This one is a bit different: I was intending to write a series of short stories on the postwar fates of the Heroes and various Germans, and may still do so when I have the time, but this one can stand on its own for now. Somehow, I can't imagine Major Hochstetter sticking around at the Third Reich crumbled; he would probably flee to Argentina or some such place. In this story, he won't.
This piece does carry two limited scenes of torture which, for the context of the story, are necessary. Anonymous reviews are enabled; please read and review!
Disclaimer: if I owned Hogan's Heroes, I wouldn't be working for a living:-)
Informants, Major Wolfgang Hochstetter decided, were a strange breed. First, they wanted to meet in out of the way places. Then they wanted to meet at night. Not to mention wanting money for their information. The mere thought of it brought a sneer to his thin lips. They know it helps our enemies, yet they want profit, he thought.
Ordinarily, the Gestapo officer wouldn't bother with such people; it just wasn't worth the effort. His office was swamped in denunciations -- ranging from the inane to the insane -- and when you mixed in sabotage investigations it left very little time to do anything else. However, this particular informant was different, since he had information that would hopefully lead straight to the capture of Papa Bear. Otherwise known, of course, as Colonel Robert Hogan of Stalag 13.
Not that he could prove it right now, of course. Hogan had more lives than a cat and was just as wily. As much as he would love to pull the man out of his comfy little prison and torture him for information, he was still a prisoner of the Luftwaffe. Without direct evidence that Hogan was Papa Bear, General Burkhalter -- the man responsible for the Stalag camps -- would never release him for direct interrogation.
All of that would change, however. Particularly if the informant had the information he wanted.
Cursing the man's late arrival -- does he want me to freeze to death? -- he opened the car door and stepped out into the windy moonlit night. Fortunately, his long leather jacket protected him from most of the wind. Still, he rubbed his hands together for warmth as he looked down the dark road. It had been a long time since he had been in the woods alone. A fleeting memory of being a young man, hunting down a deer with nothing more than a old rifle, passed through his minds eye. I really should go hunting again, even if only for a day, he mused. Hogan wouldn't be able to ruin that! And if I pretend hard enough, the deer can be that idiot Klink…
A sharp snap from the treeline brought Hochstetter's attention to full focus even as his hand slipped comfortably around the butt of his Luger. He strained his ears but heard nothing else; either the wind had blown a branch down, or there was an animal out there. Reholstering his pistol, the Major checked his watch. I suppose I could wait five more minutes for the idiot, he thought disgustedly. Then I will personally hunt him down tomorrow and teach him how to read a clock…
The wind suddenly gusted through the collar of his coat, touching him with its icy breath. He put his hand on the car door, preparing to open it, when he heard another sound. Unlike the other one, this one was directly behind him. A blinding flash of light passed across his eyes as his head exploded in pain.
Then he knew no more.
Sergeant James Pruitt stood over the body of the prone man for a moment before snapping out of his trance. Despite being on more than fifteen bombing raids over Germany -- that was, before he was shot down -- this was the first time he had ever killed anyone in person.
Not that he hadn't seen death. It was just one thing to see the results of it, and another thing to actually commit it. Then again, upon learning of the dead man's identity, he concluded that it couldn't have happened to a more deserving bastard.
An idea began to form in his mind. Originally, he was supposed to head for another prisoner-of-war camp -- this one being Stalag 13 -- and escape from there and to England. While he had identity documents, courtesy of the camp forgers, he thought the whole idea of running to another camp was idiotic. Whoever wanted to run from awful to awful?
So Pruitt had another idea in mind, one which if he could pull off would get him back to England. If he didn't get shot first.
Fortunately, being a navigator did have its uses; you couldn't find Switzerland unless you could read a map. It was hard going; he had managed to avoid being caught twice before he had stumbled across the dead guy, a Gestapo Major, and more importantly his car. Normally, most people would run as far as they could from the Gestapo, dead or not. Not Pruitt. He had an ace up his sleeve, and it was a card he intended to play.
As a teenager, Pruitt's father had been an attaché at the American Embassy in Berlin; his son had prowled the city's streets for better than three years. When you threw in the family business, it meant that Pruitt had seen more of Europe -- and in particular, Germany -- than most kids his age. More importantly, he knew the language and could blend in with the culture when he had to, although he did so now with mixed feelings. As a boy, he had been free; now he was a hunted man. A terror flyer, even though he had washed out of pilot training. The thought amused him, even now.
