Friday, September 25, 2020

I Could Have You Shot For This...

Bundesarchiv
"Sepp?"

"Hey Fritz, what's going on?"

"Did you hear about the incident over in 2nd Company's sector the other day?"

Quickly Josef "Sepp" Kleinschmidt pulled the younger man out of the line they were in. Once they were out of earshot he leaned in and whispered, "Be careful, I heard about it. The Feldpolizei are around as well as the Gestapo. Don't forget, we're back in the Reich now."

"Surely there can't be anything wrong with talking about..."

"I would not take any chances Fritz, there are informers everywhere."

Indeed there were, the captain commanding the 2nd Company had already been interrogated by the GFP, been stripped of his rank without benefit of trial, and sent to a penal battalion in Russia.


Leutnant Florian Neumann sat waiting for his interrogator to join him. Though it was supposed to be hush-hush and streng geheim,¹ he was already aware of his company commander's fate. Neumann was a very junior officer, he had been promoted from the ranks shortly after D-Day when he had personally destroyed three American tanks and led the remnants of his platoon in repulsing a very strong attack on an important position, he was also a holder of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, and proudly wore the Close Combat Clasp in Silver over the right breast pocket of his tunic.

Though junior in rank, Neumann was a tough combat veteran, after serving two years in Russia, he feared almost nothing. A little bird had whispered to him of the captain's downfall. Neumann had liked the man, but he was no combat soldier, having joined the division in late August from a supply depot well behind the lines. The door began to open, Neumann sat up straight.

The man who came into the room wore spectacles, had slicked back oily hair, and wore a rather rumpled suit. He looked like a clerk in an unsuccessful accounting office, a lesser man may have discounted the newcomer based on his appearance, but this was the very man who had sent Hauptmann Klaus von Hayek to the Eastern Front as Grenadier von Hayek, member of a Strafbataillon.

"So, Herr Neumann, you do understand that I could have you shot for the behavior of your men?" The seedy little man pulled no punches, going for the throat at the outset.

"Yes Herr Feldpolizeidirektor,² I am well aware of that. Which is why, you may note, that there was no second occurrence of desertion from my company."

The small man paced back and forth behind the small table and studied the lieutenant for a few long moments. "That was you who ordered the machine gun to fire upon the men attempting to desert to the enemy?"

"Yes sir."

"Those men were not even from your platoon, why would you..."

Neumann interrupted the policeman, for that is what he had been in civilian life, "Yes sir. After the three men of my platoon had deserted the night before, I ordered the platoon to be on highest alert. I posted myself at the machine gun position near where the deserters had gone over to the enemy. It was Hauptmann von Hayek's idea to be on a higher state of alert. I had already placed my platoon sergeant under arrest and..."

"Ah yes, Oberfeldwebel Krause I believe..."

"Yes sir, he has been..."

"Oberfeldwebel Krause was shot at regiment this morning. After his arrest he berated the Feldgendarmerie sergeant who took him into custody, called him a, hhmm, where is it?" The man looked through the papers he had brought in with him, "Ah, here it is. He called the sergeant an ass kissing Nazi stooge. So, we had him shot for defeatism."

Lieutenant Neumann shifted in his chair, he had expected the sergeant to be reduced in rank perhaps, but shot? Now he was getting nervous.

"I see that bothers you lieutenant, that we had your sergeant shot."

Neumann sighed, ran his fingers through his hair then nodded, "Yes sir. He was a good man in combat, though he had been slightly shaky lately, I thought his nerves were shot. I had no idea things were that far gone."

"He had no faith in the ultimate victory of the Reich! We could not let that attitude spread! You do understand that your Knight's Cross and your record in combat are the only things standing between you and a field court martial, yes?" The policeman had slammed both hands down on the table when he had said that, while Neumann was startled, he showed no sign of it, other than his pulse increasing somewhat. Having spent long periods of time under Soviet artillery bombardment, sudden noises didn't phase him. Much.

The policeman pulled out the chair on his side of the table and sat down, he pulled out a cigarette case and offered Neumann one.

"Thank you Herr Feldpolizeidirektor, it has been a long day."

"I should imagine so lieutenant. I must say, your regimental commander speaks highly of you, he has also directed your battalion commander to give you the 2nd Company. Can you make sure no more of your men seek to desert the Fatherland? Can you handle that?"

"I suspect my men will be too busy fighting the Amis in the days to come to worry about desertion. Their chief concern will be staying alive I would think."

"Very good lieutenant, you may return to your men." The policeman stood, as did Neumann.

As the policeman turned to leave, he paused, "Oh, by the way, lieutenant, Heil Hitler."

"Yes, Herr Feldpolizeidirektor, Heil Hitler!!"

The policeman chuckled and left the room.

Leutnant Florian Neumann discovered, much to his chagrin, that he was sweating like a pig. He had been completely unnerved by the little policeman.

"I'd rather face Soviet T-34s in a blizzard than sit down with that little bastard again." He muttered under his breath as he left the building where he had been questioned. He looked around to make sure no one heard him. He was learning that it paid to be careful what one said, and to whom.


During the First World War, only 18 Germans who deserted were executed. However, the Germans executed 15,000 men who deserted from the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. (Source)




¹ Top secret
² Equivalent rank to a major

20 comments:

  1. First sign of a failing regime, when they start executing their own previously trusted officers.

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    1. The Nazis knew (or should have known) that they would not survive the end of the Third Reich. As defeat loomed ever closer, drastic measures were undertaken to keep the troops fighting. Also, after the 20 July attempt on Hitler's life, the Army was not trusted by the Nazis, especially the officers.

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  2. Oops. Shoulda said, "One of the signs..." Many more there are, to be sure.

