Context: Bizarre fiction by Anna Funder.
The action had been discussed in Berlin and London. It would have been simplest to shoot them of course, as they had Lessing and Rudi. There was no need to kidnap Dora because they had her source already. She just needed silencing. But a shooting in Bloomsbury would have upset the English and the English were upset enough. Also, she had contacts in high places. So shooting was ruled out, and they would need five men, two on each woman and one to give the order.
They'd approached Wolf in a bakery, when he was buying his morning rolls. He'd looked at them as if at the sudden incarnation of all his fears. They escorted him to a seat in Russell Square to discuss a proposition. It was hardly much to ask, they said: lend them some keys, write a letter, barely at all. Wolf stammered something about it not being possible; at the inevitable inquest his relationship with Dora would become known and his wife would find out. Then they mentioned his daughter, in Denmark, how convenient it was for her that she could walk to school. They spoke of other relatives in Germany who were still free; they terrified him with what might, in certain as yet undefined circumstances, happen to them. When he worried about having to imitate her handwriting they knew they had him. They were in a position, they said, to ensure that Scotlan Yard would hand the note over to the German embassy for translation and graphology. It would be 'taken care of'. Wolf came up with the idea of using shorthand himself, as an extra protection.
He wrote the suicide note on Sunday morning, typed his own address on the envelope. He dropped it through the letterbox around the corner from 12 Great Ormond Street, then walked swiftly past the children's hospital with his collar up and hat pulled low, lest one of the women come out, slowing only once he got to the corner.
They know from their previous visits to the flat how much Veronal was likely to be in the bathroom cabinet, but they hadn't been in there while the Swiss was staying so they brought their own just in case, along with a bolt-cutter. It was evening. They let themselves in with the keys; the door was not chained. They found Dora in her pyjamas, Mathilde still dressed. The flat smelled of coffee. There was a plan devised and approved at the highest level, rehearsed, and now to be implemented. They kept their gloves on.
They gagged each woman and tied her to a chair in the kitchen. Dora counted while they emptied three sachets into each cup. So this was how she would go. Tailor-made.
The boss man used this time to visit the famed hall cupboard he'd read about in the reports. When he came back into the kitchen he nodded at one of the men standing next to Mathilde, who placed the muzzle of his gun cold against her temple. He addressed Dora. They would shoot Mathilde if she did not drink. And quietly. Understand?
Mathilde moved her eyes, her head, almost imperceptibly, to indicate, no. Dora should not drink. It was nonsenical to think that Mathilde would be let go after this. When they took Dora's gag off for her to drink seh screamed. A glove slammed over her mouth and nose; the gag was retied, tighter. So they would make her watch instead.
They removed Mathilde's gag. She kept her eyes firmly on Dora: the two of them were still there, together. Mathilde opened her mouth when they told her to. Dora knew the taste, bitter, granular. It took Mathilde three swallows. They put the gag back back on. There was no fear in her eyes. She was still Mathilde, for the time it would take. Dora's eyes filled.
'Look what you've done now,' the boss man said.
Where do they get these calm killers from? He nodded at the one standing to Dora's left, who yanked her head back by the hair and pinched her nose together. The other untied the gag and her jaw fell open. They poured the bitter stuff into her. Drops spilled onto her pyjamas.
They kept them tied to the chairs. The women watched each other, their eyes all they had. All the life in the world in them. An eternity of looking condensed here, into not being alone in this. Mathilde lost consciousness first. After fifteen minutes her head sank to her chest. Dora still held her in her gaze. Would not look at them. Would not give them the pleasure of the eyes of their prey in the intimate moments of death.
When Dora's head fell they moved them to bedroom. Pulled the covers back and put the bodies, still breathing, on the bed. They took off Mathilde's shoes, placed them neatly against the wall. Turned them to face one another in a last embrace, entwined the fingers of Dora's left hand and Mathilde's right in a mock scene of sorrow. Then they pulled the covers back over them. How else, for God's sake, could the covers have been so firmly up to their necks? No two people ever lie so neatly, die so neatly, covers firmly tucked up.
They placed Dora's key on the shelf next to the bedroom door, locked it with their own behind them. Straightened the kitchen chairs. A tabby cat watched from the corner near the stove, its white tail tip twitching. They locked the front door behind them, pocked their gloves. If the neighbours saw anything, it was nothing they hadn't seen before: five Germans coming down from a meeting in the attic flat.
Jaeger's equivalent at the German embassy in London was the (non Nazi) diplomat Herr zu Putlitz. Wolfram Wolf is an invented name....On the 'burglaries' at the flat, especially following Seymour Cocks's revelations in parliament, see the report after Dora and Mathilde's deaths in the Manchester Guardian, 6 April 1935(Brinson p 103, n.239). Dora is alleged to have said to her friend Ellen Wilkinson. 'The greatest asset the Nazi agents have is that no one, neither police nor one's friends, will believe that anyone can do the things here that we have proof they do.' (Brinson pp 131-2 n.150, italics are in the original.) On Seymour Cocks's address to the parliament, see Hansard, 5th Series, Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, vol. 285, cols 1019 ff., Brinson pp 130-31. For Winston Churchill on German rearmament see, for example, Hansard, 5th Series, Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, vol. 286, cols 2061-70. Dora is reported to have said to (Anton) Roy Ganz, "I suppose that one day I shall meet the same sot of end as those who have been working in different parts of the Continent.' (Brinson pp. 168-9, quoting Evening Standard, 'Refugees' Death Premonition', 5 April 1935, pp 1,5.)
