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Paternal Autocrat
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May 13, 2008
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This is meant to be a radical departure from the "Geschichte," though again I'm playing Germany. This time, I'm using Mod33, with the goal of a narrative format rather than a history book. There will be a Third Reich, but it will most emphatically not be led by an Austrian of no breeding... which by itself should be a hint as to how I am aiming.

This will likely be intensely short of screen shots, for a couple reasons. First, Mod33 is great in French, it's Googlenglish in English. Second, even paperbacks are rarely illustrated. Third, I'm terrible at remembering to take screen shots.

So, the front-end material...


Dramatis Personae

The Upheavals (1933-1934)
"General or Corporal, Field Marshal?"
Freikorps Hausser
The Bloody Summer
Decisions and Dinner
Birthdays and Beginnings
The End of an Era
The Beginning of an Era

The Restoration (1934-1936)
The Price of Admiralty
The First Steps
The Last Quiet Summer

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1937)
Spanish Holiday
A Week in Spain
At Home And Abroad
January Dawn
The Spanish Ulcer
Heroes' Welcome

The Building Years (1937-1939)
The First Istanbul Conference
A Summer's Education
The Second Iteration
The Hossbach Memorandum
Winter Storm
Young Love
Pilots and Letdowns
Qualified Success

Movement to Contact (1939)
Smaller Affairs
Threats and Intimidation
The Berlin Conference

Case White (1939)
Case White: An Overview
White Eagle
Haro Rommel
The Siege of Warsaw
The Fourth Partition
The Aftermath of Case White

Anschluss (1939-1940)
Five Years
Coming Down

Annus Aureus (1940-1941)
New Work, New Love
Pandora's Box
Kiel Week
Airs Above the Ground
Stirring the Pot
Affairs Overseas
New Orders
The First Vienna Award
Departures and Arrivals
The Precipice

The Bock Plan (1941)
The Bock Plan: An Overview
Scapa Flow
Over the Border
"O My Son, Absalom..."
Breaking the Line
The Agony
Paris Ist Gefallt
The End in France

Other Fronts (1941-1942)
The African Front
The Turkish Front
The March Up The Nile
The Irish Front
The American Intervention
The German Home Front

The Fall of Britain (1942)
The Lion Falls
The Battle of the Three Navies
The Ehrhardt-Ramcke Plan: An Overview
Case Ferdinand: The Balkan Distraction
The White Cliffs of Dover
England's Mountains Green
Guard Against Garde
Ironside In London
The Giant Falls

Wilhelmshaven (1942)
The Tumult And The Shouting Dies
On Dune And Headland Dies The Fire
All Valiant Dust That Builds On Dust
Far-Called Our Navies Melt Away
At One With Nineveh And Tyre
Of Lesser Breeds Without The Law

The Years Of Milk And Honey (1942-1944)
"God Be Praised, It's Raining Batons!"
The Retooling, Part I
The Retooling, Part II
The Retooling, Part III
Two Views Of The Future
The Most Sarcastic Man In Germany
Birthing Pains
Mediterranean Holiday
The Reichswehr In Transition
Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Drang Nach Ost (May 1944-April 1945)
Stalin Acts
The Hausser-Manstein Plan: An Overview
The Gates of Sevastopol
The Tigers of Kiev
A Fool's Errand
Red Banner on the Waves
Victory On All Fronts
Bryansk - The Last Tank Fight
Going Ashore
St. Petersburg
Momentous Decisions
The Day The Earth Stood Still

Lion Against the Sun (1945)
The Battle of the Malacca Strait, Part I: On Les Aura
The Battle of the Malacca Strait, Part II: Contact
The Battle of the Malacca Strait, Part III: Clash of Titans
The Battle of the Malacca Strait, Part IV: The Second Day
The Battle of the Malacca Strait, Part V: The Aftermath

Death of the Bear (1945-1946)
Birthday Honors
The Last Bastion
Slouching Toward Bethlehem
The Aristeia of Otto Skorzeny
Cities and Thrones and Powers
Out of the Spent and Unconsidered Earth...
... The Cities Rise Again

Disenchantment (1946-1948)
At War's End
The Battle of Berlin, Part 1
The Battle of Berlin, Part 2
The Battle of Berlin, Part 3: Conclusions and Consequences

Annus Horribilis (1948)

To The Future (1951)



Relocated because of post length limits. See this post.
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Oooohhhhh Mod 33! Easily one of my favorite mods for it's zillions of historical paths and I can't wait to see how you are at writing narratives!
1. "General or Corporal, Field Marshal?"


Berlin, Republic of Germany
January 25, 1933

Kurt von Schleicher was Chancellor of Germany by his own hand. Unlike many who had achieved that office, especially during the years of Wilhelm II, he had risen this far not by dumb luck, but by an intense policy of intriguing and scheming. Even his military service had been geared towards this goal - he had not commanded at the Front during the war, unlike many of his contemporaries, but had held staff positions throughout the war. He had made and broken every deal imaginable to rise this far, to the point of cooperating with that moron Bruening and his Social Democrats. All of it, however, appeared to be for nought - he had just returned from dissolving the Reichstag when a page brought him a message from the President, demanding an accounting of his actions. The bald, slightly stoop-shouldered old general inwardly sighed, flicking the message back at the messenger. "Inform the Field Marshal that I shall be with him presently." How long Old Wooden-Head could remain alive, only God knows, and He keeps his secrets well, Schleicher thought somewhat mulishly as he entered his office.

