|After the Downfall |
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Religion:||Atheist (originally Christian)|
|Date of Birth:||c. 1908|
|Occupation:||Soldier, part-time magician|
|Affiliations:||Wehrmacht (World War II)|
Captain Hasso Pemsel (b. circa 1908) was a career infantry soldier with the Wehrmacht and fought in its ranks throughout the Second World War, being involved in the invasion and conquest of France and later in the entire war with the Soviet Union, from the invasion in 1941, through the harrowing years on the Eastern Front and until the last-ditch defense of Berlin.
Pre-1945 Life, Career and Opinions
Pemsel was tall and blond-haired, making him more "Aryan" in appearance than Hitler and many of the other Nazi leaders. His appearance and hair color would turn out to have considerable political and cultural significance also in the world to which he would be later transported.
Personally, Pemsel never shared the fanatic Nazi antisemitic prejudices, and at the time of the Weimar Republic he actually knew some Jews and considered them "neither better nor worse than other people". However, he was not inclined to oppose the Nazi persecution and killing of Jews. During his years in Russia he used to "look the other way" when encountering the murderous Einsatzkommandos. On one night later in the war, he was in a troop train routed to a sideline until a train full of Jews could pass, and was at the time mainly concerned with the discomfort to his troops, giving little thought to the Jews and where they were being taken - though the memory would come to haunt him later on.
In the early parts of the Russian campaign, he shared in the general German contempt for the "Ivans" and expected them to collapse easily under the Wehrmacht onslaught. When encountering the Soviet partisan activity taking an increasing heavy toll of the German forces, he took part in brutal retaliations in Russian villages. However, unlike some fellow soldiers, Pemsel disliked rape and preferred to "sweet-talk" French and Russian girls into entering voluntary liaisons with him.
In the later parts of the war, with the Soviets pushing the German forces further and further back, Pemsel gained a grudging respect for their fighting ability and became more and more bitter and sarcastic about the Nazi leadership. He was, however, determined to go on fighting to the bitter end, even when the fighting reached Berlin and there was no doubt left about the impending German defeat.
Pemsel had great interest in and knowledge of world history, recent as well as ancient. In particular, he had much detailed knowledge of military history, of little practical use to a 20th Century officer but which would prove of great value in the less advanced world to which he would be transported. For example, he had a detailed knowledge of the tactics of late medieval armored cavalry as well as of the pikemen who - given enough training and discipline - could stand up to that cavalry. Most crucial of all, Pemsel knew which ingredients and in which proportions go into producing firepowder, and where to find these ingredients.
The Battle in The Museum
In April 1945, Pemsel and his company were making a last stand in Berlin's Old Museum. His interest in and concern for history was evident in giving a thought - even when considering himself to be faced with imminent death - to the fact that fighting in that location caused the destruction of irreplaceable archaeological items, which would be forever lost to Science. While taking cover from Soviet fire, Pemsel noticed a large stone artifact that had not been removed to a safer location. His curiosity piqued, he crawled over to it during a lull in fighting. He read the information placard which stated that it was the Omphalos from Zeus' temple in Delphi, a keystone and bridge between worlds.
He pointed it out to his top sergeant Karl Edelsheim who, with mild mockery, suggested Pemsel sit down on it since any world he went to couldn't be any worse than the one they were in at the moment. On a fatalistic whim Pemsel did so. For a timeless moment, he seemed suspended and then the moment ended and he plunged a meter or two into a bog.
- After the Downfall, p. 284.