AH Vignette - From the Atlantic to the Urals


FROM THE ATLANTIC TO THE URALS

Breitspurbhan
– Scheme to establish a broad-gauge railway running enormous double-decker coaches from the Atlantic to the Urals. Status: Partially complete. The trans-Europe routes are as Hitler intended but the gauge is less and the coaches are fewer and of a more conventional type than originally envisioned.
Half His Dreams, All Our Nightmares – A Brief Guide to Nazi Mega-Projects
(London Daily Chronicle, special Sunday Supplement, May 29, 2016)​

I – The Stewardess

London Harlow Airport (ILV: LHR) – ein internationaler Großflughafen in Harlow im Gemeindebezirk Harlow in Essex, 48,9 km nordöstlich von London. Es ist, nach London Woking, der zweitgrößte Flughafen im Vereinigten Königreich durch Passagierverkehr.
Großbritannien
, 12th Edition
(Karl Baedeker, Leipzig)
Her name is Lena Däbritz and one would, if sufficiently cynical, guess pulchritude was the prime requisite for Deutsches Luft Hansa stewardesses. Who am I to question the whims of airline public relations masterminds, especially when the fruits of their efforts are sharing a drink with me in the lounge near Gate 17? After my second beer, I find myself noticing that young Fraulein Däbritz has both blue eyes and a blue uniform, while her golden hair matches the trim on said uniform. This seems of particular interest a half hour later, as the flight is announced to be delayed yet again and I venture into my third beer.

The conversation remains lucid and unembarrassing, though. We spin through the usual preliminaries fairly quickly. She’s from Solingen, a city I’ve never heard of but which is, I am sternly assured, the Reich’s main manufacturing center for knives, scissors, razors and bayonets. She’s been working for DLH for just over two years now.

I then ask the fairly inevitable and dull question. “How do you like it? I have a niece who’s just started working for Commonwealth Air.”

“Really? Where is she based?”

“Montreal. She’s on the short flights – Buffalo, Detroit, Boston.”

Lena nods and stirs her the icy remnants of her soda. “I am the same. London, Brest, Brüssel, around and around, over and over. It’s not so bad, but I want to fly on the big birds. Like the Ju 700, you know?”

I nod. The largest passenger plane in the world, as Germans never tire in reminding everyone else. I’ve never had the pleasure of flying aboard one, but apparently they’re so steady you hardly know you’re flying.

“You can drive a panzer down the cabin! Not like this little thing.” She gestures dismissively at the Focke-Wulf turboprop finally nosing up to our jetway. “From Hitlerstadt to Nanking! Or even America. I would like to see New York. One day, maybe.”

I’m drunk enough to think But how would you deal with all the Jews and Russians? but not nearly drunk enough to say it aloud.

And then she asks the obvious question. “Why are you going to Germany?”

“I’m writing an article.” I’d cleverly mentioned I was a writer earlier, during my first beer, so this didn’t come as a bolt from the blue. Still, it was interesting, and depressing, to see her guard go up. Her eyes harden, her answers come more slowly. Some Germans are happy to talk to foreign writers, others, and they may well be the more sensible ones, are extremely reluctant. Even in London Harlow, you can’t be sure who reports to Ruschestraße 103 (1).

The only safe place left is inside your own mind, as Christoph Pelz said in his suicide note.

She doesn’t go away, though, not even with the excuse of our inbound flight’s arrival. “What kind of article?”

“Just about people.”

“Any people?”

“Interesting ones.” The beer makes me wink. She’s nice enough to smile back, but a man knows when he’s lost the game. That more than anything starts to sober me up. “Ordinary Germans. Whoever is willing to talk about anything they want to talk about. Like you and your work. New York.”

The flight from Brest starts disgorging passengers. It’s a funny mix, as usually for DLH flights from outside the Reich. Mostly French (traveling a German carrier for lack of any other options), some Germans, a few curious Brits like me.

“It was nice to meet you, but my duty calls,” she says to me.

I raise my glass in salute. “Tschüß!”

“Ta ta.”

I watch her go, realize I’m leering but don’t stop.

Christ
, I think. This trip’s off to a brilliant start and I’ve not even left the country.

