★★★★★ November 10, 1961 Season 3 Episode 9
If you want to see where we are…HERE is a list of the episodes.
In the previous episode we met a young monster named Anthony. In this episode we meet a realistic monster named Gunther Lutze…in the past… known as SS Captain Gunther Lutze who wants to relive his glory days. This is a powerful episode made less than twenty years after WWII. Oscar Beregi Jr plays the Captain in all of his infamous glory. Joseph Schildkraut plays Afred Becker, a figure from Luntz’s past, a figure he knows all too well.
We last saw Oscar Beregi Jr in the The Rip Van Winkle Caper but in this one he takes it up a level. He is so convincing as Lutze that you hate this character and everything he represents. The set is very impressive and realistic. CBS had made a pilot for a western, and they had built a four-sided frontier fort. This set cost around $200,000 and it was standing out on Lot 3 at MGM. The crew downgraded it for this episode and it works well.
This episode is chilling for what it represents. Serling did an excellent job with this story. It was satisfying to see the tables turned, and the sadist finds himself on trial with Alfred Becker in charge.
The title refers to the “Totenkopf” or Death’s Head symbol used by the SS during World War II depicting a skull and crossbones. It is distinguished from similar traditions of the skull and crossbones and the Jolly Roger by the positioning of the bones directly behind the skull.
Beregi and Schildkraut both hailed from distinguished Yiddish stage families, and had lost most of their European relatives in the Holocaust.
This show was written by Rod Serling
Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
Mr. Schmidt, recently arrived in a small Bavarian village which lies eight miles northwest of Munich… a picturesque, delightful little spot one-time known for its scenery, but more recently related to other events having to do with some of the less positive pursuits of man: human slaughter, torture, misery and anguish. Mr. Schmidt, as we will soon perceive, has a vested interest in the ruins of a concentration camp—for once, some seventeen years ago, his name was Gunther Lutze. He held the rank of a captain in the SS. He was a black-uniformed strutting animal whose function in life was to give pain, and like his colleagues of the time, he shared the one affliction most common amongst that breed known as Nazis… he walked the Earth without a heart. And now former SS Captain Lutze will revisit his old haunts, satisfied perhaps that all that is awaiting him in the ruins on the hill is an element of nostalgia. What he does not know, of course, is that a place like Dachau cannot exist only in Bavaria. By its nature, by its very nature, it must be one of the populated areas… of the Twilight Zone.
Gunther Lutze, a former captain in Hitler’s SS, decides to return to the area that contains the remnants of Dachau concentration camp. As he revels in the memories of the days when he had tortured prisoners, prisoner Alfred Becker appears before his eyes. What he does not realize is Becker is an ghostly apparition, and plans to put Lutze on “trial” for crimes against humanity for the torture and killing of the prisoners that were held in the camp. It is one trial Lutze may regret.
Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
There is an answer to the doctor’s question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God’s Earth.
Joseph Schildkraut…Alfred Becker
Oscar Beregi Jr…SS Capt. Gunther Lutze (as Oscar Beregi)
Kaaren Verne… Innkeeper (as Karen Verne)
Robert Boon… Taxi Driver
Ben Wright… Doctor
Gene Coogan… Victim (uncredited)
Chuck Fox… Victim (uncredited)
Jimmie Horan… Victim (uncredited)
David O. McCall…Victim (uncredited)
Arthur Tovey…Victim (uncredited)