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Gathering Clouds: Johann's War, #2

Gathering Clouds: Johann's War, #2

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Gathering Clouds: Johann's War, #2

4/5 (1 évaluation)
252 pages
3 heures
Sep 29, 2016


“After five years they had found freedom again.”

Adolf Hitler has swept into power and already the democratic mechanisms of the old Weimar Republic have been dismantled. Nazi Germany has risen and Hitler already has his eyes on expanding the Third Reich. Jews, communists, gypsies, and homosexuals are all targets for the new regime.

Now in Berlin, Erich is appointed to the SS, where he works with Reinhard Heydrich’s Gestapo to make the country fall into line. But haunted by the murder he committed to prove his loyalty to the Reich, Erich is close to crumbling. Only his wife Hannah and new son Heinrich give him reason to keep on going, but when Sabrina Waldner comes into his life he risks everything by beginning a sordid affair.

Elsewhere, the first concentration camps form and the endless supply of prisoners are worked and beaten to death. Oliver Rosen finds himself caught in the middle, but years later he’s still alive in Dachau. Why did they let him live? What’s so special about him?

The truth is as confusing as it is relieving. Could it be a decision Erich comes to regret?

Sep 29, 2016

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Gathering Clouds - James Farner

Gathering Clouds

Johann’s War Book 2

Copyright © James Farner 2016

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Erich Brandt 1933-1934

Oliver Rosen 1934

Erich Brandt 1935

Johann Brandt 1936

Erich Brandt 1936-1937

Johann Brandt 1937-1938

Erich Brandt



23rd March 1933

Erich Brandt stood out from the rest of the party assembling in the Kroll Opera House as an SS man. He waited underneath Adolf Hitler’s podium glaring at the opposition parties in front of him. Erich and Christian Hetz had been chosen as Hitler’s personal bodyguards during the gathering of the German parliament.

Hitler hadn’t yet returned from his break to give his speech. A hum of low chatter spread about the room as friend and foe discussed the Enabling Act. Erich did his best to hide his glee. The Enabling Act would make Hitler the unchallenged leader of the country and banish all opposition forever.

The Fuhrer is late, said Erich to Christian.

Christian tilted his greasy hair so the lights from above gleamed off the top. The two men dressed in identical black uniforms complete with shining silver buttons. Both wore the red swastika armbands of the Nazi Party.

Christian leaned into Erich. The Fuhrer can’t rush this, can he? It’s not as easy as forcing it through the parliament, not after everything that’s happened.

Erich had a quiet confidence in the Enabling Act. The burning of the Reichstag, blamed on a Dutch communist, had allowed Hitler to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree, suspending most civil liberties. It had evolved into a convenient excuse to raid the offices of the Communist Party and put most of its delegates in prison.

He smiled out at the large gap left by the communists. Erich glanced back at the giant Nazi swastika sitting above the Reichstag president’s head. Hermann Goring pretended to be impartial, but today he wore a brown shirt in solidarity with the party.

Who’s going to vote which way? said Christian.

Erich tore himself away from the swastika above his head. Social Democrats will vote against the Fuhrer, as they always do. The communists aren’t here, and never will be again. The Centre Party is the problem.

So what’s the Fuhrer going to do?

How should I know? Erich said with a hint of irritation. The rumour is that he’ll offer to protect the rights of the church and they’ll vote it through.

Erich could only pretend his words were rumours started by the party faithful. The truth was he knew perfectly well Hitler would offer to protect the rights of the church. The Catholic Centre Party cared about nothing else. They would happily live under a dictatorship if it meant they could pray in peace.

Hitler returned to his podium with a massive cheer from the assembled brown-shirted politicians. They thrust out their right arms and shouted Heil Hitler! in unison. Erich continued to stand in his ceremonial position. He had to resist the urge to join in with the furore of the day. Heinrich Himmler, the SS leader, expected better from him.

The speech began in earnest as Hitler laid down the case for the passing of the Enabling Act. This was all for show. The dealing and compromising had already happened behind closed doors. Everything hinged on the Centre Party’s decision.

All the more, however, the Government insists upon the passage of the bill. Hitler’s voice remained calm and pleading, a far cry from his usual speeches. Either way, it is asking for a clear decision. It is offering the parties of the Reichstag the chance for a smooth development which might lead to the growth of an understanding in the future.

Erich’s eyes settled on Heinrich Bruning at the head of the Centre Party. The former chancellor pointed his rounded spectacles at the floor, as if it would help to resist the march of progress in Germany. He was the only significant opposition figure that could send the Centre Party into the arms of the Social Democrats.

However, the government is just as determined as it is prepared to accept a notice of rejection and thus a declaration of resistance. May you, gentlemen, now choose for yourselves between peace of war! A low growl erupted from Hitler’s throat during his final sentence. The Fuhrer continued to look over the crowd as they began chuntering amongst themselves.

Erich allowed himself a small smile. Hitler really would go to war over this.

The usual preliminaries before a vote passed without incident and each party left the room to confer. Erich continued to maintain his place. When the parties had all left the room he turned back to Christian again, who had a grin plastered across his face.