The inquest proceeding are no longer to be found in the National Archives at Kew. There is a gutted file containing only a few pieces of paper and a passport-sized photograph of Dora's friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons. References on the front of the file indicate there were other volumes, most likely destroyed. For Mrs Allworth's testimony, see Brinson p.164, n.54:Public Records Office Kew, MEPOL 3/871, 3G, p.1. On Dora's 'suicide note', see Brinson p.160, n. 36, Public Records Office Kew, MEPOL, 3/871, 3A, p. 4. Brinson quotes the coroner as directing the jury that "if she wrote the note, and if it was correctly translated", it indicated that she had committed suicide because of unrequited love' (p. 181). The coroner was so quoted in 'Tragedy of German Woman's Unrequited Love', Daily Mail, 11 April 1935.
Dora's own coup came on the last day. In typical style, it was one that would never be attributable to her. A large, older man, very upright, with a balding head and protruding eyes under bushy eyebrows, lumbered up to the stand. This was Albert Grzesinski, the former President of Police in Berlin. Grzesinksi spoke in the deep rumble of a seasoned political operator. He told the court that after the Nazis had raided the offices of the Communist Party on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, they used the membership list they'd stolen to draw up arrest warrants for the four thousand people on it. The warrants, complete with addresses and, in most cases, photographs, were ready and signed the day before the fire; only the date of the action remained to be inserted.
Then Grzesinski told us he could confirm, from his own personal knowledge, 'There is an underground tunnel directly connecting the Reichstag with Minister Goering's residence.' There was a moment of shock and then heated murmuring started. There remained no doubt in anyone's mind.
At the end, the commission could find no evidence against the four co-accused. The chairman announced that because those who lit the fire probably came through the tunnel from Goering's house, and because the fire greatly benefited the Nazis, 'grave grounds existed for suspecting that the Reichstag was set onf ire by, or on behalf of, leading personalities of the National Socialist Party.'
People whooped and cheered, threw off their hats. Tears of relief welled in my eyes as I hugged Hans. I had been more afraid than I'd known.
Back in Germany Hitler fumed. Later we listened to his address to the Reichstag on the wireless, because we wanted to see what effect the counter-trial had had on him. 'An army of emigrants is active against Germany,' the Leader thundered. 'Courts are being established in full public view overseas in an attempt to influence the German justice system....revolutionary German newspapers are continually being printed and smuggled into Germany. They contain open calls to acts of violence.' He paused, then added, 'Socalled "black radio" programmes made abroad are broadcast into Germany calling for assassinations.'
Six months after Dora died Jaeger's London posting had ended. He returned to Berlin, where he reunited in the Foreign Office through the years building up to the war, then for the war and its aftermath. Passing information between Erwin Thomas in Berlin and Dora in London, he wrote, though it had not even been his initiative, was the single shred of evidence he had of his own decency. When it was all over he had requested, in some kind of satonement, to be transferred to the Reparations payments Department in the Treasury of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Bertie wrote that he'd met Hans at the restaurant in Basel. Hans was at a table with two others, a man he introduced as Mattern, and the forger. Bertie hadn't been expecting anyone else, but Hans explained that both men worked together. Bert produced the photo he had brought for the passport, and the forger wrote down his date of birth, height and eye colour on a piece of paper. Without asking, the man wrote'Religion:Jewish' in his notes.
They drank fairly solidly for an hour and a half. Then the forger said that 'for the money part' he would prefer them to come to his flat in Riehen. Bert said he looked at Hans, who nodded calmly: it must have been part of the plan. Downstairs a car was waiting. 'What self-respecting forger doesn't have a car with a chauffeur?' Bertie wrote.
Bert and Hans got in the back of the car, Mattern and the forger sat in the front next to the driver. Bert didn't know where the district of Riehen was. They passed a train station on the edge of town, then drove into the night where there was nothing. The car was going fast. He looked at Hans, who shrugged his shoulders as if to say. Who kows how these things are done? There was enough alcohol in Bert's system to be second-guessing his first responses, telling himself to calm down.
Until they got to a guard's hut with the Swiss flag hanging from it. The border! Instead of slowing as the sentry stepped out, the car accelerated. the man had to leap clear to save himself. Bertie cried out then, and Hans too. Mattern and the forger snapped around to rest the stubby snouts of Mausers on the back of their seat.
'Gestapo swine!' Hans shouted. Mattern pistol-whipped him, hard, across the face. When the car reached the German boomgate, it was already raised.
At Weil am Rhein they sped down Adolf-Hitler Strasse to the police station, pulling up around the back...
Bertie added a postscript about Wolfram Wolf. The British, he said, though availing themselves of the Wolf's story so as to avoid any conflict with Berlin, didn't believe it themselves. Shortly after the inquest they expelled him from the country. Wolf wasn't politically active in any way, but they knew he was the cover guy for the Nazi action. A cover they themselves had made use of.
I have failed too much, caused too much pain to you. I don't find any way back, neither to you, to myself not to life. Do not think that my death is the consequence of the last days, even if you had not come back I would not have continued to live. I have been too fond of you. I am sorry. Goodbye. I take with me the only person for whom my life meant anything.