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Author Topic: Iron and Flame: an alternate history play-through of Hearts of Iron 3: Germany  (Read 3221 times)

Vikarion

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This will be a play-through of Hearts of Iron 3, playing as Germany. Hearts of Iron 3 is a very detailed strategy game which places the player in control of a country during World War 2. This is not limited to the military, but also to intelligence operations, diplomacy, and economic activity. It's a lot of fun, and I suggest trying it if you enjoy "strategy games" that are less about tactics and more about logistics and actual strategic decisions.

A few notes: first, I probably don't have to say it, but it does need to be said: I do not, personally, think that the Nazis, Hitler, or German aims in World War 2 were good, right, or worthy of success, and I'm very glad that we live in a world in which they failed. I'm also not a fan, to say the least, of Marxism, in any of its forms, which managed to kill and torment far more people than even Nazism.

That said, if one is writing (or playing) alternate history in World War 2, one is largely limited to one of two options: either talking about how the "good guys" (largely Britain, France, and the United States) could have won even harder, or talking about how the bad guys (Hitler and Stalin) could have done better. The former tends to be boring. So yes, this is a story where the assholes win.

The character I'm inserting (Viktor Forst), is, indeed, an asshole too. However, he's an asshole more of the Prussian model, to wit, somewhat less of a thug. But make no mistake, he is an asshole. He's an anti-semite, if not an exterminationist one, a German ultra-nationalist and Nazi, and more than a little cold, ruthless, and bloodthirsty. Unfortunately for the world, he's also smart, quick, and very well read.

I'm placing him in the SS largely because it's the most plausible spot for such a takeover (spoilers) to take place. The SA was a gang of thugs, and largely defunct after the Night of the Long Knives, while the military was largely quiescent after same.

As much as is possible, I'm keeping to history and historical characters in the lead up to war, and even during it, although as with all chaotic situations, the timeline will rapidly diverge over time from the Original Timeline (OT). As such, I'm also keeping Hitler around. I've read a few biographies of the dictator, and I'll be trying to keep as true to his personality as possible, however, given coming events in the story, I think I'm justified in portraying a slightly less self-confident tyrant than actually existed.

All Nazi symbols and other paraphernalia in screenshots of the game are for artistic verisimilitude and no other reason. Also, I have not altered the game's country profiles or cheated, aside from minor modifications to represent the strength of the neutrality movement in the United States at the time.

Lastly, I've studied the Second World War quite extensively, and probably have greater knowledge of it than anyone with less than a Masters (or perhaps a Ph.D) in the subject. This sounds arrogant, but I don't mean it to be. I mean that I have read hundreds of books, listened to many lectures, and spent countless hours otherwise educating myself on this subject, largely for my own enjoyment. So I hope readers will forgive me if I occasionally lapse into an out-of-story dissertation on some subject.

-Vikarion
« Last Edit: 31 Dec 2015, 02:00 by Vikarion »
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Vikarion

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Prologue

1932
"Come in, Viktor, come in!" Reinhard Heydrich motioned, his long coat flapping in the winter breeze. It was cold outside, but Viktor Forst moved with a trace of nervousness as he followed Heydrich into the building. This was, after all, an interview.

"Ah," Heydrich said, leading him into a room off the hallway. "Here we are. Herr Himmler, this is my friend, Viktor Forst".

Heydrich was ahead of him, and it was a moment before Viktor caught up. When he did, he entered to see a rather plain looking man wearing pince-nex spectacles and a slightly pinched expression, sitting at a desk, a small lamp illuminating some papers.

"Good evening", Himmler replied, then, without preamble, turned to Viktor. "And you are Forst. Reinhardt has spoken well of you." He removed his glasses, wiped them with a handkerchief, then continued. "He says that you recently aided him with those recent...slanders".

Viktor nodded, unsure of how to respond. He had, indeed, managed the removal of some papers and the replacement of them with others. He didn't know if the rumors of there being a Jew somewhere back in Heydrich's family tree were true, but he did know that no one would now find out.

"And you were recently in America", Himmler went on, with a tone that suggested that the visit perhaps counterbalanced whatever service Viktor might have provided with the papers. "Tell me, what did you think"?

Viktor paused before speaking. He had considered this question. Neither Himmler nor Hitler were rumored to consider America a country worth respecting. He thought, therefore, that remarking on the industry, or the industriousness of the people, was probably not the wisest choice available to him at this exact moment.

"Herr Himmler, it seemed to me to be a very...chaotic place. Very messy. And I almost was hit by an automobile".

"Yes," Heydrich grinned. "And then where would we be now? You must bring him in, Herr Himmler. He will be a great asset."

Himmler stared at Forst for another long moment, and Viktor had the uncomfortable sense of being a fly that was under scrutiny by a frog. Then he nodded. "Well, you have been of service, and Reinhardt speaks well of you. I will make a spot for you in our internal intelligence department. Come in tomorrow."

And with that, the audience was at a close, and Viktor and Heydrich walked back out to their automobile. As they exited the building, Heydrich clouted Viktor on the back, and grinned again. "You and me, Viktor, we'll go far. You'll see!"

- - -

December, 1935

1.
Viktor stood at a window, looking out from his office in the Reich Main Security Office on the Niederkirchnerstraße, in Berlin. He was almost surprised, still, to be here. But Heydrich had been right, not that he'd very much enjoyed the man's company over the last three years. He'd started his efforts with Heydrich's intelligence office, accumulating blackmail material on enemies of the party. However, while Heydrich engaged in creating a police-like security force, especially after the rise of the party to power, Viktor had gone in a different direction: creating blackmail rather than discovering it, "convincing" dissenters to change their minds, and occasionally making someone simply disappear. And when the SA had been disposed of, the SS had stepped into its role of security force with coordinated grace.

