"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." Nuremberg Principle IV.

Two people, one a young blonde woman, one a young man in his early thirties, sat near each other in the back of a courtroom. They listened intently to the testimony before them, paying close attention to the prosecuting attorney and his witnesses. The object of their interest sat behind a protective glass enclosure, showing disdain for the proceedings in front of him. The same refrain, "We were just following orders," had echoed continuously throughout the months of trials, and today was no exception.

A break in the proceedings threw the two young people in sight of each other. For the first few seconds, there was no recognition, but suddenly their eyes met and they both understood who they were seeing.

"Sergeant Olsen?"

"Fraulein Hilda?"

The two stunned survivors at first had no words to describe their feelings upon seeing each other. Then questions poured out of their mouths. Questions that were being asked all over Europe as refugees and families tried to pick up the pieces.

"How did you?"

"I thought you were…"

Finally, Olsen shyly asked, "Would you like to get some lunch? We can catch up."

"Yes," replied Hilda. I would like that. Danke." Olsen moved to assist Hilda with her coat.

The two survivors made their way to a small café that had recently opened up near the courtroom. Thankfully, they found a quiet corner away from the crowd of military personnel and reporters.

Olsen was the first to speak. "How did you manage? I thought you would have been…" He couldn't say it.

Hilda looked up from the cup of coffee that she was nursing. Without emotion, she answered. "I was transferred to another prison camp." She continued. "They, Hochstetter and Burkhalter, they didn't suspect that I knew anything. All they saw was..." Tears began to form in her eyes. "I let them. I couldn't say anything. My family. I was so terrified."

"It's okay." Olsen handed her his handkerchief. "You did what you had to do."

Hilda looked up into his eyes. "And you, Sergeant?"

"I was outside that day." His voice took on the dispassionate quality of someone narrating an event that had happened to someone else.

Olsen repeated, "I was outside that day. Oh, God!"

Hilda looked at him with empathy. "You don't have to continue."

"No, it's okay. You have a right to know. I got word from Schnitzer that the operation had been compromised. By the time I got close to camp, it was too late. The Germans were already in the tunnels. I had to scramble, notify the cells. We all scattered. We had plans, you know, in case."

Hilda nodded.

Olsen continued. "I never found out how it happened. But, the local Underground, they all got away." His hands began to shake. "I got away because I wasn't supposed to be there. I was outside. Someone was taking my place." Tears began to stream down his face.

"I'm so sorry." Hilda placed her hands over his. "We'd better get back."

Olsen threw some money down onto the table as they got up to leave. "This afternoon won't be easy for you, Hilda."

"You, either."

"No, but I have to be there. For all of them."

The two survivors took their place at the back of the courtroom. This time they sat next to each other for support.


Burkhalter and Hochstetter stood facing each other, separated by Klink's desk. Hochstetter was furious. "I brought you the head of Papa Bear, and now you want to sweep this all under a rug!"

"I don't think we really have a choice in the matter, Major." Burkhalter sat down in Klink's chair and removed a cigar from the humidor. "What do you think will happen to us if Berlin finds out the biggest sabotage operation in Germany was happening here, right under our noses, from a POW camp?" He lit the cigar. "I'm not willing to take the blame and suffer the consequences, are you?"

Hochstetter felt his instinct of self-preservation fighting with his insatiable need for glory and recognition. Self-preservation won.

Sighing, he said, "You're right, General." He sat down in the empty seat, the one that Hogan had sat in hundreds of times. "When the sabotage in the area stops, they'll assume Papa Bear was a member of the Underground and was captured."

"That's correct, Major. Do you have someone in mind, someone to blame?"

Hochstetter shook his head. "No, we were too late. By the time we had uncovered the operation, the cells had scattered. Well, never mind. The sabotage will stop. They won't return to this area, which will look good for us."

"Now you're getting the picture, Hochstetter."

"But we still have the matter of what to do with the rest of the prisoners, and the camp, General."

"I've already thought of that," replied Burkhalter. "All evidence of the operation must be destroyed."

"We've already removed all of the pertinent items from the tunnels. The regular guards have been replaced by my agents."

