Jack D. Hunter's Blog

05 January 2008

Treason's Payoff

There's a lot of stuff in the media these days about traitors and treason, and it's hard to sort out, because, as the old saying has it, one man's traitor is another man's freedom fighter. In treason, as it is in any other human relationship or endeavor, whether it's cowardly or heroic depends on whose ox is being gored. Treason is a very dangerous enterprise usually, and no matter whose ox is involved, it requires a bizarre form of courage and rarely rewards the effort.

My job in the ancient war against Hitler — "Operation Nursery" — would have been a lot more difficult if it hadn't been for the treason of "Karl" — code name for the SS Sturmbannfuehrer and Gestapo functionary who served as our main informant. Karl, because of his impeccable credentials and low public profile, had been invited by the key Nazi plotters to serve as operations chief of the Bavarian trucking company that was to provide their cover. But he decided instead to turn stoolie and betray his Nazi pals to the Americans. He did, and I was assigned to exploit him.

So I lived face-to-face with a German traitor for more than a year. I know what treason looks like. In this case it looked like an ordinary man who was taking enormous, potentially fatal risks because he was up to here with a rotten status quo and had a bonfire raging in his loins.

Karl had three vulnerabilities. First, he was utterly sick of the whole dreary Nazi crowd and was convinced that these particular plotters were bound to fail and would finish their days on the gallows. Second, he was very much in love with a beautiful strawberry blonde. Third, he'd had a bellyful of loneliness and fear and wanted nothing more than to flee to the shores of the Tegernsee, where he'd spend the rest of his days alternately snoozing in he sun and pleasuring his sweetie.

My main control of Karl was my assurance to him that we'd see to the fulfillment of all his desires — if he cooperated fully with me. If he didn't, he was dog meat. And the force of this understanding kept my investigation on the rails and Karl a straight-line, gung-ho informant, thanks to the many happy hours he was spending in his beautiful lady's embraces.

Alas, as all things do, the arrangement eventually turned to ashes. For all the time I was case officer and in charge of Karl, things went along fine. On one hand, I kept him safely hidden from the Allied War Crimes investigators who would have sent him to prison in a heartbeat, and on the other hand from his Nazi bosses who, had they learned of his treason, would have sent him down the beautiful brown Danube in a concrete canoe.

But when the case was closed out in 1946, Karl's huebsche Schatzi, her gold-digger's thirst unslaked, had run off with a wealthy champagne salesman, and the German government, under its own denazification program, sentenced Karl to prison for seven years. Despite my earnest affidavits and all sorts of efforts by the U.S Military Government to attest to Karl's value to the "cause of freedom" (whatever that is), the ticked-off non-Nazi Germans then in charge had vengeance on their minds and wouldn't listen to a syllable of our explanations.

So Karl's treason had fulfilled none of his dreams and left him to think about the enormity of his failure for a long stretch in Stadelheim Prison. Oddly enough, he seemed never to hold me personally responsible for this, knowing as he did how governments routinely screw even their best people and that I had always lived up to my own promises to him and had worked like hell, albeit unsuccessfully, to soften his punishment. After his release, he and his new wife actually spent a day with us in our home on the Chesapeake Bay in 1976, but I never saw him again because subsequently the Reagan Administration had engineered a law that prohibited known Nazi leaders from visiting the States.

Just as well. I simply couldn't rid myself of my hatred for what he and his colleagues had done to the world. And he made Tommy nervous, the way he would stand silently and look over her and her home with those codfish eyes.

I did hear from him again, though. His postcard, sent from a vacation resort in Spain, was addressed: "To Jack D. Hunter, Turkey Point Road, Chesapeake Isle, Md., United Jewish States of Reagan."

I was very sad. Some six years of war, with tens of millions slain, and all we'd learned was that you can't kill an idea.

I tore up the card and dropped it into the garbage can.



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