1 - Headquarters of the Gestapo since 1976.
 
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* * *
DEUTSCHE LUFT HANSA A.G. – The flag carrier of the GREATER GERMANIC REICH, established 1926. With scheduled flights to 43 domestic and 147 international destinations, it is the largest German airline, the largest airline in Europe and the third largest airline (after Pan-Am and China Pacific) in the world in terms of passengers carried. Its primary hubs are in HITLERSTADT, KÖLN and AMSTELDAM.

Bradley’s Guide to the Reich, Vol. 1 A-M (Leiter & Sons, New York, 2004)

* * *

The flight from London to Brest is a long hour. I’m lucky enough to sit in the middle of the plane, just above the wings, just behind the emergency exit row and all the probably pointless anxiety that it gives me.

Däbritz is in charge of the aft section and slips me two cups of Berliner Weiße instead of the usual one. It isn’t exactly the best beer in the Reich, but beggars and choosers. I catch her eye later on, lift the glass, smile a little. She smiles back, seems to mean it. Our own personal Entspannungspolitik.

The flight isn’t as smooth as our private international diplomacy. My stewardess niece insists the middle of the plane is the smoothest, and I suppose she’s right, but this little turboprop doesn’t seem to care for such things. After five glasses of beer I’m in the sort of mood where that doesn’t bother my mind. My stomach, on the other hand... I’m glad there’s no one in the seat next to me. I’m sure it’s not the most attractive sight.

Coming in on final approach, I look like a bit of a fool as I strain my neck trying to spot the u-boat pens, but, deliberately no doubt, flights come in from the east (and out to the north) instead of the south and southwest of the city where the naval base is. It doesn’t help that it’s a drizzly, overcast day.

“Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, herzlich willkommen in Frankreich. Bitte haben Sie Ihren Pass zur Inspektion am Flugsteig. ... Mesdames et messieurs, bienvenue en France. S'il vous plaît avoir votre passeport pour l’inspection à la porte.”

We file out, perfect specimens of Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic queueing. The few actual French passengers have no choice but to play along.

Right off the plane comes passport inspection under the stern eye of the gendarmes and, far more unsettling, the cameras watching from under their dark bubble covers. The line moves slowly. No one gets taken off to the side, at least. When it’s my turn, I get the usual questions. “What is your business in France? How long will you be staying?”

I go through the usual clenching fear in my stomach and the usual the realization that I might as well be ten thousand miles from Britain instead of a hundred or so.

Then the bored young BGAF (1) man gives my passport a perfunctory stamp and hands it back to me.

“Bienvenue en France.”

“Merci.”

Welcome to France.

Farewell to the Free World.

1 - Bureau de la Gendarmerie aux Frontières (Office of the Border Gendarmerie). The French border guard and customs agency.
 
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NOOOO! We must not allow a queuing gap! :p

I am shuddering at what must have happened in Eastern Europe ITTL, even if the TTL's Reich isn't as mindbendingly evil as the OTL version was. :eek:
 
That's not quite accurate - it's not as mindbendingly evil now.

To put it bluntly, they killed pretty much everyone they wanted to 50 years ago. :(

*shudder*

Well, at least they got all the ultra-hyper-super-duper evil out of the way, so they can be just plain hyper-super-duper evil instead...
 
Hmm... Interesting... I truly wonder if we are going to see those promised trains, because they were REALLY huge when they were planned... Watched for sure!
 
Hmm... Interesting... I truly wonder if we are going to see those promised trains, because they were REALLY huge when they were planned... Watched for sure!

Spoiler - they won't be as big as planned. (I still can't wrap my brain around the idea of a railway car with an actual movie theater in it.) My notion is that they're not much bigger or faster than OTL double-decker trains. OTOH, no train that I know of has a two level bedroom suite on it, so they have that going for them, I guess.
 
Indications that you’re in a Berlin Pact nation:

Newspapers and magazines of a certain bent. La France au travail, Signal, Völkischer Beobachter, L’État est nous, L’Ordre nouveau, Das Reich – even a months-old copy of Action by English émigrés. (Professionally, I know there are Scottish fascists, but I’ve never come across a specimen in person.)

