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- The Secrets of the German War Office - 2/34 -
was too deep in the Secret Service to pull out, although it was my intention more than once to do so. And certain promises regarding my restoration in our house were never kept.
Coming to a partial understanding with Count Reitzenstein, I began to work in his interests. The Boer War taught Germany many things about the English army and a few of these I contributed. As a physician I was allowed to go most anywhere and no questions asked. I began to collect little inside scraps of information regarding the discipline, spirit and equipment of the British troops. I observed that many Colonial officers were outspoken in their criticisms. All these points I reported in full to Count Reitzenstein when I dressed his wound. One day he said:
"Don't forget now. After the war, I want to see you in Berlin."
In my subsequent eagerness to pump more details from the Colonial officers, I too criticised, and one day I was told Lord Kitchener wanted to see me.
"Doctor," he said curtly, when I was ushered into his tent, "you have twenty-four hours in which to leave camp--"
Whether that mandate was a result of my joining in with the Colonial officers' criticism, or because my secret activity for Count Reitzenstein had been suspected, I cannot say. But knowing the ways of the "man of Khartoum," I made haste to be out of camp within the time prescribed.
Later I learned that the Count, being convalescent and paroled, was sent down to Cape Town. After the occupation of Pretoria, I got tired of roughing it and made my way back to Europe, finally locating in Berlin for a prolonged stay. I knew Berlin, and had a fondness for it, having spent part of my youth there in the course of my education. It has always been a habit of mine not to seem anxious about anything, so I spent several weeks idling around Berlin before looking up Count Reitzenstein. One day I called at his residence, Thiergartenstrasse 23. I found the Count on the point of leaving for the races at Hoppegarten. He was one of the crack sportsmen of Prussia and never missed a meeting. He suggested that I go to the track with him, and while we waited for the servant to bring around his turn-out, he renewed his proposals about my entering Prussian service.
"I expected you long ago," he said. "I have smoothed your way to a great extent. We are likely to meet one or two of the Service Chiefs out at the track, this afternoon. If you like, I'll introduce you to them."
"Is there any likelihood of my being recognized?" I asked. "You know, Count, it will be impossible for me to go under my true flag."
He assured me there was not the slightest chance.
"Your identity," he explained, "need be known to but one person."
Later I w as to know who this important personage was.
" Very well," I agreed; "we'll try it."
The Count always drove his own turn-out, and invited me to climb up on the box. When his attention was not occupied with his reins and returning the salutes of passers-by, for he was one of the most popular men in Berlin, we discussed my private affairs. The Count showed a keen interest and sympathy in them and his proposal began to take favorable shape in my mind. As he predicted, we met some of the Service Chiefs at the track. Indeed, almost the first persons who saluted him in the saddle paddock were Captain Zur See von Tappken and a gentleman who was introduced to me as Herr von Riechter. The Count introduced me as Dr. von Graver, which I subsequently altered whenever the occasion arose to the English Graves. After chatting a bit, Captain von Tappken made an appointment with me at his bureau in the Koenigergratzerstrasse 70, the headquarters of the Intelligence Department of the Imperial Navy in Berlin, but macle no further reference to the subject that afternoon. I noticed though that Herr von Riechter put some pointed and leading questions to me, regarding my travels, linguistic attainments, and general knowledge. He must have been satisfied, for I saw some significant glances pass between him and the Captain. The repeated exclamations of "Grossartig!" and "Colossal!" seemed to express his entire satisfaction.
Following my usual bent, I did not call at Koenigergratzerstrasse 70 as the Captain suggested. About three days passed and then I received a very courteously worded letter requesting me to call at my earliest convenience at his quarters as he had something of importance to tell me. I called.
Koenigergratzerstrasse 70 is a typical Prussian building of administration. Solid but unpretentious, it is the very embodiment of Prussian efficiency, and like all official buildings in Germany is well guarded. The doorkeeper and commissaire, a taciturn non-commissioned officer, takes your name and whom you wish to see. He enters these later in a book, then telephones to the person required and you are either ushered up or denied admittance. When sent up, you are invariably accompanied by an orderly--it does not matter how well you are known--who does not leave you until the door has closed behind you. When you leave, there is the same procedure and the very duration of your visit is entered and checked in the doorkeeper's book.
