Dangerous Territory

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Attack on Titan /Shingeki No Kyojin
Dragon prints: 2537
Disclaimer: I do not own “Shingeki no Kyojin” and do not make money from this fanfic.

(Cultural note: The Germans refer to a man as “Negro.” Today in America and some other countries, this term is offensive, but in other nations, and in the 1940s, this was the preferred terminology. This is a good example of the evolution of the English language when it comes to labels. So, Eren is not being racist by calling him a Negro. He’s using the proper term for the time period.)


 

It was barely noon when the drinking started. The clouds and fog had cleared away, the sky was a vivid blue, and Eren found himself the center of a massive celebration. Jean was showing off his new officer uniform, Armin was getting plied with drinks to celebrate his promotion, and many of Eren’s platoon wanted to see his new Iron Cross.

“Did you really get close enough to the Americans to see their watches?”

Eren chuckled as he drank a beer. “I could have stolen their Rolex and showed it to you.”

“Steal their gun next time! I want to see a real Smith & Wesson.”

Enlisted and officers mingled, and it spilled out into the streets, which brought more soldiers who did not mind an excuse to have a drink. Soon, Eren was being cheered by men he had never seen before. It really reinforced the feeling of fraternity. They were all Germans, all Aryans, all one people.

There was a nice feeling of nationalistic pride in that.

“We need food!” Greiz declared. “Niccolo’s is nearby.”

Holger cheered. “That place is the best.”

“Come on,” Samuel urged, grabbing Jean and Eren by the shoulders. “Officers only. We’ll walk there.”

“Eren shouldn’t walk,” Jean insisted.

Eren turned over to Jean with wide, surprised eyes. Since Eren arrived to take command of the platoon, Jean had always addressed him formally as Leutnant or Jäger. Rarely did he call him by his first name, and never in public.

Eren wanted to protest that he was in the middle of listening to an interesting story from one of the new recruits, but Jean suddenly bellowed out.

“Floch! Get over here. You better not be drunk.”

Floch leaped forward like an eager puppy with eyes only for Eren. “Do you need to be driven somewhere, Herr Oberleutnant?”

Eren did not want to seem rude to the men who were trying to welcome him into their little club. He turned to the soldat who was talking and patted the young man on the back. “Tell me the story later,” he said, just before getting dragged away.

They drove just a few streets over, enjoying the sunshine, the old charm of Metz, with autumn leaves fluttering down. They came to a large restaurant, elegant décor, definitely not the sort of place normal soldiers went to. As they stepped inside, sure enough, Eren saw mostly men in fine suits, ladies wearing stylish dresses, and German officers.

A waiter showed them to a booth, where they crowded in, trying to fit them all. They glanced through menus, and after a few minutes a young, blond man wearing an apron walked up with a beaming smile.

“Greiz! You old rascal, I thought it was you. Back again for my burgundy? I’m running out of bottles of the ‘28 and down to a single bottle of the ‘29.”

The broad officer sitting at the end of the semi-circular booth stood up and gave the man a hug. “Jean, Eren, this is Niccolo de Marley. He runs the best damn restaurant in the city. Well, his parents do, technically, but he runs nearly all aspects of the business these days.”

“Father says he’ll retire as soon as the war’s over.”

“He’s been saying that for two years. Where is that old man?” Greiz asked, glancing around the building. “He’s normally right up front to greet everyone.”

“Ah, he and Mother left the city. They said it’s getting too dangerous for their liking, but I insisted on staying. There’s too much work to be done here in Metz.”

“And too many hungry officers to feed,” Greiz teased.

Niccolo laughed. “That’s true! So, what can I get everyone?”

They went around the table putting in orders for food and drinks. Eren was stuck between Jean and Floch, and he realized the young soldier was looking anxious, frowning as he looked over the menu. Eren glanced around, then leaned into his ear.

“It’s my treat, my gift to you on your promotion. Really, order whatever you want.”

Floch looked up at him in astonishment. “No way, sir! I could never—”

“Accept my offer, or I’m buying you the most expensive plate on the menu.”

Floch struggled not to burst into giddy smiles, and he focused down again on the menu, determined to order something that was good enough to satisfy Eren’s generosity but not expensive.

They drank wine as they waited for their food. Eren cringed with the first glass he ordered, so Greiz, determined to prove that wine could be good, had him try many different types. Eren found the burgundy was a bit more to his liking, so Greiz shouted for a whole bottle.

Niccolo arrived with the food, and he and his staff made sure they had everything. One of the servers caught everyone’s attention. A tall, strong-built man with ebony skin held trays of food. Eren could hardly help but stare at the man’s dark skin in awe.