His valet awaited him; he snapped his fingers impatiently. "The uniform if you please. If I have to wear this suit one more day, I swear I will..." The words cut short; one did not rise this far without some degree of self-control, after all. The servant, one of the few Stahlhelm veterans whom Schleicher had actually been able to help by granting a job in the past six months, quietly assisted the general as he changed behind a screen, checking his appearance in the full-length mirror before stepping out, boots clicking against the marble floor on the way to Hindenburg's office. "Inform the Field Marshal that I am present," he rapped out at the secretary, unconsciously half-bowing and clicking his heels. Some habits were simply too ingrained to lose easily. The secretary nodded, standing and ducking into the even-larger Presidential office before sticking his head out once more. "General, the President will see you at your pleasure."

The only pleasure I could possibly derive from visiting this office is to occupy it myself, he thought sourly as he presented himself to Hindenburg. The aging Field Marshal was as walrus-like as ever, clad in waistcoat and jacket and leaning on the ivory head of his cane to pay attention to something his son, Major Oskar von Hindenburg, was saying. Apparently, it was some sort of jest which the vast, ancient bulk in the chair found amusing, for he guffawed and waved Schleicher over, gesturing affably enough at the chair across from the two of them. "Please, please, sit, Schleicher." Damn it. Don't tell me he's forgotten why he called me already. Schleicher slipped uneasily into the low-backed chair, digging into his back, his saber between his knees. Long habit drove him to ignore the discomfort in favor of focusing on his objectives - currently personified in the President, a dignified but dull man with the broad swath of mustache characteristic of Wilhelmine holdovers.

"My son tells me that you... hrrumppf..." The elder Hindenburg levered himself clear of his chair, slowly moving over to the window to stare out at yet another overcast Berlin January day. "Yes, he tells me that you dissolved the Reichstag today, General." He turned slowly to Schleicher, who nodded mutely. "Why? Did they do something outrageous?" His brow lowered. "Did they refuse military credits again?" Schleicher shook his head, hands clasped over the hilt. "Nothing so simple, Field Marshal. They had refused the entire budget. The Hitler bloc spoke outright of dissolution of the government... and this time, Hugenberg spoke with them. We are at an impasse, Field Marshal. I believe it is time for a new government to form. With your permission, I will remain at its head."

The President's eyebrows flew up - a not inconsiderable achievement, for they were massive eyebrows. "Hitler and Hugenberg? Dangerous times indeed, old friend. Are you sure you are up to the task of governing... this time, perhaps, without the Social Democrats?" His hatred of the Social Democrats was seemingly the only thing which kept the old man from outright senility; at moments like his demands for military credits, Schleicher wondered if perhaps that frontier had been crossed. "Von Papen tells me you've lost the people's confidence, General. He should know, he has spoken to both Hitler and Hugenberg. Do you truly believe this is a good idea?"

"No, Field Marshal. I do not. I also do not believe the Republic can stand the alternative. The Hitler group practically rioted in front of the socialists' party headquarters two days ago. I dislike the Republic as much as you do, but do you want it to descend into anarchy instead?"

"That is not your concern, General. Your concern is the smooth maintenance of the government of the Reich." Schleicher winced; the word "Reich" was evidence that today was not to be one of Hindenburg's good days. "No, Schleicher, what I need is a stable government so we can kick the French back past Paris. All we need is a few months, and you cannot even guarantee us that!"

Schleicher abruptly stood, saber ferrule clattering against the floor for a moment. "Field Marshal. If you have lost confidence in me," he began stiffly, "I tender my resignation." Before Hindenburg could speak, he held up his hand. "But first, I think you should consider this situation carefully. I have in my possession all of the estate title documents pertaining to your Neudeck estate. Did your brother truly believe that anyone would think that he went to Brazil for sugarcane? Truly - sugarcane in Prussia?" Schleicher's noncommital mask had completely disappeared, replaced by a sneer, and Hindenburg recoiled in momentary horror. Oskar von Hindenburg, heretofore immobile and apparently bored, started and stood, attempting to interpose himself between his father and the angry Chancellor. Schleicher would not be deterred. "Listen, Field Marshal. You can either give this country to that Austrian slug Hitler, like your friend Papen wants to do..." He drew a deep breath, back straight, shoulders back. The moment of decision, Schleicher.

Schleicher felt exultant, invulnerable. At a moment like this, he understood men like Hitler, who could consider destroying the State and taking the reins by force. His eyes blazed, his words coming out sharp and direct.

"Or you can trust me. I have had but two months to attempt to alleviate the wreckage thrust on Germany for the past four years, and already you want to talk about dismissal. You have a choice, Herr President. You may either retain my services, or you can open the drains and let the sewer overtake us. Hitler will bring with him all the common scum of the streets. Pederasts, drug addicts, even that idiot chicken farmer in charge of his security. As an alternative, I offer my continued services, the services of a Prussian officer. Which do you choose? An Austrian corporal, or a Prussian general. General or Corporal, Field Marshal?"

Hindenburg sank into his chair again, deflating. He waved at the door, shading his face with his shaking hand. "Go on, Chancellor. Do as you will. Just do not fail Germany."
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Your Dramatis Personae claims Schleicher was appointed Chancellor in November 1933. :p

Looking forward to another great narrative Germany AAR, especially since I haven't gotten my Weltkriegschaft or TEatL fixes in months.
Your Dramatis Personae claims Schleicher was appointed Chancellor in November 1933. :p

Looking forward to another great narrative Germany AAR, especially since I haven't gotten my Weltkriegschaft or TEatL fixes in months.

