The Division of the Damned
A Novel by Richard Rhys Jones
Copyright © 2012 Richard Rhys Jones
The Vampyre, His Kith and Kin, Montague Summers, 1928
They flew from tree to tree, as silent and cold as the churning snow around them. Armed only with blade and tooth, they darted through the night with supernatural grace. The dark held no secrets for them as the day held no mercy and, slick and practised, they spread into formation as the quarry neared.
On a densely wooded hill five miles away from the German lines, a lone Russian guard stamped his feet to ward off the cold. It was the dead man’s stag, , and he was bone tired. They had driven all day before halting to set up the communications post, then he had serviced his wagon, set up the tented area for the officers and helped position the radio masts. Now, after only three hours sleep, he was back on guard duty and he couldn’t see further than his dire need of a cigarette.
The war would soon be over he reckoned. A couple more months and then he could go back to his hometown. There he would find a wife, start a family and work on a farm or in a factory. He would be a hero and, on family gatherings, he would regale them all with stories of how he single-handedly took on the might of the Fascist army and conquered them.
Like pouncing arachnids, they dropped from the trees on the unsuspecting camp. The lone Russian’s last sensation was the warm gush of blood spurting from his now lacerated throat and the voracious teeth that greedily violated the wound. As the blackness of death dimmed his sight, he heard the first screams of the officers and men he had been guarding as the enemy wreaked carnage and death. With steel and fang, they killed and fed the way they had always done.
No mercy, only butchery and then gorging on the blood of the fallen.
Newly promoted Standartenführer Von Struck marvelled at the grandeur and pretentiousness of his surroundings. After three years of virtually constant fighting, three years of mud, horror and atrocity, he felt almost affronted by the luxurious opulence of the building he was in. The marble flooring and collection of busts and statues were a world apart from the stark and unforgiving hell of the Eastern Front.
Chic young secretaries walked briskly up and down the spotless corridors, themselves dressed in uniforms so smart and clean that they could have been hospital whites. The hours he had spent pressing his tailor made uniform and polishing his boots counted for nothing in their eyes, and they treated him with the polite disdain office personnel affect when dealing with the blue-collar soldiers of the front. Even the Iron Cross pinned to his tunic was just one of many. ”How does a desk jockey get an Iron Cross?” He wondered idly.
Opposite him a tall, effeminate looking Luftwaffe officer flirted with a giggling, young secretary. The same giggling secretary he’d asked a quarter of an hour before where he was to report to. He had waited long enough and decided to ask again. The Luftwaffe officer whispered something quickly into the girl’s ear as Von Struck approached them and the secretary tittered again before looking up.
"Excuse me,” he smiled politely, “but I’ve been waiting a good fifteen minutes now. I just need to know where I should report to and seeing as you don’t seem too busy at the moment, could you make a couple of phone calls to find out?” He smiled to make a friendly impression as he had learnt a long time ago that ordering Party bureaucrats around doesn’t always deliver the desired results, especially with the ladies.
The tall Luftwaffe officer stood up and looked down his nose at Von Struck. Pressed and polished to the point of fetish, hair oiled tight to his skull, he screwed his face in theatrical disgust, “Do you mind?” He demanded, “We’re talking here.”
Looking Von Struck up and down, his eyes lingered on the Knight’s Cross before moving on. "Is it normal in the Waffen SS to interrupt a superior officer while he’s talking official business? Is it Standartenführer…?” He started to take a pen and paper out of his tunic pocket,”…Name?”
The secretary sniggered audibly and the tall officer glanced at her from the corner of his eye. Von Struck wasn’t sure which was more annoying, the joke of an officer using his rank to try and intimidate him or the girl egging him on with her adolescent smirking.
”Come on man, what is your name? Are you deaf or just plain stupid?”
Von Struck saw red. The combination of his three years in the East and the unspoken derision he’d felt since entering the building boiled over into a reflex action. He calmly took a step forward, grabbed the other man’s jacket and pulled his face down to his knee. Gristle crushed against thigh and the immediate warmth on his leg told him the nose was broken.
The girl screamed and stood up. Von Struck dropped his now limp opponent and moved to the girl, slapping her once before grabbing her hair. The smack abruptly stopped her screaming and he pushed her back down in her chair. ”Now start phoning” he hissed in a barely suppressed rage.
The black uniformed guards of the Chancellery security were on him within two minutes.