“A Negro? Here in Metz?” he muttered to himself.

Oliver scoffed and shook his head. “Disgusting.”

Samuel added, “Yeah, make sure he doesn’t touch my cup this time.” He leaned over to Jean. “It’s a shock to see, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he muttered. “The last Negro I saw was in Italy, but it wasn’t up close.”

Eren’s brow furrowed as he looked at the waiter, following the fluid movements of his long limbs, the curliness of his hair, the way his palms were pale while the rest of his skin had a chocolaty gleam, and those eyes! Such dark, gentle, wide eyes. How long had it been since he had seen a person with skin so dark? It was almost unheard of in Germany. He had gone his whole childhood without ever once seeing a person whose skin was not pale white.

Floch whispered, “I’ve never seen a Negro. It’s fascinating.”

“Nothing fascinating about it,” Daz scoffed. “They’re disgusting apes.”

“He has ears,” Surma pointed out. “He can hear you.”

Daz shrugged unconcerned. “He probably doesn’t understand.”

Eren chided, “If I was him, I’d spit in your drink.”

Samuel shivered in disgust. “He better not! I’d take him out back myself and shoot him.”

Niccolo saw Eren watching and smiled knowingly. “You’re new here. This is Onyankopon. He’s a servant who has been with my family his whole life. I promise, he has not touched the food. He only helps to carry things and does the cleaning. He’s a big help to my family, and especially without my parents around, I have to start using him as a server as well. I understand if it’s a problem. I can call upon other staff, but it may be a longer wait.”

“He’s just doing his job,” Wim stated.

“I still don’t want him to touch my cup,” Samuel insisted.

“He should be shot,” Oliver grumbled.

Holger sighed. “You say that all the time. Were you beaten up by a Negro as a kid or something?”

Greiz rolled his eyes. “Onyankopon is a servant. Let him be.”

“I just want to eat,” Phil exclaimed. “So long as the food is good, I don’t care if it was made by a troop of monkeys in the kitchen!”

“I agree,” said Surma. “Let the man run his restaurant the way that works. That’s why we force inferior races to work in factories, right? They are a natural workforce to serve us Germans.”

Eren playfully pushed on Samuel’s tunic. “Our uniforms are made with the hands of men like that, and you’re worried about one touching your glass?”

“Which is why I wash my uniform before I put on a new one. Who knows what touched it!”

“Guys, I’m hungry,” Holger wailed.

“Baby needs to eat,” Greiz teased.

Eren stood up. “I’m highest ranked, I’ll make the decision.”

Jean exclaimed over-dramatically, “He’s lording it over us already!”

Eren smiled at Niccolo and Onyankopon. “The Negro may serve the food.”

“Very good, sirs,” Niccolo said, looking relieved that this was not going to cause a problem. He hurried off to attend to other customers while the staff continued to set out the plates.

Luckily, the men ignored who was pouring the drinks and bringing more baskets of bread. If anything, a few grew more demanding, but Onyankopon was fast on his feet, fetching them everything they ordered without a single sign of complaint.

As the meat vanished off plates and more wine filled glasses, the Lieutenant’s Floor group were eager to welcome both Eren and Jean into their little club.

“Do you have a girl back home?” Holger asked Jean.

“No, I wish!” he declared. “I’ve been fighting for four years. I haven’t had time to get married.”

“Then you’re with us,” Phil said, wrapping his arms around Holger and Daz. “The bachelors! Although Daz uses the prostitutes so much, it’s a good thing he has no lady waiting.”

Greiz teased, “Yeah, because no woman wants such an old face for a young man.”

They laughed, but Daz protested, “There’s nothing wrong with my face.”

“You already have wrinkles.”

“I get stressed!” he protested.

Eren was near Surma, so asked him, “What about you?”

“Ah!” He pulled out his wallet and brought out a beaten photo of a woman wearing a SS-Helferinnenkorps uniform. “My girlfriend. She’s strong, brave, and she loves her country dearly. She serves where she can.”

Holger perked up. “Oh! Wim, show the baby. She’s adorable!”

Although normally quiet, Wim smiled as he pulled out his own wallet and passed around a photo of a woman with a tiny newborn in her arms. “She was born in May.”

Eren’s eyes softened at the sight of the young family. “This is what we fight for.”

“Yes,” Wim said simply, and he put the picture away.

“Your wife is lovely too.”

“She’s hot!” Daz cried out. “If I had a woman that beautiful, I would have figured out a way to stay out of the military.”

“Unlike Oliver’s wife!” Greiz teased.

