The Crooked X - Prelude to War
A Short Story of Hate, Mystery and Intrigue
By Ernest N.Whitenack
Gathering of Support
phone at the butcher shop rang several times before Günter Müller,
unmistakable by his slight lisp, answered."'Morning Günter,
it's Scott Wadsworth. I'm calling to inquire about Abe. Have you seen
him in the last two weeks?"
"Not for almost a month." Günter
replied. "We invite him for a meal once a month; usually on
Sunday so we have a nice visit. That was the last time."
"OK, thanks. Should you hear from
him please contact me or have Abe contact me immediately."
"Scott, is there a problem?"
Scott related the circumstances of Abe's disappearance
and asked Günter to keep his ears and eyes open when he is at Deutscher
Klub. That he should let him know if he sees or hears anything out of
Along with Isolationism following WW I, came a movement
called "Nativism" that fostered suspicion and mistrust of
new immigrants of all nationality and creed. It found its way through
conservative politics and into mainstream America. This movement came
as the carryover from the war; a mistrust of all German Americans, justified
or not. As a result all ethnic groups were drawn closer together for
ease of living, business and protection.
Nazi, sympathizers in America, mostly displaced Germans,
launched considerable efforts to bring about an American Nazi Party
starting as early as 1924. In Chicago, the formation of The Free Society
of Teutonia was one of the first. It existed as a club but soon evolved
into a militant group fashioned after the Sturmabteilung or Stormtrooper.
However, Friends of New Germany became the largest pro Nazi organization
with its formation in both New York and Chicago in 1933. This came about
after all prior Nazi groups were dissolved upon orders from Berlin.
Non-German Nazi sympathizers formed The Friends of
the Hitler Movement and worked closely with Friends of New Germany.
Eventually, in 1936, all Nazi organizations merged into the German American
Promptly at ten o'clock next morning Frank Gray fought to open the door
to Scott's office with, "Man, when are you going to get that door
"Not my problem" replied Scott. "Those
things are included in the rent so guess I'll have to sue to get it
He followed with, "Look Frank, Abe took off with
a couple of unknown guys some time back. This seems suspicious, but
then again might not be. I think we should ask around at some of Abe's
haunts and see what we can discover. There is Ehrlich's, the News stand
in Scolley Square, Digivantie's Market in the North End and Jake Wirth's.
If you can take the morning and check those, I'll arrange with my father
to pull in some favors here and in Washington. OK? I'll also make arrangements
to have a look at Abe's living quarters and see if we can get a clue
to his activities. We'll meet at Jake Wirth's about one o'clock.
"A good plan" proclaimed Frank as he lit
a larger than usual Lumberman pipe.
"OK, see you at one and, please don't smoke that
foul smelling stuff in my office." He said with a chuckle barely
coming to the surface.
Frank smiled as he opened the door, turned inward and
released a huge cloud of Cake Box smoke into the office as Scott turned
to his personal phone book and the operator connected him with the local
"Federal Bureau of Investigation, may I help
you?" the lilting voice on the other end asked.
"Nancy, this is Scott Wadsworth. Is Harry in?"
"Yes, I'll connect you. How are you Scott? I
haven't seen you for some time."
"Well, I'm fine but business stinks. We'll have
lunch soon, OK? But now I have to talk to Harry, please."
Scott and Nancy, Harry's secretary for many years, had
been much closer at one time but due to reestablishing himself after the
war and the depression that followed, Scott didn't feel it prudent bringing
the relationship any further along and they gradually drifted apart. On
occasion, when Scott felt flush, he and Nancy would meet for dinner at
the Parker House and spend a few hours catching up. At those times Scott
would think, maybe someday when the world is in better shape.
"Harry Malison here, what can I do for you?"
"Harry it's Scott. A friend of mine, Abe Müller,
has gone missing and I am worried. He was last seen at the German Club
in Dorchester being escorted out by two men claiming to be newly arrived
relatives from the old country. That was two weeks ago. Now, the problem
is I distinctly remember Abe telling me he had no relatives alive in
Germany when he left in 1927. We, Frank Gray is helping me with this,
need some advice as how to handle this situation."