He methodically stripped the dead man of his coat, disc, and clothes before taking a quick account of the car's contents. With that done, he dragged the body into the woods and covered it over with some branches; hopefully, it wouldn't be discovered too soon. Using the flashlight he had found underneath the car seat, he studied the man's papers and quickly memorized the essential details. As soon as he could, he would move his photo to the stolen papers. For now, it would do.
Putting the documents away, he slowly took the Gestapo warrant disc from the dead man's -- now his -- coat pocket. Looking at it briefly, and suppressing a chill that had nothing to do with the cold, he hesitantly put the disc around his neck where it hung from a tarnished metal chain. The warrant disc was either the key to his escape or his death warrant. If he was discovered with it, death would be a pleasant thing to look forward to. On the other hand, the metal disc did have its uses.
Avoiding patrols and roadblocks was one of them.
Using the flashlight, he quickly checked the area around the car for any evidence before he rooted around in the glove box for a map. Finding one, he quickly traced a path with his finger before he started the car and left the woods behind. The light snow that fell on the car's windshield made him nostalgic for the old days before he quickly snapped back to cold reality.
In the end, Pruitt was successful. He managed to get near the southern border before ditching the Gestapo identity for good. Although there was a close call -- the pistol came in handy -- he managed to cross over into Switzerland. From there, he eventually managed to rejoin the Allied forces. Like many veterans from the Second War, he never told anyone about his combat experiences -- much less his escape -- until late in life.
As for the informant? He never made it to the meeting; his coworkers found him the next day, dead of an apparent heart attack.
For Major Hochstetter, however, the journey was only beginning.
The first thing Major Hochstetter saw when he opened his eyes -- besides the white of the sun -- was the color red. It took him a minute to realize that it was his country's flag, fluttering in the breeze above him.
It took him only another minute longer to realize that he was laying on the ground in front of a certain building. After a moment, the Major recognized it. Luftwaffe. Turning his head, he saw another set of barracks off to his left, ones he recognized instantly.
Not just any of them, Stalag 13!
But how? He remembered being in the woods…the pain in his head…
So how had he gotten here?
And what idiot dumped me on the ground like a sack of potatoes in front of these swine? The Luftwaffe has finally gone too far; this time I'm going to shoot that idiot Klink and damn the consequences. How dare he do this to a officer! A German officer!
I'll shoot them all!
Hochstetter continued to work himself into a towering rage even as he pushed himself off the ground. Finding his pistol in the coat pocket, he started walking towards Klink's office. Just then, the camp Kommandant -- followed by his fat slob of a NCO, Sergeant Schultz -- came out of the office and walked down the steps. The Major raised his pistol at Klink, flicked off the safety, and pulled the trigger.
The gun, surprisingly, failed to fire. As Klink and Schultz walked past him, Hochstetter worked the action again and pointed it at the bald Colonel's head. Again, the pistol failed as its owner snarled in frustration.
"Klink!" he bellowed.
The man seemed not to hear him; strange, he should be cowering in fear, Hochstetter thought. Klink walked towards the main gate with Schultz. The gates swung open even as the Gestapo major started to run, intending to tackle Klink and beat him to death --
-- and was repelled by something invisible, sending him sprawling backward to the ground. Shaking his head, he got to his feet and tried again. Even as the gate started to close, Hochstetter felt some kind of resistance to the empty air; he could push against it a little but it felt as strong as a brick wall. For a long moment, he stood there, his earlier anger forgotten.
"What is this?" he muttered, almost to himself. He then walked over to the nearest guard. "Open this gate!" he demanded.
The guard, meanwhile, seemingly ignored him as he stood his post.
"Did you not hear me, Corporal? I said open this gate now, or I'll send you to the Russian front!" the Major roared, with all the arrogance he could bluster. Again, he was ignored. Not even the tower guards were looking his way. He lost his temper then, and reached out for the guards arm. "I said, op--" he began, then stopped.