2. Freikorps Hausser


2 February 1933
Berlin, Republic of Germany

The past week had been a busy one for Schleicher. Confronting the Army with the same thinly-veiled threat of national anarchy with which he had confronted Hindenburg, veiled even more thinly in the speeches of the Nazi brownshirt leader Roehm and his twaddle about a national army with the brownshirts at its core, he had been surprised at how quickly the Army establishment, from General von Hammerstein-Equordt down, had sworn its support to whoever kept the Republic from that precipice. As a result, the Chancellory was strung with seemingly endless miles of telephone cable, centered in a switchboard where his secretary had once worked. His aide-de-camp, Major Ott, had practically taken over this outer office, transformed fully from reception area to command center.

In his inner sanctum, seemingly undisturbed by the constant commotion outside, Schleicher continued working on the never-ending minutiae of government. At the moment, he was the Republic's government, until the elections, which he had promised for November. He rubbed his eyes for a moment; sleep had eluded him on a regular basis since he had become Chancellor, but he could not afford to rest. A glance at the clock told him that it was time for his next appointment; he depressed a switch on his desk. "Ott, please tell General Hausser I will see him now."

Lieutenant-General Paul Hausser might very well prove to be the key to escaping the Brownshirt Conundrum, as Schleicher thought of it. Hausser strode in, the ideal of the Prussian officer, from a line of Prussian officers, in immaculate field-gray bare of decorations save for the two grades of Iron Cross. There was a myth in the West that the German officer class was a line of interchangeable Prussian supermen with dueling scars and handsome, emotionless faces. Hausser was the myth. Only slightly taller than average, he still seemed to fill the room in a way that Schleicher never would. Schleicher felt a twinge of desire, but forced it down - that had led to disaster with the SA-man Stennes, after all, and he could ill afford disaster now. What he did need was the Stahlhelm, and Paul Hausser was the Berlin Stahlhelm incarnate.

"You sent for me, Chancellor?"
"Yes, General. I am sorry for the summons - in normal times, I would have come to you, but as you can see..." Schleicher shrugged eloquently; Hausser's eyes slid over the endless sea of paper on the desk before giving the slightest nod. "Please, General, have a seat." Schleicher gestured to the high-back chair across from him; he preferred more modern, plush chairs to the Louis XIV style President Hindenburg seemed to adore. How the elephantine president could be comfortable in such spindly chairs was beyond Schleicher, but that was irrelevant here as Hausser seated himself, face attentive but neutral.

"General... we have a problem, especially here in Berlin. You are aware of the brownshirt riot two weeks ago at the Communist Party headquarters? Good. We cannot have that kind of behavior in a country ruled by law. I have here..." Schleicher rummaged through the reports on his desk before presenting a thin sheaf to the General. "Yes, I have here an internal report from the Sturmabteilung headquarters here in Berlin, discussing plans for what they call the 'seizure of power.' I note that phrase specifically, General, because it implies armed revolution. Would you please take a look at it?"

Hausser read silently for a moment as Schleicher sat, hands folded and attentive. Only his monocle kept his face immobile; it was purely affectation, but for a moment like this, he needed every aid he could muster in keeping his face still. Hausser looked up a moment later, presenting the file back. "This is... unusual, to say the least, Chancellor."

"Quite, Paul." Using Hausser's Christian name was a risk, but it was one worth taking at this very moment. "If anyone is going to 'absorb' the Stahlhelm, I absolutely believe they should be wearing gray shirts. Not brown, not black, gray. They should be responsible men, not half-cocked Bavarian captains." A long pause followed while his intent sank in. "General, I am a responsible man - I am responsible for the whole Republic. I need your help now, keeping the peace here in Berlin. I cannot promise trucks or tanks or even mortars, but I can open the arsenal gates an inch or two for you, if you will help me keep the peace in the streets." The Chancellor let the message hang, the last words on a hopeful note, willing Hausser to assent. Finally, the general nodded slowly.

"There are some conditions, Chancellor."
"I agree."
"First -" Hausser blinked, not expecting Schleicher's immediate agreement. "First, my boys have the same amnesty as regular police for the duration of their service."
"Your soldiers are regular police for the duration of their service, unless the situation to the west becomes such that I can afford them... proper employment." Schleicher cut Hausser off, but whatever faux pas he may have commited by doing so was overridden by the implicit promise of overt rearmament.
"Just so, Chancellor. Second, this agreement must be between gentlemen, no written contracts." Schleicher nodded. "Third and finally, if this is to be the case, I wish to be reinstated, at least temporarily."
"That is, unfortunately, impossible. What I can do... Paul, for the duration, you are now General der Freiwilligen. Strictly a brevet rank, you understand." Hausser nodded slowly; it was a promotion of sorts, in line with a general of infantry or of cavalry, but it was all but an admission that he had been suborned by Schleicher. It was also strictly speaking beyond Schleicher's authority to give, but at the moment, that mattered little. He stood slowly, leaning forward to offer his hand across the desk.

"Very well, Chancellor. I accept; the Berlin Stahlhelm is at your disposal."


Ernst Volkmann was forty-five, married, and father of four, ranging from twenty to thirteen. Like nearly every German male of his generation, he had served in the Great War, on the Western Front, starting as a reserve lieutenant and ending as a captain. Since then, he had returned to his private practice as an engineer, working for a firm in Charlottenburg. He was, in short, the exact kind of middle-class respectable war veteran the Stahlhelm had preferred for its recruits, and he had been a member since the Armistice. In the early '20s he had turned out in favor of the Kapp-Putsch though his wife had thought him mad. He had marched in the parades, gone to the meetings, and never once expected seriously that this day would come again - it had, after all, been thirteen years since he had been under arms in any form.

