Two men travel to the 1940s in order to help Nazi Germany win the war and change history.
| April 23, 1941
Both Hitler and Halder were both on the offensive against the travelers. The fuhrer was unconvinced by their story, and he wasn't making his thoughts a secret. 'For all we know, the British have spys in all these theaters of war and are sending you the information by radio as they happen. Or maybe they planned these actions to take place in advance, and then send you in to play the fortune teller.'
'Please, think about what you're saying,' Theodor said reasonably. 'Most of the events weren't set into motion by the British. They don't control what the Iraqi leaders do, they can't decide when a Greek dreadnought will be sunk. Its just not plausible.'
Halder was unimpressed. 'Don't be so sure of that. Those ships could be rigged with demolition charges to sink at the required time. The Iraqi government could be infiltrated. There are too many variables for us to account for. You're asking us to take your story at face value, and its just not possible.'
'My thoughts exactly. You say you are from the future, but none of the information you've given us proves that. At least not to my satisfaction. I am entrusted with the fate of an entire nation, which is being tested in the flames of a world war. I cannot afford to place my trust in anyone who could deceive me.' Hitler said, with a level stare.
'I understand the position you're in. I know that the concept of time travel seems crazy to you...' But before he could go on, Lukas was interrupted.
'It isn't just crazy, its logically impossible. Time travel is just some hokum dredged up by H.G. Wells. If you told me you traveled from Mars, I would be more inclined to believe you.'
'I have an overwhelming amount of evidence to prove my story.' A silence filled the room, as everyone took stock of this.
Hitler sighed, and leaned back in his couch. 'Alright. Show me your proof. I don't think you can convince me, but you're welcome to try.'
Lukas and Theodor looked at each other, breaking out into a grin. This is what they had been waiting for. He wasn't rejecting their story out of hand, which was promising enough. And they happened to have something that would shake the fuhrer out of his complacency.
'The best proof I can give you is the hardware I carry with me. In my world, technology has improved a great deal over anything that exists in this time. What I'd like to show you is an older piece of equipment, something I used to play with as a toddler.' Reaching into his pocket, Theodor pulled out a palm pilot.
Turning it on, the device emitted a beep, and the screen glowed into life. His audience gaped in surprise. Theodor extended his arm, offering it for Hitler to examine. 'Go ahead. Check it out.'
Grasping it carefully, he brought the palm pilot close and read the words on the screen. Halder moved behind the couch, peering over his boss' shoulder to get a better look. Lukas had to suppress a snicker. On the palm pilot was a message: 'Guten tag, herr Hitler. History is about to change. The question is, are you ready for it?'
The leader of Germany stared at this strange device, unsure of how to react. He felt an edge of worry creep into his consciousness. Could these men be telling the truth?, he wondered. Finally peeling his eyes off of the palm pilot, he looked over at Lukas. 'What kindof device is this? Is it a television set?'
Halder was curious too. 'It must be. I'm amazed those cathode tubes can be shunk to such a size.'
'Its called a palm pilot. Basically, its a portable computer. This model uses a liquid crystal display. They're better than a cathode ray tube.'
The two men were confused. 'You mean it adds numbers? How does it work?'
'Computers are adding machines, yes, but they can do all kinds of things depending on how you program them. They use binary code to execute commands. Our computers are superior in every single way to the machines that exist in this time. Mainly because they use transistors instead of vacuum tubes.'
From the blank expression on Hitler and Halders face, it was clear that neither had really understood what the hell he was talking about. But they were impressed all the same. 'Oh, it gets better. That machine you're holding has been obsolete for 20 years. The stuff we have now makes the palm pilot look downright primitive. My friends, I would like you to meet the smart phone.'
From his shirt pocket, Lukas produced an iphone galaxy. He scrolled through the menu, looking for a video he had uploaded a few days earlier. 'This is like a palm pilot, but way better. You can make phone calls, browse the internet, record videos, measure stuff... In fact, I've got an audio recording of one of your speechs, herr Hitler. It was an address you made in front of the Bundestag, about the invasion of the USSR.'
'I've never made any such speech!' Hitler sputtered, turning red.
'No, but you will. This address took place in October of 1941. Would you like to hear it?'
'How can you record a speech on such a tiny machine? I'm guessing you don't use vinyl discs?' Halder asked, raising an eyebrow.
