Mother Knows Best
by 80sarcades

This was originally intended for Mother's day; unfortunately, life does intervene. Notes, if you're interested, are at the end. Although I used a disparaging reference in the first part of the story, it does not reflect how I truly feel; remember, this is Germany of the 1940's.

Disclaimer: If I owned Hogan's Heroes…well, I don't. So there!

Gerda was happy with her life.

Her garden was in full bloom that spring, although there was still one rose bush that was giving her trouble. A pair of gardening shears quickly lopped off the dead buds; she could only hope that it would bloom next year. As she looked at the plant, it occurred to her that it was very similar to what was happening in Germany: her Führer - a great man - was trying to rid the Fatherland and Europe of undesirables. It was a hard and long task, but necessary; personal sacrifices would have to take place before they could enjoy the final victory.

Her son was part of that; as an officer, he was doing great things for the Third Reich. Like his father - passed on ten years this spring, she thought regretfully - he was a man in his own right, with power and responsibility at his hands. With men like him, how could Germany lose?

Even her automobile was proof of those thoughts; that fine machine was now in German hands instead of belonging to some dirty Jew. As she started the car to travel to her sister's home, Gerta's heart flared with pride at her boy's accomplishments.

What mother wouldn't be proud of her son?

As usual, she was glad to see her sister. Her nephew, home on leave, was a different matter.

Helmut could have been something; what a disappointment he must be! she thought in sympathy. Handling papers for some Wehrmacht unit, really! Fortunately, at least Frieda doesn't have to worry; France must be lovely this time of year.

After a wonderful lunch - her sister was a marvelous cook, after all - she set off back to her own home. Even though it was a short drive, there were two military checkpoints on the main road to Hammelburg, though she had no idea why. However, the soldiers that manned them passed her through on sight without even asking to see her papers. Her son had a hand in that, too, after that awful mess some time ago. I wonder what ever happened to that soldier, she mused, then decided it didn't matter. He was probably guarding something else, anyway.

Gerta's heart jumped when she rounded a curve and saw a group of men working on the road. Quickly pressing the brake pedal with her right foot, she slowed the car down enough to study the men as she passed by. To her surprise, the men were from the Prisoner of War camp nearby. What was it again? she wondered. Oh, yes. Stalag 13.

Although the strange foreign uniforms frightened her just a bit, the sight of guards dressed in Luftwaffe blue reassured her that everything was all right. Moreover, she was actually happy to see the men at work:

Those criminals should be working, instead of lounging around some camp, she thought in satisfaction. They are nothing more than terror flyers, doing penance for their crimes against Germany. Even the Führer said it would happen, and here's the proof!

Just then, there was a loud bang from the front end of the car. Although the steering wheel jerked in her hands, Gerda was able to pull to the right side of the road and stop. After silently thanking the Lord for watching out for her - it was fortunate that she was traveling at a slow speed - she got out of the car and looked for the problem. Sure enough, the left front tire was flat; Gerda eyed it with annoyance just as a fat Luftwaffe soldier ran up to her. It always amazed her how men could be out of breath and still try to look presentable when in the presence of a lady. In his case, he failed miserably; she waited for him to catch his breath before he spoke.

"Sergeant Schultz, madam," he said by way of introduction. "From Stalag 13. Are you alright? I heard a loud bang and…"

"Oh, I'm quite alright, Sergeant," Gerda interrupted in a pleasant tone. Even as she spoke, she moved to her right and showed him the offending tire. "My tire went flat. Do you have anyone that can change it?" she asked politely.

Schultz nodded. "It will take a few minutes. I will have to notify the other sentry guarding the work detail so he can take over. You have to keep an eye on these prisoners every minute!" he announced, looking important. Just then came another voice, this one directly behind the sergeant.

"Something wrong, Schultz?" a man's calm voice asked.

As the sergeant turned around, Gerda's heart froze; the newcomer was dressed in the uniform of the enemy. Moreover, he was an enemy officer; she knew that much even though she wasn't sure what the metal pins on the man's epaulets meant. For all that she had heard of the Americans, she had never actually met one in person.

