Woody Man

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Hello TheHyphenated1! Just wanted to pop in and tell you I've passed character writer of the week onto you!

So, pop by the thread and say a few words!

Congratulations! You deserve it!
 

TheHyphenated1

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My, my! Thank you most kindly for the honor! I've posted a few words in the thread already, but I'll be back soon with meatier ones!

:D :D
 

TheHyphenated1

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Chapter II: Part XIV

Chapter II: The Gambit of the West

Part XIV


April 8, 1936

From the window of her family’s home in Heidelberg, twelve-year-old Helen Krause took a long look at the car that would soon take her father away. In the hall, he was sharing quiet words with her mother. Helen suppressed the urge to cry.

Her parents had moved to the United States in in 1921, and Helen, an only child, had been born in New York City two years later. She had attended PS 88 near their Brooklyn home, enjoying an unremarkable American childhood until one day shortly before her tenth birthday. Her mother and father explained to her in the kitchen of their apartment that there had been great changes in Germany recently, and that her father would soon be needed by his native country.

They were moving to Germany. Helen had cried and screamed, but on an October day in 1933, the family had set sail aboard the SS Bremen, arriving at the docks in Bremerhaven five days later. In the years since, Helen had learned German quickly and soon excelled in her school. Nevertheless, she still felt a foreigner: not truly German and no longer fully American.

Despite herself, the tears began to flow.

hberg_wih_home.jpg

Krause family home in Altstadt, Heidelberg.


The morning before, Helen’s mother’s friend Frau Hensel had come to the door in great agitation. “Turn the radio on,” she had said, terribly pale. Helen’s family gathered around their radio along with the Hensels and an elderly couple from down the street. A sensational announcer was nearly wailing, reciting a list of atrocities so frantically that it took awhile for them to make sense of what was going on. Apparently, French soldiers had invaded Belgium and Germany the night before and were already preparing to cross the Rhine. The announcer seemed to believe that thousands of German women had been abducted and sent in trains to France. The children, he claimed, would suffer worse fates still. At eleven, a second voice came over the radio, instructing the populations of Mainz, Koblenz, Aachen and Essen to tune to a different station that was broadcasting air raid warnings and civil defense information. All other listeners were to await a speech from Reich Minister Goebbels at noon.

Soon, news had come in that Saarbrücken was already in French hands.

At exactly twelve, Goebbels had come on, speaking from Berlin. He explained that France had launched an unprovoked attack against Germany, whose territory was even then being violated a French invasion. Great Britain and the other Western Allies had declared war upon Germany as well. According to Goebbels, the SS Bremen had been stopped and seized off Ireland by the Royal Navy, leaving more than a thousand Germans interned in terrible conditions on the Liverpool docks. He called upon Germans to resist Allied occupation by any means available, and assured the citizenry that the Wehrmacht would soon counterattack and drive the Franks from Germany’s sacred soil.

After Goebbels finished, the radio played Germany’s national anthem several times in a row before returning to the hysterical announcer from that morning. Helen’s father had turned the radio off immediately. The adults then sat in silence for some time. When they spoke, Helen could tell that they were trying to communicate something they did not want her to know.

That evening, three men in dark suits had come to the family’s home in Altstadt and spoken privately with Helen’s father in the parlor. She had listened in on their conversation from the next room. They had spoken of a war with France -- none of the men seemed to have expected it. They had also repeatedly made reference to “Opa”. Helen knew that that word was commonly used in Germany to refer to one’s grandfather. She wondered whether all the men were somehow related.

The next morning, the Blockleiter, Herr Liebe, had gone to each house in the neighborhood, distributing hastily printed pamphlets on resisting occupation. There was a list of men on the block who were to be resistance wardens -- assisting the Blockleiter and protecting the families. Herr Hensel was among them.

After the Blockleiter had gone, Helen’s parents explained to her why her father was not a resistance warden. Her father was being evacuated, along with several other people from his work, away from the advancing French armies. He would see them again soon, he had promised, and would write to them, if the French would allow civilian mail to cross their lines. Her father explained that the French would soon close the roads out of Heidelberg, and he had to pack his things and gather his papers in time to be picked up by the men who had come the night before.

