Saturday, March 20, 2021

Kettenhunde*

(Source)

"Feldwebel Lang, do you know how old that kid was, the one the SD hanged two days ago?"

Feldwebel Fritz Lang looked up at Gefreiter Joachim Taube, "You really need to be careful what you say Joachim."

"But do you know? That Landser they caught on the road with no papers, the one who claimed to be visiting his girlfriend, couldn't have been a day over seventeen!" Taube was obviously upset about that. He'd been in the Army for four years now, all in the Feldgendarmerie. He drove the motorcycle, he obeyed the rules, and acted as if he believed all the things his superiors told him.

"He was nineteen, I know, I checked his paybook after they hanged him." Lang looked off into the distance, it had not been the first time he had seen harsh discipline in the field. But those had been men who stole from their comrades, who ran away from battle. One man they had shot by firing squad in Russia had actually killed his lieutenant. The officer had been unpopular, but all the same, you didn't take matters into your own hands.

"Doesn't that bother you Fritz?" Taube had leaned over and hissed that at Lang.

"Are we on a first name basis now Gefreiter?" Lang spoke with some annoyance, it seemed that discipline in the Army was eroding faster and faster every day.

"Sorry Feldwebel Lang, but..."

"I know Junge, I know. It was wrong and the SD are thorough-going bastards. We would have at least court-martialed the man, then shot him."

"Really? Just like that? How can you..." Taube was nearly spitting mad.

"Calm down, the lieutenant might hear you, he's not as understanding as I am." Lang began to climb out of the sidecar, "Wait here."

He walked over and spoke briefly with their lieutenant. He gestured down the road to the south, they spoke some more, then Lang nodded and returned. He climbed back into the sidecar.

"Come on laddie, road patrol." Consulting his map, he said, "Head down this road, then take your first left."

Puzzled, Taube did as he was commanded.


Grenadiers Jürgen Jäger and Steffen Krämer had both been crewmembers on one of 5th Company's SdKfz 251/21s, the halftrack which mounted three 2 cm cannon. They were, respectively, the loader and gunner on the vehicle, one of those which had had to be abandoned on the other side of the Rhine. They had argued for staying and fighting, as Jäger had put it, "The Führer has demanded that we defend the Rhine to the last man!"

His vehicle commander, Obergefreiter Leon Berger, had told him to "Shut up and get in the barge or I will shoot you right here, right now!"

Berger was now an assistant squad leader in 1st Platoon, Jäger and Krämer were now simple riflemen in the hastily put together 3rd Platoon. To be honest, both men felt belittled. To go from crewmen on a fighting vehicle to being a simple riflemen? It wasn't right.

Now Krämer had told Jäger of a rumor he had heard when checking for mail at the company headquarters. Jäger was aghast.

"Are you serious Steffen, some of the men want to surrender? That's treason!" Jäger had managed to keep his voice down, he felt that many of his comrades were defeatists if not outright traitors and he didn't quite trust them.

"I knew you'd want to hear about it, your father is in the Party isn't he?"

"Yes, he's been a National Socialist¹ since 1922. One of the Old Fighters²! He would be horrified to hear such talk! We must report this, at once!" Jäger was seriously agitated.

"But to whom? The rumor has it that von Lüttwitz and Sauer are both in on this plot."

Jäger looked horrified, he idolized Leutnant Sauer, and Major von Lüttwitz was something of a minor legend in the Army, at least in the West. If they were considering surrender, the situation must be worse than what they were told. Which meant that Dr. Goebbels was lying, it also meant his father was lying. That couldn't be.

"What do we do Steffen? We must tell someone!" Jäger was in earnest, he felt it was his personal duty to the Führer to root out defeatism and treason and report it when found.

"I have an idea..." Krämer whispered.


Feldwebel Lang had Taube stop the motorcycle-sidecar combination as soon as they were out of sight and sound of the roadblock they were assigned to. Lang dismounted and invited Taube to do the same. Then Lang loaded his pipe, tamped it down, then lit up.

"You've never been a smoker have you?"

"No Feldwebel, the taste upsets my stomach."

Lang drew on the pipe and released a cloud of smoke with a contented sigh, "Real tobacco, picked it up in the Ardennes from an Ami supply truck. I'm almost out, that will be a sad day."

Lang smoked for a few moments more, obviously savoring the experience, Taube thought the older man was probably ruining his health.

"So, Joachim, do you think we will win this war? Speak freely, that's an order."

Taube hesitated, when Lang nodded and drew on his pipe again, Taube managed to stammer, "No Feldwebel, anyone can see that we are defeated. We have been retreating since June, with one or two defensive stands along the way, but we always collapse and we retreat again."

