Dangerous Territory

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Attack on Titan /Shingeki No Kyojin
Dragon prints: 2485
Disclaimer: I do not own “Shingeki no Kyojin” and do not make money from this fanfic.

Chapter 31

Clarity in the Cathedral

 

Eren spent most of his first day in Metz at a beer hall full of soldiers. A few had women with them, letting the girls sit on their laps, telling them stories of bravery while their buddies insisted none of it was true. They toasted their commanding officer, buying more and more beers for Eren, cheering for him like a hero who could end the war single-handedly.

Eren drank beer after beer. He talked and laughed with his platoon mates late into the night, sang every song they could think of, even some Eren had never heard before, but he learned them as they sang and cheered, swaying to songs of the Fatherland.

 

Oh, Du schöner Westerwald!
(Eukalyptusbonbon!)

Über Deine Höhen pfeift der Wind so kalt!
Jedoch der kleinste Sonnenschein
Dringt tief ins Herz hinein.

* You can hear the full song here: https://youtu.be/4GkZ_Ax1kMw

 

After many hours, Eren retreated to the lavatory to relieve nature. There he came across Armin standing by the sink, washing his face and looking woozy like he had just vomited.

“Drink too much?” Eren asked, his own voice slurring as he unzipped his trousers and stood in front of a urinal.

“Sorry, sir. Connie was really pushing me into more toasts.”

“I’ll have Floch drive you home.”

Das müssen Sie nicht tun, Herr Leutnant.” You don’t have to do that, lieutenant.

Sie?” Eren asked, catching the formality in his words. “Since when is it Sie between us?”

Armin pouted as he leaned against the wall to keep upright while his head swam. “Jean is right. This is Metz. It’s not like that little village; it’s not even like Paris. We’re on the front lines again, just like Anzio, and in Anzio we showed you proper respect.”

“In Anzio, I was fresh out of the academy. I probably demanded respect since I didn’t know any of you.”

“Still, of all times to take our roles seriously, this is it. I’ve seen the maps. If things keep going as they are, Metz is going to be the last German stronghold in France.” His head lowered and shook despondently. “Now is the time to act like real soldiers.”

“We went through hell in Anzio,” Eren reminded him. “We qualify as real soldiers more than most of the men here.”

“Some of these men have been in this country since the Battle of France. Many were at Normandy. I met one who has been fighting since the 1939 Verteidigungskrieg. Five years! I can’t even imagine five years of this hell. And the worst is coming up.” He glanced around, but all the stalls were empty. “What happened to you-know-who?”

Eren shook off a droplet of urine, tucked himself away, and zipped up his trousers. “My hotel has an attic. He’s safe.”

Armin smiled in relief. “That’s good.”

“I need your help planning an escape.”

“I know. I’ll start gathering maps in the morning. A city map to start, a better map of the region would help for after he gets past the walls, then if I can get access to maps of enemy movements, figure a route so he’s not caught in the middle of a war zone…”

“Leave that to me,” said Eren. “And Armin … thank you.”

Armin smiled, feeling once again like they were just two friends, not enlisted and officer. “You’re welcome, Eren.”

“Let’s get you home.”

Eren helped Armin to walk as they went back to the beer hall and hunted out Floch. Unfortunately, the young soldier had drank to excess and passed out on a table. Eren shook his head, but he figured at least his men could have some fun here in Metz. Even if Armin’s grim warning was right, for the moment at least, they could enjoy life to the fullest.

He went over to Jean instead. The tall, long-faced sergeant was busy chatting with a young woman who already had claimed his arm as hers. Eren clasped him on the shoulder. “Hey! I’m going to find someone who can drive Armin back home. Let Floch know I went back on my own.”

“Huh? Oh, right. Where is he?” He glanced around and saw the auburn-haired soldier passed out with drool forming a puddle on the table. “Damn. Should I find someone else to drive you?”

“I don’t think anyone here is sober enough,” Eren said with a light laugh. “Don’t worry, I’ll find someone. Make sure they all get back to the barracks.”

“Yes, sir!” He turned back to the lady. “Now, where was I?”

“Dieppe,” the woman said, leaning in close to him, obviously very drunk already.

“Ah yes. I shot probably three hundred Allies myself. Drove them back across the English Channel. This bastard,” he said thumbing to Eren, “he’s not that bad, but our lieutenant back then was an idiot. Got himself killed, so I had to take control for a while. That earned me a promotion, although I felt like I should have been made an officer on the spot. Not that I would brag about it, but you could say that victory was all thanks to me.”

Her hand slid up his tunic. “You are so brave, Herr Unteroffizier.”

Eren rolled his eyes and shook his head. Jean’s story changed every time he heard it. Back in Anzio, he claimed it was fifty men he shot. In Paris it was a hundred. Perhaps next time, he would claim to have shot down a plane.

Eren guided Armin outside into the chilly September night. He could still hear the singing behind him and smiled once more. Truly, if only life could be like this, hanging out with friends, drinking and singing, without wars and death!

He walked over to the military truck, glanced around the street, and saw two children, no more than twelve years old, a young girl in the white shirt, black skirt, and black neckerchief of the Jungmädelbund, and a fresh-faced blond boy in the brown shirt and black shorts of Hitler Youth.

“There are still many young people around,” Armin noted as he watched the two children. “You would think their parents would get them out of the city.”

“Metz is home to a Fahnenjunkerschule and SS-Nachrichtenschule. A lot of families around.” He had seen that on a map, a school for cadets and a communications school. They would probably see a lot of young recruits around, and even some children. Eren called out, “Hey, kids.”

