Klaus Pabst was pleased with his long day’s work. It had been well worth rising early and the hours of travel from Berlin, crossing the Polish Corridor in a train whose doors were sealed to prevent anyone from boarding or detraining on Polish soil. He had enlisted Dieter Sprenger, a Gestapo associate from the Königsberg office, to drive him out to the country village of Praddau. Sprenger had done the local research and legwork that made this final step so simple and satisfying.
The parish church was easy to find, as was the aging pastor who greeted them in his office. The frail man sat uneasily behind a cluttered desk, his pale skin almost translucent, stretched tightly across sharp cheekbones. Blue veins and age spots stained his arthritic hands. His eyes however were soft and fluid. Despite the civilian dress the old man knew immediately that his visitors were on official business, policeman, undoubtedly Gestapo. There was a look and demeanor which all Germans recognized and feared. He rose from his chair with difficulty.
“How may I be of service, gentlemen?”
Pabst drew his warrant badge from his vest pocket. The oval metal disc bore embossed lettering–GEHEIME STAATSPOLIZEI–and a four-digit identification number stamped below. The mere sight of the badge intimidated most citizens into immediate cooperation with its bearer. It had the desired effect here.
“Yes, of course, officers, what may I do for you?” the pastor said. One gnarled hand gripped the other, both trembling in a dance of nerves. The pastor found his chair and waited expectantly.
“You have a quiet little parish here, well out of the mainstream of church politics, we presume?”
The minister hesitated a moment, knowing that every spoken word had consequences. The last few years had been especially trying for the Protestant church as well as the Catholics. Untold hundreds of his fellow pastors had been arrested for refusing to adopt the precepts of “Positive Christianity,” the Party creed shifting focus from belief in Christ as Son of God to faith in National Socialism as the one true expression of God’s will. “I’m sure you know the other diocesan pastors and I have sworn our personal oath of obedience and allegiance to the Führer.” He willed his trembling hands to be still.
“Indeed you have, and I’m confident your parishioners are pleased you now direct your prayers to the Reich and its Führer. That makes much more sense than paying reverence to an insignificant Jewish carpenter, don’t you agree?” Pabst gave the old man a smug look, challenging him to respond.
The pastor stared at the officers. “Is my loyalty in question?”
“We’re here on a different matter, a question of certain birth logs. The local civil records aren’t all that helpful. In fact, they raise more questions than they answer. Perhaps you can help us fill in some blanks using your family records here in the parish office?” Pabst and Sprenger took seats before the pastor’s desk without being invited.
“Yes, forgive me, please be seated. And of course, I’m happy to help in any way I can.” The minister appeared anything but happy. “Which family is of interest?”
Klaus smiled at his colleague before responding to the cleric. “Why yours, of course. As I just said, it’s your family that interests us.”
The pastor’s translucent skin appeared paler still, had such a thing been possible.