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Alptraum (Nightmare): Characters

Tristan Schnack:

Date of Birth: 25 January 1901 in Norddeich, Germany
Father: Elijah Schnack (12 April 1868 - 3 September 1943)
Mother: Eva Schnack (19 April 1868 - 3 September 1943)
Siblings: Anton (14 January 1890 - 8 November 1918); Josef (12 May 1895)

Wife: Christina Schnack (married 15 April 1920)
Children: Philipp; Alessandra; Sebastian

Rank: Reichsführer-SS (August 14th, 1944 - Present)

Philipp Schnack:

Date of Birth: 4 July 1923 in Norddeich, Germany

Rank: First Lieutenant
Unit: 78. Infanterie-Division
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Alessandra Schnack

Date of Birth: 14 July 1925 in Norddeich, Germany

Sebastian Schnack

Date of Birth: 29 July 1926 in Norddeich, Germany

Rank: First Lieutenant
Unit: Panzer-Brigade 'Berlin'
Location: Berlin, Germany

Rhiley Schnack:

Date of Birth: 31 May 1923 in Norddeich, Germany
Father: Josef Schnack
Mother: N/A

Rank: Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant)
Location: Tristan's side

Erwin Daniel Preissner:

Date of Birth: 16 August 1903
Location: Germany

Branch: Geheime Staatspolizei - Department E
Rank: Oberst
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Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR


Adolf Hitler before the Reichstag, April 2nd, 1942.​

Spring is coming to Paris, and thus far it is proving itself to be all that my comrades had shared. The city is teetering on the brink, like a seesaw, another week of exceptional warmth everything would be ready to blossom out of the occupational shell it has endured over the winter months. The trees are beginning to blossom and would soon create a photographically perfect scene, where one could easily get lost down the cities winding streets and endless cafes. I sought to enjoy this time in Paris and am looking forward to bringing my dearest wife Christina from home for a romantic two weeks in the occupied city. Though I am sure she would be dissatisfied with the length of the train ride from our resort-like town off the North Sea. However, I am sure that whatever disappointment is built up will quickly be dispelled the magic that inhabits this city.

I happened to be day dreaming of walking along the shores of the Seine River when the recently constructed public address system began to sound, interrupting the idyllic moment and serenating music. “We interrupt this broadcast with breaking news from Berlin; the Führer Adolf Hitler is about to address the Reichstag.” Though the announcement jolted me out of my dream of holding hands with my dearest, I quickly resumed reminiscing what precious moments there were with my wife. Over the several months of occupation of the French capital, I had become accustomed to announcements and newscasts that sought to enlighten and inspire us brave German soldiers, courtesy of Joseph Goebbels.

“Yesterday, April 1st, 1942.” the speaker first said rather raspy. “Is a day that will forever live in the annuals of the Third Reich; as she was viciously and deliberately betrayed by the Bolshevik conspiracy! Yesterday, our benevolent peace loving nation was a friend to the perpetrators of the aforementioned crime.” The voice had become more than recognizable after the beginning of the second sentence.

“I, along with my every good natured master of the German race, had believed that the open communication with Stalin had led us to a Europe that was to be divided between our great and respectful powers. But now, after this unforgiveable behavior that has cost the life of thousands of fathers, sons, and brothers of the Reich, we find ourselves at war!,” roared a furious Hitler, who was addressing the Reichstag. I nearly dropped my cup of coffee that I had recently been served by the waiter.

“The air attack on the Baltic Fleet stationed at Konigsberg has severely damaged the port and cost hundred thousands of Reichsmarks worth of damage. Last night, Russian forces began an invasion into Germany proper. Last night, our Hungarian allies reported movement into their territory. Last night, the Romanian oil fields were recipients of a Russian aerial bombardment. And this very morning, the Russians attempted to bomb Berlin and destroy the very building I am addressing the nation from!” The audience of the Reichstag again broke out in a shocking gasp that the microphones had picked up and carried throughout the global airwaves.

The Führer remained silent for an uncomfortably long amount of time, allowing the emotion to so cleverly build; as was his custom. “I am ashamed that that the Bolsheviks have betrayed the agreement of that has been in place the past two years. The eyes of their nefarious dictator have grown too jealous. The Soviet Union shall not be allowed to enslave the hard working people of the German race! She shall not reverse the trend of National Socialism that all people have demanded for! History has proven that the Bolshevik regime is corrupt, that she cannot withstand the might of even the puniest of nations. We, the German nation, shall teach the conspirators of the Bolshevik disease that National Socialism shall prevail! The deceits that have enslaved since the sniveling Lenin shall be erased from the world!” A thunderous applause broke out in the crowded Reichstag that drowned out a hundred flashbulbs going off, capturing Hitler and his temper in pose.

The Führer let the applause die down as he relaxed his voice from the high rapid and loud paced barrage of words. “As the Führer of the German people, it is my responsibilities to lead us, the superior nation, to the utter defeat the communist barbarians. We shall drive the Mongol hordes from our sacred land back to non-existence! We shall not stop! We must not stop! We must fight for the survival of the Fatherland! Deutschland über Alles!” He had finished, and the audience repeated “Deutschland über Alles!” three times while without a doubt Hitler stood there basking in the praise.

I am astounded. I thought I had seen enough war and had been horrified when war had been declared on the first day of September over a year and seven months ago. The calming scene and atmosphere of the café, of France in general had led us all into a lull. We had all come to believe that peace could be achieved, and would be achieved in a matter of months, Britain certainly could not continue to resist our might that had brought down its allies for long. The gravity of the situation quickly sunk in; there would be no idyllic walks down the Seine – they had been washed away just as any hope for peace.

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Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR

Chapter 1
Leaflet of Information - Making Due - A World Asunder - Spared at First - Out of Sight

Leaflet of Information

Two days had passed since the disheartening revelation that the Third Reich had been betrayed by the Soviet Union. The weather in Paris did not reflect the reality that I comprehended we were facing. The sun continued to shine, the warmth of the day though was unable to lighten the moods of my comrades and me. The other day, we had been subjected to an unusual bravado by the British as they harassed the skies over the French capital. Though the raid caused minimal destruction, it had forced us into the safety of the air raid shelter at the headquarters of my unit. After the all clear notice had been given, I walked outside with the commander and noticed hundreds of leaflets scattered across the ground. Intrigued by the scene, I casually bent over to pick up one of the leaflets. Upon doing so I was shocked to see it was a copy of the Völkischer Beobachter, declaring that Hitler had fled Germany seeking asylum in the neutral Switzerland.

I instantly knew the rumor of the Führer’s departure to be untrue, he stood by us during our previous troubling times. Why would he choose to abandon us at this particular time? The British were no doubt attempting to further cause confusion amongst our ranks; which the general and I quickly repressed in the unit. Later that night, I dreamed that six months had passed and I, along with my family had decided to flee our coastal home. After a treacherous journey we had finally crossed into the bastion of freedom that Switzerland represented in occupied Europe. Days after my dreamt arrival, I happened to walk into a local beer hall and saw Hitler, along with the rest of his cronies attempting to mingle with the crowd. I awoke from my sleep and attempted to bury the thought. The thought of the Führer escaping from imminent destruction persisted in the crevices of my brain.

The next morning, April 4th, I was awoken to the sound of the radio carrying an urgent broadcast from Berlin. “...by the orders of the Führer, the city of Konigsberg has been declared a fortress city and shall be defended to the last man! Anybody sought aiding the enemy, or not following the instructions of party and military officials shall be summarily executed. All must sacrifice in the defense of the Fatherland. Deutschland uber Alles!” The use of Deutschland uber Alles was becoming common practice in the days after the betrayal by Stalin. The other day, we had received a memorandum from Field Marshal Rundstedt that all official communication we were to express the phrase “Deutschland uber Alles” until the circumstances no longer required the necessity of the words to be uttered.

I found the use of the phrase ridiculous, and I am sure many others did, especially those soldiers fighting on the eastern front. There were certain customs the party had imposed on the Heer, I guess this was just one more I would eventually become accustomed to. Over my years in service of the people, I have gone through numerous traditions. In the last days of the previous war, I had introduced to the traditions of the Empire under the former Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had passed almost ten months to the day before Stalin’s betrayal. My days in the Imperial Army were numbered after the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles; though I was spared the embarrassment and retained my commission of second lieutenant in the newly created Reichsheer.

The Reichsheer would officially exist from January 1st, 1921 until its successor the Wehrmacht was announced on October 15th, 1935. Over the 14 years of the Reichsheer I had advanced only two ranks due to numerous constraints. Though there were strenuous constraints on our total strength, we were trained to the best of our abilities and masters of the field. I had obtained my first promotion on June 6th, 1925, five years, two months and nine days after I had been married. It would be eight years, eleven months and twenty-six days before July 2nd, 1934 when I was promoted to the rank of Captain. During those eight years, I had further expanded my family to include another son and my only daughter.

The declaration of the official creation of the Wehrmacht brought a boon of relief to my career. I had thought about resigning my commission from the army and returning home to either take up a career in politics or beginning writing about my time in service of the German people. However, a few events renewed my spirits in remaining within the armed forces. Firstly, my promotion to Captain and the increased pay and responsibilities greatly assisted in renewing my morale. Secondly, I would be responsible for assisting in the training of new recruits. Though we were bound by the Treaty of Versailles to a standing army of 100,00 the Führer reintroduced conscription on March 16th, 1935; which would allow us to train an additional number of conscripts numbering a hundred thousand or so a year.

I was assigned to training a contingent of new recruits, about the traditions of the superiority of German arms. Most of the recruits had been unaccustomed to the formality of the life in service; thus it was my responsibility, along with my sergeants to make excellent soldiers out of them. We stressed tradition. It took time for the men to respect and embrace the tradition. I guess the same could be said about the new “Deutschland uber Alles” phrase.

Making Due

I comfortably sitting down in a wooden chair of the air raid shelter of the building we had occupied since our arrival in Paris months ago. At the table was an empty plate; which the servants had so kindly brought – though they did not have much choice but to accept our occupation of both the house and their country. A small radio that I had acquired through the use of Reichsmarks was also on the table. I had found this radio helpful thus far, the dispatches back from Berlin or higher up had proven ineffectual in me to do my job as both the intelligence and logistics officer of the 6 Infantry Division. Under normal circumstances, I should have received my replacement by now – intelligence was not my specialty; however given the circumstances I understood why I would most likely be carrying out dual responsibilities for an unforeseen duration.

I rather enjoyed the privileges of handling the intelligence for the unit. On the radio played the British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast about how our forces were being forced to retreat across the eastern front. Nominally, the listening to the BBC would be considered a criminal offense; however General Horst Grossman and I agreed that information obtained through the broadcasts was beneficial but the fact should be kept between us. Thus almost every night I would find a remote place within headquarters and begin listening to the broadcasts.

At times I would doze off from listening to the information that was being broadcast throughout occupied Europe. I often dreamt of returning to my original specialty in training; which I had done until a year before the start of the war. I had been given a chance within the unit, Lieutenant General Arnold Freiherr von Biegeleben at the time master the art of logistics. Even though I had excelled at training of new recruits, I had grown tired of the work and sought change. Thus when the offer was made, I pounced and quickly accumulated to my new responsibilities. Training and logistics are rather similar in the sense that they both require an enormous amount of attention to detail, dedication and the means to get the jobs done.

Often times, especially once the war began, it was often difficult to get the required amount of supplies for the unit. Most days during the invasion of Poland the unit was not fully supplied, but we moved on. The Polish countryside did not offer a lot of advantages for a logistics officer to acquire the necessary supplies for his unit. The Low Countries and France were the opposite. I recall on one day, shortly before the official announcement of the Vichy regime, a young lieutenant that I had trained had sent a runner back to headquarters requesting the presence of a senior officer. General Biegeleben and I, along with the runner who drove us in the staff Kübelwagen came across a large French villa.

We had come across at least a dozen or so large residences in our march through the country, but all had been ransacked or emptied before our arrival. This villa was different. This villa is something we had been waiting for, something that would make the war easier for us. There was a large winery below the main level that the General and I had thoroughly inspected and deemed as spoils for the division alone. The collection was marvelous and a prize that would suit us well. The estate became our temporary headquarters until we were given a new assignment; that would see us move to Paris. During our travels from the estate to Paris, the wine accompanied us; the twenty-one crates in all were labeled as personal property.

The wine was quite important, for whenever a shortage of supplies was affecting the unit – and a normal request to relieve the situation would not due – I would personally walk to either the corps quartermaster or army quartermaster and hand either one or two bottles depending on the request of the finest red wine. The gestures were always enough of a bribe to make sure the unit would stay supplied during the months of occupation. However, the situation was dramatically reversed within mere days of the Soviet betrayal. On the 13th of April, I had walked over to the corps quartermaster, and requested several hundred summer uniforms; only to be flatly rejected – there were no uniforms to spare all troops would have to make do. I even offered to up the reward to four bottles of wine, only for the request to still be rejected. The power of the Rothschild’s wine had met its match.

A World Asunder

Two weeks have passed since the Soviet betrayal, today is my anniversary. I have been married for twenty-two years at this point, and I have missed several anniversaries away from home. The most notable anniversaries that I have missed were all because of war related issues. In 1936, at the height of the re-occupation of the Rhineland; then in 1938 during the Anschluss Osterreich we are on high alert. Mere months later, in the later parts of March into April 1939, there was the rump of Czechoslovakia that was occupied. The anniversary of 1940 – marking the twentieth year of marriage – was quite an impromptu event. The unit was stationed about eighty miles away from Norddeich. I snuck out of headquarters earlier in the day and arrived at Norddeich around nine in the night. I returned early in the morning, about seven if I recall, and nobody had suspected anything.

There was no celebration in 1941, I was simply too far away as the unit was occupying outside of the French city of Bordeaux; though I had sent a small crate of wine dated 1920 back home. Returning to tonight, the twenty-second anniversary, there was no possibility of sneaking away to Norddeich – though Paris was a lot closer than Bordeaux. Tonight, I would dream of being either in Norddeich, or sharing a romantic boat ride down the Seine with Christina. However; there was much that needed to be done before the necessity of sleep could be performed. I flicked the radio switch on, and began tuning the dials to reach the correct frequency to receive the BBC.