The two youths looked around. The girl instantly snapped to attention with her arm out stiffly, and the boy followed, bringing himself up taller and saluting.

Herr Leutnant,” said the boy.

Heil Hitler!” the girl screamed.

The boy flinched and turned to her. “Not so loud. Sheesh!”

Still intense but in a near whisper, she said, “My apologies, lieutenant.”

Eren was impressed by the respect that had been instilled into these two children. It was proof of strict German education. “What are your names?”

The boy replied, “I am Falco Grice. This is Gabi.”

Heil Hitler,” she said again.

“At ease,” Eren said in amusement. “Do either of you know someone who can drive my truck? My driver is … busy.” More like passed out drunk, but Eren did not want to give a bad impression to these children.

Falco said, “My brother can drive. I can fetch him for you.”

Gabi thumbed behind her. “We just passed him. He’s nearby.”

“Do so.”

“Yes, sir!” the two youths shouted, and they bolted off into the dark.

Armin dizzily rested on Eren’s shoulder. “Are you coming back too?”

“No, I’ll walk back to the officer’s hotel.”

“Noooo,” Armin protested, weakly hitting Eren. “You’re my lieutenant. I can’t—hick—can’t let you walk alone.”

“I’m perfectly fine walking by myself,” Eren said with a laugh at his poor friend’s drunken state. “I’m more worried about how everyone else is going to walk back after I send you home with the truck.”

Armin was still trying to protest when the children came back with a tall man in a gray uniform.

Schutzstaffel?” Eren wondered, squinting through the orange glow of a street lamp.

Armin’s eyes tried to focus. “No. Look at the shoulderboards.”

As the man in uniform passed under a lamp, Eren saw him clearer. “Police? But his uniform…”

Armin whispered, “Gestapo.”

The man came up to the two and nodded stiffly. Armin saluted right away, although his sudden movement made him wobble, and Eren had to grab him before he fell over.

“Pardon us, detective,” Eren said, holding onto Armin. “When the boy offered to get his brother, I didn’t know whom he meant.”

The man chuckled. “I’m surprised Falco didn’t brag about his big brother. He’s a little too proud of me.”

Gabi piped up, “Of course he would be! Anyone would be proud to have a brother like you, Colt. The Gestapo keeps us safe from any scum who would try to harm Germany. You guys are amazing!”

He patted her head, and Gabi beamed a giddy smile at being noticed. “Colt Grice, Kriminalassistent of Metz,” he said to Eren in friendly introduction.

Leutant Eren Jäger. My apologies. I thought I would simply get a civilian to drive my Obergefreiter back to the barracks. I didn’t mean to interrupt your evening. We’ll find someone else.”

“Nonsense,” said Colt. “The Gestapo are here to support our soldiers. It doesn’t matter what branch we belong to, we must help one another, for the glory of Hitler and the Third Reich.”

Heil Hitler!” Gabi yelled again.

“Besides,” said Colt, glaring around at the evening darkness, “I don’t trust the civilians around here. We’ve had so many problems with the French Resistance in Metz these past few weeks, if you had gotten a civilian to drive him home, you likely would have found your Obergefreiter dead in the morning.”

“Is it really that bad here?” Armin asked in shock.

“Forgive us,” said Eren. “We just arrived today.”

“Ah, are you the latecomers we heard about who had some communications trouble?”

“You heard about that?” Eren asked in surprise, considering how many companies must have been pouring into Metz over the past few weeks.

“Of course. It is the job of the Gestapo to hunt out spies and traitors,” he said with calm but cold composure. “Rest assured, the people involved were caught.”

“French Resistance?” asked Armin.

Colt shook his head. “We traced it to Berlin. I don’t know details, but I’m sure we will pry it out of them soon.”

Eren sneered at the thought of it. “Traitors in Berlin itself?”

Gabi had the same look of anger. “Fools! They don’t see how great Hitler has made Germany, how brilliant he is, how amazing and caring and handsome and passionate he is for the glory of all of Germany. Heil Hitler!

Falco rolled his eyes. “You’re being loud again.”

“I can’t help it,” she cried out. “Hitler makes me so proud to have been born a German.”

Falco muttered under his breath, “Technically, you’re French. You were born right here in Metz.”

“We must always be vigilant of deviant behavior,” Colt told Eren, “and enemies of Germany must be crushed without mercy.”

Eren felt a momentary chill. Deviant behavior? Like hiding a Jew in his attic?

“That is why we need officers like you, Herr Leutnant, and why what you are doing, what you are fighting for, is so important.” Colt smiled down at the children and put a protective hand on Falco’s shoulder. “We fight for the next generation, so that they may know peace and prosperity.”

Gabi’s fists tightened. “And if the fight continues, we’re ready. We will fight to the very last man!”

Colt ruffled up her hair. “I sincerely hope you don’t have to.”

Armin told Colt, “We’ve had our fair share of the French Resistance. Our last assignment was a village northwest of here that had been overrun by partisans.”

Eren shoved down his momentary shiver and added, “We flushed them out and held the place secure through the summer, yet it seems that in the end, a few rats slipped by us.”

Gabi vehemently insisted, “They are worse than rats. Anyone who defies Hitler is a pustule on the ass of a flea that suckles on the blood of a Jewish rat!”

Falco made a face as he turned to her. “Where did you learn language like that?”

“From my mother,” she declared proudly.

