Weaving the Webs of Deception, Part 1
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
This story takes place immediately after the story Two Missions for the Price of One in the same universe, and follows certain events in the time span from September 6, 1943 to August xx, 1944. This is the second story in what I call the Operation Deflection series.
The flow of this story may seem a bit disjointed when reading one scene to the next. There are several threads being created by this story, and these threads are not always interrelated. However, the threads all form a part in the weaving of the webs of deception, which I hope you will see by the end of the series.
I would like to extend many huge thanks to Patti and Marg. It’s a long story, but they graciously donated the basis for several of the characters and events that are present in this story. And so I give them credit for the birth of some of the plot bunnies contained herein, but I accept all blame for what I might have done to them!
I have opted to go without beta reading this time. All mistakes are mine, and mine alone!
As usual, I make no claims to any characters or events from the Hogan’s Heroes Universe, or to any actual dialog or plot details from any episode referenced.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Berlin, Abwehr Headquarters, Office of Major Hans Teppel
September 6, 1943, 1030 hours
Major Hans Teppel sat at his desk, reviewing the reports that had gathered overnight. Most of them were reports from field agents, reporting on Allied troop movements and preparations. He smiled to himself as he read. He wondered how many of the reports were accurate and how many were Allied attempts at confusing German Intelligence. He had not yet seen any contradictions between the reports of different agents, but he knew that the Intelligence game had two purposes; gain information about the enemy, and feed as much false information to the enemy as possible.
Hans Teppel knew that the Allies had spies planted in the various organizations, just as German Intelligence had spies planted in Allied Headquarters. He knew this first hand. Major Hans Teppel was in fact, Robert J. Morrison, an American of German ancestry who gave up his identity to come to Germany before the war began. Yes, he knew first hand that the Allies had spies within the Abwehr, because he was one of them.
It had been a dangerous act to perform, and he was always in fear of being discovered. Earlier this year, he had had to risk blowing his cover to enlist the aid of the infamous Papa Bear, an important underground leader, to prevent a German plant from Allied Headquarters from telling everything he knew about the German Resistance, including the identity of Papa Bear. Papa Bear was Colonel Robert Hogan, an American POW stationed in Stalag 13, near Hammelburg. At first, Hogan did not believe that a Major from the Abwehr could be spying for the Allies, but he managed to convince him and enlist his help in thwarting the informant.
Traveling to Stalag 13 and requesting several prisoners be transported to Berlin for questioning had been risky. Fortunately, the Kommandant of Stalag 13 was easy to convince. That mission was successful, and Papa Bear was able to return to Hammelburg and continue his successful sabotage and escape operation. Hans Teppel was able to return to his official job of directing internal intelligence operations, as well as his unofficial job of informing the Allies about German Intelligence operations.
The ringing phone jarred Teppel from his thoughts. He picked up the receiver. “Hallo. Abwehr Headquarters, Major Hans Teppel here. Heil Hitler!”
“Heil Hitler! This is Major Hochstetter of the Hammelburg Gestapo,” the voice on the phone said.
Teppel was not familiar with Major Hochstetter, but the mention of Hammelburg got his attention. He knew that Colonel Hogan operated in the area, so he was curious as to what Major Hochstetter wanted.
“Yes, Major Hochstetter. What can I do for you?” he asked.
“Two nights ago, my men were transporting a dangerous prisoner from Stalag 13 back to Gestapo headquarters. On the way, the prisoner was taken by four men and a woman claiming to be from the Abwehr and sent by Major Kurt Wagner,” Hochstetter said. “This is very unusual, so I am calling for some confirmation.”
The mention of Major Kurt Wagner increased Teppel’s curiosity. Wagner was also stationed in Abwehr Headquarters, but Teppel had his suspicions about him. He had a feeling that Wagner was at least sympathetic to the Allied cause, but he was not sure if he was part of the clandestine group of conspirators that wanted to overthrow Hitler, or if he was an Allied operative, or if he were a loyal Nazi. But if he were an Allied operative, London would have known about him. Unless …
“I would suggest you talk to Major Wagner if you have questions about his operations,” Teppel replied.
“I have already talked to Major Wagner,” Hochstetter said. “He was less than forthcoming in his responses, though he did inform me that the prisoner was shot while trying to escape.”
“I see,” said Teppel thoughtfully. “You say this prisoner was dangerous?”
“Yes. He was a Russian prisoner being kept in Stalag 13,” Hochstetter replied.
“A Russian,” Teppel responded. “And that made him dangerous?”
Teppel’s mind digested this information. So Major Wagner was interested in a Russian prisoner from Stalag 13? Very interesting. I know that we currently do not have any operatives in the Hammelburg area, so I wonder who would have taken the prisoner from Hochstetter’s men?
“You know how dangerous Russians are, Major Teppel,” Hochstetter said. Teppel could hear the hostility in Hochstetter’s voice.
“I am in the Abwehr, Major. I am sure that I know the true dangers of Russians better than you,” Teppel replied.
Teppel heard a grunt over the phone connection. It was all he could do to keep from laughing out loud at the Gestapo Major.
“As you know, it would be inappropriate for me to discuss Abwher operations, Major Hochstetter,” Teppel replied. “If Major Wagner deemed it appropriate to tell you even a little information about one of his operations, then I would have to leave it at that.”
“So you are refusing to confirm this?” Hochstetter asked, getting more and more agitated.
“I will neither confirm nor deny any Abwehr operations,” Teppel said. “I am sorry Major Hochstetter.” Teppel smiled as he said that. He was not sorry at all.
“Fools!” said Major Hochstetter under his breath, but loud enough for Teppel to hear.
Teppel’s smile grew wider. “Major Hochstetter, I would advise you to be careful what you say and to whom you say it,” he said. “The walls, as well as the phones, may have very good hearing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my work. Heil Hitler!”
Teppel listened as the phone clicked dead. He laughed and shook his head. ‘Fools’ is right Major Hochstetter. And you seem to be a very big one.
Teppel dropped the receiver into the cradle and sat back in his chair.
A Russian prisoner located at Stalag 13? Hogan must be branching out in his operations. I was not aware of that detail. It does sound like Hogan’s type of operation, to rescue a prisoner from the Gestapo, posing as Abwehr operatives. But what would Wagner be doing involved with Hogan? Why would Wagner be interested in a Russian prisoner at all?
Teppel suddenly remembered what Hochstetter said about the squad that took the prisoner from his men, four men and a woman. Hogan did not have any women prisoners. So if Hogan was responsible for this rescue, he had to be working with someone in the local underground. Or …
Russian. Why does this nag at me? What is the connection? Russian. Woman. Wagner. Hogan. Nothing seems to fit. There has to be some connection to have the Gestapo so worried about a single Russian prisoner.
Teppel sat up in his chair. Of course! Russian woman. There is that White Russian woman, Marya. I know that we last noticed her about a month ago, acting as translator for a Russian rocket scientist that was working on an experiment for General von Rauscher not far from Hammelburg. She could have been the woman that Hochstetter was talking about. If she’s involved with Hogan, then she’s probably involved in the underground in some way. Could she be part of the Rote Kapelle – the Red Orchestra? That would be unlikely; they have been inactive since most of their agents were captured last year.
Maybe the Red Orchestra was simply laying low for a while until the heat died down and now they are starting up again. But what would be the connection with Wagner? Teppel snapped his fingers as another thought came to him. Wagner came here to headquarters late last year, after most of the Red Orchestra leaders were executed. And now I remember what was nagging at me – I’ve seen Wagner and Marya together before. Not often, but there have been a couple of times.
It seems we might have two foxes here in this chicken house, and one of them is a Red fox. Maybe it is time for the two foxes to work together. Teppel nodded to himself. Yes, if Wagner was a Russian agent, it could be advantageous to work together with him. Teppel knew that he was aware of only a small amount of what went on in Abwehr Headquarters, but if he and Wagner could work together and pool their information, both German enemies could benefit.
But if Wagner was a loyal German …
Central Germany, Leipzig Area, Safe House Near Merkwitz
September 6, 1943, 1300 hours
Vladimir was startled out of his sleep. He opened his eyes and experienced a moment of panic. He did not see the familiar walls and ceiling of Barracks 2 in Stalag 13. It took him a moment to remember where he was.
It had been less than 24 hours ago when Vladimir left Stalag 13 in the back of Oskar Schnitzer’s truck. He was now heading back home to Russia with Marya and the Russian scientist, Zagoskin. If all went well, he would be back in Russia within a week. If it didn’t go well …
He preferred not to think about that.
Vladimir felt a stirring beside him. He looked over and saw Marya snuggled next to him in the cellar where they were hiding for the day. They had left Oskar’s house after dark and traveled all night to get to this safe house. They would stay here during the day, while Marya determined their next destination.
Marya stirred again, nestling herself closer to Vladimir. Ah yes, Marya. I have you to thank for this little adventure. If you hadn’t told Major Hochstetter about my existence at Stalag 13, I would still be there helping Colonel Hogan’s team with his operation. If not for you, I would not have had to be rescued from a Gestapo truck where I had been shackled. Vladimir looked at Marya in the dim light that came through the cracks in the cellar door and sighed. But if not for you, I would not have this opportunity to travel home to see my family now, assuming you keep your word and keep me out of the gulag because I was a prisoner of war.
As if she could sense him staring at her, Marya opened her eyes and smiled at him. “You are awake,” she said, more of a statement than a question.
“Da,” Vladimir replied. “With all of the excitement of the past few days, I am having trouble relaxing.”
Marya yawned and nestled herself even closer to Vladimir. She rested her head on his shoulder as they lay on the makeshift bed on the floor. “You should try to get some rest today,” she said. “We still have a difficult journey ahead of us.”
Vladimir lay still. Having Marya so close was both comforting and uncomfortable. Here was a woman who, not 3 days ago, would have killed him without a second thought. Now, they were hiding in a cellar together, sleeping in such close proximity.
“I know,” he said. “But I feel that I will not relax until we reach Moscow safely.”
Marya shifted herself so that she faced Vladimir, and began to caress his cheek. “I know the perfect way to relax,” she said seductively.
Vladimir looked at Marya and smiled. He took her hand in both of his and said, “At another time, I would find that very relaxing.” He glanced over Marya’s shoulder at the sleeping form of Igor Zagoskin. “But we are not alone, Tovarish Marya, and I am going home to my wife. I could not do that to her.”
Marya smiled back. After a few moments, she leaned forward and gave him a small kiss on his forehead. “Your wife is very lucky to have you,” she said.
“I think I am very lucky to have her,” Vladimir replied. He sat up, trying to stretch his tired muscles.
Marya sat up as well. “Does she know that you were captured?” she asked.
Vladimir shrugged. “I do not know,” he said. “The officials may have reported me captured when I was with my army unit, but I had no way of contacting her from Stalag 13.” He paused, thinking of what his wife must have gone through the past 2 years. “And if the officials reported me captured, they could have also sent my entire family to the gulag.”
Marya nodded. She knew very well what happened to families of captured soldiers. “But imagine her sorrow if you had been reported as killed,” she said softly. “She would have been thinking she is a widow since then.”
Vladimir sighed. He had been avoiding that thought. “I know,” he said. “It hurts to think of what my family is going through.”
“I guess that is one good aspect of my situation,” Marya replied frowning. “I do not have a family to worry about.” She paused, lost in thought. Finally she said, “But it does get lonely sometimes without anyone to worry about me.”
“You have been doing this a long time, yes?” Vladimir asked.
“Da,” she replied. “I have been here since before Hitler came to power. But the last year has been the most difficult.”
“Why is that?” Vladimir asked.
“Last year, the Germans arrested and executed many of our top agents. They did such a thorough job that it forced two rings in our network to cease operations,” she explained. “I had been operating outside of both, so I was unaffected. The Center then asked me to organize a new network, which has been operating since late last year.”
Vladimir was surprised. He knew that Marya was very well connected. That was obvious from the resources she pulled in to rescue him from Hochstetter. But now, to find out that she was actually the leader of the network in Germany impressed him greatly.
“You mean to say that you are the head of the network in Germany?” he asked her.
“Only of one major portion of it. I still take direction from The Center in Moscow,” she replied. “I was able to place agents in Abwehr Headquarters and Leipzig Gestapo, as you already know. I was also able to place a few more in some key locations where they can gather other important information.”
“And you want me to be a part of this organization?” he asked.
Marya nodded. “Da,” she said. “Of course, it would still have to be approved by Moscow.” Then Marya smiled. “But I do not believe that will be a problem. You have had experience already with this sort of work.”
Now it was Vladimir’s turn to smile. “I suppose I have had some experience,” he replied. “Papa Bear and his band of merry men were a busy bunch.” They both laughed.
“Do you know where I would go?” Vladimir asked Marya.
Marya shrugged. “It depends,” she responded. “I know where I would like to have you stationed.” Vladimir raised his eyebrows in question. Marya continued, “Rastenburg.”
Vladimir shook his head. “I do not know where that is,” he said.
“It is in East Prussia, near the Baltic Sea,” she replied. “Hitler has a headquarters near there, Wolfsschanze.” She spoke the last word in German. “We need another good operative in the area.”
“What would be my cover?” Vladimir asked. He was curious how he would be able to pass as part of the general population in East Prussia.
“You are a tailor?” Marya asked. Vladimir nodded. “There are many Poles living in East Prussia, due to the proximity to Poland. We can work out the details later, but you can take up residence there, as a Pole, and work in a tailor shop in town.”
“I do not wish to sound difficult, but what if I cannot find work in a tailor shop?” he asked.
Marya smiled at him. “As I said, we can work out the details later,” she said. “We have agents already in the area, and we should be able to do something.” Her smile grew wider. “And I would like you to be the head man in the area, with the other agents taking direction from you.”
Vladimir was genuinely surprised. In all his time at Stalag 13, he had played a support role, never leading an operation. Kinch had always been Colonel Hogan’s second-in-command. “Me?” he asked.
Before Marya could answer, Zagoskin stirred next to them and sat up yawning. “Dobroe utra,” he said tiredly.
Vladimir and Marya laughed. “It’s more like afternoon,” Marya said. “But good morning to you too!”
Zagoskin stretched. “Sorry, the events of the past few days have left me confused,” he said. He looked around the cellar. “How long are we going to be in here?” he asked.
“I don’t know yet,” Marya responded. “I will find out later, when they bring us down some food.”
At the mention of the word food, Vladimir’s stomach began growling. “I hope that will be soon,” he said. “I am hungry.”
Berlin, Abwehr Headquarters, Office of Major Hans Teppel
September 6, 1943, 1700 hours
Hans Teppel had made up his mind. He was sure that Major Wagner was a Russian agent, or at least had ties with Russian agents. He would approach Wagner and suggest that they form a working alliance, since their objectives were the same. It was a risk – he could be mistaken about Wagner. In which case, his own position, not to mention his life, would be in jeopardy.
Teppel glanced around his office. He knew that they would not be able to talk here – the walls had ears, literally. Most rooms in the headquarters would have at least one listening device. All the better to discover where the foxes are. I’ll have to try and get Wagner alone outside of this building so we can talk more freely.
Teppel rose from his desk and walked towards his office door. He picked up his uniform jacket and hat, turned off the lights and closed the door behind him. I’ll stop by on the way out and see if Wagner is still in. I doubt that Abwehr would have attempted to take a prisoner from the Gestapo, so Wagner is covering for someone. Mentioning my chat with Hochstetter might make him curious enough to want to have a talk with me. Teppel walked down the hall. He saw that the door to Wagner’s office was still open. Good, he is still here. Teppel stopped and stuck his head into the doorway.
Wagner looked up when he heard someone stop at his door. Recognizing Teppel, he said, “Hello Hans.”
“Hello Kurt,” Teppel replied. “I received a phone call from a Gestapo major this morning – Hochstetter from Hammelburg.”
Teppel paused, waiting for a reaction. He would decide how to proceed based on Wagner’s actions. Wagner simply arched an eyebrow and stared back at Teppel. He did not say anything.
Teppel took this as a sign of interest. He glanced purposefully around the room and said, “I am on my way to have a beer, would you like to join me?” He held his breath. If Wagner declined, then Teppel would have to admit that Wagner might simply be the Abwehr Major that he portrayed. But if he accepted …
Wagner stared back impassively at Teppel for several seconds, as if he were deciding how best to proceed. Finally, he rose from his desk and said, “Ja, that sounds good, Hans.” Wagner grabbed his jacket and hat and followed Teppel down the hall.
The men were silent as they walked the two blocks to the Brauhaus. When they entered, Max, the bartender looked up from the tap where he was drawing a beer and acknowledged the familiar faces. Teppel held up two fingers and pointed towards an empty table in the corner. Max nodded and Wagner and Teppel sat at the out-of-the-way table. Heidi, the barmaid, greeted them and exchanged small talk while she set the beers in front of them. After Heidi departed, the men enjoyed a few sips of the beer – just two officers unwinding from a hard day at the war.
Wagner put his beer stein down on the table. “So, you received a call from Major Hochstetter this morning?” he asked.
Teppel took a sip before answering. “Ja,” was his only reply. The less he said at first, the more he would be able to tell how interested Wagner was. In addition, they had to be careful what they said, lest someone overhear.
Wagner stared back at Teppel, appraising the situation. Knowing that Teppel was an Allied operative, he sensed that this was a fishing expedition by Teppel, trying to determine Wagner’s true nature. This gave Wagner some confidence that Teppel might suspect him, but was not sure yet.
“Ah, Major Hochstetter,” Wagner said casually. “It’s so enjoyable to talk with a man that takes himself much too seriously. Did he call to be sociable or was this a business call?” he asked.
Teppel had chuckled at Wagner’s description of Hochstetter. Before answering, he took another sip of beer. He is interested in what the conversation was about. This is a good sign. Now it’s time to lay the cards on the table. “In his mind, business,” Teppel replied. Wagner arched an eyebrow. Teppel continued, “He called to talk to someone other than Major Wagner about a prisoner of his that had been taken by a squad of Abwehr personnel.”
Wagner was silent. He gazed back at Teppel with no expression on his face. He was content to let Teppel talk some more before deciding what to divulge. He saw the advantage of having an ally in Headquarters, but he also was aware of the disadvantages of anyone knowing his true colors.
Teppel smiled. “Of course, I told him that the Abwehr cannot comment about its activities,” he said. “What good is an intelligence service that tells everything it knows!”
Wagner laughed. “I told him the same thing,” he replied. “Tell me, did you get the growl from him?”
Now it was Teppel’s turn to laugh. “No, I got the grunt,” he said.
The two men were silent as they sipped their beers. Teppel looked over at Wagner, who gave a small almost imperceptible nod. Now Teppel knew he was right about Wagner, and he knew that Wagner knew about him. Teppel decided to continue.
“I have some friends in the Hammelburg area,” Teppel said. “They are stationed at the Luft Stalag in the area. Maybe you know them?”
Wagner put his stein back on the table and shook his head. “No, but I also have a friend that travels in the area sometimes. She might be acquainted with them.” He put a slight emphasis on the word ‘she’, hoping that Teppel would understand. Wagner continued, “My friend mentioned knowing some men stationed at the Luft Stalag in the Hammelburg area.”
Teppel nodded and said nothing. He took another sip of his beer and waited. After a few moments, he said, “Yes, it sounds like our friends are acquainted.”
The men were silent, finishing their beers. They had said enough to come to a silent understanding. Now that they knew, they would work together. Heidi came by again and they ordered sauerbraten and two more beers.
* * * * * * *
After they had eaten, Teppel and Wagner left the Brauhaus together. At that time of night, the streets were mostly empty. The men could talk safely as they walked.
“I have known about you for some time,” Wagner said to Teppel as they walked slowly along the street. “And now you know about me. I think it would be good for us to work together and keep each other informed of important developments.”
“I agree,” replied Teppel. “What was Major Hochstetter asking about? Did it have something to do with Stalag 13?”
“Yes, it did,” said Wagner. “Apparently, Hochstetter had found out that there was a Russian prisoner in Stalag 13. Hochstetter wanted the prisoner for himself, probably because he had just let two other Russians go. These other Russians were involved in a failed missile test.”
“And these Russians were your friends?” Teppel asked.
“One of them,” Wagner responded. “The other was a scientist that my friend was trying to get out of Germany. She enlisted the help of your friends at Stalag 13 to help with that.”
“And this Russian prisoner of war?” Teppel asked.
“Not involved in that, but apparently associated with your friends,” Wagner said. “But Hochstetter wanted a Russian after letting his go and found out about the one in Stalag 13. Your friends and my friend did not want Hochstetter to take him, so they took him back, making it seem as though the Abwehr were involved.”
“Is that where you fit in?” Teppel asked.
“Yes, they mentioned my name in front of Hochstetter’s men, knowing that Hochstetter would call,” responded Wagner. “I was to confirm it, make it seem as though his headquarters were bugged, and then later tell him that the prisoner was killed trying to escape.”
“Which of course, he wasn’t,” Teppel said.
“No,” replied Wagner. “I believe he was to travel with my friend and the scientist back to Russia. I have not heard from my friend since, so I do not know for sure.”
The men stopped at an intersection. “Here is where I turn,” Teppel said. “So we will work together?”
Wagner nodded. “Yes, we will look out for each other’s interests as well as our own,” he replied.
“And I do not wish to know who your friends are,” Teppel stated.
“Nor do I wish to know yours,” Wagner replied. “It is safer that way.”
Teppel nodded and held out his hand to Wagner. “Excellent,” he said as he shook Wagner’s hand. “Have a good evening, Kurt.”
“And you as well, Hans,” Wagner replied.
The men walked off in separate directions, each heading towards their flats.
Berlin, Luftwaffe Headquarters, Office of General Albert Burkhalter
September 7, 1943, 1800 hours
General Albert Burkhalter entered his office, threw his hat on the table and headed for his schnapps bottle. He poured himself a drink and downed it in one swallow. He poured a second, which followed the first in short order. After pouring the third drink, he took his glass and the bottle over to his desk and sat in his chair. He let out a big sigh.
That man is a lunatic! I cannot believe the ignorance he shows. Führer or not, the man is out of touch with reality. Burkhalter downed his third glass and poured a refill. And all of the sycophants on his staff – there’s not one of them with a backbone. They are afraid to tell him the truth because it is bad news, so they tell him what he wants to hear. Then when things fall apart, instead of telling him that it was HIS ideas that failed, they just try to blame the generals in the field for the failure.
Burkhalter downed his fourth drink. He looked at the empty glass before filling it again. He knew where this was heading, and he welcomed it. This was one time when he was very glad of his substantial girth; it would take a lot of schnapps for him to get drunk. He emptied he glass again and smiled. Tonight he would get very drunk.
The day had not been a good one for the General. As the head of all Luft Stalags in the Reich, he was only a junior member of the Luftwaffe High Command, and not important enough to have daily briefings with the Führer. Normally he briefed the Luftwaffe adjutants of the General Staff who then sent the reports onward. The General Staff itself spent much of its time in the Wolfsschanze, where the Führer had been making his headquarters, or meeting in other various headquarters to avoid enemy targeting. But today was one of those days when the Führer returned to Berlin and wanted to be briefed personally by those that he normally wanted nothing to do with.
So General Burkhalter had briefed Hitler himself, and then had to stand there and listen to the Führer rant for over an hour about how the Stalags were costing too much to operate. The prisoners received Red Cross packages, so why does it cost so much to feed them? The electrical use was way too high, as was the fuel used for heating. Burkhalter had listened to the Führer complain about the rising number of escapes and escape attempts and the rising number of enemy fliers that were evading capture.
Burkhalter chuckled to himself as he thought about the day. The Führer was complaining that it cost too much to run the Stalags, but then complained that the prisoner population was not increasing.
Then came the most amusing rant of all. Why couldn’t all of the Stalags be run as secure and efficient as Stalag 13? Why can’t we have more Kommandants like that Colonel Klunk. Yes, the Führer actually called him Colonel Klunk.
The General drained his glass again and poured a quick refill. The schnapps was starting to do its job nicely. He was starting to feel very relaxed. He drained his glass, set it on his desk and grabbed the bottle.
Jawohl mein Führer, we need more men like Colonel Klunk. A pompous windbag if ever there was one. Oh yes, you would like him, mein Führer. You can rant and scream, and he could cower and whimper like a scared puppy.
Burkhalter took a drink from the bottle. Yes, good old Colonel Klunk. As inept as he is, nobody ever escapes from his camp. Strange things happen around Stalag 13, but nobody ever escapes.
Burkhalter laughed as he raised the bottle in the air. “Here’s to you, Colonel Wilhelm Klunk,” he toasted. He took a long drink from the bottle, and laughed hysterically.
Northern Poland, Safe House near Lubicz
September 8, 1943, 1100 hours
Vladimir lay in the loft of the barn. He knew he should be sleeping after traveling all night, but his mind would not let him drift off. He was amazed at how far they had been able to travel in the past two days. Already they had traveled to northern Poland. Although he knew it would be more difficult from this point on, he still had the hope that he could reach Moscow in a few more days.
Vladimir looked over at the sleeping form of Zagoskin. He was happy the scientist could rest. The stress of the journey was already taking its toll on the man’s nerves. He wondered if the scientist was also worried about what awaited him when he returned to Russia. Vladimir had been worried for himself, being a prisoner of war. He still was worried, despite Marya’s assurances. But Zagoskin had actually worked for the Nazis, even though the rocket experiment had failed. In the back of Vladimir’s mind, he knew that Marya was not just sent to bring him back to Russia, but to actually kill him if she found that he was collaborating. She was, after all, a Smersh agent.
Marya had left them in the barn while she tried to coordinate the rest of the trip home. Vladimir still marveled at how well organized the network was, and how Marya was able to make things happen. The more he found out, the more he believed that not only would she be able to get him home, but would be able to spare him any retributions for spending all that time as a prisoner of war.
Vladimir’s thoughts were disrupted as he heard the door of the barn open, and someone climbing into the loft. He say Marya’s head poke through the opening in the floor and look around. Seeing him awake, she smiled.
“You are not sleeping, Tovarish Vladimir?” she asked quietly.
“Nyet,” he replied. “I am still too alert for dangers, a habit I picked up at Stalag 13.”
“Since you are not sleeping, come into the house,” she said. “I want to discuss some things with you.”
Vladimir looked at Zagoskin. “What about him?” he asked.
“He will be fine,” she responded. “He is sleeping now, and there will be someone outside at all times, so he will not be going anywhere.”
When she said that, Vladimir knew that his suspicions were correct. Zagoskin would not be returning to Russia as a free man. He now wondered if Zagoskin would be returning to Russia as a living man, or how long he might live after he returned. Vladimir got up and climbed down the ladder of the loft. He saw that Marya was correct, there was a man sitting on a barrel in the corner of the barn, a rifle in his hands. The man nodded a greeting to Vladimir as he followed Marya to the house.
“I see what you were talking about,” he said to Marya as they walked. “Would he have shot me if I had come down out of the loft?”
“Nyet,” she replied. “The people here think you are my partner, so they will treat you as they do me.”
“Your partner?” he asked. “It seems my service has started earlier than I thought.”
Marya stopped walking suddenly and Vladimir almost bumped into her before he could stop. She looked at him for a second before speaking.
“I was wrong about you in the beginning,” she said slowly. “And I have since changed my mind. That does not happen very often.” She paused and smiled. “And you have not given me any reason to change it back, so as far as I am concerned, your service, as you put it, started before Hochstetter’s men took you from Stalag 13.”
Before Vladimir could respond, she grabbed his arm and tugged. “Come, we should not stand too long in the open,” she said, walking towards the small farm cottage.
When they reached the cottage, Vladimir saw a man and woman already there. The woman was tending to a kettle over a fire in the fireplace, while the man was sitting in a chair against the wall looking at a map spread out on the table in front of him. Marya introduced them simply as Piotr and Zofia. Vladimir almost laughed when she introduced him as Sam.
“Sit at the table,” Marya said. “I want to go over the plans for our travel. I want both of us to know in case something should happen along the way.”
Vladimir sat and looked at the map. It was a map showing Poland and the Baltic Republics, along with the northwest portion of Russia. Marya sat and started pointing out details of the map.
“We are here,” she said, pointing just to the south of East Prussian border, about halfway between Danzig and Warsaw. “We will be traveling along the coast until we get near Riga, in the Latvian Republic, then we will head inland to Pskov and Novgorod.”
Vladimir looked at the map. “Why do we need to go so far north, just to come back south to Moscow?” he asked.
Marya pointed to the area around Smolensk. “From what we hear,” she said, indicating Piotr sitting next to her, “there is heavy fighting all along the front in this area.”
Vladimir nodded. That made sense. The area was just north of the Pripet Marshes, and the corridor between the marshes and the Baltic coast led straight to Warsaw and onward to Berlin. That would be the place where the Soviet army would try to attack and the Germans would heavily defend.
“Where is the front in the north, near Novgorod?” he asked.
Marya looked at Piotr, who traced a line on the map as he spoke. “From Leningrad east to the Volkhov River and then south along the river.” He spoke in a mixture of Russian and Polish. Vladimir nodded to indicate that he understood.
“We will meet up with partisans in the marshes west of Novgorod,” Marya said. “And they will help us get across the river and through the front. Once we are past the front, we will head straight to Moscow.” She looked at Vladimir. “I hope you are not afraid to fly. Once we are across the Soviet lines, we will be flown to Moscow.”
Vladimir shook his head. He had never been in an airplane before, so he was not sure if he would be afraid. But the trip to get to the airplane was already dangerous, so how could flying be any worse?
“The journey will be difficult between here and the front,” Piotr said. “There is much partisan activity and the Germans are very alert.”
“Do you know where all of our stops are along the way?” Vladimir asked Marya.
“Nyet,” she said. “They know only the next stop. We will find out at each safe house where to go next.”
Vladimir nodded. “We are still traveling at night?” he asked.
Marya shook her head. “Not all the time,” she replied. “We will be dressed as locals, and can do some traveling in daylight hours. But it will still take us at least two weeks to get across the front from here.”
Vladimir was disappointed to hear two weeks, but not surprised. As they approached the front, there would be more German activity, and they must be more careful.
Piotr pulled a German Luger from a bag on the floor and handed it to Vladimir, along with a small fabric bag containing extra ammunition. “She says you will need this,” he said to Vladimir. “I have clothes for you also.”
“Dziekuje – thank you,” Vladimir said, using one of the few Polish words he knew.
Piotr smiled at him. “Nie ma za co – you’re welcome,” he replied.
Just then, Zofia began dishing the soup into bowls. “You must eat now,” she said in halting Russian. She brought bowls to the table for everyone.
“Dziekuje,” Vladimir said to her as she placed a bowl in front of him.
Marya burst out laughing. “Is that the only word in Polish that you know?” she teased.
Vladimir grinned at her and said, “Gdzie jest toaleta?”
Marya burst out laughing again, this time joined by Piotr and Zofia. “You will find that in the little building behind the cottage,” she said. “The one that has the seat with a hole in it!”
* * * * * * *
After they had eaten, Vladimir and Marya returned to the barn and woke up Zagoskin. The scientist then went into the house with Stanislaw, the man who Vladimir met in the barn, so that they could eat as well.
“You should change into your new clothes now,” Marya told him. “It will be easier for us to blend in.” She then shocked him by removing her clothes in front of him so she could change into her peasant dress. Seeing his embarrassment, she burst out laughing.
“You are shy, Tovarish Vladimir?” she laughed. “Or do you not like what you see?”
Vladimir could feel himself blushing, the warmth rising on his face. “Tovarish Marya, if I were not married …” He left the sentence unfinished, afraid that if he thought about the situation too much, he might forget that he was married.
Marya laughed again. “While I would enjoy what you are too embarrassed to mention, I am only teasing you now,” she said lightly. After she slipped the peasant dress on, she looked at Vladimir with no sign of laughter in her face. “Tovarish Vladimir, if I had to, I would gladly break up the family of someone I consider my enemy,” she said, “but I would not break up the family of someone I consider my friend.”
Vladimir looked deep into Marya’s eyes. He saw no hint of the normal, calculating stare, or the mischievous sparkle that sometimes replaced it. He saw a lonely person reaching out for someone to call a friend. Vladimir felt a stirring deep within his soul; just like the one he felt when he looked into his dear Natashenka’s eyes. For a moment, time stopped and he sensed nothing except the connection between the two of them.
The spell was broken when Marya spoke. Vladimir noticed the mischievous twinkle had appeared in her eyes as she said, “Now, Tovarish Vladimir, take off those clothes so I can see what I cannot have!”
Vladimir laughed. The spell was broken, but the connection it had brought to both of them remained. Yes, if I were not married, Vladimir thought.
* * * * * * *
Vladimir and Marya were sitting just outside of the barn. The moon, high in the sky, was almost full and bathed the landscape with a soft light. Marya had decided that they would travel tomorrow, so they would stay the night in the barn. They had left Zagoskin sleeping in the loft. The scientist was thankful that they would not be traveling at night. Stanislaw had been sitting and talking with them, but had retired to his bedding in the barn a while ago.
“What will happen with Zagoskin when we return?” Vladimir asked Marya. “Will he be executed for collaborating with the Germans?”
“Someone else will make that decision,” Marya replied. “But The Center wanted him returned alive if possible, so they may want to force him to work with other scientists in Russia.”
“That makes sense,” Vladimir said. “If they wanted him dead, you would have killed him already,” he stated.
“Da,” she responded. “It is part of my job.” She fell silent.
“Does it bother you?” he asked softly.
Marya sighed and gazed out over the moonlit landscape. She was silent for several moments. Finally she said, “Someday it may, but if I let it bother me now, I could not do my job.”
“It sounds like a high price to pay,” he replied, “to give up your self and your feelings for a job.”
“Sometimes you have place the good of the rodina above the good of the self,” she responded.
“But, Tovarish Marya,” Vladimir said, “sometimes you have to allow yourself to be you, to allow your feelings to express themselves, to laugh with friends, to love someone, in order to even have a self to give for your rodina.”
Marya was silent for a long while, unmoving beside Vladimir. “In my kind of work, you cannot let your real self emerge,” she said softly, her voice almost a whisper.
“Nyet,” Vladimir replied strongly. “In your kind of work, you must keep your real self bottled up inside most of the time. But if you cannot let your self emerge occasionally, if you have nobody to share that with,” he paused, searching for the right words, “then the person that you are will fade away forever, Tovarish Marya.”
Marya didn’t say anything. Vladimir looked over at her. She was staring out into the distance, looking at, but not seeing, the nighttime world before her. He noticed tears falling silently down her cheeks.
Continuing to stare out into the far away countryside, she reached over and took Vladimir’s hand in hers. Finally she said, “My name is Svetlana. Svetlana Viktorovna Lebedeva.” Then she closed her eyes and began to cry.
Berlin, Luftwaffe Headquarters, Office of General Albert Burkhalter
September 8, 1943, 2130 hours
General Burkhalter sat at his desk looking at the pile of papers that he had to go through. He glanced at the schnapps bottle sitting beside them and felt the urge to push everything else off his desk. The choice between immersing himself in his duty to the Führer and Fatherland and immersing himself into the blissful oblivion of drunkenness was a difficult one, and getting more difficult each day.
Duty to the Führer and Fatherland? Hah! Duty to the Fatherland is one thing, but the Führer doesn’t care about the Fatherland. There are setbacks on every front of the war, and all he does is scream about how his generals betray him, or how the people of Germany do not deserve him. He cares only about himself.
Burkhalter sighed. Yes, he would get drunk again tonight, as he had most nights lately. His wife, of course, wouldn’t like him coming home drunk again. He laughed. Berta doesn’t like me to come home drunk. Berta doesn’t like me to travel away from Berlin. In fact, I don’t even thing Berta likes me. Berta likes only herself, and power. I am a General, and Berta likes that. Berta is married more to my uniform than she is to me. Burkhalter looked down at his uniform. I should give her the uniform. Here Berta, I hope you two will be very happy together.
But he would also do his duty and read his reports, just as he would also go back to Berta when he left his office. He poured himself a drink. One or two to soften the bad news, he thought to himself as he swallowed the schnapps.
He picked up the first report, sent over from Abwehr headquarters. It was a summary of the news of the day, including news reported outside of Germany that would never be printed for the general public to read. He read the first item and dropped the paper.
The Italian government announces that it has signed an armistice with the Allied powers.
Burkhalter reached for the bottle and poured another drink for himself.
The Italians are no longer fighting with us? Will the Allies now occupy Italy and move on Germany from the south as well? And what a surprise, the beloved Führer is not happy and vows to defend the Italian brethren against the traitorous illegitimate Italian government that overthrew Mussolini in July.
Burkhalter took another drink of schnapps. He knew that the war was being slowly lost, and that the longer it went on, the more his country would suffer.
He picked up the next report and winced. Just what he wanted to see, another report from Stalag 13. Colonel Wilhelm Klunk. For once, mein Führer, you actually got something right. The Kommandant of Stalag 13 is a Klunk. A very big Klunk.
He took another drink before reading the report from Klink. He knew what it would say – no successful escapes from Stalag 13. Yes, yes, a model of efficiency, the ideal that all Luft Stalags should strive for, and all because Wilhelm Klink is the most capable Kommandant in the Luftwaffe.
Burkhalter snorted. Colonel Wilhelm Klink was an idiot, and yet his prisoners didn’t escape. That was very odd. Colonel Hogan, the senior officer in camp, didn’t seem like the type of person that would want to stay in a prison camp. He also seemed like he was more intelligent than Klink, much more intelligent. So why hasn’t he escaped?
Burkhalter started reading the report and became very interested. It seemed that a General von Rauscher arrived and wanted Hogan to witness a rocket experiment. The experiment was a failure, and resulted in not only the destruction of the rocket, but of the launch facility as well. Hogan witnessed the experiment, and it ended in disaster – again. It seems that Hogan is around for a lot of disasters.
Burkhalter thought back a few months, when the radio tower that he had ordered built near Stalag 13 was destroyed. He had almost gotten rid of Klink then, but there was that incident with the woman and the pictures, and Burkhalter was forced to keep Klink around. Yes, Hogan was around when the tower was destroyed, and when I was being blackmailed. Oh, not that I would care if Berta left me because she found out I was with another woman. But I could not jeopardize my career, or my life, by becoming involved in a scandal like that, so I had to relent and keep Klink. But why Klink?
The General shook his head. He had a feeling that there was something suspicious going on around Stalag 13. He picked up the report again and continued reading.