On the table along with the radio, I had collected all the intelligence I could muster about the overall situation on the Eastern Front. Three days prior, we had received a memorandum from Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in Berlin, stating that divisions would begin being transferred from the west to help repel the Soviets back and immediately begin an offensive to end the Bolshevik conspiracy. I was suspicious about the reports that the advances of the Soviets were being held with ease; thus my reliance on the BBC to help obtain information. I knew the BBC would be propaganda from the Allied side of events; however I would compare the information garnered from both our news and the enemies and somewhere in between would be the truth.

The lovely instrumental song that was being broadcast ended and the announcer came on. “Good evening a citizen of occupied Europe, here are tonight’s headlines. German soldiers have been withdrawn from the countries of Romania and Hungary,” I hastily wrote down this tidbit of the withdrawal. The last mention I had was that our divisions were assisting our allies in repelling the Soviet invasion.

“In other news, King George VI has awarded Malta the George Cross for her heroism and devotion to defeating the Axis nations.” I scribbled down a little cruel joke about the monarchy, and continued listening to the broadcast.

“To all our German listeners out there, who are so bravely listening to this station, this tidbit will interest you the most. Our sources within the city of Berlin have identified that your precious Führer, Adolf Hitler, has been proclaimed the Supreme Judge of the German People, but has not been seen in the streets of the capital since the Soviet invasion. The Führer has abandoned you. Do not resist, and the armies of the arsenals of democracy shall soon be upon the shores to liberate you from tyranny.” I frantically wrote down the information that Hitler had not been seen for days. I had trust in the Führer, he had seen us through all previously difficult times during his tenure of power; there was no doubt that he could not once more muster the will of the nation to overcome this challenge.

The broadcast ended ten minutes later, with no interesting news. I turned off the radio, adjusted the knobs before stashing it away under the relative safety of the bed I had been provided. Before I could sleep, I had to dress down from my uniform; after which I laid underneath one layer of covers of the bed. I quietly began humming a sweet lullaby that Christina had used with the children. Before I knew it, I was asleep.

Spared At First

Three weeks have passed since the Soviet betrayal, and I find myself along with the 6 Infantry Division remaining in the vicinity of Paris for awhile. From what I have gathered, there were a total of seventy-eight divisions occupying various sections stretching from the Netherlands down to the Spanish border. In the kilometers surrounding Paris, there were five other divisions lying in different states of readiness. Slowly these divisions where transferred from the Western Front to the Eastern Front. I never learned their final destinations, but I had a hunch that they were not being sent to assist our Hungarian and Romanian allies.

I had heard about the Eastern Front, mostly from the near daily communication broadcasts by the agents of Goebbels. Apparently, though we as a nation of soldiers were caught off guard and unprepared, we had halted the Soviet invasion with minimal ground loss. What was more alarming, and always increased my suspicions was the lack of news regarding the situation our Allied nations found themselves in. I had studied the possible situation on the Eastern Front and realized that while we could hold our territory including occupied Poland, if the Soviets were not halted in the Balkans, our underbelly would be exposed. I had made note of my concerns to General Grossman, who assured that the Führer and Oberkommando der Wehrmacht were aware of the situation. Satisfied by the response, I let my concerns simmer down before becoming nearly extinct.

Paris had slowly regained a new sense of balance after the Soviet invasion. The citizens of the city had become accustomed to seeing soldiers on nearly every corner of the streets. I was accustomed to the same reality, often having to give the necessary salutes an uncountable numbers of times a day when I ventured out onto the streets. As the days went by into weeks, and units were transferred to the Eastern Front, the streets became less grey and more vibrant as citizens returned to the streets. I always had thought of Paris as a populated city, but still a lot of residents would not venture out with our soldiers parading around their city.

About three days after my concerns were addressed; I received a letter handed to me directly by General Grossman. Initially I thought he had approached me to inform that the unit was being transferred to the east. I opened the letter and read it. My concerns had been received and I was personally to address Generalfeldmarschall Keitel and his Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl in Berlin. I would travel by train to Berlin, in five days time, and meet with the commanders and possibly the Führer himself.

I was hesitant to leave the safety of Paris, yet I had a responsibility to follow through with. There were a few things I would address before I left, mostly writing my own letters to family members. I longed for Christina to come visit me in Berlin if possible, even if it would only be for a day. I wrote to my sons, inquiring their locations and relative safety. I wrote to my daughter, inquiring about her studies. In the end, I wrote nine letters, the others my parents, and my eldest surviving brother. I expressed the overwhelming yearning to return home to Norddeich, yet it would be another day before I could.

Out of Sight

The train from Paris to Berlin was quite pleasurable, with only slight discomfort caused by the frequent stops at the numerous stations of small towns and cities. I hadn’t been to Berlin in quite a few years, since 1938 if I remembered right. I was in Berlin for a conference addressing logistic concerns using modern vehicles to support divisional needs. I was just one of two hundred gathered officers for the conference, but I did get the chance to converse with both Heinz Guderian and Erwin Rommel. However brief the meeting was, both generals lavished praises to the family name that I bore.

Berlin had changed in some ways since I had last visited; though what change had occurred was noticeable. Almost all the buildings had received some additional security measures, namely in the form of black paint covering the windows – blacking out the city at night as much as possible. There was quite a noticeable change to the skyline; as three enormous Flak towers had been constructed forming a triangle of dangerous anti-aircraft fire for Allied war planes. Even with these massive towers of concrete protecting Berlin, I noticed a few buildings had received damage from Allied bombers. The train to Berlin was stocked with a local paper that advised the Soviets had attempted their first air raid over the city; which had ended with twenty percent of their force being shot down by our experienced pilots.

There were a total of three newspapers that I had read through the train ride from the city. I paid extravagant detail to the papers, I was interested in learning as much as my brain could consume. Before I left again, I had heard another BBC broadcast that again mentioned that rumored the Führer had been seeking shelter in a bunker below the streets of Berlin. I scoured the papers, and did not find any mention of any public appearances of the Führer throughout the city, or any other point of the Reich, even his private retreat of Berghof went unmentioned. I had a growing suspicion that the Führer had indeed decided to abandon us in a great time of need. I was reminded of a quote I once read from Alexandre Dumas: “A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.”

I very much thought that the Führer fit the description that Dumas had described. The absence of the Hitler, who has driven the resurrection of the beleaguered nation, is of dire importance – without him the presence and his charismatic display, I believe the war shall be lost as the public will lose interest. Therein lies the problem; I personally have not met the Führer, but have heard from direct sources that his temper rages from calm to tyrannical within seconds. He is unwillingly to listen to his military staff, for they had doubted him in the nation’s most trying times – Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Low Countries and France – all in which Hitler proved triumphant.

To the point of my visit to Berlin, I intended to immediately head towards to the offices of Generalfeldmarschall Keitel, and deliver additional notations I made regarding the Eastern Front. However, at the train station I was greeted by his a young lieutenant, who advised that the meeting had to be cancelled as the Führer had requested a meeting with both Keitel and Jodl, who would be busy all day. At the time I attempted to inquire what the meeting was about, but the young lieutenant would disclose the information. After handing over my notes, the man advised me that a train would begin departing to Paris within three hours, and I was to return to my unit. I left the Reich’s capital with a sour taste.

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Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR

Chapter 2
Inevitable No More - A Promise Made - A High Price - A Spirit in Distress

Inevitable No More

I returned to Paris still with the sourness of disappointment from the debacle of Berlin. I do not believe the high command or the Führer were certainly aware of the full extent of the danger that was being flirted with. Yet, there was nothing I could do to persuade them otherwise. Orders were orders, and I returned back to my units headquarters amidst a flurry of activity. During my brief departure of two days times, orders had been received that the unit was to begin preparing to depart for the Eastern Front. The inevitable had come; we were to be sent to the meat grinder.

The term meat grinder had become common from accounts I heard from soldiers who had friends or family serving on the front. The Soviets were throwing “everything they could” against the stout resistance and prepared defensive positions we had; resulting in deaths of hundreds to thousands of their soldiers in the opening salvo of a battle. The accounts of men running across open fields against defensive positions to certain death reminded me of the accounts Anton had mailed back to me during his time at Verdun. He described how the French high ranking officers willingly cast their men into the slaughter in hopes of stemming the ever-closing tide of their advance around the fortress. In the long run, the tactic had worked but the repercussions were tens of thousands dead, wounded, missing or captured on top of a mutiny of the French army the proceeding year.

The young men, boys really, that were in the units were eager to show the Soviet bastards that the Fatherland was superior and would repel the invaders without question. These men claim to be hardened veterans; which no doubt some of them are; but the resistance we faced in Poland, the Low Countries and France will not be equal to what I expect from the Soviets. Only a handful of the men within the division know what it is like to watch a brother in arms literally die within your finger tips. It is a horrific experience; one that quickly dashes the youthful vigor and enchanting thoughts of war and victory.

I am often reminded of General Sherman – who I have read much about – and his view on war. The inspiring man once said: “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” There is no doubt that if Sherman had seen the horrors of that was brought upon by the Great War; he would be horrified at what war has become. I am frightened to imagine what he might even say about this second war, for to me it is more deadly and encompassing than the first. Though I view war as a necessary evil – one that has twice made its presence known twice in my life – it is a duty that I have sworn to uphold.

There is an inkling of fear that the Eastern Front shall be the downfall of not only the Reich, but I will be included in the final tally. Ever since the beginning of hostilities an aura of invincibility has been increasing to almost unimaginable levels; we have not been shelled at all here at division headquarters. I know that the death of me will cause enormous strain upon my family. It is with a sad heart that I begin preparing my meager belongings for another train ride to the east.

A Promise Made

I had made arrangements for the remaining seven crates of wine to be transported along with the division. The remainder of the loot was for divisional use only, and did not include the crate and a half I had tagged for my personal use, along with the remaining three crates that were property of the commanding officer, Grossmann. What the general had been using his stash for, I do not know. I had been saving mine and using the divisions sparingly – I had a hunch that eventually we would need to use it when as a bargaining chip. As previously mentioned, the hunch was right – I had read a lot about supply issues on the Eastern Front – and had suspected that was our eventual destination.

The room that I often used to listen to the BBC broadcasts was quite bare now – though I always thought of it as empty even when divisional maps and charts were hoisted on the walls. What was left in the room was the wooden table, the chair and that was it, there was nothing else. I entered the room and placed my briefcase on the table before pulling the chair out and sitting in it. I unlocked the briefcase and began pulling out some documents I wished to finish reviewing before the departure.

“Colonel,” said a young sounding voice at the entrance to the room of the air raid shelter.

I looked up at him, judging him to be no older than my eldest son. “Yes, sergeant, what can I do for you?”

He took his left arm from his side, and in his hand he was holding an envelope. “Mail sir,” he finished while he approached me and extended his arm to me.

I extended my arm out to receive the mail and smiled at him. “Thank you so---sergeant.” There was a benefit of rank; the young man did not correct my slip up. I eagerly but carefully opened the envelope, and pulled out a letter that I skimmed and noted its length.

“Dearest brother,” it began; which indicated to me that it was clearly from my sole remaining brother, who had also served during the previous war but found himself incapacitated to actively serve now. “Norddeich has drastically changed since your last visit. Once a week I have a meeting with the commanding officer of the Kriegsmarine detachment. The coast has been militarized, with minor amount of defensive works prepared against any possible incursion – however slight of a reality that it might occur. Father says the same events happened while we were away during the first war.” I continued reading on as he went on for another three sentences about the coastal preparations. I remember when the then High Seas Fleet secured the coast in 1914; I had remained home until I came of age to fight.

I followed the words that continued the small talk about the contributions that he had been contributing to the cause. I had briefly heard on my trip to Berlin that the civilian population was strongly urged to donate all that they could spare to assist in victory against the Soviet betrayers. The contributions that Josef had lead while noteworthy, I knew were not the main intent of the letter. I continued to reading, looking for the purpose.

At last, I found it. “Brother, I am asking a favor of you. You have risen to a respectable rank and I am need of your assistance. My dearest and only Rhiley completed his training two months before the betrayal and sent as a replacement to the 73 Infantry Division, stationed in the vicinity of Cherbourg, France. I understand that France is relatively safe for a war zone, but what has caused my concern is that five days ago he wrote that his unit was being transferred to the East. I understand the risks of war, and accept the consequences no matter how hard they may be to bear, but his mother will have a difficult time. Our mother never handed the passing of Anton well. If you can do anything, please do so. Please advise of any actions that you can take.”

I re-read the portion of the letter requesting for assistance. I had received an infinite number of correspondences from worrisome parents about their sons’ safety in the face of danger. I often wished to respond to with a less used quote from General Sherman which read: “Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.” However, those words would never comfort a mother. Instead I carried with me pre-written letters that expressed that their child would be taken care of in the face of danger, that if he followed the orders from the chain of command he would return home. This generally settled the matter, and such letters were only received shortly after green replacements arrived.

I took out a pen and paper and began to write back to my brother. After completing the address to send the response to, I paused. Minutes passed as I spent the time in deep thought. “It just might work,” I said to myself silently before saying it out loud.

A High Price

I didn’t finish writing the letter, instead I put the contents of the paper and pen back into my briefcase before locking it. I walked up the steps from the air shelter and reached the main level of the building. From there I looked around for General Grossman, I had a request to make. I knew it would be highly unlikely of a procedure, given that we would soon be boarding trains for the length ride east. However, I had to try. My duty as a person in position, and as a brother, required me to try. If denied, the attempt had been made.

Grossman was quite understanding of the whole situation and personally saw me off to the Kübelwagen. Before departing the air room shelter, I had carefully traced the way to Cherbourg on the map of France I always carried either in my breast pocket or the briefcase, its location depending on the day. I had left the headquarters without an aide, believing the situation would better suit me once I arrived at Cherbourg. Though I was without an aide, I get assistance in having a special package placed within the rear seat of the Kübelwagen. I hoped that this gift would be enough, though rather costly, to secure my intended objectives.

