The following is a fictionalized account of the rescue of Nazi Martin Bormann from Berlin in 1945. It is based on eyewitness testimony and the results of many people’s research efforts since WWII.
[Nazi Party Chancellery Bunker, Berlin, April 30, 1945]
The late-afternoon sun struggled to break through heavy clouds and smoke that now mixed unselfishly, plunging Berlin into an early evening. Explosions could be heard continually in all parts of the city, with artillery raining down on the Party buildings in a steady stream that rocked the earth for miles. Even Mother Nature’s own earthquakes took time to rest between deliveries of her murderous thunder.
Decorated with pockmarks and shell fragments, the Chancellery Building had been reduced to a skeleton of its former life. Only hours away from certain death, the building was lit eerily from within by a dancing, reddish-orange glow, having been hit by incendiary grenades and artillery rounds of deadly phosphorous. To the rear of the complex sat a large garden with statues of various heroes of a time long past. Scattered among the statues were ground-level entrances to air-raid bunkers that promised safety from the daily bombings, but instead served as tombs for the huddled masses. The stench of death rose from each entrance and now filled the afternoon air with a sweet sickness.
Only one bunker remained active, situated at the far end of the garden and surrounded by majestic oak trees that were struggling to push out new spring leaves. The hidden entrance was enclosed by five-foot-high bushes and scattered trash that blew in and collected under the foliage. A passerby would never have given the area a second look, as it blended so well with the destruction around it.
Two black-clad figures descended from the roof of the Chancellery and sprinted across 100 yards of the grounds to the safety of the bunker. Once inside, the two figures were met near the entrance by a fellow guard, submachine gun at the ready.
“Sir, we’ve got a bit of a problem.” The guard pointed to the door of a small room.
Without word, the two figures approached the door, cautiously looked inside and, seeing the two SS guards with guns drawn and aimed at British Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming, entered slowly and quietly. Between the guards stood their target, a high-ranking Nazi.
The room was roughly eight feet by nine feet, with a ceiling of about six and a half feet high that created a sinking feeling of claustrophobia.
“You look troubled,” said the tall male figure.
“Indeed I am, Commander Creighton, officer of the British Royal Navy . . . You are a spy.”
At that the two SS guards ruffled, their guns now trained on Creighton.
Commander Fleming stood to Creighton’s right and lightly brushed his hand with his own. Creighton in turn gently and surreptitiously touched the hand of the female to his left.
The female figure, US Navy Lieutenant Barbara Brabenov, dressed in the uniform of an SS colonel, said to the two guards, “What’s going on here? When an officer of superior rank enters a room, you shall acknowledge them immediately. Is that understood, gentlemen?”
“Yes, Colonel. But we’re under orders,” said one of the guards.
Both guards maintained their steady aim at Creighton, but appeared somewhat calmed by Brabenov’s words. The higher ranking of the two nodded at Brabenov.
She spoke firmly, yet had the air of a matronly soul that put everyone at ease. With soft, short blonde hair and sensual brown eyes that held a person’s gaze, she had a certain commanding presence that held the guards and the Nazi officer in check. Her voluptuous form shone through her uniform as if it were a sheer nightgown, an obvious trait that caught the eye of all. Her light-golden skin had a soft radiance that could also be felt as much as seen. Every man in the small room secreted powerful pheromones whose diffusion could easily be sensed. It reeked of anxiety, fear and an atavistic carnal expectation.
Knowing she had the complete attention of the men, she tapped Creighton with the pinky finger of her right hand.
Immediately, Creighton donned a smile and said, “Well, gentlemen, it appears you’ve been led astray.”
The Nazi officer jerked his head toward Creighton and burned a look of anger into the man, and the two guards followed his lead.
The scene seemed to unfold in slow motion: before anyone could say anything further, Brabenov pulled out her .38 pistol and, aiming from the hip, fired one shot into each guard. Afterward, a slight smile appeared on her face.
The sound of CRACK! CRACK! melded with the screams of the two guards, as they collapsed on the floor, moaning and bleeding from the arms that had held their pistols.
Brabenov then crouched down and, pistol now firmly in both hands, covered the Nazi officer and the two guards, continuously moving the pistol from one man to another.
The Nazi officer didn’t even flinch, maintaining his gaze at Creighton but stealing a look at Brabenov.
Fleming announced: “Good-oh, dear girl!”
Twisting his face into a rictus, Creighton said, “Perhaps you could have waited until they had gotten outside.”
Without missing a beat, Brabenov countered, “Maybe you should’ve offered to escort them out first, sir.”
Nervous laughter in the hallway.
Now with several pistols aimed at his head, the Nazi officer nodded a respectful surrender to Creighton, who then escorted him out into the hallway, while four friendly guards entered the room to tie up the two SS guards and take them outside.
