The Message in the Bathroom

Papen moved about Berlin seemingly unperturbed and on June 24, 1934, traveled to Hamburg as Hindenburg’s emissary to the German Derby, a horse race, where the crowd gave him a spirited ovation. Goebbels arrived and pushed through the crowd behind a phalanx of SS, drawing hisses and boos. Both men shook hands as photographers snapped away.

Edgar Jung, Papen’s speechwriter, kept a lower profile. By now he had become convinced that the Marburg speech would cost him his life. Historian Wheeler-Bennett arranged a clandestine meeting with him in a wooded area outside Berlin. “He was entirely calm and fatalistic,” Wheeler-Bennett recalled, “but he spoke with the freedom of a man who has nothing before him and therefore nothing to lose, and he told me many things.”

The rhetoric of the regime grew more menacing. In a radio address on Monday, June 25, Rudolf Hess warned, “Woe to him who breaks faith, in the belief that through a revolt he can serve the revolution.” The party, he said, would meet rebellion with absolute force, guided by the principle “If you strike, strike hard!”

The next morning, Tuesday, June 26, Edgar Jung’s housekeeper arrived at his home to find it ransacked, with furniture upended and clothing and papers scattered throughout. On the medicine chest in his bathroom Jung had scrawled a single word: GESTAPO.

DIELS READIED HIMSELF to be sworn in as regional commissioner of Cologne. Göring flew to the city for the occasion. His white plane emerged from a clear cerulean sky on what Diels described as a “beautiful Rhineland summer day.” At the ceremony Diels wore his black SS uniform; Göring wore a white uniform of his own design. Afterward, Göring took Diels aside and told him, “Watch yourself in the next few days.”

Diels took it to heart. Adept now at timely exits, he left the city for a sojourn in the nearby Eifel Mountains.

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