Robin Hood's Christmas Party
Western Europe stood at the verge of one of its coldest winters in the 20th century. And despite Allied predictions on the occasion of D-day last June, the war was nowhere near its end. Parts of the continent had indeed been liberated from the nazi occupation, but so far the broad river Rhine had proved to be an insuperable obstacle for the Allies. And thus the northern half of Holland and the broken-spirited German citizens were headed for what would go down into history as the winter of starvation.
The continuous fighting and the moving fronts had since long put a halt to all trade with other areas, which meant the German people were completely dependent on what their own farmers could produce.
But there weren't all that many farmers left. Any male fit enough to hold a rifle had been packed off to the front. And in order for them to fight for the lost cause of Germany's last bit of pride, the country's women were drafted to work in the only industry left: the war-industry.
The long days in the factory left them with little time to devote to growing crops and taking care of what was left of their cattle. And of the food they did produce, the best went of course to the brass in Berlin, while most of the rest was confiscated for 'our boys at the front'.
You'll understand that for ordinary citizens like you and me, food – and everything else – was severely rationed. To the point that it was not enough to live on, but still too much to starve on.
And it is in this setting that our story takes place. And it all starts with the well-stuffed General Burkhalter, planning his copious Christmas party.
"Klink! You will be responsible for organizing this party."
Colonel Klink, the Kommandant of Stalag 13, nearly toppled over with pride. "It will be my pleasure, Herr General. Rest assured: I will make it a splendid party! You know you can always rely on me, sir!"
General Burkhalter looked his subordinate over from top to toe, as if he were suspecting him to be some strange sort of alien. "No, I can't," he then said coolly. "But I have no one else that has the time on their hands, so you'll have to make do."
"Of course, Herr General," Klink fawned. "I'll have to make..." He bit his lip as he realized just in time that the words of his superior weren't exactly a compliment on his behalf. So he quickly changed the subject to get past the awkward moment: "I suppose the General will host his party at the Hauserhof Hotel as usual?"
"No," came the nasal reply.
Klink laughed nervously. "Well then, what did the General have in mind?"
"Klink." Burkhalter turned a bit in his chair, or at least as far as his corpulent body allowed him to. "There is far too much bombing in this area. And an industrial town like Hamelburg has proven to be too attractive a target for Allied bombings. No, I've taken a house, a large estate, but three kilometers from here. It is nestled nice and cosy against the slope of a hill. Very secluded. And it has a huge barn. That is where we shall have the party."
Another nervous twitter from Klink. "A barn?! You want to host your annual Christmas party in a barn!? Allow me to say so, sir, but..."
"You may not!" Burkhalter lashed out to him. "You will organize this party according to my wishes, or else you'll find yourself on the next train to the Russian front! With a one-way ticket only! It isn't too late yet, you know!"
Klink shrank back. "Yes, Herr General. Of course, Herr General. Right away, Herr General."
"Good. Now about this party. I have invited all the higher officers in the area. Together with their wives, their numbers should be up around a hundred and fifty."
Klink bounced back. "A hundred and fifty people?!"
"Mm, give or take a little." The General was totally unconcerned by Klink's apparent shock.
"B-b-but Herr General...!"
Burkhalter continued as if he hadn't heard him. And perhaps he hadn't. "Now I want the food to be in plentiful abundance, as befits the season. And, well, to boost morale of course. Pheasant, goose, turkey, venison, steak – everything of the finest quality. And many appropriate side-dishes of course. Your little French chef will be assigned to cook for us. And naturally there will be a grand dessert, with lots of ice-cream and chocolate sauce and whipped cream... " He nearly drooled at the mere thought. "And of course champagne to the overflow. And the best wines. And we'll have caviar and smoked salmon on toast for appetizers. And of course..." He smiled to himself. "Plenty of Gemütlichkeit."
Klink merely blinked. "Herr General," he stammered bleakly, "Where am I to get hold of such luxurious food? There is not a store in all of the Third Reich these days that can provide but a quarter of all your wishes!"
General Burkhalter regarded him with the look of an exasperated father. "Klink, use your brain for once, will you? You know as well as I do where to get hold of these things."
Klink's face instantly flushed. "B-b-but Herr General, doing business at the black market is verboten by law!"
"So? As long as it's not been eradicated, why not put it to good use?"
"But Herr General, they ask the most extortionate prices there! Surely you don't expect me to...?"
"It's exactly what I expect you to do! You can send the bill to Berlin." With some trouble he struggled out of his chair. "And remember, Klink: only the very best is good enough for my friends. And that goes both for the food and," he added, "for the decoration of the barn. No one is to realize that General Burkhalter hosts his parties in a barn. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Herr General," came it from a defeated Klink.
"Good." General Burkhalter reached for the doorhandle. "Oh, and before I forget to mention it, Klink: the party is scheduled for Christmas Eve. That is tomorrow a week. I suggest you get started."
An angry fist slammed down on the wobbly desk in the office of barracks 2. "That Schweinekerl!" Hogan pulled the plug out of the coffeepot with such force, that Kinch felt compelled to immediately check the receiver of their listening device in Klink's office.
"That Schweinekerl!" Hogan repeated heartfelt. "The people are starving on his doorstep, and yet he has the guts to invite his posh officer-friends to an all abundant Christmas party!"
"Makes me sick," Kinch agreed with quiet aversion as he put down the apparently unharmed coffeepot.
"I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a good juicy steak either," Carter put in with an obvious longing in his voice.
"Well, at least you still get to eat," LeBeau reprimanded him with a glare. "I cannot say that I care much for the menu here, but we get to fill our stomach."
"And we still have our Red Cross packages to supplement," Baker pointed out. "But what I hear from the people in town, they are slowly, very slowly being starved to death. And with the winter approaching..."
"Hey, I know that!" Carter defended himself. "Heck, I was in town myself last week, remember? The people were queuing outside the shops for miles! Yet the shop-windows were totally bare. There simply is no food."
"Except at the black market," Newkirk said darkly.
"But you heard what Klink said: they ask astronomical prices there!" Carter reciprocated. "No one except the German brass can afford to buy anything there, I'm sure. And..."
"And that's why we are going to see to it that this Christmas feast will end up in the stomachs of those who need it the most," Hogan suddenly declared.