The cell was in the basement of the Chancellery. The door opened and the tall, imposing figure of SS Brigadeführer Holaf stormed in. “What in the name of Stalin's organ do you think you were doing?” he shouted. “You’re not in
anymore, this is Russia damn it. Are you out of your mind, man?” Berlin
Von Struck stood up. He had no answer; he found it hard to believe he’d done it himself. He had acted on impulse and instinct, as he had for the last three years. In the East his reactions had always saved his life but here in
marked him for the front line animal that he’d been made to feel. He had been in
the cell for three hours and the talk was already of court-martials and firing
squads. The man that he’d knocked out was the son of a affluent businessman who
had friends in high places. The wealthy executive was not happy, the son was
not happy and Brigadeführer Holaf was not happy. Berlin
“I’m not joking Markus, if it wasn’t for your record in combat and your proven loyalty to the party, you would have been shot already,” Holaf snarled
“Jawohl” was all he could think of as an answer.
The Brigadier’s face softened as his anger waned. “You can’t just go slapping people around, Markus. It just doesn’t wash here in civilisation.” He wanted to be angry but he saw too much of himself in his quick tempered protégé. “It doesn’t pay to make enemies here in
, I know
from personal experience” he growled and turned his back to Von Struck to hide
his grin. ”Come on then, let’s go meet Heini” he said over his shoulder. Berlin
Looking like a joke schoolmaster, Heinrich Himmler, the second most powerful man in the Third Reich, tsk-tsked over the report of the incident. “Not good Standartenführer” he said. “Not good at all. These aren’t Bolshevik peasant girls. They are future mothers for the next generation. We can’t just strike out at them when we wish, it’s not civilised; not to mention Erich Frohmann’s eldest son. Frohmann has a lot of friends in the party, Standartenführer, a lot of friends. God alone knows how I’m going to satisfy him without your blood.” He sighed, “Don’t let it happen again, let that be the end of the matter.” With that he threw the report into the wastepaper basket.
Von Struck and Holaf both stood ramrod straight in front of his desk. Although Holaf was a very senior high ranking officer, Himmler still insisted that military courtesy be observed and that meant that everyone stood to attention in front of the Reichsführer SS, just so everyone knew their place.
“Brigadeführer Holaf, have you briefed your man?”
“No Herr Reichsführer. Standartenführer Von Struck came straight from the front and we didn’t have time to meet.”
“No time for the niceties, eh? I like that in a man Von Struck; directness, no indecision. That’s why Holaf here has offered your services for a very delicate mission. You’re a proven soldier who hasn’t failed yet in any mission. But if you fail on this one, then I’m afraid we’re all lost.”
Von Struck raised a inquiring eyebrow but remained silent.
“Are you aware how far-reaching the Germanic culture is, Standartenführer?” he asked. They both remained silent, as decorum dictated. “We have colonies who trace their roots back to
all over the world. Whole populations of people have turned their
back on their host countries to stay pure and Germanic, did you know that
Standartenführer?” Himmler stood up and walked around his massive polished
desk. Pacing up and down, he carried on with his oratory. Germany
“We can find little bits of
from Germany through to Russia . Sometimes only a small town with a modest percentage of German
speakers, other times a whole area that uses German as its first language.
Whatever the scale, it doesn’t matter. The fact is these peoples have kept up
the struggle to keep our culture alive. They have suffered. They have been
persecuted for their beliefs, but they have fought on. We owe it to these
people, these crusaders, to give them every support they desire. Don’t you
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer”, they replied in unison. The Reichsführer was famous for his melodramatic outbursts, so they listened in stoical silence, giving the required answers as and when they were called for.
”Have you heard of the Siebenbürger Saxons, Herr Standartenführer?”
“Nein, Herr Reichsführer“
“They come from the ancient colony of Siebenbürg, also known as
Transylvania.” He pointed to a
map of Europe.
“There, in the land between
and Hungary , they built their towns and made their lives. They held the German
language sacred and carried on with German traditions and culture.” Romania
The Reichsführer’s face took on a dreamy nature as he envisaged these pioneers of Deutschtum, carving out a Teutonic paradise in the midst of the Slavic barbarians. An idealist by nature, he dreamt of a racially uncontaminated, Germanic utopia. The misery and the deaths of millions of Untermenschen were, to him, minor details.
“…And now”, he continued. ”As we face one of the darkest chapters in our Thousand Year Reich, these people have come to us with an offer of their help.” Himmler picked up a letter from his desk.
“I received a letter from a Romanian Count, a Count Dracyl Blestamatul to be precise. In it, he offers the services of his Siebenbürger regiment.”
Von Struck’s mind was racing. One regiment! The Reichsführer was popping his cork over one regiment? The Soviets were throwing up armies left right and centre and all we can manage is a regiment?
“I see from your troubled expression that you are confused Standartenführer. I understand your consternation but let me put your mind at rest. With this one regiment, we could possibly win the war. On the Eastern front, definitely.” He started to pace again, “…and if we win in the East, I have no doubt the West will seek peace terms.” He turned to the map on the wall and searched for something.