General Burkhalter took a drag on the cigar. "Good, I've already transferred the old guards to the front. We'll need to raze the entire camp. No one must know. The camp has had an epidemic, Hochstetter. All prisoners must be relocated and the buildings torn down for health reasons. Notify Hammelburg that civilians must be ordered to stay away."

"Done." Hochstetter got up to leave. "Oh, General, what happened to Klink?"

Burkhalter coldly said, "He's been disposed of."

"Excellent. Oh, and General, what time do you need me here tomorrow?"

"0700, Major. The executions will be at 0700."

The other nine hundred prisoners in camp did present a problem. Burkhalter mulled over his choices. Technically, he felt they could all be shot as spies. After all, they were all obviously aware of the unique operations taking place in the camp. How many took an active part, he did not know. But evidence showed that quite a few assisted with digging, forgery, metalworking and engineering, among other operations. But executing that many, while not unprecedented, would create a mess. So far only Hogan, his main sabotage team, and the rest of Barracks two were the only prisoners locked in cells. They were all scheduled for execution in the morning. No, something else had to be done with the other prisoners.

No one on Hogan's team had divulged any useful information after their capture, and Burkhalter had quickly halted the interrogations before they got out of hand. As Hochstetter had reported, the resistance cells were long gone. They had other matters to consider. He decided to pay Hogan a visit.


"Can you briefly explain what the Allies found when they liberated the POW camps in Germany and the occupied countries?"

"Yes, sir. Well, it depended on what camp it was, and also where it was located. All of the camps were over-crowded. By the end of the war, most camps were low on food, and many prisoners were sick. Camps in the east were evacuated and the prisoners were forced to march west. Many of them died. The Russian camps were another matter."

"Explain what you mean by that."

"The Russians did not follow the Geneva Convention, and in turn, the German's treated the Russians like animals, sir."

"Yes, but let's get back to the Allied POW camps. Today we're specifically discussing one camp in particular; Stalag 13. What happened to Stalag 13?"

"If I may offer a little background, sir?"

"Of course, go ahead, Major."

"Stalag 13 was a smaller camp located several miles outside the small city of Hammelburg…here." The Major pointed to a map. "It was originally set up to handle the overflow from other NCO camps in the area."

"How many prisoners did this camp hold?"

"Well, it varied over the years, but it held up to a thousand men."

"Do we know anything; anything at all about the conditions in this camp?"

"Well, from what we've gathered from the few prisoners we've been able to speak with, the conditions at this camp were surprisingly good. Not great, but prisoners informed us that the guards and the Kommandant, a Wilhelm Klink, were, I guess you can say, humane."

"Do we know what happened to this Kommandant?"

"No, sir. We have to assume that he is dead."

"Thank you. Tell us about your experience in liberating this camp."

"Yes, sir. We had been fighting in the countryside surrounding the camp for several days. Command notified us that a prison camp was in the area, and that as soon as the surrounding countryside and the town were secure, we were ordered to liberate the camp as soon as possible." The major paused in his testimony to take a drink of water.

"We headed for the area. We knew that there had been fighting around some of the other POW camps, so we had to be prepared for anything. But when we sent in reconnaissance, they reported that the camp looked deserted. After that, we headed into the area and moved into the camp."

"And what did you find, Major?"

"It was deserted. There were no signs of any prisoners. The buildings had been destroyed, and there were signs that fires and explosions had been set. The army brought in some investigators to see if we could find out what happened, and we also started asking some of the civilians in town if they knew anything."

"What did the civilians tell you, Major, and what exactly did the investigators find?"

"Well, the civilians informed us that the camp had been evacuated in the late fall of '44 because of disease. They did not know what happened to the prisoners. But the investigators did find something, sir."

"Go ahead."

"While investigating the ground outside the camp, the men found a shallow pit."

"What was in the pit, Major?"

"Bodies. Fifteen. The bodies of fifteen prisoners."

"How did you know they were prisoners?"

"They were buried in their uniforms, and they still had their dog tags. The ground had been frozen for a while, so parts of the uniforms were intact."

