Saturday, 8 October 2016

The beginning of the good years

Once again I am in the sumptuous and deliciously quiet public library in Tavira. The Portuguese sun is blazing down outside on an afternoon in the middle of October, and soon I shall reach the garden with a large milky coffee and perhaps a cake to think my thoughts in the fullness of my age.

The purgation of which I spoke last time, following my five years on the run, turned out to be another nineteen months in prison, and then three months in a grim hostel in Hackney. But the result of those two years at the mercy of the English state is that I still have my Portuguese house, and can enjoy the life here as I please.

For when I flew from Faro in the Algarve to Gatwick on 20th November 2014, I knew that I might well be arrested and was prepared for it. I had entered England twice before, but then I came by boat and gave no warning. I was slightly less secretive the second time than I had been the first. And that third time I think I just wanted to test the water to see if I could go anywhere I liked without let or hindrance. Or perhaps I was growing careless. Or maybe I am a more calculating figure than the journalists who have written about me imagined, and finally reckoned that, with my money running out and the price of houses in Portugal approaching an all-time low, it was time to face the music.

I had booked my plane ticket well in advance, told many people by phone and email the exact dates of my intended ten-day stay in London, and had even mentioned in this blog that I planned a further brief visit to England. I was a little perturbed, to be sure, when there was an unexplained delay in boarding at Faro. And when in the row next to me on the plane there were two people sitting who were rather obviously plain clothes police I almost knew my number was up.

Then, when we landed at Gatwick, as two more policemen came on to the plane to make me stand up while the other passengers were told to sit down and told me to take off my belt and led me away in handcuffs I put a slight smirk on my face. I didn't intend to give them the satisfaction of thinking I was surprised or sorry. And, I´ll say this for them, they were the model of politeness.

I was taken to the police station in Crawley, the town where I grew up, and, although the bench in the cell was hard, I slept well that night, and during the day and the following morning I particularly enjoyed leafing through one of the books the police station kept on an old dusty shelf. This was B-Berry and I Look Back by Dornford Yates, a tattered but still handsome old hardback, a good companion, genial lawyerly reminiscences of the ways of British justice, when a fair cop was penance indeed.

But I live in softer times, and was happy to arrive on the afternoon of 21st November at HMP Lewes, and for my first night was blissfully alone in the cell with a comfortable bed. The next day they put me in to share with a charming and mildly sinister Roman Catholic stalker who loved to say his rosary and play the guitar. We were together for seven weeks, and got on surprisingly well. It seemed like a wonderful augury that, contrary to what I had always believed, I was capable of sharing with someone else at close quarters for a good time. It meant I would be capable of a love affair. And I shall long remember the dreamy view from our top floor window over the valley of the Ouse and the South Downs towards Newhaven, where for five days at Christmas the incinerator smoked with fire.

Unfortunately, in the New Year I had a blazing row with the Principal Officer about prisoners' rights to attend Sunday service, and was quickly transferred to HMP Rochester, which had been the first Borstal institution. Anyway, I was soon getting on well with the very English officers on D-wing at Rochester, who were like a faint modern reminiscence of what the original Borstal screws must once have been. And my fantasies about the place were well served by the two silver birch trees, stiff and bare in winter, outside the wing entrance.

I spent almost a year in this lackadaisical and no-nonsense prison, and although the Romany inmates often whipped out their impressive penises to show me and then pulled down my own trousers, and I spent most nights in my single cell hazy from passive smoking of ganga in the showers after a group of Afro-Caribbean prisoners used to burst in towards bang-up and smoke very close to where I was showering, I flatter myself that I retained the rough respect of most people with whom I had to deal.

At Rochester, however, I managed to gain the enmity of the head of OMU (Offender Management Unit), and when I was successful in arranging a parole hearing, this quickly led to my being transferred to HMP Brixton, as a punishment I think. Almost immediately I arrived there, all my private papers were confiscated by the senior officer on the wing, a fierce female Nigerian. (I believe she was motivated by anti-gay prejudice, from which many of the other black officers on the wing werre also suffering).

And for the next six months, until my release, I was locked in battle royal with the Nigerian and her chief acolyte, an ambitious young white female officer, as well as with most of the black officers on the wing (a few of the white ones were my allies). And I was successful in retaining my top-landing single room, which they wanted to take off me, and after four months was able to win back my papers, and kept my job in the library for four months, and retained my Enhanced Status, loss of which would have entailed forfeit of privileges and money. So the honours were more than even for the whites in the mini-race war that my stay in Brixton became.

I was endlessly adjudicated at the behest of the two black and white officers, but the governors who heard my case, who were all white, secretly sympathised with me and simply adjourned proceedings or gave me only the lightest of punishments. The wing was chaotic, but watching a group of 24 black men fighting in a huge melee on my landing had its more brutal attractions. And latterly I was successful in winning the friendship of a young, handsome and devout Irishman, a fine fighter. This added a most welcome humane note to the final days of my sentence.

I was released on 24th June 2016, having done almost the whole of my five years behind bars. The prison workers responsible for my welfare, who were all black, had all declined to do the slightest thing for me, but once again I had my own plans well laid, and had won the support of the head honcho female psychiatrist at Brixton, who was willing to certify that I was a danger to society. So, after I emerged angrily on to Jebb Avenue, I was able to spend four most agreeable nights in a cheap Indian hotel in Walthamstow, and then one deeply happy one spent at a refuge near Hornsey Rise, where I had lived as a baby, before finding myself as a homeless person in priority need at the grim hostel in Hackney that I have mentioned. But even before my arrival there I had the date in mind - September 30th 2016 - when I intended to leave England once again, to use what money I still had on some final exotic travel. And I was going to use the Newhaven to Dieppe ferry to go, on which we had often travelled to Portugal when I was a child.

So I had three months to get the most out of the city of my birth, the greatest city in the world some say, and certainly now the most cosmopolitan of all. I did a lot of walking and riding on the transport during that time. And because for the first time I was living in East London, I wandered most around that saddest of all the great tracts of the city. But I did a lot of the north, west, and south-west as well. However, I went only a little to south-east London which long ago had been the scene of my elaborate explorations. That lay in a magic past I did not care to recall.

And, yes, it was beautiful to enjoy an Eton Mess and a glass of rosé wine for a bargain price on a hot afternoon in the garden of a gastro-pub in Snaresbrook; or to discourse with a learned Anglican lady on the Gospel of St John as we walked from the church of St Peter in-the-Forest towards the enveloping woods; or to approach the Olympic Park in Stratford on the top of a 388 bus, and in the huge, dusty field watch a mass of black children play football under the tutelage of one white bald instructor, and then go on past the black bulk of the Copper Box Arena until we hit the brick white wall of the avenue. And there was no progressing further, I knew, for beyond the valley of the transport lie the phantasmagorical towers.

And how phantasmagorical I myself felt as I went round London on the tube and the buses, the Overground and the DLR, and around me one main group of people - the confident and professional young, for the most part of English birth - were fiddling endlessly with their hand-held devices or sequestered within their headphones, and the other group - the vast mass of foreigners - jabbering away in their myriad tongues on the tops of the buses and often unable to respond to the simplest question in English. I belonged to a third group, the people who had once been Londoners, in whom members of the first two groups had not the slightest interest.

And as I worked out with greater and greater precision the best possible methods of getting from Stepney to Shoreditch, from Beckton to Bow, I learnt just one lesson: as the transport routes became ever denser and more closely linked, so people were ever further from each other in their hearts.

But did I care? In a way I must have done, because my mind gnawed endlessly at the alien scene, which seemed to hurt me at some core of my being, although I did not quite understand why. But in a way I did. I was a European, heir to the culture of Europe, and also an Englishman, although not by blood. The people who now surrounded me did not fall into either of these categories. Their real identity meant they must be at best indifferent, at worst hostile, to the civilisation for which I stood.

At the time when European art was at its finest, the brothers and cousins of the artists were going around the world oppressing and enslaving the ancestors of these dark-skinned people. Human beings never really identify with a culture that has oppressed their own ancestors and which their own ancestors did not create. The preservation of the heritage for which I care depends on the future flourishing of the white races.

A battle is likely to ensue in coming decades in which the white peoples, who do not now proliferate in large numbers, and who lack the determination to defend their own cultures, struggle to retain control of significant portions of the earth's surface. Russia and eastern Europe - which have so far shown success in keeping non-white peoples out, where family life has not been fatally damaged, and which will benefit from world patterns of climate change - are likely to become an orderly, prosperous, perhaps slightly dull redoubt of the whites, while the rest of the world, with the exception of the Oriental countries, whose future development is unimaginable to me, contends with stagnation, heat or flood torture and the rule of the gun.

A prospect to comfort my heart? Well, I haven't the slightest interest in the Slav countries and cannot speak their languages. There is no future for me there, and it is difficult to imagine any cultural flowering in those empty lands. It is in any country that speaks my six languages, or in a seventh language that I might learn, that my future, surely, must lie. 

And if it is the culture of Europe, and England, that I care for, I have to acknowledge that Europeans have long lost their instinct for creating things of beauty and that the English in particular have carelessly given up the strength and sense of superiority that once made them great. All the Europeans create now is ugliness, pretension and confusion, and the English are quite finished, doomed to extinction. Should I get sentimental about the decadent fag-end of a culture? Is not perhaps something exciting being created out of the ruins of the various European peoples and their replacement by whatever is to come?

And, when I come to think about it, doesn't it even sometimes occur to me that the whole human race could benefit from being wiped out, so that nature can take a rest and recuperate its control of the earth? I often look around, and have travelled much, and the whole modern world appears to me to consist of only three things: huge shopping centres, to provide the masses with pleasure; equally vast apartment and office blocks to fill their useful time; and the jammed-packed roads that link the two. How indescribably ugly it all is! Such a world could offer no satisfaction to my soul. If the whole hoarding were to go up in flames in some modern twilight of the gods, and I were miraculously to survive, I would  jump into the river like a Rhine Maiden with my recovered gold and swim around in ecstasy.

And, then again, when the huge influx of migrants across the Mediterranean began in the spring of 2015, I was at Rochester, and I used to run naked and sweating around my cell shouting at the television screen: don't rescue these people, you fools, let the boats sink if they come from Africa, or, if they come across the narrow waters of the Aegean, just  shoot to kill on them!

I felt like the Princess Cassandra in her tower as Trojan Horse after Trojan Horse was brought into the city. But were not my reactions hysterical, inhumane and pointless? Was I not myself a sort of international migrant being cared for by the humanitarian English? And if these hopelessly kindly Europeans were to behave almost as ruthlessly as the Nazis had done, would they not have forfeited all claims to have a civilisation worth defending? And if a system of states - as a shorthand we call it "The West" - is weak enough to allow itself to be endlessly invaded by all and sundry, is there anything that can be done for it anyway?

Let's be sensible about it, I finally told myself, and have an eye to the main chance. The migrants are coming mainly through Italy and Greece, and they do not at present hit Portugal and Spain. Your house is in Portugal. Say social breakdown finally hits Europe in the summer of 2017, the third year of the migration, and is mainly concentrated in Italy and Greece, with Germany and France suffering into the bargain, but Britain and the Iberian Peninsula largely exempt. Might that not be exactly the time to sell your house for a good profit to Northern Europeans (or southern Europeans, for that matter), seeking a safe haven?

Be rational, Charlie, look at yourself, you are an elderly gay man and have no children, you are a person of the most varied origins and have no nationality, you are a writer and see that literary culture has no future, you are a total scamp and care little for anyone. If you yourself survive intact and in comfort through the few years that are left, should you not be happy?

And, in the summer of 2016, as it happened, the indications were that the migrant problem was dealt with and contained, that everything would sort itself out in its usual muddled way, that old Europe was canny and powerful enough not fundamentally to be disturbed. And so through pleasure and disquiet, through delight and discontent, that summer was passed, and in the endless journeys that took me to every corner of London and the Home Counties, and to the furthest borders of England, in the relentless and mainly futile researches into the origins of my family, which in recent years have come to obsess and occupy me almost to the exclusion of all else.

Gradually, through several long and complex posts of this blog, I have been revealing what I know of the origins of both my mother and my father, but my knowledge is far from complete, and it may be that the reader is puzzled and sceptical about what I have told him or her, and also confused about the details. So I will just try to summarise now what I have said on these matters, confining myself in this post to the origins of my father, and also to add quite a number of further details which for various reasons did not seem to fit in before. Where I have already given full documentary accounts of certain points I will not repeat them, and the reader will understand that there are certain matters, and certain interviews that I conducted, which I shall not elaborate on at this time. Because of the mystery surrounding my father and paternal grandparents this will be the longest of all my posts (unless the following one, about the background of my mother, surpasses it) and it is likely to be written over many instalments over the years that are to come, with passages of new material interpolated into the existing text. When this happens, I will indicate it and give the date of the interpolation.

The reader may remember that my search for the truth about my relations began a little before Christmas 2002, when a few months after the death of my mother, I visited an elderly female friend of hers who lives in the centre of Lisbon. During the course of my visit this person told me that my paternal grandfather had been of Polish origin, a fact allegedy revealed to her by Mum at around the time of my birth in 1955. This was so, even though my real paternal grandfather was identical to the grandfather I had known in childhood.

This paternal grandfather had the ostensible identity of an Englishman, Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, born in Dover on 1st June 1896. Arthur Ernest Hills Senior was the acknowledged father of the man who had brought me up and whom I had always believed to be my real father, Arthur Ernest Hills Junior. His birth certificate showed him as having been born at Sheerness, Kent, on 6th January 1926, the son of Mary Martin Brown,and she was  shown on her birth certificate as having been born in Edinburgh on 17th September 1899. This Kentish and Scottish ancestry was always confirmed in my childhood by Arthur Ernest Hills Junior as representing his true origins.

During the years that immediately followed the revelation from the woman living in the centre of Lisbon, the story she had told was confirmed by two other old women. One of these was my mother's sister, my one surviving aunt, Eva, an exceptionally taciturn although very talkative person, a devout Jehovah's Witness, who also lives in Lisbon, in a small bungalow a little farther out of the centre than the first woman's flat.

She has known the first old woman for about sixty years, but they are estranged on religious grounds (the first old woman is a devout Catholic), and talk only on the telephone and that rarely. My aunt would say nothing more than confirm that my mother had also told her the story and that she believed it to be true. Since than time Eva has consistently resisted my attempts to find out more about the circumstances of my birth, although she has occasionally let some things drop either by accident or design during the many conversations during which I have tried to draw her out on the subject of my father and grandfather and also my maternal ancestry.

The third old woman, a very old friend of my mother's, lives in north London and has had no contact with the other two for many years. My aunt even denied knowing her, although she herself said this was a lie, and I am absolutely sure it is. Like the other two, she was part of the extended network surrounding my mother at the time of my conception and birth, which consisted largely of youngish Portuguese women who had come to live and work in England for wealthy Jewish families and to meet their often Polish boyfriends and eventual husbands. This third old woman was always more friendly with my mother than with my aunt or with the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon.

Perhaps because of her long English residence, this third woman is a more open and unguarded character than the others, and I find her more sympathetic, although she too can be sharp, and also very reticent at times. Once again she sometimes lets something out very suddenly and then denies it again. I have got very used to this behaviour pattern with all three old women.

Anyway I went to visit the third old woman and her husband, as I had done many times before, at her North London home at some point in the early years of the millennium. Her husband had suffered a stroke and was wheelchair-bound. I greeted them as the very old family friends they were and mentioned to them the story about my mother having said that my father's father was a Pole. While they were together, both of them denied that they had ever heard her tell this story.

My visit drew to an end, and my mother's old friend accompanied me to the door. We stood for a moment outside it and Arthur was out of earshot in his chair in the sitting-room. Suddenly she said, "Actually, you know, Charles, that story your mother told, I do remember it."

I started. "What, the story about my grandfather being a Pole?"

"Yes, I think he might have been a Pole. Or perhaps he was a German."

"And you're not sure which he was?"

"Oh, I hardly know the difference between those two countries, you know. They're a long way away."

And, I thought, that's not true! I said. "But you're sure he was from one or the other?"

"Yes, certainly, one of the two. A Pole maybe. Perhaps a German."

"Are you saying he was more likely to have been a German?"

"Oh, Charles, I don't know. Look, I've got to get back to Arthur. He's so ill."

"Yes he is. OK. Sorry to press you. Lots of love, Leonor."

And she turned away from me, with that sidelong glance, full of affection, that I remember. " I think he was a German. All my love," she said. Give me a kiss."

Leonor, this third more sympathetic and therefore more accurate witness, although still alive, as far as I know, and in her early nineties, is now (as I write in later 2016) in a state of advanced vascular dementia and could suffer no relevant consequences from being named in this blog and would be incapable of answering any further questions about its subject matter. I will therefore reveal her full identity, which I have been unwilling to do before. She is Leonor da Silva Mills and she lives in Winchmore Hill, North London.

For several years in the first decade of the millennium, during which she was in exceptionally good health for a woman of her age, I used often to visit her and used to ask her about the background of my mother and father. On one of these visits, I think before the point arose about whether my grandfather had been Polish or German, she mentioned to me a man whom she knew only by his surname, Hupfleit. He was, she said, an elderly Pole, although his name made him sound more like a German.

He was exceptionally silent, she said, but had known my mother well. After living for many years in England, he had gone with his wife Isaura, who was a close friend of Leonor's, to live in Portugal. As it happened, the name of this Isaura was familiar to me, because my mother had often mentioned her during my childhood. When my mother had arrived from Portugal on the boat Highland Princess on May 29th 1953 it had been Isaura who was waiting for her at Tilbury to show her where she needed to go to find her new employment in Bickley, South London.

But Isaura and my mother were not friends. I gained the impression in childhood that there was something unpleasant about her. My mother had never mentioned the man called Hupfleit who was her husband.

During the years after the initial revelations of the old women, I was preoccupied with the fact that my mother had left her house to the man called Flávio Rosa and with my plans to get him murdered, so I did not really try to follow up the strange story. I had been almost entirely out of touch with Arthur Ernest Hills Junior for almost twenty years, so it was not easily possible to ask him whether there was any truth to the story about his father having been a Pole.

But during the spring of 2004 I became increasingly obsessed with the matter, and I can remember one very long and despairing walk around a far district of West London when I determined to write to Hills. This must have been before Leonor told me that Arthur's father might have been German rather than Polish, because I only wrote to ask him whether his father had been a Pole and did not mention any possible German connection. He wrote back briefly to say that the idea that his father had been Polish was nonsense, and very shortly afterwards he died.

In the spring and summer of 2005 I made my most ambitious journey yet, a three month tour of the Far East and Australia, I had now been in all five continents, and on my return I entered a phase of increasing depression and withdrawal about what seemed the impasse of my life. In December of that year I paid a highly disturbing visit to Altura, the site of my occupied house. On the day that I was due to fly back to London from this visit, Christmas Eve 2005, sitting in a café in the regional Algarvian capital of Faro, I suddenly began to have a series of extremely vivid memories of my childhood which had previously been blocked.

These memories were scenes of my mother and Arthur Ernest Hills engaged in international smuggling across the Channel when I was with them as a child on our continental holidays. I particularly remembered my mother hissing at me, "Whatever you do, son, remember, don't look at the customers!" That was her way of referring to the British customs officers. Then we marched on, with whatever was in my mother's and Arthur's luggage.

On the same day as I remembered their smuggling, during and after the flight back to England, my impressions broadened out into the idea that my mother had originally been of an Italian Jewish background, that on my father's side the background had been connected with the Nazis, and that a network of criminal intrigue had surrounded me from my birth.

Once back in England, my beliefs quickly became more alarming and sensational still, and I intend to describe this whole period of my life in much more detail in a later post. Suffice it to say here that I was quickly diagnosed by the authorities as being in the grip of a psychotic episode, but at least one psychiatrist later doubted whether I had been psychotic, and I myself do not now think that many of the beliefs I held then were untrue. Therefore, while highly disturbed, I was almost certainly not psychotic at that time.

During this period I visited Leonor again, the subject of Hupfleit and Isaura came up, and I believe it was on that occasion that she gave me their phone number in Portugal and encouraged me to ring them up for information about my parents. I seem to remember her saying that she was doubtful whether Isaura would entertain me and that it was highly likely, being such a reserved man, that Hupfleit himself would not answer the phone. But she still thought I ought to try the experiment of phoning them. It was somehow important..

A week or so after this visit, during a late winter afternoon when I was alone in my flat, I put through the call to Portugal. As Leonor had predicted, it was Isaura who answered and, when she knew I was the son of Maria José dos Reis, she became extremely angry that I had called and said that she wondered how I had dared to do it. And very quickly she put the phone down on me. I was shocked and hurt by the violence of her reaction and for some years gave up the idea of contacting this couple.

Anyway, I was fully persuaded quite soon after this by the authorities and my friends, particularly the one called Mark Casserley, that I really had had a psychotic episode, and this new series of what seemed initially more sensible beliefs beliefs quickly led me into extreme depression, which my friends, including the said Mark Casserley, did little to try and alleviate. On 21st July 2006 I attempted to commit suicide, an episode described in a previous post. Recovery from my suicide attempt was to be followed in the late summer and autumn of that year by the resumption of my active plans to murder Flávio and  my arrest on 18th December 2006, which was the beginning of two-and-a-half years in prison.

 I could of course conduct no direct research concerning my family while in prison, but a subtle change came over my attitude to what was possible and likely concerning my ancestry. From the start, there were people surrounding me in the jail, both prisoners and staff, who beelieved I should not have been imprisoned, and once the cons had satisfied themselves that I was not a paedophile, I was soon experiencing an atmosphere of warmth, defiance and community which I had never known before. I was to gain a new self confidence, a sort of roughness of the soul,  from having negotiated the prison experience, which is never again likely to leave me. A process of self-conscious alienation from my four chief friends also began, which has continued with ever-growing momentum in the years since then (although I have continued to remain friendly, at least to a certain extent, with Bill Hicks).

I began to see in jail how often and how widely the truth about human beings differs from the official version that is propagated of them. I lost all respect for authority. And I gained a feeling of comradeship with the rough, compromised and instinctive people with whom I was now surrounded, and who were not as sceptical about my strange account of my own family history as were my liberal and sceptical friends and acquaintances.

So when I emerged on 19th June 2009, this time with a secret plan to leave England again after three or four months, and perhaps not return, it was in a mood of openness and experiment towards my family research. To be sure, I did not initially do much of it. I wanted to enjoy myself in the brief time that was left to me in England. And I still needed to think about those matters. I made many excursions to all parts of the country, visited Scotland for a day, and once again travelled all over London, this time concentrating on the West of the city, that vast, alienating area where my forbears had lived.

I went to see Leonor, on 4th August 2009, I think Arthur, her husband, had already died. She could tell me little more about my family, but it was a strangely happy visit. She gave me a pair of her son Anthony's trousers. He had died early of his diabetes, and had been a slim, taciturn, introspective young man to whom she had been closely attached. She had left him alone in the house when she went to her job as a hairdresser, and he had slipped into a coma.

But I was not long out of prison at that time, where I had lost an enormous amount of weight, and was overjoyed that the trousers fitted me. I have always kept these trousers, and still treasure them, although they have long ceased to fit me, and perhaps they never will again, unless I once again lose a lot of weight during my final illness, or, by some miracle, by another means. Then I will once again take pride in wearing them.

For many years before this visit my mother and I, and then I alone, had always become lost trying to find Leonor's house in the huge warren of of almost identical inter-war streets of houses.. But this time, when I came to go,  Leonor walked me with great strength to what turned out to be the main road only a few hundred yards away, near Winchmore Hill Library. She was a woman in her mid-eighties at that time. I felt liberated and so happy and told her I would always know how to come and see her from now on. But I was never to come to see her with her permission again.

As far as I knew in that summer of 2009, Arthur Ernest Hills was my father, and it must therefore have been his father who had been the German or Pole. Since this grandfather, if he really was German or Polish, had been exceptionally well concealed as an Englishman, the whole thing would have required much money, collaboration and ingenuity to arrange, which in turn would have required a good motive for the deception. And this must surely have been a background in past wrongdoing. And that in turn made it seem likely, because of well-known history,  that he had been a German rather than a Pole. Perhaps he had even been an important Nazi in his time.

But was this melodramatic scenario possible, given the well-attested English and Scottish ancestry of Arthur Ernest Hills Junior? Yes it was, because an atmosphere of mystery surrounded him, and particularly his first seven years, which would have taken him to about the time of the Nazi takeover in 1933. His peculiar background made it seem possible that he, and not some mysterious other German or Pole, had been my real father and that he had arrived in England at about the time of the Nazi takeover as a boy of about seven.

He was a man effectively without family. He sometimes told a sad story of his childhood. When he was seven years old, he said, which would have been around 1932, his family had been broken up by the Poor Law, he said. He had chosen to go with his mother, his elder sister Helen went with her father, and two very small children, Dennis and Sonia, had been simply given away and never heard of again. He sometimes spoke with sadness of the beautiful fair hair of his little sister Sonia. He had no memories of Dennis, who had been given away when he was too small to be remembered. He could remember his auntie Connie and his uncle Fred, who was a coach driver. Fred gave him a toy parrot which he kept almost until the end of his life, when his son Chris Hills destroyed it.

After the family break-up, his mother had taken up with a tall and handsome carpenter called Percy Martin, with whom in 1936 she had another son called Alan, and the family had lived a life of poverty, mainly at various addresses on the western fringes of London, often having to do "moonlit flits" to avoid paying the rent on the various houses they briefly occupied.

At school Arthur was clever, and attended the Chiswick Polytechnic, but the other boys called him "Rat's Tails", he stammered badly, and was never chosen to represent the school or made head boy. Percy Martin had bullied him, he in turn had taken it out on Alan, and there was no money for him to attend further education. Then the Second World War had come, and he found a time of brief happiness and comradeship in the Home Guard.

The sense of national unity engendered by the events of 1940 had also deeply moved him, and Shakespeare and Churchill were his lifelong heroes for personal greatness and literary style. But at some point during the war, he said - according to his own account, on one occasion that I remember, when he was fourteen years old, in 1939  - he had a flaming row with his mother, and after that point he never saw her again.

After the war, he struggled to find a job he could settle in, but was eventually able to start training as an accountant, meanwhile subsisting as a clerk. At some point he ran into his father again on the top of a London bus. Arthur had been sitting on the front seat on the upper deck of the bus. A couple came up the stairs and sat behind him. The conductor came to take Arthur's fare, he stammered a bit, and he also heard the couple talking. Gradually it dawned on him that this was his father with his second wife Winnie, whom he had married bigamously, according to Arthur's account. At the same moment his father realised who he was and said, "Oh, look, it's Arthur!" And after that, he was in intermittent contact with his father, but relations between them were never good.

In the mid-1950s, he said, he met and married my mother, who was from Portugal. They had first met at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand, where my mother was attending a dance with her sister Augusta. The two young women had both recently arrived from their native country and were working as domestic helps with rich Jewish families in London.

Accounts of their courtship from both Arthur and my mother varied strangely. Sometimes Arthur had desperately searching for my mother on the one hand, using great ingenuity to find her, and in other accounts he had not been that much interested in her but they were married, it seemed, at the register office in Hendon on September 11th 1954. There were also in my childhood more vague references to a later church wedding near the house where they lived, at 19, Hornsey Rise, N19, a house belonging to an Italian family called the Maccariellos. They had moved to this house after the Poles who kept the house in Stockwell to which Arthur allegedly took my mother after the register office wedding - 77, Jeffreys Road, London SW4 - threw them out on discovering my mother was pregnant.

When I was nine or ten months old, we moved down to Crawley in Sussex, and in that small yellow terraced house - 104, Brighton Road, Southgate - the marriage between the inadequate, hysterical, fiercely nationalistic and racist man and the passionate, dominating, (and at least to me) fiercely loving foreign woman degenerated into open warfare. The man I hated, the woman I adored. Thus I became a homosexual, a masochist, and a writer.

I remember one incident from my childhood, when I was perhaps eight or nine years old and when we were driving home to Crawley from Leonor's house, which was then in Wood Green, London N22. Suddenly my mother pointed down a road that led more or less towards Highgate, and said, "I was married just up that road."

And I was startled, and asked them both, because Arthur was present, "Why didn't you say, we were married just down that road?" And then they became embarrassed and I think Arthur said, "Oh, it was just a slip of the tongue. Of course, your mother meant to say, we were married just up that road."

I also remember a vague story that my mother told me once or twice in my childhood  that she had met my father when she had been on a tube train, she had got her finger stuck in the door and been in great pain, and my father, who was a total stranger, had come gallantly to her aid, taken her to the hospital, and then gone through huge efforts to contact her again because he so much wanted to marry her. This romantic story was never as much emphasised as the one about the Lyceum Ballroom, and I never remember hearing Arthur refer to it.

And, in the way that children have of simply accepting the facts presented to them, it never occurred to me that this story was not compatible with that of my parents having met at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand. Nor did I reflect that the story of the gallant gentleman did not sound like the snivelling figure of Arthur, who obviously did not love my mother very much. And nor did I notice that the man shown in a large number of photographs marrying my mother did not look exactly like Arthur either, although there was a resemblance.

At the terraced house in Crawley where my unhappy childhood was passed, Arthur Ernest Hills Senior sometimes visited us. He used to come down from London on the 727 Green Line bus which started operating in 1982 and went from Luton to Crawley through the western parts of London. I loved that detail about the bus and often  questioned Arthur and my mother, and presumably my grandfather also, many times about that the old man used to make.

Arthur Ernest Hills Junior once told me that his father lived near South Ealing Tube. Many years later, when I examined his death certificate, I discovered that his recorded address had been 9, Edinburgh Road, W7, which is actually in South Hanwell, near Boston Manor Tube, two stops further down the Piccadilly Line from South Ealing. There is a reason why I give this seemingly insignificant fact, to which I shall return later.

When he visited us, Arthur Senior was not usually accompanied by his wife Winnie, and there may have been a reason for this. Arthur Senior was a great womaniser and Winnie, who was a kindly but no-nonsense elderly English lady, insisted relations in the marriage be strictly platonic. The lecherous old man therefore sought satisfaction elsewhere. During one of his visits he tried to kiss my mother on the mouth. She had disliked him before this, and from that time onwards she hated him, and he was more or less banned from our house.

Since this incident probably took place when I was only about eight or nine years of age, and I never saw him again, I have no specific memories of my paternal grandfather, except that a certain atmosphere of fear and loathing attended his visits.

The man known as Arthur Ernest Hills Senior is recorded as having died at the King Edward General Hospital, Ealing, near his recorded home at 9, Edinburgh Road, W7, of congestive cardiac failure and chronic bronchitis, on 16th February 1968. I think a telegram arrived at our house in Crawley. I remember that my mother, Arthur and myself were standing in the hall, and I remember Arthur saying, "Thank God the old bastard's dead!"

That was a decisive year for him, and one that stands out in a rather sinister light in my own memory. The death of his father in some way released him to begin searching for the mother he had lost contact with so many years before. This quickly became an obsessional search, which in some ways parallels my own search for the truth about my parents and gramdparents.

In every place we went to Arthur would ask if anyone had heard of a Mrs Hills. For some reason, he knew for certain that she would be calling herself that, although her connection with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior had ended more than thirty years before and, as I was later to find out, she was about to marry Percy Martin.

Quite soon after the death of Arthur Senior I remember meeting Arthur Junior's elder sister Helen for the first and last time. They had never got on from earliest childhood, but some piece of important family business necessitated that they should meet. Helen was with her husband and my memories of meeting them are that we were driving them in a car through the further suburbs of West London at night until we dropped them at  a certain tube station, whose stark modernist outline and looming roundel tower I seem to remember. I have a vague feeling that this station might have been Park Royal, because I seem to remember questioning Arthur about the grand name, but it could of course have been Hangar Lane or Alperton or any other of the stations on the Central and Piccadilly lines in that vast and anonymous landscape of outer West London where both my grandmother and my grandfather lived.

Come to think of it Boston Manor Tube, one of the many stations built by Charles Holden - in this case in 1934 - has that sort of modernist tower, and it was near the house where my grandfather had - intermittently it seemed - lived with Winnie. They might have been going to see her after the meeting between themselves. But my memory is of driving along a very crowded main road, which would not be Boston Manor. And I also think that we were driving in towards London rather than out of it, although this of course may be a false memory. That is more likely to make it Park Royal, and, as I will reveal at a later point in this blog, Helen and her husband lived at that time near Bond Street Station, which is on the Central Line, and, although Park Royal is on the Piccadilly, it is very close to Hangar Lane, which is on the Central Line. So I believe the station was Park Royal, although I will never know for certain.

I vaguely remember that there were attempts at a pleasant parting, although Arthur and Helen knew they would never see each other again. And I also believe that Helen had told Arthur that she knew nothing about the possible whereabouts of the woman who was their mother. I think she was lying if she said this.

At some time after that, also in search of information about Arthur's mother, we visited a woman who lived in Gillingham, Kent, who was reputedly my great-aunt and the sister of Arthur Ernest Hills Senior. She was usually known simply as Connie and, as she had married a man called William George Wyatt in 1921, she had the full name of Constance Gladys Wyatt.

(I will just record briefly here that many years later, I visited Connie's grand-daughter Susan Lakeman and her husband Michael, in nearby Chatham, and Susan said that neither her own mother Joyce nor Connie, whom she had known well, had ever mentioned a brother of Connie's called Arthur, and that she herself was of the opinion that such a person had never existed.)

(And another strange fact. The next-door neighbours in South Hanwell had moved into their house in March 1968, which was one month after Arthur Senior supposedly died, and they had known his widow Winnie well, but she had never mentioned her late husband to them, according to their own account, and they had been unaware of the existence of such a person. They were not friendly. Could they have been lying?)

(And a third strange fact, that appears from the electoral rolls. 9, Edinburgh Road had historically been the home of Winnie and her first husband George F. Chaplain, and their names appear on the 1950 roll. Then for a year some people called Wyatt, which is a family name of my relations in Chatham, moved in, and then from 1952, although they had been married in 1950, very soon after the death of George Chaplain, my grandfather and Winifred Hills are recorded. But in the 1952 and 1953 rolls he is listed as Arthur Hill, and only after that by the name he had assumed, Arthur Hills. It is perhaps an understandable mistake, but it suggests at least my grandfather's possible unfamiliarity with an assumed name.)

But, anyway, Connie certainly knew who Arthur Junior was, and made no mistake about his name, and received him, my mother and myself at her house. I remember nothing of the conversation, or of Connie herself. But I remember that, although Connie did not know the whereabouts of his mother, she was able to put him in touch with a couple who lived in Edinburgh whom she believed might have this information.

Accordingly, at some point towards the middle of 1968, I went alone with Arthur by car to Edinburgh for several days and I believe we probably stayed with the couple there. My memories of this visit are very fragmentary, and I have no idea who exactly these people were, although I have the clear impression that they were not relations of ours. Their welcome was very friendly, I remember.

There was one odd thing about them. They lived in a suburb of Edinburgh called Restalrig, and I can remember them making a point of telling me that the name of the place was pronounced with the stress on the second syllable. But in fact it is always pronounced with the stress on the first syllable. To pronounce it with the stress on the second syllable is the way that Germans would naturally pronounce it, and I remember myself, in great surprise at their strange accents, taxing them with my belief that, although they were ostensibly Scottish, the way they spoke, and particularly the way they pronounced the letter "r", demonstrated that they were foreigners.

And they denied this, and the man of the couple, who was a jokey and avuncular type, took me on an excursion to Arthur's Seat, and proved to me that his "r" was typically Scottish by quoting the ditty, "Round and round the radical rock, the radical rascal ran."

Anyway, whether or not this couple were in facts Germans, and whether my whole paternal family were, they knew the address of my grandmother and communicated it to Arthur. He told me at some point that this address was in Acton, West London, and once again I ask the reader to remember, for future reference, that he had told me his father lived near South Ealing Tube when in fact it was near Boston Manor Tube.

I now come to the most painful of all my memories of that year of 1968. Arthur, my mother and myself set out, bearing flowers and other gifts, to the place in West London where my grandmother was living with Percy Martin, although not yet married to him (that came in 1969). My memories, which of course are perfectly capable of being false, are that she lived on the second and top floor of an old Victorian house. Arthur and I went up to her door, carrying the flowers and other gifts, while my mother stayed outside in the car. I remember that we knew for certain that she was in, although how we knew this I do not know. But she did not open the door to us. For many years I believed, which must be a false memory, that we had seen her eye looking at us through the spyhole. This memory is perhaps the most traumatic of my childhood.

Soon after this Arthur began a mad process of going out dancing to meet other women and after a while met a married woman with children called Kathleen Berg, and she became pregnant with his twins, Christopher and Rosemary Hills. She agreed to bear the twins on the condition that it would be he who looked after them as a single parent, and shortly after their birth, in January 1972,  she went back to her husband and her two sons by him and quite shortly thereafter she died.

Arthur left our house without a word in October 1971, in order to prepare a home in Pulborough in Sussex - where he worked as the company secretary of a firm called APV Spiro Gills - for the children who were soon to be born. He left on the very day that I began at a new school, and after a long period when I had hardly been speaking to him and my mother not at all.

When his children were still young, after Kathleen had died, and after my own relations with him had ceased, Arthur married a Pulborough woman called Rosie Rhoder, who had her own four children by a previous marriage. By all accounts, this was the one relationship in which he finally found happiness. When he died in 2004, he destroyed all his personal records, and left almost all his considerable property to his second wife, a small sum to each of the twins, and nothing at all to me.

I attended his funeral, and for two hours after the wake walked on the Pulborough Levels. I remember those hours as among the happiest of my life.

Now I shall approach Arthur's story in a different way, and this is the first of various sections that are lengthy interpolations composed at a later time than the original text, this one written between October 2016 and March 2017, in Portugal and South America. This particular section has come into being in the later part of 2019 and  early part of 2020. I will explain now why and how this time-lag happened.

Shortly before our relations ceased in the early 1980s, Arthur made three sides of tapes for me about his early life, and I listened to them then, after my first release from prison,  rather desultorily, alone in my flat, I listened to those tapes again, now in a much more curious and detached spirit, after coming out of prison for the first time, in the summer of 2009. But at that period I was not able to assess them in any critical fashion.

Many years then passed without my having access to a tape player, but in the later part of 2019 I got access to these three sides of memories again, and my understanding of my whole family history was by then enriched by all the research I had done, and the accounts of the many people I had talked to about my relations. I saw then that these harrowing records, with their many pauses and sudden outbursts of wild music, heavily disfigured by Arthur's stammer - yet with a strange dignity and strength of their own - were also replete with a large number of false statements and contradictionse designed to obfuscate the truth about Arthur's background. I now propose to detail these.

A.E. Hills, the name with which he marked the third side of the tapes, was born, according to his birth certificate and his own unvarying account in my childhood, in Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent. In 1935, his family having broken up, he was there, with his mother and her lover, Percy Martin, but on the tapes he refers to this stay as the first time he had been taken to the town. I know that it must be true that he was in Sheerness at this later time, because from a source that shall remain private I have learned that his younger brother Dennis was adopted when he was three, and Dennis was born in 1932. Arthur's mother would therefore have been alone with her lover and her one remaining child in 1935 and there is no reason why they should not have gone to Sheerness.

Arthur tells one particularly sad story about this time, which I am sure is true in every detail. It was a Friday afternoon in winter, and the family had taken a house about a couple of miles out of Sheerness, beyond the settlement called Halfway Houses. Percy Martin was expected back from London at the railway station with the weekly pay-packet and Arthur and his mother had no money for the bus fare. So they set off walking across the icy plain to the south-east of Sheerness, which seemed to Arthur a terrible walk. When they arrived at Sheerness, he wanted a bag of chips, and his mother spent the last money she had on buying them for him. But then the chips revolted him. He could not eat them.

A.E. Hills said in the tapes that he had no memories at all of his first seven years, and the first memory he recounted was the journey he had made at the age of seven alone by bus from Victoria Coach Station to Edinburgh to stay with relations there just before the time of his family break-up. He much enjoyed the coach journey, which took him through towns like Grantham and Newark on the Old North Road, and he challenged me to work out the date of this trip, by relating it to the date of a certain football match which took place during his stay in Edinburgh. He seemed confident that I would not be able to solve this puzzle.

But he could not have foreseen the Internet, and now I have looked up the details of the match he mentioned. He said it was a game that Hibernians played at home where the score was 1-1. In the 1929-30, 1930-1931, and 1931-32 seasons there were a number of games the fitted the bill. The last one in date was on 3rd October 1931. And in the 1932-33 season there were none.

Yet Victoria Coach Station was only opened on 10th March 1932 and he also always implied that the family break-up, and therefore the coach journey, took place after the birth of his brother Dennis on 23rd February 1932. He also mentioned on the tapes that at one point his sister Helen was with him in Edinburgh, while he is definite that he was alone on the coach journey. And he says that the journey to Victoria Coach Station took place from where the family were living, at Spring Lane near Osterley Tube (no such street in fact exists, it must have been Spring Grove Road or Spring Grove Crescent), and the birth certificates of Sonia and then Dennis show the family living at other addresses in the Hounslow and Isleworth areas, and this once again pushes the date of his initial stay in Edinburgh backwards from 1932 but the coach journey likely in that year.

For that journey was clearly a real memory, and I conclude from all this that there was more than one stay in Edinburgh, and perhaps even several, during the troubled liaison, both emotionally and economically, between the adult couple, who were not in fact a long-established English pair but an Englishman and his German Jewish proxy wife. Arthur was extremely vague on the tapes about how long the Edinburgh stay had been and whether it had extended for six weeks, six months or even several years, and I conclude that the first stay, or stays, took place any time from the end of 1929 to the early part of 1932. Because Arthur remembered his sister Sonia well, and because he knew the coach-driver Fred of the English family, the times in Scotland must have been interspersed with others spent in London or in the Medway area, with the family headed by the Englishman who first bore the identity of Arthur Ernest Hills Senior.

From late 1929 it might have been expedient and possible to send children with Jewish blood and high-ranking Nazi fathers to Britain. Arthur Junior's voice on the tapes showed that he had a definite, slightly whining London accent without any trace of foreign intonation. But I had heard somewhere that children lost their original language entirely if they came to another country before the age of eight. So, say the first visit to Edinburgh took place in early 1930 and Arthur really was about seven at the time. That would place his date of birth in about 1922, not 6th January 1925, when the original holder of his identity was born.

On the tapes, Arthur said that he had recently gone to Sheerness to look at the house where he had been born. This is the one time on the tapes that he gives an absolutely definite address, and characteristically it was a false one. He says that he had had been born at 154, Mile Town, but that he had been unable to find it because he was looking on the High Street and in fact Mile Town is a long road that runs towards the naval dockyard. But in fact his birth certificate shows him as having been born at 195, High Street, Mile Town, and this is an house situated in  the continuation of the High Street that runs through the district called  Mile Town and going towards the Halfway Houses, in the entirely opposite direction than that towards the naval dockyard. I rather wonder whether Arthur ever made the said visit to Sheerness. His geography of the place is all awry. And he was a great liar.

Arthur says on the tapes that his stammer took hold during the time that his mother was away from the family, the rest of which continued to live near Osterley tube (I shall return to his mother's  re-appearance at the house towards the end of this post). He then says that for six months at some point in the succeeding years (again there is great vagueness about dates) he was sent to a "health place" near Godalming in Surrey, and he says he thinks this was because his mother and Percy Martin had become concerned about his stammer and thought a general boost to his health might improve his speech.

But he then goes on to say that while at the sanatorium he asked for three Christmas presents: a copy of The Three Musketeers, a torch to read it by, and another present that he had forgotten. He says with resentment that his mother and Percy made a terrible fuss about the cost of these modest presents, and by all accounts of them, which I shall come to later, they were almost pathologically mean. The cost of the presents must infinitely have been outweighed by that of the six-month stay at the "health place". And how could Percy Martin, a simple carpenter, and an unskilled woman with children, even if they had had a mind to pay for it, have afforded such a place, at the height of the depression? And the state or the local authority would not have paid for it in those years. Money from another source must surely have been forthcoming to help Arthur in this way, but he gives no hint of what this source was on the tapes.

In the later 1930s the family of four - Percy Martin, my grandmother, Arthur and his half-brother Alan - moved into a house which they were to occupy for some years, until the quarrel that Arthur had with his mother led to their lifelong separation. This house was in Shepperton (Arthur said Sunbury on the tapes, but it is very near Shepperton Station) and on the second side of the tapes he said that it was No 10 but might have been either Charlton Road or Charlton Lane. On the third side, which I discovered some time after the first two when I listened to the tapes most recently, he said confidently that it was 10, Charlton Lane. I was delighted, because it meant I could now visit the house with a definite address.

But I should have known my Arthur Ernest Hills Junior by now. Some time ago I joined a Jewish genealogical website called MyHeritage which allows you to build up your own family tree, but I am not expert enough with computers to be able to do this, and when I initially joined the site, with the help of others, I gave Arthur as my father because I believed him to be such at the time. My membership of the site remained dormant for some years, but more recently they have started sending me offers and information, and the latter relates to Arthur, so they must know him to have been a Jew. One piece of information recently was about his address at the time of the 1939 register (curiously, I had not been able to find the entry when I looked myself, at a previous date) and, sure enough, Arthur had been living at 10, Charlton Road (now 10, Old Charlton Road), not 10, Charlton Lane, so once again I was confirmed in my knowledge that, given the choice, he would always tell me a lie.