“Then you know what I mean,” Colt said to Eren, ignoring the noisy children. “Trust no civilians in Metz.” He glanced at the bar they were standing in front of. “Are some of your men in there?”

“Most of my platoon.”

“Warn them not to go home with any unknown women. They can ask other soldiers or even the bartender if a woman is known in this area, but strange women should be avoided. Lieutenant, if you would like a nice lady for the evening, the Gestapo has a list, women vetted specifically for our officers to make sure they are safe, both politically and … well…” He hesitated as he glanced down at the two children. “We wouldn’t want you to get a disease, if you know what I mean.”

Gabi bluntly stated, “He means whores. They keep a list of the best whores.”

Falco gasped, both at Gabi and at what his brother was obviously offering to this lieutenant.

Eren looked awkward. “That’s … a kind offer.”

“Remember,” Colt schooled, “a man should not let his vitality go to waste for too long. It makes for a weaker soldier.”

Gabi nodded diligently. “We need our soldiers in top form, and that means a healthy libido.”

“Who taught you that?” Falco cried out.

“The older girls in Bund Deutscher Mädel. I listen in on their lectures. They said if a soldier wants a night with us, we are to take it as the greatest compliment and do our utmost duty to Germany.”

Colt patted her head and warned her, “Not until you’re of legal age, young lady. Help this poor soldier into the truck. Falco, help Jäger to gather his men. I’ll drive them all home so we can be sure they don’t end up lost or murdered by a femme fatale.”

“That’s kind of you, detective. Come on, Falco.”

“Yes, sir!” the boy said eagerly, and he went into the noisy bar right behind the lieutenant.

Eren marched forward and stood on a table. “All right, Jäger Platoon! Ditch the dames. It’s bedtime.”

Jean was the first to shout. “What? Come on!”

Thomas yelled, “I already bought her three drinks.”

Eren quipped back, “And if you can’t win her back tomorrow, try five drinks. There’s a nice Gestapo detective outside who gave those orders. Do you want to argue with him?”

Thomas slouched and frowned. “No, sir.”

“Good. Back in the truck. Someone wake up Floch.”

Connie poured a beer over Floch’s head to wake him, and he was dragged out along with other men who stumbled in a drunken haze. Falco helped those he could, while Eren made sure everything was settled with the bar owner.

Jean came up to him and whispered, “Why is there Gestapo outside?”

“Pure chance. He offered to drive you all back to the barracks. Oh, and he warned, don’t hook up with the local girls. Apparently there have been a lot of problems.”

Jean’s face turned severe. “Are you in trouble?”

Eren looked stunned. “No. Why?”

“Considering what you’re planning?” Jean shook his head, really not liking any of this. He whispered in warning, “Don’t hang out with the Gestapo.”

Eren stiffened, knowing what he meant. He had to admit, for a moment, he had felt a pang of terror at realizing this man worked for the Gestapo, but unless Floch tattled, no one knew where Levi was hiding.

They turned to go, but Jean stumbled. He shook his head against all the beer he had drank, and Eren helped him forward. They went out into the night and saw Colt in the truck.

“I feel bad that you’ll have to walk back,” Eren muttered.

Colt smirked as he started up the truck’s engine. “If I can’t handle a kilometer or two, I don’t deserve my position. Falco, Gabi, climb in. We’ll count this as your evening exercise.” He glanced at Eren. “Aren’t you coming, lieutenant?”

“I’d like to walk around, see what this city is like at night. Besides, I need the fresh air.”

“Be safe. Remember my warning. Lots of Resistance out there, even now. They’ll do anything to sabotage us, and taking out a lieutenant wandering alone at night would be an easy target.”

Jean barked a laugh. “He’s stupid, but he’s strong. He’s a Jäger for a reason.”

Colt heard the insult mixed with admiration and glanced over to Eren in surprise. “That’s your platoon sergeant?” Eren shrugged with a chuckle. “Well, I’ll leave it, but perhaps once he’s sobered up he can atone by showing the proper respect for an officer.”

“Oy, Eren,” Connie called out. “Wohin gehst du?” Where are you going?

Du?” Colt caught right away. “I hope they’re only talking like that because they’re drunk. It’s quite improper.”

Eren knew some of his platoon spoke informally to him, and he had let it slide since taking charge. In battle, he cared more about survival than formality, in Paris he just wanted to relax and have fun, in the village he felt close with the men who stayed in the same house as him, but perhaps Armin was right. This was Metz, and they had to follow the chain of command better.

“I’m going to church.”

“Church?” Connie barked out, his head woozy. “Did you sin already?”

“Is that why you vanished from the party?” asked Jean. “Did you get some girl pregnant?”

Eren rolled his eyes and shook his head. The more his men talked, the more disrespectful they sounded. “I hope they’ll at least behave themselves around you. Again, I’m really sorry to bother you, Kriminalassistent.”

“And again, we are here to make sure our soldiers remain safe. The whole purpose of the Gestapo is to keep law and order in Germany and its occupied territories.” He tipped his hat to Eren. “Have a safe and pleasant walk, lieutenant. Welcome to Metz.”

The truck drove off with men shouting farewell to Eren. As soon as they were out of sight, Eren pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and took a long, much-needed drag. He had been wanting a smoke for a while, but if that Gestapo detective disapproved of his men speaking informally, he would really scold Eren for having cigarettes, given Germany’s anti-smoking policy.

He tugged his coat against the chilly air and began to walk. He headed north, seeing cars, horses, and many civilians still out despite the late hour. He was surprised, with the Allies on their way, just how many locals had remained in the city.