"Oh, Colonel Hogan," Schultz said warmly, surprising Gerda. "This nice lady had a flat. I was just about to change it when you walked up."

Hogan shrugged and looked at the tire for a moment. "I can change it, Schultz. Why don't you go on back? It should only take me a few minutes." Gerda had to blink; did a prisoner give an order to a German? No, she must not have heard right. Or did she?

Surprising her yet again, the sergeant nodded. "Danke, Colonel Hogan. My back hasn't been that good lately." He then looked at Gerda with a twinkle in his eye. "There's nothing to worry about, momma," he said to reassure her. "He's a good man, even if he is the enemy. And a officer," he said, smirking.

"Don't forget to mention that I've had my shots, Schultz," Hogan said cheerfully. Gerda had to laugh at that; something about the man made her want to smile.

The sergeant, meanwhile, looked sourly at Hogan. "Jolly joker," he chided the enemy officer, even though Gerda had the feeling that he didn't mean it. "If you have any problems, madam, I will be over there," he said, pointing at the work detail, then began to walk off; Hogan stopped him with a single word.


The portly man turned. "Yes, Colonel Hogan?" he asked politely.

To Gerda's horror, Hogan held up the guard's rifle with his right hand. Instead of killing the guard - which she imagined any prisoner would do if given half the chance - Hogan held it out at arm's length.

"You forgot your rifle," he said.

A warm smile of relief spread across the guard's face. "Danke, Colonel Hogan!" Schultz happily exclaimed as he took back his Mauser. "You are such a nice man! I'll be back at the truck," he said, then walked off, leaving Gerda alone with the Allied officer. The Colonel shook his head.

"You'll have to excuse Schultz," Hogan said apologetically to the German woman. "If it wasn't for the war, he'd still be running his toy factory. War does strange things to people." He smiled again; for some reason, it comforted Gerda. Besides, help was only a few steps away, wasn't it?

As Colonel Hogan changed the tire, Gerda was strongly reminded of her late husband Otto.

Like the American, Otto always had a smile on his face; even the voice was similar. Just thinking of her husband's face made the pain return; she twisted the ring on her right hand nervously as she remembered that awful day…

Pushing the bad memories aside, she took another look at the enemy officer. She had always thought of the Americans and English as killers without remorse - there was even a picture of Winston Churchill with a machine gun in one of the newspapers some time ago - but up close the picture seemed so different. That also applied to the tire change: Hogan had taken the time to explain what he was doing, which was more than most men would do.

As he finished by putting the bad tire in the trunk and closing the lid, Gerda felt a bit uncomfortable. Thanks seemed inadequate, yet that was all she had to give.

"Thank you for changing my tire, Colonel. I'm sorry that I have nothing to offer you in return…" she said, embarrassed; a thin smile crossed her lips. Hogan shook his head again before looking into her eyes.

"No problem, ma'am," he said cheerfully. "All part of the Stalag 13 service."

Try as she might, Gerda could see no animosity in the man's eyes. She smiled yet again; this time the smile was warmer as were her thoughts:

How does he remain so happy, being a Prisoner of War? This must be a special kind of man.

Just then another Allied soldier - this one too young; he looked almost like a schoolboy - ran up and stopped beside Colonel Hogan.

"Schultz says he's ready to go back to camp, Colonel," he said, then blushed as he looked over at Gerda. "Sorry, ma'am. Didn't mean to interrupt," he stammered; his face turned red.

Such a nice boy! Are Americans always this polite? she thought in wonder as Hogan looked at the other man.

"No problem, Carter. We're done here."

Surprising Gerda yet again, Hogan opened the car door for her and let her get settled in the seat before closing it. She looked up at Hogan, who gave her another warm smile; his right hand reached up to grasp the brim of his cap before tipping it toward her, much the way a gentleman would.