He turned away from the window and back to his desk. Himmler and Heydrich were out, now, meeting with the Fuhrer over some architectural thing or another with that young architect...who was it? Speer, yes. He and the Fuhrer had such grand plans. Well, that was fine, but Viktor worried that they were outstripping the realm of the possible too quickly, and the plans of the Fuhrer seemed not to be being given enough attention by the various departments of the Reich. In fact, as far as Viktor could see, the various leaders of departments, from Goering to the SS's own Himmler, seemed more interested in empire building than in making the Reich strong. Worst of all, Hitler didn't seem to mind, rather, he even encouraged the rivalries.

And if it kept up, Viktor considered that the citizens of Germany had better learn how to speak English, or, more probably, Russian. Something needed to be done, and...but, no. If he ever had the chance, he would do something, but he didn't have it now. He sighed and returned to his work, looking at next slip of paper on his desk. Hmm. Apparently Heydrich had just missed snagging - again! - a communist agitator named Josef Romer. Hmm. Interesting. Opposed the communists with the Freikorps, and then joined them. Heydrich almost got him in 1934, just missed him, looked like. So... a slippery bastard...

2.
Josef "Beppo" Romer gasped deeply, shaking in the cold, damp, evening air. It was starting to rain again, and he had nowhere to stay. A fine situation for a forty-three-year-old man. But he'd spotted the police automobiles just in time to duck out of sight last evening, and he'd been on the run ever since.

He was out of options. He didn't wish to endanger his friends and contacts, but he had no choice. Of course, there was always...and he felt the bulge of the home-made grenade in his bag. But no. How would he ever get close? No, he needed to get to one of his friends in the underground communist cells he'd helped set up. Then they could figure out how to get him undercover again, or out of the country.

It was at that moment that fate decided to smile on Romer, at least in regards to his ability to return torment upon the heads of his tormentors. As he began to cross the street, two cars pulled up and stopped for a moment, side by side. Romer stared in surprise. He knew the further car - it was a Mercedes-Benz 770. And, yes, yes, that was the so-called Fuhrer, looking at a map with someone in the back seat.

He was already fumbling with his bag, looking for all the world like a vagrant, when his peripheral vision tracked to the nearer vehicle. He almost stopped arming the grenade. That, that was Heydrich, and Himmler! If there were a gracious god to grant such opportunities...

He pulled the armed grenade - more of an explosive charge, really, his brain noted, spinning out irrelevancies at a moment like this - out of the bag, and with conflict-born reflexes not entirely lost in his advancing years, slung it underhand towards the two cars. If he were lucky, he'd get it right in between them and...

Had it been an actual grenade, it might have worked perfectly, and history would have gone quite differently. But the members of the Marxist underground in the Third Reich were not explosives experts, and the improvised bomb exploded prematurely while barely under the first car, even as Heydrich, who had spotted Romer, was opening his automobile door.

The blaster turned the metal underside of the first car into a spray of fragments, killing everyone in it as hot metal shards tore upwards through their bodies. Other fragments peppered the Mercedes-Benz 770 of the Fuhrer, and Romer, closer to the blast, never saw the flying shard that nearly decapitated him.

Hitler, the leader of the Third Reich, stumbled out of his vehicle, barely conscious. Blood ran down his head, his arms, his right leg. Distantly, he heard the crackle of flames as petrol from the ruptured tank of the other car consumed its hollowed-out carcass. As he sank to the ground, and his vision began to grey out, he heard Speer screaming for help.

To be continued...
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Vikarion

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Prologue

3. The news came over the telephone, a few hurried words from an Untersturmführer, a very junior officer whose panicked tone told Viktor of the truth of the matter. The Fuhrer was gravely wounded. Heydrich and Himmler were dead. Speer, shielded by Hitler's body, had only been scratched.

And that made him...the head of the SS. Oh, probably not for long, not once the other Nazis started looking around for someone to blame. And since Heydrich and Himmler were dead, well...they would not care that Heydrich had been the one in charge of internal security. And then would come the rivalries, no longer with Hitler as referee, and everything they'd worked so hard for would fall apart. Then the Bolsheviks and the capitalists of France and England would descend upon the corpse of the still-born Third Reich to parcel out the spoils once again.

Or...perhaps not. Perhaps this was an opportunity, a golden opportunity. If he were quick, there was every chance he could turn this to his advantage. Hadn't he just been thinking of how things needed to change? And what did he have to lose?

So...first...he picked up his phone dialed. "Yes, Dietrich, this is Forst. First, place all forces on full alert. There's been an assassination attempt upon the Fuhrer. Second, arrest all of the senior leaders. We aren't sure who is involved yet. Third, seize the publishers of the newspapers and occupy the radio stations. Bring the publishers to SS HQ. I will be putting out a statement for both within the hour. Fourth, detain - but politely - all of our generals you can manage." He paused, waiting for an affirmative, and got it. "Good. Hurry."

He put the phone down. Now, to see to the Fuhrer. He owed his loyalty to Hitler, but he didn't have the fanatical sense of faith in the man that so many of his comrades seemed to enjoy. Therefore, he needed to ensure the Fuhrer's recovery, but not too soon. And as well, to restrict access to the man. To make this work, he needed to act in the Fuhrer's name, and with his authority, while ensuring that said authority could not undermine him. Well, Viktor had a small cadre who owed him much, as virtually every senior Nazi did, and he would use them. He placed two more calls, one to find what hospital the Fuhrer had been brought to, and the second to assemble his men.

- - -

4.
The hospital smelled of antiseptic and other, less pleasant effluvia, but Viktor was barely conscious of that. He'd arrived to find several SS milling about, and quickly replaced them with his carefully selected men, who established a multi-layered guarding force. Then, he had gone to seek out the surgeon, who was now eyeing him with a combination of fear and irritated competence.

"How is he?" Viktor asked, knowing that the subject of his inquiry was obvious.

"He is badly wounded, but probably not in danger of dying," the man responded. "Several shrapnel wounds, which I should be in there treating. A broken arm, broken rib or two if I guess correctly, and lacerations. Badly broken leg, which he exacerbated by walking on. It will be a long recovery, and he will need a cane, perhaps for life, perhaps only for a year or two."