"So, do we fight on to the last man? Do we go out fighting so that generations of Germans can forget us as we have forgotten those who fell in the first war? Or do we survive to return to our wives and sweethearts? What's it to be, laddie boy, die for the Folk, the Reich, and the Führer? Do you think Fat Hermann or that club-footed baboon Goebbels will join us on the front line? Do you think Hitler will join us in repelling the invaders?" Lang spoke harshly, then he took one last puff of his pipe, then tapped the ashes out on the sole of one of his hobnailed boots.

"Well?"

Taube looked sheepish and embarrassed, his sergeant had a point, and quite frankly, Taube didn't want to die for anyone, especially not the Party and especially not those strutting idiots in Berlin.

"No Feldwebel, I want to live."

"So it's all right for us to kill those who feel just like we do, but don't have the self-control to stay with their units?" Lang was nearly barking at his corporal.

Hanging his head, Taube began to answer Lang, when the sergeant said, "Hello, what's this?"


Grenadiers Jäger and Krämer came around a bend in the road and saw a Feldgendarmerie patrol up ahead.

"There you go Jürgen, we can report this to the Kettenhunde! They'll know what to do!"

"I hope you're right Steffen. But we're away from our unit, with no papers, what if they don't listen?" Krämer was starting to get nervous, the both of them could, technically, be charged with desertion. Now the idea of reporting the rumor he had heard didn't seem like such a good plan. He hoped the Feldgendarmerie would listen.


Taube looked up at the two soldiers swaying in the slight breeze as they hanged from the tree Lang had picked out. Lang had made the signs around their necks from scrap cardboard in the sidecar. Both signs bore a single word, "Überläufer.³"

"What have we done, Feldwebel? Those men claimed to be reporting a treasonous plot to surrender their unit." Taube was very unsure of himself, it had been obvious that the two soldiers were both fanatics of the "fight to the last man" school of thought. One claimed that his father was a Party member.

But when the other one had exclaimed, "Do you not want to stop this Jewish conspiracy!!?" Taube had shaken his head in shock. He had been constantly chided about his name being Jewish since he'd joined the Army. Of course he denied it, and he had the papers from his hometown in Austria to prove his Aryan ancestry as far back as the year 1565.

But those papers were based on a very clever forgery his father had purchased in Vienna two years before the Anschluß in 1938. His father had seen the writing on the wall and had decided to take precautions. Though his father descended from a long line of Baltic Germans, his mother did not. Her maiden name was Horowitz, she was a Polish Jew his father had met, fallen in love with, and married during the first war, back when the Austro-Hungarian Empire still existed. His father had been a captain in the Army, his mother a nurse.

Now, at least on paper, his mother's name was Horváth, and she was Hungarian, rather than Polish. As his mother, like many Poles, spoke multiple languages, she could easily pass for Hungarian, or Austrian as her German was also excellent.

But the use of "Jewish" as if it were something offensive and criminal had triggered something in Taube, when Feldwebel Lang had arrested the two men, he went along with it. When Lang had determined to mete out summary justice to the two men, he went along with it. He had had a last minute urge to stop things when the ropes were put around the men's necks (the sergeant had that in the sidecar as well) but when one of them called him a "filthy Jew lover" the last line had been crossed.

The two men had screamed and begged for mercy before they were hoisted aloft, using the motorcycle to lift them while Taube covered them with his MP-40. Taube had vomited when the two men began to kick and struggle. Eventually their struggles ceased.

Taube had been sick again, then he turned to Lang, "Feldwebel Lang, why do I feel sick about this. I've witnessed executions before, but..."

"You've never had to actually perform an execution, have you?" Lang asked.

"No, I haven't."

"That's why. You get used to it I suppose."

Then Lang asked a blunt question, "Are you Jewish?"

Before Taube could answer, Lang held up a hand, "It makes no difference to me if you are. The Nazis took one of our neighbors away one day. An older couple, very nice people. She used to give me cookies when I was a boy which she had baked herself. I asked my mother why they were taken away, she told me it was because the Nazis were evil but we had to tolerate them for now. Our neighbors, as you might have guessed, were Jewish."

Taube protested, "I'm not, my mother just likes the name Joachim. She's very Biblical. A good Catholic like my father." Taube tried to be matter of fact about it, but he somehow knew that Lang saw through it, and also that Lang could care less if Taube was Jewish.

"Come on lad, we need to get back and report this to the lieutenant. Did you get their paybooks?"

"Yes Feldwebel."

"Good, can you imagine the gall of those two traitors, claiming that Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz, the Tiger of France, wanted to commit treason? I mean, the man holds the Knight's Cross for God's sake! Utter nonsense." Lang shook his head as he walked back to the sidecar.

As Lang climbed into the sidecar, he looked at Taube, who was still staring at the two dead men, "What are you waiting for Gefreiter? Do you have qualms about this? What we've done here by executing two traitors to the Reich?"