His wife Lise did not understand either, but of the two of them, she lacked the old reflexes of obedience. The argument had started early in the day the summons had come over Hausser's name, and had risen in volume as he had struggled into his old uniform. Finally, fleeing down to the police station to report felt like liberation from his wife. The thought of a middle-class, middle-aged engineer, wealthy enough to own his own automobile but not wealthy enough to own a bit of country land, policing up the gangs of young thugs in brown or red that wandered the streets at night was patently ludicrous... but there was the Mauser pistol at his hip, and the military-police brassard at his throat, the mark of the Stahlhelm volunteers. At his disposal was a squad of men his age with rifles - rifles which the SA and Communists simply did not have.

Tonight, though, his duties carried him past the Reichstag building, one of the few regions in town where violence stayed minimal, largely due to the continued presence of men like Volkmann. A quick check with the security guard at the gate, barely a nod and tip of his helmet, led to a walkaround. At the south end of the building, he stopped, hand up to halt the squad, and sniffed the air. Wood smoke...? He frowned, turning toward the Reichstag building itself, and saw a slight yellow gleam from within one window, glinting crazily along its broken edge. He quickly, as quietly as his sedentary lifestyle allowed, shuffled to the broken window, looking inside to see a half-dozen small fires burning merrily in what looked like an upper-class library or perhaps a gentlemen's club room. "Quick," he ordered to the first of his squad to join him, "Wake up that damn sentry, take two men with you." Continuing to give orders, he rapped out, "You there - get the fire people over here yesterday! You, and you, in with me." Nods greeted his orders; it was not a moment for rational thought.

The three of them plunged in through the broken window, fingers cut on its edges. There was still a chance of fighting this by the looks of it; in Volkmann's experience, a building as massive as the Reichstag would not burn down in an instant just because one room was lit. Some of these fires could not possibly be lethal. Volkmann ran, puffing the whole way, into the building, taking only a moment to beat the flames away when he approached the agglomerating fires. It was unlikely that the arsonist, whoever he was, had escaped, since the fires had been freshly lit when he approached and he had seen no one flee the building, so whoever had done this was further in. The three temporary police-soldiers moved deeper into the Reichstag building, the only light provided by the flames behind them, and from fires which they continued to find ahead of them. For the first time, Volkmann wondered if he was perhaps in over his head - if the arsonist was still lighting fires deeper in the building, then who knew where, or even if, they'd eventually corner him?

At that moment, they unexpectedly burst into the central debate chamber, where they could see a man feverishly piling desks and lecterns beneath the rostrum. Volkmann did not think, just drew the broomhandle pistol and fired twice. The figure jumped, dropping a match into the pile and fleeing with Volkmann close behind. "HALT!" he bellowed as the desks caught. One of his bullets had apparently caught the man, as he was favoring one shoulder; he was slowed down by his injury just enough for the sedentary Volkmann to catch him, slamming into him from behind, an impact like he had not felt since the trenches. The man he had tackled rolled over, grinning crazily and babbling; Volkmann detected a Dutch accent, but did little beyond cataloguing it. "It-it-it's too luh-late, 's all gonna buh-buh-burn. Sic semper tuh-tuh-tyrannis! Vic-ic-ictory for the People!" Volkmann swore profusely in words which he had not had cause to use since 1918, yanking the man to his feet, Mauser to his head as he muscled him towards the front door. In the distance, he could hear the sirens of approaching fire trucks, but a glance back over his shoulder confirmed what the man said - there was no stopping the fire in the debate hall. All they could hope to do was escape.

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Not much point in maps early on, but I expect there will be "The Front on (x)" maps when the time comes.
*plants flag*

Good stuff, dear Sir!

Also, "General der Freiwilligen" would be the correct translation of General of Volunteers. :)
*plants flag*

Good stuff, dear Sir!

Also, "General der Freiwilligen" would be the correct translation of General of Volunteers. :)

Corrected. To be honest, I wasn't absolutely sure what the correct case for a plural was, so I just went with the singular. My German's more by feel than by rule, I'm afraid.
No worries. It may be strange to hear, but I do my own Germans by the seat of my pants too, and its even my mother tounge. Our grammatics are devilishly hard to learn.
No worries. It may be strange to hear, but I do my own Germans by the seat of my pants too, and its even my mother tounge. Our grammatics are devilishly hard to learn.

This is strictly a test to see the exact effects of post-quoting are. The goal is to isolate what effect modifying the postcount number has. It is nothing more.

EDIT - Well crap, looks like there's no way to put a date in instead of a post number.
3. The Bloody Summer


10 August 1933
Breslau, Republic of Germany

Hauptmann Ernst Volkmann tugged at his collar, the Breslau heat more than he could bear. He had spent the last six months, since the Reichstag fire, in uniform, and the uniform was more comfortable than it had once been, but it was wool in the Silesian summer, and he was a forty-five - no, forty-six-year-old man, no longer a youth. The past six months had not been easy on him, but as he kept telling Lise in his letters home, there was nothing to be done for it.

Schleicher had dissolved the Reichstag in January; two weeks later, that madman Van der Lubbe had ignited the Reichstag building itself. In doing so, he had ignited a much larger powder keg, one which Volkmann counted himself lucky to have escaped merely with a few burns from. Schleicher had ordered Justice Minister Guertner not to spare Van der Lubbe; he had after all been caught within the Reichstag building, and to spare him just because he was obviously a dimwitted, idealistic patsy was foolish. The Chancellor had also violated at least one provision of Versailles by pinning both classes of the Iron Cross to Volkmann's chest in a public awards ceremony outside the still-smoldering wreckage. A brief, moist handshake with Field Marshal Hindenburg had followed, accompanied by a muttered "Good show, Hauptmann, show those Russians a thing or two!"