Major Hochstetter allowed the Russian rocket scientist and his Russian female translator to go back to Russia. Hochstetter is another idiot. But unlike Klink, he is a dangerous idiot. After that Hochstetter claimed that one of the prisoners of Stalag 13 was Russian, and demanded that he be turned over to the Gestapo.
Burkhalter read the sentence again. When was there a Russian prisoner at Stalag 13? He turned his attention back to the report.
The prisoner, an American named Sam Minsk, was reported taken by the Abwehr when in Hochstetter’s custody, and later reported shot while escaping. Well, the Führer would be happy, one less prisoner to feed.
He put the report down and reached for the schnapps bottle. Forgetting the glass, he took a drink. Failed rocket experiments, Russians involved in the failed experiment being allowed to return to Russia, prisoners being taken from Stalag 13 by the Gestapo, then being taken from the Gestapo. Very strange things seem to happen at Stalag 13.
Burkhalter pushed the remaining papers aside. He had read enough. He took a long drink out of the schnapps bottle. Yes, he had read enough.
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters, Office of Major Wolfgang Hochstetter
September 13, 1943, 1400 hours
Major Wolfgang Hochstetter was an angry man. Major Hochstetter was always an angry man. Someone once told him he must have been born with a scowl on his face. That someone is no longer alive.
This time, Hochstetter had a reason to be angry. Only a week ago, he had the chance to apprehend three Russians. In the end, he wound up with none of them. Sure, he did allow two of them to leave, even giving them travel authorizations. But later, when he had the chance to have them detained in Leipzig for him, a Major in the Leipzig Gestapo office refused to cooperate.
Then he had the chance to take a Russian prisoner of war from that imbecile Klink. The Abwehr ended up taking that prisoner away from him. It was small consolation that he found out that the prisoner was shot while trying to escape. No, the point was that he didn’t get the pleasure of interrogating the prisoner himself.
So Major Hochstetter fumed. He felt that he did not get the respect that he deserved. He was the head of the Gestapo office in the Hammelburg area, but that didn’t seem to matter to the people in other areas. He was chastised by Major Freitag from Leipzig and insulted by Major Wagner from the Abwehr in Berlin. His superiors didn’t seem to know he existed, until something went wrong.
Hammelburg was small. And although Hochstetter was in complete control in the area, he wanted more. He wanted people in higher places to show him the respect that he felt he deserved.
It had been a week since the disaster at the rocket research facility. He had mentioned only General von Rauscher in his report to Berlin, omitting any mention of the Russians that he had let go. The General had since been taken away for interrogation, and shot for being a saboteur. Berlin didn’t even give Hochstetter the privilege of doing that himself.
Yes, Major Hochstetter was angry, and someone was going to pay the price for his anger.
He picked up some reports that had been put on his desk that morning. They detailed the investigations into the several acts of sabotage that had taken place in the area over the past week. Nothing. His men had found out nothing.
That made Hochstetter even angrier. Not only did Berlin show him no respect, they sent him idiots to staff his office.
Hochstetter knew who was responsible for all of the sabotage in the area, but he could not get anyone to listen to him. He had told anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn’t, that it was the American Colonel Robert Hogan from Stalag 13 that was responsible. Berlin told him it was impossible, that nobody ever escaped from Stalag 13, and if Hogan did escape, why would he commit acts of sabotage and then return to the camp?
Berlin had finally told him to shut up, and find the real saboteurs. They told him that he should concentrate on infiltrating and breaking up the local underground, rather than harassing an American prisoner of war who couldn’t have done anything. And they had told him that if he didn’t like that assignment, he could just as easily try to shoot Russians on the Eastern Front.
So Major Hochstetter had quit telling people that he knew Hogan was responsible, and remained angry. This anger slowly turned to hatred. Hatred towards the man that he felt was responsible for ruining his chances at advancement, and the promotions that he knew he deserved. And this hatred settled into a resolve to get even with the man responsible, to finally expose the man for what he was. If he could do that, then the Generals in Berlin would see that he deserved a more prominent position.
But Colonel Hogan was a prisoner of war, and was protected by the Geneva Conventions. Unless Hochstetter could show that he was really a spy and a saboteur, he couldn’t touch him without incurring the wrath of his superiors.
But Hochstetter had thought of a plan to force Hogan to expose himself. If Hochstetter could not intimidate Hogan physically, then he would try psychologically. If he could put enough pressure on Hogan, the man might slip up, and then Hochstetter would have him.
Just this morning, Hochstetter gave the order to begin this harassment. From now until the end of the war, Colonel Robert Hogan, senior prisoner of war at Luft Stalag 13, would no longer receive mail. All his incoming, and outgoing, mail would be given to Major Hochstetter.
Hochstetter smiled to himself. Let’s see how you like that, Hogan. Let’s see how you like being cut off from the outside world, with no communications with your loved ones.
Berlin, Abwehr Headquarters, Office of Major Hans Teppel
September 16, 1943, 1730 hours
Hans Teppel had spent the morning reading through the reports from his agents operating inside of Germany for his daily briefing with Abwehr head Wilhelm Canaris. The Abwehr liked to keep track of what the other agencies inside the Reich were doing, especially the intelligence services under Himmler. Teppel was in charge of this area, and Canaris wanted to be kept informed personally of these activities.
Teppel had suspected for some time that Canaris was sympathetic to the Black Orchestra – the German underground. It wasn’t until he discovered the group of people who were secretly plotting to overthrow Hitler that he knew for sure. Canaris was working with them. That explained Teppel’s superior’s interest in what the other intelligence services were discovering.
That morning, Teppel read a report that caught his interest immediately. He had read the report several times, to make sure that he hadn’t misunderstood. Unfortunately, he hadn’t. The Gestapo had discovered that the German battle plans for the Eastern Front were being leaked to the Russians, but they did not know who was doing the leaking. They had begun a plan, under the direction of Count von Waffenschmidt, to discover the Russian spy network that was responsible.
Teppel knew that this information needed to be relayed to Kurt Wagner. But he had been kept busy all day, and had been unable to meet with Wagner. Teppel also knew that he could not alert Wagner while they were still in the headquarters building; it would be too dangerous.
The two had worked out a system to pass information to each other when they first started working together. Either one of them would say they were going for a beer, and invite the other. This was the signal that they had some information that would be of interest to the other. While they were walking to the Brauhaus, they could converse. To avoid arousing suspicion, they would sometimes get together when they didn’t have information, just two friendly coworkers getting together after a long day. At those times, they would avoid using the word ‘beer’ in the invitation. Today, it was time for a ‘beer.’
Teppel left his office and walked down the corridor to Wagner’s office. He popped his head in and said “I’m off to the Brauhaus for a beer, Kurt, would you like to join me?”
Kurt Wagner looked up and noticed the look of insistence on his friends face. “That sounds good, Hans,” he said. “Yes, I’ll join you.”
As the two men walked to the Brauhaus, they talked softly to each other. Teppel repeated the information he had received in the report. While he was talking, Wagner was silent. When Teppel finished, Wagner shook his head slightly.
“This is not good,” Wagner said. “We have a contact associated with the German General Staff who has been giving us this information,” he said softly. “He must be protected.”
Teppel nodded and was silent.
Wagner thought for a minute. “Danke, Hans,” he said. “I was not aware of this information. I must pass it along.”
They had reached the entrance to the Brauhaus. For the benefit of anyone that may have followed them for headquarters, Wagner said, “I don’t really feel like a beer, Hans. I think I will just go home.”
Teppel nodded. “Good night, Kurt,” he said. As he watched Wagner start to walk away, he glanced around at the cityscape around the Brauhaus. The streets were never busy in the evenings these days, and he saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Teppel entered the Brauhaus and ordered himself a beer.
Moscow Area, Karasko Airfield
September 23, 1943, 1100 hours
The flight from the Novgorod area was a unique experience for Vladimir. He did enjoy the feeling of soaring over the ground like a bird, but a few times, the bumpy air made him feel like his stomach was on the verge of emptying.
They had flown from a makeshift airfield just across the Soviet lines west of Novgorod. The journey from Lubicz had been uneventful. They had traveled mostly during the day once they had dressed like the local peasants. But when they met the partisans that would take them across the front lines, they had to move at night.
Along the way, Vladimir had met the people that made up the Soviet travel network in that area. If all went well in Moscow, he would meet them again on his return trip to Rastenburg. If all went well …
Ever since Lubicz, Vladimir and Marya had spent the quiet moments talking. They did not talk about spy rings, double agents or prison camps. They spent the time talking about their youth, their families, the weather, and their favorite foods - anything but their lives since the war began. Basically, they spent the time cementing the friendship that was born that night in Lubicz.
Vladimir had noticed a change in her. When they would talk, he noticed a wonder in her eyes, as if she was looking at the world for the first time. She would become Svetlana instead of Marya. She was interested in his experiences in Moscow as a youth, and what normal people, as she called them, were doing in Moscow before the war broke out. She asked many questions about his family, and Vladimir noticed that she was particularly interested in the stories he told about meeting his wife, and when his son was born. Vladimir realized that by listening to him tell of his experiences, she was trying to capture something that she had never had, and might never have.
As the plane descended for its landing at Karasko airfield, near Moscow, Vladimir noticed that even the personality he knew as Marya was changing. It was a homecoming for both Marya and Svetlana.
“How did you enjoy your first airplane flight?” she asked him as the plane taxied to a halt.
“It was very different,” he replied. “I liked it. I wouldn’t mind doing it again.”
“You will get a chance,” she said. “When you return to Rastenburg, you will go back the same way you came.”
“If I return to Rastenburg,” he said softly.
Marya smiled. “Please do not worry,” she told him. “Things will be fine. You should be excited. You are almost home!”
Vladimir grinned broadly. “I will believe it when I get there,” he said. “Right now, I feel that this could be a dream, and I will soon wake up to find that I am still in Stalag 13.”
After they got off the plane, they were escorted to a waiting car for the drive into Moscow. Marya was informed that they were being taken straight to see Lavrenty Pavlovich himself. Vladimir was suddenly worried. He was being taken to see Beria, the head of the NKVD.
Marya, as if sensing his worries, patted his hand. “Trust me, Volodya,” she said softly.
The car made its way through the city towards Lubyanka Square. It entered the compound and parked behind the main building. The three travelers were taken into the building and up to the third floor, where the NKVD head had his office. When they entered the office, Vladimir saw that Beria was expecting them, and was standing beside his desk. He seemed surprised to see three people coming to see him. He motioned the three into the room and dismissed the accompanying guard.
“Hello, Svetlana Viktorovna,” he said formally. “I was expecting you to return one person.” Beria glanced at Vladimir as he spoke.
“Hello, Lavrenty Pavlovich,” she replied. “I have returned the scientist Igor Illyich Zagoskin, as ordered. This is Vladimir Ivanovich Minsky, formerly a prisoner in Luft Stalag 13 and member of Papa Bear’s team.”
Vladimir noticed that Beria perked up at the mention of Papa Bear. Vladimir also noticed that Zagoskin had assumed a very resigned stance, as if he expected to be taken away any second.
“Very good, Svetlana Viktorovna,” Beria said. “Please tell me about Zagoskin.”
Marya related the story of Zagoskin’s work for the Germans. Vladimir was familiar with the ending of the story, since Colonel Hogan was involved in the rescue. But Vladimir learned that his initial assumption was not correct. He thought that Zagoskin had defected and offered to help the Germans. It turned out that his family had been abducted by the Germans to force him to help them, and when he wouldn’t, they abducted him as well.
Beria listened to Marya’s account. When she finished, he turned to Zagoskin. “Igor Illyich, you were successful in sabotaging the German rocket facility,” he said. “Good work. We have been waiting for Svetlana Viktorovna to successfully return you to us so that you may return to working with our program.”
Upon hearing this, Zagoskin perked up. “Da, Tovarish Beria,” he replied excitedly. “I am ready to begin work.”
Beria nodded. “Good. You will now be taken to the research facility,” Beria said. He picked up the phone and summoned the waiting guard to take Zagoskin away. When they were gone, Beria commented, “He didn’t seem to realize that his days as a free man were over. He will work for us as a prisoner.”
The way Beria said that sent a chill down Vladimir’s spine. He began once again to be worried about his own fate.
Beria turned to address Vladimir. “So you were a member of Papa Bear’s team?” he asked. Vladimir nodded. “Tell me about it,” Beria requested.
“Da, Tovarish Beria,” Vladimir replied. He proceeded to tell of his initial capture by the Germans, how he ended up at Stalag 13, and his activities with his friends from Barracks 2. Then he told how Hochstetter took him, how he was rescued and accompanied Marya back to Moscow. He left out the fact that it was Marya that alerted Hochstetter to his presence at Stalag 13.
“Laverenty Pavlovich,” Marya spoke up. “There is something else I wish to discuss.”
Beria nodded, and Marya proceeded to tell him of her wish to have Vladimir join the organization, as he already had experience inside of Germany. Beria seemed interested in her proposition. She told him that she thought that Rastenburg would be a good location for Vladimir because of the proximity to Hitler’s Wolfsschanze.
When she finished, Beria did not say anything. Vladimir watched him closely for any reaction. The longer he was silent, the more Vladimir’s worry grew.
Finally, Beria nodded. “We are aware of the activities of Papa Bear,” he said. “Svetlana Viktorovna has kept us informed. I am impressed Vladimir Ivanovich.”
“Spasibo Tovarish Beria,” Vladimir replied. A wave of relief washed over him.
“I will consider your proposition, Svetlana Viktorovna,” Beria said. “If you both would please return here in,” he paused, consulting a calendar on his desk, “three days time. I will consult with Iosif Vissarionovich on this and inform you of the decision.”
Vladimir was surprised. Stalin himself would be consulted about this? He was barely able to utter a “Spasibo” in response.
“Spasibo Laverenty Pavlovich,” Marya replied. “We will return in three days.”
They left Beria’s office and walked along the corridor of the third floor. Vladimir was still in a daze. As they walked, Marya chuckled softly.
“You didn’t expect this, did you,” she stated. Vladimir shook his head. “As I said before, trust me, Volodya.”
He smiled back at her. “I do, Sveta, I do,” he said.
“Now, let’s get you some credentials for entry into the building,” she said. “We will also need to coordinate your work in Rastenburg.”
“Shouldn’t we wait for confirmation?” he asked.
“When will you learn to trust me, Volodya?” she asked with a smile on her face. “We will talk in three days. Now, you have a home to return to. Go!”
Home! I can go home!
* * * * * * *
Vladimir climbed the steps leading to the entrance of the building where he lived. He was nervous. It had been over two years since he had seen his family. He wondered how much they had changed. His son, Sasha, would be almost five years old now.
He entered the building and climbed the stairway leading to the fourth floor. With each step he climbed, his anxiety rose. He felt the same way he did on his wedding day.
He entered the fourth floor communal kitchen area and saw a man and woman sitting at one of the tables having their evening meal. He did not recognize either of them. They stared at him with suspicion. He smiled at them as he walked by, but they did not smile back – strangers were not to be trusted, it seemed.
He stopped in front of the door and found that he had lost his nerve. Why was he so nervous? This was his home, his family. He was happy to be here, and he knew they would be happy to see him. So why was he so apprehensive?
Then he looked down at his clothes. With everything that had happened that day, he had forgot that he was still wearing the clothes that the partisans had given him to wear while crossing the front. Now he knew why the people were looking at him suspiciously. But it was too late to do anything about it now. Besides, he had clothes just on the other side of the door, unless Natasha had given them away.
He reached for the doorknob and stopped. No, it wouldn’t do to go barging into the flat. He hadn’t lived there for two years. He could hear the rumble of talking and the occasional clinks of dishes. His family would be having their evening meal at this time. Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door. He heard someone walking towards the door. In a moment, the door opened …
And there was his wife Natasha. Immediately he felt the world around him melt away. For that moment, he was not aware of anything else except his beloved Natasha.
He saw her glance at the strange man in her doorway with a slight frown on her face. She didn’t recognize him. Then he saw a look of recognition on her face followed by shock, as if she was looking at a ghost. Her eyes opened wide. Then she let out a hair-raising scream.
“VOVOCHKA! It’s you!” she screamed. Then she leaped into his arms, sobbing for joy and smothering him with kisses. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. He was hardly aware of the greetings he was getting from the rest of the family.
He pulled away from her and wiped the tears from her face. “Vovochka,” she said. “You are not dead.”
He smiled at her warmly. “Nyet, Natashenka. I am not dead,” he said. “In fact, right now I feel more alive than I have in two years.”
He greeted everyone, his mother and father, his sister, his two nephews. He felt sadness to hear that babushka had died a year ago. He found out that his sister’s husband was also in the army, fighting on the Ukrainian front. Then he saw his son, little Sasha, standing shyly across the room.
Natasha motioned him over. “Sashenka, come say hello to your papa,” she said to him. He walked over to her, looking at Vladimir the whole time.
Vladimir knelt down. “Sashenka, it is good to see you,” he said.
Sasha’s eyes were big as he stared at Vladimir. “Are you really my papa?” he asked timidly.
“Da, Sashenka,” Vladimir said. “I am your papa.”
Sasha looked up at his mother. Nathasha nodded to him. “I really have a papa?” he asked her. She nodded again. Suddenly his face lit up and he ran to Vladimir. “Papa!” he cried as he wrapped his arms around Vladimir.
As Vladimir hugged his son, he looked up at Natasha. Tears were streaming down her face. He picked Sasha up as he stood and said, “It is good to be home.”
* * * * * * *
As they ate, Vladimir told everyone the tale of his capture by the Germans. He skipped much of the story, deciding that he didn’t want to tell them about the worst of his treatment. He told them about being a prisoner of war, avoiding much of the details of the operations at Stalag 13. In the end, he simply said that while in the prison camp, he helped the local underground. Skipping his escape from camp, he told them about the journey across German territory with Marya and Zagoskin and crossing the front to get home.
His nephews listened intently and asked him many questions. He answered most of their questions, until his sister told them to keep quiet so that everyone could hear the whole story. Vladimir caught the looks from his wife, and he could tell that she knew he wasn’t telling the whole story. He smiled at her – he would tell her everything later.
“Are you home to stay?” his mother asked.
“Nyet,” he replied. “I must return to Lubyanka in three days.”
At the mention of Lubyanka, the room got quiet. The adults knew that meant NKVD headquarters. They also knew the NKVD attitude towards former prisoners.
Quickly he shook his head. “Nyet, do not worry,” he said. “It is nothing like that.” He told them of his new assignment, if it were to be accepted. “Marya and I must report to find out where to go next,” he said.
At the mention of Marya, Vladimir thought he saw a frown emerge on Natasha’s face. But it lasted only a split second and was replaced by a large smile. “Then you have three days to spend with us!” she exclaimed.
Vladimir nodded. “At least three days,” he said. “And I want to enjoy every minute of them!”
After they had finished eating, Vladimir said he needed a bath to take away the several weeks’ worth of German countryside that he had brought back with him. When he returned from the communal bath, he felt like a new man. He also found Natasha alone in the flat.
“Where is everybody?” he asked.
“It was your mama’s idea,” she replied. “They are giving us tonight alone in the flat. They are all staying with neighbors.”
“We have the night to ourselves?” he asked. She nodded. “There has always been someone else close by. The last time we had the flat all to ourselves was after we were married.”
“I know,” she replied. “I think that is what your mama had in mind.”
A mischievous smile spread across Vladimir’s face. “And what do you have in mind?” he asked.
Natasha just smiled. Vladimir walked over to her, picked her up and carried her to their bed. He turned out the lights and forgot about the rest of the world.
Yes, It’s good to be home!
Berlin, Luftwaffe Headquarters, Office of General Albert Burkhalter
September 24, 1943, 1900 hours
General Albert Burkhalter was tired. It had been a long, frustrating day; another day of meeting with the Führer, and listening to rants about incompetent Generals who were losing the war for Germany.
Incompetence! Well, the man is an expert on incompetence. I think he wrote the book on it. Mein Kampf indeed. Mein Gott! Ever since the defeat at Stalingrad, our army has been losing ground to the Russians. We lost all of North Africa just this past May. Now the Americans and British are fighting in Italy. And the Italians, they were the smart ones, deposing that windbag Mussolini and then signing an armistice with the Allies. That should have been an indication to the Führer that things were beginning to be hopeless. But what does he do? Sends Otto Skorzeny and his commandos to rescue Mussolini and then just yesterday, creates the Italian Socialist Republic in the area of Italy that we still control.
Burkhalter reached for the schnapps bottle to pour a drink. It was becoming a habit, he knew. But anything was better than watching the slow death of the country that he knew and loved.
He knew that he should read the reports that piled up during the day, before he got too drunk to care about them. Reluctantly, he pushed the bottle aside and picked up the report sent over by the Abwehr. As he started reading, he gasped in surprise. The report indicated that the Allies had obtained the blueprints for the secret Hühnerfalke bomb guidance system.
How did they get those? They were classified and not out of my possession once. Sure, the tests at Stalag 13 were a failure … Stalag 13. That was the only place that I took the blueprints. I wanted them on hand during the tests. While I was there, Klink had them, but I had assumed they were safe there. So how did they get to London?
Burkhalter reached for his bottle again and filled his glass. He drank it down and refilled it.
The only way they could have gotten to London is from Stalag 13. Klink is too stupid to be an Allied spy. Yes, the stupidity could be an act, but I have been around him enough to see that the man is stupid to the bone. But facts are facts. The only place that those plans were not under my personal supervision was at Stalag 13. The leak had to come from there.
Burkhalter downed his next drink and sat back in his chair. Pieces of a puzzle were slowly starting to fall into place for the General. He was beginning to see a bigger picture. It was a picture that could spell defeat for Germany in the war.
Somehow Hogan must be sending this information to London. The man is confident, even cocky, and is a very competent officer. There must be a reason why he doesn’t escape from the camp. It could be that he is choosing to remain there in order to pass back information to the Allies. Hochstetter is always babbling about how there are more acts of sabotage around the Hammelburg area than any other point in Germany. A coincidence? It is starting to seem unlikely.
What Burkhalter was finally realizing was that Colonel Hogan could be the leader of an operation being run right under the nose of the arrogant, incompetent Colonel Klink. It made sense to him; Klink is the perfect person to have if you needed a Kommandant that was easily fooled.
Suddenly, the light went on in Burkhalter’s mind. It suddenly became clear.
Wait! Just this summer, we had reports from our operative in Allied Intelligence that information was coming from the area of Stalag 13. I confirmed that by having Klink pass information about the phony factory in the area. The Allies bombed it, and the information could only have come from Stalag 13. My aide, Major Kohler, was implicated in the leak. At the time, I was happy to have him take the blame, because he was ambitious and wanted my job. But now I see it perfectly. Colonel Hogan must be the leak, and if he can figure out how to get rid of a German officer and keep his operation running, he’s a very smart and capable operative.
Burkhalter was troubled by this knowledge. If he was correct, and Hogan really was an Allied spy, he could become a big hero by exposing the entire operation and putting it out of business.
But putting Hogan out of business could prolong the war by years. He doubted that anything could save Germany from defeat at this point; it was just a matter of time.
So the General had a dilemma, expose Hogan, gain personal advancement and prolong the pain and suffering of the country, or say nothing and allow Hogan to continue to operate, hopefully shortening the war.
Now, Burkhalter decided, was the time to get drunk.
Moscow, Lubyanka Square, NKVD Headquarters
September 26, 1943, 0900 hours
Natasha had made the walk with him to NKVD Headquarters when Vladimir reported to find out the decision on his assignment. The three days he had spent at home were wonderful. He spent every moment he could, becoming reacquainted with his son, Sasha, and talking with his family.
He and Natasha had had several conversations about his leaving again. She kept repeating that after losing him for so long and finally getting him back, she didn’t want to lose him again. He had tried to convince her that it was impossible for him to stay at home. Either he would go back to the war, or he would go to the gulag, or worse. Then she complained that his working as a spy in Germany was too dangerous. If the Germans found out about him, he would be shot. He tried to explain that if he were sent to the front, he would continually be shot at. Nothing he said could convince her.
But Vladimir knew that she understood that he had to do what he was told to do. She didn’t have to like it, but she had to accept it.
Vladimir was very surprised when he learned that Beria had made arrangements for Natasha to be excused from work during Vladimir’s visit. When he found that out, he realized that the chances were good that Marya’s suggestions would be acted upon.
The walk this morning had been pleasant. They were not in a hurry, and enjoyed the time they could spend alone. Though they had walked slowly, it seemed that they arrived at Lubyanka Square too soon. When they arrived, Vladimir saw Marya waiting outside of the building. She saw them approaching and waved.
When they met at the bottom of the steps leading to the building, Vladimir made the introductions. He noticed that Natasha had stiffened her posture slightly, which he knew as a sign she was not pleased. He had noticed this over the past three days, whenever he had mentioned Marya’s name. He knew what she was thinking, but he also knew that she had nothing to worry about. There was nothing between he and Marya except friendship.
“Zdravstvuyte Tovarish Minskaya,” a smiling Marya said to Natasha. Natasha returned the greeting, somewhat reservedly. The two women looked at each other for several moments.
Then Marya turned to Vladimir. “Zdravstvuyte Vladimir Ivanovich,” she said. “Laverenty Pavlovich is waiting for you. Please go on ahead, I would like to become more acquainted with your wife.”
Vladimir hesitated. Knowing Natasha’s reservations, he didn’t like the idea of leaving them alone. But he also knew that keeping Beria waiting was not a wise choice. In the end, he said to Natasha, “Poka Natashenka, I will see you at home.” He kissed his wife and ascended the steps into the building.
After he had gone, the two women were silent for some time. It was Natasha who finally broke the silence.
“I suppose I should thank you, Tovarish,” she said, hesitating for a second, unsure how to address Marya, “Marya, for bringing my Vladimir back home.”
“Please, call me Svetlana,” Marya replied.
Natasha nodded, but remained silent.
Marya smiled reassuringly at her. “Tovarish Minskaya,” she said, “please, you do not have anything to worry about.”
“Tovarish Marya,” Natasha replied, then correcting herself, she continued, “Svetlana, I am sure I do not know what you are talking about.” There was a slight hint of indignation in her voice.
Marya laughed softly. “Da, you do,” she said. “Your husband was a prisoner in a prison camp for more than a year. Then after he escaped, I spent several weeks traveling with him to return to Russia.”
Natasha looked at the ground. “Did you …” she said softly, leaving the question unfinished.
“Nyet,” Marya replied. “I offered myself to him once,” she said. Natasha looked up quickly, as Marya continued, “and he declined. But he gave me something much more on the journey home.”
Natasha was confused. She kept silent, not knowing what to say.
Marya continued, “Vladimir,” she paused with a little shake of her head, “Volodya gave me the gift of myself. In my job, I must always be someone else. I had been doing it for so long, I had almost forgotten who I was. For those few weeks, he allowed me to be Svetlana again.”
Natasha continued to stare at Marya, unspeaking.
Marya smiled. “Tovarish Minskaya,” Marya said.
“Natasha, please,” Natasha corrected.
“Natasha,” Marya repeated. “What Volodya gave me for those few weeks, allowing me to be myself again, meant more to me than anything else.” Marya paused. “He is a very wise and dear man, and he has become a dear friend to me.”
Natasha could not speak. She was very happy that her worst fears had been dispelled. She was also proud of her dear Vovochka.
“I just wanted to tell you this,” Marya said. “And also to tell you that you are a very lucky woman. Volodya cares for you deeply. Not many men could spend all that time in a prison camp and then travel so closely with a woman for weeks and not give into temptation. But I could tell he was waiting for you.”
Natasha smiled. “Spasibo Svetlana,” she said warmly, “for bringing Vovochka back home.”
Marya smiled back warmly. “Nichevo, Natasha,” she replied. “I wish you happy times while Volodya is home, and a long happy life together after this war is over.”
“Will you be going back to Germany?” Natasha asked.
“Da, it is my job,” Marya replied.
“Will you and Vladimir be working together?” she asked, and then before Marya got the wrong idea, she added, “I mean so that you can look out for each other.”
Marya shook her head. “We will see little of each other, but we will have occasional contact,” she replied. “He will be fine.”
“Spasibo,” Natasha said, “for everything.” She smiled warmly at Marya and began to walk back home.
Marya felt good as she walked up the steps into the building. Yes, Vladimir will be fine, and so will you Natasha.
* * * * * * *
When Marya got to Beria’s office, he and Vladimir had been going over Vladimir’s assignment. Having consulted with Beria over the past three days, she already knew what had been decided. Vladimir would be stationed in Rastenburg, and would make contact with their informant attached to the German General Staff there.
Beria motioned for Marya to sit and continued talking to Vladimir. “Vladimir Ivanovich, all that is left is for you to have a code name,” he said.
“If it is alright, Laverenty Pavlovich, I would like to use ‘Sam’ as my code name,” Vladimir replied.
Marya chuckled. Beria was familiar with Vladimir’s story, and knew the significance of the name. He smiled, “That is perfectly acceptable,” he replied. “You will remain here in Moscow for three weeks of training.”
Vladimir nodded. He was very happy to hear that he would have three more weeks living at home with his family.
“Since you were involved with Papa Bear, you do not need as much training as someone else might,” Beria said. “But Iosif Vissarionovich has decided that you will remain a member of the Red Army rather than become a member of the NKVD. You will be raised in rank appropriately, for the service you have already performed.”
Until he heard that, he never realized that he didn’t know what to expect. He had supposed that if he was returning to Germany, that he would have been made a member of the NKVD. The raise in rank made him happy.
“Also,” Beria continued, “Your family will receive a better flat, commiserate with your new rank. They will continue to receive your pay while you are on your assignment, and your back pay from when you were operating with Papa Bear.”
Now Vladimir was astonished. This was a lot more than he expected. “Spasibo Laverenty Pavlovoch,” he replied.
Then Beria turned his attention to Marya. “Svetlana Viktorovna, you must return as soon as possible,” he said.
“What is it that is so urgent, Laverenty Pavlovich?” she asked.
“We just received a report from agent Michael that the Germans are aware of the leak of German battle plans for the Eastern Front,” Beria replied.
Marya knew that agent Michael was Kurt Wagner in the Abwehr. “Do they know the source of the leak?” she asked.
“Nyet,” he responded. “But they have put a Gestapo man, Count von Waffenschmidt in charge of finding out. We cannot let that happen. Our ties to the German General Staff are too valuable to lose. This is the reason Vladimir Ivanovich will be in contact with our friend when he gets to Rastenburg.”
Marya nodded. “What are my orders, Laverenty Pavlovich?” she asked him.
“Make sure that von Waffenschmidt notices you,” he said, smiling, “and lead him away from the source. Make him think it is somewhere else.”
Marya smiled and said, “He’ll notice me.”
Beria laughed heartily. “Da, I am sure of that Svetlana Viktorovna,” he replied. “I am very sure of that!”
* * * * * * *
After they left Beria’s office, Vladimir and Marya sat, eating lunch. Marya was going to leave for Germany that evening, traveling to Novgorod to cross the front lines.
“Did you and Natasha have a good talk?” Vladimir asked curiously.
Marya laughed. “Of course, Volodya,” she replied. “Did you expect that we would yell and scream at each other?”
Vladimir shrugged. “Nyet, not that,” he responded. “But I do know that she was worried about me spending time with you.”
“Relax, Volodya,” Marya replied. “She was jealous. Who could blame her?” Marya laughed as she said it, opening her arms in a ‘look at me’ gesture.
Vladimir laughed. “She was jealous even before seeing you,” he said.
“Volodya,” she said, “her husband had spent years away from her, and then spent several weeks traveling with another woman. Most men would not have restrained themselves.”
“But …” Vladimir started to say.
Marya shook her head and waved him off. “I told her the truth,” she said. “And I told her that she was lucky to have a man like you. Do not worry, everything is fine.”
Vladimir eyed Marya suspiciously. “Are you sure?” he asked, teasingly. “How could any man resist a woman like you?”
Marya burst out laughing. “Da, a man would have to be blind!” she teased back.
Vladimir began pantomiming a blind man feeling his way along a corridor. They both burst out laughing.
When the laughter subsided, Vladimir said, “Spasibo, Sveta, for helping me find my way home, if just for a little while.”
Marya gazed at Vladimir and then reached out and grabbed his hands. “Spasibo, Volodya, for helping me find myself, if just for a little while.”
They sat there, holding hands across the table, for several minutes, not speaking. They both knew that their relationship, which started with animosity just three weeks before, had been transformed into a deep, lifelong friendship. Neither of them knew how or why, but neither of them cared. Some things were just meant to happen.
Berlin, Luftwaffe Headquarters, Office of General Albert Burkhalter
September 26, 1943, 1100 hours
General Burkhalter had been wrestling with his conscience for the last two days, ever since he had come to the conclusion that Colonel Hogan was operating a large resistance operation out of Stalag 13. It had consumed his thoughts during every waking moment, and disturbed his sleep at night.
But he had finally come to a decision. Once he made that decision, he felt at peace with himself. He knew that the decision he had made could have dangerous consequences, but he felt that it was the only decision that he could have made.
General Albert Burkhalter, the head of all Luft Stalags in the German Reich and member of the Luftwaffe High Command office, had decided not only to allow Colonel Hogan to continue to operate out of Stalag 13, but to actually help him.
I cannot actively help him, as it would be too dangerous for me. But I can make sure that I take full use of the reputation of Stalag 13 as a place where none of the prisoners escape, and as a place that the Allies will not bomb. I can send important research experiments and personnel to the camp, which will allow Hogan to obtain the information. I have confidence that Hogan will be able to do it, since he’s been doing it for so long.
But I cannot let Hogan know that I am doing this. I will not take the chance of having him try to use me in a way that I don’t want to be used.
It is a good thing that I bought that little hideaway chalet near Hammelburg recently. Whenever I need to spend time in the area, I can go there. Nobody knows about the hideaway, most importantly, my wife. Burkhalter laughed. Why would she know about it? I bought it so that I could spend time away from her!
Now that Albert Burkhalter had made his decision, he felt much better. For the first time in a long time, he did not have the urge to get drunk.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2
October 15, 1943, 0930 hours
Kinch continued reading the information he had transcribed when he received the message from London overnight. The other men who formed Colonel Hogan’s inner circle listened to the news with varying levels of indignation.
“A German munitions storage facility near Pilsen,” Kinch read. “The Flaggsdorf Bridge near Frankfurt; An airplane factory near Munich; The tunnel on the main rail line through the Alps into Austria. And get this, for good measure, several statues at stadium in Nuremberg were destroyed.” Kinch paused and looked at Colonel Hogan. “And this just in the past week,” he added.
“Bloody show off,” Newkirk commented bitterly.
“That Nimrod sure is a busy fellow,” Carter said. “If he keeps up this pace, there won’t be anything left for us to blow up.”
“We do just as much as he does,” Le Beau said, “but we don’t get half of the credit. It’s not fair!”
“Face it, Louis,” Baker said. “We’re stuck here in this prison camp. All of our activity has to be done nearby. Nimrod is able to run around the country at will blowing things up.”
“I tell you, it’s not fair!” Le Beau fumed.
Colonel Hogan leaned against one of the bunks watching his team’s indignation of the exploits of Nimrod, the British spy that had been a thorn in the sides of the Germans for the past year. It was as if his men considered this a competition and didn’t want to be outclassed. A little healthy competition is good for the morale. I just have to make sure that it doesn’t lead to my men being careless.
“All right men,” Hogan said, waiting for then men to calm down. “Remember, Nimrod is on our side. It doesn’t matter who does it, as long as the German war effort is hindered.”
“But Colonel, Le Beau said it,” Newkirk said. “We do as much as he does, but don’t get the credit.”
“Remember Newkirk, we are supposed to be the Unsung Heroes,” Hogan replied.
“It’s just not fair,” Le Beau muttered.
“The Colonel’s right Louis,” Kinch said. “We’re not here doing this for the accolades or recognition.” As Kinch spoke, the door of the barracks opened and Schultz walked in. Kinch paused for a second upon seeing Schultz, but then smiled and finished what he was going to say. “We’re here to defeat those nasty German swine.”
“Speak of the devil,” Newkirk said, looking at Schultz.
“Newkirk, that’s not fair,” Schultz replied. “You know that I am neutral. I’m like Switzerland.”
“And about as bloody big too,” Newkirk quipped. The men at the table laughed.
“Jolly jokers,” Schultz replied. “Maybe you do not want your mail today?”
Upon hearing the word ‘mail,’ the men shouted and scrambled after Schultz. He backed against the door and yelled, “Colonel Hogan, Colonel Hoooogaaaaan!”
“Come on,” Hogan shouted to his men. “Give him some room.”
The men backed away, leaving Schultz panting against the door. When everyone had settled down, Schultz began to call out the names and passing the letters around. When he was through, the portly sergeant left to deliver the mail to the other barracks in camp.
Kinch noticed that Colonel Hogan had not received any mail again. This was the second week in a row that the Colonel hadn’t gotten a letter. Kinch looked at his commander and noticed that he had a slight frown on his face. The frown disappeared as Le Beau started up the argument where it left off.
“We need to do something to show up that Nimrod,” Le Beau said defiantly.
“Hey, I just thought of something,” Carter said.
“Now there’s something new,” muttered Newkirk.
“I think that Nimrod is not a real person,” Carter stated.
Hogan looked up at Carter. “What makes you say that?” he asked.
“Well, I think that Nimrod is really a group of people that are all over the place,” Carter explained. “They make it seem like it’s one person to throw the Germans off track so they can’t figure out who is doing it.”
“That’s balmy,” Newkirk retorted. “Why would London tell us that it’s Nimrod? They would only have to tell the Germans. We are getting our news direct from London.”
“But Newkirk,” Carter said. “If it was completely safe to communicate over the radio, then we wouldn’t have to have code names, would we?”
Hogan smiled. “Carter,” he said. “That’s a very well thought out idea.”
“Thanks sir,” Carter replied. “Do you think that is the way it is?”
“Men, I don’t think we’ll know who Nimrod is until after the war,” Hogan replied. “If we even find out then.”
Hogan looked around at his men. He knew they were eager to open their mail, but didn’t want to start if they were still discussing the exploits of Nimrod. “All right boys, you got your mail, now why don’t you read it!” he said.
