I have generally modeled the Hegemony of Lorean as a stolid National-Socialist kind of place, perhaps going a bit soft in the Colonies (a.k.a. the Empty Quarter’s Beta Quadrant), but with the homeworlds as militarized and as fanatically unpleasant as ever.
So it was with interest that I read an article on a young German girl who lived in those time. Some things that stuck in my mind:
“I asked my aunt if I could take my little toy doggie.”
Ortrun Kneifel had just turned 12 in the autumn of 1944. She and her sister were living with her aunt in Silesia, the eastern section of what was then war-torn Germany.
“The Russians are marching.” That’s what her uncle told them after returning from Germany’s Eastern front — the remnants of Otrun’s family must leave immediately.
As the sound of Russian bombs pounded on the horizon, Ortrun’s life as a refugee began.
Ortrun would become one of about 12 million Germans fleeing oncoming Russians during that bitterly cold winter, says historian Manuel Meune, of the University of Montreal. Two million would be killed, raped or die of starvation.
The Blood Vargr don’t do major invasions anymore – but there are still the occasional raid, and these Vargr are not here to steal, they are here to kill. So if you see ortillery, rockets, and lasers raining in from the sky, grab a gun and ammo before heading for the shelter, bug-out site or the woods.
More than 45,000 Canadian soldiers had died fighting German and Japanese troops. On top of Second World War tensions, Muene says Canadians of German origin — many of whom arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries — had “never recovered” their public voice because of the suspicion they came under after the First World War.
It’s why Canadians don’t hear much about Germans as an ethno-cultural group, he says, even though there are far more of them than Canadians of, say, Greek, Chinese, Filipino or Latin descent.
Guilt is a puzzling phenomenon, but a real one. I will note that not one of the various heavily-armed tribes of the Empty Quarter have ever felt an ounce of guilt over any atrocity, however vicious or unjustified, their tribe has done. “We will do what we deem necessary to take care of our own. Period.”
Tribe, tribe over all!
It is left to the Imperials to keep everyone from simply tearing open the throat of their neighbour. Talk about the brotherhood of man is laughed out of the room, but pragmatic self-interest can at least get a hearing. The best way to make the case for peace (or at least lowered hostilities) as of 993 are economic considerations, as you can’t build wealth if you are endlessly at war with everybody else.
A fact that is slowly dawning on the Emptyheads, as they compare themselves with the rest of the Imperium.
Many German adults lived in terror of being exposed as unpatriotic. Ortrun learned later a family friend had disappeared and Nazi officials had shown up at his wife’s door, delivering nothing but a container of his ashes.
There is a lot of winking, knowing nods, and deliberate not-seeing-stuff in Beta Quadrant, so even open private disagreement with the Hegemon is unlikely to get you disappeared (although a sound beating is a distinct possibility). Try to organize a group to oppose the Hegemony, though, and there could well be a container with your name on it, waiting patiently…
The scope to oppose/ignore Hegemonic rules is greater in Beta (non-Arzula race) human communities and among the Vargr, so long as, again, they don’t directly oppose the Hegemon or fundamentally challenge his authority. Then again, if you don’t paly ball, don’t be surprised if you are last in line for rations, or overlooked when it’s time to hand out political pork.
Ortrun’s father was also in a bind. He would not be allowed to teach in the public schools unless he joined the Nazi party. At the same time, some people believed he lacked enthusiasm about Naziism.
Neither side trusted him, said Ortrun. “In German we say, ‘He was sitting between the chairs.’”
Friedrich’s dilemma was common, Meune says. “Some people in Germany were full-fledged Nazis, and others just had to become Nazis to preserve their jobs and support their families.”
Going against the authorities is always more dangerous in dictatorships. As for compromises to be made… I leave the Referee to set up such choices, and the PC to choose his destiny.
Like virtually all young German men, Ortrun’s father joined the army. He left home around the beginning of the war. Ortrun never saw him again.
She heard of her father’s fate when a soldier showed up at their home and described the strange way he had died.
It was on June 22, 1941, the first day of the massive German assault against Russia.
“My father was very tall,” Ortrun says. For some reason, Friedrich decided to stand in his army raft, making himself a target, as it crossed the Bug River, near Warsaw.
“My father stood up: So he was killed. And my sister and I have the feeling that he must have been very, very sad his marriage didn’t work. My sister and I said perhaps he didn’t want to live any more. And later we found out he had known a bit about what the Nazis were doing in the concentration camps.”
There is more than one way for a soldier to commit suicide, and more than one reason to do so. Something that military PCs might know about.
As the war turned against Germany and Ortrun’s uncle told them they had to flee, Ortrun, her sister and aunt were lucky to get on one of the crammed trains leaving Silesia. “Others had to walk.”
An interesting circumstance, if the PCs, say, decide to take in a crowd of civilians fleeing war or raids. Will the life support hold out? How will they be fed? What about human waste? Disease? Hostility among the refugees? And exactly where will the PCs fly to?
Over the next weeks, Ortrun got off and on many trains, some of them open boxcars, heading like others for the region northwest of Berlin. But no German family seemed ready to take them in.
“There was no space for us. They resented us refugees. We didn’t have money. We were hungry and cold.”
You’d think that people would open their hearts to orphans on the run. And you’d be wrong more often than you think. Google “Grave of the Fireflies” for the details (Japanese flavour rather than German).
In 1956, Ortrun began her life in East Vancouver, living around 46th Avenue and Fraser Street. “We had nothing.” Her husband worked at first in a tanning mill.
If the PCs lose their starship, they may well be in exactly this same position. I hope they have a backup plan… and can speak the local language.