten minutes before they found the darkened Commandant’s office. Two very young sentries stood guard nervously outside in their wooden guard boxes, and did not look any better when they saw the menacing SS black uniform with the silver skull and flashes before them, demanding to see the Commandant.

* * *

Colonel Hermann Dietz had had enough of the war. He had served in France, Norway, and most of the Russian campaigns. Stalingrad cost him an eye, and the Battle of Britain had lost him his two sons who were fighter pilots. His wife and home were gone in the Allied bombing of Dresden. Now to make matters worse, a SS officer was strutting about in front of him acting as if Germany was still winning. 

But Dietz could finally see the end of the war and the end of the long nightmare. Despite being left with nothing to go back to, he wasn’t going to throw away what was left of his life by being rude to this pathetic specimen of a human being. Besides, the last time he checked, a colonel still outranked a major. Even a SS one.

“Herr Sturmbannführer” said Dietz formally, coming out of his office. “what can I do for you?”

“I have an order signed personally by the Führer” said Eckers, holding out a folded document, “ordering us to move the boxes in these trucks into any of the empty salt mines in this area. You will provide us with personnel to help with the task.”

Dietz examined the order. With the American army about to cross the Rhine and enter Germany, Hitler’s signature meant nothing to him anymore. He didn’t even know if the scratchy signature was actually his. The crazy old man was cowering somewhere in Berlin and Dietz was here keeping his head down until the Americans arrived. The boxes also gave no indication of their contents, but some sixth sense told him he didn’t want to know.

“I will see who I can round up Herr Sturmbannführer” he said with as much civility as he could muster. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment.”

Veick and Reimer both leaned against the truck, watching intently, their once-crisp white clerical shirts dirty with dirt and grease. Their manicured nails were now ruined and dirty. They were both miserable, whereas the soldiers in the other trucks looked upon the assignment with detached indifference. In truth, they were probably glad not to be in the front lines getting shot at.

Dietz soon returned. “You’re in luck Herr Sturmbannführer. We have some slave labour people here, who were in transit to a camp. But the train had to stop for refuelling. So you can borrow them if you like.”

“It’s about time we had some luck” said Dietz, “send a couple of your men in a jeep ahead to an empty mine. We will follow. Also arrange for the slave labour people to be transported there right away.”

“As you wish, Herr Sturmbannführer.”

* * *

The mine was absolutely perfect, thought Eckers. It was clean, dry and huge, which meant the boxes of gold, money, and valuables could remain here undetected for an indefinite period. It was so disguised that people would walk past it and not even know there was anything there. 

No longer did they have to worry about bombers destroying the money. They could leave it here and someone would come back for it later. Although, if Germany did lose the war, Eckers found it hard to know who would come back for everything. He had a bad feeling that if someone did come, they wouldn’t be speaking German.

The slave labour were a mixture of French, Dutch, Belgians, Russians, and even some Germans who had incurred the wrath of the authorities in some way. None of them were happy to be there. They too knew the war was all but over, and there was something about Eckers which deeply unnerved them.

Eckers for his part was determined not to waste any time. He gestured for the soldiers to come forward so they could hear him.

“The contents of these trucks must be unloaded and stacked neatly in the mine below. The task must be completed quickly. Use the slave labourers here to help move the boxes. We need to be out of here within the next couple of hours. Get started.”

As the soldiers and the slave labourers started pulling the heavy crates down, Eckers moved to the side and started to light a cigarette, cupping it with his hand to mask the glow. He had no intention of helping. There had to be some privileges of rank. Veick and Reimer also felt the same, as they stood by the trucks staring into space. They had no intention of getting their hands any dirtier than they already were.

* * *

In the end, the task took a little over 90 minutes. The boxes were arranged neatly inside the mine, and when they were finished, the soldiers and slave labourers wearily climbed out into the cooling air.

Eckers subtly turned and reached into the cab of the truck. This was the part he was not looking forward to. Himmler had told him matter-of-factly that there were to be no witnesses to the boxes. That everyone connected had to be liquidated, and his rank meant he was left with the dirty task. It wasn’t the first time he had killed for the Third Reich, but he most definitely wanted it to be the last. He was a lawyer by training, not a killer. He was supposed to uphold the law, not break it.

There were two Schmeisser machine-gun pistols inside the cab. He pulled one out, and before the others knew what was happening, Eckers raised the gun and squeezed the trigger. The gun responded by bucking in his hands and a deadly line of bullets quickly found its intended targets. 

Both soldiers and slave labourers fell, their chests and heads quickly blossoming in blood. When the first gun was empty, he reached into the cab quickly, grabbed the second gun, and continued on with his grisly task.

Veick had been one of the first to fall, but Reimer had managed to get behind a truck. Eckers saw him desperately trying to scramble away.

“What the hell are you doing, Eckers?!” Reimer shouted frantically.

“Eliminating all witnesses” said Eckers, “and you’re a witness.”

The gun roared again and Reimer’s chest was riddled with bullets. He fell heavily to the ground, his sightless eyes looking towards the mine, as if the last thing on his mind was the money which it was his job to protect.

When the last person had been accounted for, and bodies lay strewn around, Eckers looked around to see if anybody had been overlooked. When he was satisfied everyone was dead, Eckers stepped over the bodies, and went down into the dark mine. 