However, I was able to visit the house on a hot day in the summer of 2019, and I stood outside for the short time that I felt able to bear it, and offered up a brief prayer to my putative father's fractious ghost. I also enjoyed the calm of Shepperton High Street, along which the alert pensioners parade all day to their favourite shops, but away from this oasis the quiet place of the 1930s has been cut to pieces by the M3 motorway and countless feeder roads, so my visit turned into something of a via dolorosa as I tried to negotiate the short distance (as the crow flies) to Upper Halliford Station.

But enough remains of the now inaccessible countryside to suggest the charm it once possessed, and on the tapes Arthur offers the curiously evocative information that his mother and Percy Martin used sometimes to go up to the fair on the common by Spelthorne, "because that was the sort of entertainment that they liked". How tranquil must have been the road along which they walked with their own son Alan, because sullen Arthur did not accompany them!

An obvious and egregious falsehood appears on the third side of the strange mixture of agony and calculation that are the tapes. Describing this life during the war years, Arthur says that, having passed out of the Home Guard, on 6th January 1943 he volunteered for the regular army and was accepted. He adds sarcastically (the tapes are addressed to me throughout),  "that it will not acquire the full powers of your considerable acumen to work out that I had reached the age of eighteen on that date." He was forgetting that he had many times told me in my childhood that he had simply been in the Home Guard and never reached the army.

Why did Arthur lie about having been in the army? I think it was because he wanted to attribute his account of the break-up with his mother and the renewal of relations with his father to the war years, which obviously would make it impossible for his father to have been an ex-Nazi who reached England after the war. I believe his account of his troubled later relations with his family to be substantially true, but that these events took place in the immediate post-war period rather than during the war.

He says that by some means he re-opened contact with his sister Helen, who by that time was a rising star as a mental health nurse at St Bernard's Hospital, Ealing, and through her he  met his father again. He says the latter event happened towards the end of the war, in 1943 or 1944.  He says that he did not go back to his mother's home during one of his leaves and went to stay with his father, and hiss mother said, "I knew this would happen." Arthur was extremely right-wing in later years, and his attitude to Nazism, as I remember it, was ambivalent, even though he so revered Churchill. These attitudes were perhaps growing as Britain turned so decisively left during the war and after it. He could perhaps not resist seeing what he could gain from a father who had been a prominent National Socialist.

He says that his father and Helen were at the living in a flat above some shops in Hanwell. He then says that some time shortly after that his mother, Percy Martin and Alan passed out of his life. After the end of the leave he did not go back to stay with his father, and this led to him losing contact with his father and Helen also. Some years after that there then followed the chance encounter with his father and Winnie on the top of the London bus. This he initially attributed to the later 1940s, but then he relocated it to the early 1950s, perhaps because he realised that I might one day check the marriage certificate which showed he had been married to Winnie in 1950.

I will seek to show later in this post that his father, the Nazi, only appeared in England after the war, at some date before August 1946. The address at which he then lived, details of which I shall discuss in great detail later in the post, was 21, Bordars Walk, W7, which is in North Hanwell, and this may therefore have been the address at which he briefly went to live, or it might have been a later address in the same area, details of which are unrecorded. The latter, I think, is more likely, because there are unlikely to have been shops in the insalubrious Bordars Walk. Just round the corner, though, at the corner of Bordars Road with Greenford Avenue are some quite prosperous shops and perhaps the newly reunited family had managed to establish themselves there.

If all this is so, then the fatal quarrel with his mother took place after the war, and not during it, as he had always said during my childhood. I had always understood that the quarrel had been terrible, and I would have given the earth over many years to know what it was about. He was always utterly reticent about this matter. Now I feel almost sure that the quarrel must have been precisely because he had gone to his father, which his mother, who was a Jewess, could not accept.

That quarrel caused Arthur all the later anguish I so well remember. He refers on the tapes to the time we tried to visit his mother in 1968, and says, with his usual understatement, but most touchingly, "I would have liked my mother to meet her grandson Charles."

The greatest vagueness on the tapes concerns the dates of birth and death of Arthur's father, and since he discussed this in the context of re-opening contact with his father and the fatal quarrel with his mother, I believe his supposed uncertainty was to help him in that process of obfuscation, or perhaps because his father's real date of death was uncertain. He says, when referring to his alleged meeting with his father around 1944 that the old man had been born in about 1905, so he would have been about forty at the time. But then, thinking again, he says that he thinks his father died around 1960, and at that time his age was sixty-nine, so that placed his date of birth of fifteen years further back, in about 1890. When Arthur made the tapes for me, we were towards the end of our relationship, and my childhood was long over, and he may well have forgotten that I had known my grandfather when I was young and had been particularly interested in the fact that he came down to see us on the 727 Green Line Bus, a service which I was to discover many years later from the Internet had only begun in 1962. There were several periodic visits, and I therefore knew for certain that my grandfather had lived until about 1963. Arthur may also have forgotten the shocking remark he had made on learning of Arthur Senior's death, which I have already related. And he surely should have anticipated that one day I would look up the death certificate which shows my grandfather as dying in 1968 at the age of seventy-one, a possible circumstance to which I shall return in detail later. The certificate, and Arthur's reaction, are both strong indications that Arthur Senior died in 1968. But, as I shall later discuss, they are not proof positive.

There are two further huge discrepancies in Arthur's tapes, which relate to the period in 1954 and 1955 when he is recorded as having married my mother, but I will come to these in a more appropriate place, when I talk of what relation Arthur and my father bore to each other.

I want to mention at this point a series of memories that date mainly from 2014, from my two clandestine visits to England. I became friendly during the first of these visits with a gay writer whom I had known slightly for many years. He is the tenant of a north London council flat and lives there with a younger, more masculine and very bored and sleepy partner.  This partner works as an archivist and pays all the bills for their accommodation, and the shambling, humble writer is touchingly grateful to his lodger, who has granted him sex on three occasions.

The unprepossessing couple once used to offer dinner to many smart and literary people but none of these snooty persons returned their invitations. So during the winter I first clandestinely came to London they were eager to welcome yet another potential friend and the archivist undertook to help me with my family research without charge. I was initially delighted by my relationship with them, and they gave me a lot of presents during a particularly happy initial visit to their flat, on 5th January 2014.

However, soon they were trying far too hard to press a mobile phone on me and over a long period would not take no for an answer, and the writer even once suggested that it was my social duty to possess a mobile. My liking for them soon cooled, and the causes of dissension have become many more than just telecommunications, over many fractious encounters. But I have continued to accept the help of the writer in various areas and am still just about on terms with him. If we met by chance, we would certainly speak.

The archivist had been able to unearth quite a lot of family material for me, mainly on quite peripheral matters. But I soon gained the impression that he was not really trying to help me but rather to cast doubt on the discoveries I was making. The pair had offered me their friendship at a date very soon after I had discovered that my mother had never legally been a British citizen (I found this out on 31st December 2013 when I visited the National Archives), but had been using the identity for her naturalisation application of a woman born in Berlin in 1919, a person to whom I shall return in detail later. I therefore think it is possible that this couple (or perhaps just the archivist) had been commissioned to befriend me in order deliberately to mislead me about my family history.

One evening, early in our friendship, we were in the flat the couple share. The writer had briefly gone out, and the archivist and I had been drinking quite heavily. He suddenly told me of a case he had heard of where a group of Nazis had murdered an entire British family and assumed their identities, and I also believe it was on the same occasion - a moment of intimacy between two people who disliked and distrusted each other - that he warned me that, if I ever got too close to the truth about my grandfather, someone might try to kill me as well.

I was too drunk and wild at the time to question him much about either of these extraordinary statements, but on a later occasion I returned to the first one, and asked him where he had heard this story. He said that he had no memory of where he had heard it, and this seemed extraordinary and indeed incredible in an archivist. But I did not follow the matter up on that occasion. Certainly, however, if a group of Nazis had achieved such a thing, they must have had the co-operation of people at a high level in the British establishment, so they themselves would have been important rather than insignificant Nazis.

Later the left-wing writer and archivist, full of anxiety for prison details, came to visit me in Rochester, which would have been some time in 2015, and at a certain point the writer went to the toilet, a frequent habit of his, as he suffers from fearsome trouble of the prostrate. I then challenged the archivist with how strange it was he should not remember the source of the extraordinary story. He still said he could not remember where he had heard it, but he added one further detail, just before the wryly smiling writer emerged from the loo: this assumption of identity by the Nazis had taken place before the end of the Second World War, not after it.

Now since I suspect the archivist of deliberately seeking to misinform me, it makes sense to assume that any gratuitously offered piece of information is likely to be the total reverse of the truth. I shall be returning to this point later when I discuss the possible whereabouts of my grandfather in the late 1930s, the earlier part of the 1940s and the immediate post-war period.

Anyway, in that summer of 2009, I knew nothing of these matters, and almost nothing of this couple, and was preparing to leave England without telling anyone that I was going. In particular I looked forward to asking the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon more about the identity of my paternal grandfather. The Jewish Chaplain at Lowdham Grange, whom I had contacted during the difficult time I spent at that prison, and who very reluctantly dealt with me, had said that this woman was surely the clue to finding out more about the mystery.

But, when I reached Lisbon, she said that she had told me all she knew. Nor was my aunt any more forthcoming. They were not pleased to see me and were horrified that I had skipped my licence and was therefore on the run. But I was now about to take possession of my house in the Algarve, which had been stolen from me, an event which took place on 13th November 2009, the very day that my licence was revoked in England and I was recalled to prison.

But the authorities in Britain had now no easy and cheap way of carrying out their threat, and even less so when five weeks later, on 18th December 2009  - as it happened the very date the police raided my flat in Clapham, which was in the process of being sold under power of attorney by my friend Bill Hicks - I took off on the first of my extensive grand tours of Europe.

This first tour was to occupy me until the following July and would broaden my cultural appreciation of many countries (I visited seven during the first tour, eight if you count the Principality of Monaco), and most particularly Italy, which I hoped to love and perhaps to make my eventual home. I initially did love it. But, of course, the constant travel and visiting of monuments left me little time to think about my family background, and nor was I that worried by the English police, or what might be happening at my house in Portugal, or anything else really. I just wanted to live.

But while I was in Vienna in that snowy February, where I was mainly following up my interest in the Lieder composer Hugo Wolf, and where Bill confirmed to me by telephone one blindingly white and dark night on the Ringstrasse that my flat was finally gone, I became desperate suddenly to know whether my paternal grandfather had been the top Nazi I imagined.

There was no obvious way that I could immediately find out the slightest detail about it, and I was not in England or Scotland to try to contact whatever surviving witnesses might still remain, but I did quickly join a website which allowed people to trace their ancestry by contacting matches based on the details that appeared on birth, marriage and death certificates. Since I was by no means certain that such documents could give any true information about my paternal ancestry, the enterprise seems rather a doomed one from the start. And I soon grew annoyed by the welter of possible matches who clearly had nothing to do with me and who rarely responded in any helpful or coherent way to what emails I sent them.

But this website did employ as a guest expert a well-known genealogical writer called Anthony Adolph. I soon sent him a message with the news that my grandfather had perhaps been Polish (I did not emphasise the possible German connection) and asking him what the likelihood was that this story could be true.

He wrote back at first very cautiously and politely, and I was certainly impressed with his considerable credentials, and believed, perhaps rather naively, that he could work wonders of research which would soon unearth the truth about what I now firmly believed to be my hidden Nazi background.

By the summer I was back in Portugal, and the six-month free introductory subscription offered by the website was due to expire. I still had plenty of money from the sale of my London flat, and decided to drop the website, which seemed to me utterly useless, and instead employ Mr Adolph to conduct enquiries into the possible background of my paternal grandparents.

He accepted willingly, and began with a general look at the ostensible antecedents of Arthur Ernest Hills in Kent. He was soon able to trace a detailed ancestry back to a shepherd of Westwell in the mid-nineteenth century, and quickly came to the conclusion that these were the true origins of my family and that the stories of the three old women were nothing but old wives' tales.

When it became clear that I was refusing to accept the incontrovertible truth he believed he had discovered, our relations turned from friendly to quite fraught. After some while, he even cited to me the principle of Occam's Razor, whereby you should be content with a simple, likely and logically powerful explanation rather than seeking far-fetched and implausible solutions to any problem. I bottled up the sense of insult I felt.

I also resented the implied aspersion on the veracity of my informants, whom I knew to be women of strength of character, shrewdness and good sense. They were usually very unforthcoming with information rather than, as Adolph implied, keen to spread false stories. As to myself, I believed that I always tried to keep my own wish to be really an entire European rather than partly English within reasonable bounds.

Anyway, Mr Adolph also persuaded me to employ the American genetic research firm Family Tree DNA to do a full genetic profile and, while I went on my second grand tour - which took me through the rural heart of France in the sunny October of 2010, and then to a slightly alienating Tuscany and Umbria in the wet November - the geeks did their work with the swabs I had provided from my mouth.

The results arrived by email towards Christmas when I was back in gloomy Altura, and they initially upset me very much. I hardly understood them at all, and did not see what possible relevance any of these arcane formulas could have to the family mysteries I was so keen to resolve. I have described these results in full in a previous post, so I will not repeat them again here, but in brief they showed that my paternal ancestry must lie either in England or at the western end of the North German Plain, and there was nothing to show which of the two it was more likely to be.

The relationship between myself and Mr Adolph largely took the form of a highly barbed although ostensibly courteous exchange of emails and occasional phone-calls, and and after the DNA results these continued with ever greater intensity, while he tried to show that the English ancestry was overwhelmingly more likely to be correct, while I desperately insisted that a father and grandfather from the North German Plain remained at least a possibility.

Mr Adolph appeared to have one trump card clinching his argument. On the line that led through the endless chain of fathers, I had six matches, all of them pretty remote, and one of them had the name of Andy Hills.

Mr Adolph immediately seized on this as absolute proof that the Kentish Hills family was my real ancestral line. I obediently followed his suggestion that I should email Andy Hills, who went under the rather strange email identity of "ktbrocks". But I received no answer on two or three occasions to my emails.

I used the putative Andy's failure to answer to point out to Mr Adolph that we knew nothing about this person or whether that was even the real name of the match. Some time later Mr Adolph used his connections with Family Tree DNA to obtain the address of the suppose Hills, which turned out to be in Great Broughton in Cumbria. He offered to write to him on my behalf. But Andy Hills also did not answer Mr Adolph's letter.

I will now insert an account of a series of events that took place this summer, which is the summer of 2016. I decided to go to Cumbria to beard Andy Hills in person. I would knock on his door! On 6th September 2016 I took the train northward to Carlisle - leaving the hostel without seeking the permission they required - and on arrival there lunched well at an Italian restaurant, bought a fine book at a huge secondhand bookshop, and took the bus to the picturesque town of Cockermouth, where I checked into an excellent hotel for three nights.

The following day I took the bus to the seaside town of Workington, where the electoral registers for the area covering the Broughtons are kept. A kindly woman looked up the recent registers for the address I gave. An Andy Hills did not live at that address, which was in Little Broughton rather than Great Broughton, but there was a woman who did. I shall not give her name. The official at the council office looked back for several years and there was no record of an Andy Hills at the relevant address, or at any other in the electoral area.

The afternoon after that I went round to the address. A pleasant and entirely typical Cumbrian lady, the registered owner of the house, answered the door. She told me she knew nothing of any Andy Hills and that she herself had been living at the house since 2008, a statement there was absolutely no reason to doubt. Previously the house had been rented to a series of short-term tenants and she suggested that perhaps Andy Hills had been one of those.

We politely took our leave of each other, and I went on my way rejoicing that, so many years after our initial difference of opinion, I had proved Mr Adolph wrong. And I returned to London and told the authorities at the hostel that I had been visiting an elderly, sick relation in Scotland. Now back to the main narration, largely part of the original text.

After so much travelling, I set aside the year 2011 as one to live largely in the Algarve, and I overcame the loneliness I always feel here in various ways, partly by drinking too much, and partly by listening to a lot of music and leafing through endless books as I quaffed the said drink, and partly by beginning this blog, on 13th January 2011.

One theme that runs through it is the problematic relation that I have with England, to whose culture and national identity I am committed, but the people of which alienate me because I am not connected to them by blood and because their elite seems to prefer as members of British society people from the Third World rather than either the English working class or the European immigrants who are their cousins.

Through the spring and early summer of 2011, I managed to visit, as far as I know,  every English secondhand bookshop in the Portuguese province, however remote and by finally bullying a recalcitrant couple into allowing me access to their hidden cache of books I was able to bring my score to to twelve secondhand outlets. I also attended during the year almost every lecture of the very British Algarve History Association, and those I missed - except for one on Perkin Warbeck- I got the lecturer to give me a private presentation of. And I spent much time seeking out good cafés and restaurants in places hard to reach by public transport. I was almost happy with all this.

By the time, in late March 2011, that I was subjected to the journalistic attentions of Len Port, a large, bluff, northern Irishman who is the senior English-language journalist in the Algarve, I had again become very fat, a fact remarked upon by Port, no skeleton himself, in his mildly disparaging account of me. Port, whom I liked initially, and who certainly stood me a good alcoholic lunch in Altura, I grew to understand better on acquaintance. He is one of the many Northern Irish Protestants who have gone over to Irish Republicanism and associated radical, anti-British and anti-Christian causes. Although he speaks no Portuguese, he claims to be an expert on Portugal, and sucks up insistently to that small, enigmatic and misleading country. He was no more equipped to understand me than the Portuguese,  and contented himself easily with the idea that I was "a writer troubled by love".

But I struggled on through all misunderstandings, and in the summer went on my third grand tour (to Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy). And in these countries I continued to live too well, and I spent my fifty-sixth birthday in the overwhelming heat of Rome, near the pyramid-tomb of Caius Cestius, with a Peroni, and seated on a pub-style outside wooden seat. And after a while I strolled over to an impromptu bookstall I could see, and there picked up a slightly stained copy of Denis Nineham's commentary on the Gospel of St Mark for one Euro. And I resumed my previous position with the remains of the Peroni and now the book, and sitting on for some hours, with an evening bar and a hotel room to go to, I thought the road might now be pleasant until death.

Naturally, once again, I made little progress with my researches into my paternal ancestry during this sybaritic time, although I continued to use the expensive services of Mr Adolph and Family Tree DNA. But I was also employing a competent researcher to look into my Portuguese ancestry, Dr Marta Páscoa Teixeira, and although she was equally as eager as Mr Adolph to confine my ancestry to the country of my ostensible origin, my relations with her were more sympathetic than those with him.

Now the reader may remember the elderly couple I mentioned, who had gone to live in Portugal, Isaura and Hupfleit, who had known my mother well, and the fact that Leonor had given me their phone number, which was a landline. I had lost it by 2011, but I phoned Leonor again, and once more she gave it to me. For a while I did nothing at all with the number. I certainly did not ring it again to get Isaura's angry voice.

I did research one thing, though. Just as with an English phone number (until recently), the digits that immediately follow the country code in Portugal necessarily indicate geographic location. And quite early in that somnolent year of 2011, I  got Dr Teixeira to research which area this was in the case of Isaura and Hupfleit., It turned out to be a  remote region of northern Portugal which for the present shall remain nameless.

Now, getting bored and lonely again in late October 2011, having stayed in Altura for over a month, I set off on a mini-grand tour of those northern regions. I visited two historic cities with pleasure, and the third place at which I arrived was the region where Isaura and Hupfleit lived. It was 1st November 2011, and on this wet and gloomy early afternoon, I was in the chief, but quite small, town of the dreamy semi-rural area. I had  travelled from the smaller place where I was staying by taxi. The taxi was to pick me up again at six.

First I went to a café. There, on paying for my coffee, I got the waiter to list as many as possible of the various places in that region and wrote them down. Then I wandered round that places looking for phone boxes from which to phone Leonor. But the first two I discovered were not working and a second cafe I tried refused to let me use their telephone. It was getting on for six, and quite dark, when I finally found a phone box that worked, and phoned my chief source.

She answered quickly, I told her where I was, and she realised immediately that it was the region where Isaura and Hupfleit lived. I sensed that she was both very frightened at the idea of my going to see them but that she also wanted this to happen. I began listing the names of towns and villages that the waiter had given me."Is it this one where they live?" I would say, and she would say "No.". "Is it that one?" I would say, and again she would say, "No." Finally I named a certain place, and she said, "Yes, that's it!"

I said, "That's the place, is it?" and she said, "No, that's not it." But I was already used to her habit, shared by the two other old women, of letting something out and then denying it afterwards. "You've already told me, Leonor," I said. "Thank you very much."

She begged me not to tell Isaura that it was through her that I had found out the town where the couple lived, and I agreed that I would concoct some story. I thanked her again, put down the phone, and ran for the taxi.

I let two days pass before planning the journey from the place I was staying in to the one where Isaura and Hupfleit lived. There was an extremely early bus that went there and then a school bus at a slightly more civilised hour. I could not face the journey on the very early bus, and in Altura they let adults travel on the school bus. So I assumed the same would apply here. But when I tried to board the school bus, perhaps I looked too anxious and nervous, or was not well dressed enough, because the driver refused me.

 So I set off cheerfully to walk to the small town. It was fourteen kilometres but I reckoned I had all day. At a certain point I turned on to smaller road where I  thought I might get a lift. Quite soon a lorry picked me up. The driver was friendly but there was a very high step to the passenger seat. The driver helped me but from the first I was dreading the jump down.

The lorry driver dropped me, as it turned out, very close indeed to where Isaura and Hupfleit lived. I didn't know it, though, as my lorry driver friend said his cheerful goodbye. We were on the outskirts of the small town, by a bridge over a small stream, and just before a roundabout at the outskirts of the town proper. I did not dare ask him to help me. I felt I had to show him that I could do it myself. And, as I went, I held on to the handle of the door a little too long and suffered a wrenching pain to my left upper arm on that day of 4th November 2011 which would trouble me badly for months and whose effects will never quite leave me.

It was now about nine o´clock in the morning and the small town would soon be coming to what life it knew. I crossed the bridge over the stagnant stream, went around the roundabout, and began to ascend an old street that led upwards into the town.

Very soon I came to a small paper shop which was kept by an old woman who turned out to be called Dona Helena ("Dona" is the rough Portuguese equivalent of "Mrs"). I engaged her in my still halting Portuguese and it turned out she knew Isaura and Hupfleit well. Isaura was one of her customers and sometimes came to the shop, although Hupfleit never went out. Their address was in a block of flats which was quite near and back in the direction from which I had come. But, although the old woman knew exactly where it was, she did not know the details of the address and could not describe it to me clearly enough for me to find it.

She suggested I go to the post office to be told their address. But it would not have opened yet, and anyway I needed to buy a present for the couple. At a small gift shop I found a beautiful figure of an elephant for fourteen Euros and the woman in the shop performed the elaborate and efficient wrapping in which the Portuguese are so skilled.

Then I think I stopped to have a coffee and soon afterwards the post office was open. I approached the man at the desk and said I was looking for some very old friends of my mother's, an elderly Portuguese woman called Isaura married to a German or Pole called Hupfleit. He obviously knew exactly whom I meant (there surely could only be one such couple in that small town). But he said he had to go into the interior office to ask their permission to divulge the information. I waited for five minutes in some anxiety. But then he returned, and  wrote down their address.

The morning was now getting on, but I needed to do one more thing before I could approach Isaura and Hupfleit. I was privately sure that Hupfleit was more likely to be a German than a Pole. The name sounded more German than Polish and always had done, and the connections that I was uncovering pointed in that direction.

Now if Hupfleit were a German passing as a Pole, that meant he was also an ex-Nazi, although he himself could only have been a young soldier at the time. of Nazi rule. I could speak German passably but I had forgotten a number of words. I planned to speak to Hupfleit in German to discover for certain whether this was his language, and I planned to tell him that I knew he had been in hiding all his life but that I did not blame him for this. But I had forgotten the German for "to hide". I also wanted to say that I was trying to find out the identity of my grandfather, and I had even forgotten the German for "grandfather"!

So I had to locate the public library in that small town to look these words up in a German dictionary. I found it without too much difficulty, and discovered that "to hide" was "sich verstecken" amd that of course "grandfather" translated as "Grossvater". How could I have forgotten that! Walking around the library, I prepared the speech I would deliver to the ageing Nazi. And I also rested for a while in that quiet place  and looked up some matters of general interest. It had already been a long and complex day even though we were only at the later morning.

Finally I was ready to set out. I had no mobile telephone and could not warn my intended hosts that I was coming, so I decided to return to the paper shop and get Dona Helena to phone them. I figured that Isaura would hardly be able to refuse me entrance if the old woman, who knew her well, was aware of how far I had come and what trouble I had taken.

Dona Helena, still alone in the shop, was understanding, and willing to help me. She phoned, and Isaura answered. I seem to remember that the old woman introduced me and then put me on the phone. I said that I was only a few hundred yards away from them and would love to meet them and hear about the old days and anything they could tell me about my parents. Isaura said I could come over straight away.

So I negotiated the roundabout again and crossed the bridge over the stagnant stream. The block of flats where they lived was only a bit beyond that. They lived on the ground floor, I am not going to say whether in the right-hand or left-hand flat.

That caused a bit of difficulty, as it happened. There were no name plates for the two ground-floor flats at the main door and I am not good with right and left. So I pressed the wrong bell and the neighbour answered. This brought the elderly and still quite smart figure of Isaura to the door, so a bit of slight kerfuffle ensued at the first moment I met her.

Isaura and Hupfleit received me very kindly that day. She ushered me into their very tidy flat and the ancient but still slim and erect figure of Mr Hupfleit rose from his chair to greet me. They were absolutely delighted with the present of the elephant and quickly found room for it on their crowded mantelpiece. They both spoke quite good English and said I should speak in that language. Once of the first things I asked Mr Hupfleit was what his Christian name was, and with a smile he said it was Michael. I feel almost sure that this was true.

I had better go no further without confessing a rather shameful secret. Some years before, Christopher Hills, the son of Arthur Ernest Hills Junior by Kathleen Berg, had given me a very old and not efficient tape-recorder with a tape inside it. When I left England in 2009, despite my deep fear of technology, I had brought this tape-recorder with me thinking that one day there would be a person or persons I might meet whom I should secretly tape.

I had brought the tape recorder to their flat and had it in a blue bag I was carrying in which I think the elephant had also been. After a while, I was sitting on the Hupfleits' sofa and Isaura went out, perhaps to make some coffee or tea. Rather clumsily, just before she entered the room again, I set the tape going and, believing Michael had not seen me, put it on a ledge under a table beside me on the sofa.

After we had gone through the preliminaries of introducing ourselves, and Isaura had regretted the fact that I was so very fat, the first thing she wanted to know was how I had found their address. I had my story ready. I said that in the chief town of the district, the one from which I had phoned Leonor, I had gone into a café and the person serving me at the bar had known them. He had not had the exact address, I said, but he knew the town. From then on I told the story exactly as it had happened.

I now want to relate a strange thing. When I told this story, Isaura was astonished, and she instinctively exclaimed "Mamma Mia!" Now Isaura is to all intents and purposes a Portuguese, but this is a typically Italian expression, and no Portuguese would ever use it, and certainly not instinctively. (The word "mama" in Portuguese means "breast", as it happens.) So I  immediately challenged Isaura with my new belief that she was really an Italian, not a Portuguese, and began to address her in the Italian language.

She refused to answer in it, however, and kept on returning to the question of the man who had known her and her husband. Which was the café, she demanded, and what had the man been like? I could remember only that he had been a man and that it had been an entirely typical Portuguese café in a quarter of the town I could not locate exactly. That didn't help her very much.

She now proposed that we should ring Leonor and tell her the good news that I was with them. As usual, Leonor answered the phone immediately, and after a moment Isaura passed me on to her. I told her the story of how I had met the man in the café and how, surprisingly, he had known in which town Isaura and Michael lived. She silently absorbed this information, and when Isaura resumed the phone the two of them wondered over the strangeness of it.

I think I told Leonor at this time that Hupfleit's Christian name was Michael, a fact she had never known. (I have to record here that she had several times mentioned to me in London a person who had formed part of the social circle surrounding my mother called Oscar (perhaps spelt Oskar), and this of course raises the possibility that Hupfleit´s Christian name was not Michael. But I believe that it was. It is possible that Oskar was yet another nom de guerre, indeed of someone else.)

When Isaura was out of the room, I immediately engaged Michael in German. As I have mentioned, he was a notoriously silent man. He did not answer me in any connected way in that language. He simply said again and again "Ja", and this word was to recur many times throughout the day when he spoke to his wife, otherwise entirely in English.

He obviously understood every word I said, however, and seemed pleased that I did not in any way blame him for having fought in the war on the German side and for having had to go into hiding for the rest of his life. It obviously helped that they knew about my prison career and that I myself was currently on the run. And at a certain point he told me spontaneously that he had fought in Italy, the second fact he gave me about himself.

And Leonor told me once (I have forgotten exactly when) that it was in the German army that he had fought. And he looked every inch like a former German soldier from the Second World War. I personally have not the slightest doubt that he was a German not a Pole. At a certain point, he said that it was his mother who had been Polish, and I think this is possibly true, or perhaps true in a way, because those borders changed many times. This was the third and last thing he told me about himself.

Soon after that conversation alone with him, Mr Hupfleit excused himself for a while, and I was told by Isaura that he had a workshop in the basement (their flat was a maisonette) and, having been an electronics engineer by profession, and a most practical man, he was in the habit of repairing there quite often during the day to occupy and amuse himself.

I thus entered into extensive conversation with Isaura alone in their sitting room and we now got on surprisingly well. It is her loud, confident and insistent voice that appeared mostly on the tape I was secretly making, and the low and feeble voice of Mr Hupfleit, very occasionally uttering a connected sentence, featured only once or twice. Isaura answered none of the few questions I put about my parents, and implied she had barely known them. But she showed me with pride the visiting card of the boat in which she herself had come to England, at a somewhat earlier date than my mother, with its full list of mainly Portuguese passengers.

During her long years in Britain she had worked at once of the palaces of the Royal Family and she was able to tell me - as my mother, who had been a silver service waitress at several quite grand establishments, had also done - a delicious story about Prince Andrew. Isaura had conservative views, and a pattern of  ideas which might well be considered snobbish and racist, but then so did I, so that was no barrier. We both of us had a low opinion of the Portuguese, and enjoyed ourselves quite a lot slagging them off.

The pair gave me a delicious lunch, said that I was welcome to stay with them all the afternoon, and, as the last bus would surely have gone before I would be leaving, Isaura undertook, and her husband agreed, that they would pay for my return by taxi. As the afternoon went on, our talk continued pleasant, but I learnt nothing more than the facts that I have already related.

In the middle of the afternoon Isaura proposed that Mr Hupfleit should take me downstairs to see his basement workshop while she herself took a rest. I went with him gladly, because I was getting a little exhausted by Isaura. The downstairs workshop was very well stocked with tools and machines and I think the pair of us spent a considerable time down there.

I suppose that would have been the opportunity to ask Michael how well he had known my mother. But some instinct told me that I should not bother him with this distant past but simply concentrate on showing as much interest in his hobbies as I could. I don't remember a single word of what he said and I said in the basement, but I feel we were friends when we were down there.

Unfortunately my relationship with the couple worsened as the evening drew on. I caused a certain resentment by saying again that I believed Isaura to be an Italian and also by saying that I believed a certain photo in the room showed Mr Hupfleit with his mother while he said it showed his parents together. He began repeating many times that he hated politics and that politics had ruined his life.

At a certain point the tape I was making came to an end with a most ghastly click. I am sure Isaura heard it, although she said nothing. A little while later she went out of the room again to prepare supper, and I got Mr Hupfleit to rearrange the position of the objects on the mantelpiece, which had become a little disarranged by the insertion of my elephant. While his back was turned to me, I quickly and clumsily retrieved the tape recorder from the ledge under the table and quickly stuffed it into my blue bag.

During this more unhappy sequence of events I looked a few times at Michael sitting in his chair and saw with horror that he was periodically wiping a tear away from his eyes. He looked so old and unhappy, and I felt sad that it was I who had probably caused it, but was too embarrassed to mention that he was crying.

We had eaten our delicious lunch in their sitting room, but the much lighter supper was taken in the kitchen. During this meal Michael was suddenly afflicted with a severe bout of coughing and was fighting badly for breath. Isaura reminded me rather grimly that her husband was nearly ninety. I suppose I should have realised then how very close Michael was to death, and that I was lucky to have reached him just in time for me to be able to say I had known him. But I don't think I did realise this.

After supper was over, it was time to begin making preparations to go. I had the card of a taxi driver, based in the place where I was staying, and the couple were impressed that I had showed such efficiency. We phoned him and he promised to be over within fifteen minutes.

Isaura said she would come out to stand with me in the forecourt of the block of flats, but that her husband would not come out. My last memory of Michael is of him standing rather shyly in the hall and saying farewell to me and once again looking every inch the former German soldier from the Second World War that he had been.

It was cold as I stood with Isaura in the dark and windy yard. I tried to ask her a few more questions, but our conversation soon reverted to the usual generalities. The taxi driver arrived quickly, and Isaura was keen to take his card for future reference, because she said she often needed a taxi. Then she waved me off and I entered into conversation with the taxi driver. He turned out to know of the Hupfleit couple, as people in Portugal always do know about all the people who live in their localities, particularly those with unusual antecedents. The whole country is like a gigantic telegraph system, but nothing of what is passed on ever reaches outsiders.

The following day I returned to my home in the Algarve. I had to get three buses, the first to the local major city, the second to Lisbon, the third to my house. On the first bus I was sitting by a window with a seat beside me. At a certain stop, a youngish man got onto the bus. I saw he was sharply bearded but finely muscular, I smiled at him, and he asked if he could join me.

He was an American or Canadian, I forget which, but our conversation soon turned to Jewish matters, and I believe he was also a Jew. I told him that I was Jewish, but that, not having been brought up as a Jew, and having only recently discovered this identity, I knew little of Jewish matters. He undertook to instruct me a little, and said, which I found interesting, that the Ashkenazi Jews were not Semitic, being descended from the Khazars, who had converted to Judaism in the early Middle Ages.

This young man had to get off when we reached the local city and, just before he went, I said I was called Charles and asked him what his name was. He gave me a rather haunting smile and said his name was Michael.

I really enjoyed that all-day series of bus journeys. We approached Faro, the regional capital of the Algarve, not by the motorway but by the older road that my mother and I had often used when she used to drive me back from Lisbon, and this fact made me remember her with tenderness, which I did not always do.Then we went on towards my house. This particular bus was not supposed to stop at Altura, but we were near the end of the route when we approached the familiar place with the high-rise hotel and I was alone with the driver and sitting in the front seat. I told him how tired I was, and rather riskily for himself he stopped the bus so that I could just walk home and not have to take another one from the next place along the line. It seemed so kind of him and made me feel rather in love with the world.

In the next couple of days I just relaxed at home. On the afternoon of 6th November I was listening to a favourite record - the Mozart Piano Concerto No 13, K415, in C Major - and in the first movement there is a most haunting passage which passes by several times only later to return. And as it came round for the second or third time, and once again I surrendered to the wistful and fugitive charm of the melody, I wondered whether the man I had met, who had cried when he talked to me, was my father.

And then I entered a really beautiful period, when the winter weather was almost uniformly bright but rather cold, and I used to wander endlessly naked round the house and into the garden and I must have broken a glass because beneath my bare feet were thousands of the tiniest possible shards of broken glass but they were too small to do my bare feet any harm. `Verre cassé porte bonheur`, as the French say. And almost every early afternoon, after a snack lunch, I did Bible Study at my table in the garden, and in the evening I was absorbed in drink, music or a novel, I had just as much company in my life as I liked, and that was the still heart of my years in the Algarve.

And on the evening of 20th December 2011 I went late to the Internet at the Eurotel (I usually bought a very expensive glass of port at the bar and they let me use the computer in the lounge) and discovered that new results had arrived from the American genetic genealogy firm, with which I had now tested to 67 markers rather than the previous 25. These results showed that I matched precisely one out of 23, 771 people who had tested with the firm from England, a result that was entirely statistically insignificant. Yet, at least officially, Arthur Ernest Hills had been an Englishman! Now, with a sudden access of joy, I was certain for the very first time that this dreadful man had not been my father.

Right at the end of December my main bank card was mysteriously blocked, but this had happened before and I had a secret hoard of Euros in the house and if I used only a certain sum each day and confined my excursions entirely to the Algarve, so that I could return at night and sleep in my own bed, , there was no real danger I would run out of money or be left stranded.

On 6th January 2012 I decided to go to my favourite haunt of Tavira. While I was there I phoned Leonor, who confirmed that our two friends in northern Portugal, Isaura and Hupfleit, were well. She did say one slightly strange thing, which was that, according to her, Mr Hupfleit was already ninety, while Isaura, whom I had met only weeks before, had told me that he was yet to reach that age. Nor could his birthday have immediately forthcoming, according to Isaura, or surely she would have told me. If Leonor's version was true, and in her usual forthright way she insisted that it was, that would place Michael's birth some time in 1921, perhaps in the later part of the year, so that he would already have been ninety years old for a month or two when I reached him on 4th November 2011. This would place the date of his conception probably very early in 1921 or right at the end of 1920.

On 10th January I did a more arduous expedition, right over to the other side of the Algarve, to the chapel of Our Lady of Guadaloupe, where Henry the Navigator is said to have prayed sometimes, riding over on a fast horse from his country house at Raposeira. When I returned from my own quite arduous journey to the railway station at Cacela late at night and was about to get a taxi in the deserted town my card had been unblocked at the machine.

Pleased with the sudden access of money, I went to have a good lunch the following day at the restaurant of my friends Josefa and António in Monte Gordo, and when I came back to the house an English acquaintance, whom I do not much like, and who does not usually visit, called on me, and we got on better than normal, and I felt quite warned by his company. And, at roughly the same genera; time, an elderly English couple had appeared in Altura with whom I was in the process of becoming friendly, and who are the only permanent friends I made during the five years I lived principally at the house. My liking for them was cheering me up a lot in those days.

And, so, stimulated by so much society, happy and excited indeed, after the ambiguous acquaintance had gone, I went to Broadway, where they had a computer in those days, and began confiently to write a new post of this blog.

It is the ninth post - "I called it ´Wintering in the Algarve" - and you, dear reader, could turn to it now, if the fancy should take you. It is about the intense peace I felt in those days. And for the first time in my blog it mentions the mystery concerning my father, and mentions the two men, the one met by my mother in the Lyceum Ballroom and one by the tube train, and my increasing certainty that they were not the same person, and that the man my mother met at the tube train was my father.

I began the post by talking about someone I had known in London who, as with so many of the people I knew there - so many of the people I have known in my life - was half friend and half enemy. I told how I had known him without feeling and broke with him without regret and from there I moved on to the subject of my father. But the logic of this transition was perhaps initially not clear. So the ending fell flat as I worked obsessively during the long evening of 11th January 2012 at the computers in the Eurotel and at Central Sports Café (Broadway was always closed in the evening). I moved between them restlessly, but the machines were not responding to my efforts to write my still unresolved piece. After leaving Central Sports towards midnight yet another possible idea occurred to me that might help, but I was too tired to return, so I resolved to resume work on the following day.

And, on the morning of the 12th, I awoke in the house and then fell asleep again, and when I finally woke for good, at some point in the mid-morning, a beautiful last paragraph immediately  occurred to me. It was a picture of myself in my garden, sitting at the table where I had so much peace and studied so hard my Christian faith. And it professed my indifference to knowing whether my father had been a German or a Pole. But in the words themselves I had managed to inject something that told the reader that nothing in the world mattered more to me more than knowing who he had been.

It was difficult to get up after this revelation, but on being fully awake I hurried towards the three computers to set the ending down, but now my difficulties with the machines became even more hellish. I had phoned my friend Bill on the evening of the 11th to mention that I had now written a piece that explored the mystery concerning my father, but at almost exactly the same time, it seemed, my account had been "disabled", which made many routine operations impossible (this was the start of many years' trouble with computers and my blog, but that is another story.)

By the end of the 12th I had the piece more or less exactly as I wanted, but I was having trouble with inserting the line breaks, which I deemed necessary to show where each paragraph began and ended. Almost the whole of the grim 13th was taken up with the endless struggle to insert the final line break, although I also managed to spot a literal and tidy up a few points of style.

On the 14th, the computer at Broadway packed up altogether but after a pizza lunch there I had the inspiration of going up to the social club, which lies right at the top of the settlement, and where more computers were available. There, the young woman supervising the place, although almost continuously talking on her mobile phone, was friendly, and after some difficulty succeeded in inserting the line break for me.

And in the evening, free from creative endeavour and happy, I returned to the hotel and set myself to reading about the Acts of John, which was written by a cultivated Hellenistic gentleman of Christian faith, probably towards the end of the 2nd century.

Very bright but slightly cold weather went on in the Algarve all through January, and I remained at my house, and tinkered a bit more with my beautiful new blog post, until the almond trees began to blossom early in the fields. But then intense cold hit Portugal and all Europe at the beginning of February, and I myself broke the spell by going on yet another of my endless trips, again to Lisbon, where I had been so often before.

And at a date some time after that, while I was once again in the Algarve (I will never know the exact day, because my diary for that time is lost) I made one of my periodic phone calls to Leonor, once again from Tavira, and received what should have been expected news. Mr Hupfleit had died some weeks before. Leonor could not remember exactly when his death had happened. He had gone to the toilet quite early one morning, returned to the sitting room where Isaura was waiting, sighed softly, and was gone.

I don´t remember how I felt, but perhaps I was not much moved. Because of the disappointment with others that has run through my life, I tend to be mainly interested in what I can get out of people while they are alive, and once I hear they are dead it is as if they have fallen through a trap door. But of course I expressed all the conventional regrets and said how sorry I felt for his widow. Leonor warned me not to contact Isaura, and she said that if I wanted any news of her, she herself could tell me anything I needed to know.

I was eventually to discover the exact date on which Michael Hupfleit died, and I shall tell later how I came to know this. He died on the morning of 12th January 2012, possibly at exactly the time when I woke up and knew exactly what I should write about my father in the final paragraph of my ninth post.

And now I come to my fourth grand tour, that I made that spring and summer, a  lopsided journey, whose centre was a voyage right down the western coast of Italy, from the Riviera to Sicily. But this was preceded by stays in Spain, Switzerland and France, and I omitted to stop off in Rome again, which surely should have been the centre-piece of the journey, and finally there was another time in the north of Italy. And I bought far too many books on this fourth grand tour and on my return to the Iberian Peninusla finished off by having almost all my by now unbearably heavy luggage stolen from me near the bus station in Barcelona. Many precious memorabilia went, some dating from my earliest childhood, as well as a long series of pocket diaries, a large number of dirty clothes, and almost all the books I had bought. I will relate only one series of incidents from from all this mixture of joy and unhappiness.

In the ninth week of the trip, on 9th May 2012, I was staying in Naples, and had gone to Cumae, where the cave of the Sibyl once was (rather naively perhaps, I asked her if any good might come from the search for the truth about my father, and was rewarded with a flight of birds). Then I walked, I seem to remember, because no bus came, to the small local railway station of Fusaro. And at that sweet little place I had my hair most beautifully cut, and there was also a small internet café.

When I logged on, I discovered that I had a new match on a specialist service of Family Tree DNA relating to my paternal ancestry (or so it seemed).

I immediately emailed the person behind the match, and  quickly received an answer from a Professor Kenneth Nordtvedt who admitted in his email that he was not in fact a match of mine but had been pretending to be one because he belonged to my sub-clade (the genetic group that might come either from England or near the western end of the North German Plain). He was interested, he said, in discovering more about those who belonged to this group. According to him, it was quite rare. I was most startled, even so, that Family Tree DNA would resort to providing me with a false match on such a pretext and from that point on my automatic trust in their services was destroyed.

This Professor Nordtvedt, when I looked him up on the Internet, turned out to be quite a distinguished person, a leading American physicist, with a second string of genealogy to his scientific bow. He had been an adviser to Professor Reagan in the 1980s, and clearly had privileged access to the higher echelons of Family Tree DNA.

Despite the deception, I was thrilled that such a person was taking an interest in me, and thought it might augur well for my researches. But as I proceeded down the coast of Italy and plied Nordtvedt with more and more questions, he was able to tell me little of any interest about my family, while asking me far too much about myself. So our relationship became strained.

My last communication with him was from Reggio di Calabria. I was trying to reach him yet again, with what was by now an almost hysterically hostile message, when I learnt that my Yahoo email account, using the identity of "giannilamere", the one I was using to communicate with him, had been closed. That was the effective end of my relationship with this distinguished, but clearly not very honest, person.

The loss of my stuff in Barcelona, much as it grieved me at the time, led to a lightening of the spirit, and this had its impact on my body, which that July was as fat as it had ever been. I will give just one indication of my change of heart (and body).

