Document:Operation Market Garden
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The Traitor or Arnhem
The case I am now going to relate is certainly the most important that I ever experienced and is perhaps the most important spy-case in the whole history of espionage. The latter is a tall claim which I shall do my best to substantiate. but first I should like the reader to appreciate that the claim is not made merely because I played a part in unmasking the man who did unparalleled damage to the Allied cause. Let us consider the facts. Had Field Marshal Montgomery's daring bid for a spearhead attack across the Maas and Neder Rijn bridgeheads succeeded and had the main forces linked up with the gallant paratroopers at Arnhem, a wedge of armour would have been thrust at the heart of Germany. Successful exploitation of the thrust would probably have ended the war in Europe before Christmas, 1944, six months sooner than was in fact the case. There must be few strategists or tacticians who could deny this probability. It is impossible to measure the saving in the lives of soldiers and civilians which would have resulted from such a shortening of the war. Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of devastations of land and buildings would have thus been a voided. The British Government alone was spending some £6,000.000 per day on the war effort at that time. Had the European war been shortened by six months, it would have saved a gigantic sum in the neighbourhood of £2.900,000,000 for the Exchequer. When one considers what other Governments. notably the United States, were jointly spending in prosecuting the war, the moneys that might have been saved and later devoted to reconstruction for peace amount to astronomical figures almost without significance to the average wage-earner. More important still, bad the Western Allies penetrated far into Germany and occupied all of Berlin and West Germany before the Russians had arrived from the East, the whole sad story of Allied relations since 1945 might have been far different, and, had the Western Allies been able to " deal from strength," possibly far happier.
There are limits beyond which hypotheses cannot use. fully be pushed and I had better not expand these arguments in case they remind the reader of that epitome of cause and effect, the nursery rhyme that goes:,
" For want of a nail a shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe a horse was lost,For want of a horse " - and so on.
Nevertheless there are good grounds for claiming that the parachute landings at Arnhem, so boldly planned and daringly executed. might have been the turning point of ~he European war if they had succeeded. They did not succeed, as the whole world knows, but not for the want of military skill and courage. In fact, Arnhem is a bright flower of the British ability to fight on to the end against overwhelming odds. One man-and one man only-made the Arnhem landings a doomed venture from the start. He was a Dutchman named Christian Lindemans.
Whether or not we can blame him for the final six months' prolongation of the European war with all its attendant sacrifices and tragedies, we can certainly charge him with the 7,000 casualties suffered by the gallant Airborne Forces during the ten days in which the trap they had "dropped into slowly closed its jaws on them. Few spies turned traitors could claim responsibility for dealing such damage at one blow to their country's cause and the cause of their country’s allies.
As mentioned in a previous chapter, my job as head of the Netherlands Counter-Intelligence Mission attached to S.H.A.E.F. gave me the responsibility of organising in the area allotted to me the security arrangements behind the armies advancing through Flanders towards Holland.. This group of armies consisted of the British Second Army, the United 'States First and Third Armies, and the Canadian First Army. a massive body of men and machines. As the tanks. the self-propelled guns and the infantry rolled forward, inevitably they left a trail of devastation and ruin behind them. One cannot fight a: war without doing some damage and the unfortunate civilians who lived in the path of the advancing armies were often rendered homeless by shelling and bombing, particularly in those areas where the retreating Germans fought savage rearguard actions. Civil control was almost non-existent, since many members of the police forces and local authorities who had acted during the German occupation were either discredited or in. hiding. Looting. famine, revolt were the grisly camp-followers of the war. The Germans had not been slow to exploit these circumstances and had left behind them spies and saboteurs to continue the war from the rear of the Allied lines. Everything was in confusion and many civilians were making the most of their opportunity to payoff old scores and to indulge their wants free from police control.
Law and order had to be established promptly. Nothing would have pleased the German forces more than to cause Allied front-line troops to be taken out of the line for the task of restoring security in the rear areas. The methods we adopted, therefore, were rough and ready but at least effective. Big camps were set up by taking an open space and enclosing it in a solid ring of barbed wire. Machine-guns were erected around the perimeter and sighted to fire both inwards and outwards.
Guards patrolled the wire and the one or two gates allowing entry and exit were manned continuously by sentries. All the homeless. the refugees, the suspected collaborators and spies were put into these camps and then gradually sorted out. As soon as the, honest citizens could establish their innocence they were removed to more congenial quarters. Gradually through this constant filtering only the “ dregs" were left and they were interrogated, tried and punished according to their deserts. The method involved depriving the innocent of their liberty for several days, but in war unfortunately the guiltless often have to suffer for the good of the greater cause. We could not afford to make mistakes that might have seriously impeded the advance of the Allied Armies.
After Antwerp had been liberated, I had arranged for one of these large, security. camps to be erected in the neighbourhood. I happened to be passing near the main gate one day when I heard a commotion and went over to see what was happening. It was a surprising sight. Towering over the sentry on duty was a giant of a man. Well over six feet in height. he was disproportionately broad with a massive chest that strained and threatened to split his khaki shirt. His biceps bulging against the sleeves of his jacket seemed to be as big as an athlete's thigh. He must have weighed nearly eighteen stone; but he was hard and solid all over, like a great monolith of a man. As if his physical appearance were not enough to make him stand out from the crowd, he was like a miniature mobile arsenal in the weapons he carried. In his leather belt were stuck two dark steel killing knives. A long-barrelled Luger pistol with marksman's sights graduated to 1,000 metres was strapped to his right hip. A Schmeisser sub-machine gun was slung across his huge chest and looked almost as innocuous as a water-pistol in contrast.' His pockets had a sinister bulge that to my eye spelt out" the presence of hand-grenades.
This giant apparition had' a smiling girl on each arm and was surrounded by a gaggle of admiring Dutch youths, obviously hero-worshipping him. The sentry who was barring his way was embarrassed and hesitant. As I approached the group from behind, I heard the giant rumble in a deep voice: "Ach, these two girls are good Dutch patriots. Tell your colonel that the great King Kong has vouched for them. They are to be released at once to drink wine with me."
I had, of course, heard of this It King' Kong," the daring leader of the Dutch resistance forces who had been given the nickname. for obvious reasons. His was a revered name in Occupied Europe for his brute strength. his fearlessness and the brilliant coups he had engineered against the Germans. But he had no right to come swaggering into my camp. to pick up a couple/ of girls and remove them before they had been screened by the proper authorities. Let him by all means be a hero in his own sphere, but here he was trespassing.
I shouted out to him: "Come here -- you."
He turned round, blinked and shrugged off the girls.
He tapped his mighty chest with a forefinger that seemed to be as thick as my wrist. "Were you talking to me?,"
“Yes, you. Come here."
He hesitated and then swaggered over to me, towering inches above me although I am of average height. Before he had the chance of speaking, I touched the three gold stars he wore on his sleeve.
"By what right do you wear those? Are you a captain, and, if so, in what army?"
He expelled his breath in a growl. "Now see here, I wear these three stars by authority of the Dutch Interior Forces - the underground!"
“Really? And who are you?" I asked with mock naivety.
“Me?" He was astounded that anyone could be so ignorant. He turned round to his loyal supporters and shrugged in dumb show as if to say that here was the eighth wonder of the world-a man who could not recognize the great “King Kong" at first sight.
“Who am I? Why. Colonel, everyone knows who I am." His voice bellowed out. “ I live at Castle Wittouck, head quarters of the Dutch Resistance. .. He paused and swelled his mighty chest until I expected the buttons to burst off his shirt. “ I - I am King Kong!"
“The only King Kong I ever heard of," I replied softly, “was a big stuffed monkey."
There was a titter from the sycophants behind him. He clenched his teeth and his fists so that for a moment he did actually resemble his cinematic namesake. My hand slid unobtrusively towards the Walthur automatic pistol I always carried in my shoulder holster. If he managed to grasp me in those gigantic fists I realised he could break me in two as easily as one snaps a dry stick. But he merely glowered at me without making a move.
Sensing my advantage. I pressed on. “As you do not hold the rank of captain in the Netherlands Army. you are not entitled to wear the insignia." I said. I reached out and ripped off the cloth band with the three gold stars which he wore on his sleeve.