There was a loud rustle as envelopes were opened and news was exchanged. Hogan was about to retreat to his office when he caught Kinch looking at him with a raised eyebrow. Hogan knew what this meant. Kinch didn’t miss much that went on around the barracks; Kinch would have noticed that he didn’t get any mail again. The man knows me well. I suppose that’s not surprising, since I picked him as my flight engineer, much to the dismay of some of my other friends. “You can have your pick of any engineer in the air corps,” they would tell me. “Why pick him?” I got tired of saying “Because I can have my pick of any engineer in the air corps, and I want the best.” I laid it on the line with my crew – if any of them had a problem flying with Kinchloe, they better put in for a transfer now. Some did. Good riddance! I didn’t have the time to deal with their prejudices. Most of the crew stayed, and Lt. Fields, the navigator/radio operator even gave Kinch some unofficial training when he expressed interest in the equipment. I think Kinch appreciated my support, and now he looks after me. OK, so I didn’t get any mail again. It happens.
Hogan threw a smile Kinch’s way and said, “I’m going to rest a while. Kinch, Baker, whichever of you is manning the radio this afternoon, let me know when we get the transmission we are expecting.”
“It’s me today, Colonel,” Baker replied. “I’ll let you know as soon as it comes in.”
“Thanks, Baker,” Hogan replied as he retreated to his office.
Prague, Safe House in Stare Mesto
October 20, 1943, 1100 hours
Marya was staying in a safe house located over a market that overlooked Staromestske namesti, Old Town Square, in the heart of Prague. The market was an information gathering point for the Czech resistance, obtaining information from some of the farmers that would bring their produce to the market. She had been in Prague for the past two days, using the time to formulate her plans to deceive Count von Waffenschmidt. She knew that part of the plan must be to direct his suspicions onto her – it was dangerous, but she had the confidence that she could not only lead him away from the true source of the information leaks from the German General Staff, but also avoid getting herself into trouble. She had confidence in her ability to pull it off. After all, she had done it before.
She was sitting on a crate in front of the market, looking out into the square with a view of the astronomical clock on the Staromìstská radnice, the Old Town Hall building. As a cover for her presence, she was the niece of the proprietor and had come for a visit from her home a nearby village. This allowed her the freedom to appear in public and even to get out and see some of the city. The past two days had been enjoyable – it had been years since she had been to Prague.
So now she sat, deep in thought. To passers-by she appeared to be a bored vendor, waiting for someone to stop and buy her produce. But in reality, her mind was in a place far away, and a time not long past.
After the night she had spent with Vladimir in Lubicz, they had spent most of their quiet time on the journey back to Russia talking. The floodgates had been opened that night, and Marya had felt her true self come pouring out. She reveled in the opportunity to just talk to someone who had no expectations of her; who only wanted her to be herself. She had bottled up the person that she was for so long, that it almost felt like she was living again for the first time. For those few weeks, Svetlana was allowed to emerge, if only after the day’s traveling was through.
At first she had been embarrassed for breaking down in front of Vladimir. But that first night, as she sat crying and feeling sorry for herself for what she had sacrificed, Vladimir had simply sat there, holding her hand silently, letting her release the pent up emotion. She had found that very comforting.
And through those weeks of travel, Vladimir had also convinced her that she had been wrong – she didn’t have to give up herself, to stop being Svetlana, in order to do her job, to be Marya. It was perfectly fine, he had said, to be both. Being Svetlana did not necessarily mean that she had to give up being Marya. There was a time and a place for both. She could still remember Vladimir’s words…
In your kind of work, you must keep your real self bottled up inside most of the time. But if you cannot let your self emerge occasionally, if you have nobody to share that with, then the person that you are will fade away forever, Tovarish Marya.
Vladimir had offered to be the person, in spite of how she had treated him when they first met. He had forgiven her for telling Hochstetter about him, even before Hochstetter’s men took him away. Later, he had reached into her soul and found the Svetlana that she had hidden away when she was still a youth and coaxed it out, simply by saying those words. And he wanted nothing from her in return but her friendship.
Marya’s thoughts were interrupted as an SS Captain stopped, looked over the produce that was on display in front of the market and picked up an apple. She smiled at him as he started to walk away. He didn’t offer to pay for the apple, and she knew that if she insisted, there could be trouble for the market proprietor. The SS Captain nodded to her as he walked away, taking bites from the apple.
Before Marya could return to her thoughts, the clock in the square began tolling the noon hour. From where she was sitting, she could see the procession of apostles appearing in the windows above the clock face and hear the bones of the skeleton of Death rattle with each toll of the bell.
While the bell was tolling, an old farmer plodded up to the market, carrying a fully loaded sack over his hunched shoulder. Marya recognized him as the resistance agent that would receive the information she needed. Before arriving in Prague, she had stopped to meet with Jack, her contact in Leipzig. Jack was Major Josef Freitag, of the Leipzig Gestapo. She had needed him to contact Michael in Berlin to find out the whereabouts of von Waffenschmidt and where he was in his investigation. She did not want to risk a trip to Berlin herself, as she wanted to remain out of sight until she had her plan worked out. Since Michael was Major Kurt Wagner of the Abwehr, his job was intelligence, and he would be able to get this information for her.
The old man walked up to Marya and said, “I have sugar beets here, picked by my granddaughter this morning.” Marya nodded, the man was telling her that he had received a message for her over the radio.
“Come inside,” she replied. “My uncle will be glad to look at them.”
She followed the old man into the market and over to the counter where the proprietor was standing. He took the sack from the old man and nodded towards Marya. The man reached into the sack, grabbing one of the beets from the top.
He handed the beet to Marya and said, “These are very good. Here, I give this one to the pretty woman to enjoy.”
Marya took the beet and nodded, “Thank you, kind sir,” she replied.
The proprietor quickly looked over the contents of the sack and said, “Yes, these look very good.” He looked at Marya and motioned her towards the back of the market with his eyes. He was telling her that it was all right for her to use the back room of the market to read the message. Marya left the two men to conduct their business, which she knew was a formality. The beets would be bought and the price paid to the farmer would be good. The two men were part of the same resistance group.
Marya went to the back room and examined the beet. It had been cut in such a way to allow it to be hollowed out so that the message could be put inside. The cut part could then be fitted back in, leaving no visible trace of the cut. Marya found the plug and pried it out with a knife. Inside was a small wooden box containing a piece of paper that read:
Currently von W with Himmler. To be in Berlin on 31 Oct. Secret plans, trap to catch leak. Ears on General Staff. Important, contact must be warned. Needs exercise caution with voice. Will notify Center. SD no information, von W working alone, but suspects M. General Staff still at Wolf. No plans to move at this time.
After reading the message, Marya threw it into the burning stove along with the wooden box to avoid having it fall into the wrong hands. Then to hide the delivery method, she peeled and sliced the sugar beet, put it in the pot containing soup that was bubbling away on the stove.
When she returned to the front of the market, the old man was gone. “I have put the beet in the soup,” she told the proprietor. “The man was right, it was good quality.” The proprietor nodded his understanding. He knew she had gotten the information she was waiting for.
Marya returned to the outside of the market and sat again on the crate, staring into the square. Now that she had the information, what was she going to do? Michael will take care of notifying the Center about von Waffenschmidt’s monitoring of the General Staff personnel. If their leak attempted to use the radio to transmit the plans, he could be caught. Their leak would have to be careful. The Center would take care of alerting their agents already in Rastenburg, who were in minimal contact with their leak.
She was glad that she had recommended that Vladimir be stationed at Rastenburg. With the situation becoming more tightly scrutinized, she was happy to have someone in charge that had been in that situation before. Vladimir, being part of Hogan’s outfit, would know how to be careful.
Marya now had to devise a plan to lure von Waffenschmidt away from the true source of the leak. She had almost two weeks before he would be in Berlin. Hearing that von Waffenschmidt was working alone was not a surprise. He wanted to get all the credit for stopping the leak.
Hearing that he already suspected her was a pleasant surprise. Marya smiled to herself. She could use his egotism against him. It would take some time to set up properly, but she knew just how she was going to do it.
Hammelburg, Outside of Johann Mueller’s Shoe Shop
October 20, 1943, 1900 hours
Ilse Wagner had just turned eighteen years old. She was a pretty young woman, and not dissatisfied with her lot in life. Her mother had died at the beginning of the war – the doctors had said it was a tumor of some kind in her brain. But Ilse lived with her father, Friedrich, and two brothers on the family farm just outside of Hammelburg. Life was hard and the family didn’t have very much, but they did have each other. This made them a close-knit family. Ilse was the baby of the family, being twelve years younger than her brother Karl. Her other brother Hans was two years older than Karl, and was the more protective of his baby sister.
Ilse worked in the shoe shop of Johann Mueller in Hammelburg, keeping the books, greeting customers and cleaning up the shop. She knew that Johann didn’t really need her help in the shop, but had given her the job out of friendship with her father. He had said that she added a bright spark to an otherwise drab shoe shop. She was grateful for the extra money and gladly gave it to her father to help support the family. Her father wanted her to keep the money and treat herself to some of the things a young woman wanted, such as nicer clothes, but Ilse refused, saying that her family was more important than clothes.
Every evening, after the shop closed, she would remain behind and clean up. Johann didn’t like the idea of her remaining so late and having to walk home alone. But every night, her father or one of her brothers would come to accompany her back to the farm, so Johann agreed to let her stay late. Usually, Karl or Hans would walk home with her, as both of them worked as handymen and did odd jobs around the town. She enjoyed the nights when both of them would accompany her home.
Tonight when she locked up, she did not see anyone waiting for her. She thought about waiting for someone to show up, but the October evenings were starting to have that chill that signaled the onset of the winter months. She knew that she would feel warmer if she were walking, so she decided not to wait. This did not bother her, as she had done it before. Hans had not been happy the first time she walked home alone, but she just teased him about being too overprotective of her.
She snuggled in her coat as she began walking. Although it was cold, it was a nice night. There were few clouds, and the moon was shining its soft white light on the town. She was walking along the road that would lead her out of town and to her home. The streets were mostly deserted at this time of night, so the town was quiet. She could hear the dogs barking at Oskar Schnitzer’s kennel at the edge of town and an occasional voice or two in conversation, but mostly all she could hear was the stillness.
As she was passing the Hofbrau at the edge of town, the door opened and two young men in Gestapo uniforms half stumbled out into the night. They emerged so suddenly, that one of them bumped into her and knocked her to the ground. The men looked down at her as she lay there, neither of them offered to help her to her feet.
“Well look at what we have here, Hans,” said the man that bumped into her. “Ein schönes Fräulein that doesn’t watch where she’s going.”
“I see, Franz,” Hans replied. “Ein sehr schönes Fräulein.”
Ilse struggled to her feet and began to walk away. She could tell that the men were drunk, and she wanted to get away from them as soon as she could.
Hans stepped in front of her, blocking her way. “Where are you going in such a hurry, schönes Fräulein?” he asked. “You should apologize to my friend for bumping into him.”
“Ja, that was very rude of you,” Franz added.
Ilse looked at the two men. She had a brief notion telling them what she really thought, but knew that would only cause more trouble. “I’m sorry,” she said curtly. “Now please, I must get home,” she said as she tried to walk around Hans.
Hans grabbed her arm and said, “Not so fast. Maybe we would like to talk to you.”
“Nein,” she replied. “I really must get home.”
“It’s the least you can do, after so rudely bumping into me,” Franz said, moving closer to her, a menacing smile appearing on his face.
“I said I was sorry,” Ilse replied meekly.
“Maybe you do not like us?” Hans asked.
“I do not know you,” Ilse replied.
“Then maybe you should stay and get to know us,” Hans said forcefully. He gripped her arm tighter as he said it. “You might like us.”
Ilse looked around for someone to help her. She saw no one on the street. “Please, let me go home,” she pleaded.
Franz stepped closer and began to caress her cheek. “Hans, schönes Fräulein doesn’t want to talk to us,” he said.
Ilse jerked her head away from his touch and pulled her arm free of Hans’ grasp. Once free, she tried to run away from them. She thought that if she could get into the Hofbrau, someone in there could help her.
Hans reached for her and grabbed her coat. The buttons of her coat ripped off, and she struggled to let it fall free. As she struggled, Franz stepped in front of her and grabbed the front of her dress.
“Nein, nein, schönes Fräulein,” he said softly. “I’m afraid we must insist that you stay and talk with us.”
“Please let me go,” Ilse sobbed. Tears started falling down her face.
The two men did not listen to her. Instead, they walked her down the sidewalk towards a car parked by the curb.
“Please, no,” she pleaded louder. She was scared now, as she realized that there was no way for her to get away from them. “Please let me go,” she yelled.
Hans and Franz shoved her into the back of the car. Hans climbed into the back with Ilse while Franz got in the car, started it and drove away.
As the car drove away, Karl Wagner appeared from around the corner. He had been at Oskar Schnitzer’s reinforcing his dog pens used for the dogs Oskar supplied to the local Luft Stalag. He was running late and was hoping to get to Johann’s shop before his sister left for home.
As the Gestapo car drove past him, he was unaware that his sister was inside.
* * * * * * *
They pushed her out of the car onto the side of the road, and drove away. Before the door closed, she could hear the laughter of the two men coming from the car. For several minutes, she lay sobbing on the roadside. Why? What did I do to deserve this? I didn’t do anything to them. Why would they do this to me? She sobbed harder as she remembered the things Hans and Franz had done to her. She felt dirty and used. She shivered with the memory of their hands touching her body. She sobbed, Why?
After a while, she began to get cold. She knew she should get up and make her way home. Her fathers and brothers would be worried about her. Oh, what will my father think of me now? She found her coat, where they had thrown it beside her. Her dress was ripped down the front, exposing her skin to the cold. She shivered harder now, as she put her coat on. Looking around, she tried to determine where they had dropped her. She realized that they had not dropped her very far from her home, and she started walking in that direction.
As she approached her house, she began to cry again. She felt so ashamed that this had happened to her. She was afraid of what her father and brothers would think of her now, afraid that they would not think her respectable anymore. She reached the door and hesitated, afraid to go in.
She waited until she had stopped crying before opening the door. At the sound of the door opening, her father and brothers all leapt from the chairs they were sitting in.
“Ilse, where were you?” Karl asked. “I stopped by the shop and you had already gone.”
Before she could reply, her father said, “You’ve been crying. And your clothes … Ilse, what has happened?” He had a look of concern on his face.
She started to sob again as she told her family what had happened. They listened quietly until she had finished the story.
“Those animals!” Hans shouted. “I’ll kill them!”
“Hans, no!” Ilse cried. “They are Gestapo, they will kill you.”
“I don’t care,” Hans replied. “They can’t get away with this.” Hans got up to get his coat.
“Where are you going?” Friedrich asked his son.
“I’m going to find them and kill them,” Hans replied angrily.
“Nein!” Friedrich replied.
Hans stopped and looked at his father. Before he could reply, Karl spoke up, “But Father, they cannot be allowed to get away with this.”
Friedrich shook his head. “No, they shouldn’t,” he replied. “But I am the head of the family, and this is my responsibility.”
Hans looked at his father in disbelief. “You are going to kill them?” he asked.
Friedrich shook his head. “Nein,” he replied. “I am going to report this to the Gestapo. They will deal with it.”
“Father, they were the Gestapo,” Karl replied. “They will do nothing.”
“And if we kill them, they will do something,” Friedrich replied, “to us.”
“But Father,” Hans began.
“Nein!” Friedrich replied forcefully. “You must let me handle this. You two stay here with your sister. Please see that she is not hurt.”
“Father, do not go alone,” Ilse begged. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Friedrich walked over to his daughter and embraced her tightly. “Ilse dear,” he said softly. “They cannot hurt me any more than they already have by what they did to you.”
He put on his coat and left the house.
* * * * * * *
Friedrich Wagner stood in front of Major Hochstetter’s desk in Gestapo Headquarters. The police had refused to talk to him further, once he said that two Gestapo men were involved.
“So, Herr Wagner,” Hochstetter said. “You say that two of my men, who called themselves Hans and Franz, attacked your daughter?”
Friedrich nodded. “Yes, Herr Major,” he replied. “It happened tonight.”
“And you have proof that it was two on my men?” Hochstetter asked.
“Proof?” Friedrich asked. “My daughter told me that they were wearing Gestapo uniforms and called each other Hans and Franz,” he said. “And they drove her away in a Gestapo car.”
“So she got in the car with them?” Hochstetter asked smoothly, a small humorless smile stretched the corners of his mouth.
“She was forced into the car,” Friedrich replied forcefully.
“Herr Wagner, there is no need to raise your voice at me,” Hochstetter purred.
“Major Hochstetter,” Friedrich said angrily. “My daughter was attacked tonight by two of your men. I demand that you do something about it.”
Major Hochstetter smiled a cold, humorless smile. “Herr Wagner, who are you to make demands on the Gestapo?” he asked slowly.
“Major Hochstetter, excuse me please,” replied Friedrich. “My daughter was violated and that upsets me.” Friedrich paused, looking at the wall above Hochstetter’s head. “But surely you cannot allow your men to treat an eighteen year old girl that way,” he continued.
Hochstetter chuckled without humor. “Eighteen years old is no longer a girl, Herr Wagner,” he said.
“It shouldn’t matter whether she is eighteen or eighty,” Friedrich said tightly.
“Ah, but it does, Herr Wagner,” Hochstetter replied. “You said that she got in the car with these men.”
“She was forced into the car,” Friedrich corrected.
“So she says,” Hochstetter countered. “You have given me no proof of that. She is only eighteen. She may have been hoping that my men would pay her some attention, and when they didn’t, she could have made up the story.”
“But her clothes were torn,” Friedrich said.
Hochstetter shrugged. “She could have done that herself,” he replied.
Friedrich couldn’t believe his ears. “Why would she do that?” he asked.
Hochstetter shrugged again. “A woman scorned,” he said casually.
“Nein!” Friedrich said loudly. “My daughter would not do that.”
“If you say so, Herr Wagner,” Hochstetter replied. “So let us assume that she didn’t.”
Friedrich nodded. He hoped that now the Major would do something about it. As soon as Hochstetter spoke again, he knew that hope was in vain.
“I do know that many young women have some interesting ways of making extra money,” Hochstetter said. “Perhaps your daughter went willingly with these men, and they refused to pay her price for the services. And to get back at them, she claims that they forced her against her will.”
Friedrich exploded. “How dare you suggest that my daughter is that kind of girl!”” he screamed.
“Herr Wagner,” Hochstetter yelled back, rising from his seat. “I have sat here long enough listening to this. You come here and accuse my men of a minor indiscretion and show me no proof.”
“A minor indiscretion?” Friedrich asked incredulously. “And what would you consider a major indiscretion?”
“Herr Wagner,” Hochstetter said through clenched teeth, “you are on the verge of committing a major indiscretion. I have listened to you long enough, and you have failed to convince me. I suggest that you return home now, and I will forget that you have made unwarranted accusations against the Gestapo.”
Friedrich stared at the Major. He couldn’t believe that this was happening. “What kind of world do we live in, if we let this kind of thing go unpunished,” he said softly.
Hochstetter laughed out loud. “It is a new world and you had better get used to it, Herr Wagner,” he said. “Because there is nothing you can do about it.” Hochstetter motioned towards the door. “Now, if you please,” he said with a smile on his face.
* * * * * * *
A stunned Friedrich Wagner had walked home. He couldn’t believe that this could happen. His daughter was attacked, and the police would do nothing about it. Not only would they not do anything, they mocked him and all but called his daughter a prostitute.
When he got home, he told his family what happened in town. Ilse listened stoically, no hint of expression on her face. It was as if she had buried herself behind a wall for protection. The only hint of emotion she showed was that her eyes were glassy and wet. But she refused to let the tears escape.
Karl Wagner simply sat, listening to his father speak. The whole time he was looking at his dear sister. Why would someone do this to you? You’re a sweet wonderful girl, and this has to happen to you. Ilse, I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you left for home. Why didn’t you wait for me? If I had been there, none of this would have happened. Please forgive me, Ilse. I promise that I will not let this go unpunished. Somehow, someway, those men will pay for what they did to you.
Hans Wagner reacted quite differently. As he listened to his father tell what happened, his eyes slowly filled with hate. When Friedrich finished, Hans had yelled and screamed and threatened. Friedrich tried hard to pacify him, to tell him that there was nothing that could be done, but Hans would hear none of it. His whole mind was filled with rage at the monsters that would do that to his sister, and then call her names. He tried to leave the house to hunt the men down, but both Karl and Friedrich blocked the door.
In the end, it was Ilse that managed to get through to Hans. She got up from her chair and walked over to her brother as he paced the room like a caged animal. She looked at him and said, “Hans, please, calm down. There’s nothing you can do right now.”
He looked at her, still angry. “But what they did to you,” he sputtered.
“Hans, I don’t want to see you get hurt,” she said softly. “Please calm down. Do it for me, please?”
Hans looked at his sister. His heart was breaking with the sorrow he felt for her. He brushed a stray hair out of her face and smiled at her. “I’ll calm down, Ilse,” he said. “For you.” For tonight - But I swear that the men that did this to you will pay with their lives, if it is the last thing I ever do.
Hammelburg, Luftwaffe Regional Headquarters, Office of General Albert Burkhalter
October 21, 1943, 1330 hours
General Burkhalter was annoyed. He always felt annoyed after talking with Major Hochstetter. The Gestapo Major talked incessantly of his hatred for all things, such as the Allies, the Underground, Colonel Wilhelm Klink. The man probably hates women too. Burkhalter chuckled. Of course, if I were a woman, I would consider that a blessing. But the most incessant rant of all was his belief that Colonel Hogan was responsible for the many acts of sabotage in the area. Burkhalter chuckled again. I wonder what you would do if you knew just how correct you are, Major.
It was about a month ago when Burkhalter had reasoned out that Hogan was not simply a prisoner of war. Hogan was a man that was able to send information back to the Allies. If he could do that, then it was not a stretch to think that he may have some connection to sabotage activities. Burkhalter had decided that he would silently and ever so carefully support that activity. But in order for Hogan to continue to operate, Klink needed to be in charge of the camp. Burkhalter knew that Klink’s incompetence was what enabled Hogan to operate.
That led to Burkhalter’s dilemma. In the past four weeks, three trains had been blown up in the area. Berlin had been insistent that the next train must make it through, as it contained airplane parts vitally needed in the factories. They couldn’t understand how the underground had known about the trains, especially the last one. The last train was an ammunition train that was disguised as a hospital train, but had been blown up anyway.
Burkhalter knew how they knew, since he had been the one to pass the information. Operating under the guise that the Kommandants of the Stalags in the area should be told, he passed the information to the three Kommandants, Klink being one of them. He knew that Hogan would somehow get the information from Klink, and he was not disappointed when the trains had been blown up.
But this time, Reichsmarschall Goering had insisted, with a little persuasion from Reichsführer Himmler, that he work with the local Gestapo to ensure that the train made it through safely. That meant that he had to work with Hochstetter, and Hochstetter would just love to get his hands on Colonel Hogan. And so, Burkhalter had to risk exposing Hogan, or risk becoming a casualty figure on the Eastern Front.
Burkhalter decided that the next train would be disguised as a luxury passenger liner, the Berlin Express, and had sent the schedule to the three Kommandants as before. Hochstetter had a man, Captain Herber, that Burkhalter was forced to assign to Stalag 13 as Klink’s aide. Herber was supposed to spy on Klink to see if he was the one passing the information.
And now, Burkhalter had to wait and hope that Hogan was as clever as he seemed. Maybe Hogan would be able to obtain the information without being noticed, and without implicating his Kommandant.
Burkhalter sighed. There was nothing he could do now but wait and see what happened. The good thing about this is that I can stay away from Berlin while I am waiting. Any amount of time I spend away from Berta is worthwhile. And if I am lucky, Hogan will manage to destroy the train and since Hochstetter is supposed to be preventing that, maybe he will get the blame rather than me.
Prague, Safe House in Stare Mesto
October 23, 1943, 1130 hours
The old farmer had brought another message the day before. This message indicated that The Center had received the warning, and had briefed Sam of the situation before he began his journey to East Prussia. She was to continue with her original mission of distracting von Waffenschmidt.
In the three days since the first message, she had formulated her plan to neutralize von Waffenschmidt. The flamboyant Marya would return, and make him really believe that she is the one who is getting the information back to Moscow. To do this meant that she had to stop all contact with of her agents to avoid the risk of their discovery. It was a risky plan. If von Waffenschmidt believed she acted alone, he might just shoot her and be done with it. She knew that wouldn’t stop the information leak, but it would put a stop to Marya.
Before she broke off contact, she had several transmissions to make, to coordinate everything that must be done. She knew Vladimir would not yet be in Rastenburg, but she needed to contact the agents there with instructions for them. Michael, in Berlin, would be her emergency contact. Any messages for her would be sent to him, and relayed to her if she made contact. He would also be informed of the alternate plan to carry out in the event something happened to her.
She had decided that when the old farmer returned today, she would accompany him to his farm, on the pretext of meeting his granddaughter. It would be easier for her to send her communications if she was operating the radio herself, rather than passing many messages back with the farmer.
She had resumed her perch on the crate outside of the market, looking over the square. She had been sitting there every day since she had arrived in Prague, and several of the local residents had started to convey their greetings as they passed. This bothered her a little, as they would also notice her absence after she had gone. Since she had told people that she was the niece of the proprietor and was visiting from her village, the proprietor would just say that she had ended her visit and returned home.
As she looked around, she saw the old farmer talking towards the market, his shoulders hunched as he carried a heavy sack of produce. It was almost time for her to go.
As she rose, to greet the old farmer, an SS Captain stopped in front of the market. He was the same Captain that had been stopping for an apple every day that she had been there.
As the SS man looked over the fruit in the barrel, the old farmer stopped beside Marya and said, ”Today’s produce is not so plentiful. I had to pick it myself, as my granddaughter is not feeling well today. I do hope your uncle will still buy it.” This was the code phrase that told Marya that there was not a message for her.
“I’m sure that he will give you a fair price,” she replied smiling. “I am sorry to hear about your granddaughter,” she said. “Maybe I can accompany you home to visit with her.”
The old man looked at her and nodded. “I am sure that she would enjoy that,” he said. The farmer had understood the meaning behind Marya’s request.
The SS Captain had picked an apple. He said good-bye to Marya and nodded at the old farmer as he walked away.
“Please come inside,” Marya said. “My uncle will look at your produce.” The SS Captain did not look back as he walked away. The old farmer breathed a sigh of relief and whispered, “I am nervous when they are around.”
Marya nodded and led the farmer into the market. “Here is some produce for you to look at uncle,” she said, motioning to the sack that the farmer had set on the floor. “His granddaughter is not feeling well. If you can spare me today, I will accompany him back to his farm to visit with her. I will return tomorrow.”
The merchant nodded his understanding. Marya had told him of her plans to travel to the farm to use the radio. “That is fine. Enjoy your visit,” he said.
As they left the market, Marya’s mind was going over her plans again. Her time in Prague as the merchant’s niece was nearing an end, but she had decided that Marya would return to Prague while leading von Waffenschmidt around. That would give her a chance to see more of the city. She smiled at the thought. Look out Third Reich. Marya is back!
Hammelburg Area, Hideaway Chalet of General Burkhalter
October 26, 1943, 2230 hours
Albert Burkhalter poured himself a glass of brandy. He raised the glass in the air and said, “Here’s to you, Colonel Robert Hogan. An excellent performance! Not only did you manage to blow up the train containing the much needed airplane parts, you managed to rescue Klink from trouble and implicate a loyal Gestapo officer at the same time.”
Burkhalter was alone in his chalet, having decided to stay in the Hammelburg area for a while longer. He had been truly impressed with Hogan’s ability as the events unfolded. His only regret is that the loyal Gestapo officer that took the blame for the sabotage was not Major Hochstetter. That man is trouble, thought Burkhalter.
At first, Burkhalter had been worried that he would take the blame for the sabotage of the train, as Goering had made him responsible for making sure it arrived safely. Lucky for him, Himmler had insisted that Burkhalter work with the local Gestapo. So this time, Hochstetter’s man had taken the blame, though the General knew that Hogan had played a big part in that.
So to celebrate, Burkhalter had decided to visit his chalet for a few days. He would avoid dealing with the war and maybe even enjoy the company of a nice woman in town. He thought about his wife waiting for him back home in Berlin. Yes, I will definitely have to enjoy the company of a nice woman while I am here. After I get home, I will have to spend time with Berta. What an unpleasant prospect that is!
Lately he had been growing disenchanted with the way his life was. He was seeing his country ruined slowly by a madman, which nauseated him. His personal life was becoming equally nauseating. Berta was always complaining about something, her usual complaint being that hadn’t been afforded the honor of being a full member of the General Staff. The truth was, that would hardly have been an honor – and most likely would have been the ruin of him. The General Staff was always taking the blame from Hitler for the mistaken decisions that he made. The General Staff in turn blamed the Generals in the field for not carrying out the orders correctly.
Burkhalter sighed. Berta is a pain. She wants to be married to power, and I do not have enough to suit her. He chuckled softly to himself. If it were possible, I would send her to the Eastern Front. She could win the war single handedly by nagging the Russians into submission. The new German secret weapon, Berta Burkhalter – Louder than a screaming Stuka, more devastating than a Panzer tank, and about as large as one I might add, and more noxious than mustard gas!
He took a sip of his brandy. He tried to push the thoughts of his wife out of his mind. He was staying here to celebrate the fact that he had been able to successfully pass another bit of information to the Allies through Hogan. He didn’t want to spoil his good mood. Again he raised his glass in the air as a salute to the American officer. May you have many more successes Colonel Hogan, he thought.
Hammelburg Area, Farm of Friedrich Wagner
October 28, 1943, 2300 hours
The small group was sitting in the barn at the Wagner farm. Hans and Karl had gathered several of their friends together who all shared the same hatred of what had happened to their sister.
Ilse sat off to the side of the group, avoiding eye contact with everyone. She was ashamed. She was ashamed of what had happened to her, and ashamed that people outside of her family knew it. She was grateful that her brothers did spare her some dignity – they had only told the others that she was attacked. She had enough trouble facing her father’s knowing what had happened to her, let alone having others who were not even close family friends in on the secret.
As uncomfortable as Ilse felt at the moment, she felt an overwhelming desire to see the monsters that attacked her pay for what they did to her. So when she had found out that her brothers had planned to assemble a group of people to make the Gestapo pay, she demanded to be part of it. At first they wouldn’t hear of it, but she had begged and pleaded to be allowed to join them. Reluctantly, they relented.
“I think we are all here,” Hans said to the group assembled. “Let’s get started.”
Heads nodded all around the group as the participants looked expectantly at Hans. His strong personality and even stronger hatred for what happened to his sister had elevated him to be leader of this small group.
“First, we all know why we are here, and what our goal is” he said. “If you do not wish to participate, now is the time to leave.” He looked at each person in the barn in turn. All heads nodded. When Hans reached Ilse, his eyes pleaded with her to go, not wanting her to be a part of this. She met his eyes defiantly and nodded her head.
“Ilse, you do not have to do this,” Hans said to her.
Ilse shook her head. “Hans, I have more of a reason to do this than you do,” she replied. “You can’t keep me out of this.” Their eyes locked. Hans silently pleaded with his sister not to get involved. Again, she nodded her head.
Finally, Hans sighed and looked away. “Those bastards will pay,” he muttered.
“How should we start?” Karl asked his brother.
For a moment, Hans was silent, contemplating the bits of straw strewn around the barn floor. Finally he looked up at his brother and said, “That’s what we are here to decide, little brother.”
Hammelburg, Johann Mueller’s Shoe Shop
October 29, 1943, 1730 hours
Ilse Wagner was sweeping the day’s accumulation of dirt from the floor of the shoe shop. As Johann Mueller watched his employee work, he was troubled. Ilse had not been herself for the past week. When she was in the shop, she hardly spoke, unless it was necessary when dealing with the customers. That was unusual in itself, but the more troubling thing he noticed was the look of fear that appeared on her face at the end of the day as Johann closed up the shop.
As Ilse finished her sweeping task, she noticed Johann staring at her. “Is there something else, Herr Mueller?” she asked.
Johann started to shake his head, but stopped. “Ja,” he said. “Please, come over here and sit. I’d like to talk to you.” Johann noticed that for a fleeting instant, a strange look passed over her face. She looked as if she would suddenly run from the shop.
After a moment, Ilse leaned the broom against the wall and said, “Jawohl, Herr Mueller.” She began to walk over to where Johann was standing.
“Ilse, it’s always been Johann,” he said. “You know that.”
“I’m sorry Johann,” she replied as she sat in a nearby chair. She stared at the floor silently.
“Ilse, what is wrong?” he asked.
Ilse looked up suddenly, as if she had been startled awake. “Nothing,” she said quickly. “What makes you think there is something wrong?”
Johann sighed. “Ilse dear, I have known you since the day you were born,” he said slowly. “You have worked here for the past year and would stop by the shop even before that. You were always smiling and laughing and we would always have pleasant conversations.”
He paused, looking at her. She averted her gaze and resumed staring at the floor.
“This past week, you have never smiled and hardly said a word,” Johann said. “Is there something wrong at home? Is your father ill?”
She shook her head, still looking at the floor.
“Ilse, is it this place?” he asked. “Do you not want to work with me any more?”
She looked up, he eyes moist. “Nein, it is not you,” she said. “Everything is fine. Please do not trouble yourself. I am sorry if my mood has been so gloomy this past week. I will be more cheerful tomorrow.”
“Ilse, what is it?” he asked softly. “Please, tell me. Maybe I can help you.”
Ilse resumed staring at the floor and shook her head slightly. Johann saw her shoulders shaking slightly and he knew that she had started crying.
Johann knelt down on the floor beside her and put his arm on her shoulders. He felt her pull away at the touch. “Ilse, please tell me what is wrong,” he said.
Ilse cried silently for a moment. Then suddenly she threw her arms around Johann and sobbed loudly. Johann patted her and let her release the pent up emotion.
“It was … horrible,” she sobbed. “I … feel … so ashamed.”
Johann continued to hold the young woman as she cried. “What happened?” he asked softly. Whatever it was, Johann knew that it must be terrible.
Ilse continued to cry, but the sobs were waning. “These two Gestapo men …” she began, but couldn’t finish.
Johann’s blood ran cold. He now had an idea what might have happened. “What did they do to you?” he asked hoarsely. “Did they …”
Ilse began sobbing again. “Yes! They did,” she yelled, and began sobbing loudly again. “Father … went to … Gestapo … Head … quarters … and they … just … laughed … at him … and called … me names.”
Johann held her tightly, her head buried in his shirt. Those damn BASTARDS! How could they do that to this child? How cruel do you have to be to do that to such a sweet innocent child? What is this country coming to when this kind of thing can go unpunished?
“Please,” Ilse said between her sobs. “Don’t tell anybody. I’m so ashamed of myself.”
“Now dear,” Johann said soothingly. “You have nothing to be ashamed of. It is those bastards that should be ashamed.”
Ilse pulled away and looked at Johann. “Please don’t tell anyone,” she begged.
Johann smoothed her hair. “I won’t, Ilse. I won’t,” he said.
Just then they heard a knock at the door. “Oh, that will be Hans,” Ilse said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
Johann got up and opened the locked door for Hans Wagner. The moment Hans entered and saw that Ilse had been crying, he knew that something had happened.
“What’s wrong?” he asked quickly, looking at Ilse. He gave a fierce look at Johann.
“Nothing, Hans,” Ilse said. “I … I told Johann what happened,” she added softly.
“They will pay for what they did,” Hans growled, looking at Johann.
“Hans, please don’t do anything stupid,” Johann said.
“Herr Mueller, this is none of your affair,” Hans said viciously. “Please stay out of it!”
“Hans, I have been your father’s friend since before you were born,” Johann replied. “You are right, it is none of my affair, but I am concerned. Your sister needs your support in this.”
“My sister needs my protection,” Hans shouted back.
“But you can’t do that if you get yourself killed,” Johann responded.
“I don’t plan to get myself killed,” Hans retorted. “I plan to kill the men to attacked my sister.”
Johann shook his head in disappointment. “Hans, please be careful,” he said.
A menacing smile spread across Hans’ face. “Oh, I plan to do it carefully,” he growled. “I plan to do it very carefully.”
Johann shook his head again, disappointed in the ferociousness of the man he had watched grow up. He turned to Ilse and asked, “Ilse, are you all right?”
Ilse smiled at him for the first time in over a week. “I will be Johann,” she said. “Soon I will be all right again.” Then she walked out of the shop, following her brother.
Johann watched them leave. Dear God, don’t let them do anything stupid, he thought.
Berlin, Das Brauhaus
November 2, 1943, 1800 hours
Hans Teppel and Kurt Wagner sat at their usual table, isolated in the corner of the tavern. They had found that they usually would be left alone, and could talk softly without being overheard.
“The woman coming to meet us is my sister,” Wagner said.
Teppel nodded knowingly. He knew that the woman that would meet them was the Russian agent known as Marya.
“She has changed,” Wagner continued. “You will not recognize her.”
Teppel took a drink of his beer. So Marya will be in a disguise, he thought. “Is it safe for her to be in Berlin so soon?” he asked.
Wagner nodded. “Ja,” he replied. “She is about to start her journey, and since I will not hear from her in a while, she wanted to talk to me before she left.” After a sip of his beer, Wagner continued, “And she wanted to finally meet you, my friend.” Wagner smiled.
“I look forward to it,” Teppel replied. He took a drink of his beer, emptying the stein. He motioned to Heidi for refills for them both. “I read a report today from our contacts in England,” he said softly. “It seems the Allies are starting to gather troops in the north and south of the country.”
Wagner nodded, and waited to reply as Heidi set the full steins in front of them. They both smiled at the barmaid as she took the empties away.
“Our superiors will be very glad to hear that bit of news,” Wagner replied. “It seems that the promised invasion is being readied.”
Teppel nodded, looking around the smoke filled room. The place was moderately full, with many officers from the various headquarters that still were in place in the city. While it was not out of place for the two Abwehr officers to talk about the information that they encountered during the course of their jobs, it would not be acceptable if it were overheard by the wrong people.
Wagner glanced towards the door. “Ah, here’s my sister now,” he said loudly, waving at the woman who had just walked in the door. The woman noticed the wave and headed in their direction.