Viktor nodded. "Good. I know you will do your best. And doctor, understand that no one but hospital staff  - and of those, only your most trustworthy - and myself are to see him. Is that clear?"

The doctor nodded, and Viktor turned on his heel. That was done. Now, to the papers and radio. If he established his legitimacy early, it would be all the more difficult to challenge him. Even for Hitler, he thought with an internal smile.

5.
The newspaper men were there, at SS HQ, when he arrived. Some were still in their night clothes, which, he judged, put them in the appropriate state of mind: cowed. Also there were the radio managers, which, however, were somewhat more presentable. Good. He walked to stand in front of them, faced them, and nodded.

"Good evening. As some of you may know, the Fuhrer has been attacked, and gravely wounded. Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich are dead. I am the head of the SS, and currently head of the Reich government. I have placed -"

There was an exclamation from the back of the group, and a balding man with a bulldog-like face pushed his way to the front. He glared at Viktor. "There is only one head of the Reich," he spat out, "and that is not you. it is..."

Viktor recognized him. It was Julius Streicher, publisher of Der Sturmer. If it had been anyone else, he would have simply had him immediately restrained and removed, but this man was one of Hitler's favorites, and published an anti-Semitic paper dear to the hearts of many Nazis, although, not to Viktor, and not to a few other senior leaders. Diplomacy, then.

"Herr Streicher," Viktor cut him off, "The Fuhrer is in surgery, and is unavailable. Besides myself, who should I put in charge? Goebbels? Goering?"

Streicher paused, and Viktor could see the wheels turning in the man's head. Goebbels lusted after complete control of the country's papers, which would, of course, include Der Sturmer. Goering hated Der Sturmer, and would shut it down if given the chance.

"Well," the man said, with the air of conceding a point, "I suppose you must. But I must see the Fuhrer at the first opportunity."

"Of course", Viktor lied, wishing he could shoot the man for his impertinence then and there. The man would not make it back to his disgusting little paper's office alive. A car accident. Yes. That would do nicely. And a fire at the publisher. Arson, perhaps, by...hmm, disgruntled SA members? Yes. That, too, would do nicely. And no one would suspect him, as Streicher had, of course, just agreed to support him. Excellent.

"Now", he continued, "As the Reich Security Office is unsure of the nature of the attack" - another lie, they'd already identified the culprit - "we have taken the other ministers of the Reich into custody". That last was not a lie. Dietrich had informed him just a few minutes before that all were in SS hands, from Goering to Goebbels. "As we ascertain their innocence...and please, understand, we believe that most are innocent...we will assemble a new cabinet until such time as the Fuhrer is able to return to his duties. Let us all pray that that will be soon".

He paused, and then smiled. "Now, let's not be too upset. Adolf Hitler is alive, and we will keep him that way. Stability will be maintained. Have faith in the Party. Have faith in the Reich. Have faith in your Fuhrer. As for me, I do not propose to take his place. For now, at least, I will function as Fuhrer, but you will refer to me as Unterfuhrer, for that is what I am. In an hour, I will have a statement for your stations and papers, to be read and printed as soon as you can. I must ask you as a fellow German to work with me, for I wish nothing more than for the will of the German people and their Fuhrer to be carried out. Until the statement is ready, we will see you liberally supplied with coffee, tea, and any pastries we can rustle up at this hour. Also, I have informed my staff to open my personal collection of schnapps to you, much as it pains me to do so."

There was a general chuckle. He continued. "Gentlemen, this is a trying hour. I am only third in command of the SS, but I am in command of State security. I wish only the health of the Reich. I will tell you more as I am able. Please, work with me." He smiled again, gave a small bow, and left for his office. There was much more to be done, but working late this evening had rewarded him beyond all expectation.
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Havohej

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Haven't taken time to read it yet, just wanted to say "Iron and Flame" is a hell of a title.  Looking forward to posting later after I read all the things.
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This is a forum on steroids tbh. The rate at which content worth reading is being generated could get you pregnant.

Vikarion

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Haven't taken time to read it yet, just wanted to say "Iron and Flame" is a hell of a title.  Looking forward to posting later after I read all the things.
Thanks!  :D
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Utari Onzo

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Highly excited for the next chapter/s, writing style left me hungry for more.
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"Face the enemy as a solid wall
For faith is your armor
And through it, the enemy will find no breach
Wrap your arms around the enemy
For faith is your fire
And with it, burn away his evil"


PTB is recruiting

Vikarion

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Highly excited for the next chapter/s, writing style left me hungry for more.

Thanks! Working on it now.
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Vikarion

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Prologue

December, 1935, one day later...

Washington D.C.
6.
Harry Hopkins entered the presidential study quietly. FDR collected stamps as a hobby, and often spent time here going through and examining specimens of the postal currency, as he mulled over the events of the world outside. It was so this morning, and Hopkins hoped that Roosevelt would discover some sort of inspiration in the activity, something to address the crisis in Germany.

Roosevelt looked up as Hopkins entered, and gave him the toothy grin he was famous for. "Hello Harry. More news about our jack-booted friends?"

Hopkins nodded, and set a thin folder down on a relatively uncluttered spot on the desk. "Yes. There's a bit more news, and they've made a few announcements on the radio. These -" he tapped the folder "- are the best guesses from the State Department, the War Department, and Navel Intelligence Office."

"What's the summary?"

"Well, the Germans are saying that it was an assassination attempt, and that Hitler was badly wounded, while Himmler was killed. Apparently some other bigwig - Reinhardt Heydrich - also bought a plot. The man in charge for the moment is named Viktor Forst, and some of our sources are saying that he's arrested many, if not all, of the other Nazi leaders, and most of their military leaders as well."

"Could not have happened to nicer people" FDR observed acerbically. "So what do we think?"