His Neanderthal jaw sagged and he changed colour. By' now my hand was hovering over the pistol butt in case he attacked me in a sudden frenzy of wounded pride. But he stepped backwards instead of forwards. For a second the great King Kong looked sheepish, like a truant schoolboy. Then, mustering his self-respect, he shouted: "I shall make a forma] complaint of your treatment at Castle Wittouck without delay." He strode away, leaving the two girls and his crowd of admirers gaping at his sudden departure.
So that was my first meeting with King Kong. In the ordinary way I should have been glad to greet him and pay my respects to the great Resistance leader, the ”Scarlet Pimpernel" of Holland who had saved from the Gestapo dozens of refugees and Allied airmen shot down over occupied Holland by conducting them along the secret escape routes, who had fought daring skirmishes with the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst, the dreaded S.D. security police, and. who had thumbed his nose at their efforts to trap him. Had he followed the formal courtesies of applying for permission to enter the camp, I should have welcomed him warmly and would have opened a bottle of wine in his honour at the mess. But as chief security officer of the camp, I was not prepared to have my authority flouted and. a bad example given to the inmates and guards by allowing a civilian, however well earned his fame, to break all the rules of military etiquette and ride roughshod over the regulations. .
Musing on the encounter afterwards, I wondered whether I had perhaps treated my unexpected visitor too summarily. To deflate his arrogance so publicly might be an unwarranted piece of over-officiousness. He had behaved badly in the first place, but possibly through sheer ignorance of military custom. Had I perhaps acted equally badly, if not worse, in treating him with undue severity ?
And then a strange idea occurred to me, one of those flashes of intuition which often produce an unexpected train of thought. Why had he submitted so meekly to my brusque treatment? Any man with his outstanding record, even when consciously in the wrong. should surely have stood his ground and defended himself, especially when surrounded by hero-worshippers. Yet King Kong had suffered public humiliation without any more effective reply than a blustering threat and had retreated hastily at the earliest opportunity. Such conduct did not seem typical of the man and his reputation. Perhaps it needed investigating?
On my return to intelligence headquarters at S.H.A.E.F., I sent for my assistant. He was a remarkable fellow whose varied career had included being a sergeant in the French Foreign Legion and also a spy in Tangier. He possessed an encyclopaedic memory which was the repository of odd facts and bits of information about the underground movements throughout Europe and the spies who worked on both sides of the" fence."
“Tell me, Vilhelm,“ I asked, “What do we know about the Resistance leader nicknamed King Kong?"
He paused for a moment, screwed up his face in concentration, and then rattled off the facts. “ Real name Christian Lindemans. Born in Rotterdam, the son of a garage owner. Ex-boxer and wrestler. Reported to have killed several men in tavern brawls. Dozens of girls listed as his intimate friends." He grinned slyly. "Would you like their names?"
I shook my head. ”Anything else?"
“Yes, sir. He's the eldest of four brothers - all Resistance men working on the escape line”.
“Any been killed?" I asked.
Vilhelm's memory failed him for a moment. He went over to a filing cabinet and, rifling through the files, selected one. He turned over the sheets and then paused. “ No, none of them have been killed. One, the youngest brother, was captured by the Abwehr and so was a cabaret dancer named Veronica, shown here as intimate with Lindemans. They were both working on the escape line." He ran a finger down the typed page. “ Both were later released."
“They were what?“
He shrugged his shoulders. “ That's what it says here - they were both released. Seems odd for the German Intelligence to release its prisoners, doesn't it? But that’s what the report says."
"Anything else?" I asked. The tension in me was growing, and suspicions, from being a vague uneasiness, were beginning to crystallise.
“Yes, sir.” Lindemans himself was captured by the Gestapo in a raid a few weeks later. He was shot through the lung, I see. His own Resistance group rescued him from a prison hospital after a running gunfight. "
"Many killed?" .
“Yes - one S.S. guard killed, two wounded. The Resistance men came off worse, though. Lindemans got away with three of them, but the other forty-seven were all killed. Ambushed as they withdrew from the hospital."
“Almost as if the Germans had known beforehand," I said slowly.
Vilhelm stared at me, his eyes narrowed. He could guess the ideas passing through my mind. - Then he nodded but said nothing.
"I'll borrow that dossier for two or three days," I said. reaching out for the file that lay on the table between us. "With any luck, I may be able to add a page or two to it. I'll leave for Brussels in the morning. "
Once in .Brussels, I found the problem was not so much locating men and women who had known Lindemans intimately but fobbing off the dozens who claimed intimate knowledge of him. A national hero in his native Holland, he was also a popular figure in Belgium, and there were many who wished to bask in his reflected glory by posing as his closest friend. I could fill the pages of another book with the various stories, some with a gem of truth but mostly the wildest fiction, of his exploits which were told me by those who claimed his acquaintance. I was not looking for people who had once passed the time of day with King Kong and thereafter looked on themselves as his most trusted comrades in arms. I wanted men who had actually worked in the Resistance with him and who could build up or refute the theory that was forming in my mind.
After a while I came on the track of one such man and arranged an appointment with him in the Cafe des Vedettes. We chatted amiably, and before long I realized from his remarks that he really did know Lindemans and had worked with him.
“Were you one of the lucky ones who got away from that hospital raid?" I asked.
"No, unfortunately I missed that party. I got this little souvenir de la guerre about a month afterwards." He pulled of his greasy black beret and proudly pointed to a bullet scar that ploughed a furrow across his scalp.
"A near thing," I remarked.
He grinned. .. Yes, sir, quite close enough for my health's sake. I would have been most upset if it had arrived an inch or so lower."
"How did it happen? “
Well, sir, we were dynamiting a bridge. I was just bending down fixing the fuses to the charges under the bridge stanchion when-just like that -" he snapped his fingers quickly once, twice, thrice, .. - bullets began to crack all over the place. Somehow the Nazis had got wind of our plan and had planted an ambush. The sudden shock knocked me off the bridge into the river and luckily I had the presence of mind to stay under the water until the current - it was very fast just there - pulled me out of sight of their guns. King. Kong, our leader - he was magnificent! He got away right from under their noses. But the others – “ He shrugged his shoulders.
"What were they shooting with?” I asked. ”Machine guns?"
The honest little Belgian patriot replaced his dirty black beret. "Strangely enough, they weren't. You'd have expected machine guns on a job like that but the odd thing was they all had sniper's rifles. They picked us off one after the other, like knocking tins off a wall. Every man hit - and there were eight of us - except King Kong. They couldn't hit him. What a man! He was born lucky. that one !
"Strange,” I said quietly. “The biggest target of all and they couldn't hit him."
“Oui-da! Such a big target. But he was too smart for them was our great King Kong!“.
A picture of sorts was beginning to take shape in my mind. Here was the famous Resistance leader on the one hand, the man whose daring, giant strength and romantic affairs had made him the darling of all patriotic Dutch.. men and almost equally popular with his Belgian comrades. A born leader who had done the Nazis much damage and who bad risked his life repeatedly for his country. On the debit side were four strange facts which did not yet add up to any conclusion. He had been strangely apprehensive when I had tackled him over wearing insignia of rank to which he was not entitled. He had not then behaved like an honest man who had nothing to fear. The Gestapo had released his brother and girl friend from captivity. It was not like the Gestapo to lose the opportunity of revenging themselves, even indirectly, on one of. their most hated enemies. The third and the fourth facts were that on at least two separate occasions, someone had obviously betrayed a Resistance raid to the Gestapo sufficiently far in advance for them to plant a careful ambush. In each case the only common factor who had escaped was the leader, King Kong. The evidence was by no means decisive but it was growing beyond the stage of coincidence.
I poured out some more red wine for the little Resistance- man. “They say that King Kong has an eye for the ladies," I remarked casually.
"Oh yes, sir, there they speak the truth! He is tres gallant - not a girl who would not give anything to feel those big arms around her. I tell you, the pretty heiress who lives in the big chateau on the hill beyond Laeken - they say she gave all her jewellery, her family heirlooms, for his Resistance group war funds." He smiled. tolerantly. “ They also say he gave the' sparklers away to other girls here in Brussels. But it is all rumours, rumours, where King Kong is concerned. There never was a great man who didn't have some dirty rumours spread about him by the envious." .
