As I am away in space (Helsinki) and unable to post, I give this pre-prepared post, which is a blast from away in time — a little scrap of a story I wrote somewhen between 2001 and 2003.
The reason why I abandoned it should be obvious — the idea of “an even more terrible concentration camp” isn’t very original. Had the story gone any further, meeting the Indiana Jones-lookalike would have been the next step, and the first actual chapter.
Since I’m not going to do anything with this piece, I’ve just fixed a few stupid spelling errors, and changed one name — if one wants to make up a name, Schmidt isn’t good, but it’s still heap-loads more believable than “Holzbein”.
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The unoriginal blurb: Germany, 1945. After the Third Reich’s fall. A secret begins to unwind… A terrible secret of a concentration camp no one has even heard of.
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The following is an excerpt from Michael Martin Green’s unpublished autobiographical novel, Interrogator Green. The work was left incomplete as Green died of tuberculosis in the summer of 1946.
“So”, the interrogator repeated, “you were an SS man, right?”
“Right”, the prisoner mumbled, broken. He had finally told he was willing to talk. There was no denying the blood-type tattoo in his left armpit.
“Stellen. Antonius Gottfried Stellen, SS Rottenführer.”
“So ich denke… Oh. I mean so I think. You should know. I can’t believe they gave me a… a talker who speaks no German.”
“No need, Herr Stellen, since you are so proficient with English.” And, no other possibility since we’re so short of staff, the interrogator silently added. “What were your functions in the SS?”
“I was… How do you say it in English? Parteiarbeitsleiter… Party work leader here in southern Bavaria. I was given to a SS garrison to maintain relation between them, and the local civilians. Talking. Morale raising. Then, when the war ended —”
“Which garrison would that be, Herr Stellen?”
“Klaffenbach, I think. Then, when we were overran, all of us were told to run as well as we could. My commanding officer gave me my pay for the next six months, since there soon wouldn’t be much chances for getting it paid, and I started walking.”
“I didn’t know.” The prisoner shrugged and laughed. “I didn’t even get new clothes. Then, when I see you Americans at the top of a hill, I suddenly remember I’m in a SS uniform, so I run… And of course you notice me. I rush into this old mine opening, and… disclothe myself, get out of my clothes, and throw them down a shaft. Then I run out, naked and clothesless, and then you notice and catch me. I told I was a civilian robbed by SS men, but — ah — they won’t believe.”
“You hardly can blame them for that, Herr Stellen. They saw you running into that mine.”
“Oh, they didn’t. They didn’t. I was running from ones that came from… from the road, and the ones that caught me were coming from the very opposite direction. Those that first saw me wouldn’t have caught me, but you were everywhere.”
“Ah. And, to return to your posting at Klaffenbach… Who were your superiors in that post?” the interrogator asked. The commanding officers of any “SS garrison” could be important indeed, especially if it was a “garrison” such as Dachau.
“Commanding officers?” the prisoner gulped. “I… I’m sorry but it seems I don’t remember.”
“How about other officers? Medical officer, for example?”
“I… I’ve always been a healthy man. I’ve never been sick. I don’t know. Only followed orders. Never asked names.”
“Your own commanding officer?”
“How about the name of your own commanding officer? Surely you remember that.”
“I… He was… Lieutenant Schmidt.”
“Schmidt. And what was his exact command?”
“It was… Commander, civilian relations.”
“Indeed. A formidable post. Your garrison must have been sizeable enough. What was its function?”
“Function? I don’t know.”
“Was it a prison camp?”
“No!” the prisoner barked. “No. It was a pure military garrison.”
“It wasn’t a prison camp? An extermination camp? A killing camp?”
“No, no, no!”
“Would you care to tell me where that Klaffenbach camp is exactly located?”
“Located? I… I… You must have misheard me. I’ve never even heard that name. I was in… Landshut. Yes. The Wehrmacht garrison there. The SS section there was called Klaffenbach, after our commanding officer.”
“But you just said you didn’t remember his name.”
“Did I? I meant… I don’t. Klaffenbach was his nickname. I don’t know… I don’t remember his real name.”
“And you ran from there to… What direction?”
“To west, of course. I wanted to surrender to you Americans.”
“So why were you caught fifty kilometres east of Landshut?”
“I was… Oh! Of course. I wasn’t in Landshut at that time. I was in Kaltbach — it is a small village — in a public meeting. After it ended I was told to run.”