Teppel looked at the woman. Wagner was right. He didn’t recognize her at all. This did not look like the Marya he had seen around before. When he had seen Marya before, she always wore the typical Russian fur coat and hat, had long red hair and had a personality that you could not help but notice. The woman walking towards them had short, blonde curly hair and seemed to be somewhat subdued.
As Marya reached the table, both men stood. “Hans, this is my sister Greta,” Wagner said. “Greta, this is Hans Teppel, the man I told you about.”
Marya, playing the role of a blind date, held her hands out to Teppel and said, “It’s very nice to meet you, Hans. Kurt has told me so much about you.”
Teppel took Marya’s hand and gave it a little kiss. “The pleasure is all mine,” he said.
“I hope not!” Marya said with a twinkle in her eye. Marya was playing a role, and Teppel could tell that she enjoyed the part.
The three sat at the table, and Heidi arrived to see if the new arrival wanted a drink. Marya ordered a glass of wine.
“We shall not talk here,” Marya whispered after Heidi left. “We will make small talk and then return to Kurt’s flat and talk.” Then she laughed as if someone had made a joke.
Heidi returned with Marya’s wine. As she was setting it down, Max called over to her for another pickup. Heidi had looked Marya over with a small frown, but gave Teppel a warm smile as she left.
“It looks like you have an admirer, Hans!” Marya said laughing. “Since I am your date for the evening, I should be jealous.”
Teppel made a dismissive gesture, but he could feel himself flush with embarrassment. He picked up his stein and took a drink from it. He noticed that Marya was glancing covertly around the room as the three sat talking. He noticed that her eyes narrowed slightly, and had to resist the urge to turn around to see what she had noticed.
“There’s a man sitting at the bar watching us,” she whispered almost inaudibly. Wagner, who was sitting so that he faced the bar, glanced over.
“He’s been there since we got here,” Wagner said, and then laughed. Marya and Teppel joined in the laughter.
“Look out, he’s coming over here,” Wagner said, lifting his stein and taking a sip of his beer.
The three sat at the table, seemingly unaware of the man’s approach. They all looked at him as he stopped at the table and gave a slight bow.
“Pardon my intrusion, Fräulein, Majors,” the man said. “I am Count von Waffenschmidt.” The three at the table offered greetings. “I couldn’t help noticing the beautiful lady in your company,” von Waffenschmidt continued. “She looked familiar to me, so I had to come by to say hello.” He looked at Marya, “Your name wouldn’t by chance be Marya, would it?” he asked.
Marya laughed. “Nein, my name is Greta,” she said. “This is my brother Kurt,” she nodded towards Wagner, “and this is my date Hans.” Marya smiled at von Waffenschmidt. “My brother thinks I need a husband and likes to arrange for me to meet his friends.”
Count von Waffenschmidt smiled politely. “I’m sure you do not need your brother’s help to attract men,” he said. The smile was friendly, but Marya could tell that it was not genuine.
“Would you care to join us, Count?” she asked.
Von Waffenschmidt shook his head. “Thank you, but no,” he said. “As I said, I thought you were someone that I was acquainted with. I’m sorry to bother you.”
The three at the table watched as von Waffenschmidt walked towards the door and left the Brauhaus.
“That was interesting,” Wagner said.
“Why did you want him to stay?” Teppel asked Marya. “The longer he stayed, the more likely he would be to recognize you.”
Marya shrugged. “No matter,” she said. “He wouldn’t have stayed, and if I hadn’t have asked, he might have been more suspicious. Besides, I don’t think he believed the story anyway. He’s still not sure.”
“How do you know?” Teppel asked.
Marya laughed, and the twinkle reappeared in her eyes. “Hansie, I know men,” she said.
“This one may be a challenge to you,” Wagner said. “From what I have heard, you feminine types are not exactly to his tastes.”
“Ja,” she said laughing. “I could tell that too.”
“So what now?” asked Teppel.
“Nothing has changed,” she replied. “We will stay here for a little while longer and then go to Kurt’s flat and talk.” She picked up her glass of wine and offered a toast.
* * * * * * *
As Marya left the Brauhaus with Wagner and Teppel, she spotted von Waffenschmidt sitting in a car parked across the street. “He’s waiting for us,” she said to the men. “Hans, give me your arm.”
Teppel held out his arm to her and she grasped it tightly, leaning against him and placing her head against his shoulder. “He will follow us until he is sure that I am Kurt’s sister.”
They were walking down the street now, Marya leaning closely to Teppel as though they were lovers to be. Wagner walked along side, looking like the big brother looking after his sister.
“Do we still go to my flat?” Wagner asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “We will go there and talk, and then Hans and I will go to his flat for the night.”
Teppel almost stopped dead in his tracks. His hesitation made him stumble. “My flat?” he asked.
“But of course, Hansie darling,” she cooed. “We must complete the act of two lovers out for an evening.
“But …” Teppel sputtered. He wasn’t displeased by the notion of spending the night with Marya, but the suddenness of the situation was a shock to him.
Marya stopped and turned Teppel towards her. She leaned close and said, “Do not worry. If the thought of it is repulsive to you …” She had a devious smile on her face.
“It’s not that,” he sputtered in reply. “Quite the contrary. It just surprised me.”
Marya laughed and reached up to give him a small kiss on the cheek. He leaned down to accommodate her shorter height. She whispered in his ear, “You play the part well, Hans. Since we have so much to accomplish tonight, we will not have a chance to do the things that you were thinking of when I made the suggestion.”
Marya leaned back and smiled warmly at Teppel. He could feel his face redden with embarrassment. Even on the darkened street, Marya could sense it and began to laugh heartily. She took his arm again, and the resumed walking towards Wagner’s flat.
* * * * * * *
When they reached the building where Kurt Wagner lived, Wagner held the door open for Marya and Teppel. As he did, he glanced down the street.
“He’s still back there,” he said.
“I told you, he’s still suspicious,” Marya replied. “That is why Hans and I have to go to his flat tonight.” She paused, throwing Teppel a mischievous grin. “At least that is one of the reasons.”
Teppel laughed nervously. He hadn’t quite figured out if Marya was playing a game with him or not. “I have a question,” he said. “If you are supposed to be Kurt’s sister and my date, why wouldn’t we go to my flat first and then have you accompany your brother back home?”
Marya laughed. “Hansie darling, my brother is trying to find me a husband,” she replied. “That is very difficult to do with a chaperon around all the time.”
They entered the building and walked up the stairs to Kurt’s flat. When they entered, the three were silent for a few moments while they checked for listening devices. Kurt knew it was probably a useless exercise, but he had always made it a habit to check.
Finding nothing, the three sat down and let Marya go over her plans. Teppel noticed that there was no hint of the playfulness in her demeanor now. Marya seemed to know when it was time for business and when it was all right to play.
“Once I leave here, I will not be able to make contact without risking our agents,” Marya said to Wagner. “So I will be on my own.”
Wagner nodded his understanding. “I will contact The Center when you begin,” he said.
“What are you planning to do?” Teppel asked.
“You are aware of what von Waffenschmidt’s mission is?” she asked. Teppel nodded. “I am to be a decoy to lead him away from the real source of our information.”
“That way he will suspect you and hope that you will lead him to the rest of your contacts.” Teppel stated.
Marya nodded. “Yes, which is why I must not contact anyone,” she said.
“What do you need from me?” Teppel asked her.
“Just keep Kurt apprised of anything you may hear about von Waffenschmidt’s investigation into the leak,” she replied.
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Wagner replied. “Hans and I have been doing that already.”
Teppel nodded his agreement. “If von Waffenschmidt is reporting anything back to his superiors, I should hear about it,” he said. “But once you get von Waffenschmidt to suspect you, how do you get rid of him?”
Marya laughed grimly. “I’ll figure something out,” she replied.
Teppel stared at her and said nothing. She is putting herself out as bait to draw a Gestapo investigator away from their source in the General Staff, and she doesn’t even have a planned end game strategy? I would be shaking in my boots if my life was that much on the line. She’s sitting here discussing it as calmly as one would discuss the quality of a meal at a restaurant. Teppel was pulled from his thoughts as Marya rose from her chair and said that it was time for them to go.
* * * * * * *
Teppel and Marya had noticed von Waffenschmidt still waiting for them as they came out of the building, so they walked arm in arm down the street like two lovers. Their walk was slow, as if they wanted the experience to last as long as possible. When they reached the apartment building, Marya pulled Teppel aside and put her arms around him.
“Kiss me,” she said, and pushed herself against him.
Teppel was surprised, but put his arms around Marya and kissed her back. After a moment, they broke, and Marya put her head on Teppel’s chest.
“That should help convince von Waffenschmidt,” she said. “We can go inside now.”
Teppel took a deep breath. “You are going to give me a heart attack if you keep doing that,” he said hoarsely.
Marya laughed. “I do like to keep people off guard,” she replied. “Let’s go inside now.”
He opened the door for Marya and they ascended the steps to his flat. After a quick check for listening devices, they removed their coats and settled down.
“I see that your flat is visible from the street,” Marya stated. “That is good. We should turn the lights of in a couple of minutes. Von Waffenschmidt’s dirty mind will think that we will be busy until morning.”
“Do you think he will stay outside that long?” Teppel asked.
“It’s possible, but I doubt it,” she replied. “He would be stupid to stay out there if the Allies bomb Berlin tonight.”
Teppel nodded. “That is a distinct possibility too,” he said.
They talked for a few more minutes, and then Teppel went to turn out the lights. He joined Marya by the window to look out at the street.
“There he is,” she said. “Parked by the corner.”
“I see,” he replied. “He’s not very subtle when he follows people, is he.”
“That’s what I am counting on,” she said.
“So what exactly is your plan?” he asked her. “Do you just plan to lead von Waffenschmidt around for the rest of the war?”
Marya laughed at the thought. “That could be fun,” she replied. “But I have something else in mind. I would like to discredit him somehow. ” She paused. “Or take him out.”
Teppel was a bit surprised. “You mean kill him?” he asked.
“I’d rather have someone else do it,” she said. “Killing a Gestapo man is a sure way to shorten your life span, especially one that is known to be following you.”
Teppel nodded in the dark. “If you need something from me, get in touch with Kurt,” he said.
“If I have to get in touch with anybody,” she said, “then either I am ready to make my move on von Waffenschmidt or I am in real trouble.”
After a few moments standing by the window, they moved across the darkened room to the sofa. “And now there is nothing to do but wait,” he said.
“There are other things that can be done, Hansie,” Marya cooed.
“Marya, you are doing everything you can to make it hard for me,” Teppel said.
As soon as he finished his sentence, he realized what he just said. Beside him, Marya broke out in laughter. Teppel could feel the warmth spread over his face, and he was glad that the lights were out so she wouldn’t see his embarrassment. Marya’s laughter was contagious though, and soon Teppel himself was chuckling.
“As I was saying, you are doing everything you can to make it difficult for me to resist,” he said, choking back the last of his laugh. “But tonight is not the right time.”
“You do not find it a pleasant thought?” she asked.
Though her voice never wavered, Teppel thought he could sense some insecurity in it. “Actually, quite the opposite,” he admitted. “But you are here because you do not want someone to know who you really are, and I don’t want to take advantage of that situation.”
Marya was silent for several moments. “I spend a lot of time not wanting people to know who I really am,” she said softly.
“Come back when you want me to know,” he replied. “I would find that very pleasant.”
They were silent for a while, sitting beside each other. Then Marya leaned against Teppel’s shoulder.
They spent the rest of the night on the sofa, listening to the distant anti-aircraft fire and the Allied bombs dropping on the German cities and talking until they both fell asleep.
Hammelburg, Outside of the Hofbrau
November 3, 1943, 2100 hours
Hans Wagner was hiding in the alley behind the Hofbrau. Beside him were his brother Karl and his sister Ilse. Both Hans and Karl had pleaded with Ilse to stay at home that evening, but she would hear none of it. This was her battle, and she refused to be left out of it.
They looked out at their objective. The Gestapo car was sitting in the parking area at the side of the building. Karl had worried that it would be parked too close to the building, but Hans didn’t care. He was going to blow up the car no matter what.
Hans looked at his watch. It was time. He looked around to make sure he wouldn’t be seen as he made his way to the car. Seeing nobody, he crept out of the ally, staying in the shadows until he reached the car. He moved towards the gas tank and removed the cap. Removing the oil soaked rag that he had in his pocket; he stuffed it down the opening to the gas tank. He struck a match, lit the rag, and ran back to the ally.
He reached the alley in time to turn and see the car burst into flames. The force of the explosion lifted the entire back end of the car into the air and caused the windows of the nearby cars to shatter. Hans smiled as the heat of the burning wreck warmed his face.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said to Karl and Ilse. “We don’t want to be caught.”
As they started to move down the dark alley, they heard another explosion. Hans knew that was another Gestapo car blowing up. Seconds later, another explosion signaled the third car going up in flames.
Hans was pleased. His small group had targeted three cars for that evening. From the sounds he had heard, all three targets had been hit. They heard the sirens echo in the night as the fire brigade responded to the emergency. Now he hoped that everyone would be able to make it back to the barn safely.
* * * * * * *
When the Wagners returned to their barn, they found that Max Becker and Rudolf Albrecht were already there, waiting. Max and Rudolf had been assigned to take care of one of the cars that evening.
“Did you have any trouble?” Max asked Hans as they entered the barn.
“Nein, it went beautifully,” Hans replied. “How about you?”
“No troubles at all,” Rudolf answered. “There will be nothing left of that car.”
Hans smiled. “Wonderful,” he said. “Now we wait for Otto and Heinrich.”
Otto Bauer and Heinrich Schneider were the other two men in Hans’ group. They had the task of taking care of the third car.
“This was a great idea hitting three Gestapo cars in the same night,” Max said.
Hans nodded. “Ja, hit them hard right form the start,” he replied. Before he could continue, they heard noises outside the barn followed by the door opening. Otto and Heinrich had returned.
Hans saw the smiles on their faces and didn’t have to ask how it went. “It looks like you had no troubles tonight,” Hans said.
“None at all,” Otto replied. “It was quite easy.”
“Good,” Hans replied. “We’ll let the excitement die down a little before we pull off our next job.” The dim light of the barn gave his face an eerie appearance as he smiled at his small group. “Everyone be careful going home. It seems that someone upset the Gestapo this evening.”
Everyone laughed as they headed out of the barn to make their way home. Hans looked at his sister and said, “And did you enjoy this evenings entertainment, Ilse?”
A broad grin nearly split Ilse’s face. “Ja, it was exciting,” she replied.
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters, Office of Major Wolfgang Hochstetter
November 3, 1943, 2230 hours
Hochstetter slammed his fist on his disk. “THREE CARS BLOWN UP!” he screamed. “WHY?”
“I don’t know, Major,” Captain August Dorfmann replied stoically.
Hochstetter glared at the Captain. Dorfmann had been assigned to him after Captain Herber was arrested for sabotaging four trains in the area. Hochstetter had hoped that he could blame Klink for those and be done with the dimwitted Colonel, but it turned out that a member of his own staff had been responsible. There had been no reason to doubt the capability of the new young officer, but for some reason Hochstetter didn’t feel comfortable with him. Ah well, at least he doesn’t click his heels every time he hears his name.
“And what are you doing to find out?” Hochstetter growled at him.
“We have patrols all over town, sir,” Dorfmann replied. “And we are checking the locations that we suspect to be underground meeting places.”
“Do you think the underground is responsible for this?” Hochstetter asked.
“It’s a possibility, Major,” Dorfmann said.
“The underground blows up factories, bridges, and trains,” Hochstetter retorted. “Why would they waste their time on small things like automobiles?”
“We are expending resources to investigate the explosions, sir,” Dorfmann replied.
“So you are suggesting that this could be a diversion to keep us occupied while another target is attacked?” Hochstetter asked.
“That is also a possibility, Major Hochstetter,” Dorfmann replied blandly.
“It seems, Captain, that you have a lot of possibilities,” Hochstetter said angrily. “Do you have anything you are sure about?”
“I am sure that three Gestapo automobiles were blown up in Hammelburg tonight,” Dorfmann replied.
“Of course you are sure about that,” Hochstetter screamed. “You saw the burning wrecks yourself. Even an idiot would be sure of that.”
Captain Dorfmann opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it. Yes, Major Hochstetter. Even you would be sure of that.
Major Hochstetter paced around his office like a caged tiger. Someone would pay for this blatant attack on the Gestapo. He didn’t even care if the people that paid for it were the people responsible. Someone had to pay.
Suddenly he stopped pacing. “Captain, call that idiot Klink at Stalag 13,” he said. “Order him to call an immediate roll call of his prisoners. I want to know if there is anyone missing.”
Dorfmann fought the urge to roll his eyes. Oh no, another rant about Colonel Hogan, he thought. Even though he hadn’t been assigned to the Hammelburg Headquarters for very long, he had heard enough about Colonel Hogan and the preposterous idea that a prisoner was responsible for all the sabotage in the area.
“And then what, sir?” Dorfmann asked.
“He is to call me back immediately and tell me if anyone is missing,” Hochstetter replied. “Tell him that if he doesn’t, I will pay him a visit myself.”
“Jawohl, Major,” Dorfmann replied.
* * * * * * *
Baker was startled by the sudden activity on the switchboard. It was his night to man the radio room in the tunnel, and keep an ear on the Stalag 13 switchboard tap. He plugged into the switchboard and put on the headset to listen.
“Heil Hitler, Stalag 13,” Klink said sleepily.
“Colonel Klink, this is Captain Dorfmann at Gestapo Headquarters in Hammelburg,” Dorfmann replied.
Baker could picture Klink bounding out of bed to stand at attention at the mention of the word Gestapo. Baker would have bet that Klink would even put his monocle in just to be more German.
“Good evening Captain. What can I do for you?” Klink asked.
“We have had some trouble in town tonight,” Dorfmann said. “Three Gestapo automobiles were destroyed by explosion. We are looking for the people responsible now. Major Hochstetter wants you to call a roll call of your prisoners immediately.”
Baker couldn’t believe his ears, three Gestapo cars blown up? He didn’t remember Colonel Hogan ordering something like that. A he knew that Erich Jonach, the leader of the Hammelburg underground wouldn’t do something like that without telling the Colonel.
“Whaaaaat? A roll call at this time of night? Impossible!” Klink said belligerently.
“Colonel Klink, the Major said for you to have your roll call and call him back to let him know if anyone is missing,” Dorfmann replied. “Or he will pay you a visit tonight personally.”
Baker heard Klink let out a heavy sigh over the phone line. “Yes Captain, I will call a surprise roll call and then call you back.” Klink said.
Baker took the headset off as the line clicked dead. He climbed up the ladder as fast as he could to warn the Colonel before Schultz showed up with his Raus, Raus.
As he climbed out, he roused the rest of the men, telling them of the impending roll call. He walked over to Hogan’s office door, knocked and went in.
“Colonel, wake up,” he said. “Klink’s going to call a roll call any second.”
Hogan yawned. “A roll call at this hour?” he replied.
“Hochstetter’s Aide just called,” Baker explained. “Someone blew up three Gestapo cars in town tonight, and Hochstetter wants Klink to call the roll call. You know how he suspects us of everything.”
“Three Gestapo cars blown up, you say?” Hogan asked. “I wonder who would do that? Erich wouldn’t have done something like that without letting me know.” It didn’t feel right to Hogan. Erich Jonach had been very good about coordinating his activities with him from the beginning of the Stalag 13 operation. Erich was glad to allow Hogan, as Papa Bear, shoulder the burden of being in charge of all of the activities in the area. So Hogan wondered if he would go off and do something as inconsequential as blowing up Gestapo vehicles. All that would do is make Major Hochstetter angrier than usual.
Just that moment, they heard the outer barracks door open, and Schultz began to bellow his familiar call, “Raus, Raus, Everybody, roll call. Everybody up!”
There was a lot of grumbling as the men filed out into the chill of the night.
Hammelburg Area, Farm of Erich Jonach
November 4, 1943, 2200 hours
Johann Mueller approached the barn where he was to meet with the rest of the Hammelburg underground leaders. The barn belonged to Erich Jonach, who was the head of the local underground. It seemed to Johann that all their meetings took place in barns, either Erich’s or one of the many abandoned barns in the area. Markets and barns, Johann thought to himself. People meet contacts in markets and groups have meetings in barns. I wonder if all of the underground units in the German occupied areas do the same.
When he reached the barn, he opened the door and entered quickly. The light from the lanterns inside was dim, but he didn’t want to keep the door open too long, for risk of it being seen. Johann entered and found that he was the last to arrive.
“Guten abend, Johann,” Erich Jonach said to him. Johann returned the greeting and greeted the others who had gathered. Besides Jonach, there was Oskar Schnitzer, the veterinarian, Detlef Hauser, who was a doctor in town, and Oskar Meyer, the local butcher.
“Let us get started,” Jonach said. “With what happened yesterday, we shouldn’t take chances of being out too late.”
The men nodded. They were quite aware of the dangers of being out late. Doctor Hauser was the only person of the group who could make a legitimate excuse for being out late, as he could say he was making a house call.
“Does anyone know who was responsible for the explosions last night?” Jonach asked.
“Could it have been Colonel Hogan?” Oskar Meyer asked.
Oskar Schnitzer shook his head. “Nein,” he replied. “He passed me a note this morning when I was changing the dogs in the camp asking if I knew what happened and who was responsible.”
“Besides, Colonel Hogan would not target such an insignificant target as an automobile, unless there was someone important inside,” Jonach added. “All this did was to irritate the Gestapo.”
“Ja,” agreed Oskar Meyer. “They stopped in my shop today and asked if I knew anything.”
“They will be very suspicious for a while,” Schnitzer said. “I think we will have to lay low for a few days until they relax.”
Jonach nodded. “In the mean time, it would be good to find out who did this. If they continue, it will not only interfere with our operations, but also Colonel Hogan’s,” he said.
“Who could have wanted to do this?” Doctor Hauser asked. “They should know that it would only have made the Gestapo angry.”
Erich Jonach shrugged. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Most likely someone that was angry with the Gestapo for some reason.”
When Johann Mueller heard that, he immediately thought of Hans Wagner and how angry he was after his sister was attacked. Was he angry enough to do something like this? When he spoke to me he did mention that they would pay. Is this what he meant? Ach, the stupid boy. He should know that this would accomplish nothing. Johann now had a problem. Should he tell Erich about what happened to Ilse Wagner and how Hans had promised to pay them back? I promised Ilse that I would say nothing about this. But to say nothing could lead both her and her brother, as well as whoever else is involved, into a lot of trouble. But I do not know for sure that this was the work of Hans Wagner. If it is, I should tell. But if not …
“Could there be another underground group in the area?” Osker Meyer asked.
“Maybe,” responded Jonach. “But if so, why would they just target parked automobiles?”
Erich Jonach didn’t like the thought of another underground group in the area. It wasn’t that he thought of it as competition. When Colonel Hogan had started his operation, Erich had gladly offered to work under the direction of the American officer. He knew the value of a coordinated effort, and the problems that would happen if they worked independently. If there was now another group in the area, he had better find out who it was, before any of his men, or Colonel Hogan’s men, found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Erich looked at the men assembled in the barn. To say they were all middle aged was being kind. They were all tired men, tired of the war, tired of the hardships and tired of the men who abused the power of the government. But all of them felt the necessity of the activities that they performed, and knew the inherent dangers involved. Erich didn’t want to see any of them pay the ultimate price for those activities.
“Oskar, please get word to Colonel Hogan that we do not know who is doing this, but we will try to find out,” Jonach said to Oskar Schnitzer. “Tell him that we are out of action until the Gestapo relaxes a little.”
Schnitzer nodded. “I will do that when I change the dogs,” he replied.
“Everyone be careful on the way home,” Jonach said. “Be safe.”
The men disbursed, each of them heading towards their home. Jonach knew they would be careful, but he still couldn’t help worrying about them. Oh God, when will this war end, he thought tiredly.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2
November 6, 1943, 1030 hours
Baker sat at the table in the barracks reading from the sheet of paper that he had transcribed in the tunnel overnight. It contained the latest exploits of Nimrod. Colonel Hogan was leaning against one of the bunks, his arms folded in front of him in a relaxed manner.
“A German munitions train outside of Düsseldorf,” Baker read. “A ball bearing factory outside of Cologne; Anti aircraft emplacements near Antwerp; Information on the strengths of the forces on the French coast near Calais; and blowing up the car of Field Marshal von Kettering.” Baker looked up. “With the Field Marshal inside it,” he said.
“Blimey, that chap’s been busy,” exclaimed Newkirk.
“We haven’t exactly been sitting here darning our socks,” Kinch said. “We’ve done a couple things too in that time, in addition to sending some fliers back to England.”
“Do you think London is sending Nimrod a list of the things we are doing?” Carter asked.
“If they do, I bet he is laughing hysterically,” Le Beau said. “Compared to Nimrod, we haven’t done that much lately.”
Hogan watched his men with amusement. It had become like a contest between themselves and Nimrod. He didn’t mind it at all; in fact, he liked the way that it made his men bond together more as a team.
“Colonel, why don’t we do something spectacular to show London that we’re as good as that Nimrod bloke?” asked Newkirk.
“Like what, Newkirk?” Cater asked. “We’ve blown up everything nearby, and as fast as the German’s repair it, we hit it again.”
“I know, but we’ve got to do something,” Newkirk replied.
“It’s the fact that we are stuck here in this camp that limits us,” Le Beau said. “Nimrod doesn’t have to stay in one place.”
“Hey Colonel, what about that old factory that Erich said the Germans are turning into a staging area for fuel shipments?” Baker asked. “Why don’t we hit that?”
Hogan shook his head. “They aren’t done with it yet,” he replied. “There’s nothing there.”
Carter’s eyes lit up. “Yeah, and when it’s loaded with all that fuel, ka-blooey!” he said. “Boy, that will be a big explosion!”
Hogan laughed at the exuberance of his young sergeant. “Remember guys,” he said. “It’s quality, not quantity.”
“It still rubs me the wrong way that he gets all the applause,” Newkirk complained.
Before anyone could reply, the barracks door opened and Schultz walked in carrying a large bag.
“Mail!” came the reply from everyone at once. Schultz began to back away from the rushing crowd of men.
“Hold it fellas!” Hogan said loudly. “Let’s give him some room.” Inwardly Hogan sighed. Another mail call. I wonder if I will get anything this time.
“Hey Schultz, is there anything for me today?” Hogan asked. Schultz looked back at Hogan with a sad face, and immediately Hogan knew what the answer would be.
“I’m sorry, Colonel,” Schultz said. “There is nothing for you again today.”
Hogan shrugged. “Oh well, I’ll just go read a book while you pass out the letters,” he said, trying to be cheerful.
The men watched him as he walked into his office and closed the door behind him.
“Schultz, why isn’t the Colonel getting any mail?” Carter asked.
“I do not know, Carter,” Schultz replied. “It makes me sad to come here on mail day when I know I don’t have anything for him.”
“How do you think he feels?” Newkirk asked. “It’s been a long time since he’s gotten a letter from his sister Lisa. He misses hearing about his little nephew Robert.”
“I know,” Schultz said. “But it’s not my fault. I can’t give him what I don’t have.”
“It’s all right, Schultz,” Kinch said calmly. “We know it’s not your fault. It just upsets us.”
Schultz began to pass out the mail, but the normal excitement of mail day was not there. Everyone was thinking about how they would feel if they had not received any mail for over a month. In fact, most of them were remembering what it was like when they first came to camp, and it had taken many months for their mail to find its way to camp. Being stuck in the prison camp was bad enough, but not to hear the news from home, regardless of how long the letter took to arrive, was a terrible thing to have happen.
Even Schultz was not his normal jolly self. He did not joke with the prisoners as he passed out the letters. After the last letter was handed out, Schultz slowly and quietly left the barracks.
The men looked somberly at each other. Normally, they read their letters out loud to everyone and shared their news from home. Today, no one felt much like reading.
Hammelburg, Johann Mueller’s Shoe Shop
November 7, 1943, 1800 hours
Ilse Wagner had finished sweeping the floor and was waiting for one of her brothers to arrive to walk home with her. Karl was doing some work in town and would stop by when he finished. Johann Mueller had stayed behind to wait with Ilse. Ever since the attack, he had stayed behind, so she would not be alone. One time, he even walked her home when one of her brothers was unable to come.
Johann felt sorry for the poor girl, to have had to go through that frightful experience. Immediately after the attack, Ilse had been scared and bewildered. But Johann had noticed a change in her over the past few days. Her spirits had improved, and she was laughing and talking to him during the day again. Johann was glad that she seemed to be getting over things, but wondered about the suddenness of the change.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. He walked over and let Karl into the shop. “Guten abend, Karl,” he said.
“Guten abend, Herr Mueller,” Karl Wagner replied. “Is Ilse ready to go?”
“I’m ready,” Ilse replied, coming from the back room of the shop. “I just had to get my coat.” She turned to Johann and said, “Guten nacht, Johann.”
“Guten nacht, Ilse,” he replied, and watched them walk out the door of the shop. Once they were gone, his thoughts returned.
* * * * * * *
By habit, Ilse and Karl crossed the street so they would not have to pass directly in front of the Hofbrau. Since the attack, Ilse had been weary of being close to the tavern. Even from a safe distance across the street, she was always nervous as they passed.
Tonight as they approached, Ilse saw two men approaching the Hofbrau from the opposite direction. A flash of recognition hit her and she stopped cold. After taking a couple more steps, Karl stopped and turned.
“Ilse, what is it?” he asked.
Ilse didn’t answer. Instead, she was staring at the two men on the opposite side of the street. Karl turned at looked in the direction she was staring.
“What is the matter?” he asked again.
“It’s … It’s … them,” she said, haltingly.
The two men entered the Hofbrau, and Karl turned quickly to his sister. “You mean the men that attacked you?” he asked. Ilse nodded.
A look of anger crossed Karl’s face. He turned and began to walk towards the Hofbrau. Ilse ran off after him.
“Karl, what are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m going to talk to them,” he said firmly.
“Nein, Karl. Don’t,” she said. “There are two of them.”
“I don’t care,” Karl replied.
Ilse ran in front of Karl and turned to face him. Karl stopped when his sister blocked his path. “Karl, not now,” she said. “There are too many people around, and …”
Karl looked at her. Her eyes were moist with unshed tears, and he could see the concern in them. “You’re right, Ilse,” he said. “Now is not the time. But we must tell Hans that we’ve seen them. Then we can make our plans for when the time is right.”
Ilse nodded, happy that her brother did not try to do anything. She didn’t want anything bad to happen to her brother on her account.
They resumed their walk home, their pace quickened by their newfound knowledge.
* * * * * * *
The group had assembled in the Wagner barn again that evening. Karl described the two men that they had seen entering the Hofbrau earlier.
“I think I know one of them,” Otto Bauer said. “It sounds like Franz Hurst.”
“Ja,” agreed Max Becker. “It does. And the other one sounds like Hans Dietrich.”
“You know these men?” Hans Wagner asked. Both men nodded. “Do you think you could find out their habits? Where they go each night, what they do?” Again, both men nodded.
“You have a plan, Hans?” Ilse asked.
Hans shook his head. “Not yet,” he replied. “But if we find a pattern in their actions, maybe we can make sure that we just happen to be in the right place some night.”
“And then what?” Karl asked.
Hans smiled an evil smile. “And then we show them what happens to men that attack innocent women,” he said.
Rastenburg, East Prussia, Farm of Tadeauz Malewicz
November 14, 1943, 2200 hours
Vladimir lay on his bed in the attic of the small farmhouse. He had been in Rastenburg for a week, and had just started settling into his routine. He was staying with Tadeauz Malewicz and his wife Jacinta, posing as Tadeauz’s cousin Wladimir from further east near the Prussian-Polish border area. Both Tadeauz and Jacinta were part of the Russian network, and had been in this area for many years. Even though East Prussia was predominately a German territory going back before the Great War, there were many native Poles that had lived in the area for generations. And so the German authorities had accepted the couple and left them to live peacefully on their farm, and to run their market in the town of Rastenburg.
When Hitler had the Wolfsschanze built nearby, Tadeauz had been tasked with keeping tabs on the activity and reporting it back. Another member of the Russian network, Grzegorz, helped out with the farm work. The pair had been operating successfully, but with the increased use of the Wolfsschanze by Hitler, The Center wanted another agent in place to coordinate the information.
That had been decided even before Marya had returned to Moscow and suggested that Vladimir be that agent. And so, here he was, lying on a small bed in the attic of a small farmhouse.
Vladimir sighed and tried to get comfortable in the small bed. His mind was jumbled with the thoughts of the turn of events in the past few months that had led to this assignment.
Three months ago I was a prisoner in Stalag 13 in the middle of Germany. Only three months ago! It seems like a lifetime ago now with all that has happened. I have gone from the middle of Germany, back to Moscow, and now back in German occupied territory.
Vladimir gave up trying to sleep and sat on the edge of the bed looking out the small attic window at the moonlit countryside. Not only am I here to work with the agents already in place, I am supposed to be the one in charge. Marya would have to suggest that. What made her think that I could actually be in charge of an operation like this? The same thoughts had bothered Vladimir during the journey from Moscow. He had no experience being in charge. Back at Stalag 13, Colonel Hogan was in charge. Oh sure, he valued our input and actually talked out the problem missions with the whole group before making a decision, but the decision was his – and he usually took on the most dangerous missions himself, rather than putting one of his men on the line.
Vladimir had had to figure out how to direct this little operation here in Rastenburg. The Center would hold him responsible for keeping things running smoothly, but he knew nothing about what had been happening before he arrived. Towards the end of the journey from Moscow, he had decided that the best course of action would be to emulate the man who he thought was one of the best leaders of men he had known – Colonel Hogan. Vladimir would talk with Tadeauz and Grzegorz, seek their input, and most of all, treat them as he would want to be treated.
The initial meeting had gone well. Vladimir related the instructions he had from The Center, and then asked them how they thought it best to proceed. The question had surprised the two men – they were not used to being asked for input from their superior. After the initial surprise, the three men had a long discussion that led to Vladimir assuming the identity of Tadeauz’s cousin and working in the market. There was a tailor shop in the town, but Tadeauz informed Vladimir that the proprietor was an ardent Nazi supporter, so it would be a bad idea to try to operate from there. Vladimir would be the person to make contact with their leak from the General Staff and handle the communications. It seemed to Vladimir that after that initial meeting, Tadeauz and Grzegorz had realized that Vladimir was going to treat them fair, and they in turn appeared to respect his authority more.
Thanks to you, Colonel Hogan, I may actually be successful on this assignment, Vladimir thought. His thoughts then returned to the current assignment. He had set up a meeting with their leak, a General Stauffen, for tomorrow morning in the barn on the farm. Since the General was a regular visitor to the market, they were able to set up the premise of getting Stauffen fresh eggs if he would stop at the farm in the morning. Vladimir had let the General know that it was not safe for him to use his radio, as the General Staff was being monitored. So Stauffen would give the plans to Vladimir, who would radio them to their Swiss contact to get them back to Russia. He had decided not to communicate them directly to The Center, so as not to change the routine – better to keep it the same in case others are being watched, he thought.
Vladimir looked at the clock in the room and sighed. The meeting was set for 0600 hours tomorrow and he had better try to get some sleep before then. He lay back on the bed and tried to get comfortable. The early morning meeting would not be a problem for him, as he would have to be up anyway to tend to the animals. He chuckled as he remembered Jacinta’s reaction when he asked how to milk a cow. “I was raised in Moscow as the son of a tailor,” he had said. “Ask me to make clothes for the animals. That I can do!” Both Tadeauz and Jacinta had told him that he did not have to help out, but Vladimir had insisted on learning and helping. Yes, it had been an interesting week for him!
Vladimir bunched his pillow, filled with goose feathers, and rolled on his side. Mama would laugh to see me now. Milking cows, cleaning up after the horses, gathering eggs. Just like she used to do as a child growing up in Olevsk in the Ukraine. Thinking about his mother brought many more memories back to Vladimir of the three weeks he had been able to spend at home. His mother had helped him learn more of the Polish language while he was there. The area she grew up in was very close to Polish territory, and the Ukrainian language that she learned as a child was very close to Polish. Tovarish Beria had been surprised to hear that Vladimir had taken to learning Polish on his own as part of the assignment. “So it seems that Svetlana Viktorovna’s high recommendation of you is warranted after all,” he had said.
Vladimir snuggled tighter under the blanket and tried to clear his thoughts of everything relating to his assignment. He thought of the three weeks at home with his family and drifted off to sleep.
* * * * * * *
Vladimir woke with a start. It took him a moment to orient himself to where he was. He sat up and looked at the clock. It was time for him to get up and tend to the animals and be ready for his meeting with General Stauffen. He sighed. He wished he could go back to sleep and finish the dream he had been having. Ever since he left Moscow, he had been having dreams of being back with his wife. It had taken him a long time for the dreams to stop after his capture by the Germans. Now, after being home and seeing his dear Natashenka, they had started again. He sighed again and got out of bed. There was nothing that could be done except to hope for a speedy end to this war.
He climbed down the attic ladder into the room below. Jacinta was over the fire preparing the morning meal. He greeted her and put on his coat to head to the barn for his morning chores. Normally Tadeauz would be with him, but since General Stauffen was to come this morning, it was decided that Vladimir should meet him alone. Tadeauz would be somewhere outside, keeping an eye on the barn in case Stauffen happened to be followed. Vladimir thought it funny how the underground networks always met in barns - barns and markets here, just like back in Hammelburg. If the Gestapo were smarter … if the Gestapo were smarter, the world would be a very bad place, he thought.
The mornings were very cold and Vladimir felt the chill as he walked to the barn. But the small structure was warm from the animals, and Vladimir could complete his chores without wearing his bulky gloves. He first gathered a few eggs to give to General Stauffen when he arrived – best to keep the illusion up in case someone is checking. He had just finished gathering the eggs and picked up the pitchfork to muck out the stalls when he heard the barn door latch rattle.
General Stauffen entered the barn and quickly closed the door behind him, stamping his feet on the earthen floor to shake some of the cold away. “Guten morgen,” he said to Vladimir.
Vladimir stabbed the pitchfork into the ground and replied, “Guten morgen, General.” Vladimir walked from the stall and sat on a feed barrel that was up against the wall. He motioned for Stauffen to sit on one of the other barrels in the barn.
Stauffen shook his head. “What is this about it being dangerous for me to use my radio?” he asked nervously in German.