"You have a good day, ma'am," he said, then he was gone. Gerda turned around and watched the Americans walk down the road to a waiting truck. Strangely, she felt a sense of regret; it was a feeling she would have never thought she would feel for a prisoner, Allied or otherwise.

A good man, indeed!

For the first time in a long time, a man occupied Gerda's thoughts. The fact that it was an enemy airman didn't bother her at all.

Even as she put dinner on to cook, her thoughts drifted on a sea of guilt:

Are all Americans like him? she wondered. Before, I would have thought they were all cowboys or uncivilized in some way. Instead, he showed more manners than most German men would, with the exception of that nice Luftwaffe sergeant. He really didn't have to come and help me, of course; he could have stood there and watched the sergeant do the work. Instead of doing that, he put his feelings aside and behaved like a gentleman.

So is Colonel Hogan the exception to the rule? Perhaps, perhaps not. The other prisoner was friendly to me too when he didn't have to be, so what does that say? To be honest, I'm not sure what to think.

I have no doubts in my Führer or the victory he will bring; that much is clear.

Yet this is clear also: why are we fighting a war against such nice people?

Gerda had no answer to that question. As she took the chocolate cake out of the oven and put it on the counter to cool, her thoughts continued:

I really should do something good for the man, of course. I'm quite aware that it could be seen as helping the enemy; men like him are bombing our cities. Then again, if we lose our compassion then how can we say that we are better than then enemy? If we hate the other side that much, then the war is lost both physically and spiritually; Germany would be ruined. I couldn't let that happen.

At any rate, I am a Christian; He did not hate his enemy even when they put him on the cross. So shall it be with me. My son will understand; even war has limits.

With the decision made, Gerda checked on the dinner - it still had some time left to cook - then used a nearby towel to pick up the pan before she carried it out to the car. After returning to the house to pick up her pocketbook, she got into her car and set off for Stalag 13.

Although she knew where the prison camp was since she had passed it earlier in the day, it was still a surprise to see the guard towers loom from behind the trees. Strangely, it gave her a good feeling knowing that she was going to bring some happiness into a prisoner's life; the camp looked dreary enough as it was!

Fortunately, the sergeant she had seen earlier was standing outside the main gate; he eyed her curiously before coming over to the car.

"It's wonderful to see you again, madam," he said in a loud voice. "What brings you this way?" he asked.

Instead of answering directly, Gerda opened the car door; it creaked slightly as she stepped out onto the dusty road. The bright colors of her dress seemed to lighten the dismal military atmosphere even as she smiled at the large man. The tower guards looked at her with interest; at least she was better looking than Frau Linkmeyer.

"Oh, I just wanted to say thank you for your help earlier," she said sweetly; the fat guard beamed. "Is that other man around, the one that changed my tire today? I would like to give him something."

Schultz turned and waved another Luftwaffe man over; she wasn't sure what his rank was, but he took the sergeant's order and hurried through a wood-framed door set into the barbed wire. Within a minute, he was back; this time he had a now familiar man in tow.

"Ma'am," he said, greeting her. Schultz interrupted before he could say anything else.

"This lady would like to thank you for helping her, Colonel Hogan," he announced. Hogan just smiled.

"It was no trouble. Nothing that I wouldn't do for my own mother," he said simply. Gerda thought he looked a little bashful, but didn't comment on that; instead, she began to see him in a different light.

He may be an enemy airman, but he is also another mother's son. One that is far from home. The thought reassured her; she knew she was doing the right thing.

God does work in mysterious ways, after all!

She reached back into the car and brought out the chocolate cake. The reaction was immediate; the German guard looked at it with happy eyes while the American had the proper grace to look slightly embarrassed.

"That's really not necessary, ma'am," he said, looking at the cake. "It was only a flat tire."

So modest! she thought, impressed yet again. And with proper manners, too!

"I could have been stranded for a long while if you hadn't been there, Mr. Hogan," she said, then tried a different tack. "If you won't take the cake, will you at least accept it for your men? I'm sure they would enjoy a treat."