"So you were able to identify them as prisoners?"


"And did they die of disease?"

"No, our coroner determined they were executed."

"And did these prisoners, Major, have something in common?"

"Yes, our investigations showed they all came from the same barracks."

The prosecutor paused and faced the judges. "For the record, I would like to read the names of these prisoners."

"Go ahead."

"Senior POW officer, Colonel Robert Hogan, Staff Sergeant, James Kinchloe, Corporal Peter Newkirk, Corporal John Hanson, Private James Garth, Sergeant Andrew Carter, Corporal Louis LeBeau, Sergeant Richard Baker…."The voice and the names faded away as Hilda and Olsen sat in the back of the courtroom, their hands tightly clasped, their bodies shaking.


Burkhalter warily approached Hogan's cell. Since his incarceration, Hogan had been incessantly demanding to visit the other prisoners. He noticed that Hochstetter had doubled the amount of guards watching the Colonel.

Hogan was sitting on the bench, propped up against the wall, when Burkhalter arrived. Dark circles had emerged under his eyes, and his usual insolent grin had been replaced by a look of resignation. Spying Burkhalter, Hogan stood up and again demanded to see the other prisoners.

"You will see the other prisoners tomorrow morning, Colonel. At 0700. That is the time we have scheduled for the executions."

"They had nothing to do with it, General. I'm totally responsible."

So now we start to bargain. "That's very magnanimous of you, Colonel, but I don't know how you expect me to believe that. No, the other men in your barracks will be executed. But there is the matter of the other prisoners of the camp."

Hogan tried not to show any fear. "Where are the rest of the prisoners?"

"For the time being, they are confined to their barracks. We have several guards posted both inside and outside all of the huts. You've left me with a problem, Colonel."

"They had no part in the operation, General."

Burkhalter laughed. "Again, I don't know how you expect me to believe that. You know we have evidence that more than five men were involved. Maybe Klink wasn't smart enough to realize the men weren't really allowed to escape, but I am."

Hogan briefly wondered what had happened to Klink. He had a vague idea and he did not want to think about it.

"I could have them all executed, but I will be generous, Hogan. They can't stay here. After tomorrow morning, the camp will be razed and the prisoners will be relocated."

"Where are you taking them, Burkhalter? Burkhalter!" Hogan received no answer. He watched as the General left his sight.


"Now, Major, if you don't mind, can you continue describing the investigation of what occurred at Stalag 13?"

"Yes, sir. As I said, we found the bodies of fifteen executed prisoners buried in a pit right outside of the camp. At that point, we had no idea what had happened, but at least we were able to provide some closure for their families, sir."

"And what happened to the rest of the prisoners, Major? There were over 900, weren't there?"

"We weren't entirely sure; you see, there were no records. This was highly unusual. We only managed to guess at names and numbers by cross-checking records with the Red Cross, the families, and the army. And there were the survivors of Stalag 13 that were later found when the labor camps were liberated. From this information, we discovered they were sent on a forced march, east, to labor camps."

"I see, Major. And do you have an estimate of how many of Stalag 13's prisoners survived the march and their incarceration in the labor camps?"

"Yes, sir. Approximately 25 to 30 percent survived."

Hilda gasped. Several civilians - family members, Olsen supposed - wept openly.

"Thank you, Major. Your witness." The prosecutor glanced at the defense attorney.

Hilda and Olsen sat through the cross-examination, which seemed to them somewhat half-hearted. Fortunately the Major did not waver in his testimony.

The prosecutor continued. "I would like to call as my next witness, a James MacDonald."

Olsen whispered to Hilda, "He was a prisoner at the camp. He lived on the other side, in one of the higher numbered barracks."

The prosecutor began with formalities. The witness described his rank, combat career, where and when he was shot down, etc. Then the prosecutor began to ask for further details.

"You've heard the testimony here, Mr. MacDonald. How would you describe your experience at this particular camp?"

"Well, from what I heard, it was one of the better camps. We had food shortages sometimes, and it was really boring, but we weren't mistreated, not like some of the other camps."