At lunchtime on 2nd August 2012 I arrived in Faro, the capital of the Algarve, from somewhere further west, and, very tired and cross, checked into the Afonso III Hotel near the railway station. I then went to the Municipal Theatre to buy a ticket for a concert of German cabaret songs to be given there that night by Ute Lemper. But in the red, hot early evening I lay down in the most comfortable bed in my quiet hotel room. And I remember Ute Lemper and the prospect of hearing her fade into the past, as I moved towards sleep with ever more abandon, joy and certainty.

And with ever more certainty I was moving towards Israel. The time had come, I felt, to try and find out more about my Jewish identity through my mother. I left my home on the evening of 2nd October 2012, by the bus that passes just outside my house at 7.52p.m., the last bus of the evening, that goes only to Cacela, from which there is a train.

I had told Sue Hall, an Algarve cultural publicist who had become interested in me, that I planned only a "little amble" this time to balance my four grand tours. And indeed I began simply by travelling to the northern Portuguese city of Viseu, where I spent a few instructive days. It was not until 30th November 2012 that, having passed through 10 European countries, I took the flight from Athens to Tel Aviv.

I have told the story of my time in Israel quite fully in a previous post, so I will not repeat what I said there about the persecution - including an episode of what I can only call third degree - that I suffered under the hands of an Israeli security team, led by Glenn Bresler, the son of the well-known Fenton Bresler himself a powerful businessman with bases in Israel, South Africa and the United States. I will make only one further point about this episode. Glenn Bresler and his team were quite clear that I was a Jew. This must mean that they were in possession of the details about my maternal ancestry that are only imperfectly known to myself. But if I had been simply a Jew what would have been the point of persecuting me? Surely the fact that they were so zealous in confirming that I was not an anti-semite (and Glenn Bresler finally said that he was satisfied of this) is the clearest possible indication that the Nazi connection also exists, through my father?

Before I close these brief remarks on my Israel and Palestine experience, I will just mention a rather sad circumstance. I related before how, on 28th December 2012, I fled the hostel in Tiberias where the group were holding me a virtual prisoner and made my way into the Palestinian Authority. In order to avoid suspicion when I left, it was essential I carry only what I could get into a single bag, and I was forced to leave most of my luggage in my room. Among the things I left was the tape-recorder with the tape of Michael and Isaura. His voice had come out all too faintly on this tape and hers too insistently. I never saw any of those things again, so whether that tape still exists I cannot confirm.

And I came home ever so gradually from this most important of all my journeys, and as well as Jerusalem the Golden I also passed once more through Athens and Rome, and then on the long and exquisite boat trip  from Cività Vecchia to Barcelona (where I lost no luggage this time) there was a particularly lovely experience,  which I will allow myself to tell, although it has nothing much to do with the subject of this post.I was having lunch, the only customer, in the more luxurious of the two ship restaurants, and the maître d´ was an Italian longing to speak his mother tongue, while the waiter was a Nicaraguan who had a Brazilian girlfriend and was keen to engage me in Portuguese. And since I am perfectly well able to respond in either language, I got the best possible service from the pair of them and felt a real sophisticate into the bargain!

But good times must be paid for in bad (for nature abhors a vacuum) and the long period that I spent in Portugal from January to June 2013 was among the most melancholy and most marked by hostility of all the stretches I passed there. Even the weather was much darker that late winter and spring than it been the previous one, the time that Michael Hupfleit died.

I thought about him sometimes, and the longing came to me to talk to Isaura again, despite Leonor´s warning. We had spent such a pleasant day together, surely it would be contrary to all the laws of politeness for her not to receive me again? Well, perhaps. And that spring I began restlessly travelling back and forth between the Algarve and Lisbon, engaged in yet more researches there into my maternal ancestry. Why not extend one of these journeys to the region where Isaura lived, alone now?

I will go back to tell for the second time of a momentous discovery I made in Lisbon that early April in a moment, but  now want to continue the story slightly out of sequence, and tell of my second encounter with Isaura, which followed immediately after the strange Lisbon discovery. Once again, I took her a good present, a rather fashionable item that had something to do with Paris (I can´t remember exactly what  now), and I went straight to the town where she lived this time, checking into the best hotel there, a comfortable if rather dark and gloomy place. And the weather was pretty dark and miserable too as I walked from the hotel that very late afternoon and negotiated the roundabout and crossed the stagnant stream beneath the road that led to the modest but but quite prestigious block of flats where the widow Hupfleit lived.

When I reached the door I noticed an odd thing. There was now a nameplate giving Isaura´s full name. It gave her last surname as Hufleit, not Hupfleit. I immediately seized on this as proof in my mind that Hupfleit was an assumed name, and that Michael had pronounced it that way because, since he was a German, it was easier for him. I prepared myself to question Isaura about this when she answered. She did so quickly this time. I was shocked by her appearance. She was wearing a shabby, ill-fitting black dress, had become a lot fatter than before, and was now quite bent. The death of her husband had obviously hit her badly, and she now looked clearly the very old woman she was.

She was very angry that I had come to see her, but I had her cornered, and we spoke for a reasonable length of time on the doorstep as I desperately tried to win her continued friendship. She did not want to accept the present, saying that she hated Paris, but I opened it, and its smartness appealed to her, and she eventually took it. I cannot remember many details of what we said, and I am sure I learnt nothing more about Michael. I think she said that Hufleit always had been his name, and that the idea that he was called Hupfleit was a silly idea of Leonor´s. I told her that I was booked for a few days into the hotel, and we agreed that I might come to see her the following morning.

But when I returned the next day in high hopes, Isaura was not in. And I learnt from one of the neighbours, who was vaguely aware of who I was, that a relation or friend had appeared very early that morning to take her away for a few days.

So I had one day to be in that small town alone, and the next day I returned home, so the whole trip took three days. It was a strangely happy time, although even the paper shop that Dona Helena had kept was gone, and I wondered if she had died. But on the first night, the day I had spoken to Isaura, a grand municipal event took place, so I was able to enjoy a magnificent free buffet in Portugal, a country where normally everything has to be paid for, down to the individual pats of butter in a restaurant.

And the fact that Isaura had looked so old and helpless helped to humanise her behaviour for me and made me excuse it. The next time I phoned Leonor I was to say how much I sympathised with Isaura and asked Leonor to convey my regards to her old friend. Leonor said on that occasion that the name of Isaura´s husband had always been Hupfleit, and that the name Hufleit was unknown to her.

During the empty day when I could not see Isaura, I moved happily from park-bench to library to cafe, and in the evening dined for twelve Euros in an empty pizzeria, from whose high window I could just glimpse in the distance the apartment-block where my quarry lived and to which, during the afternoon, I had delivered a letter and two squidgy cakes (a third one I ate myself, sitting on a raft of rough steps that led down to the stream).

And on the following day, on the second of the three buses back to my home (I was in Seat No 19, and the date was 12th April 2013), I was once again sitting next to quite an attractive young man, although dark and delicate-looking for my taste. I noticed that he was reading a magazine in German and addressed him in that language. He turned out to be a South German with family connections in Brazil and studying in Portugal. As with the other young man I had met when returning from Michael Hupfleit's town, we enjoyed a pleasant conversation, and when we reached Lisbon, as a gesture of farewell, I told him my name and asked him his. And this was another person called Michael.

Now back to the momentous discovery, which the reader may remember from a previous post.

I refer to the occasion in Lisbon that April when I suddenly realised that the bridegroom shown in a number of photos of my mother`s wedding was not Arthur Ernest Hills Junior. The man marrying my mother in the photo and A.E. Hills Junior resembled each other very closely, so much so that they could be twins. And an old man appearing in several of the photos was definitely Arthur Ernest Hills Senior

I had been familiar with many photographs of my parents since I was a child, but it had never occurred to me to question whether they might show another man than Arthur, although I remember that the sharp-eyed Francis King, on a visit to my flat, had noticed that the two men in my family photographs were different and had pointed this out in his ironic and offhand way, leaving the subject immediately when I protested this could not be so. Perhaps other people noticed the discrepancy as well, but they did not say it openly, as  Francis had done. And my own sensitivity to visual things is often not strong.

For a long time in middle and later 2013 I used  to look at the photos again and again to try and check whether my belief that they were separate men was not just another illusion. And many more photographs arrived at my house in November that year to complicate the enquiry. The strangeness of what I had discovered was so great that my mind had to try and confirm it again and again, and a small part of me still does not believe what I know rationally must be true.

It was only on my visit to London in late 2013, when I showed photos of Arthur and the other man to a Chinese couple with whom I have long been friendly, and the woman noticed that the men had noses of entirely different shapes, that I could be absolutely certain that there were two men involved, Arthur Ernest Hills, who had officially married my mother, and the other man who had really done so.

And, then, much later on, came more proof. I was talking to an old friend of my mother's in Altura, and he confirmed to me that my mother had told him that the man shown marrying my mother in the photos was my father, not Arthur Ernest Hills. And my aunt and the woman who lives near the centre of Lisbon, although they sometimes revert to the official version that my father was A.E. Hills, have acknowledged by way of various conversations that he was not. The woman from the centre of Lisbon once asked me, for instance, whether I thought the two men were brothers, and gave a deep indrawn sigh when I said I thought they had not only been brothers but twins. And I was once talking to my aunt about who my father had been, and she abruptly said, "You know very well who it was," "Tu sabes muito bem quem foi."

My realisation that Arthur had not been my father was a very gradual business, and I think the whole process began at about the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011 and I achieved certainty towards the end of 2013. I suppose it would take anyone a long time fully to accept that something so fantastic was the truth, especially when they have been familiar with a much more conventional and normal version of events since childhood. I was very alone, always travelling, physically present with every new person for a limited stretch of time, talking to others on a time limit over the phone, and the people to whom I tried to explain these things sometimes did not know me well, and they would offer me help, but they usually had little understanding of my background, and limited patience with the complexity of the situation, and I for my part tended quickly to become contemptuous and suspicious of them. And in the case of my expert adviser Mr Adolph, and in several others, they cherished a barely-concealed belief that I was suffering from delusion and wishful thinking. My alienation from so many people that I knew took shape during this period over the issue of my ancestry, and I encouraged all the break-ups with people as part of my bid for knowledge and freedom.

At around the time of the revelation at Lisbon, Mr Adolph had persuaded me to undertake another test to try to demonstrate to me the truth of my Kentish paternal ancestry. This was the Family Tree DNA family finder test, and my DNA was being matched with that of Susan Lakeman from the Medway Towns, the grand-daughter of the great-aunt Connie whom I had encountered in childhood. I had not met Susan Lakeman at this time, but was in touch with her by email and she kindly agreed to help.

The results arrived one day in that very early summer when I had gone to Faro and was intending to see an afternoon film. I logged on to the internet that lunchtime, and saw the confirmation that Susan Lakeman was indeed a second or third cousin of mine. Once again, Mr Adolph was to seize on this as proof positive that the Kentish ancestry through Arthur Ernest Hills was the correct one, and if I had not seen that the man in the photo was not Arthur only a few weeks before, I would have been forced to admit that Adolph was correct and would have been in despair at this unwelcome parent. But now I knew that stranger matters were afoot.

For I was moving slowly towards a truth that for quite a long time had been staring me in the face. At some point - I do not remember exactly when, or where the telephone box was  - I put through what proved to be a particularly important phone call to Leonor. I was making my usual rather desperate and undirected inquiries about my father, she was responding in an uncertain and increasingly alarmed way, and then she said, "I remember one thing for certain, your mother met your father on a tube train."

It was on that tube train, she said with absolute conviction, that my parents had met. It was there that the gallant gentleman who had been my father had sprung to my mother's aid. It was he who had so persistently courted her. Could that be Arthur? Leonor would not say. But she had never heard of any meeting at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand. If that had happened, it must have been later. And it was not the first meeting between my parents. But that was where Arthur and my mother had always said they had met.

Early that June of 2013 I planned to leave Portugal again and go on another roundabout tour of Europe, the exact outlines of which were unclear to me. I planned to start in Lisbon and go northwards from there, probably by train, perhaps by bus. And perhaps I would try to see Isaura a third time.What good would that do me? What could she tell me about who her late husband had been to me that I did not already know in my heart?

In Lisbon I stayed at the George V Hotel, where I had been a hotel guest for many years. It had been recommended to me many years before by my good friend, Professor Harold Livermore, who had now died but who used to stay at the place from the 1960s, ever since it opened. Even the young barman at the cosy bar remembered the professor and knew I had been his friend. All the staff knew that That young barman used to say that I was like a son of the house. I loved the dark rooms with their old-fashioned bath-tubs. And the chief receptionist, Sr Luís Lopes, was a twinkling middle-aged worldly-wise Portuguese who was like a good uncle to me.

On the lunchtime before I was due to leave Lisbon  - it was 6th June 2013 - I asked Senhor Lopes whether I could put through a call on the hotel telephone. He smilingly agreed. I rang Leonor. She answered.

At a certain point I mentioned Michael. Then I thought: it´s now or never! I asked her: "Was that man my father?"`

"Of course he was!`` she said. "Of course he was!"

And what did I say then? And what did she reply? I can't remember. I remember the face of Senhor Lopes as he watched me. And perhaps something of what I felt communicated itself to that smiling Portuguese. Did he know that I was trembling with happiness, almost bursting with ecstasy? Of course he did!

There were three times in my life that I knew my father. The first was when I was a baby. It was he who had comforted my mother when she got her finger stuck in the door of the tube train, he who lived with us, first at the unhappy place in Stockwell where I was conceived, kept by Poles, and later at 19, Hornsey Rise, the house of a branch of the Maccariello family, from Casapulla near Naples. He came down to live with us in Crawley, the new town to which we moved when I was nine or ten months old.

He wrote a charming little book, a small blue album half-filled with his handwriting, about my earliest life. He gave it a title in Portuguese, "Diário de Carlinhos", "The diary of little Charles". It's about our life at Hornsey Rise and in Crawley and the sweet things I said and did and his love for me. It is written in good, careful English, but with many mistakes of idiom such as could only come from a foreigner.

The last section of the book, which is written in the past tense, mentions that I was then 20 months old, which would have been in about April 1957. It is therefore likely to be very soon after that he left us.

Some time in the summer of that year, and perhaps in June, at least five of us - he, my mother, myself, my aunt Eva and the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon, and perhaps one other person - went by boat from England to Lisbon. The small photograph album I still have of the event shows he who was with us on this journey, not A.E. Hills. I surmise that tensions that arose on this journey, as well as his constant womanising, led to his leaving my mother and his replacement in our lives by the less impressive man.

In the front of the little album is my father's co-op number, so I presume he must have sent it to my mother in retrospect, perhaps offering some financial support through the Co-op. I still have this little book and hope to hell I never lose it. I have lost so many things in my carelessness and distraction.

The second time I met him was when I was about nine or ten years old, which would place this incident in about 1964 or 1965. I had a great desire to see the places where I had been born and had lived as a baby and my mother and I, without Arthur, came up to the place where the woman who now lives in the centre of Lisbon then lived, which was in St John's Wood.

There my father joined us. I know that this event really happened, because the woman who then lived in St John's Wood has confirmed that it did. My own memory of it exists, but is phantasmagorical and frightening. I still have a photograph of myself standing between my mother and her friend by a lake, which is perhaps the lake in Regent's Park. The woman has confirmed that this photograph was taken by my father.

My father and I left the two women, and went towards the area where we had lived our shared life. And I remember being with him in what must have been Waterlow Park, which is partly beneath and partly above the church where my parents were married and I was christened, and above the Whittington Hospital, where I was born. I think I probably believed I was with Arthur, because the two men looked so similar. But they were different, and this must have frightened me. And when we reached what I seem to remember was the bottom end of the park, overlooking the hospital and near to the church, I said something like, "I have to go back to my father now."

And he said, "I am your father."

And I shouted at him, "No, you're not! You're not my father! I want to go back to my Dad!"

I remember nothing more than this, but I can still see the look of shock and horror on his face.

On August 29th, 1964, my father married Isaura at St Mary's Church, Clapham, both of them having addresses in nearby Balham. I believe it may have been the sadness caused by his meeting with me which made my father choose to seek a life entirely elsewhere.

The day when I reached him just nine or ten weeks before his death was the third act of our father and son drama. I would not have missed that day for the world. For I have tangible memories of him now and know that he was a good man who was exposed to hateful experiences in his young manhood.

And perhaps it is just as well that our relationship in its three phases was so unsatisfactory. My mother once told me that my father had been a terrible man, but that his father was ten times worse. And a friend of mine once said to me (she was referring to Arthur, whom she believed to be my father, but it applies to Michael as well) that both my parents had been terrifying people but that I was ten times more terrifying than the two of them put together.

I think and hope she was exaggerating, but nevertheless perhaps it is best that I remember my father from the sweet little album he wrote, the ghostly figure he presented in the park, and the old man who cried when he met me. Because I would not wish to be any more terrifying than I am, as I might have been if I had fully known this totally adequate man in childhood.

Now back to my  narrative of the year 2013. As I said, my telephone call to Leonor was on the day before I was due to leave Lisbon for the trip northwards. Now I was desperate to see Isaura again and confront her with my knowledge that her husband had been my father. This time I went straight to her flat from where the bus dropped me, carrying my heavy bags. I had bought her another present, but do not now remember what it was, only that blue wrapping was around it.

This time it was naked fury when she answered the door. She threw the present away from her into the yard. She ordered me to leave her premises immediately and, when I said I wanted to talk, threatened to call the police. She had someone with her, in the background, a younger woman, a person whose exact identity I do not know but who I was later to learn was now looking after her during the day times. Both of them quickly left the flat, leaving me standing on the doorstep. After a while they returned with a group of policemen who asked me who I was. I told them that Isaura's husband had been my father, and they asked me if she was my mother. Policemen are pretty sarcastic in Portugal.

They ordered me to move away to a distance in the yard and I went with the present in its blue wrapping. I could see the pair of women explaining the situation to the police. The officers reached their decision. They took me away, I think in their car, and I left the present behind in the yard as the two women went back into the flat. The policemen were friendlier now, but warned me, when they stopped the car, that if I were ever to come back to see Isaura I would be arrested. This was of course a most serious threat, because I was on the run from the police in my own country.

The policemen asked me if I wanted a taxi, I said yes, and they called one for me. They escorted me to it, introduced me to the driver, and I asked him to take me to a nearby place where there was a railway station, from which I continued my journey.

That general European tour of the summer of 2013, the sixth such tour I had made in those years, was, like its immediate predecessor, more a voyage of personal discovery than a journey devoted purely to pleasure. I visited five countries, and in the first four of these - France, Belgium, Germany and Greece (I visited Italy, as usual, to round the tour off) - I had a specific purpose for my visit..In France, instance, I had been asked by the BBC to contribute to a Radio 4 programme about the Psalms, which I did with great pleasure at their studio grandly situated near the Etoile.

I will not relate here the purposes for which I visited Belgium, Germany or Greece, or the details of this final time of the six journeys I spent ion Italy, but will tell from this tour only one further fact: that from Heidelberg I made my last phone call to Anthony Adolph, which was followed by one of the uneasy and barbed emails that were typical of our relationship. I had parted with my Portuguese researcher, on more amicable terms, the autumn before. From that time also I started resisting the bargain offers from Family Tree DNA to take part in ever more recondite and inconclusive tests, and more or less stopped looking at their website. From now on, I determined, any help I accepted with my family research would be free and on my own terms. And, if people proved unable or unwilling to help me, I would take on any tasks myself for which I felt fit.

I have written before, in the post called "In a Quiet Time", that I suffered a sudden injury to my leg on my return from journey in summer 2013, and how I entered what I called my "quiet time", in August, September and October that year, when I just allowed myself to live entirely as I wished at my house in Altura, because I could hardly walk anyway and such people as were available were not generally welcoming. It was a blessed period, a time for lying in bed and sitting on the sofa and at my garden table, a time for reading and music and Christian study, an interlude of more than 12 weeks, 85 full nights entirely at the house, the longest period I ever stayed there without going away, the longest period I am ever likely to stay there.

Such society as I enjoyed during this period was mainly concentrated at the Snack-Bar Piri-Piri in Altura, where the owner, a buxom middle-aged artificially blonde woman who called herself Arlete -  according to one source she had previously been a prostitute in Spain but was married with a slob of a son and an address elsewhere - presided with a mixture of slatternly attentiveness and occasional sharpness over a motley crew of Portuguese, Bulgarians and English in the overcrowded and slightly smelly indoor premises and the narrow terrace outside above the steps.

On the latter the alcoholic old woman D. Isabel often sat alone. I sometimes joined here at her vigil, and we were often disturbed by the approach of a younger alcoholic and former druggy whom she greatly disliked but whom I had befriended, a man called Joaquim Agostinho, known by the nickname of  "O Breba",the Breba, who a few years before had been recognised on the Altura beach by two English girls as being one of the kidnappers of Madeleine McCann featured on photofits sponsored by Kate and Gerry McCann on their website and widely publicised elsewhere.

This was at a period when the British police had not yet set up Operation Grange, and Joaquim had gone on Portuguese television to protest that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping, had won an immense amount of sympathy from the Portuguese public, and had hardly been questioned at all by the Portuguese police.

As it happened, my "quiet time" coincided with the period when the Madeleine McCann case, now subject to the full attentions of Operation Grange, seemed, as so often, to be reaching a denoument.. There was a very high-profile Crimewatch programme, and arrests seemed to be imminent. I myself had long been interested in the case, and longed for Madeleine to be found. I tried to watch the Crimewatch programme at the Eurotel, where I had long been accustomed to use the computer at the price of an expensive drink, but the authorities there had made it impossible for the programme to be accessed, I became involved in a huge scene with them which seemed to involve me in imminent danger of physical violence, and after that I never went to the hotel again. 

This was one particularly egregious example of the deeply dishonest attitudes of the Portuguese public towards the McCann case. They wished above all to be free of any stigma connected with it and were routinely hostile towards Kate and Gerry McCann and utterly unconcerned, even hostile, any search for the truth. When I read in the press that six professional and enthusiastic Portuguese detectives had been recruited to work alongside the British police I experienced a slight chill, because I knew so well from bitter personal experience the Portuguese capacity for pretending to be what they were not and the deep servility, shamelessness and irresponsibility that runs through their culture.

However I remained friendly with Joaquim during this period of my deepening hostility to the people of Altura, and I did not believe that this total blabbermouth, very disordered in his personal life, as well as being basically a good-hearted person, was likely to have anything to do with the abduction of Madeleine. It was possible he might know something. He was certainly a very active drug smuggler in a small way, but that was true of so many people in Altura. It did not make them serious criminals.

(And yet, and yet....  I saw Joaquim by chance sometimes wandering in the street as I passed on the bus, and he did look very sinister when come upon in that way. Because I was his friend, I did not often get the chance to contemplate him in a detached spirit. I am not absolutely certain in my belief that he cannot have had anything to do with the abduction of Madeleine.)

I tried in my totally amateur and disconnected manner to find out as much as I could about Madeleine, and perhaps I talked rather too much about it to the sinister people I knew. I used often to ask Joaquim about the case, but with no perceptible result. He seemed more sympathetic towards the McCanns, though, than the Portuguese public were in general, and did not doubt that she had really been kidnapped. This seemed to me symptomatic of the sympathy and realism that characterised the sad, humorous and kind person that I knew, whom I liked despite his many faults and - who knows? - his personal complicity.

At this period a middle-aged and heavily alcoholic Englishwoman called Coral joined the circle at Snack-Bar Piri-Piri. She claimed to have had her two children stolen from her by her ex-husband and to have rented a place in Altura to rebuild her life, and she spent quite a lot of time walking her dog Smiler on the Altura beach. I met her first at the snack-bar accompanied by a youngish man whom she identified as her son. But he was clearly Portuguese, and this made me wonder whether she could be an undercover policewoman. If so she would clearly be a British one. I became quite friendly with her, and told her quite a lot about what I suspected. After a while she just vanished. The story was that she had taken up with Senhor António José, an unprepossessing middle-aged Portuguese who had been Arlete's previous paramour, that she had gone to live with him at his home in some unspecified place, and then perhaps that the two of them had gone to live abroad. But I had no proof that any of this was the case, and it did occur to me to wonder whether Coral had suffered a more sinister fate at the hands of the rascally crew who gathered at Snack-Bar Piri-Piri.

Running on a bit into 2014, I will mention that I was to employ Senhor António José to do some work at my house early in that year, but he made such an appalling job of it, and Arlete was so indifferent to his poor workmanship, and so little sympathetic to any idead that he might compensate me, that this led to my leaving the Piri-Piri social circle, in which an immense amount of money was by then being taken off me by the most varied means. After that I just saw what was happening there when I was walking past.

Towards the end of 2014 Arlete closed the Snack-Bar Piri-Piri and went off to parts unknown, as did many of the other people connected with the bar, including her dangerous boyfriend Alex, whom she gave out to be a Bulgarian, but who according to another source is a Russian. He had suffered a near-fatal attack in the streets of Altura at one point, and, according to the previously mentioned source, has gone back to Russia and is working in a factory there. I was myself threatened several times by handsome Alex, so was delighted that he was probably in Russia and exercising his talents for masculine charm and violence there.

And I must now tell of a most shocking event that took place in Altura towards the end of 2014, just before I went away to be arrested again. So it was just before the end of the five years that I spent mainly living at the place. At a period slightly after the closure of Piri-Piri, on the night of 11th to 12th October, there was a huge fire at Joaquim's house and he suffered seventy per cent burns, injuries of which he died about two weeks later. I had meanwhile left Altura on 19th November when he was in the intensive burns unit in Porto. I had only learnt that he was in danger on the eve of my departure from Altura, 18th November, shortly before his death. I had no news of him during the time I was in prison, and only learnt that he had died on my return to Altura in the autumn of 2016.

The official story was that Joaquim had committed suicide, and that previously he had threatened to kill himself and set fire to his own house. But I had seen him selling drugs in Cacela on the lunchtime immediately preceding the fire and he had seemed perfectly cheerful. It beggars belief that in a little over twelve hours from that time he could have turned into a suicidal maniac. I believe that he was murdered to prevent him telling what he knew about any of the many criminal matters with which he was involved. I just hope that it was not his friendship with me that led to him being killed.

There was yet another possibly untoward event in those strange days in sinister Altura when I was moving rapidly towards being out of earshot in prison. There was a large, gross German with a blond ponytail who used to hang around the place and go back periodically back to Germany. He had originally told me his Christian name was Ralf, but everyone else called him Fritz, so I will refer to him as Fritz.

He used to sit at the various cafes of the place (although not usually Snack-Bar Piri-Piri), where he was heavily unpopular among the Portuguese but tolerated by them. He was very often furiously working on a computer in the sunshine, and since he did not appear to be either an aspirant novelist or an undercover policeman, I came to the conclusion that he was involved in the drug trade of the place as a manager and used the computer to record deals and transactions.

He arrived once again in Altura from Germany at about the same time that I did in early September 2014, and also about that same time, according to a Portuguese newspaper, the largest police drugs bust of recent times in Portugal had just taken place in our very own village, at an unspecified warehouse. Fritz, to whom I spoke very little, and who now seemed estranged from everyone in Altura, lived at this period in a large white caravan with a trailer parked in a rather isolated place near the beach, far from the other caravanners. His only companion was his fawn-coloured dog Rudi, to whom he was closely attached. Rudi seemed a perfectly normal dog, although he was very old, but in heavy contrast to all the other dogs of Altura he never barked.

I saw Fritz for the last time on the afternoon of 2nd November 2014, standing by his vehicles, not acknowledging me. In the days following this I several times saw a fawn-coloured dog wandering about the streets of Altura. It almost ran up to me several times, and seemed to know me, but would not beg for food. It seemed desperate but utterly inhibited. Also, it did not bark. Astonishingly - but my mind was concerned with so many mysteries about the place at the time - it did not occur to me that this dog might be Rudi.

But on the morning of 18th November, just before I learnt of what the Breba had suffered from a young Moroccan who used to ride around on a bicycle, I was standing with a German near the Broadway café and the dog was there and I mentioned that it was friendly but did not bark. As I walked away, it came to me that this dog must be Rudi.

Now I became alarmed about what might have happened to Fritz. He would surely never allow Rudi to just roam around with no food or water and his vehicles were still parked where they had been. It occurred to me that he was likely dead inside his caravan and that the dog was loose because it could not now get in to the caravan.

My alarm was slightly compounded when, after hearing the news about the Breba, I went to access the internet at the parish office and there was an email from English people I knew who also visited Altura often and whom I also believed to be involved in the drug trade. I had become quite friendly with them, but they were very alarmed when they heard I was writing a blog, and begged me most sincerely never to mention them in it. I promised I would not, so I am not giving their names. These people had appeared in Altura at about the same time as Coral, the Englishwoman who had vanished, and they very often asked me, when they saw me, if I knew what had happened to her. On the occasion when I had just heard the news about the Breba and they emailed me, they asked about Coral again and whether I had seen Fritz recently, and also about what my own immediate plans were. I answered that I had not seen Coral for a long time and also not seen Fritz for some days, and I said that I thought perhaps Rudi had died and that Fritz had withdrawn to mourn him. On the question of my own movements, I said that I planned a further brief trip along the Algarve coast in the coming days. I did not mention to them what had happened to the Breba. They did not like him, and now I suspected everyone of possible ill intent.

The following morning, just before I departed the place for a hotel in Faro, preparing to leave there for England the following day, I went down to where Fritz's vehicles were parked and there I met a middle-aged German couple and told them about seeing Rudi and what I thought might have happened to Fritz, and asked them to call the police to investigate. I left Altura a couple of hours later, was not to return for almost two years, and have no idea whether they took any action.

One more fact I will mention is that on the late afternoon of 12th November, which was the day after the fire that destroyed Joaquim, I saw a green Caddy van parked near Fritz's other vehicles. A few hours later, this small green van was gone. I was in the habit of taking down the number of vehicles in Altura that I deemed interesting or suspicious, The number of this van was 16-1F-64.

When I returned to Altura in the autumn of 2016, I tried to find out what had happened to Fritz. A woman who kept a café that he often frequented said that he had not been seen in Altura for a couple of years. But the same persons who had sent me the email enquiring about him, and Coral,  the people whom I am leaving nameless, said that Fritz had been in Altura that September when they had been with him but he had now decided to settle down in a cottage in Germany and would not be returning to Portugal.
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But because of the evidence of the fawn-coloured dog that did not bark in the night-time when it ran up to me in the road just by my house late on 4th November 2014, and also because of what the woman at the cafe said about Fritz having not been in the place for two years, I believe that the story of the these people was false, and surmise that Fritz, like Joaquim, and possibly also Coral, was murdered in the drug wars of Altura, perhaps with the connivance of the sinister folk whose names I am not giving.

I mention these three possible killings because they seem to me possibly relevant to broader matters, and also because they concern and trouble me in themselves, but I must now go back  a full year from my speculations about Fritz's end to the immediate subject-matter of my family history and to the circumstances which led to the end of the "quiet time" in autumn 2013.

For almost four years a vast amount of the stuff I had once possessed in my London flat had been in store in a warehouse in Clapham, near to where I had lived, under the charge of my friend Bill Hicks, who had acted as my power of attorney in selling the London flat. I had been chary of bringing my stuff over to Portugal, because I longed to leave the country for ever. But now it was clear to me that my exit from Portugal was not imminent, that I was paying a fortune to store the stuff in London, that Bill was anxious to be rid of the responsibility for it, and that it contained many things which could be of interest to me at my house and be helpful to my family research. So, towards the end the "quiet time", after some thought, I decided to have the stuff brought over, and Bill was successful in finding a good firm to undertake the work.

At this same period I also planned yet again to visit the region where my father had lived, this time with the purpose of seeing his grave, if I could find it (it would perhaps be in the town cemetery), and also of obtaining his death certificate at the town hall, to see what information I could glean from this. In Portugal the traditional day for visiting the graves of family dead is 1st November, All Saints Day, not November 2nd, All Souls. My stuff was arriving at my house on the morning of 4th November, a Monday, so, if I visited the grave at the traditional period, I would need to travel back from the region of my father's death on the 3rd. And I decided to leave my house on October 30th, a Thursday, giving myself time to collect the certificate on the following day before undertaking the visit to the grave on one of the two days after that.

So that was the end of the "quiet time". I told the people at Snack-Bar Piri-Piri, with which I was still at that point associated, that I was going to visit my mother's grave, which lay in the region where she had been born, between Mafra and Ericeira, considerably to the south of where my father had lived.

I chose to stay in the small town with the railway station, and I went up by train, and planned to execute my journeys within the region entirely by taxi, using  the network of local drivers whose acquaintance I had made, whom I would swear to secrecy as regards Isaura. According to one of the drivers, she spent much of her time peering through her net curtains to see who was in what cars might be passing. If we drove past her flat, I would shield my head under the dashboard, I resolved.

I was able to obtain my father's death certificate without difficulty, and it gave me the date of death I have mentioned, and the funeral, according to Portuguese custom, would have been the following day. The certificate gave his surname as Hufleit, not Hupfleit, so my surmise that he had used the name Hupfleit because, as a German, it would have been easier for him to pronounce, must have been correct.

The certificate gave his date of birth as being  6th June 1922, which would make Leonor wrong about his being ninety at the time of his death (which I did not think she was), and said that he was the son of Valerian and Antonia Hufleit and had been born in a place called Dalhinow in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Clearly, no such place existed there, so that was one evident falsehood in the certificate.

But there was a place that had once been called Dalhinow, when it had been a place in Poland. It was now called Dolginovo, because it was in Belarus, in a rural area north of Vilna, a small place that had once been almost entirely a Jewish "shtetl" within the Pale of Settlement of the Tsarist Empire, and was later right on the border between Poland and what had become the Soviet Union. It was a place from which vast numbers of Jews had emigrated, while almost all the remainder were massacred by the Nazis in autumn 1942.

I found all this out quite quickly, from the Internet. And I had a Polish friend, a cultivated and moneyed person, who was able to do research for me in what Polish and British records there were, about Mieczyslaw Hufleit. My friend discovered that he had clearly been a real person, born on the date mentioned on the death certificate, in the said place, and and with the said parents. He had fought in the Second World War in the British Army, with the a Polish unit called the Third Carpathian Rifles, in Italy.

This person was later recorded as having married Isaura in 1964, which my father certainly had done, and as having been employed as an electrical engineer, which was my father´s profession, as having been naturalised British in 1968, as my father surely was, and with an address at that time of 104 Stapledon Road, Balham, London SW17, which was as likely as anywhere else to be where my father had lived.

But, as I have indicated, I do not believe my father was Mieczyslaw Hufleit. He was using that name. He was not naturalised British until 1968, so the assumption of identity could theoretically have taken place at any period up to that date. But there is an obvious time when it might have happened. My father fought in Italy, so did Hufleit. At the end of the war, and just after it, there was immense confusion in the area of the North Italian Plain, with retreating Germans, advancing Allies, Communist and nationalist partisans, and people who just wanted to save themselves, all wandering about and sometimes coming to deadly blows.

If a stray Polish soldier, fighting for the British, had walked into a ambush of  retreating Germans, what would have happened to him? What would have happened to his uniform? And in what uniform would his own body have been dressed? Clearly I don't need to say.

And I will be asked, as I was by my cultivated Polish friend, shocked by my story and my surmises, how I can be sure that my father was a German and not the Pole that he ostensibly appeared to be, the identity  that was accepted as being correct by the British authorities (they did not know the difference between a German and a Pole). After all, the woman who originally told me the story said the connection was Polish.

Well, there are many proofs, or at least indications, and I will summarise them under three main counts.

The first and the most convincing of all is that the genetic research conducted by Family Tree DNA into my paternal line on the Y-chromosome shows no trace at all of Polish or Jewish ancestry but places my father's line within a sub-clade confined almost entirely either to England or to the very western end of the North German Plain. The second count is that my father always called himself Hupfleit rather than Hufleit which he surely never would have done if he really had been the soldier from the Jewish shtetl in far eastern Poland. He also said his first name was Michael which is not the English equivalent of the name Mieczyslaw. There is a Polish version of Michael, although I do not know it. The third proof is that I met my father and, as I have said, he was nothing at all like what you would expect from the scion of an eastern European shtetl but every inch like a former German soldier who answered every question with a muttered "Ja", and who Leonor once told me, with her characteristic bluntness, fought in the German army rather than any patriotic Polish unit.

And I will just expand on a fourth indication, which is in some ways just as convincing as the other three. When I was a teenager, my mother went to night school to learn German and, although the grammar of the language entirely defeated her, she took great pride in being able to speak it and in later years had many German friends, including several who lived near her in Altura, two of whom were an elderly former Sudeten German woman and her husband, who lived just across the road. I myself, when I was about 14 or 15 years old, was sent to a German woman piano teacher who lived in Crawley. She had been a young piano student in Berlin towards the end of the Second World War. I asked her if she had been frightened by all the bombing and she said she had enjoyed it. I understood her reaction. And I was to follow my mother (perhaps she subtly sowed thiss in me) in having a passion for all things German from about the age of 18, and grew particularly to love Lieder, or German art song. I too have made a determined attempt to learn the language, and love to speak it at every opportunity, although like my mother I have only mastered the grammar at a simple level. When I  took possession of Mum's house, I too became friendly with the Sudeten German lady, by then a widow in extreme old age. I thrilled to her stories of escaping the Russians in 1945 on a plane. I felt very German indeed as I talked to her in our shared language of those heroic and tragic days.

Neither my mother nor myself ever showed the slightest interest in things Polish, although I do love Chopin.

Having gleaned what I could from the death certificate, the next task was to arrange to visit my father's grave, and one of the taxi drivers was able to learn from a friend of his where it was. It was not in the town cemetery as I had vaguely expected, but lay in quite a faraway city in a very large municipal cemetery where there was a special area called the "roseiral", the "place of the rose", because the bones of a large number of people lay entirely mingled there in an area which was marked only by a single rose.

It would have been possible to reach this place by train, but the journey would have taken all day and would have left me only a very short time to be at my father's grave. So I was persuaded to pay for a very expensive round journey by the same taxi driver, and to go to the place on the traditional Portuguese day of 1st November.

And perhaps it was just as well, because I found it an alienating experience to stand by the entirely anonymous expanse of brown earth marked by the rose on a terribly cold and wet afternoon, and both the taxi driver and I almost entirely forgot the words of the Our Father and the Hail Mary in our respective languages, I think because we both felt so bad. But how much more awful if I had stood there alone!

(Just a rather curious extended aside at this point. It is extremely surprising how often the word and the concept "rose" comes up, in various languages, in my family history, and also just generally in my life. Perhaps the latter  is not as surprising as all that, because in the Latin languages Rosa or Rose can be a woman's Christian name or a surname for both sexes and it is also the ordinary word meaning "pink". Instances of the word in daily life are of course innumerable, and Umberto Eco famously wrote a novel which he called The Name of the Rose because the symbolism of this flower seems infinitely extensible in its complexity. Yes....but perhaps the most powerful symbol of the rose is a love that must be shrouded in secrecy

So perhaps it is not surprising that in Portugal one is constantly seeing the word in many contexts, and overhearing it in conversation. In Altura, where I live, it endlessly comes up in the form "O Rosa" (which would be a reference to a man with the surname Rosa, or known by the nickname of The Rose). And in the Algarve more generally the word often appears topographically in the form "Monte Rosa", which is the name of many estates and substantial farms, and even a small airfield, which has been associated with several flyers killed.

The Monte Rosa was the name of a German ship which became British and which interconnected with history at various significant points, The ship first emerged from the Hamburg shipyards in 1931 and originally took German emigrants to Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, thus opening up the routes which were later to be used as the "ratlines", allowing Nazis to escape to South America after the Second World War. Before that, the boat had been commandeered by Dr Goebbels as part of his Strength Through Joy Programme to take German holidaymakers on Mediterranean and Nordic cruises. During the war the ship was used to deport the first Jews from occupied Norway, a journey which for many of them ended in Auschwitz. The Monte Rosa was captured by the British in 1945 and renamed the SS Empire Windrush and, as such, carried the first heavily-publicised arrival of Caribbean immigrants to Britain in June 1948. The SS Empire Windrush  finally sunk in 1954 on the return voyage from having dropped off troops in Kenya to counter the Mau Mau uprising, and four of the crew were killed as it went down.

A momentous and highly symbolic history indeed, and I believe that to the neo-Nazi mind this ship might well symbolise German glory and the doom of Britain and thus be worth using as a code-name. More Nazis than will ever be known found refuge in Portugal, one of the most successfully secretive of small countries, especially so because its people often appear to be friendly and cooperative.

I believe Monte Rosa may be the code-word for an extensive criminal network based on Portugal's southernmost province run by the descendants of those Nazi immigrants, perhaps with links in the rest of the Portuguese-speaking world and the adjacent Spanish-speaking countries, and also with Jewish and Italian criminal links, exemplified in the connections that exist in my own family. Perhaps this network is run by the man known as The Rose, or indeed by a whole group of people called The Roses. The place where I am living, Altura, is likely to be one of the major centres of the organisation, although probably not the chief one.

I will mention here one of the estates called Monte Rosa. It is a prestige olive-oil estate in the small town of Moncarapacho, about fifteen miles from Altura, and it was owned, at least in 2013 - when I gatecrashed a lunch there which looked suspiciously like a gathering of neo-Nazis - by a man called Detlev van Rosen, an elderly man given out as a Swede but in fact a German, and according to one of his Ukrainian employees, a big international crook.

The network of the Rose would need local bosses, and I have a possible clue as to who "The Rose" might be in the area where I have been living. In this blog, I have once or twice mentioned the quiet, faintly sinister cafe in the village of Fonte Santa, within walking distance of Altura. This cafe is called the Cafe Palma but the final surname of the man who keeps it is Rosa. His full name is Manuel Palma Rosa. Once his wife was alone in the cafe, and serving me, and I asked her whether her husband might be known in that region simply as "O Rosa". She thought he might be, or that it might be her son. A taxi driver I hired to take me away from there also thought Manuel Palma Rosa. might be "O Rosa". But a female newsagent in Altura, a respectable person, amiable but concerned with the proprieties, denied the possibility.

And, anyway, there are innumerable men in the region where I live who are candidates to be the local chief of the Rose. It is a very common surname in our parts, although probably not originally Portuguese, more likely Italian. For instance there is a person who owns various cafes in Altura called Ermidio Rosa, a very hail-fellow-well-met and slightly sly fellow, always in Cesar's Bar of an evening, and respectfully greeted by everyone, including myself. He is just likely as the man in the Fonte Santa cafe to be the Rose.

And there are many others among the conformist, dishonest and, to me, indistinguishable Portuguese.

And the instances of roses in my own family history are also very numerous. For instance the man who possessed my house, and whom I tried to kill, is called Flávio Rosa, which is an assumed name, because it was not the surname of either of his ostensible parents,which is and was not legal in Portugal, and when he adopted it in 1983 that was also not legal. And, according to the story my mother told, he first drew her attention by coming to cut her hedge and then laying on it a single rose. And her maiden name was Reis, and if this is a Jewish surname, as I believe it is, then it is only another form of Rosa.

Once I mentioned to a hairdresser in Altura my theory that Flavio Rosa might be my half-brother. She hissed to an assistant who was present, "Nao digas ao Rosa nada," "Don't say anything to the Rose about this!"

And three of the six original matches on my father's line on Family Tree DNA, all Americans, have the surname Rose. And Arthur Ernest Hills had a daughter called Rose and married a woman called Rosie Rhoder. And I could go on, and perhaps I shall return to the possible significance of the Rose in my story in a later post. But, if I were to go into it now, vast numbers of readers would dismiss me as hopelessly prone to conspiracy theories, and my story is fantastic enough already, so I shall leave this subject for the present.)

(No, I need to go fully into this subject, because it is important, and I want to make it known to anyone who might studiously read my blog: this is just one more comment about a person who went under the name of Rosa. It was written in London, mainly on 6th March 2019. The woman who lived in the centre of Lisbon has now died and I can therefore reveal the name under which she was known to me, Rosa Pereira. But, as I have revealed in the following post to this, and first intimated in the one called "The seventh journey", I believe this woman was really Maria Manuela de Sousa Machado Martins dos Reis, the daughter of a particularly cruel Fascist in Salazar's Portugal, Manuel Martins dos Reis, and probably also a Jewess. And my aunt once seemed once to  let slip that Rosa Pereira, who was childless, had adopted a son, and once when I was with Rosa in her flat and she was on the phone I seemed to hear her mention a son. Could this be Flavio Rosa? Was that why he adopted the surname Rosa? And could the criminal networks with which he is undoubtedly connected, and which contained a person,  Joaquim Agostinho, nicknamed "O Breba", who is mentioned many times in my blog,and who was accused of the abduction of Madeleine McCann, derive ultimately from the Fascist past of Rosa Pereira and the other members of my parents' circle? I believe the answer to all these three questions is yes.)

Now, going back to my account of the chill visit to my father's region, I had 2nd November to kill, and the friendly taxi driver, with whom I had now formed a bond, persuaded me to undertake a few more journeys, and we passed Isaura´s flat and I hid my head under the dashboard as I had planned, and we had a good laugh about this, and then he offered to buy me lunch, which cheered me up, because I had now spent a fortune on him. Then he drove me back to the uncomfortable and old-fashioned small hotel where I was staying, but the old couple who kept it were friendly, and we all had a good chat together about my father.

