Chapter 1: Germany’s Gambit
Episode I – Operation Winter Exercise
January 6th, 1936
Büllowstrasse 4, Berlin
Office of Ludwig Beck, Chief of the General Staff
‘This is madness’, Werner Freiherr von Fritsch said.
‘I agree, but there is very little that we can do at the moment’, the chief of the general staff, Ludwig Beck, sighed. He was sitting behind his desk while von Fritsch paced up and down the floor of his office in frustration. ‘The Führer has ordered me to proceed with the planning of Operation Winter Exercise, despite my cautioning him that we do not have the strength to resist, if the British and French intervene. And they will intervene’.
Von Fritsch stopped his pacing for a moment and looked at his colleague and friend. ‘Has he named anyone yet?’
‘Well, as Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres it is your choice of course, but I have been informed that the Führer deems generalleutnant von Reichenau as just the right man for the job’.
‘von Reichenau’, von Fritsch snorted, ‘that slimy Nazi worm!’.
‘Easy now’, Beck cautioned, then realised that if the Gestapo actually had some way of listening in on conversations in his office they would probably have arrested him by now.
‘Do we have a set date?’ von Fritsch asked.
‘Yes. The morning of the 14th. I will be by your office the day after tomorrow to start going over the operational planning in details’.
Von Fritsch gave Beck a pained look. ‘We are not ready’.
‘I know’, Beck answered. ‘Which is why – when this thing falls apart – we will need to act swiftly if we are to save Germany’.
Von Fritsch looked at him with a mix of surprise and suspicion. ‘Ludwig… what do you mean exactly?’
‘Let me show you’.
Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres Werner Freiherr von Fritsch
Chief of the general staff, Ludwig Beck