I am sure I was violating a series of protocols and regulations; yet there was no regretful feeling within my soul. As I drove through the streets of Paris, then the road leading to Cherbourg, which would take me south of Rouen, through Caen and then finally arriving at Cherbourg. I estimated the entire drive, along with stops for refueling would take me at the minimum six hours, at the maximum eight hours. I carried with me a set of orders that I had written out, without prior approval or consent from any commanding officer. The order looked official; enough to get me to the commanding officer, General von Bünau if I recalled correctly. I didn’t care to think what would transpire if I were to be caught with an illegal order; the consequences were pretty well known.

The drive to Cherbourg was quite a trip. I had been forced to a halt four times, not by sentries or checkpoints but by the frightening sound of pistons above. Whenever I heard the unforgettable sound, I quick find the closet safe spot, bring the Kübelwagen to a stop; and get out of the vehicle and protect myself. Every time I waited about five to ten minutes, the planes passing by with no additional flybys. I often forgot to look at the wings of the planes; if they were friendly the simplified Iron Cross would be visible.

I arrived outside of Cherbourg, and down the road there was a checkpoint manned by a half dozen soldiers. They looked to be idling around; which would play to my benefit. I approached the checkpoint, decreasing the Kübelwagens speed as I neared the roadblock. As I got closed, I noticed the soldiers had seen me, and began to hastily react in a non-threatening manner. There was two bright reflections that happened once or twice from the direction of the checkpoint; clearly indicating the use of binoculars.

“Good evening, Colonel,” said one of the soldiers as I halted a foot from the roadblock.

I turned my head to the left to address him. “Good evening, sergeant. I am on orders from General Grossman,” I replied while pulling out the orders from my breast pocket.

The sergeant appeared older than the others around him; though I reckoned him only to be a handful years older. He nodded as the finished reading the orders. “Lift the gate,” he said motioning towards he two nearby soldiers. “Have a good day, Colonel.”

“Thank you sergeant,” I said with a smile while patiently waiting for the gate to be lifted. It took the two soldiers about thirty seconds to lift the wooden roadblock and get out of my path before I began to accelerate.

“I understand you are on orders to find a suitable assistant, Colonel,” said the commanding officer, General Rudolf von Bünau. He paced behind his desk, while I patiently stood at attention in front of it. “Why is it that you come to Cherbourg to find an aide? Are there not enough candidates within your division? Speak openly, Lieutenant Colonel Schnack,” he finished with emphasis on the rank.

I thought I had prepared for this. I had expected a little resistance; but it seems the general was not willing to play even that game. “Well, sir, I am searching for a particular type of person to suit the intricate duties that being an intelligence officer’s aide requires. I have a particular person in mind, and last I have heard he is under your gracious command.”

He nodded. “What is the name of this particular person?”

“Rhiley Selig Schnack,” I replied trying to hide emotions.

“Ah,” he said, picking up on the subtly within my voice. “What kind of relationship does the young, weakly Obergefreiter (Corporal), have with you? Is he your son? If so he has not performed particularly well thus far.”

I nodded, understanding the game that was to be played. “I understand the Generals concerns about the suitability and character of my nephew. I have received a request from his father, who is also deeply concerned about the manliness of his son. I as a loyal brother and uncle am here to personally oversee my nephew’s transformation into one of the finest soldiers for National Socialism.”
“I see. Do the Colonel and the Colonel’s brother question the ability of my command to transform the frightful corporal into a great soldier?” He came to a halt behind his desk, his eyes staring directly into mine.

“No sir. The General will be greatly rewarded for allowing the corporal to be transferred.”

The General smiled. “What kind of reward is being offered?”

“I have with me twelve of the finest bottles of wine from the Rothschild estate, courtesy of their generosity to the Third Reich.”

His eyes lit up even brighter. “Colonel Schnack, you have yourself a deal.”

“Thank you, General.”

A Spirit in Distress

I had left the General’s office and headed back towards the Kübelwagen to wait for my nephew; a runner was headed to the barracks to advise him to grab his belongings. Though I had spent a high price from my personal stash, I was surprised that the general did not ask for more. The spread of a black market had become prevalent again; but at this time it was not overly abused or expensive. However; with the transfer to the eastern front pending, there would be no time to restock the divisions and my personal bargaining chips. The likelihood of confiscating property and valuables from the East would have serious consequences; as any chance we would have to resupply would be from previously Soviet occupied land. Confiscating supplies from an already terrorized German populace would be a tragedy beyond proportion to not only the severely affected, but to the nation as a whole. We are better than the Soviets, and we must act and show it.

From the distance I could see a young man in a field gray uniform, placing his cap on with his left hand while carrying two bags, one over his shoulder and the other held in his right arm. I lit up when I saw him; the last time I had seen my nephew the weekend before the invasion of Poland began. I had been slouching against the driver’s side of the Kübelwagen and brought myself to an upright position as he approached ten meters away. The look of innocence still radiated from his face, he and my son Sebastian shared the description of youthful optimism.

I began walking over towards my nephew and in a few steps we closed the distance. “Let me help you with the bags,” I began, reaching out for the one he carried in his hand.

He stopped for a second and looked into my eyes. A thousand words were exchanged with that brief moment. I saw a man who was crying for assistance, as he had been through numerous experiences he was unaccustomed to. The pressure of those experiences was weighing him down, his eyes seemed sullen, but deep within it looked as if the glimmer of hope was waiting for its opportunity to be revealed.

“I got it, Colonel,” he said before resuming his walk to the Kübelwagen, placing his belongings in the rear seats. His words had paralyzed me where I stood. A wider range of emotions surged through my mind. I began calculating scenarios that may have caused the response my greeting triggered. I eventually settled upon the conclusion that the command structure within his division was to blame. The words of General Rudolf von Bünau were unacceptable at best, and beyond belief to the way I had been accustomed to raising soldiers.

I had seen first hand fellow officers and instructors physically threatening then watching the “tough” soldiers following their orders to initiate the condemned into the brotherhood of being a man. The use of these tactics, forced beatings and toughening a person up to be a man is disgusting and barbaric. There is no sense of a true brotherhood established if one bests the other through abuse. We are in a fight for our lives, and we must establish a cohesive morale suitable to survive the trying times we find ourselves in. If our soldiers who fight to defend the collective German people from harm are more afraid of the people who they are to defend and follow orders from, then we have failed.

I am not completely against the use of physical roughness to strengthen a person’s ability; however it must be done in an appropriate and meaningful manner that is used to establish the necessities of being a soldier in arms. When physical roughness is used correctly, it is a positive experience. Activities that may demand physical roughness is properly demonstrating the utmost importance to ones tools; equipment. I am of the belief the second most important piece of equipment in soldiers arsenal is their entrenching tools. A rifle is as important to ones protection as the foxhole. Without respect to either basics of combat, ones life is for the taking.

I am share different views than the majority of trainers; however I believe that it is of the utmost importance to nurture a person into the life of a soldier through careful and calculated stewardship. Brutal beatings and vicious verbal tirades do not prevail. The intent of training is to make the soldier be proud of the tradition and wanting to continue the tradition by being an active participant. The use of methods other than the one I have subscribed to, leads to becoming an inactive participant. I can see it within Rhiley’s eyes that he has almost completely given up hope – he, along with thousands of others have become inactive participants.

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Things look very grim indeed.
Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR

Chapter 4
Orders from the Rear - An Ordered Affair - Into the Unknown - For Your Information - You Will Need This

Orders from the Rear

I desired to open the letter after we boarded the plane, which had an insignia on the tail that I had never seen before; however I kept meeting resistance. I insisted on stopping by headquarters, but Preissner assured me everything had been arranged, and that the situation along with the calling to Berlin was of utter importance. Before I was even properly seated, I felt the plane moving down the runway, swaying ever so slightly to avoid shells that had penetrated the surface since landing. I glanced over at Rhiley, though awake he looked as if he were about to fall into a slumber. I waited a few minutes until he had fallen off into the state of sleep.

“Preissner, I know you too well, and you know this. I know there is an alternate reason for your visit. We are both trained in our fields too well to know that you were just randomly visiting Warsaw and happened to find me sitting upon the banks of the river.” I watched his face, as it tightened up, his smile becoming serious.

Colonel Erwin Daniel Preissner​

“Schnack,” he said. Though knowing each other for all our lives, it had become an instilled within the fabric of our existence to address each other this way, unless we could catch ourselves and conduct a more informal saying. “There is a certain level of secrecy that always must be taken, I am sure you are aware of the necessity of hiding ones activities,” he paused there and winked his left eye.

Except for the roaring engines, there was deafening silence that continued on for a handful of seconds. “Tristan,” he deliberately said before pausing for an excoriating three seconds. “I often wonder what kind of situation or predicament I would be in if it was not for you. There is no doubt though, that I would not be in the position, nor place for that matter, to properly repay the debt that I owe,” he finished, not by choice but his emotions forced the end of his speech.

On numerous occasions Erwin and I had discussed this very topic, often over dinner as old friends at a local restaurant, in plain view of all the other patrons. “Erwin, I…I understand and know the depth of your feelings regarding what has happened. I am greatly honored that you insist on honoring an assumed debt; but I cannot accept it. To the extent that I am concerned, none of us truly owes the other a life altering favor.” He had partially regained his emotions; though at times it was hard to distinguish if he was acting.

Preissner slowly removed his left hand from his forehead and looked dead into my eyes. “I know we have gone over the details a thousand times my friend. Every time though, one detail that has haunted me since that day I came to your rescue for the first time. We became friends; we shared stories and our deepest fears about the remainder of the war.” He continued his tremendous stare into my eyes; any unaccustomed person would have broken by now.

He carried on. “It is hard to express my brother, but I believe if our chance encounter never happened I would not be here. I am afraid I,” he paused. There was no acting, only the raw emotion of truth. “I am afraid I would have committed suicide, not only once near the end of the war, but throughout the difficult times afterwards. For that, I am forever grateful. Without all that has occurred between us, my three beautiful daughters would not breathe. For the life you have spared and brought into this world Tristan, I have sought to reward you.”

I didn’t quite know what to say. I never thought that I had radically changed my friends’ life, just provided suggestions and consultations when requested. “What kind of reward?” I ended up squeaking out.

His eyes death-grip-like stare ended, but now focused on the manila envelope he had given me earlier in the morning. “You can now open it my friend. I promise.”

I raised the envelope to be level near my stomach, above my lap. Carefully undoing the protective seal, I noticed only one piece of paper was in the entire package. I delayed, returning my eyes to Preissner who looked back into my eyes and gestured that this was not a game. With his second round of approval, I reached in and pulled out the paper.

‘To Lieutenant Colonel Tristan Schnack,’ I nodded, reading further down on the relatively scarcely filled piece of paper. ‘You are ordered to return to Berlin with haste and report directly to Generaloberst Friedrich Fromm, the commanding officer of the Reserve Army. Effective immediately you are now the Chief of Staff for Generaloberst Fromm.” I slowly placed the letter back into the envelope, all the while looking at Preissner. My face expressed the feeling that he did not have to repay me with such honors.

“Tristan, my friend, my savior; I have read your reports, they have not gone unnoticed to certain individual people and small but influential groups. I speak for one of these numerous groups,” he again delayed, for dramatic pause. “Tristan, you saved my life. Now you have a chance to save millions.”

I motioned him to stop, as he began repeating the last sentence about saving millions of lives.

An Ordered Affair

I had departed the plane twenty minutes prior, and was slowly being escorted by vehicle through the surprising crowded streets of Berlin. Rhiley sat to my right, amazed by the structure and layout of the city; though handfuls of buildings down each street were damaged. Sections of streets were deemed impassable because of the numerous amounts of debris or craters that riddled them. From the sides of the buildings, whether damaged or not, hung massive banners displaying the flag of the Third Reich. At the street corners pictures of the oddly missing Adolf Hitler were erected with an amusing motto: “He will protect us.”

Eerily I remembered my last visit to the capital and it appeared that the propaganda machine had not decreased; rather increased nearly tenfold. I was hesitant to ask the driver if the rumors were true, that the Führer still remained secluded within his bunker. With all buildings prominently displaying flags, and every other lamppost diligently holding two banners of a well dressed, proud looking Führer, the doubts I had been holding in the abyss began to resurface. Any right-minded person can only withstand so much disappointment and abuse before they realize the source of the problem. The thoughts of the Führer, who I felt partially responsible for the debacle occurring, could be saved. He had saved us before, and a part of me; however remote believed that with the right measures, he could himself be saved.

The driver occasionally darted around the debris and roaming patrols of soldiers as he sped us towards our final destination of Zossen. I had never been to the suburb city of the capital; which housed both the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and Oberkommando des Heeres. Rumors had radiated from my destination that both the High Command and the Army Command lacked cooperation, and there was no clear subordination; and a lack of coordination between the two. I had witnessed such disorganization a day after arriving at Warsaw. The divisional command structure had gathered and we debated which order to follow. Keitel from OKW wished for us to prepare for offensive immediately; while Halder from OKW urged us to stand fast and wait for reinforcements.

We arrived at a well camouflaged complex; that from the air I was told by the driver resembled a village. On the ground it was no ordinary village, as it was surrounded by guard posts, and varying degrees of perimeter protection. A quick glance at my orders along with a look at my identification sped us through the gates and on towards one of the buildings; there were twelve within the complex interlinked to a centralized bunker. I had been advised earlier by Preissner, that I would be able to meet with the appropriate parties at Maybach 1; which housed OKH.

We arrived to little fanfare, nobody waiting at the door to greet us. The driver unceremoniously got out of the vehicle and opened the door for Rhiley and myself, and stated that he would park the car, and return once called for. We casually walked up the bland few concrete steps to the entrance of the building; which was no more than a heavy wooden door. As we entered the building, I was humbled by the equally bland walls, there hung a flag of the state, but everything else was being packed. Dozens of soldiers equal to Rhiley’s rank were carrying documents, paintings and other furniture, waiting for trucks to arrive. Sadly it looked like the headquarters was preparing a retreat that it had forbade units under it from committing.

I casually asked one of the soldiers where General Fromm’s headquarters was located and was pointed to the direction down the immediate hall to our left. Rhiley and I walked the three dozen and a half steps to the door of his office. When we arrived I saw a through the half opened door a man in his late middle ages sifting through papers in the drawers of the desk. I stood by the door, uncomfortable to move in unless cleared to enter his temporary chamber.