The streets really were a maze, and three times he had to ask for directions. Although Metz had belonged to France since the Great War, he found that older people spoke German, from the days when Metz was a German city.

What a complicated history this city had!

Finally, he turned a corner out of a narrow street and saw what he was searching for. A massive cathedral rose into view. Although it was dusk, there was enough light to see the soaring Gothic arches and austere majesty.

Eren realized while on the road, it was Sunday. In his childhood, he had gone to church with his mother every Sunday. Sometimes his father went with them, but often he was too busy with work. His mother, though, made sure Eren got dressed in his best suit, and they would walk together to church. It was a pleasant memory from his past.

Of course, his small village had a tiny church, nothing like the Metz Cathedral.

He walked up some steps and passed through a massive set of doors left open. There were people inside, Catholics praying with rosaries as well as German soldiers seeking solace from the nightmarish horrors of war. No matter which variety of Christianity the church was dedicated to, during times like this, praying for forgiveness and for the souls of their lost comrades got some soldiers through to live another day.

As an organ played an old hymn, Eren stepped forward, his army boots slow, struggling, as if the holiness of this place battled with the uniform he wore, and he had to fight through the darkness of his actions to be blessed with the divine Light. He gazed around at the massive stained glass windows that lined an arching ceiling that seemed to go up all the way to heaven itself. Never had he seen something so beautiful in his life. He definitely needed to come back here on a sunny day to see how the light caught those windows.

 

He paused, gazing ahead at the altar, crossed himself, and took a seat.

Herr, mein Gott, zu Dir nehme ich meine Zuflucht,” he whispered to himself. It was what his mother taught him to say upon entering a church: Lord, my God, I take refuge in you. “To this day, I don’t know if I’m going straight to Hell. What I am…” He looked down at his hands, and in his bones he could still feel the kick of his gun as he shot Abel. “…all I’ve done,” he whispered, his voice choking with tears, “especially in the past year.”

He closed his eyes, thinking about Anzio, killing British and Americans, sometimes viciously fighting back. Did God forgive soldiers? Someone in Hitler Youth asked that question once, to which the teacher assured, God not only forgave soldiers, He honored them. People who fought for the Fatherland were guaranteed a place in Heaven.

But did a man like him have that guarantee? If being homosexual sent you to Hell, but fighting for Hitler sent you to Heaven, did being a gay soldier for Hitler balance everything out? He used to hope so, and he would tell himself, so long as he never acted on these feelings, he wasn’t guilty.

Now, he knew the softness of a man’s lips. He had touched himself thinking about a man. He had lusted after a man, to a humiliating degree. He knew, if Levi ever suggested they do more, he would leap at the opportunity.

Was he guilty now? Did being a soldier still negate his damnation? Did God really hate him just because he had no desires for women?

“God, you made me this way,” he whispered, looking down at his hands again. They were hands that had caressed a man, and they wanted even more than touches. “How can I be damned for something I can’t not be? It’s as ridiculous as damning women for being born female, or damning…”

He paused. He was about to say or damning Jews for being born Jewish. Even a Jew who barely knew anything about the religion of his ancestors, according to what Eren had been taught, was doomed for being born with Jewish blood. Yet it was something a Jew couldn’t not be, God made them that way, so how could they have been born destined for damnation?

What about homosexuals?

His face cringed up. He had struggled with this dilemma all of his life, and he was no closer to an answer. How could God hate homosexuals if Eren had no choice but to be this way? He could force himself to marry a woman, even force himself to mate with and impregnate her, but there would never be love. He would never be attracted to her. That was nothing more than lying, and lying was a sin.

But not lying, being honest that he was only attracted to men, was also a sin.

He was damned either way.

Unless the priests and pastors were all wrong, and God loved everyone.

Gott ist Liebe,” he whispered. God is love.

When he read that scripture in the Bible as a child, he wondered how anyone could hate someone for whom they loved, when the Bible was so clear. Be it an Aryan falling for a Black person, a Christian falling for a Jew, or a man falling for a man, if God was love, then God approved of all love. God would not hate a person for whom they loved.

His love for Levi had to be something God would support. If God hated it, then God was not love. Simple as that.

If only it was that simple.

Someone had left behind a Bible on a seat near him. Eren reached over, picked up the Bible, and saw it was in German. He went to a scripture that had haunted him since he was a child. Yet as he read it, the words in this Bible were not the same.

Wenn jemand beim Knaben schläft wie beim Weibe, die haben einen Greuel getan und sollen beide des Todes sterben; ihr Blut sei auf ihnen.” If anyone sleeps with a boy as with a woman, they have done an abomination and both shall die; their blood be on them.

“Well, this is different,” Eren muttered to himself. He knew this scripture by heart, and that was not the way it went in the translation he was used to. The Bible used in his village’s church went, “Wenn ein Mann bei einem Manne liegt, wie man bei einem Weibe liegt.” If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman.

Knaben, a boy, was a much different meaning.

Eren clutched the Bible, stood up, and walked back out of the nave. He looked around until he found a priest.

“Pardon, do you speak German?” he asked the man in a cassock.

“Yes, my son. How may assist you?”

Eren held up the Bible. “The words in this are slightly different to the ones I knew as a child.”

The priest took the Bible and searched the inside of the cover. “Ah, this is the Lutherbibel. This is the original version of the Bible that Martin Luther translated into German in 1522. Whatever translation you are used to, the precise words may differ. If you grew up with the Zwinglibibel or Elberfelder Bibel, then you might be used to slightly different words, but the meaning should be the same.”

