In 1938, Hitler charged some of his best scientists with creation of military technologies that would protect and make his war machine, the Wehrmacht, invincible. Those technologies came too late to ensure the Reich’s victory, and for more than 60 years the reports and files of those experiments lay hidden away in a bunker, only to be discovered by German construction workers in the fall of 2007.
William Langley, an American graduate student working for the National Institute for Historical Document Evaluation and Preservation (NIHDEP) in Berlin, is given the responsibility of evaluating the contents of File Box No. 243. This box contains secret Nazi reports concerning the successful development of electromagnetic force field technologies for military use. A second file box introduces William to Hitler’s attempts to save the nucleus of his most devoted Schutzstaffel – the dreaded SS. This is Bettkasten.
William sat in the only chair that still remained on the veran- da of his parents’ late 19th Century prairie farmhouse. The house was nestled among the cottonwood trees that his great, great grandfather had planted to protect against the winds that blew so ferociously during the winter. It was almost 4:30, and the late afternoon sun was slowly sinking behind the tree line, and shadows were already beginning to engulf the white two-story clapboard farmhouse. The sun’s rays still illuminated the family’s croplands across the highway and the trees that traced the meander of the Red River, which defined the eastern limits of Meadowbrook Farm. It also served as the boundary between North Dakota and Minnesota.
Just as he had done every day, beginning a week after he had submitted his application to the University of Minnesota, he sat in the cold, on the wind ravaged veranda, waiting for the arrival of the mail. He had been encouraged by his guidance counselor to make an application under the early acceptance policy for seniors with at least a 3.90 grade-point average.
Normally, early admission notices began arriving around Jan- uary first. A week had elapsed since the first. William was be- coming anxious. He muttered to himself, ‘Why is Mr. Svend- son so late today?’ Eric Svendson, no one ever called him Eric, had been the family’s mail carrier for more than 25 years, and he was almost always on time, but not today.
Waiting gave William time to think. His father’s words still haunted him:“ Eines Tages wirt Ihr alle dies bekommen [One day, all this will become yours].” As much as William loved his family and the family’s farm, he knew he could not be a farmer. He hated the rural lifestyle and farming. In his mind, a college degree was his passport out, but even a degree was no guarantee he would be able to escape. After all, he had re- sponsibilities borne of tradition.
In the distance, William could just make out the headlights of a vehicle. ‘Could it be Mr. Svendson?’ The headlights belonged to the 1979 green International Scout that was Mr. Svend- son’s pride and joy. It had served him and his customers reli- ably for the better part of twenty years. The Scout pulled up to the family’s mailbox, and William saw him begin stuffing the box. When Svendson saw William running toward the mailbox, he rolled down the passenger-side window and yelled to William, “It’s here, Will!” After delivering the mail for more years than he cared to count, Mr. Svendson knew an acceptance package when he handled it. William’s heart soared. Mr. Svendson withdrew the mail from the box and handed it to William, accompanied by an ear-to-ear smile.
At first, William just looked at the weather beaten face, with eyes that reminded Mr. Svendson of a Margaret Keane painting, or that of an owl. Then William just stared at the large envelope, trimmed in purple and gold. Mr. Svendson rolled up the window, waved good-bye to William, and drove away with a grin, continuing his route.
William, clutching the mail, ran between the piles of snow on either side of the cleared path that led to the house, up the steps, threw open the front door, and yelled out: “Endlich ist es hier [Finally, it’s here]!” Everyone within earshot knew exactly what had finally arrived. No one had heard William’s voice sound so alive in weeks. They all came running, even his father, Roger, who normally did not rush for anything or any- one.
Samantha, William’s youngest sister, was the last to arrive but the first to speak, “Eile. Öffnen Sie es [Hurry. Open it]!”
William ripped open the envelope, and read the first few lines of the letter to himself: “Dear Mr. Langley, The University of Minnesota is pleased to announce your acceptance. . . . As calmly as he could be, he proudly announced, “Ich bin akzep- tiert [I’ve been accepted].”
“Jetzt die Tuer zumachen [Now close the door], said his moth- er.“ Es is noch kalt draussen [It’s still cold outside].” Although Maria appeared in absolute control, on the inside her heart was overflowing with pride and joy for her son. She knew how much the acceptance meant to him.