Hopkins shrugged, trying to ignore the twinge in his gut from the motion. His stomach, which had been a constant source of trouble for him, was restless this morning. "It's all over the board. State is optimistic, they think that this is a coup, and that more moderate elements will come to the fore. Some are arguing that this will see a fall of the Nazi government, or at least force them to return to a coalition government. War is less positive. This Viktor fellow is a member of their SS, the ones who took out the SA, and they're the more militant wing of the party. Their opinion is that this is a coup, but in the opposite direction: that Herr Hitler has been holding the Germans down, so to speak, and so someone's decided to get him out of the way and get on with things."

"Hitler is a moderate?" the President half-laughed. 

"I don't buy it either," Harry said, suppressing a chuckle of his own. "Remember, Mr. President, I just report it. Anyway, the Naval Intel people aren't predicting much, they say it's too soon to tell. But they're coming down on the side of it being a real assassination attempt, and that Viktor Forst is just an opportunist, or a true believer, taking advantage of the situation. If that's true, then he must have acted extremely fast."

"What do you think?" Roosevelt asked, popping a stamp into a book.

"I think it's a coup. Such a fast reaction probably means planning beforehand. As for this Forst man, he's apparently third in line in the SS. Conveniently, his two bosses were at the same spot as Hitler. I think that the Fuhrer will 'die of his wounds' within a short time, probably as long as it takes to organize a new government. When he does, or if we think he has, we can afford to declare Forst's government as illegitimate. After all, no one voted for him."

Roosevelt nodded. "We'll go with that. Now, why don't you get yourself some breakfast, Harry? You're looking a little peaked."

"Thank you, Mr. President", Harry said, and headed for the door, unaware that he and Roosevelt had just made the worst political mistake of their lives.


7.
December, 1935, four days later...

Berlin Hospital

Adolf Hitler opened his eyes slowly, and groaned. The light was bright, too bright, and his eyes hurt. His head hurt. He hurt all over. It was like the time back in the hospital, after he'd been gassed. Hospital. Yes, he was in a hospital, and this time he wasn't blind. And he was lucid, now. He'd almost-woken a few times, but there had been nothing but agony and shadows.

He was thirsty, too. He moved his head, an effort, and saw a black-garbed figure sitting beside the bed. He blinked, and his vision resolved itself into a man, He knew him, Viktor Forst. SS. Good. A pitcher of water and some glasses on a small table beside him. Even better.

"Water", he croaked, rasped, really. Yes, like after being gassed.

The man - Forst, yes, certainly - filled a glass, and brought it to him. Hitler tried to move his arm to grasp it, but the pain of the attempt made him gasp.

"Don't try to move," Forst spoke, and held the glass to the Fuhrer's mouth. Hitler noticed Forst's teeth when the man spoke. They were yellowed, not like those of a smoker - Hitler despised smokers - but probably a coffee drinker. For some reason, they made him want to shiver. He felt like a wounded stag, collapsed on the forest floor, with a dangerously hungry wolf leaning over him, with long, yellow fangs.

Of course, in this case, the wolf was offering him water. He drank, and began to feel slightly better. Very slightly. When he had drained the glass, Forster replaced it on the small table.

"Do you know what happened?" Forster asked, sitting back down next to the bed.

"An explosion. A bomb, I think." Hitler refocused on Forster. "Himmler? Heydrich?"

"Dead." Forster shook his head with a regret he felt not in the least. "Their car took the brunt of the explosion. If it hadn't, you would be dead too."

"Who? Who did it?"

"It looks like a man named Josef Romer. The bomb killed him, too."

"Jew?" Certainly, it had to be a Jew.

"No, definitely not. Munich German. Communist, we think. He slipped out of Heydrich's hands, twice." Forst shrugged. "I suppose Heydrich was responsible, if we want to blame anyone. But what's the point? The man is dead."

A German! A German tried to kill his own Fuhrer. The thought was shocking. But Forst had no reason to lie. A Jew would have looked better, but...well, never mind that. "Speer?"

"Alive. You shielded him with your body. Minor injuries. We found him carrying you to the nearest hospital. He's here as well, recovering."

"Bright boy", Hitler said, thinking about the young architect with all his life still ahead of him. An artist with lights and design. "And how badly am I wounded?"

"Badly," Forst said, bluntly, surprising Hitler. "Your right arm is broken, and your left arm is sprained. You have a broken rib, which fortunately did not puncture the lung. Your left leg is fine, but your right leg has multiple fractures, which you made worse by trying to walk on. The doctor states that you will be laid up for quite some time, probably a year.

Hitler stared at the offending leg in horror. A year. A year! A year in which his underlings would be fighting for power, a year in which everything could - no, would - dissolve. The Reich was new, and fragile, and it would all fall apart in six months without him, never mind a year.

Forst must have seen the expression on his face, and smiled with those yellowed teeth of his. "Do not worry, my Fuhrer. I have things under control. I have arrested the other leaders of the party. I have also placed the leaders of the army in SS custody. I have made the necessary announcements over the radio and in the papers, and the SS is maintaining order.

Anger flashed through Hitler like white lightning. "So this is a coup. You take all I have built and..." Forster cut him off with a hand upraised. "Please, my Fuhrer. Consider the fact that you are speaking to me."

Just as quickly, the anger died. Well, the anger at Forster, at any rate. The man had a point. One did not preserve the former leader's life if one intended his overthrow and destruction. And Hitler was sure that he was far too dangerous an opponent to leave alive.

"Besides," Forster went on, "what else could I have done? Himmler and Heydrich are dead. Goebbels is not a leader, and both you and I know it. Perhaps Goering should take over, if you don't mind the country becoming a giant Carinhall."

Hitler snorted, an action he immediately regretted due to his rib. Carinhall was Goering's personal palace, grand, pompous, extravagant, and perhaps a bit baroque, much like the man. It was not the image he would care to see replicated in Germany.

He sighed, and settled back on the bed as best he might. "Well, no, I suppose. What are your plans?"