Now, the low table in the parlor was strewn with papers of all kinds, stacked several feet high. Helen concluded that they had come from her father’s heavy iron safe. What could they be?

Her father seemed to finish whatever he was saying quietly to her mother. “Anna, the rest of the papers are either unnecessary or duplicates. Please burn them.”

Helen’s mother grabbed two thick stacks of the papers and threw them onto the fire one after the other. Blackness spread quickly over the pages as they were consumed by the growing blaze.

“Keep that going after I’m gone.”

“I will, Harold.” Helen’s mother looked as though she had been crying.

He beckoned Helen to himself and extended his arms to hug her. She approached him, but stopped short.

“Daddy, whose grandfather is this ‘Opa’ that you speak of so often?”

Her father laughed, and put a gentle arm on Helen’s shoulder. “Helen, ‘Opa’ is not a person at all, but rather an organization. It comes from the letters O-P-A, or Ölproduktionamt. The Ölproduktionamt has been given the task of finding new ways to find or produce oil, and I have been made the head of it.”

“That’s wonderful, Daddy! Why didn’t you tell me right away?”

“I didn’t tell you because the OPA is a secret. For this reason, you are to keep this just between you and your mother and I. Do you understand?”

Helen nodded.

“Good girl.” He held her and her mother tightly for several long seconds. “Take good care of your mother, Helen, and help her as much as you can around the house.”

“I will, Daddy.”

He slipped out of their embrace and opened the door. The car was already running.

Helen’s mother closed the front door. Until almost dusk, they waited for some news of the occupation. Helen was unsure what she was even expecting. Surely the French soldiers would not march into this very neighborhood?

The radio was playing another interminable loop of patriotic songs, and was of no help. Her mother turned it off again.

Helen returned to the window. In the distance, the swastika flag over the police station slowly sank on its staff and disappeared from sight. Soon, another flag was climbing it -- the tricolore.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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So the war begins poorly, and families get torn apart. I wonder if that little slip by the father might not come back to haunt him.
 

TheExecuter

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So...the French declared and went for the jugular...good for them...bad for Germany...awesome for the story!

One wonders what Hitler will say now...

TheExecuter
 

Ironhewer

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Viv la France! Viv la France!

As for French atrocities against the Germans . . . as a general rule take the opposite of what Goebbels says and you have a better chance of it being closer to the truth. Even if he is only exaggerating a little, it may be callous, but my sympathy for Nazi Germany is quite low in case anyone hasn't guessed that by now. Heck, I admire Bomber Harris.

Excellent update!
 

trekaddict

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As much as I'd like to see flying this one








over Germany I wish you good luck.
 

Kurt_Steiner

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Moving scene...I bet that Hitler is ready to unleash the dogs of war. The net move... what is in store for us...?

TheExecuter said:
One wonders what Hitler will say now...

Let me guess....

D'oh!

:D
 

dublish

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So the French are just going to send their entire army up to Cologne/Aachen/Dortmund, leaving you to occupy Strassbourg and cut their forces off?

*sigh*
 

Woody Man

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Good lord, Frenchies are getting far, and bad news about the rest of the allies, looks like someone over there grew a backbone..
 

TheHyphenated1

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stnylan - Ah well, you can never be quite sure what a twelve-year-old will or will not let slip out ;)

TheExecuter - Well we know what he's not going to say... "That was my fault and I take complete responsibility for it. Why don't I just resign to save everyone any further worry?"

Ironhewer - Thank you! There is indeed a great deal of truth to Ironhewer's Goebbels Law: "Take the opposite of what Goebbels says and you have a better chance of it being closer to the truth."

trekaddict - Thank you!

Kurt_Steiner - He would only say such a thing privately ;) .

dublish - No, those are the regions under threat of air raid. At present, the War Ministry and General Staff are still trying to figure out exactly the main thrust of the invasion. Suffice to say, fighting of one kind or another is by this time occuring across a front stretching from the Channel to the Swiss border.

