“The Crocodiles” — Steven Popkes

Steven Popkes is the author of two novels: Caliban Landing and Slow Lightning. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Twilight Zone Magazine, Science Fiction Age, Realms of Fantasy, SCI FICTION, and in the annuals the Year’s Best Science Fiction, The Mammoth Book of Best New Science Fiction, and Year’s Best Fantasy. His story “The Color Winter” was a finalist for the Nebula Award. He is currently working on a novel about flying witches.

When it comes to horror, Nazis and zombies are like peanut butter and chocolate—very evil peanut butter and chocolate, that is. Dr. Mengele’s gruesome experiments on living subjects, German technological prowess—as demonstrated by the V2 rockets—and Hitler’s obsession with supermen and the occult make it all too easy to imagine fiendish Nazi experiments reanimating dead soldiers. A well-known example is the video game Wolfenstein, in which you play a lone American agent who must penetrate secret Nazi labs crawling will all manner of grotesque monstrosities. The recent horror movie Dead Snow—which features a memorable scene in which one of the heroes chainsaws off his own arm after it is bitten by a zombie—is about a group of tourists who inadvertently awaken a colony of frozen Nazi zombies left over from World War II. It must be said that these examples, and several others we could name, are pretty campy, with Nazis used as a convenient shorthand for faceless evil.

Our next tale is a completely different sort of story. This is a tale told from the point of view of a World War II-era German scientist, a man who loves his wife and child, which makes his inhuman detachment about his work all the more chilling. This is Nazi zombies as high art, a tale so full of plausible-sounding scientific and historical detail that you’ll start to wonder if maybe these sorts of experiments were real after all.