“The meaning was completely different,” Eren muttered.

The priest handed back the Bible. “Then I would say, if you have doubts, pray to God for understanding.”

“No,” he whispered, looking down at the Bible. “I think I only now understand.”

A smile cracked onto Eren’s face. He was Lutheran, so wasn’t the Bible translated by Martin Luther himself more accurate than some modern version? Luther translated that word as boy, not man, and that changed the meaning completely. Levi was anything but a boy. Sure, he teased Eren that he was a brat and a child, but they were both grown men.

The priest smiled to see relief in the face of this young soldier. “God has opened your eyes to His wisdom. Walk the path of the righteous, my son.”

Eren felt an old burden, a thorn in his side through nine years of his life, ever since he realized he liked men, suddenly lift, a pain he barely realized had been there vanished instantly.

He didn’t like little boys. He loved a grown, older man.

He put the Bible away and gazed up at the images of angels and saints wrought in colored glass. “I think I found my answer, God.”

Eren left the cathedral, walking lighter, unable to stop grinning. He felt like Heaven had suddenly opened up for him. He still had no idea if being a soldier was right or wrong, but at least being who he was was okay.

“Oh right! Food.”

He paused in a café and ordered a sandwich wrapped up to go. He also bought a bottle of beer and some cookies the café had from that morning. He saw they had a lemon flavored Pfundkuchen, and ordered the small loaf of cake. That would make a good breakfast for Levi.

With his food wrapped up in paper, he headed off, feeling even better about life. First, the Lutheran Bible said it was sleeping with boys that was the abomination. Now, he had some good food for Levi.

He could hardly wait to watch him eat again. Eren found just that much was soothing to his soul.

His mind was busy, so when he turned down a narrow street, he did not pay attention to a group of men smoking as they leaned against the brick walls. He walked by with hardly a glance, until one of them shouted out in a mocking voice.

Herr Soldat.

Eren paused, slowly turned around, and saw the men were shifting themselves up out of their slouches.

“It’s Herr Leutnant,” Eren corrected coldly.

“I don’t give a fuck who you are.” The man took a drag on his cigarette. “You’re out late, Kraut.”

Eren recalled Colt’s warning about members of the Resistance causing trouble in Metz. Were these just drunk thugs, or was this what he was talking about?

“How about you share some of that food with us?” said the man. “As a sign of goodwill from our German guests.”

Eren replied coldly, “If it is food you want, I’m sure you can find leftovers from the barrack’s mess hall.”

“We don’t want your fucking table scrapes, Kraut.”

Eren sighed in weary annoyance. “I don’t want a fight.”

“Neither do we,” the grizzled man said, “but you’re the ones bringing the fight to our city.”

The men behind him grunted in agreement as they drew in closer. Eren stood his ground, and his eyes flicked around, counting how many there were. If this turned into a fight, he did not have enough bullets for them all.

The man took another drag and flicked his cigarette at Eren, who batted it away before the burning tip scorched his uniform

“You should all go back home,” Eren warned.

“That’s what we’ve been saying to you Krauts for four fucking years.”

“Go back home!”

“Get out of our country.”

Eren wanted to tell these men, Germany defeated France fairly, their government agreed to the armistice, but he also did not want to make the situation worse.

The man taunted, “The Americans are coming, and they will slaughter every last one of you.” He smirked arrogantly, “At least, the ones we don’t get first.”

He whipped a knife out, and Eren went for his gun. Instantly, the arms of some tall, strong man were around him, nearly crushing Eren’s chest and pinning his arms to his sides. Eren sneered that someone had sneaked up on him.

The ringleader made a stab, but Eren spun hard, yanking the large attacker with him. The knife hit the huge man in the ribs. He howled in agony and loosened his grip on Eren.

While the ringleader was stunned that he had stabbed his friend on accident, Eren pulled out his Luger and shot him, then spun around and shot the man who had grabbed him. He turned to the other men who had gathered around, but they all scattering, fleeing into buildings or racing off into the night.

Eren walked up to the ringleader, fallen to the ground, holding his gut as blood pulsed out. Eren knelt beside him, his teal eyes hard and callous. The man groaned in agony as Eren tipped his chin up with the muzzle of his gun.

“The Americans may be coming,” he sneered, “but they won’t save you.” He pulled the trigger, and the back of the man’s head exploded. Then Eren stood up and took a few steps back as blood began to pool out closer to his feet. “Scum.”

He saw people had run forward at the sound of gunshots, and Eren glanced around, suspicious of everyone now. Who could he trust in this city that was about to face Hell itself?

He waited long enough for police to arrive, gave them a report about what happened, and the German police assured him, they would search for the men who fled the scene. As soon as the detective said he was free to go, Eren took off, glad to be away from that place and the smell of blood.

He took out another cigarette and tried to light it. He snapped the match in half, cursed, and pulled out another. He kept trying to strike that match, over and over, but his fingers were shaking too hard, until the match head broke off.

Verdammt,” he growled.

He came to a full stop so he could pull out another match and focus enough to strike it. Finally, the flame sizzled into life, and he lit up his cigarette. He took a long, slow inhale, and gradually the shaking stopped. It was so easy to pull that trigger when he was in the moment and his life was on the line; it was a different story when he had to live with the weight of the souls of the men he killed.

Die Welt ist am Arsch.” The world is fucked.