Things had run quickly after that. The Communists were immediately banned; the Nazis had thought to crow about their apparent victory, only to find General Hausser and a company of volunteers outside their Berlin headquarters. The reason was, ironically, the SA's violence against the Communists in January. Schleicher's February 20 radio address had perhaps said it best:

Kurt von Schleicher said:
Revolution is revolution, no matter the source, Right or Left. We here in Germany have been fortunate, in that we have been spared the worst violence of revolution since 1848. We cannot tolerate the raising of private armies beholden only to a political interest, rather than to the sacred State, and we cannot countenance men who have proven in years past that they were willing to take up arms against the rightful government of the Republic. As of today, the Republic can no longer afford to welcome the National Socialist German Workers' Party, nor the Communist Party of Germany, as there is clear evidence of their perfidy. All members are required to turn in their Party identification in order to qualify for amnesty; anyone who refuses to do so will be investigated by the Landespolizei. Resistance will be considered as treason. Good night, and may God help the Republic.

The last sentence had proven prophetic. The Communists had risen in the Ruhr and in Silesia and the Nazis in Bavaria. Schleicher's response had been swift: he had confirmed Hausser and the Stahlhelm as an extension of the Reichsheer, and he had moved the few active divisions to combat the risings. It had been a bloody summer, seeing Hausser and Volkmann march from Berlin south into Silesia to fight a determined Communist rising. The KPD leader Thaelmann had been arrested for inciting revolution, though he, like Hitler in the 1920s, was momentarily being held in fortress confinement rather than put to trial. Hitler had fled south, first to coordinate the rising in Bavaria, then to flee across the border.

Volkmann had been part of the so-called "Freikorps Stahlhelm," the half-trained veterans under Hausser who had engaged the Spartakuskorps outside Breslau. Even now, they were short of such basic military supplies as radios and even light artillery, but they had made up for it through Hausser's dynamic leadership. The three divisions' worth of Stahlhelm had cut through the Breslau uprising like a sickle through grain, resulting in very little publicity back in Berlin for his operations. "SIEGER HAUSER" was the Tageblatt headline when they marched through Breslau's city center, formed up before the cathedral, and received the bishop's blessing. That was about the extent of the attention paid to Hausser's campaign.

In the south, though... Generalleutnant von Brauchitsch had taken the Republic's only two available mobile units into the Nuremberg region with a verve that would have done Seydlitz proud. They had caught Roehm and Himmler, the competing Nazi paramilitary leaders, off-guard, and despite Roehm being better-equipped than Hausser had been in the north, and despite the Great War's brutal experience with cavalry, von Brauchitsch had emerged victorious. In mid-June, he had established his headquarters in Nuremberg; by 1 July, the last Nazi remnants had been forced to the Austrian border, and there von Brauchitsch had been forced to watch as the Austrian border police admitted Hitler back into his native country. Brauchitsch had returned at the head of his cavalry to Berlin, to the accolades of Schleicher and Hindenburg, and promotion to General der Infanterie. Rumor said that Roehm and Himmler had been captured, that Hitler's Bavarian driver Dietrich had actually been working as a counterintelligence agent, that the Soviets were mobilizing to cross Poland in support of the rebellion - in short, rumor said everything, and nothing that was particularly useful.

Now, the summer rebellion was over, the Nazis and the KPD suppressed, and Volkmann wondered if they would be allowed to return home. He supposed his question was about to be answered; Hausser had been interviewing every officer Hauptmann and higher one-by-one for the past several weeks. It was now Volkmann's turn.

He rapped the prescribed three times at the door of the General's quarters in the Hauptbahnhof, hearing Hausser's clipped "Enter" before presenting himself. His hand flew to his helmet visor almost as sharply as it would have in 1918. "Hauptmann Volkmann, reporting as ordered, sir."

Hausser was in full field mode, hair matted from continuous wear of the steel helmet he insisted the corps wear to reflect its origin, sidearm in place. His boots were conspicuously un-muddy, despite the fact that he participated in every morning's prescribed conditioning marches. The general was working from a standing desk, and barely glanced up at Volkmann to return his salute. "Volkmann. Good work you've done here, and at the Reichstag. Sit, please." He gestured to what had been the director of the Upper Silesian Railway's desk, complete with high wing-backed chair. Volkmann obeyed, sitting with helmet resting on his right knee. Hausser turned finally to face him, giving a rare but dazzling smile. "Please, Hauptmann. Relax. I don't bite my own. I understand that you are an engineer?"

"Yes, General."
"Could you get this damned place running properly given the supplies?"
"We have orders back to Berlin. I believe that the proper way for us to go is by rail, and in case you haven't noticed, the division is short on qualified engineers."
"Sir, I cannot make any promises - the Sparties did a pretty good job on the tracks running to Cottbus. But I think I could probably make a go of it."
"Excellent. Now, about one other thing... Volkmann, you realize that this business is just beginning. Germany needs soldiers. Even a forty-six-year-old captain... of engineers." Volkmann's heart raced. In the Great War, the engineers had been considered the premier assignment for an officer, a step just shy of the General Staff, and for good reason: on the front, the engineers did the dangerous work, while behind the front, unlike the infantry, they got no rest as long as the roads and rails were needed. He cleared his throat.

