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Weaving a Web to Freedom - Book 2:
Undoing The Past
By Marty Breedlove
Background information for this story is from the HH Episode: "The Meister Spy"
Dust billowed up as the bullets embedded in the dirt.
Two prisoners back peddled away from the flying debris.
"Hey! Watch it!"
The words had barely escaped the American Colonel's lips, before guards arriving from all directions, surrounded them. The two raised their hands in surrender.
Echoing gunfire bounced through the trees and Sergeant Kinchloe, better known as Kinch, worriedly glanced back over his shoulder as he squatted next to the tunnel entrance.
What are those two doing? This was supposed to be a simple diversion! The crackling of branches caused Kinch to whip his head back to the business at hand. A tall lean man was weaving his way toward the tunnel entrance. Kinch motioned for the man to stay low and come ahead.
Colonel Klink jumped to his feet as images of one of his POW's lying dead or wounded flashed into his mind. Grabbing his coat from the coat stand, he ran out the door.
"What's going on here?" Klink shouted, as he strutted toward the subdued prisoners.
"Newkirk and I were just standing here talking, minding our own business, when those SS tower guards up there started firing on us," Hogan attempted to lower his hands but rifle barrels aiming at his chest warned him to stop.
"Colonel Hogan, you know better than to get too close to the fence." Kommandant Klink's unforgiving tone masked the relief he felt that no one was injured.
"Too close to the fence? Look where those bullets hit! We're a foot further back than we needed to be."
"Now!" Klink answered accusingly.
"You're a foot further back, now! Obviously you were closer a few minute ago."
Hogan and Newkirk had been taunting the guards, moving in and out of the forbidden zone by the fence knowing that this action would eventually draw warning shots…or worse. Hogan also knew it was a sure fire way to get the attention of the SS guards walking the perimeter outside the prison compound. Playing "cat & mouse" with the Luftwaffe or Gestapo had become second nature, both in the camp compound and in the woods and countryside surrounding the Stalag. Their lives depended on them being experts at their game.
Klink continued. "What were you doing this close to the fence anyway? Move back before you get yourselves killed and I have to do more paper work!"
Klink waved his hands at the guards. "Back to your posts. I'll handle this!"
Sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to keep these men alive until the war ends. They seem to be hell bent on taking stupid risks. I should have them confined in the cooler for this. Maybe that would keep them out of trouble for a while. And maybe the SS would be gone by the time I let them out.
"Come on, Kommandant, when is the SS going to pull these guys out of here?" Hogan demanded, as he and Newkirk lowered their arms. Tension was high in the camp. Every POW knew their lives could change very quickly and without warning even before the SS arrived in camp, but the SS's presence made that possibility feel more like an impending reality.
"That is none of your concern, Colonel Hogan. Now move back toward the middle of the compound or find yourselves confined in the cooler. That's an order!" Klink stood impassive, not moving a muscle, until the two prisoners surrendered to his order, and slowly sauntered away from the barbed barrier separating them from the outside world.
Hogan looked up and saw Sergeant Carter give him the sign that the underground agent was safe in the tunnel. They could stop their charade and return to the relative safety of Barrack Two.
"All right, but I'm going to write out a formal complaint to the Red Cross," Hogan declared, as Klink spun around to go back to his office.
"You do that Colonel," Klink replied over his shoulder, "and maybe we can have you certified insane and locked away for your own good and my sanity!"
It was a bluff. Since Hogan's arrival there had been a lot of strange occurrences but they had all turned out well, and Klink had become known as the Kommandant of the toughest POW camp in Germany, a fact that provided him some protection from being sent to the Russian front. Hogan was a lucky charm for Klink; he needed the benefits of their coexistence.
Hogan did a double take in Klink's direction. The Nazi's call them selves the "Master Race" and you think I'm insane? Hogan shook his head. How can so many people follow that madman? Crossing his arms in front of him, he continued to stare incomprehensibly at the retreating Kommandant. At least not all Germans are members of the Nazi party. And some, who joined earlier in the war, are having second thoughts. I just hope it isn't too late.
Colonel Hogan looked up at the tower guards as he turned and headed for the barrack. His meeting with the underground wasn't the only reason he wanted the SS out of camp. Their presence and the radio detection trucks, outside the gates, had brought Hogan's sabotage and espionage activities to a standstill. The risk of being caught was too great and could mean the loss of not only their lives, but the lives of hundreds of people in the Underground.