It took Vladimir a moment to mentally translate the German. He was glad that he had been able to learn it while in Stalag 13, but it still didn’t come naturally to him. “General, the Gestapo knows there is a leak out of the General Staff and that battle plans are getting to the Russians,” he replied.
Stauffen looked panicked. “Do they suspect me?” he asked.
Vladimir shrugged. “They suspect everyone since they do not know who it is,” he responded. “That is why it is dangerous for you to send the information. If you give it to me, I can send it.”
Stauffen shook his head. “Nein, it is too dangerous for me to give any more information,” he said. “If they suspect me, it could mean my life.”
“Herr Stauffen, they will not suspect you as long as you do not use your radio,” Vladimir replied. “We are making sure that their suspicions are directed elsewhere.”
Stauffen’s eyes narrowed. “And how are you accomplishing that?” he asked.
Vladimir made a dismissive gesture. “It is best for you not to know,” he replied. “But our information is that Count von Waffenschmidt is the only one investigating, and that he has simply instructed people in Rastenburg to monitor the General Staff for radio transmissions.”
“I know von Waffenschmidt,” Stauffen replied. “He was here last month, but is gone now.”
Vladimir nodded. “Exactly,” he said. “So you can keep giving me the information.”
“I need to make sure I will be safe,” Stauffen replied. “My safety is more important than giving this information to the Russians.”
“And why is that?” Vladimir asked.
“That, my friend, is information it is best for you not to know at this time,” Stauffen replied, with a humorless smile on his face.
“Fair enough,” Vladimir replied. Stauffen was hiding something else from him, but there would be time to determine what that was. “For now, let me assure you that you are safe as long as you do not do anything stupid. Von Waffenschmidt is being led in another direction.”
Stauffen nodded. “I do not have the information written down,” he said, and tapped the side of his head.
“I will remember it,” Vladimir replied. “Tell me.”
General Stauffen began rattling off troop movements, timetables, regiment strengths and other details of the upcoming German offensive. Vladimir listened intently, remembering every detail so he could transmit it to the Swiss contact.
When Stauffen was finished, Vladimir said, ”Danke, General. Whenever you have information to relay, contact me at the market, and we can meet here again.”
Stauffen nodded and started towards the door.
“Herr General,” Vladimir said, holding out a small canvas bag.
“What is this?” Stauffen asked.
“Your eggs,” Vladimir replied. “You came here to get fresh eggs.”
Stauffen nodded and took the bag. “I will contact you again, as long as I am sure it is safe.”
“It will be,” Vladimir replied.
Stauffen nodded again. He opened the door and quickly stepped outside. When the door was closed, Vladimir returned to the stall to continue his morning chores. While he worked, he repeated the information to himself so that he could commit it to memory.
After a few minutes, Tadeauz entered the barn. “How did it go?” he asked Vladimir, speaking in Polish.
“Good,” Vladimir replied. “He gave me the information.”
Tadeauz smiled. “Very good,” he said. “Let me finish here while you take care of the more important task.”
Vladimir nodded and handed the pitchfork to Tadeauz. “I will be back when I am finished,” he said, walking towards the door. Before opening the door, he turned and asked, “I didn’t hear an automobile when he arrived. Did he walk?”
Tadeauz shook his head. “No, he left his auto back up the road,” he said.
Vladimir nodded and opened the barn door to step out into the cold.
Rastenburg, East Prussia, Wolfsschanze
November 19, 1943, 1200 hours
General Burkhalter had been nervous during the entire trip to Rastenburg. Actually, he had been nervous ever since receiving the phone call from the Führer himself requesting that he make the trip for a personal meeting. He wasn’t nervous about meeting Hitler; he had done so countless times. But to be summoned from Berlin to the Wolfsschanze in Rastenburg was out of the ordinary.
Am I suspected of helping the Allies? He had thought. That can’t be it, or else I would be arrested rather than summoned. So what could this be?
In the end, he had simply tried to stop worrying. Whatever the reason, he would find out when he arrived. And in any case, there was nothing he could do but make the trip. And so here he was, in the Führer’s bunker at the Wolfsschanze, watching the midday situation report, one of the three that were given to the Führer daily.
Burkhalter stood against one of the walls while the various participants briefed Hitler on the state of the war in the various fronts. General Zeitzler and Field Marshal Keitel presented the news from the eastern and southern fronts. To Burkhalter, the news painted a bleak picture for Germany. The Americans and British attacking through Italy, the Russians attacking at several places along the Eastern Front threatening to make a breakthrough on the southern end. In all, it pointed to a slow, painful death for his country.
Throughout the briefing, Hitler interrupted with questions and comments. Burkhalter was impressed by some of the technical knowledge that he displayed with his questions, but he couldn’t help but get the impression that the Führer believed that the war would be won simply because of his iron will, and the war would be lost because of the incompetence of the leaders in the field.
The briefing took almost ninety minutes. In that time, there were many others standing on the sidelines, as Burkhalter was. Some he recognized, like Nicolaus von Below, the Luftwaffe adjutant. Others, he did not recognize, but guessed that they were summoned for this occasion, as he was. He noticed that Reichsminister Goebbels and Reichsführer Himmler were also present, and though not taking an active part in the briefing, were standing at Hitler’s side. Ah, the privileges of rank, he thought.
What surprised Burkhalter the most was that the entire briefing was being transcribed. A pair of secretaries was sitting off to the side, busily noting everything that was said in the room. Occasionally, Hitler would make a motion to them before making a side comment to one of the meeting participants. Burkhalter assumed that the Führer was indicating that certain statements he made were not to be entered into the official record.
Burkhalter was so entranced in the proceedings, and his own thoughts, that when he was finally spoken to, he almost did not realize it.
“General Burkhalter,” Hitler beckoned.
Burkhalter stepped forwards and snapped to attention. “Jawohl, mein Führer!” he said smartly.
“I have read the report of your last briefing on the state of the Luft Stalags,” Hitler said. “Has anything changed since then?”
“Nein, the situation is still the same,” Burkhalter replied.
“And still no prisoner escapes from Stalag 13?” Hitler asked.
“Nein, the Kommandant there has the camp firmly under control,” he replied. Actually, it’s the American Colonel who has things firmly under control, mein Führer, he thought.
“That would be Colonel Klunk,” Hitler stated.
“Klink,” Burkhalter corrected. “Colonel Wilhelm Klink.”
Hitler nodded absently, as if the correct name was irrelevant. “And what is your assessment of the security of the camp?” he asked Burkhalter. “I have seen reports that there is a large amount of sabotage activity in the area of Hammelburg, where this camp is situated.”
“Yes sir,” Burkhalter replied. “That is true. But handling the underground activity in the area is the responsibility of the Gestapo, not the Luftwaffe,” he said nervously, glancing at Himmler. “I have not had any reports of unexplained problems from the camp itself.” Thankfully, Colonel Hogan always makes sure that the problems that do arise are explained away to some other cause, he thought.
Burkhalter paused a second before continuing, “The local head of the Gestapo has constantly complained that the prisoners of Stalag 13 are the ones responsible for the sabotage in the area.”
“The prisoners?” Hitler asked. “Is he trying to say that prisoners escape from the camp, commit sabotage activities, and then return to the camp?” Burkhalter nodded.
Himmer stepped forward, “If I may,” he said. “That would be Major Hochstetter. He has been submitting reports for a while stating that the sabotage is coming from the prisoners. However, he has never shown any proof of this theory.”
Hitler stared at the table for a moment. “It sounds like he should be concentrating on the inhabitants of the area in order to locate the underground cell that is truly responsible,” he said. “Should you remove him?”
Burkhalter was surprised by this question. Ever since he had been silently aiding Colonel Hogan’s efforts by making sure information was available, he had also thought that it would be good to remove Major Hochstetter. However, the thought just occurred to him that the replacement might be someone more competent than the blustering crank. Better the devil you know, he thought.
Himmler shook his head. “Not at this time,” he replied. “But we are keeping an eye on him just the same.”
“Good,” Hitler said. Then turning back to Burkhalter, he said, “We have been having security problems with many of our important military research facilities. There may be times when it would be advantageous to house experiments, prototypes, information or important research scientists in a place where the Allies would not think of bombing.”
Burkhalter nodded. “A place where there are hundreds of Allied personnel staying,” he agreed.
Hitler nodded. “You have my authority to suggest Stalag 13 as you see fit,” Hitler said. “If there is a disagreement with your suggestion, you talk to me and I will make the final decision.”
Burkhalter nodded again, more enthusiastically. “As it should be, mein Führer,” he replied. “I am sure that this will be a great help to the war effort.” Ha! It will be a great help to the Allied war effort you fool. I can’t believe that you just gave me more authority to do what I have been trying to do for the past two months!
“You may also be contacted by others about using the camp for this purpose,” Hitler said. “It is your discretion whether to allow it or not.” Hitler paused before saying, “Unless my discretion disagrees with yours.”
Burkhalter was silent. There was nothing to say to that. Disagreeing with the Führer’s discretion was the quickest way to earn a ticket to the Eastern Front.
“You will report directly to me from now on,” Hitler continued. For a moment, Burkhalter’s spirits sank. He didn’t want to be stationed here full time. “You will attend the weekly research and armaments briefing here, but remain stationed in Berlin.”
“Mein Führer, with your permission, I would like to move to the Luftwaffe Headquarters in Hammelburg,” Burkhalter said. “I would like to be closer to the camp.” Not to mention being farther away from Berta and her annoying nagging.
Hitler made a dismissive gesture. “Wherever you like,” he said. “As long as you are here for the weekly meeting.”
“Jawohl mein Führer,” Burkhalter responded.
“There is one more thing,” Hitler continued. He turned to Goebbels and made a gesture for him to speak.
“The Propaganda Ministry feels that it would be good to capitalize on the record of the Kommandant of Stalag 13,” Goebbels told Burkhalter. “So we want to give him an award on a live radio broadcast that will be heard throughout Germany and the occupied territories. You will be contacted by Colonel Sitzer to make the arrangements.”
“I will cooperate fully, Herr Reichsminister,” Burkhalter said. Oh boy, I can already see Klink’s ego inflating like a barrage balloon. An award for THAT blowhard? He’s already insufferable, and this will just make it worse.
After that, Hitler dismissed the briefing and everyone cleared from the bunker. Burkhalter spent some time talking with several of the other Generals he was acquainted with before deciding that he should be returning to Berlin.
When he got to the car, he told the driver, “Stop in Rastenburg and find a market. I am hungry, but do not want to delay the return to Berlin.”
* * * * * * *
Vladimir watched as two Germans in uniform entered the market. He froze in shock when he recognized General Burkhalter as being one of them. His first instinct was to leave. But Tadeauz had already gone back to the farm, and there was no one else in the market. So Vladimir was stuck. He only hoped that Burkhalter had never seen him when he was in Stalag 13.
Vladimir walked up to the two officers. “Can I help you with anything?” he asked cheerfully.
“Yes, we are in a hurry to get back to Berlin, and would like to have something that we can eat along the way,” Burkhalter replied, glancing at Vladimir. His gaze then traveled to a table with several loaves of bread, but suddenly returned back to Vladimir.
Oh no, Vladimir thought as Burkhalter stared at him. If he’s recognized me, I’m a dead man. “We have some homemade bread and cheese that you might like,” Vladimir said smiling, hoping to convince Burkhalter that he was just a simple peasant working in a market. “I also think I might have a chunk of ham left. I’ll go look.”
I’ve got to get them out of here quickly, Vladimir thought. The longer they are here, the more Burkhalter will think he’s recognized me. He walked into the back room, where he knew there was a chunk of ham that he had been saving.
* * * * * * *
Burkhalter watched the man walk into the back room. He looks familiar, but I can’t place where I have seen him.
When Vladimir returned, he was carrying a chunk of ham that he placed onto a clean cloth. He then gathered a loaf of bread from the table in the market, and cut a large hunk from the wheel of cheese sitting on the counter.
Burkhalter watched the man closely, still trying to place where he had seen Vladimir. After Vladimir had gathered the food, he turned to face Burkhalter. Though the face was smiling, Burkhalter could sense some worry in the man’s eyes.
“Will that be all for you, General?” Vladimir asked.
“Ja, that is very nice,” Burkhalter replied. He told the driver to pay for the goods and return to the car.
As the two Germans were leaving, Vladimir called out, “Have a safe trip back to Berlin, Herr General.”
* * * * * * *
During the drive back to Berlin, Burkhalter was thinking about the man in the market. He knew that he had seen him before, and he did sense that the man was worried about something. Was he worried that Burkhalter might know who he was? Was he hiding from someone and didn’t want to be found out? With the war going on, Burkhalter knew that everyone had something to worry about. He himself had been almost sick with worry on the way to Rastenburg.
Burkhalter was almost asleep when the recognition hit him. He jerked himself awake with a start. That’s it. I know where I’ve seen him before. Stalag 13. I’ve seen him as a prisoner in Stalag 13. Burkhalter kept trying to remember if he had ever known the name of the prisoner he was thinking about.
Sam. The man’s name was Sam. Another stab of realization hit him. Sam Minsk was the prisoner that Klink reported as the one Hochstetter claimed was a Russian when he took him out of Stalag 13. Sam Minsk was the same prisoner that was then reported taken from Hochstetter by the Abwehr and then shot. Burkhalter rubbed his temples. Could this be the same Sam? How could a prisoner, who was supposed to be a Russian posing as an American in a German prison camp, be both shot by the Abwehr and end up working in a market near the Führer’s headquarters?
Burkhalter kept telling himself that it could not be the same man. But the more he kept telling himself, the more he became convinced that it was most likely the same man. And the more convinced he became, the more he realized that Colonel Hogan had to have had something to do with getting this man away from Hochstetter.
Burkhalter leaned back and closed his eyes. His head hurt with the jumble of suppositions that were running through his mind. But one thing was clear to him, even through the jumbled mess, Major Hochstetter was probably right about Colonel Hogan being the most dangerous man in Germany. And General Burkhalter knew that he must try to keep Hochstetter from finding out how right he was.
Berlin, Hotel Berlin
December 12, 1943, 2130 hours
Marya stood in the entrance to the dining room of the Hotel Berlin, surveying the scene before her. She was dressed in her flamboyant fur outfit and noticed that heads were turning in her direction, mostly men, as she stood there. As she scanned the room, she saw Count von Waffenschmidt sitting at a table in the corner of the room. He was puffing a cigarette in a long holder with an air of superiority that could only come from the combination of having an aristocratic title while still being a member of the so-called master race.
She continued to scan the room until she found the table she was looking for. In the center of the dining room, as she might have expected, sat SS-General Klaus Schlesinger. The General was a member of Himmler’s small inner-circle in the SS. He based himself in Leipzig, partly because of the Allied bombing of the capital, but mainly because he could be the biggest fish of all in the Leipzig area. He thought that he was witty, charming and the most desirable man in Germany. Marya thought he was an arrogant pig.
However her feelings about Schlesinger, he was going to be useful to her tonight. It was too early for her to have von Waffenschmidt become too close, but she needed to have him see her out and about with the influential men she was acquainted with. Since he already suspected her, Marya knew that he would follow her around to try to identify who her connection was. She wanted to lead him on a merry chase for a little while, and then somehow, and she hadn’t quite figured that out yet, lead him into a trap to discredit him, or better yet, eliminate him.
She began to move across the dining room towards General
Schlesinger’s table. As she walked, she was aware of the attention she was
getting from the other patrons in the room, leers from the men and spiteful,
jealous glances from the women. Eat your hearts out, ladies. If I wanted to,
I could take any of your men away from you, she thought.
She looked at the table where the General was sitting, trying to get an idea who else was dining with him. As usual, he had an entourage that he was entertaining. There were many opened, and presumable empty, champagne bottles in the middle of the table, which made Marya happy. If General Schlesinger were extremely drunk tonight, it would help her plan tremendously.
When she reached the table, she stopped and threw her arms wide. Her fur stole flying into the face of the officer sitting next to Schlesinger. “Schlessy, darling. I am here for you,” she said dramatically.
Schlesinger looked over at the source of the voice. It took him a second to focus on Marya before speaking. The pig is drunk already, she thought. This will work out just fine tonight.
“Marya, my dear!” Schlesinger exclaimed. “I knew you couldn’t stay away too long.”
“And why would I even want to, Schlessy darling?” she responded.
“Sit down and join the party, liebchen,” he said.
“I thought you would never ask!” Marya exclaimed. She leaned forward and twirled so that she fell sitting on the General’s lap. She threw her arms around him and game him a big kiss.
“Why Schlessy, you are happy to see me,” she cooed as she wriggled a little on his lap.
Schlesinger laughed heartily and said, “Always, my dear.” After a moment, he continued, “I believe you know everyone here already. Freitag, get Marya a chair.”
“Yes, General,” Major Josef Freitag answered. Freitag was General Schlesinger’s aide, but Marya also knew him as Jack, a member of her network.
“Schlessy darling, you don’t want me sitting on your lap?” Marya pouted. “It seems to me, you are enjoying it.”
One of the officers at the table who was in the middle of taking a drink choked and started coughing. Soon everyone at the table was laughing. Marya looked at Schlesinger, batting her eyelashes innocently.
Freitag returned with another chair, placing it between the chair he was occupying and the General’s chair. The rest of the officers at the table moved to accommodate the new addition. Marya, with a showing of great reluctance, got up and sat in the new chair.
Major Freitag motioned to the waiter to bring another glass for Marya, and when it arrived, he filled it with champagne. Marya took a small sip.
“Marya, my dear,” Schlesinger said. “You are not in the mood for drinking tonight?”
“Schlessy, darling, I am already drunk with love in your presence,” she replied. “Mere champagne cannot compare!”
The General laughed. “Plenty of time for that later, my dear,” he responded. “But now, we all drink and have fun!”
Marya took another sip from her glass. Yes, drink up, you swine. If I can help it, this will be the ONLY fun you have tonight. She smiled coyly at Schlesinger as she took another sip.
There was a lot of small talk and laughter around the table. Marya did her best to make sure that the General had at least two glasses of champagne for every one that she had. It wouldn’t do for her to get too drunk tonight.
After a while, Marya noticed Count von Waffenschmidt heading towards the table. She smiled inwardly, knowing that she had her fish hooked. Now it was time to play him.
Von Waffenschmidt stopped near the table and cleared his throat. General Schlesinger looked up at the interruption and said, “Ah, von Waffenschmidt! Come, join the party!”
Marya could tell he was hesitating, and added, “Schlessy darling, aren’t you going to introduce me to this tall, handsome plaything?” Von Waffenschmidt eyed her curiously, and Marya laughed. She could tell that her aggressiveness was intimidating to him. He’s the type that is used to doing the intimidation. Now that the tables are turned, he doesn’t know how to handle it! Excellent, she thought.
“Pardon me,” Schlesinger responded. “Marya, this is Count von Waffenschmidt.”
Before the General could finish the introduction, Marya interrupted, “And I am all yours, Waffie darling.” She watched as von Waffenschmidt turned a light shade of red, and glanced over at the General.
“You are too kind, Marya,” he forced out. “But I am intruding on your evening with the General.”
“Nonsense, Waffenschmidt,” Schlesinger bellowed. “Sit!” He beckoned for the waiter to bring another chair for the already crowded table. “Marya has many playmates,” Schlesinger continued. “She is a free spirit!” Everyone at the table laughed along with the General.
“Ah, the man knows me so well,” cooed Marya. “Is it any wonder why we have so much fun?” She blew a kiss at the General.
When the waiter arrived with the chair, Marya said, “Waffie, sit!” She made a motion towards the chair and then gave him a little nudge in that direction. Von Waffenschmidt let himself sit in the chair that had been placed beside Marya.
“So where have you been all my life, you handsome thing?” Marya asked slyly. Then she laughed and continued, “Ah, what does it matter, you are here now!” She reached over and pinched von Waffenschmidt’s cheek. Marya noticed that he still looked a little nervous to be the object of attention of the obvious mistress of his superior. Oh, this is going to be a fun evening, she thought, and laughed again.
The General began telling a story to the other officers, pausing occasionally to take another drink. Marya pulled a cigarette from her case and placed it into her long holder. Turning towards von Waffenschmidt, she said, “Waffie, be a good boy and give me a light.” As he held the lighter, she leaned towards him, put her arm around his shoulder and lit her cigarette. She could feel him tense under her touch, and she almost choked on the smoke trying not to laugh at his uneasiness. This is almost too easy, she thought. She leaned back in her chair and winked at him as she blew the smoke into the air.
* * * * * * *
After another hour, Marya sensed that the General had had enough to drink. She didn’t want him to have too much to drink – at least not yet. I think it’s time. I can get Schlesinger upstairs, and with any luck, get away relatively quickly, she thought.
Marya leaned over to the General and began nuzzling his neck. She whispered in his ear that they should go upstairs to his room. Schlesinger’s eyes widened and he started nodding his head.
“Gentlemen, if you will excuse us,” Schlesinger said as he struggled to stand. “Marya and I have some, uh, business to take care of.” He finally managed to stand, but was very wobbly.
Marya stood and grasped his arm. “Please, you make it sound so boring,” she cooed. Then she started laughing and loudly said, “Schlessy darling, bore me until I scream!”
The General laughed and tried to kiss her on her cheek, but ended up smacking air. Yes, he is definitely drunk enough, she thought.
Marya waved at the officers who had rose to their feet, and made eye contact with Major Freitag. “Major, I hope to see you again soon,” she said. Her expression didn’t change, but her eyes indicated the importance of the message.
“I’m sure we will meet again,” he replied, taking her hand and giving it a gentlemanly kiss.
Marya then turned to von Waffenschmidt and offered her hand. He took it and said, “Marya, it’s been a pleasure.”
Marya laughed. “Not yet,” she replied, squeezing the General’s arm. The Count laughed politely, but Marya could see in his eyes that there was no feeling to it.
“Gentlemen, please, sit down,” Schlesinger said. “Do not let me break up the party. Stay and enjoy yourselves.”
Marya guided the General through the dining room and to the elevator. He leaned heavily on her and Marya struggled to keep them both from falling. Once they were in his suite and the door closed, he began pawing at her and fumbling with her clothes.
“Schlessy darling, the bedroom,” she said softly, indicating the door on the far wall. “Why don’t you go in and get comfortable while I make us a drink.”
“A grand idea, my dear,” Schlesinger replied. “But don’t be long!”
Marya laughed. “Of course not, darling,” she said and walked over to the liquor cabinet. As she poured the drinks, she heard the General lumber into the bedroom and trip over something. The General started giggling and talking to himself. Marya rolled her eyes. The things I have to do for my country, she thought.
After the drinks were poured, Marya reached into her purse and pulled out a small vial. She took two small tablets from the vial and put them into one of the drinks. After waiting for them to dissolve, she headed towards the bedroom. “Schlessy darling, I am coming. Do not start without me,” she said.
The General laughed as she entered the bedroom. “Marya dear, you say the funniest things,” he slurred. He had begun to remove his clothes while she was making the drinks.
Marya handed him the spiked drink and said, “A toast to us,” she said, holding out her glass. Schlesinger touched his glass to hers a little too hard, and some of the liquid spilled out. The General seemed not to notice, and he downed his drink in one gulp.
Marya smiled broadly. There, you pig. That will keep you for several hours. All I have to do now is to stall until it takes effect. The last thing I want to do tonight is to sleep with you.
She stepped towards him and began to finish undressing him. It was a struggle at first, because all he wanted to do was to paw at her. But in a few moments, he sat down hard on the bed and then fell backwards asleep.
Marya finished undressing him and then struggled to pull him completely onto the bed. Then she rumpled the covers to make it look like there had been a lot of activity. There, you will wake up and think that we had a good time, she thought.
She went to the desk, found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote him a note. She told him how wonderful it was, but had to be going and didn’t want to disturb him. Then she added a few things that would inflate his ego, and left the note on the pillow beside him.
On the way out of the bedroom, she stopped and looked back at his naked body lying on the bed. She felt a shiver when she thought of being intimate with the man. A big ego, a big belly, a small mind and a small … She snorted. Hardly worth mentioning, she thought. She closed the bedroom door and returned to the outer room.
* * * * * * *
After about a half hour, Major Freitag entered the room. He looked around quickly and then motioned towards the bedroom door. “Is he in there?” he asked Marya.
Marya nodded. “Da,” she replied. “He will be out until the morning.”
“Good,” he said. “What are your plans now?” Since both of them were Russian, they were speaking in their native language.
“Now that I have von Waffenschmidt’s attention, I plan to lead him around for a while,” she replied. “Any news from Rastenburg?”
Freitag nodded. “Sam has made contact and has already passed on some information,” he responded.
“Very good,” she replied. “So if I can keep von Waffenschmidt occupied, our leak will be safe.”
“How long do you plan to lead him around?” Freitag asked.
“As long as it takes,” she replied. “My hope is that eventually he will want me to stay with him because he will be following me but the information will still be getting to Moscow. When I get to that point, I have another plan in mind to take care of him.”
“Kill him?” Freitag asked.
“Not myself,” she said. “There’s someone I am wanting to see again, and I can play that meeting so that he will help me figure out what to do with the Count.”
Marya poured herself a drink from the bottle on the liquor table. “I just need to make sure the time is right,” she said, taking a drink. “Sam needs to have time to pass more information. Is von Waffenschmidt still downstairs?”
Freitag nodded as he poured himself a drink. “Da. He is in the bar. You are aware that he is not attracted to your type?” he asked.
Marya laughed. “Da, I am a bit on the feminine side for him,” she said. “So there is no Countess?”
“Actually, there is,” Freitag responded. “But the marriage is for show.”
“Da, it’s not good to be open about the Count’s preferences in Nazi Germany,” Marya replied, finishing the last of her drink. “But he will feign interest so that he can keep an eye on me.” She laughed. “And it will be fun to watch him suffer!”
Freitag laughed. “You seemed like you were having fun this evening,” he replied. “Just be careful.”
“I always am,” she replied. “I must be getting downstairs.” She motioned towards the bedroom. “Good luck with the great lover!”
Freitag laughed as Marya left.
* * * * * * *
As Marya walked towards the bar, she took out a cigarette and put it in her cigarette holder. She saw von Waffenschmidt sitting near the end of the bar, watching her walk towards him. She smiled as she neared and said, “Waffie darling, you are waiting for me, no?”
A genuine look of shock crossed his face and he stammered trying to reply.
Marya laughed heartily. She knew that he was trying to keep an eye on her, but not be obvious about it. “I am flattered,” she said. “But I must be leaving now.”
She put the cigarette holder in her mouth and leaned forward expectantly. Von Waffenschmidt fumbled to retrieve his lighter and lit her cigarette. She blew the smoke towards von Waffenschmidt and smiled. “Danke darling,” she said.
There was silence between them as Marya waited for von Waffenschmidt to speak. She suspected that he was trying to determine the best way to inquire where she was going.
After a few moments, he spoke, “I too must be leaving. It was very nice to meet you, Marya. Perhaps our paths will meet again.”
Marya threw her head back and laughed. “And when they do meet, I hope we are in a position to enjoy it!” she exclaimed.
Von Waffenschmidt was silent. Marya stepped closer to him. She reached out her gloved hand and stroked his cheek. He tensed as if he wanted to pull away.
“We will meet again, Waffie darling,” she said softly. She ran her fingers under his chin and blew him a kiss. She almost laughed in his face when she saw him wince.
She turned and sauntered out of the bar.
Rastenburg, East Prussia, Farm of Tadeauz Malewicz
December 14, 1943, 0145 hours
Vladimir looked at the clock. It was late – well after midnight – but not yet time for him to make his radio contact with the relay agent in Switzerland. He rolled himself off the bed where he had been waiting and moved to the small table against the wall of the attic room where he slept. He moved the table aside and removed the mirror that was hanging above it. Then he felt for the small nails that were holding the mirror and pulled.
A small section of the wall came off to reveal a small storage area containing the radio equipment. He hurriedly set up the equipment so he wouldn’t miss the transmission window. If he did, he would have to wait until the next time the Swiss contact would be monitoring for radio messages.
Vladimir had met General Stauffen in the morning to obtain this second set of plans. They had used the same method as last time – General Stauffen had arrived at the farm very early under the guise of receiving fresh eggs.
This time, the General had been more at ease. He had told Vladimir that he had seen the radio detection equipment in place at the Wolfsschanze that would have trapped him if he had transmitted the information himself. Now Stauffen knew that Vladimir was being honest and readily passed the information to Vladimir.
But Vladimir also sensed that Stauffen had the belief that he was more important than the information. He felt that this went beyond normal self-preservation. It was almost as if Stauffen believed he was destined for something important. Vladimir knew he would have to try to find out what that was, but it would have to wait until he gained more of Stauffen’s trust.
Vladimir looked at the clock again. It was time. He had already turned on the radio equipment so that it was warmed up and ready to go. After sending the recognition code several times on the proper frequency, he finally received the confirmation response. He then relayed the information that he received from Stauffen in the morning. He received the acknowledgement response and signed off the transmission.
Then he changed frequencies and made contact with The Center. He informed them of the success in getting the second set of plans and asked if there were any special instructions for him. Receiving none, he signed off.
He started to shut off the equipment to put it back into its hiding place. Before he cut the power, he had an idea. Tuning the transmitter to the proper frequency, he sent the proper recognition code. After a few seconds, he received a confirmation reply. He smiled and proceeded to send his message.
After signing off the transmission, he put the radio equipment back into it hiding place and hung the mirror back on the wall. He went to bed smiling, happy that he had decided to send his message.
Hammelburg, Stalag 13, Barracks 2
December 14, 1943, 0900 hours
Kinch was smiling as he sat at the table in the barracks. He was ready to relay the information he had received overnight, but they were waiting for the Colonel to return from Klink’s office.
“Do we ‘ave to hear more about that bloody Nimrod bloke?” Newkirk complained. “I’m getting pretty tired of London telling us how great he is.” There were several nods of agreement from around the table as the barracks door opened and Colonel Hogan entered the barracks.
“Why the gloomy faces?” Hogan asked, looking around at his men.
“Kinch is about to tell us more exploits of Nimrod,” LeBeau responded. “We’re getting tired of all the accolades he gets.” LeBeau knew that this was only part of the reason everyone was feeling down. It was also mail day, and they all knew that the Colonel would be upset if he didn’t receive any mail again.
“I still think Nimrod is not a real person,” Carter said.
“Andrew, give it a rest,” Newkirk admonished.
Colonel Hogan knew that his men were a proud bunch, but he could see that this was getting to them. “All right, let’s hold it down,” he said. “Kinch, you don’t have to read the parts about Nimrod today.” His men were happy with that decision. “But I want to see the message when we are done.”
Kinch nodded, his smile still threatening to split his face. Hogan noticed the look and arched his eyebrows in question.
Kinch noticed the questioning look and said, “We received another message early in the morning.” He paused, trying to add to the suspense.
“And …” Hogan prodded, playing along with the game.
“This one was from an agent code named Sam,” Kinch added, and paused again.
“Sam?” Baker asked. “We don’t know an agent with that code name.” There was a rumble of conversation as the men mumbled their agreement with Baker’s comment.
Hogan held up his hands. He had a suspicion of who Sam was, and judging by the look on Kinch’s face, he knew he was correct. “What was the message?” he asked Kinch.
“The message reads,” Kinch began, pausing again for effect.
Newkirk elbowed him. “Go on,” he said impatiently.
“The message reads, Journey home successful. Am back on job now. Tell Papa Bear thanks for everything,” Kinch read.
“Hey, that’s our Sam!” Carter exclaimed.
“Where is he at now?” LeBeau asked.
“What is he doing?” Baker asked.
The barracks door opened and Schultz walked in as Kinch was saying, “That’s all I know.”
Schultz looked at Kinch and asked, “What do you know?”
Kinch looked back at Schultz with an innocent look on his face. “I know nothing, Schultz. Nothing!”
“Jolly joker,” Schultz muttered.
“What is it, Schultz?” Hogan asked testily. He knew why Schultz was here, but had to ask so that Schultz could pass the mail out and leave.
“It is mail time, Colonel Hogan,” Schultz replied. “I’m sorry, you did not receive anything again.” Schultz indeed looked sad, but Hogan didn’t notice.
Hogan shrugged and tried to look as if it didn’t matter. “Oh well,” he said. “Pass out the mail to the men then.” He turned and walked into his office and slammed the door a little harder than he would have liked.
Everyone stared at the door, not knowing what to say. Schultz began to pass out the mail. When he finished, he quietly left the barracks.
* * * * * * *
Colonel Hogan lay on his bunk staring at the ceiling boards above him. He listened to the muffled voices in the outer room as Schultz passed out the mail to the men. He knew that he shouldn’t have slammed the door to his office coming in here. His men knew that he was upset, but he had been trying to act like it didn’t bother him. He didn’t want his troubles to disrupt the operation.
But as much as he tried to fool his men, he couldn’t fool himself. Why had Lisa stopped writing to him? He looked at the pile of letters on the shelf next to his bed. Why, Lisa? Why? He took one of the letters from the pile.
He heard the knock at his door, but didn’t acknowledge it. He was not in the mood for company. The knock sounded again, and he heard Kinch’s voice say, “Colonel?”
Hogan sighed. Kinch would have the message form London for him. But he also knew that Kinch would want something else.
“Come in, Kinch,” he said.
The door opened and Kinch entered the room. As Hogan expected, he had the message in his hand. “You wanted to see the message from London, sir,” Kinch said as he handed the paper to Hogan.
Hogan took the message and said, “Thanks, Kinch.” He put the message on the bed beside him.
Kinch stood silently for a moment, and then cleared his throat. “Uh, Colonel?” he said.
“Kinch, I know what you are going to say,” Hogan said, cutting him off. “We’ve been through this before, and I haven’t changed my mind.”
“Why, Colonel?” Kinch asked. “Why won’t you tell them?”
“No, Kinch,” Hogan replied. “As I said, we’ve been over this before … too many times.”
“But Colonel, the men know you are upset,” Kinch said. “They know how you looked forward to the letters from Lisa.”
At the mention of her name, Hogan winced. “I’ll be fine,” he responded weakly.
Kinch shook his head. “Not with this eating your insides out,” he replied. “Tell them.”
Hogan sighed. “Kinch, they wouldn’t understand why I didn’t tell them until now,” he replied.
“I think you underestimate them,” Kinch replied. “We’re all concerned for you.”
“And I appreciate it,” Hogan replied. “Let’s just leave it at that.”
“Colonel,” Kinch started.
“No,” Hogan said curtly. “For two years, I have been receiving letters from my sister Lisa, and pictures of my nephew Bobby. I haven’t received any for two months, and everyone is concerned. I’ll be fine, Kinch. Really.”
“Do you think they would be less concerned if they knew that Lisa was really your wife?” Kinch asked.
Hogan was silent. He closed his eyes and tried to fight the feelings that were churning inside him.
“Or is the real reason you don’t want to tell them because of some of the things you’ve done since you’ve been here?” Kinch asked.
Hogan glared at his friend. He started to shake his head, but stopped. Kinch knew him too well, and was actually right. “Damn you, Kinch,” he said softly. “You know you are right, but you had to go and force me to admit it.”
Kinch smiled. “No need to thank me, sir,” he said.
Hogan chuckled. “I’d rather court-martial you,” he replied. “But I appreciate your concern. All I can say is that I will think about it.”
Kinch rose from the chair. “All I can say is that I will keep bugging you until you say something,” he said.
Hogan smiled at him. “I know you will,” he replied.
Kinch looked at the envelope still in Hogan’s hand. “I’ll leave you alone now,” he said.
“Kinch,” Hogan said. “Thanks for looking after me.”
Kinch just smiled back and headed for the door.
* * * * * * *
Hogan removed a photograph from the envelope in his hands and looked at it. It was a picture that he and Lisa had taken on their trip to Atlantic City on his last trip home before leaving for England. Lisa had sent him the photograph so that, as she had put it, he wouldn’t forget her. Lisa dear, how could I ever forget you? I have thought about you every day I’ve been in this Godforsaken camp.
He thought about the day the photograph had been taken. You were beautiful, my dear. I was glad that we decided to elope rather than wait for the large wedding that our parents wanted to give us when I returned from the service. Boy was Mom mad when she found out! But she got over it when you surprised them with the news that you were pregnant. Hogan laughed softly to himself. After that weekend in Atlantic City, I’m not surprised at all!
Hogan looked at the picture again. So why can’t I tell anyone here the truth about you? Kinch knows, but that’s because we were on the same crew. But why can’t I tell the rest of the men here? They’ve become just as close as Kinch and I did in England. He sighed. Maybe it’s because of the tag they put on me from the beginning. ‘Ladies man’, they had said. Just because I am a flirt with the ladies, they tagged me with that label. I have to admit that the reputation has helped us a few times. But then when it became more than just flirting …
Hogan shifted in his bunk. Kinch is right. I am ashamed of that. How could I ever face the men with the truth now, after having those encounters? Kinch says that they will understand. How did he put it before? ‘Fidelity is usually the biggest casualty of war.’ That’s so true, and I am embarrassed that mine was one of the victims. If I said anything now, would the men still think the same of me? What about Hilda and Helga? Would they still be as helpful if they knew I was just using them for information?
Hogan put the photograph back in the envelope. But I’m mostly ashamed of what I did to you, Lisa. Sure, I’ve tried to justify it by saying it is just part of the job. But deep down, it hurts me to know that I have betrayed your trust. How will I ever tell you? How can I ever NOT tell you? We’ve always been honest with each other. But now, I have betrayed that trust. Will you still love me? Will you understand?
He put the envelope back with the others by his bed and jumped to the floor. Lisa, I love you, he thought as he headed out into the large room of the barracks.
Berlin, Abwehr Headquarters, Office of Major Kurt Wagner
December 14, 1943, 1130 hours
Hans Teppel was sitting in the office of Kurt Wagner in Abwehr Headquarters discussing some of the information that had come in. They both knew that, like most offices in the headquarters, Wagner’s office was most likely bugged. So they were talking in vague statements about information that would be normal for them to share. However, Teppel knew that Wagner would be interested in the information he had received this morning.
“It seems that the Sicherheitsdienst has focused their effort on finding the leak from the General Staff,” Teppel said.
Wagner raised his eyebrows in question. “After all this time,” he replied. “They seem to have a suspect?”