"Sir... I... my wife..." Hausser waved his hand tiredly. "I know, Volkmann. We have no youngsters in this outfit, in case you haven't noticed. But the simple fact is, the Republic really is in danger, and even when we return to Berlin, you're not going back wearing a suit, you're going back in gray." The general let this sink in before leaning over the desk. "Volkmann, at the Reichstag, you went in like a brand-new lieutenant, didn't even blink. I have a wife too. A daughter. I was hoping that this year I would finally get to see them regularly, but Germany needs men like us."

The middle-aged man, and the general only eight years his senior, stared at each other across the massive mahogany slab for a long moment before Volkmann sighed, stood, and saluted. "Yes, General. The rails out of here will be clear by nightfall. May I request a company of good men to ride ahead with me as a work detail?"

Hausser reached out, clapping him once on the shoulder. "Good man. Grab your gear and tell the adjutant what you need on your way downstairs."
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Harsh times ahead for our heroes, but as Hausser said Germany needs them.
4. Decisions and Dinner

25 December 1933
Berlin, Republic of Germany

There had been no rest for Freikorps Stahlhelm on return to Berlin. Faced with criticism from the SPD and the unions on the measures he had taken against the extreme parties, Schleicher had issued the August Decrees suspending basic freedoms of the Republic for a maximum of one year. Criticism of the President and Chancellor was made equivalent to sedition; the Social Democrat Party was banned shortly thereafter when Heinrich Bruening had made a public declaration that Germany was on the road to dictatorship, and that if Germany had wanted to be led by the generals, it would have been Hindenburg and Ludendorff, not Hindenburg and Schleicher, in office. Bruening thus found himself at the Landsberg fortress alongside Roehm and Thaelmann, and Schleicher found himself casting about for allies. He found the most unlikely ally imaginable, the former Nazi Gregor Strasser, whose relatively moderate fascist position was more palatable than the increasingly strident criticism of the SPD, the distrust of the nationalist parties like the DNVP, or the outright demands for dictatorship which the KPD and NSDAP had made.

None of this truly mattered to Major Ernst Volkmann. He had returned to Berlin to find that his shoulder boards, rather than the simple straight-row boards of company-grade officers, were the braided silver of a field-grade officer, and that he was the commander of Hausser's engineering battalion. For an infantry corps to have a single engineering battalion was disgraceful by 1918 standards; for an engineering battalion to fill the role which Hausser had it fill was even more outrageous. "Engineer" in Hausser's parlance meant "problem-solver." It was thanks to Volkmann and his engineers that Hausser had trucks, for instance - even if they were stolen from every handyman, mover, and dairy from Potsdam to Berlin, and even if they were just enough to ferry one battalion at a time. When Volkmann had protested that he was not a thief, Hausser had merely smiled and replied that his job was to overcome obstacles... and that transportation was just one of many obstacles.

There were benefits to all of this, he had to admit - he had not remembered Lise being nearly this affectionate at any point since the Armistice. Most nights, he got to sleep at home with his family. A few weeks in the past few months, he had been in the field suppressing one or the other of the trade unions, bastions of SPD resistance. They had marched on May Day as usual, and the march had nearly become a riot, according to Lise, who had been unfortunate enough to be shopping that day. She feared for him, of course, but she had feared for him in the Great War, and she was slowly adjusting to the fact that her husband was once again a soldier.

All of this combined to make the news he had to give her at Christmas much more difficult.


"Ott, where is that damned man?" Schleicher demanded as his fist hit the desk. "Krupp von Boehlen said he'd be here at eight. It's seven-fifty and there's no sign of him."

Eugen Ott, a massive, broad-shouldered officer who looked more like a professional athlete than a soldier-politician in the Schleicher mold, pursed his lips beneath his thin mustache. "Sir, Krupp von Bohlen may have been delayed, I understand there's been snow between here and Essen."

"Don't give me that twaddle, Ott. He'd have arrived in Berlin yesterday. I know he dined with Oskar and the Whale last night." If Ott was surprised at Schleicher's description of the President, he hid it well. The fact that Schleicher viewed Hindenburg with contempt was by now a poorly-hidden secret, and Hindenburg's accidental referral to Schleicher as "Ludendorff" at a state dinner the week prior had made him even more loathsome to the Chancellor than usual. As it happened, Ott was facing the window behind Schleicher, enabling him to see the massive Maybach pulling up into the Chancellory drive with the three-ring flag flapping at its front fender. "Krupp von Boehlen is arriving, sir. He will be up shortly."

"Pig-iron Krupp better get his steel buttocks up here before eight, or I'll skin him," Schleicher grated out, hiding his nervousness. Krupp von Bohlen had led the Republic's strongest company since well before Schleicher was a power worth reckoning with. For Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach to keep Kurt von Schleicher waiting was a sign of which of them was actually the stronger.

Schleicher went so far as to stand upon Krupp's entrance. "Herr Krupp! Welcome to the Chancellory, as always." He was all smiles and grace now, bringing the man they called the Cannon King to a small table off to the side of his office. "Please sit, Herr Krupp," the Chancellor smiled and gestured, completely reversed from his earlier facade. "I understand you had something which you wished to tell me regarding our project?"

"Yes, Chancellor," Krupp replied stiffly. "You recall that you asked us to look into the matter of the French progress since 1918 in certain fields." Just because you started as a diplomat, old man, doesn't mean you have to speak in circles. Come right out with it, Schleicher bit back. "Of course. What do you have to report?"