London, not having been able to get a response by way of radio from "Papa Bear", had become concerned. A message was sent to Colonel Hogan via Oscar Schnitzer, the trainer and caretaker of the German shepherd guard dogs used by the camp to hunt down escaped prisoners, to meet and bring into camp an underground agent. The agent was to learn what was happening and send the information back to London. If Papa Bear and his men had been found out, London needed to get word to their other Underground connections, before the Nazis were able to obtain information from them.
"That went off well, guv'nor," Newkirk smiled. "We got away without punishment!"
"Yeah," Hogan answered guardedly. "Let's get out of here before he changes his mind."
Hogan and Newkirk entered the barrack and headed for the extensive tunnel system below the prison camp. Lutz Wagner, who had been anxiously waiting, stood to greet them as they entered the radio room.
"Lutz!" the Colonel exclaimed, "how are you and how is your arm?"
The last time Hogan had seen Lutz he had taken a bullet in his arm during their escape from a Gestapo training camp.
"Its fine, I'm glad you were able to complete your mission without me," Lutz replied.
"Your family took good care of me," Hogan said, while shaking the man's hand. "I think I can guess why you're here. London wants to know why we're on radio silence. Right?"
"You guessed it! And having seen the SS guards, I think that question has been answered. This wouldn't have anything to do with our botched mission a few weeks ago would it, Colonel?"
Hogan shrugged, "We haven't been able to find out from our hosts, but it would make sense. Not being able to get Strasser out of Germany before he could convince someone of his identity is our best guess for the SS guards being placed here. They arrived two days ago. An SS Captain met Colonel Klink on the porch outside of his office and handed him some orders, then proceeded to place guards around the camp. So far it's been uneventful but the radio detection truck has made using our radio impossible."
"Yeah, and roll call every two hours hasn't helped much either!" Carter added.
"I don't mind it so much during the day, but roll call every two hours at night is a royal pain in the…." Newkirk was interrupted.
"Roll call, Mon Colonel," LeBeau called down from the barracks.
"Oh Blimey," Newkirk complained as he took out a cigarette and lit it. "Klink just saw us out there a few minutes ago. What does he think… that we grew wings and flew away?"
"All right, all right get moving. I don't think this is Klink's idea." Hogan said, as he, Newkirk, and Carter headed up the ladder. "Wait here Lutz, we should be back shortly."
The men of barrack two were slowly ambling out into the compound, blocking Schultz from entering until the three made it up into the barrack, and lowered the bunk concealing the tunnel entrance.
"Raus, Raus!" Schultz called unenthusiastically. He was getting tired of these frequent roll calls, too.
"Raus, Raus," LeBeau repeated, mocking the over weight Sergeant on his way to his place in formation.
"Where is Colonel Hogan?" Schultz asked as Kinch exited the building.
"He's coming Schultz, but if I were you, I'd steer clear of him. The Colonel is getting annoyed at these frequent roll calls."
Schultz caught sight of Hogan and begged, "Colonel Hogan, your men are supposed to be outside and in formation within 48 seconds after the whistle is blown! You're going to get me in trouble with the Kommandant."
Hogan pulled his collar up, glared at the Sergeant and mumbled, "Tell the Kommandant if he'd stop these infernal roll calls, he wouldn't have to worry about how long it takes us to get lined up!"
"Pleeeease, Colonel Hogan!" Shultz pleaded.
Hogan continued shuffling over to his assigned position in the line up. "Ok, fellas, get lined up so we can get this over with before we have to line up for the next roll call."
Schultz was just finishing his count, when the all too familiar, "REPOOOORT," echoed through the compound. Klink strutted over to stand in front of the POW's of barrack two. The Kommandant did a quick sweep with his eyes of the men standing before him, beginning and ending with Colonel Hogan. Hogan stood with his hands in the slit pockets of his bomber jacket, feet planted securely on the ground, glaring with a disgusted look on his face. I know Hogan. I'm not enjoying this any more than you are, but orders are orders. Klink's attention left Hogan and was drawn to Schultz, as he announced the result of his count.
"Herr Kommandant, all present and accounted for!"
"Disss…missssed!" Klink whisked off to the next group of barracks, his swagger stick under his left arm and his coat flapping in the wind.
"Come on, Kommandant, haven't you figured out how many prisoners you have yet? Or will it take your guards until the war is over to learn to count?" Hogan questioned, causing Klink to pause in front of barrack 3 as the insult registered. The comment brought some laughter from the men leaving the formation and heading back into the barrack.
