Setting: Berlin 1945

The forces of evil face off against … the other forces of evil. The city’s defenders are hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded with no chance of escape. Many of those defenders are SS war criminals with nothing to lose. If they surrender they’ll face execution or a slow death by hypothermia and starvation in a Siberian gulag; they’ve all chosen to fight to the death instead. The attacking army is out for revenge; its soldiers know they’ll be allowed to rape and murder civilians without repercussion. Entire units of the attacking army were formed by emptying prisons and handing guns to the inmates.

This is my first post in a series where I describe potential settings for science fiction short stories or novels. The above historical setting could be used directly: Nazis are often portrayed participating in occult activities, or a time traveler could accidentally find himself in the middle of this battle. An alternate use would be to replace the Nazi and Soviet armed forces with two other evil armies – in a war on an alien planet or in some fantasy kingdom.

Here is a non-fiction book which I haven’t read yet, but I suspect might contain the ‘flavor’ I am thinking of: The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945.

Here are some characters you might find inside the city:

  • The unrepentant war criminal – determined to take as many of the enemy with him as he can. Few of your readers will identify or sympathize with this character, so maybe he’s not a good choice for your protagonist.
  • The war criminal who’s had a change of heart, and regrets what he’s done. Maybe it’s because his last atrocity went too far, or maybe it’s because he’s seen his own people become victims of the invading army. He wants to make up for what he’s done, but he’s going to die before he gets a chance.
  • A soldier from Eastern Europe who joined the SS to protect his own ethnic group from the Communists. Now his home is under Soviet occupation anyway, and he’s going to die in a foreign city.
  • Teenagers in the Hitler Youth (like evil Boy Scouts, with mandatory membership). Some soldiers drop off weapons and tell the kids to defend the city. There could be a variety of reactions: one kid could be terrified, another could try to sneak away to protect a sister or grandparent, and maybe the kid who’s been picked on his whole life is glad to finally have a chance to shoot someone.
  • A young girl or woman trying to survive. Her own family may attempt to kill her to spare her from falling into Soviet hands. After surviving that attempt, she then has to find a way to escape or hide from the Soviets. It will take some serious creativity to engineer a happy ending for this story.

Please leave a comment below if you like/dislike this setting, or if you think of another aspect or character to contribute.


  1. I am actually working on a cold war era thriller set in East Berlin in ’47 at the moment. I have been doing tons of research, and it’s all depressing.

    1. Yes, a few of my history-based settings are depressing. For my next setting article, I’ll go with something more fantastically futuristic.

  2. You could do an espionage element. An illegal Soviet agent in Berlin who has either lost their handler or documentation and now must flee the forces of their own side

    Likewise, a Soviet soldier, released from his POW camp in Germany, suspected as an enemy of the people by the NKVD. (Hat tip to the Al Stewart song “Roads to Moscow” which uses this idea.)

    There were also several Russian POWs who didn’t want to return to the USSR but were forcibly repatriated by the occupying Allies.

    Time traveler researching Nazi superweapons/faked deaths/general history in Berlin and gets stranded and has to survive.

    Time traveler, desperate to save Europe from Soviet occupation, releases a plague genetically tailored to kill Slavs, preferably one with a long incubation period, so the soldiers take it home.

    Time traveler goes to Berlin 1945 to ensure the death of a Nazi war criminal who escaped in our history.

    And, of course, serial killer pointlessly and compulsively continuing to murder in a besieged city.

    This writin’ stuff is easy … as long as you don’t have to come up dialogue, characters, and figure out how to dramatize abstract ideas..

    1. I really like the idea of time-traveling Nazi-hunters going back to the last known sighting of their target.

  3. While randomly clicking around, I ran across a vampire novel set in Berlin in 1945:

    My Immortal: The Vampires of Berlin

    1. Another vampire novel set in 1938 as the Reich was rising is Blood Alone by Elaine Bergstrom. Although not my favorite of the Austra vampire family novels, it was the first and caught my attention enough to seek out her other novels. I was vampire-weary at the time and convinced nothing fresh could be done with vampire stories. Bergstrom changed my mind. 🙂

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