“Ah,” said the man’s voice in a deep but startling tone. “I see the young Colonel I have requested has arrived. Please, come in Colonel.”

I motioned for Rhiley to remain at the door. He nodded that he understood his assignment. With my right hand I gently pushed the door the remaining way open. As I cleared the door’s angle, Fromm motioned with his hand to close the door; which I promptly executed. I walked towards his desk, bringing myself to a halt a foot and a half before it.

“Relax, relax,” he said, looking over me. I had grown accustomed to being addressed by senior officers over the numerous years of service. However, this situation was quite different. There was no training for being plucked from the warzone and thrown behind the lines. Then about to find one’s self in the midst of having control of hundreds of thousands, to millions of others. It did not ease my nerves, even though I strained to relax them, that Fromm began pacing from edge to edge of his desk.

“We both know why you are here Colonel. With that known, I am going to cut to the chase. I am in desperate need for a man who bucks the trend, and will not make friends with the other generals under both commands,” he came to a pause before picking back up four seconds later. “Colonel, Germany needs more officers like you. As I was looking over thousands of candidates to become my new Chief of Staff, none of them had repeatedly lodged inquires and suggestions to the degree you have. Under normal circumstances, a person of your character and border-line insubordination would not be given this chance. However, we both know that these are not normal circumstances. Is that right Colonel?”

“You are correct general,” I said briefly as possible, trying to hide the fact that I nearly swallowed my Adams apple during part of his speech.

Fromm came to a complete stop, behind his desk in vertical line with me. “I am be granting you nearly absolute control of the Reserve Army,” my eyes lit up with that revelation. “However,” he said at last, there always had to be some sort of catch. “I have chosen your adjutant; he is a young Oberleutnant by the name of Frank Ethereal von Wren. Go ahead and step out Wren,” he said. As if on queue, my new adjutant stepped out from a room to the side of Fromm’s office.

Into the Shadows

Fromm graciously dismissed both von Wren and me shortly after our formal introduction; mostly to my dismay. I thought that Fromm would be more interested in further briefing me to the necessities of performing my task as Chief of Staff. Nevertheless, my new adjutant and I followed our orders and left the room general’s room. Leaning against the wall opposite of the door was Rhiley, who raised his head to look up at the distraction caused by the opening door. His facial expression summed up the meeting; over so soon.

“Carry on,” were the first words out of my mouth, before even fully out of the room. Tradition is to be honored and I generally did not require family to perform the necessary military custom due to my rank; except when another officer was present with me. I generally pre-empted their required duty.

Rhiley went back to a relaxed position, though he did not lean against the wall now. “Lieutenant von Wren, this is Obergefreiter Rhiley Schnack, the personal driver of the Chief of Staff of the Reserve Army,” I said with a smile directed towards my nephew. “Rhiley, this is Lieutenant Frank von Wren, my adjutant assigned by General Fromm.” I turned my facial expression to the one that showed he was to be shown the full military customs; in turn Rhiley acknowledged with a barely noticeable nod of his head.

The two exchanged formalities; yet I believed von Wren knew more to the relationship than I had let on. He would eventually have to be formally notified; yet I decided to let him know at another time. An awkward moment followed for a handful of seconds before von Wren politely guided us through the halls and to the entrance of his office; a bit of way from Fromm’s. From the open door of Wren’s office the view inside was nothing of spectacular magnificence, only one portrait hung from the wall, and it was an unusual photo of the Führer before he came into power. I had seen it once before; countless years prior to our meeting; but never afterwards till then. Below the photo I noticed his desk, stacked full of papers and folders; of what material I could only imagine.

“Corporal,” he said rather bluntly. “The Colonel and I have some business to attend to, there is a desk and chair right there,” he said pointing to the desk that I didn’t notice as we were lead to my adjutant’s office.

I nodded to Rhiley, who had the expression on his face that he didn’t appreciate being ordered to in that tone. It would be something that I would have to adjust with my appointed colleague. I watched intently as I saw Rhiley at first stand still for another second before he backed away and moved towards the desk. He began the motion of lowering himself onto the chair as I was lead deeper into the relatively unknown room. Less than ten steps into the office I heard the door close. I gulped. I felt goose bumps on my arms, hidden luckily by the uniform. I had been lead into offices before, and had the door closed before me. It was a feeling that I never quite became comfortable with. Generally negative things are about to happen when one is lead into another person’s office and the door closes with a magnified thunder.

For Your Information

“Sit down, Colonel,” my adjutant said seconds after leading me into the room, he stood behind his desk; which unnerved me further. I looked at him; my movements were blatant and calculated. The eloquent dance of our eye contact carried on for an enduring seven seconds before he sat down and readjusted his green eyes to look straight into mine. “Colonel,” he repeated, “There is no easy way to say this.” He let out a long sigh that revealed he spoke the truth.

He unfolded his arms in a deliberately slow movement and placed his palms down on his desk, shoulders width apart from each other. “I am involved in a group of individuals who seek to procure victory in an alternative method.” He stopped; I had a hunch that there was more to my new aide’s involvement than he initially let alone. It was fairly obvious. The air of the room was filled with the scent of nervousness. I felt slightly more in control of the situation, though still bitterly uncomfortable for I didn’t see a clear resolution.

He read my face and continued on. “I have been involved in this conversation since before the betrayal by the Soviet Union. The groups’ determination to achieve victory has been accelerated by recent events. There are members within the group that seek to carry out our discussions before they have been fully vetted out. It is quite a predicament. I find myself in a terrible situation.” He almost started crying, his palms off the desk, and half way between his face and their previous position.

I maintained my eye contact with von Wren, but did not speak. I pondered the implications, the meaning of the massive revelation that would be a valuable asset to me. I could turn in my new assistant, and be handsomely rewarded by the regime. Yet deep down, there were unresolved issues. It was no secret; I had heard countless plots and rumored attempts to remove the Führer one way or another. The fate of these people was pre-determined it seemed, within a matter of days generally, the Gestapo announced that several dissident military personnel, civilians, foreign fugitives or a combination of both or all three were arrested and never heard from again.

My mind, my years of service under the Führer instantly came to mind. I had now sworn abided and lived by the oath to him for close to seven years. The terms of service under the Führer was heavily outweighed by my oath to the former Weimar Republic; which I had seen abolished and replaced by the very man my assistant sought to do away with. I had seen a monumental head of state figure removed before when I was still a teenager fighting in the first war. I recalled the disheartening moment when I had heard about the forced abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

I knew that like me, thousands of soldiers felt betrayed by the loss of the Kaiser, it was another injury to the insult that the war was being lost. I had grown up respecting the authority, the pomp and circumstance that the monarchy brought to the united Germany. Though my time under the direct service of the Kaiser’s military venture was short, mere months, I often reflected on those days when my youthful ambition got the best of me.

Though I knew the risk of removing a leader during a time of war and the consequences, I did not pursue the thought of arresting my assistant. Deep down, the feelings that I had suppressed often and with great difficulty at times were emerging with renewed vigor. I attempted to the best of my efforts to hide my feelings from my adjutant, but that was impossible. I looked him straight into the eyes.

“I am in.”

You Will Need This

An awkward silence had overcome us for a number of seconds before the uneasy moment came to an end and we resumed our conversation as if nothing had happened. “Your assistance will be greatly appreciated Herr Colonel,” he finally said. “I am confident that both of us can persuade the indifferent general to formally join the movement.”

I nodded in agreement, though slightly confused about who exactly was being discussed. Though a little bewildered by who was being referenced, I had pieced enough information together to assume that General Fromm was the target of von Wren’s sentence. When we had first met, Fromm did seem a little distraught, if not aloof of the situation.

“Colonel,” my adjutant said interrupting my mental recollection. “I believe you will need these documents.” I looked at him while he slid across a secured briefcase. “I have meticulously copied all vital pieces of information for you.”

I grabbed the briefcase, thinking how easy it would be to betray the group I had moments ago committed myself to. If I handed in the beyond credible and resolute information, how handsomely I would be rewarded for my service to the National Socialism cause. Deep down though, I no longer knew what the cause of National Socialism was. Was it a cause of ideology? Was it the cause for survival? If so, it didn’t take a political view point to see the situation and the writing on the wall. It was only a matter of time before the house of cards that the Führer had carefully erected would tumble down.

Now where did I see the conspiracy in this? It is hard to pinpoint what exactly I felt. There were a thousand emotions and thoughts racing through my brain as I ordained myself a traitor. I had begun the suspicion against the regime half-heartedly; often throwing what I described as immoral thoughts into what I hoped was a bottomless pit, where they would never re-emerge. I thought myself a noble soldier, one who followed the orders of the civilian leadership. I had obeyed under the Kaiser. I followed through the troubles of Weimar. I was uplifted by the revival brought by the Führer.

Yet for all this supportive feeling, my duty to protect Germany and its sworn leadership, I threw it away in a heartbeat when given the opportunity. I switched to more primal instincts, that of survival. I highly doubted the intentions of the absent Führer to protect the quickly crumbling Third Reich. Not much faith was placed towards his subordinates within the party and the highest echelons of the military. I had read, heard and privately discussed the failed attempts on Hitler’s life before which had been most conducted by individuals with little backing. These plans, anybody with half a parcel of intelligence could see, would ultimately all fail. Yes, Hitler may be filled in the attack, but his subordinates would remain; thus the failure of any plot to kill the Führer.

“Often in order to restore balance or integrity to what needs fixed, that very object must be completely purged and begun a new,” is a quote my grandfather and father would often say. I had heard it a thousand times, repeated it to junior officers, younger family members and other soldiers hundreds of times. Yet, I never truly understood the meaning of it until the very moment I accepted the offer into the conspiracy. In order to save what I held dearest, I would have to bring about its destruction and rebuild it. Not only must Hitler die, the appointed people, his favorites, his lackeys, would have to follow their leader’s suit.

“Excuse me sir,” interrupted my subordinate, who saw I had, at least in his mind, spaced off.

“Yes?” I asked in a semi-startled voice.

“You will need this,” he handed me an unmarked vanilla folder. I thought for a moment, a bit puzzled by what he was handing me. Hadn’t he handed me everything in the briefcase just moments ago? “…encryption key,” is all I heard from his sentence.

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Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR

Chapter 5
Preparing for the End - Surprise at the End - The End Approved - Counting Time - A Time to Sign

Preparing for the End

Six days had passed since the unceremonious appointment to the Chief of Staff of the Third Reich. Every day alive within the crumbling Reich felt like an eternity that quickly wore on one’s soul and well-being. The deterioration of the morale of our soldiers, on the home front was miserable; ironically their morale was lower than the soldiers on the frontline. One would think that the relentless Soviet bombardment and horde of tanks would weigh heavier on the fiber of the soldiers. However; the uncertainty of when one would be transferred to the meat grinder; the uncertainty of if one would make it through another day alive weighed more heavily. I remember, an enlisted veteran within my division once told me that they were already here and already dead.

Having experienced both the realities of the Eastern Front; however briefly the life as an already lost soul was, I set to work immediately after my traitorous meeting with von Wren. The premise of our days, often traversing well into the night, objective was for the survival of the Third Reich. Given the current circumstances, we dealt with pressing demands within the conspiracy for the immediate removal of the Führer. While the removal of Adolf Hitler was a desirable objective, given the current situation I protested such actions. Even though I personally had lost faith within the Führer, millions of others held a strong almost godlike relationship with him. If that were to be severed, I argued, there would arguably be no desire to continue on fighting.

Though ending the war was another primary objective of the conspiracy, it was rather unrealistic given the present obligations. I highly doubted for whatever reason the Soviet Union launched its aggression; it would back down without dominance of the entire country. Much to the objection of our fellow conspirators, von Wren, who I had to persuade over to my viewpoints set up a series of requirements for our proposed operation. Though the language would be vague, the intentions were clear. The Reich would buy itself precious time.
Firstly, we decided that the Third Reich would keep its forces currently engaged wherever possible against those who sought to bring about the end of the government. All engaged forces would receive commands through normal procedures and special orders would be determined by the Chain of Command; which would include the very office that wrote the operation.

Secondly, the Third Reich would re-assess the established relationship with its allies in the war. The level of forces would be determined to a new level, with great consideration to the preservation of the relationship between both countries. The Reich appreciated the value that its partners had displayed in the trying times, and sought to continue to fight for and with Hungary, Romania, Italy and Finland.

Though brief in intentions, the document we worked over was expansive at five pages long, littered with vague tidbits of information. The third objective; we sought to circumvent the problem of the Führer. Thus the language was overly vague and offered no specifics. Hidden out of view of the Führer, who would eventually have to review and approve the outline of the operation, were the facts of the situation. Without quick and resolute action, there would be no Third Reich for the Führer.

Surprise at the End

One entire twenty-four hour period passed between when the plan von Wren and I had completed and the time I received an officer summoning me to the Führer’s headquarters. The drive to the Führer’s headquarters within the Reichschancellery was non descriptive. Though the trip was my first to the Chancellery, the streets were flowered with banners promising victory, that the Führer himself would protect the Fatherland until the end. I was a bit impressed upon arriving at the entrance to the Chancellery, the building was intact and any minor damage sustained during air raids seemed to be repaired overnight. The suspicion of that allegation, the leadership favoring itself over the people, haunted me and deepened my questionable resolve to the conspiracy.

The steps of the Reichschancellery were rather empty except for a handful of Waffen Schutzstaffel personnel; which in retrospect numbered close to a dozen. The vehicle I rode in, a Kübelwagen, came to an almost parallel stop to the entrance of the building. The driver, Rhiley, had recently taken to his new task of being my personal assistant – which seemed a logical fit; I was to keep him safe. There were not many safe military positions within the Reich. This seemed to fit. I would have a trusted assistant, and fulfill my obligation to my sole surviving brother. Though he was a little unfamiliar with the streets of Berlin, in time I was sure he would get use to them.

After bringing the Kübelwagen to a halt, I noticed that Rhiley halted for a moment, still becoming accustomed to the task of being the assistant. He opened his door before he youthfully walked over to door nearest me and opened it. The young man that I had rescued from the clutches of destruction had without a doubt been completely revitalized; though we both found ourselves in different environment. Yet, we still faced the same inevitable fate of the previous fronts: death. It was rather peculiar. Rhiley had a different view of death, one that I would have to explore.

