The Reichsbank Robbery

Written by Colin Roderick Fulton
Review by Janet Williamson

This visually evocative novel, set towards the end of the Second World War, tells of Sturmbannführer (Major) Friedrich Schonewille, an accountant working for the SS, who collects revenues from concentration camps. Full of insecurities and hate, indifferent to Nazi philosophy, he enjoys the power his position brings.

Aware that the Third Reich is failing, he enriches himself by looting from concentration camp detainees but wants more. Driven, he recruits his pilot half-brother, Peter, and father, Helmuth Wenck, in a plan to rob the Reichsbank in Berlin. He has always felt inferior to both men and needs the security offered by his wife, Sophia, a Swedish Jewess rescued from a detention camp. He gives her a false identity so that she can escape with him to hotter climes after the robbery.

Stress takes its toll after Himmler is tricked into authorising an aircraft for their use.  Bombing raids play havoc with transport systems, the Allied forces and Russians advance on Germany, and the underlings they recruit cannot be trusted.

When twenty-one 1,000-pound bombs hit the Reichsbank, leaving a shell of a building, the money is placed on flatbed trucks and sent to the rail station. From then on the frustrations and tensions increase as they successfully steal the cargo, eventually taking flight. When they reach the end of the line, Sophia shocks the men by committing an unexpected act. Given her emotional passivity throughout the book, the ending did not seem credible. Factually accurate plot details are interspersed throughout, but others describe aircraft specifications and maintenance, thereby slowing the pace. Definitely one for the boys.