"I have declared myself unterfuhrer," Forster said, which garnered a pained chuckle. "Yes, I know. I have this room and the hospital under continual guard. Either myself or a loyal SS man will be constantly with you. No one else but your doctors and my men - oh, and Eva, too - will be permitted access without my consent."

Hitler nodded, accepting the situation for the moment. The security was necessary, of course, but controlling access was also a means of control in itself. Hitler could not oppose Forster if he wanted to, so long as he could not speak to others without Forster's consent. More importantly, Forster could grant access to Hitler or deny it, determining who was and was not in the leader's favor. How...clever. Hitler admired it, even as it worried him.

"I suppose, then, that I am to be your Lenin, the sick man in the background you ascribe your authority to," he said, with a trace of bitterness.

"I hope not," Forst said, with apparent sincerity, surprising the Fuhrer. "We need you to recover. But I do intend to inflict a bit of...what the Americans call 'Teutonic efficiency'. With your misfortune, we cannot afford our ministers competing to build personal kingdoms for themselves."

Hitler considered that. He had allowed his followers to profit off of their power, partly to retain their loyalty, and partly because those who had supported him for so long deserved a reward. This new harshness was probably necessary, but it would be unpopular with the leadership. Probably a good thing. Forster should not be allowed to become popular in the leadership.

"You must assemble a government," he rasped after a moment. "It must include Goering and Goebbels. The rest I leave to you. Bring them here, together, and I will give my blessing. And get me out of this place as soon as you can. I would prefer to recuperate in Berchtesgaden."

Forster nodded, and rose. "Give me a year, my Fuhrer. You will not regret it."

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Vikarion

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Chapter 1: A single flame alight
January 1st, 1936.

1.
Viktor Forst stared down the long table occupied by his ministers. The room was cold - Viktor had ordered the heat kept down - and formal. Hitler had generally preferred a somewhat more informal and individual method of communication, but Forst wanted things laid out in the open.

He had shuffled things around quite a bit, not entirely with the Fuhrer's approval, although Hitler had given his blessing to Forst and the assembled group in a very crowded hospital room the day before. Forst had assembled them there on the last day of the year for the psychological impact of starting their efforts on the New Year. If the Night of the Long Knives had indicated the transition of the NSDAP from a revolutionary party to a ruling one, this moment would mark the transition of its leaders from self-interested thugs to dedicated leaders.

He'd made quite a few changes. The Reich's Minister of Economics - Hjalmar Schacht - was now also minister of Armaments. He had been the man to drag the Weimar Republic out of the dismal hole of inflation and poverty that had been the post-war years, only to see the Great Depression hit. In Forst's view, the most important aim of the government had to be establishing the proper industrial base for war-making, and Schacht was the one to do it.

Joseph Goebbels, with his lean, skull-like face, now had purview over the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and maintained control over propaganda. All of these had been combined into a new "Ministry of Security", intended to watch over the internal integrity of the Reich, in any form it took. Forst had removed the SS from their role as internal police and camp guards - now they would function entirely as an elite force for the Fuhrer, watching both the Gestapo and the military, and working alongside both, and under Forst's personal control, of course. He had also spoken to Goebbels about the concentration camps: in Forst's view, they were wasteful. Either the unhappy residents should be rehabilitated, or else expelled from the country as being of no use to the Reich. He had no idea what Heydrich and Himmler had been thinking, simply penning people up and feeding their useless mouths. Not that they'd fed the all that much, of course. And to what end? After a few years, they were dead or released, probably even less disposed to serve the Reich. No. Reform them or get rid of them. And Goebbels had agreed, probably not least because control over some of the Reich's police forces was something he'd probably been lusting after.

That wasn't the only concession he'd wrung out of the man, either. Forst had wanted censorship, especially of books and films, loosed a bit. His biggest worry was that the Reich might be banning actual economic and scientific works, something Schacht had brought to his attention. Goebbels had balked, but control of the Gestapo was too large a prize to give up, and thus, a small announcement in the Völkischer Beobachter, the official party newpaper, would be going out today to declare that, after further review, the Ministry of Security would be releasing a few hundred more titles for publication.

Wilhelm Frick, sitting across from Goebbels, was less pleased. He had a long, cruel face, and had been essentially Minister of the Interior up until now. Forst, valuing his capabilities but distrusting his ambition inside the Reich, had appointed him to replace Canaris as head of the now-named "Ministry of Intelligence". In time, Forst thought, Frick would come to relish his new job, especially with the plans he had for the department. Frick's former responsibilities had been consolidated under Rudolf Hess, already essentially head of government, and a man, who, if psychologically odd, was respected by Forst for his dedication and work ethic - as well as his lack of ambition.

He'd also shuffled the Army leaders around a bit, appointing Fritz Bayerlein - a personal acquaintance - as interim Chief of Staff, and Werner von Blomberg as Chief of the Army. Raeder would stay on as head of the Navy, and Goering, of course, would stay on as leader of the Luftwaffe.


Spoiler (hover to show)

"Now," Forst said, "I shall begin." An assistant rolled a large blackboard over and Forster rose and began to write on it. "First, we must plan for the next three years. The Fuhrer desires us to be ready for war within five years. We shall do it in three. To that end, I have been speaking to Herr Schacht" - at that, Goering scowled, as Schacht and he had long been at loggerheads over the economic direction of the Reich - "and I have assembled the following dictates. Make no mistake, gentlemen, there will be no deviation from these orders. Deviation or dissension will be met with disgrace, or death."

That quieted things down a bit. Good.

"To that end, I have been impressed with the need to economically revitalize our nation. To that end, we will be concentrating on research and the building of factories capable of producing both consumer goods and military goods. We will maintain this policy for two years, while assembling four to five divisions a year."

There were nods around the table, save for Goering, but even he seemed to accept the plan.

"Politically, we have several goals. The foremost is to keep American out of any future conflict".

There was a stir at that, and Forster decided to explain.