Theodor actually laughed. 'No, not at all. Smart phones use transistors, just like everything else we have. You can actually fit millions of them onto a chip thats the size of a postage stamp. But come, lets listen to this recording. I think it will be interesting for you to hear.'
Taking his cue, Lukas pressed a button on the iphone, and the audio played across the room. Both men were astonished at what they heard: The voice clearly belonged to Hitler. ''On the morning of June 22, this greatest struggle in the history of the world began. Since then, three-and-a-half months have passed. Today, I can state: everything since has gone according to plan. Whatever surprises the individual soldier or troop may have had, the leadership never for a second allowed the initiative to be taken from it during this time.''
The recorded speech continued. ''I say this here today because I may say today that this opponent has already broken down and will never rise again! There was a power massed against Europe, of which most people regrettably had no idea and of which many today still have no idea. This could have become a second Mongolian invasion by a new Genghis Khan.'' After that, the recording faded away into silence.
Both Hitler and Halder were staring at the smartphone. They couldn't believe what was happening. It wasn't just the strange technology that was vexing the military men, of course: It was the revelation that these strangers really were from another world. 'Could it really be?...' Hitler whispered, his mind racing.
'Yes. We ARE from the future. And thats why we need to talk to you about the war.' Lukas said.
The fuhrers gaze wandered around the compartment, as he was lost in thought. Finally, he focused on the two men standing before him. Swallowing his disbelief and his pride, Hitler decided to give them a chance to tell their story.
'All right. Lets say that I choose to believe you, for just a few minutes. What sortof things can you tell me about the war? You said you came from decades in the future, so you must know everything that happened. Right?' Lukas nodded emphatically, and Hitler continued.
'In that case, the first thing I need to know is how successful operation barbarossa was. We've been planning the invasion for the past few months, and its been a very stressful affair. Confronting the USSR is one of the biggest gambles I've ever had to make.'
Well, shit. Lukas had been hoping to leave this part for last, since it was the most distressing news he would have to present to these men. But here it was at the forefront, right at the start of the conversation. How to break the news properly?
'Thats a difficult question to answer, and its going to be tough for you to hear. Initially, the invasion went very well. The wehrmacht punched through the Soviet forces and achieved a rapid advance on all fronts. By the end of October, they had control over all of Belorussia and most of the Ukraine. Millions of Soviet troops were killed and captured, and it seemed that victory was in hand.' Lukas took a breath, and then continued.
'But there was a problem. The wehrmacht had exceeded the culminating point, and winter was starting to set in. They advanced so rapidly that their supply lines could barely sustain them, and they'd been fighting to the point of exhaustion. But commanders on the ground were blinded to these things: All they could see was Moscow in the distance, the prize city gleaming just out of arms reach. They convinced themselves that with a few more days of fighting and marching, it could be captured.' Hitler and Halder were both apprehensive. Barbarossa had been their brainchild, the product of many sleepless nights.
'But it was all just a mirage. It wasn't victory that waited for them in Moscow, but complete ruin. The troops were running out of food and supplys, and many of them froze to death before they even got close to the city. The Soviets launched a huge counter-attack and drove the wehrmacht back. It was the first real defeat Germany suffered in the war, and the consequences of that battle would influence the rest of the campaign in Russia.' Lukas studied the mens reactions.
Hitler was fuming, as well he should be. Halder was scrunching his face, beset with guilt. They both took a while to mull over what had been said. Hitler was the first to speak. 'I can't believe the Soviets will keep fighting for all that time. Their morale is at the lowest point its been in years! How did they survive getting battered all the way to Moscow. What kept them going?'
Now the discussion was on safer ground. Explaining why Germany was defeated in the east was easy enough, although Hitler didn't yet know that it had cost them the war. A good delivery of this point would convince the leaders to make some real changes when all was said and done.
'Well, there are two possible ways I can answer that. The first is about the purely military reasons. There were major intelligence failures leading up to the invasion. Your estimates on the red armys size were something like 125 divisions at the start, with 300 divisions mobilised in six months. But after you invaded the USSR, the wehrmacht found out that number was wrong. The red army actually had 230 divisions at the start, with 550 divisions mobilised in six months.'