“Ja,” Teppel responded. “Count von Waffenschmidt, who’s leading the investigation, has reported that he now believes that the Russian woman is the main source of passing the information on.”
“I thought they were trying to find radio activity from the General Staff members?” Wagner asked. “Have they given up on that?”
Teppel smiled. The questions that Wagner was asking were not in any way out of the ordinary, but Teppel knew that his answers would be passed back to the Russian intelligence headquarters. “It seems they have,” he replied. “Von Waffenschmidt has canceled his order to monitor the General Staff.”
Wagner nodded. “And what of this Russian woman,” he said. “What’s her name, Marina?”
Teppel almost laughed out loud. Wagner knew her name well, but was playing along for any listening audience there might be. “Marya,” he replied. “Von Waffenschmidt reported locating her here in Berlin and plans to follow her around in the hopes that she will lead him to her contacts.”
The men were silent for a moment as Wagner digested the information. Teppel knew he was mentally trying to filter what he needed to report.
“I saw the report on the Allied buildup in England,” Teppel said at last.
“Ja,” Wagner replied. “It looks like they are starting their planning for the invasion of the continent.”
As he was talking, there was a small knock on the open door and Abwehr head Admiral Wilhelm Canaris entered the room.
“Hans, Kurt,” Canaris said in greeting. “Talking about the troop buildup in England?” He sat in an empty chair.
Teppel nodded. “Ja,” he replied. “It seems like they are in the early planning phase, but they are building up troops in both the south and the north.”
Canaris nodded. “I noticed that too,” he said.
“How sure are we about the information, sir?” Wagner asked Canaris.
“Pretty sure at this point,” he replied. “We are getting similar information from all of our agents.” All the men knew that feeding false information to the enemy was also the job of an intelligence service, and getting confirmation from more than one source was crucial in determining if any of their agents in London had been turned.
“Have we heard anything on a timetable of the invasion?” Teppel asked. “Or where it will be?”
Canaris shook his head. “Nein,” he replied. “I think it may be too early yet for that. But from the areas of buildup, it looks like they plan to hit Norway and obviously the French coast across the channel.”
The men continued their conversation for several minutes, talking about various bits of information that had come in. After a time, Canaris rose and said, “Keep up the good work. It’s time for me to have some lunch.”
Wagner nodded his agreement. “That sounds good,” he responded. “I think I will too. Hans, would you care to join me for a beer and some lunch?”
Teppel caught the key word in the phrase – beer. That meant that Wagner wanted to talk to him about something specific. “Ja, Kurt,” he replied. “That sounds like a good idea.”
Canaris left the room, followed by Teppel and Wagner. The three parted ways at the end of the hall, Canaris turning towards his office while Teppel and Wagner headed towards their favorite meeting place.
* * * * * * *
“What’s the problem?” Teppel said once they had settled at their favorite table in the Brauhaus.
“You know about Canaris?” Wagner asked softly.
“You mean his associations?” Teppel asked. Wagner nodded. “Ja, I know he’s active there. He’s made a couple probing attempts to see if I was interested.”
“Stay away,” Wagner said. “It’s very dangerous.”
Teppel nodded. “I know,” he replied. “But if they succeed, it will be good.”
Wagner shook his head emphatically. “If they succeed,” he said. “But if you are associated, and they fail, you are dead. The reprisals will be widespread.”
Teppel was silent for a moment. “I see what you are saying,” he said finally. “It is best to stay out of their circle, and mind my own business.”
Wagner nodded. “Even though ultimately your business is the same as their business,” he said. “It’s best not to depend on others for your safety.”
Teppel smiled. “You mean like our arrangement?” he asked.
Wagner made a non-committal gesture and smiled. “Sometimes it’s good to have a partner,” he said lightly. “Just be careful what you say and who you talk to.”
They were both silent as Heidi brought their food and a second beer for each of them. As she set the items on the table, she smiled warmly at Teppel.
After she had gone, Wagner grinned broadly. “And be careful what you say to Heidi,” he said.
Teppel frowned. “Why? Is she in that same circle too?” he asked.
Wagner chuckled. “No,” he said. “But she likes you, and if you are not careful, you may find that she’s cast her net around you!”
Teppel picked up his beer and glanced over at Heidi, who was standing by the bar. She caught his glance and gave him a little wave, which made Teppel almost choke on his beer.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2
December 14, 1943, 1230 hours
Kinch lay on his bunk reading a well-read Perry Mason paperback. Actually, for the last half hour, he had been reading the same page of a well-read Perry Mason paperback. Reluctantly, he dog-eared the page and put the book aside. His mind was too preoccupied to concentrate on reading today.
Ever since this morning, Kinch had been thinking about Colonel Hogan’s predicament. Why wouldn’t the Colonel receive any mail at all? It’s not that unusual to go a mail call or two without getting a letter, but once the Colonel’s mail found him in this camp, he didn’t miss one. He always got something, either from Lisa or his parents, or usually both. The Colonel is so upset about Lisa’s mail that he probably doesn’t realize that he hasn’t received anything from his parents either.
Kinch looked around the room. The rest of the small group of men that made up Papa Bear’s outfit were playing cards at the table in the middle of the barracks. Every one of us would feel bad about not getting any mail ourselves. But this group of men would also feel bad when one of the others didn’t receive mail. We’re all hurting now to see the Colonel going through this. But why – why has his mail suddenly stopped?
Kinch got out of bed and walked towards the door. “I’m going to take a little walk,” he said to the men at the table.
“In this weather?” Newkirk asked. “Bloody cold out there, it is!”
“It’s just a bit brisk,” Kinch lied. He knew it was cold outside, he wanted to have a talk with Schultz, and Schultz was not here in the barracks. If you can’t bring the mountain to Mohammed, he thought. Then Kinch takes a walk to Mount Schultz!
* * * * * * *
Kinch knew that Schultz would be minding the Kommandant’s outer office today while both Hilda and Helga had the day off. It was a rare occasion that one of the two secretaries was not in the office, and on those rare days, it fell to Schultz to keep the secretarial chair warm.
Kinch entered the outer office to find Schultz sitting in the chair, feet out in front of him and his head back, snoring softly. He shut the door rather loudly, startling the portly sergeant into springing forward to look busily at the papers on the desk.
Kinch laughed. “Relax, Schultz,” he said. “It’s only me, not the old Bald Eagle.”
“Sergeant Kinchloe, you should not scare me like that,” he replied. “It is bad for my nerves!”
“Is the Kommandant in his office?” Kinch asked.
“Ja,” Schultz replied. “He said he would be busy all day and not to disturb him.” Schultz narrowed his eyes and looked at Kinch. “You are not planning any monkey business, are you?” he asked.
“Not at all, Schultz,” Kinch responded. “I just want to ask you to do something for the Colonel.”
“Why would you want me to do something for Colonel Klink?” Schultz asked.
“Not Colonel Klink,” Kinch said. “Colonel Hogan.”
“Will it get me into trouble?” Schultz asked. “Because you know I do not like to get into trouble with the Kommandant.”
“I know, Schultz,” Kinch replied. “You want to know nothing, nothing!”
“It is much easier to retain my neutrality that way,” Schultz said.
“Schultz, do it for the Colonel,” Kinch insisted.
Schultz sighed. He knew that Kinch would keep pestering him until he did whatever it was that Kinch was going to ask him to do. But sometimes Colonel Hogan got him into so much trouble. “What is it the Colonel wants me to do?” he asked.
“He doesn’t know,” Kinch replied. “I’m the one that wants you to do it.”
“Do what?” Schultz asked.
“Schultz, the Colonel is really depressed about not getting any mail,” Kinch explained.
“I know,” Schultz said. “I hate coming into the barracks on mail day now.”
“Why, Schultz?” Kinch asked. “Why isn’t the Colonel getting any mail?”
“I do not know,” Schultz replied. “The mail courier doesn’t bring him any.”
“Find out why, Schultz,” Kinch begged. “Ask the courier if he knows why.”
“But what if he doesn’t know?” Schultz asked. “What if it is just because nobody is writing to him?”
“Schultz, think about it,” Kinch said. “All the time he is here, he’s getting two or three pieces of mail each time – at least. Then for two months, nothing at all. Does that make sense?”
Schultz shook his head. “No it doesn’t,” he replied. “But …”
“Schultz, the Colonel would help you if your family couldn’t communicate with you,” Kinch said. He watched as Schultz closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Yes, I knew that would get to him. He knows that Colonel Hogan would help his family, and now he’ll tell me that he’ll do it.
After a moment, Schultz said, “I will see if I can find out why.”
Kinch smiled. “Thanks Schultz,” he said and he walked out of the Kommandant’s outer office, leaving Schultz lost in his thoughts.
* * * * * * *
Schultz didn’t hear Kinch leave the room. He was absorbed with the thoughts of his family and Colonel Hogan.
It pained him to see the Colonel so despondent about his lack of mail. Colonel Hogan had always been good to Schultz. Yes, he has gotten me into some trouble every so often, but he has always gotten me out of it before I got shipped off to the Eastern Front or worse. And even though I always got the feeling that he would only help me if it were in his best interest, I never got the feeling that he wished me any harm.
Schultz thought back to the incident about eight months ago, in April, when Colonel Hogan was able to talk the Kommandant into allowing him to take his leave and go back to Heidelberg to visit his family. He wanted me to deliver that potted plant to the fräulein he had met when he was shot down. Schultz chuckled. So he said. After the fiasco with my wife at the gate, and then with the Kommandant for tearing up my pass, Colonel Hogan was able to talk Klink into giving me another pass to see my family, apparently looking out for my health. But the main reason he got Klink to allow me to leave was to deliver the plant … that of course had necessary radio parts for the underground contact in Heidelberg.
Schultz smiled to himself. Imagine my surprise when the fräulein turned out to be my oldest daughter, Elena. Gretchen and I had known that she was involved in the underground, but both of us had turned a blind eye to that activity. We didn’t want to know anything about what, or who, she was involved with. But now this had placed me right in the middle, as a courier. I now had no choice but to be involved.
Schultz could still remember when he told Colonel Hogan about delivering the plant.
* * * * * * *
“Colonel Hogan, I delivered the plant as you wanted,” Schultz said.
“Thanks, Schultz,” Hogan replied. “Was I right about her? Isn’t she a dream?”
“Ja,” Schultz replied. “I have always thought so.”
Hogan looked both confused and worried. “What do you mean by that?” he asked.
Schultz smiled a small remorseful smile. “That woman is my oldest daughter, Colonel Hogan,” he said.
Hogan’s eyes grew wide. “Your what?” he asked incredulously.
“She’s my daughter, Elena,” Schultz replied. “Gretchen and I have known she was involved with the underground, but never knew any of the details.” Schultz paused and stared directly at Hogan. “Until now.”
Hogan was at a loss for words. He stared at Schultz, wondering what the big man’s reaction was going to be.
“Colonel Hogan,” he said. “I am not a Nazi. I am a toymaker. I would rather my factory made toys that made children smile than bombs that made them die. My daughter feels the same way, but unlike me, is more active in her opposition to the brutality being imposed on the German people. I know that she is, but do not know all the things that she does. It is better that way. I worry enough as it is.”
Schultz paused. Hogan was silent, letting him compose his thoughts.
“Colonel Hogan,” he continued. “I have known for a while that there is monkey business going on in this camp, and many times I was being used in this monkey business. I have chosen to see nothing up to this point.”
“And now?” Hogan prompted.
Schultz sighed. “And now I will choose to see nothing, hear nothing and know nothing … on one condition.”
“If it is something I can do, I will do it, Schultz,” Hogan replied.
“If it is in your power, protect my family if they ever find themselves in danger,” Schultz said.
Hogan smiled at the guard. He was expecting him to ask about his own safety, but instead he asked about his family’s safety. “Sure, Schultz,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I can for them … and you. I will make sure that you are safe, so that you can return to your family when this war is over.”
“Danke, Colonel Hogan,” Schultz said softly.
* * * * * * *
Colonel Hogan had been true to his word. There had been several times in the past eight months when Schultz had almost found himself being transferred away. Colonel Hogan had managed to prevent it each time.
Schultz put his feet up on the secretarial desk. Yes, I will do what I can to find out about your mail, Colonel Hogan. It’s the least I can do.
Stalag 13, Office of Kommandant Klink
December 14, 1943, 1500 hours
Sergeant Schultz opened the door to Klink’s office and entered. He stood at attention and announced, “General Burkhalter to see Colonel Klink.”
General Burkhalter entered the room, followed by a man in a hat and coat carrying a briefcase. Schultz noticed that Klink was sitting at his desk, asleep!
“Psssssssssssssssssst,” Schultz alerted.
“Schultz, that isn’t the way you wake a sleeping prince,” Burkhalter said. He lifted the ashtray from the desk and slammed it down as hard as he could.
Klink jerked himself awake and started to look as if he were writing something. He looked up and noticed General Burkhalter standing in front of his desk. He stood up and saluted. “Oh, General Burkhalter,” he said.
Burkhalter lazily returned the salute.
“What a pleasure,” Klink continued. “I was so deep in thought, I didn’t realize …”
“Klink!” Burkhalter said loudly. “This is Colonel Sitzer.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Klink said as he reached out to shake the man’s hand. But Sitzer saluted instead, leaving Klink to pull back and return the salute.
“And to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” Klink asked. “Not that there needs to be any reason …”
“I’m from the Ministry of Propaganda,” Sitzer interrupted.
“Oh, that’s a wonderful branch of the service,” Klink said. “Oh, what a job you people are doing. I’ve always said that you people are doing more to end this war than anyone else.”
“Colonel Klink, we’ve been looking at your records,” Sitzer said. “Very carefully.”
A disturbed look came over Klink’s face. “I can explain that. It’s not my fault,” Klink said quickly. “Although technically I was in charge of all the money at the officers club, Lieutenant Kleinminster also had a key and he …”
“Klink!” Burkhalter interrupted. “Colonel Sitzer is talking about your perfect record in the camp.”
“He is?” Klink asked, straightening himself and smiling proudly.
“Yes,” Burkhalter responded. “What are you talking about?” he asked with a frown.
Klink shook his head. “Was I talking about something? I don’t remember what it was,” he said meekly.
“We believe what you have done deserved public recognition,” Sitzer stated.
“I was only doing my duty,” Klink said with false modesty. “Naturally, I’m flattered, and I hope that others will be inspired by my example.”
The man’s ego is already out of control, thought Burkhalter. I’d better shut him up before his head explodes. Burkhalter went on to explain that what they were doing was for the propaganda value, not for Klink.
Colonel Sitzer proceeded to tell Klink about the award he would be receiving on a national radio hookup. As Sitzer talked, Burkhalter walked over to Klink’s schnapps bottle and poured himself a drink. Look at that buffoon, he thought. Listen to all that talk about humility. Klink is about as humble as I am thin!
After Sitzer had completed his duty of informing Klink about the award, he turned to Burkhalter and said, “I think we’d better be getting back to town.”
“Oh, I’ll have the car brought around right away,” Klink said, walking to the door to the outer office and opening it. “Oh sir, I was wondering …”
“You will receive the award in about a week,” Sitzer said, shutting Klink up. “And remember, it’s a secret.”
Klink beamed like a new father. “You can depend on me,” he said. “Absolute silence. A sphinx. They won’t get a word out of me.”
As Klink was talking, Burkhalter rolled his eyes. Mein Gott, he thought. The man is insufferable! “The car Klink,” he said testily.
“Ah, the car sir,” Klink said backing out of the room. “Yes, the car. Right away the car.” Klink backed out of the room and shut the door.
“Are you sure that no prisoner has ever escaped from him?” Sitzer asked Burkhalter after Klink was gone.
“Don’t look at me,” Burkhalter replied. “I don’t understand it either.” Burkhalter turned towards the door and broke into a big smile. Actually, Colonel Sitzer, I understand it all too well. Klink is not the Colonel in charge of this camp!
Burkhalter opened the door as Klink was returning to his office. “The car is on its way,” Klink said to the General.
“Good,” Burkhalter replied. “Colonel Sitzer, I will join you in a minute. I have some camp business to discuss with Colonel Klink.”
“Of course, General,” Sitzer said and went outside to wait for the car.
“An award,” Klink beamed. “I must say that if anyone deserved and award it would be …”
“Klink! Shut up,” Burkhalter said.
“Yes sir,” Klink cowered. “Shut up.”
“Klink, that prisoner that Hochstetter took from you a few months ago,” Burkhalter said. “The one he claimed was a Russian and ended up being shot by the Abwehr.”
“Prisoner?” Klink asked trying to act surprised. Inside he was nervous. The prisoner, Sam Minsk, was really a Russian that he had passed off as an American flyer.
“Yes, I believe his name was Sam Minsk,” Burkhalter said smoothly.
“Oh, that prisoner,” Klink responded. “Now I remember.”
“Somehow I knew you would,” Burkhalter mumbled. “Now that he is no longer in the camp, I would like to have his file.”
“His file?” Klink asked meekly. “Why …”
“Yes, his file, Klink,” Burkhalter said. “Unless there is a reason why you do not want to give it to me.”
“Oh, no sir,” Klink replied. “No reason at all. It’s just that my secretaries are out today, and I wouldn’t know where to begin to look for it.”
“Try under the letter M,” Burkhalter retorted.
“Yes sir, the letter M,” Klink said, and went to the file cabinet. After a moment of shuffling through the drawer, he pulled out a file and handed it to the General. “If I might ask,” he began.
“You might,” Burkhalter interrupted. “But you might find yourself finishing your question on the Eastern Front.”
Klink clamped his mouth shut and nodded.
Burkhalter turned and left the office.
* * * * * * *
The fire was burning in the fireplace at Burkhalter’s chalet, and the General was sitting back on his sofa. He took the file on the American flyer, Sam Minsk, and opened it. There right in front was the prisoner’s headshot and number.
I was right, he thought. It is the same man that I saw at the market in Rastenburg. A prisoner from Stalag 13, who gets taken by the Gestapo, and then by the Abwehr who supposedly shoots him, somehow ends up in a market in Rastenburg. Now I know that Colonel Hogan is not only capable of getting information out of Germany, but also to move people around. He must also be able to get them out of Germany.
The General closed the file and sat back with a drink in his hand. He had been worried from the beginning of what he would do if his covert assistance to Colonel Hogan were discovered. He knew that it would mean the end of him. Now he was starting to think that, if given enough warning, he might be able to find his way out of Germany and survive. It would mean divulging his participation to Colonel Hogan in order to ask for help, which is something he never wanted to do. But if it came to either that or dying, then he would choose to tell Colonel Hogan.
He looked at the file in his hands and thought about the contents. If Sam Minsk were a real American flyer, then by the Geneva Convention, Klink should have informed the Red Cross so that his family could be notified. If not, then the contents of this file are complete fiction. In either case, Burkhalter knew that there was no longer a need for it. He removed the headshot photo from the file and tossed the remainder into the burning fireplace. He watched it slowly burn as he sipped the brandy from his glass.
Hammelburg Area, Farm of Erich Jonach
December 20, 1943, 2230 hours
“Colonel Hogan wants us to check out the progress being made on converting the bombed out factory into a fuel depot and distribution station,” Erich Jonach said to the men assembled in his barn.
“I assume that we should also let him know about the security they’ve put up on the site too, correct?” Oskar Schnitzer asked.
Jonach nodded. “That’s right, Oskar,” he replied. “We know that the Gestapo has taken charge of both the construction and the security, but right now, we aren’t sure how large a security force is there.”
“We’ll need to be careful,” Johann Mueller said. “We shouldn’t get too close to the facility until we can determine if they have put land mines around the perimeter.”
“And they may have brought dogs in to help them patrol the surrounding woods,” Oskar Meyer added.
“That’s why we need to figure out our plan tonight,” Jonach said. “We need to get the information tomorrow night. Colonel Hogan is meeting me in two days to see what we’ve learned.”
“That’s not much time to find out everything,” Schnitzer commented.
“I know,” Jonach replied. “I don’t think he wants to know everything at this time though. The progress is the more important bit of information.”
“Does he plan to hit the facility soon?” Meyer asked.
Jonach shook his head. “Nein, Oskar,” he replied. “I think he wants to wait until they finish it and it is operational. At that time it will be loaded with fuel and he wants to get both with the same explosion.”
“That makes sense,” Mueller responded. “The fuel will make the site more explosive as well.”
“So, does anyone have any ideas how we could get this information?” Jonach asked. Everyone in the room was silent for a moment, each man thinking of ways to approach the facility.
“We should not have too many people involved,” Schnitzer said at last.
Jonach nodded. “That is true,” he replied. “You have a thought?”
“I think so,” Schnitzer replied. “In addition to a small number of people, they should be able to explain being in the woods in that area.”
Everyone’s attention turned to Oskar Schnitzer as he began to explain his idea.
“Part of my job as the dog trainer for the Luft Stalag guard dogs is to train them to search out downed Allied flyers,” he said.
“And you do that training?” Mueller asked.
Schnitzer smiled. “I said that was part of my job,” he replied. “But I really train the dogs to be friendly to the Allied flyers. But Major Hochstetter knows that I used to use the factory grounds for my training before they began converting it. And he also knows that I still use the woods in that area for training. He should not have a problem with me being in the area, as long as I inform him ahead of time that I will be doing it.”
“Would you be doing this training at night?” Jonach asked.
Schnitzer nodded. “I must train in all kinds of conditions so that the dogs will be used to it,” he replied. “So it will not be unusual at all. I would just need one more person with me, to act as the Allied flyer that my dogs are tracking.”
“I’ll do it, Oskar,” Meyer replied. “The dogs like me because I smell like meat.” He laughed. “They shouldn’t have any trouble tracking me.”
Everyone laughed, and Jonach said, “Good, that sounds like a good plan. Oskar, I mean Oskars, set it up for tomorrow night.”
Schnitzer nodded. “I will contact Hochstetter in the morning and let him know my intentions. Oskar and I will get together to go over what we need to do.”
With that, the meeting broke up. Everyone left the barn and began their careful journey to their homes.
Hammelburg Area, Farm of Friedrich Wagner
December 20, 1943, 2245 hours
“We have determined that Hans Dietrich and Franz Hurst seem to work as a team,” Otto Bauer said to the assembled group.
“Always?” Hans Wagner asked.
“Ja,” Max Becker answered. “They are always together. Also, they must be scheduled to be at the old factory that is being worked on. They go there every night between eight and nine in the evening.”
Hans Wagner was silent as he pondered this fact.
“They haven’t missed an evening yet, since we’ve been watching,” Otto added.
“That would work out well,” Hans mumbled, more to himself than to everyone else. Then he looked up and said, “Do they follow the same route to the factory?”
Both Otto and Max nodded. “They have to,” Max replied. “There is only one entrance, and the road leading to it does not lead anywhere else. The road is not heavily traveled. Hans and Franz seem to be the only ones using it until the men they are replacing leave.”
Hans grinned with pleasure. “Now that is excellent news!” he exclaimed.
“Do you have an idea, Hans?” Karl Wagner asked his brother.
“I believe I do,” Hans replied. “You know that road, Karl. Our farm is only a few kilometers away through the woods.”
Karl nodded. “Yes, now that you mention it, I do know what road you are talking about,” he said.
“It cuts right through the woods to the factory,” Hans continued. “There are no turn-offs and it’s not wide enough to turn a car around. And the best part is that it’s a winding road through the trees.”
“A perfect place for an ambush,” Karl agreed. “We would just need to block the road, and they would have to stop.”
“There are plenty of trees we can chop down to block the road,” Rudolph Albrecht said.
Hans shook his head. “We don’t want to chop any. We wouldn’t want the noise,” he replied. “But there are plenty of fallen trees that we can drag into the road.”
“I see,” responded Heinrich Schneider. “We block the road, preferably right after a curve in the road so that they don’t see it until the last minute. When they stop, we are there to greet them.”
Hans nodded his head vigorously. “Exactly,” he agreed.
Ilse Wagner had been watching the proceedings silently from her seat against the door of one of the barn stalls. “And then what?” she asked. “What do you plan to do after you stop them?”
Her brother Hans looked at her with fire in his eyes. “I plan to teach them a lesson they will never forget,” he replied with hostility.
The hate in his voice scared Ilse. She knew what her brother had in mind, and deep down inside, she had to admit that she wanted the two men to pay for what they did to her. But hearing her brother say what he planned made her shiver.
“So when do we do it?” Rudolph asked.
“Tomorrow,” Hans replied.
“So soon?” Ilse asked.
“We’ve waited long enough,” he responded. “We do it tomorrow night, when they drive down that road to the factory.”
Heads nodded in agreement with the plan. Ilse was excited that something was finally going to happen, but also scared that something could go wrong. The last thing she wanted was for anything to happen to her brothers on account of her.
“We’ll pick our spot a couple hours before, and then gather the brush that we need to block the road,” Hans ordered. “We should have that complete and be waiting by eight in case they decide to make it one of their early nights.”
Everyone added their agreement to the plan, and the meeting broke up. As Ilse walked back to the house, she thought of what they were going to do. All of this was because of her.
No, she thought. It is not because of me. I didn’t ask for them to attack me, in fact I begged them not to. Now they must pay for what they did. Once they do, I will feel better. But as she entered the house, she had the dreadful feeling that this was only the beginning for her brothers. She knew they would not want to stop at this. Dear God, she thought. What has happened to us?
Hammelburg Area, Woods Around Bombed-out Factory
December 21, 1943, 2000 hours
Hans Wagner had just finished dragging the last log into its place on the road. Now he stood with the rest of his group and examined the pile. “I think this will be enough,” he said. “Now we just have to wait.”
“Are you sure they will stop?” Ilse asked.
“They have to,” Karl replied. They can’t go around it and they can’t turn around.”
“And when they get out of the car, we’ve got them,” Hans said.
Hans directed everyone to take their places on each side of the road to wait. He hoped they wouldn’t have to wait long. He was excited. He had been waiting for this for two months, ever since his sister was attacked. Now, he felt that he was minutes away from punishing those responsible.
He didn’t have to wait long. They heard the car coming before the saw it. It rounded the corner slowly and then stopped abruptly when the driver saw the debris blocking the road.
The group had gone over their plans before, and Hans was hoping that both men got out of the car to look at the mess in the road. If one stayed in the car, it would be more difficult, as his group did not have any guns, and he knew that the Gestapo men did. Luck was with him as both men got out and started walking towards the front of the car.
Hans charged the man nearest him. He was vaguely aware of his brother and Max Becker running silently along beside him in the short sprint to where the car was stopped. He hoped that the rest of his men were doing the same on the other side of the car.
The Gestapo man gave a shout as Hans dove at him and pushed him up against the car. He wrapped his arms around the man so that Karl and Max could disarm him. When Karl had grabbed the gun from the man’s belt, he yelled, “Otto, do you have him?”
“Ja, we have him,” Otto Bauer replied from the other side of the car. “We are bringing him around.”
Four men appeared from behind the car with Otto holding a gun on a bewildered man in a Gestapo uniform. He herded him over to stand beside the man Hans had grabbed, and handed his gun to Hans. Ilse appeared from where she was hiding on the side of the road.
“Well, well,” Hans said grimly. “What do we have here?” In the dim light, he could see that the men were startled and scared. “It looks like we have a couple of scared little rabbits.”
“What do you want from us?” Hans Dietrich said timidly.
“We just want to talk with you,” Ilse said. “Don’t you want to talk with us?”
Franz Hurst peered through the dimness at Ilse. “I know you,” he said. “Hans, that’s the girl we …”
“Franz!” exclaimed Hans Dietrich, trying to quiet his partner.
Ilse smiled. “I’m glad you remember me,” she said sweetly. “I would hate to think that such a memorable experience for me would mean nothing to you.”
“What do you want from us?” Hans Dietrich repeated wearily.
Hans Wagner remained quiet. He had agreed when Ilse begged him to let her handle the situation, though he knew that the final actions would be his.
“Such manly gentlemen do not want to talk with a lady?” Ilse asked.
“We don’t have time for conversation,” Hans Dietrich said. “We will be late for work, and then you will have the Gestapo to answer to.”
“I’m afraid I must insist,” Ilse said, moving closer to him.
Hans Dietrich smirked. “So you enjoyed it so much before that you want it again?” he asked smugly.
Ilse smiled broadly and then with a sudden move, kick him hard between the legs. He grunted and doubled over onto the ground, groaning in agony.
“I enjoyed it about as much as you are enjoying that,” Ilse retorted. She turned to Franz, and asked, “How about you? Do you want some enjoyment too?”
Franz shifted himself so that Ilse could not repeat the move she made on his partner. “You will be in trouble,” he said meekly.
Ilse lashed out and raked her nails across his face. He screamed and covered his face with his hands. Ilse took advantage of his distraction and kicked at him wildly. She felt the impact, but Franz had turned himself so that her kick impacted on his thigh.
“You pigs!” she screamed. “You filthy pigs! You think because you are Gestapo you can do whatever you want?”
“What do you want? Do you want us to say we’re sorry?” Franz begged.
Hans Wagner stepped forward. “I want you to say goodbye,” he said calmly.
Franz looked around and saw the gun in Hans’ hand pointed directly at his face.
“Please, let us go and we won’t bother her again,” Franz sobbed. Tears had begun falling from his eyes.
“I can guarantee that you won’t bother her again,” Hans replied, a grim smile appearing on his face.
“Please,” Franz whispered, knowing it would do no good.
* * * * * * *
Oskar Schnitzer and Oskar Meyer were walking through the woods being led by three of Schnitzer’s dogs. He had picked his best-trained dogs to bring with him because he needed to be sure that he could concentrate on the information gathering rather than keeping his animals in check. After all, this wasn’t a real training exercise; it just had to look like one.
Schnitzer had talked to Hochstetter earlier in the day to tell him that he would be training his dogs in the woods. Hochstetter had informed him that neither he nor his dogs were to come within one hundred meters of the factory, because the area was mined. He also refused permission to use the road leading to the factory, as it must be kept clear for official use. So even before this trek in the woods, he had gotten some of the information that Colonel Hogan needed.
Now, as they neared the edge of the woods, they split up. They would each scout the facility and then meet up again when Schnitzer told the dogs to find Meyer. “Remember, not too close,” Schnitzer reminded Meyer before he walked away.
Meyer hadn’t walked three steps before they heard a gunshot ring out, followed soon after by a second. He stopped and looked back at Schnitzer. “Those were gunshots,” he commented.
Schnitzer didn’t answer. His attention was locked on the facility. An alarm had started sounding immediately after the shots were heard, and now searchlights were scanning the woods from the top of towers that were located inside the compound. His first urge was to run, but he realized that if they were seen running, the guards at the facility would start shooting. Besides, he had permission from Major Hochstetter to be in the area.
One of the lights passed by them, illuminating them briefly as it passed. The light immediately returned, and Schnitzer threw his hands in the air. “Quick,” he said to Meyer. “Put your hands up. We don’t want them to shoot.”
The light stayed on them, and a voice yelled at them from the compound. “Halt! Don’t move or you will be shot,” the voice yelled. Schnitzer kept watching the compound. The searchlight was somewhat blinding, but he thought he saw people making their way towards them from the compound. Interesting, he thought. Major Hochstetter said that the area around the camp was mined. But it seems that there is a way through the mines.
After a few moments, a Gestapo Captain and a small squad reached the place where the two men were standing. “Search them,” the Captain said.
One of the men moved forward and searched Meyer and Schnitzer. Finding nothing, he took their papers and handed them to the Captain. “Their papers, Captain Dorfmann,” the man said.
Dorfmann took the papers and looked at them in the light of his flashlight. “Herr Schnitzer and Herr Meyer,” he commented. “What are you doing in this area?” he asked.
“I am training these dogs,” Schnitzer replied, nodding towards the three dogs that were sitting patiently. “Major Hochstetter gave me permission to use this area tonight.”
“He did, did he?” Dorfmann responded.
“Ja,” Schnitzer replied. “I called him this morning.”
Dorfmann handed the papers back to the men. “If you two would please follow me,” he said. “We will go see Major Hochstetter now to confirm your story.”
“Of course, Captain,” Schnitzer replied.
* * * * * * *
The truck stopped in front of the pile of debris blocking the road. Major Hochstetter jumped out quickly and looked around as his men piled from the back of the truck. He pointed to three men and said, “ I want you, you and you to clear this mess from the road. The rest of you, come with me.”
Hochstetter led the men around the barricade and stopped short when he saw the Gestapo car sitting with the driver door open and two bodies on the ground beside it. Hochstetter aimed the flashlight at the forms on the ground as he walked towards them. As he knelt beside one of them, he heard a gasp of recognition from one of his men.
“That’s Franz!” the man exclaimed.
Hochstetter growled low in his throat and shined the light at the other form on the ground. “And that is Hans,” he said. “They’ve been shot in the head.” He quickly looked at his fallen men, noticing that their firearms were not in the holsters on their belt. He aimed the flashlight at the ground in the area, searching for their weapons. The light reflected off of two shiny objects that he bent and picked up. Shell casings, he thought. But their weapons are missing. It’s as if they were targeted and killed with their own weapons.
“Major?” one of the men asked tentatively.
Hochstetter wheeled around and faced the men. “This was obviously an ambush,” he snarled. “You, take the men and search the woods around here. I want to know about anything you find.”
“Jawohl, Major,” the man said. He motioned the men in different directions around the site, leaving Hochstetter alone by the car.
Hochstetter didn’t like this. It was obviously an ambush designed to trap anyone heading towards the facility. The placement of the barricade was such that you didn’t see it until you rounded the curve in the road, and since the road was too narrow to turn around, a vehicle would be trapped. But where were his men’s weapons? The two shell casings looked like they would come from the Gestapo-issued Lugers, which would mean that they were killed with their own weapons.
Hochstetter’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard Captain Dorfmann’s voice yell out, “Major Hochstetter?”
“Over here, Captain,” Hochstetter shouted in reply. He saw the Captain emerge from behind the barricade followed by several other men, one leading three dogs on their leashes. As they got closer, Hochstetter recognized Schnitzer and Meyer.
“Herr Schnitzer, Herr Meyer,” he said.
“I found these men in the woods on the other side of the facility,” Dorfmann said. “Herr Schnitzer tells me that he had your permission to train his dogs in that area tonight.”
“Ja,” Hochstetter replied. “I talked to him this morning.”
“We heard gunshots,” Schnitzer said as he looked at the men on the ground beside the automobile. “What happened, Major?”
“Two of my men were ambushed and murdered,” Hochstetter replied.
“That’s terrible,” Schnitzer responded. Uh oh. This is not good. Hochstetter will not be happy that two of his men were gunned down. I hope there are no reprisals to the townspeople because of this.
“Yes,” Hochstetter replied. “I will find out who did this, and it will be very terrible for them.”
I’d like to know who did this as well. It couldn’t be anyone in our group. We all know that killing Gestapo men just makes the Gestapo very angry. “Unfortunately these dogs are not trained, or I would offer their service to help you track down those responsible,” he told Hochstetter. “But if I see anything suspicious while I am training tonight, I will certainly let you know.”
Hochstetter shook his head. “I’m sorry Herr Schnitzer,” Hochstetter said distractedly. “But I’m afraid that I cannot allow you in the woods around the facility any longer. I’m sure you understand the reason why.”
Damn, thought Schnitzer. Colonel Hogan needs the information about the progress they are making on this fuel depot. I wasn’t able to gather nearly enough information. “Ja, I understand, Major,” he replied. “I will return to my truck parked on the other side of the facility.”
“Captain Dorfmann will accompany you, Herr Schnitzer,” Hochstetter stated. “The ones who did this may still be in the area.”
I doubt it, Major. They are long gone by now. Only an idiot would stay around after an ambush. Then again, it’s not to smart to ambush and murder the Gestapo. I must tell Erich about all of this. “Danke, Major Hochstetter,” a resigned Schnitzer replied.
* * * * * * *
The rest of the men had gone to their homes, and Ilse sat in the barn with her brothers. Hans was very excited that they were able to accomplish their goal.
“Ilse, I told you that those men would pay for what they did to you,” a smiling Hans said to his sister.
Ilse nodded. She had mixed feelings. She was very happy that she was able to confront the men – it had felt so good feel the impact of her foot when she had kicked them. But she was somewhat disturbed by what her brother had done. It had amounted to nothing more than cold-blooded murder, and she feared that it had made them no better than the men they had just dispatched.
“Ja,” she replied. “I am glad that it’s over. Now things can go back to the way they were.”
“Over?” Hans replied in surprise. “My dear, this was just the beginning.”
Ilse was shocked. She looked at her brother who had an evil grin on his face. “But Hans, we’ve done what we set out to do,” she said.
“Nein,” he replied. “This was just the beginning of what I set out to do. We have much more work to do.”
Ilse just stared at her brother in disbelief. What has happened to you? We have had our revenge for what happened to me. Why isn’t that good enough for you? Deep down inside, she shook with fear. Nothing good will come from this, she thought.
Hammelburg Area, Chalet of General Albert Burkhalter
December 21, 1943, 2020 hours
General Burkhalter was sitting on his sofa, waiting to hear the radio broadcast. This would be the one where the famous Colonel Klink received his award for his perfect record at Stalag 13. The pompous windbag will probably make an idiotic speech too. Oh well, it will be entertainment while I am waiting for Elsa to come over. Burkhalter chuckled. Yes, I am really glad that I have this place, and that Berta is still in Berlin. Tonight I can have some charming company and engage in pleasant conversation rather than hearing the Hinden-Berta blow all that hot air.
Ah, it is good to be able to relax before I have to fly to the Wolfsschanze tomorrow morning for the evening briefing with the Führer. I think if I would have to spend the evening listening to Berta, I would end up begging the Führer to transfer me to the Eastern Front where it would be quieter.
He glanced at the clock and turned the radio on. There was music playing, so Burkhalter knew that the program had not started. He poured himself some of his finest brandy, and leaned back to relax.
The music stopped and Burkhalter heard a female voice come over the airwaves.
“That was the Führer’s favorite selection. And now I would like to introduce to you Colonel Wilhelm Klink of Stalag 13,” the female announcer said.
There was a long moment of silence and then Burkhalter heard Klink’s voice, “Hallo?” Klink said nervously.
“Tonight we honor Colonel Klink, who as Kommandant of Stalag 13, has never had a prisoner escape,” the female announcer continued. “Colonel, may I present you with this scroll.”
There was a long moment of silence before Burkhalter heard Klink’s voice again.
