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Adolf Hitler slipped off his bathrobe and stood naked. Eva Braun didn't even notice; she was lying on her side in bed, facing away from Hitler, reading an illustrated popular novel. She had borrowed the book from one of Goebbels' film stars, a tome that had somehow eluded Hitler's ban on "pornographic filth." It was called Lady Chatterley's Lover, and right now the heroine was draping wild flowers around a gardener's privates. Delicious!
Or so the bemused smile on Eva's pretty face seemed to say as a hand caught a bare shoulder and rolled her on her back. "You are a real slut, Eva," Hitler said. He removed the book from her hands and threw it blindly across the room. "You have the Fuehrer in your bedroom and you read manure."
Eva giggled. Adolf was so old-fashioned. She found that trait in him endearing. He slipped into bed. And Eva knew that soon, through her skilled ministrations, she would reduce this "god" whom Goebbels feared, before whom even the mighty Goering trembled, to an ordinary man writhing and begging in the same tones, and on the same level, as a common clerk.
The only problem was that this time, in a seeming transport of passion, the Fuehrer called her "Alice."
Excerpt from a letter to Kurt Mueller, head of the Reborn Eagles, from a gauleiter in Bavaria:
... Baader-Meinhof not interested at all in Hitler's personal life. Their enemy is the German government of today. So why is Baader-Meinhof working with the traitor Colonel von Werten who is interested? And why do they both want to kill Americans ...?CHAPTER 2
In 1944 General Felix von Werten stood in a Nazi court. A tall man of innate dignity he was now clad only in an old denim shirt and beltless trousers three times too large for him, so that he had to clutch them in front.
The trial was brief, consisting of the prosecutor's charge and the immediate sentence of death by hanging.
One hour later, the General stared at black-uniformed SS men who adjusted a rope around a meat hook, then draped its loop around his throat. A moment later, with no prayer, with only a last memory of contempt seen in the eyes of three SS executioners, the General fell into space as a trapdoor sprung. His neck snapped and he hung there, head tilted grotesquely.
The door opened and a motion-picture camera recorded the sight for Hitler's pleasure and the public's edification in theaters throughout Germany. Others of General von Werten's associates were impaled bodily on the razor-sharp meat hooks—dying in agony, the points of the barbed hooks protruding from their chests as they dangled.
This, too, was filmed, but not shown in theaters. Some of Hitler's female guests at a private screening fainted.
Thirty-six years later the son of General von Werten held a portable drill in a mammoth cave in the Alps. The shiny bit whirred; flakes of stone flew. Three inches into the wall the bit stopped as Colonel Franz von Werten of Wehrmacht Intelligence Headquarters withdrew it.
He laid the drill on the floor. Around him were desks, telephones, and maps, in a World War II command post his father had designed but never used because of the betrayal. Franz was crouching on the floor. A metal box padded with sponge rubber contained a series of glass cylinders. Attached to each cylinder was a tiny, button-sized radio receiver.
Inside each glass cylinder was Tuflex-2 nerve gas, the latest formula of the most lethal gas scientists had ever produced. Instant death, and no mask could filter it out.
The Colonel took one cylinder with its microreceiver, stood up, and gingerly began to insert it into the hole he had just drilled. The trouble was that the glass was extremely fragile; it had to be if the radio impulse were to shatter it when the time came.
And the hole was not smooth; jagged points could rupture the glass. Franz tried not to breathe as he pushed the cylinder slowly, slowly into its socket.
He finished, knelt down again, this time beside a tool chest. Out of it he plucked a large ball of a puttylike substance. Franz had invented it. He took a welder's torch in one hand, the "putty" in the other, and stood up again beside the wall. He placed the edge of the putty above the hole and carefully applied the tip of the welding torch flame to it. The putty melted and dripped slowly across the opening, hardening almost instantly into what seemed to be sheer rock.
The hole was now invisible, but that was not the secret of the putty. The secret was that, despite its smooth rock face, it was porous. The nerve gas, when the signal came, would be released into this cave to kill all of its occupants, and not one of them, even with a warning, could discover the cache of death.
Franz was methodical, cautious, cunning. He took no chances whatever. In five other places in the cave he drilled identical holes and planted the nerve-gas mines.
Then he gathered up his gear and took one last look around the cave. He and his associates had labored long and hard to prepare this secret World War II command post for the operation which would begin this night.
Now all was ready. He checked the offices, sleeping quarters, and auxiliary rooms in the cave. In one room, across from the prisoners' cell, sharp meat hooks with ropes dangling from them lined the wall. Beginning tonight—if all went as planned—five Americans would hang from these meat hooks exactly as his father and friends had, writhing in agony.
And Franz would be ready to utilize Tuflex-2 and his other weapons for a terror his father would have approved.