I began the long trudge up the steps of the Reichschancellery for the first of what I was sure to be many times. My pace could easily be outmatched by my nephew, whose vitality and attitude far exceeded mine. I had lost my innocence in the forests of France, in a time well before Rhiley’s. I had earned the right to mope around; to weigh the options before acting; to preserve myself. Long ago I thought myself invincible; those days had long been proven nothing but a fantasy. The guards at the top of the stairs would have to wait; just another old man was taking his time. The world was spinning around faster and faster, yet we old men move at the same pace.

As I approached the top of the steps, one of the guards instinctively opened the left door of the Reichschancellery. Meanwhile a second guard approached me with a questioning face. I had been told to expect this, the Führer’s personal guards were rumored to have had all conscious thought removed and to be completely indoctrinated into the National Socialist cause. With my left hand, I brushed aside the light jacket and reached into its pocket, revealing a paper that stated I had been summoned to discuss the Reserve Army’s latest proposals.
The young guard, I couldn’t recognize his rank by looking at the insignia, looked at my papers with great intent. After providing scrutinizing; which took remarkably less than ten seconds, I was free to go. “The guard inside will escort you to the Führer himself,” he said with no human emotion.

“Thank you,” I politely said, doing the best to hide my surprise. “The Führer?” I questioned to myself. I was going to prepare Hitler himself about the plan? I had not planned for this. We had not planned for this. I had to remind myself that I would have to keep pace with the guard; I should not allow my nervousness to show. I would have to adapt. I would have to survive. I could not be old.

The End Approved

I stood as calm as possible, hiding my extreme nervousness with what I felt was an inadequate performance. Standing as still as possible, I watched with great intensity as the pages of the folder I had previously surrendered where carefully read and flipped through. He seemed read at a hurried pace, often then slowing down to savor on the details before again resuming at remarkable speed. I grew more worried every time I saw him slow down; a feeling of certain death would preside over the pits of my stomach. Whenever he returned to what I would learn was his standard speed, I felt easier about the situation.

The immense tension of the room was felt before I even entered into the Führer’s presence; as a dozen of his personal guards, the Schutzstaffel Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler guarded the hall and entrance to the room where I presently stood. The soldiers that watched over the Führer at moment of my arrival were the embodiment that the National Socialist’s had been preaching about since their coming to power. Their intimidation did not make the situation easier; and only unnerved me more. I was an unarmed officer who had grudging walked into the lion’s den. I was nothing more than a morsel of meat, either to be eaten with great haste to satisfy urgent hunger or savored until there was no more of me to enjoy.

The youthful, eagerly ready to carry out the Führer’s will bodyguards were not enough pressure upon my beleaguered spirit; the room was filled with the inner circle of Hitler’s cadre. Heinrich Himmler stood behind and to the right of the Führer, dressed in a stark black uniform that most likely had never seen a spec of dirt. Opposite of Himmler stood the always sinister looking Joseph Goebbels; the minister of Propaganda and Hitler’s often praised right hand man. Off to the side, I saw the ever succulent, the morphine addicted Herman Göring; the nominal head of the Luftwaffe who had been relatively sidelined by the poor performance since the Soviet’s betrayal.

Sitting at a collection of wooden chairs surrounding a wooden table sat the Generals Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, the commanders of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. Among them were a group of other officers, who I had never met before, as far as I could recollect. If I had, their names and positions were unfamiliar, for the important and necessary personnel were always easily remembered. The majority of the people within this room, barring the unknowns, were targets of the conspiracy, deemed the essential parts of the Third Reich. Without them, the Reich, the conspiracy assumed, would crumble and be able to fall from an orderly coup.

I waited patiently, though as time passed each second and minute began to speed by ever so slowly. Reviewing von Wren through my peripheral vision; he stood to my right; he was beginning to show the same signs of fatigue as I. He had arrived at the Chancellery by other means; summoned to a meeting of the civilian counterparts of the conspiracy. The position of attention can be grueling over a great period of time; which is only compound by the fact that one is in hostile territory.

As we drew ever closer to the breaking point Himmler broke from a near huddle around the Führer and approached our position. With him drawing closer, the pressure raised and I noticed an officer, with the same style uniform as Himmler’s, within the group unknowns’ rise and make pace with his apparent boss. The thought of Himmler taking time to stop and either lecture us, congratulate us, or shoot us on the spot was rather intriguing. Yet nothing came to pass, as he casually strolled past us, on his way out of the room. He had barely passed what had to be a step or two behind us and I heard a vague mention about Reinhardt Heydrich. I had never met the man yet, but there were rumors of his ruthless that I had been let in the loop on.

The doors closed behind us, with hardly a sound; which sent a shiver down my spine. I began to recover as quickly as possible as I noticed General Keitel shift from his discussion with Alfred Jodl and walked over the Führer. The words they exchanged were inaudible from our distance; yet even if we were closer, Keitel had whispered into Hitler’s ear. Hitler calmly collected himself, and took the folder that Keitel had extended in his right hand. The Führer turned towards our direction; which instantly sent us to the most attentive state. I mustered enough willpower to present a correct Nazi salute; or face the suspicion of the Führer.

“Ah,” he seemed to mumble at first. In his right hand he carried our document outlining or vocabulary-laden but vague in detail plans. There was a slight twitch in his hand; which was a bit uncharacteristic of Hitler, from what I had heard. Yet; not much was known about how the betrayal had scarred his mental and physical state. He traded positions of the folder, moving it to his left hand and hid his right hand behind his back.

He looked at the folder one, giving it a righteous stare; which baffled me. I was unsure what to fully expect. I half thought guards were moving towards our position, ready to lead us away from the Führer and into one of the many holding destinations for traitors of the state. “Who came up with the name?” he finally asked rather casually.
I looked at von Wren, who looked back at me; neither of us had expected this question. “Mein Führer, the name, Mūspilli, comes from Hauptmann Lügner who was the mastermind behind the grand vision laid out before you,“ I said, breaking the awkward and unnecessary silence between the Führer and ourselves.

The Führer nodded. “You can advise Hauptmann Lügner that Operation Mūspilli has been approved,” he said before quickly turning himself away from our direction. We performed the necessary salute again and began the long, grinding walk out of the Chancellery. At any moment the Führer could change his mind and that would be the end of Operation Mūspilli, our lives, and the Reich.

Counting Time

The meeting, the endless torture of standing in front of the very men we sought to eradicate was over. The targets could not read our faces, and that indication was clear as they approved Operation Mūspilli. Though an overwhelming feeling remained within my conscious, what if the conspiracy was being played? No matter how much I tried to suppress the thought, as we exited the den of the wolf, it remained an ever present characteristic. The Führer did not seem the type to play the plot out until the end; rather he went for the summarization and ended it when he pleased. Those who dared oppose him were dealt a swift and decisive blow; mercy was not an attribute that would ever be mastered.
How von Wren and I exited the Chancellery without raising suspicion was beyond luck; it was near incomprehensible and bordering impossible. As we exited the vast building, the steps of the Chancellery never felt so liberating; regardless of the fact an additional contingent of guards had arrived. In the streets, the stares of a thousand soldiers looked upon the building, as if casting a shadowy doubt over us. Ever so diligently, yet at a pace of a tortoise they marched through the streets of Berlin. An eerily silence had fallen over the city; yet clanking of soldiers boots against the streets provided a chilling ambiance.

“Silence is to death as ambiance is to life,” von Wren said softly, so the ever attentive guards who were still within ear-shot did not hear. The words were never so true.
We continued at a hurried but normal looking pace down the endless steps towards the Kübelwagen that we had arrived in. I noticed the door open at out stepped a mysterious looking figure, before I adjusted my eyes by closing and re-opening them. A silent sigh calmed the overstressed nerves. Rhiley unfurled himself from the vehicle and waited patiently for a few more seconds.

We were now within safe distance from the guards at the top of the stairs to the Chancellery. The soldiers that marched past us still continued their dutiful act without the questioning appearance present on their face. They were shrouded by a mask. I had worn that mask a thousand plus times; it had become an almost daily task throughout the realities of the world.
“They march one last time; before all that is wrong forces them to depart. Taught to think that they are in the right, and it is all that they will do. It pains to look at them, yet every single time it happens, the thunderous cheers outweigh the questioning demeanor. I know their fate is beyond certain – far away from here; out of reach the loving family and nurturing touch of mother. There is no choice, the volume increases louder and louder, but with each step they move slower and slower.”

“Where they are going; their voices will not be heard by those who they love. The only souls beside them will be the comrades of similar fate. The intensity will grow beyond imagination, and the screams will grow softer until they cannot be heard. There is without a doubt that those eyes that they left home with will never be the same. There is minuscule hope that they will returned unscathed by physical means. It will be near impossible to do, it is better to surrender to reality and just say goodbye.” I cried as I swore I saw my oldest brother Anton within the column of despair. I held my father’s hand with my left, my mother clasping my right. I never parted my lips to utter the dreaded words of reality: ‘Good bye.’

A Time to Sign

The room was packed with the intensity of situation; we were herded into a small office of the War Ministry, affectionately known as Bendlerblock. Books seemed to overflow from their shelves, which surrounded the room except for a small window that overlooked onto Bendlerstraße and the wooden door we had passed through. There was an eerie silence that filled the room. The best way to describe the scene was one of suspicion. The bustling halls, overfilled conference rooms and stuffed to the brim desks were an immense contrast on what was about to transpire.

I sat comfortably in a small black leathered sofa, about four feet away from a small wooden table. At the table sat two figures I had instantly recognized the moment I came into the room. Nearest me sat Generaloberst Ludwig Beck, the former Chief of the General Staff before he was replaced by the Führer and retired. Farthest and directly across the table from Beck sat General Friedrich Olbricht, the current Chief of the General Army Office at Oberkommando des Heeres. I had heard rumors before that from his lofty apartment; Beck directed his intelligence network to overthrow Hitler. Rumors often have some truth to them if enough dirt is dug up.

Hiding out in a corner of the room sat a man I believe I had met once before a long time ago. I believe we had met in Berlin once, for a conference about the motorization of the Army. It had taken awhile before it dawned on me. I had read his name before not even a week earlier: von Tresckow. He was mentioned as the Chief of Staff of the 2nd Army; which was assigned to safeguard the ruined city of Warsaw. The world is rather small and it is not truly remarkable when you run into somebody from the past.

The non-descriptive door that I had walked through a mere three minutes prior opened. I suppressed the urge to reach for the trusted Luger; though it is difficult. There was an almost unbearable feeling that at any moment, this being one of the most opportunistic available, that black trench coated men would burst through the door and arrest us. I could never fully reassure myself that there would perhaps be some forewarning from the venerable and steadfast friendship Preissner and I had. There was always reasonable concern that one would break under the right circumstances; it was just a matter of finding that point.

Before the door closed, my fears were quelled by the appearance of Colonel von Quirnheim, the Chief of Staff to General Olbricht. Two seconds passed after his entrance and the door closed. The tension within the stuffed room did not escape, but rather subdued to tolerable levels. The deafening silence remained; if a mouse were present his teeny-tiny footsteps would be heard.

I watched with interest as von Quirnheim took a seat, he had earlier given me instructions to this room. He had mentioned he would be the last one in the room, and the meeting would begin after he arrived. I began counting the seconds till somebody would begin the meeting. There was no true hurry for wanting to depart the room; outside of the fact of escaping arrest with my fellow conspirators. Escaping would be rather pointless, there was nowhere to escape to; I would be arrested before even contemplating the plan to flee.
“General Beck, we are all gathered here,” von Quirnheim said in a matter of fact tone.

The aging and well respected Beck turned his head to look at von Quirnheim and nodded. He turned back and looked at Olbricht. With the briefest of pauses, Beck pushed his seat back and stood up. “I am humbled by the fact that the resistance movement continues to grow. The masquerade of the National Socialists has been revealed for what it is. I am pleased that we welcome another powerful addition to the movement,” he paused while smiling at me.

Beck unceremoniously returned to where he had previously been sitting. I slowly took a big gulp attempting to swallow any fear to the bottom of my gut. Satisfied after three attempts calming I stood up and let out a miniscule forced smiled. “Gentlemen, I am going to be blunt. This,” I began the second sentence as I brought out the vanilla folder, containing detailed, true, copies of Operation Mūspilli. “This, plan, approved by Hitler, will save Germany. There is no easy way to put this but we bring about the appearance of defeat. An order to perform tactical withdraws to predetermined defensive locations is necessary and was hard for me to swallow.” I stopped, sensing the same hesitation in the room that von Wren and I had when we crafted the plan.

“Colonel Schnack, this is daring and near impossible to imagine. What are you basing your assertions on?” rang out General Olbricht.

“Reality, General. It is pure, simple and the cold truth.” I paused for a moment, recollecting a thought; thinking of the distant and near pass. “Did the Russians cease their relentless assaults in 1920? How about in the Winter War? They will not cease their attack here. It is imperative that we do not seek to hold useless positions that will withstand barely a day’s worth of intense combat.”

Olbricht’s face turned a shunned red, I did not mean such an insult, but the truth is not kind. “The Colonel is correct,” Beck said with the speed of a tortoise. “His family name brings great consideration that we must take into account. It is wise to draw the enemy in, closer and closer, no matter how painful and nerve wracking the scene. Once drawn close enough, the Soviets will be facing their own reality of overextended logistics and our superiority.”

I nodded in agreement; General Beck was wise beyond his age. It is rather ironic that Hitler, who had forced the General’s resignation in 1938, was being saved by the same man. “Colonel, there is one minor issue,” Beck said interrupting the moment. “The order must come from Hitler himself?”

I took a deep breathe, knowing this moment instantly refilled the tension in the room. “Yes.”

“How will that happen?” I felt the eyes of the entire room staring into the deepest parts of my soul.

I reached into the briefcase I had brought with me; which had been resting on the floor next to where I sat. I handed it to Beck. I intently followed his eyes, saying in my mind what he was reading: ‘Operation Mūspilli is now in effect, all units are to abide by the orders laid out and any additional orders that are to be received under the codename aforementioned operation’s name. The Führer, Adolf Hitler, signed.’ I witnessed Beck’s jaw drop when reading the signature.