Hochstetter stood back, dumbfounded, as his hand passed though the guard's arm. A feeling of fear coursed though him as he tried to touch the guard, then the guardhouse. His hand and arm passed through both as if they were made of air.
In desperation, he screamed in rage.
In his anger, Hochstetter finally noticed something that he could take his rage out on. That just happened to be Colonel Hogan, who had just come out of Barracks Two. He quickly strode over to the swine who, like the others, didn't see him.
"You did this, Hogan! What did you do to me? I'll…"
Hogan, meanwhile, stood in front of the barracks and casually smoked a cigarette. Everything, to him at least, was quiet. Just then, Sergeant Kinchloe -- better known as Kinch to the rest of the prisoners -- came out of the barracks. The black man casually walked up to the Colonel before passing him a piece of paper.
"Message from London, Colonel," he announced quietly. Hogan took one look at the message and groaned.
"A General? Are they kidding? You know, sometimes I think I should have gone into another line of work," he complained, though he didn't mean it.
"You, miss out on the Stalag 13 resort? Where else would you get lousy room service?" Kinch fired back.
"Don't forget the morning roll call, or Mr. Monocle himself," Hogan joked, then turned serious. "Are they on the horn?"
"Yeah, they're standing by," Kinch replied.
The American Colonel sighed. "Alright, let's go."
Hochstetter, meanwhile, watched the exchange with mounting glee. So they have a radio powerful enough to talk to London? We'll see about this!
He followed the two men into the barracks and watched as the black Sergeant rapped on a worn wood panel twice. To his surprise, the bunk rose up to reveal an opening in the floor. A wooden ladder fell into place before Hogan and Kinchloe climbed into the hole. Hochstetter shook his head in puzzled wonderment. We dug here, and found nothing! That woman was right! How did they hide it?
Shrugging off the questions, the Major tested the ladder, which proved to be solid to his fingers, and climbed down. Once there, all he could do was gape at the tunnel system which obviously led all over the camp. Hogan, meanwhile, talked to London -- to London! -- using a radio that was obviously not homemade. Looking around, he saw other rooms with racks of uniforms and clothing, what seemed to be a chemistry lab, explosives, and even an armory! It was obviously a way station for Allied fliers as they made their way out of Germany! Not to mention being the source of all of the sabotage incidents. He was right!
Once he was out of here, he would tell his General about this place, and watch as Burkhalter and that fool Klink were both shot for incompetence. Oh, what a day that would be!
He would just call General Schmidt…
A frown that changed into a look of growing horror crossed his face as he realized the horrible truth. In vain, he tried to punch Hogan only to be rewarded by his hand passing though the Colonel's jaw.
Hochstetter's second scream of rage would have turned the head of anyone in camp, had they heard it.
Unfortunately for him, nobody did.
For the next three days, Major Hochstetter tried to get someone to listen to him.
He tried Klink, his secretary, the guards, and every other German in camp, including Schultz. Nothing seemed to work. Even when General Burkhalter visited the camp, he failed. That morning proved to be rather eventful: that was the day they found the body.
His body, as a matter of fact.
A work detail had stumbled across the body in the woods while they were on a wood-cutting detail. The German Corporal in charge had immediately recognized the body as the Major's -- his past visits had made an impression on the guards -- and had brought it and the detail back to camp. The body was carried to the infirmary while calls were placed to the local Gestapo office.
Hochstetter looked down at his body in shock, unable to believe that he was…well, dead. It seemed like some sort of nightmare, one from which he would never wake up. Klink and Burkhalter, meanwhile, spoke in hushed tones about the Major; Hochstetter didn't care at that point. At least not until both officers turned to leave; the General screwed up his face and spat on him, or rather his body.
Him. A loyal German officer of the Fatherland, spit upon by the damned Luftwaffe. He raged while cursing his impotency. If only he could get his hands around that fat neck…
"I don't think that will do you any good, would it?"
The voice startled the Major, and he turned to find another man -- this one dressed in a black outfit that matched his pale complexion. The man stared at him intently and Hochstetter realized, for the first time, that he could be seen.
"Who are you?" he demanded, his anger returning. "What is going on here?"
"It would seem that we are in a prison camp," the man said dryly, ignoring Hochstetter's furious face. "And as to what is going on here, we are awaiting judgment."
