Stalag 13
November  1944
Day 3

 

The next day, not long after the noon roll call, a staff call rolled through the front gate of Stalag 13 and came to a stop near Kommandant Klink's office. Hogan and his men watched from the window of their barracks. Major Hochstetter emerged from the car, along with a uniformed member of the Ministry and then Axis Annie. The heroes watched as Klink came out to greet the visitors and then led them to the guest quarters.

 

"C'mon.." Hogan said, turning away from the window. The heroes followed him to his quarters. The coffee pot was set up quickly and they listened as Klink, Hochstetter and the Ministry representatives entered the guest quarters.

 

Major Miller had seen through the slit in the drape as the car pulled up. He stood now, in the middle of the living area, smoking a cigarette and trying to appear casual. He looked over as his visitors entered the quarters, looking surprised, and cautious, to see them.

 

"Major Miller," Klink said. "This is Hauptmann Reigels and Fraulien Anna Gebhart of the Propaganda Ministry. They would like to speak with you for a moment."

 

Hauptmann Horst Reigels was dressed in a grey uniform his matching grey crush cap tucked under his arm. He looked young, possibly close to Miller's age, maybe even younger and had short dark hair and chiseled features. Anna Gebhart was an attractive woman in her early 30's with raven hair pulled up and back in a severe style and she wore a black skirt and top with a light grey trench coat over it. Although the clothes were civilian, the look mimicked military decor and made clear that the woman was all business.

Although he contemplated a smart remark of but I don't want to speak with them, he withheld it and simply gestured to the couch for the Propaganda officials to have seat. Kommandant Klink sat in one of the two remaining chairs, and Major Miller sat down across from the Ministry officials. This left Major Hochstetter to stand, much to the amusement of Miller.

Anna looked at the Major and smiled. "Major Miller," she began, "it is quite an honor to meet you. We have heard and read much about you."

"All good I hope."

"Of course," Anna said. "A patriotic individual such as yourself, walking away from fame and fortune to join his country's army in it's time of need. It was a very honorable thing that you did."

Miller refrained acknowledging the praise.

"More recently, you've been quite an integral part of the Allied propaganda effort with your involvement in broadcasts directed toward the German people and soldiers..."

Miller held back a smile. "Just doing my part for the war effort."

 

"And of course you understand that despite our best efforts to jam the signals for those broadcasts, we are not always...successful."

 

"Is that a fact?"

 

Anna paused. "Major, obviously you know that the reason we have you is to stop those broadcasts indefinitely, which..." a slow smile crossed Anna's face, "we have succeeded at."

 

Miller smoked his cigarette and said nothing.

 

Anna continued, "Of course, now with you as our guest, the Propaganda Ministry has a most unique opportunity. Major, you speak some German, do you not?"

 

"No."

 

"Oh, come now. We've heard you on your broadcasts. You've improved greatly in the short time the broadcasts have been airing. Of course, we know you're not nearly as fluent as the young girl that is on your broadcasts with you...what is her name?" Anna paused. "Ilse. And the young man who sings the songs in German....Sergeant... Desmond? Yes, Major we know all about the broadcasts and we've heard you speak German. And we've heard your music." 1

 

"Hmmm..." Miller mused. "Music which, if I recall correctly, is banned here in Germany, as it's considered degenerate. In fact...I've heard stories where the Gestapo..." Miller glanced at Hochstetter, "...has arrested youths for listening to American jazz and swing music."

 

Hochstetter drew in a breath to say something but was interrupted by Reigels. "That is true," the Ministry captain said. "And that is where the Propaganda Ministry has this unique opportunity, Major Miller."

 

"We know that German youths listen to your music, Major," Anna said. "We know that records are smuggled into this country and sold on the black market. We even know there are "swing" bands here in Germany that play traditional German music on one side and then your American jazz on the other.  Several of the youths we now hold in detention played in these bands...." Anna stood up and stepped around the coffee table, pausing momentarily between the couch and where Hochstetter stood. "It is the feeling that perhaps in it's efforts to build a strong nation and people, the Reich has misunderstood and in some cases alienated it's youth. And if the Reich is to last for a thousand years, it is the youth of today who will lead us tomorrow. Therefore, the Reich needs to find a way to connect with the young people in order to prepare them for the great responsibility that lies ahead of them."