“Who told you?”
“My immediate commanding officer. Lieutenant Schmidt.”
“Did he give you anything?”
“Give? No. He just told me to run, since the war was lost. There wasn’t any time.”
“But you just said he paid you your six month’s salary.”
“Oh! I forgot. That was the money I had with me — I shall be wanting it back, it’s legally mine.”
“We’ll decide that later. For now it seems to me that we’ll have to keep you in detention for a time, Herr Stellen, until we’ve got some confirmation on the things you have told me.”
“Confirmation? You can’t — you must not! The entire garrison must have been killed in battle. There’s hardly anybody left. I wasn’t stationed there for long. They may not even remember me. And we burned all of our records. There isn’t anything left to tell I was there. You must believe me!”
“Indeed. And would you want to elaborate on where you were assigned before you were transferred to Landshut?”
“In fact, we have this confession from another SS man who saw you in Münich in the summer of ’44… You told him rather interesting things on the place you were assigned to.”
“I didn’t! No! I mean… I was drunk. Very drunk. I must have talked… talked air. Nothing. Drunken stupidity. Boasts.”
“These are hardly ‘boasts’, Herr Stellen.”
The prisoner blanched. “I don’t recall meeting him. He must be lying. I demand to know his name.”
“You are hardly in a position to make any demands, Herr Stellen. Were you stationed to a concentration camp named Klaffenbach in the summer of 1944?”
“It was… it was…”
The prisoner slumped, cradling his head in his hands.
“Where is this camp Klaffenbach located? Who was its commanding officer?”
The prisoner began to shudder and softly cry.
“You should co-operate. It will make things much easier.”
After a long silence, the prisoner finally raised his head. “I will tell. I will tell everything, but you must believe me. Nobody ever will. We were there and we hardly believed what Doktor did. It was awful, he…”
“Begin from the beginning. Who was the commanding officer of the camp?”
“SS-Gruppenführer Horst. Doktor Opfel ran the medical half. He was a SS-Brigadeführer. He.. he did it all. He and his helpers. We didn’t do it. We only looked. We were soldiers. We had orders.” The prisoner suddenly lunged for the interrogator, screaming, “We lost half of our guards because of selbstmord! The killed themselves because they could listen at it any more!”
“Help!” the interrogator yelled. The door crashed open and soldiers poured in. The prisoner continued his raving, shaking the other like a rag doll.
“We couldn’t listen to the things Doktor did! They kept… they kept speaking! I escaped because I couldn’t take it anymore! They — kept — speaking!”
One of the soldiers — a sergeant — raised his gun and shot. The prisoner dropped, a bullet through his head.
“A violent type, huh?” the sergeant asked.
“Yes…” the interrogator gasped. “What on earth did they do in that camp?”
“You know”, the sergeant sniffed. “Slaughter and starvation, and all that.”
“No. I mean that one camp… Camp Klaffenbach.”
“Go and look.”
“I can’t. We don’t know where that camp is. We haven’t found it. It’s somewhere here in southern Germany, but we haven’t found it.”
“Found? How can you not find a bloody camp?”
The interrogator sighed. “Maybe it was dismantled, or something. We don’t know anything about it except the name. And now the only man that we had that was in there is dead.”
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The following excerpt is from A Dictionary of Nazi Germany’s Unsolved Secrets by Josef Grünberger, published in 1978. Most of the book was based on wild guesses and unverified rumours about all kinds of crimes made by desperate and out-of-touch with reality NSDAP and SS leadership during the Second World War.
Klaffenbach : One of the so-called ‘Hidden Camps’, K. was apparently located somewhere in southern Reich, and dismantled shortly before the area fell to the Allies in 1945. The most curious part of the camp’s legend is that only three names have survived the cloud of oblivion ringing it — SS-Gruppenführer Horst, SS-Brigadeführer Opfel and SS-Rottenführer Stellen — and, according to the surviving SS files, all three were reported dead in accidents in the summer of 1941! However, Stellen was caught by the Americans in 1945, being quite much alive. He reported that Horst and Opfel were still alive as well, but committed suicide before further questions could be asked.
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And that’s where I stopped. I didn’t know what there was to be found, but I was pretty certain it wouldn’t be new enough to be worth working my way to it. Probably a hidden mine full of corpses and terrible monsters, genetic mutants, maybe trapdoors, anyway more Indiana Jones than Hannah Arendt.