“Uh, uh, that reminds me of the story of the two Bavarians … Pat and Mike,” Klink stammered out. Burkhalter started laughing.
The female announcer interrupted, “Thank you, Colonel Klink.”
Burkhalter continued to laugh. Even on live national radio the man sounds like an idiot!
The female announcer went on. “And now we have a real surprise for you. An American prisoner of war who has some interesting things to tell you.”
That statement was a real surprise for Burkhalter and he sat up to listen more closely.
“You are Colonel Hogan of the United States Army Air Corps?” the female announcer asked.
“Hogan?” mumbled Burkhalter. “What is he doing on the radio?”
“That’s one of my names,” Hogan replied.
“One of your names?” the announced asked.
“Well, I had another name when I was in prison,” Hogan said. “But naturally you don’t give your right name in a case like that.”
Burkhalter chuckled. Leave it to Hogan to come up with an answer like that. He’s up to something with this broadcast. I wonder what it is?
“You were in prison,” the female announcer stated flatly.
“Three times,” Hogan replied. “Bum raps.”
The announcer tried to continue. Burkhalter could tell that she was not expecting the answers she was getting. Having seen Hogan do this to Klink, as well as himself, he knew what she was going through.
“Colonel, you’ve had an opportunity to observe the new Germany and the United States,” the announcer said. “Now how would you compare them?”
“Ah, no comparison at all,” Hogan replied. “Back home, everybody thinks for himself. All those decisions to make. Here, one man thinks for everyone. Saves a lot of wear and tear.”
Burkhalter choked on the brandy he was sipping. Did I just hear what I thought I heard?
“I’m, uh,” the female announcer stammered.
“I mean, take the Russian Front, that was Hitler’s idea,” Hogan continued. “Yet I think it’s wonderful that you don’t hear one word of criticism about it.”
Burkhalter roared with laughter. That Hogan sure has nerve. On live radio!
“You’ve read Mein Kampf, I believe,” the announcer continued, somewhat exasperated.
“Oh yeah, you bet,” Hogan replied. “You know, that guy Hitler that wrote it. A lot of people think that just because he wears that silly moustache, the book’s a lot of junk.”
Tears were starting to stream down Burkhalter’s face, he was laughing so hard.
A male announcer broke onto the radio. “And now the orchestra will play another favorite selection of the Führer,” he said in a strained voice.
The General was still laughing hysterically. His side was starting to hurt, and he was having trouble catching his breath. I’ll bet Hitler is mad as hell right now! He’s probably yelling and screaming at everyone within earshot of him. Still laughing, Burkhalter reached over to turn off the radio. He wiped his eyes and tried to stop laughing. It was hard to do.
He heard a knock at the door. Ah, that will be Elsa. I’ve had my humor for the evening, and now it’s time for a little relaxation. He strode over and opened the door. “Elsa, my dear,” he said. “Come in, come in.”
* * * * * * *
The flight to Rastenburg had been uneventful. Burkhalter was tired from the evening before, as he and Elsa had stayed awake until the early hours of the morning, and slept most of the flight.
Before he left, he had gotten a report from Hochstetter that two of his men had been shot on the road leading to the fuel depot that was under construction outside of town. Hochstetter said he suspected the Underground, and Burkhalter was glad that this one time, he could not suspect Colonel Hogan, since he was on the radio at the time the shooting occurred.
Now Burkhalter was standing in the briefing room, waiting for his turn to talk. He listened to the state of the war on all the various fronts given by Generals Zeitzler and Jodl. Sounds like it’s been a quiet day at the war, he thought.
When it was his turn, he briefed the Führer on the state of the camps under his command. He reported the various escapes and number of prisoner deaths. The latter number always upset him, even though the number was always small. He was very glad that he was not in charge of any camps where the Russian prisoners were being held. When he heard the reports from those camps, it seemed that Russian prisoners were dying by the dozens each week.
“And I had a report from the local Gestapo head this morning that two of his men were shot in what looked like an ambush,” he told the Führer. “He is suspecting the local Underground.”
“That would be Major Hochstetter?” Hitler asked. Burkhalter nodded. “And he is not suspecting your senior prisoner from Stalag 13 this time?”
Burkhalter shook his head. “Nein,” he replied. “He knows it can’t be because he was on the radio at the time of the shooting.”
“You mean him?” Hitler asked. “Major Hochstetter suspects that idiot of all those acts of sabotage? I was listening to that broadcast last night. That Colonel Hogan doesn’t seem like the sort that would know how to break out of a prison camp, let alone get back in.”
Burkhalter smiled and nodded his head. “This is what I have been telling him,” he replied. So Hogan has you fooled as well, mein Führer. That is very good.
“No wonder we are having so much trouble with the Underground,” Hitler yelled, his face starting to turn a red color. “We have Gestapo agents concentrating on the wrong people!”
Hoping to stop the rampage before it got started, Burkhalter interrupted, “I have been successful in keeping him from causing disruption to the camp, mein Führer.”
Hitler, seemingly calmed for the moment, nodded. “Good, good, Burkhalter,” he replied.
There were a few more reports to be given, and after about ten minutes, Hitler dismissed the meeting. Burkhalter was driven to the airport and flew back to Hammelburg. He knew that Hochstetter would be on a rampage to find who killed his men, and he wanted to be nearby in case he decided to harass Klink or the prisoners.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2
December 22, 1943, 0800 hours
Schultz felt an involuntary shudder as he watched the mail courier enter the camp on his motorcycle. It’s cold enough just standing guard duty, let alone riding on one of those things in this weather, he thought. The mail courier drove through the gate and stopped in front of Schultz outside the Kommandant’s office.
“Guten morgen, Gunther,” Shultz said.
“Guten morgen, Hans,” Gunther replied. “Isn’t it a little cold for you to be standing out here?” Gunther dismounted the motorcycle and rummaged through the sidecar, pulling out a mailbag.
“Ja,” Schultz replied. “But I was waiting for you.”
Gunther raised an eyebrow. “Oh, is there a problem?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Schultz replied. “I just wanted to ask you a question.”
“Ask away,” Gunther responded, handing the mailbag to Schultz.
“Do you know why Colonel Hogan hasn’t gotten any mail in the past two months?” he asked.
“That would be Colonel Robert Hogan?” Gunther asked. Schultz nodded. “Um, actually he has gotten mail – every week.”
Schultz looked at the courier with surprise. “He has? Why haven’t you delivered it?” he asked.
Gunther looked a little uncomfortable as he answered. “Hans, Major Hochstetter gave us an order,” he said. “Any mail to Colonel Hogan or from Colonel Hogan was to be given to him and not delivered.”
Schultz felt his jaw drop. “Why would he give an order like that?” he asked incredulously.
Gunther shrugged and started to get back on his motorcycle. “I don’t know,” he replied. “But I’m not going to start questioning orders from the Gestapo.” He started the motor and revved it a couple of times. “Sorry, Hans.”
“Danke, Gunther,” Schultz replied. “You are just following orders.”
Gunther gave a little wave as he turned the motorcycle around and headed for the main gate. Schultz looked down at the bag he was holding and sighed heavily. The bag felt like it was full of bricks. Why would Major Hochstetter do such a thing to a prisoner? How could he be so cruel to deprive a man of his connection to home? I hate men like Major Hochstetter. Schultz shook his head in disgust. Unfortunately, they are the men that are holding the power in this country now.
* * * * * * *
Kinch stepped over the bunk and out of the tunnel entrance to find everyone in the barracks staring at him.
“What?” he asked.
“We’re going to have to hear more about the grandiose exploits of the super spy Nimrod, aren’t we?” Baker said with disgust.
Kinch chuckled. “You’ll be happy to hear that London reported nothing from Nimrod this week,” he replied. The men in the barracks cheered as Kinch walked across and handed a paper to Colonel Hogan. “They just had a few things for you sir.”
Hogan took the paper and glanced at it. “Fine, Kinch” he said curtly. “Let me know when Schultz is done with the mail. I’ll be in my office.” Hogan looked up to find Kinch staring at him determinedly. He met the stare with one of defiance as if to say, No I will not tell them, and walked into his office.
After he shut the door, he tossed the message onto his desk and climbed into his bunk. He picked up the stack of letters on the bookshelf and selected one from the top.
Lisa, I don’t know why you have stopped writing, but it’s killing me. What did I do? Yes, I know what I did, and that hurts me just as much. But did you figure that out? Did someone tell you? Hogan sighed and opened the envelope. Maybe you have found someone else – someone that is there when I cannot be, someone that can be a father to little Bobby while I am over here. Maybe you just found someone you love more.
Unshed tears blurred his vision as he removed the photograph from the envelope and tried to look at it. It was the last picture he had received of the son that he had never met. He looked at the little face smiling back at him. Damn, he looks just like me, except he has Lisa’s eyes. How I wish I could be there for you – to hear your first words, see your first steps, to hold you in my arms as you fall asleep. He wiped his eyes and put his head back on his pillow.
God damn you, Hitler! You rob me of the chance to watch my son grow up because you have this vision that you are a superman leading a nation of supermen. How many sons are growing up without fathers because of you? How many mothers are losing sons because of you? He squeezed his eyes shut to try to block out the vision of his smiling son. God damn you, you son of a bitch!
* * * * * * *
Schultz had finished passing out the mail to the men and turned to leave. Colonel Hogan had not received any mail again, but this time Schultz knew the reason why. He had noticed that the Colonel didn’t even come out of his office to find out. As he left the barracks, Kinch came up behind him and followed him out.
“Hey Schultz,” Kinch said. “Did you find out anything about the Colonel’s mail?”
Schultz stopped and put the mailbag down on the bench outside of the barracks. “Ja,” he replied. “And I wish I didn’t.”
“Why, Schultz?” Kinch asked. “What’s the problem?”
“Gunther, the mail courier, told me that Major Hochstetter has given orders that all mail to or from Colonel Hogan was to be given to him,” Schultz replied.
“What?” Kinch asked. “Are you sure about that?”
“Sergeant Kinchloe, all I know is what Gunther told me,” Schultz said.
“But that’s crazy!” Kinch exclaimed.
“I think it’s cruel,” Schultz replied gloomily. “I am going to hate telling the Colonel this.”
Kinch smiled and put his hand on the big man’s shoulder. “I’ll tell him Schultz,” he replied. “After all, I’m the one that asked you to find out.”
“Danke, Sergeant,” Schultz replied. “I don’t think I could stand to look the Colonel in the eye and tell him.”
“I’m not looking forward to it either,” Kinch responded. “He’s not going to like it.”
“Ja, I know,” Schultz responded. “I should deliver the rest of the mail now.”
Kinch watched the big sergeant pick up the mailbag and walk away dejectedly. He sighed, wondering how he was going to tell the Colonel the bad news. He wasn’t going to like it at all. Damn that Hochstetter. Schultz was right; this was a cruel thing to do. I bet Hochstetter was the type of boy that liked to torture animals when he was growing up. And now that the madmen control the country, he gets to continue his torture on people. That bastard!
* * * * * * *
LeBeau knocked on Colonel Hogan’s door. He didn’t want to disturb him, but he needed to give him the message that Schnitzer had passed when he changed the dogs. There was no answer, so LeBeau knocked again.
“What is it?” came the testy reply from inside the office.
“Colonel, sorry to bother you, but I have a message from Schnitzer for you,” LeBeau replied.
“Come in,” Hogan said from behind the door.
LeBeau entered the room and found Hogan sitting at his desk, trying to write a letter. He could tell that his Colonel was not in a good mood, and he couldn’t blame him. I would be upset too if I didn’t receive any mail for two months.
He walked across the office and handed the message to Hogan.
“Um, Colonel Hogan,” LeBeau said tentatively.
“What?” Hogan replied testily.
LeBeau was taken aback at the tone of the response. “Uh, nothing sir, sorry to bother you,” he said and started towards the door.
Hogan sighed. “LeBeau, wait,” he said. LeBeau stopped and looked at Hogan. He could see the concern in the Frenchman’s eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m just a little tired today,” he said softly. “What is it you wanted to say?”
LeBeau tried to smile. “I just,” he started. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry that you are not getting any mail. I know it must be tough and wanted you to know that we’re all here for you, sir.”
Hogan didn’t respond. He kept looking at LeBeau, who was standing nervously by the door.
“Thanks, LeBeau,” he said finally, giving the Corporal a big smile.
“I’m sure it’s just a mix up somewhere,” LeBeau said helpfully. “You know how the military is.”
Hogan snorted. “All too well,” he replied.
“I’ll let you get back to your letter,” LeBeau said. “Sorry to bother you.”
“LeBeau,” Hogan said, “Thanks for your concern.”
LeBeau smiled at him as he shut the door and left Hogan alone.
Hogan read the message form Schnitzer.
Something happened near Hammelburg last night. Gestapo is very active now. Use caution when traveling to meeting tonight.
Hogan wondered what happened last night. He knew that Erich was going to have someone scout the facility that the Germans were turning into a fuel depot and tonight’s meeting was supposed to be for Hogan to receive this information. Could something have gone wrong near the facility? He hoped that none of Erich’s men were hurt.
He sighed. Oh well, I guess I will find out tonight. It can’t be anything good if the Gestapo is active. Something had to rile old Hochstetter up, and that’s never a good thing.
He pushed aside the letter that he had been trying to write for the past hour. Actually, it wasn't much of a letter. He looked at the page, which was blank except for “My dearest Lisa” written at the top.
Well, at least I wrote something, he thought as he left his office.
Hammelburg, Johann Mueller’s Shoe Shop
December 22, 1943, 0900 hours
Johann Mueller had just opened his shop for business and was about to begin work when Ilse Wagner arrived for work. As soon as Johann saw her, he knew that something was troubling her. Poor girl. She’s been up and down ever since she was attacked. But every time I say something to her, she just smiles and says that it’s nothing and she’ll be fine.
Ilse made a half-hearted attempt at a smile and said “Guten morgen, Johann.”
“Guten morgen, Ilse,” he replied. “Is there something wrong? You look a little concerned this morning.”
She shook her head. “Nein, nothing is wrong,” she replied. “I’m just feeling a little under the weather today.”
“Maybe you should go home and rest,” he suggested.
Ilse smiled kindly at him. “Danke, but it’s nothing really,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”
Johann watched her walk into the back room to put her coat away. Something is bothering her today, but she's too proud to say anything. I just wish there was something I could do for her.
His thoughts were interrupted as his outer door banged open and Major Hochstetter walked in, followed by a Captain and two other guards. The abruptness of the entry made Johann jump in surprise.
“Major Hochstetter,” Johann said. “What can I do for you today?” He looks angrier than usual. Something must have happened, or else he would not have come here with so many other people.
“Herr Mueller,” Hochstetter acknowledged with a small nod of his head. He was glancing around the shop, as if looking for something. “Last night, there was an incident that claimed the life of two of my guards out on the road leading to the old Siemens factory.”
Johann let his surprise show. “Oh my, that’s terrible!” he exclaimed.
“My thoughts exactly, Herr Mueller,” Hochstetter replied dryly. “We are asking everyone in town if they know anything about the incident.”
Johann shook his head. “Nein. What happened?” he asked.
Major Hochstetter sneered as he responded, “I prefer not to say. But I would also like to look around your shop, if you have no objections.”
Very cute, Major. If I object, I am automatically suspected. And if I do not object, then you have free reign to ransack the place. “Nein,” Johann replied. “No objections at all. If it is all right, I will continue working.”
“By all means, Herr Mueller,” Hochstetter replied. He gave a signal to his guards, who immediately began walking around and looking everywhere.
As they were searching, Ilse walked out of the back room. “Johann,” she said, and then stopped abruptly when she saw the Gestapo in the room. “Oh,” she gasped in surprise.
Johann looked up as Ilse entered. “Major Hochstetter, this is Ilse, she works for me,” he said.
Hochstetter nodded his head towards Ilse. “Fräulein,” he offered. “We are asking everyone if they know anything about an incident last night that occurred near the old factory outside of town.”
Ilse shook her head immediately. “Nein,” she replied.
Johann was watching Ilse. Since he had known her for so long, he could tell that she was holding something back. For Gods sake, Ilse, if you are holding back information from Hochstetter, do not let him realize it!
Hochstetter looked satisfied with that answer, as if he didn’t expect a young woman to be involved in whatever had happened.
As Hochstetter’s men looked around, searching inside drawers and under everything, Johann returned to the boots that he was mending. He kept a covert eye on Major Hochstetter, who seemed to be content to stand in the middle of the room watching everyone. Johann noticed that the Captain had walked over to Ilse as she sat at her desk and was conversing with her. Johann couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like Ilse was blushing a little as they talked. Hmmm, it seems that the Captain is a little smitten with Ilse, and judging by her reaction, she might just be a little smitten with him.
After a while, Hochstetter was satisfied that the men had searched enough. He motioned them towards the door. “Herr Mueller, sorry to have inconvenienced you,” he said.
“No trouble at all, Major,” replied Johann. “If I learn anything about the incident last night, I will be sure to inform you right away.”
“That would be very wise of you, Herr Mueller,” Hochstetter replied as he was heading for the door. “Captain Dorfmann, please come along.”
The Captain said goodbye to Ilse and followed Hochstetter out of the shop. As he walked past the front window, he looked back in and waved at Ilse.
Johann walked over to the desk where Ilse was sitting. She was still a little flushed from talking to the Captain, and he knew that he was right; Ilse was smitten. But he also knew that she was aware of what went on last night near the factory.
“It seems like the Captain likes you,” he said with a smile. Ilse’s face reddened as she blushed. “And it seems as though you might like him too!”
Ilse looked away in embarrassment. “He seems nice,” she said softly.
“Ah, it’s so nice to see young love,” he said, laughing softly.
Ilse waved at him as if to say there was nothing to it, but at the same time she reddened even more.
When Johann stopped laughing, his face grew serious. “Ilse, I was watching you when the Major was asking you about last night,” he said. “You were not truthful with him.”
Ilse’s eyes widened in fear for an instant. She recovered and said, “Johann, I do not know what you are talking about.”
“I think you do,” he replied. “Two of Major Hochstetter’s men were killed, and you were also attacked by two of Major Hochstetter’s men.” He paused as he saw Ilse look away from him. “Your brother was very insistent that the men responsible for attacking you would pay.”
“I know nothing about it,” she said meekly, still looking away from him.
“I think you do,” he repeated. “But I also think that if they were the men that attacked you, then they got what they deserved.” She finally looked up at him. Her eyes were moist and Johann could see that she was afraid. “But I also know that revenge is a very dangerous business … one that Major Hochstetter is very good at. I do not want to see anything happen to you or your family.”
Ilse was silent for a while. Johann could sense that she was wrestling with her conscience – trying to decide whether to confide in him or not.
Finally, Ilse nodded her head. “Ja, I do know what happened last night,” she said softly, looking down at the table in front of her.
“Tell me,” he requested.
“I don’t think I should,” she said.
“Ilse, you know I will help you in whatever way I can,” he said. “I just want to make sure you are safe.”
Ilse sighed and said nothing. After a few moments, Johann sat in a chair beside her and said, “Ilse, I can help you.”
She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, and told him everything. Johann listened without comment to the entire story. When she was finished, he patted her on the shoulder and smiled at her.
“It’s over now,” he commented.
Ilse shook her head. “Nein, it is not,” she replied. “Hans and Karl do not want to stop. They want to do more.”
“Those foolish boys,” he said. “Sometimes I think that they have never grown up.”
“I’m scared, Johann,” she said. “I’m scared that something will happen to them and it will all be because of me.”
“There, there, my dear,” he said softly. “It is not because of you. It is because of their own anger that they cannot control.”
But Johann was alarmed himself. He knew the dangers of what they were involved in, and knew that it would be just a matter of time before something happened to them, unless …
* * * * * * *
Around noon, Johann stopped work and put on his coat. “I have an errand to run, Ilse,” he said. “I’ll close up the shop and you can eat your lunch now.”
“Danke,” she replied.
Johann flipped the sign that said the shop was open, and locked the door behind him. His errand was to see Oskar Schnitzer to tell him what he had learned. He knew that Oskar would be able to get word to Erich Jonach.
When Johann arrived at Schnitzer’s kennel, he found that Erich was there as well, finding out what Oskar had seen the night before. He greeted the two men.
“Hello Johann,” Erich said. “Oskar was just telling me of the trouble he had last night.”
“I heard about it,” Johann replied. “Major Hochstetter was by the shop this morning, searching for something.”
“I imagine that he’s pretty worked up about this,” Erich replied.
“But I have some other news about that as well,” Johann said.
“Oh?” replied Erich.
“I know who was responsible,” Johann stated. “Ilse Wagner said that it was her brothers.”
“Hans and Karl?” Erich said with surprise. “What are they doing messing with the Gestapo?”
“I don’t want to say the reason that they started,” Johann replied. Erich raised an eyebrow in question. “I have made a promise not to talk about that part. But I will tell you what Ilse has told me about last night … and the automobiles that were blown up.”
“They did that too?” Oskar asked.
Johann nodded and then proceeded to tell the two men what Ilse had related to him. When he was finished, he lapsed into silence.
“So she says that Hans’ group does not want to stop?” Erich asked. Johann nodded. “This will cause some problems in our operations and those of Papa Bear.” He stared at the floor, thinking of the issues this had caused.
“I think Colonel Hogan needs to know,” Erich said finally. “He also needs to be the one to talk to Hans and Karl in order to get them to stop, for the good of the Underground.” Oskar and Johann nodded their agreement. “Oskar and I are to meet with Colonel Hogan tonight at my farm. I think Hans and Karl should also be there.”
“They will be at my shop when it is time for Ilse to go home tonight,” Johann said. “One of them usually is there, but lately both of them have been coming to walk her home.”
“Good,” Erich replied. “We can talk to them at that time and impress on them the importance of this.”
“That would be good,” Johann responded. “Ilse is scared that something will eventually happen to them.”
Erich looked grim. “If they keep messing with the Gestapo, something will eventually happen not only to them, but to other innocent people,” he said.
* * * * * * *
Johann sat talking with Ilse, waiting for her brothers to arrive to escort her home. He had told her that someone was to come and talk to them about their activities, and that had seemed to put her mind at ease.
After a while, the door to the shop opened and both Hans and Karl entered. Johann was glad to see both of them this time, so that Erich could talk to them both at once.
“Herr Mueller,” they both said, greeting Johann.
“Hello Hans. Hello Karl,” he replied.
“Are you ready Ilse?” Hans asked.
Ilse shook her head. “Nein,” she replied. “Johann has arranged for someone to come and talk with us.”
Hans’ eyes narrowed. “About what?” he asked hesitantly.
“About your activities last night,” Johann replied before Ilse could say anything.
A look of surprise fell across Hans’ face. “I don’t know what you are talking about, Herr Mueller,” he said innocently.
“Hans, I told him. He knows,” Ilse responded.
“Ilse, How could you?” Hans bellowed.
Before Ilse could answer, the door to the shop opened and Erich Jonach entered. Seeing that Hans and Karl were already there, he locked the door and leaned against it. He wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t try to leave before he had a chance to say what he came to say.
“Hello boys,” Erich said.
“Herr Jonach,” Hans and Karl said in reply.
“Is this who wants to talk to us?” Karl asked.
“Ja,” Erich replied. “I need to talk to you about what happened last night.” Seeing the look of innocence that the Wagner brothers were trying to keep on their face, he added, “There’s no need to pretend. I know the details.”
Hans looked at Ilse. “Is there anyone in town you didn’t tell?” he asked angrily.
“But Hans,” Ilse protested.
Erich cut her off before she could say anything further. “Hans, there’s no need to be angry with her,” he said. “Johann told me, and it will go no further than I allow it.”
“And who are you to decide who should know our business?” Hans asked indignantly.
Erich sighed. Hans was not going to make this easy. “I am the leader of a group of people that are affected by your so-called business,” he said. “And I am acquainted with others who can be affected to an even greater extent.”
Ilse’s eyes widened. “The Underground?” she gasped, looking at Johann.
Hans glared at Erich. “So if you are the Underground leader in this area, then you understand what we are doing,” he said. “And why we are doing it.”
Erich shook his head. “No, actually I don’t,” he replied. “I know what you did, but not why you did it. Frankly, I don’t care why. But I do know that messing with the Gestapo in this manner will accomplish nothing other than making them angry. Then other innocent people will pay the price for your foolishness.”
“Foolishness?” Hans shouted. “You call this foolishness when you are involved in the same thing?”
Erich met Hans’ glare with one of his own. “What I am involved in is not the same thing. What I do is to hinder the functioning of the German forces involved in fighting the Allies. What you did was nothing more than an ambush and murder.” He saw that Hans was about to reply, so he raised his voice and continued speaking. “Why you did this, only you know. But now that you have done it, I am asking you to stop this sort of harassment against the Gestapo before any of my men, or any of my acquaintance’s men, get hurt because of your actions.”
“And if I do not stop, will you stop me?” Hans asked icily.
Erich shrugged. “It is not my decision, but if I am asked, yes I will,” he replied.
“You will try,” Karl retorted.
Erich fixed his glare on Karl. “Nein, Karl,” he said. “I will.”
Karl tried, but he could not meet Erich’s glare. There was something in Erich’s eyes that told Karl that he meant what he said. Karl looked away and said, “Come on, Hans, let’s leave. He’s already said it’s not his decision.”
Erich returned his gaze to Hans, who was glaring angrily at the man. “You can leave, as soon as I know where you stand,” he said calmly.
Hans let out a low growl as he began to reply. “Herr Jonach,” he growled. “What’s to stop me from agreeing to your request and then turning you into the Gestapo for being an Underground leader?”
“Nothing except the fact that I can name you as the person responsible for the murder of two Gestapo men last night,” Erich replied.
“You have no proof of that,” Hans laughed.
“Nor do you have any proof of my involvement in the Underground,” Erich replied calmly. “But since when has the Gestapo required proof?”
Hearing this, Ilse let out a little gasp. “Hans,” she exclaimed.
Hans waived his sister to silence and continued glaring at Erich. “You said you are not the one to make the decision,” he stated. “I want to meet the person who will.”
Erich nodded slightly. “I had anticipated that,” he replied. “There will be a meeting tonight in the barn at my farm at 2200 hours. You and your brother should be there.”
“Or?” Hans asked.
Erich shrugged and held his hands out. “The decision maker will decide,” he stated flatly.
After a moment, Hans nodded. “All right, we will be there,”
“I’ll be there too,” Ilse blurted out.
“Ilse, no,” Karl replied. “You are not to get involved.”
“Karl, I am already involved,” she replied. “And as long as you are involved, I am too. You cannot keep me out of this.”
“Ilse,” Hans commented. He stopped when he saw the fierce glare from Ilse. He knew that when she had that look in her eyes, she would not be denied.
“The three of us will be there, Herr Jonach,” Hans replied.
Erich nodded and stepped away from the door. He watched as Karl unlocked the door and stepped outside. Hans waited for Ilse to put on her coat and start towards the door before he left the shop. Ilse stopped in the doorway and looked back at Johann.
“Danke, Johann,” she said. “Danke for trying to help.”
“Of course, my dear,” Johann replied and watched her close the door behind her.
“Hans is the one that we must be concerned about,” Erich said after a few moments. “From the looks of it, Karl will do whatever his brother says.”
“I’m concerned for them all,” Johann replied. “They do not know what kind of world they stepped into last night.”
“Let’s pray that Colonel Hogan can convince them that they do not want to find out,” Erich said with a heavy sigh.
Hammelburg Area, Farm of Erich Jonach
December 22, 1943, 2155 hours
The three men approached the clearing silently, having avoided several patrols in the woods since leaving camp. They crouched in the brush and looked at the barn alert for any signs of movement. They heard muffled voices in the distance behind the barn. Hogan motioned for Kinch and Newkirk to keep still and wait. After a minute, they heard rusting in the brush and three figures emerged into the clearing.
Hogan could tell that the figures were not Gestapo – it looked like two men and a woman, but in the dim light, he was not sure. The three walked around the barn, as if looking for the door. When they found the door, they opened it and entered.
“I didn’t recognize them,” Kinch said to Hogan.
“I didn’t either,” Hogan replied. “Schnitzer didn’t say that there would be others at this meeting. I wonder what is going on?”
“I’m sure we’ll find out when we get inside,” Kinch responded.
“I don’t like surprises,” Hogan commented.
“I’ll scout around out here while you two go inside,” Newkirk said. “If there’s anyone waiting in the woods, I’ll find them.”
“Good,” Hogan replied. “Kinch, let’s go.”
* * * * * * *
Hogan entered the barn followed closely by Kinch. Both were conscious of having the door open too long for the dim light inside to escape. Hogan looked around and noticed the strangers in addition to Erich Jonach and Oskar Schnitzer. He had been right, there were two men and a woman - A young woman.
“Oskar didn’t tell me we would have company tonight,” he said to Erich Jonach. Kinch noticed the slight testiness in Hogan’s voice. If Erich noticed it, he didn’t seem to have a reaction to it.
“This is Hans Wagner, his brother Karl and their sister Ilse” Erich said, introducing the three to Hogan. Hogan remained silent, studying the Wagners.
“Is this the decision maker?” Hans asked Erich testily. Hogan looked over at Erich with a puzzled expression.
“Ja, it is,” Erich replied. “But we will get to that in a minute.”
Hogan was confused. He noticed that Hans was glaring at him, but he ignored the Wagners for the moment. “Erich, I don’t know what this is about,” he said. “I come here to get the information on the fuel depot.”
Erich nodded and motioned for Oskar to relay the information he had gathered. Oskar told him the little information he had been able to obtain.
Hogan didn’t bother to hide his displeasure. “That’s all you found out?” he asked testily.
Oskar nodded. “We were not in the woods for very long when we heard two gunshots, and the Gestapo became very active,” he explained. “We were spotted by the searchlights, and then taken to see Hochstetter. That’s when we found that two of his men had been ambushed on the road leading to the facility and shot.”
Hogan’s eyes went wide. “Who would do a stupid thing like that?” has asked.
Erich motioned towards the Wagners. “They did,” he replied. “And they were also responsible for blowing up the Gestapo automobiles not too long ago.”
Kinch had been watching Hogan throughout the exchange and realized that he was very close to erupting. Hoping to prevent matters from getting to that point, he jumped in before Hogan could reply. “Didn’t you realize what would happen if you started attacking the Gestapo?” he asked.
Hans looked at Kinch with an expression that Kinch could only describe as condescending. “And what do you care, schwartze?” he spat out.
Kinch was taken aback at the insult but plowed ahead anyway, still hoping to keep things calm. “The Gestapo has a habit of taking revenge on the townspeople for these kinds of attacks,” he said calmly. “Or don’t you care about your fellow citizens?” he added.
“We care about what happened to our sister,” Karl blurted out.
“Karl, keep quiet,” ordered Hans.
“And what happened to your sister?” Kinch asked.
“That is none of your business,” Hans growled. He turned to Hogan and said, “Do you always let your schwartze talk for you?”
At this second insult, Kinch began to get angry. But he knew that the anger would not help this situation, so he kept quiet.
However, Hogan had had enough of Hans’ insults. “That’s enough!” he said loudly, his voice echoing around the small barn. “I’m not going to listen to any more of these racial insults.”
“Colonel,” Kinch said.
Hogan brushed him aside. “I don’t care if you are so stupid that you believe that someone can be inferior because of the color of his skin,” he seethed. “What you are doing is getting the Gestapo very angry, and sooner or later, one of my men, or one of Erich’s men, or even some of the innocent people of Hammelburg are going to get killed because of it.”
Hans glared at Hogan. “I will not stop,” he said through clenched teeth. “And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Yes, there is,” Hogan replied evenly. “We can put a stop to it.”
Suddenly Hans pulled out the pistol he had taken from the Gestapo men and pointed it at Hogan. Beside him, Karl had the other pistol in his hand.
Ilse let out a gasp. “Hans!” she exclaimed. Hans ignored her and kept staring at Hogan.
“Where did you get those guns, Hans?” Erich asked. “Did you take them from the Gestapo men that you killed?”
Hans didn’t answer. His eyes would not leave Hogan.
Hogan let out a chuckle. “If you did take them from the Gestapo,” he said. “You don’t want them.”
“They seem to suit me just fine,” Hans said.
“Look on the handle,” Hogan replied.
Hans didn’t move. “Karl, look at your gun,” he ordered.
Karl looked at the handle of his gun. He noticed a small death’s head logo etched at the bottom. He showed it to Hans.
“That’s right,” Hogan commented. “They mark their guns for easier identification. That makes it useless to you - if they find you with it, they will kill you.
“I can kill you right now,” Hans said, a small smile appearing on his face.
At that moment, they heard a voice from the hayloft above the open area where they were standing. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the voice said. Everyone looked up to see Newkirk lying in the hay pointing his handgun directly at Hans. “I am rather fond of him.”
Taking advantage of the distraction, Kinch moved quickly and took the guns from Hans and Karl.
“Nice timing, Newkirk,” Hogan said smiling, taking the guns that Kinch brought to him.
“Thank you sir,” Newkirk replied. “I heard the shouting and thought I should see if I could be useful.”
Hogan looked at the guns for a second, and then removed the clip from each making sure that there wasn’t a bullet in the chamber. He tossed the guns and clips onto the floor. “Erich, can you take care of those?” he asked. Erich nodded.
“So now what? You will have him shoot us?” Hans asked nodding towards Newkirk, still in the loft.
“No,” Hogan replied. He looked at Ilse. “What happened to you that made your brother so angry?”
“Ilse, quiet!” Hans ordered. “You will talk to me not her!” he yelled at Hogan.
Hogan ignored Hans. He took a step towards Ilse, and then everything exploded.
Kinch saw Hans start to move towards Hogan, his hands balled into fists. He moved quickly to intercept, and buried a punch into Hans’ midsection. Hans grunted and started to double over. Out of the corner of his eye, Kinch saw Karl throw a roundhouse punch at him. He blocked it easily with his left arm and threw and uppercut with his right that landed squarely on Karl’s chin. Karl flew backwards into the wall and crumpled to the ground. Ilse screamed and ran at Kinch. “Stop it! Stop it!” she screamed as she wrapped her arms around Kinch and began to push him backwards.
The whole thing was over in a second, but it seemed like minutes to Kinch. He looked around and saw that Newkirk had jumped from the loft and was ready to help, and Erich and Oskar had moved to the Wagner brothers to help them up. Hans was still doubled over form the impact of Kinch’s punch, and Karl lay on the ground rubbing his chin and glaring at Kinch.
Hogan had pulled Ilse off of Kinch and was holding her arms. She was crying now, and he was attempting to console her.
Newkirk walked over to Kinch and slapped him on the back. “Blimey, Mate,” he said. “You looked like Joe Lewis taking on Max Schmelling there.” Kinch tried to shrug it off as nothing, while flexing his right hand to ease the discomfort. But Newkirk could see a small smile on his face and knew that Kinch had enjoyed it.
After Ilse had calmed down a little, Hogan asked her again what had happened.
“I was attacked by two Gestapo men,” she said softly.
“You mean?” Hogan asked solemnly. Ilse nodded. “And the two men that were killed were the same ones that attacked you?” She nodded again.
Hogan sighed heavily. “I’m very sorry, Ilse,” he said to her.
She looked at Hogan with tragic eyes. “And when my father went to the Gestapo after the men attacked me, Major Hochstetter just laughed at him and called me names,” she said.
Her statement shocked Hogan. “Your father did what?” he asked.
“He went to talk to Major Hochstetter to tell him what those two men had done,” she answered softly. “And Major Hochstetter said that I had asked for it.”
“Your father talked to Hochstetter?” Hogan asked her. She nodded slowly. He looked over at Hans, who had straightened up and was keeping an eye on his sister. “You really don’t know what the hell you are doing,” he said icily.
Hans stuck his chin out defiantly. “I was taking care of my sister,” he said. “And punishing those men for what they did.”
Hogan shook his head sadly. “You don’t get it,” he muttered. “When Hochstetter remembers that your father accused those same two men of assaulting Ilse, he will be punishing your father for what you did.”
Ilse gasped. “What?” she asked.
Hans had a scared look in his eyes, but tried to not show it. “You don’t know what you are talking about,” he argued.
“Hans, it’s time for you to stop your posturing,” Hogan said. “You don’t know what you have gotten yourself and your family into, and arguing with me will not help.”
Hans glared, but remained silent.
“You will stop your activities directed at the Gestapo,” Hogan said evenly. He paused to see if Hans would object.
“I will think about it,” Hans said slowly, still glaring.
Hogan shook his head. “This stubbornness will get you killed someday,” he said with a sigh. “I will give you some time to think about it. Meet me back here in one week, 2300 hours.”
Hans shook his head. “Nein,” he replied. “Not here. You come to my place.”
Hogan didn’t reply for a second. He looked at Hans, seeing the determination in his eyes. Hogan knew that determination – Hans had been bested here and he was looking for some small victory to save face in front of his family. “All right,” Hogan replied. “Your place, 2300 hours in one week.”
Hans nodded and then motioned for Karl to leave. “Ilse, let’s go,” he said.
Ilse started towards the door and then stopped to look back at Hogan. “Is it true what you said?” she asked. “Will Major Hochstetter come for my father?”
“If he remembers that your father talked to him, I’m afraid so,” Hogan replied.
Ilse looked stricken. “Is there something you can do about it?” she asked.
Hogan looked at Erich, and Erich said, “If something happens, Ilse, please tell Johann. We will do what we can.”
“Thank you,” she replied softly, and turned and left the barn.
As Hans turned to leave, he looked at Kinch, who was standing like a statue beside the door. Hans could see the anger radiating from Kinch’s glare. In a slow even tone, Kinch said, “Don’t ever call me schwartze again.”
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp
December 23, 1943, 0110 hours
Colonel Hogan was very annoyed. He had grumbled the whole way back to camp and answered any questions with short, seemingly angry responses. Newkirk had scurried up to the barracks as soon as he could after their return, wanting to stay out of the Colonel’s way. Kinch had relieved Baker from the radio responsibilities, which let a relieved looking Baker head up to the barracks as well.
Kinch watched Hogan as he paced around the small open area of the tunnel, trying to calm himself down.
“God damn amateurs,” he mumbled repeatedly.
“Colonel, do you think they will stop what they are doing?” Kinch asked.
“Who the hell knows,” Hogan blurted out. “They don’t even know what they are doing.”