And the next day held the pleasure of my leaving their room and travelling back through dark and rainy Portugal to my house, and the following morning, when again it was wet, I was standing outside the placd and suddenly I saw the lorry rounding the corner which was bringing my stuff from the London flat where I had lived for so many years. And a lovely Indian summer began from that time, as I renewed acquaintance with my things.

Which shall I mention of the possessions in the 104 boxes that were allegedly arriving (Bill had mentioned this figure) and which the two burly workmen piled up on top of each other so closely packed in one spare room that it was to take months even to unload the stuff? Well, very early on, I found a pink bag with memorabilia of the Australian trip I had made in 2005, and in it was a card I had bought at the Circular Quay in Sydney of a most beautiful bronzed young Aussie surfer and that card has gone with me on almost all my travels since. Quite often it is the very last thing that goes into the bags when I am about to set off yet again. And how many a bleak hotel room table has my bronzed Aussie cheered up!

But I think perhaps it was 103 boxes that arrived rather than 104, because a certain number of things that were in my London flat never arrived, and I believe that to lose them for ever was the will of God. One of them was a formal photograph of my mother, glamorous and smiling, which stood on the chief bookcase at my London flat for so many years. When I left there for ever on 16th October 2009, I decided not to take this photograph with me, although I easily could have done, because it weighed little enough. But I did not really want it. But if I had known this would mean that I would lose it for ever, surely I would have taken it.

One odd and slightly sinister thing. On 5th October I was inveigled once again into having lunch at the Snack-Bar Piri-Piri, which also meant paying for the lunch of the old woman Dona Isabel, and when we were alone on the terrace she told me that Arlete had told her that I had been to visit my father's grave, not my mother's grave, as I had told them. And, although I later questioned Arlete, I was never to find out how they knew that I had been to this region, and how they had found it out so soon.

The following day, I went to have lunch with my equally expensive restaurant-keeper friends Josefa and António in Monte Gordo, and after lunch I once again phoned Leonor from that place. She was becoming more hostile and uncommunicative these days, perhaps because she was beginning to suffer from dementia, and also perhaps because Isaura had been getting at her, blaming her for what she had told me and trying to get her to take it back. She never did this, but she was most reluctant to tell me more.

And, putting the phone down on her, and thinking about all the grim people I knew in Portugal, and the unsatisfactory life I lived there, the sudden resolve came to me that I must risk arrest and visit England so that I could talk to Leonor in person and get her to tell me more about all the people in the photographs I now had.

And during that November I unpacked as many of the boxes as I could, and began to arrange my huge libraries of books and records in the dusty, dirty rooms, and I did not mention to a soul that on 30th November I would be setting out, and I did not even confide it to my diary. But quite often during those peaceful days I would see a flight of three birds going westward overhead, and I saw this blessed sign a few days before I left as I came back to my house in the quiet evening along my silent street with the bag of clothes from the laundry that was to go with me on my journey.

There now follows a break in the narrative sequence. I have told before of the first illicit winter trip I made to London, in the fifteenth post of my blog, which is called "The Seventh Journey" because six long journeys from my Algarvian house had preceded it. The following post tells something of my second illicit stay in London. And the present one has given details of the third temporary sojourn in London, the one after my release from prison. There were also trips to the Azores and Madeira in 2014 - the eighth and tenth journeys - and the eleventh one was the long period of imprisonment and the hostel. And while I have been writing the present account I made was a slightly dull, but satisfying and grand, twelvth journey, an extended tour of four countries in South America. These were Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina and I wrote much of what you are reading there. I believe this will be the last of the journeys I shall make from my house. From the 13th abandonment I shall not return.

So many journeys and posts! Will that really be the end of all my to-ing and fro-ing, you may ask, dear reader! Will I be settling down then? I really don't know. But I am jus now trying to explain that, for the moment, I shall leave the chronological approach, because I think it would not help in the elucidation of  what I still have to tell. I shall close the post with a little more narrative, the story of my leaving England again in 2016, a pleasant note, I hope, on which to end.

I shall introduce this new section with a memory from the month after the arrival of all my things at the house. At a certain point I found there a photograph which I knew had been taken at the last birthday party that I had given at my flat, on 21st August 2009. It showed a youngish man who bore a strong resemblance to myself, particularly since I had lost so much weight in prison, but whom I did not immediately recognise.

Then it came to me. This was Chris Hills, the son of Arthur Ernest Hills Junior by Kathleen Berg, whom I had always believed was my half-brother. But how come the resemblance between us was so strong if I was the son of the totally unrelated German posing as the Pole Mieczyslaw Hufleit? However, there was one striking difference between our faces. Like my father and Arthur, we had a different shape of nose. Chris had Arthur's nose, and I had my father's nose. And my father and I shared the shape of nose of Arthur Ernest Hills Senior.

The reader will remember that Arthur and my father bore a close resemblance to each other, so much so that they could be twins. And they seemed to have worked together closely as regards my mother. The only records of any marriages that my mother made record the bridegroom as Arthur, but all the photographs of any weddings or other occasions before about summer 1957, which often include an image of myself, show my father. However, Arthur Ernest Hills was the man named on my birth certificate as the parent and, although a photograph I possess of my christening on 2nd October 1955 shows my father in the group and not Arthur, on the documents, once again, Arthur is recorded as the parent of the baptised child.

All these facts, taken together, indicate that the two men worked together closely at every stage in matters concerning my mother and myself and were in no sense, except possibly a very sublimated one in the case of Arthur, rivals for her affections.

It is impossible to tell for certain whether at my mother's first wedding, which took place on 11th September 1954 at the Register Office in Hendon, she really married Arthur, her official groom, or whether my father impersonated him. The available evidence is complex and finely balanced, there are no photographs which can be assigned with certainty to this wedding, and the remaining witnesses will not speak.

My own feeling is that my mother would have known what man she wanted and gone for him. I mentioned that in my childhood one man, having met my mother once, went through an immense detective story in order to track her down where she was working at Bickley in South London. Arthur said on the tapes that this man was he, but I am sure it was not. And surely my mother would have tied the knot with the man who really had been in hot pursuit of her. The question has some potential practical importance, because whomever my mother married first was her real husband, and if it was my father, this makes his later marriage to Isaura bigamous and any inheritance she had from him by virtue of being his wedded wife legally invalid.

I went to the Hendon Register Office in the summer of 2014, and persuaded them to make a copy of the original document in their possession, something they were not officially supposed to do. The handwriting of the groom looks slightly more like my father's writing than that of Arthur. But just as their appearance was similar, so was their handwriting, and the sample is very small. By the way, this document also has a small but certain sample of the handwriting of Arthur Ernest Hills Senior. He was an official witness.

Of the second marriage, which took place at St Joseph's Church, Highgate Hill, some time around April or May 1955 (possibly on 21st May), and which was the real marriage of my parents, there are many photographs but no absolutely certain documentary record. (See my post "The seventh journey" for a possible identification of the ceremony and the names used by the participants.)

And the third marriage, also at St Joseph's, on November 13th, 1955, was officially to Arthur, and may have been really to him, because, according to the woman who lives in the centre of Lisbon, the church insisted on a Catholic wedding after my baptism on 2nd October, and would have been likely to make sure of perfect documentation and legality this time. And Concetta McLorg, from the Maccariello family, a staunch Catholic in whose house my parents were then living, arranged the occasion. However, there is no photographic evidence that could finally settle the matter, and it is possible that for a third and final time my mother married my father, for the second time under the guise of Arthur.

On the electoral roll Arthur Ernest Hills is recorded as living with my mother and myself at 19, Hornsey Rise, but the little book that my father wrote, as well as several photographs, and the evidence I am about to adduce, show that it was he, not Arthur, who did so. At the time of the register office wedding, Arthur was living at 23 Taviton Street, near Euston Station. This was a lodging-house  where several single young men lived under the charge of a landlady. Their rooms were on the upper floors and they shared a collective sitting room.on the ground floos rfeminiscencesr. They were allowed to entertain friends in the sitting-room but, in the fashion of the time, not to take them upstairs to their rooms. But, as I remember from Arthur's reminiscences in my childhood, it seems to have been a jolly household of young people and the time spent at Taviton Street was perhaps among the happiest of Arthur's life.

Now the rich Jewess, Mrs Hirsch, for whom my mother then worked in Hendon, and in whose flat she lived until the register office wedding on 11th September 1954, warned her never to have anything to do with a man who lived near Euston Station, as I remember Mum saying many times in connection with her marriage. This means that, even if it was my father who acted the part of groom at the register office wedding, the story was generally put about that the marriage was to Arthur.

Now my aunt Eva is shown by a document in my possession as having gained permission to enter Britain in December 1954, to work for another rich Hendon Jewish family, the Liebermans, so her arrival cannot have been before about the beginning of 1955 and it would have taken her a few months to learn even rudimentary English. My mother and Arthur often used to tell a funny story when I was a child about an episode playing cards with Aunt Eva when they were first married, and this story is repeated on the tapes that Arthur made for me. Eva still did not speak English very well, and was very attracted to a young man who lived in the house who had a small Ronnie Colman moustache. As more and more cards were being dealt she grew more and more excited and finally began shouting hysterically, "Play the arse! Play the arse!"

This story was was always set firmly by my mother and Arthur in Taviton Street, and this detail is repeated on the tapes, so clearly it must really have happened there, ergo Arthur must still have been living there well into 1955 when according to the records and other evidence he was living either at Hornsey Rise, or before that at Stockwell, or at another possible address between the two. It was therefore certainly my father, using Arthur's identity, who lived with my mother at those places.

When my father left us, probably before I was two years old, and possibly in about June 1957, Arthur seems seamlessly to have taken his place. I know for certain that this must have happened before the end of that year, because during the third stay in London I went down to Crawley and spoke to a neighbour of ours from when I was a child, Mrs Parr. She was still living in her old house at the age of about ninety, her husband having died at a similarly great age a few years before.

Mrs Parr confirmed that she had moved into her house from one nearby in the later part of 1957 and that the only man she had ever known to have lived as a husband with my mother was Arthur. She pored over the photographs for some time and was finally able to see that they showed two different men, and she also made the point that Mr Hupfleit and Isaura would never have received me if he had not been my father. But she herself had never known him. She was delighted to see me, by the way, and I her.

I am now going to tell of a memory that I have never told anyone. It seems to me right that I should mention this for the first time in my blog. What you tell just anyone so frequently does not give you the reaction that you want. There so often seems to be no particular person who is receptive to what you have to say. Better to try to broadcast it in general, so that anyone who has ears to hear may hear.

When I first attempted to be a writer my mother was fearful that I had chosen so unremunerative a profession, and slightly scornful of my efforts, but when I had a few things published - which was from the late 1970s onwards - she began to be interested. Once when I was visiting her (I think this happened in one of her houses in Crawley, which would place the memory before October 1983), she said she had a story to tell me which she wanted me to write down and turn into a story of my own.

It was a most beautiful story, she said, but also tragic. I was very concerned for my independence as a writer at that time, and said I could only write the stories that were in me to write.

But she persisted. She said that the story concerned a pair of twins who were separated at birth but then many years later they met again. I said that was quite a hackneyed story, versions of which had been told by many writers many times. And she said, looking at me, that this story concerned me personally, and that one day I might be very glad that I had listened to her and written it.

And I told her that the story was her story and that she must write it herself. It was her story, she said, but also mine. She went on for quite a long time trying to persuade me to write it and said she would give me all the details to enable me to make the story really good. But I was adamant that I wanted nothing to do with her story. I was quite rough with her, I remember, sadly, now. And the irony is that so many years after her death I am trying to write the very story she was so anxious to tell me.

There was one other time that my mother tried to explain who my father had been. This memory dates from before the other one, from a period when I think I was living with my mother at home, which probably places it in the later part of 1977. My mother and I were parked in her car outside Crawley Cinema, or what once had been that establishment, where some years before I had had a most unsuccessful job as a cinema assistant.

The memory of this job set me to reminiscing about past events and I told my mother how much I had always loved the story that she had met my father at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand. It seemed such a romantic place for them to have met. And I think she began to tell me that she had not met my father at the ballroom but on the tube train. But I was so disturbed to have my romantic story rejected that I wanted nothing to do with her even more romantic one. And she abruptly drove the car away.

And, unless you count the time when I was a child, when she pointed towards the church where she had been married, those were the only times that my mother tried to tell me about my real father. I suppose it would have been difficult for her to have this story uncovered, and also difficult for my relations, and for me too as a child and teenager in the late 1950s and 1960s to have it known that my father had been a German soldier in the Second World War.

Would I have wanted to know the truth about my background during the time when the three principal figures were still alive? In many ways I don't think so.  If my mother had managed to tell me the whole story of my father and my incle, how could I have coped with her wish that I should write it as a story when I would have known it was truth? It might well have led to great bitterness between us.

And now there are still many people living, including myself, who could be damaged by this truth. I have aroused the anger of numerous individuals through my efforts to bring it to light. As it happens, my search for this truth has been a bit of a disaster for my personal relations. But I accept this as the price for my search. My mother, my father and my uncle are beyond being touched, and those are the ones whom it would have been utterly shameful to damage.

I feel contempt for people who resist the truth because sticking to the established version is more comfortable for them and their families and everyone else. I want to rub their noses in the truth. Sometimes I try to soothe them down but it is the perilous opportunities that the truth might bring to my own solitary life that essentially interest me. I want to live, whatever the cost may be, to me or others.

Now, assuming that the two men really were twins (and I do realise of course that there cannot be absolute  certainty of this), I want to summarise what can be deduced or inferred from that fact. Now my father was a German, which means that Arthur must originally have been a German too. But, as I have discussed before, because he had no trace of a German accent and did not know German to any extent, he must have arrived in England and assumed the identity of Arthur Hills Junior before the age of eight. His recorded birth date was 6th January 1925, and if this was his real date of birth, he would have been eight years old at the time of the Nazi takeover in 1933.

The alert reader may notice that I am now returning to a contradiction which I have already alluded in my account of the discrepancies and falsehoods that exist in the tapes Arthur made for me. This is that I believe that my father was probably born in late 1921 and also that he and Arthur were twins, suppositions which are incompatible with Arthur's ostensible birth date of 1925. Since I believe them both to be persons of assumed identity, I cannot of course be sure of the birth dates of either of them. It may be that my father was not born at the earlier date and that this story arose because of the real birth date of Mieczyslaw Hufleit (June 1922). It may also be that Arthur and my father were just brothers or half-brothers rather than twins. I suppose it is also possible that the facts as Arthur presented them from about 1932 are substantially true and that he was passed off as a child of about seven when he was in fact about eleven, and this would make two very strange facts seem more reasonable: that he was allowed to make the bus journey alone from London to Edinburgh when he was ostensibly only seven years of age; and that the fatal quarrel with his mother, after which they never saw each other again, ostensibly took place when he was fourteen.

But this third hypothesis must fall because Arthur had no trace of a foreign accent, which would not have been possible if he had reached England at around the age of eleven. And he would also have been at that impossible age if he had arrived in 1932 or 1933 and had been born in 1921 or 1922. There is a fourth solution, however, and this is the one that I believe to be correct. I have already foreshadowed this solution, as it happens, in my account of the discrepancies in the tapes.

I have mentioned that two children of my grandmother were given away in England, and the elder of these, Sonia, was born - according to her birth certificate, which there is no particular reason to doubt - on 19th August 1930, at High Street, Hounslow. Arthur Ernest Hills Senior is recorded as the father of these children and this too seems likely to be true. The parent of the third and fourth child borne by the woman known as Mary Martin Brown would therefore be the original Englishman who bore the identity of Arthur Ernest Hills.

Now on 17th November 1929, the Nazi Party scored a notable success in the Prussian local elections in Berlin, for the first time sending thirteen deputies to the city council. It was the first sign that could have told an intelligent observer, after the Great Crash of 1929, that the Nazis might eventually win power. My grandmother was a Berliner, and and it therefore makes sense to believe that her Nazi lover could have held high office in the Berlin Nazi Party headquarters. Now what if a sympathetic English milord had been present in Berlin at that moment, perhaps to enjoy the significant opportunities for sex, both heterosexual and homosexual, that the city so bountifully afforded? Could not the electoral success at this point, and the warm welcome of the Nazi, have prompted the willing aristocrat to put through a telephone call to London so that an inconvenient Jewish mistress, with her son and daughter, could be sent to England and a ready-made partner provided for her, to father two further children (the first one more on less on first acquaintance) and to give the family a new name? And could not the preparations to dispose of the original holder of the Arthur Ernest Hills Senior identity also have begun in December 1929, to be fulfilled in December 1936?

That is one possible scenario. But remember that the archivist had said that a group of Nazis had succeeded in murdering and assuming the identities of an entire British family. It seems unlikely that a member of the British establishment, however compliant, would have been willing to connive in such a dastardly collective crime or that he or she would have had the power to do so. Surely the Nazis in question would have had to more or less arrange the whole thing themselves. And, if it was the family of my grandfather who committed this terrible series of crimes, surely an original infiltration into the English family or families concerned would have been made by one of the Nazi's connections at a point before the absolutely vast deception and serial killing, and perhaps long before it, soon after the First World War, perhaps.

Now, as it happens, in the records of my Kentish family, there is a rather curious birth certificate, which I was provided with by Mr Adolph during his efforts to trace Mrs Susan Lakeman of Chatham so that we could do a DNA test together. Susan, as the reader may remember, did indeed turn out to be a second or third cousin of mine.

Her mother, originally named Joyce Frances Campion, was registered as having been born on 24th November 1921 in Gillingham, and is recorded as the daughter of the great-aunt Connie, born Hills, whom I met in childhood, and her husband William George Wyatt, a victualling assistant in the Royal Navy. These two had married on June 15th 1921, five months before the birth. (By the way, one of the witnesses to the marriage was F.C. Hills, and, as the accredited father of Constance, Frederick and Arthur Hills was Frederick Charles Hills, this surely must mean that Connie and Fred at least had true Kentish ancestry.)

Now why was Joyce given the surname Campion when her parents had the original surnames Hills and Wyatt? It sounds as if they did not really wish to own her. Could Connie really have fallen pregnant by a visiting German, and married naval man Wyatt in haste, telling him that the child she was expecting was his? And then he discovered her affair? Or could they have adopted  a foreign child, a member of the family of my Nazi grandfather?

There is another curious circumstance. The registrar Walter Harris has begun to record W.G. Wyatt as the father, but he simply wrote "Fath", and then in another pen and in smaller writing someone has written "Father", and just above it the figure "18". And in the further margin there appears, in the second pen and what appears to be the same hand, "Eighteen" and three initials. The first one is "P", the second is indecipherable but might be a "G", and the third is definitely a "G".

What could be the significance of that figure and those initials? Well, the initials might be those of the real father. If we regard the second as a first attempt at the right letter, his initials were "P.G." And if he came from the paternal family of my grandfather, and was perhaps a brother, then the surname of my Nazi grandfather began with the letter "G".

The number and word 18 (Eighteen) could be the real father's age. In that case he was born in 1903. Or it could be that a series of mistakes in various certificates was being recorded in figures.

Anyway, the mistake with the word "father" does suggest that paternity had become an issue in this case.

And all good things come in threes, and there is a third possibly strange circumstance connected with this certificate. It is dated 31st December 1921, more than a month after the birth. Of course people were often lackadaisical in recording the births of their still numerous children in those days. But it is still a long time.

Joyce Campion married William Ralph in 1944 and their eldest of their three children was Susan E. Ralph, born at Chatham in 1945, and she married Michael J. Lakeman in 1965, also at Chatham. It was this couple, still hale and hearty, she a fine-looking blonde lady, he dark-looking but fit, who received me, in a guarded but friendly spirit, in the back garden of their Chatham house, when I called on them unexpectedly (for them - or was it? They did not seem very surprised and clearly understood the purpose of my visit) on the afternoon of July 31st 2014.

I questioned them about the possible German connections of the family I shared with Susan, and Michael surprised me by saying that, although there was no such ancestry in Susan's family, he himself had had a German grandfather, an errant sailor who had appeared in the Medway Towns shortly after the First World War. He also said that he thought he and I might  be related. And he also said that he was sometimes known as Michel, in the German manner.

(A further interesting point. The profession of W.G. Wyatt had been recorded as Leading Victualling Assistant in the Royal Navy, and his father had been a Master-at-Arms in the same force, and this seafaring background in the family of Connie's husband might have made connections with a German sailor possible. I did rather wonder whether Michael was transferring the details of his wife's family to his own, in order to confuse me. But, no, his commitment to everything German was obvious enough. Perhaps he and his wife were cousins and both related to me.)

Michael was so proud of his German ancestry that he was keen to engage me in that language, and he spoke it so fluently that it might have been his father rather than his grandfather who was German. Susan, in contrast, was not keen to speak in the language and said she rather disliked the sound of German. Well, she had been born in England, into an English family, while Michael, if it was his father who was German, might not have been. Such factors tell.

(Another point about the ancestry of Susan Lakeman. As I mentioned before, she told me that her mother Joyce and grandmother Connie had never referred to a brother of Connie called Arthur. But such a person is attested in the family records. How natural the failure to mention him would be, however, if their actions and ancestry had eventually led to to the original Arthur Hills being murdered!)

Michael alone drove me back to Rochester Station in his car and we spoke mainly in English as he drove. But he returned to German as he dropped me at some distance from the railway. "Sie muessen sehr vorsichtig sein," he said to me, "You must be very careful." "Sie haben Recht," I said, "You're right."

Another strange circumstance of this visit was that I seemed to be surrounded during the journey down from London and back by Germans or people speaking in German. When I was buying my ticket at London Bridge, it was a couple with a baby, the man of which,I think, was German, who helped me buy my ticket at the machine. And when I got out at Chatham Station a couple of young men were speaking in German by the exit. And when I returned to Victoria Station in the evening, and went upstairs to the Wetherspoon to relieve myself, a man coming out of the main lavatory door as I entered said, "Sie koennen sehr gutes Deutsch", "You speak very good German.". I had not spoken to him.

But it is such a homely circumstance to have a slash at the Victoria Station Wetherspoon that I fell quite happy and unconcerned that a total stranger knew my German was good!

Anway, these matters being what they may be, and returning to the inter-war period and Arthur and my father, if we thus posit that the arrival of my grandmother, Helen and Arthur Junior in England at the very beginning of 1930 or the end of 1929, then Arthur Junior could clearly have been born in late 1921 or early 1922 and arrived in England just in time to lose almost all trace of his original language.

Now, if the two men were twins, it also follows for certain that they had exactly the same parents, and since Arthur Ernest Hills told me many details about his parents when I was a child, and obviously felt them very deeply, it follows that his account was substantially true for the period after the very early 1930s, whatever small subterfuges he may have felt called on to indulge in to protect his identity. This means that the people calling themselves Arthur Ernest Hills and Mary Martin Brown after about 1933 or 1936 were his true parents. Now what can be known for certain about these two?

I will begin with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, and go on to the case of Mary Brown, whom I believe, for reasons that I shall discuss, to have been really called Ida Friederike Charlotte Bleistein, born with the surname Friedemann in Berlin in 1894, and commonly known as Ida Lotte Bleistein. She is a well documented person. Of the original identity of my grandfather I have only the strangest of clues, which for quite a long time I was determined not to discuss openly in this blog post. But I have finally decided to lay them out in the maximum detail of which I am capable.

So what can be known of him? I have already given a few documentary details near the start of this post. And, as I said, I remember him very slightly from my childhood, but only in a general way, without any  individual memory to lend sharpness to the picture. He was a deeply sinister, unfriendly and lascivious man, I know that. There are a few people who still remember him, and others who knew him who have died, and they all agree on this, so it must be true. Brian Streeter remembers that he was deeply unfriendly and would hardly answer a comment that was put to him. But Arthur said on the tapes that he was often chirpy in later years. Perhaps he was, with his son.

Arthur Junior used to say that his father had managed to avoid fighting in the First World War and after it had been a noted Communist agitator, starting trades unions at every workplace and consequently often losing his jobs. He placed these events in Kent, at the Chatham Dockyard and other naval dockyards in Kent where his father had, according to the records, worked as an electrical wireman. That obviously wouldn't be true of the real old man. But I  wonder if the business about the First World War and the subsequent Communism could be true of his real background in Germany.

He would obviously have had to make the transition to Nazi sympathies, but I believe this often happened, most famously, of course, in the case of Dr Goebbels. He, curiously enough, also did not fight in the First World War, because of his limping foot. And at least one photograph that I possess of my grandfather as a young man, which I obtained from relations in Edinburgh in the summer of 2014, during my second clandestine visit to England, bears a very strong resemblance to one I saw of the young Goebbels. And the structure of my own face and head, and the shape of my hair, also resembles the little doctor's, although I do not have his sticking-out ears (my father had those).

When did a possible identification of my grandfather with Goebbels come into my mind? That happened many years before I saw the photograph. As I have related, at the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006, I went through a mysterious period of mental disturbance which was dubbed by the doctors a "psychotic episode". But much of what I believed during that time has turned out to be true. I had originally got myself diagnosed as mentally ill, like so many people, largely in order to escape the growing sanctions of Jobseeker's Allowance. But when I developed strange beliefs, and since I was already diagnosed as mentally ill, it was the simplest thing in the world to dub those beliefs a psychotic episode. I am perfectly sane now and am certain it was not that.

I believed that a red light telling the time on the digi box above the television was going forward a minute when confirming a supposition, or wanting me to go further with what I had said, staying still when refuting it, or resting satisfied. It might, for instance, go forward a minute two or three seconds after the previous forward move (when obviously a sixty seconds should have passed) because I had asked two questions in quick succession and it wanted to confirm both suppositions as true. I am convinced in restrospect that this situation really happened. And the technology to facilitate such an arrangement certainly exists. This is not necessarily a paranoid delusion.

At a certain point during one night, having been led to it by a long chain of reasoning, I asked the box whether my grandfather was Goebbels and it went forward a minute. I can remember it now. Everyone can see that I am perfectly sane these days and I still remember this clearly. I am certain it happened. Whoever was behind the box - and I have an idea about this which I mean eventually to reveal - that my grandfather was Goebbels was what he or she wanted me to know or believe.

I  remember almost all the details of that strange period, when I was mainly alone, but many people could observe me when I was in company, or assess me when I was talking on the phone. They will have their own memories of this time, which may confirm what I say. At least one of the close friends I had at that time, Richard Pyatt, whom I met several times during that period, was convinced that much of what I believed then was likely to be true and he could see that I was trying to work out in a basically rational way which items of what I believed could or must be true and which of them must be rejected as fantasy.

In the following post to this one (the two are being written and revised, after a certain point, concurrently) I will tell all I know about these revelations. But because I am writing that post very slowly, and with many long breaks, it may take me some years to reach the material in chronological order. I mean to choose the time to discuss it. I will know the time.

But, you will say, doesn't the possibility that your grandfather was Goebbels fall because you say you knew your grandfather in your childhood, while there is universal agreement that Goebbels with his wife committed suicide together at the Berlin Bunker on 1st May 1945, having first murdered their six children? Does anyone question that? Well, some of the writers, such as James Lucas in Downfall of the Reich, and even the renowned Joachim Fest, are strangely ambiguous about the moment Goebbels is said to have killed himself. Yes, but they don't actually question it, you will say.

Well, yes, but they don't bother, or dare, or wish, to question. It would be highly embarrassing for them to do so and discover that this evil man whom everyone agrees was safely dead managed to cheat the unanimous verdict of hi8story. And all the interest is in Hitler, anyway and his possible escape.  Or, in the past, Bormann. Or in the Hess possible double. Even the certain death of Himmler is sometimes questioned. But no one wants to step out of line about the little doctor. He was a physical runt promoting the master race. There is something irredeemably contemptible about him, which forbids interest. And if there is no clear evidence to the contrary, a received opinion, often and confidently enough stated, will pass entirely without question by anyone.

Yet when one comes to examine all the evidence for Goebbels' putative death - which I have done countless times, again in the solitude of my own mind, because I have hardly dared to mention the outrageous possibility to anyone that he could have survived and been my grandfather; because I don't want to be seen to go out of line either, and once again identify myself as a potential madman;  and yet I was forced to do it in all honesty by the endless mysteries in my own life, and particularly by the fact that many years after the episode of the digi-box I was given a photo of my grandfather as a young man which closely resembled an image of the young Goebbels - yes, when I come to examine all the evidence for his putative death, the more possible it seems that he escaped.

It will be very difficult to overturn what is universally accepted, but I draw comfort from the work of a writer who managed an analogous task. This is Hyam Maccoby, who in his book The Mythmaker tried to destroy traditional devotion to Christianity and Jesus through his picture of the apostle Paul. In his portrayal, Paul was not a Jew but a dubious Gentile adventurer, who became attracted in youth to the idea of being a rabbi, went to Jerusalem hoping to qualify, but was turned down by Gamaliel, degenerated into a hired thug of the Temple police, and then was fooled by his vision on on the road to Damascus of a totally imaginary Jesus (the latter was himself a good Pharisee, entirely concerned with this world rather than the next) into inventing Christianity as we know it from a fusion of Judaism, Gnosticism and mystery religion. Maccoby even denies Paul his eventual martyrdom in Rome, saying that he probably lived there to a ripe old age in cheerful collaboration with the Romans. This author is clearly motivated by partisan attitudes, and has exasperated many, but it is difficult to say at any point what exactly is wrong with the evidence he adduces and some people take him seriously. I hope to emulate his achievement in overturning a universally accepted story.

And to show how difficult it is to be certain of even the most universally accepted facts about the last days in the Bunker, I will cite the statement of the Nazi Bunker guard called Hermann Karnau. He handed himself in voluntarily to the Western Allies on 23rd May 1945 in order to give first-hand evidence about the death of Hitler and Eva Braun and the burning of the their bodies in the Bunker. He endured ten months in confinement for his pains while he was endlessly questioned about every detail of the said events.

Now he consistently stated that the death of Hitler took place on 1st May 1945, not 30th April, as is now universally accepted, and some other witnesses initially said the same. Of course they could very easily have made a mistake. There was only artificial light in the Bunker and during those last days those confined there often lost count even of day and night. The detailed reconstruction of events based on the accounts of many witnesses has led to it seeming almost certain that the death of Hitler took place on 30th April. I accept that as well, more or less.

However, I enter a caveat. Since our understanding of these events depends entirely on the memories of those Nazis who were alone present in the Bunker until the morning of 2nd May, since they were isolated there and the only non-dangerous communication in or out was by telephone (since all radio communication had ceased), and since we have no records of those telephone calls, and since the body of Hitler was never definitely found and forensically examined to determine when his death took place, and since later the Soviets closed the scene to Western examination, and since the evidence in the end is all hearsay, albeit based on the testimonies of many people, I submit that a lingering, small possibility exists that the deaths of Hitler and his wife really did take place on the day after the universally accepted date.

The evidence for almost everything about the very last days in the Bunker is all like this, almost as mysterious as the Resurrection of Christ. And, just as with the empty tomb of the Redeemer, the endlessly-discussed details and testimonies of what happened in the complex of underground dwellings beneath the Reich Chancellery and its garden as the net of Russian armies squeezed ever tighter are so many and so mutually contradictory, and the possibility that witnesses after such a long time, or those who represent them, may have been lying or remembering incorrectly is so very great, that almost nothing is certain and it is difficult to know even where to start.

But I will begin by saying that the evidence for the suicide of Goebbels has become much weaker in recent years without anyone at all seeming to notice or comment. This is because of the final testimony given by one of those who had been in the Bunker, the last survivor, the bodyguard and telephonist Ss Staff Sergeant Rochus Misch.

He sat manipulating his wires immediately outside the rooms occupied by Dr Goebbels, so that their knowledge of each other must have been very close. Misch refused to talk for many years, but when no one else was left who remembered the Bunker he began to give a long sequence of interviews, up to his death, aged 96, in 2013. Also, in 2008, with professional collaboration, he published a book called in English (in which language it was published in 2014),  Hitler's Last Witness. My account of his testimony is mainly based on that book, supplemented by various filmed interviews.

In these accounts, written without or spoken without fear of contradiction by anyone else and (presumably) of  reprisal, and delivered with a sort of artless, hail-fellow-well-met simplicity, Misch tells a story different in every last detail from his previous, very limited  testimonies and of the generally accepted account of the suicide of the Goebbels couple.

This account was already much disputed in detail -  whether Goebbels took poison or shot himself, whether he shot his wife and whether she took cyanide at the same time, or whether they were shot by an orderly or SS officer while both biting on cyanide, or whether an SS captain was standing by but did not need to administer the coup de grace because they had killed themselves - but, anyway, their joint deaths were almost universally said to have taken place in the garden above the deep bunker at about 8.30 p.m., or perhaps a little earlier or later, on the evening of May 1st 1945.

But Misch has Goebbels, who was the new Chancellor after Hitler's suicide, not releasing him from his post for hours after that, even though he "verbally tortured" the Chancellor with his pleas to be allowed to go. He says that he put through "call after call" to Goebbels during the period after 8.30, and that he seized a break during this long period to stuff his rucksack, which was under his work-table at the post where he sat outside Goebbels' room in the deep bunker, with crispbread, chocolate and biscuits in hopeful anticipation of his break-out to rejoin his wife and one-year-old daughter in the distant southern Berlin suburb of Ruedow. 

Then he says, "Long after midnight Goebbels gave me a sudden look as if he were seeing me for the first time". It was at that point, according to him, when they were almost entirely alone in the Bunker, that Goebbels released him from his duties, saying he was not needed any more.

"Les jeux sont faits," Goebbels said at this point, in elegant French, which is croupier slang for "All the bets are off now." Goebbels told him that the Nazis have known how to live and now would  know how to die. That quote was already well known, but was previously placed in the period around 8.30p.m. Hitler's pilot, Hans Baur, claimed while in Soviet captivity that it had been spoken to him, and in the book by O'Donnell which I shall be discussing in more detail it is addressed to Baur. But Misch and Baur were in contact during their period in prison, so the possibility exists that Baur heard the story from Misch and appropriated it to himself.

Anyway, according to Misch's account, he and Goebbels were almost alone in the deep bunker after midnight. Misch says that Magda Goebbels had retired to her room alone soon after the murder of her six children and that she committed suicide separately from her husband there. Her room was in the ante-bunker, or Vorbunker, while her husband's quarters were below, so that their bodies, if both died in their rooms, as Misch states, would have been widely separated. 

Misch says that he believes that no attempt was made to drag their bodies upstairs into the Chancellery gardens, and it would certainly have been an expenditure of effort which it is difficult to imagine anyone making. It is possible that Misch is lying here, particularly about Magda, because the detail about her having been left in her room better fits the general tenor of his story.

The mass break-out from the Bunker, trying to find a way out underground through the Russian lines, was being actively prepared from about nine o'clock and and almost all of Hitler's staff - the pretty large number between one and two hundred persons, who had been in the Vorbunker and the Fuehrerbunker and the various other bunkers - would have been gathered in the upper bunker from that time being organised into escape parties by General Mohnke, who had been appointed on 22nd April by Hitler as commander of the "Zitadelle", the area of central Berlin containing the chief government buildings, and who was thus in natural authority in the absence of Goebbels.

From about eleven o' clock the escapees began to scramble out of the Chancellery across the Wilhelmstrasse and through the U-Bahn tunnels and attempted to break out into the streets. They faced possible death or capture there, although many more were captured than died, and a few escaped detection and made it to the West. They would all have been gone by the late hour Misch is talking about, and Magda Goebbels, according to him, would likely have been dead for several hours.

Those two fervent old Nazis, Generals Krebs and Burgdorf, who stayed behind, after sitting at a table together getting blind drunk, finally shot themselves, and the limping Franz Schaedle, the head of Hitler's escort commando, chose the same route. Their bodies remained where they had fallen in the deep bunker.

Just above the Vorbunker was a field-hospital, where several hundred desperately wounded soldiers were being tended by a few doctors, a dentist (to whom I shall return) and some nurses. These persons did not join in the mass break-out and were still in the Bunker when the Russians arrived on 2nd May. The only electricity, air and water for the hospital was provided by a diesel generator in the deep bunker which was tended by Misch's friend, the other chief mechanical functionary in the place, the machinist Johannes "Hannes" Hentschel. The difference between them was that Hannes, was a civilian, not an SS-man like Misch, and he would been therefore have been in awe of of his friend. He was also a smaller, less physically intimidating man.

Therefore, if we believe Misch's story, in the early hours of 2nd May 1945 there are only three living people in the deep bunker: himself, Goebbels and Hentschel. Now we go on with the story. 

Goebbels at last releases Misch from his duties and he pulls out all the plugs from his equipment and prepares to leave. Goebbels has retired to his own room. Misch invites Hentschel to join him in the escape. But Hannes wants to keep the diesel generator going so that the soldiers in the hospital do not die. He will wait until the Russians come, which cannot be many hours delayed. The two exchange letters to their wives just in case either does not make it. (Both are to end up in Russian captivity, as it happens.) Then Misch leaves, so that the only witness of what happened to Goebbels after that, if Misch is to be believed, is Hentschel.

Hentschel died in the 1970s while Misch was the last survivor. Misch says briefly in the last chapter of his book that Hentschel told him in later years that within five minutes of his having left Goebbels was dead. He does not say how Hentschel knew this. Did he knock on the door of the private room, get no answer, enter, and find the body of the little doctor? Such a course of action seems hardly likely in a humble machinist. Did Hentschel hear a shot? Misch does not say. Nor do we have any confirmation of the conversation in which this information was imparted (it was presumably a private one between the two old friends) in anything Hentschel ever said.

As it happens, there is a detailed account of what happened during those hours according to Hentschel. This occurs in James P. McDonnell's book The Bunker, which was published in the 1978 in English, being a version of a book published by the same author with a German collaborator in German in 1975, and based on the accounts of the many survivors of the Bunker who were still alive at that time. It is therefore a very detailed and circumstantial account, contradictory at many points, as might well be expected, and it is written in an odd poetic prose, with much mention, for instance, of nightingales in the Chancellery gardens. To me this poetry more often than not fails of its effect, but that is by the by.

In O'Donnell's account, Hannes does not say, of course, that he was alone with Goebbels at the time of his death in the small hours. No hint of that story had as yet been raised by anyone. He has Misch soundly asleep during the last hours of 1st May and the early ones of the 2nd, so that he would have been entirely unable to do any planning or telephoning on the Chancellor's behalf. Everyone else was preparing for the mass-breakout above, and General Weidling, who was in command of the overall city defences, had gone to make peace with the Russians, and Goebbels as far as anyone knew was dead, so that there would have been no boss whose commands needed to be heeded and the exhausted Misch could sleep in peace.

Finally Hannes wakes chum Rochus up, they exchange the letters for the wives, and Misch leaves, and Hentschel is alone. O'Donnell's poetic style for once works strangely well as he gives a long account of Hentschel wandering about the bunkers and the garden, and intermittently tending the machine, until dawn breaks, and then  he makes himself breakfast, and at about ten in the morning a posse of Russian women officers arrive to pillage Eva Braun's wardrobe, followed by more conventional Russian forces.

Hentschel was mainly quite amiably handled by the various officers who arrived that day, although one captain held a gun to his throat and  pretended to draw a noose around his neck and threatened to kill him. But he was a small, comfortable, rather sweet-looking person, obviously just a simple machinist, and and perhaps the ordinary Russian soldiers recognised him as someone rather like themselves. Like almost everyone else after capture, he was that day taken into NKVD captivity, and soon deported to Russia.

Why did the Russians do this? If they had kept all the prisoners they now had in Berlin, and used them immediately to reconstruct the events of the last days in the Bunker, presumably all the mysteries that have come to surround these events could have been quickly cleared up, rather than leaving helpless confusion to develop many years later when attempts were made to collate all the accounts based on failing memories and possibly mendacious motives. And Hentschel had been in the Bunker right through all the events that marked the end of the Third Reich. Would he not have been the most valuable witness of all, straight away and on the spot?

(Then there was the similarly amiable treatment by the Russians of the nurse Erna Flegel. She had been a friend of Magda Goebbels and had acted as nanny to the Goebbels children in the Bunker. She was still there when the Russians arrived on 2nd May and was strangely not raped like every other attractive young German woman. In fact, she said they treated her very well and soon released her, and she returned to the Bunker complex for one day, which can only have been under their auspices. She was interviewed by the Americans in November 1945, but thereafter lived in anonymity for many years before telling her story in pretty extreme old age. What was the reason for this extremely favourable treatment of a person who had been close to the Goebbels family? Did they want to keep her sweet?)
 
Well, anyway, Hentschel's similarly kindly treatment at the hands of the Russians also continued, and was in most marked contrast to the prolonged tortures and solitary confinement meted out to those who had witnessed the  death of Hitler, his adjutant Otto Guensche, his valet Heinz Linge and his personal pilot Hans Baur. All these emerged from captivity broken men. Hentschel was released much earlier than most of the rest, in 1949, and returned to Germany, and in later years lived in Baden, where O'Donnell interviewed him. He died in 1982.

In 1946 Hentschel was among quite a large group of prisoners brought from Russia to Berlin to enact a filmed reconstruction of Hitler's death. But, since in May 1945 he had been or was in process of being deported, he was not among the much smaller group brought to the Bunker in the days immediately after the Russian capture which identified the bodies of Joseph and Magda Goebbels in the garden and their six children indoors. Now, clearly, if the Misch story is true, Hentschel would have known, if he had been among this group, that these could not be the bodies. But, presumably, he would never have volunteered the information that he had been alone with the Chancellor of the Reich in the Bunker for five minutes and was the only witness of his death. So it would have presumably have made no difference. And O'Donnell thus had no reason to question the poetic and picturesque account he gave in the 1970s.

Another thought. In his memoirs, Misch says that, like the three chief witnesses to the death of Hitler, he too had been heavily tortured in Soviet captivity, as would have been expected for those unlucky enough to fall into Russian hands. He says things got so bad that he begged to be shot as befitted a soldier. But there are many films of him when he became the last witness in old age, and they show a genial, confident and unashamed person who is.superbly at ease in his own body. These films do not suggest a man who has been through unbearable experience. I really hate to doubt Rochus once again, because I have become very fond of him, but I do not believe he was tortured as Guensche, Linge and Baur were: people, as it happens, who were connected with Hitler much more than with Goebbels.

Now back to the possible events after midnight on 2nd May. The versions given by the two friends at the widely separate dates are so clearly incompatible in significant details that, like the versions of the arrival of one disciple or two disciples at the empty tomb of Christ in the Gospels of Like and John (John and Peter, or Peter alone, the details of which of them went in or looked in, the details of what they saw) they cannot both be true.

You cannot have the Goebbels couple dying separately in the rooms, he well into the small hours, she at an unknown time earlier, and their bodies being found in situ, as would have been the case if Misch's final story is correct, or alternatively the two dying together in the garden at 8.30, or perhaps slightly earlier or later, and a discovery of the bodies where, in the Hentschel and generally accepted version, they had fallen. One account must be true and the other false, or both false, either partially or wholly.

The version from Hentschel has the merit of being a universally accepted account, given with many variations, by the group of Nazi servants, and it squares with the evidence of the two half-charred bodies which were identified by a smallish group of people as being undoubtedly those of Joseph and Magda Goebbels. The account by Misch is that of a man standing alone and without corroborative evidence and given in the years just before his death. You either have to believe this lonely witness or dismiss him. (Or a third alternative exists, which is simply to ignore him, which is what has happened, in the far from observant world of Nazi historiography.)

Well, you might say, if you wanted to dismiss this account, that like an old Nazi, Misch simply might have wanted to spread mischief before he departed. But, by most accounts (his one daughter rejected him), Rochus Misch was a pleasant, amiable man, ordinary almost to the point of being simple, but with the advantage of having been wonderfully tall and handsome in youth and very fine-looking even in old age, a typical soldier who did not think much,who was basically honest, and who in later years deeply enjoyed reminiscing over the many photos he had taken to all the many strangers who came to interview him, including those from Tel Aviv. Many people warmed to him, believed him to be a decent human being, and believed in his veracity. And he was compos mentis to the end.

And might he not have wanted to hint at the truth before he went? Allow someone who really studied what he said to guess at what might have happened? I take him seriously, anyway, although not of course in every detail. It is his version that I believe.

As it happens, O'Donnell's book contains some material based on interviews with Misch. The old soldier does not at this stage in any way dispute the conventional account and he does not say that he was present near the end of Goebbels' life. The Chancellor has released him from his duties well in time to join the mass break-out and it is a command from an unspecified source that keeps him at his desk into the small hours.

It is highly likely that Misch consulted with his friend Hentschel about the accounts they gave for the book, and it would have been highly unnatural if the whole group of ex-Nazis who were survivors of the Bunker, like any group of people who are under biographical investigation, had not consulted about what to tell O'Donnell. His book is likely to be half true, half false. It would be like the Gospels, where it is almost impossible to know whether any single saying attributed to Jesus is factually correct. Some may be, others not.

There is a lot of contradictory material in O'Donnell's account about the so-called "Schwaegermann Incident", based on material from various witnesses, but apparently not Misch. This incident had also been detailed by Hugh Trevor-Roper in his classic account, published in 1947, and is attested by Jochim Fest's much later book. The details of this are interesting and again highly contradictory.