“Oh! Show him, show him.”

Oliver, the eldest of the group, defended, “There’s nothing wrong with my wife!”

Holger reached behind him and yanked his wallet out of his pocket. Oliver made a grab at him, but Holger swiftly ducked under the table. He crawled back out, popping up like a meerkat in the aisle between their booth and other tables, with the other lieutenants roaring with laughs. He rifled through the wallet and showed Eren a photo just for a few seconds before Oliver bolted across the table, knocking off silverware and forcing men to grab their glasses. He grabbed Holger’s wrist and twisted it, forcing him to release the wallet and photograph.

Eren briefly saw a fierce-looking woman with a broad and square face and glowering eyes, dressed in a uniform. He softly exclaimed, “She looks like a prison guard.”

The group burst out laughing. “She is! She is!”

Oliver tucked the picture away. “I’m proud of her. She worked her way through the ranks, joined the SS-Gefolge, then trained to become part of the SS-Helferinnenkorps, and she rose to be an Aufseherin.”

“What exactly is that?” asked Eren. The word merely meant female overseer.

“She works in one of the concentration camps called Auschwitz, somewhere in southern Poland, near Kraków. Her face is grim, but her cooking is amazing, and she’s a good mother.”

“She’s raising children in the middle of a prison?” asked Jean.

“No. While she’s serving there, our sons are with my parents back in Dresden. We didn’t want our sons to be anywhere near those Jews.” He took a drink of his wine and muttered, “I wish they would just kill all of them so she can go back home.”

“And you, Eren?” asked Holger. “We asked last night, but I don’t recall that you answered.”

He smiled and shook his head. “I have no woman waiting for me.”

Jean elbowed him. “This man was turning down women all the time when we were stationed in Paris. For weeks, I thought for sure it was because he was married, but nope!”

“Germany is my mother, my wife—”

“—and my lover,” Jean cut in.

Floch burst into laughs. “Connie was right, you actually do say that to avoid women.”

Eren pouted stubbornly. “Women are complicated. I’d rather dedicate myself to Germany.”

Jean teased, “You’d marry Hitler, if you were a woman.”

Eren glared over at him. “Are you drunk?”

“Maybe,” he admitted.

Surma said studiously, “A patriotic and moral stance not commonly seen these days. Be careful, though. In Roman times, soldiers were not allowed to marry, believing it would make them focus more on battle, and instead they took to buggering little boys.”

Eren sneered. “Trust me, I have no interest in little boys,” he said, thinking about that quote from the Bible he had read. “I turned down the random whores and horny girls in the Parisian taverns so I wouldn’t get a disease. Officers got their own professional women.”

“Yeah, they have those here,” said Daz. “We should get you one for tonight, treat yourself to a little dessert. We wouldn’t want such a fine officer to be tempted by a man’s ass.”

Eren rolled his eyes and seriously hoped they did not follow through with that.

Oliver thought about what Eren had said earlier. “Shouldn’t Germany be your father? It’s the fatherland, after all.”

Jean shouted with food still in his mouth, “I’ve said that many times.”

Eren shook his head. “My father was a terrible man. Mothers are the ones who nourish us.”

Wim stated, “But fathers are the ones who protect us, as Hitler shall protect us.”

Heil Hitler,” Samuel shouted.

The whole group cheered back, “Heil Hitler!

Eren stared down at his deep red wine, like holding a cup of blood. “Yes, Hitler shall protect us.”

Yet Hitler would call for Levi to be executed as a Jew, and he would be thrown into a labor camp for being homosexual. Hitler would not protect him like a father. The man he had been taught to admire as a savior was nothing more than a tyrant.

Daz checked his pocket watch. “We’ve got five hours before Carly starts work.”

“Who’s Carly?” asked Eren.

Samuel chuckled. “You’ll find out.”

“How about a drive around Metz?” Phil offered. “We’ve got your driver here. Let’s show you around.”

“That sounds like fun,” Eren decided, eager to see the rest of the city. “Floch?”

“I’d be honored to, Herr Oberleutnant, but I don’t know the streets yet,” he said, cringing slightly with shame.

“Don’t worry,” Greiz said with a bit of smugness. “I’ve lived here for two years. I know the place inside and out.”

They ended up spending the rest of the day on a long tour. The men shouted to other soldiers and hooted at any young woman they saw, hanging out of the opened truck, a little tipsy and feeling the rush that comes when you know a battle will be arriving soon. Live for today, because who knows what tomorrow may bring!