Klink glanced back over his shoulder at Hogan, before continuing on.
Well that got his attention. I'm going to have to answer for that one. I better go wrap this meeting up before I'm summoned.
SS Headquarters – Berlin
Colonel Knefler SD sat at his desk, where he had been going over a statement made by Hans Strasser, alias Captain Martin. Captain Martin was caught, along with his crew, three weeks earlier and taken to Stalag 13 to be held until they could undergo the routine interrogations of new prisoners of the Third Reich. However, Kommandant Klink confined Captain Martin to the "cooler" shortly after his arrival at Luft Stalag 13, because he claimed to be Hans Strasser, which Klink thought, was a lie and Strasser had tried to escape.
Martin (Strasser), a double agent bringing information on the next Allied offensive, was direct from London. He was captured near Stalag 13, after a "wheels up" landing in a field. It was a landing he had orchestrated in order to protect his cover. Knefler continued reading Strasser's statement.
[ Following our landing, we were immediately surrounded by Wehrmacht soldiers who were patrolling in the area. Another American and I were taken to Luft Stalag 13, where we were to be held until the Luftwaffe was ready to take us to Oberusal for our initial interrogation following capture.
Upon arrival at the Stalag, as the Senior Officer of the flight, I was taken alone into the Kommandant's office for an indoctrination speech. I took this opportunity to inform the Kommandant of my true identity, that I was Hans Strasser, a German agent bringing vital news of an Allied Offensive. I gave Colonel Klink a phone number to call to verify my story. The Kommandant granted me the use of his phone and I made arrangements to meet with my contacts Fraulein Kissinger, Herr Schneer, and Herr Mayerink.
I then asked if I could wash up somewhere and he sent me into his private quarters. By the time I got back, Colonel Klink had changed his opinion of my story saying he called the number I gave him and it was Schimmel's Bakery.
I was sent to the cooler. Later that night, a man came to my cell stating he was Herr Mayerink and that he was taking me to Berlin to present my information in person. That man turned out to be Colonel Hogan, the Senior POW officer. We walked out of the cooler and got into the back of a waiting truck for the drive to Berlin. He offered me some coffee, which I drank, and the next thing I remember is being awakened by Colonel Hogan, alias Mayerink, who stated we had reached our destination and that I had to be blindfold for security reasons. When he removed the blindfold, he told me I was at Hitler's "Summer Place" and I was introduced to a Colonel Beyer, who was sitting at a desk in the outer office. Colonel Beyer, whoever he was, made pretense of talking to the Fuhrer in the inner office. I was allowed to catch a couple of glimpses of the man masquerading as the Fuhrer, he was quite convincing. I was tricked into revealing my London Contact. Sergeant Schultz, who had entered the office with two guards, told me I had escaped and he was taking me back to the cooler. Before I was dragged out of, what turned out to be, Kommandant Klink's office. Hogan removed his trench coat and underneath he was wearing an American Colonel's uniform. HH Episode "The Meister Spy"
I spent a week in the cooler and then was transferred to Stalag 6 and held in the cooler there until released by the Sicherheitsdienst ("SD", Security Service). One more note of interest, on our way to Stalag 6, the truck stopped briefly and exchanged gunfire with some local partisans before continuing on to our destination. My guess is that they were trying to free me, because they thought I was an allied prisoner. ]
Knefler pushed his chair back from his desk, clasped his hands behind his head and leaned back to think.
Quite a statement. I wonder how much of it is true. It is a fact that he was first incarcerated at Stalag 13 and later transferred to Stalag 6. But a bunch of POW's making him think he was in Berlin talking to the Fuhrer is a little hard to swallow.
Knefler stood and walked across his office to the window and looked out across the streets of Berlin.
I recall meeting Colonel Hogan about six weeks ago, but only briefly. He had just been released from solitary for being disrespectful, as I recall. Yes, rather outspoken and tenacious for a prisoner. He wasn't the least bit apprehensive about speaking his mind; it's no wonder he was in the cooler.
The Kommandant of Stalag 13 obviously runs a "tight" camp, if his actions regarding discipline are any indication. The man seems to know what he's doing. There has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13.
Since Strasser has accused Colonel Hogan of deception and espionage, we will begin there. I will call General Burkhalter and let him know there is going to be an investigation.