Shortly afterwards the interview ended. I drove off at once to the chateau near Laeken and found the lady of the castle at home. After the preliminary courtesies we began to discuss Lindemans. Yes, she had given him her family jewels but she was careful to stress that she had done so out of patriotic regard for the Resistance movement. He was a great man, indeed, but he had his weaknesses. She suspected that he had embezzled the jewels and not sold them for Resistance funds.
“What makes you think that, Countess?" I asked.
“I do not like saying so, because after all he is such a brave man and has done such fine things for Belgium. But one day I Saw a girl in the town wearing one of my emerald pendants. She was not a respectable girl, you understand? The pendant had belonged to my mother and I did not I think it suitable that a girl of this kind should wear it. I thought that perhaps the Resistance men had sold it locally to raise money, so I asked the girl if she would sell it to me, without telling her that it had once been mine. She said King Kong had given it to her and would strangle her if she sold it."
Did you find out her name?"
The Countess sighed. .. Ah, if there had only been the one girl. No, there were two - Mia Zeist was one and the other was called - let me see - ah yes, Margaretha Delden. They are both notorious tavern girls here."
Fortunately she did not glance' up as she spoke for she would have seen a strange look on my face. Mia Zeist and Margaretha Delden were both listed on my security files as paid and highly valuable agents of the German Abwehr !
Terminating the interview as soon as I could without disturbing the conventions, I drove back to Brussels as fast as the camouflaged staff car would take me. There I put a telephone call through to intelligence headquarters at Antwerp. after some delay Vilhelm, my assistant, was brought to the telephone. Had he the addresses of Mia Zeist and Margaretha Delden? Yes, he could produce them, and after a few minutes did so. I borrowed a couple of security policemen from the Dutch Intelligence in Brussels and together we rushed to the first address.
We were too late. The flat was empty. Mia Zeist had fled - we learned later, to Vienna.
Jumping into the staff car, we drove to Margaretha Delden's apartment. The door 'was heavily bolted. We had no search warrant but there was no time to observe the niceties of etiquette. We smashed the door in. We burst into her room and found her lying on the bed.. Normally she must have been a pretty girl but poison does not improve one's features. Her face was a mottled colour, like those marbled end-papers one sometimes comes across in old books and ledgers. Her lips were a ghastly magenta in colour and -were stretched in a mirthless grin. She was still just breathing when we found her but she died in hospital that afternoon, without uttering a word.
So two vital witnesses in what I was already calling mentally “the Lindemans Case" were to be written off the list. One had wisely fled in time. The other had killed herself [or Pinto’s work had been betrayed from within Dutch Intelligence and she’d been poisoned – ed.] and in dying had been faithful to the end to Lindemans, although to him she had only been 'one of many. We recovered the Countess's emerald pendant but that was poor consolation. .
I spent a further day and a night in Brussels, combing the back streets, The sordid cafes and the smoky cellars for more details of Lindemans's career. Gradually the jigsaw was being pieced together. Several independent witnesses confirmed that when his younger brother had been captured by the Abwehr Lindemans was deeply in debt. In spite of his popularity various tradesmen and private citizens to whom he owed comparatively large sums were threatening to foreclose on him. I also learned that the cabaret dancer , Veronica, who had been captured at the same time as the younger brother, had been King Kong's sweetheart from childhood. In spite of his countless amours and intrigues she had always been constant to him and he had always in the end come back to her. The Nazis must have known this and yet they had released both her and the younger brother without so much as breaking a leg or two or tearing out the odd finger-nail as a memento of their enforced visit. It was not like the Nazis to show such clemency.
Other witnesses confirmed that, coinciding with the release of his sweetheart and his brother, Lindemans became suddenly affluent. Not only did he payoff all his debts but he lived even more riotously and expensively. He also grew increasingly reckless in his guerrilla battles with the Nazis. Each raid was more daring than the last and each suffered heavier casualties. Always the heroic leader escaped by the skin of his teeth, blazing away with his arsenal of weapons and using his giant strength to save himself. He would swear blood-curdling threats of vengeance on the Judas who must have betrayed the raid in advance but strangely enough the traitor. Was never discovered. And tragically there was never a lack of volunteers to accompany the redoubtable King Kong on his forays. It was considered an honour to risk almost certain death at his side.
It seemed strange to me that no breath of suspicion tarnished King Kong's own reputation. All the survivors whose stories I listened to were loud in their praises of his daring and resourcefulness. Surely, I thought, it should sooner or later have struck someone as a strange coincidence that King Kong himself always escaped? On reflection I realised that the very extent of his reputation could be a formidable cloak for treacherous activities. This swaggering giant of a man with his gallantry and lavish ways would appear almost superhuman, an indestructible being, to the little unknown men-the real heroes-who themselves hero-worshipped him and went gaily to their deaths for a smile and a pat on the back from one of his huge hands. And .there was always the inescapable fact that he had himself been wounded, shot through the lung, and then captured by the German security police.
This idea made me pause. Was I being premature in condemning him as a spy, in spite of the evidence against him? Not even the fat Herr Strauch of the Nazi Intelligence in the Netherlands would thus risk the life of a valuable agent just to add circumstantial detail to the appearance of an arrest.
I pondered over this problem for several hours, chain smoking one cigarette after another. It was the one piece that completely upset the jigsaw which I had painstakingly fitted together. On all other counts Lindemans was to be strongly suspected as a traitor. But this one inexplicable fact seemed to disprove his guilt. And then, accidentally, a possible explanation hit me.
As was always my habit, I was mentally retesting all the links in :the chain of evidence in the Lindemans case to date. I had reached the point where the Countess had spoken about Mia Zeist and Margaretha Delden. To find out their addresses I had had to telephone all the way to Antwerp, although I was actually in Brussels, their home town. The local field security had not known their addresses. Dutch Intelligence headquarters in Brussels had not known; But S.H.A.E.F. Intelligence had known. We were all on the same side, fighting for the same general cause, but we had not pooled our information. There were always those petty rivalries and jealousies, the urge to keep the " plums" of information to one's own headquarters, which tended to mar the co-operation between different services and different countries, all ostensibly on the same side for the same purpose.
Human nature being fairly constant the world over, it was reasonable to assume that a similar rivalry might exist between the three different branches of the German Intelligence - the Gestapo (the security police of the S.S.), the Abwehr (the Counter-Intelligence service) and the Sicherheitsdienst (the German field security police). If, as I suspected, Lindemans was a traitor in the pay of the Abwehr, since both his notorious girl friends had belonged to it, the Gestapo and the S.D. police might easily not have known this, thinking of him only as one of the most redoubtable Resistance leaders, and of all men he was least able to disguise his bulk and appearance, they would probably shoot him on sight, only afterwards discovering that he was a valuable ally.
If this reasoning were true, what a blessing in disguise was this bullet-wound to Lindemans ! It was the perfect answer to anyone who might suspect that he was a traitor. And. thanks to this ironic stroke of fortune he would have been able to go his way unscathed, betraying his comrades to sudden death and no one would know how many British and Belgian agents along the escape route out of Occupied Europe, to the forments of the Gestapo.
I decided that the circumstantial evidence against Lindemans was sufficiently strong to warrant my cross-examining him in person. I sent a message to the headquarters of Dutch Intelligence at Castle Wittouck, where Lindemans was supposed to have reported me for my cavalier conduct in ripping off his badges a few days before. Needless to say, he had not acted on his threat. Instead I mentioned that I wanted the opportunity of a talk with him although I was careful not to reveal the main purpose behind my wish. Lindemans had many friends in high places, as was natural for so famous a Resistance leader, and I dared not risk the possibility of some casual remark or deliberate “ tip" fore-warning him of my real purpose. So I merely left word that he was to report to me at eleven o'clock next morning at the Palace Hotel, Brussels, where S.H.A.E.F. officers, myself included, were then billeted.
The next morning I was punctual at the rendezvous. It was a warm, balmy, morning in which only peace seemed possible in the sunshine. But the war itself was only a few miles away and everywhere, even in the lounge of this luxurious hotel, war had left its trademark. The military had moved in and business-like folding tables and wooden chairs had replaced the luxurious armchairs where the social elite had once gossiped over their coffee.
