Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DBTL 42: Priest and a Rabbi Walk Into a Bar . . .

This is the latest installment in the Drowned Baby Timeline, an alternate history where Adolf Hitler drowned at birth and where World War II never took place. The largest state in Central Europe is the Polish Commonwealth, which includes the historical Second Polish Republic, eastern Germany, and the former Soviet republics of Byelorussia and Ukraine. And now, having absorbed the two Soviet Republics, the Polish Commonwealth is experiencing growing pains . . .

Białystok, Belarus Devo, Polish Commonwealth
6 May 1947

"Believe me," said Hermann Göring, "the last thing in the world you want me to do is go into politics."

It was a quiet Tuesday night, and Göring was in his private office behind the bar of the Flying Deutchlander, along with two men who had entered his establishment five minutes before and asked to speak with him.

The first man, who had introduced himself as Dr. Gedali Rozenman, was an elderly, bearded man in black. Although they had never met, Göring knew him by reputation; as the Rabbi of Białystok's Great Synagogue, he was a leading member of the city's Jewish community. The second man, who had introduced himself as Edward Kisiel, was a young Catholic priest of whom Göring had never heard. They certainly made an odd pair, and their proposal had been equally

"There I must disagree with you, Herr Göring," said Dr. Rozenman in Yiddish-accented German. "Both Father Edward and I feel that you would be the ideal man to represent Białystok in the Sejm. You're a respected local businessman, you have important contacts in Warsaw, and best of all . . . "

"Best of all," Göring finished for him, "I'm not Leonard Kosnowski."

Nine months before, Göring would have bet a year's profits from the bar that Kosnowski's political career was finished. The National Socialist Polish Workers Party had been enveloped by a scandal when it was learned that they had been receiving clandestine funding from the Soviet NKVD. The Nasos had been banned from the Sejm, and their leader, Bolesław Piasecki, had fled Poland for the dubious sanctuary of Moscow.

Kosnowski, though, had proved more adept than his Duce at weathering the resulting storm. He had denounced Piasecki as a traitor, renounced the Nasos, and in a breathtaking display of ideological legerdemain, instantly transformed himself from a xenophobic, anti-Semitic Polish nationalist to a xenophobic, anti-Semitic Belarussian nationalist. He was now a fervent member of the Free Belarus Party, dedicated to withdrawing the newly-enlarged Belarus Devo from the Polish Commonwealth, and reducing all of Belarus's Poles, Lithuanians, and, especially, Jews, to the status of second-class citizens.

The FBP, with its heavy support in the former Belorussian SSR, was the second largest party in the devo behind the Federalists, and in next month's elections they intended to become the largest. With the example of the Lithuanian Devo before them, they were certain that they could win a referendum to secede from the Commonwealth and set up their own independent state. Of course, Göring knew from his sources in Warsaw that Lithuania would probably be rejoining the Commonweath before the year was out, so he didn't think the FBP would succeed. He had to admit to himself, though, that he had seen far more unlikely things come to pass.

"And best of all," Dr. Rozenman echoed, "you're not Leonard Kosnowski."

Göring peered curiously at the two men. To Dr. Rozenman he said, "Now, I can understand why you wouldn't be eager to see the Belas gain power." Turning to Father Edward, he continued, "But why are you getting mixed up in all this? I thought the Church didn't go in for politics here in Poland."

The priest tapped his fingertips together. "I am not here as an official representative of the Church," he said. "As you say, the Church has always felt it prudent not to become involved in national politics in this country."

"I'm guessing, though," said Göring, "that Archbishop Wyszynski is not ignorant of your presence here. Unofficially, that is."

Father Edward paused before saying, "Not ignorant, no. Unofficially."

"Then why is he expressing this unofficial interest in these elections?" Göring wondered.

"In addition to their other, ah, policies," Father Edward explained, "the Free Belarus Party considers the Church to be . . . "

"UnBelarussian," Dr. Rozenman supplied.

"Thank you, Rabbi," Father Edward replied. "UnBelarussian. Naturally, the Church would consider the status quo under the Federalists preferable to a government that openly favored the Orthodox faith."

"So," said Göring, "now that you've explained what's in it for you, I'd be interested to hear what's in it for me. Why should I get involved?"

"I should have thought that was obvious," said Dr. Rozenman. "If the FBP succeeds in seceding from the Commonwealth, the first thing they're going to want to do is find someone to run the Garden who isn't German."

Göring shrugged. "I'd still have the bar, wouldn't I? And frankly, running the Garden is one headache after another. Why not let someone else deal with it?"

He didn't mean it, though, and the Rabbi had no difficulty seeing through his feigned disinterest. "That doesn't sound at all like the Hermann Göring my congregation tells me about," said Dr. Rozenman with a smile.

Göring let himself sigh. "All right, Rabbi, you've got me. I'd hate to give up the Garden! I built that whole place from the ground up, turned it into the most advanced aircraft plant in the world! No way in hell am I going to let a gang of filthy pigs like the Belas take it away from me!" Rising from his chair, he slammed a fist onto his desk. "You want me to run against Kosnowski? You bet I'll run! I'll make that sorry excuse for a human being wish he'd never heard of me!"

The outburst caused Father Edward to shrink back from Göring, and even Dr. Rozenman was blinking his eyes in surprise at the storm he had unleashed. Göring didn't care. They wanted a candidate for the Sejm? They had one!

Let anyone get in his way, and he's show them just what kind of candidate, too.

No comments: