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This episode taken from The Wizard issue: 1720 January 31st 1959.

Flashes of blue flame came from the windows of the small, stone-built chalet beside the lake of Spandau, outside Berlin. Revolvers and sub-machine-guns were being fired at the cordon of Gestapo and S.S. men who surrounded the place. It was 1944, during the Second World War, and most of Europe was occupied by German armies and under the heel of the Gestapo, the hated German Secret State Police. Victims of the Gestapo were imprisoned without trial in the dreaded concentration camps built on the orders of the Nazi party, who were then in control of Germany. The power of the Gestapo, under their leader Heinrich Himmler, was absolute, greater even than that of the S.S., the picked band of ruthless troops, known as the Black Guards, fanatically devoted to Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Germany. A man in the uniform of a high officer of the Gestapo was worming his way over the ground through the darkness on the left of the doorway of the chalet. Bullets from both sides whistled over his head. To the Nazis he was Colonel Von Reich, in charge of the present operations, and second only to Himmler in the Gestapo organization. Actually he was a British Secret Service man named Aylmer Gregson. On the other side of the lake, only an hour before, grey-clad men with grey masks over their faces had killed Baron von Bierber and five other high ranking officials. The men who had done this called themselves the Deathless Men and were under the command of Gregson. Now, in his role of Von Reich, he had been ordered by Himmler to capture the grey ones alive! For several weeks now the Nazis, both in Paris and Berlin, had lived in terror of their lives. The Deathless Men had struck blow after blow in the name of the free peoples of Europe. The grey ones were all men who had suffered cruelly at the hands of the Nazis. They were men of all nations, bound together by common hatred of the Nazis tyrants. The Gestapo believed that Von Reich had crawled out to study the position before launching an attack. The British Secret Service man had other ideas as he squirmed over the damp earth. He was now hidden from the sight of the Nazi attackers. He had told them not to fire on that side of the chalet, but inside the building the Deathless Men were still shooting at anything that moved. Crack! Von Reich had raised his head within a yard of the barred doorway, and a bullet whipped past his ear. “Deathless Men!” he called in a loud whisper. “It is Gregson!” There was some murmuring, then a voice called just as cautiously – “Where are you, Chief?” “Just outside the door,” replied Gregson. “Keep on firing. Get close enough to the door for me to talk to you, Jack Eleven. I cannot come in.” It was a strange position. The man in charge of that detachment of the V for Vengeance Army lay on one side of the barrier, while Gregson lay on the other. They could see each other through a crack. “How many of you are there?” asked Gregson. “Five left unwounded now,” replied Jack Eleven. “All the others are either dead or hit. We have no chance of escape, Chief.” “If only I could help you!” Von Reich whispered. “I was sent here by Himmler to take you alive. If I fail through any fault that can be traced to me, I shall be disgraced and the campaign will not be able to go on.” The man on the other side of the door stirred impatiently. “Chief, the campaign must go on!” he said. “It must go on until every one of those on our list has been exterminated. Do not let our lives stand in the way.” “It is now two o’clock. Go back now, and at two-fifteen give the order to attack. Drive the Gestapo in. Tell them they must take us or die. We will see that many of them die!” “And you?” questioned Gregson. “We all have our poison capsules,” replied Jack Eleven. “I will see to it that the wounded get theirs now. We will take ours at the very last moment, but not one of us will fall into the hands of the Nazis alive. I promise you that. They will not get the chance to wring our secrets from us by torture. It was the only way. Much as he regretted it. Aylmer Gregson knew it to be true. He reached through the gap in the barrier and gripped the grey-gloved hand on the other side. The hand held his for a moment, and the masked man hissed – “When you make the attack, place yourself on the north side. We will not fire there.” A final squeeze, and the hand released Gregson’s. Aylmer Gregson crawled back as cautiously as he had come out. When he glimpsed black-clad Gestapo figures under the trees, he hoarsely whispered – “Don’t shoot! It’s Von Reich. A few minutes later, he was among the Gestapo men, dusting the layers from his clothes, giving his soldiers their instructions in low, fierce tones. “I have been right up to these Deathless Men, and there are no more than five or six left unwounded. Herr Himmler has said we must take them alive. There is only one way of making sure we do that. We must attack in force at once!” “At two-fifteen I shall whistle, and lead you myself,” Gregson said. “I will advance from the north, and you Brandberger, will be in charge on the south side. Detail two other officers to lead the attack from the remaining two sides. “Let no man hold back. We must batter down their defences and seize them before they can kill themselves with poison capsules we know they have for that purpose.” His voice was harsh and arrogant. He well knew his words would be reported to Himmler when the inquiry was made. Aylmer Gregson moved round with a small detachment of Gestapo to the left. He packed men on the other three sides. Gregson glanced at his watch. It wanted one minute to go. He raised a whistle to his lips, gripping his automatic pistol with the other hand. Everyone tensed. The seconds ticked away, and the shrill blast of the whistle cut like a knife through the night air. Yelling at the top of his voice, Gregson hurled himself forward, firing high as he ran. A hundred and fifty men followed his example on all sides of the building. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat! The Deathless Men had kept their sub-machine-guns in readiness. Streams of lead poured into the tightly-packed Nazis, and many black-clad figures rolled to the ground. Gregson found himself close to a shuttered window. Men were milling around him, marveling at their luck in escaping being hit. “Smash it in!” roared Gregson, beating at the shutters with his automatic. “Don’t give them a moment.” Crash! Thud! Up to the very last, bullets took toll of the attackers, then as the door began to give under the massed weight of the storming party, there was an ominous silence. Gregson so manoeuvred that he was among the first to get through the gap. He knew no bullets would greet him. The men who had put up such a wonderful fight were now kneeling or sprawling at their posts. “Drag them out!” Gregson bellowed harshly. “We’ve got to save some of them!” But Gregson knew that every one of those grey figures was dead. The poison they carried was practically instantaneous in its effect. The Gestapo and S.S. men lifted the masked men outside, where there was more light. They tore off the grey masks, and in all cases saw faces that at one time had been battered almost out of recognition. In no case did the Germans find a trace of life. The Deathless Men had beaten them again. Thirty-two Gestapo and S.S. men lay dead in the clearing, and many others had been wounded. In the mansion across the lake, six high-ranking Nazi officials were in no position to commit further crimes. The Deathless Men of Berlin had died hard. They had taken many times their number of enemies with them. They had avenged to a great degree the sufferings inflicted on themselves and their families.

The Jittery General

Just as Aylmer Gregson had expected, there was a furore caused by this affair, and an official inquiry was held by the leaders of the Nazi party. Himmler was furious and demanded that Von Reich be court-martialled for his failure. But at the inquiry there were innumerable witnesses from amongst the Gestapo and S.S. men to declare that Von Reich had done everything possible to take the masked men alive. Instead of being admonished, Von Reich was congratulated by many in authority, and was considered the victim of bad luck. Himmler calmed down a day or two later, and did his best to show he attached no further blame to Von Reich. He even took him into his confidence.  “I am telling you something few others know,” he said. “Hitler has refused to return to Berlin until the Deathless Men are wiped out. He says he would be lacking in his duty to the Fatherland if he exposed himself to danger at such a critical time in the history of our country. “Where is he now?” Von Reich asked casually. Himmler lowered his voice. “He is well guarded,” the Gestapo leader said. “He is in Breslau. Von Blomberg is with him, Horst Wassner, General Wenningen, and all their staffs. He orders me to remain here until this gang is cleared up. I feel sure they are controlled by someone here in Berlin. “I am going to send you to Breslau to take personal command of the Gestapo and S.S. men there. I do not anticipate you will have any trouble, as only a few of our most trusted men know Hitler is there.” Von Reich tried hard not to show his elation. It was not so much Hitler, the German leader, he wanted at the moment, as some of the high ranking followers around him. Deprived of their support, the dictator would know some of the terror felt by those on whom he had released his bullets and torturers. In the aeroplane that carried him to Breslau that afternoon, Von Reich had ample time to think out his next moves. Before leaving Berlin he had sent word to more of the Deathless Men, telling them to proceed to Breslau by secret means. At Breslau, Gregson found the city packed with members of the Gestapo, and S.S. troops. Hitler was living in a mansion on the outskirts of the town, and a large area round had been evacuated of  all civilians and filled with military guards. The excuse made to the local folk was that the generals and staff officers in charge of the German troops fighting against the Russians on the Eastern Front were established there. No whisper was made of Hitler, and as one of his doubles was at that time in Prague, it was believed that the dictator was in Czechoslovakia. The Britisher who posed as Colonel Von Reich found his own headquarters established in the best hotel in the city. Almost the first man who called to confer with him was General Wenningen, notorious as the man who had ordered the complete wiping out of several Polish villages where guerrilla fighters had been located. Seeing the hard, lined face of this monster across his desk, and hearing him laughing over his crimes, gave Gregson a feeling of deep revulsion. There and then he decided that General Wenningen should be the next victim of the Deathless Men! Their discussion was about the replacement of certain military guards by Gestapo men. Wenningen wanted to comb out several more divisions to go to the Eastern Front, where the German Army was suffering immense losses. “Your men can free others wanted out there!” boomed Wenningen. “Are you willing to arrange this?” “Of course,” said Von Reich, noting the stiffness with which the General sat down, and realizing he wore a heavy bulletproof waistcoat under his tunic. “Tomorrow afternoon I am reviewing the S.S. men of my new command in Breslau’s main park at two o’clock. Would you care to accompany me?” “I’d be honored to,” said Wenningen. “I’ll tell you if your S.S. men are as smart as I’m told they are, but smartness isn’t the only thing. Discipline! Discipline all the time! That’s the secret Men must be so disciplined that they are ready to die for their cause always and anywhere.” “You are right, General,” said the British Secret Service man. “Even our enemies know that. It is the reason for the recklessness of those fiends who call themselves the Deathless Men. You heard what happened in Berlin the other day, when I tried to round up some of them?” “Yes that was bad luck!” snapped Wenningen, but he fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair. Von Reich nodded, and unfolded one of the proclamations that the grey killers always left on or near their victims. It was the list of those Nazis and traitors selected by the grey men for death. “Well, I only hope Herr Himmler gets them before they work through the list to you and me, General,” he said, sliding the paper before his visitor. “It’s not pleasant to see one’s name there.” “It is not,” agreed the General, lurching to his feet. “Until tomorrow, Von Reich!” Heels clicked, hands came up smartly in salute, and General Wenningen, one of Hitler’s leading military advisers, walked stiffly from the office. Von Reich sat there for some time wondering how he could get in touch with the small but desperate group of the Deathless Men who were now due in Breslau. Hedged round by guards, watching for his own protection day and night, it was not easy for Von Reich to get half an hour to himself.

The Decoy Dodge

In their smart, black uniforms, with glittering, black leather-work, polished holsters, high boots shining like mirrors, the six hundred S.S. men were a sight to gladden the eyes of any Nazi as they stood stolidly in their ranks in one of Breslau’s main parks. They stood like blocks of wood as Von Reich, General Wenningen, and several other high officers passed slowly along their ranks. “You have honoured us greatly, General,” said Von Reich after the inspection. “I wonder if I could persuade you to stand up in your car and speak a few sentences to my men?” “I’m no good at speaking,” growled Wenningen, but he looked extremely pleased with himself as he climbed into his open and stood erect. “He spoke harshly and briefly. He expounded his favourite doctrine about devotion unto death, and about blind obedience. He spoke no more than a dozen sentences and as he finished Von Reich sprang forward. “Hail General Wenningen!” he roared. “Hoch!” bellowed the ranks of S.S. men, jerking their hands in unison in the Nazi salute. “Hoch!” Their full-throated roar could have been heard all over the city. It even drowned the noise of the traffic. It drowned another sound, too, but they did not know that until they saw the erect figure of General Wenningen suddenly topple sideways. “Hoch!” The third shout was a feeble broken one, for Von Reich had dropped his hand and rushed to aid the fallen General. A buzz of excitement and horror went round the ranks of the troops. The next moment Von Reich had turned and in a terrible voice bellowed – “He is dead! General Wenningen has been shot before our eyes, while we were cheering. The bullet took him in the right temple, therefore it must have come from over there. Follow me!” He pointed and started to run in that direction. Hundreds of men broke ranks and raced after him, feeling for their revolvers. Those who had motor-cycles on parade leaped to the saddles and roared away towards the gates to warn the sentries there. Five hundred yards away, a tall, stooping figure dropped from the tree where he had lain along a branch. He was dressed entirely in grey. His face was covered by a grey mask. He had a still smoking rifle in his hand, and after a moment’s hesitation he propped it against the foot of the tree. His name was Zaleski. A roar had just gone up from the Black Guards. Von Reich had started to run, but not directly towards the tree. It had been arranged that he should give the Deathless Man time to attempt escape. The grey killer did not expect to get away, but he could try. After all, the longer he lived the more vengeance he could wreck. From his pocket he drew a printed slip headed by a blood red letter V, and fastened it swiftly to the tree trunk. Only then did he crouch and limp away towards the River Oder, which bordered one side of the park. Just when it seemed the pursuers would discover him, Von Reich “discovered” the rifle and the notice pinned to the tree. His yell brought most men running to see what had happened. They found him glaring at the familiar proclamation. He indicated to another officer that the name of General Wenningen had been scored out with a thick, red line. “They are fiends, these Deathless Men – not human beings!” Von Reich barked. “This one cannot get away. We’ll show what the Black Guards can do. I want every inch of the park searched. Bring in the killer alive or dead.” A cordon was formed across the width of the park, and the search began. Motor-cyclists patrolled the boundaries, but those beside the river did not see the grey-clad figure crouching among the reeds close to the water’s edge. The Deathless Man was panting for breath. In one hand he had his automatic, and at his side was a waterproof holster into which he could push it if he had to swim. Shouts passed between the men in the boat and those on the bank. A group of the latter came within five feet of the Deathless Man in their search. His free fingers played with a tiny, poison capsule. If capture was imminent, he would swallow that and cheat those who would try to torture information out of him. Zaleski was a Pole. It was for this reason he had been selected as the executioner of General Wenningen, who had murdered so many Polish patriots. The motor-cyclists moved on, the patrol boat went round the corner, and the Deathless Man decided that now was the time to try to cross the Oder. He put the poison capsule in his mouth, knowing it would not harm him unless he bit it hard. His automatic went back into his waterproof case, and he slithered slowly into the water. He was about halfway across when shouts came from the side for which he was making and the next moment shots splashed the water around him. He had been spotted. He at once dived, let himself go with the current, and swam as quickly as possible. He kept down as long as he could, until his lungs were nearly bursting and his heart pounding madly. Then he had to come up for air. A blow on the head drove him under again. He was almost drowning, but he still managed to keep his teeth tightly closed together, to avoid biting on the capsule. The thing that had bumped him was moving upstream. Even as he groped wildly towards one end of it, he remembered he had seen a tug with a line of barges coming round the bend. He was under one of these. His head emerged at the stern of a barge a moment later, and he was able to draw in the life-giving air, while clinging to the wide rudder of the barge. It was one of a line of four, and he was between two of the craft, hidden from the view of those on the banks and those on the tug. The Black Guards were shouting to the crew of the tug to watch the water. The crew were doing so, leaning over the side of their short, dumpy vessel and looking in all directions, but they could not see between the third and fourth barges in the line. The grey man felt himself progressing upstream at no more than walking pace, but it was better than nothing. It was a move in the right direction. He heard some of the S.S. men shouting that perhaps one of their shots had caught the swimmer in the head. “In that case his body will be carried downstream!” came the voice of Von Reich. Zaleski sighed with thankfulness. The chief must have guessed he was being aided by the barges, and for that reason had directed the attention of the searchers downstream. There was now a hope of escape.

So ended another episode. (For more episodes, go to homepage).

V For Vengeance 24 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1333 – 1356 (1951 – 1952)

V For Vengeance 11 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1363 – 1373 (1952)

The Voice from Berlin 12 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1494 - 1510 (1954)

M Marks the Spot 12 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1517 - 1528 (1955)

V For Vengeance 15 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1565 – 1579 (1956)

V For Vengeance 24 episodes (repeat of 1951 series) appeared in The Wizard issues 1716 – 1739 (1959)

Red Vengeance 20 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1841 - 1860 (1961)


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Vic Whittle 2003