"No Feldwebel, it's just unsettling." Taube mounted the motorcycle, started it up, and the two Feldgendarmes returned to their duty post, the paybooks of Grenadiers Jürgen Jäger and Steffen Krämer in the tunic pocket of Feldwebel Fritz Lang.

As far as Lang was concerned, they had just executed two sniveling cowards who were trying to desert. Who had then tried to besmirch the name of a German war hero to cover that desertion.

No doubt he would have been stunned had he known that the two were actually telling the truth.





* Literally "chained dogs," German Army slang term for the Feldgendarmerie, the Wehrmacht's military police. (In the opening photo, note the gorgets suspended by chains on the two Feldgendarmerie.
¹ The Nazis didn't like being called "Nazis," as Nazi was a derogatory term for a backwards peasant, being a shortened version of Ignatius, a common name in Bavaria, the area from which the Nazis emerged. (Source). "Nationalsozialisten", National Socialists, was the preferred term and what they called themselves.
² In German "Alte Kämpfer," those who joined the Nazi Party before 1930.
³ Defector/deserter

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

62 comments:

  1. Wow. I’m sure that conversation was repeated. And I’m sure Nazis were hung as your example which was not a bad thing.

    Being Jewish yet living in the shadow of the evil reminded me of this movie about a true story. I’ll dig up the title tomorrow if you are curious but it’s about a Jewish boy who first ends up in the Soviet side of Poland during the invasion. Then after operation Barbarossa he is adopted by a German captain and because he looks so Aryan is sent to this elite Berlin school.

    It’s a true story but man can you imagine what that would do to you inside? There were those that were able to do it although I am sure very few.

    I was not expecting this coming in this installment. And you wonder how many Kettenhunde sympathized with surrender yet still hung those with similar beliefs to save them selves?

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    1. I do wonder, no doubt they consoled themselves with "I was only following orders." I also wonder how they faced those memories in their later years.

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    2. I wonder how McArthur and Patton, along with all their men, consoled themselves with "I was only following orders" when they fired on and ran horse cavalry and tanks over the Bonus Marchers. And how they managed to not suck start a gun with the memories in their minds.

      So it's not just the Nazis (National Socialist Workers Party of Germany) that had that excuse. Been used here in America for a long time.

      Like the recent 100+ member federal raid on a guy in Montana because his ex-girlfriend was angry at him. Or Waco. Or the Elian fiasco in Miami. Or Ruby Ridge. Or the murder of Malheur. Or the FBI/Justice Department attacks upon Trump before, during and after his presidency. Or the host of people who ignore sex trafficking and child sexual abuse and trade because their leaders tell them to.

      We, as a nation, aren't exactly full of lily-white individuals. We have a whole host of "I was only following orders" government employees. Sadly.

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    3. If you could get into their heads, Beans, I'm sure you would find neither remorse nor self doubt. They are the egocentric and self righteous. They do not listen to the voices of reason, and use anger and hostility to shout down any ideas which do not fit within their preconceived notions of their own infallible righteousness. Their rigid belief system does not allow for introspection or reflection. They do not have souls to be troubled.

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    4. Patrick - No souls, spot on.

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    5. (Don McCollor)...Like the French Revolution, the problem for the type is that once the initial opponents are disposed of, they then start to feed on each other. Then none of them are safe...

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  2. I hope the leuntnat does not decide to go and tell von Luttwitz that they had just handed two of his men, that were deserting!

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    1. It probably will get reported. Might also draw some unwanted attention to the battalion as well.

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    2. Be even funnier if the two Kettenhunde went to Sauer and reported it and asked if they could fink out along with them.

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    3. One never knows where the Muse will take me. (I don't even know!)

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  3. Here it is

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099776/

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  4. Okay......snort/chuckle.
    Frank

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    1. The phrase "hoist on his own petard" went through my mind more than once.

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  5. And there is the rub. When you give someone the ability to be judge, jury and executioner, you get personal bias and vendetta too. Punishing others harshly for what they are struggling with and despise: their own weakness. And hoping it keeps prying eyes away. Man, too real.

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    1. Isn't Taube the word for pigeon or dove?

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    2. STxAR #1 - I'm sure it happened then, quite sure it's happening now.

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    3. STxAR #2 - Yes, it is. That name was chosen deliberately.

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    4. I think the Fokker Eindekker of WW1 was called a Taube... Strictkly on memory here.

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    5. You're thinking of this aircraft.

      Early war, same as the Eindecker.

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  6. Well those two chain dogs were a bit lucky and not only them. Interesting twist in today's post Sarge. National Socialists............Democratic Socialists.........hmmmmm.....looking for differences.........still looking.......