"We believe that within six weeks, we can begin production of an intermediate model... provided funding," Krupp replied, emphasizing the funding. For a man like Krupp to be so blatant about money showed just how bad the Depression still was, one more thing with which Schleicher felt he must deal... but first, the endless talk of revolution had to be ended. "Consider it provided, Krupp. Though of course, I consider the resumption of pre-war levels of production still to be the priority."

Krupp resumed. "In that case... we can give armament roughly equal to the French FT-17 immediately. We expect the armaments division to have a suitable twenty-millimeter ready within six months. This is of course just a starting point. As for mobility..." Krupp waved his hand as if repelling an unpleasant odor. "The French engines, very primitive, you must understand. We made a breakthrough earlier this year... we can give you fifty kilometers per hour."

Fifty kilometers per hour...! Schleicher had to force himself to remain impassive. When the front in the Great War had advanced rapidly, it had advanced at a very small percentage of that speed. He knew it was not the rate at which such units would advance, but it was as if Mars himself had just showed him Germany's future.

"That is an acceptable starting point, Herr Krupp. However, it is nothing more than a starting point. I tell you what... I will speak to General von Hammerstein-Equordt, see if he believes there is room in the military budget for... shall we say, a thousand of these vehicles?" He smiled slightly, a predatory grin that even Krupp could not fail to recognize. "And, of course, we will bring Reichsheer men into the production process, since they will be the end users." A thought struck him, and his eyes flared the way they had the day he had first challenged Hindenburg. "Say, Krupp... how do you feel about selling to the Chinese? I have a memorandum from General von Seeckt in Nanking, who wants to modernize the Chinese military. The Chinese will be glad to buy a company or two of these off of you; that should be an excellent proving ground for them. You have my permission," he added, leaning back expansively. Krupp just nodded slowly, as if considering the possibilities. "There are risks in selling to the Chinese warlords, but to allow us to field-test... that is certainly worth pursuing." Krupp nodded once more, decisively this time. "Excellent. Now... if I may...?" He began to rise, and Schleicher was barely able to get out of his chair fast enough to play the gracious host.

"Certainly, Herr Krupp. And if I may ask, how are things going with the Dutch boats?"

It was Krupp's turn to give a sly smile. "Why Chancellor, I have no idea of what you speak, as Germany is forbidden by treaty to have any submarines. But I understand that Scheepsbouw has a handful of hulls, just for testing, with the black eagle. They are scheduled to cruise, strictly for testing, from the Hague to Kiel in March, and to undergo further testing in the Baltic. Strictly for testing." Krupp gave one slow wink before he turned, walking stiffly towards Schleicher's massive office door. Ott waited outside for the old industrialist; Schleicher stood motionless, seized by a vision of Germany free of Versailles and astride central Europe once more. Once Krupp had fully departed, he was able to call out to the anteroom.

"Ott, get me a list of qualified engineering officers from the Truppenamt."


"Welcome to our last meeting of the semester. I have your examinations graded, and for some of you, I believe you may wish to consider another field than ballistics." Major-General Professor Karl Becker, head of Technicsches Hochschule Berlin military engineering faculty, stepped from the podium to post the final examination grades to his class. At the moment, there was precious little for the Army's ballistics research office to do, so he had been able to spare time to teach this class. He taught it less because of any interest in teaching - though he had to admit, there was more chance of a legacy here than over in the Heereswaffenamt, unless Dornberger's little program came to fruition... Becker shook his head, clearing away the distraction as he turned to face the class once more. "Gentlemen. Dismissed until next term, with exceptions. The following individuals, stand fast." The class stayed frozen as he read off the names, concluding with "Volkmann, Peter." The rest of the class, save for the dozen he had named, filed out of the lecture hall. A quick segregation followed; for half of the remainder, he merely snapped out, "I regret that you will be required to take a verbal examination during the recess." To the others, he was somewhat more polite, asking them instead to follow him to his office for brief interviews.

Peter Volkmann was in many ways his father's son - else he would hardly have been studying civil engineering, nor would he have enrolled in the new military engineering faculty. At twenty, the sandy-haired young man expected to graduate in two years, then begin the probably arduous process of finding employment in Depression Germany. He was bookish, though not to an extreme, and preferred quiet to the rowdy student gatherings that the Depression had never quite damped out. Thus, he was somewhat nervous waiting on Becker's summons. Finally, when the last of the others had spent their five to ten minutes with the professor, he knocked, to be greeted with a brisk, "Enter."

At first glance, Becker's office was in a state of dynamic chaos. Books were filed haphazardly on the bookshelves, papers stacked wildly across the desk, and both in- and out-boxes were filled to overflowing. "Sit, Volkmann," Becker commanded, gesturing at a chair across the desk from where he sat while he rotated to pull a volume from the bookshelves. Volkmann glanced at the cover, seeing only the title - Truppenfuehrung. Becker all but slammed the book down as he came back to face his pupil. "Now, Volkmann, you are probably wondering first, why I called you in, and second, what this book has to do with it." He slid the book forward. "Interested?" Volkmann nodded mutely, and Becker pulled his hand away, smiling in satisfaction. "Take a look, and listen to me. We see a couple hundred students a year come in here talking about a commission. The fact is that the Reichswehr does not have room for a couple hundred technical officers a year. It has room for about ten right now." Becker grabbed his armrests with both hands, leaning forward. "That is about to change, though don't ask me how or when. Just look at your father, though - called up as a temporary policeman, next thing you know, he's in Silesia chasing Reds. How is he, incidentally? Never mind. Important part is... you never once asked about a commission, but you're ranked third in this class. So are you interested in it at all?"