The chimes of eleven o'clock rang mellowly through the lounge but there was as yet no sign of Lindemans. I was not perturbed. He could hardly avoid coming, since I had left specific instructions, but he could assert his native arrogance by arriving late. As I ran mentally, through the questions to be asked, my right hand felt the rough comfort of the serrated grip of my Walthur automatic pistol which was loose in its holster. The action was cocked and there was a round in the breech. A slight pressure and it was ready for action. Lindemans might not yet realise that this was to be a life-or-death meeting for him, but I did. Compared to his height and great strength, I was a little weakling and in unarmed combat would not have rated my life worth a minute once those massive hairy hands clamped down on me. But had not Damon Runyon, the scribe of Broadway, described the automatic pistol as "the old equalizer"? Having it close to hand cancelled out the physical difference between Lindemans and myself. I had some natural talent for shooting and hours of practice with my favourite Walthur had made me something of an expert. In any case, if King Kong objected too strongly to my questions, I could hardly miss the vast target he presented across the narrow width of a coffee table.
The minutes went by and still there was no sign of him. I had expected him to be perhaps ten minutes or a quarter of an hour late, even half an hour if he wanted to gain some revenge for the humiliation he had suffered at the Antwerp security camp. But when it was after twelve o'clock and he had not arrived, I began 'to wonder whether I had perhaps misjudged his arrogance. Was he so confident in his reputation and the friendships he enjoyed with the politically powerful that he would deliberately disobey a specific order?
I had waited nearly two hours when I found the answer. Two young Dutch captains strode smartly into ;the lounge of the hotel. From their bandbox appearance and the bright armbands they wore, I knew them as staff captains from the Netherlands General Headquarters staff. They marched over to my table and saluted in unison. One of them spoke. "You are waiting for Lindemans, sir? "
“I am. And have been for nearly two hours."
“We're sorry, sir, that you've been kept waiting.
"Lindemans cannot keep the appointment. He's had other orders."
"Other orders, Whose orders?". I was growing angry but did not want these glossy young men to know it.
They drew themselves up even more erect and a tone of reverence crept into the spokesman's voice, like the hushed tone that the faithful use when they speak of God. " Lindemans left this morning on a very special mission."
My throat contracted so that I could hardly speak. I had hoped that following our meeting that would not now take place, Lindemans' treacherous activities would be curtailed even if I did not at once prove his guilt. And now he had not only eluded me but was probably this very moment leading brave men of the Resistance into a well-prepared trap.
“With the Interior Forces?" I asked.
The two staff captains hesitated and then assumed the importance that nearly all men show when they know a major secret of which their interrogator is ignorant.
“No, sir. He has been attached to the Canadians for special intelligence duties, but we are not permitted to tell you what those are, sir.”
(Later I learned what had happened. The Canadians required a really trustworthy local man who could secretly enter Eindhoven which was still in German hands and get in touch 'with the leader of the Resistance in that area. The messenger was to inform 'the Resistance leader that large Allied parachute landings were to take place north of Eindhoven the following Sunday morning, September 17th, and the Resistance leader was to prepare and concentrate his men to aid the paratroopers and exploit the initial German confusion. The Canadians applied to Dutch Headquarters who at once thought of Lindemans as the man for this special mission, little knowing that he might be a traitor and that I was on his track. One cannot blame them for not suspecting Lindemans, although it must be added that the facts about him, his reckless spending, his constant miraculous escapes from ambushes, bad been known To them for months, and were so plain that it had only taken me a few days to collect them and tot them up. Sending Lindemans on such an errand Was equivalent to broadcasting the news of the forthcoming Allied parachute landings on the B.B.C. news bulletins.)
But I did not know that the landings were about to take place. All I could then hope-a pious hope I-was that the special mission Lindemans was engaged on -would not cost us too dear in casualties. All I could do was to carry out that last resort of those who have failed-to make out my official report and send it to S.H.A.E.F.
What happened three days later is too well known to the world to need more than the briefest of descriptions. At dawn on September 17th the largest airborne landing' in the history of warfare took place. Nearly ten thousand men of the British 1st Airborne Division were dropped at Arnhem, while twenty thousand American paratroopers and three thousand Poles were dropped at Grave and Nijmegen. Their task was to secure and hold bridgeheads over the Maas Canal, the Waal River and the Neder Rijn while armoured spearheads from the main forces plunged down the major road to join up with these outposts and force the water crossing in bulk. The operation, under its code-name" Operation Market-Garden," was like threading beads on to a necklace of armour and firepower. It was a daring plan and everything depended on the surprise effect to be obtained by dropping parachute troops well behind the enemy's front lines. If the Ger.. mans in the rear areas were taken entirely by surprise, it was estimated that several days must pass before they could regroup for an attack on the airborne bridgeheads. By this time the main forces would be well on their way and if the paratroops, reinforced with supplies of food and ammunition dropped by air, could hold out, a brilliant victory would result.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Air reconnaissance on the morning of September 16th showed that there was no abnormal German activity in the Arnhem area. But after dark that night the German Panzers rumbled quietly into position, taking up hull-down positions behind hedgerows and ditches around the vital dropping area. At dawn the paratroops dropped out of the grey sky but not to find the enemy surprised and confused. From the start it was obvious that something had gone wrong but at the time everyone thought that a lucky coincidence had caused the Germans to consolidate their armour and infantry in the one place where 'they were neither expected nor wanted.
Nine days later, nine days of gallant and hopeless fighting against an enemy that surrounded them on all sides, with food and ammunition running out and with their ring of defence drawn so tight that air-dropped supplies were more likely to land among the Germans than themselves, two thousand four hundred survivors of the heroic “ Red Devils of Arnhem " struggled to safety back across the Waal River, leaving seven thousand casualties behind them. The daring coup had failed. Montgomery had suffered his first and only major defeat of the war. The war itself was to be prolonged for another eight months of killing and devastation. In the “ black winter" of wrecked dykes and trampled harvests that was to follow, nearly two hundred thousand Dutch men .and women were to die through flood and famine. But still no one apart from myself seemed to suspect the real cause behind the failure of the operation. It was “ one of those things," " the luck of the game " and so on. Certain in my own mind that Lindemans was a traitor and learning later some hints of what his secret mission for the Canadians had entailed, I had put two and two together and the total came suspiciously close to four.
Meanwhile, although I was very busy on other cases, I had not shelved the Lindemans case. The report which I had sent up to S.H.A.E.F. had no doubt been neatly :filed in a pigeonhole somewhere in that enormous head... quarters. The Intelligence branch had many different problems to consider and this would only be one of them~ In any case, most senior officers who had to rely for their information on what was reported to them on paper would be likely to dismiss my suspicions as being utterly fantastic. To accuse the famous Resistance leader of one of our Allies of being a traitor was not only absurd but was really in doubtful taste. Such a .charge could easily have serious political and diplomatic repercussions. No soldier likes to be mixed up in politics or diplomacy in the middle of the greatest war yet known to mankind. All his instincts would be on the side of shelving such a nasty problem, if he could be persuaded for one moment to believe in the gravity of the charges. So nothing further occurred. Whenever I met my opposite number in the British Counter-Intelligence attached to S.H.A.E.F.. a brilliant man who has subsequently occupied some of the most important political positions in the land, I tackled him on the subject of Lindemans. He was always courteous but I could see that he was not impressed with my deductions. If such a clever man with direct experience of Counter-Intelligence work felt no confidence in my claims, it was all the less likely that the “ chair-borne “ officers in S.H.A.E.F. with many diverse problems of immediate urgency to overcome would follow up my suggestions.
So for six weeks no results came from my efforts to have Lindemans arrested. Thus far there was no absolute evidence of his guilt but only “ circumstantial evidence “ supported by deductions. Then one evening the additional proof arrived dramatically. The Allied advance had continued, although since the tragic failure of Arnhem the armies had had to fight for every foot of ground they gained.
I was in Eindhoven, which had now been taken. and was just concluding an interrogation which had lasted for nearly three hours. As I explained in a previous chapter, I had by this time been denuded of my assistants and also of my personal transport. I was working alone and had to act as interrogator, judge and jailer where my suspect was concerned.