An abundance of televisions all tuned to TN (1), the least trusted name in news, and nothing else. The absolutely shocking and unprecedented news that Hitlerstadt had (for the 21st time) won the privilege of hosting the Summer Olympics in 2024 was the number one topic du jour, with the launch of yet another U-Boot mit ballistischen Raketen out of Wilhelmshaven.

A proliferation of uniforms. The French State has a good case of what the Germans call Uniformengrippe, Uniform Flu, even if the particular symptoms have a bit more flair than their Teutonic counterparts. There were border guards, airport workers, airport guards, ordinary police and a few rough-looking miliciens, these last presumably hunting for Communists (presumably ghosts or time travelers) – all that in addition to Air France and DLH flight crew and stewardesses (alas, the lovely and kindly Fraulein Däbritz not among them).

Hurried, hushed conversations that halt whenever you get close enough to hear them. It’s odd, sad and somewhat touching how often people suddenly start talking about the weather in mid-sentence.

The occasionally dangerous urge to stare at all the obvious security cameras and wonder where the non-obvious ones are. I count 34 possibilities for the latter and that’s before I even reach exit security.

II – The Priest

Brest Guipavas is six and a half miles outside the city, and my cab somehow takes twenty minutes to cover the distance. Seven words pass between me and the cabbie during that time.

Gare d’Europe is an enormous station, far larger than a city of Brest’s modest size really needs. But as the western terminus of the Breitspurbahn, perhaps the most overt testament to the First Führer’s colossal ego, it deserves, or at least demands, nothing less.

Security is tight, understandably so. The Reich’s reputation was damaged enough during the hijacking wave of the 1970s. To have one of their prize super-trains wrecked by a suicide bomber would cause heads to roll.

Maybe not literally.

Then again...

I have to give a fairly detailed résumé of my life, my travel plans, my lodging plans, my shoe size, and most of the thoughts I’ve had in the last six months before the fat, scowling specimen of the Bahnschutzpolizei (Breitspurbahn stations, like German embassies and military bases, are considered Reich soil) let me through.

And then the train.

I reluctantly concede there’s few works of human hands that are as impressive as a Breitspurbahn train.

Before me stands a double-decker titan, the land-going answer to the Ju 700. There’s nothing like it in Britain, I readily admit, and just as readily point out there’s little need for such things in a mid-sized country where such a large part of the population lives in such a relatively small area.

No. These giants are the sort of train built for countries of continental scale, nations such as China, India, America, Canada – and the Reich.

I enter, feeling a little like Jonah as the whale swallowed him up.

1 - Transocean Nachrichtensender, Germany’s chief news and propaganda TV station.
 
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"Half His Dreams, All Our Nightmares – A Brief Guide to Nazi Mega-Projects" is an excellent title.

Thank you kindly. It popped into my head and seemed quite fitting.

Also, if anybody spots any mistakes in my Google Translate German, please feel free to let me know.
 
For the first leg, from Brest to Paris, I only have a simple coach ticket. That’s fine. It’s only a four and a half hour journey (moving at 80 mph, the Breitspurbahn is far from the speediest way of crossing the Reich, you’ll notice). I’ve endured far worse.

The pain is substantially eased by how comfortable the seat is. A coach seat aboard the super-train is not far from a comfortable recliner in a middle-class living room. Given how many Reichsmarks even these humble tickets cost, that’s not a surprise. I stow my baggage in a secure locker, find 4A on the lower level of carriage 7, and sink into the seat.

It’s well over an hour before the train leaves – I almost feel as if I should say it ‘takes off’ given the sheer size of the thing. First comes a glaring old man in a Reichsbahn uniform to check my ticket, then comes a smiling young woman in a Reichsbahn uniform to offer me a bottle of Gerolsteiner, and finally a little old man in clericals and a Roman collar who creakily lowers himself into 4B.

I’m not often in the company of clergy, so I offer nothing more than a polite nod at the old man as he seats himself. That didn’t seem to annoy him and it certainly didn’t deter him.

He starts with “Bonjour, mon fils,” and then dives right into a conversation about the weather, which even the best fascist ideologues haven’t managed to turn into a political topic yet.