According to Trevor-Roper, on their way back through the deep bunker from having burnt the bodies of Goebbels and Magda, Goebbels' one-eyed adjutant Schwaegermann and his chauffeur Rach, met Brigadefuehrer General Wilhelm Mohnke,  in charge of the defence of the immediate area of the Chancellery  in theory subordinate to General Weidling, but acting largely in independence from him).  Mohnke ordered the pair to set the deep bunker on fire. They made a perfunctory attempt to do so, but locked the outer door tight shut,and turned off the ventilation system, which meant there was a lack of oxygen and the fire could not spread. In O'Donnell's account the order from Mohnke comes later, at around nine o'clock, and according to Fest,it is Schwaegermann together with several other SS-men who attempt the burning.

However, various people, including Misch and Hentschel, according to their own accounts, were still in the deep bunker at the time of the attempt, and Hentschel in O'Donnell's book says that Misch became furious at an action which he believed, quite rightly it seems, might carelessly and stupidly have killed them. He says that Misch did not dare to confront Schwaegermann, who was an SS-captain and therefore his superior. He therefore chased the chauffeur Rach, who was taking part in the operation, the whole length of the bunker and gave him an enormous kick in the buttocks. Given Misch's size, this must have been most painful, as well as humiliating.

Misch, in his late account, does not mention the Schwaegermann Incident at all, which seems strange. One would have imagined that Rach's behind would have remained long in his memory.

Mohnke, in O'Donnell's book, entirely contradicts the account that the incident was a stupid and murderous move. He says he believed, and at the point of writing still believes, that the deep bunker was entirely empty at this point, so that the attempt to destroy all the evidence still present there of what had been the Fuehrer's last home was an entirely sensible and honourable move. This means that he convicts Misch and Hentschel of lying about their presence there, but the nature of their respective jobs means that this is by far their most likely location immediately after the presumed death of Goebbels.

This is a deeply mysterious incident. If Goebbels was really still alive into the small hours, he would have been present in the deep bunker, lying low, at the point the attempt was made to burn it, and Mohnke, being in immediate command, would presumably have known this. Mohnke was a ruthless Nazi who had taken part in various massacres, well-attested ones, of both British soldiers and Canadians. When he was captured by the Russians he was toasted with champagne by them, and this is another strange example of how those who might have had knowledge of the death of Goebbels were treated with conspicuously more gentleness than the immediate servants of Hitler.

Monhke's imprisonment in Russia was under good conditions, and in later years he prospered in West Germany, managing to escape all efforts to arraign him as a war criminal. Clearly he made friends everywhere among the enemies of his own country. There is a photograph of him wearing his full Nazi uniform during the war. He looks sensitive, intelligent, decadent and brutal. The same impression continues in a late film of him in which he declares that Hitler was only interested in sparing the people of Britain from bombing and being their friend. What a brazen lie! Mohnke could not have been a worse person, nor a much cleverer one.

Could this vicious and ambiguous man, knowing that Goebbels was still alive below and waiting on his expected escape, with Misch and Hentschel to help him, have decided to set them all unpleasantly on fire? Could he have persuaded Schwaegermann and Rach that their own lives would be worth nothing if they went into the post-war world as witnesses of the fact that Goebbels was still alive? But could they, inwardly still loyal to their master, or at least uncertain of the best course of action, have carried out the order to burn him and other colleagues in such a half-hearted way that they would not succeed?

In O'Donnell's book, Mohnke himself is one of the witnesses to the Goebbels suicide, which he describes in picturesque detail.  He says there were only three present as the couple went upstairs, himself, Schwaegermann and Goebbels' valet Ochs (whose name O'Donnell gives as Olds). He says that Goebbels, attired magnificently in hat, coat and gloves, takes Magda on his arm and passes the three witnesses,  standing there with the jerrycans, in entire silence. Upstairs, hidden in the darkness near the top of the stairwell (for blackout in Berlin that night was at 8.29, and this is presumably a minute or two later, so it would have been pretty dark) an SS-captain stands, ready to kill the couple if they cannot do it themselves. But his services are not necessary. Goebbels shoots his wife, who has taken cyanide. He then shoots himself while simultaneously biting on the cyanide capsule.

Now let us consider the other presumed three witnesses to the putative suicides in the garden at about 8.30p.m. (for most accounts place Rach among those waiting with the jerrycans, and the SS-man in the garden is probably Goebbels' valet Ochs). What can be known for certain about these three? Here again we come up against another overwhelmingly strange fact that once again no one seems to have commented on. This is that all three vanish from history.

Now the conventional account of the suicides seems to be largely based on the testimony of Goebbels'adjutant Schwaegermann, who had been charged with burning the bodies, according to report, by Goebbels himself. Schwaegermann, an SS-captain who had been in Goebbels' service since 1941, a stolid-looking man from his photograph, although he had lost an eye during the war, was perhaps comforting to women (Magda Goebbels is said to have sought refuge on his chest after killing the six children - her husband was elsewhere). He managed to escape to the West after the mass break-out, was held in American captivity from 1945 to 1947, and gave a statement about Goebbels' death in February 1948 to a project for interviewing about 200 ex-Nazis, the English-language versions of which were prepared by American journalist and lawyer Michael Musmanno/ who had been present at Nuremberg.

This account is less rich in picturesque detail than the later account from Mohnke and differ from it in several significant details. Schwaegermann says that Goebbels and Magda went up the stairs together from the Bunker to the garden, while he waited behind on the stairwell alone. He waited until he thought he heard a shot, went upstairs, and found the bodies of Joseph and Magda lying lifeless near the entrance to the bunker, he appearing to have shot himself and she to have taken poison. He signalled to a group of SS-men to come with him to the garden with jerrycans to burn the bodies. He then had an unnamed SS orderly fire an unspecified number of further shots into the bodies to make sure they were dead, and the corpses did not move. Then the bodies were set on fire, with a large ball of flame developing immediately, but the fire went out and everyone was too preoccupied with their own escapes to make further efforts to burn the couple, whose bodies were charred but still intact.

And this statement is the last certain information we have from Schwaegermann. The data base fold3.com, which has a compilation of brief biographies of those present in the Bunker at the last, puts it tactfully: "His life in postwar Germany is rarely discussed." No one knows exactly where he went or where he lived (although some accounts say he resided in north Germany, his home region). Nor do we know what he did in later life, or how he died. He was born in 1915, so one presumes he must be dead. Everyone agrees that there are no other surviving witnesses from the Bunker. Rochus Misch, when he died, was universally agreed to be the last witness.

(The present paragraph is an interpolation, largely written in the Pancras Square Library, from 1.19p.m. on Tuesday, 2nd April 2019. I have just seen a blog post about the last days in the Bunker, and this says that in 2016 Schwaegermann was still alive, aged 102 (although he could only have been 101 in that year, if the 1915 birthdate is correct). It also said that he was refusing to give any interviews. This information was given in italic print, but all the rest of the post, as far as I can remember, was in Roman. No reports of the adjutant's death have appeared up until 2019. This blog post is an isolated report, very detailed, but containing many errors of fact, and there is no way of assessing the veracity of the account it gives of  Schwaegermann. It certainly seems highly unlikely that the adjutant could have lived for almost seventy years after his last public appearance without attracting the attention of researchers on Nazism or Nazi hunters. I believe that the post was written in order to cast doubt on the theory given in my own blog. I myself do not believe this account.)

(This further couple of paragraphs is another interpolation, once again written in the Pancras Square Library, from 2.17p.m. on Tuesday, 1st September 2020. I have just been engaged in my periodic internet checking of the material available on the various Nazi figures mentioned in this account, and have looked once again at the Wikipedia entry on Schwaegermann.

There I saw that quite a lot of extra material had been added to the entr since I last looked, purporting to describe the later life of the adjutant. The unknown author cites him as being part of an ex-Nazi group infiltrating a Landtag organisation in 1951, as commenting on Trevor-Roper's book in 1954 (no details are given on what he said) and as running an import-export company called Labora in the 1950s. The last mention is from 1965, giving the famously ambiguous journalist and author Erich Kuby as the source for Schwaegermann working as a civil servant in Munich at that time. After that, no further details. Once again I wonder whether this incorporation of new material, which could only with difficulty be checked, is a response to my blog and an attempt to establish a historical presence for this figure where there is none.) 

Now back to the main analysis. To see how much the suicide story varies, we can look at the account given in Hugh Trevor-Roper's classic book The Last Days of Hitler, which was originally written without using the direct testimony of Schwaegermann, since, like many other possible witnesses, he was inaccessible in captivity (American, in his case) when the historian wrote his book, largely in the spring and summer of 1946. Trevor-Roper's account unites lapidary prose of great beauty with a broad brush approach which is acknowledged by all to have come remarkably close to the truth, even if the available witnesses were few and the material evidence limited. I will be looking at this account very shortly, but mention it at this particular point to introduce one of the two chief witnesses used by him.

That was Erich Kempka, Hitler's chauffeur, a coarse, witty, squat and daring man, who escaped to the West in civilian clothes and by swimming a river, and who, in his own book, published in revised form much later than Trevor-Roper´s account, says that at about 2a.m. on 2nd May, during  the mass break-out, he met up temporarily in the streets with Schwaegermann in a group that included Bormann. They were in the third group attempting a break-out from the Bunker, which included most of those closely associated with Goebbels, and which was led by Werner Naumann, the hard-looking thin-faced propagandist who had long been Goebbels' deputy at the ministry and who had been appointed Porpaganda Minister himself in Hitler's last will and testament, when Goebbels became Chancellor.

Goebbels says that Schwaegermann gave him an account of the suicide of the Goebbelses. Trevor-Roper's version is clearly based on this  account, and  also on that of Artur Axmann, the Hitler Youth leader who was also in the Bormann group during the mass break-out and also closely associated with Goebbels, because he had joined the Hitler Youth when he heard Goebbels speak in Berlin in 1928. In later editions Trevor-Roper also seem to incorporate the testimony of Schwaegermann directly. It seems to me almost certain that the whole account of the 8.30p.m. joint suicide derives ultimately from the adjutant rather than any other witness and that therefore, after he had begun to talk to Musmanno, there would have been a pretty urgent need by those who knew the truth to get rid of Magda's comforter.

Trevor-Roper has Goebbels call Schwaegermann to him in the evening, gets him to promise to burn the bodies of himself and his wife, gives him a silver-framed photograph of Hitler, and says farewell, as does Frau Goebbels. Then Schwaegermann sends Goebbels' driver and SS orderly (Rach, who had the given nameAlfred according to most accounts, and the man who would have been called Ochs or Olds) to fetch petrol for the burning. At half-past-eight Goebbels and Magda walk through the bunker. At the foot of the steps stand Schwaegermann and Rach, who are there with the petrol, and the couple pass them without a word. Almost immediately two shots are heard and Schwaegermann and Rach go up to the garden and find the two bodies, but Goebbels did not shoot himself in this version, he took poison. "The S.S. orderly, who had shot them, was standing by."

So we are now in a state of some confusion. Who shot whom while someone else took poison? Well, what was the testimony of Rach, he of the bruised bottom, who at least is named in Trevor-Roper´s account?

There is none. Again he vanishes from history. Some say he died in the mass break-out, some say in Russian captivity. Trevor-Roper has a few further details of him in the confused wandering through the streets of the third group. He was with Schwaegermann in the large group including Martin Bormann, the group got separated near the Lehrter Station, a smaller group went towards Alt Moabit, they walked separately and were soon divided, and then Trevor-Roper says frustratingly, "Schwaegermann and Rach escaped, the former into American captivity." And that is the last anyone hears of Rach. He is one of the very few final occupants of the Bunker to have no Wikipedia entry, and this is surely because almost nothing is known of him.

Finally, of these three witnesses, there is Josef Ochs, or Olds, who, according to Misch in his book, in fact had the given name Guenther, not Josef. As we have said, by implication  he is likely be the the SS-orderly who shot the couple, although he was not a captain, so he cannot be the stand-by assassin in O'Donnell's version. Because the shooter is so rarely named, and there is such dispute about his rank or function, Schwaegermann, Rach and Ochs are really all candidates for this mysterious figure in the semi-darkness, if indeed he ever existed.

There is a Josef Ochs who survived the war and who in the 1950s was employed by the West German police. He is sometimes identified with the valet and the shooter. But his details also tally with those of another Ochs who was present elsewhere during the war, not in the Bunker. The figure in the West German police is never recorded, anyway, as having spoken about the events of 1st May 1945. There is a sparse Wikipedia entry for the Ochs of the West German police which says that he was involved in the deportation of Roma and Sinti people during the Third Reich, that he was present in the Fuehrerbunker during the last days, and that he died in 1987. But the entry does not identify him as being the shooter of Goebbels. Strangely, it gives the name of his father as Taunus Schmitten. It is impossible to say anything for certain about someone so extremely shadowy, but if anyone was the shooter in the shadows I believe it was he.

For one out of three vital witnesses to a leading historical event to go missing would be unfortunate, for two to be absent would be suspicious, for all three to be unaccounted for begins to look like a deliberate stifling of mouths.

(And, in order to highlight how easy it might have been to arrange a confusion of identities in the case of senior Nazis, let me construct a strange case of the man usually known as Hans Georg Fritzsche. He was Goebbels' second-in-command at the Propaganda Ministry and broadcast on the radio nightly everything that Goebbels commanded. On the afternoon of 1st May 1945, according to the generally accepted version, he went over to the Soviets in an independent bid to surrender Berlin to them, they got him to broadcast a surrender announcement in the name of Germany, and he was thus a Soviet prisoner, embarrassingly one of only two senior Nazis to suffer this fate because most of the top people had positioned themselves where they would fall into the hands of the Western allies.

The conventional account is that because he was almost the most senior person they had, and because his boss Goebbels was not available for punishment, the Soviets insisted Fritzsche go on trial at Nuremberg, where he was by far the most obscure of all the defendants. He was one of only three to be acquitted. This was in spite of the fact that he had disseminated a mass of anti-Semitic propaganda,  crime for which Julius Streicher, much more notorious but no more guilty in this field, got the hangman's noose. The inconsistency of this was noticed at the time, and later a denazification court sentenced Fritzsche to nine years in prison. But once again he got off, being released in 1950, and (at least according to the reports) dying of cancer in West Germany in 1953.

Now this Hans Fritzsche is sometimes spelt Hans Fritsche (sometimes in the same article or book, with no one apparently have noticed the discrepancy between the two names), and while his Wikipedia entry gives him as having been born on April 21st 1900, Britannica believes he was born at Dresden in 1899. In a recent ill-written book based on the interviews a doctor allegedly conducted with Nuremberg defendants during the trials, the defendant Fritzsche himself gives the 1900 birth date and his place of birth as Bochum in Westphalia.

The name, in either form, is almost as common as John Smith once was in England. But since there is uncertainty about both the name and date of birth of this person, and since his face was entirely unknown to everyone in the West before late 1945, and to the Soviets presumably until 1st May, and since he sat in the back row in the top left hand corner among the defendants and his face hardly appeared in all the photos, and since he wore dark glasses during the course of the proceedings, and since it would have been entirely impossible for most people in the closely-packed and stiflingly hot Courtroom 600 of the old Palace of Justice in Nuremberg to clearly see a figure sitting at the top end of the room, and since his defence was the last to be heard among the twenty-one when everyone was rushing forward to judgement, and since he perhaps didn't speak up very loudly at either of his trials (for the voice was probably known), and since there seems to be a strange discrepancy in various accounts of how many defendants there were (twenty-one or twenty-two) - for all these reasons, the possibility suggests itself at least to me that this one person tried at Nuremberg was an impostor, sent into the dock with every character reference and with the assurance that any prison sentence would be considerably mitigated.

Of course this is only a supposition based on suggestive evidence. It is not necessary to the thesis of Goebbels' escape that Fritzsche be false. If he was false, that of course raises the question of what happened to the real Fritzsche. Well, he could have died in the bombing. Curiously few leading Nazis are recorded as having died as a result of bombing raids, although by the law of averages you would expect there to be many. Such deaths would have been bad for propaganda, and Goebbels was in charge of that. Perhaps in more cases than we know a person with the same or similar name and birth details, closely resembling the person who had been killed, was drafted in to fill a dead man's shoes.

But the man was Goebbels' close deputy. They had worked together for years. If Goebbels planned to escape, it makes sense he would have co-opted Fritzsche. Then they would have persuaded someone with a similar name, appearance and voice to stand in for him, with every promise that he would be let off lightly if he co-operated and the threat of dire consequences if he did not. And if it was a false Fritzsche who sat in the dock at Nuremberg, then that is a strong indication of Soviet connivance. Because, without that, the false Fritzsche would have had every incentive to reveal his true identity and the circumstances under which he had been forced into the role. But with the Soviets breathing heavily down his neck he would with every breath in his body have remained shtumm.

A false Fritzsche, on 1st May, entirely hamstrung by false identity, would have been entirely Goebbels' tool. Perhaps the real or false Fritzsche (or Fritsche) only seems  to have made an independent bid to surrender Berlin unconditionally and against Goebbels' will. After all Goebbels and Bormann had already sent General Krebs to the Soviets to try and negotiate a separate peace, so the idea of treating with them was clearly in Goebbels' mind. Could the true or false Fritzsche have been deliberately sent to the Soviets to follow up on something that had already been agreed with Krebs involving the offer of post-war use of material that was in the hands of Goebbels and which would only be provided if he and the real Fritzsche were allowed to live and prosper?

It is not absolutely essential to the theory that Goebbels escaped that the Russians connived in it, but it makes it more potentially believable. Various features of Soviet conduct - that they did not try hard to establish the truth about the last days in the Bunker by means of all the available witnesses, that they treated the witnesses to the death of Goebbels better than those to the death of Hitler - become more readily explicable if this explanation be posited. And the sequence of possible events that I am shortly to outline turns from a desperate gamble into a scheme with every chance of success.

And we know or suspect that there were many instances of Nazi-Soviet cooperation. It is often remarked how surprising it is that Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller ("Gestapo Mueller") managed to vanish without trace from the Berlin of early May 1945. This man had been a faithful servant of the Weimar Republic and had developed an expertise in Communist organisation. This knowledge, which must have included numerous contacts in Soviet  Russia, he later seamlessly put at the service of the Nazis. It has often been suggested that his similarly smooth escape could only have been arranged with Soviet help. And this, if true, would only be a follow-up to the links that go back to Ludendorff and Lenin and the sealed railway train to the Finland Station in 1917. The servants of terrible ideologies speak a common tongue. Was not Goebbels, for instance, a figure a little like Beria, equally lecherous, every bit as ruthless, somewhat less personally cruel?

Now General Krebs had been sent by Goebbels to General Chiukov, the Soviet commander in Berlin, just before Fritzsche made his supposed independent bid to treat with them. He took with him another officer, but this man did not speak Russian, and a Russian interpreter, but he was a Latvian. Krebs himself spoke fluent Russian, because his cooperation with the Soviets went back to when he worked at the German Defence Ministry in 1931. Later he was a German military attache in Russia, and in late spring 1941, shortly before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Krebs had a surprising personal encounter with Stalin. The Russian dictator had gone to a railway station in Moscow to see off the visiting Japanese ambassador and he spotted the then Oberst Hans Krebs among the crowds gathered on the platform. Krebs was a very traditional monocle-wearing German officer, slightly stout, and perhaps Stalin felt at ease with him. "We must always remain friends, whatever happens," the traditional Georgian dictator said to Krebs. "We certainly will," Krebs replied.

We have it on the testimony of  Misch that on the evening of the 30th, after telephone connections had been temporarily cut off, they were restored as far as the Zimmermannstrasse, where the most advanced Russian posts were. Misch then called Kerbs to the phone and he talked to the Russians. Misch, of course, would not have understood this conversation. Then there followed a meeting of the German leaders, after which Kerbs was sent to the Russians, ostensibly to offer surrender terms from Goebbels (Misch says Krebs went twice, but I think he was wrong there).

Now what better opportunity for Krebs to moot a secret offer from Goebbels to be confirmed by a word on a subsequent visit by the false Fritzsche, who is unlikely to have known Russian, and in front of the monoglot German officer and the possibly linguistically bungling Latvian?

Before the true or false Fritzsche went to the Russians, he first visited his office at the Propaganda Ministry to compose a letter to them. There he was surprised by that heavy old Nazi General Burgdorf, who tried to shoot him as a traitor. But - who knows? - since Burgdorf was an army man and his intended victim a propaganda boffin, perhaps he wouldn't have known the difference between a real Fritzsche and a false one. It seems too much to suppose that Burgdorf was in on the plot. He was probably genuinely outraged by the conduct of the slimy propaganda experts. The highly intelligent Krebs is a more ambiguous case. We cannot be sure what his motives were. Anyway, both of them committed suicide on the evening of 1st May, so they could tell no tales, and because they died together, we can be certain that the real Krebs it was that died.

The day after the discovery of the bodies purporting to be the Goebbels couple, Fritzsche, true or false, was brought to the Bunker garden to identify his former master. But wouldn't a false Fritzsche have been even keener than a real one to identify a false Goebbels? And wasn't Goebbels famous for saying that, if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one? And why not tell multiple big lies, which then confirm each other? And if your accomplice, or accomplices, are as locked into the mesh of lies as you are, then there is no danger of them ever telling the truth.

And, assuming Soviet connivance, wouldn't the word  of Fritzsche, true or false, have been unhesitatingly accepted?)

But no one, apart from me, in the specific case of Goebbels, comments on all the strange facts I have outlined: the inconsistencies; the many things that don't add up; the real possibility, because almost all the evidence is based on hearsay, of things being entirely other than from what they are supposed to be.

After all, it can simply be dismissed as a conspiracy theory, and it is also as if Goebbels is such a disreputable figure, lacking even in the sinister glamour of Hitler - just an evil, pathetic lackey - that to question that he must definitely have died is vaguely indecent. If you try to look up any possible doubts about his suicide on the Internet, all you get is many accounts of the controversies that surround the murder of the six children. And this is no accident, precisely because of those children. That was such a horrific act, and so totally against human nature, that it removes all interest from the further actions of the zombie-like couple who perpetrated it. The sequence of dramatic interest reminds me of the weakness in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, where the scourging of the Saviour is rendered in such astounding and thrilling detail that the Crucifixion itself comes as something of an anticlimax. The Gospel writers didn't make that mistake. In the account of Mark the flogging is treated in just a single word, part of the economical skill of that unsophisticated but vivid writer (if you believe him to be one writer and not a committee, that is).

But let us go a little further into what is known of the events of the final day in the Bunker, 1st May 1945, that strange, hectic day, when the whole of Berlin was in total ruins and the only thing sometimes working, rather mysteriously, was the telephone; when sensible and pacific soldiers and Germans were everywhere trying to make peace with the Russians, but vital, although small, swathes of Berlin remained in Nazis hands; and fighting continued sporadically with great intensity, as the remaining fanatics, Goebbels at their head, determined to fight on until the last drop of blood be spilled and still to executeany such compatriots as they could locate who raised the white flag before the definitively final hour.

A strange place then. And can we be sure that there were only three witnesses to the putative Goebbels suicide, Schwaegermann, Rach and Ochs?

Absolutely not. It might have been more or fewer. The chauffeur Kempka, for instance, was notorious for endlessly changing his story, as well as for his coarse, picturesque and entertaining language (he said, for instance, that, when Magda was with with Hitler, "you could hear her ovaries rattling"). In a 1971 interview, quoted in John Toland's biography of Hitler, which Toland, obviously charmed by the insinuating chauffeur, treats as being an incontrovertible version of what happened, Kempka puts himself in the deep bunker at the critical moment, having come to bid the couple goodbye, and gives a version which includes the shooting by the SS-orderly rather than the higher-ranking soldier waiting in the garden.

So that would make at least four, possibly five, witnesses to the possible events at 8.30, although Kempka was almost certainly lying to John Toland. Then we have seen that Mohnke placed himself at the scene, again likely a lie. And Werner Naumann, previously mentioned, Goebbels' press secretary, to whom he had previously handed the final entries in his diary, hoping that Naumann could smuggle them out, is sometimes considered to have been present. Misch says so, and he would have known, for instance, although he gives no further details. And Misch himself was certainly there, because he was the telephonist. And Artur Axmann, the chief of the Hitler Youth, was also possibly present. The account of what happened during the mass-breakout, and what was communicated during the multiple chance meetings and dispersals on the flight, seems to owe much to him, and he may have spread information he received from Schwaegermann about the alleged Goebbels suicide, or alternatively been present himself and had first-hand information.

So we have a plethora of possible witnesses. But clearly, if all these witnesses either cannot be traced, or are only placed at the scene by rumour, or are liars, the evidence of six or seven witnesses is no better than that of none. It follows incontrovertibly that the 8.30 joint suicide of the Goebbels couple may not have happened.

And can we be sure that only Hentschel and Misch are witnesses to the events after midnight, after the suicides of Krebs, Burgdorf and Schaedle? Again no, because there are still the people in the field-hospital, just above the deep bunker. They might well have wondered what was happening downstairs. As I said, Schwaegermann and his companions shut the outer door, but it would presumably have been possible to get it open again, perhaps with the good offices of the machinist Hentschel.

One of these people in the hospital particularly interests me, the SS dentist Helmut Kunz. He was a young man, academically educated, a slim and dark figure, whose features suggest a person of great perversion and cruelty. From 1955, when he had returned from Russian captivity and was denounced by Harri Mengerhausen, another Bunker resident, as having been responsible for the death of the Goebbels children at the request of Magda, and tried for the crime but cleared, he came under the public radar. But he apparently continued to practice with great success as a dentist in West Germany, seemingly unaffected by his possible active participation in the serial murder of children.

In his trial he said that the children had been injected with morphine by Hitler's doctor Ludwig Stumpfegger, and since that time Stumpfegger or Magda herself have generally been blamed for the subsequent stuffing of the cyanide into the children's mouths and the physical restraint of the eldest daughter Helga, who must have woken and realised what was happening. But Stumpfegger was killed in the mass-breakout and Magda was also dead, so neither could have defended themselves against Kunz's words.

To me the physically unimpressive but evil-looking dentist seems fully capable of the murder of six helpless children with their mother looking on and perhaps lending a hand. Some have argued that Magda was in too much of a state of breakdown actively to participate in the murder of the children. But she was a woman of elite background, considerable fanaticism, and unexpected reserves of strength. And if she had a man to help her, the whole thing may have become psychologically possible for her. That man was either Kunz or Stumpfegger and, according to some accounts, Stumpfegger was stupified with alcohol on the last day, so may not have been capable of this complex job. The balance of probabilities therefore suggests Kunz as the murderer. That he was acquitted of the crime in post-war Germany seems to me neither here nor there.

There is another strange possibility connected with Helmut Kunz. He is recorded as having died perfectly normally in 1976 and has a grave attributed to him. But there is a recent novel for young adults by Emma Craigie, a sister of the British politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, called Chocolate Cake with Hitler, which is told from the point of view of Helga. An appendix gives notes on the real-life persons behind the characters in the story, and the note on Helmut Kunz says that what finally happened to him is not known.

Well, perhaps Craigie just made a mistake. But Kunz is such an important character in her story! And faced with the welter of false deaths, assumed identities and unacknowledged murders and survivals that the world of expiring Nazism seems to have uncovered for me, I could not help wondering whether the well-connected Craigie knows something about this whole milieu that has not been vouchsafed to the rest of us.

Anyway, returning to Goebbels, the main reason why everyone is sure he must have died in the garden is that his supposed body and that of his wife were found and identified there, and this is in total contrast to those of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, whose only remains, as far as anyone can tell, ended up inside a cigar box. Obviously, then, the one pair died, since their bodies were found, while the other might just have escaped.

But is this too obvious? Could the body, as least of the man identified as Goebbels himself (for he would not have wanted the disliked and fanatical Magda to survive with him), have been left half-charred, and the face with it unrecognisable, except in general outline, precisely so that a successful identification could be made by complaisant comrades and and all doubts be laid to rest while the little doctor, as far as his limp allowed him, sped away?

Who was the most senior Nazi, and also the first person, who positively identified the supposed body of Goebbels? That was Admiral Hans-Erich Voss, the representative of Doenitz in Berlin, who participated in the mass break-out, was quickly captured, spent the usual period in Russian captivity (a strange feature of this appears in a moment), and died at Berchtesgaden in 1969. The others performing the identification were all minor functionaries who had never talked to Goebbels, but Voss knew him well and was on good terms with him. He was a cheerful, optimistic man and a true Nazi, who on the afternoon of 1st May urged Goebbels to join him and the others in the break-out and reported that Goebbels had said that he could not do so because he was burdened with six children and anyway had a limp. Yet only an hour or two later the first problem, at least, had ceased to exist.

In the account given by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Klimenko of the 3rd Shock Army, the Russian charged with searching the Chancellery area for significant bodies, the Soviets had difficulty entering the Chancellery, and mastering its layout, and that of the various bunkers, but after noon on 2nd May, when it was raining, Klimenko's party, which included three subordinates who had been with Hitler in the last days, Klimenko's party came across two bodies in the garden near the entrance to the Bunker and an unnamed German shouted out, "That is the body of Goebbels! And that is the body of his wife!" These two bodies were quickly, and the following day Voss was brought to the room where the corpses lay to identify them, the first of allegedly about twenty people to be charged with this task.

The small, clenched body of the man with its blackened face has its right arm theatrically raised in a gesture of hatred and defiance which irresistibly brings to mind the conventional image of the little doctor, who according to one distinguished journalist had "etwas Marionettenhaftes" about him. A grim puppet indeed, it seems. Certainly Goebbels, it seems. Voss says so. Everyone, in turn, says so.

But wait a minute. If a Goebbels body double had been finished off for the purpose, would he not have been instructed to make this convincing gesture? Rumours of Hitler doubles have been persistent over the years and according to several reports at least one (and perhaps more) was actually discovered in the Chancellery garden after the capture and only discredited when it was discovered he had darned socks. If Hitler could have a double, why could not Goebbels? Come to that, surely all the chief Nazi leaders must have considered the idea of using doubles as a way out of their awful predicament. They couldn't have mentioned the idea to Hitler, of course.

And why were Goebbels' clothes not totally charred if he had been burned? Better to preserve the evidence? The metal brace that Goebbels wore he wore on his right leg because of his lameness was present. His uniform was right. And the distinctive shape of the head was right. But all these details would not have been neglected in the case of a fraud.

And what about Voss himself? He is a prisoner, like the others. He is under duress. Here is a body which looks convincingly like Goebbels. Is Voss going to deny that it is his old friend? There is no shortage of bodies in this area. Fifteen lie near the stairwell, countless more in the garden. Is Voss going to complicate matters by suggesting that one of the other bodies is more likely to be his friend?

And would the Russians themselves have wanted that? We have already looked at the possibility of their possible connivance in the case of Fritzsche. We seem to have uncovered quite a lot of evidence, in his case and that of others, that they treated witnesses to the death of Goebbels rather kindly. They were not known for kindness, particularly to Nazis. It is eminently possible that Goebbels had some secret service he could offer them.  That would surely have been enough for them to decide to connive in his escape, in the same way as the West comprehensively forgave Wernher von Braun for his atomic know-how.

(Now the odd circumstance relating to Voss. Once again, he was treated with strange lenience. In February 1952 a Court Martial of the Moscow Military District sentenced him to 25 years' imprisonment, which would theoretically have seen him emerging into the light in 1977. But less than two years later, in December 1954 (which of course is after the death of Stalin), the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet handed him over to the East German authorities, and from there he was able to make his way to die in the cheerful Nazi-haunted surroundings of Berchtesgaden in 1969. Once again a close Goebbels associate who did not really cop it!)

(And then there is the strange case of Werner Naumann, the second at the Propaganda Ministry. With Artur Axmann he was one of only two people in the third escape group to escape to the West, but while Axmann himself was quickly captured there, Naumann managed to escape to Argentina, and how he did this is not known. It would have required powerful help. While in Argentina, he wrote for a Nazi paper and thus attracted the attention of Israeli agents, and thought it prudent to return to Germany under an alias, and he was finally imprisoned there, but, following a pattern by now familiar, he did not serve long. In later life he worked for a company owned by Goebbels' stepson Harald Quandt and he lived into reasonable old age. For yet one more time, the impression of relative good fortune among the associates of Goebbels remains. And Artur Axmann, too, when charged in later life, escaped on the grounds that he had been a Nazi by conviction rather than having "base motives".)

Now say we positively posit that Goebbels was not really dead and the body a fake and that the Soviets built up a system of collective security around the bodies by almost always insisting on their authenticity, by not testing the witnesses to the utmost, and by ensuring their silence with favours?Are there any independent indications that this theory might be correct? Well, during the course of my researches I have come across three. Quite a good number!

First there is the strange fact that in May 1945 Stalin, in conversation with the American Harry Hopkins, and in process of casting doubt on the death of many senior Nazis including Hitler, mentioned that he believed that "not even Goebbels was dead".

And then there is the fact that on 5th April 1970 what purported to be the remains of the whole Goebbels family were destroyed in the River Elbe in Biederitz - thrown from the aptly-naked Schweinebrueke ("Pig Bridge"), near Magdeburg - together with what was alleged to be left of Hitler and Eva Braun. This is normally interpreted as an attempt to make sure that no further questions could be asked about Hitler. But everyone strongly suspected that no bodies of the Hitler couple had ever been found anyway. Wasn't the putative Goebbels body therefore something they might be more plausibly interested in finally destroying?

And there is a third, most obscure indication. In 1968 a book was published first in West Germany and then in Britain called The Death of Adolf Hitler by the mysterious Soviet journalist - perhaps a KGB agent - Lev Bezymenski. It purported to give full details of the forensic examination conducted on the alleged bodies of the Hitler couple, the Goebbels couple, the six Goebbels children, and General Krebs by the strangely named pathologist Faust Shkaravski in the suburb of Berlin-Buch on 5th May 1945, immediately after a convincing Hitler corpse had been discovered. An appendix gives a full account of the forensic report on the body considered to be that of Goebbels, in common with all the others. In all the other cases the printing is perfect. But in Goebbels' case, first it says, Document No. 5. Then, in italics, in the English edition, come the following words - "concerning the forensic medical-examination of the partially burned corpse of an unknown man (presumably the corpse of Goebbe' )".

Just a literal, you might say. But how strange not to be able to print fully the name of the second most important person in the investigation. There seem to be no other misprints in the whole meticulous text. And it is just by such small signs, able easy to be dismissed by those who are not in the know, that a message can be given to those who are that both the author and they know that all is not as it should be.

A word to the wise. A misprint to the wise.

And, if the Russian co-operated, then the whole network of stories about the ascent of the stairwell - witnessed, if it ever happened, by rather few people (who were rubbed out anyway), reported to others as they ran around like chickens in the Vorbunker preparatory to the break-out, and to more still as they wandered around the insanely dangerous streets in the small hours - will have been constructed over the years with the help of Western ignorance and complaisancy, and all the contradictions will have developed because a whole set of invented stories will not easily tally, but no one cared much anyway, or no inconvenient questions were asked, and the ageing Nazis knew that any radical stepping out of line on the certainty of Goebbels' death would be rewarded by a car suddenly mowing them down in the street, or some other accident. And then the last survivor, at the end, told some of the truth, not all of it.

There is just one more Bunker memoir I would like to cite. This is Until the Final Hour by Hitler's youngest secretary Traudl Junge. It was published shortly before her death in 2002, but she had mainly written it  in 1947, when this intelligent but perhaps rather naive young woman was still considerably under the spell of her former admired boss and imperfectly denazified. For this reason, perhaps, and because Traudl had considerable literary gifts, it lacks the copper plate sheen of mangled history that dullifies all the other memoirs. It is most immediate and directly written. I myself found it strangely harrowing.

It does not mention Goebbels very much. Traudl Junge says she did not herself find him attractive, although many other women drew attention to his fascinating eyes, she says. She gives the conventional account of him and his wife being like ghosts waiting to die at the end. In the last days, herself considerably depressed and disoriented, she devotes herself to trying to reassure the six Goebbels children, and mentions the horrific detail that she saw what were presumably  their bodies being carried out of their room in two large crates on the afternoon of 1st May.

Then, shortly afterwards, talking about the general situation in the bunkers, and mentioning various details almost at random in the present tense, there is what to me seems a very revealing sentence:. "Goebbels walks restlessly up and down, smoking, like a hotel proprietor waiting discreetly and in silence for the last guests to leave the bar."

What if this rather innocent but observant and feeling young woman had suddenly seen something she clearly noticed but whose significance she did not understand? That Goebbels really was like a hotel proprietor waiting to clear out? That he really was waiting for all these people to leave?

Traudl Junge does not mention the joint suicide of the Goebbels couple at all in this early account, and one gets the impression that it would have been news to her in 1947. She says that Magda retired to her room after the killing of the children. To that extent at least, her account seems to square more with Misch than with the conventional account. She does not mention Misch or Hentschel at all in her book. Perhaps this glamorous young lady did not know those two rude mechanical types.

OK, now on to the other chief circumstantial pillar of the evidence.

The other reason that everyone feels certain that Goebbels must have died rests on his supposed character. There are two clear stereotypes of this, which contradict each other. Immediately after the war this most physically unimpressive of the Nazis, besides famously having no balls at all (the scandalous reverse of the truth), was often portrayed as a cynical evil genius and a Mephisto of irresistible propaganda. In this version he is a person of shifting, mercurial and dangerous character, exceptionally difficult to read. This is the picture, for instance, given by the lively German-Jewish journalist Curt Reiss in his 1949 biography, which was based on many interviews with those who had known Goebbels, and which seems to me still the most insightful account of a figure who will always defy definitive treatment.

But there is another stereotype of Goebbels, on the face of it an entirely opposed and incompatible one: that of the loyal subordinate utterly devoted to Hitler, made by him, symbiotically connected with him, utterly dependent on him, totally fascinated by and devoted to him, and therefore only able psychologically to follow Hitler in immolating himself in the wake of that commanding figure's absence. And there were of course many statements by Goebbels which back up this picture. It does not seem to occur to many of the learned authorities who support it that it would have been much to the subordinate's advantage to present thus.

Trevor-Roper, in his lapidary prose, gives the classic version of this thesis, although in his complex and worldly way he also always pays tribute to the intellectual qualities of Goebbels. Speaking of the events of 1st May, he says: "This time there was no Wagnerian drama; Goebbels did not attempt to compete with his master. As a tribal chief, Hitler might enjoy a spectacular, symbolic funeral; but Goebbels, as a secondary figure, would follow him, at a decent interval, unobtrusively to the shades."

The same humbly devoted figure has been presented, without any of the literary grace, little awareness of the  complexities, and few of the picturesque details - since this expert eschews reliance on personal testimonies as intrinsically unreliable, and prefers to rely on psychologists who never examined their subject, and detailed analysis of diaries intended for publication and therefore unlikely to include trustworthy personal information - by the modern German historian, for a time ensconced in English academe, Peter Longerich.

Longerich belongs to the school of modern historians who choose not to acknowledge that the evil of the Nazi regime is established beyond question and seek to blacken its name further by portraying its leading figures as having no redeeming features. To Longerich, Goebbels is a clear example of a narcissistic personality disorder, there is nothing much else to him, and a" biography" of him has a duty to be just a demolition job.

Here is a summary of Longerich's ideas. Goebbels, hopelessly psychologically damaged from birth, finds a precarious and temporary salvation in his idolisation of Hitler, but his influence on practical affairs is always small, and he is not even a master of propaganda. The German people are never convinced, although they fight to the end. Hitler uses and ignores Goebbels systematically, prevents him marrying the woman he loves,  forces him to stay with his wife against hi will, and interferes endlessly with his private arrangements. But he never resents this, just goes on idolising his master, even when it is perfectly plain to him that the war is lost and that the position had been made hopeless by Hitler's refusal to try to negotiate a separate peace with either the Western Allies or Russia, so that therefore his own head is on the block big time.

Longerich ends the narrative section of the biography with the death of Hitler on 30th April, as if the last day on earth of his subject, who just happens to be Chancellor of Germany at the time, and the mysterious manner of his death, could have no possible interest or significance.

Now let us look at another picture. It is an event that most sources do not mention, but there is more than account of it, so that it is likely, not certain, to be true. It probably comes from the last full day, 30th April, because such an event better psychologically suits the hours after Hitler's death than the evening of the 29th. On the 30th Goebbels would have had the full authority to give a party.

Early that evening Goebbels summoned the the Hitler Youths who were still hopelessly defending the Reich Chancellery to the Green Hall of that Institution. They were served pea soup sitting at long tables and Goebbels engaged in animated conversation with some of them. Frau Goebbels and the children were also present. After they had eaten, a naval cadet went to the piano and the whole party broke into the old National Socialist songs. Iron Crosses were presented to the young defenders. Then, with the youths drawn up in formation around him, Goebbels held them spellbound with his oratory.

What a parade of insouciance, charm and courage! And yes, we know Goebbels was evil, that there is something utterly indecent about his bamboozling idealistic teenagers, some of whom were perhaps about to be killed, for one last time, and that presenting such a positive picture of the little doctor does seem to reek of special pleading and pro-Nazi attitudes. Yet there is  also the truth to be considered. It is no use denying someone the qualities he self-evidently possessed and which have been attested by witnesses. That does not take away from the repulsion such a man as Goebbels should rightfully exert.

Then there is another aspect. There is a photograph of a group of Nazis waiting for the arrival of Hitler sitting on the  terrace at Berchtesgaden in 1938. Besides Goebbels we have Eva Braun, Kurt Janke, Albert Speer and Christa Schroeder (in whose memoirs I saw the picture reproduced). Goebbels sits at the edge of the group on the low wall, upper body held camply erect,  arms firmly folded, grinning all over his face, looking for all the world like a contemporary gay English aesthete, Eddy Sackville-West or someone, boiled egg eyes and all.

And of course I know that Goebbels was nothing like a member of the Bloomsbury Group, that he wanted to exterminate them, that he hated homosexuals like Lytton Strachey and Sackville-West, that he was ideologically at one with the other four dowdy Germans who are lined up beside him. Yet the curious impression - of a strange, camp sophistication, remember the speeches whose witty lines are delivered with hands on elbows - is clearly there. It permanently complicates the image of Goebbels.

There was something unknowable about him. One of his junior colleagues, Dietrich Evers, a picture-editor who worked on Wehrmacht propaganda, remarking on Goebbels' customary poker-faced expression, recalled after the war, "It was impossible to see into Goebbels' heart....We just couldn't make him out." And someone who does not open himself to others cannot be predicted by them.

And this was no humble incompetent. English historian Ian Kershaw, certainly no defender of his, gives a clear idea of the impression Goebbels made on others amid the disaster of 1945: "He was still a figure of remarkable dynamism, able not just to put on a show for the masses, but also to fire up those in his entourage and continue to represent the face of optimism and defiance. Yet he was among the most clear-sighted of the Nazi leaders."

And this behaviour was only true to terrifying form. It was Goebbels, in white overcoat, who presided at the Burning of the Books. He it waswho masterminded the Reichskristallnacht, the most carefully-organised and savage pogrom of modern times. He, it seems, who dreamed up the Yellow Star, that crucial moment in the destruction of the Jews. He who pressed insistently in 1941 and 1942 for Berlin to be made Judenrein, more to bolster up his own sagging position than from visceral antisemitism. He who let his wife or her proxies kill their six children without even bothering to be present, something so unnatural it perhaps has no parallel in the annals of mankind.

No, this man had more evil tricks up his sleeve than a whole cartload of monkeys, they were all as unexpected as they were ingenious, and he knew how to use affability, obsequiousness and sweet reason as well. He played on others like a grand piano. How could such a person be dependent on someone who had clearly brought him disaster? How could someone like that be just a ghost waiting to die? We have here been reading history backwards, from the supposed outcome to the presumed motive for it.

Let us posit a most cunning scenario. It is not impossible. It would in fact be a master scheme. Let us imagine Goebbels in early to mid 1945. The Russians are stalled from time to time, they are slower than expected, but soon enough they will be at the gates. At one point a Russian officer is put through to Goebbels on the phone by mistake and tells him quite plainly that if he is caught after the war he will hang. Say Goebbels wants to live. He considers the Russian's words. He is a man of striking and unusual appearance and he has a pronounced limp. If he simply goes into hiding after the war - as Himmler, for instance, is to do - he will surely very quickly be apprehended.

But what if he was known for certain to be dead?

Then he can limp as much as he likes, Germany will be full of limping men, no one will ever think to identify him. He considers the plan. Clearly his fake suicide must be at the last moment. At any other time he will be detected. It must also be after Hitler himself is dead and he himself remains. Up until the very end, then. his loyalty to Groefaz must seem absolute. How to achieve this?

Well, his own base is in Berlin, his residence is in the Hermann-Goeringstrasse, just a stone's throw from the Chancellery and very near the Brandenburg Gate, he often does the walk, it is across wooded ground. So the end of Hitler needs to be in Berlin. But how can he contrive this?

Why, he and his family, having previously appeared to share the general opinion in late April 1943 that Hitler should escape towards the south, will suddenly offer to share the Fuehrer's fate (and his family really will share it, he cannot escape if burdened with them, they must die). But this offer will be timed for the moment when Groefaz has to decide whether to make the break for Berchtesgaden.

