On Wednesday February 1st the staff from the Baumeisterstrasse Tax Office gather at the home of Tax AssistantBaltscheid; he works in the Income Tax Section, and is having a celebration because it is his sixty-fifth birthday and he is retiring from work. There are many speeches during the course of the evening, including one by Poll Tax Clerk Carl Fraude, who not only has many positive things to say about Baltscheid, but also praises his superiors, Senior Tax Secretary Willy Mett and Senior Tax Inspector Gustav Wächter. In addition, he says how much he values the excellent atmosphere in the office.
Wächter and Mett are standing side by side chatting while Fraude is speaking. They have been colleagues for many years, and one of Gustav’s favourite stories concerns Willy Mett, or rather a taxpayer who was dissatisfied with a decision Mett had made on a tax issue, and came to Gustav to complain. As the taxpayer was angrily explaining the problem to Gustav he couldn’t help referring to Willy Mett as “that Jew”. What the taxpayer didn’t know was that Gustav Wächter is a Jew, but Willy Mett is not.
Earlier that day Adolf Hitler approached President Paul von Hindenburg and asked him to dissolve parliament and to announce an election, on the grounds that it is impossible to form a government with a “working majority”. Hindenburg gave in, and dissolved parliament in accordance with Article 25 in the constitution of the Weimar Republic. The election will take place on March 5th.
At ten o’clock in the evening of February 1st 1933, Adolf Hitler addresses the German people on the radio for the first time. The colleagues from the Baumeisterstrasse Tax Office gather around Baltscheid’s crystal set, some of them indicating their agreement with nods and grunts as Hitler speaks of the “fourteen years of Marxism” which Germany has suffered since losing World War I, and of the need for national discipline. After the speech they raise their glasses in a toast. Wächter and Mett, who are both committed democrats, exchange a grim look.