My halting answers (it’s been twenty years since I’ve had to speak French in serious situations) give me up as a foreigner. “Monsieur is English?” he guesses.

I’m wondering if I should be pleased or insulted he guessed I wasn’t American as I nod back.

Introductions are made. His name, we'll say, is Father Pierre.

“Welcome to France, monsieur! Welcome!”

“Thank you,” I say, still uncertain. I’m not in the most interrogative mood at the moment.

“There are some of us here who still love the English,” he continues. “Your Pope Leo! Ah, such a blessing he was.”

I suppose in that the late Pope was English, he was ‘mine’ even if I can’t recall ever kneeling before a Catholic altar.

“He was a good man,” I admit. ‘Our’ Pope was a tremendously talented speaker and a very imposing figure. The Church gained at the expense of music or cinema, if nothing else.

“Monsieur is too modest! He was the best thing England has given the world!” he says with a wink and a laugh.

Not being of the Roman faith, I find the claim questionable but accept it in the spirit of cross-Channel camaraderie.

He lowers his voice. “A man can be judged by his enemies, and his were the very worst, no?”

A dangerous thing to say and I begin to wonder if the roly-poly père is actually a German spy.

“The Germans certainly didn’t seem to like him,” I offer after a few seconds. “I imagine it’s harder for you priests here in the Continent, maybe?” (Excluding Italy, where the situation is entirely atypical, just like the country itself.)

“Eh bien. We must walk a fine line, a very fine line. But we have survived the worst the world has thrown at us for two thousand years,” he says with a very Gallic shrug. “And it’s easier in France than over the border.”

True enough. The Reich Catholic Church has no real counterpart in France. There are a few small fascisized Catholic sects, some in communion with Rome, some not, but no Gallicanist Church that claims the loyalty of nearly half the Catholic population. And while things have become easier for German Catholics since the wild days of Himmler and Heydrich’s second Kulturkampf (few churches and no cathedrals have ‘allegedly’ fallen victim to arson attacks, for instance) religious schools are still banned, dozens of former monasteries, convents and church schools are still Reich property, the few seminaries that remain struggle under a whole host of formal and informal restrictions, and no specifically Catholic entities (choirs, newspapers, social clubs, youth groups) are allowed to exist beyond the parishes and dioceses themselves. Little of that is found in France.

There are difficulties, though.

For one thing, the French State still refuses to admit immigrants from any country that recognizes the Republican government in exile. Thanks to the vicious racism of the State, that includes most of France's old African colonies (still nominally claimed by Paris) – denying France of a rich source of Catholic priests such as have entered America, Britain and China over the last generation or so.

For another, the ‘forward-thinking’ French State is, like most Berlin Pact nations, decidedly antipathetic to Christianity (or, more broadly, any source of loyalty, of thought, beyond the state).

I make myself bold enough to ask how it is for Father Pierre.

He hesitates, thinks hard about it, before answering. “It’s a fine line to walk. Yes, we could stand on the corner and shout to the world what a sinful person Caesar is. And then, when all the priests have been arrested and all the churches been closed, what then? Or we can cloister ourselves in the sanctuary, speaking only of Scripture as if it was a closed book. And then, as Caesar steps farther and farther from God, and brings his people with him? A fine line,” he sighs.

The train makes a startlingly loud noise and then, with a series of rhythmic thumps, leaves the station, slowly gathering speed until I’m sure it would ruin most of the city should it derail.
 
How's China? Has the KMT regime democratized or is it still fairly authoritarian with some similarities with Germany?
 
How's China? Has the KMT regime democratized or is it still fairly authoritarian with some similarities with Germany?

It's probably not too far from OTL's China in that regard. The main differences are that this China became a global power a generation or so ahead of ours; among other things, it props up what's left of Russia.
 
“It’s a fine line to walk. Yes, we could stand on the corner and shout to the world what a sinful person Caesar is. And then, when all the priests have been arrested and all the churches been closed, what then? Or we can cloister ourselves in the sanctuary, speaking only of Scripture as if it was a closed book. And then, as Caesar steps farther and farther from God, and brings his people with him? A fine line,” he sighs.
The French Father is right.
Was Pope Leo exercising his position from Rome?
 
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