Doppelgänger: An American Spy in World War Two France


 If you do battle with evil, sooner or later you pick up evil’s weapons yourselves.
Then you become what you seek to destroy.

When the German army overwhelms France in June of 1940 and enters Paris in triumph, Walter Hirsch’s safe, carefully-ordered life as an American scholar studying at the Sorbonne is harshly ripped apart. The Nazi’s choking pall of darkness, Nacht und Nebel, settles over his beloved Paris, the City of Light.

“I’m a neutral,” he thinks. “Bad as it is, this isn’t my war.” But it becomes his war when he inadvertently attracts the suspicion—and enmity—of SS Standartenführer Hans Sommer.

Returning to America after being badly injured in a student riot at the Sorbonne, he is recruited by Bill Donovan’s fledgling American intelligence service, the OSS, to return to France as a deep cover spy.

As the American descendant of proud Prussian nobility, Walter’s flawless German and French—and his newly-discovered ability to change cover stories like a chameleon—make him an ideal espionage agent. But his dedication to his country comes at a high price. With each new brazenly successful mission and escape, the strangling noose of Sommer’s relentless pursuit draws tighter. With each new lie, a little more of his identity, like an aging photograph, fades away. With each new cold-blooded assassination, a little more of his soul shrivels. “Donovan was right,” he realizes. “When you become a spy, the first person you have to kill is your former self.”

In April 1944, now with a Gestapo bounty of three million Francs on his head, a burned-out Walter is ordered to scout German beach defenses and troop movement prior to the Allies’ invasion of France. But the American High Command sends him to Calais, not Normandy. They cynically decide to sell Walter out to the Germans to support the Allies’ critical deception about the actual landing site for the invasion.


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Paris—June 20, 1940

The crude insult caught Walter Hirsch’s attention immediately. “Amerikaner,” one of the German officers sitting two tables away said. “Arschloch,” laughed his companion.

 “Arschloch.” Now that’s a switch, Walter thought, with a bemused raise of his eyebrows. People usually wait to get to know me a bit before calling me an asshole.

“Lächerlich. Dieser Depp weiß nicht wie man isst,” the first one added, clumsily pantomiming an American switching his fork from his left to his right hand to eat the meat he had just cut.

Walter instinctively looked down at his hands. Well, they spotted that quickly enough. I probably shouldn’t mess with these guys, Walter thought. I’ve seen how they treat civilians. They don’t fool around. But insulting my country ….

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