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Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR

Chapter 6
A Trip Down Memory Lane

A Trip Down Memory Lane - The First Impression - A State of Reality - Fifty Shades of Friendship

Slowly I had become accustomed to the city of Berlin. During the day the near constant humming of aircraft circling above filled the air. At night no light escapes from the blackened and closed windows. It was difficult to adjust to the stark realities of the capital. Life was vibrant and fulfilling, the populace moving around as if the war was not occurring. Though the moment the sun began to set, the streets became deserted, and only the bravest of civilians dared to venture out. When they did, they did not walk, but sprinted between destinations.

The streets were not a safe place at night. Crime was not a major issue, and had seen dramatic reductions since the beginning of the war. Once the sunset, lights were extinguished and would not return until dawn – including headlights. The avenues of mobility became anything but; as most civilians had abandoned their vehicles in favor of walking or bicycles. At times my interest would be drawn to a civilian who would skillfully drive around the dozens of parked military vehicles and check points. The majority of vehicles I did see, where not the state-sponsored Volkswagen’s but rather the stylish, luxurious cars.

“Colonel, sir,” said a soft toned voice that carried a hint of love.

I withdrew from the dreamy state of watching out the window and turned to the origin. I smiled, “Yes, Rhiley?”

He turned his face away from mine and peered out the window into the blackness. He took a quick glance of no more than two seconds before turning his head back. “I believe we are here.”

I peered through the driver’s window as best as I could. “I believe you are right.” I reached for the black as night briefcase that resided in the backseat of the Kübelwagen. With it secured in the grasp of my arm I began to bring it forward and prepare for departure from the vehicle. My eyes stopped at my nephew, who had played an intricate part in the past few days; though he did not care to admit it. His father would be proud about the plan his son had set in motion; yet at the same time would be rightfully frightened by the action.

Rhiley’s innocence was a one to admire and made one wonderer what truly went on behind the veil he obviously put on. His eyes showed that he had progressed from those sullen days of Cherbourg; though I doubt he would ever return to normal in this current environment. He was not a soldier; nor a driver, though he took the latter more comfortably than the former. The mask he so cleverly kept intact hid him well, I could not describe what he truly wanted to be. At times he seemed never to be quite there; yet could accurately remember and describe what happened as if it were yesterday.

“Did you’re father ever tell you about the car he bought?” I asked trying to make the question sound rather random.

Rhiley’s face showed signs of bewilderment. “You mean the Volkswagen?”

I sighed. “He never told you then. I’m kind of not surprised.” I thought it over for a moment. “I guess I can share the story, since I am a part of it.” With those words Rhiley returned his hand from off the door handle to a more relaxed position.

“Well, Philip was just about to turn 3; you had already turned the month before. Alessandra’s second birthday was about a month off and Sebastian wasn’t born yet. You were all too young to remember,” I said with a wicked looking smile. “Has he shared much about our brother Anton?” I asked wiping the smile from my face, and in a more somber tone.
“Kind of,” he said after a long drawn out pause. “He is your older brother right?” Rhiley looked as if he was quickly flipping through a hundred pages in a scrap book, trying to find more memoires of his departed, never known in person uncle.

“Yes, he is our older brother. He died in the middle of the last war, at Verdun,” I added the last two words more somberly and cryptic than the preceding ones. “I recall those dark days; when both Anton and Josef were fighting in the war while I was at home, too young to participate. The tears mother and father cried that day still live to this day; and are shared. I did not bother to eat that night the news came, and don’t think I ate till after noon the next day. A week later the house was filled again with tears; but we did not mourn another death. Josef had sent us a letter, saying he was alive and well. It is…difficult,” I said trying to wrap it up before I would become too emotional.

Rhiley could notice I was holding my emotions in check, yet he did not interrupt. “Anton had always wanted to go to Berlin, us three as brothers,” and paused to cherish the memory I had elaborately crafted of what the trip would have been like with him there. “When you’re father and I returned from the war we didn’t feel right about going to Berlin, we said maybe next year. Nineteen-nineteen came and we did not go, for the memory was still too painful. We kept pushing the date back, hoping next year would be the year. We were prepared to go in June of 1923; yet the blessings that is life would delay the trip another year. Finally, we went to Berlin in 1926, the 8th year after Anton’s death.”

My nephew nodded in approval of the tale, he had never heard it. In his eyes I sensed that while interested, the story was intruding on important time. Indeed, there were matters at hand; we had driven through the darkened streets for a reason. “Rhiley,” I said before rethinking what I was about to say. “You’re father and I arrived to the city by train. When we returned, we arrived by car,” I said rather ominously.
He caught my drift. “Who bought the car?”

I smirked. “Technically, grandfather did as his signature is on the paperwork.”

“Who signed it?”

“You’re father,” I replied bluntly, not going with the option of saying Josef and I had dared each other to fake our father’s signature. We had had our competitions to forage our parent’s signatures when we were younger. Josef had always won hands down.

“So that’s where I get it.” He smiled at me which triggered me to nod in confirmation.

The First Impression

I was going to eventually become accustomed to walking up the steps of the guarded Reichschancellery. One of the many responsibilities as Chief of Staff of the Reserve Army would be my frequent visits to the helm of the Third Reich. I would be guided through the winding corridors, past the charade of victory and into the stuffiness of a conference room. Often the meetings were conducted by Keitel and Jodl, and on one rare occasion the Führer blessed us with his infamous tirade, before collecting his temper only to lose it a minute later. I had only seen him once since he provided initial approval of Operation Mūspilli.

Every time I maneuvered myself from the Kübelwagen, and slowly began the ascent to the peak of the mountain of madness, there was a feeling uncertainty. I wasn’t quite sure which sure which polar opposite emotion was more prevalent whenever I did this familiar dance. I could never rid myself of the thoughts that the climb would be my last for I would either be found as a traitor to the Third Reich summarily executed or caught up in some other fools plot to assassinate Hitler. Death, though impossible to avoid, is an experience that is best left until the individual has lived to accomplish satisfaction for what they have done.

The experiences of the Reichschancellery were never easy and were in fact compounded by company. My adjutant, Von Wren, was often by my side when we arrived. His experience within the conspiracy was vital; he was in essence a powerful force behind the scenes. His death though painful would not be the most excruciating to bear. On rare occasions, such as tonight, Rhiley had not only driven me to the gates of the hell, but he would venture through the circles with me. I would never forgive myself if I were to be the cause of my nephew’s death. I would be no better than the Nazis. There is no counsel in the fact that without Rhiley’s unique abilities with the pen, we would not be where we would at this very moment. With the stroke of a pen, he had elevated himself to equal status amongst us – all guaranteed certain death if caught. Yet, I had made a promise to safeguard him. A promise is meant to be upheld to the end, no matter how difficult it may become to honor agreed upon terms.

Through the main door of the Reichschancellery, any individual would confront a world that seemed beyond comprehension. On the outside, the city that contained the building was teetering with something close to life, and a sense of hope; however faint. On the inside it was a complete reversal. I witnessed several tables occupied over capacity, beer, and food amongst the fine dinner ware and resting heads graced the tables. Soldiers, regardless of rank, had their tunics loose and unbuttoned.

I had known this scene two decades prior, it was all too familiar. Our lines had been shattered, and we had just arrived an hour prior to a new position and a runner ran up ordering a status report to be delivered to headquarters. I accompanied the messenger back to regimental headquarters, a lavish looking cottage brimming as if no war had been going on. Upon entering the cottage, I rendered my salute and instead of receiving the expected response was offered to drink and feast to my stomachs content. I stood there repulsed as I was now, but unable to act. Through the corner of my eye, I could see a general surrounded by other officers drunk, washing their memories of yesteryear away as they had done back at scenes similar to the cottage.

Rhiley and I walked through the halls of decadence, unable to confront the situation. I looked back over my right shoulder futility; I knew it would be frivolous to rectify what we had seen. Since the incident in the cottage, over twenty four years prior, I had vowed to stand against what I had seen that very day. Yet, the situation required inaction. Here in the Reichschancellery, as in the cottage, I would have been rebuked and laughed away.

A mere two minutes transpired between the scenes of the entrance before we stood before a familiar door, which bore a gold-plated reading: ‘Adolf Hitler’. I had failed to recognize the guard that stood at attention. Directing my attention towards him, I saw no signs of alcohol present; he did not carry the stench of his comrades. I do not know if he wished to simply be a part of the drunken stupor of defeatism or perhaps he followed his duty to a letter.

“Colonel Schnack, you can proceed. You are being expected.”

I nodded at the guard while positioning myself to move. As I twisted the door handle with my left hand I motioned for Rhiley to remain back with the guard. Through the expanding area between the door and its frame, I could begin to make out a figure sitting behind the desk at the far side of the room. I briefly analyzed who it was and knew the man I was about to meet was not the Führer.

“Ah, there you are Herr Schnack. I have been expecting you for quite a while now,” he said in a voice that registered as beyond sinister and deep toned.

I continued to close the distance between the speaker and myself. As I came within ten feet of the desk, I watched as the man moved from behind the desk and rendezvoused with me barely four feet in front of the desk. His name escaped me; I had heard him mentioned at least once before.

“It is really a great honor to finally meet a living member of the heroic Schnack family,” he said, looking me straight into my eyes as he extended his right arm out for a handshake. Swallowing my discomfort and having been accustomed to the tale of my surname, I embraced his hand. Near instantly I felt the man try to exert a greater pressure on my own hand, only to quickly relent and loose his grip as I did not flinch.

The man took a few steps back, as I was still trying to place a name to him. “Herr Schnack, I do apologize for the misunderstanding. I know you expected the Führer, but he is rather occupied at the moment.”

“I completely understand,” I said trying to sound legitimately sympathetic. “Is there perhaps another time for when our meeting can be scheduled?”

The man’s eyes moved downwards as if he had an invisible copy of Adolf Hitler’s schedule in front of him. “Unfortunately, the Führer is rather busy for the next few days. Is it perhaps something I can assist you with?”

I struggled to take a normal breathe, what I was about to do was an enormous gamble. “Perhaps you can,” I began as I reached into the briefcase for the vanilla envelope carrying the intended to be implemented copy of Operation Mūspilli. “Here it is. The other day Hauptmann Lügner forgot to give me this document to deliver to the Führer. I figured during our meeting I would hand it to him.”

The man nodded. “What is in the document?”

“Orders that have already been approved the Führer, just minor revisions from the previous version.”

“I will make sure he gets it, Herr Schnack.”

“Thank you,” I began, before realizing I still did not know his name. I kept my mouth open as if I was going to say another word.

“My apologies Herr Schnack, the name is Martin Bormann, I am the Führer’s private secretary.”

“Thank you Herr Bormann,” I said while reaching my hand for a handshake. With the handshake completed I gracefully walked away from the battlefield as quickly as possible while appearing normal.

“Until we meet again, Herr Schnack,” said Bormann when I was three steps away from the door.

As I opened the door, I said in a lower than normal tone, but still audible, “It is Colonel.”

A State of Reality

Rhiley and I had made our way back to the war ministry that night and settled into non-descript rooms that contained a bed, a few books on a nightstand and nothing much else. The rest of the night and into the early hours passed without event until the sound of a knock at my door woke me. Sleepily I mustered underneath the covers fumbling to remember which arm the unimportant watch remained on. ‘Nine thirty three,’ I read, alarmed that I had slept in this late. I could not remember exactly when I had last slept in. I remember after I had returned to my parents from the first war, nearly a fortnight passed before I slept through a night without having the reaction to reach for my rifle or pistol.

Another knock came not even a second after I had registered the time. I delayed, trying to understand if where I was real. I felt stiff, and as if I had been transported back from another reality. “Uhh,” I garbled in a half grunt half spoken word.

The response did not foil another knock at the door, its volume increased tenfold from the previous. “Tristan,” softly said the female voice.

Without hesitation and at ease I dozed away. “Mom,” I replied, having finally gathered my whereabouts from the first restful sleep in ages. The door handle twisted causing it to become unlatched. My eyes gazed at my beautiful mother as she made her way into the bedroom, filling it with her magnificent grace and radiant light. “I’m so glad to see you mom,” I softly said with the biggest smile on my face possible.

She returned the smile as she came closer to the bed before sitting on its edge. “Good morning sweetie,” her smile growing in both beam and length. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes,” I said without delay or any tone to indicate otherwise. “I did not dream of the war.” I had often woken up every hour to two hours at most in a cold sweat, the images of seeing slain brothers fall before my eyes, artillery shells landing perilously close, and deathly screams ringing throughout my ears.

“That is good sweetie,” she reassured me as she ran left hand’s fingers through my crew-cut hair. “I am going to start making breakfast. Go ahead and rest some more, I will wake you when it’s ready.”

I watched as my mother got up from the side of my bed and walked out of the bedroom, the same one I had occupied before the war, and closed the door. Within a matter of seconds I had returned to sleep.

“Tristan,” said another feminine sounding voice. “Tristan,” repeated the speaker who I recognized as I woke up from a second sleep. “Isn’t he beautiful?”

I looked across the bed and saw my gorgeous wife, her hair worn straight down behind her back. Her beautiful, magnificently sized brown eyes looking down at about the foot of space between our bodies. I instantly recognized who the he she referred to was.

“Yes, our dear Philipp is beautiful,” I said as I stared at him, his little fingers tightly holding onto his little blanket my mother had made for his birth. “He has his mother’s eyes,” I smiled at my precious Christina.

She replied with a beaming smile of her own. “And his father’s hair.”

“For now, we will have to see if he keeps it.”

Her smile turned into a grin. “Ah, yes. How could I forget? My love is the one blonde haired person in his family for generations,” her fingers gracing the mentioned subject.

I slowly touched the forearm of Christina’s arm that was running through my hair, and ran my hand up to her shoulder before running it back down. Her hand and my hand meet above the sleeping beauty’s face. “I will always protect you, and Philipp.”

She leaned in for a kiss, which I anticipated and did not disappoint. “I know you will my love.” We kissed again. “I will take care of him for a few hours dear. Go ahead and sleep, you’ve been up with him all night.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes,” she said as she puckered her lips for a third kiss.