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    1. Yeah, but shooting your own people is way up there on the list.

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  3. That's how you gut a group. Pressure from the enemy, and suspicion from the ranks.

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    1. The Nazis lived by, in fact counted on, the old divide and conquer way of doing things. The Nazis were, for the most part, rather stupid and very inefficient. They took power at a time when there was little to stop them and the people were desperate for a "savior." They got Hitler.

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  4. Soviets had their commissars also......interesting how certain regimes have their purity police.

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    1. The commissars were different, party functionaries actually assigned to military units. The GFP were different as they were assigned to an area and not to a specific military unit (usually). We still have undercover police, sort of, in the military to root out the various undesirable elements that always manage to enlist, or get commissions. I need to dig into the GFP a bit more deeply, their reputation wasn't as bad as the SS security elements. They were listed as a criminal organization before the Nuremberg trials (which led to Himmler being captured, he was carrying papers identifying himself as a member of the GFP, which got him arrested). The trials convicted individual members of the GFP but the organization as a whole was not considered in the same light as the Gestapo or the SD (Sicherheitsdienst, Security Service) and were not declared a criminal organization.

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  5. One of the rather untold stories of the war, I suspect.

    Authoritarian regimes must, almost by default, engage in the use of systemic terror and creating a sense of uncertainty as they usually do not hold the love or the endorsement of the people the rule.

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    1. Initially most Germans liked what the Nazis were doing. There were some who saw through the accomplishments to see the evil behind the mask. Only when the victories stopped coming did the Germans begin to turn against the regime and harsh methods began to be employed. But yes, the threat was always there, most urban Germans knew about the fate of the Jews. They turned their faces away, until the State came for them for being "defeatist." (Never ever, tell a joke about a Nazi party official!)

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    2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a personal hero of mine for that very reason.

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  6. The beatings and shootings will continue until morale improves.

    Ah, yes. The 'Everybody is a Nail and I am the Hammer' approach to unit cohesion.

    And those most threatened by the potential fall of the Regime are the ones most unappreciated of any form of 'humor' or sedition.

    I could make parallels to other political groups, but...

    On the other hand, if you're fighting for time and space before your country goes Tango Uniform, there is a need to control the widespread bleeding of troops, civilians and all their collective knowledge. Not 'superdupersecret' knowledge, but just the ordinary information that a good military intelligence unit can piece together to create a good idea of what's going on behind enemy lines, and to confirm what other spies and intel sources say is going on. Troop movements and numbers, amount of ammo and guns, food, medicine, general morale, etc. All important things to know before one steps into the deep pit of forward attack. (Failure to properly understand what was being told to them was part of what led to the 'Bulge.' And Failure to be imaginative enough or to properly prepare...)

    But, then again, when you start your regime with bully tactics and terror, it's kind of hard not to continue said tactics to the end.

    Then there's something about socialist political systems that, due to the devaluement of the Individual seems to lend itself to brutality towards individuals. Like bad businesses, socialist systems need individuals to perform and keep the system going, but actively attack and destroy the individuals (in business, by forcing team play, conformity to X standard that is unrealistic, yada yada yada...) Hmmm. Maybe that's what's wrong with so many businesses today, they are too concerned with conformity and sccialistic values within the company rather than focusing on what the company produces (which would be capitalism...) Hmmm... I'm going to have to think about this some more. As my mind makes the mental connections and things go all compare and contrast. Hmmmm.

    Good tale. Not a nice tale, but a good tale. Very old-school Germanic 'fairy tale' feel to it. "Hansel and Gretel went into the woods, to escape to the Amis. But, since H & G were bad little Germans, the forest ate them (with the help of Obersturmfurher Wulf and his MG43...)"

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    1. Expecting to continue receiving the benefits of society, while destroying the society - a special kind of stupid.
      Frank

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    2. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?

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  7. Hey AFSarge;

    The Average German Soldier from the many books I read didn't like the SS, and they didn't care for the GFP either, they considered them "rats" who prayed on their own, especially the Gestapo attached to the units in the field because they would be checking orders and if you didn't orders for withdrawals or troop movements, you were frequently considered "Traitors or cowards" and hung as as warnings to others, especially in Russia when whole units were withdrawing and were moving under verbal orders and the SS or Gestapo wouldn't accept the verbal and let the unit withdraw to their new location and execute the leadership. This happened when the fronts collapsed in late 1944 and the Russians were racing for the Polish frontier. Whole units got wiped out this way not by the Russians, but by the SS. It was messed up.
    The Average German soldier was trying to survive the war and he had to worry about getting rolled up by his own side, not just the allies and the elements.

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    1. Most of that was very late in the war. Also, don't confuse the GFP with the uniformed Feldgendarmerie, the German military police who were uniformed and assigned to division and up (as I recall). No soldiers anywhere, ever, liked the MPs.

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  8. I always picture of those secret policeman is a little petty people who suddenly find themselves with the power of life and death over others.

    And I always picture those poor Berlin civilians being randomly accosted and hung by the hard-core Nazis.

    On my book of world war one I was surprised at the British and French head shot 28,000 troops for desertion over the duration.

    One poignant man was told that they knew he was innocent but they had to shoot him anyway to instill discipline in the others and surprisingly the man acquiesced.

    I guess if you see enough death your own does not bother you.


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    1. A lot of the secret police were actually cops before the war. As for WWI, the French Army actually mutinied in 1917 after the Second Battle of the Aisne. The troops were tired of being flung into German machine gun fire, so they decided to quit. If you ever get a chance watch Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas, which covers the event nicely. A lot of men were shot for "cowardice," which was essentially refusing to engage in a suicidal attack.

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