English Patriot - Or learned how to use it!
 

unmerged(61296)

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"The announcer seemed to believe that thousands of German women had been abducted and sent in trains to France. The children, he claimed, would suffer worse fates still. At eleven, a second voice came over the radio, instructing the populations of Mainz, Koblenz, Aachen and Essen to tune to a different station that was broadcasting air raid warnings and civil defense information. All other listeners were to await a speech from Reich Minister Goebbels at noon."

Sounds like the dreadful French propaganda of WW1, when German soldiers were supposed to have fun cutting off French/Belgian right hands. Truly not one of our best moments, and war was no excuse.
 

dublish

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TheHyphenated1 said:
dublish - No, those are the regions under threat of air raid. At present, the War Ministry and General Staff are still trying to figure out exactly the main thrust of the invasion.
You have more respect for the AI than I do then. ;)

Atlantic Friend said:
Sounds like the dreadful French propaganda of WW1, when German soldiers were supposed to have fun cutting off French/Belgian right hands. Truly not one of our best moments, and war was no excuse.
Meh. I'm of the opinion that anything you do to win is justified so long as it actually helps you win. It does lead to a moral grey area where you can't exactly fault the losers for doing the same things though...
 

TheHyphenated1

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Atlantic Friend, dublish - This definitely leads to a very complex and tricky debate. I'm not sure how far the mods would let it go, but within the context of the current discussion, it's probably fine so far :) .

dublish - A lot of people complain about the Paradox AI, but I find it often mimics historical blunders quite brilliantly ;) .
 

TheHyphenated1

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Chapter II: Part XV

Chapter II: The Gambit of the West

Part XV


April 9, 1936

The men of Johann Mahler’s company had been dug in since morning along a long wheat field south of Herseaux in northwestern Belgium. Though the French border was just over 500 meters away, they had not yet seen any sign of enemy soldiers.

In the distance, the low rumble of heavy artillery served as a reminder that a war was in fact in progress, but there was otherwise a near-total lack of information about the progress of events on a larger scale. Hauptmann Kahrs had been summoned early that morning to divisional headquarters at Avelgem and not seen since. Command of the eighty-eight men dug in behind the hedgerow had then devolved upon Leutnant Blauer who had himself been summoned to regimental headquarters an hour later. Thus it had fallen to Leutnant Zimmerscheid to defend a 200 meter stretch of field against any onslaught that might come -- without orders, intelligence or communication from above.

Lurid rumors circulated wildly among the men. Many were certain that the French army had deported thousands of German women for the purpose of “bolstering the morale” of the soldiers behind the front. Quite a few seemed to have reliable friends who were in a position to know that a prominent general had betrayed Germany, leading to the rapid French advance. A few believed that northwestern Belgium had already been cut off in a massive encirclement.

The most reliable piece of news to come in all day was from a private who had overheard officers listening to a German radio broadcast which made reference, he said, to the “Imminent recapture of Freiburg”. The exact implications of this were hotly debated by the men of the company, but most agreed that the city had probably fallen to the French.

It was a warm spring day, and the company had passed the hours in quiet conversation on one side of the long hedgerow at the edge of the field.

82x82_belgium_fields.jpg

The field defended by Johann Mahler’s company, seen from the southwest.


“If you ask me,” said Mahler’s fellow corporal Eddi Althaus to no one in particular, “there’s Bolshevism behind all this. You see, France has been turning further and further against Germany ever since it signed a mutual defense pact with the Soviet Union. Mark my words, Stalin will attack Germany from the rear before summer is here.”

Mahler reclined in the shade beneath hedge. “I don’t think so, Eddi. England is the larger threat now, at least. We’ll be lucky if they don’t send another expeditionary force to France before all this is over.”

Althaus turned to face his friend. “What you fail to realize, though, Johann -- is that too much of England supports Germany for them to actually invade. I am quite sure that they have declared war as nothing but a formality.” He stuck a hand into the breast of his tunic and affected a strong British accent. “Satisfaction of honor, and such.”

“You’re funny, Eddi, but I think I am right.”

Several of the men nearby laughed.

“A thousand pardons! Of course you’re right, Sigmund.” Althaus gave a friendly tug on the ribbon looped through Mahler’s third tunic button.