Eren shook his head as he continued to walk through the chilly September night, smoking his cigarette as he headed back to his hotel.

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Oh du schöner Westerwald – the lyrics at the beginning is the chorus to Westerwaldlied (“Westerwald Song”) an old German song that was popular in the 1940s. Westerwald is a mountainous region of western Germany. The lyrics translate: “Oh, you lovely Westerwald / Over your heights the wind whistles so cold / However, the slightest sunshine / Thrusts deep into the heart.” Groups who sing it add in the word Eukalyptusbonbon or other silly phrases after the first line, something that matches the instrumental solo (“pink underpants” is one of the funniest I have heard a group sing). It is half as a joke that gets crazier as you get drunker, half as a way to keep the tempo as you sing, presumably very drunk. You can hear the full song here: https://youtu.be/4GkZ_Ax1kMw

The 1939 Verteidigungskrieg – Today we call this the Invasion of Poland, or in German “Überfall auf Polen” (Attack on Poland … not “on Titan” haha!) At the time, Germany called it a Verteidigungskrieg, Defensive War, claiming that Poland attacked them first. In reality, the Gestapo had set up a “false flag,” dressed up in Polish uniforms, seized a German radio tower near the border, and broadcast an anti-German message in Polish, all to make it look like Poland had invaded and attacked Germany first. The next morning, September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to invade Poland. This marked the official beginning of World War II.

Dieppe Raid – Jean was bragging about fighting during the Dieppe Raid. This was a precursor to D-Day that happened in 1942. Allies (mostly Canadians) attempted to land at the port of Dieppe, to gather intelligence, testing the feasibility of an amphibious landing, destroy German coastal defenses, and raise moral. Instead, it was a slaughter. Of the 10,500 troops sent, 4384 were killed, captured, or wounded. The Allies discovered many mistakes, which were fixed by the time they prepared to land in Normandy for D-Day.

Schools of Metz – Technical High School of Metz was nazified and renamed SS-Nachrichtenschule (signal school, communications). Metz was also home to a Kriegsschule (military school) and Fahnenjunkerschule (officer cadet school).

Pfundkuchen – pound cake. My best friend ate this for breakfast every morning in school. I shared it with her once, only to realize the hard way that I am deathly allergic to it. I have a severe egg yolk allergy, but as a kid I didn’t realize that my mother only ever baked angel food cake (no yolks). Normal cake is fatal to me, let alone a yolk-heavy dessert like pound cake. (Angel food cake and vegan cake are yummy, though!)

Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls – In the manga, Gabi and Falco are 12 years old. This would place them at the right age for Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend) and League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel) particularly the Deutsches Jungvolk (German Youngsters) and the Jungmädelbund (Young Girls’ League), two groups aimed at children 10-14. Membership was compulsory.

The children (boys and girls alike) were expected to do exercise, go camping, take up a sport (gymnastics or swimming for girls), perform feats of courage, and attend lectures that taught them how to be proper Aryans (i.e. Nazi indoctrination). This included pushing the boys into fields of politics, military, and leadership, while girls were trained for domestic roles, how to be strong mothers and obedient wives. Children were encouraged to turn against their parents and report any who seemed to be opposed to Hitler. Many Germans brought to the attention of the Gestapo were parents who had been turned in by their brainwashed children.

Girls received an emphasis on history, Germanic legends, music, traditional songs and dances, how to grow their own garden (many worked on a farm for their one-year mandatory “land service”), and other aspects of German culture, as they were expected to pass these traditions down to their children. Girls received many lectures about avoiding racial defilement (i.e. don't have sex with anyone who is not Aryan) while sex with pure Aryans was highly encouraged.

To the horror of many parents, girls were taught that concepts of “virginal purity” were nothing more than Jewish manipulations designed to lower the birthrate of Aryans. Frequent sex was seen as a way to keep men (especially soldiers) healthy and invigorated, and of course every good German girl had to do her part in the war effort. Out-of-wedlock pregnancies were no longer treated as a social disgrace, but highly encouraged, although many teen girls gave up their babies to be adopted by older German families. Promiscuity was so rampant, the 1936 Nuremberg Rally led to 900 girls from the Bund Deutscher Mädel getting pregnant. They came to be nicknamed “Bund Deutscher Matratzen” (The League of German Mattresses) and the BDM acronym was teasingly said to mean “Bubi Drück Mich,” Laddie Press Me, as in “press me down into your mattress and goose-step into my Netherlands, it’s time to Fuck For The Führer!” … I’m going to Hell for that joke…

So, Gabi’s blunt statements about sex reflect that she listened to the older girls’ lectures a little too much. In general, Gabi represents the nationalistic fervor that youth groups in Germany instilled in children over many years.

Gabi’s line “We will fight to the very last man” was inspired by a scene from “Der Untergang” spoken by a teen girl wearing her Bund Deutscher Mädel scarf along with a soldier’s hard hat as she joins boys from Hitler Youth as young as 12 who are all blindly determined to defend Berlin against the Russians. In the final months of the war, many Hitler Youth and League of German Girls children were recruited into the military, often placed in locations that were guaranteed to get them killed (like anti-aircraft guns) but someone had to fill the spot. Tens of thousands died.

https://youtu.be/LdqaZNfs1mk

GestapoGeheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police), shortened to "Gestapo," was in charge of looking into treason espionage, counterintelligence, suppressing anti-fascists and liberals, and dealing with religious clergy who denounced Hitler (especially Jehovah's Witnesses, but a few Catholic and Protestant clergy were arrested by the Gestapo too). Movies, TV, video games, comics, and even some historians portray the Gestapo as the ultimate evil of Hitler's forces, diehard Nazis who took sadistic pleasure in torturing everyone they arrested, with some history books claiming over 150,000 Gestapo spied on everyone in Germany, and the entire German population quaked in fear of them.