Before Der Treue Josef and his loved ones, like obedient shades, as all the world will acknowledge, go to their willing end, he will have persuade a grateful Groefaz to stay in Berlin and shoot himself and take Eva Braun with him and God knows how many thousands of heartbroken Germans beside, in all parts of the country. But the evil little Joseph will limp away, perhaps joined at a dark moment by his loyal subordinate Fritzsche, who has been keeping a low profile in the bunker these last hours, until they are picked up by the car whose driver will be murdered in his turn.

And, if this really was the plan, then every step of it fits with the historical record. From early in 1945 Goebbels announces that at the end he and his family will kill themselves rather than risk dishonour. On 22nd April, the day Hitler has a huge fit and breaks down and tells everyone that he will stay in Berlin and die there, Goebbels immediately announces that he and his family will move into the two Bunkers so that they can share the Fuehrer's end. The children will only be allowed to bring one toy each and limited pyjamas, they will they will not need such things any more.

The modern German historian Joachim Fest has written a fine account called Inside Hitler's Bunker. It unites much of the literary elegance of Trevor-Roper with a painstakingly accurate reconstruction of events to which the Englishman cannot aspire. Fest has a telling sentence about the events of 22nd April: "There is reason to believe that it was Goebbels's offer to face death alongside the Fuehrer that finally persuaded the still wavering Hitler to stay in Berlin." There is evidence that Hitler, after the intense disorientation he suffered on 21st April, the day after the false excitement of his last birthday, was wavering in his determination not to escape to the South. Then at the famous situation conference on the 22nd the emotional dam burst and he went mad, screaming to his closest entourage that everyone had betrayed. It is was this point that the decision to stay in Berlin became solid.

Everyone else on that day is still trying to persuade him to retreat southward to Berchtesgaden, to which the way was is precariously open on 22nd April. Bormann, with whom Goebbels is in uneasy alliance, has tried to persuade the latter to throw his weight behind this plan. And until 22nd April he has indeed seemed to do so. But now Goebbels pretends not to hear this typical suggestion of a "Soviet-type commissar", as he describes him.

So the last days pass. Early on the 27th, at the first conference of the day, they are waiting to be relived by the largely non-existent armies of General Wenck who is at Postdam, miles away, and news comes that the the Russians are at Potsdamer Platz, only a stone's throw. "May God let Wenck come!," intones Goebbels with all the oily unctuousness of which he is capable. "A dreadful situation crosses my mind. Wenck is located at Potsdam and here the Soviets are pressing on Potsdamer Platz!" And Hitler puts in, "And I'm not in Potsdam but in Potsdamer Platz." In the circumstances it seems like quite a good attempt at a joke at my grandfather's expense.

That night, after two days of exceptionally heavy bombing, Hitler is more maudlin than sarcastic and hands out cyanide capsules with abandon. Everyone accepts them, Goebbels the most ecstatic of all. 29th April passes with intolerable slowness. The Bunker inmates are now smoking furiously in express defiance of the Fuehrer's command. Goebbels is the most malodorous among them.

On 30th April my grandfather seems to waver in his deep humanity and suggests to the Fuehrer that the latter might still be flown out. But it is far too late by then. His suggestion is useless. The Russians are five hundred yards away. The die is cast. Hitler pathetically suggests to poor Goebbels that he himself might still get out. With tears in his eyes, the little doctor indignantly refuses.

On the afternoon of 30th April, Groefaz is gone, and Goebbels is Chancellor, disputing his illusory power with Bormann and with Doenitz in far-away Ploen. He and Bormann make one last attempt to make peace with the Russians on the morning of 1st May. It is predictably unsuccessful. Or perhaps that is just how things seem.  Perhaps Krebs conveys some offer from Goebbels which is relayed to Stalin who just says "khorosho."

On the afternoon of 1st May, the six children, five blonde little girls and a dark-haired boy, are disposed of. Historians and witnesses dispute which of the ghastly Goebbels pair were more keen for the deaths. I think it was he. She was in a state of breakdown, he was cool. She had human feelings, however perverted, he didn't.

The kids are left where they lay, or, according to some accounts, adults need their beds for a kip and they are piled up in the corridor, having been carried out of Magda's room in crates. Who exactly stuffs the cyanide into their mouths we don't know. Magda has to watch, certainly, and deal with the screams and struggles of her eldest daughter. Her husband is walking about in the garden.

What happened in the early evening? Perhaps nothing much. Perhaps Magda just died in her room. But that posits the inconvenient business of dragging her body up to the garden. No, I think Misch lied there. Goebbels is more likely to have gone through the parody of going up to the garden at 8.30 with his wife on his arm. There he may have shot her, or more likely Ochs did it, and then he slipped back into the Bunker with a nervous grin directed at whatever witnesses  - Schwaegermann and Rach? - stood at the bottom of the stairwell. He will have known he could not let them live.

What about the hours after that? I think he leaves the Bunker very late, after everyone has gone. Misch and Hentschel are his allies during these hours. They are naturally humble men, stupid and loyal. Just possibly they already know that the Russians are going to let them off lightly. There may be veiled threats from Goebbels, mixed with promises. But, most crucially, the two men blame Magda for the killing of the children, and always will (or, at least Misch does; the attitude of Hentschel can be inferred, but is less known). If Rochus, and perhaps Hennes, had believed Goebbels was responsible, they would never have helped him, even at the cost of their own lives. That was why Goebbels was walking around the garden when the deed was done, so that he could persuade Misch and Hentschel that he was substantially innocent. Misch was to say on film many years later that he was sure only Magda and not her husband wanted the children dead and that Werner Naumann of the Propaganda Ministry had told him that Goebbels himself wished them to be evacuated. Misch will likely have communicated this belief to Hentschel. Thus Goebbels will have known that he could be sure of the pair of them. He has a clear appreciation of how simple, ordinary men clear their consciences and what they can and cannot accept.

In the background lingers the obsequious figure of Helmut Kunz. Misch and (probably) Hentschel loathe him because he has been responsible, with Magda, for the death of the children. Misch is to denounce him in later years. But he is covered because the other people in the field hospital knows he is there. The little doctor has a kind word for him when no one overhears them. And in later years? Oh, who knows! But now Kunz tactfully returns to the shadows, and Misch, who has has already sat outside Goebbels's room for many days dealing with the telephone, and filled with unbearable anger against Magda and Kunz, spends the intervening hours after the death of the witch and the disappearance of the evil dentist in making and receiving more calls, in order to spirit the sorrowing father away.

Now another curious thing. Why was there a delay in beginning the mass break-out from nine to eleven o'clock (according to most, not all, accounts), when time was so precious? Because the interval was needed for Goebbels to make his plans. Why was the break-out ordered to take place towards the east, where almost everything was already in Russian hands, while, to the west, towards the Brandenburg Gate and the East-West Axis and the Havel, there were still quite large swathes of partly green and wooded land still in German hands, because the Russians, for symbolic reasons, had been concentrating all their attention on capturing the Reichstag, which lay a little to the north? So that this land, where Goebbels' residence lay, could be clear for him to use the best escape route.

Goebbels' security staff are still living at No 20, Hermann-Goeringstrasse, the magnificent palace that he has had built in the late 1930s, to replace an earlier Prussian building. One of the humbler of the staff is perhaps deputed to drive him (and possibly Fritzsche) along the East-West Axis, and on his happy return his throat is cut. A vast procession of cars has been racing along the wide road that runs through the Tiergarten from the Brandenburg Gate all through the evening of 1st May, hoping, in spite of the heavy fire, to reach the one bridge over the Havel at Pichelsdorf that is still in German hands and thus escape to the West. At night, there is less traffic, less shelling, and the two Nazis with their silent driver get through.

And where exactly does he go that first day, the day the Russians enter into total control of Berlin, and long lines of prisoners begin to be marched towards the East? I don't know, but I will hazard a guess. Many years ago, in his youth, Goebbels had a mistress, a woman who was Jewish through her mother, a schoolteacher, a good woman who loved him, Else Janke.

Goebbels had been fond of her as well (Else gave Josef the book in which he wrote his first diary). But her Jewishness drove them apart in the period when he was rising in the Nazi movement. From 1926 he hardly saw her, and she married a policeman in their home town of Rheydt, Leo Herber. In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, Else faced dismissal from her job and persecution in Rhyedt. Leo came to Josef in Berlin to ask for his intercession in helping them. Josef agreed to assist, on condition that Else return all his letters to her. They were far too incriminating, telling of his love for a Jewess. Josef gave Leo a job in the German film industry, which entailed a move to Berlin. The couple survived the war, or at least a German book I consulted says so. They might well have been in Berlin on the evening of 1st May.

Nothing is known of what happened to Else Janke after the war. Perhaps Goebbels had her killed after she had taken him in with affection and a diminution of the horror she must have felt.

At some point, Goebbels perhaps made his way back to his home town of Rheydt. They were quite proud of him there. He had gained popularity during the latter stages of the war through his visits to the bombed-out cities, always carrying gifts, always smiling. The German population was sullen under the process of de-Nazification. They only told the Allies what they wanted to hear. A German academic to whom I once spoke on the phone, who was from the Rhineland, told me pointedly once that at some point soon after the war a person appeared in Rheydt who looked remarkably like Goebbels and even limped like him. No one gave this person away. It was a heavy hint from that academic that Goebbels might have survived the war.

And, when Rheydt was getting too hot to hold him, which was quite soon, and when he had gathered enough hidden Nazi gold to make the transition expeditious, Goebbels took advantage of his English contacts, his previously arranged identity, his waiting address (a place I shall shortly discuss), and the family which had been ensconced in England from at least 1921, when Joyce Frances Campion was born into the interlinked Hills and Brown clans who were to be disposed of in the succeeding years. When he was informed the time was ripe, he probably just went into nearby Holland and took ship to England from there. Perhaps he took passage from the Hook of Holland to Harwich, a crossing I myself made once clandestinely, as related in a previous post. Perhaps he took a similar, half-empty train, with the stop at haunted Manningtree. I think he will have liked his first sight of England.

Come to think of it I have a theory about who Joyce's father might have been. The full name of Dr Goebbels is often given as Paul Joseph Goebbels (sometimes Joseph Paul Goebbels), but he never used the forename Paul. One would have thought some expert would have commented on this, but no one ever has. However, in Rory Maclean's impressionistic and (in my opinion) rather lurid book Berlin, which devotes a chapter to Goebbels, he had an elder brother who was killed fighting in the trenches of the First World War, and the shock of this contributed to Joseph's radicalisation. If this were so, one would think it would have been such an important fact in the biography of Goebbels that one of the more academic books would mention it. But, once again, they do not. Yet I have come across the theory that Joseph had an elder brother before, and the rumour suggests a folk memory of another brother than the two who have come down to history. Probably, as is so often the case with Goebbels, no one has ever bothered to do the necessary fact-checking about the elder brother. Perhaps he really was called Paul and, since he has been airbrushed from the record, his name has been conflated with that of Joseph.

Say this Paul, a naval man, and not a victim of the trenches, went to England after the first war, made connections there among the seadogs of the Medway Towns, and fathered two children, one the mother of Susan and the other the father of Michael Lakeman? Then, when the Nazi period came, he would have adopted English identity and it was at that point his existence was expunged from history and his name conflated with that of his brother Joseph, The name Williams appears several times in my story, so perhaps that was the name he took. At Joyce's marriage in 1944, my Aunt Helen was one of the witnesses and the other was a Percy Robert Williams. I do not know who this was. Perhaps it was Paul, the father, witnessing his daughter's marriage.

And it may have been the fact that his elder brother was ensconsced in Kent which made Joseph Goebbels decide to send his inconvenient Jewish mistress to join his brother's English connections, and then conceive the the larger plan of replacing almost the whole of the interlinked Kentish and Edinburgh families with Nazis and their Jewish women who would take their identities. This in turn led to him taking the identity of Arthur Ernest Hills, as a sleeper identity for possible use if the war ended badly for Germany. The electoral roll for Bordars Walk seems to show that he was in England as early as 1946. My father is also likely to have been in England by that date, although exactly when he took the Polish identity of Miecsyslaw Hufleit is uncertain. I have already mentioned that perhaps he originally used the name of Donald Williams and it is also possible that Arthur, who looked so much like him, also used this name. 

Actually, come to think of it, either Goebbels or my Dad might even have been the father of Michael Lakeman (probably not Arthur, who was shy and unattractive). There is that tell-tale Christian name which my father also bore, Michael, and which he might have wished to pass on to an illicit son. Dr Goebbels also liked that name and had written a novel called Michael Voormann. This is all very conjectural, I know, but the weirdness of my story leads me to wonder about accepted facts all the time and to look at conjectural possibilities. Forgive my wierdness, dear reader.

Another general point. The fact that my father had numerous affairs implies he might have had several more possible children than just myself. And Arthur Ernest Hills had his twins, and Chris Hills has a son. And maybe there are some descendants of my Aunt Helen. All in all, I would not be surprised if there were at least seven or eight descendants of Dr Goebbels currently living in England, and there may be more in Germany.

Joseph's new life in Britain, I think, was easy for him. He had been balding already. Now he went totally bald. He had been slim. Now he was fat. He had looked quite young, now he was old. He didn't talk, except for occasional sarcasm and high spirits with his intimates in the old manner, so nobody noticed his accent. And he waddled so much now that no one could ever tell he had once had a limp.

Arthur was surprised to see him on the top of the London bus. He tried to kiss my mother on the mouth. I remember him from my childhood.

Now I will mention various other things that can been known or surmised about my grandfather.

It follows from my own and other people's memories that most of the records that exist of him after the Second World War in England are likely to be true. The first of these is an entry in the British electoral roll for 1947, where an Arthur E. Hills is recorded as living at 21, Bordars Walk, W7 (this is material to which I will return when I discuss what can be known about my Aunt Helen).

Three other people are recorded as living at 21, Bordars Walk. One of them is a person called Daniel J. McMullan. The only information I can find that might relate to him is the death certificate of someone called Daniel Joseph McMullan on 16th December 1961, at the early age of 51, who is likely to be the same person. He was a cable hand at L.T.E., he ded at 7, Rundell Road, Paddington, London W9, which is likely to be his home, the informant was his widow L. McMullan, the cause of death was coronary occlusion due to atheroma, and his death from this is likely to have been sudden but not suspicious, because the death was certified by R. Ian Milne, coroner for London, after a post-mortem without inquest, two days after the death, on 18th December 1961. I have just one further fact about Daniel. In the GRO index to deaths, his birth is shown as taking place "around 1910", and this uncertainty just possibly bespeaks a foreign origin for him, as well as for the father and daughter. The other possibility about Daniel is of course that the name is an alias. In that case this might be Arthur who, as he said on the tapes, went to live with his father for a short while.

The second person in the house is the old man's daughter, Helen V. Hills, of whom, as I said, more in detail later. And the third is someone called Marjorie Hills. I know who this must be. Arthur often recalled that, before marrying Winnie, Arthur Senior had enjoyed a liaison with a long lanky woman called Madge who apparently always had a ciggie dangling from her mouth as she languidly stirred a frying pan.

The next documented fact there is my grandfather's marriage (a bigamous one, according to Arthur) to Winifred Chaplain, who was born with the surname Gay, on 16th December, 1950, at the register office in Ealing, a marriage at which the respective children of bride and groom - Richard Chaplain and Helen Vera Hills - were witnesses. Winnie was newly a widow at this time, and the house where the couple were to live had been hers. Bordars Walk is in North Hanwell and Edinburgh Road in South Hanwell, and at the time of the marriage my grandfather is shown as living at 163, Ruislip Road, also nearby, so probably the couple met at some local get-together for those of a certain age. and when Winnie was just recovering from the recent death of her husband Kenneth G. Chaplain. Goebbels will have represented himself as a nice man and a true Pole.

After that there is his presence as a witness at the register office marriage of my parents in  September 1954, previously discussed, and as a witness once again at the marriage of his daughter Helen to Frederick Patmore in January 1955, on which I will dilate when discussing what can be known of my Aunt Helen.

Finally there is his death certificate, which shows him dying on 16th February 1968 at the King Edward General Hospital, Ealing, and this was also the date of the registration. The informant was his widow, W. Hills, of 9, Edinburgh Road, South Hanwell, and she clearly lived at this address, but it is rather more uncertain whether he did. According to Brian Streeter, who remembers Arthur Senior well, the married couple lived apart, and he continued his lifelong pursuit of various women, which will have led to him not being resident at 9, Edinburgh Road for long periods.

(In the wedding group photo that I talked about in detail in "The seventh journey", and then later in the subsequent post to this one, there is a sultry-looking middle-aged woman who was apparently a Portuguese who had lived in South Africa. Brian told me once that at one point Arthur Senior appeared in Crawley on the arm of this woman rather than with Winnie. I also mention in the post that my Aunt Eva told me he married another woman in a different part of London while officially espoused to Winnie. He may well have lived largely with that woman and the sultry Portuguese is the most likely candidate for this bigamous wife.)

I now come to present the evidence, inconclusive yet very suggestive, that my grandfather did not die on February 16th, 1968 as officially recorded, but that he was either murdered at a date around that time, or once again escaped by means of a complex plot, finally to die under another identity.

The evidence concerning the second putative death of my grandfather was collected at a n intermediate stage in the writing of this post, mainly in the later part of 2017 and the early months of 2018, when I was already well into the succeeding post, "The mother I hated and loved".  This means that from that point on, as I have already said, the two posts are being continued more or less in conjunction. The relationship between the two posts, and also some earlier ones, has thus become very complex and symbiotic. I just hope there are readers somewhere who will have the patience to master all this material. Perhaps this can only happen when the truth about my grandfather has been revealed.

In the early winter of 2017 I had been back in London from my latest sojourn abroad for many months, and my sporadic researches had reached a point where I became interested in finding my grandfather's grave. I visited a number of cemeteries near the house where he had officially lived with Winnie, but he did not seem to be in any of these, not even in the huge Hanwell Cemetery, which was practically at the back door of the house.

Then I attended an event at a church near where I live in north London and this event was sponsored by a funeral parlour. After the service, I told a sympathetic mixed-raced woman who worked at this establishment about my search. She offered to help me make various phone calls free of charge from the her place of work and a few days later I took her up on the offer.

We were sitting in the outer office of the undertaker's as she prepared to help, I showed her the copy of my grandfather's death certificate, and she suggested that we phone a series of crematoria in the general neighbourhood of the house. She had a list of four crematoria, but three quickly proved not to have cremated any Arthur Ernest Hills. Then we came to the South-West Middlesex. When she got through to a man from this crematorium, there was a sudden phone call from the inner office of the funeral parlour, and the woman was forced to put the phone down, asking the man to ring back. He did so while she was away, and he was forced to leave a message, and in considerable agitation before she returned, I thought: she's found the one!

On her return I think she rang him once again (or perhaps he pre-empted her by ringing back himself) and, sure enough, he had the record of a cremation of one Arthur Ernest Hills for the relevant period, and he began to tell her about it. I overheard that the cremation had been on 25th January, 1968, and believed immediately that there had been a fraud. But the woman, although very kindly, would not accept any interruptions from me across the table, and she now had the death certificate in her hand and leaped to the very justified conclusion (on her part) that another Arthur Ernest Hills must be in question.

Meanwhile, the man was giving her the details of the cremation and I heard that the dead man had lived in Sunnyside Road, which is a street in Ealing, and that the informant of the death had been a woman, whose name I did not catch. I signalled frantically to the woman to continue taking down the details, but she quickly brought the conversation to a close, saying that this could not be my grandfather because, in addition to the discrepancy with the date, the man cremated had been 59 years old at the time of his death while the death certificate clearly showed my grandfather as being 71.

I felt disgusted by this outcome, but maintained my politeness to the woman and contributed to a  charity dealing with heart problems for which a collecting-box was on the desk, and in return received a small badge of a heart which is still attached to the green jacket I was wearing on that day.

Later that morning, in great agitation, I phoned the crematorium myself, but they refused to give me the details over the phone because the information they had been given by the woman seemed to show that the man they had cremated could not have been my grandfather. I broke down on the phone, shouted at them and allowed my voice to break, and eventually they suggested I should put my request to their superintendent in a letter.

I did so, and in the period while I was waiting for some reply from them, I did what I had done before and checked the register of births, marriages and deaths for the relevant period. It confirmed what I already knew, that only one Arthur Ernest Hills in the whole of Britain was recorded as having died in the first three months of 1968, or in the later part of 1967, and this was my grandfather, on February 16th. There was therefore no death certificate exactly corresponding to the cremation in January, and the cremation must therefore have been somehow effected without this legal requirement, perhaps by a slight forgery in the green card which is given to the undertaker and which could perhaps differ in some small detail from the death certificate. But given that both the cremation and the death certificate recorded the deaths of men living in the London Borough of Ealing, within a short period of each other, and apparently with exactly the same name, it seemed to me overwhelmingly likely that the same person died and was cremated.

(There is a strange detail on the death certificate of my grandfather, most of the data on which I had already given and which is typewritten. In the box recording the causes of death, these are recorded as having been certified by D.E. Stapleforth and by this name is written the figure 7 with a dot following it. But this name has been crossed out and replaced by "D.E. Stableforth M.B". The registrar is V.M. Maidsent, recorded as "Deputy" and in the free space by this box is written "Seven V.M.M", with the final letter indistinct. It is of course difficult to speculate on what this letter and figure 'seven' might mean, just as in the case of the certificate I have mentioned at Medway, but in this case it cannot be anyone's age, and I imagine  it is part of a successive record of the number of times corrections had to be made in the certified typing-up of the death records.)

After a couple of weeks a kindlier person from the crematorium rang me and was willing to give me all the details of the cremation, which were fewer than would appear on a death certificate, presumably because they were based on the green card. I had misheard the date of the cremation, which was on 15th January, and the man recorded as Arthur Ernest Hills, aged 59, had died on 8th January. The name of the road was not Sunnyside Road but Sunnycroft Road, which is in Southall, and the number in the street was 47. The informant was indeed a woman, one Nellie Edith Collins.

I explained to the man that I believed a fraud had taken place, and he seemed to sympathise with my belief that the man cremated must have been my grandfather. But what action the crematorium proposed to take about it, if any, was unclear. I told him that I hoped they involved the police because this was likely to assist me in my enquiries about who my grandfather had been.

Soon after this conversation, I spoke with a young beggar who always sits at a point near the house where I am living. He is of a Maltese criminal family but perfectly pleasant himself, and I often help him with a pound or two, sometimes more. I told him some of the facts I have related above, omitting the details of the cremation as being too complex, and asked him for his opinion of what had happened. He said that he thought my grandfather had almost certainly been murdered and a cremation somehow arranged because it was essential to dispose quickly of the body. The death certificate for my grandfather on 16th February had been procured by bribery and perhaps a body was not present to need disposal, so that any involvement of an undertaker would have been clandestine. The young beggar's hypothesis struck me as fairly likely, although I was worried about the formalities necessary at a hospital. The King Edward General Hospital was the main state hospital in Ealing at the time, and surely they would never have issued a death certificate without a corpse. It would be difficult, at the very least.

I supposed at the time that it was also possible that my grandfather did not really die, that the coffin that went into the flames was empty or contained the remains of another person, and a third person's body was used for subsequent  disposal after the death of my grandfather had been registered, so that the whole complex procedure was a ruse to persuade the world that my grandfather was finally dead. Anyway, trying to work out what had happened was doing my head in at the time I was talking to young Robert, so I took my leave, granting him three pounds on that occasion, because I thought he deserved it.

Some weeks after this conversation, when I tried to interest someone at the General Register Office by phone in the possible fraud, I discovered that there was in fact a death certificate which might be the right one, but it was for an Arthur Ernest Hill, not Hills,  Anyway, except for the suspicious discrepancy of one letter (and usually Hills get changed to Hill, not the other way round), this new certificate bid fair to fatally weaken my belief that it was my grandfather who had been cremated on 15th January. Dutifully, I ordered it.

The new certificate took several weeks to come, and in the meantime, getting very impatient, I visited the Hillingdon Register Office (because the death took place at Hillingdon Hospital, it would have been registered in the corresponding borough) and obtained a copy of it at vast expense and with a delay of only a couple of hours. The woman who dealt with the matter at the desk was rather surprised that I was requiring that certificate just then, because someone had apparently been asking for it recently, but she could not remember who this was.

The details on the certificate corresponded in most details to what I had learnt from the crematorium. The man, a motor accessories salesman and aged 59, had indeed been called Arthur Ernest Hill, but by the time he was cremated his name was recorded as Arthur Ernest Hills. The informant was not called Nellie Edith Collins but M.E. Collins (which smehow I found out to stand for Millie Edith Collins) and she was recorded as "sister", which could obviously be either a relation or a ward nurse. Her address, however, was given as 47, Sunnycroft Road, and, when I checked the electoral registers for that part of the borough of Ealing, I discovered that she and what must have been her husband were long-term residents at that address, that in the mid-1950s they had been joined there by two other people called Collins, and that in 1958 and 1959 these had been replaced by one Arthur Ernest Hill, who must surely have been the brother in question. He was not recorded as living at No 47 after that date, and after 1968 neither were Millie Edith Collins and her husband, their place being taken by another family.

I visited the South-West Middlesex Creamtorium to see what had become of the man called Arthur Ernest Hill, buried as Arthur Ernest Hills. This involved a long and complex journey to the far south-western suburb of Hanworth - bus, tube, train, then a walk and further bus in the valley of the Crane. The place was most functional when I arrived, and bore the unfortunate resemblance that such buildings do to the gates of Auschwitz. Although large numbers of hearses seemed to be drawing up, and departing, the reception hall was unearthly quiet and empty with its many testimonials. After a subdued moment I pressed a bell, and a sullen male official appeared at the desk to attend me.

Initially, this person denied that any such man as I was looking for was buried at the crematorium (I had already spoken to him on the phone, he knew of the slightly confusing circumstances, and he was obviously getting suspicious of me). But when I gave him the death certificate he was able to locate the plot, which contained common graves, and also gave me a map to find it. However, the different sections of the grounds were not clearly marked, and eventually I had to solicit the help of someone working near the furnaces. He  indicated to me a most bleak piece of ground almost entirely undisturbed by memorials. Then he left.

I became distressed as I stood alone there on that cold February day, but I was soon comforted by a friendly, simple and quite handsome gravedigger called Phil, who was working nearby and noticed how upset I was and asked me what was the matter. (I knew he was called Phil, because he was wearing the name on his warm jacket, and I knew he was a gravedigger because he was carrying a spade.)

Phil listened with sympathy to what he was able to understand of my story. He said that these strange things happened in life, that perhaps it was a pig which had been cremated and not my grandfather. Phil cheered me up quite a bit. I went my way to try and find the road back to Hounslow with a new spring in my step.

(I insert at this point the record of the investigations I made into what became of the body of my grandfather after he died, supposedly, at the King Edward General Hospital on 16th February. I began by looking at the records of the two big cemeteries very near his house, but drew a blank. Then, as I have already related, I used the woman in the funeral parlour to discover that he had not apparently been cremated at a range of local crematoria, but that the man called Arthur Ernest Hill and buried as Arthur Ernest Hills had been. I phoned the Ealing Cemeteries Office, and there was no record of interment anywhere in Ealing. Later, I visited a number of undertakers in the Hanwell area - and four of these, three of them very long established, were in what seemed to be an undertaker's row, three in one street and the fourth a little farther away, in the centre of Hanwell - but none of them had any records of having undertaken the funeral of my grandfather.)

It is strange that a man with a wife should have been buried apparently without trace, and stranger still that a man called Hill on his death certificate was cremated as Hills (for people often drop an "s" at the end of a name, but almost never add it), while his sister had mutated from Millie too Nellie (that is more natural, I suppose, she could have been known by either name). And why, if Arthur Ernest Hill had a sister, who lived in quite a large house in Southall with her husband which they had occupied for some years, so that they could hardly have been very poor, was he subjected to the indignity of being buried in a common grave? However, all three of these facts are capable of rational explanation and would not arouse overwhelming suspicion in themselves. But I am shortly to relate something about another dead person which cannot so easily be explained away.

During the period of these investigations I had visited the Westminster Archives, which are particularly quiet and peaceful, near to the Church House Bookshop and Well Cafe, and and the staff there are. or were, helpful and courteous, so that it always, up till a certain point, seemed a pleasure to go there in search of yet more suggestive certificates to order. One morning in the cold winter of early 2018, there turned out to be two more such documents of interest for men called Hills who had apparently died in the first quarter of 1968, and I ordered both of these about twenty minutes after I had learnt of them in the archive, sitting with my coffee and cake in the Well Cafe, having also bought a a very cheap book about the Resurrection from friendly Frank at the Church House Bookshop, and then rushing back home to listen to Composer of the Week, which I think, that week, was Schubert.

When I received the two certificates, they turned out to have a lot in common, both being certificates of men who had died in mental hospitals, both 83 or about 83 years old, one a retired labourer, the other a carpenter, suffering from chronic melancholia or senile dementia as well as other ailments. The first was one Frederick William Hills, who had been interned at the Tooting Bec Hospital. He had apparently died on 5th January and his death was registered on 8th January, which was the same date Arthur Ernest Hill died in Southall. A check in the records, which are conveniently available on the internet for the London Borough of Wandsworth, quickly revealed that he was not recorded as being buried or cremated anywhere in that borough.

I will dwell a little further on this death certificate. First I draw attention to the fact that the man's given names were Frederick William and that, as I related in an earlier post, my grandfather seems on the occasion of my parents' wedding to have passed himself off under the name Frederick William Williams. The causes of death are recorded as broncho-pneumonia and congestive heart failure (as well as senile dementia), and the first two are the same, except in the exact wording, as the causes of death given for my grandfather on 16th February. The doctor registering the death is K. Hamadeh L.M.S.S.A, and this name is close to that of the doctor at the death in Southall of Arthur Ernest Hill (who again had similar causes of death), E.G. Hadaway, M.B. The informant was recorded as the nephew of the deceased, A.J. Hills, which is only one initial away from the name of the man who brought me up, A.E. Hills. The informant had an address in Horsham, Sussex, and this was very close to where we lived in 1968 at Crawley, Sussex. And the final odd coincidence was that the number of the certificate is 104, and we lived at that time at 104, Brighton Road, Southgate, Crawley.

By 2020 (the time of writing) I am sensing a plot here. Could this be a death that never took place? In that case there would have been an acceptable funeral that must be arranged, preferably nowhere near Tooting. Could it have been given out that the old man had connections far out in West London and would have wished to be buried there? Could it have been that the details of the old man, who was in fact still alive, were given to the undertaker in the London Borough of Ealing on the same day as the body of Arthur Ernest Hill, or someone identified as him, arrived there? The undertaker could now play around with two sets of paperwork but just one body and the fact that the stiff should be buried under the name of Hills was also important, possibly to satisfy anyone who might have come from Tooting and was interested in the old man (the coffin may well have borne only the surname).

Robert Henry Hills, as I said, had details very similar to those of Frederick William Hills - he was also 83 years old, he was a retired labourer rather than carpenter, and the causes of death were more or less the same (he was recorded as suffering from chronic melancholia rather than senile dementia). His death was certified by another doctor with an Indian name, B.D. Sood M.D, and whoever typed the document, probably a secretary at a later time, had first typed "voronary thrombosis" which was duly corrected to "coronary thrombosis". At the far right-hand end of the certificate, beyond the material in boxes, are handwritten words which are difficult to decipher but which might be "fair deal."

Robert Henry Hills was recorded as having died on 7th March, but his death was not registered until 29th March. Actually, I think I may already have heard of him when I ordered the certificates, because possibly a little before that time I had been impelled to phone up the Ealing Cemeteries Office a second time (I had already been in touch with them, as I related, to try and find my grandfather's grave). I spoke on both occasions to a very friendly and open-minded lady called Elaine Robertson, who had been kind enough to send me the burial details that she had in her office for Robert Henry Hills.

When I had received these, Robert Henry turned out to be in another common grave, at Greenford  Park Cemetery, which was not particularly surprising in a old man suffering from dementia and apparently alone. But it was with a terrible start, when I received the death certificate and checked the details against those that Elaine Robertson had sent me of the burial, that I noticed that he had apparently been interred on 20th March, nine days before his death was registered!

Four people had apparently been interred on that day, the other three were on the previous page to Robert Henry Hills, and the one above him, George Steven Bryant, also a patient at St Bernard' Hospital, died age 75, had the same index number as Robert Henry, 52647. The register number of the burial for Bryant was 70 and for Hills 71. I very quickly phoned Elaine again to tell her the surprising (and indeed likely criminal) fact, and, like me, she was very surprised, but she remained cautious, as public officials must, and said that she needed to check the records held by Greenford Cemetery itself.

Today, 2nd March 2018, the third day of intense snowfall over England, five days before the 50th anniversary of the putative death of a senile old man called Robert Henry Hills, I phoned Elaine Robertson again, she ssaid she had looked at the cemetery records, and they had no record of the interment of Robert Henry Hills on the said date. Actually, as I was later to discover, they never keep such records at the cemetery itself. Elaine Robertson must have said she needed to check at the cemetery to avoid having to respond directly to the facts I had uncovered.

How is it possible to make any sense of this (at least in one case) intensely strange concentration of  documents and the lack of them? Any reconstruction of what really happened is of course merest conjecture. But I will make an effort. It may not be a very good one, because I am utterly nonplussed (as I write now in early 2018) by the exact significance of the facts, which seem to form an utterly impenetrable maze. First, let us look at the supposition that my grandfather was murdered.

In that case, the man recorded as Frederick William Hills was perhaps really my grandfather. He was done to death secretly at the asylum in Tooting on or around 5th January 1968. My mother and Arthur Ernest Arthur Hills Junior were in on the plot. All this was timed to coincide with the imminent death of an Arthur Ernest Hill in Southall. His sister Mrs Collins identified him in the normal way. Her co-operation would have been necessary, and she was rewarded with the wherewithal to move with her husband to leafy Buckinghamshire. The body was taken to the undertaker, which was A. Spicer of Southall, where the body of my grandfather (this is my conjecture) had also arrived.

 A coffin was prepared, and a sleight of hand with the documents changed the name of the Southall deceased from Hill to Hills and of his sister Mellie to Nellie (pr perhaps she was indifferently known by either name). The coffin that went into the flames on 15th January was empty, or perhaps, as my friend Phil suggested, it contained the body of a pig to provide some smelly ashes.

The conspirators now had the body of the Nazi and of Arthur Ernest Hill (now conveniently invested with the assumed name of my grandfather) on their hands. They were artificially preserved and Mr Hill of Southall was got into place at the King Edward Hospital, Ealing, in order for him to be recorded as having died there, under his assumed identity, on 16th February. Because he had not entered the hospital alive, a considerable amount of collusion was necessary to achieve this registration, and we might assume that both the agents of Israel and the British government to be involved in the plot.

My grandfather's widow Winnie was the informant, and it seems possible that she was also a conspirator. It is true, however, that she lived apart from her bigamous husband and that she may not have seen the body. But he would have been missing since early January. That hardly seems plausible. And how to explain that she never told the neighbours at Edinburgh Road that she had had a husband who had died, apparently, only a month before they moved in? No, she was a conspirator. Well, unless she had been done away with as well, of course. And her son. And his wife. But that would have been difficult.

Well, anyway, if they had also been killed, their bodies were gone, and now just my grandfather's corpse remained. Another invented senile old man called Hills was pressed into place at St Bernard's Hospital, Southall. My aunt Helen used her connections as a former Sister at the institution, and she would have had the authority to arrange this invention of lunatics. But the fact that such an important person as the occupant of the hospital was involved means that this was arranged is a further indication of the widespread nature of the plot, everyone sworn to secrecy because a top Nazi, justly killed by the Israelis, was involved.

The conspirators didn't change the details they had used for my grandfather at Tooting  The registration of the death was delayed to arrange for the clandestine burial of the now two-month old body. I have related earlier in this post that for some reason it was necessary for Arthur and Helen to meet soon after he had received the news of his father's death, and and that we dropped her possibly at Park Royal Tube, having driven from somewhere further out of London. For the purposes of this reconstruction, let's say it was Park Royal Tube. We were coming from the cemetery at Greenford Park. The date was March 20th 1968. My grandfather's body, what was left of it, had finally found the earth.

My dear Charles, what a cock-and-bull story! Do you really expect anyone to believe that?

Well, I can think of an alternative scenario - and perhaps there are others, which my tired mind, befuddled by so many strange facts, cannot reach at the moment. The plot I can imagine is based on the idea (arrived at with full clarity in September 2020) that my grandfather escaped again, and this version involves less unlikely sleight of hand than the theory he was murdered.  My grandfather might have been in danger of discovery and his family could have helped him to escape to South America, or just to live under another of his identities in England (in this scenario they just wanted him out of their hair. Or, as is also possible, he himself simply wished to get rid of the identity under which he was living and any further connection with Winnie and didn't care who else he destroyed in order to achieve it. That would be true to form.

The demented old man at Tooting did not die as his death certificate said but was kept alive so that his body could be identified as that of my grandfather. This scenario involves Mrs Collins identifying just any solitary person of the right age as her brother, so that the sleight of hand involving one body and two sets of paperwork could be managed within a set time. 

Meanwhile Frederick William was moved to St Bernard's until the moment came for my grandfather ostensibly to die, when his blood pressure was lowered and he was rushed to Ealing Hospital, dying. My grandfather had seen his doctor within the previous two weeks so that a post-mortem without inquest was not required. Frederick William was probably such a hale-and-hearty 83-year-old physically that he his body could pass for that of someone considerably younger, and he would have been kept at a private room at St Bernard's, on the grounds perhaps that he was so noisy, but in reality so that no one would know that he had in fact disappeared in the middle of February and that his body had then been returned there.

The news of his death was given out on 7th March, so that the he could eventually be disposed of at Greenford under the name Robert Henry Hills on 20th March, and twenty-two days had to pass until the registration of this imaginary person because of some complication, unknown to me, that arose in the plot.  Again government and official collusion was involved, in this scenario because it would have been intensely embarrassing to have it revealed that a top Nazi had been allowed to live in Britain unmolested for so many years.

The intense strangeness surrounding the death of Robert Henry, so soon after the supposed death of my grandfather, and in the same area of London, is the best possible indication that the death of my grandfather was either fake or untoward. It could be either, but the scenario of a fake more easily fits the known facts than that of a murder.

On 7th March 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the putative death of Robert Henry, after the intense snowfall had stopped, and the day was mild and damp, I went once again to those regions of farthest west London in search of what was either my grandfather's grave at Greenford, or more likely the grave of the man who had been killed that he might live.

I was in the company of a friend who lives in those remote regions, someone I met in prison, a placid, comforting person, if slightly uncomprehending. First we went to the management at St Bernard's Hospital to try and interest them in the fraud concerning Robert Henry Hills, and we met with a dusty response from two well-coiffed ladies. Then to the Salvation army pop-in at West Ealing for lunch, and then to talk to a friendly, slightly sinister undertaker about the strange and hilarious ways in which human beings treat their dead.

Then on to the large, well-tended and gloomy cemetery at Greenford, with a hazy view of the heights of south-west London in the distance. It was difficult to locate the exact plot from the map we had, and the few Indian figures flitting about the cemetery seemed mysteriously to vanish when we sought their help. But finally we were at what must be the general area, and I noticed suddenly that in among the individual graves in this section was one patch of ground surrounded by a very low wall where there were no memorials. There was nowhere else that could conceivably be the place. This was it.

After a moment my friend wandered off, through the slight puddles that marked the untended ground, and as I stood in front of the small enclosure, and prayed in words that I do not intend to share with the reader, I experienced a sense of overwhelming joy and peace. It was as beautiful as it was brief, for it left me as soon as my friend returned. Then I noticed that within the bare enclosure was one artificial flower. It was quite pretty, red and yellow as I remember. I asked the friend if he thought I should take it. He seemed doubtful. Better, he implied, to leave it where it was. But impelled with the sense of peace and joy I had felt I took the flower.

After we left the cemetery, we went to the Big Boys' Café, a peaceful little place in a parade of shops nearby. Before we entered the cafe, I told my friend that it felt awkward now to carry the flower in my hand and he told me to put it in my pocket. I treated him to a tea and Kit-Kat and we once again discussed the mystery of the certificates, without reaching any conclusion. We came out and decided to go our separate ways near the bus-stop.&nbsp Now I walked through the forest path that leads through the valley of the Brent and under the Hayes and Harlington Viaduct, and as I was alone as I carried the flower again.

And I walked on across the busy road at Hanwell, now with the intention of looking once again at the house where my grandfather had reputedly sometimes lived with his Winnie, 9, Edinburgh Road, W7. It was not far, just off  Boston Road and along Cambridge Road, in a small street of twenty late nineteenth-century terraced houses which is closed off by a postal sorting office.

It was dark as I stood before the house, and the flower was once again in my pocket. Next door was No 11, and I did not want to be seen from that house,  because the elderly couple living there, John and Joan Bonner - the ones who had moved in during March 1968, the month after my grandfather had perhaps died, and who had never heard of him from Winnie - had not been at all friendly the last time I had tried to talk to them. But almost immediately I was standing outside No 9 a man came out of No 11, and I hastily retreated back down the street in case I should be seen. The person was perhaps a workman and I heard him say to those inside, presumably the Bonners, that he would go somewhere else and come back. He walked on, I was ahead of him, and eventually, turning my head back, I saw him go into a house in Cambridge Road.

I reached the bus-stop in the main street, Boston Road. I was waiting for a bus to Brentford Station, because I hoped to meet my friend Bill that night near Clapham Junction, and that station is along the line from there. An Indian woman came up to the bus-stop and we talked briefly. Perhaps I looked at the flower one last time before she appeared and before the bus came. I struggled upstairs in the crowded, swaying bus. By the time I got to Brentford Station the flower was gone.

And I am almost sure now that this was as well. For it would not be good to remember my grandfather by so much as a single flower. During the time I was conducting these strange researches I was leafing once through a book about the final fate of the Nazi leaders in the Muswell Hill Library and it had a forward by the historian Andrew Roberts. In this he made the point that it was important for the general sense of closure, and particularly for the Germans themselves, that Hitler (and by implication the other top Nazi leaders) should be seen and known to have paid fully for their crimes.

This insight had not really occurred to me before, but as soon as I read Roberts' statement I realised that it was correct, and that therefore, whatever my own sense of shock that my grandfather had possibly been murdered, it was a good thing that he had been, if indeed that was true. If he had ben a leading Nazi in hiding, we all know the name of the team that would have got him in the end, whoever they may have been helped by. It begins with an M and ends with a D and there is a double S in the middle. Good on them!.

Unless the whole thing was a gigantic ruse so that the old bastard could escape again and the team in question know nothing of what had happened? But I remember Arthur Ernest Hills, the Nazi's son, saying with deep feeling, "Thank God the old bastard's dead!"

That is my strongest indication that the team succeeded, but whether he died in pain and fear or lived to die in his bed alone, my own attitude to this grandfather, if he was Goebbels, must be as clear and uncompromising as that of any person who aspires to decency and right feeling. I will perhaps never be able to get rid of the instinctive feeling for him which comes from the fact that I knew him and that he was my own flesh and blood. But I must yield to no one in reasoned detestation of and abhorrence for his crimes. I should never defend him by as much as a single word. I could not have remembered him with a single flower.

 Now I will just briefly relate various other things I know about my grandfather, or can reasonably surmise about him.

Before the dates of the various later documentary records, there are a number of memories that Arthur Junior gave of his father in England, which are likely to be true, and they include the fact that, as I have already mentioned, before being involved with Winnie, he had been with a woman called Madge. That hellish slattern, complete with dangling fag, was probably a present that came with his new life in England. There is also the meeting on the top of the London bus, and this is so strange it must surely be true. Arthur had no certain memories of his father between the family break-up and the period after the Second World War, and this would obviously be consistent with him really being a Nazi in Germany and therefore entirely inaccessible to Arthur, by that time in England.

Does this mean that we can be certain that my grandfather arrived in England, by unknown means, after the Second World War, perhaps several years after it, having been in hiding in Germany from early May 1945? I refer again to my unreliable informant the archivist and his statement that the assumption of British identity by the group of Nazis who had murdered an entire English family had taken place before the Second World War, not after that.

Now, assuming that the archivist was referring to my own family, this might mean that my grandfather had been planted in England by the Nazi regime during the 1930s, but it could also mean, as I have already discussed, that members of his family and other connections had been insinuated into Britain by various means after or around the period of the murders and that a sleeper identity had been created for my grandfather at a similar period, for him to use in the event of Nazi defeat and his own subsequent escape from either a faked death or the possibility of a trial.

This creation of a sleeper identity would obviously have been most likely to have taken place at the height of British appeasement of the Nazis, and I think historians would date this as being around late 1936 when the Abdication Crisis and the support given by Churchill to the King had discredited the former's anti-Hitler stance and the abandonment by the British Left of its previous commitment to peace, because of the Spanish Civil War, had given the Right a further impetus in its wish to appease the dictators.

Now, as it happens, I was able to unearth from my searches of the British records during my two clandestine visits to London the record of a suspicious death of one Arthur Hills, which took place at exactly this period, on 14th December 1936.

The said Arthur Hills was a plumber's mate with an address in Poplar, East London, and he is recorded as having died "opposite No 10" in High Street, North Woolwich. This suggests to me a possible fatal accident with the plumbing. The coroner for south-east London, W.H. Whitehouse, conducted an inquest on 16th December, and the cause of death was given as labar pneumonia, and rather tautologically, "natural causes", with the initials "P.M" appended, which I think must stand for "post-mortem".