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    1. No discernable difference.
      Boat Guy

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    2. Nylon12 - Sometimes I dabble in analogies, I'm not good at it, but what passes for my country these days concerns me greatly.

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    3. We (as a nation) stepped into National Socialism under #42's and #44's reigns of terror. We (as a nation) went all the way down the hall and up the stairs once the Big Steal took place.

      And it is National Socialism. People still allowed to make money, but the big moneymakers are members of The Party. And everyone's uniforms look sharp and neat and things must be in order (exclude the whole Navy experiment with the blueberry smear BDUs thingy. That was just a huge mistake.)

      You can tell when we slip into full international communism when our dear leaders start dressing shabby, and all must dress shabby along with them.

      (Hint: By this Uniform Definition of Socialism (which, as far as I know, sprung out of my overly-fertile mind) the CCP is actually National Socialist now. Nice uniforms, people are encouraged to dress up and put up at least a front of keeping the place clean(ish))

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  7. Deus ex Kettenhunden!
    Love it.
    Boat Guy

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    1. I thought it might make an interesting twist.

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    2. Interesting to be sure, and as important; credible. I was wondering if the Feldwebel was a sympathizer and in a sense he was, just not all the way. Great justice to see those two hanged.
      Boat Guy

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    3. He is, in his own way. He knows the war is lost, but he desperately wants to survive.

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  8. I was anticipating Lang and Taube taking the 2 back to von Luttwitz and "joining" his battalion, so not quite what I was expecting. An opportunity lost?

    /
    L.J.

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    1. There were/are still some "true believers" in the battalion. Now we wonder, do von Lüttwitz and Sauer try to flush them out? Or press on and hope the men who wish to give up keep an eye on the fanatics?

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    2. Sorta reminds me of he subplot in The Hunt For Red Oktober

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  9. Hey Old AFSarge;

    That's an interesting plot twist you threw in there my friend. For a second I thought the "Jig" was up and the Von Littgow's Germans were going to have to fight their own to get out of the trap of the "KettenHunde's".

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    1. To a paper inspector, not having papers to inspect is the ultimate no-no. At which point, nothing the paperless ones say or do will be of any use.
      How's that line go - oft, evil will shall evil mar.
      Frank

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    2. I'm all about plot twists. 😁

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    3. Frank - Are your Covid-19 papers in order? I can see that coming.

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  10. Minor nit: "Folk, the Reich, and the Führer" should be "Volk, the Reich, and the Führer"

    Loving the story, OAFS. It's one of my first 'stops' in the morning.

    Scott E.

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    1. Actually I wrote it that way intentionally rather than go with yet another footnote. I'm sure most would have understood Volk means Folk, but I didn't want it to sound like a slogan.

      I could go either way on this one, thanks Scott!

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    2. Then I'll bow to Editorial Discretion. ;)

      Happy Saturday!

      Scott E.

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    3. Hahaha!

      Right back at ya Scott, it's a lovely day in Little Rhody, brisk but sunny.

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  11. Not all Chain-Dogs were fanatics. Some of them were useful wounded, not able to fulfill full combat roles. And, just like US MP/AP/SPs, someone has to do the job, and everyone else in the Army/Airforce/Navy/Marines hates them to some extent for it.

    As it was, according to the Chain-Dog book of How to Chain-Dog, it was a fair thing to do, hanging the two deserters. For that was what the two jerks were, kind of double deserters, deserting the deserters...

    Hope the rest of the war goes well for our two Kettenhunde. Because you made us care about them, therefore they are, like Herr Major's troops or Palminteri's band of brothers, ours now.

    Hope your Muse is kind to these two philosophers.

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    1. Pretty sure we'll see Lang and Taube again.

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    2. Except that there is little which is humorous about them.

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  12. https://youtu.be/rEb__G88b30 a side note, this amazing story caught my eye - while were on topic on Wehrmacht surrender attempts and whatsnot...

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  13. Interesting "sidebar" to the main plot, Sarge!

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  14. "Lang drew on the pipe and released a cloud of smoke with a contented sigh, "Real tobacco, picked it up in the Ardennes from an Ami supply truck. I'm almost out, that will be a sad day.""

    Wasn't there a bit a while back about some American deserters scooting off with a bunch of easily bartered goods who got their just rewards in a German ambush? Maybe not, but if so, clever linkage there, Sarge.
    JB

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    1. I don't remember that. Another book perhaps?

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    2. It was during von Luttwitzes leading his escape from France. That fed his men, for a few days.

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    3. Ah yes, now I remember! That was this episode, "Contact."

      I need to keep better notes...

      As one ages...

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  15. "As one ages..."

    Consider the alternative? At age 77 (in May) "So far so good" has become my motto Sarge. :)

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    1. May? We share a birth month. Nine years behind you Virgil, keep scouting that trail for us youngsters. 😁

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