Hogan slowly nodded, then accepted the warm pan from her hands. He looked at the German woman, gratitude in his eyes.

"Thank you, ma'am," he said. "If you could give Schultz your address, I'll have the boys make you a thank you card when we return the pan."

Now it was her turn to be embarrassed; Gerda made a show of fishing for a pencil and notepad out of her handbag before writing down her name and address on a piece of paper. She folded the sheet twice before handing it to the German sergeant. The German woman looked in Hogan's eyes - the eyes of a good man, she thought - and smiled again.

"Do enjoy the cake, Mr. Hogan," she said. "I really must be off; I have dinner cooking at home."

As before, Hogan closed the door behind her; with a wave of her hand and another smile, she started the engine and drove off. A warm feeling coursed though her body; the satisfaction of a good deed done.

Hogan and Schultz watched the woman drive off, then they looked at the cake again. It had been a long time since either one of them - Hogan especially - had tasted a homemade cake; Schultz eyed it expectantly.

The American Colonel, meanwhile, looked back down the empty road and wondered about the woman. He was telling the truth earlier; the woman did remind him of his mother even if she was German. He actually did enjoy changing the lady's tire; for a long moment, he could pretend the war didn't exist. Even with that, it was awfully nice of her to bake a cake; the boys would really enjoy it.

It was times like these that made him remember what he was fighting for. Not just for the folks back home - that much was obvious - but for the decent people caught up in Hitler's madness, German or not. He turned his head towards the Luftwaffe sergeant.

"So what's her name, Schultz?," Hogan asked. "I'll have the boys make her a nice card. That was really nice of her, whoever she was."

Schultz nodded, then chuckled. "I'll make sure she gets it, Colonel Hogan. Maybe she will have another treat fresh out of the over when I go by. Perhaps she may be also cooking dinner." His lips smacked at the thought. Hogan groaned.

"There you go again. You're all stomach, Schultz," he said, shaking his head.

"Of course!" Schultz said happily, then cheerfully patted his stomach. "Someone has to fill out this uniform!" He then unfolded the piece of paper and squinted at the pencil marks. "Let's see…her name is…"

His voice trailed off; the American watched as the sergeant's eyes opened along with his mouth. His hands shook in fear as he handed the paper to Hogan. For once, the Colonel was stunned; he couldn't believe the words he read either.

Schultz, meanwhile, stared mournfully at the cake; it was a long while before he spoke.

"Do you think it's poisoned, Colonel Hogan?" he somberly asked.

Hogan looked at the cake himself, then shrugged. "We could always give some to Klink, and see what happens."

"Colonel Hogan!" Schultz chided pleasantly. "What an awful thing to day about the Kommandant. Besides…" He leaned in closer to the Senior POW, "…who would sign my three-day pass for this weekend?"

Both men laughed at that; then Hogan turned solemn.

"You'd better have fun with that pass, Schultz. Remember, you're the one that gets to return the pan."

Schultz instantly paled.

Later that evening, Gerda opened the door to greet her son.

Major Wolfgang Hochstetter of the Gestapo stood on the front porch in his black and silver uniform; as always, the sight drew pride to his mother's heart. "Come in, Wolfgang," she said, pulling him inside before giving him a quick hug. "Dinner's almost ready. Why don't you have a seat at the table and I'll bring you a drink. Would you like some tea?" she asked.

From the expression on his face, it was clear that he wanted something stronger; however, he merely nodded. "Yes, momma. Please," he said as he shrugged out of his heavy coat before proceeding into the dining room. A moment later, Gerda brought him a cold tea which he sipped at.

"So how was your day, Wolfgang?" she called as she headed back into the kitchen.

"Oh, it was horrible, momma," he complained. "Three more incidents of sabotage by the underground last night, and not one lead. We came close last night to capturing our main suspect, but he slipped out of my grasp again!" he exclaimed, pounding his fist once on the table.

