WARNING: VIOLENCE POSSIBLY DISTURBING TO SOME READERS
Pedestrians quickened their pace as they passed Gestapo headquarters in Königsberg. Muffled cries or the occasional scream rising from the shielded basement windows resonated in the mind of any hapless passer-by. Mothers with small children in tow crossed the street a block before reaching the former hotel. Why be forced to give implausible explanations to curious little ones?
Klaus Pabst found the basement interrogation facilities to his liking. A common aisle gave access to a row of narrow cells–revamped storage closets once used for supplies. Small shuttered openings in the compartment doors allowed a visual check on occupants, but each of the six cubicles–when unoccupied–held nothing but a distasteful tin bucket pushed into one corner. Small grilled openings allowed eavesdropping on conversations between detainees. A metal basket over the ceiling light fixture prevented access to the glaring bulb, or the electrical wires.
Little was left to chance. Vents drew debilitating heat into the cells in summer, with no provision made for exhausting the oppressive air. In contrast, the brutal Baltic winter turned the cramped basement rooms into cold storage lockers.
Across the corridor stood two larger rooms and a solitary toilet facility, exclusively for staff use. The rooms were ideally positioned to force cell occupants to hear the sounds–if not the specifics–coming from interrogations in progress. Painted a clinical white with pale green doors, the rooms were sparsely furnished. Two metal chairs faced either side of a small table. Above one chair hung a shaded ceiling lamp, and at its feet iron shackles were attached to the floor. In the center of each room sat a long bench fitted with leg and arm restraints. Another metal table displayed implements of interrogation in neat order: an automobile battery with cables, an electric drill, a soldering iron, and a selection of hand tools, both sharp-edged and blunt. Cudgels and whips with metal-tipped leather cords hung on a wall rack. To the side of the table sat a mop bucket. A white hospital cabinet occupied one corner, vials and hypodermic needles clearly visible through the glass door. In the opposite corner stood a wash basin with towel rack and small metal wall mirror.
Near the ceiling a thick iron rod traversed the room, fitted with a pulley system of ropes, shackles and wires, and a meat hook. The concrete floor, painted gray, sloped slightly toward a center drain. Additional heat when required was provided by a coal stove, also handy for bringing iron implements to a nice glow.
Unlike his close friend Horst, so ingenious in developing interrogation techniques but stoic in their use, Klaus showed obvious pleasure in their application, even when little of immediate value was learned. As Himmler himself had said, everyone has something to hide. Even should you find you have interrogated the wrong suspect for a particular crime, be confident you have gleaned information in the process which will lead to an enemy of the Fatherland. But this time, Klaus had what he wanted.
Strapped naked across the bench, the pastor made a sorry spectacle. His once colorless back and buttocks were flayed raw from the metal whip, his flesh torn in ragged strips. The early cries of pain and denial were now barely audible moans. Sprays of fresh blood streaked table and floor, and urine and excrement ran down his legs.
His prayers had gone unanswered, for the torment had not stopped; in fact, the pleas had been mocked by his interrogators. It was only a matter of time before he confessed all he knew. Perhaps he already had. Judging by the shallow breathing, Klaus doubted the fragile old man could take much more, and he suggested Sprenger take a break in the proceedings. Klaus knew enough already for his purposes, even if the good pastor gave up the ghost before they were finished.
“Best light a match to clear the air,” he suggested to Sprenger as he left the room, the interrogation record in hand. “The stench in here is barbaric.”
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