He was a young Dutchman named Cornelis Verloop. I had finally trapped him into admitting he was a spy. He was at his wits' end with fear.
I stood up and stretched myself, dusting cigarette ash off my uniform. He watched me closely.
“Am I to be shot?" he whispered. His throat was too dry to allow him to speak normally.
I shrugged without answering. It seemed obvious that he was going to be shot. He was a. spy.
"I have a young wife in Amsterdam, sir, a good Dutch girl. She is innocent, I swear it. “
“So? We do not propose to shoot your wife. We are not like your German masters. “
Desperately he tried another tack. “ I will give you valuable information, sir - in return for my life. “
"You fool," I said. .. Any information you have can be extracted from you before you are shot. It is a simple and painless process. “
He gave a wan but sly smile. ",. You can make me tell what you think I should know but you cannot find out Those facts which you do not suspect I know.'"
“Well, my young philosopher, what do you know?"
There was an edge of contempt to my tone.
Verloop leaned forward eagerly and, squeezing his fists together to aid his memory, recited the names and descriptions of all my Intelligence headquarters staff. Even many H.Q. staff officers did not know the identities of some of the men whose names Verloop rattled oft.
“Also, your chief agent in Brussels is Paul Leuven and in Amsterdam a man named Dampreny, and. . . “
He sat there at the table and glibly recited the main 'network of our counter-espionage system in Belgium and the Netherlands.
I was worried for the sake of those agents still behind the German lines. If this traitor knew so much, then perhaps his masters knew more . I kept my voice level and asked in as casual a tone as I could muster. "Who told you all this?"
He was alert, hope was beginning to trickle back into his veins. "Colonel Kiesewetter of the. Abwehr told me. In the Abwehr headquarters at Driebergen. But who told Colonel Kiesewetter is my secret. Do you wish to make a bargain, sir?"
I was tired and for the moment sick to death of the human degradation confronting me. I had seen many men fight for their lives like cornered rats, prepared to sacrifice employers, country or friends to save their own skins, but somehow I could not stomach this last case of sordid bargaining. Having no assistants and no transport, I had to march Verloop back in person to the military prison at the other end of the town. The night was dark and I did not want him to make a break for his life on the journey. So I drew my pistol and looking at him balefully, said: “ Come along, Verloop. I have had enough of your scheming. You are a traitor and you are not going to add to your treachery by bargaining with me. Your Nazi friends made the rules for this game. I didn't. So let us play the game their way. Who told those facts to Colonel Kiesewetter?"
The hopeful smile faded. “In exchange for my life, sir..." He made a despairing gesture.
I jerked the pistol forward. "Get up." A night of wakeful thought in jail would soon bring him to his senses, But Verloop, that astute spy, misread my gesture. He thought I was about to shoot him. “Wait," he gasped,
“I'll tell you. Don't shoot. It was Chris Lindemans, King Kong. He told Colonel Kiesewetter."
So here, unexpectedly, was the last link that made my chain of evidence against Lindemans complete. I leaned forward and prodded Verloop with the muzzle of my pistol. He went white with fear and gulped. "Did King Kong betray Arnhem to the Nazis?" I asked.
Verloop nodded. He could not speak until he had slipped his tongue over his dry lips and then the words came tumbling from him. “ Yes, he told Colonel Kiesewetter on September 15th, when he called at Abwehr headquarters. He said that British and American troops were to be dropped."
“Did he say where?"
“Ja. He said that a British airborne division was waiting to be dropped on Sunday morning beyond Eindhoven. "
I lowered my pistol hand' and looked thoughtfully at Verloop. It seemed certain that this miserable coward had pushed the last piece of my jigsaw puzzle into place.
He misunderstood the pause and falling on his knees said: “ You won't shoot me now, will you? I've told you what I know."
"I won't shoot you myself," I said, “ but I Can't speak for the Army. A court martial will decide your fate. Now stand up and let’s go." .
My years of training in counter-espionage work had taught me that giving vent to personal emotions could be a dangerous luxury. But for once I could not control myself. I trembled with a white-hot anger that left me speechless for the moment. Notwithstanding my frequent :warnings, King Kong had been allowed. to go on a secret mission behind the enemy lines where he could do most damage to the Allied cause. Before I had only suspected the truth. Now I knew it, thanks to the shameless traitor Verloop. Nothing could undo the tragedy of Arnhem but at least a summary end could be put to Lindemans' treachery.
Once Verloop was safely in his prison cell. I rushed, still seething with rage, to Dutch Intelligence Headquarters. I burst into the officers' mess. The sight of my fellow-countrymen, lolling in their soft armchairs with drinks in their hands, listening to some hurdy-gurdy tune on the radio, made my anger leap to its full tension. I stood there, speechless with fury. .
One of my acquaintances looked round. "What's up, 'Pinto?" he asked. " You look as white as a sheet."
That mild inquiry did it. My anger boiled over. "Turn that damned thing off! " I shouted. I crashed my fist on the table and, as the radio crackled into silence,' they all looked at me in surprise. For a second I hated those open-mouthed moon-faces turned to mine in astonishment.
"God damn it!" I roared. "It's high time you lot realized that when I say a man is a suspect, I mean it. And what do you do? Straight away you send him behind the enemy lines with the most vital message of the war!"
“What do you mean?" someone blurted out.
“Lindemans - King Kong. Two of you will go by car to Castle Wittouck at once and arrest him."
“Arrest Lindemans - You must be crazy! Why, with his bare hands he could smash a couple of men like rag dolls. Besides, he's always armed to the teeth. It would be sheer suicide."
One of the senior officers spoke. “ In any case, Pinto, what are your grounds for arresting Lindemans? Do you realize the public scandal there would be ?”
Rapidly I gave my reasons. Something in my manner must have shown them my sincerity. But there remained the problem of carrying out the arrest without risking the lives of the escort. And then, as sometimes happens when one is keyed up with excitement, the answer came to me in a flash.
"I have it," I cried. “Two of you - you and you - will go to Castle Wittouck and interview Lindemans. Tell him' he is to be decorated for his gallant services. That should appeal to his colossal ego. Persuade him to disarm, put on a. clean shirt and brush his hair. Then take him into a private room. In the meantime I will have sent a message by teleprinter to S.H.A.E.F. asking for ten military policemen to be sent to the castle. When Lindemans enters the room they will overpower him and arrest him. Understood?"
The two officers I had selected grinned and got to their feet. “ Fair enough," one said as he buckled on his pistol belt. “ I hope ten will be enough for him. Tell S.H.A.E.F. to pick the biggest they've got:.
That was the plan-and it worked. As I had suspected, King Kong's vanity was easily assailed. As soon as he heard that he was to be “ decorated. “ Lamblike he allowed himself to be shorn of his weapons and, having smartened himself up, was shepherded to a private room set aside for the purpose.
Then, swaggering into the private room ahead of his “ guard of honour,” King Kong advanced to receive his award. It arrived in the shape of the ten military policemen who overwhelmed him and, after a struggle, secured him. There were no handcuffs in Holland big enough to clamp round his mighty wrists so instead his arms were lashed with steel-cored rope. When he was brought on to the R.A.F. airfield at Antwerp I ordered his legs to be bound as well. It was just possible that with the brute strength in his legs he could smash a hole through the thin walls of the aircraft and to plunge to his death from mid-air might be a spectacular last gesture that would appeal - to the vanity of King Kong.
When the aircraft touched down in England, Lindemans was rushed to a private country house outside London. It was staffed by the British Counter-Intelligence whose interrogators were- possibly the most skilled in the world at extracting a full confession without resorting to any form of physical torture. They were expert at assessing the psychological strength and weakness of their suspects and at breaking down the mental obstacles that held back the truth. For two weeks they kept Lindemans under cross-examination. When he was flown back to Holland, this time pinioned with a pair of Scotland Yard's special adjustable ratchet handcuffs, and lodged in Breda Prison, I escorted him to his cell. I looked at him carefully. Gone was the swagger and the truculence, but there was not a bruise nor a wound on his massive body, no puncture marks where a hypodermic needle had been plunged in. His eyes were lowered but there were no tell-tale signs around them to show that he had been violently frightened or kept awake for days on end. But with him came a full and detailed confession covering twenty-four pages of closely typed, foolscap. Without resorting to any kind of torture the experts had sucked King Kong's mind dry of all the self-incriminating facts it contained.