“I love you,” I said after the kiss. With the kiss over I lowered my head back onto the pillow and prepared for hopefully a few more hours of shuteye.

Before I closed my eyes I watched as Christina crept out from underneath the covers and gracefully picked up the unaware Philipp and cradled him in her arms. “Sleep well my love,” she said as she closed the door to the bedroom.

I closed my eyes and within seconds of the door closing and before a minute passed felt the unconscious state taking hold.

From the distance I could see smoke rising from a ruined panzer. It appeared to be heavily damaged, with at least two shells having penetrated its armor. It looked as if it had been ambushed, and did not stand a chance in hell against its opponents. I felt my legs compelling my closer to the ruined hulk of metal though my mind remained horrified and hell-bent on avoiding the scene. I could not overcome the divine-like control over my body, and soon recognized the tank.

“By God’s name,” I said aloud, though nobody else was around me. “That’s a panzer, Mark IV,” I paused, trying to remember the rest. “Ausf E or Ausf F1,” still not exactly sure I knew which variant was destroyed. I was still unaware of the differences between the machines of war our soldiers fought with, even though Sebastian had tried to inform me of the differences in letters.

The panzer’s hatch was open, indicating it seemed that the crew had tried to escape. The smell of death ruled out the fact that they had survived the ordeal and shared their vehicles fate. The stench of gunpowder, burning gasoline, oil, human flesh and hair, was unique, one that I had never had the pleasure to experience all at the same time during the first war. There is no sadness in admitting it; I had once become dehumanized to the reality that the carnage brought. I did not realize this until well after the end of the first war, and when the reality became manifested, I was horrified that I had become no better than a monster, one who did not seem to place any or little value on life.

I walked around the tank and noticed a crewman’s arm, most likely the gunner, was penetrating out of the hatch. My humanity turned on as I saw the first true signs of lifeless bodies. I did not pour out into open emotion, but grimaced at the thought that the entire crew had been slaughtered without even the remote chance of a fair fight. I rounded the corner of the tank, and broke into a sprint for three feet and fell to my knees and hands.

“Oh my…this can’t be!” The tears became like oceans from my eyes, violently pouring down my cheeks and crashing into the ground forming standing pools of water. “How in God’s name? Why!” I barely gathered the both the physical and emotional strength necessary to confirm what my mind already knew.

I fell to the side of the lifeless corpse, a handful of bullet holes in the chest. His panzer commander’s insignia still proudly displayed. I had failed. I had broken a promise. I had forgotten the stark truth, while embracing another. I was a father in name only.

I closed my eyes, and contemplated a thousand thoughts racing through as if trying to set a new land speed record. “Father, this does not have to happen. It can all be prevented. You must not hesitate, you cannot take no for an answer. You must be creative, and work outside and inside the structure. You must work secretly, but not alone. We cannot fail,” the male voice said before it faded and I blacked out from an overdose of emotion.

I felt like I had been asleep for hours on end before I woke up stiff but in a very familiar yet unusual setting. From the distance I could make out the buildings of Norddeich, hazed over by a late winter fog. I surveyed the surrounding for an adequate five minutes, waiting to spot anything I deemed unusual. After the sense of survival was satisfied, I began creeping between tree to tree, rock from rock, meticulously covering the distance between myself and the town’s outskirts.

Ten minutes passed before I had crept within ear shot of the town, and hid myself within a snow-filled ditch. I slowly raised my head up before halting its ascent as a voice pierced the cold air.

“Do you think he will show?” a deep voice said, sending shivers down my back.

The second response seemed delayed, as if was smoking or perhaps contemplating the thought. “The Colonel believes he will show, thus we are here.”

I watched the first guard nodded in agreement. “I hope the traitor arrives soon. It is cold out here.”

The second guard took long deep puff of the cigarette and eerily seemed to look over in my direction. Fighting off the urge to bolt, I stayed put. Death would be absolute regardless of the fact if I ran or confronted. “His fate is sealed, if he shows up now or later,” another long delay from the puff of his cancer. “If only he had been like the other traitors.”

“Yeah,” quickly replied the first guard, who began lighting up his own cigarette. He flicked the switch a few times, at first unable to get it going. “What,” he stopped, having have gotten a flame. “What were their names?”

“Uh,” replied the original smoker. “I can’t remember their names. I heard though they were family though; his brother, nephew and his own sons.”
I watched as the first guard’s jaw opened wide dropping the recently lit beacon in the night from his mouth. “How could it happen?”

“What?” asked the second, not understanding the entirety of the simple question.

“An entire family, an honorable one by all accounts betrays the Führer at his greatest moment?”

The second guard raised his shoulders shrugging. “That is the true question my friend.”

I stayed put for ten minutes after their conversation seemed to come to an abrupt halt. Slowly, I removed myself from the frigid ditch and crawled towards the tree line. There was a place perhaps five miles from the town that I could rest the night. I doubt anybody remembered about the old cottage once owned by a family long deceased. At this pace, I calculated it would take about two hours to reach the warmth of ruined stone.

Fifty Shades of Friendship

I was impressed, having judged the time from Norddeich to the remote cottage correctly. I had come to a halt about a hundred feet from the cabin, and hid behind some fallen trees, closely observing the area. From the chimney smoke rose, bringing about a sense of relief to one part of the mind yet causing a whole new sensation to another. The aroma of burning wood was near irresistible. My mind drifted from the cold snowy surrounding to the inner warmth of the flames. The sense of comfort spread over my entire body, further easing me along.

A sound of an attempted to muffle cough pierced the air; quickly dragging me back from the dangerous states of delusion. I peered over my right shoulder, before looking behind me better and my left shoulder. A breathe of reality sent chills down the spine. I blinked, and then blinked again. I could not believe it, before my very eyes stood the door of the cabin. It had all happened in a blur. The crunching sound of snow against the boots surely should have been heard. If the heavy breathing did not send out alarms, or the dark grey winter coat, surely I was alone, except for the expected loving hearts of Christina and Alessandra in the cabin.

With deep breathe the cold air penetrated and chilled the bones as I placed my hand on the door handle, preparing to plunge into an expected unknown. As I slowly pushed the door open, the brilliant and delightful illumination of fire brought a new sense of life. An overwhelming but rightfully pleasant aroma of burning wood and smoke tingled the nostrils as I took three steps into the cabin’s entry. This was home, a home away from home. Boots stomped against the entry rug, shaking off collected snow while gloves were removed into coat pockets that soon found its home on the coatrack.

The light shone in a familiar direction towards the kitchen and I placed one foot in front of the other. Unconsciously, even at a rested environment I found myself often walking in the military matter, unaware that my footsteps would often lead to a tremendous crescendo. At the entrance to the kitchen, mere sixteen footsteps from the entrance, the right foot extended as I pivoted on the heel performing a right face movement. As I brought the left foot to bear the new direction, I instantly halted in place at an unexpected sight.

“Ah, my good friend, I knew you would eventually arrive,” his voice all too familiar, his tone all too serious; there was no inclination that this was another of his often famed but dry practical jokes. “My dear Tristan, did I catch you by surprise?” He broke out into a deep chuckle that subsided after approximately six seconds. “Of course I did! Your reaction is priceless, frozen in time in fact!” He held in place his accustomed smirk.

I stood there paralyzed, frozen in time as so eloquently stated, horrified, thinking and praying that I would pass out at any moment. Before my hopeless eyes sat two beautiful women, their ankles and wrists bound together arresting them to their respective chairs. Their long brown hair still majestically flew from the obscuring black hoods placed over their heads. Though it would be hard to tell, their mouths were most certainly gagged but their ears would be left unobstructed. Behind them stood their captor, a person I had known since childhood. His hands rested on the inner shoulders of each woman, my dearest wife Christina and our lovely daughter Alessandra.

I tried to piece the picture together, dumbfounded that I had not solved it earlier. It all made perfect sense and was too obvious; which lead me to ignore the now evident cold hard truth. The current predicament was my own doing. I had brought other people into this mess; I had watched them die as I swindled myself out of harm’s way. I was a coward.

“Oh dear Tristan, I would have thought you would have seen this coming. Was it not obvious my friend?” I saw his eyes stare into my soul, though we did not make eye contact. “You can drop that stupid faced, it will not do you any good.”

I remained still, jaw feeling as low as the floor, eyes locked looking at Christina and Alessandra, blocking out the true traitors figure. Suddenly a shot rang out, penetrating the wall behind and to my left. I focused my eyes onto that of my friends.

“I knew that would snap you out of it, all too predictable.” He let out a small laugh that lasted barely two seconds.

“Erwin, Erwin…Erwin, how could you? My worlds stumbled still thawing from the cold shock.

“It was all too easy my friend. I have always and will always play both sides. I have done it since the first time we met as children.” He sighed. “I am intrigued yet infuriated you did not suspect as much earlier. Perhaps it is true then that we often overlook the flaws of family and friends.”

I held off from pouring into a field of tears. “What is in it for you?”

Erwin broke into another fit of laughter and slapped his right knee with his left hand. “I will give you that one for free my old friend. A pathetic question deserves an obvious answer; I am in it for myself. I can spare the grief of losing my family, I can mark my place in history, and I can become who I want to be. It is all a game of chance Tristan. The conspiracy’s plot had little hope of success and almost guaranteed death; the odds were stacked before you or I even intervened.”

“The Fatherland will still fall Erwin. Hitler cannot prevent it! His successors and lackeys are no better, and deep within your soul you know the truth. You have seen the same reports I have; you know what action had to be taken. You even led me into the path I have taken!”

Preissner laughed without the knee slapping action. “Always the pessimistic Schnack, it is not good for your health,” he said while tightening the already perfectly secured black gloves that covered his hands. “There is a possibility that deep down you may be right Tristan. Perhaps the Third Reich will fall, buried beneath the weight of its opposition, or perhaps victory will be snatched from the jaws of defeat. There is without a doubt though that a man who Germany his homeland will not be pleased with either outcome.”

The brief revelation surely was no more than a slip of the tongue for often tight-lipped friend. Preissner always carried an aura of subtlety at all times, if one knew him well enough or took time to study his mannerisms and words they would know his words and actions often had double meanings. “Either way, Erwin, it seems you know the outcome of the Führer. If he is to die either way, why seek to prevent his assassination at the current time?”

“I thought you already knew or could at least of guessed that by now Tristan!” Preissner sighed, his face becoming one filled with utter contempt and disappointment. “I told you the first question was free. The second question, which you have just asked carries a steep price; though it is not as harsh as the third and then final question that you will inevitably will spew from your mouth,” he spoke without much reservation hinting that he had practiced and rehearsed the moment, possibly even dreamt of the very moment he could utter those words.

“No,” is all I could mumble as I watched him hit his knee with his hand again. “No, no, no.”

“Yes, yes, yes my friend. Did you really think there was any other way? If it is of any consolation my friend, I have already made the difficult choice for you.” In the blink of an eye Erwin un-holstered his Luger pistol and aimed it at the intended target and price for my stupidity. Before my nerve impulses could react I watched the unseeing, unknowing target lurch forward from the impact of the bullet to the back of the skull.

“So ends the life of Fraulein Alessandra Bopp, the daughter of Tristan and Christina Schnack; the loving wife to her husband Heinrich Bopp, who had been led astray by his father-in-law. With her last breathe expires the last living chance of two families,” Preissner said delivering another well practiced eulogy.

I remained utterly still from the state of shock that had claimed my body. My foolishness had caused this. Yet though I knew I was responsible for the events occurring, I was unable to accept the consequences. The moment of solitude was broken by Preissner’s eyes piercing into my soul.

“Do not act so surprised and stupid, you knew this would happen.” I made eye contact with my daughter’s executioner and god-parent. I noticed he had secured his sidearm as fast as he and un-holstered it. “I will continue if that is alright with you?”

I slowly nodded, still struggling to hold back a flood of tears; though a few had escaped and raced down red cheeks before being swept away by trembling fingers. “Yes,” I said barely audible.

“I knew you wouldn’t mind,” he said while taking a deep breath. “Tristan, there is no easy way to say this, so I will drop the charade and speak the truth to you. Your actions, if they were fully implemented would only hasten Germany’s demise. Hitler cannot be removed without operating on the rest of the body. The rest of the body is dependent on the oxygen that Hitler has become. Virtually every member within his inner circle has become aliens to reality. If they were to take a breath without his approval, they would die as if on another planet.”

I nodded in understanding as the crack within the damn having been repaired. “What would you have done differently than Erwin?” I asked expecting retribution for what I thought was the third question.

“Ah, a brilliant question, one that will not cost you. It is simple yet difficult beyond the wildest dreams. The way to remove Hitler is to become him. That is the difficult part, becoming Hitler. He represents everything we despise, yet in order to rein in on the reign of destruction, one must master it. In order to master it, one has to become a favorite of the Führer, another not-so-easy task. There are numerous obstacles within the path into Adolf’s inner circle. There is without no doubt though, this is the path to successfully remove Hitler. That is what few before you have done,” he ended with an exciting tone in his voice at the end.

I figuratively stumbled, thrown off but thinking I possibly understood the last sentence. “How did you do it? Why didn’t you help us?”

Preissner had a wicked smile on his face. “What do the Americans say?”

I became further puzzled by his question.

“Ah, yes. I remember. Strike three and you’re out!” I watched as he reached for his sidearm and aimed at Christina. “I will make this painless; our friendship has at least mounted to that much.”

I felt myself stumble back one, then two steps. Another step quickly followed as I began to feel very faint. I felt my eyes began to blink more frequently, growing heavier with each action. I felt the weight of my body increase and I soon fell backwards with my head hitting the floor causing blackness to surround me. The game was over.

From afar I distantly heard the sound of knocking growing louder with each repetition. I felt blinded by a bright beaming light that emanated from large rectangular opening. Slowly I rubbed my eyes, with hands that felt stiff and heavy as stone.

“Yes?” I asked, my voice weighed down by an unseen yet very real feeling weight.

“Orders to begin Operation Mūspilli have been sent out from the Führer’s Headquarters,” said feminine sounding voice that sounded oddly familiar but I knew it could not be who I thought it to.

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A huge success, indeed! The Red Bear must be quite surprised and hurt. Beware his anger!