The age of this Arthur Hills was recorded as 39, while the Arthur Ernest Hills born at Dover in 1896 whom Mr Adolph identified,tracing the facts back from the marriage to Winnie, as having been my grandfather, would have been 40 at this time. Obviously, it is not impossible that these two men were the same, and also that whatever sudden event befell the plumber's mate was engineered. He would have had to change his profession from electrical wireman to plumber. It might have been an astute move in the troubled 1930s.

(Three complicating asides at this point. There were quite a number of other men called Arthur Hills born in the East End of London about 1896 or 1897. Any of these is a candidate to be the plumber's mate. The East End was a close-knit community in those days. People tended to stay there and incomers were not welcome. Also plumbing is a skilled profession. My Arthur Hills had been an electrical wireman. There is also the small discrepancy about the man's age at the time of death, one year out. All this means that there can be absolutely no certainty about the identity of the man who met the accident. What I have outlined is simply a possibility, and an intriguing one, because any untoward death may not be what it seems.

(The second complicating aside. There was also another Arthur Ernest Hills born in Kent in 1896, but this time not at Dover but at Faversham, on 20th November, the son of a William John Hills, who was the captain of a barge. When we were first researching who our grandfather had been, Christopher Hills and I had become very puzzled about trying to work out which of the two was connected to us, but Antony Adolph's research confirmed that it was the one born at Dover.

Now the one born at Faversham, curiously, died in 1932, at just about the time that the break-up in Arthur's family seems to have taken place. He died on 13th April 1932, and the birth of Dennis Hills, who had been given away too young for Arthur to remember anything about him, was on 24th February. Arthur Ernest Hills born at Faversham was recorded as a retired private in the Royal Marines, his death, at the age of 35, was due to pulmonary tuberculosis, which men who had been wounded in the First World War often died of prematurely, and the young man's father, W.J. Hills, is recorded as being present at the death. Everything about this certificate must clearly be above board, yet because of the fortuitous date the death took place, this is another opportunity for my grandfather to have been given the identity of a deceased Arthur Ernest Hills.

The third complicating aside. I will go on to show that my grandfather, if he was a top Nazi in English disguise, must have taken up this identity by August 1946. This means that it could well have been during the unusual circumstances of the Second World War.)

Now, if we assume that it was some time before the end of the Second War that my grandfather definitively grandfather gained his British identity, because the original holder of it was now dead (although the identity was prefigured from about 1930, because Arthur Ernest Hills Senior is recorded as the father of the two children Dennis and Sonia, who were born from those dates), do we have any information which suggests whether he took up the identity more or less immediately, or whether it was a sleeper identity?

Yes, there is one possible indication. Now the well-informed but possibly not truly helpful archivist drew my attention during the third stay in London (in summer 2016) to the existence of the 1939 Register, which was a census compiled in Britain at the outbreak of war of all civilians living in the country, British and foreign. It was drawn up by house-to-house enquiry and the archivist said it was useful and comprehensive. And, as a dutiful family researcher, I took the hint of this momentarily ingratiating but sinister person and went to look up Arthur Ernest Hills and other family members in that record.

Sure enough, I found a register of one Arthur E. Hills, born on the same date as the man identified by Mr Adolph as my grandfather (the one born at Dover|), living with one Marjorie Hills, and that would obviously have been Madge, and both are recorded as married, although apparently not to each other. Is this absolute proof that the assumption of identity happened immediately, or did not happen at all?

Well, not quite. This couple were recorded as living at 249, Barton Road, Lambeth, and, when I checked the street name in the A-to-Z it did not exist. It did of course seem possible that there was once such a street and that it had swept away by wartime bombing or post-war redevelopment, although the very high street number suggested that this was unlikely to have been the case. Anyway, for several years I did not bother to try and check this matter further.

However, in the early part of 2020, I finally got round to trying to find out everything that could be known about my Aunt Helen, and the results of this research research will come at a slightly later point in this post. The work had to be conducted mainly at the London Metropolitan Archives, and they are the best authority on everything to do with London streets. So, as a by-product of the Helen research, I decided once again to check the record for Arthur and Marjorie Hills, and an assistant looked it up for me on her computer. And I was surprised and not entirely pleased to discover that the address for them now appeared to be 249, Brixton Road, which would of course be an entirely legitimate address.

Does that entirely settle the matter then? Is this proof positive that my grandfather was in England in 1939 and therefore cannot have been Goebbels? Any certain placing of him in England in the late 1930 or early 1940s would surely almost totally destroy my case. Now there is one other possible documentary placing of my grandfather in England during the war, and it turned out to be very dubious, but it relates strongly to what I have discovered about my Aunt Helen, so I propose to discuss it with that material. I believe this other piece of evidence to be equally dubious. What are my reasons for believing that?

Well, first of all, the authorities could have wanted to firmly establish the sleeper identity, and already have been planning to give Madge to Goebbels, and therefore could have placed them at a conveniently empty address in 1939. Or the original holder of the identity could still have been alive with Madge and really living at the address, only to be destroyed at a slightly later point and Madge handed on to her new man.

Also, you can do anything with computers and produce the most plausible-looking forgeries. The writer I have mentioned, the friend of the archivist, once told me, rather bitterly, that he had read every word of my blog, although he did not mention any reaction to what he found there. The archivist is therefore almost certain to have known about Barton Road, and he certainly knew of the existence of Madge, because I had mentioned her as a joke during the time when we were friendly. He had originally acted very out of character in so enthusiastically urging me to consult the 1939 register. He did not usually want me to do any of my own research but to leave it to him.

So I think that when he learnt about what I had originally found, he may well have been frightened by something that could potentially be shown up as an evident falsehood and have decided to correct the public records to something that would seem entirely innocuous. It is of course a very serious matter to falsify public documents, but what appears on the Internet can also be removed from it, and by successfully prosecuting such a forgery he would have most seriously have undermined my whole thesis, and who other than myself could be at all likely to want to look up, or have any idea about, who was living at this address in 1939?

It is certainly possible that I simply misread the entry a number of years before. My memories of the occasion are of course not strong, although I seem to remember that I saw the entry, on an awkward microfiche reader, isolated from other entries for the same street, and perhaps in a modern computerised index rather than a copy of the original entry, so that a mistake in the transcription would certainly be possible.

But I do not believe that this is the true version of events. I think I originally read Barton and it was later altered to Brixton. The first halves of the two words are pretty far from each other. Could even the sleepiest computer clerk have made such a mistake? Could I myself have made such a mistake even when I was looking at a difficult microfiche reader? Also I took down the address as being in Lambeth, the area in the 1930s called Lambeth, not the later Borough of Lambeth. But 249, Brixton Road is nowhere near Lambeth in this original sense. It is going on for the centre of Brixton whereas Lambeth is where they did the Lambeth Walk. Oh no, my dear archivist, you are not going to fool me as easily as that!

(Back to the original text now.) I myself believe the theory of the sleeper identity. What top Nazi would have wanted to leave Germany at a time when every indication was that Hitler would lead his adopted country to ever more success? But might he not, if he were wise, have been glad of an insurance policy provided by some twinkling friend of his in the British establishment in case the plans of the said Hitler came to dust and ashes?

Well, all our plans might come to dust and ashes and, talking of the archivist, I am reminded of the fact that he warned me during that drunken evening that, if I ever came close to the truth about the identity of my grandfather, somebody might kill me. Well, very recently (I am now back to the spring of 2017), there has been what appeared to be an attempt on my life, and it occurs to me that my own insurance policy involves telling the reader about this attempt, in order to deter those who may be thinking about repeating the experiment.

Now you may remember that I mentioned some pages back that recently I undertook a South American journey, and it so happens that on 20th January 2017 I arrived by sea in Buenos Aires. This is is now almost a month ago, as I am writing at this moment in the internet centre of the social club in Altura on the afternoon of 15th February 2017.

Someone I had met in a bookshop in Montevideo had recommended to me that I stay in the suburb of Recoleta and I had looked up this smart area several times on the Internet and perhaps mentioned I was going there in an email. On arrival at the port, I took a taxi to Recoleta and the driver drew up at a point where there was a choice of three hotels. I checked into one called Urban Suites and, as it was lunchtime, I rested a couple of hours in my room and ate lunch there. I go pretty often to the toilet and, as there was no window in this bathroom, I am sure I must have gone in, perhaps more than once, and switched on the lights. Then I went out for a couple of hours to see the sights of Recoleta. I returned very tired and once more rested for about an hour on the bed.

Then I went into the toilet again and switched on the lights. Immediately, a small fire broke out within or near the light bulb. I did not react immediately to this strange event, but quite soon the room was filling with more and more smoke and, although I turned everything off, and the fire went out, this did not stop the spread of the smoke. Eventually I realised that I must exit the room immediately or I would be dead.

I quickly made my way down to the reception desk, where two young receptionists were on duty, both of whom had appeared since I checked in at lunchtime. Eventually the more sympathetic of the two, a sweet young man of Italian descent called Max, came up with me to the room and, although himself almost overwhelmed by the smoke, was quickly able to discover what the cause of the fire was. Someone had put a wet toilet roll inside the light bulb. And on this terrifying note (at least to me) I will close what I have to say for the moment about Arthur Ernest Hills Senior.

 And now to the mother of his children. These were officially four (although, according to a distant relation in Edinburgh, there were apparently five.)  The children were born, according to the records, to a woman called Mary Martin Brown, born in Edinburgh in 1899 with ancestry that Mr Adolph traced back to Ayrshire in the eighteenth century. Now what can be known with certainty of her?

Well, of course, I never knew Ida Lotte Bleistein, which I believe to be this woman's real name, although perhaps the worst of all my memories is standing at the door which she was refusing to open to her own son and grandson. That was surely a terrible thing to do to a son she had once known, and I can only wonder what was the substance of the quarrel that took place near the beginning of the war, when he was perhaps only fourteen (or, more likely, eighteen).

The few other people I have met who knew her, relations of hers, also describe her as a hard, mean woman. Arthur always spoke of her with great bitterness. Yet, once, at my request, he showed me a photograph of her and one of his father. He said he would show me these photos once and once only, and he kept his word. I never saw those photos again. The one of my grandfather, according to what may of course be false memory, showed a very evil-looking young man lying on the grass of a park, the one of my grandmother a woman against the background of a great city. Arthur must have cared, to have kept those photos so long. Still waters ran deep with him.

Now, obviously, if my grandmother was really a German Jewish refugee, who arrived in this country with one of her twin sons, but not the other, and perhaps also her daughter, and then gave two more children away, it follows that all the details that relate to Mary Martin Brown before about 1930 have nothing to do with her. But can we also assume that everything that relates to Mary Martin Brown after her arrival, as with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, is substantially true of my grandmother? I do not think we can.

This is because the original Mary Brown would have had to be disposed of - either killed, or given another identity - and the original identity would still exist and would have to be acknowledged if it were ever in question. And, if my grandmother continued to use her original identity for various purposes, as I believe she did, then she would have had finally to dispose of the identity of the original Mary Martin Brown before her own death, possibly when that person herself finally died, and by fair means or foul.

Now, as it happens, just as with Arthur Ernest Hills Senior, my searches of the records in England during my clandestine visits threw up an occasion when this disposal of identity seems to have taken place, and the interviews I subsequently conducted with other relations of my grandmother make it seem virtually certain, at least to me, that I have discovered at least the rudiments of the truth about what happened at the date in question.

In the summer of 2014 I went to the Westminster Archives Centre and found a death certificate for  the Mary Martin born in Edinburgh in 1899, with which, as I now know for certain, from proofs I shall reveal after giving all the facts I can find, my grandmother had faked her own death.

She is recorded as having died at the Central Middlesex Hospital, Park Royal, West London, on 30th July 1982, of congestive cardiac failure and coronary occlusion with generalised atheroclerosis. But the death was not registered until 5th August 1982, because there was a post-mortem without inquest. This meant that the certificate of death carried the certification not of a family doctor but of  D.M. Paul the Coroner for North London, and it was filled out in the florid and almost legible handwriting of someone probably called Raymond O. Sullivan, Registrar for the sub-district of Park Royal in the London Borough of Brent.

On the day this document was signed, the body would have been released for burial .On that very same day, 5th August, another woman, known simply as Mary Martin, the widow of one Leonard Cecil Martin, who had apparently been born on 6th August 1896, is recorded as having died, at the Royal Free Hospital, in the neighbouring borough of Camden, but her death, for reasons unknown, was not registered until 13th August.

The causes of death, broncho-pneumonia and cerebro-vascular accident, were certified by the strangely-named F. Fortuno MBBS, and the signature of the registrar, recorded as being of the sub-district of Camden in the registration district of Camden in the London Borough of Camden, is entirely illegible.

I think this second woman was possibly the original Mary Martin Brown, born in Edinburgh in 1899, and that she is likely to have been done to death around 30th July 1982, either at her own recorded address or at the recorded address of my grandmother, and to have been rushed, already dying, either to the Central Middlesex or the Royal Free Hospital, or left for a while for her body to decompose in the heat of August.

Her own address, as recorded on the death certificate, was 29, Ariel Road, West Hampstead, London NW6, but, as I discovered from the electoral rolls towards the very end of my stay in England in summer 2014, this was an entirely empty house at the time of the widow's death and had been since 1978 and was to remain so until 1984.

Clearly the widow had not been living at 29, Ariel Road, and if one detail in a certificate is false, the whole thing is likely to be designed to deceive. This document is very sparse on detail and filled out in a careful but uneducated hand. The informant of the death was a Martin Lolliard (or possibly Colliard - the initial letter of the surname at the space reserved for it is half-way between the versions of capital "C" and Capital "L" that appear elsewhere in the document, while the signature of the person is entirely indecipherable,)

This person of uncertain surname had the usual address of 356/364 Grays Inn Road, and this turns out to be the address of Camden Council social services, so he was an anonymous council worker. His qualification for being the informant was "causing the body to be buried", from which implies, although not with total certainty, that, wherever the body began its journey, it moved towards its final resting place from the Royal Free. The fact that a council worker was the informant implies that the widow was a solitary person, the circumstances of whose death were of little interest to anyone.

If the widow was not living at 29, Ariel Road, this raises the question of where she really was living, and I think it is possible that her home really was 94, Vanbrough Crescent, the recorded address of my grandmother. This is a very small bungalow between two more substantial houses and seems designed for an elderly person to live in alone. As she was almost certainly also called Mary Martin, she could have passed for my grandmother.

Vanbrough Crescent is a quiet street in the mainly anonymous landscape of far West London near the White Hart Roundabout. But when I visited the area I discovered that the population in the group of houses surrounding No 94 had remained surprisingly stable and several persons who had grown up in the area were still living there in their middle and old age.

A number of these were willing to talk to me, and I showed them several photographs I had procured of my grandmother, and none of them recognised her, and none had any memories of a couple who could possibly have been Mary Martin Brown and Percy Martin. One of them thought her face might be vaguely familiar, but of this she could not be sure. I therefore conclude my grandmother and her husband almost certainly never lived at this address.

But it was certainly her recorded address and that of Percy Martin according to the electoral rolls. The 1978 register shows a Margaret Sell as living at No 94. My grandmother and her husband are first shown in the 1979 register, which became operative from 16th February of that year, shortly after the time, therefore, that 29, Ariel Road fell entirely vacant. My grandmother vanishes from the time of the 1983 register, as one would expect, and then Percy Brown is shown until 1993, the year of his death, I believe. From 1994 to 1997 an Antoine H. Estienne is recorded, and from 1998, for quite a number of years, Angus D. Loch.

When I visited the area I was told something about Angus D. Loch by the current occupant of 94, Vanbrough Cresecent. He had been a very shy and solitary black man who hardly went out except to his local church, and he had occupied the small house for about twenty years and died several years before I visited the area in 2014. I therefore conclude that he probably moved into the house at some time before the death of Percy Martin and that the said Antoine Estienne was another phantom occupant.

I shall always mention at a later point that one of my cousins remembered the woman calling Mary Martin and Percy Martin living mainly on the top floor of a council flat in Acton and had no memory of them living at Vanbrough Crescent, although he was her grandson and had known them both reasonably well

There is one final strange fact about 94, Vanbrough Crescent in relation to the Central Middlesex Hospital. It is nowhere near there. The hospital in question lies between Harlesden and North Acton. But Vanbrough Crescent is so far out in the western suburbs, in Northolt or Yeading, that it is hardly London at all. In fact, Ariel Road is nearer to the Central Middlesex than is Vanbrough Crescent. Why, if my grandmother really lived at the latter, was she not taken to the nearby Hillingdon Hospital when she fell ill from standard causes?

What happened, then, on or just before 30th July 1982, which led to the death of the elderly woman of unknown identity and address, but possibly also called Mary Martin? Well, the exact details of this complex plot will perhaps never be known, and are certainly beyond the present writer to unravel in detail at this point. I shall indicate shortly that there are people still alive who perhaps know these details, but unless and until they talk the whole plot will never be unravelled.

We are left with the fact that my grandmother did not die on this occasion and that another elderly woman surely must have done, because a body must have been cut up. One possibility that occurs to me is that there was some sort of administrative link between the Central Middlesex and Royal Free hospitals, so that a post-mortem could have been recorded at the one but really have taken place at the other.

So on the one hand, we have my grandmother, now herself elderly but still in good health, living quite near all the locations I have mentioned, and perhaps fearful that, in the event of the death of the real Mary Martin Brown, her own cover would be blown. Then there is the more hypothetical figure of the elderly widow who, perhaps for money, had accepted a slight adjustment of identity many decades before.

Perhaps the two women had always remained vaguely in touch and, when the widow came to die, she made sure my grandmother and Percy Martin were informed. That would be the charitable explanation. Against this is the fact that Percy Martin was the informant of the death and that the death certificate, filled out with every possible detail, and leaving no space for suspicion of any of the authorities at Central Middlesex Hospital, except a possibly corrupted family doctor, says that Percival Conrad Marshall Martin, the informant, the dead woman's husband,  was present at the death.

There is also the fact that 29 Ariel Road had already been entirely empty for four years at the time the second woman died. Why? It was a three storey Victorian house in quite a prosperous if very transient part of West London. Much money could have been made from letting it out, surely. But what if it were more important for the place to be readied as the recorded address of a solitary and dying occupant?

Surely the unfortunate widow was done to death at 29, Ariel Road, that silent and empty house, with perhaps the only sound disturbing the killing the noise of the overhead train. Probably her pulse was lowered to a point where death would shortly follow. And it is the Royal Free that is the nearest hospital. Surely she was taken there. The Central Middlesex is just that bit too far.

I do not necessarily suspect the coroner. He would have cut up thousands of bodies of elderly women at various North London hospitals in his time .Once his work was done, it was for F. Fortuno to provide the certification. And for Mr Colliard or Lolliard to take the widow to her final resting place.

And what was the motive which could justify what seems to have been a particularly callous murder, surely carried out at by the ageing Percy Martin, with my grandmother, who was rather older than him, perhaps watching in the background?

There was an ostensible motive and a hidden one. The obvious motive was to get rid of the identity of Mary Martin Brown for ever. But the final motive must surely have been to try and make sure that no one ever found out the true identity of the man calling himself calling himself Arthur Ernest Hills and the fact that he was not the Englishman he claimed to be.

For if the woman recorded as his former wife had been shown at her death to be a person of false identity, suspicion would have posthumously fallen on him. Much money would surely have been available to attain this end, more than enough to keep a large North London house empty for five years.

I have gone to 29, Ariel Road many times, often at night, and stood outside this corner house in the weird district between the three railway lines. If my grandmother and Percy Martin used 29, Ariel Road for their schemes, they must have had a connection with it, and perhaps once had lived there. Again and again I have tried to remember if this can have been the house we visited in 1968 to try to see my grandmother. That was the time she refused to see me or her own son. I have got no certain answer from myself. Arthur Ernest Hills, her son, told me the house was in Acton.

At this point I ask the reader to remember -  I have mentioned it twice before in this now enormous post - that Arthur had told me his father lived near South Ealing Tube when in fact he lived near Boston Manor Tube, two stops further down the Piccadilly Line. As I have several times made clear, he tended to give geographical indications with great vagueness or even falsehood. To return to my grandmother and her possible address. Now, from West Hampstead to Acton Central on what is now the London Overground is five stops, but East Acton Station, which is on the Central Line, is so close to West Hampstead that, if a direct line linked them, the number of stops would be unlikely to be more than two.

And if Arthur could tell one undoubted lie about his father, surely he would have been capable of telling a very similar one about his mother. He always loved to deceive me, in matters small as well as great.I t was a sort of cruel mania. And my grandmother's grandson by Percy Martin, Paul Martin, when I questioned him, said that, although he remembered our grandmother as living on the top floor of a council block in Acton, he thought that 29, Ariel Road was a possible address for her at one time.

Of course I have visited Acton as well as West Hampstead, and despite the innumerable smartenings up of recent years, the former area retains the ineffable air of sinister seediness that seems well to suit my grandmother and Percy Martin. That is my chief source of lingering doubt about the identification of my grandmother with Ida Lotte Bleistein. The latter lived in much smarter areas of inner West London, Hampstead and the like. Yet a different alias could well have a different personality and circumstances. In any one of innumerable streets in wide Acton could have stood the house we visited with such sorrow. And Acton is not so far from West Hampstead, which is seedier than Hampstead proper.

I checked the electoral rolls for 29, Ariel Road in 1968. There were six people living on the three floors of the house: a man and a woman with the surname Cadogan, two women with the surname Gardner, and a couple called James and Mary Singleton. One of the Cadogans seems to have died and the other was left. The Gardners were two women. It is therefore Singleton that I think just possibly to be the alias of my grandmother and Percy Martin.

I now come to the proof I have that my grandmother lived for several years beyond 30th July 1982, and this in contrast is quite certain. The summer of 2014 in London was a slightly depressed time for me, after the much more joyful winter visit, and I was slow to follow up my discovery of the two death certificates of possibly just one woman called Mary Martin.

But eventually I visited Edinburgh to find surviving relatives of Mary Martin Brown, and one of these told me that, although, as I already knew, Alan Martin, the son of my grandmother by Percy Martin, had died in 2006 - I had perhaps better make it clear at this point that the name Martin was in the family of Mary Martin Brown, and also the real, or assumed, name of Percy Martin - his widow, Margaret Hibberd, was perhaps still living.

The Edinburgh relation gave me the address for Margaret Hibberd, which was in a town or city on the south coast of England, and a few days after returning from Edinburgh I travelled down there for the day from London.

I arrived at the gloomy modern British High Street towards lunchtime, poked round the charity shops, had an uninspired but sufficient meal at a Wetherspoon, and booked my ticket back to Portugal at a travel agent's. Thus fortified, I got a taxi to the suburb where Margaret Hibberd perhaps still lived, but the taxi driver did not know the address, or claimed not to, although, rather strangely, he dropped me at a point which was, in fact, very close to her home.

I then got hopelessly lost for several hours, and wandered over vast distances, but I experienced the civility of many strangers, who tried to help me, and which I have to to admit, whenever I get exasperated with England, is one of the real joys of English life. So when I finally found the quiet house in the little cul-de-sac I was still in a good and hopeful mood.

Margaret Hibberd answered the door without delay, and turned out to be a quiet, elegant elderly lady. Although I was later to learn from her son Paul Martin that she had been frightened by my arrival, she was able to control this, and treated me with great kindness and civility. She  remembered her mother-in-law and Percy Martin well, although she said that family relations had never been close. She said that my grandmother had treated Alan very cruelly when he was a child, but he had been a good man and had not entirely deserted his mother. When I asked her if she thought my grandmother and the grandmother of her children could originally have been a German, she said that her voice had been broad Scotch but that there could have been some other accent there underneath the Scottishness.

We talked originally in her sitting-room, but later we moved to the cosy kitchen where she entertained me to a fine cup of tea and, I remember, a little thing to eat. There I showed  the two death certificates, and outlined the theories I had about them. She originally reacted negatively to this, and said there could surely have been no connection between those two documents. She said she could not remember exactly where my grandmother had lived or when she had died. It had been some time in the 1980s. Relations had been so very distant with the unpleasant couple and they had even grudged giving their grandchildren birthday presents.

It was getting towards the time when the last bus towards the railway station would leave that quiet suburb, and it looked as if I would have to go without having found out anything much. Then Margaret Hibberd suddenly said she wanted to tell me something. She had had a daughter called Suzanne who had died two years before but, if she had been alive on that day, which was 1st September 2014, would have been 49 years old. This would obviously place her birth some time around 1965, and she would have been around seventeen on 30th July 1982, the recorded date of the death of her grandmother.

Now Alan and Margaret had gradually become angry about the refusal of the grandparents ever to give their grandchildren presents.  And it had been on either Suzanne's 18th or her 21st birthday (Margaret could not remember which) that they had visited the old couple with Suzanne and more or less forced a present out of them. With quickening excitement, I asked Margaret if the woman calling herself Mary Martin Brown, my grandmother, had still been in good health at the time of this incident, and in her quiet and pleasant voice Margaret said that she had been, and indeed that she had lived for several years after that.

"Do you realise," I said, with deep joy, "you've just given me proof positive that that death certificate is a forgery?"

"Oh, well,"  she answered, "I can't help what I've said."

"Oh, God, thank you so much, so much, for telling me that."

"I wanted to help you. Now look, you've got to get to the bus stop. I don't think there's much time now."

We hurried into our outer garments, I told her to be sure she had her keys, and we walked towards the main road, where there was a most beautiful raised green, and she showed me the bus stop, we checked the time, which was enough, and with a slightly nervous but warm farewell she left me.

During our conversation Margaret had given me the address and phone numbers of her son Paul Martin, and some time after I went back to Portugal, I phoned him (actually I phoned him from the island of Porto Santo, part of the Madeiran archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean). He was friendly on the phone, but said firmly that his family had no German connection.

On the day before I left Portugal for England for the third time - where I was to be arrested on arrival - I received a letter from Paul Martin enclosing a vast amount of genealogical research and a huge family tree showing his Brown and Martin ancestry in the British Isles over many generations. The fairly brief covering letter said that he had now helped me as much as he could on the matter of our common ancestry and insinuated, in perfectly polite and friendly language, that he wanted nothing more to do with me.

While I was in prison, however, I determined to visit him when I could, and one weekday in the summer of 2016 I rather wearily set out from the hostel in Hackney to the place in the Home Counties, fairly near Reading, where he lived. I left at very late lunchtime because his mother had told me that he worked at a job, and even in the evening was often out walking his dogs, so I must time my visit hoping to catch him when he had recently arrived home from work (I had meant to go the previous Sunday, and perhaps beard him on a free afternoon, but had felt too weary and disinclined in my room at the hostel.)

And on this weekday, I arrived at the railway station of the unpromising little town at about five o'clock in the humid afternoon, carrying my present of assorted cakes in a box, and many photographs and certificates, as well as books and magazines to read, feeling pretty browned off. I soon managed to locate my cousin's house by asking some passers by where it might be. It lay at some distance, and it was too early to go there immediately, so I decided to have an early dinner at a pub. I had to walk up a steep hill to get to the nearest one, and I sat alone, eating my unexceptional meal, in the scrubby garden. Then the day continued hot and grey as I walked again with my heavy bag the considerable distance from the pub to the house.

It was Paul's wife Tessa who answered the door (he was indeed out with his dogs) and she was initially far from pleased to see what she considered a slightly doubtful cousin by marriage who had called without warning, having already been put off by letter. In my nervousness I immediately made a dreadful faux pas about her being Paul's second wife (I had somehow got this idea into my head, possibly entirely falsely). So my visit threatened to come quickly to a sticky end, but just then my cousin Paul, a relaxed Englishman in middle age, drew up in his car with his fine-looking dogs and without much further ado invited me into the house.

I went with the couple into their kitchen, and conversation continued difficult for a while, but then I offered my present, only to be horrified that in my energetic journeys round the Home Counties the cakes had become totally squashed. But this, rather than angering Tessa further, seemed strangely to lighten the atmosphere, and I eventually was able to question the couple about the elder Martins for a shortish period, and I am pretty sure that Tessa made me tea or coffee.

They did not add that very much to the vital facts given me by Margaret. She was still well, and I sent her my very best wishes. Like her, they could not remember exactly when the old woman had died, but they thought it must have been about 1983. Paul said that really he had hardly known his grandmother, she had been such an unwelcoming figure, and, as a child or young man he would hardly have noticed whether she had a German accent or not.

The most important thing Paul and Tessa said was something  that I have mentioned at a slightly earlier point in this post: they had no recollection of the couple living at 94, Vanbrough Crescent and did not believe this could have been their address. Their main memories were of the older Martins living on the top floor of a block of council flats in Acton. There had been a number of other addresses as well, and 29 Ariel Road NW6 might just possibly have been one of these.

(As it happened, the archivist had also unearthed quite a number of addresses at which Ida Lotte Bleistein had been living, at least one of which Ursula Helene had been living with her, and it occurred to me that, should I ever wish to visit any of the places which this ghostly grandmother of mine had haunted, I would be spoiled for choice, as apart from the problem that she might never have haunted them in the first place! The placcs where Ida Lotte tended to live were smart and at the heart of the Jewish community, in areas such as Hampstead and Golders Green, whereas the same lady under the name of Mary Martin Brown, up until 1982, lived in more downbeat regions such as Acton. But this surely just went with the social background of the two identities.)

(One aside, though, in the conversation of the younger Martins, which added a pleasant note, was that they had just come back from holiday two days before, so if I had visited them on the previous Sunday, as  I had vaguely planned, I would not have found them in. A fortunate disinclination to see them on that day!)

Quite soon Paul kindly offered to drive me to Reading Station, which was not that near, and in the car,  without the dogs or Tessa, we had a very friendly chat. I told him about the blog you are now reading, and about my career as a writer, and he said he thought I might well have the makings of a book in my researches, and thought his children might be very interested in what I was doing, and that the possible German connections of the family might add a touch of spice.

And I left him finally with a friendly wave, and entered the cavernous world of Reading Station, and the fast London train was just leaving. I clambered on to it just in time and made for the buffet car, Sitting down there with a welcome drink and a snack, and breathing a sigh of relief, I was surprisingly and immediately joined by an old friend, so I had very good company to Paddington and beyond, and that is as far as I intend to enlighten the reader about the identity of this companion.

Now if my grandmother was not Mary Martin Brown, born in Edinburgh in 1899 (and I believe I have demonstrated fairly convincingly that she was not), what was her real identity? Once again, I believe I can offer a fairly confident answer (not an entirely certain one) to this question.

Now the reader may remember the most sensational of all the discoveries I have made, that my mother was never officially a British citizen, as she claimed to be for over thirty years, but used the identity of a woman called Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein, who had been naturalised in 1954 with the naturalisation number 30638 and who was born in Berlin in 1919.

I discovered this because I have in my possession a very fragile document that I found a certain point in my house and which is the petition of my mother for British citizenship. It has stamped on it the number 30638, which, as I said, turned out to be the naturalisation number of Bleistein, and it is dated 23rd September 1954, which is only 12 days after my mother had ostensibly married Arthur Ernest Hills at the registry office in Hendon. And this marriage would have given her the right to apply for British citizenship in the perfectly ordinary way, so that there was apparently no need for this elaborate deception.

For a long time, I puzzled over why my mother could possibly have wanted to do this. Ursula Helene was certainly a real person, about whom many details, obligingly discovered for me by the archivist, were on record, so it was quite impossible that my mother, about whose origins I was then very uncertain but of which I knew the outlines, really could have been Bleistein.

The name Bleistein is well known to be Jewish, and for a while I wondered whether Bleistein could have been an enemy whom this pack of Nazis had succeeded in blackmailing into letting her identity be used in this way. But wouldn't there always have been the danger that Bleistein would rat? Wouldn't it have been advisable at some point to get rid of Bleistein? Yet she had died in apparently a perfectly normal way, many years later.

Quite soon this theory began to seem wholly unsatisfactory. Above all, it still didn't explain why my mother had needed or wanted to go through with the deception. Then I thought about something she had always told me when I was a child, that when she got married to Arthur Ernest Hills, he had insisted that she give up her Portuguese identity. So, I suddenly thought, I think one day when I was in prison,  who was it in fact who was being blackmailed? Surely it was my mother.

She had lost Portuguese citizenship, and now, by being forced to go through with this deception, she was facing the threat that at any moment, if she ever blabbed about who her new husband and his relations were, she could be left in the position of being a stateless person, with all the terrible consequences that would entail.

Trying to imagine the situation further, I saw that the two men would have worked in tandem to blackmail her, the husband and the brother whom he had perhaps rather brutally supplanted, and my grandfather would have directed the whole ghastly process (there is a sample of what may be his handwriting on the fragile document I have mentioned.) As soon as I really thought about this theory, I knew that it was almost certain to be true

Now one thing follows from this. If my mother was forced to use the identity of Bleistein, this means that Ursula Helene must have been very closely associated with these Nazis, and was probably a relation of theirs. Now the reader may remember that Arthur had an older sister called Helen who had gone with her father at the time of the family break-up while he went with his mother. The reader may remember that I met her in my childhood. She was called Helen Vera, which is really Ursula Helene the other way round. But what was known for certain about this Aunt Helen?

Well, there was a perfectly ordinary birth certificate that appeared to be hers, and it showed her to be the daughter of the people whom I had always believed to be my paternal grandparents. It showed Helen Vera Hills as having been born on 22nd August 1918 at 197, Shakespeare Road, Gillingham, which was the address of her father, Arthur E. Hills, who was the informant. Her mother was shown as Mary Hills, formerly Brown, according to the information I had always been given. One fact, however, was out of sync with what I had been told. On the tapes Arthur Junior said that he believed his mother had come south to Medway to marry his father in about 1920. But in fact the wedding took place at Lady Glenorchy's Church in Edinbrugh on 26th January, 1918, and from the dates it can be inferred that the mother was already pregnant at the time of the nuptials.

There is a strangeness about this marriage at Lady Glenorchy's Church. It was a highly evangelical outfit and nothing at all that I had learnt about my paternal grandparents in childhood would have led me to believe they were Christians of a hellfire variety. Arthur Ernest Hills Junior never once mentioned any wedding of his parents at this church, but it was an unusual and celebrated venue, and if his parents really had been married there the fact could scarcely have escaped him.

A little over a year after Helen's birth, in Berlin, on 7th November 1919, Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein was born, and was recorded as the daughter of Fritz Philippe Bleistein, born in 1891, and Ida Friedricke Charlotte Bleistein, born Friedemann (1894-1987). There was nothing at all unusual about either certificate, the pedigree was perfect (if possibly noy entirely correct), and there could be no doubt that both Helen Vera and Ursula Helene existed and were real persons. If I had never discovered the fragile document that showed a connection between the two families, nothing on earth could ever have led me to believe that the one person had assumed the identity of the other.

I came to do the great bulk of the research about my Aunt Helen in the wet and doom-laden late winter and early spring of 2020, before the onslaught of the Corona virus, I had left it so long because, as I had only met Helen once, I imagined her to be somehow peripheral to my enquiries. But when I came to do the work on her, I realised this was not so, and that in fact pursuing her story could shed important light on when her father Goebbels had made his transition to England, whether he had been murdered in the end or once again escaped, and on the history of my paternal family generally. It was also of interest and comfort to me to learn something about this woman who was after all my aunt. As with the rest of my research, it was like a substitute for the proper relationships with my family that I had never had.

My attention was drawn to Helen when I was finally able to listen again, after the space of about a decade, to the tapes made by Arthur Junior. He mentions her often and bitterly there, calling her "a miserable bitch", but the fact that really drew my attention was that in the early 1940s she had begun her career as a nurse at St Bernard's Hospital, Ealing, and progressed rapidly and ambitiously there.

This was of course the hospital where the mysterious Robert Henry Hills had met his strange fate and it occurred to me immediately that she might well have been involved in this. What would have been the nature of her involvement? I know very little about her, but Arthur Junior often mentioned that she was close to her father, and that would surely have meant her real father as well as any adoptive one. The possible involvement of Helen therefore lends colour to the theory that my grandfather escaped again rather than that he was finally killed again in 1968 and buried in the Greenford Cemetery under the guise of Robert Henry Hills (the coffin or urn going into the ground would surely have had only "Hills" written on it).

So the obvious way to find out more about Helen was to look at records of St Bernard's Hospital, formerly the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, that vast Victorian repository of the frail, the raving and the feeble-minded, where my aunt, if reports of her were to be believed, perhaps presided over her ward with not too gentle a hand. This proved to be a long and tortuous process. On the website of the genealogy firm Ancestry I discovered that a nursing certificate had been awarded to my aunt on either 21st or 22nd April 1955, the year of her marriage, and it seemed likely that whatever information was held anywhere about this certificate would confirm whether or not Helen had still been working at St Bernard's Hospital. But for several months I went from one organisation to another that might hold the file containing this information and, after finally visiting the National Archives, was forced to concede that I seemed to have no way of tracing it.

The next step was to look for records of St Bernard's Hospital which might mention my aunt. I went first to the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), which holds extensive files for many of the London hospitals (it is rather random what has survived), but initially I could find nothing there when I looked at the books of records under Saint B. I went once again to the Ealing Borough Archives, which I had visited several times before, but which were constantly moving during this period because of various works or refurbishment, and which, as I write now (on 11th March 2020) are cosily installed at the rather restful branch library in Southall. But I was informed by the Borough Archivist Dr Jonathan Oates that all the files relating to St Bernard's were in fact held at LMA, so I undertook to return there to check again.

When I arrived once more, a patient assistant quickly alerted me to the fact that the records they held were  indexed not under St Bernard's Hospital but Hanwell County Asylum, and now I quickly found them. I ordered up a few helpful-looking files, including some photographs of the 1950s, but no one appeared in these who looked anything like my aunt. A quite large number of the files seemed to be marked as not available for consultation, and I enquired why this was, and they told me this was because of the 100-year-rule, designed to prevent anything being made public which might relate to living persons. They told me that it would be possible for me to pay a fee and for the staff to research my aunt on my behalf, with information about any other person being blocked out, but I would need to provide proof that my aunt was dead.

This brought me against the problem that Aunt Helen, being a person of assumed identity, had no death certificate assigned to her, even though my relations in Edinburgh had informed me that she had long been dead (I will be coming back to these matters in greater detail a bit later in this post, because they provide the best possible indication that my belief that my aunt was really Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein is correct). However, at the exact moment at LMA, I had to explain my belief to the staff that mu aunt was a person of false identity and say whose the real identity was. But as the real Helen Vera Hills had been born in 1918 and Ursula Helene in 1919 and as we were almost coming up to 2020 at the time of my enquiries, I was informed with a nod and a wink that they would probably be able to assume my aunt was dead for the purposes of the work they would do for me.

I waited a month in some trepidation for the results of their work, and when these came it was really 2020, and I received a copious amount of information, both in the form of original documents and a helpful transcription of these (sometimes difficult to read in the original) by an LMA official. Oddly enough, there was just one mistake in the transcription, but it was the most vital fact of all for my researches, and if I the error had never been pointed out to me (surely it must have been an error?) all my investigations would have been utterly inconclusive. The transcription said that my aunt, Helen Vera Hills, had entered St Bernard's Hospital, having been transferred thence from Cane Hill Mental Hospital in Coulsdon, on 1st January 1941. But Croydon Borough Archives, who provided good information within a reasonable period, free of charge and without invoking the 100-year-rule, pointed out to me that my aunt had left Cane Hill on 31st December 1941 in order to be transferred to St Bernard's, so that her date of starting there was likely to be 1st January 1942 not 1st January 1941. I might never had noticed this mistake if it not been for the good offices of the fine Croydon authorities.

I will explain why the date of 1942 is so important a bit later, and it involves the address she had given for her father, whom she did not name, an address I have already mentioned: 21, Bordars Walk, W7. But before I go on to the strange series of mysteries concerning Bordars Walk, I will just mention briefly what I learnt of my aunt's life at the picturesque Cane Hill Hospital, later of David Bowie fame, where Helen began her career as a probationer nurse at the age of just eighteen (or almost seventeen) on 25th August 1936

My aunt's marital status was single and she was resident at the hospital. Her salary is recorded in the record book as 43/- from 4th May 1938, and this rose to 46/- on 14th May 1941 when she became a staff nurse. It is likely that this salary was a weekly payment, providing a yearly salary of just over £100. She was also paid a uniform allowance of £5 a year. She received her diploma in May 1941.

Her date of beginning at Cane Hill was a little less than four months before the mysterious death of the plumber's mate at Woolwich, a man who may have been her adoptive father, but she had accommodation within the hospital by that date and her childhood dependence on any father,  real or adoptive, was over. As I said, when she entered St Bernard's (and the history of her life there will come) she gave 21 Bordars Walk as the address of her father, giving no name for him. 

There now follows the tortuous history of my researches into this address during and after the wartime which show both that there must have been some claim on the address already in early 1942, because she and her father (I believe her real father this time) were recorded as living there in 1946, and also that when she said her father was living there at the beginning of 1942 she was almost certainly lying.

Bordars Walk W7, in the area of North Hanwell, is a little alley, nowadays very insalubrious and empty of housing of any sort, which forms a right angle between Greenford Avenue, running north-south to the north and west, and Bordars Road, a very typical street of 1930s housing, running east-west to the south and east. Both streets (the name Bordars, unique in Britain, recalls the "fields of the Bordarii", mentioned in Domesday Book in 1085) form part of the large Hanwell Estate, a development of the London County Council in the late 1930s, and  it was largely built on the grounds of the former Hanwell Community School and also of a farm in what was then a still relatively undeveloped area of extreme West London.

Now the practice of taking electoral registers was suspended during the Second World War, so that there are no such records between the 1939 book and that compiled in 1946 and dated to 1947. The records at LMA Archive were available in original form for 1947 but for 1939  held on microfiche, and I found these very difficult to use, and gave up with them. It was possible to consult the 1939 Register at LMA, though, and nobody occupied No 21 a that date, and an unusually helpful assistant also pointed out the possibly strange fact that very few of the houses seemed to be occupied at that date, about six or seven, all of them odd numbers. So I decided to pay a visit to the Ealing Borough Archives to see the original registers for the late 1930s. It turned out to be a pleasant, slightly cold winter Saturday and I planned to combine my visit to Southall Library with a first shooftie at Bordars Walk.

(I have to enter a small caveat here about my own historical veracity. As I am about to make clear, I visited the area of Hanwell, Ealing and Southall twice during this spring period. But I did not keep detailed diaries of the two days, wrote the situation up a little later, and am now returning to the subject in the following spring, that of 2021. I believed that I have got the details of exactly what I did on each of the two days, and in what order, slightly wrong, but at this juncture there is no way of my recovering exactly what happened when and on which day. All the events I describe did in fact happen, and I do not believe that my uncertainty about their sequence materially affects the import of what I have to say. The account as I have written it works quite well, so I just have to leave it.)

I went to North Hanwell first. The suburbs of West London are never quite as peaceful as, say, the further parts of south-east London, and in this restless area, with its many heavily loaded small hopper buses - streets where blacks and Indians insult each other endlessly, and the remaining whites pass by with a tough and wary look - Bordars Walk presented a picture of quite special dereliction.

It was all mounds of rubbish and yards of corrugated iron and other grim fencing. How had this happened to a street where once there had been at least some houses? I stood around in bewislderment and unease. Then I wondered whether it was just possible that someone still remained in the nearby streets who might remember the years of the war.

Emerging on to Bordars Road again I looked for a house with an conventional garden, rather neglected and old-fashioned perhaps, where an elderly English person might live, rather than one with the paved-over driveway which would likely denote Indians. I quickly found a possible house in Bordars Road, quite near the Walk. Just as promptly a friendly middle-aged English lady opened the door, and to my surprise and astonishment, when I explained my query, told me that a 91-year-old lady lived just round the corner in Greenford Avenue, had lived in the area all her life, was totally compos mentis, and went out all the time to do her shopping and visit the doctor.

There was a pair of houses where the old lady might live, but I received an answer at neither. I had forgotten to ask my informant whether my subject could hear very well or whether she was likely to answer the door. It was near lunchtime, however, and, as so often in modern London, there was a good and cheap Turkish cafe nearby where I was able to feast on the most traditional and plentiful English food. Quite replete, I once again approached the two houses, but again no answer, and as time was going on, I decided to go off quickly to board one of the hopper buses to try and find out what I could at the Ealing Archives. .However, I chose the wrong one, get carried back towards Ealing Broadway, walked the streets named after the English poets, did a change of bus in the Uxbridge Road, and another one at Ealing Hospital, finally to arrive with pleasure at the quiet and orderly Southall Library.

Here the staff seemed very pleased to see me, and a pleasant middle-aged Indian lady undertook to fetch the electoral roll books for 1938 and 1939. The book for 1938 did not mention Bordars Walk at all. And now I found another strange fact. In the late 1930s the area of Hanwell had been in the Harrow Parliamentary Constituency, not the Ealing one, and in the 1939 book (not the 1938 one) a supplement covering the area had been stitched into the back of the book. But the pages of this supplement began at page 23a in the book and, as the streets listed were in alphabetical order, the first street for which details were given was Boston Road, and the details for all streets beginning with A and the earlier streets beginning with B - including, presumably just a page or two back, Bordars Walk - were missing.