 

Major Miller could already see where this was heading and he didn't like it. He said nothing, however, and just continued to thoughtfully smoke his cigarette.

 

Anna continued her slow pace around the room, pausing now behind the chair Miller sat in. "Tell us, Major Miller...what is it about your music that's so appealing to young people?"

 

Major Miller turned his head to look over his shoulder, but not to look at Anna. "I think you all ready know the answer to that." When she stepped in the direction of Kommandant Klink, Miller looked up at her and his eyes followed her as he continued. "Isn't it the same reason such music is banned in this country? Because it's American? Because you can dance to it? Because it's freedom...it's fun, it's...innocent? Because it's represents everything that's the opposite of what National Socialism is supposed to be about?"

 

There was a peculiar silence that hung in the room. Anna paused behind where Colonel Klink sat.

 

Over in the barracks, Carter let out a low whistle. "I think he struck a nerve."

 

"Big time," Hogan said. "He knows exactly what they’re looking to do.”

 

Back in the guest quarters, Major Miller watched as Anna stopped next to the couch and turned to look at him. He met her gaze, unwavering. "There's a point you're trying to make with all this," he said. "Why don't you just come right out with it?"

 

Anna took a deep breath. "Major Miller, the Propaganda Ministry is interested in using you in order to connect with the youth of Germany. Your music. Although the Reich frowns on such...'noise'...the Propaganda Ministry realizes that there are compromises that perhaps must be made. Now that you are our guest we would like to feature you and your music on broadcasts aimed at the youth of Germany."

 

Miller couldn't have been more offended. "Noise?" He leaned forward in his chair. "Don't you mean degenerate noise? Doesn't Goebbels call it subhuman? You insult jazz and swing music but yet you want it, and me, in broadcasts aimed toward German youth, to show them that the Third Reich is so great and wonderful? I don't think so."

 

"Perhaps the Major can be...persuaded to reconsider," Hochstetter said, leaning forward.

 

"Or what?" Miller said, looking at Hochstetter. "You'll make my stay here a living hell? Go ahead and try. I will not be a puppet in a Nazi propaganda ploy." Miller's dark eyes were piercing as he turned them toward the two Ministry officials.

 

Hauptman Reigels looked back at Major Miller, unaffected. "Perhaps the Major would like to think over the proposition, and the consequences, for a spell....say, a few days in the cooler?"

 

"Yes," Hochstetter agreed. "I never liked the idea of him being allowed to be in held in these kind of affluent accommodations to begin with..." He gestured with his hand to the room itself.

 

Miller looked at Hochstetter. "I'm not classified as a POW."

 

Klink spoke up. "That is true, Herr Major, he's not a POW therefore he cannot be held in my cooler--"

 

"Shut up, Klink! He is a prisoner of the Gestapo and he will be moved to your cooler immediately!"

 

"Yes, Herr Major!" Klink got up from his chair.

 

"Colonel Klink, you must confine all the prisoners to the barracks!" Anna said. "He is not to be seen!"

"Yes, Fraulein, yes..." Klink nodded and went to the door to fetch the guard and to holler the order to Schultz to confine all prisoners to the barracks. Reigels stood up, looking at Miller. Major Miller took his time standing up and, keeping an eye on Hochstetter, he dropped the remains of his cigarette to the floor, stepped his foot over it and turned his foot slowly to crush the ashes against the rug. Hochstetter saw this and his jaw clenched in further annoyance. Miller then turned as Klink and the guard returned and he stood before them as they waited for the signal that all the prisoners were confined to barracks.

Over in Barracks 2, Hogan yanked the plug from the coffee pot and the heroes came out into the general quarters as Schultz shooed other prisoners from number 2 back into the building from the yard. "Rrrousel!"

 

"What's going on, Schultz?" Hogan asked casually.

 

Schultz lowered his voice to the Colonel. "They are moving the special prisoner to the cooler."

Hogan looked surprised. "The cooler? What did he do, tell Axis Annie to go to hell?"

"I do not know. I only know they are moving him to the cooler." Schultz paused. "How did you know Axis Annie was here?"

"Schultz, we all saw her come in. We weren't put on lock down for that."

“Oh.” Schultz went over to the window and closed the wooden board over it.  A whistle blew, indicating the yard was clear and all prisoners were confined to barracks. Surreptitiously, Hogan inched his way over to the door and quietly opened it, the other heroes surrounding him to block Schultz from seeing the Colonel sneaking a peek.