“Ah, here it is, Klausenburg,” he pointed to a place on the map. “You will go there with your best men, and there you will meet up with this Count,…err Count Blestamatul and discuss terms with him. Well not you personally, but you will be there when terms are discussed. Are you religious Herr Standartenführer? I know that we in the SS are not meant to be religious but sometimes a man can weaken, especially a man who has seen as much action as you have.” He waited for an answer.
“Nein Herr Reichsführer, not in the slightest”, he responded. The fact was that his three years on the Eastern Front had made it clear to him that there is no God. Religion is for the weak, reality is man and death.
“Are you superstitious, do you believe in myths and legends, Standartenführer?”
“Nein Herr Reichsführer.”
“Then you are our man. This deal,” he continued, ”involves Vampires…” He waited for a reaction and seemed disappointed when none came. “The Count has soldiers that can see in the dark, or so it seems” he carried on in a businesslike manner. “The night is the weakest time for any army and if you have soldiers that control the night, then the war can be fought on a twenty four hour basis. Do you understand?”
“Vampires, Herr Reichsführer?”
“That’s right Standartenführer. Well, that’s what they call themselves. Whether they’re the bloodsucking beings of legend, I don’t know. But it seems that they have developed a method for fighting at night though I’m not sure how. It might be new tactics or special training methods, I don’t know, but they’ve been very successful. There is at the moment only a company, but he’s swelling the ranks to make a regiment. If all goes well, we’ll put more men into this regiment to make it into a Division. SS Division Vampyr, with this Count as its leader and you, Standartenführer, will then become the liaison officer. However, we must be sure that he is reliable. Therefore, you and your handpicked team will come under the command of a specially appointed officer of my choosing, and you will go and see if all is in order. Is that clear, Standartenführer?”
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer” he answered with a click of his heels. One of Himmler’s goons, he thought to himself, who’d earned his position by toadying to other party officials, just what he needed. Nine times out of ten they were always the first to shit their pants when the lead started flying. Baggage.
Himmler concluded the meeting by handing von Struck a blue folder. “Your orders are all here. Read them and report to Brigadeführer Holaf for a further briefing on movements and timings. Is that all clear Standartenführer?”
“Jawohl” he answered with a snap.
“Good luck Standartenführer. Bring these Vampires into the SS and you will have a regiment of your own“. With that, Heinrich Himmler dismissed him with a wave of his small, rather effeminate, hand.
Outside, he turned to Holaf, “Is he mad, what’s this nonsense about Vampires? Why can’t we have sensible, down to earth allies? Vampires, what kind of name is that? And Politicals, I’ve never let a political survive yet.”
“I know, and it’s worse. The political is a doctor. He worked his way up through the ranks in the Concentration Camps, doing experiments on the inmates.”
Von Struck grimaced, ”experiments?”
“Don’t think about it, he’s probably a decent chap. After all, he is a doctor.” The Brigadier laughed.
“God I need a drink” Von Struck said, pulling at his tunic collar.
“So do I, come on, let’s get out of here. I know a good place where the beer is cheap and the girls are even cheaper.”
?” They both laughed loudly, drawing annoyed
stares from the solemn clerks and immaculate secretaries. Russia
In the Reichsführer’s office, Heinrich Himmler conducted another interview. Doctor Ernst Rasch stood to attention in front of the massive desk.
“Doctor, your work in the camps has been exemplary and you have shown your loyalty to the Party to the satisfaction of all. That is why I chose you to organize and lead this delicate matter to a successful conclusion. You do know what this may mean for the Third Reich? This could help win the war in the East and help solve part of the Jewish Question in
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer” he answered.
Tall to the point of freakishness, Doctor Ernst Rasch forced his shoulders back and pushed out his chest in pride. His loyalty to Himmler was slavish and complete; because he knew that only Himmler had the power to give him back what he had lost and so badly craved. Rasch had studied in
written several publications on the Race Question. His Doctor’s thesis had been
on the theory that the Jewish race was a product of the forceful coupling of
Neanderthal man and Homo Sapien woman. Heidelberg
The idea of the unclean sub-human monster sexually forcing himself on the more advanced yet defenceless Homo Sapien woman found great favour in the phoney scientific minds of the National Socialist Party. It was widely received throughout the Reich and it shooed him into the limelight and the all seeing eye of Doctor Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels saw in the shamelessly ambitious doctor a propaganda tool of immense potential and set about promoting his career. Rasch spoke at various Party functions and quickly projected to intellectual stardom. Introduced to The Führer and the upper echelons of the Party, he lectured to the cream of the medical establishment and they took in his message as if it were gospel. Life at that time had been sweet and full of promise.