I was admitted immediately. After passing through three anterooms containing private secretaries not in uniform, I was shown into Captain von Tappken's private office. He wore the undress ranking uniform of the Imperial Navy. This is significant, for it is characteristic of all the branches of the Prussian Service to find officers in charge. The secretaries and men of all work, however, are civilians; this for a reason. The heads of all departments are German officers, recruited from the old feudal aristocracy, loyal to a degree to the throne. They find it incompatible, notwithstanding their loyalty, to soil their hands with some of the work connected with all government duties, especially those of the Secret Service. Though planning the work, they never execute it. To be sure, there are ex-officers connected with the Secret Service, men like von Zenden, formerly an officer of the Zweiter Garde Dragoner, but with some few exceptions they are usually men who have gone to smash. No active or commissioned officer does Secret Service work.
Von Tappken greeted me very tactfully. This is another typical asset of a Prussian Service officer, especially a naval man, and is quite contrary to the usual characteristics of English officials, whose brusqueness is too well and unpleasantly known.
After offering me a chair and cigars, Captain von Tappken began chatting.
"Well, Doctor," he said, "have you made up your mind to enter our Service? For a man fond of traveling and adventure, I promise you will find it tremendously interesting. I have carefully considered your equipment and experience and find that they will be of mutual benefit."
I asked him to explain what would be required of me, but he replied:
"Before my entering upon that, are you adverse to telling me if you have made up your mind to enter the Service?"
It was a fair question, and I replied:
"Yes, provided nothing will be directly required of me that is against all ethics."
I noticed a peculiar smile crossing his features. Then, looking me straight between the eyes and using the sharp, incisive language of a German official, he declared:
"We make use of the same weapons that are used against us. We cannot afford to be squeamish. The interests at stake are too vast to let personal ethical questions stand in the way. What would be required of you in the first instance, is to gain for us information such as we seek. The means by which you gain this information will be left entirely to your own discretion. We expect results. We place our previous knowledge on the subject required, at your disposal. You will have our organization to assist you, but you must understand that we cannot and will not be able to extricate you from any trouble in which you may become involved. Be pleased to understand this clearly. This service is dangerous, and no official assistance or help could be given under any circumstances."
To my cost, I later found this to be the truth. So far, so good. Captain von Tappken had neglected to mention financial inducements and I put the question to him.
He replied promptly:
"That depends entirely on the service performed. In the first instance you will receive a retaining fee of 4000 marks ($1000) a year. You will be allowed 10 marks ($2.50) a day for living expenses, whether in active service or not. For each individual piece of work undertaken you will receive a bonus, the amount of which will vary with the importance of the mission. Living expenses accruing while out on work must not exceed 40 marks ($10) a day. The amount of the bonus you are to receive for a mission will in each case be determined in advance. There is one other thing. One-third of all moneys accruing to you w ill be kept in trust for you at the rate of 5 per cent interest."
I laughed and said:
"Well, Captain, I can take care of my own money."
He permitted the shadow of a smile to play around his mouth.
"You may be able to," he said, "but most of our agents cannot. We have this policy for two reasons: In the first place, it gives us a definite hold upon our men. Secondly, we have found that unless we save some money for our agents, they never save any for themselves. In the event of anything happening to an agent who leaves a family or other relatives, the money is handed over to them."
I later cursed that rule, for when I was captured in England there were 30,000 marks ($7,500) due me at the Wilhelmstrasse and I can whistle for it now.
Captain von Tappken looked at me inquiringly, but I hesitated. It was not on account of monetary causes, but for peculiarly private reasons--the dilemma of one of our house becoming a spy. The Captain, unaware of the personal equation that was obsessing me before giving my word, evidently thought that his financial inducements were not alluring enough.
"Of course," he continued, "this scale of pay is only the beginning.
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