Old Ventures 2, Ch. 15

Fifteen, Goethe concentration camp, outside Weimar, Germany, 4/11/45

Something was wrong. There was a strange energy in the air, as Colonel Edwards slowed the train as it slipped inside Goethe’s foreboding walls. And there were more Germans there to meet the train than Sommer had said there would be.

“I’d better go cower,” Fleming said.

Then Jack heard it, gunfire, from the nearest tower. And another. And a third. One of the Nazis nearest the platform fell.

Edwards’ immediate subordinate, Captain York, wearing an SS uniform, walked along the slim platform between the cars and engine. “Hauptman,” Edwards said, midwest bleeding through in his accent.

“The Fuhrer commanded me to oversee operations here,” York said, his accent flawless, “to take down the Schutzstaffel’s pants for a spanking.” He grinned.

“Don’t have too much fun,” Edwards said.

“Sir,” York said, clapping off a half-hearted salute before spinning on his heels.

Edwards eased on the breaks, bringing the train to a slow stop as they reached the platform. They immediately heard gunfire, and Jack reached for his pistol. “Wait,” Edwards said. “No ricochet, no shattered glass. That shot wasn’t aimed at the train. Our cover isn’t blown.”

Excited footsteps clambered up the steps leading to the conductor’s compartment, and an excitable man in an Oberst’s uniform burst through the door. “Thank the Fuhrer,” he said. “The kapos have taken the camp, even the nearby towers. They have us pinned down at the station. You were due any moment, we thought with reinforcements we could break through their line, but you were late. We were nearly overrun.”

“How many men do you have?” York asked.

“Thirty, but half are wounded, maybe a third immobile. Most can still fire, but maybe 60% could advance.”

York pondered a moment, catching Jack with a gleam in his eye. “Place prisoners behind your men, three to a man. They won’t risk firing with their kindred as a backstop. Then we can advance without opposition.”

The colonel stared dumbfounded a moment, before bursting laughing, and clapped York on the shoulder. “Ha ha, yes! The cowards won’t have the stomach to fire on their own.”

“Exactly,” York said. York clapped off a whirlwind of commands, taking no small amount of pleasure in telling Edwards to relay instructions to his subordinates in the cars behind.

“You,” the Oberst said, pointing at Jack. He exchanged a look with Edwards, knowing it was a lousy time to be found out. “Strapping fellow like you, I want with me,” he said, punching the last word into his own chest.

“Ja, Oberst,” Jack muttered, and followed him out of the car.

“The Juden won’t know what hit them, until they’re dead in a hole,” the Oberst said, his mood almost chipper. Jack didn’t react, or make eye contact. Being the face of US Army propaganda didn’t exactly make him the best candidate for subterfuge.

Edwards’ men quickly dispersed, and within five minutes, their forces combined with the Germans advanced. York and Edwards were each placed so one third of the force was to either of their sides. Sixty paces in, well away from cover, they put their hands up, and all of their men stopped, while the Germans didn’t. After another five paces, Edwards and York dropped their arms in unison, and yelled, “Aim!”

The Germans, surprised at the English command so near to their flank, spun about, and the Oberst found himself squaring off with Edwards.

“Either your guns fall to the ground, or you do,” Edwards yelled. 

“You heard the man,” Jack said from behind the Oberst, “and either way, you’ll go first.” He pulled back the hammer on his sidearm, and pressed the barrel behind the Oberst’s ear.

“Schiesse,” the Oberst swore, and threw his pistol into the dirt.

The rest of the Germans followed suit, just as a shot rang out. The yard was wide, and the echo made it hard to know where the shot came from, at least for a moment. The camp. The prisoners were firing on them. “That could be a problem,” Edwards yelled.

“I’ll handle it,” Jack said, turning and marching towards the source of the shot. He tore off his Nazi uniform like it was paper, and tossed his pistol down.

As he reached the buildings, men leaned out of doorways and windows, training rifles on him. He raised his hands, but kept marching, until a frail looking man in his fifties marched out to meet him.

“We’re American,” Jack said. “I think you were expecting us.”

“Jack Simon?” the man said, staring at him through spectacles, “Americans we expected. We didn’t expect them to bring their best.”

“I’m just another GI,” Jack said. “No,” the man said, grinning widely, and slapping Jack on the shoulder, “you’re a Jewish GI. That makes you the best.”

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