Well? said Erich.

After today the Fuhrer will never have to ask parliament for anything again. He can rule as he pleases for the good of the German people. What man could resist such a speech?

Yes. Who indeed?

The Enabling Act passed by 444 votes to the 94 of the Social Democrats. German democracy was dead.


30th June 1934

The black Mercedes car that Hitler often travelled in sped on ahead of an identical car behind it. Dawn began to crest. Trucks crammed full of Himmler’s SS followed behind. Erich rode in the second car, with Himmler in the back. Reinhard Heydrich, the strapping blond Chief of the SS Security Service, sat on his other side. Heydrich rarely said anything, lending credence to Hitler dubbing him the man with the iron heart.

What would you like me to do? said Erich to Himmler.

Himmler adjusted his glasses and ran a gentle hand over the top of his slicked hair. Follow the Fuhrer. Rohm will see the SA fall tonight.

Very well, said Erich. I’ll tell Christian to assemble his men behind me.

Tomorrow you can come to Prinz-Albrecht Street in Berlin, said Heydrich.

Erich’s heart missed a beat as he turned to Heydrich.

Nothing like that. Heydrich smirked and went back to watching the lakes and forests of Upper Bavaria recede into the distance.

Erich had stayed on edge since the news of the purge had come through to him from Himmler. They had gathered every SA leader together at the Hanselbauer Hotel in Bad Wiessee. This region of Upper Bavaria, in the south of Germany, had always been a favourite holiday destination of the Nazi elite.

Rohm has been paid 12 million marks by France to try to supplant the Fuhrer. A few more months and the putsch would have started. Imagine the deluded fools of the SA running through the streets of Berlin and Munich trying to murder us all in our beds. Himmler took out a thick folder from underneath his seat. The Fuhrer has been generous to give Rohm this much time.

Hitler’s car turned a corner and the Hanselbauer Hotel came into view. The enormous luxury hotel had a sloping roof and balconies overlooking the lake and gardens. The sun had risen to send a mixture of pink and orange rippling across the retreating royal blue sky.

We will catch them before they wake from their beds. The car skidded to a halt and Himmler jumped out with his Mauser pistol raised.

Erich rushed to get into position next to Hitler. The man showed no signs of fatigue. He showed no signs of fear. It confirmed to Erich that Hitler was different than normal men. The Fuhrer waited for the trucks to arrive and the black shirts of the SS to form around him. A small guard unit rushed the hotel.

The group played out like a mass of ants swarming over a discarded piece of bread. Erich didn’t rush with them. He kept up with Hitler as the Fuhrer strode across the carpeted corridors towards the top of the hotel. An aide rushed to the Fuhrer’s side and informed him which room Rohm was in.

Shouts from all around the hotel began to echo through the corridors. The thudding of boots kicking doors made way to shouts as their confused occupants awoke to loaded weapons in their faces. Hitler didn’t hesitate for a second. He looked to Erich outside Rohm’s room.

Go, said Hitler.

Erich swung in front of the Fuhrer and planted his boot just under the door’s lock. The lock broke with one well-placed kick and Erich charged into the room to find Rohm still in his bed. Erich pointed his weapon at Rohm, who sat bolt upright.

You are under arrest for treason, said Hitler

Rohm opened his mouth to speak, but quickly closed it as more SS guards filled the room and forced Rohm to get dressed. The deposed leader of the SA didn’t take his eyes off Hitler. He didn’t need to protest and he didn’t need to ask what was going on. It had been coming for months.

Rohm would be lucky to see July.


12th November 1934

Erich did his best to pretend he wasn’t shivering. The frigid air cut through his long fur-lined coat like it wasn’t there. Himmler approached him with a small contingent of SS guards. Erich’s face stiffened as he did his best to hide a mixture of pride and regret.

You have done well. I know that a forest clearing is hardly the best place for this, but I feel it necessary to announce that you have done all you can in the service of the Fuhrer. That is why I want you as one of my personal bodyguards, on a permanent basis.

Erich gulped and threw his hand forward in salute. He dropped his hand and shook Himmler’s gloved one. Thank you. I’ll do my best for you.

Himmler’s thin smile came with a nod and an affectionate pat on the shoulder. The silence of the forest clearing broke with the growling of a truck. The engine revved its way up a dirt road and two balls of light emerged from the trees.

Erich’s blood ran cold. This was the time he would have to prove himself. If he wanted to be SS he would have to carry out Himmler’s orders without question. If he didn’t want to be SS he would die within 24 hours.

The truck pulled to a halt and the SS contingent moved into action. A group of prisoners with bags over their heads half jumped, half fell out of the back of the truck. Some of them stumbled in the mud, to which they received a punch or a kick.

The bags came off their heads. Most of them had blood on their faces from the beatings they had taken at Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. A ditch already waited for them. There was no resistance.

Himmler turned away and approached Erich. Which one is your brother Johann?

Erich pointed at the blonde-haired man on his knees in the middle of the group with his hands above his head.

Good. You will deal with him personally. As difficult as it may be to kill a brother, this is necessary for the survival of the Reich. Himmler’s voice fell into a low whisper. He would do the same to you.

