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Theo Hossbach
Fictional Character
The War That Came Early
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
Appearance(s): All volumes
Type of Appearance: Direct POV
Nationality: Germany
Occupation: Soldier, Radio operator


Theodosius "Theo" Hossbach was a German panzer radio operator during the Second World War. His passion for the radio was such that he had the uncanny ability to tune out the real world even while in the heat of battle. This "talent" sometimes led Hossbach to share his political opinions at inappropriate times. His father had been reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when Hossbach was born, hence his very Latin-sounding first name.

Czechoslovakia and FranceEdit

Under the command of Ludwig Rothe aboard a Panzer II, Hossbach was part of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in October 1938. His crew also included driver Fritz Bittenfeld. Unlike his colleagues, Hossbach did not worry much about the rather fragile state of the Panzer II, so long as his radio worked. The invasion was successful, and Czechoslovakia was subdued in about a month. Hossbach and his crew were then transferred to west, where they participated in the invasion of the Netherlands, which fell in a week. Hossbach and his crew then pressed on into Belgium. Throughout these battles, Rothe did his best to keep Hossbach tuned in to what was going on around them as much as possible, with varying degrees of success.

In 1939, as the German forces in Belgium prepared to press on into France, word began leaking that certain generals had been conspiring against Adolf Hitler. To the crew's surprise, Hitler himself came to the Belgian front to investigate one of their senior officers. Hossbach, intent on repairing his radio, very nearly didn't realize Hitler was in their midst, despite frantic signals from Rothe. However, Hossbach soon saw that Hitler was present, and immediately snapped to attention. Hitler was accompanied by two officers of the Waffen-SS. Hitler took the time to speak to the crew, which surprised them all. He surprised Rothe further by discussing the problematic fuel pump on the Panzer II. Hitler assured everyone that there would be an improved model shortly.

As Hitler spoke, he indirectly referenced the conspiracy against him. Hitler's SS guards grew concerned that Hitler had said too much and that Hossbach, Rothe, and Bittenfeld might be a liability. Hitler ordered the SS men to leave the crew alone, and they grudgingly complied.

Soon after, Hossbach and his crew were part of the invasion of France. After several months of a continuous drive, their luck ran out during an Anglo-French counter-offensive in April, 1939 when the Panzer II was wrecked by a shell. All three men made it out of the tank, but Rothe and Bittenfeld were gunned down by a French soldier. Only Hossbach survived, although he did lose a finger.

Transfer to the EastEdit

Hossbach briefly recuperated in a hospital before he was transferred to another Panzer II. He was aware that his new colleagues would probably have a more difficult time keeping him plugged in to reality than Rothe had, as Rothe had been used to him. He got along well with the new driver, Private Adalbert "Adi" Stoss but found the commander, Sergeant Heinz Naumann, difficult to deal with. However, Naumann butted heads with Stoss more often since the latter was more outgoing and assertive than Hossbach. Stoss also was circumcised which made him the butt of Naumann's jokes likening him to a Jew.

Before things could get out of hand, the entire panzer division was pulled out of the line and sent east to help the Poles fight the Soviets. However, bickering began anew and Hossbach feared the two men would come to blows. Before any serious trouble erupted, Naumann was killed by a rifle round to the head as he rode outside the turret hatch. He was replaced by Sergeant Hermann Witt, who was much easier to get along with.

Although Stoss reacted angrily when called a Jew due to his circumcision, and had no trouble eating pork, Hossbach suspected he was in fact Jewish. Hossbach remained silent about his suspicions, not only because of his quiet nature but also because he reasoned that Stoss' competence was more important than his religion.

After the Big SwitchEdit

Hossbach found himself playing goalkeeper during a soccer match between Wehrmacht infantry and panzer crewmen, where a solder from Munich recognized Adi Stoss as a former player from Münster due to his talent on the field. Stoss angri1y denied being the same person and grew fearful when he realized that Hossbach had deduced his Jewishness, but Hossbach reassured Stoss that his secret was safe with him.

Throughout 1940 Hossbach and his crew advanced deeper into the Soviet Union and were closing on Smolensk by the end of the year. Soviet counter-attacks during the winter drove his unit back and during the renewed Wehrmacht offensive in the spring of 1941 his Panzer II was destroyed by one of the Soviets' new KV-1 tanks.[1].

Hossbach and both of his crewmates survived and found themselves assigned to one of the newer Panzer IIIs (albeit a used one), where Hossbach found himself sitting up front next to Adi and manning the bow machine gun as well as the radio. He also had to get used to two new crewmates, loader Kurt Poske and gunner Lothar Eckhardt, both of whom had annoying habits.[2]

In Two Fronts, Theo continues to serve on the Russian Front. It is there that his crew is upgraded to a Panzer IV.

In Last Orders, Theo's panzer regiment is sent back to Germany to help quell the Munster rebellion. While they are there, a full blown civil war erupts between the Wehrmacht and the Nazis. Theo, along with the rest of his crew, fight against the Nazis. When the novel ends, Theo informs Adi Stoss (real name Saul Goldman) that he has romantic intentions toward Adi's sister, Sarah Bruck.

See also: Inconsistencies in Turtledove's Work#Inconsistencies in The War That Came Early

NotesEdit

  1. Coup d'Etat, pg. 102-103
  2. Ibid., pg. 211-212

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