"Yes, America has a weak army, and yes, she is struggling with the same economic issues as the rest of the world. However, both Schacht and I have been to America. They possess immense productive capabilities. Those cannot be allowed to come in on the side of our enemies, as they did in the last war. To that end, we are establishing a full-on political offensive, both openly, through diplomatic channels, and covertly, through Herr Frick's department. The isolationist element in America is very strong, and President Roosevelt's New Deal program has not eliminated the economic misery in the country. To that end, we will be funding the German-American Bund party."

There was a stir at that. The German-American Bund party was a joke. Forster continued anyway. "We will revitalize the party by stripping it of its Nazi characteristics. We must be realistic: no Americans will vote in quantity for the Nazi party. Instead, it will re-position itself as an economic party - that is, one which wishes to replicate German successes in defeating the depression. As well, it will cooperate with other parties, such as the Republican Party and the American First Committee, to run combined tickets to defeat the current president. At the same time, we will make the United States our major trading partner for raw materials, which will make us essential to their economy."

"As well, we will be working within the United Kingdom to undermine their diplomatic efforts. We are also placing agents in the Soviet Union to stir up resentment against Stalin and his government. When war comes, they will be unprepared."
Spoiler (hover to show)

"Lastly, the military. Along with our divisions, we will be producing two or three hundred aircraft a year. We will also be standardizing all of our equipment, so that we will not face supply problems. A mix of the new fighters and tactical bombers should put our air force in fine shape. On the land, we will concentrate on medium and light armor, combined with infantry and artillery. On the sea, I have decided, after talking with Goering and Raeder, that we will not be producing a submarine fleet. Instead, we will concentrate on a small fleet of battleships and destroyers, with the Luftwaffe providing air cover."

That did earn an objection, from Goebbels. "Unterfuhrer, we can hardly expect to challenge the Royal Navy on the high seas with that."

Viktor smiled. "Indeed. But we do not intend to. It is merely intended to challenge their control of the channel."

"To what purpose?" Schacht asked. "Blocking the channel is merely an annoyance. And they'll wear us down eventually, while raiding every convoy we send to America."

This time, Viktor had to grin. "My dear Schacht," he said, "how are they going to raid our convoys if they have no ports to raid from?"
« Last Edit: 02 Jan 2016, 15:52 by Vikarion »
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Chapter 1: A single flame alight
April, 1936

The Berghof was dark and pleasantly cool in the early evening. Viktor sat in one of the armchairs, wishing he could pace the room. But the Fuhrer, sitting in his own chair, still could not walk without crutches, and so he sat as well.

"What do you have to report? Hitler asked, sipping on a cup of tea. Near his elbow was the remains of a small piece of cake. The Fuhrer's surgeon had enforced, by means of an obdurate stubbornness compounded by an air of competence, a few dietary changes. Hitler grumbled about them, especially including the introduction of a small amount of meat into his diet, but had acquiesced to even that when the surgeon claimed that he needed the protein to rebuild his muscles. He had also reduced the Fuhrer's consumption of sweets, which had irritated the man further. But the results were impressive. His right arm was full functional, and his leg was healing well, according to the doctor. This put Hitler in a fairly good mood, which was a blessing to more than the Fuhrer.

Spoiler (hover to show)

"Well," Viktor said, sipping his own coffee. "Things are proceeding apace. We have reorganized the military to create more established divisions with four brigades each, instead of three. We are producing two battleships at the moment, Tirpitz and Bismarck, as well as destroyers. Around 200 planes are in production."

Hitler nodded. "Good. And that trade you were so insistent on?"

"Several convoys from the Americas. The United States in particular has been delighted to trade us steel and oil. Apparently they have re-opened one steel mill just for us. We, to fund this, are exporting our own coal and goods, mostly to the USSR, our neighbors, and back to the U.S. We still have a deficit of certain materials, but that should be less of a problem once we are finished with the intensive work of setting up new factories."

Hitler considered that for a moment. "Very well. And what of this civil war in Spain?"

This was a sore spot. Hitler had wanted very much to intervene in the war between the Nationalists and the Republicans, but Forst had argued against it, vociferously and continually. Spain had nothing to offer the Reich, he'd pointed out. No major resources of note, and no military of note. Hitler had pointed out that it would hardly be advantageous to have a Bolshevik outpost controlling access to the Mediterranean, and that communism must be opposed wherever it sprang up. What had won Forst the argument, which had mostly consisted of Hitler lecturing him, was pointing out that he had neither the forces nor the supplies to send, since he was reorganizing the army and building up the Reich.

He sighed. "It looks like the Nationalists are losing. Stalin is probably contributing to the Republicans."

"We should have intervened," Hitler growled. "Now there will be another Bolshevik state to destroy."

Forst shrugged. "A Bolshevik state on someone else's borders, and one without an army worth a damn. And a sinkhole for Soviet aid. When we deal with the Soviets, they will have no one to save them."

Hitler nodded. "True." One thing he liked about this Forst fellow was the way the man simply assumed that they were going to have a war, and against the eastern foe at that. And he was just preparing for it. Competently, it seemed. Well, too bad for Spain, then. He changed the subject, instead. "I think it will be time for me to make a speech to the Reich, this January." That would give him time to finish healing. Hitler was very sensitive to his public image, and continued to remain in the Berghof, isolated from all but his closest associates.

"That, I think, would be well." Forst replied.
« Last Edit: 02 Jan 2016, 16:11 by Vikarion »
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Chapter 1: A single flame alight
June, 1936, The White House

"Well, Harry, I think it's time for that declaration, don't you think?" Roosevelt inquired.

Harry Hopkins thought about that. If they were going to call for new elections in Germany, it was well past time. In retrospect, it would have been wiser to have done this immediately. Now Forst was well and truly ensconced in power, and calling for elections - essentially declaring his government illegitimate - might not mean a thing. If the Nazis were as in as much control of the country as it appeared, they could just fake the results. Hell, they might not even need to: from all reports, Forst had rationalized much of the economic experimentation that had been going on, and with Schacht's free-trade policy, Germany was rapidly developing an even larger industrial base than the one she already possessed, much to the delight of the newly-employed German labor it was sucking up like a vacuum.