I took the top-secret confession to my office and sat down to study it. It was more exciting than any detective story and it was satisfying to read the confirmation of much guess-work and deduction. The story of Lindeman's treachery began in 1943, when he was at the height of his fame as a Resistance leader of the Dutch Interior Forces. He had always been promiscuous in his sexual tastes and with it vastly extravagant. Running short of funds for lavishing presents on his numerous girl friends, he hit on an ingenious method for supplying his private exchequer.
He persuaded rich women, some of them physically attracted by him, to part with their best jewels to provide fighting funds for the “ underground “ escape route :through Belgium and Holland into Occupied France and thence into Portugal. Many of these women, whose friends and relatives were only too often languishing in Nazi concentration camps and whose fine houses were billeting German officers, were eager to oblige the romantic Resistance hero. .
Lindemans had sold many of the jewels thus collected but the proceeds never augmented the Resistance funds. They were spent in taverns and night clubs in drunken orgies and in buying the favours of girls whose virtue needed dazzling with gold before they would agree to endure the bear-like caresses of the great man. Those jewels which he did not sell he gave a way to his mistresses, boasting that they were part of the loot he had taken from the Nazis by force.
Thus far Lindemans had descended to embezzling, but he was still an honest man where his country was concerned. Yet, although he may not have realized it, he was driving down a one-way route. Sooner or later he would have to account for the jewels he had embezzled, unless he could make sufficient money by other means to pay their value into Resistance funds. Already one or two of the other Resistance leaders were growing suspicious of his extravagant way of living. It was not an easy matter in Occupied Europe to acquire large sums of money' suddenly by any honest means, and Lindemans began to wonder how he could' set about making good his fraud without giving up the extravagance he loved. .
Then in February, 1944, an event occurred which must have precipitated the crisis. His youngest brother and the French cabaret dancer named Veronica were captured by the Gestapo in a raid on a house which was a hostel on the secret escape-route.- In an amorous career which featured hundreds of girls, sometimes as many as three or four during the one orgy, she had been the only constant factor. However often he strayed, he always returned to her in the end. If there were room in Lindeman's massive frame for love of anyone but himself, then Veronica occupied that place.
One of the worst moments in any man's life is to know that his dearest friends are in the hands of torturers like the Nazis and, worse, that he can do nothing to rescue them. But it happened every day to one Resistance man or the other. All they could do was to clench their teeth and go about their job of revenge with a savage coolness. The good Resistance man could not indulge his feelings by a reckless and desperate gesture which might risk the lives of even more of his friends and relatives.
But after ten days Lindemans proved to be weaker in moral calibre than his lesser-known colleagues. Frantic with worry over the fate of Veronica and his brother and sensing the growing suspicions of other Resistance leaders who were beginning to wonder aloud about the fate of the jewels and money entrusted to him, Lindemans decided to make a deal with the enemy. He knew two Dutchmen living in Brussels who were in the pay of the Nazis. One was Anthony Damen, the other Cornelis Verloop, my “ friend" of Eindhoven. He arranged to meet them privately in the cafe of the Hotel des Grands Boulevards on the Place Rogier in Brussels. There, over a cup of coffee, Lindemans offered his services to the Nazis on two conditions: one, the instant release of Veronica and his youngest brother; two, big money payments. Verloop went off at once to discuss the matter with Colonel Giskes, then head of the German Abwebr. Giskes must have realized that here was a golden opportunity of exchanging two minnows for a whale. Two days later he met Lindemans secretly in a house in the suburbs of Brussels, where they talked together for a tong time.
The bargain was sealed and next day the Germans kept their end of it. Veronica and the youngest Lindemans were pulled out of their dark, damp cells, made to sign certificates to the effect that they had been well treated, and were then thrust to freedom in the spring sunlight of the Rotterdam streets. Their joy at the unexpected release could not have been marred by any fore-knowledge that this was the first step in a series of events which culminated a few months afterwards in the deaths, through disease and famine, of twenty-five thousand citizens of Rotterdam in the terrible “ black winter" of Holland.
King Kong, having taken the decisive step into infamy, revelled for a time in the immediate results. He spent the first instalments of his traitor's pay in a new burst of revelry, drinking, wenching, and fighting tavern brawls with more zest than ever before.
But, as I had suspected during my earlier investigations into his career, his employers, the Abwehr (the German Intelligence) either through a sense of rivalry or because they dared not spread the news too wide, had failed to inform the other security branches, the Gestapo and the security police, that Lindemans was now in their pay. One day the security police raided another Rotterdam Resistance headquarters. They burst into the cellar with guns levelled. Lindemans was among the Resistance men there !
It was a bad moment for him. He could either give himself away as a traitor in the full view of his Dutch comrades or else risk sudden death at the hands of the S.D. police. He hesitated for a second and then took the coward's choice. He moved one hand in a certain secret gesture to let the S.D. men know that he was on their side. But before their commander could rasp out the order for his men to avert their rifles, one of them misinterpreted the gesture. Already “ trigger-happy" at the great bulk and fierce appearance of King Kong, he thought that the big man was reaching for a revolver. He fired and the bullet hit King Kong in the chest, piercing one lung.
He was rushed off to a Gestapo hospital, for the S.D. commander realized that here was no ordinary Resistance man. The wound would have proved fatal to many humans of average physique, but the jungle strength of King Kong brought him through the crisis into convalescence within three weeks. The head of the Abwehr visited him in hospital to make plans for him to " escape" and return to his own side where he could continue to be a valuable agent of the Abwehr.' The idea was to arrange a plausible " escape. “ but Lindemans himself had an ingeniously savage suggestion which made even the hard-headed colonel gape. It was Lindemans himself who suggested that his own Resistance men should attempt the rescue, so that they would walk into an ambush and be killed while he got a way. The plan was put into effect and unluckily worked only too well. Forty-seven. of his gallant colleagues gave up their lives to rescue their treacherous leader.
For the next few months Lindemans earned his German pay by betraying several groups of agents. One such British group, which included women as well as men, had been working in the part of Belgium still occupied by the Germans. They were arrested, flung into Scheveningen Prison and there suffered exquisite agony until death mercifully ended their torture. Scheveningen Prison near The Hague contained weirdly ingenious instruments of torture of modem design, beside which the medieval thumbscrew and rack seemed like playthings. There were, for example, steel helmets which were screwed down over: the victim's head and eyeballs and then electrified, so that the shock would pierce most keenly to the very nerve-centres of the head. When the Germans evacuated the prison they were in too much of a hurry to remove these damning signs of their vicious ingenuity. When I first saw their instruments of torture - contraptions which any sane man could hardly imagine, let alone manufacture and use - my blood ran cold at the sight. And yet Lindemans, who could not bear to think of his brother and girl friend being in German hands, cheerfully betrayed whole groups of agents for cash. When I read the list of names, many of whom were known to me and some indeed being my good friends, I vowed that I should not rest until Lindemans had met his deserts.
The climax of his confession was, of course, the betrayal of Arnhem. When he was attached to the Canadian First Army and given the job of alerting the Resistance Movement in the Eindhoven area so that they could aid the forthcoming airborne landings, he realized at once that this was a golden opportunity for bigger and better treachery. He completed his Eindhoven mission - not without difficulty, for the local Resistance leader was suspicious of him and had him arrested. In fact, with supreme irony, as it turned out, the Canadians had to send an intelligence officer to “ bailout “ Lindemans and vouch for his integrity before the Eindhoven Resistance men would listen to his proposals. Even this setback did not deter him from his traitorous course. He met Colonel Kiesewetter of the Abwehr at Driebergen on September 15, two days before the landings were to take place, and told him all the secret facts with which he had been entrusted. It is true that Lindemans did not mention the word “ Amhem." A certain section of the Dutch Press subsequently tried to make much of this and claimed that Lindemans could not have betrayed Arnhem because he did not know the exact area of the landings.