"Did you ever have any interaction with the Kommandant, Wilhelm Klink?"

"No, sir. The only time I met him was when I was first brought in. And then, Colonel Hogan did all the talking."

"Tell me about Colonel Hogan."

"He was the senior POW officer. I have no idea why he was there, it being an NCO camp and all, but we were glad we had him."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, he took care of us, I guess. We were well-organized, you know. He appointed barracks' chiefs; they made sure we got fed, got our packages. He kept the Krauts, the Germans, away from the prisoners. He just took care of us."

"I see. Did you know the rest of the men in Barracks two?"

"Not really. To us, it was a big camp, you see. Sometimes, I would see them. He had a staff, and if we had any problems, we could talk to them. But the barracks usually hung out together."

"Do you know why the camp was evacuated and why these men were executed?"

"No sir. We were told there was an epidemic and we had to move out." Olsen noticed signs that Macdonald was beginning to be bothered by providing this testimony. "A lot of us heard the gunshots that morning. We asked where Colonel Hogan and his men were, and they just told us to move. But no one was sick."

"What happened next?"

"We had an hour to gather what we could carry, and then we marched several days east to a transit center. By then we had lost men. It was cold, and a lot didn't make it. At the transit center, we were separated into groups and sent to different labor camps. I don't know how many made it out of the labor camps."

"And that's where you spent the rest of the war?"

"Yes, sir."

Olsen had noticed that several men seated in the back of the courtroom had been extremely interested in Macdonald's testimony. At one point, they leaned forward, as if on pins and needles, and then upon hearing his words, relaxed back into their seats.

"I think this witness needs a break, your honor."

"It's late, we will continue this tomorrow."


That evening, Hilda and Olsen held a quiet conversation in a secluded area.

"They're keeping the whole thing under wraps."

"What do you mean?" Hilda asked.

"The whole operation. Did you notice how uncomfortable MacDonald was on the stand? It was obvious. He knew what had really happened and he was ordered not to tell."

"But why, why would they do that? You, all those men, they were all heroes."

"To get Burkhalter," Olsen replied. "That's why."

The next morning, testimony from two other surviving prisoners followed. They all had similar horror stories. None knew why they were relocated, or why an entire barracks had been executed. None of the former prisoners were cross-examined.


Hogan spent his last night on earth frantically trying to figure out how to save his men. He did not dwell on what had gone wrong. It was too late for that. He also tried not to think about what was coming. Thoughts of his closest men and the other prisoners in the camp consumed him for hours. As their Commanding Officer, he had been responsible for their safety. He had failed.

The other men locked in the cells also spent a sleepless night. Some prayed. Some paced. Some were at peace. All of them wished they had each other to lean on that night, but it was not to be. The fifteen prisoners would not see each other until the following morning.

Burkhalter was up bright and early. The day promised to be sunny, but bitterly cold. He had come to a decision regarding the remaining prisoners, and had made the appropriate arrangements for their transfer. He was heading over to the cells, when Hochstetter's car arrived at the camp.

The two conferred privately. "Major, the prisoners will all be out of here within several hours. Tomorrow, you will follow my orders and destroy all evidence of Papa Bear's operation."

Hochstetter replied, "General, no one will ever find out what happened here, I can assure you of that."

"Good." Burkhalter thought for a moment. Looking at his watch, he turned to the Gestapo Major. "It's time."

"I will get the firing squad prepared, General."

Burkhalter went over to the cells and ordered his guards to ready the prisoners. One by one they were removed and dragged onto the compound. Guards bound their wrists behind them and forced them against a wall. No one spoke a word.

Hogan glared at Burkhalter and Hochstetter as he came out into the sunlight. Burkhalter held up his hand to temporarily stop the proceedings, and walked over to the Colonel. All eyes turned towards the two men, waiting to see what would occur during their final confrontation.

"What are you going to do with the other prisoners?" Hogan did not want the prisoners witnessing the executions, but he was afraid of what Burkhalter and Hochstetter had planned for them.