If not his allies. General Felix von Werten would never have consented to the use, as shock troops, of the unruly, uncontrollable Baader-Meinhof killers.CHAPTER 3
A young man lay on a mountain peak holding a Czech rifle with a four-power telescopic sight mounted. The scope was focused on Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" across the valley.
Magnified in its lens, men in work shirts could be seen on the balcony, along with some beautiful women dressed in 1938 fashion. Trucks and cars of modern vintage were parked outside the villa.
Filth, was what young Kurt Ollweg thought of the people he observed through the telescopic sight. Technicians and supporting actors in the film The Secret Life of Hitler, for which the villa had been re-created in precise detail, they were, Ollweg believed, a living pestilence that had infested this natural German paradise of mountains and blue lakes.
But the technicians and extras in his lens were not the victims the Baader-Meinhof terrorists were stalking today. Inside the villa were the individuals whose murder was planned: four American actors and actresses and an Oscar-winning director, all superstars in the motion-picture world.
A second young man crept up silently on his belly beside Ollweg and grunted, "Any signal?"
"Nothing," Kurt said. "He hasn't shown."
Baader-Meinhof had planted a spy in the motion-picture crew. This morning he had informed them that the five potential victims had finally decided to accept the invitation to a party this evening at the villa of Felix Bernhard, a rich industrialist. The house was five miles away on a sheer cliff above the lake called Königsee, inaccessible except by a private road guarded day and night by security specialists. Nevertheless, Ollweg's Baader-Meinhof superior, Helga Neff, had decided the party at the villa would provide their best opportunity to strike.
Ever since the beginning of the filming of the controversial movie about Hitler, the actors had traveled separately in well-guarded and bulletproof limousines. They were all aware of the terrorist threat in Germany. The theory behind the isolation was financial; if one actor was killed or kidnapped, the motion picture could still be made. If all four featured actors were eliminated, a thirty-two-million-dollar picture—now only two-thirds finished—could never be completed.
But Helga Neff had devised a plan that would get all the victims into one limousine. Kurt didn't even know how she was going to do it. All she had said was that there would be a "surprise" at the party tonight.
Kurt Ollweg strained his eyes through the scope. A stocky, bald-headed man wearing a green kerchief around his neck suddenly appeared at the door which led to the balcony of the Eagle's Nest. He pushed through the crowd to the railing overlooking the lake, then loosened his green neckerchief and dropped it on the floor. When he bent down to retrieve it, Ollweg said, "That's it."
The signal had been given. The operation was on. The actors and director were going to the party this evening. It would be the last night they would ever spend alive. And the movie that glorified Hitler would die with them—a thirty-two-million-dollar loss for the Americans.
Americans, Ollweg thought. How could you understand them?CHAPTER 4
Bernie Weller was an aristocrat of the motion picture world. The winner of two Oscars for direction, nominated three other times, he was treated with awe by his actors. Which was the way things should be, according to Bernie.
Where Bernie differed from most of his fellow directors was that he actually respected actors, including those he had chosen for the most expensive picture of his career, The Secret Life of Hitler. And why not? All four of the stars had won Oscars of their own, were part of the intellectual New Wave of performers who chose to live in New York and not Hollywood, and, with one exception, came from a background of the legitimate stage. And even the exception had an excuse. Angela Tuck, the incredibly beautiful and almost sinfully sexy child-woman star, was only fourteen years old.
"Fourteen going on thirty" was the acid-tongued judgment of all those on the set who looked into her green eyes and saw what was in their depths.
"Silence on the set," Weller said, and watched the still astonishing vision before him: Adolf Hitler in bed with Eva Braun. Why did it amaze him so? They were actors, Jack Riley and Gail Edens, playing roles from a screenplay he had approved. He had to keep that in mind or this whole picture would collapse.
But the actors were having trouble themselves. Jack Riley saying "Alice" in the first take. Who the hell was Alice? Collins had sworn he didn't even know a woman by that name. Now for the second take the camera, trundled gently by a technician, trucked into a close-up of Riley's face. Jack Riley said "Alice" again.
"Cut!" Weller shouted. "Dammit, Jack, are you playing games here?"
But even as he stormed toward the bed in the middle of the set, Weller told himself to calm down. It wasn't the actor's fault. All of them were oddly unnerved by this strange film on which they had so unwittingly embarked.
Weller had read the screenplay of The Secret Life of Hitler many times before accepting this assignment. A Jew who had been smuggled out of Germany by his aunt, leaving his mother and father to die in Auschwitz, he had wanted nothing to do with a picture, or anything, concerning Hitler. But the screenplay had convinced him. Other films had dealt shallowly with Hitler as a posturing military commander. None had delved into his personality. For the first time this film would do so and, in Weller's opinion, would reveal his evil psyche in a new and uniquely effective way.