"I'm not sure," Hopkins temporized. "We really should have done it sooner. And we still don't know if Hitler is dead. Their papers say that he is recuperating."

"He's dead, Harry" the president said. "If I were injured, I'd still put on a public appearance within six months. And we need to do it now, if we're going to. With the way the Bund party is sucking up the labor vote and pointing out all the work the Nazis are giving our steel workers and miners, not to mention the oilmen, well, we have to do something to remind the voters what the Nazis are really all about."

"Very well, Mr. President. A formal diplomatic note, then?"

"Yes, have State write it up, and I'll sign it. Oh, and a small speech tomorrow afternoon, just the papers I think."

- - -

June, 1936, one day later, The Berghof

"He calls for elections, does he? Calls this government an un-elected dictatorship, does he?" Hitler hobbled across the room, having graduated to a plain, brown wood cane. "Well! I'll show that schwein a thing or two! Forget January." He turned to Victor. "I will make a speech tomorrow. Tomorrow, do you understand me? In Berlin! Get me my automobile!"

Viktor Forst tried not to laugh. "Calm down, my Fuhrer. Are you sure this is wise? You are still -"

Hitler cut him off. "I can still walk, damn it. And I can still speak." He considered that, shaking slightly from the effort. "At least, a little. A short speech, then." He stopped, considered. "I suppose I need a new automobile, too."

"That," Forst chuckled, "is taken care of. I would like to have you out in public again, but we must watch your health. But I think I have a solution. Let this not be one of your more...fiery speeches. Perhaps, more of an air of aggrieved offense. After all, you were injured, and no sooner were you than the president tries to take advantage of it. And after all the business we've brought them, too."

- - -

June, 1936, one day later, Berlin

The setting was excellent. It was only a medium-sized crowd, told that there would be an important speech by a high party official. The reason for the deception was two-fold: first, Forst wanted to surprise them - several foreign journalists were in attendance, and this would have all the more impact for that. Second, he didn't want too large a crowd, and if word got around that Hitler was back, every Berliner would try to be here.

The stage was dark, just enough for a silhouette. A man being pushed up to the stage in a wheelchair. Slowly, the figure rose, and, slowly, painfully, made his way to the podium, the only sound in the suddenly quiet auditorium being the "tap-tap" of the cane. The man made it to the podium, rested his cane on it, and then the lights came up. There was another moment of shocked silence, and then a wave of sound that resolved itself into waves of "Sieg Heil".

Good, Viktor thought. Very good.

- - -

June, 1936, two days later, The White House

"Well, Harry," the President said a bit acidly, "we sure bollixed that one up."

"Yes, Mr. President," Hopkins said, looking through the sheet of Hitler's speech. "And he played it perfectly."

"Oh?"

"Yes. First, how glad he was to be back in the saddle - my words, not his - and what a good job Forst has been doing for the people. Then he moved on to our declaration, and played it pretty well. No shouting, just offended and hurt. Pointed out that they'd had elections more recently then we had. Then went on to speculate that perhaps you were worried that the Germans might be doing a better job of pulling American workers out of unemployment than the New Deal. Read a list of all of the things the Germans are buying from us, and asked why the American president, as opposed to the American people, was so against free trade and free exchange" - that got a snort from Roosevelt - and then stated that, in the spirit of Christian forgiveness and charity, the Reich would put in an order for steel."

Roosevelt actually chuckled. "Let me guess..."

"Yes, Bethlehem Steel has already bid on the order. But this has hurt us, more domestically than abroad. You have a lot of concerned unions and businessmen out there who are writing to the editor, wondering if you've 'gone quite mad', to quote one of them."

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September, 1936, From The Post, editorial

Despite the worries of the world, it appears that the German government is just as good at organizing the Olympics as it is in organizing rallies. But as much as this event was a celebration of the Olympic spirit and friendly competition, it must also be acknowledged that it was a victory for the Nazi regime on the world stage.

Allowing the Olympics to be held in Berlin has helped the Nazi government in its quest to appear a legitimate choice of its citizens, even as they speak quite openly of demanding obedience, loyalty, and sacrifice. How much of this is talk, and how much is coercion, it is hard to say. You'd never guess the darker side of Nazi propaganda from Hitler and Forst, however.

It must be said, in their favor, that the games were mostly free of the specter of anti-Jewish propaganda or Nazi hooliganism. The two leaders made every effort to greet winners from all countries, and Hitler is reportedly going to be naming a street in Berlin after Khadr El Touni, the Egyptian weightlifter who beat out two Germans to set a new world record.

Time will tell if this event will lead the Germans onto a more moderate course, or if the Olympics will only function as a low hurdle on the track to tyranny.
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OOC

Well, I've made it to about the end of the first year. There's not much more that happens through 1936 and 1937. Mostly I'll continue to build up Germany's convoys, Industrial Capability, and raw materials reserves. In regards to research, the tech focus is on infantry and light/medium armor improvements, land doctrines, tactical bomber and fighter improvements, naval improvements, naval doctrine, air doctrine, and miscellaneous projects, in that order. If I manage the leadership, I'll invest some time into researching nuclear weapons, but that takes about 7 years.

Intelligence-wise, Germany is still influencing American, trying to wreck the United Kingdom's image abroad, and trying to destabilize the Soviets. Not much more to post until 1938, which will be chapter 2.
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Interlude
July, 1937 Berghof

"Well," Hitler said, examining the newspaper. "It looks like Franco has forced the Bolshevik Republicans in Spain to surrender. And without our help." He eyed Forst.