"I'm sure you'll capture the man behind it all," his mother said as she busied herself with setting the table. "Remember, you must have faith; one day it will all end in victory for us. Now then," she said, bringing plates to the table, "lets not talk about the war tonight. I'm sure that there are other things to discuss."

Hochstetter smiled, his tension easing as his mother served him a plate with meat stew, potatoes, and vegetables. For an instant, he was tempted to ask his mother where she obtained so much meat, then decided that it was best that he didn't know.

Besides, it was good to be home; the war took many things, but Wednesday visits - and home cooked meals - were a treat to look forward to. The pleasant feeling, unfortunately, lasted only long enough for his mother to seat herself at the other end of the table, say the blessing, and then ask a question.

"So," his mother asked casually, "how do things go with Elsa? I haven't seen her around the town lately."

Instantly, some of the tension returned to his tired body. "We haven't been able to go out lately, momma," her son uncomfortably admitted. "Elsa volunteered for a Luftwaffe signals unit; she's going to be listening to enemy bomber fleets. It has to do with intelligence," he explained, "since the Luftwaffe can study their tactics."

Gerda frowned and looked at her son. "That's disappointing," she finally said. "When are you ever going to make an honest woman out of her, Wolfgang, and marry her? It would be so wonderful to hear a child's feet scamper through the house again before I get too old…"

Wolfgang, meanwhile, squirmed underneath her gaze. "Perhaps a bit later, momma," he said. "If it wasn't for the war…"

His mother interrupted him. "No more talk about the war, remember," Gerda said, gently reproaching him. "A man in your position needs a good wife to take care of him. Your father learned that lesson, bless him. Do try for me, Wolfgang; it would make me very happy." She smiled, then changed the subject.

"Speaking of the Luftwaffe," she said, "I had a very interesting time with them today."

"Oh?" True to form, Wolfgang's interest was peaked. That, she reflected, made him a good officer. Just like his father.

"Well," she began, "I had a flat on the way home. By chance, it happened near a work detail of prisoners…"

Hochstetter's eyes narrowed. "Those swine didn't do anything to you, momma, did they?"

Gerda's eyes narrowed. "Wolfgang," she said in a icy voice, "do not use that language at this table." Her son looked embarrassed; she continued on.

"To answer your question, no. The first person that approached me was a Luftwaffe sergeant who asked if I needed help. Then this other man came along, an enemy officer. He had these funny looking pins - they looked like little birds, actually - on his leather jacket, where the rank badges go…"

As Gerda talked, she noticed that her son's face had gone completely white, and wondered what was wrong. Probably because I spoke to a prisoner. He's just like his father; so temperamental.

"Of course, I had never met an American before, you know," she said. "However, this man was nice enough to change my tire and he had a wonderful sense of humor. I don't know how he keeps it in a prison camp - the place looks so dreary, after all…

"When did you go to Stalag 13?" her son asked; it came out in a strangled whisper.

"Oh, I went there this afternoon with your chocolate cake so I could properly thank the man- I think his name was Hogan, or something like that - but not to worry, I'll bake you another one for tomorrow." She paused for a moment; her son's complexion had turned from white to red.

"Is there something wrong, Wolfgang?" she worriedly asked. Oh, dear. What is wrong now? she thought worriedly. Why would he be so upset?

Through closed teeth - but with a surprising civil tone - her son almost spat out the words, "You gave my damn cake to that swine? Why?"

Even as he said it, Gerda's cheeks turned red with anger. With a furious look on her face, she stood up and walked around to the other end of the table even as her son paled. Her right hand reached out and grabbed his left ear before it roughly pulled him out of his chair. Ignoring his screams and yells, Gerda dragged him to the kitchen where she forced him over the sink. Her free hand turned on the faucet before it reached for a bar of soap.

As she jammed it into his mouth - literally - she fixed him with a hard stare; not even the water his hands splashed from the sink stopped her from working the soap back and forth between his jaws. Despite that, he made no effort to grab her wrists; experience had taught him that lesson all too well. Instead, he listened as she spoke again; this time in a cold tone.