"When can we meet?" Harry asked with eagerness,
almost demanding, in his voice.
"Frank and I are meeting at Jacob Wirth's at one
today. He is checking some of Abe's friends this morning and we will
try to get into Abe's shop this afternoon and look around"
Harry replied in a slow determined voice, "Hear
me. DO NOT go near Abe's shop. Don't even walk on that side of the street
or look at the shop. It could be dangerous. I'll be there at one o'clock.
In light of recent happenings here and in Germany this is important."
Scott hung up, crossed the room and opened a window for
fresh air to replace Frank's Cake Box smoke. His mind whirled around Harry's
brief but poignant remarks wondering what he had gotten into and then
dragged Frank with him.
Scott, Harry and Frank had been friends for years, growing
up together at Boston English High School. Upon completion, Scott and
Frank went on to Harvard while Harry chose B.C. All went on to higher
degrees and enlisted in the Army in 1917. Scott and Frank, for various
aspects of their educations, ended up in General Pershing's G2 intelligence
group in France while Harry went to Washington and a covert anti-espionage
section of the Department of the Army under Maj. Dennis E. Nolan. All
three men advanced rapidly; Scott and Frank to Captain and Harry to Major.
At war's end, none of the three re-enlisted but returned to Boston to
resume their lives. The fifteen years since the war saw them making strategic
career changes that had brought them to an advantageous point in their
still young lives.
General Pershing saw a need for a military police
force and started the first M P school in France during WW I. From this
he gathered around him a private group for intelligence work in France
fashioned after the French G2 organization.
Maj. Dennis E. Nolan had become concerned about the
problem of security of troops in foreign countries. Nolan went on to
establish The Corps of Intelligence Police, a multi-faceted force working
at home and abroad. The Army CIC was an outgrowth of The Corps of Intelligence
Police but the post-war notion of isolationism, cuts in military spending
and the depression had diminished the ranks of the CIC from 600 in 1917
to less than 20 by the 1930s.
Scott reached in his briefcase and retrieved the Amber
stemmed Ehrlich's Meerschaum from its leather case, stuffed it full of
Dill's Best Sliced and put fire to it. The Meerschaum was a gift from
Scott's father and Dill's Best is his dad's everyday smoke. They simply
seemed to go together. Through thick and thin Scott and his father had
maintained a close relationship; likely based on mutual respect and parental
love as they had many disagreements and harsh words over time.
Scott gave the number to the operator and he heard the
phone in Graham Wadsworth's office ringing.
Scott's father retired from the bench of the Federal
Court two years ago and, through demand, became a legal consultant with
offices on State Street; the bulk of his work being associated with the
financial world. Scott heard the click of the receiver being lifted from
its hook followed by, "This is Graham Wadsworth's, how may I be of
From the sound of his voice Scott just knew the full
bent apple, his office pipe, was dangling from the corner of his mouth
– lit or not.
"'Morning Dad, how have you been?"
"Just fine Son, thanks." "To what do
I owe this overdue pleasure, it has been too long?"
"Yes I know but we can discuss that later. I
need some information. Are you still well connected in Washington?"
Over the phone Scott heard the spring on the old wooden
reclining swivel chair squeak as his Dad leaned forward to his desk.
"Well, that depends on who and in what department
you are talking about", he said in a clearer voice that told Scott
the pipe was now sitting in an ashtray and his Dad was fully attentive.
"It is quite possible I'll need to make inquiries
at the Immigration Service to concerning recent German entrants; and
elsewhere for information about goings-on in the crazy Nazi movement.
Frank and Harry are on this with me so between the FBI and the Boston
Post we might get all we need. I'll need your backup in case we have
to go deeper than their resources."
About the same time in Chicago Abe was just finishing
an early breakfast when his two escorts entered the hotel dining room.
They went to the table and sat with Abe.
"Now that you have seen Chicago Abe, how do you
like the city?"
