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Erich Kaempffer

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You're falling apart, Woermann. You despise our ruthlessness. Well, you do not grab history by the throat and ride the next one-thousand year future without brutality and courage!
~ Erich Kaempffer

Major Erich Kaempffer was a villain appearing in the F. Paul Wilson novel The Keep, as well as its movie adaptation by Michael Mann. In the film, he's played by Gabriel Byrne.

Movie Biography

Kaempffer was SS an officer in the SD Einsatzgruppen in Romania who was sent to reinforce Captain Klaus Woermann in the Dinu Pass in 1941. "Something" had been killing Woermann's Alpenkorps troops inside the ancient keep where they'd set up their headquarters.

Kaempffer arrived riding atop an armored car, accompanied by with his adjutant and a contingent of Einsatzkommando, who immediately rounded up the villagers and shot three of them over the protests of Captain Woermann. Kaempffer took five hostages from among the surviving villagers and warned the local priest, Father Fonescu, that if any more German soldiers died those five people would be executed, and that this would go on until the Partisan activity stopped... or until the SS ran out of villagers.

He took up residence in the keep, immediately taking command and throwing his weight around, such as ordering Sergeant Oster to ensure his Einsatzkommando were quartered. He questioned Woermann's competence and abilities and was very hostile towards him, accusing him of making up the more supernatural elements of the death to excuse his own shortcomings as a commanding officer. Woermann acidly fired back that his competence was proven in combat against actual soldiers, not slaughtering civilians like Kaempffer.

When a message written in what the Germans assumed was Romanian was found with the corpse of Steiner, who'd been killed the night before the Einsatzkommando arrived, Kaempffer attempted to bully Tomescu the innkeeper into translating it. Fonescu came forward and explained it wasn't Romanian and he couldn't translate it, but he knew of a Jewish historian named Theodore Cuza who could. Kaempffer pulled strings and had the ailing Dr. Cuza and his daughter Eva taken from the concentration camp they'd been sent to and brought to the keep, dubiously promising (not in so many words) that they'd be spared from the Holocaust if Cuza could translate the message.

Cuza did, saying it was "I will be free." Kaempffer assumed this was in reference to Partisans wanting to be free of Romania's fascist regime, but Cuza pointed out the language it was written in was over 500 years old and no longer spoken aloud. Therefore it couldn't be uneducated Partisan fighters. Kaempffer was visibly unnerved, and set Cuza to work on figuring of what, then, had been doing the killing, as he was by now a little more inclined to believe Woermann's theories about a supernatural force.

He continued to become more and more unglued emotionally as his time in the keep wore on with no outward sign of Cuza making any progress. In reality, Cuza had discovered the identity of the killer, an ancient being named Radu Molasar who was accidentally freed by Lutz and Otto. He simply didn't inform Kaempffer of this because Molasar had restored his youth and he sought to employ the creature as a weapon against the Nazis.

Cuza also used the SS and Kaempffer in particular as his and Molasar's unwitting pawns. When Glaeken Trismegestus arrived seeking to destroy Molasar, Cuza, knowing of Kaempffer's desire for a rational explanation for what was happening, told him of "a stranger" who he thought was connected with the people who paid for the keep to be looked after. An overeager Kaempffer sent his adjutant and a squad to arrest Glaeken, with Cuza's plan being for the Nazis to bring him inside the keep where Molasar could kill him. However the attempted arrest went wrong - Glaeken resisted, killing an Einsatzkommando and then being shot and seemingly killed by the remaining soldiers.

The incident prompted Woermann to finally have it out with Kaempffer, accusing him of cowardice and of needing to kill people to feel powerful. Kaempffer, in turn, pointed out that for all his sentimental talk, Woermann had never actually stood up to the Nazis, making Woermann just as culpable as him. Meanwhile, Molasar attacked and killed all of the Germans, and a panicked Kaempffer murdered Woermann to steal his silver cross. Encountering Molasar, he tried to ward him off with it. However, the cross failed to affect Molasar, who crushed it in his hand after taking it from Kaempffer, and then killed him by sucking his lifeforce out.

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