"Like I said, Hogan, you are all responsible for this operation of yours. They don't deserve to be transferred to other prisoner of war camps. No, they will be marched out of here later today. After reaching a transit center, they will all be assigned to labor camps in the east." Burkhalter waited for Hogan's reaction.

A death sentence. It took two guards to hold Hogan back. "You can't do that. I told you I was the one responsible."

"And I told you Colonel, I don't believe that. No, all of these men were volunteers. They knew full well what they were doing, and what the consequences would be if you were caught. You're lucky all of them aren't being shot as well." Burkhalter turned to the guards. "Get this man over to the wall."


Burkhalter, like other war crimes defendants, had pled not guilty. He ignored the advice of his attorney and agreed to take the stand in his own defense; for, in his mind, he had done nothing wrong.

The previous evening, Olsen had convinced Hilda not to go to the authorities. Given her history at the Stalag, she thought that offering to testify might help the prosecution. "I could tell them that the camp was run professionally, that Klink was a humane officer, and that there was no sign of an epidemic."

"I can't let you do this, Hilda. There's obviously more to this than you think. The men I told you about will want to question you about things, I'm sure of it. And the reporters will follow you. You can't be sure of what will happen."

"But, I have to do something. What if he gets away with it; with everything?"

"He's responsible for what happened at other POW camps, too. He'll pay." Olsen tried to reassure the former prison secretary.

Burkhalter stared at the judges and spectators in the courtroom as he took his seat. After the preliminary questions regarding his position in the Third Reich, the defense attorney began his questioning.

"So, you are not denying, General, that fifteen prisoners were executed, and that close to 900 prisoners were removed from Stalag 13 and marched to labor camps?"


"Clearly, authorities would say that these acts were in direct violation of the Geneva Convention."

"Yes, but you see, the Geneva Convention no longer applied in these circumstances."

"And why is that, General?"

The two men seated at the back of the courtroom who were observing the proceedings, shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

"All of the prisoners at Stalag 13 were no longer considered prisoners. They had all been reclassified as spies or saboteurs."

"From a POW camp? Can you elaborate on that, General?"

"Stalag 13 was the headquarters of a highly complex and organized espionage and rescue operation, led by Colonel Hogan. The prisoners were able to leave camp and conduct sabotage operations, and they were also able to rescue downed fliers and escaped prisoners. They sent those men to England by using an underground network."

"And all of the prisoners knew of this arrangement?"

"Yes, they had to. We determined that they had all agreed not to escape. Many of them worked in the tunnels on various operations meant to undermine the German war effort."

"I see. So, you followed normal war practices, which were also conducted in other countries, and treated these prisoners as spies."

"Yes, we had the main operatives executed, but I tried to be as humane as possible with the other prisoners. That's why they were transferred."

"Thank you General." Turning to the judges, the defense attorney asked for permission to re-question the witness if necessary.

Burkhalter looked at the prosecutor with contempt.

"You have testified that this POW camp was the headquarters of a large sabotage operation, that tunnels ran underneath the camp, and that these prisoners could have escaped at any time, but chose not to do so?"

The general nodded. "Please say yes or no, General."


"Very well, then. How did you discover this operation?"

"It took months of investigation and an element of surprise. The local Gestapo handled that part and informed me when they had proof."

"I see. Do we have records of the investigation that was conducted, and records of the proof? Were there pictures, artifacts? I would like to remind the court that when the allies inspected the camp, they found no evidence of tunnels, no equipment, none of what the General speaks of. We have testimony attesting to this."

The General appeared uncomfortable.

"General, where is the proof you speak of?"

"Major Hochstetter of the Gestapo conducted the investigation and provided me with the proof."

"Oh, I see. Then we should be able to look at this proof, and conduct an examination of this Major Hochstetter. I'm surprised your attorney has not brought this Major in to testify. Do you know why, General?"

"Hochstetter was killed in an air raid. His office was destroyed."

Olsen turned to Hilda and said, "I'm not sorry to hear that."

"Let's return to your accusations, shall we? A POW camp, run by a Kommandant with a good record in controlling the prisoners, existed, as you say, as a cover for a sabotage ring. Most of the prisoners in the camp were allied fliers, were they not?"