In reality, there were only 18,500 actively policing Gestapo. They were overworked and understaffed, forced to rely heavily on cooperation from members of the public (all those kids turning in their parents). They were mostly career police, the majority had not been members of the Nazi Party before Hitler took power, and party loyalty was even overlooked if the person had experience in police and bureaucracy. Most continued to work as detectives after the Nazis fell, and only a small handful (mostly in concentration camps and ghettos) were involved in torture.

Not saying there weren't Gestapo who were sadistic assholes, there definitely were. Tales of Klaus Barbie mutilating women in Paris (Annie's torture was based on his victims) or the brutality of the Gestapo in the Warsaw Ghetto are horrific on a scale that can hardly be comprehended. However, the general population of Germany liked to know that the Gestapo were watching out for them. Thanks to a ton of Nazi propaganda, average Germans saw the Gestapo as nothing more than the friendly neighborhood detective. They did not live in fear of them, no more than someone in America fears every day that the FBI is going to knock on their door.

I mean, if you're plotting to overthrow the government, of course you'd be terrified of the FBI, but even if you've done a ton of research into Nazis, ended up on a few extremist websites, stumbled upon some terrorist videos, and maaaaaybe once or twice bought an illegal weapon online, googled how to smuggle drugs onto an airplane, best poisons for assassination, and the best routes to sneak into the United States … yeah, nothing to worry about. (HELLO MR. FBI AGENT, SIR!)

Even the way Gestapo look in movies and TV is usually wrong. The now-iconic sinister black uniform—like Where Eagles Dare, Inglorious Basterds, Hogan's Heroes, the Star Trek TOS episode "Patterns of Force," and many WWII video games—was actually only worn pre-1942 by Allgemeine-SS reservists. In reality, Gestapo stationed in Germany wore plain civilian clothes, often a suit and tie with a black leather trench coat and fedora, so they did not bring attention to themselves. When in occupied countries, they wore gray SS uniforms, their rank (or at least SS equivalent) on the left-hand collar patch, but unlike the rest of the SS, the right-hand collar patch was plain black without insignia, as was the uniform cuffband. Gestapo agents in uniform wore police-pattern shoulderboards piped or underlaid in "poison green" (giftgrün). A diamond-shaped black patch with "SD" (Sicherheitsdienst, or "Security Service") in white was worn on the lower left sleeve. This way, troops in occupied territories did not mistake a member of the Gestapo with an average civilian. (Early in the war, the Wehrmacht shot a few Gestapo, thinking they were partisans, before the military and police finally made this choice.) Although dressed in SS uniforms, very few Gestapo were members of the SS.

In this story, Colt Grice is a Kriminalassistent, sort of like a junior detective, which holds the equivalent SS rank of Oberscharführer, which puts him higher ranked than Eren.

https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Gestapo

 

Metz Cathedral – When Attila the Hun invaded Metz (then called Divodurum) in 451 AD, he burned it to the ground. The only thing left standing was a shrine to St. Étienne (known in English as St. Stephen). This became the site of the cathedral of St. Étienne, or just Metz Cathedral, which laid its very first stone 800 years ago in 1220. It is nicknamed "la Lanterne du Bon Dieu" (The Good Lord's Lantern) due to its 6,500 square meters of stained glass windows, the largest expanse of stained glass in the world, sending rainbow cascades of light all through the interior. It also has one of the highest naves in the world at 40 meters tall.

Over the centuries, the Metz Cathedral has morphed to reflect the politics around it. It has been, at various times, a French, Prussian and German church. In the 19th century, the church caught fire after some idiot set fireworks off from the roof. Modifications to the cathedral, including a new facade, served to promote the agendas of Prussian and German forces. The 20th century has seen more French artists adding to the collection of stained glass.

During the Battle of Metz, despite the Allies trying to avoid direct hits to the cathedral, the percussive blasts from bombs dropped on nearby targets damaged a few of the stained glass windows. These were replaced in the 1950s by Cubist artist Jacques Villon and Jewish avant-garde artist Marc Chagall, who had to flee France when the Nazis invaded. (Chagall also created stained glass for the Cathedral of Reims, the UN building in America, the Jerusalem Windows in Israel, and did a painting for the ceiling of the Paris Opera House.) Today, the Cathedral of Metz is a breathtaking blend of medieval and contemporary art.


BIBLE TRANSLATIONS AND HOMOSEXUALITY

As anyone who has ever had the misfortune of arguing with a homophobic Christian zealot knows, Leviticus 20:13 is sure to be brought up, declaring, according to some translations, "If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." (New International Version) Or according to the New Living Translation my husband got at some point, "If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense." Obviously, while the intent is similar, the words are very different, and what "practices homosexuality" means can be open to debate.

This one scripture has been used to justify murdering homosexuals for centuries. However, pro-LGBT Christians will point out that the original Hebrew text says ואיש אשר ישכב את־זכר משכבי אשה תועבה עשו שניהם מות יומתו דמיהם בם׃.

