On Saturday February 4th 1933, the Wächter family gather in their apartment at Eppendorfer Weg 40, which is a so-called Hamburger Knochen or “Hamburg bone”. It is an elegant apartment with a suite of three reception rooms at the end facing the street, and bedrooms with windows overlooking the courtyard. The three bedrooms all have thick pine floors which creak when you walk on them. Gustav and Minna sleep in one of the rooms; their three sons have grown up in another, and Walter’s paternal grandfather and grandmother lived in the third room until his grandfather’s death in 1919. Gustav now uses that room as a study, and therefore Walter shares a room with his grandmother, Lea Wächter. The two eldest brothers, John and Max, are already married and moved out a long time ago.
The reception rooms have polished oak parquet flooring instead of pine, and the dining room is linked to the library and the smoking room by large sliding doors. A passageway links the area housing the reception rooms with the bedrooms. Along this passageway is the kitchen, the bathroom, and storage rooms. This means that the narrowest section of the apartment is in the middle, and the outline of the whole thing is reminiscent of a bone, hence Hamburger Knochen.
The conversation around the dinner table at Eppendorfer Weg this Saturday evening concerns the rumours about an imminent military coup which are currently doing the rounds. Nazi violence on the streets has increased significantly since Hitler was appointed Chancellor, and the Communists are threatening to call a general strike.
‘Enough is enough,’ Walter says. ‘The soldiers and the workers will join forces with the students. The German people will sweep away Hitler and his lackeys.’
‘The German people will have the opportunity to express what they want in the election,’ Gustav replies.
‘Together we will bring about a revolution!’ Walter responds.
‘Nonsense,’ Gustav says firmly. ‘We have a constitution.’
Earlier that day Hitler asked President Paul von Hindenburg to make use of Article 48 in the constitution of the Weimar Republic to implement an emergency order “for the protection of the German people” – zum Schutze des deutschen Volkes (German text). The order has already been written and is ready to be implemented, since it was prepared by Vice Chancellor Papen during his five months as Chancellor; it limits the freedom of the press and freedom of assembly for political opponents, above all the Communists.