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|“||I always keep my word. He can go to exactly where he told me to go. Hell.||„|
|~ Von Berkow|
Captain von Berkow is the main villain of the novel Perilous Passage as well as its 1979 movie adaptation The Passage. He is played by Malcolm McDowell in the movie.
Von Berkow was an officer in the SS. An eccentric man, he had many creative and bizarre ways of torturing people. He was supposed to become a general, lamenting that all the men in his family had been generals or obersts in the Wehrmacht, but he chose the SS because of his disdain for the regular armed forces because he believed they didn't understand the new order and that they looked down on him because he was in the SS.
He was sent to occupied France to track down scientist John Bergson. Bergson had been speaking out against the Nazis, and Heinrich Himmler wanted him to be captured and forced to work for them designing weapons. A sadistic torturer, von Berkow captured French baker and resistance member Alain Renoudot, and paid him to tell him where Bergson was. Renoudot lied to him, and told him Bergson was being taken to England. In reality, he and his family were being guided to Spain through the Pyrenees Mountains by a Basque shepherd. Von Berkow learned the truth after torturing Renoudot in the kitchen of his own bakery and cutting off his fingers to use as ingredients in a dish he was preparing.
Assisted by Wehrmacht troops led by Lieutenant Reinke, von Berkow then set out to track down the Bergsons. He tortured and killed many different people during his search, thoroughly horrifying Reinke. When a gypsy who'd helped the Basque refused to tell them where the shepherd and the family had gone, von Berkow had him doused in gasoline, and threatened to burn him alive. The gypsy's son told them where they'd gone and begged him to spare his father, but von Berkow killed the man anyway by flicking a lit cigarette on him, setting him on fire. He then had all of the gypsies shot.
He then instructed a by now terrified Reinke to get him four good men, including someone who knew the mountains, as he intended to personally go after the Bergsons and get them himself. Although he suspected his guide, a Vichy Frenchman, as intentionally leading him astray, the group soon caught up to the Basque's party. French resistance member Perea shot at them, killing two of his men and wounding a third. Von Berkow then blew Perea up with a grenade. Taking his one good man and the guide, he continued on after the Bergsons, leaving the injured soldier behind.
The three eventually caught up their prey at the border, where von Berkow berated a Wehrmacht major for allowing the Bergsons to get through into Spain, and demanded to know why he hadn't pursued them. The major responded it would cause an international incident if Wehrmacht troops entered Spain without permission. When his guide sided with the major, von Berkow shot him and was immediately arrested for murder, but one call to Himmler got him released.
He then went on alone after the Basque and the others. Spotting the shepherd on a cliff, he fired at him, and the sound of the rifle firing caused a huge avalanche which buried him. However, he survived and caught up the group yet again, bloodied and insane, screaming Bergson's name. He intended to murder the others and take Bergson with him. The scientist pleaded that he would accompany von Berkow willingly if the SS officer would let his family and the Basque live. Badly injured and delirious from loss of blood, he hallucinated shooting the entire group and then killing himself. However it was all in his imagination and he fell dead on the spot from his injuries moments later.