"Not known for having training in ground combat or espionage."

"I can't answer that. I don't know what type of training was provided to allied airmen."

"You claim that these prisoners could have escaped at any time, but chose not to. So, instead of returning home to their families, or to fight again, they chose to remain in a POW camp, which is not exactly a four-star hotel."


"All 900."


"Let's return to the day you executed the fifteen prisoners and evacuated the remaining prison population. We have testimony that the camp was being closed and evacuated due to an epidemic. The town was informed there was an epidemic. The surviving soldiers, who testified here, claimed they were told there was an epidemic, but then they also testified that no one was sick. Yet, now you are telling us that is false; that the prisoners were spies."

"General, if there was an epidemic and the prison had to be closed, why wouldn't there be records showing this information? Why wouldn't the prison records be transferred along with the prisoners? In fact, why would the prisoners be sent to labor camps, instead of a medical unit or other camps? And why would fifteen prisoners be executed that same day?"

"There was no epidemic, the prisoners were spies."

"Where is the proof, General , and where are the prison records?"

Burkhalter shouted. "I don't know what happened to the records; they were gone when we evacuated the camp!"

The prosecutor appeared incensed. "You mean to tell me that in a country that kept meticulous information on every innocent man, woman and child you massacred in the gas chambers, that you lost the records on a mere 900 men in a small, insignificant prison camp?"

"General, we have no proof that these prisoners were spies, and frankly I find that whole notion preposterous, and no evidence of an actual epidemic in the camp. General, for some reason that this court cannot fathom, you murdered fifteen men and sent 900 men to labor camps, of which approximately only 300 survived to return to their families. We have been given different stories as to why. An epidemic, a spy ring. Perhaps, there was no excuse for this crime, and someone had to make up stories to hide it?"

Burkhalter's face was beginning to turn red. "No. they were spies. They followed Papa Bear. They deserved what happened to them. Spies are not prisoners. I was following orders to execute spies."


"Get this man over to the wall." Burkhalter and Hochstetter watched as Hogan was dragged next to his men.

Hogan was desperate. He couldn't have the prisoners sent to labor camps. "Burkhalter, I was responsible. The men, they were following orders, my orders. They weren't volunteers. They were following my orders!"

Burkhalter and Hochstetter watched as the shots were fired.



General Burkhalter was held over for further testimony on additional atrocities committed at other POW camps. These included the forced marches of prisoners out east in advance of the Russians. The incident at Stalag 13 was just one incident of many used to convict him of war crimes. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He died while in prison before his sentence was completed.

Hilda and Olsen struggled with their memories for the rest of their lives. Olsen, in particular, suffered from survivor's guilt. He later realized that the operation may have also been kept secret in order to avoid repercussions from families of the prisoners; prisoners that could have escaped, but chose not to.

Somehow, Allied Command had been able to keep Papa Bear's operation secret. The hundreds of rescued fliers and escaped POW's helped by the prisoners of Stalag 13 never divulged the details. If asked, they told of being helped by the Underground.

The grounds of Stalag 13 became overgrown and were enveloped by the woods that had surrounded it. Allied investigators had placed a small memorial stone by the pit holding the bodies of the executed prisoners. The remains had been removed for examination. Only the dog tags were returned to the families.

A/N: For the purpose of this story, I am assuming that Hilda, just like Helga before her, had knowledge of the operation. I have played around with history a bit, specifically in terms of the Nuremberg trials portrayed here. As commander of the LuftStalags, Burkhalter would have been tried during the Ministries trial, which took place in 1948 and 1949. Charge 3: "By being responsible for murder, ill-treatment and other crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents", is what would have applied in these circumstances. For more information on the trials, look on the internet or check your local library. I also highly recommend the movie, "Judgment at Nuremberg." This movie prompted my idea for this story. Coincidentally, both Werner Klemperer and Howard Caine (Hochstetter) had roles in this picture.

I'd like to express my thanks to the fanfiction authors that previewed this piece and encouraged me to post it. I'd also like to thank Janet for the beta.