As the years wore on, and his friends started dying off or getting captured, Franz took to sitting on the roof more and more.
There, with his pigeons, he could pretend for a brief glorious moment that everything was back to normal. The Fuhrer was alive, his beloved Adelaide had never disappeared, and his brothers in arms were still marching onward towards victory. Gently running his worn and callous fingers over the feathers of Otto, his fastest messanger, Franz whispered the address of a man he could only hope was still alive. Placing the small satchel around the bird's neck, Otto flapped off proudly, his small wings beating the air with the power of his purpose.
More often than not, his birds would return empty handed, if they returned at all.
One cold and snowy winter day, Franz awoke to find that Frida, the lovely little pigeon with the grey and blue markings, had died in the night. The others were silent in their cages, bowing their heads in what seemed like respect. Tears filled the Nazi's eyes as he gently lifted her cold dead body and cradled it in his arms. Frida...named after the wife of his best friend in Hitler's Youth, she had been a beautiful example of Aryan perfection. Blue eyes, blonde hair pulled into a neat bun, it was no wonder Otto had loved her. Before the war, they had married, throwing a meager but very happy party at the Leibkind household. Franz had toasted to their success, and to the success of the Fuhrer, before the night danced away into a happy fog of Schnapps and fading memories.
When the war started, Frida had gone to work for the state. Before the war ended, Otto had died in battle and Frida had dissappeared.
Franz held the dead pigeon tighter as he hurried down the stairs of his apartment building, making a beeline for the small patch of dirt in the back. Here lie dozens of comrades he'd lost over the years, nothing but bones and feathers now. It was hardly a proper burial to honor the memories he still had, but it would have to do.
His mind wandered aimlessly as he redug up the plot, each bone uncovered reminding him of what he'd lost. After the war, each and every friend he'd ever had was either dead or tried as war criminals and never heard from again. Those few lucky enough to escape the Allied forces ended up in South America. And then there was Franz, poor Franz, lonely Franz, who had lied up and down and denied his Fuhrer in order to gain freedom in America, to hide in plain sight and wait for the signal to start over.
But that signal was never coming, was it?
Franz gently put the bird in the cold ground, saluting stiffly and humming the German national anthem before covering it up. It was the least he could do.
Back in the safety of his flat, Franz pulled out a worn and dusty picture frame, blowing the dust off and running a finger over the photo. Hitler's Youth Rally, 1932. A very young Franz stared out at him, arm outstretched, heiling along with the rest of them. Otto was to his left, a grin on his face. All around them were faces of people he'd known and called brothers, and all of them were gone. It was a sign of weakness to show emotion, they had been taught, but years of isolation had softened Franz, and he broke down into racking sobs.
It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair. American soldiers and British soldiers had followed their orders with the same vigor and passion, and they were allowed to return home to fanfare and medals.
Franz could only sit alone with his pigeons and dream of what could have been.