"Whose judgment?" Hochstetter spat out in anger.
"Yours," the man said.
At that moment, the Major's temper broke. He lunged for the other man, screaming…only to meet incredible cold as his fingers touched the man. For a long moment, it felt like every cell in his body was being torn apart as visions of hellfire raged through his mind…
Then it was over, and Hochstetter found himself on the ground looking up at the man, who stared coolly down at him. For the first time in a long time, the Major knew fear. Real fear.
"I wouldn't advise doing that again," the man remarked. "There may be even worse consequences next time."
"Who…who are you?" Hochstetter finally managed to ask.
The stranger gave him a thin smile. "I am known by many names, to many tongues. You, however, may call me Jack. Being called Death seems so impersonal, don't you think?"
"Death? You can't be death," Hochstetter said, even though he knew it was true.
"Of course I am," Jack said. "Look behind you, if you want proof. However, that is not why we are here today. Judgment, of course, awaits."
"Judgment by who? You're Death. What right do you have to judge me?" the Major demanded, although his voice was soft. He rose unsteadily to his feet.
"Actually, you whole life is judgment. I do not judge; I merely pass on those souls who are worthy…or not worthy…to their final destinations." On the last statement, he looked at Hochstetter, who squirmed under his gaze.
"I have devoted my life to serving the Third Reich. I, of course, have nothing to hide," Hochstetter stated, trying to keep his voice firm. "I would give my life for Germany."
"Which you did," Jack said, pointing towards the body on the other side of the room. "You have shown commendable loyalty to Germany and to the Fuhrer. A man who will face his own demons, and soon." He paused for a long moment. "However, that is beside the point. Your loyalty has proved to be your own damnation." He looked over to the other man, who tried and failed to look stoic. "Observe."
Jack casually waved his hand, and the room changed. Instead of a dingy room with a body, the surroundings became more comfy. A large man, dressed in a business suit, was being held down by two other men while a sobbing girl -- no more than sixteen -- lay on the ground before another man, who was grinning at her with an evil leer. He slapped her again while the man in the chair -- obviously her father -- tried to reach her and failed. The biggest shock for Hochstetter was seeing himself enter the room and ask the struggling man questions to which he had no answer.
The Major's doppelganger gestured to the man nearest the girl. As the father screamed, the man fell upon the girl. Slapping her into submission, he undid his pants with one hand…
"So this is service to Germany. Interesting," Jack commented. "Konrad Hessler, of course. You thought he was somehow connected to sabotage and knew who had the codename Papa Bear. Of course, he was only some sort of black marketeer. However, when you didn't get what you wanted, you resorted to more…drastic measures. Did you think of him after you had him shot?"
Hochstetter paled, but said nothing. Jack continued.
"And, of course, the girl. The true innocent in this whole affair. Did you know that she committed suicide afterwards with poison? Couldn't live with the shame, it seems." Jack shook his head. "Even afterwards her soul was tormented, doomed to wander the Earth in suffering. Not even I could relieve her pain."
"He was a traitor to the Fatherland. She wasn't an innocent; she knew what she was doing," Hochstetter remarked, though his voice sounded unsure.
"Hmmm…" Jack mused, although whether it was in agreement or not, Hochstetter couldn't tell which. "Let us take someone that was truly guilty, by your standards. Like this one." He waved his hand again, and the scene changed. This time, the interior was easy to recognize as a Gestapo cell. A brunette woman, wearing little more than a soiled prison garment, was chained to the wall while Hochstetter's double and a woman -- obviously Gestapo -- stood in front of her, asking questions.
"Jeanette Delacroix. A resistance member, fighting against all you stand for. To you, she is truly guilty."
"Of course," Hochstetter said, remembering. "She was responsible for the death of German soldiers and for sabotage. She was guilty and deserved punishment."
"Which she received. She, of course, had her own judgement. Although it was tempered, of course, by your punishment."
"What do you mean…" Hochstetter started, then remembered why. He shivered as he watched his double pick up a pair of pliers and bring them towards the struggling woman, who cringed as he ripped the top part of the blouse away to reveal a set of small breasts. He raised the tool towards her chest, aiming for her left nipple…
The screaming was hideous to hear.