This argument is puerile nonsense. Lindemans may not have mentioned the actual name of Arnhem, but he did tell Colonel Kiesewetter that the landings were to take place north of Eindhoven. He said as much in his signed confession. Now every large-scale parachute landing, as any amateur tactician should know, is made with the object of seizing some vital area and holding it for a limited length of time. Paratroops, the elite of the Army, are too valuable to be scattered aimlessly over the countryside in penny packets. One glance at the map would suffice to tell the German military experts what points these airborne troops would be concentrated on “ north of Eindhoven." There was no valuable objective in the open fields. No. The obvious targets were the bridges at Grave, Nijmegen and Arnhem. If these could be seized and held long enough for the main body to link up with the paratroops, then a dangerous bridgehead aimed at the heart of Germany would be developed.
So Lindemans's infamy can never be whitewashed. When he told Colonel Kiesewetter of the top-secret plan to land airborne forces “ north of Eindhoven" in two days' time, he betrayed the Battle of Arnhem.
It was one thing to vow that Lindemans must be brought to justice and another thing to accomplish that vow. As I have explained in an earlier chapter, I had many other cases to work on and was handicapped by :working entirely single-handed, without even official transport at my call. Certain highly-placed' officials in the Netherlands Forces were, perhaps understandably. reluctant to see Lindemans publicly tried. Some of them :who had previously and innocently shown him friendship and -favours did not want their lack of judgment exposed to the public eye. Others felt, quite sincerely, that it would not be good for the Dutch war effort if a man who had been a popular and revered figure were to be shown up as an infamous traitor. It was a delicate political and diplomatic situation; red tape which so often tangles itself in the wheels of justice can at times halt even the slow-motion of an unpopular cause. So it was that, although I was fortunate enough to be summoned to S.H.A.E.F. and there congratulated by a Very Important Personage on the importance of my catch, I was no nearer seeing Lindemans in the dock.
And then at Christmas, 1944, as previously mentioned in chapter 7, I fell ill and returned to London on sick leave. During this time the British newspapers scented out a story of a secret prisoner. Although Lindemans was then still in my private wing at Breda Prison, some news of his flight to England for questioning must have leaked out. Rumour had it that a Dutch officer was being held prisoner secretly in the Tower of London. This romantic story, or rather, theory, occupied many headlines in the news-hungry Press. At my suggestion representatives of the Dutch Government in London approached the British Censorship Department with the request that as the Lindemans case was still sub-judice, any public speculation over the reasons for his arrest should be considered illegal. The chief censor agreed and asked the newspapers to drop the subject which, with their customary good sense and public spirit, they did.
After my physical collapse at Christmas, 1944, I was ordered to take three months' complete rest. Not even the Lindemans case was allowed to intrude. He was safe where he was, in a cell in my private wing in Breda Prison. It was unlikely that anyone would think of bringing him to justice in my absence, and although I chafed at the thought of his continuing to evade his deserts, I was glad to know that he could render no more harm to the Allied cause. Besides, to the hulking Lindemans, being deprived of the cheering and the adulation of his hero-worshippers and, as a man of action, being condemned to weeks of inactivity and brooding over his future fate was possibly the worst kind of punishment that could be meted out. In June, 1945, I was able to return to his case and the first thing I did was to order his removal from Breda Prison to that grim block of dungeons nicknamed" The Oranje Hotel," which formed part of Scheveningen Prison. There, in a cell which had probably been occupied by some of the friends he had callously betrayed, Lindemans would know that he was one step nearer justice.
The solitude, the enforced abstinence for one who had been famed for his sexual prowess, and the further deprivation of that hero-worship on which his immense vanity had always battened, wrought swift changes in him. His appetite disappeared and the flesh seemed to melt from his bones. Without exercise his huge knots of muscles grew slack and stringy. The giant frame could never be altered, but now it had grown so gaunt that the clothes hung limply on it as on a scarecrow. His hair went grey and his eyes were dull in their dark sockets. Whenever I visited him he would have a fit and lie frothing at the nose and mouth or grovel on the floor of his cell, shrieking for mercy. What mercy could a man expect who had betrayed his own friends for cash, who had cost us seven thousand casualties at Arnhem, and had prolonged a war for perhaps six months more than was necessary? I could feel nothing but contempt for a man who could not stand the treatment he had cheerfully ordered for others and who had not, like them, felt the keen agony of ingenious torture. I was all the more determined to see him facing trial.
And so I went back to my office, which was now with the Dutch Counter-Intelligence. I wanted to get hold of the documents in his case and submit them with an urgent request that his trial should take place. The records room at Intelligence Headquarters was closely guarded. Only senior officers on important business were allowed access to the room. Any papers or documents removed had to be scrupulously signed for. Even signatures on papers and identity cards were compared to avoid any possible forgery. A security cordon surrounded the whole building. I had seen many security arrangements in the past and I was certain that few would have equalled the present example for efficiency and none would have surpassed it.
But when I went to get the vital file it was not in its proper place. I searched carefully on neighbouring shelves and in nearby filing cabinets in case it had been accidentally filed away in the wrong place. There was no sign of it. I checked the record index to make sure that the system had not been reorganised in my absence. There was no entry to show that there ever had been a file on the Lindemans case. In fact the very name “ Lindemans “ had been carefully and completely expunged !
I began to make pressing inquiries. At last I learned that a certain senior officer [Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands? – ed.] had called for the file some days earlier. I tackled him. He admitted that he had had the file in his possession for a short time but had passed it on to another senior officer. I went to see the latter. When I questioned him he looked blank. No. he had never set eyes on the Lindemans file. I returned to the former senior officer. He was equally surprised. He could have sworn that the other senior officer had taken the file from him on such and such a day. And there the matter ended. From that day to this I have never set eyes on the Lindemans file and there was nothing further for the moment that I could do.
In October, 1945, after I had made a nuisance of myself by continually importuning my seniors to bring on the trial of Lindemans, I was suddenly released from the Security Service and later promoted and transferred to duty in Germany. I had, however, been expecting such a move and had in fact joked with my. friends about it in advance. There is an old Dutch proverb which says:' “ He who wants to beat a dog can always find a stick for the job." I had long realized that after the arrest of King Kong a stick would be found for me.
But I was not sorry for what I had done, only that I had not achieved better results. Love of Holland, my native country, has always taken first place with me, but, moreover, I have always believed that the people of a country should be big enough to know the truth even if it is not always to their advantage. Most Dutch people did not yet know why Arnhem had failed. They had been taught to blame the weather or “ the luck of the game “ or Field Marshal Montgomery's recklessness in mounting a daring operation without sufficient resources at his disposal. They did not know that one of their own countrymen had betrayed the battle before it started. It seemed that as long as Lindemans could be kept obscurely in jail - and there appeared to be no time limit to this - they never would know.
And so the months went by and the mud was allowed to settle at the bottom so that on the surface everything was limpid and clear. But in May, 1946, when I had long resigned myself to having heard the last of Lindemans, a surprising event occurred. The British Press was, of course, no longer gagged by censorship. The European war had been over for a full year. The Press, which has so often championed the cause of the individual against the bureaucracy and has brought sufficient pressure to bear through publicity to put an end to injustice, began to print articles demanding what had happened to “ the Dutch officer who had betrayed Arnhem,” “ the secret prisoner in the Tower of London." For several days the press campaign went on; newspapers in England and the Continent of different political outlooks were at one in their desire to know the facts. The same questions were asked by all. The" Dutch officer “ had been arrested more than eighteen months before. Had he been tried and, if so, what was the result of the trial? If he had not yet been tried, what was the reason for the delay? In the face of these demands the Dutch Government had only one course to take. It was announced that a special tribunal would assemble at the end of June, 1946, for the purpose of trying Christian Lindemans on charges of treason.
(At this stage I must point out that my knowledge of the rest of Lindemans's brief career is based on hearsay and the official Dutch version of his fate. I was no longer in Holland and thus without access to the facts at first sight. If one of the hall-marks of truth is that it really is stranger than fiction then without doubt the official version is completely true. As it is impossible now to obtain the evidence that would confirm or refute the communiqué one's only choice is to accept it. Nevertheless, as with all famous mysteries. there are loose ends and hidden interrogation marks which cannot be satisfactorily explained at least to one who likes his evidence cut and dried.)