He emerged moments later with one of the Reichsbank crates. He struggled with the weight of it, grunting. His muscles ached as he dragged the box along the ground, and getting it into the back of the truck was an ordeal. A second trip netted him a second crate, and a second laborious fifteen minutes hauling it up into the truck. His uniform was dirty and dusty, but quite honestly, he didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, he was finished with the SS. If he was going to survive, he could have no connection with the SS. The tattoo under his arm with his blood type was unfortunate, but he would have to hope they didn’t strip-search him.

He stopped to look at the army sergeant who had been driving the lead truck. They were mainly the same height and build. On impulse, he pulled off the now-bloody army uniform, took his off, and gingerly put the sergeant’s bloody clothes on. They fit perfectly.

It was then that he noticed the Iron Cross lying on the ground beside its dead owner. Eckers picked it up, examined it for a moment, then pinned it on his tunic. He had always wanted an Iron Cross. Now he had one.

With one last look at the bodies and then the skies, he got into the lead truck, turned around, and drove back towards Merkers. 

Unfortunately the commandant and the two guards would have to go as well. Once that was done, Eckers intended to blend in with the other anonymous troops retreating west, and find someone to surrender to. 

His war was finished.

* * *

On March 22nd 1945, the American Army crossed the Rhine and entered Germany. They eventually discovered the gold and cash reserves in the mines, and eventually even the Supreme Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, came to see it for himself.

They just didn’t realise that some of it was missing.

* * *

Buenos Aires, May 1957

He knew they were close. He could feel their presence. 

He had to write fast as the courier was waiting to deliver the letter to his comrades. He shivered as if he could feel Death approaching the door. He picked up his pen, gripped it tightly to steady his shaking hand, and began to read what he had already written.

Satisfied with the result so far, he thought for a moment, then continued.

I have been a committed National Socialist my whole life, and nobody was more devastated than I when the Reich fell. I have lived the past 12 years in exile looking over my shoulder and living in daily fear of the Jewish assassins. I am sure the day of reckoning has finally arrived.

I could run again, but truth be told, I am tired. I originally thought running would be easier than this, but it has become a twelve year living nightmare. There is only so much a man can take.

This is where I must confess, and as I approach the end of my life, I now have nothing to lose by baring my soul. 

At the end of the war, I took some gold from the Reichsbank reserves in Merkers. It was only going to fall into the hands of the Russians or the Americans, and I needed funds to flee with. Considering my substantial service and sacrifice to the Reich, I decided I was owed that much. But on impulse, I also took something else. Something I should not have taken in the first place. Something I was not entitled to. Something priceless.

I can’t explain why I took it. I have asked myself every single day for the past twelve years what possessed me to take it. I have never been able to come up with a satisfactory reply.

The item should be returned to the cause without delay. It should be returned if there is ever to be a Fourth Reich. For the German people need something to rally around if they are to break free of the shackles they currently find themselves in.

Enclosed with this letter are detailed directions as to where this item is located. It is in a very secure and safe place, in excellent condition. If nothing else, I have taken good care of it over the years.

My only regret is that I will not be alive to see the Fourth Reich. But in my wildest dreams, I can only imagine it to be absolutely glorious!

Heil Hitler!

Bruno Eckers (SS Major-retired)

Eckers put the pen down, sighed deeply, and rubbed his face vigorously. Joseph should be there soon to pick up the letter and see it safely to its destination. Then he could go to his grave with a clear conscience, knowing he had done his duty to the very end, and returned the item to its rightful place. He should never have taken it. He picked up the glass with the last of his Schnapps, and he downed it in a single gulp, warming his insides.

Suddenly, there was a noise outside the front door. He stiffened, and slowly took a Mauser pistol out of a desk drawer. It was quite possible he was overreacting. It could just be Joseph, or an animal. But then again it might not be. It could be them.

He put the hand with the pistol behind his back. If it was Joseph, he didn’t want to give the old man a heart attack.

He edged closer to the window, looking out into the dusk. He could see nothing outside. Maybe it was just an animal? But the sudden click behind him meant the back door had just been opened, and he knew of no animal that could do that.

He knew then this was truly the end. There was no way he would be able to turn around in time, raise the gun, and fire it. It was over. The letter was still on the table undelivered. It would never reach its intended destination now. He had failed in his final duty.

Resigned to his fate, he closed his eyes.

“Heil Hitler” he murmured, as the Israeli Mossad hitman fired two shots into the back of Eckers’ head with a suppressed pistol, at almost point-blank range. Eckers was dead before he hit the floor.

As the hitman was about to leave, he noticed the letter on the table. Without looking at it, he grabbed it, crumpled it up and stuffed it into his pocket. Then after one final look at the body, he left the exact same way he had come. Justice had been served in the name of the Jewish people. It was time to move onto the next Nazi cowering under a table.

As the Mossad agent walked out the back door, the sightless eyes of Joseph stared back at him, the small burning bullet hole in the centre of his forehead smouldering.

Sophie Decker is better than 007!
Amazon reviewer

Books in this series

The Renegade Spy spy thriller
The Reichsbank Gold spy thriller
The Executioner spy thriller
The Traitor spy thriller
Operation Eternal Vengeance spy thriller
Regime Change spy thriller
Operation Thunderbolt spy thriller
Valkyrie spy thriller

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