Old Table of Contents


Disobey and Withdraw!
"My name is Tristan Schnack and I strongly believe that my days and the Reich’s are numbered." - Tristan Schnack - Chief of Staff for Reserve Army

Race and Reorganize
"I survived. We survived." - Tristian Schnack summarizing the end of 1942 into the beginning of 1943.

Return and Retreat
"I was a bit perplexed by this. Danzig was in Russian hands. Then it hit me." - Tristian Schnack before putting the pieces together about the German offensive.

Thorns in the West
"I left for what would hopefully be a great three weeks home with my family. It’s been quite awhile, over a year and a half. I’m excited yet terrified. I think I have changed quite a bit and might not be recognized by my beautiful kids." - Tristian Schnack before leaving to return home at the end of 1943.

God Damn War
“I understand Tristan,” my eldest living brother said. “God damn war,” he said before we both repeated it.

Cold Sand
"It was kind of disappointing. It very much reminded me of our situation in a bit. The Allies were throwing away thousands of men to liberate a country’s homeland. Here we are expending thousands of men to liberate parts of our country. In hindsight it seems kind of odd, but that is war." Tristan Schnack's reflection on situation as of February 1944.

Into the Bunker
“Herr Schnack,” a raspy voice said as we were leaving the room. I turned back and noticed it was the Fuhrer speaking.

The Spark
“Herr Schnack,” a deep voice said that startled me from my thought. I looked up, distraught by the fact that I thought my ruse was up.

The Wheels are in Motion
I smiled, wishing to further explore how much deeper the situation could evolve into. “What if I told you I knew of a plot to assassinate the Fuhrer?”

The Train Keeps a Rolling
“Tristan, I can assure you that I am not going to have you placed under arrest,” Papa finally said. “I am not against you. I believe that the Fuhrer has lost his mentality since the beginning of the invasion. There has been no recovery. He has continued the downfall of our great nation. I, I want to share a story with you,” he said.

Screeching to a Halt
All 82 kilograms of me was now laying flat against the floor. What the hell had just happened?

Hell on Wheels
I laid flat on my stomach against a rug, my eyes looked at the rug and a thought registered that the area I was laying on was red. Oh fuck, was I bleeding?

End of the Line
My brain returned to its original thought. I moved my eyes from their heavenly graze back to the lifeless corpse before me. His whole body was motionless. Both of his eyes were clearly visibly. One of them was nothing but a blotch of darkened skin that nearly made me vomit.

A New Destination
In memory of Hausser, I seriously had thought about seeking to join the Waffen SS. I had done something similar many decades before. Einswald had always dreamt of becoming a staff officer, and was suppose to transition into the role before his death.

Vengeance be thy Name
I put in another clip and fired off another five shots, hitting three of my targets. I reached for another clip, my third. Then my fourth and while reaching for my fifth I felt a terrible force against my helmet.

Prototype Destruction
This beast is magnificent. She is currently armed with 75mm Kwk 45 L/100, a powerful weapon capable of destroying of any Allied tank from hundreds if not a thousand meters away.

Prototype Party
“Helmut, give her all she’s got! We have traitors to chase!” - Tristan Schnack.

Prototype Evaluation
...the difference between me and the 7,000 prisoners or anybody else who seeks to save their self – I have not yet succumbed.

Honor is a Badge Few Carry
The reputation of being in service of the military of one’s nation has been established for a lengthy 167 years. However, just being in the service was not enough for the Schnack’s after 1811.

Four Eyes in the Back
This was my vehicle; well the Reich’s vehicle in my care. I was not about to get out of the vehicle for a man that I didn’t necessarily respect. After what felt like an eternity, but was in reality only thirty seconds, Himmler did find a seat in the back of the Kübelwagen and Rhiley began to drive us down the road towards my headquarters; which was roughly ten miles away behind the front.

The Black Beacon Beckons
“Herr Schnack,” he said interrupting my thoughts. I turned my head towards Himmler, and he waited before continuing on. “I have an offer that I believe you would find immensely attractive.”

The Forest Becomes Black
“Aren’t you forgetting something Herr Himmler?” I said as I brought his pistol to view, ready to fire. “I guess you could say, you willingly handed your pistol to an enemy of the state; which if I’m not mistaken, makes you a co-conspirator; which is punishable by death. Is it not Herr Himmler?” - Tristan Schnack informs that he is committing treason to Heinrich Himmler.

No One Must Know!
I nodded, nonverbally agreeing with my nephew. After a few brief seconds of nods and smiles, the intelligence within relative struck. I had been patiently waiting for the moment. “And you thought I had not already explored the options?” I asked while handing him two pieces of paper, the second piece interesting him the most.

An Obstacle Removed
Thank you, Colonel. I will be returning to my headquarters and making recommendation that protocol be followed by all dignitaries and generals when in the war zone. It is tragedy that such an honorable and dedicated National Socialist should die in a gruesome way.” - Tristan Schnack to his questioner.

Between the Sea and a Panzer
By the end of July 9th, not only was the city of Dax firmly in our control, the Atlantic had been reached.

Lettering the Situation
A letter arrives from Generalfeldmarschall Heinz Guderian.

Odes of the Offspring
A letter arrives from Philipp and Sebastian Schnack.

Ritual of Hope
"For without honor, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is no soul." - Tristan Schnack.

Two Choices
There is only so much energy and determination a person can store before the reality of the situation becomes unbearable. Once that store has been exhausted is when the wrong choice has been made.

An Unusual Encounter
Adolf and Erick both backed up away from the Kübelwagen, smiling. “We know,” they said.

A Forced Hand
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I am with the plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler the Führer.”

An Unexpected Confrontation
From the look on his face, I could tell my replacement was rather uncomfortable and distraught by the response. I stared into his eyes, and patiently waited for his reaction. With no reaction after ten uneasy seconds I continued, “Need I remind the Colonel that it is tradition to address a superior officer properly and accurately?”

Freedom, Righteousness, Oath, Might and Maker
“You are all under arrest,” Fromm said at first with a rasp in his voice. “You are all under arrest!” he repeated but with more confidence.

Shroud of Secrecy
While not necessarily agreeing to the premise of saving a man I despised, there were no other alternatives that promised a better future. I did not want to trade one dictator for another.

Buried in the Bunker
The next seconds went by in slow motion. I meticulously watched the bullet spin as it propelled through the stuffy air to its target. It seemed to take ten seconds before the bullet smashed through the left arm pit of Stauffenberg who began to lean to the right. Time sped up as I then charged directly at Stauffenberg. Right before I was about to hit the Colonel, a shot rang out.

Concealing the Truth
I raised the Luger from my hand at angled it for the correct trajectory. I took a deep breath, and calculated the next action rather hastily. A fourth shot rang out, further silencing the room. I looked at the target, my face showing deep concern. I felt sorrow for the loss of a man, he had done a tremendous amount of work for the cause, yet he had been tempted and corrupted by that nearest and dearest to him. I felt a tear racing down both cheeks.

Alone in the Bunker
“I do my Führer. I will need to visit him back at his home and advise him in detail of the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in,” I said after one full minute had passed from the bomb bursting in air.

Reflection on the Future
There were hundreds of plans that I wanted to implement within a moment’s notice of becoming the Reichsführer. However, the strain caused by the past few months had caused a toll that needed to be addressed. After exiting the bunker, I headed back towards Templehof where the planes along with my nephews awaited.

However Often My Estate
“Major, Mayor,” I said in a normal tone. “The Führer has personally sent me on a very important mission. I expect your utmost cooperation in the matter. Is there any questions?” I smirked after saying that.

A Face That I Use to Know
“I sense the need to repeat myself. The Führer has personally sent me on a very important mission. I expect your utmost cooperation in the matter. There shall be no questions in this matter,” I finished, placing my right arm against the right shoulder of the illegitimate mayor, and brushing past him.

Asking for Seconds
“Herr Reichsführer, hold up!” Klemens said, breathing between words. The man had apparently decided that I was worth the effort to break into a sprint to catch.

209 Roses

Guests of Honor
“I am sorry for my delayed arrival,” I said as I pulled out the chair and sat in it. “I had to attend to some private matters,” causing the gathered party to nod in understanding. “Shall we begin?” Another round of nods occurred.
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Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR

Race and Reorganize

I survived. We survived. The year is now 1943. This year we are suppose to recover lost land. That’s what the Fuhrer and Gobbles says. The Soviets seem unstoppable, though we have stopped them. Only because they continue to ravage the Duce’s land – who retreated south towards Naples. I heard that the situation in France is worrisome. Vichy France is teetering on disaster as the Allies begin their liberation. We have precious few divisions to spare, but divisions are to be found and sent into Vichy France. On February 16th it is announced that ‘Fall Anton’ had begun, as Germany infantry raced across Vichy France’s lands to take defensive positions in the Alps and the Mediterranean Coast. A close friend, assigned to OB West wrote back to me to state that our infantry arrived at the defensive positions just a day or two ahead of the Russians.

I now find myself as Chief of Staff to General Friedrich Fromm, of the Reserve Army. In late December I described in detail the need to retreat from the extremities of the Reich – at this present time the garrison in Norway, which numbered 25 divisions, twenty-five vital divisions for more pressing matters. I was surprised to learn that on February 22nd, the Fuhrer ordered the complete withdrawal of Norway. With amazing haste, I saw the evacuation completed in less than a month. The divisions would be reorganized, from what I heard. The fifteen mountain divisions would be reassigned to the Eastern Front while the light infantry (Jager) divisions were assigned to various duties across the Reich.

Our defenses along the Oder River, we expected a Soviet offensive across the river in the Spring of 1943, but it never happened.​

Spring would come and surprisingly there was no Soviet offensive. The Italians were still complaining about the lack of German assistance. Apparently the Duce thought we were in a position to help him. I had heard that there was a plan to help our Italian allies, but that it wouldn’t be ready until late May at the earliest. I’m sure the Soviets knew this and were prepared. On a recent inspection of the front, I witnessed hundreds of Soviet troops moving on the other side of the Oder. The Soviets most likely had three divisions for every one division we could muster.

Mountain troopers posing for a photo before the offensive into the Bavarian Alps to dislodge the Soviets.​

Our offensive would begin on June 10th after a few days delay due to supply issues. Mussolini was excited from what I was told, though he was bottled up in Sicily. The offensive – which was officially to recapture the southern portions of Bavaria – would include twenty-five mountain divisions, sixty infantry divisions and ten panzer divisions; which were too utilized if a breakthrough could be achieved. However that breakout would never be realized. The Soviets were prepared for the offensive.

After several days of fighting, the panzers and their motorized infantry were withdrawn away from the fighting. I didn’t know exactly where the panzers were going, but I had credible sources that it possibly involved cooperation with the Kreigsmarine. The fighting continued for a few more weeks, before the offensive was called off on July 7th. We had suffered a near equal amount of causalities as the Soviets, but we did not necessarily have the manpower to reinforce these losses.

Alptraum (Nightmare)
An Alternative History Affair
By TekcoR

Return and Retreat

I had been suspicious of new planned offensive for awhile, ever since a request had been made by the commander of I Panzerarmee (Erich von Manstein) if enough equipment was available to replace theoretical heavy losses. I was intrigued but didn’t ask further, only replied curtly that while the reserve’s armies numbers were low, I would make his request for replacements priority. I didn’t necessarily have direct approval to do this, but Fromm’s oversight was negligible and I was free to act. On July 18th, an unexpected letter arrived from Manstein. It did not request reinforcements but simply advised that I would soon be able to visit him in Danzig.

I was a bit perplexed by this. Danzig was in Russian hands. Then it hit me. That’s where our offensive was aimed at. But Danzig lay kilometers upon kilometers beyond the Oder. How would our offensive catch the Soviets off guard and reach the city without resistance? I quickly began searching through the stack of papers on my desk – I think I recalled something. Ah yes, a request from the Kriegsmarine requesting additional reinforcements who specialized in amphibious assaults. I remember upon first reading the letter if I should burst into laughter or not reply at all. We hadn’t been training soldiers for amphibious assaults since at least 1940 before the Fuhrer called off Sea Lion. I finally scribbled a response that I would try my best to find any units I could, but I couldn’t promise any miracles.

On the morning of the July 23rd, I heard that the first shots of our daring plan began to unfold as the Tirpitz – our last remaining battleship – and several light cruisers opened up against the defenders of Danzig and Konigsberg. The Russian defenders – were called “Polish loyalists of the poorest quality, that were easily bewildered and surrendered at the first shot” had given up both cities within matters of hours. From then on the after action report mentioned the speed and precision of the Kriegsmarine transport crews, who unloaded hundreds of tanks and soldiers as if it were nothing before racing off to pick up the remaining soldiers.

The massive pocket created by the daring operation that liberated Danzig.​

By the end of the month, both First (Danzig) and Second (Konigsberg) Panzerarmies had been transported to their respective cities. From there the immediate objective became to link up the two beach heads which was completed by the ending hours of August 1st. While the Second Panzerarmee secured the beach heads, the First Panzerarmee drove in general southwest direction as if headed towards Berlin. This was amazing; the Russians that had caught us off guard the previous year were they themselves being caught surprised!

By August 3rd, it was reported by SS General Hausser (1 SS Panzerarmee) that Russian forces had begun to withdraw from his front and his advance was going to begin the next day. Hausser’s objective was to link up with 1 Panzerarmee and pocket the Russian divisions stuck within West Prussia. After several hard days of fighting, German forces met on August 12th creating a pocket of Russians. The Red was trapped! Amazing! I received numerous reports that the fighting was intense as the Russians fought like savages to flee from our retribution. They were always unsuccessful.

On October 6th, I received the last report about our offensive. Two days prior, nearly thirty Russian divisions had been forced to surrender just west of Danzig. The city was to remain liberated unlike the city of Konigsberg. There was major disappointment among many of my companions within the Reserve Armee; however the reasons for abandoning the city again were the facts of life. We simply do not have the divisions required to hold the city. As quickly as our forces had reached Konigsberg, they retreated from the city back to Danzig; which was now the farthest point east in the Reich.

The elimination of the Soviets in western Prussia.​

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No Scharnhorst or Gneisenau? that stinks At least you have the mighty Tirpitz and At least it still does someting.