As noted before sometime in this blog, my nephew once said to me; “Uncle Zulu, when my father was a kid, they only had 3 TV stations!” He then burst into an uncontrollable laugh.
Yes, it was true, and when I was a kid, and until this present day, we loved to watch the show “Hogan’s Heroes.” At one point, there was a “tag line” for the show that said, “If you loved World War Two, then you’ll love this show.” The show’s producers tried (wink, wink) to bury the tagline, as the idea of “loving war,” despite what General Patton may have said, is not really an appropriate theme for comedy on TV……well, at least back in 1965.
Regardless, I like many others, came to love the gallantry of the Allied characters, the bumbling German Army, the embarrassment the Gestapo suffered, and the non-stop mission to blow up the ball bearing plant in Dusseldorf.
It may have been only TV, but I did learn a lot about history; enough to make me want to study it further on my own. As a younger man, I began to see the opposition to war Sargent Schultz portrayed, the dislike the “regular” German Army had for the SS, and the heroism the underground resistance fighters carried out with little to no recognition.
I recently saw an episode that I never remembered seeing before, although I may have watched it a few times. This time was different. This time I viewed that plot in a whole new light; a view that was probably the original subplot the writers intended to portray that I may have been too oblivious, or too “emotionally immature” to even notice in my younger days. It was just brilliant!
It was the 3rd episode of the third season and was called “D-Day at Stalag 13.” Hogan and the men have to make contact with a female British “sleeper spy.” A woman who has been out of communications for a while. Eventually, the woman Lilli von Scheider, comes rolling into Stalag 13, and it turns out she’s married to a German; General von Scheider. Hogan has to make contact and convince her to “come in from the cold” (my expression, not the writers); which is spy-talk for relinquishing her undercover identity, and report back to her country and command. I don’t remember if she actually says she is in love with the General, but she does convey that she is conflicted about her emotions and betraying the man.
Hogan gently reminds her of her duty to “man and country,” and to step up, and resume her mission; abandon the General, and deliver some intelligence back to England about the D-Day invasion, which she does.
One of the last scenes, the announcement is made that the Allies have just invaded Normandy. They show General von Scheider back at Colonel Klink’s quarters. He is walking in and out of each room calling for his wife; “Lilli, Lilli, where are you, Lilli?” “Where is Lilli,” he says to the room full of German Army Soldiers who at the moment now are only thinking about what they know will be the biggest change of fate in the war, and the start of the downturn of the German Empire.
They have no interest for a man in love or the missing woman who loves him back.
Pretty heavy stuff for a comedy show about war.