Gary R. Hall
The 5K Zone
Peter Ackerman and Trudi Kehle were innocent ethnic Germans living in the Nazi-controlled Sudetenland section of Czechoslovakia when WWII ended in Nazi defeat. The Potsdam Agreement mandated the "orderly and humane" expulsion of ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland. The Sudetenland was returned to Czech control under the supervision of the liberating Soviets. Peter escaped to the American Zone before he could be expelled to newly-formed East Germany. Trudi remained in the West German/Czechoslovakian border village of Tachau as part of a dual-nationality Czech family. Peter's odyssey took him on a fortuitous journey with the American military, a post-war refugee camp, a West German hops farm, and finally as a displaced person to the American state of Washington.
With a goal of returning to Tachau to find his parents and expose expulsion atrocities, Peter matures, is educated, and develops a plan to return to West Germany. The US Army Special Forces becomes part of that plan. While on reconnaissance in the restricted 5K Zone, he finds Trudi who has special permission to leave Czechoslovakia for a day. The border is tightly secured but the young adults plan for Peter's duty mission in the Tachau area, to retrieve atrocity evidence, and enable another escape for Peter and for Trudi and her mother.
The entry method into, and the escape out of Czechoslovakia, was ingenious trickery with the help of the army, unquestioned physical stamina, and exemplary soldiering skills.
Although this is not a love story, the respect and trust that defined the relationship of Peter and Trudi from childhood through maturity is a study of how loyalty and perseverance can help good—but oppressed—people emerge from bad situations they were born into and did not support.
Excerpt from chapter 15
After the introduction to the village, Willie changed his mood and the talk became more serious.
“You didn’t get to the Tenth Special Forces Group by accident, Peter. Colonel Watts and our operations officer have been tracking you ever since they discovered your existence with the help of Department of the Army (DA) personnel files.”
“What? I don’t understand.” Peter was confused by this statement.
“You are perfect for a mission the group commander has been assigned.The Commanding Officer (CO), ColonelWatts and Captain Wilcox, the S3 Operations Officer asked to have you assigned here because of your Czech language ability and your familiarity with the area around Tachau.”
Peter was shocked. All the effort he had put into getting assigned to Germany and Bad Tölz had been unnecessary. Other factors had influenced his destiny without his knowledge. He wondered if they suspected his personal agenda. He would need to be careful as this discussion continued.
“What kind of mission is it?” Peter asked.
Excerpt from chapter 35
"Auf wiedersehen, Tachau"
Trudi arrived at work before Yelena and Bozena. The Russian guard at the building entrance checked her ID like he had so many times in the past. The Tagesblatt newspaper had arrived. Scanning the Tagesblatt would be her first task for the day. Political and economic articles of general interest to West Germans were also interesting to the colonel. West German societal progress seemed to be a sore point for the colonel. He never talked about that, but Trudi could detect the jealousy when she translated an article favorable to the welfare of the general West German population. He was also interested in sports news if it included track and field.
The colonel wasn’t in a particularly good mood when he arrived.Trudi hoped she could contribute toward the continuation of that mood all the way until tomorrow when she didn’t arrive for work. This morning he complained about the tea and then about the news stories.Trudi wanted to remind him that if it wasn’t for German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg inventing the printing press over four hundred years ago, he wouldn’t even have a newspaper to read. She had learned since the colonel’s arrival that subtle digs like this usually shut him up for a while.
Good man, bad politics: from a country historically poor and oppressive. But, she couldn’t argue with his pragmatism.