1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 29:



Chapter 16



Frankfurt am Main


            “Angry people are, mostly, just angry people,” said Henry Dreeson. “It’s their nature. Solve one of their problems and they’ll find something else to be angry about. Maybe because you solved it and took away their gripe.”

            Henry figured that this ceremonial banquet with the Frankfurt bigwigs was going fine. Shop talk was shop talk, wherever you found it. Names kept floating past his ears. Günderrode. Zum Jungen. Both of them named Hector, which was sort of peculiar. He hadn’t met any Germans in Grantville named Hector. Maybe they were relatives.. Stalburger. A couple of men with a “von” in front of their names, though he didn’t understand why nobles would be city councillors. But “Baur von Somewhere” didn’t actually sound very much like he descended from some medieval knight in shining armor, and neither did “Weiß von Somewhere Else.” Recent promotions, maybe—guys who had bought the farm, or at least the estate, in the most literal sense of the word.

            Down the table, past the Bürgermeister, one of the councilmen was starting to rant about the dangers of popular revolution. Sounded like Tino Nobili going full tilt. He turned his head a little to direct his good ear toward the man. “Popular election to choose the council is the worst idea I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard it before. If you let these CoC rabble into the city government… Why, the last time, twenty years ago, it took us two years to get the movement under control.”

            As usual. The municipal equivalent of generals fighting the last war.


            “The gates of the ghetto are barricaded. The main difference from twenty years ago is that this time the defenders are armed, as well.” The printer Crispin Neumann finished his report. He was known to have connections in Frankfurt’s Jewish ghetto, although most people were too polite to specify what they were—namely, that his grandfather had been a convert to Lutheranism; he still had relatives who lived there.

            The members of the Frankfurt city council looked at one another.

            “Isn’t there any way you can head it off?” Henry figured that maybe he wasn’t expected to talk, him not being a citizen of Frankfurt; but, what the hell, the Bürgermeister had invited him to come to the meeting. He looked at the militia captain. “I mean, this town can’t be that different from Grantville. Our police know to keep an eye on the 250 Club when certain sorts of things come up. Don’t your watchmen do the same thing? Have a sort of list of trouble spots, that is? Even if it’s in their own heads and not written down anywhere?

            The captain nodded; started to say something.

            In the back of the room, someone stood up. Henry peered through his glasses. Sergeant Hartke’s wife? The Danish woman, Dagmar?

            “It is work righteousness to attack the Jews!”

            Everyone in the room blinked.

            “These men in the taverns are not good Lutherans! Think, only think!”

            Her German was beginning to fray a little at the edges, but she clearly had something to say. Cunz Kastenmayer slid, as inconspicuously as possible, away from his post. He had been standing behind Mayor Dreeson’s left shoulder, translating whenever a conversation between the Grantvillers and the leading lights of Frankfurt politics became too complex for either the councilmen’s limited English or Dreeson’s less limited, but still far from fluent, German.

            “Think of the words of Paul Speratus!”

            Every Lutheran in the room, obediently, thought of the words of Paul Speratus. They could do that effortlessly, of course. The hymn “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” had been a staple of the Lutheran liturgy for a century. They all knew it by heart.

            “Think!” Dagmar boomed again. She started reciting in Danish, but Cunz repeated the German after her.


            “It is a false, misleading dream

            That God his law has given

            That sinners can themselves redeem

            And by their works gain heaven.

            The law is but a mirror bright

            To bring the inbred sin to light

            That lurks within our nature.


            “See!” Dagmar proclaimed. “These men who attack the poor Jews. Like little Riffa’s parents, who are the sutlers at Barracktown now. Or her husband, David Kronberg, at the post office. Who has an aunt and uncle who have adopted him…” She paused for effect. “…and who live right here in Frankfurt!” Her voice, deep and stentorian at most times, rose to a shrill dramatic screech. “They are trying to earn heaven by their works, these anti-Semites, as you call them. But, remember—


            “Christ came and has God’s anger stilled,

            Our human nature sharing.