"And that was the least of her punishment, wasn't it?" Jack commented. "A punishment that you inflicted on other people, and twisted the minds of others. For instance, you will notice that your attendant is…enjoying…herself a bit too much." Hochstetter looked over at the Gestapo woman and noticed that her face was flushed even as an evil grin crossed her lips. He had been too busy with the prisoner to notice it before. Jack's voice continued, interrupting his thoughts.
"Normally, I would let souls like yours pass on to Hell without a thought. However, the circumstances here were most intriguing, so I stayed the process. At least for a while."
"What…what are you talking about?" Hochstetter croaked.
"Ordinarily, your soul would be damned to Hell," Jack explained. "However, your obsession with this camp…with a Colonel Hogan, in particular…makes things unique. Interesting man, the Colonel. I will enjoy talking with him when the time comes. Pity it won't be for a few years, however." He looked at the Major, whose expression was changing from anger to fear and back again. "Rest assured, Major Hochstetter, Colonel Hogan will have his own demons to fight. However, I digress."
He looked at the Major again. "Under the circumstances, I think I will let you go."
"Go?" asked Major Hochstetter.
"Of course, you may go," said Jack. "As long as it is within the confines of this camp, you may go anywhere you please."
"No…you can't do this…," Hochstetter muttered, disbelieving. If he couldn't leave the camp, and he knew he couldn't… "I don't want to stay here, with these swine. You can't do this!"
"Of course I can. It should be quite fun," Jack remarked, enjoying the panic in the other man's eyes. "Just keep the truth in mind, Major."
"What truth?" Hochstetter snarled. "The truth that I am innocent?"
"Of course not, Major," Jack replied smugly. "The other truth. For you, the war is over." With that, he vanished.
"NO!" Hochstetter yelled, leaping for the empty space and falling to his knees. "I AM INNOCENT! INNOCENT! DON'T LEAVE ME HERE!" he screamed.
As before, no one heard him. Nor his sobbing.
The war, like all other wars, eventually came to an end.
The Allied Prisoners of War at Stalag 13 went back to their homes. So did most of the German guards. Wilhelm Klink was held temporarily but was eventually released to take up a position with the postwar occupation government.
Except for one tortured soul, the prison camp was empty. It wasn't to be that way for long.
Because of the camp's proximity to the Fulda Gap, an American Army Garrison was established on the former camp site. The old buildings and trees were razed and new structures were put up. Like any other Garrison or Base, it was a miniature town of its own, having its own offices, barracks, recreation facilities, and a post exchange.
It even boasted its own theatre which was exceedingly important for troop morale, particularly in war-torn Germany. Although no one realized it -- or cared -- the building was built on the former site of Barracks 2.
From the start, there were problems. The Germans who built the theatre reported seeing a shadow flit around the worksite, particularly at late evening. Although they were nervous about working there, the threat of hunger won out; the building was constructed in record time and the workers moved on.
Although most of the personnel who attended the theater to watch a movie didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, it was obvious to the staff that something was going on. Every one of them, at one point or another, saw the shadow. While they didn't feel physically threatened by it -- after all, who was afraid of a shadow? -- it left them feeling a bit uneasy. The staff -- both officers and enlisted -- quickly dubbed it 'the German' since several of them had heard someone speaking it, even though no one was there.
There were other odd things that happened from time to time. For instance, the radio in the main office -- a Zenith Transoceanic Receiver -- suddenly turned on one day by itself. As the people in the office watched, the dial turned by itself, flipping through stations until it settled on a German voice. It was like no voice they had ever heard before; to a man, they all swore that the man had a screw loose as his craziness pulsed through the speakers. The few words they had made out through the gibberish was something about a 'Papa Bear' and 'Kill'. When they turned the radio off, it came back on to the same station, same crazy German. No one stayed around after that.
Other times, the staff reported seeing strange things. Once, after a movie, a corporal saw one of the folding seats in the auditorium lower down then raise up by itself. Another man saw a shadowy figure that he took to be his friend; as it turned out, he was alone at the time. Even stranger still, or so it was claimed, was the sergeant that actually requested a transfer to Alaska; he had supposedly had a run-in with the specter late at night. So it was whispered, anyway.
