Oct 20, 2020




It is 1937.  Robert Esterhouse is an American Executive from Standard Oil in German on a business trip to observe Germany’s effort to develop Bergius, synthetic oil.  Robert is traveling with his German / American wife, Hilda.  Like Robert, Hilda is a trained chemist who also works for Standard Oil.

The couple plan to visit several Bergius plants on the Rhine ending their trip at the Benzol Oil Plant at Linz in Austria, where Hilda as relatives.  In Berlin, they are questioned by the Gestapo.  Robert’s questioners focus on whether Robert is a spy working for the American military.  Robert is prepared for these questions citing his degrees in chemistry and engineering and his decades of employment with Standard Oil. 

Hilda is interrogated about her family and whether she has Jewish ancestors.  Hilda who was born in Germany can prove her parents were Swedish and German and both Catholics, as is she.  However, she is caught lying about her grandparents.  As a result, her passport and travel papers are changed, identifying her as a Jew.

Ironically as thorough as the Gestapo are, they ignore questions of Robert’s Jewish heritage and never consider that Hilda might be the spy.  Ultimately Robert and Hilda are released and begin their tour of Bergius plants, however, a chance meeting with an American Army officer on their train to the Ruhr, brings the again into Gestapo headquarters in Dortmund.  There they meet a man the Gestapo called the “Hand.”  He makes it clear he is watching them.

The game of cat and mouse becomes deadly when Hilda learns a military secret from an anti-Nazi Jewish scientist at one of the plants on their tour and later he is found dead in their hotel room. The couple are forced to attempt a desperate escape right under the watchful eye of the Hand.

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