A bright horizon should have lain before him but for one detail. Doctor Ernst’s, (as he was known within the Party) personality just did not quite dovetail with the elite clique at the top of the food chain. He was too stiff, overbearing and at times just plain strange. He would lean over people whilst talking to them, his immense height making them feel small and threatened. He would defend, to his last breath, any of his conjectures and whole evenings could be ruined by the petulant bickering of the good Doctor and any guest who had mistakenly put one of his theories to the test.
And so Doctor Ernst Rasch soon found himself left out of the society loop. The flood of invitations dried to a trickle and then to a drought. He was too uncomfortable for social gatherings. People weren’t interested in him anymore, in his theories and his legend, yes, but in the man himself, no. True acceptance into the select crowd of The Party elite escaped him like a maid avoiding an unwelcome suitor.
The lowest point in his career found him posted to one God-forsaken camp in
after another; doing tedious experiments on scared witless prisoners. A heavy
fall from such hallowed heights would have destroyed all but the strongest of
minds but not Ernst Rasch. He soldiered on, knowing that someday the Reich
would need his talent and intellect. Poland
Then Heinrich Himmler summoned him to his chambers. Heinrich had the knack of knowing when a man was down and turning it to his advantage. He gave Rasch a task to complete, a test that he passed with flying colours. The results of the work so pleased the Reichsführer that he found himself once more aspiring to the social limelight. The honeyed promise of happier times was again within aching reach and Himmler’s patronage was its key.
All he had to do was end this mission successfully, to finish fully the task that Himmler had given him to do. The task was straightforward enough. Make a deal with the count and come back with a positive result. Although empowered to bargain in the name of the Führer, to all intents and purposes the deal had already been made. He was just had to confirm the arrangements and report back.
“Doctor Rasch, You should first make sure we’re getting the quality of soldier we desire before putting anything on the line, do you understand? The Count has promised a lot so let’s hope he can deliver.”
“I understand fully what is expected of me Herr Reichsführer!” he answered enthusiastically.
“Von Struck doesn’t need to know all the facts, I myself have not been too straight with him. Just keep it close to your chest until the situation dictates otherwise. Then let him in on it gently, it’s a lot for a man like Von Struck to have to comprehend but I’m sure he will react in the right manner.”
“The Count has our offer; just make sure it’s worth it. That will be all Herr Doctor.” Himmler dismissed him.
Von Struck sat in his office and read through the file. It wasn’t his office, it belonged to the Brigadier. However, for the next couple of days he had the room to do as he pleased.
Courtesy of the Reichsführer SS, Von Struck had been given free rein to pick who he wanted to be on his team . He decided to put his trust in Henning, the man who had been his near constant companion during his time in the east. Oberscharführer Wolfgang Henning was a huge thirty nine year old, battle-hardened veteran of twelve years service with the SS. He was loyal, as were all Schutzstaffel soldiers, hardworking and hard drinking. Although he was no officer, Von Struck treated him as an equal and valued his opinion on anything pertaining to combat, beer, whores and the men in their unit. His native
had lost a true son of St. Pauli when the one meter ninety ex-bar
brawler had left home. Hamburg
Henning was also in
, staying at
the SS Barracks. Von Struck called the Guardroom and ten minutes later, the
deep booming voice of the NCO rumbled through the telephone. Berlin
“Right Sir, I’ll bring some good lads with me. Rohleder is still around and he can bring some of his troop.”
“Just make sure they look the part, Henning. We’ve got Royalty to impress, though Rohleder will definitely make a good impression.”
Henning laughed at the shared joke and signed off. Rohleder was also an old hand, though his promotion had been slowed somewhat by a year long stay in hospital after surviving a flamethrower attack. Although horribly scarred on his face and upper body, the wounds were only superficial and after a year of recovery and a year of leave, he was restless again. His application to go back to his old unit was rejected on medical grounds so he wrote a letter to Von Struck and begged to be taken back. His wife had left him and he had nothing left to live for except to kill Russians.
Von Struck spoke with Holaf who agreed that Rohleder had the right motivation but he still had to be able to pass the medical requirements to be in the SS. Burns victims are not classed as A1 fit in normal times. But these are not normal times Von Struck had argued and his burns had only been superficial. The Brigadier reluctantly promised to see what he could do. A month later, SS Rottenführer Michael Rohleder stood on parade, reinstated with his old rank and the Iron Cross Second class for his willingness to serve The Fatherland in the face of adversity.
Von Struck saw no problem with the mission in hand. Babysitting some Political Officer, in friendly territory sounded like a nice trip to
. Drink their foreign schnapps, sleep with their women and then come
home with honours. What could go wrong? Romania
Congratulations on a well presented and interesting blog site, Richard.
The first 3 chapters of Division of the Damned have me hooked.
I'm off to grab myself a copy.