"It is very large and very busy", replied
Abe. "There is much to see and do here."
"Today is an important day for you, Abe. As our
friend and fellow German, you will meet a man that can make your life
much easier in these financially difficult days. He is a wealthy industrialist
with a company that makes a variety of products. Part of his manufacturing
process is to contract small segments to individual craftsmen. He protects
the secrets of his company closely. For this reason, as we work for
his company searching out superior craftsmen such as you, it was necessary
to pose as your relatives and not reveal the purpose of this trip to
"When will this meeting happen?" asked Abe.
"Very soon; we will go there immediately."
The escort replied. "If all is in agreement and concluded, you
will catch the night train to Boston. A ticket has been purchased for
a sleeping compartment with meals."
Abe smiled broadly, then filled and lit his pipe hoping
to distract from how extremely anxious he was to remove himself from these
two, as well as his regret for ever agreeing to accompany them to Chicago.
It was foremost in Abe's mind to accept whatever proposition was presented
by this mysterious industrialist and be on his way home.
Ever since he saw the Swastika on the paper coaster at
the Friends of New Germany, Abe felt fear – the same fear he felt
the day the Brown Shirts marched through the streets of Bitberg many years
ago distributing leaflets containing Nazi hatred. The fear deepened his
mistrust of his handlers while wondering why they came to Boston for a
watchmaker and, him in particular. Why do the Nazis want to hire a Jew
– certainly they must know my faith? It has never been a secret
and goes against all they stand for.
"What is it you are smoking, Abe?" asked
escort number two in a syrupy friendly tone. "It has a very pleasant
"It's a tobacco from Boston called Ehrlich's Bowdoin;
a Danish tobacco similar to the Berliner Danske, also from Denmark,
I smoked for years in Germany."
"Perhaps we can arrange to import some Berliner
Danske for you; a bonus for doing a good job on your contract. It will
take a while but we will have it sent to your shop or, possibly bring
Abe replied "That's very kind of you." All
the while wishing he was on the night train to Boston.
One P.M. – Stuart Street
The last to enter Jake Wirth's for the one o'clock meeting
was Frank; having taken the Tremont Street Subway (the oldest in the country)
from the North End and walked from Park Street Station. The others sat
in a booth at the far end of the restaurant. As Frank took a seat, the
waiter, familiar with this group of regular customers, brought beers all
around and lingered hoping for the lunch order. Scott told him they would
order in a while and would call when they are ready.
Harry quickly demanded the attention of all.
"We are all concerned about Abe's abrupt disappearance
so let me put your minds at ease. Abe has been in Chicago and should
be returning soon – if he's played his cards right."
"I'm afraid many of your efforts so far have
been wasted" Harry continued. "The Bureau is watching this
situation, although we have yet to be officially sanctioned to investigate
subversives. Abe has been under surveillance day and night since two
suspected German agents entered his shop weeks ago. Intelligence here
and in Germany confirms that Abe has never had a connection to any of
the powers vying for prominence in Germany today. Abe took great care
in Germany to make his journey to America appear to be a brief business
trip. This looked very suspicious at first. Previously, distorting facts
like destination and purpose for travel along with false papers and
identity, had allowed foreign agents to slip through Immigration and
vanish in the population of our large cities. However, there is nothing
in Abe's past or present to indicate he had any foreign political motives
in coming to America. He was simply another cautious Jew hoping to escape
the perceived bad days to come for minorities in Germany. Thanks to
his cousin Günter and a couple of influential Mass. State politicians,
Abe made the small Jewish quota in place under the Immigration Act of
1924; that law bulldozed through by conservative fears and the lobby
of the Nativism movement."
After a couple of swallows of beer Harry continued with,
"Now, let's eat and go our separate ways for the time being. There
is much to do regarding Abe and I am very short-handed. I trust, knowing
your backgrounds, I can depend on your discretion and, if needed, your
help. Abe's life might depend on it. I'll be in touch soon."
Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2011
Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield,
Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean
War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is