“What will you do with them?” the Nazi officer asked Creighton.
“Same thing we would’ve done to you had you done anything untoward in that little room.”
“After all this, you would have killed me.”
Taking in a deep breath, the Nazi officer slumped against the wall and closed his eyes briefly. “This place will surely collapse soon. We should be going, do you not think?”
“That’s the plan.”
A guard approached Creighton, whispered in his ear: “Commander Fleming needs you urgently, sir.”
In another room, Fleming stood in the center and shook Creighton’s hand. “Splendid, dear boy. Now I must give you new marching orders for Operation James Bond: You are now in charge of this crew. You will kill Günther before departing.”
“But he’s been such a patriot, sir.” Creighton was surprised.
“Expendable patriot, dear boy. Like you.”
“And you, I presume, sir.”
“Let’s not get cocky, Christopher. You still report to me.”
A nod from Creighton.
“Günther has agreed from the beginning to join us as the Nazi officer’s double in this jolly kayak adventure. He knows the risks involved.”
More silence from Creighton.
“This place will be reduced to dust in a few hours, so I suggest you depart within the hour.”
“And what about you, sir?”
“My dear boy, it seems M Section has finally received word from another of our high-ranking Nazi friends who wishes to leave Berlin at once.”
“And you will ferry him out?”
“It appears so. Unless, of course, the city falls to the Russians, whereas I shall become a prisoner of this god-awful war and not see you until the 1960s.”
“Godspeed, Ian. You’ve been a good friend and colleague.”
Creighton approached Brabenov from behind, tapped her on the shoulder. “You could’ve missed, you know. Those bullets would’ve ricocheted off the walls and perhaps killed one of us.”
“Maybe you, you mean, Commander? For the record, I never miss.” Brabenov smiled.
“That’s what scares me, Barbara.”
“The fact you haven’t missed yet. All good marksmen miss occasionally. You’re time is approaching and I’d hate to be there, especially if you’re covering my skinny white britches.”
Another smile from Brabenov, then: “Commander, there are indeed times I miss.”
“Ah, a little modesty from our Yank friend. And when would that be, my brave young lieutenant?”
“In training, sir.”
Creighton sat with the Nazi officer while the other members of the group prepared for the big breakout from Berlin.
The Nazi officer chain-smoked cigarettes, his hands shaking, and he tried to smile at Creighton. “We should wait one additional night, then depart.”
“You seem more agreeable now.”
“This is my destiny. I was shocked at your credentials. Forgive me. As I said, we should wait.”
“It is most certain that the main battery of Nazi personnel will be leaving late this even and all day tomorrow. Right now, there are very few of them in the streets, and I know they are still in the city, so they will leave tomorrow. I took a good look outside to confirm this suspicion. We will be able to drift along with them—”
“Until we meet the Russians down river.”
“That will certainly be unfortunate for us.”
“Let’s hope not. We’ve all come too far to fail now.”
“Yes, Commander, you certainly have, have you not? I’ve read your entire Abwehr file. It’s a wonder you are still among the living, is it not?”
“The grim reaper and I indeed have crossed paths over the years, but so far he has kept a respectable distance.”
“You are more Aryan than you know, Commander.”
“I’m not sure what you mean by that.”
“Tall, athletic, looks of a young and gruff Adonis.”
“By gruff, I take it you mean rough around the edges.”
“Yes, and there are many edges on your person, Commander.”
“Then you should take great care, my Nazi friend, not to get nicked.” Creighton rose and walked toward Brabenov.
Without finishing his cigarette, the Nazi officer lit up another one, his hands still shaking.
“Forgive me?” she asked.
“For nearly killing you in there. What else?” She polished her pistols with an oilcloth, smiling impishly at Creighton.
“Ah, the Texas gunslinger, hero of the Alamo.”
“You’re not up on your history, Commander. The Texans all died at the Alamo.”
“Actually, Miss Yankee Doodle, I am quite up on the history of how the Mexicans gave a whipping to your Texan lot.”
“Then you jest sarcastically. My, like our new friend just said, you do have an edge to you.”
“Many, I’m afraid.” He sat next to her. “Barbara, we’re going to be departing tomorrow evening, along with what our friend here tells us will be a wave of fleeing Nazis.”
“So we should be able to blend in, at least before the Russians catch up.”
“We’ll be seeing them before they see us in our kayaks. Just ensure you’re ready to depart at 2100.”
By the next evening, the Nazi officer was leading the group, with Brabenov tightly at his side. His mood elevated, he moved at a fast clip, all the others practically race-walking to keep up. Brabenov had her arm tucked into his left arm, which was crooked at the elbow to accommodate her.