The men pointed out their favorite beer halls and where young women often hung out. They drove past the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, the 1500-year-old Eglise Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, and they stopped at the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne. Here, they got out of the truck and filed inside for some sightseeing. Eren finally got to witness sunlight pouring through the stained glass windows and was left in awe. Then they drove along the Canal de la Moselle and cruised by a Protestant church called Evangelische Stadtkirche Metz, built when Metz was a German town under Kaiser Wilhelm II.

“This is where you’ll want to go to church,” Greiz told Eren.

Holger quickly added, “That is, if you’re Protestant. If you’re Catholic, the cathedral is lovely.”

Eren smiled, privately glad that Holger was more inclusive. “I’m Lutheran.”

“Oh! There’s a Lutheran church somewhere, right Greiz?” asked the lithe blond soldier.

He shrugged. “It’s small, but it’s somewhere. I’m honestly not sure where, never been to it.”

“I’m not picky,” Eren assured them. “This one looks lovely. Very German.”

“It is!” Holger cried out. “I have an uncle who helped to build this church.”

Jean suddenly cried out, “Oh hey! I want to see my aunt. She lives here.”

Eren teased, “I don’t want to meet your smelly aunt.”

“She’s not smelly! And she may have cookies.”

Holger squealed in excitement. “Ohhhhh, cookies!”

They decided to drive there, and Jean hugged a tiny, slightly rotund woman who, sure enough, had cookies she had baked as soon as she learned that her nephew was in town. They ended up enjoying the little visit, sitting in plush chairs, sipping wine and eating sweets. It was a reminder to them all of the importance of family.

For Eren, he gazed at the joy in Jean’s eyes, not sure if he ever saw the man looking so relaxed. Certainly not in battle, when Jean had a fierce face hardened by years of war. He was glad that Jean got to show off his new uniform, got kissed by his aunt—much to his disgust and everyone else’s laughs—and in general, that one of his men could have this moment to remember what was important, what they were fighting for, and why Metz could not fall into the hands of the American invaders.

After over an hour with the sweet woman, they piled into the car and drove on. They checked out the other barracks, where the officers stopped by to make sure their own platoons were doing well. They drove all around the historical sites around the city that had been around since medieval times, and even drove as far south as the internment camp called Feste Göben.

As the sun began to sink, they found a tavern already bustling with soldiers, and decided this was a good place to continue to party and have dinner. Now, they allowed themselves to get more drunk. Steins of beer clinked, they cheered and told jokes, and Phil got into a drinking match with some SS officer.

“Girls!” Daz shouted, waving around his beer stein. “It’s past sunset. Carly’s gonna be starting work soon. Let’s get some girls for the new lieutenant, and our heroic oberleutnant.”

Eren felt a kick of panic. “No, I—” but he was cut off by the others cheering.

Samuel elbowed Daz. “You can’t keep it in your pants much longer, can you?”

“I shouldn’t be forced to. It’s unhealthy,” he insisted, already pulling on a coat to leave. “Eren, can I use your driver?”

Eren turned to Floch. “Do you mind?”

“Umm…” He looked timid and asked, “Could I maybe get a girl too?”

The men burst into laughs.

“Are you a virgin, boy?”

Floch began to turn crimson.

“He is, he is, he’s a maiden!” they roared.

Daz yanking him along. “You just got promoted up from soldat, right? Then you deserve to celebrate as well. Tell you what, the first girl is my treat, as thanks for driving us around the city all day. Don’t worry, Carly has girls who are great at breaking in virgins. They’re experienced women, so they help you learn what to do.”

“I … I know what to do,” Floch said defensively.

“It’s not like with your hand, maiden boy.”

They left together, and Eren slouched over his beer. If he insisted on going home now, it would be suspicious. If he turned down taking a prostitute, these men did not know him like Jean, Armin, Connie, and the others, who could just laugh it off as Eren being prudish. Armin even confessed that constantly turning down girls in Paris led to Connie cracking jokes that maybe Eren was homosexual.

If even his own men used to think that, these officers, who had no bonds of brotherhood with him, might report Eren to the Gestapo for being aberrant. Especially now, with Levi relying on him, he could not be detained, or worse, have the Gestapo do a thorough investigation and check the attic of the hotel.

He was trapped. While the men around him laughed and talked crudely about what they liked in a woman, Eren felt ice in his veins. How could he get out of this without making people suspicious of him?

“What about you, Eren?” asked Holger. “What do you look for in a woman?”

Nothing, because he had never been attracted to one. Still, he knew how to lie. “I like them a little on the petite side.”

Oliver scoffed. “Small women make bad mothers.”

“But they make amazing lovers,” Eren swiftly countered.