Upon hearing this, all the blood drained out of Hitlers face. It was his worst fear, of course. That he had underestimated the communist menace, and would be unable to deliver a knockout blow to them. He slumped back in his chair and stared at the wall. Lukas almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
'The second reason is about the politics. Theres no easy way to say this, herr Hitler, but your policys contributed to the wehrmachts defeat in the east. I know that in this era, there is a sentiment that Slavs are racial inferiors and are unworthy of treatment befitting human beings. Its a sentiment that was spread around by eugenicists, and is very popular within the SS. I believe Himmler has organised a plan to liquidate large segments of the population in the east.'
Halder jerked in surprise, realising what Lukas was getting at. 'Generalplan ost.' He nearly spat.
'Yes. Early on in the invasion, when the Soviets were in full retreat, the wehrmacht would come across towns and be greeted as liberators by the people. They were happy to be free from communist rule. But eventually, the locals would have their food stolen and be forced into hard labor. Things got even worse in 1942, when anyone of Slavic descent was rounded up and murdered by the einsatzgruppen. This turned the entire population in the east against Germany. Instead of absorbing them into the reich and becoming an asset for us, they were provoked and antagonised until they became a massive hindrance.'
A pregnant silence filled the room. Had he spoken too strongly against this agenda? Yes. Hitler was now glaring at Lukas in anger.
'So you want to play the critic with our policys, is that it? Why don't you tell me what should have been done with all the inhabitants of the east? With the 200 million Slavs who are brainwashed by communism? Should we put on our velvet gloves and stroke them into a slumber?' He was definitely mad.
Lukas was on dangerous ground here. Failing to gain Hitlers trust would probably doom their mission, and put their own lives in immediate jeopardy. Luckily, Theodor stepped in with a level response to the fuhrer.
'Herr Hitler, I know that you see the Slavic population as a potential threat to Germany. Its easy to get hung up on how different they are from us, but think of it this way. Most of the inhabitants of the Soviet Union are living in miserable conditions, and they have nothing but scorn for Stalin and his regime. If you go into the east and act as a liberator to them, think of how much easier the wehrmachts mission would be! Not only would there be huge numbers of volunteers for the army, but there also wouldn't be any partisans to deal with.' Hitler shifted in his chair, annoyed at this comment.
'Why would they want to join us? We have nothing in common with the Slavs, and they are a liability anyway you cut it. If we don't relocate them or exterminate them, then we have to feed them. Food that belongs to the reich.'
'My contention is that generalplan ost is not only cruel, but largely pointless. If you wipe out the Slavs, who will tend to all the crops? The employment rate in Germany is over 100%, which means you simply can't spare the workers needed for that. Its simply impossible. Himmler was given too much leeway to carry out this scheme. Do you know that he is planning to have the railway network organised to prioritise supply of the extermination camps? Even at the expense of supplying the troops?'
The words had a visible impact: Both Halder and Hitler were surprised. 'Are you serious?'
'Yes, absolutely. He was willing to put the war effort in jeopardy in order to pursue his program of mass murder.'
The military men looked at each other, trying to gage the others stance. Halder appeared as if there was something he wanted to say, but couldn't quite work up the courage. Raising an eyebrow, Hitler asked 'Well, what is it?'
Looking his boss firmly in the eye, Halder took a deep breath. 'My fuhrer, I and some of the other generals have had misgivings about these liquidation policys. We have worried about what its ramifications might be when put into practise. Last month, you issued an amendment to directive No. 21 which gave the SS unprecedented authority: The right to act without regard for military law.'
Hitler scowled at his subordinate, and Theodor couldn't help but feel a prickle of unease. The fates of millions of people were being decided in this very room.
Halder continued with his speech. 'Can't you see what kindof ground work is being laid here? We're devising a war of extermination where no quarter is given or taken. A war which we cannot win, according to these men! As commander in chief of the army, I think we need to make some changes in policy.'
Well, there it was. Halder was willing to take a stand after all. The danger had passed, and now Hitler was in a tough spot. His plans were in the open and under fire. The dictator wasn't obliged to change anything, of course. But at least now he was being forced to reconsider some of his faulty assumptions. The meeting was starting to go in their favor.
Hitler wearily stood up from the couch, then walked across the train compartment. Staring at a portrait of Alfred von Tirpitz, he was seemingly lost in thought. At last, he spoke. 'This is going to be a long discussion, isn't it?'