In the guest quarters, the guard turned to lead Miller out. The Major followed with Klink directly behind him. Hochstetter, Reigels and Anna followed out after. Hogan watched as Miller was marched across the yard toward the cooler. When the Major arrived at the fence area, Hogan softly closed the door and turned silently to his men. Although he admired Miller's defiance to Ministry, seeing the band leader marched to the cooler troubled the Colonel even though it had come as no surprise.

In the cooler, Miller was escorted to a cell and the guard unlocked it, snapping the door open. Miller stepped inside and kept his back facing the door. Before the guard closed the door, Hochstetter held his hand up, stopping the door from being closed. "Just a moment," he said. He stood directly in the door way and looked at Major Miller. "Your uniform jacket, Herr Major..."

Miller paused. Terrific, they want me to catch pneumonia. He slowly undid the buttons of his brown uniform jacket and then slipped it off. He turned and handed it to Major Hochstetter.

 

"And your glasses..."

Miller paused, maintaining a scornful glare at Hochstetter. Without his glasses he'd be nearly blind as a bat. Obviously Hochstetter was going to carry through on making things a living hell. A slow and calculated carry through. Miller took a deep breath and removed his wire rim glasses, handing them to Hochstetter.

Satisfied, the Gestapo Major stood back to let the door be closed and locked. Reigels looked through the bars at the American Major. "We hope, Herr Major, that you will reconsider your decision..." he said as the guard turned the key to lock the cell door. The troop of Germans then disappeared from Miller's blurred view, and the sound of a heavy metal door clanging shut echoed within the cold concrete confines of the cooler, replaced with silence.

 

"Not likely..." Miller said softly to the quiet.

 

The all clear signal had been given once Miller was inside the cooler. Hogan and his men were gathered just outside Barracks 2, watching as Klink, Hochstetter and the Ministry officials left the cooler. All of them saw the jacket Hochstetter was carrying.

 

"Colonel," Carter spoke up, concerned.

 

"I see it..."

 

"It gets awfully cold in there, Colonel," Newkirk said.

 

"I know." Hogan let go a sigh. "We have to get him out of there. LeBeau..."

 

"Oui, Colonel?"

 

"They'll probably ration his food, but I want you to volunteer to work the kitchen detail. Find which ration is his and we'll slip a note into it."

 

"What is the note going to say?" Kinch asked.

 

Hogan paused. "We're going to tell him to accept the German's proposition. He'll hate it, but it's the only way we can get him out of that cooler and eventually out of this camp...and back to England." 2

 

"What if he refuses?" Newkirk asked.

 

"Then I pull rank.” Hogan sighed. “Which I'll hate."

"Order him to commit treason?!" LeBeau exclaimed.

"It's either that or have him locked up in that cooler for the rest of the war. You forget the broadcasts are suspended? There's only two ways to get that music back on the radio, the first of which is to get him back to England alive. The second way, I'm not even acknowledging as an option."

"Don't worry, Louie," Newkirk said. "Once the guv'nor comes up with a plan, Miller won't be here long enough to commit treason."

"Exactly," Hogan concurred. Now if I can come up with a plan...

***

 

When LeBeau came back to the barracks after the evening mess, all he could do was shake his head to the Colonel. "All they're letting him have is bread and water. I couldn't hide it..." LeBeau pulled the slip of paper from his pocket and handed it to Hogan.

 

The Colonel sighed, looking at the slip of paper. "It's all right LeBeau, we'll try again tomorrow." Hogan put the note in the pocket of his bomber jacket. "Bread and water..." he muttered.

 

 
Day Four...

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Footnotes:


1. Between October and November of 1944, Major Glenn Miller and the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces took part in several broadcasts on the ABSIE (American Broadcasting Station in Europe) directed toward German soldiers and citizens. The ABSIE was part of the Overseas Branch of the Office of War Information (American propaganda) and broadcasted to the continent news, talk and entertainment in different languages in order to prepare the occupied territories for liberation. The reference page, once posted, will include a link that talks about Miller and the AEF Band's involvement with the ABSIE.

2. Some episodes showed a tunnel access to the cooler. For the purpose of this adventure, there is no tunnel access.