"Your father has told you, and I have told you," she said, giving him a cold look, "do not use vile language at the dinner table. Ever." Gerda released his ear and watched as her son stood up and tried to spit the soapy taste out of his mouth; the front of his shirt was soaking wet. She turned off the water, leaving only the sound of her voice in his ears.

"Do you understand, Wolfgang?" she asked in a low command tone; her son looked at her, fear in his eyes. Only the water dripping from his wet shirtsleeves onto the hard kitchen floor broke the silence before his voice returned.

"Yes, momma," he said, genuinely sounding contrite.

At that point, Gerda's motherly instincts kicked in. "Take off that wet shirt, Wolfgang," she ordered, this time in a friendly voice. "Let me see if I can find something of your father's for you to wear…"

The rest of the meal passed in silence. In many ways, it was like nothing had ever happened.

Gerda told her son about the latest goings on around Hammelburg. In return, her son gave her some fascinating information about certain people in the town and the region. As a policeman - an important policeman - he always knew the most interesting things; in turn, it was going to make for some interesting gossip at her next club meeting.

She only hoped that Wolfgang wasn't too put out with her. He may be a grown man, but there were rules to follow in her house. Still, Gerda resolved to bake him a cake as soon as she could. Perhaps she would even take it down to his office; she hadn't been there in ages.

As he got into his official car, she waved goodbye as a proper mother should. Unfortunately for her son, it wasn't what he expected.

"Have a good night, Wolfgang; be sure to get your rest," she called, then had a sudden thought. "And if you see that delightful Colonel Hogan, be sure to say hello!"

A strangled gasp came from the interior of the car as her son looked her way. My poor boy; he really needs to find himself a good wife and not worry about his job so much, she thought. He looks so tense for some reason. I wonder why?

Hochstetter, meanwhile, smiled thinly at his mother. "Have a good night, momma," he said through clenched teeth, his body as tense as a steel rod. He started the engine, put the car in gear, and drove away; his mother watched the car travel to the main road.

It's always nice to see Wolfgang, she thought, then had a sudden idea. Perhaps I should just 'run into' Elsa; it should be easy enough. Gerda snorted in amusement. The things one will do for grandchildren…

As for Major Hochstetter, meanwhile, he couldn't get away fast enough.

He pulled into the clearing - thankfully, it was at least several miles away from his mother's house - and drew his service pistol from its holster along with two spare clips from his pocket. Even in the dim twilight of late evening, he couldn't miss; soon, chunks of wood were flying off from a nearby tree before he ran out of ammunition. Even then, it wasn't enough to soothe his soul. Mentally, he cursed the American Colonel.

I don't know what you did to get my mother to like you, Hogan, but you won't get away with it! The sooner I can prove you are Papa Bear, the better. Then, and only then, will she see the truth as to what you really are.

So enjoy that cake while you can; one day, your judgment will come. I will be there; I swear to God I will be there.

One day…


A/N: While I initially cast Gerda in a bad light initially - particularly with the Jewish comment - its important to note that not all Germans were in lock-step with the Nazi Party. While there were probably a good number that did believe in the Nazi ideal - along with many others that denounced their neighbors, friends, etc. - there were many others that either went along with the system or worked against the system. This last group - comprised of both military and civilians - literally were betting their lives on success.

A good example of this were a number of German housewives that protested the removal of their Jewish husbands to concentration camps; surprisingly, the men were released back to their families. Another example were the failed operations to remove Hitler. One has to wonder how hard it was to stand against a system in support of one's country without feeling like they were traitors.

Another side note: a good number of Americans that worked or had contact with German Prisoners of War were impressed by how hardworking and polite they were. It's not that hard of a stretch to imagine the other side of the coin. The reference to the signals unit was true; women were trained to listen in on bomber wavelengths for anything useful to military intelligence.

Hope you enjoyed the story; reviews, as always, are appreciated.

Coming soon: Dreams of Reality