            He has for us the law obeyed

            And thus the Father’s vengeance stayed

            Which over us impended.


            “It is Christ’s atonement that saves us. Not actions such as killing usurers. Which means,” she concluded triumphantly, “that these men, these mutterers against the Jews, are doctrinally unsound!

            Cunz would have been struck dumb with admiration if it hadn’t been his duty to keep translating. No one could possibly have come up with a condemnation of attacking the ghetto that would have a deeper resonance in a Lutheran city. Anti-Semitism as “doctrinally unsound” work righteousness. How…


            Dagmar sat down. He returned to his assigned place at Mayor Dreeson’s shoulder.


            “What are you planning to do then?” the militia captain asked. “Create what Nathan Prickett would call a ‘thin blue line’ around the ghetto?”

            He hadn’t been in the planning meeting. He had been off getting his lieutenants to agree to go along with the program. Whatever the program might prove to be.

            Ach, nein.” The Bürgermeister gestured expansively. “There are not enough of us in the city government to surround it if there is a coordinated attack. Besides, since the ghetto is armed this time, not to mention reinforced…”

            The militia captain nodded. A fair number of Frankfurt’s CoC members had somehow managed to be inside the ghetto when the elders of the Jewish community barricaded the gates.

            “… we might be caught in crossfire. Which would be stupid of us. Dreeson, the Grantviller, mentioned that his daughter had many favorite words. One of them was proactive. This means that we do not wait for the mutterers to finish getting organized. We will not wait for an attack on the ghetto.”

            The captain was pretty sure that he would not like what came next. “So, then…”

            “We shall be proactive. We march on the taverns where the mutterers gather. Tonight.”


            “Your cane will slip on a cobblestone wet with this mist. You will break your hip.”

            Henry Dreeson shook his head. “Nonsense, Ronnie. Anyway, if the hip has to go one of these days, at least it’ll be going in a good cause. And ‘march’ doesn’t mean ‘be carried along in a litter.’ Anyway, there’d be just as much chance that one of the litter bearers would slip on a wet cobblestone, fall, and throw me out. That would be a longer way down and a harder landing than if I trip myself.”

            Veronica glared at him. “Then,” she said, “I am marching with you. Only to hold your other arm, mind you. Only to steady you if your cane should not be enough. Not for some stupid heroic cause such as the one that led Hans to his death.”


            Frankfurt’s militia officers were, by order of the council, in full ceremonial uniform. The type of uniform that they normally wore only to awards banquets. With sashes, satin trousers, lace collars, and polished boots. Items that were both difficult and expensive to clean.

            The militia captain gave his instructions. He had a loud and booming voice that carried well, too. Not in the Ableidinger league, but plenty loud enough. “One company surrounds each of the target taverns right after the bells toll. Ensure that no one leaves. Those who resist will be shot. Those who surrender will be arrested.”

            As usual, Nathan Prickett noted a bit cynically, seventeenth century notions of legitimate police work diverged sharply from twentieth. Granted that they were a bunch of loudmouthed anti-Semites, the men in the taverns who were about to be set upon by the city militia hadn’t actually done anything illegal. They weren’t even drunk and disorderly yet.

            Fat lot of good it would do them.

            The militia lieutenants nodded firmly at their captain’s instructions.

            “Ensure it. You have the best of the guns from Blumroder. Your men know how to use them. No one leaves.”

            The captain looked around. On the average, the militiamen looked more enthusiastic about the evening’s proposed project than the lieutenants did. That was Nathan’s assessment, anyway, and it seemed the captain shared it.

            “If anyone tries to leave a tavern,” he bellowed, “the man who shoots him will succeed to the lieutenancy of the company. If more than one man tries to leave at the same time, every man in the company who shoots will receive a substantial reward.”

            That ought to stiffen everyone’s back a bit. Not to mention encouraging the lieutenants to do a little shooting themselves. It wasn’t an empty threat. Judging from their own vigorous nodding, the council had already agreed to the provision.