Peter blinked - this was not at all what he had expected. "Sir. I don't know. I didn't really think of it when I signed up, it just seemed like the right thing to do. Besides... sir, I think that things have changed so much since the last war, I don't know of any job I'd like to do in the Army." Since Becker made no move to stop him, he shrugged, expanding. "I mean, horses are just bigger machine-gun targets than a man. Your ballistics course pretty much showed what artillery will do to an infantryman, but the guns can't win the war by themselves. We tried tanks in 1918, but the Army can't have them... so what exactly would I want to do?"

Becker nodded, drumming his fingers on the desk. "I have an idea... and a man I would like you to meet, a Colonel Student. Are you free over the recess to speak to him?"

"I suppose, sir. What does he do?"

"Just find out, Volkmann, just find out."


Peter Volkmann met Colonel Kurt Student a week before Christmas, during that notable's brief stop before returning to the clandestine training schools in Russia. The two of them met in a cafe just off Unter den Linden, Student looking uncomfortable out of uniform - a necessary subterfuge to conceal his military role in Russia. "I'll get right to the point," Student said bluntly, leaning forward over his coffee. "General Becker says you're promising, but you don't want to play around in the Army. Have you ever considered flying?"
Volkmann blinked. "Sir, I don't want to be a bus driver for Lufthansa, if that's what you're asking." Student growled; it was perhaps the most menacing sound that Peter Volkmann had ever heard. "Don't play with me, boy. I'm not talking Lufthansa. You remember Luftsportstag a few months ago?" Volkmann nodded mutely. "You notice how many 'racing' planes there were?" Again, a nod. "And how many 'mail delivery' planes?" A further nod. "Day's coming when Germany's going to have an air force again. Becker says you've got a brain... catch." Student flipped a shiny object towards him, and Volkmann instinctively snatched it out of the air. "Good reflexes, too. Take a look."
When the younger man looked down, he saw a white-and-black enamel cross patee with crossed swords behind it. He looked dumbly up at Student, who explained, "House Order. Got it for my fifth air-to-air kill. Would have gotten a Max, but I got shot about a month later, so... just six." Student smiled tiredly. "Since then, it's mostly been gliders. Look... Becker says you're smart, and your reflexes are pretty good... what do you say? Think about stopping by the Air Ministry some time, okay? What's the worst that can happen, you decide to go be an engineer?"

Volkmann nodded, borne down by Student's sheer force of personality. "Good, now can I have my medal back?" Student grinned - something Volkmann had a feeling he did rarely, given the way his face creased, and despite himself, the younger man felt himself drawn into Student's world.


At the head of the table, Ernst Volkmann sat nervously in his field-gray uniform, waiting for his wife to bring the goose in. His children ranged down the table from him - Peter on his right, looking almost as nervous, as if he had something to hide about his grades, which Ernst doubted. He could hardly help but smile when he looked at his eldest son, following him into engineering. To his left was his second son, Johann, whose hair tended to run a shade long for Ernst's liking, and who had yet to leave the gymnasium. Past Peter and Johann were Wilhelm, barely fifteen, and Anneliese, all of thirteen and just old enough that boys started to look at her, and her at boys... a fact which Ernst Volkmann viewed with some suspicion, if not outright hostility. Finally, Lise, struggling under the goose which Ernst's army salary had enabled them to buy this year, after year upon year of lean times, arrived at the table, and Ernst was struck by a pang for his wife, still lovely after twenty-three years of marriage.

"Let us pray," he said, clearing his throat and beginning the grace; upon its conclusion, he looked up and surveyed his family one more time before setting to carving. "I have something you all ought to know," he said brightly, continuing despite the sudden rush of apprehension in Lise's eyes. The last time he had said that, he had rushed into the burning Reichstag building the following week. Peter looked up, though. "Yes, father?"
"Some good news and bad news... first the good. Apparently in the new year's list, I'm Oberstleutnant Volkmann." He grinned, and saw his sons' moderate interest. Lise was, however, less than thrilled. Any promotion that rapid, she knew, had to come with a catch. "Second... I am afraid that I have been restationed."

All hell broke loose, predictably, with the entire family starting to speak at once. Lise's voice drowned out the others. "You what? What about the firm? Are you going to be able to go back? What am I to do with the house?" He held up his hands in self-defense, seeing that Peter, too, had something he wanted to say.

"I... could take care of the house, Mother. I'll still be here at the Hochschule, I'll need a place to sleep." He swallowed. "And besides... I need to stay here in Berlin anyway." All eyes swiveled toward him, Ernst's reassignment momentarily forgotten. "I joined the Luftsportverband last week. I'm supposed to get my pilot's license this spring. Professor Becker signed off on it as a special-study course and everything."

Ernst sat down, his own declaration momentarily forgotten. "My son a pilot?" he mused, not realizing it was out loud. "A pilot? God, I never would have dreamed..." He caught Lise's glare, and gathered himself back together, somewhat stuffy once put on the spot. "Yes. Well, Peter. I suppose that's a fine thing, though I do wish you'd brought it up with us first. Besides, we won't be that far away. Essen is only a few hours by train, and by air, why I'm sure you can practically visit us in the afternoon!" Lise's glare melted slightly, but only just - he had accidentally let slip where they were going, and it was not, as she had feared, something like the German embassy in Ethiopia.

"All right, all right, let's just enjoy what's left of dinner," he finally harrumphed, looking everywhere but his wife's eyes in embarrassment. "After all, Christmas only comes once a year. Though if I'd known, Peter... I'd have gotten you that toy plane you wanted when you were five."