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.”

Walter’s survival depends on a powerful, but unpredictable resource: Britain’s most successful — and most lethal SOE spy, a woman whom the Germans call Die Schwarze Witwe — “The Black Widow.”  What she knows, but the Germans don’t, is why saving Walter is the most important mission she will ever seek to accomplish.


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Paris—June 20, 1940

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

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

The Germans had been in Paris for less than a week. One by one, Walter’s favorite restaurants had been taken over by their new, grey-clad customers. Now they’d managed to find his special quiet place, the tree-lined outdoor terrace of the Brasserie Chez Jenny in the 3rd arondissement theater district

“Lächerlich. Dieser Depp weiß nicht mal wie man isst,” the first one continued, 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. I’ve seen how they treat civilians. They don’t fool around. But insulting my country ….

Walter eavesdropped on the Germans’ conversation as he addressed the remains of his Strasbourg sausage and Chez Jenny’s incomparable sauerkraut, accompanied by a lovely 1935 Clos Saint Landelin Gewürztraminer. The Germans were complaining about the food. Small wonder. Anton liked to piss on the sauerkraut before sending it out to Germans.

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