He had been awarded the Iron Cross 3rd Class for his actions at Riemst, and at Althaus’ instigation, the rest of the company had never ceased to tease him about it.

“Our very own hero, Johann.” Althaus clucked loudly. “I always thought heroes were a little bit more muscular, but it seems the Wehrmacht has fallen on hard times.”

“Shut up, Eddi.”

“By your command, Gefreiter Sigmund.”

The drone of an engine overhead drew all eyes upward. A lone biplane displaying the blue-within-white-within-red roundels of the Armée de l'Air was flying slowly over the countryside.

Leutnant Zimmerscheid, who had been cleaning his revolver in the shade of a tree behind the hedgerow, sprang to his feet. “Up men, up! Less talking. Each man should be alert and ready to defend this position. Yes?”

There were affirmative shouts from the men.

Mahler rose to his feet and peered over the hedge across the wheat field. Time passed, and hushed conversation resumed. Mahler’s mind began to wander to his home, and to worries of the air raids that were said to be striking the cities of the Rhineland. The sound of distant hoof beats drew his attention to the far side of the field just in time to see a man on a brown charger vault his horse over the low hedge that marked the field’s boundary. He brought the horse to a stop and seemed to scan the ground leading to the road to Herseaux.

Althaus already had a pair of field binoculars pressed to his eyes. They were of an expensive design usually reserved for officers, but so were a number of items the incorrigible corporal carried. “Yes, he’s wearing the kepi hat of a French capitaine, and from the dark blue color he’s probably from the chasseurs. He’s -- he’s turning now. Excellent equestrian form, probably a Saint-Cyr gentleman-soldier. It looks like he is missing a uniform button, so he was probably called up recently -- even so, his wife should have fixed it, so he’s probably a bachelor, or maybe he’s been divorced several times, as you can see from the --”

“Eddi!” Mahler snatched the binoculars for himself. “Enough with the commentary… Was any of that true anyway?”

“Knowing me, all of it was true.”

Grumbling, Mahler edged up over the hedge and peered through the binoculars. The man seemed to be an officer, and he was willing to believe Althaus insofar as the man’s captaincy. “Yes, he is a captain. What should we do?”

Unterfeldwebel Becker scurried up at a crouch. “Give me the glasses.”

Mahler handed his squad leader the binoculars. Becker poked his head above the hedge and was silent for awhile. At last his voice came in a low whisper. “He seems not to see us, and he is crossing the field toward us. Gottsch! Come up here with your rifle ready.”

The squad’s best marksman soon presented himself. “Just tell me when to shoot, Herr Unterfeldwebel.”

“Unterfedwebel, he looks to be alone,” Mahler whispered, “perhaps we should try to take him prisoner.”

Becker glanced away from the binoculars and frowned. “Very well, but if he doesn’t stop when I demand his surrender, shoot him immediately.” He looked through the binoculars again and held up a warning hand. “Not yet, wait for him to come closer.”

A minute passed. Mahler and the other men pressed against the near side of the hedge trying to imagine how close the man on horseback was getting. Just as Mahler’s nerves were beginning to dull, Becker burst over the hedge, shouting. “Arrêt! Vous devez vous rendre, ehm, rapidement!

Mahler and several dozen of his comrades poked their rifles over the hedge and aimed at the officer, now just thirty meters away.

The man brought his horse to a stop. He was clearly quite surprised.

Becker brandished the binoculars at him fiercely. “Démonter! Démonter de votre cheval, s'il vous plaît, capitaine!

The Frenchman dismounted and held his gloved hands in the air.

Coucher vouz, s'il vous plaît!” Becker gestured for the man to lie down. Hesitatingly, he complied.

“Gottsch, keep him in your sights. Kayser, get his horse and lead it back here.”

The Thuringian private approached the nervous horse slowly and patted its head reassuringly. At last he took its reins and led the animal to the other side of the hedge, where he tied it to a small tree.

Meanwhile, Unterfeldwebel Becker ordered two soldiers to seize the officer and bind his hands with belts. The Frenchman again complied docilely. He was pulled to his feet and led behind the hedge, where Leutnant Zimmerscheid was waiting for him.