Forst shrugged. "It could not be helped. We still have only 48 divisions. I want to have 80."
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Chapter 2: Rising sparks
June, 1938, The White House

President Roosevelt put the phone down and sighed. The news was bad, as it seemed a lot of the news lately was. The Chinese had just informed him that they were signing a truce with Japan. For the last year and change, Japan had been essentially overrunning the Chinese coast, and now the Nationalists had had enough. It looked like Japan, too, had been somewhat exhausted, though they'd extracted a rather large chunk of Northern China. He'd hope to forestall this, but the domestic political situation, combined with the ever-rising tide of the isolationist movement, had made providing aid to the Chinese, or, alternatively, embargoing the Japanese, politically impossible. And now Japan, along with its two puppet states, would be building up their forces for...what? He didn't know.

Map:
Spoiler (hover to show)

- - -
Anschluss
July, 1938, Berlin

Viktor sat back in his office chair, considering a map on the wall. Austria was now part of the German Reich. Right now, Hitler was doing a tour through the country, by all accounts - even those of foreign journalists - a overwhelmingly positive one. Well, probably not the Jews there. The Nuremberg laws would be extended to the new territory, doubtlessly discomfiting them. Eventually, all Jews would have to leave Europe. Some, like Goring, seemed to favor Madagascar, but Forst was considering Palestine. That was where they had come from, and just as the Germans were connected to their soil, Forst figured that the problem of the Jew ultimately stemmed from their exile from their soil. Until then, however, Forst had shot down ideas for additional persecutions, less because he cared about the people than the fact that it would appear crass and thuggish on the world stage. On one occasion, he had completely lost his temper, demanding of one Gestapo man whether he supposed a Jewish shopkeeper was keeping a few hundred tons of iron ore in his cupboards. "He had better be," he had said - no, shouted, "because that's how much we'll lose when Sweden and America hear of your stupid little enthusiasms!"

On the other hand, there was nothing wrong with encouraging emigration, was there? And he had done that, and even profitably for the Reich, with the emigration tax. Some wanted that higher, too, but the Jews had to be able to pay the ticket. Perhaps the Reich could evacuate their Jews via ocean liners, after the war.

But that was in the future. Right now, he was effectively Fuhrer, keeping things together while Hitler visited his old homeland. He had been surprised at the success of the Anschluss, having personally expected to have to use at least a little force. Perhaps it would have been harder had Hitler got his way, and forced the issue earlier. But probably not. Schuschnigg had folded easily, almost too easily, as if he suspected that his proposed referendum would have the same result in any event.

Soon, it would be Czechoslovakia's turn. Hitler wanted the Sudetenland. Forst wanted all of Czechoslovakia. And Poland. Eventually, Romania, for the oil. And then, perhaps, the Soviet Union. In the mean time...

He suddenly realized that he was thinking of Hitler as an equal. That was odd, but strangely appropriate. And he could see how it had happened. Forst had proven his loyalty in a way no other Nazi had: he'd had the life of the Fuhrer in one hand, and the entire power of the Reich in the other. And yet, Hitler was alive, and now mostly recovered from his wounds, although he occasionally still complained of stomach pains. And since, the Fuhrer had more and more evolved a policy of setting the direction and vision of the Reich, and then handing off the particulars to Forst. And Forst divvied up the responsibilities among the Ministers and governors of the Reich.

There was trouble on the economic front, finally. Supplies of steel and various rare metals were not coming in as fast as German industry consumed them to produce consumer goods, supplies, and armaments. The armaments were the largest consumer of materials now, most of the factories Schacht had planned had been built, and the German merchant marine was perhaps the strongest it had ever been. Schacht had brought over some American engineers to help with that - embarrassing, but useful. Now some of the steel from the American mills was arriving in pre-shaped sections, for nearly the same cost. The Anschluss would help, too. Austria had - no, had had, he corrected himself - steel and other industries.

He looked down at the newest note presented to him. Apparently someone named Heisenberg wanted to meet with him. Right now. What could a professor of physics want with him? He knew of the man, and the man was well-regarded enough to have made it into the building. Well, one way to find out.

He shouted to his secretary to send the man in. He had a phone for that purpose, but was of the opinion that shouting was easier. In a few minutes, the man was in his office, hands clasped behind his back, obviously nervous.

"Doctor Heisenberg," Viktor said, nodding to him. "How can I help you today?" The politeness was pro forma, both men knew that the physicist had better have a good reason for asking for an audience.

"It's...it has to do with my field, Unterfuhrer, Heisenberg replied. He paused, then went on. "Some of your officers have been criticizing out work, saying that it is 'Jewish physics', and that I am acting like a Jew."

"Are you?" Forst asked bluntly.

"Herr Forst, the problem is that there is no such thing as 'Jewish physics', or 'German physics', or any other kind. It's just physics, which is just mathematics. Two plus two is still four, whether you are Jewish, Aryan, or something else. Isaac Newton set down the first principles of calculus as an Englishman. Leibniz, a German, discovered them at the same time."

Forst considered that. "So what is the issue?"

"The difficulty is that I teach my students of the discoveries of people like Einstein, and that is apparently an act of Jewishness, according to your SS."

"Are Einstein's theories correct?"

"Undoubtedly so. They were proven experimentally."

Forst shrugged. "Give the names of those bothering you to my secretary on the way out. I will have them reprimanded and reassigned."

Heisenberg sighed in relief, and then, instead of leaving, spoke again. "Pardon me, but there is one more thing."

"Yes?" Forst looked up again.

"There are consequences of Einstein's theories, and of radioactivity. Theoretically, one might be able to use them to produce a weapon. Or to produce nearly limitless energy."

Forst considered that. "Can you write up a paper with the necessary information? I will read it, and get back to you." He smiled. "Also, keep in mind that I am not a physicist."

Heisenberg nodded. "Thank you, Unterfuhrer. You will be not be sorry you read it."

And a few days later, when the paper came in, Forst realized exactly how right Heisenberg was.
« Last Edit: 02 Jan 2016, 22:37 by Vikarion »
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