The moon was now high, its dim light failing to compete with the indignant sea of flames that covered Berlin. Tracers streaked overhead from all manner of soldier, armor and aircraft, a dreamy scene of rich reds and oranges in a frenzied dance. The noise was deafening and anyone speaking to others had to shout, a clear violation of good noise discipline.
Stopping suddenly, the Nazi officer turned around and said, “Two Panzers ahead! What do we do?”
“Fall in behind the one on the right!” yelled Creighton.
Before he could grab Brabenov and tell her something, a high-pitched whine sounded directly in front of the group, wounding the air as it sliced by.
The BOOM! was ear splitting.
Bodies of men and women were ejected from the ground and scattered toward the rear of the group. Some ended up in a deep crater, others behind the right-hand tank.
The man who would be the Nazi officer’s double, Otto Günther, took the full force of the blast, along with another Nazi, Hitler’s personal physician Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger, who had joined the group without permission.
“Creighton!?” Brabenov was picking herself up from the ground and dusting off, spinning in a 360 to see who needed assistance.
Pulling himself from the rubble inside the large crater, Creighton waved an arm to Brabenov. “Are you well, Barbara?”
She nodded and ran toward him. “Where’s our target?”
“He was with you.” Creighton said.
“I only recall a flash of light, then the blast. He must be over there.” She pointed and ran to the right-hand tank. “Hello! Hello! Are you here!?”
“Thanks the lord that you didn’t yell my name, Lieutenant,” the Nazi officer said as he appeared from under the burned-out tank. “I’m afraid we’ve lost Herr Günther, though,” he said.
Creighton pulled up next to the pair. “Let’s consolidate over here,” he said, looking over his left shoulder.
They all moved to a small area behind the tank, took a head count, then Bormann moved out smartly as before, a little slower this time.
“Well, at least you didn’t have to kill Günther.” That signature smile of Brabenov’s face again.
“Don’t know what on earth you’re talking about,” Creighton said, looking ahead. He pulled out a pair of binoculars, said. “We’re about 100 meters from the Weidendamm Bridge. I see a platoon of Russians that will soon be crawling all over us like ants. Have everyone go to Russian uniforms. Let’s leave the SS caps and coats under the tank.”
One hundred yards down river, before the bridge, the group pulled ashore while Brabenov and a small party approached the Russians manning the bridge.
Paddling slowly down the river, she began yelling orders at the Russians: “Send me your senior officer now! Meet me on the shore!”
“Captain, I am Comrade Colonel Serova. I am leading an NKVD patrol to hunt and kill fleeing Nazis. General Zhukov has ordered my mission and requests that you assist us in any way possible.”
The Russian captain saluted smartly and said, “Comrade Colonel, we are at your service. What can I do?”
“For the moment, Comrade, ensure safe passage for me and my comrades. They will be down shortly in kayaks like ours here.”
By the morning of Tuesday, May 8, the sun appeared a little higher and brighter, confidently declaring that spring was near.
the group had made camp near the banks of a lake. Creighton received a message from M Section’s Major Desmond Morton:
GERMANY SURRENDERED UNCONDITIONALLY . . . DOUBLE YOUR VIGILANCE . . . YOU STILL FACE GRAVE HAZARDS . . . GOD BLESS YOU ALL. . . .
Creighton relieved Brabenov of her duty on May 11, giving her a much-needed and well-deserved rest. In her place, he sent another colleague, Israel Bloem, leader of the German Freedom Fighters. Bloem moved his men out and paddled down to the medieval fortress at Havelberg, where another Russian battery was guarding the area.
As Bloem drifted closer to the first guard outpost, a shot suddenly rang out.
Bloem stood up and waved his arms, yelling, “Cease fire! I am Comrade—”
A volley of bullets erupted from two different guard outposts, showering the flotilla with red-hot lead.
Back at the lake, everyone took cover and fell silent.
“What the hell happened!?” Brabenov was incensed. She crawled over to Creighton. “They’re all dead. Bloem and his men. They didn’t make it. I should’ve been there.”
“Dear god . . . This is not your fault, Barbara. It was my call.” Creighton immediately jumped up and paced about for a minute. “We depart immediately. Gather them all now.”
Hours later, the entire group was miles down the rushing river, some in kayaks, others hanging desperately on to the sides. Those inside the kayaks held on to their brothers in the frigid water. The evil spirit of fire now long behind them, each member of the group exhaled for the first time in a week. The night sky was awash in a billion stars, each twinkling in applause to the successful mission.
Commander Creighton took his charge by the arm and led him to his boss, Major Desmond Morton, head of M Section, who was dressed in typical dark suit and bowler hat.
He raised his umbrella in salute. “I trust our package made it in good order, Commander?”
“Sir, may I introduce to you the, ah, late personal secretary to Adolf Hitler himself, Herr Martin Bormann.”