For those of us who don't read Hebrew, the key word is זכר, zā-ḵār. Zā-ḵār is used throughout the Bible in the phrase (using the King James Translation) "man-child," such as Genesis 17:10, "Every man-child among you shall be circumcised." So the Hebrew says (as directly translated as possible) "if a man lies with a man-child as he lies with a woman, an abomination they have committed, the two of them surely shall be put to death, their blood upon them."

However, in English, it has also been translated as "man" or "mankind." This leads to a debate. What does זכר (zā-ḵār) mean, and how does historical context apply?

In 1522, Martin Luther translated the Luther Bible (Lutherbibel) into German, and this scripture reads as the following: "Wenn jemand beim Knaben schläft wie beim Weibe" (If anyone sleeps with a boy as with a woman). Luther decided zā-ḵār implied a boy. It was translated differently in the Elberfelder 1905 Bible, which reads "Und wenn ein Mann bei einem Manne liegt, wie man bei einem Weibe liegt." (And if a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman.) This and many English translations completely ignore that two separate words are used in Hebrew, איש and זכר, îš and zā-ḵār, man and man-child/mankind.

It all comes down to how you translate zā-ḵār. Is it specific to boys, or to all males? That is something open to debate, and I do not speak Hebrew. (Martin Luther was fluent in Hebrew. Just sayin'!)

As the years went on and Bible translations became a reflection of Western politics, the emphasis of Leviticus 20:13 moved away from sleeping with boys, to sleeping with men, until more modern English translations claim all homosexuality should be met with execution.

Now, if you may permit an Agnostic who went to Bible School for 24 years to make a theological argument:

Jesus Christ said that the Old Covenant – i.e. Leviticus and all ancient Hebrew laws – has ended, and he declared that he is the New Covenant. Literally, THE ENTIRE POINT of Jesus coming to Earth and dying was to be a perfect sacrifice, "eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:12), so that he may become the New Covenant. If you're a Christian, this detail is the most important aspect of your whole religion. (So pay attention!)

Jesus declared, the old laws were no more. Hebrews 8:13 says, "In speaking of a new covenant, he has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." After Jesus' sacrifice, people did not have to watch what they ate, how they dressed, if they worked on Saturdays, or any of those obsolete rules of the Old Covenant. This is why Christians can eat bacon, wear polyester, women can wear trousers and pantsuits, men can shave their sidelocks, and circumcision is not a requirement. This is why I can work on this story (promoting gay people) on a Saturday (breaking the Sabbath) wearing cotton/spandex jammies (mixing fabrics) and my husband's old shirt (women wearing men's clothing) while eating pepperoni pizza (pork). According to the Old Covenant, I am a living ABOMINATION.

Some Christians still cling to a few of those old laws while agreeing that other Jewish laws do not apply. (Eat bacon but hate gays.) The thing is, you can't randomly choose what scriptures to follow. God's Word is not a pick-a-part junkyard.

If we can agree that the Old Covenant is obsolete, and all of those laws about food, clothing, and cutting off pieces of male genitals do not apply to Christians, then no matter how you translate zā-ḵār in Leviticus 20:13, it is void. Obsolete. You can translate it however the hell you want, because it only applied to Jews.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old law is gone; no Christian discussion that uses solely the Old Testament is valid, because Christ represents the New Covenant, New Testament, New Laws. Like new wine and old wineskins (Mark 2:22) the two cannot be combined, and so you cannot randomly insert scriptures from Leviticus to make a Christian theological argument, for Christ's death abolished the Old Law.

If you believe in Christ, you must believe he is the New Covenant and his sacrifice freed mankind from the Old Covenant. Therefore, Leviticus 20:13 can never be used in a Christian argument, because to do so, to cling to the Old Covenant like an old wineskin, is to disrespect the Sacrifice of Christ.

If some homophobic person starts to scream about New Testament scriptures that seem to be against gay people, those also use Greek words with ambiguous translations. Arsenokoitai (1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10) is an extremely rare, vague word some Bibles translate into English as homosexual, but may contextually apply to gay rape, homosexual prostitutes, or the common Roman practice of pederasty. Just like zā-ḵār in Leviticus 20:13, the intent of the word is not clear because it hold multiple meanings.

(Example: if I started my own religion and declared "Thou shalt not drink tea," do I also mean oolong, or green tea, how about white tea, or red tea since it is not made from tea leaves, and would my law against tea also carry on to tisanes, herbal teas, does it apply to any concoction that is made by brewing a part of a plant in hot water, and what about Crystal Light or Mio drops that only flavor the water with sugar and coloring so they vaguely taste like sweet tea? Tea is simply too vague of a term, especially when applying it to something that carries a death sentence.)

There are many Greek words that would have made it blatantly clear that what St. Paul meant was consensual same-sex relationships, but he did not use those words. Every time the Bible talks about something that Christians claim applies to gay sex, the terminology is so vague, theologians have spent entire books trying to figure out what the words might mean based on historical context.

In any case, Christ is an "eternal redemption for us," so even if it is a sin, you are forgiven, perpetually. If you want to get pedantic about biblical prohibitions, St. Paul said women were not to cut their hair, wear gold, or speak a single word in church. So if your homophobic aunt doesn't have hair past her butt, wears a gold wedding ring, and sings in the church choir or gossips with the other old biddies after the sermon, she is just as guilty of breaking New Testament laws as a man butt-fucking another man.

Throw THAT at your homophobic relatives at the next family dinner!

(But maybe do not tell them that it was an Agnostic who taught you that, haha!)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Happy birthday to Levi. Sorry you weren't in this chapter. Next one!



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