Weber, carried only by the wind, alighted on the steeple of the Königkirche, still the highest point in the Free and Hanseatic City of Elbemund.

Dusk was coming, but it was still possible to see clearly what was going on in the streets below. The Red Spartakists had erected barricades out of trolley-cars and whatever else they could find for blocks surrounding the Königkirche and were firing from positions behind them and in many of the old row-houses along the Kaiserstraße. Men of the Freikorps apposed them, many still wearing their old uniforms from the front, though Weber saw veterans and sailors in uniform among the Spartakists as well, fighting with red armbands and the weapons they’d borne into four years of slaughter. The cracks of rifles and pistols were broken up by the staccato coughs of Spandaus or the new machine-pistols.

Men of the Reichswehr could be made out by their stahlhelms painted with bright republican colors. They wore gas masks and manned heavy artillery batteries which they fired in support of the Freikorps, and assault brigades moved with precision to ourflank the Spartakists. But in places the Freikorps were attacking the Reichswehr; Weber saw at least one artillery battery cleared out by a man with a machine pistol and turned back on its previous owners. Künstler had been right; the Freikorps were only siding with the Republic out of convenience, and they clearly saw the heavy weaponry as a great prize that could be used once the Red Spartakists were cast down. They probably had starry-eyed notions of driving onto Berlin and shelling President Ebert out of his office and installing His Majesty Wilhelm in the smoking crater that resulted.

Air raid sirens rang over it all, a pall of noise to go with the smoke, and in the distance the neon and thumping jazz of Rotlicht could still be perceived. Weber, slumped against a gargoyle, wept bitterly at the sights, the sounds, and the scents from below. He had to get out of Elbemund, to go further than he had before, to hide and remove himself from the violent conflagration working its way across the city.

He had only begun to toy with the idea when a far-off buzzing attracted his attention. Noisy specks were incoming on the horizon; after a moment, Weber saw that it was a formation of Fokker D.VII fighter planes. They bore the bright-colored cockades of the Entente, but from newsreels and posters Weber recognized that the pilots wore German gear. The formation broke apart as he watched; a group made a strafing run on Spartakist positions and several went down in flames, riddled with heavy machine gun bullets from the Reds or the Freikorps.

The remainder zeroed in on the Königkirche. Weber had been spotted, and he barely had time to move before the gargoyle on which he’d been leaning was shattered by incendiary bullets.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!