The men laughed, and Eren smiled along. He knew this role he had to play. He had years of acting, pretending, all to hide the truth.

He just hoped he could hide it a little bit longer.

# # #

# #

#

It felt weird, name-dropping Niccolo without a surname, so I gave him the name “Niccolo de Marley.” I mean, in the manga, he is “from Marley” so it works. I don’t know if the anime will eventually give him a surname, or change the spelling of his name as they often do. If so, I will adjust as we see him again.

Oliver oh-so-casually drops that his wife works in Auschwitz. He also mentions his children are living with his parents in Dresden. On February 13-15, 1945, British and American forces firebombed the city, reducing it to ash and rubble, and killing 25,000 people. Not a good future for his family.

Evangelische Stadtkirche Metz – An Evangelical church built to accommodate a huge surge of Protestants after German took control of Metz following the Franco-Prussian War. It was completed in 1904 and inaugurated by Kaiser Wilhelm II. When Metz fell into French control after World War II, the church was renamed Le Temple Neuf (The New Church).

Feste Göben – The German name for what is known today as Fort Queuleu. It was an internment camp, mostly for French political prisoners, but Jews were processed through there, before being sent to larger concentration camps. By the time Eren arrived, the internment camp was empty of prisoners.


 

WOMEN IN NAZI GERMANY

At first, Hitler urged women to stay home, raise lots of babies, and he deemed mothers to be heroes of the nation. However, single women were treated as second-class citizens, called “the weaker sex,” and Hitler was very much against the idea of women working in factories. He felt that a woman with a job meant a man without a job.

As the war began, attitudes changed. Hitler still did not want women on the battlefield or in arms factories, but he realized they could filled roles within Germany itself and free up men to be sent into battle. So many single women, wives and mothers who needed extra money, or women who had a strong sense of loyalty to Germany and the Führer, joined as “helpers” to the SS.

SS-Gefolge (“entourage”) – They were civilian women, ages 17-45, who did volunteer work to help out the SS, acting as nurses in the German Red Cross, or as secretaries, typists, and messengers. They were not part of the SS, nor were they required to be members of the Nazi Party. In fact, only 5% were Nazi Party members. They had to pass background checks to ensure “pure Aryan blood,” but otherwise, most were unskilled, recruited through newspapers, or led into joining by the Bund Deutscher Mädel (German Girls’ League). Later in the war, up to a quarter million women were conscripted and forced to work.

SS-Helferinnenkorps (“helper corps”) – Unlike the SS-Gefolge, where only 5% were members of the Nazi Party, the SS-Helferinnenkorps were staunchly loyal to Nazism. They had to pass a strict selection process, prove racial purity, and were trained at the Reichsschule-SS in Oberehnheim. They went through basic training, a curriculum steeped in Nazi propaganda, such as watching Jud Süß, considered one of the most antisemitic films of all time. After training, they were accepted into the Waffen-SS, and fully in the SS-Sippengemeinschaft (SS clan community). They got to wear uniforms of drab green with a skirt and the runic SS on their blazers, similar to their male counterparts. SS-Helferinnen were staff assistants, in charge of auxiliary transmissions; telephone, telegraph and transmission operators; radio operators, stenographers, etc. Some worked in the Reich Security Main Office, while others worked in the concentration camps. Many women wanted to be stationed at the concentration camps, since it was away from the bombing raids on major German cities, thus it was seen as a safer place for the women. After World War II, many SS-Helferinnen were mistaken as SS-Gefolge or seen as military assistants, and therefore were not prosecuted as members of the SS.

Aufseherin (“female overseer”) – These guards served in the concentration camps, mostly in women’s camps like Ravensbrück, but also Auschwitz-Birkenau, Mauthausen, and Bergen-Belsen. As many as 10% of all guards at concentration camps were women. Male SS members were not allowed inside the women’s camps, so that left the Overseers to handle matters, and they did so with excessive sadism. Their training was designed to harden them psychologically, to not only see Jews as subhuman, but to completely separate any possible feeling of remorse or sympathy from the prisoners. Some carried guns, most used truncheons, whips, sticks, or their boots to beat inmates. A few assisted in medical experiments on inmates, while others helped to select who was sent to the gas chambers. Horror stories of beating with whips, stomping children to death, and using the tattooed skins of gassed prisoners to make lamp shades, came out of the concentration camps after they were liberated, with overseer women being given nicknames like “Sadist of Stutthof,” “Beautiful Beast of Belsen,” “The Stomping Mare,” “The Witch of Buchenwald,” and “Hyena of Auschwitz.”



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