Women, in later years, felt particularly uncomfortable in the ladies restroom. More than one woman reported the feeling of being watched as she went about her business. Some of these same women also reported seeing a shadow; one even claimed she saw a man in a leather overcoat staring at her with hate in his eyes. Even though it wasn't widely talked about, it wasn't uncommon to see a pair of women going to the restroom in question.
Of course, the staff changed; personnel were reassigned or transferred to other postings. No one really talked about the German, unless you were assigned there as part of your duties. Yet the shadow always remained, to be talked about by the older hands to the new. Oddly, the disturbances seemed to reach their peak in mid-April; after the last show, the tension in the theater was so high that the staff would leave and clean up the next day. No one wanted to be there as a group, and certainly not alone, and not even a court-martial would change their minds. To everyone, the emotion they felt could be summed up in one word.
If the staff had been a bit more observant, they would have noticed that an eclectic group would always visit around that time of year. The guards at the main gate were always given orders by the brass to let them in, and what a group they were: A retired lieutenant General. A civilian that seemed more boy than old man. A Frenchman. Englishman. A black guy, dressed in a tailored suit. And, to round it all out, an old bald headed Kraut accountant. They would always tour the area, have lunch, then leave in the afternoon. To the military, it was just another strange bunch of civilians that got the brass to let them run around the Garrison. Only those few, and the Garrison Commander, knew that they were there to visit the remains of their old Stalag and reminisce about times gone by.
Things continued this way for years. Although the German was always around in shadow form, he never put in a public appearance that the staff knew of. At least, not until 1984.
That year, during the showing of a certain movie, witnesses reported seeing a man standing in the center aisle of the theater. What made the man special was that he was dressed like the Gestapo agent on the screen -- right down to the leather overcoat -- and was screaming soundlessly at the moving images. At first, the audience that it was some kind of promotional gag. A movie stunt.
That all changed when the man -- whoever he was, though the staff knew better -- disappeared before their eyes.
By that time, the Garrison Commander -- a balding bird Colonel -- had had enough. As a new officer, he had been detailed to be in charge of the theater along with his many other duties (and really, a lieutenant never has too many duties) and knew about the German since he had seen the shadow himself. That night, he placed a phone call to the United States.
A week later, three men who were dressed in Army fatigues -- but who were decidedly *not* military -- entered the theater after the movie that night. Over the next six hours, the three Roman Catholic priests performed a Rite of Exorcism that successfully ejected the German -- whoever the hell he was -- from the building. The only witness outside was a MP making his rounds; unofficially, he reported seeing a shadow run in front of his jeep, scaring the hell out of him. Although he didn't see what happened to the shadow, since it disappeared into the darkness, he also reported smelling something odd in the air. To him, it was as if several rifles had been fired off; the smell was that strong. Yet no firearms had been discharged, and he was unable to find the source of the odor.
However, the priests knew what the German's final destination was. So did the Colonel, who saw the men off the next day. The next day, the Commanding Officer put up a flyer offering free tickets -- paid for out of his own pocket, yet no one but the staff knew that -- to last week's movie. Naturally, he had takers; two days later, he was sitting in the front row of the packed theatre to watch the show.
No further incidents were reported, and no one from that point forward saw the German again. The old-timers just shook their heads as, one by one, they were transferred out in the natural course of things. One film, they wondered. It was just one film, out of all the movies that the theater had shown, that had gotten the German upset. The only one.
So what made the film so important to the German?
Or -- to rephrase the question -- what made Stalag 13: Hogan's Heroes so special?
It was just a war movie. Right?
No one ever knew.
A/N: I really don't know if there were any women in the Gestapo, even in limited roles, since the primary role of German women at that time was home/children. On the other hand, women did work for various German agencies doing anything from secretarial work to listening in on American & British bomber wavelengths, so it could have been possible, although highly unlikely.
The Fulda Gap was real; it was one of three or four routes NATO expected the Soviet Union to take it if wanted to invade Western Europe. BTW, I couldn't remember the name of the episode where the woman told Hochstetter where the tunnel entrance was. Poor Wolfgang...always comes up a bit short, doesn't he?
AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) runs movie theatres in Germany for military personnel and their families. Not sure how they ran it in the early years, however.
As always, I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are always appreciated; a big thank you to all that have reviewed my other stories!