“What is the meaning of this? Untie him at once!”

The notoriously starchy lieutenant winced as Becker drew a long knife and used it to free the jammed belt clasps before untying them and slipping them off the Frenchman’s wrists.

“My apologies, capitaine,” the lieutenant said.

“It is not troublesome.” The man spoke good German.

“Please sit.” Zimmerscheid gestured to a nearby tree stump. “What is your name, rank and unit?”

“My name is Jerôme Canac. I am a captain in the 3ème Bataillon de Chasseurs.”

Still looking at Canac, Zimmerscheid gestured for the company sergeant to begin taking notes. “And your division?”

“I -- the 3ème Bataillon de Chasseurs is attached to the 2ème Division Cuirassée de Réserve.”

Mahler heard Zimmerscheid swear under his breath. “That is an armored division, correct?”

“That is correct, Hauptmann…”

“Leutnant,” he corrected, somewhat ruefully, “Leutnant Paul Zimmerscheid.”

Canac nodded.

Capitaine Canac, what were you doing on German soil?”

“I am not able to say. I may say though that we are at war with you, and therefore you may presume that I was involved in a military operation against you.”

Zimmerscheid was visibly afraid. “Müller! Take Hauptfeldwebel Stumpff’s report, and go as quickly as you can to find higher headquarters.”

Soon after the runner was out of sight, Canac called for Zimmerscheid to speak with him privately. Of course, every single man within earshot craned his neck and stilled his breathing to overhear. “Do you hear that, Leutnant Zimmerscheid? Those are tanks coming this way that can wipe out your men very easily. I will accept your surrender now, and we can thus avert all bloodshed today.”

Leutnant Zimmerscheid’s façade of composure was cracking altogether. He cast about desperately for an answer, but was unused to being without higher officers to be answerable to. “I -- do not know.”

“I am sure the war will be settled soon, Leutnant Zimmerscheid. It is no use to send any of these men to their deaths now.”

“No,” he said, swallowing. “Yet I have been ordered to hold this position and that is what I shall do.”

Mahler and the others were now again poking their rifles over the hedgerow. Engines could be heard ahead, but no tanks were visible. At last, there came the sound of snapping vegetation and a French tank rolled over the hedge, followed by two more like it.

“Those are AMR 35s!” called Althaus.

300px-AMR_35.jpg

AMR 35s were employed to great effect at the start of the French campaign.


Infantrymen were starting to cross into the field now.

Gottsch began firing his Kar98k, soon joined by Kayser and Adam. Some of the infantrymen fell, but the French were now aware of the German position and began returning fire. The lead AMR 35 traversed its turret along the hedgerow, firing its heavy machine gun.

The men took cover quickly as a shower of leaves and earth sprayed into the air.

“Back! Back!” Zimmerscheid was waving his revolver wildly. “Retreat!”

Some of the men hesitated.

“Into the road! Now! That was an order!”

Mahler and most of the men crawled down the embankment to the farmer’s path behind the wheat field. He turned to see the French captain standing over Gottsch’s bleeding body, frantically waving his handkerchief at the tank.

Three of the others fired a few futile shots at the tank from over the hedgerow and ran down to the path to join the rest of the fleeing company.

They did not stop running until they reached Herseaux.
 
Last edited:

TheHyphenated1

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Apologies for the small picture of the field, but as closely as I can gather, that is an authentic photograph of the actual field. I figured better to have a thumbnail of the real thing if that's the best available than to have a panoramic view of somewhere else ;) .
 

stnylan

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So the French caught the Germans napping - at least somewhat. Those men did appear to be rather too sure of themselves.
 

Ironhewer

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Well, remember the Wehrmacht of 1936 was not the one of 1939 or 1940 or '41-'44. This is a new, relatively small, force facing off against what was considered one of the best armies in Europe, if not the world.

GO FRANCE GO!

Ahem. A most excellent update.
 

trekaddict

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Damn.. I was jsut about to post something like that... :mad: :D
 

Woody Man

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Great exchange between Sigmund and Eddi, very enjoyable update! Though it does not bode well for Germany!