The following article/story originally appeared in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine in 1943 as My Favorite Assassin. It was written by George W. Herald, a little known journalist who’s other article on the Second World War was called “Sex is a Nazi Weapon”. Herald also had joined the Foreign Legion in 1940 and he relates in this article how he met Ernst Werner Techow, one of the assassins of German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau in 1922. Techow apparently had been was serving in the Legion as Adjudant-Chef Ernest Tessier. This small article, only 19 pages, makes for a compelling story of remorse and atonement. The article was republished as a slim book entitled Assassin after appearing in Harpers’s and the story became accepted fact for decades after the war.. Unfortunately, it seems to be a work of fiction.
German historian, Martin Sabrow, in a 1996 article, debunks Herald’s claim of meeting Techow. Sabrow had done exhaustive research into the Rathenau assassination as part another work. He took the time to layout all reported records of Techow during the time he was supposed to be serving in North Africa and found that it would have been impossible for him to have been in two places at once. The preponderance of evidence has Techow working in the German Resettlement Trust Company during the 1930’s and enlisting in the German Navy in May of 1941. Nevertheless, to keep the mystery alive, I would point out that there was time between his last public appearance in 1934 and his enlistment in the Navy in 1941 that he “might” have been in the Foreign Legion. He may not have had to serve his full five year enlistment–after the German defeat of France in 1940 many Germans were allowed to leave the Foreign Legion. Maybe Herald embellished Tessier’s life after leaving the Foreign Legion but it does appear that Tessier/Techow was somewhat remorseful for his role and was kicked out of the Nazi Party in 1931. Who knows? It’s a nice story anyways–change the names and events, add some conflict and it could have been a good filler for one of the pulps like Adventure or Argosy.