Kinch was quiet. Hogan looked over at him as he sat on the stool by the radio gear. “Sorry, Kinch,” he said. “I guess I’m just a little too upset by this.”
Kinch weighed his response carefully, hoping that he wouldn’t upset the Colonel any further. “I don’t think it’s just Hans Wagner that has you upset,” he answered.
Hogan stopped pacing and stood across the table from Kinch. “Look, I know what you are getting at, and the answer is no!” he said with hostility. “So Lisa has stopped writing to me. It’s my problem and I will deal with it – myself!”
“All right, Colonel,” Kinch replied evenly. “But it is eating you up inside, and you have been snapping at everyone all day today.”
Hogan sighed and sat on the empty stool in the corner. “I know, and I’m sorry about that,” he replied. “But I can deal with this myself.”
“No, I don’t think you can, sir,” Kinch countered, waiting for an expected eruption from Hogan. When none came, he continued, “You can’t even see that it’s not just mail from Lisa that has stopped, but mail from your parents and your sister as well.” Hogan looked up at Kinch quickly as the Sergeant spoke. “All of this is affecting your mood, and I might add, your ability to think rationally. Maybe that’s what Hochstetter had in mind.”
Hogan looked at Kinch through narrowed eyes. “What does Hochstetter have to do with this?” he asked.
Now it was Kinch’s turn to start pacing. “I haven’t had a chance to tell you yet today,” he said as he rose from his stool. “I asked Schultz to …”
“You told Schultz?” Hogan asked loudly.
“No,” Kinch replied. “As I was saying, I asked Schultz to see if he could find out why you were not getting mail from anyone, not just Lisa. He just told me today what he found out from the mail courier.”
“Which was?” Hogan asked impatiently.
“Which was that Hochstetter has ordered that all mail to you and all mail from you be given to him,” Kinch replied. “In a sense, he has cut you off from the outside world, sir.”
Hogan sat quietly for a few moments. Kinch could tell that he was realizing the scope of this news. “So, I immediately think that everyone has stopped writing to me,” he said at last. “And at some point in the near future, my family … my wife, thinks I have stopped writing to them. Do you realize what they will think?”
Kinch nodded. “I imagine that Lisa will be just as distraught as you are,” he said softly.
Hogan took off his crush cap and threw it against the tunnel wall. “That son of a bitch!” he yelled. “That God damned son of a bitch! What would he hope to accomplish by this?”
Kinch knew that it was a rhetorical question, but decided to venture an answer anyway in the hopes that he could force Colonel Hogan to focus on the problem instead of the consequences. “I can think of two reasons, sir,” he replied. When Hogan looked at him, he continued, “Since he suspects you of being involved in the Underground, he could be looking through your mail to find something incriminating.”
“And the other reason?” Hogan asked, starting to calm down.
“And the other reason is that maybe he thinks that by cutting you off from the outside world, it will cause you so much stress that you slip up and give him the evidence he is seeking,” Kinch replied. “Hochstetter really isn’t as dumb as he seems.”
Hogan snorted. “Yes he is, Kinch,” he retorted. “Even the Washington Nationals can win the American League pennant every now and then, but that doesn’t make them a good team.”
Kinch chuckled. “I suppose you may be right,” he replied. “But this time he’s gotten to you.”
Hogan sighed. “And now that I know the truth, I am strong enough not to let it get to me,” he said.
“I still think you should …” Kinch said.
“Kinch, I am getting tired of you telling me that,” Hogan snapped.
“I know, and I am getting tired of asking you,” Kinch replied smiling.
Hogan smiled back. “No, not now,” he said, softening his tone. “In time, I know I will have to, but I don’t think now is the right time.”
Kinch said down on his stool and exhaled loudly in frustration. “Then I think the men have a right to know the real reason why you are not getting any mail,” he said.
“You haven’t told them?” Hogan asked.
Kinch shook his head. “Only Schultz knows,” he replied. “And he’s so upset about it that I don’t even think he would tell anyone.”
Hogan chuckled. “Schultz keeping a secret? He must be upset,” he said. “You are right though, you all do deserve to know the truth.” He caught Kinch looking at him expectantly and quickly added, “About Hochstetter stealing my mail.”
“Colonel, they will have to know about Lisa too,” Kinch said softly.
“In time, Kinch,” Hogan replied. “In time.”
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters, Office of Major Wolfgang Hochstetter
December 23, 1943, 0600 hours
Captain Dorfmann stood next to Major Hochstetter, looking at a map of the area on which they were tracking the progress made investigating the murders of Hans Dietrich and Franz Hurst. Small pins dotted the map, indicating the places that they had already searched and questioned.
Hochstetter pointed to the large red pin that indicated the site of the attack. “Have we talked to everyone in this area yet?” he asked.
“Nein, Major,” Dorfmann replied. He pointed to two farms that did not yet have pins next to them. “Here we have the Wagner farm, and the Groelsch farm.”
“Wait a minute,” Hochstetter responded. “Did you say Wagner?” Dorfmann nodded. Hochstetter walked away from the map and started pacing. “Wagner. Wagner,” he muttered. “Why does that name mean something?”
Dorfmann watched Hochstetter pace the room. “Do you think there is something special about the Friedrich Wagner farm?” he asked.
Hearing the name, Hochstetter wheeled around quickly. “That’s it!” he exclaimed. “Friedrich Wagner!”
Dorfmann looked at Hochstetter in puzzlement. “What’s so special about him?” he asked.
Hochstetter was excited now. “A couple of months ago, before you were transferred here, Friedrich Wagner came in and accused two of my men of assaulting his daughter,” he said. Hochstetter then snapped his fingers. “And those two men he accused are the ones that were killed.” Hochstetter walked over to the map on the wall. “Look, his farm is not too far from there.”
Dorfmann nodded. “Should I go out and talk with him?” he asked.
“Nein,” Hochstetter replied. “Get a squad of men and a truck. We are going to pay a visit to Herr Wagner and see if we can find anything incriminating.”
“Jawohl, Major,” Dorfmann replied. He picked up the phone and barked orders into the mouthpiece. When he hung up, he said, “It will be ready in ten minutes.”
“Good,” Hochstetter purred. “Very good.”
* * * * * * *
Ilse Wagner was carrying the bread to her father and brothers at the table when the door of the house suddenly burst open with a loud crash. She screamed and dropped the bread as Major Hochstetter came running through, followed by Captain Dorfmann and several more of his men.
“Nobody move!” Hochstetter yelled. He motioned for his men to begin searching the other rooms of the house.
Ilse was still standing where she had been when the door opened. Dorfmann was surprised when he saw her. He smiled at her in an attempt to reassure her, but he could see by the look in her eyes that it didn’t help. “You can pick up what you dropped, Fräulein Wagner,” he said kindly. As she bent to retrieve the dropped food, Dorfmann was aware of the angry glare that Hochstetter was giving him.
“What is the meaning of this?” Friedrich Wagner asked angrily.
“Herr Wagner,” Hochstetter began. “Where were you two nights ago?”
“I was right here!” Friedrich replied truthfully. Once he said that, he realized what the next question would be and remembered that his children had left the house that night. He glanced at Hans, who was avoiding his father’s gaze.
The phrasing of the response was not lost on Hochstetter. “Just you?” he asked curiously.
“We were all here,” Hans replied. He knew that he had to lie, and he hoped that his father would not say anything to the contrary.
“Is that so,” Hochstetter commented thoughtfully. “And none of you left the house the whole evening?”
“Of course some of us left the house that night,” Friedrich responded. Hans quickly looked over at his father.
“Oh? He says all of you were here and you say that some of you left,” Hochstetter commented.
“I said that some of us left the house that night,” Friedrich said boldly. “Maybe you are not aware of the workings of a farm, Major. But the animals are not able to take care of themselves.” Friedrich showed a patronizing smile. “We had chores to do in the barn.”
Captain Dorfmann quickly looked away. He could not suppress the urge to smile when he heard that response. He caught Ilse looking at him curiously and smiled at her.
“You know what I meant,” Hochstetter growled.
“I just know what you asked, Major,” Friedrich replied. “I am just trying to be truthful with the Gestapo.”
Dorfmann could tell that Hochstetter was on the verge of exploding. He stepped in quickly to prevent this. “Did you happen to see anything out of the ordinary that night?” he asked.
Everyone shook their head. “Nein,” Hans replied. “But when my brother and I were in the barn, we thought we heard gunshots in the distance. Is that why you are asking?”
In the background, Dorfmann could hear the Gestapo men searching the other rooms of the house. From the sounds of it, they were not concerned with leaving the place as they had found it.
Hochstetter was getting impatient. He looked at Friedrich and asked, “Herr Wagner, two months ago, you came to me accusing two of my men of assaulting your daughter.” He paused and looked at Ilse. “I take it that this is the vixen you were talking about?”
Ilse was watching Captain Dorfmann and saw him frown when Hochstetter referred to her as a vixen. She began to blush at being thought of in that way.
Friedrich stood angrily. “I’ll not have you talk about my daughter that way!” he shouted.
Hochstetter laughed. “Herr Wagner, I will refer to her any way I like,” he retorted.
Friedrich fumed but remained silent. When he sensed that Hans was about to say something, he motioned him to keep quiet.
“So that you know, Herr Wagner,” Hochstetter said. “The same two men that you accused of assaulting your daughter were ambushed and murdered two nights ago, not far from this house.”
Friedrich let out a small gasp. “That’s terrible!” he said. It is indeed terrible, he thought. Now I know where my children were that night. Those stupid fools! Now the Gestapo suspects us of the murder.
“It is terrible,” Hochstetter replied. “And it will be even more terrible for the people that killed them, when we catch them.”
“What are you searching our house for?” Ilse asked nervously.
Dorfmann smiled at her. “The men that were killed did not have their weapons on them,” he replied. “Whoever killed them must have taken them.”
“So when we find the weapons, we find the killers,” Hochstetter growled.
The Gestapo men returned to the room and shook their heads at Major Hochstetter’s inquisitive glance. “Search this room,” he ordered. “Captain, you remain here while I see to the progress in the barn.”
Ilse was still standing in the middle of the room, and Dorfmann pulled a chair away from the table for her. “Please, sit down,” he said kindly. Ilse thanked him and sat, looking at her two brothers. They were watching the room getting destroyed as the men searched.
After several minutes, they stopped and informed Dorfmann that they did not find anything. Hochstetter then returned with an unhappy look on his face. “Anything in here?” he asked angrily. Dorfmann shook his head and Hochstetter swore.
“I told you, Major,” Friedrich said. “We were here all night.”
Hochstetter growled and motioned his men out of the house. Dorfmann followed Hochstetter out, and as he was closing the door he looked back at the Wagner family, sitting in the middle of the mess made by their search. He locked eyes with Ilse, and instead of seeing the rage present in her brothers, he thought he saw something more – something that looked like confusion and fear. I’m sorry Ilse, he thought. I wish I could have stopped this from happening.
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters, Office of Captain August Dorfmann
December 23, 1943, 1130 hours
August Dorfmann was not a very happy Gestapo officer. He had been very happy when he first joined the Gestapo. The anchluß had just occurred and Germany annexed both Austria and the Sudetenland without a shot being fired. It seemed that nothing could hold his country back, and he wanted to be part of it. The happiness faded as he rose through the ranks and saw more and more of the horrendous behavior of the Gestapo towards the German citizens. He was very happy when he received this transfer to out of the way Hammelburg.
That was until he met Major Hochstetter. It didn’t take him long to realize that the Major was a bitter, spiteful man that hated everyone and everything. It must be because he is so short, he thought. I bet he was a bully who tormented everyone because he felt it made people respect him. Now that he is a man in charge, he continues to bully people because he can get away with it.
The events of the past two days had shown him what was wrong with his country. Major Hochstetter had used the murder of two of his men as an excuse for rounding up anyone who looked at him wrong. For interrogation, he had said. No Major, it was so that you could feel some pleasure in your bleak little life, he thought. You bring these people into headquarters and then proceed to humiliate and abuse them simply to have some fun for yourself.
Dorfmann sighed. There was nothing for him to do. He had to do his job, or else he would join those who were being interrogated, and find himself shipped out to a concentration camp to toil the rest of his life away at hard labor.
Why does this bother me so much today, he thought. Nothing had changed, I’ve seen worse than Major Hochstetter before coming here. So why does this even bother me so much? He shifted in his chair.
He knew why it bothered him – Ilse. Ilse Wagner. He had met her yesterday in Johann Mueller’s shoe shop when the Major had been traversing the town searching for information. He hadn’t known her last name until this morning when the Major had ransacked the Wagner’s farmhouse simply because he had remembered that Friedrich Wagner had complained about his daughter being attacked by the same two men who were murdered. If they did attack her, then the scum got what they deserved. How dare they attack such a pretty, young innocent like her! He felt himself flush. He didn’t know if the Wagners were involved in the murder, but he knew that he didn’t care. He was attracted to Ilse Wagner, and that was all he cared about at the moment.
He stared at the clock, as if waiting for it to make a decision for him. After a while, he got up, put on his coat and left his office. “I’m getting some lunch,” he told the sergeant at the front desk as he left the headquarters building.
* * * * * * *
Johann was busy working when he heard the door to his shop open. He looked up to see Captain Dorfmann entering.
“Hallo, Captain,” he said. “What can I do for you today?”
“Herr Mueller,” Dorfmann said in reply. “There’s something I’d like to say to Fräulein Wagner, if I may.”
Ilse stared at him with a worried look on her face, but still managed to nod her head slightly.
“Fräulein Wagner,” Dorfmann said. “I would like to apologize for what happened at your house this morning.” He paused, grasping for the proper words to use. “It was …” he started, then stopped and shook his head a little. “I mean, I feel that it was not right for Major Hochstetter to allow the mess to be made.”
Ilse was relieved. She had been expecting him to tell her that something had happened to her father or her brothers. “We’ve come to expect that kind of behavior from the Gestapo,” she replied slowly, not wanting to offend him.
Dorfmann shook his head. “That does not make it right,” he replied.
Ilse shook her head and smiled at the Captain. “That is something that I would never say in public,” she responded.
Dorfmann smiled back at her, saying nothing. After a moment, he seemed to come to a decision. Looking quickly at his watch, he said, “It is lunch time, and I was wondering …”
She inclined her head, prompting him to continue.
“Um, would you like to have lunch with me?” he asked, looking a bit sheepish. He saw the color rise in her cheeks as she started to blush.
“I’m sorry,” she said. Dorfmann’s heart started sinking as she continued, “But I have brought my lunch and eat here in the shop.”
Dorfmann looked at Ilse sitting at the desk. August, he thought. She did not say she didn’t want to have lunch with you, only that she brought her lunch. Don’t give up! He pondered the thought while another voice countered, But what if she really doesn’t want to have anything to do with you? It would be so embarrassing to be turned down. While this thought percolated, the first voice started up again, You’ll never know unless you ask. What if she’s waiting for you to ask again and you don’t?
While Dorfmann wrestled with his feelings, Ilse kept looking at him. I wonder what he is waiting for? I didn’t say no to him, I just don’t feel right about going to lunch in public with a Gestapo man right now. She smiled at him again. Oh please ask me again!
Dorfmann saw Ilse smile at him, and he suddenly blurted out, “You are very pretty when you smile.” Oh no, what am I saying. How could I say something as stupid as that? Now she really isn’t going to want to have anything to do with me.
Dorfmann watched as Ilse’s cheeks turned a bright red, and she looked away shyly. Digging deep down and finding the courage, he took a deep breath and said, “If you would like, I can go get some lunch and bring it back here to eat with you.”
Ilse looked up at him demurely. “I’d like that very much, Captain,” she replied softly.
“Please, call me August,” he replied smiling. “I will be back soon!” He turned and nearly skipped out of the shop.
Hammelburg, Stalag 13, Office of Colonel Hogan
December 25, 1943, 0130 hours
Hogan lay in his bunk with the echoes of the Christmas carols still ringing in his ears. Here it is, another Christmas stuck here in Germany. How I wish I could be home for Christmas.
The light in his room was on, a Christmas gift from the Kommandant – canceling lights-out on this one occasion and allowing the prisoners to celebrate the holiday.
Hogan was holding two photographs in his hands. One of them was his wedding photograph and one was the last picture of little Robbie. He looked at his son, yearning to be able to hold him in his arms, tell him bedtime stories and tuck him into bed on Christmas eve with the anticipation of presents in the morning. It pained him to know that his son was in Connecticut, growing up without him. Little Robbie was almost two years old already, most likely walking and starting to say his first words. He knew that he was missing the joy of seeing his son take his first unsteady steps and hearing him say “Papa” for the first time. Right now, I wouldn’t even mind having to change a diaper or two, he thought.
He looked at the other photograph, of he and Lisa on their wedding day. Lisa darling, I’m sorry I ever thought that you would stop writing to me. I should have known that something else was happening. I love you more than life itself, and I know that you feel the same. He thought back to when they were in high school. Together forever, we told everyone then. I meant it then, and I still mean it today. I cannot imagine my life without you in it. Even now, in this hellhole that is my home for this war, you are here with me. I think about you every day. He brought the photograph to his lips and kissed Lisa’s image. If I had one wish for this Christmas, it would be to have just one day to spend with you. One day to see you and little Robbie.
He put the photographs back in their envelopes and placed them in the wooden letterbox that was a Christmas gift from his men. Each of them had contributed some talent in creating the box. He looked at the intricate carving on the sides, and the lettering on the top, compliments of Baker and Kinch. Carter had made the box itself, and Newkirk had fashioned the hinges and the latch. LeBeau had even lined the inside with some felt that had been left over from Vladimir’s sewing materials. Even though he is no longer in camp with us, old ‘Sam’ contributed to this gift. He had been touched deeply when his men had presented it to him this evening – to know that his men considered him a friend, and not just their commander. He had told them about Hochstetter’s orders, and that until it was rescinded he would not be receiving any mail. They had been even angrier than he had been, and LeBeau had surprised him with a string of French expletives that might even make a sailor blush. Then he laughed as he remembered Carter offering to share his mail with him so he wouldn’t feel as though his family had deserted him.
He put the box on the shelf by his bunk. Kinch is right; I am selling the men short. I should tell them the truth about Lisa and Robbie. They deserve to know, and they will understand my reluctance to tell them. He sighed deeply. But the time is not right. I need more time for myself. He clucked softly. Kinch is right about that too. I can’t tell them because I cannot forgive myself for what I have done to Lisa.
He reached over and turned out the light, plunging the room into darkness. Oh Lisa, how am I going to ever tell you the things that I have done? It sounds cliché for me to say that the women meant nothing to me. But it is the truth. The whole time I was with them, I was with you in my thoughts. When I was caressing them, I was really caressing you. Will you believe it when I tell you that I did it because this mission demanded it? Will you hate me for betraying your trust? I couldn’t blame you if you did, but you couldn’t hate me any more than I hate myself. He rolled on his side to try to get comfortable. And yet, until this war is over, I will do it again if the need arises, in order to complete a mission successfully.
He remembered Kinch’s words; Fidelity is usually one of the first, and biggest casualties of war. This is so true. And yet, I added ours to that list with great reluctance. He yawned and started to drift off to sleep. The Lord may forgive my sins, but that will mean nothing to me if you will not. Lisa my dear, I wish you a Merry Christmas. I love you. He drifted off to sleep with his arms wrapped around his pillow, thinking of Lisa.
Hammelburg Area, Farm of Friedrich Wagner
December 29, 1943, 2245 hours
Ilse was waiting in the barn with her brothers for the prearranged meeting with the Underground leader. They had had several conversations since the day that the Gestapo had ransacked their house looking for the weapons taken from the men that were killed. That incident had humbled Hans to a great extent. The thought of what would have happened if those guns had not been taken from them the previous night had bothered him greatly.
Father’s yelling hadn’t helped either. Father had been very angry when they told him the whole story after the Gestapo left. He couldn’t believe that his children could do something like that and put themselves into so much danger. He had yelled and screamed and argued and pled, but in the end realized that his children were grown and would have to make their own decisions. He was not very happy with the direction his country was being taken, but he had always considered himself too old to make a difference. He realized that it was his children’s generation that would inherit the future Germany, and they should be the ones to fight the injustices.
After all was said and done, Hans had decided that everyone was right; attacking the Gestapo directly was a very bad idea. He and Karl both agreed that the group should stop that sort of activity. Ilse thought it would end there, but Hans surprised her with his desire that their group should join the Underground. Hans was going to volunteer tonight when they had their meeting.
Ilse had made up her mind that since her brothers had started this because of her, she would stick with them whatever they intended to do. She was scared for herself and for them, but she was more scared of what would happen if men like Major Hochstetter remained in power much longer. If her brothers would be active in the Underground, then so would she.
So they sat in the barn, waiting for the Colonel from the Underground to show up. Ilse realized that they were never introduced the last time, and she did not know the man’s name. He had seemed very bad tempered at that meeting, but when she had told him what had happened to her, she could see the pain and compassion for her in his eyes. She wondered if he would be willing to accept her brothers into his group.
* * * * * * *
Colonel Hogan stopped the group at the end of the clearing near the barn. They crouched in the shadows, alert for any out of the ordinary movement in the woods around them. This time Hogan had brought his entire team except for Baker, who was minding the store back at camp.
“Carter. LeBeau. Newkirk,” Hogan whispered. “Scout around out here while we go in. Newkirk, when you think it’s fine, come into the barn.” He looked at Carter and LeBeau. “You two stay outside. They already know about us, and I don’t want them to know the whole group.” The two men nodded and they made their way with Newkirk quietly through the woods to look for anyone that might be observing.
They had brought Erich Jonach with them, partly to show them
where the Wagner farm was, but also becaus
e e Erich
would need to know what the Wagners planned to do. If they did not intend to
stop their activity, Hogan would be forced to act. And he would need the help
of Erich and his men for that.
“Let’s go,” Hogan said, and started towards the barn. He was aware of Erich and Kinch following behind him. When they got to the barn, they entered quickly. All three of the Wagners were there waiting for them. Hogan noticed that Hans did not look as defiant as he had during the last meeting, so he was hopeful that this meeting would go well.
“The Gestapo searched our house after our last meeting,” Hans said, looking at Hogan. “I suppose I should thank you for taking those guns from us, or we would not be here tonight.”
Hogan waved off the thanks. “No thanks necessary,” he replied. “I don’t want to see anyone taken by the Gestapo. It’s not very pretty when it happens.”
Hans looked at Karl and Ilse before speaking. “We have …” he started. “We have decided that you were right. We don’t plan to target the Gestapo anymore.”
There was something about the statement that Hogan found unnerving, but he was glad to hear that he wouldn’t have any problems convincing them. When Hans continued speaking, he knew that he had different problems to consider.
“We also decided that we, I mean our group, would like to join the Underground,” Hans said.
“You what?” Hogan asked.
“We want to help,” Hans said.
Hogan started pacing, rubbing the back of his neck. “You don’t know what you are asking to get into,” he commented.
“After what they did to our house, we do know that we want to do what we can to free our country from their control,” Karl insisted.
Hogan stopped and looked at the brothers. “Wait, you said your group?” he asked.
Hans nodded. “There are four others besides Karl and myself,” he replied.
“And me too,” Ilse interjected.
Hans turned quickly towards her. “No, Ilse,” he said. “It’s too dangerous.”
Ilse shook her head vehemently. “Hans, if you do this and are caught, they will come after me anyway,” she said. “So it makes no difference whether I am helping or not.” She looked at him earnestly. “And I want to help.”
Hogan gazed at Ilse, admiring her determination. “She is right,” he said to Hans. “The Gestapo will come after the whole family if you are caught.”
“Then I guess I will just have to avoid getting caught,” Hans said flatly. “But we want to join the group.”
Hogan sighed heavily. This was not what he had expected. He had hoped that they would decide to stop their activity and that would be it. He had even expected that they might resist his urgings, forcing him to make them stop. But he hadn’t expected that they would want to join the Underground.
At that moment, the barn door opened and Newkirk entered. “All clear, sir,” he said. Hogan nodded.
He looked at Erich. “What do you think, Erich?” he asked.
Erich shrugged. “We could always use more people,” he replied. “But they need to be people that we can trust to work together.”
“My group will listen to me,” Hans replied.
“And what about you?” Hogan asked.
“I will work with you,” he said. He looked at Erich and added, “And Herr Jonach as well.” Seeing the skeptical looks on their faces, he continued, “The only trouble I want to cause is for the authorities.”
Hogan still wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but it did have one merit. If Hans and his group were part of the Underground, then he would be better able to make sure that there would be no more attacks on Hochstetter’s men.
After a time, he nodded slowly. “All right,” he said. “I think that will be fine. We’ll work out the details later. We shouldn’t be out too long tonight.”
Hans Wagner smiled. “Danke,” he said and held out his hand to Hogan. Hogan shook his hand. Hans then stepped over to Kinch and held out his hand. “I owe you an apology for my insults last time,” he said. “It will not happen again.”
Kinch took his hand and replied, “Apology accepted.”
As the men went to leave, Ilse spoke up. “Excuse me,” she said. Hogan stopped and turned to her. “If we are going to work together, shouldn’t we know your name?”
Hogan smiled at her. “They call me Papa Bear,” he said.
December 31, 1943, 2359 hours
The large group of people was standing around the big table of the barracks, each holding a glass of champagne. The room was smoky and crowded - it was New Years Eve, and time for celebration. A voice was counting, “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one … Happy New Year!”
Everyone held their glass into the air and started singing.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And the days of old lang syne.
Bob Crane embraced his wife Patty and gave her a big kiss. “Happy New Year, dear,” he whispered in her ear.
Nita Talbot, standing next to Robert Clary, said to him in her Marya accent, “Come here my little one, and give me a kiss.”
Robert laughed and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You are doing a marvelous job in this story,” he said.
“Thank you,” she replied. “Frankly, I like the scene in the Berlin Hotel dining room the best. It gave me a chance to overact as I had never overacted before.”
“Face it, Nita,” Robert said laughing. “You are just a tease at heart.”
She laughed along with him, giving his cheek a pinch. “But of course, darling,” she said.
* * * * * * *
“Leon, I like how you are portraying the new side of General Burkhalter in this story,” Werner Klemperer said to Leon Askin.
“Thank you, Werner,” he replied. “It is fun getting to play this side of the General.”
“I agree with Werner,” Howard Caine interjected. “You are doing really well playing the good guy for a change.”
“How about you, Howard,” Leon said. “Wouldn’t you like to play the good guy for once?”
“No,” Howard replied. “I like playing the villain.” He sneered and the other two men laughed.
Bob Crane walked up and said, “Leon, good job so far.”
“Thank you Bob,” he replied. “I notice you haven’t been in too much of the action yet.”
Bob shrugged. “It gives me more time to watch everyone else perform.”
Howard smiled and said, “Oh Bob, about your mail…”
Everyone laughed and Bob gave Howard a friendly shove.
* * * * * * *
“So what do you think about the story so far?” Larry Hovis asked John Banner.
“I like it,” John replied. “I liked the scene where I got to remember my daughter.”
“Oh, you’re just an old softy,” Richard Dawson said smiling.
“Ja, that’s me,” John replied, poking his ample stomach. “Very soft!” Everyone laughed.
* * * * * * *
“I wonder what is going to happen in the second half of the story?” Kenny Washington asked Ivan Dixon.
“Me too,” Ivan replied. “I wish they would pass out the scripts already so that we can see. There are so many things going on.”
“Yeah, they have me stuck up in Rastenburg,” Leonid Kinskey commented. “I wonder if I will be stuck there for the whole story.”
“Maybe you’ll get to come back to Stalag 13 for a scene and we could play chess again,” Ivan replied smiling.
“Ivan, you know I can’t play chess,” Leonid responded. “The author has just put that in there because my character is Russian. I’ve been stereotyped!”
The three men laughed.
* * * * * * *
The party went on until the wee hours of the morning, with all the cast members sharing stories and jokes. Early in the morning, the party broke up when the script manager came in to hand out the scripts for the rest of the story and told them that they had to be ready to report for the next scene in a few hours. As everyone left the set, the sun was rising on a brand new year.
“Happy 1944!” Bob Crane said to everyone.
“Bah!” replied a sneering Howard Caine.
The crowd laughed as they filed from the barracks.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To Be Continued in Part 2 …
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Wherever possible, I have tried to remain true to actual historical events that are referenced. However, at times I have changed some facts in order to better integrate into the story.
One instance of this is where I have Kinch as a member of Hogan’s crew before ending up at Stalag 13. In reality, the U.S. Armed Forces were segregated, and Kinch would have never been paired up with Hogan. But having them together helped the plot line about Hogan’s marriage, that only Kinch knew about. However, by pairing them together, I felt that I had to address the dissent from some that would have occurred, and by having Hogan be “color blind”, I felt that it would deepen the friendship and respect that Kinch would have for Hogan.
There were several other instances where the episodes themselves, while based on or around actual historical events, bent the historical facts. The prime example of this is in the episode Operation Briefcase, where General Stauffen is the one responsible for the assassination attempt on Hitler. In reality, it was Count von Stauffenberg who made the attempt with a British made briefcase bomb. In these instances, I have followed the episode “history” and supplemented it with actual historical facts when necessary.
So even though I have tried to be as historical accurate as possible, one must recognize that it is a work of fiction, and also based on a fictional television series that also was not completely historically accurate.
Hitler’s Wolfsschanze – The Wolf’s Lair
The Wolfsschanze, or Wolf’s Lair in English, was Hitler’s main headquarters on the eastern front. Located in the woods near the town of Rastenburg in East Prussia. Construction was started in 1940, and once the war with Russian began, Hitler spent the majority of his time here coordinating his war efforts between the summer of 1942 and November of 1944, when the German’s blew up many of the buildings and abandoned it as the front approached. During the spring and early summer of 1944, he left the Wolfsschanze and made his headquarters at the Obersalzberg, returning to Rastenburg on July 9th.
It was at the Wolfsschanze where the assassination attempt of Count Claus von Stauffenberg was made on July 20, 1944. Stauffenberg brought a briefcase with a bomb in it to a briefing. The bomb exploded, killing 4 people, but Hitler survived with minor injuries. Stauffenberg was arrested in Berlin that night, and shot shortly thereafter.
The November 19, 1943 midday briefing that General Burkhalter is summoned to in this story actually took place. One of the interesting facts about Hitler’s briefings is that he had them transcribed in order to keep a permanent record of his decisions to show where he thought his commanders in the field were not following his orders. Of the more than 103,000 pages generated, less than 1000 survived destruction. There is a book, Hitler and His Generals, which contains a translation of the complete set of surviving transcripts. It is from this book that I obtained the factual information I used for this meeting. Of course, General Burkhalter was not at this meeting, but I wanted to use a real event in order for Burkhalter to get to meet Hitler.
From the transcript, the following people were active participants in the briefing (meaning that they spoke and were listed in the transcript):
Adolf Hitler, The Führer
General Kurt Zeitzler, Chief of the General Headquarters of the Army
Admiral Hans-Erich Voss, Permanent Representative of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy
Major Heinz Waizenegger, General Staff Officer to the Chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Headquarters
SS-Captain Hans Pfeiffer, Personal Adjutant to the Führer
General Walter Buhle, Chief of the Army Headquarters
General Günther Korten, Chief of the General Headquarters of the Air Force
General Adolf Heusinger, Chief of Operations Department in General Headquarters of Army
Major Herbert Buchs, Adjutant Chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Headquarters
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command
Captain Heinz Assmann, First Admiral Officer in the Wehrmacht Operations Headquarters
For purposes of this story, I have also placed the following three actual historical figures at this meeting:
Josef Goebbels, Reichsminister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer SS
Nicolaus von Below, Luftwaffe Adjutant
And of course, the fictional character of General Burkhalter was present.
You might also assume that the fictional character of General Ludwig Stauffen was also present, as I have him as the Replacement Army Commanding General, mainly stationed in the Wolfsschanze, with very frequent trips to Berlin. General Stauffen is the fictional character from the television series episode Operation Briefcase, which was sorta-kinda based on the real assassination attempt made by Count von Stauffenberg. Since Count von Stauffenberg was a Colonel in the Replacement Army, I have made his fictional counterpart, who was a General, the commander of the same.
The Soviet Spy Network
The Soviet Union had a highly organized network in place by the time Hitler invaded Russia in 1941. After Hitler came to power, the Soviets began organizing and placing agents throughout Germany, and expanding this network into Nazi-occupied territory after the war broke out. The Germans referred to this network as Rote Kapelle or Red Orchestra. The network got this name because Moscow referred to the radios that agents used for communication as Music Boxes, and the agents themselves as Musicians.
By late 1942, the Abwehr had identified and executed most of the leaders of the Red Orchestra, and by early 1943, the Red Orchestra had ceased to operate.
Another successful Soviet spy ring was the Sandor Rado spy ring that operated mostly out of Switzerland. It was so successful that it had radioed the complete German battle plans for the invasion of Russia. By 1943, this spy network had also been shut down, when the Swiss government, under pressure from Germany, cracked down on Soviet spies operating in Switzerland.
By the time this story occurs, both rings would have ceased operations. I have invented a new, fictional spy ring for this tale, that Marya was instructed to create upon the breakup of the Red Orchestra. This order would have come from The Center, which was what the GRU headquarters was called. (The GRU was the military intelligence division of the NKVD.) The Center directed the majority of the Soviet spy operations before, during and after the war. By forming the new spy network in Germany, Marya could be considered the most important Soviet agent in the country, but would still take directions from Moscow.
There is a lot of information about the Soviet spy network at the following links:
The NKVD headquarters was at Lubyanka Square in downtown Moscow. The main building contains the infamous Lubyanka prison. It was from here that the Gulag system of concentration and forced labor camps were operated.
The City of Prague
I have placed Marya in Prague for part of this story for no reason other than I like the city. I visited Prague in 1995, as the city was just starting to realize that it was a tourist city. There is such a large mix of architectural styles in close proximity to each other, that it is hard to be bored in the city. The picturesque Charles Bridge over the Vltava River. Old Town Square with the astronomical clock, Prague Castle with the St. Vitus Cathedral, and the surrounding countryside are all well worth seeing.
Marya is staying in Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti), in the heart of Old Town (Stare Mesto). This section of town dates back to the 11th century or so.
Prague was occupied by the Germans with the invasion of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939. It was occupied for the entire course of the war, the last German defenders being defeated on May 9, 1945 – AFTER the armistice had been signed. Because the city was not subjected to Allied bombing, most of its old building survived the war intact, and you can still see them today.
Prague is also the place where I had dinner in hell … literally! Beneath the Strahov Monastery gardens, known as “the paradise”, there are the old monastery wine cellars that have been converted into a restaurant. Since it is located beneath “paradise”, they named the restaurant Peklo, which is the word for Hell. The vaults date back to the 12th century, and the ambiance is very nice.
The astronomical clock located in Old Town Square is on the Old Town Hall building. It dates back to about 1410, with many modifications made since then. Even though there have been modifications, and the town hall was nearly destroyed by the Germans at the end of WWII, the mechanism of the clock is still the original one.
Where are Hammelburg and Stalag 13?
In the television series, there were many references to the city of Düsseldorf, leading to the impression that the town of Hammelburg was in that area. However, there is actually a town in Germany named Hammelburg. It is located in Northern Bavaria, near Schweinfurt and Würzburg – and not very far from Frankfurt.
The Hammelburg County flag with coat-of-arms:
And by an interesting coincidence, there happen to have been two camps near the town – Oflag XIIIB, a camp for officers and Stalag XIIIC. It should be noted that the latter was not a Luft Stalag. It was simply a regular Stalag.
Lists of the various German POW camps:
In March of 1945, General Patton ordered a small raiding party to advance to Hammelburg, approximately 50 miles past the American front line at the time. The mission was ultimately unsuccessful, and there is some question as to why Patton ordered the raid – though it is known that Patton’s son-in-law was being held at Oflag XIIIB at the time.
In my story, I have purposefully stayed away from any mention as to where Hammelburg is in Germany, though my inclination would be to use the actual town. However, this raises several questions as to the escape route to the sub. It’s a looooong way from Bavaria to the coast!
As a humorous side-note, I had Google translate one of the German language pages, and Hammelburg was translated as Mutton Castle.
The Washington Who?
Colonel Hogan makes reference to a baseball team named the Washington Nationals. Unless you are a baseball fanatic, or old enough to remember, there used to be a baseball team in Washington D.C. called the Senators. In fact, there were three teams with that name, at different times.
From 1901 to 1960, the first incarnation of the Washington Senators played. From 1905 to 1955, their official name was the Washington Nationals, though fans rarely referred to them as anything other than the Senators. This would be the team that Hogan knew and was referring to. The team won a single world series, playing in three. After the 1960 season, the team moved to Minneapolis and became the team now known as the Minnesota Twins.
The second incarnation of the Senators came the following season. This version of the Senators played in Washington from 1961 to 1971, and never made the playoffs or World Series. After the 1971 season, the team moved to Texas and became the team now known as the Texas Rangers.
The latest incarnation takes things in the other direction. For the 2005 baseball season, the Montreal Expos team will move to the Washington D.C. area and become the Washington Nationals.
What’s in a Name?
Naming characters can sometimes be a pain, and can sometimes be an exercise in humor. Most of the original characters created in this story have someone normal, unobtrusive names. However, I do like to inject a note of humor at times when thinking up the names. In this story, there are several instances of this.
The town butcher, and member of Erich Jonach’s Underground team, was named Oskar Meyer. If you grew up in the United States, you will recognize the irony of naming a butcher the same name as a famous brand of bologna and hot dogs. Though it is spelled differently than the brand name, you get the point!
The town doctor, and another member of Erich Jonach’s team who doesn’t really appear much, was named Detlef Hauser. Since “Doogie” is not a German name, I figured that Detlef was close enough to name the character after the television show Doogie Howser.
My favorite, and most subtle is Gestapo Major Josef Freitag. To be true to the source of this name, he should actually be a Sergeant, but I needed someone in Two Missions for the Price of One that was of equal rank to Hochstetter. Where does this name come from? Well, let me give you “just the facts, ma’am.” If you translate the last name from German to English, you get Friday … Joe Friday from Dragnet. (Hey, he’s a policeman too!) His code name in the Russian spy network, Jack, is also related. Jack Webb played Joe Friday … and Major Freitag is very important to several of the Webs of deception in this story. I think I have all the bases covered here!
Text and original characters copyright 2005 by Jeff Evans
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.