Himmler turned away and Erich used the opportunity to blink back tears. He tugged his black peaked cap over the top of his face so he wouldn’t be recognised. Erich had to will his legs to work as he followed behind Himmler. He had never killed anyone before, and now this would be his baptism of fire. He couldn’t bear it.

For the Fuhrer, Erich. Himmler clasped his hands behind his back.

Erich wanted to say something during these final moments. He didn’t want to become as cold-blooded as Heydrich or Himmler. Too much hesitation would mark him out as a coward. He got behind Johann and closed his eyes. Erich raised his weapon and fired. The lifeless body flopped forward into the ditch.

Oliver Rosen



13th November 1934

Oliver Rosen still grimaced at the sounds of coughing and sneezing within the barn the massed prisoners lived in. They were the sounds of dying men. Dachau Concentration Camp seemed to get bigger every day. With more inmates came more illnesses. With more inmates came more deaths. Oliver had become an unwilling veteran of the camp. They still hadn’t murdered him, even though most of his friends had at some point fallen to the noose or the bullet.

It was late in the afternoon and a rare break had come for the inmates. The freezing air outside forced the guards to put the prisoners back inside the large barn. Even the Nazis didn’t want to kill all the prisoners at once. Think of the mess that would make.

When are you going to tell me more about yourself? said Oliver to Adolf Werner lying by his side.

Werner had a scar running across his forehead where one of the camp’s guards had hit him across the head with the blade of a shovel. It had healed badly and left him with a wound that would stay with him for the rest of his life.

When are you people going to stop talking to me? Werner swivelled himself and his scratchy blanket away from him.

Oliver had tried for weeks to get through to Werner. He knew him as a former member of the communist party. They had once spoken about Kuno Thaxmann, the former owner and editor of the opposition newspaper The Red Man. Werner knew him well, but a guard had broken up their conversation and the subject never came up again.

The barn doors opened and the commandant of the camp, Joel Kindler, a squat man who liked swinging around a horse whip, marched inside.

Get up, you Jewish pigs!

Oliver shot to his feet. Not every prisoner was a Jew, but Kindler enjoyed victimising them the most. As a Jew himself, he didn’t need to draw the attention of Kindler with any passive resistance.

You’ve all been lazy. None of you have completed the requisite amount of labour. To make up for this you will march until I say stop. Walk in a line and if anyone falls out of line they will wish they’d never been born.

Oliver bit his tongue. It was Kindler who ordered them to stop working in the first place. He just wanted an excuse to brutalise them. The prisoners formed a column and walked out into the freezing air.

Oliver marched behind Werner. He wanted to reach out and try to talk to him again, but Kindler already began swinging his horse whip around. Oliver took a hit on his thigh. Kindler’s cackle followed him into the yard.

The temperatures had made the ground solid as a rock. Even in the late afternoon frost rested on the ground like a dusting of icing sugar. Oliver glanced back at the guards loitering at the gate and waited until they were on the other side of the barbed wire-encased yard. Out here they could chance a conversion.

Adolf. Tell me more about Kuno, said Oliver in a low voice.

Why would you want to know about him? He’s dead.

I know. But that doesn’t change anything. He was one of the bravest men I knew. If we’re going to do anything but sit here and die we need to start talking.

Werner grunted. We’re all going to die here anyway. I don’t know why you’re trying to be so optimistic. The time’s going to come when they’ll wipe us all out. There’ll be camps like this all over Germany, and we’ll always be in them.

Oliver sighed. If you think that you might as well run into the barbed wire now and hope they shoot you.

Werner went silent as they passed the gate where the guards stood. They smoked their cigarettes and snickered at the marching column. One of them threw the cigarette butt in their direction.

Do you have a plan?

The question took Oliver by surprise. A plan for what?

A plan for getting away from Dachau.

No I don’t.

Then why are we even talking then?

The march continued in silence. Oliver had dreamed about escaping from Dachau since they arrived here. He had monitored the routines of the guards and how lazy most of them were. How difficult could breaking out of Dachau be?

Still the march continued as the sun began to descend and night started to draw in. The moans and groans behind him made him think about the aches in his own legs. The guards continued to point and laugh as some of the older prisoners began to feel the strain. Rage boiled up in Oliver as a man had to be dragged along by his fellow inmates.

Eventually it all became too much for one of the old men near the head of the column. Oliver watched him flop out of the line in exhaustion. The column didn’t stop for a second. It would mean punishments for everyone if they halted. They all averted their gazes as if nothing happened.

Kindler emerged from his office in the former farmer’s cottage and squinted at the body towards the back of the camp.

Stop! he screamed at the advancing march.

Everyone halted close to the gates. A couple of seconds of silence passed until Kindler motioned to one of the guards. What is that?

A lazy Jew, said the guard who still couldn’t stop snickering.

Kindler started to smirk. You know what we do with lazy Jews.

Yes, sir. Should I take this rabble back?

No. Make them watch. Make them see what will happen to them if they dare to disobey me.

Oliver willed the old man in the distance to get up. The man

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