And so Weller had accepted the assignment to direct the motion picture—and what had happened? Why was he now on the set of Hitler's bedroom talking to Jack Riley, who was stammering, "I swear to God, I don't know why I said Alice again. I told you I don't know any Alice. The name just came out." The actor, handsome in an offbeat way, sandy-haired, blue- eyed—and now very nervous—paused, then said, "This damn picture is haunted. I told you that a dozen times."
Gail Edens agreed. "I'm telling you, I was lying in Hitler's bed thinking I was Eva Braun. I knew just what was going through her mind when the jerk actually climbed into bed with her forty years ago."
Weller managed to calm himself. "Neither of you believes in the occult?"
Riley and Edens looked at each other and shrugged no.
Weller said, "Then there is a rational explanation for the use of the word 'Alice.' I will find it for you if you can't do it yourself. And the picture is not 'haunted.' You are just tired. Now let's try it one more time, please." He turned to go back behind the cameras. "Clear the set. Fred, check the light off the wall. I think we might have caught a glimmer."
But while his mind considered the techniques of production, he was disturbed as he made his way back beyond the lights which illuminated Hitler's bedroom set. The picture was haunted. Every day Weller viewed the rushes and saw what was taking place. This anti-Hitler film was becoming a pro-Hitler film, despite the screenplay. Why? Was it something occult, as Riley and Edens hinted? Or was it merely a stupid directorial mistake of his own, his insistence that the film, to show reality, must deal with the truth: that the German people had fanatically supported, indeed loved, Hitler. And so they must include scenes of the great Nazi political rallies during Hitler's rise to power to contrast with the grimy reality of his personal life and feelings, which the film would also reveal.
Jesus, he had known it was a mistake even as the cameras were rolling on those scenes of surging crowds at that Nuremburg rally, deliberately filmed by Weller in the style of Leni Riefenstahl's masterpiece, Triumph of the Will. That soaring eagle, those lights stabbing the sky to form a towering wall of pure white around hundreds of young, healthy, eager German soldiers, emotion building—God, Weller had felt it himself. Heil Hitler, the roar and the roar. Heil Hitler!
Now, on a set called Berchtesgaden, Weller's hand dropped into his left coat pocket and emerged with a tranquilizing pill. He gulped it down dry, thinking of Marilyn Monroe's endearing question when she was caught in a film that was a disaster. "Who do I screw to get off this picture?"
Somehow he had to persuade Max Weber and the rest of the studio "numbers" men to scrap the crowd scenes that he had shot at great cost. But were those scenes alone the cause for the pro-Hitler feeling of the footage? Or was it something demonic in Hitler himself that was as hypnotizing on a motion-picture screen today as it had been in real life four decades ago?
Apparently, word had traveled throughout Germany of the changing viewpoint of the film. When shooting had begun, they were picketed by tough-looking neo-Nazis who called themselves the Reborn Eagles. But as the film had progressed, the Nazis suddenly disappeared and the police said that the dreaded left-wing Baader-Meinhof organization was now in the area, apparently to protest the pro-Hitler movie. Which was worse? Weller didn't know, although all of his instincts feared the Nazis the most. But Baader-Meinhof had a reputation for violence these days that was frightening. According to the police, all of the actors' lives were now in danger. Thank God, thought Weller, they had such tight security.CHAPTER 5
When the invitations to Felix Bernhard's party had first gone out, Helga Neff, the leader of the Baader-Meinhof terrorists, had scouted Bernhard's property. At first it seemed impregnable. The millionaire's mansion sat on the edge of a cliff which dropped straight to a lake. Only skilled mountain climbers could make it up that sheer face—and the industrialist had made certain even they couldn't reach the top by installing below his house a maze of barbed wire that jutted out six feet horizontally from the cliff.
On the other side of the mountain the private road was blocked by a gate with guards, and other armed security men patrolled the grounds in case someone got through.
So how to crack that impregnable fortress? Helga sent word throughout the university campuses, and a day later heard from a young man named Hans Ulbricht. Hans was a mountain climber who had grown up in the Berchtesgaden area and knew all of the hills there. "There's a flaw in that cliff," he had told her over the phone from Munich.
"An opening. Just a slit. And it leads to a tunnel that's been there for centuries. I'm sure the owner doesn't even know about it."
Helga asked why not, and Hans told her that it couldn't be seen from the ground or the top. It was just a small aperture in the cliff face that only someone who had climbed the cliff before, as Hans had done, would know was there.
Excerpted from To the Eagle's Nest by Joseph DiMona. Copyright © 1980 Joseph DiMona. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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