I pointed out this slightly strange gap in the records to the pleasant Indian lady, who undertook to mention it to the Borough Archivist,  Dr Jonathan David Oates, a gentleman with whom I had previously had dealings. I then hurried back towards the area of Greenford Avenue to try and raise the ancient lady again. It was becoming an early winter dark as I approached the two houses again, but it was still light enough for those young and fit to open their doors without fear, and I knocked once again at the door of what I thought to be the likelier house. This time, very quickly, a young Indian girl answered, and informed that the old lady I sought lived next door. She gave me the lady's Christian name, but I shall suppress it.

I hurried over to the next-door house, but, as I was half-expecting by now, there was no answer. Never mind, because the Turkish cafe was still open, it was around four o'clock, time for a a nice cup of tea. I was pretty footsore by now, old and fat as I was, but the cafe was now delightfully empty, and they gave me time to drink my tea, although they were about to close.

It was almost dark as I came out, and there was a choice of hopper and larger buses, either in Greenford Avenue or just outside the cafe in Bordars Road. But on an impulse I went quickly to the old lady's house again and very tentatively and quickly rang the bell, but of course no answer, and I hurried back to the stop just by the corner of the derelict street where my evil grandfather had once lived, in the more prosperous road where perhaps he had also been.

And quite quickly an E11 came, I boarded it with great joy, and it went through all the back-streets of Ealing in the darkness until we came to Ealing Broadway Station, and just outside it a group of cheerful young people tried to sign me up for classes in boxing, and I took three of their leaflets, just to show willing.

A few days later I went to the address in Greenford Avenue again. This time the door was opened almost immediately, and a blonde middle-aged English lady stood there. This turned out to be the old woman's daughter. She and her husband had come over because her mother had suddenly fallen ill. I began to explain my business and that I had alled before, and the woman said her mother never answered the door to strangers and I said it was lucky then that I had now arrived when I had.

She said she would call her husband. He came to the door, a darker middle-aged man. He proved to be quite sympathetic, especially when I said that my aunt had worked at St Bernard's Hospital. He suggested that I try the local archives for more information on Bordars Walk, but seemed horrified when I explained that I had already done that and that these were now in Southall. However, it was difficult for him to call the old lady because she really was not well. Now I brought out my little folder of family photographs and documents, which included the wedding photo of my parents I have mentioned many times before, and asked him whether he would just show these to his mother-in-law.

I stood on the doorstep a for a minute or two while unknown consultations took place inside. Then he came back and said the old lady had not recognised any of these people. It seemed we had reached a stalemate. Desperately, I mentioned that there was a mystery about Bordars Walk, so very few people had lived there at the beginning of the war (in the meantime I had gone to the Westminster Borough Archives where they had Ancestry for free, and discovered that the 1939 electoral roll, compiled some time before the 1939 Register, also showed very few people living at Bordars Walk, again all odd numbers, again not including No 21, not exactly the same numbers, but with some correspondence). Could he just ask his mother-in-law what she remembered about the history of Bordars Walk during and just after the war? Had there been houses there all that time? Could there have been bombing?

I waited again. He returned. All the old lady could remember at this moment was that they had built pre-fabs in the Walk after the war. She knew just one family there from that time, and he mentioned their names, but these meant nothing to me. I thanked him profusely for his help and his wife's help, expressed the warmest wishes for the old lady's health, and went my way.

Now I went back to the Ealing Borough Archivist by email ,  Dr Jonathan Oates, and a long and quite engaging correspondence ensued. This coincided with a concentrated period of research at the Metropolitan Archives on Bordars Walk, because Dr Oates mentioned to me that they held quite a lot of material that might be useful, including an intermittent series of Ealing Borough rate-books for the period concerned, which were stored by the LMA for want of space at Ealing. These would give the name of the rate-payer, and they would cover the period of the war, so there was good hope that I could find out if my grandfather was listed as the occupier of 21, Bordars Walk at the beginning of 1942, althoughI experienced  a fear that this would be the very rate-book that was missing.

So in late February and early March 2020 I began a period of daily journeys to the district of Clerkenwell, the scene of so much of London's radical history, and the spirit of that long left-wing battle seemed reflected in the staff of the archive, efficient, superficially helpful, but emanating a strange hostility which I think comes from an uneasy consciousness of the mediocrity of the life they have created by the said battle.

These were the days when Britain was very gradually adjusting itself to the threat posed by Covid-19, this episode when the young and fit all over the world are sacrificing their whole lives to the old and weak, and perhaps a terrible reckoning will eventually come for the old, when the young realise how thoroughly they have been bamboozled, - (or possibly the young will go on with their decadent humanitarianism for ever, I don't know) - but, be that as it may, for now I benefited from the peace of the research area and the attention of the increasingly exasperated staff. I retained my contempt for them as I came again and again to the desk with some technologically helpless request. Nietzsche would have approved of me in my way. I was acting up to the very peak of my bent.

But the staff themselves did not make it really easy for me. First, even though I had an email from Dr Oates mentioning the existence of the rate-books, they insisted that I seek his formal permission to view them, which I could do by email, and then some days would be needed before they could be brought up. At least there was no chance they would be on microfiche!

Meanwhile I began to search for plans that might show the area of Bordars Walk or any other documentation of the Hanwell Estate. There was a series of most beautiful old maps of London that had been compiled in 1934 and 1935 and later annotated in seven different colours to show severity of bomb destruction, ranging from green to denote an area due for clearance to black for "total destruction". The Hanwell Estate was only just at planning stage when the maps were made, and no damage in any colour was shown in the area that interested me, but I went with great delight through all the maps in the box, which covered many different areas of London in the days when straggly countryside began at Hayes Bridge on the Uxbridge Road and no planes disturbed the blue sky.

The LMA also turned out to have minutes of London County Council meetings during the war, bound in a large book. Unfortunately, no one took the trouble to explain to me clearly that that the book corresponded to indexes that I had already seen, but of whose nature I was not clearly aware, so I spent one very tiring although interesting afternoon going through the whole book, with its endless condemnations of effluents that were not fit for purpose, until finally, towards the end of the book, I came on a detailed plan of the Hanwell Estate. This showed the whole area of Bordars Walk to be empty at that date of houses except for one cottage (No 21?) and it was marked as "site reserved". This obviously could either mean wholesale bombing or, because the land was reserved, and the houses there must have been very new anyway (they were not mentioned either in the 1938 electoral roll or the 1940 directory), that the whole area had been commandeered deliberately by the government for whatever purpose.

The well-stocked archive also had log-books of bomb damage for the Borough of Ealing, and again I spent a long afternoon looking through these with tiredness and fascination, noticing the ghastly progress of the Blitz, the times of relief as the heat was turned on the Germans themselves, and then the further terrifying spike in attacks from summer 1944, as the V1s and V2s were unleashed on London with much suffering and to little purpose. But I found no bomb damage in the area of the Bordars. I had apparently missed something, because Dr Oates was later to inform me that an incendiary bomb had fallen on Bordars Road on 29th November 1939. This mistake was not because the area because the Hanwell area was still in the parliamentary borough of Harrow because there was plenty of damage recorded in, say, Boston Road, also in the parliamentary borough. No, there was clearly no bomb damage that affected the Walk. And - clinching point - if bombs had fallen so very close to the woman in Greenford Avenue, would not she have remembered it?

Dr Oates kindly on my behalf agreed to go to the depot where surplus records were kept and examine three books listing government requisitions which he believed to be there. Most frustratingly, two of these books also proved to be missing, with just a note saying "no file". Dr Oates said he did not know when the two books had been remobed but that it had probably happened decades before. This was another most frustrating gap in the records, because it made absolute certainty about what, if anything, was happening at 21, Bordars Walk at the beginning of 1942 impossible. However, as I shall go on to show, a high degree of probability on this subject can be attained.

The one book that had not been removed showed that three, or possibly four, properties in the Walk had been requisitioned in 1941 and not released until 1958. Dr Oates sent me the numbers. As I have just implied, they didn't include No 21, I have the numbers in a bag under the table where I am sitting in an internet cafe writing this addition to my blog on the evening of 22nd March 2020, but I am hurrying to get to the end of the section. This is because I am terrified that I will be forced to stay at home, where I have no computer, from tomorrow,  so I ask the reader to forgive me if I do not give the exact numbers.

(Two weeks later, on Easter Sunday, 12th April 2020, I have managed to reach the Internet again but only for  a period of 10 minutes. Here goes, very quickly. The numbers requisitioned in 1941 and not relinquished until 1958 were 1a, 9, 11 and 13. In the list of Ealing civil defence files seen by Dr Oates at the library before going to the depot to look at the files themselves, the numbers 11a and 13 were mentioned as among those requisitioned for civil defence purposes and those used for furniture storage included these and No 9. Because the plan for November 1944 that I saw showed only one house standing in the area, at least three or four of these properties must have been a new building in 1958.)

The most important piece of evidence about 21, Bordars Walk came when I was finally able to examine the rate books. These were, as I had been told, very patchy, and there was one book for 1940, with the other one missing, both books for 1942 (running from March 1941 to March 1942 - hence the importance of the date I mentioned), and one book for 1950, which was also to prove strangely relevant. Really, I could not have been more fortunate in the exact nature of the few books that had been preserved. This time what was really important was not missing.

The 1940 book mentioned the houses in Bordars Road from No 1 to 8, which were all commercial or official properties (the row which not contains the Turkish cafe that I mentioned), and all occupied, and all the many residential properties in Bordars Road, as well as those in Bordars Walk, would have fallen into the other book, which covered the Hanwell Estate in general. So that was neither here nor there.

The book for 1950 proved to be strangely interesting. I looked at the whole series of electoral registers for the late 1940s at the LMA, and I must record in fairness to the staff there that a lady who seemed to be a supervisor waived the usual rule that all records must be looked at in digitised form if they had been transferred to it, and allowed me to see the original books where I could check everyone living at 21, Bordars Walk in the said period. As I mentioned before, my grandfather, his daughter, his partner Madge and Mr McMullan were recorded as living at No 21 in the 1947 electoral register but only for that year, after which a family called Ratchford were living there, and including in 1950. But in that year Arthur Ernest Hills was still paying the rates and paying them on time. This suggests that my grandfather must have been sub-letting the property to the Ratchfords. Clearly that fastidious man must have been quite horrified by the English pre-fab in which he had been condemned to live had quickly decamped elsewhere.

But the most important book was the one book for 1942, that covered the residential properties on the Hanwell Estate. Bordars Road was fully tenanted. One more property had been added to the official properties in the other book, No 9, a vicarage I seem to remember. But no one at all was listed as paying rates in Bordars Walk. The street was not mentioned. Here was the strongest possible indication, together with the other fragmentary evidence, that when my aunt had given this address as being that of her father, she was lying and that it was unlikely any properties in the Walk were tenanted at that date. But my grandfather clearly already had some claim on it, because, when the war was safely over, he was in fact to live there. He must surely have been promised the property when it became available.

Now what follows from this? I believe it is more or less the exact date that my grandfather Dr Goebbels arrived in England. Someone calling himself Arthur Ernest Hills married Winnie in 1950. She was a good plain Englishwoman, kindly, but very prim and proper, very correct. It is inconceivable that she could originally have married an English person like herself and then been persuaded to accept in his place a pretend Pole. The man to whom I remember her as being married was my grandfather.  Therefore it was he whom she married in 1950.

And a direct line of documentary evidence links the man paying rates at Bordars Walk at the time his marriage took place with the man who had been living there from at least 5th August 1946, the qualifying date for the electoral roll in which he was listed. Therefore, if it is true that my grandfather was Goebbels, the last date he could have entered England is early August 1946.

But in January 1942 he definitely was not living in England, nor living at Bordars Walk as his daughter Helen said. She therefore had no father living in England at that date - whether the false Arthur Ernest Hills or the original one -  or she would surely have given his correct address. It would have been the easy thing to do. Ergo the original Arthur Ernest Hills must have been disposed of by that date, perhaps in 1932, perhaps in 1936, perhaps in 1939, and almost certainly by 1st January 1942.

And why did Helen move from Cane Hill to St Bernard's, so near to Bordars Walk, at exactly that date? That was the fateful time in world history when 1941 was moving most violently into 1942. This is the period when Bomber Harris was promising that the coming fire storm over Luebeck would be the beginning of two years of unimaginable horror for the Germans which would force them to surrender. Their own advance troops had been halted at the furthest tramlines outside Moscow, where the bewildered young men, who had loved to parade around the Soviet Union stark naked before going out to mow down some Jews, could see the onion domes of the Kremlin shining in the distance. 

But most important of all, on 7th December 1941, ignorant Hitler had already madly declared war on the United States as well as the Soviet Union, following Pearl Harbour. Churchill himself said later than it was on that night he knew victory was his. What he could understand, so could Goebbels.

The die was cast, the straws were in the wind, this was was the true end of the beginning. And Goebbels could see the straws, manipulate the die, read the runes. This Judas began to plan his escape route.

Goebbels made his pitch to the British government (and the Americans and Soviets must have got to know of it as well) through his daughter, equally as intelligent and rootless as himself, but who could remember him from her earliest youth and remained attached to him despite everything. Perhaps he used channels of communication that had already been established through Helen (via Portugal perhaps, where Allied and Axis spies, and double agents, often stayed at the same hotels in Lisbon.)

My grandfather had something he could offer the Allies, God know what, and his equivalent of the thirty pieces of silver was that, if he should manage to escape what would be devastated Berlin, he should have a home prepared for him in England. The British, in their hatred and disgust, were only willing to give him the ghastliest of pre-fabs, but he was an escape artist par excellence, and the pre-fab would not hold him for long. He would find a comfortable English widow at some pious church meeting and live intermittently at her house while he pursued more alluring skirt.

And who was his contact among the Brits in late 1941? The chain of decision-making in his case would surely have gone right the way to the top. The sanction must have come from Churchill himself.

Now, after many months of the horrors of the Covid-19 pandemic, I come towards Christmas 2020  to the account of what else I know of the life of my aunt Helen, whom I believe to be Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein by another name. Under her identity of Helen Vera Hills she continued working at St Bernard's until, due to enemy action, she was evacuated to St Ellas Hospital (the handwriting is a little unclear, but I think that is the name) on 20th June 1944, returning on 6th February 1945. I looked up this hospital on the Internet, but could find no reference to it. Most probably it was a small cottage hospital in the country, but I do not know for certain.

Also during the war Helen was recorded as a witness at the marriage of one of her relations established in the Medway region. This was Joyce Frances Campion Wyatt (who, as I established at an earlier point in this blog, was born simply under the name of Campion rather than that of her ostensible father William George Wyatt). She married William Ralph on the 13th April 1944 at the parish church of Gillingham, St Augustine. Susan Lakeman, to whom I referred extensively at an earlier point in this post and who is my third cousin, was born of that marriage. The other witness beside Helen was a Percy Robert Williams. I know nothing for certain about him, but as I have already mentioned, and am to discuss more fully in the following post to this one, the two posts being written in many stages concurrently, the name Williams appears suspiciously often in my tangled family history and I believe it to be one of the aliases used from time to time by members of my paternal clan. Goebbels, in particular, I think may have finally died under the alias of Frederick William Williams. Who this Percy Robert Williams possibly was I have gone into at an earlier point in this post so will not repeat that here.

The person known mainly as Helen Vera Hills continued to work at St Bernard's for some years after the war and from at least August 1946 shared accommodation with her father. First, as I have related, the shared a home at 21 Bordars Walk, W7, in north Hanwell, then at nearby 163, Ruislip Road, and at the time of the putative Arthur Ernest Hills Senior's marriage to Winifred Chaplain, born Gay, in 1950, they are both recorded as living at the latter's address, 9, Edinburgh Road, W7, which is in south Hanwell. Helen was a witness at that wedding, as was Winnie's son, Richard Chaplain. In 1952 Helen was promoted to ward sister at St Bernard's. Arthur Junior, who disliked her so much, records that she was very committed to her job and got on tremendously well at the grim lunatic asylum.

Now that we have Helen getting on so well in her chosen career,  I will turn aside to what is known of Ursula Helene. in these middle years of her life. The details of her were gathered for me by the archivist, who of course argued strongly against my case that she was the same person as Helen, but I am almost sure that he would not have deceived me the fairly inconsequential  matters he unearthed (I have never tried to check these details myself, there are too many matters concerning my family that I have to look into). 

He told me in a sheet of typed paper that he prepared for me that it was not known when Ursula came to the UK. In 1939 she had been living with her mother at 2, Winchester Road, Hampstead. This is in fact pretty close to Swiss Cottage Tube, and I visited the site on a Saturday just before the first English lockdown, in March 2020. It would have been a traditional tall London house, almost certainly divided into flats. But it is  gone, in a street which is almost all modern buildings now, culminating near what would have been Number 2 in a reasonably pretty park and a ghastly traffic junction.

When Ursula Helene was naturalised in March 1954, she was living at 34, Charlwood Road, London SW1, what would then have been only a moderately smart address in Pimlico. It still survives, among much modern building, a fairly typical traditional West London house. I went there on a dull evening in the winter of 2013 to 2014 and there were few people around and no excuse to be let inside. The fact that Ursula Helene wished to be naturalised under her real name seems to indicate that at this period she lived more under that name than as Helen Vera Hills and this may reflect more distant relations with her difficult father and more closeness to her mother. The fact that the naturalisation took place in March and the register office wedding of my mother only in September almost certainly means there is no connection between the two events, because my father is not likely yet to have met my mother at the earlier date. If the naturalisation had been in May in June, perhaps it could have formed part of the plot to leave my mother potentially stateless. It will have come in handy for that, though, in any case.

By 1955, the archivist said, Ursula was living with her mother at 1, Birchington Court, West End Lane, London NW6, in West Hampstead. He also said that Ida Lotte had been living there since at least 1950, although I do not know how he knew this (I am not on speaking terms with him now, so cannot ask him).'The address is quite a striking-looking block of 1930s flats, which I visited immediately after seeing the site near Swiss Cottage. I saw Ursula's flat from the outside, as it was on the ground floor. Also, because a neighbour let me in briefly, I was quickly able to look inside the ground-floor hall, where the doors to flats No 1 to No 4 were rather claustrophobically grouped right next to each other. The whole thing seemed quite a smart but typically prison-like Hampstead address. 

(By the by, the address where Frederick Patmore  - Helen's husband - is recorded as living in 1955, at the time of their marriage, is not far from Birchington Court and perhaps he met my aunt when she was living with her mother there. I have no idea which of her guises she introduced herself to him under. I imagine the whole thing might have struck him as rather a joke!)

In 1957, Ursula Helene herself got married, and since she was already married as Helen Vera Hills, and there are numerous indications that she lived continuously with this husband until the latter's death, the later marriage must surely have been a mariage de convenance. I only have the wedding certificate as a record of Ursula Helen's marriage (I was initially informed of it by the archivist), but there are one or two indications that this was not a usual match, namely what seems to be a class difference between the spouses. 

As we know Ursula Helene had quite a haute bourgeois background in her native Germany, and at the time of the wedding is recorded as living at 74, Warwick Square, SW1,. But Herbert Claude Langston, aged 31, of 99, Rommany Road, London SE27, is recorded as a building worker at the time of the wedding in the Westminster Register Office on 4th May 1957, and his father, Herbert Clifford Langston, is an estate gardener. I once looked up the family of Herbert Clifford, and there appear to have been a lot of children in those distant parts of south-east London. It was obviously a working-class family. Of course all this is not a certain indication of a mariage de convenance. Herbert Claude could have been a particularly handsome young brickie and swept Ursula Helene off her feet. Helen's husband, as we shortly see, was also working-class, but of the elite within that class. But the archivist could provide no further records available of the marriage to Langston and no children are recorded, which seems a fairly likely indication that Ursula Helene never saw the brickie after her wedding day. How many times did such things occur with young ladies of German origin in those years.

As it happens, at one point I was thinking of trying to find out a bit more about this marriage, and the prospect of doing so still distantly exists. The superintedent register at the marriage was J.D. Holiday, the registrar was W.J. Prince, and one of the two witnesses was E. Wright. There would be no way of tracing any of these, if by some chance they might still be alive. 

But the other witness was a Joyce De Bell. Now this is a pretty unusual name. Quick research on the Internet confirmed only one person of that name (the surname could alternatively be rendered as De-Bell or de-Bell) and a search via 192.com in the spring of 2020 gave me an address for such a person, living with a gentleman called Francis J. de-bell, in a pleasant resort town in southern England in the year of 2002. The same Francis was also listed as living at the address in 2020 but not Joyce, and if, as likely, he was then her widower, the chances that someone who had not been a direct witness of the wedding could remember anything about it seemed even smaller than that she would.

However, I quite fancied a visit to this town I have never visited, and it could be easily reached by train, and I was preparing to go when the first English lock-down was declared and the chances of reaching this sketchily identified person now seemed slim indeed, so I decided this would be a research trip too far (I was getting less and less keen on doostepping people anyway). 

I left the matter for several months and then the bright idea occurred to me that I could write a letter. I wrote, outlining the fantastical circumstances, but this very old lady, if she was still alive, and the man who was possibly her husband, if they ever received my letter, certainly did not answer it. The date as I write now is 20th March 2021 and there are prospects for the lifting of the third lockdown, if a third wave does not overwhelm us. The possibility of this rather mythical witness to a perhaps clandestine wedding still being at the address is even more remote now than it was but a day-trip to the town in question might still be pleasant and I could pick up some books and eat lunch and idly knock at the door, and if some entirely unrelated person answered who had never heard of Mrs De Bell (or De-Bell or de-Bell) I would probably be relieved.

That is how tired I am of this bloody research, on which I have been so fruitlessly engaged for so many years!

We now return to the more solid ground of the career of Helen Vera Hills. She too got married and here are the details.



A total documentary silence surrounds the death of Helen Vera Hills, who had the married name of Patmore. No death certificate exists in Britain for anyone who could conceivably be Helen, although according to my relations in Edinburgh she has long been dead.

There is, however, a death certificate for a certain Helen Mary Elizabeth Hills, who had been born in 1908,  apparently with the maiden name of Harrington, and who was the widow of one John Norris Hills, who is recorded as having been a park keeper. This Helen Hills died on 31st May 1991, at the Edgware General Hospital. She had an address in Colindale, north-west London. The informant was Carole Keightley, a niece, living in Enfield, further to the north and east. I went once to this address to this address to try and trace Carole, but she was long gone from there. A former neighbour of hers, who had long been living at an address in that busy trunk road, said that I bore a strong physical likeness to Carole.

Once again there was a post-mortem without inquest, once again the death was certified by D.M. Paul, the coroner for North London, and the date of this certification was 7th June 1991. Underneath the main framework of the registration certificate are written the words: "Two Bk  Error in space 8 corrected on 2nd July 1991 be me B kenny (sic) Interim Register" The error in question is that "chronic diverticular disease", one of the causes of death, had been corrected to "colonic diverticular disease." There is also a correction in the line above, a simple spelling error unusual for a registrar to make when recording a a cause of death as metastatic pancreatic carcinoma. The first cause of death was bilateral broncho-pneumonia and ascites, and there is no correction in that line. The whole document was surely all compiled by the Mr Kenny who so strangely in a registrar, even an interim one, wrote the initial letter of his surname in lower case.

We now come to what is known of Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein, who had the married name of Langston. There are fewer documents that record her life, although we have her naturalisation certificate, in 1954, the record of her marriage to Mr Langston, and the information (whether true or false) that she lived at various times in Hampstead and St John's Wood. But here we are mainly interested in the death certificate of that person, whose demise is recorded as having taken place on 9th August 1991 and which was registered on the same day (a little over one month, therefore, after the error was corrected in the death certificate of the widow Hills).

As we know, Ursula Helene was born in Berlin (see my post "The Seventh Journey"), but the death certificate shows her as having been born on 7th November 1919 in England. Once again, the principle applies (which we have seen in the case of the widow Martin, and also of my father) that if one detail in a death certificate is gratuitously wrong, the whole thing will be intended to deceive.

This fairly sparse certificate is written, as in the case of the widow Martin, in largely indecipherable handwriting at crucial points, but the place of death seems to have been Harestine, Harestine Drive, Caterham, the address of Langston may have been 51 Martimes Court, 9-11, Abbey Road, London, and the informant was Diane (or possibly Diana) Bramall who, as in the case of the Camden Council worker, had the qualification of "causing the body to be buried". The death was certified by P.J. Ward MR, with the causes of death given as cerebral metastases and carcinoma of the breast, and the signature of the registrar at the Surrey South Western Registration District, sub-district of Caterham and Godstone, is entirely illegible. The nearest I could come to it might be something like "Line Barrets".

What I think happened in this very palpable fraud, which is obviously closely modeled on the earlier one perpetrated in the case of the widow Martin, is this. My aunt Helen, whose original name was Ursula Helene Hedwig Bleistein, probably really died on 31st May 1991 and her death was recorded under the guise of the widow Hills. She was not buried as normal, because her body had to be available for examination in order to lead to the correction of the certificate on 2nd July. A interment was then further avoided, and the body was kept until the arrangements could be made for the false certificate with further metastases of cancer under the original name of my aunt to be ready. Then she was buried with all speed on 9th August.

This second fraud differs from the first one in that there is no suspicion of murder in this case, because my aunt Helen surely really died on the occasion of the first certificate and the two documents cover two identities but the same death.

Before I leave Urusla Helene, I will mention one further thing about her. We have said that the murder of the widow Martin was ultimately to protect my grandfather. This implies that my paternal grandparents at their separate West London addresses must have remained in touch. And possibly it was in order to convey the vital information to her mother that her hated former lover was safely buried, or that he was under another identity and beyond her being concerned with him, that Helen needed to be dropped with her husband at Park Royal on that fatal day I encountered her. Well, how good that I met my aunt just that one time, saying hail and farewell for ever at the starkly outlined tube station in the vast anonymous wastes of West London.

Now if Ursula Helene was my aunt, it follows that her mother, of whom there are plentiful records, was my paternal grandmother. She was Ida Lotte Friederike Bleistein, commonly known as Ida Lotte Bleistein, born with the surname Friedemann (spelt on her death certificate as Friedeman), at Koepenick, in the far eastern suburbs of Berlin, on 11th April 1894, and she is recorded as having died, I am sure with total truth, at the Garden Hospital in Hendon, in the London Borough of Barnet, on 29th January 1987.

The death was registered on the day after the event, 30th January 1987, and S. Hart M.B. certified the causes of death as broncho-pneumonia and old age. The signature of the registrar for the Hendon London Borough of Barnet sub-district of the Hendon Registry Office is illegible and abbreviated, but I don't suppose there is anything suspicious about that. One slightly irrelevant point, but I will give it. There are signs in the document that this registrar was of foreign origin (for instance he or she includes a hyphen between the given names Ida Lotte and Ursula Helene.).

The informant of Ida Lotte's death was Ursula Helene Langston, whose qualification was that she was the dead woman's daughter. My aunt's address was given as Flat 168, 20, Abbey Road, London NW8. But there turned out to be yet another strange circumstance connected with this large St John's Wood mansion block. I visited it one dark and slightly wet Sunday evening and was let in by the friendly and talkative porter. He was interested to hear that my aunt had lived in the block, but there was no Flat 168. The present building had been put up in 1992 and had 127 flats. It was quite a high building and the porter doubted whether the previous one could have been higher or held many more flats. It therefore looks as if my aunt, for reasons unknown to me, but perhaps because of a lifelong schooling in deception, felt it necessary to give an invented home address even when reporting the presumably all too real death of her own mother.

My grandmother's last address (surely the true one) was Sunridge Court, 76, The Ridgeway, London NW11. This is a care home which, in Ida Lotte's time, was for Jewish old folk but now admits Gentiles. I visited this commodious establishment in Golders Green on a Sabbath morning when the men and boys were out in their suits and broad-brimmed hats and was delighted to learn from the friendly black receptionist that every man and woman residing in the 47-bed home has his or her own room.

Ida Friederike Charlotte Bleistein was three months short of her ninety-third birthday at the time of her death. Her life was as long as it appears to have been evil.

I will just fairly briefly summarise, without adding all the details, the other documentary records and testimonies concerning my grandmother's life, and indicate where there is lack of vital information. Bleistein was her married name, and the archivist discovered copious details of her husband's family, but really it is nothing to do with me. They were quite a distinguished and prosperous eastern European Jewish clan, engaged mainly in the skin and fur trade, from Poznan in Poland (which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was usually called Posen and was part of the German Reich).

From the late nineteenth century this Bleistein family had a branch in England, and from the time of the First World War certain members of it adopted the name Blyth or Blythe.

Members of such a family would not normally have married out, and this is one of many indications that my grandmother was a Jewess. There is no official record of when my grandmother entered Britain or when she acquired the identity of Mary Martin Brown. She is recorded as being exempt from internment as an enemy alien on 30th November 1939. There is no certain mention of her in the 1939 Register, and nor is there of Helen Vera Hills or Arthur Ernest Hills Junior. It is not known when her daughter Ursula Helene entered the country. My grandmother was naturalised British in 1948, when she was listed as a single woman with marriage dissolved, and her parents were recorded as Julius and Rosa Margaretha Friedemann, who were from Germany.

I will also just sum up what can be inferred from everything I have said about the general course of my grandmother's life. This adds many more, perhaps somewhat contentious, details. The marriage to the man call Fritz Philipp Bleistein in 1917 seems to have been fairly brief. There is a record of a Fritz Bleistein in the Bremen to New York ship passenger lists on 9th August 1921 and this could possibly have marked the end of relations between the couple.

It is therefore possible that Ursula Helene, born on 7th November 1919, was really of the Bleistein family, although the close relations of the latter with my grandfather perhaps make it unlikely, as well as the fact that my aunt Helen had the family nose, passed down also from my grandfather to my father to myself.

If Ursula Helene was the child of both my grandparents, then this will place the original meeting between them probably very early in 1919, a year or two after the marriage to Fritz Philipp, soon after the end of the First World War, and when my grandfather was perhaps still fluctuating between extreme left and right and would have had no connections with the Nazi Party, which then only existed in embryo. Goebbels was a perpetual student during the years between 1917 and 1921. attending no less than eight universities. One of them was the University of Berlin.

Ida Lotte's sons who were later known as Arthur Ernest Hills and Mieczyslaw Hufleit (commonly Hupfleit) were the children of this Nazi, and their possible date of conception might be somewhere early in 1921, around the time of the departure of Fritz Philipp for America. Ida Lotte seems to have abandoned my father at birth and she brought Arthur, and probably Helen as well, to England with her when she entered the country, probably in late 1929 or very early 1930.

She shacked up with the original Arthur Ernest Hills, brought Arthur and Helen to live with him, at least intermittently, and bore him two more children, Sonia and Dennis. Some time shortly after the birth of Dennis, she ran away with Percy Martin. When Arthur returned from Edinburgh on the final stay there, the one where the journey was made by coach, as he tells on the tapes he made for me, it was to discover that his mother was gone from the house in Osterley, where they had been living and that Dennis and Sonia had been given away.

Arthur tells a further story on the tape. It was a night in winter at Osterley. There was a knock on the door and he answered it. His mother was standing there, alone. She came in from the cold night and she and Arthur Ernest Hills had a long discussion while he played with some toys on the sitting-room floor. Arthur said that his mother was most displeased that Sonia and Dennis had been given away for adoption and he remarks that Arthur Ernest Hills could hardly have been expected to do anything else, so poor and entirely without help.

As I said, the man and woman talked a long time. Then Arthur was given the choice, as he put it: did he want to go with his father or his mother? He said he remembered Arthur Ernest Hills slumped in his chair, head on his hand. He calls up sympathy for him on the tapes, for this man had seen, according to Arthur, his "little brood" vanish one by one. But only Helen was to be left. For Arthur quickly chose to go with his mother, and said he did not know why.

I think I can date this sad scene to the year of that winter. Alan Martin was born on 18th July 1935, according to the family details sent me once by his son Paul Martin, who would not have been have been wrong in this respect. Therefore my grandfather must have been entirely with Percy Martin at this date. In the story told by Arthur about the scene at Sheerness in winter where he could not eat the chips there is no hint of a baby being on the scene. Therefore the incident where my grandmother appeared at the house in Osterley must have taken place in the winter of 1934 to 1935.Dennis was formally adopted in 1935 (I do not at present have the date) but this process must already have been going through and he and Sonia have left the house in Osterley by the time their mother turned up on that winter night. Perhaps she was not already then pregnant with Alan, or perhaps she did not know of it. Or, then again, perhaps she did know and did not tell Arthur of the fact. From all one knows of her, she would have been the type to withhold such information.

Ida Lotte Bleistein, alias Mary Martin Brown, maintained contact with Arthur until around some period during the second war and with Helen until the end of her life. Arthur Ernest Hills Senior was probably murdered on 10th December 1936 at Woolwich, and  his real wife, who must somehow have been persuaded to vacate the scene in the early 1930s, was possibly murdered at 29, Ariel Road, NW6 on or just before 30th July 1982. What happened to the original Arthur Ernest Hills Junior and Helen Vera Hills, I have no clear idea. No doubt they were murdered, their bodies disposed of and their deaths never registered, as with many other members of the Hills, Brown and Dakers families. T

Ida Lotte stayed with Percy Martin for the rest of her life, and married him as late as 1969. Her last child, by him, was Alan Martin, the only one of her six children whom she was entirely to bring up, but she maintained only distant and unfriendly relations with him and his children until her death.

Her relationship with Ursula Helene seems to have been warmer, perhaps because Helen usually lived close to her, and they seem occasionally to have shared accommodation, at a confusing variety of possibly true and false addresses in West and North-West London (likely false addresses, because Ida Lotte was mainly with Percy, and Helen was almost certainly with her husband Frederick Patmore).

In later life, Ida Lotte seems to have used many aliases, including Mary Martin Brown, Mrs Hills and perhaps Mary Singleton. All these lived and died at different flats and houses. Using this last alias, my grandmother seems in later life to have become a murderess.

Quite recently - I am writing now in the summer of 2018, in one of the later interpolations to this enormous post - I tried to find her grave. It was a hot afternoon, 11th June. I went first to the hospital where she had died, but they knew nothing, and they suggested I try the local cemeteries, of which there was a confusing variety. I took a long and tiring walk through the very Jewish area on the borders of Barnet and Golders Green, as the confident schoolboys in their uniforms and yarmulkes flooded the streets and the tops of the buses, and I had spent my last ready cash on flowers at the first likely cemetery, so for quite a long time I went short of water in the heat.

Just before five o'clock I came to the huge Golders Green Crematorium. They were just closing the office, so there was no time to find out if there was any record of my grandmother there, but the extensive grounds stayed open until six, and they said I was welcome to rest there and leave my flowers in whatever place I thought suitable. The main part of the grounds was a huge, anonymous sward where vast numbers of the Jewish dead lay mingled, as in so many places around the world. My grandmother had been so very elusive throughout her whole life. Why, I thought in that melancholy place, should I not let her evade me to the end, just lay my flowers where I might mourn?

I came to a place where there were roses. It was called the Byron Rose Bed. As I said, roses and people called Rose play a large part in my story. And in the memorial section of the crematorium many people called Rose were remembered. There was a very old lady standing by the Byron Rose Bed. I spoke to her, and she had a German accent. I told her my story and that my family had a connection with roses and she encouraged to lay the flowers just where I stood. She watched me as I put them down.

I turned to go. I said to the old woman, "Auf wiedersehn", and she did not respond. Then I changed the greeting to the informal "Tschuss", and she smiled and said goodbye to me with the same word.

As I walked back across the huge green towards the entrance, and had almost reached it,  a little away from me was a tawny fox, regarding me intently. I stopped a minute, and tried to hold the animal's stare. The fox went down on her haunches and stared at me with a harsh gaze. I left.

And that, dear reader, is the sum total of all the details I have been able to find out about my paternal grandfather and grandmother and my father and my aunt and my uncle.

And how one tires sometimes of all this raking into the lives of those who should have been close to one, but they weren't, whom one should have loved, but I never got the chance. And how I tire as well of their false identities, their shabby and malignant secrets, even, as I have been shamefully delighted to discover, that perhaps they killed people or were murdered themselves! Isn't that enough, Charles, of your fearless but truly verbose honesty? Thank God you've almost got to the end of this post and can hopefully close it with something more pleasant. But the subject-matter that comes now is not really pleasant. Perhaps it might gradually become so. You judge, reader.

I met a man in prison. He was a murderer. We were in Belmarsh together, on the same spur. He was called Wayne Collins and he was a hitman who had killed a man in front of his partner and four-year-old daughter and been given a minimum of 32 years. What I loved about him was that he was not crushed. He was a big and very handsome young body-builder and I first became transfixed by him when he was lifting weights most magnificently in the gym and I was going faster and faster on the cross-trainer and could not take my eyes off him until eventually he swaggered over to me to show off his full beauty.

Then I tried my best to be friends with him and he was sometimes nice to me but it all went wrong. Oh, darling Wayne,, you're the most arrogant person in the world, you're heterosexual, you're totally devoted to your wife and daughter, in prison until you're old, what hope is there for you or me?

After I came out of jail, and could never see him any more, I went three times to the place where he had killed his man. It was a place right on the very outskirts of East London, in Wayne's own manor of Romford, a turning off the slightly larger road leading out of London at a place beyond the final London suburb of Noak Hill. This is where London comes to a sudden end and it is possible to walk straight into the country on roads that are not too busy. too steep or too narrow. Of course, you will hit the M25 soon enough but nowhere else in London have I found it possible to walk straight out of the city into the green fields.

The murder-site is Benskins Lane, which is off Church Road. The first two occasions I went there I walked down the lane and prayed for Wayne at various points, but that took a long time, and on this third occasion I wanted to go on, so I just stopped at the corner by Church Road, said a quick prayer for Wayne and in a way consigned him to my memory. It was quite a nice afternoon. It was six days before I was due to leave the hostel. The date was Thursday, 22nd September, 2016.

I walked on and soon came out of Church Road to the beginning of Goatswood Lane, where you leave the London Borough of Havering and enter Essex proper. After some hard walking I reached Murthering Lane, where it was very quiet and the road led northward over the M25, and now the country was deeper still. And at Navestock Heath, at The Old Village Stores, a woman was standing outside her house offering apples as windfalls, and I took three, and then a fourth, because one of the first three was rotten. And I ate the three good ones, and the rotten one the next morning, a bad day.

But this was a good one, and I said farewell to the woman and walked joyfully on, and saw two deer disappear into a wood and the flight of a bird, and then I came to the larger road that leads to Brentwood, and now I was as near to the station there as I was far from the one at Harold Wood, so once again I decided to walk on.

And it was miles to go, but I refreshed myself with Martinis at the Black Horse and the White Horse, and then on the endless walk through Brentwood there was always the lure of the train station that would end my journey. And when I finally reached it, what joy to discover that my travel pass, which I thought covered only the six London travel zones, was valid for inward travel there.

And I skipped down to the platform, and a train for London was just leaving. How sweet it was to roll back into town after so beautiful and spiritual a journey.

And it gave me strength for the longer journeys that were to come, starting with the leaving of the hostel on the Wednesday, where they hassled me to the last. But again what a delight not to look back as I marched out savagely with my luggage of two enormous and one small bag. All very difficult, but the 277 bus left from right outside the place and the Overground from Dalston Junction was relaxed and empty, and, although the walk towards The Lodge at Crystal Palace was absolutely awful, I was delighted to find that you only had to pay thirty-two pounds a night to stay there. I was to remain for two nights, before catching the Channel ferry.

And there were various bureaucratic problems on the following day, but I mastered them, and in the evening the archivist, thank God, was too busy to say goodbye to me. But his friend the write, whom I was charging with various tasks to perform while I was away, came to the Victoria area, warning that he must be brief, and we had an enormous struggle to find a pub where we could sit down, but finally succeeded at the Wetherspoon at Victoria Station, and we overlooked the Kent trains and talked reasonably pleasantly, and only his farewell on the concourse carried a slight sting.

And how good to be without him and get a seat facing forward at a comfortable alcove in the train back to Crystal Palace, and the park when I returned was fresh and mysterious in the night-time, and in the early morning I had time, before I breakfasted, to do just the beginning of the local section of the Green Chain Walk, going south-eastwards, as I had done so many times during my long London years.

And on leaving the hotel on my way home to Portugal, the taxi driver, thankfully, took the responsibility for dumping my bags in the car for East Croydon Station, and then there were struggles there with altered platforms three times, but a kindly young man helped me, and when I was on the train, with my bags around me, it was great to watch the outer suburban landscape pass as we came into the rich countryside of Surrey and Sussex.

Then there was yet another change at Lewes, but there I met another most pleasant young man, blond and quite handsome this time, called Martin, and he helped me get my bags on to the Newhaven train.

And we went past the mysterious halt at Southease, in the valley of the Ouse, and then once more Martin helped me get the bags along the platform at Newhaven. He was going to his own home at Peacehaven, so he left me with a cheery wave and, almost falling over, I dragged the bags across the yard towards the ferry terminal. I bought my ticket there and, oh, it was so cheap, at sixteen pounds!

It was still late morning, and the boat did not leave until the later afternoon and there were no lunch facilities at the terminal and the rules said you could not leave your bags there while you went into the town. But the kindly people at the terminal understood the total impossibility of the situation and, with a nod and a wink, said I could leave my bags there just this once.

So I walked with my smallest bag, which was quite supportable, and where I was keeping all my most precious things, into the flyblown harbour town, and had a fine lunch at The Ship Hotel, and went prospecting for yet more books to take with me. My final score was to be fifty-five.Andt I also had another plan. I would walk down to the beach where we always used to go when I was a child and which I had loved so much and not visited for many years.

The weather was bright and just a little windy and the sea air was fresh as I went along the final stretch of the Ouse to the cliffs by the sea shore. And what quiet joy that was! The way was long, but I had time. And how I wanted to see once again the wonderful sandy beach where I used to come so often with my mother and Arthur on happy days during what had often been the sad times of my childhood.

I reached the line of the shore and began to walk along the sea path to the beach. I passed an elderly couple who were walking slowly ahead of me and asked them the time. Oh, they said, it was only just after two. I had plenty of time, I thought to myself, and once again I walked on. But when I reached the beach, it turned out, to my surprise and disappointment, to be stony. So what had happened to the beach I remembered?

I began to walk back and saw the elderly couple again. They were sitting on a low wall. My boat was steaming in from France. But there were still more than two hours before it would sail again. I hailed the old couple (they were not so old really, it was me that was getting old) and asked them where the sandy beach was. They said that it was hidden by the high tide but would be just beneath us and that the French now owned it and would not allow access.

We agreed that this was a pity, and I sat down beside them a while and we began to talk. It turned out that the woman was seventy-one years old and came from very near Hornsey Rise. When she was a young woman in her twenties, she had caught the 14 bus to her job in Piccadilly, at the northern terminus of the bus, which was just around the corner from 19, Hornsey Rise, our one-time home.

Of course we were no longer living at No 19 by that time, but it was certainly still there, not yet knocked down in the wholesale clearance of all the perfectly good houses in the Hornsey Rise area that Islington Council carried out in 1972.  We had lived in one room on the ground-floor of the house, opposite the Italian family, and my aunt Eva has told me that we lived on the side of the house next to Duncombe Road. It suddenly occurred to me as we talked that perhaps this woman had stood just by the room where we had lived as she waited for her bus around the corner.

It was a joy to meet that pleasant couple and find out about the strange link that bound us. After a while they left me and I lingered by the beach. But on the road coming back I saw them for a third time. They were talking to someone else, but the woman chatted briefly to me once more. Her name was Pam. We had a lot in common. Like me she had often taken excursions to Alexandra Park and still went there sometimes. Like me, she was a Christian. I felt that she had been sent to me at the last to tell me how much I belonged to England.

Then I had a good tea back at the port, retrieved my luggage, and boarded the boat with the other foot passengers. The crew had a trolley to take my two larger bags off me before I even  reached the gangway.

And I saw the sandy beach of my childhood as the ship sailed slowly out to France. And of course the sand, sea and the wind moved me. But I believed this beach to be unique when I was a child. Oh, how little that child knew! How deluded and lied to he often was! 

I will probably never stand on that beach again. I will certainly never run along it madly.  But what joy just to see it, with my hand on the rail and the Channel stirring, at the beginning of the good years.













 

2 comments:

  1. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post. best inversion table for back pain

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  2. Dear Unknown Reader,

    I have just noticed your kind comment on my penultimate post, "The beginning of the good years", and hasten to answer you now that I have seen it. I wonder how you know I have back pain. This makes me think you are perhaps known to me who, for reasons of his or her own, is maintaining their identity a secret.

    I am afraid I have reached rather a stalemate in the writing of my blog. I get very tired and discouraged these days, particularly because I have had so little success in unearthing the strange secrets I reveal in that post. Also, my blog seems to have vanished from the top pages of the Internet for quite some time now, although a certain number of people are obviously still accessing it.

    However, with my writing, I believe in waiting for the right mood to go on, and perhaps this will come to me in the not too distant future. Certainly, a comment such as your own is an inestimable help because it encourages me to believe I am not writing into a total void. Thank you very much again.

    Yours faithfully,

    Charles Albert Reis Hills

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