Among the Living

Sunday morning was cool, sunny, and breezy. Dodd was struck by the absence of any visible markers of all that had occurred during the past twenty-four hours. “It was a strange day,” he wrote, “with only ordinary news in the papers.”

Papen was said to be alive but under house arrest at his apartment along with his family. Dodd hoped to use what little influence he possessed to help keep him alive—if indeed the reports of Papen’s continued survival were correct. Rumor held that the vice-chancellor was marked for execution and that it could happen at any time.

Dodd and Martha took the family Buick for a drive to Papen’s apartment building. They drove past the entrance very slowly, intending that the SS guards see the car and recognize its provenance.

The pale face of Papen’s son appeared at a window, partially hidden by curtains. An SS officer on guard at the building entrance glared as the car passed. It was clear to Martha that the officer had recognized the license plate as belonging to a diplomat.

That afternoon Dodd drove to Papen’s home again, but this time he stopped and left a calling card with one of the guards, on which he had written, “I hope we may call on you soon.”

Though Dodd disapproved of Papen’s political machinations and his past behavior in the United States, he did like the man and had enjoyed sparring with him ever since their dinner confrontation at the Little Press Ball. What motivated Dodd now was revulsion at the idea of men being executed at Hitler’s whim without warrant or trial.

Dodd drove back home. Later, Papen’s son would tell the Dodds how grateful he and his family had been for the appearance of that simple Buick on their street that lethal afternoon.

REPORTS CONTINUED TO ARRIVE at the Dodds’ residence of new arrests and murders. By Sunday night Dodd knew with reasonable certainty that Captain Röhm was dead.

The story, pieced together later, went like this:

At first Hitler was undecided as to whether to execute his old ally, locked in a cell at Stadelheim Prison, but eventually he bowed to pressure from Göring and Himmler. Even then, however, Hitler insisted that Röhm first should have an opportunity to kill himself.

The man assigned the task of offering Röhm this opportunity was Theodor Eicke, commander of Dachau, who drove to the prison on Sunday along with a deputy, Michael Lippert, and another SS man from the camp. The three were led to Röhm’s cell.

Eicke gave Röhm a Browning automatic and a fresh edition of the Völkischer Beobachter containing an account of what the paper called the “Röhm Putsch,” apparently to show Röhm that all was indeed lost.

Eicke left the room. Ten minutes passed with no gunfire. Eicke and Lippert returned to the cell, removed the Browning, then came back with their own weapons drawn. They found Röhm standing before them, shirtless.

Accounts vary as to exactly what happened next. Some report that Eicke and Lippert said nothing and began firing. One account holds that Eicke shouted, “Röhm, make yourself ready,” at which point Lippert fired two shots. Yet another account gives Röhm a moment of gallantry, during which he declared, “If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself.”

The first salvo did not kill Röhm. He lay on the floor moaning, “Mein Führer, mein Führer.” A final bullet was fired into his temple.

As a reward, Eicke received a promotion that placed him in charge of all Germany’s concentration camps. He exported the draconian regulations he had put in place at Dachau to all the other camps under his command.

That Sunday a grateful Reichswehr made another payment on the deal struck aboard the Deutschland. Defense Minister Blomberg in his order of the day for that Sunday, July 1, announced, “The Führer with soldierly decision and exemplary courage has himself attacked and crushed the traitors and murderers. The army, as the bearer of arms of the entire people, far removed from the conflicts of domestic politics, will show its gratitude through devotion and loyalty. The good relationship towards the new SA demanded by the Führer will be gladly fostered by the Army in the consciousness that the ideals of both are held in common. The state of emergency has come to an end everywhere.”

AS THE WEEKEND PROGRESSED, the Dodds learned that a new phrase was making the rounds in Berlin, to be deployed upon encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street, ideally with a sardonic lift of one eyebrow: “Lebst du noch?” Which meant, “Are you still among the living?”

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