Extracts of Let Us Do Evil
(From Chapter 3 - Some Thoughts on the Hill of Muses)
Over the Acropolis the Swastika, like all the other German flags in Athens, indeed in all the European capitals Berlin now ruled, was at half-mast.
As in most stories, for the people involved it started at different times and at different places. As far as the Templer was concerned, it began on that Attic hillside a week after Heydrich’s state funeral with the flags still dipped because nobody could bring themselves to order them back up. Since the first rays of Spring, and in Athens it had been a cruel winter, the Templer had been in the habit of coming here in the late afternoon before he went down to the radio station to see that all was well with the Arabic broadcasts or to wait for one of Lang’s short messages in his beautifully played Morse.
The Templer, who was about a kilometre away on the Hill of the Muses, could just make it out, hanging limply in the windless heat from a pole that had been attached to the remains of the Parthenon. He still found it hard to come to terms with what it signified for it had seemed that the worst was over. The best surgeons in Germany had flown to Prague to attend the man it honoured. “Comfortable and out of danger,” said their bulletins and young women wept with relief for, with his blondest of Aryan good looks, he was always the pinup boy of the Party.
Then, nine days after the Czech parachutists the British had trained had thrown their grenades, Reinhard Heydrich had died of his wounds. The recently appointed Reichprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia and, more relevant as far as this mourner was concerned, the founder of the Sicherheitsdienst, the SS intelligence department and rival to the Abwehr, had been two years short of his fortieth birthday, eight years junior to the Templer. His enemies had called Heydrich “Der Henker”, the hangman, though this had never appeared to worry him. He rarely bothered to travel with an escort.
It seemed that the British, markedly inferior to Germany in conventional warfare this time round as Rommel had just reminded them at Tobruk, were becoming adept at the kind of terrorist theatre the Russian anarchists used to practise. They had even invented a new type of explosive for it and were beginning to parachute it to various miscreants masquerading as patriots all over the occupied territories. He had a couple of kilos himself, a gift from an Andarte band more interested in killing their own Greek Communists than Germans. It was a beige coloured substance, soft and malleable as plasticine, that smelt like almonds and, until a detonator was inserted, not in the least volatile. You could stub a cigarette out in it.
At a ceremony of remembrance for Heydrich, held in the Mosaic Hall of the Reich Chancellery, Heinrich Himmler reminded his audience of their “sacred duty to avenge him”. Of course, this was the kind of thing one wished to hear from the leader of the SS and, like a popular hymn, no less comforting for its familiarity.