As I have already mentioned, Scheveningen Prison, perhaps the largest in Holland, had been used by the Nazis for holding political prisoners. Many of Holland's most gallant patriots had been tortured and allowed to rot there. When the Nazis were driven out and the prison was taken over by the Allies, it was found that most of the surviving Dutch prisoners were too ill to be moved. A specially equipped hospital was set up for their treatment inside the main structure of the building and gradually the prison became more and more of a hospital.. In fact only one large wing was still used for its original purpose. There the suspected traitors, the collaborators, spies and looters were held, amongst them Christian Lindemans.
For months Lindemans had been growing weaker. He 'was now so emaciated that the skin seemed to hang in folds on his giant skeleton. In addition he was partly paralysed.. The Dutch prison doctors, knowing that he had been shot through the lung, suspected tuberculosis had set in and removed him from his bleak stone cell to the prison hospital for special tests and treatment.
Women nurses are not usually found in Dutch prison hospitals but as Scheveningen was now more of a hospital than a prison the rule was waived in its case. Although Lindemans was no longer the superb muscular athlete with a reputation for turning girls' heads that would make each successive conquest a little easier, he must still have possessed some potent spark of manhood, if we are to believe the official version. For one of these coldly efficient and practical nurses fell in love with him.
Perhaps they had known each other in the lustier days when Lindemans could pick up a grown man in each huge fist and knock them out by crashing their heads together, could drink enough wine to finish off three ordinary men and then satisfy three of four girls in the one night with his sexual prowess. Perhaps she had been won by his great reputation as a Resistance leader and refused to believe that he was guilty of the charges against him. Whatever the cause, and we shall never know the real motives, she decided to help him to escape the consequences of his approaching trial.
Lindemans was kept in a prison hospital room by himself. The door was locked on the outside; there was only one small window and that was heavily barred. The room was several storeys up with a sneer drop of many, feet to the ground. It was not a promising situation for any man to escape from, let alone one who was partly paralysed and in such a physical decline that he was under observation for tuberculosis. But according to the official version, the daring plan nearly worked. The nurse managed to smuggle a steel file into Lindemans's room.
With this she had to saw through the stout bars of his window in such a way that although they appeared to be intact, one hard push would remove them. She had an accomplice who had the romantic nickname of "The Singing Rat." He was apparently serving a term of imprisonment for some minor offence: through her efforts :he was given the job of nursing orderly for sick prisoners.
If you have ever tried sewing through strong bars with a file you will know that it is not an easy job. Particularly if you have to do it as quietly as possible. Hospital nurses are given many tasks to perform and they never seem to have a spare or an unsupervised moment. Yet here was one who had so much time to spare that she could spend hours in Lindemans's room sawing away at the bars of his cell window without apparently causing any suspicions among her observant colleagues. Certainly she must have taken turns with “ The Singing Rat" at the sawing but even then she must have kept “ cave “ near the room in case someone walked in unexpectedly. So much activity in the one place and no one sufficiently observant to comment on it. For any hospital this would be amazing; for a prison hospital it is almost incredible.
The second part of the plan was even more difficult to perform. Having prepared the bars so that they 'could be removed without effort, the three plotters had to devise some means for. Lindemans to reach the ground after climbing through the window. His cell was many feet off the ground. There were no convenient footholds or drainpipes down which he could climb. So it was arranged that on the night set for the escape “ The Singing Rat “ would leave a rubber hose pipe hanging out of a storeroom window which happened to be conveniently close to the window of Lindemans's cell. :All the escapee had to do was perch on the window-sill of his own room, swing across until he grasped the hose pipe and - then swarm down it.
For the man he had been at the time of his arrest this scheme would have presented few problems. His brute strength would have allowed him to- climb down almost any length of piping as long as it would support his massive weight. But the Lindemans who now had to make the attempt was an emaciated weakling who was also semi-paralysed. True his weight was far less and would put less strain on his arms but this was no compensation. The Lindemans I had last seen only a few months before was hardly strong enough to tie a knot in a length of stout rope. And yet, presumably still further weakened by continued illness and loss of appetite, he was to attempt a feat in the darkness over which a trained and resolute cat-burglar might well have hesitated.
Stranger still, according to the official version, he succeeded in his hazardous attempt. He managed to slither down the hose pipe and reach the ground. Unfortunately' he made too much noise in the descent, was heard by the guards patrolling the grounds of the prison and was captured by them. Within a few minutes he was behind bars again.
Now when an important prisoner nearly effects a daring escape a few days before he is to be tried, an escape which must have been engineered with inside help, the authorities usually concentrate their energies on arresting his helpers. It would not have required much imagination or powers of deduction to suspect that the nurse who had devoted so much time to the assiduous care of the prisoner might be implicated in his escape plan. Even if it were impossible to prove her complicity, the safest course would be to allot her, duties to some other nurse. But for some unaccountable reason she was neither arrested for her part in the plot nor even removed from her post.
The day of justice was approaching. Soon the whole world would know of Lindeman's guilt and a popular false idol would be smashed for ever. But fate - or human intervention - had one more trick to play on the prosecution. Two days before the trial when the routine inspection of all cells took place, Lindemans was found lying on his bed. He was dead. Across his body lay the nurse, inert but still breathing. She was rushed to the hospital where strong emetics were forced down her throat and all the modem aids of medicine were used to bring her round. She recovered and confessed that she had administered eighty aspirin tablets to Lindemans and had herself swallowed an equal number. They had agreed on a suicide pact, she said.
Thus a traitor cheated justice. He was now beyond the reach of the law but what of the person who assisted him in his final escape - the nurse? She was surely liable to face charges, the least of which was grave enough, that of being accessory to the attempted escape of a prisoner, and the worst of which, for the survivor of a suicide pact, was murder. Yet this nurse, whom one would consider: lucky to get off with a heavy prison sentence, was never tried in public and subsequently has held responsible official positions in Holland. It is a strange thing which .I for one do not begin to. understand~
And Cornelis Verloop, that self-admtted traitor, whose evidence first confirmed my suspicions of Lindemans' guilt? He also avoided the embarrassment of facing a public trial and must in fact have been completely; exonerated since as far as I know there is no record of his having been tried. I have heard from various quarters that he subsequently held an official post in Germany under the Dutch Government. It seems a strange reward for a man who betrayed his country to the enemy and I can hardly believe it.
The special tribunal that was to have assembled to try, Lindemans was dissolved before it ever met. There were brief reports of his death in a few Dutch papers. The case was officially closed.
And so Lindemans, master-traitor, lecherous, vain, brutal and cowardly, found in the end that his luck with women held, although women had contributed so much to his final arrest, If he had not entered the Antwerp security camp for the purpose of picking up a couple of girls, I might never have suspected him in the first place.
He was undeniably a traitor. I have met many of them and he was by far the worst, not only in his methods but in the damage he caused. Even if one is not prepared to admit that his actions prolonged Ute war by more than six months, one must credit - or rather discredit - him with the seven thousand casualties suffered by the gallant " Red Devils of Arnhem," with the deaths in action of his brave Resistance men and the slow deaths by torture of the secret agents he betrayed. Because the world has never learned his full infamy through his death before trial, there have been many attempts, some of them officially sponsored, to whitewash his memory. I was instructed by a representative of the Dutch Government in London, when the British Press was out to print the facts of his career and his death, to deny that King Kong betrayed Arnhem. But to me he was not a big, irresponsible boy who just blundered into the wrong. He was a sordid traitor who coolly sold his secret information to gratify his gross appetites. For the first time I have written here the full facts as I know them and, where I have had to rely on official " hand-outs " in the last phase of my story, have exercised the right to comment on them. It is up to the reader to weigh the evidence before him and to reach his own conclusions. And let us always remember that though it is unpleasant to admit that one's own country may breed traitors here and there, it is wiser and safer in the long run to recognize the truth.
Happy the land which has no son or daughter prepared to betray his or her country.
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|Description||Chapter 9 of Spycatcher By Lt. Col. Oreste Pinto Published by Panther Books +|
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