SS officer Major Taussig is in the running for the most utterly vile character in Hornets' Nest. And that's no small feat.
When we first see Taussig at the beginning, he's coolly ordering the massacre of the entire adult population of the Italian village of Reanoto for (supposedly) helping Scarpi's partisans, all while the children of the village look on in horror from afar.
Naturally, in a movie that's all about vengeance, he's going to get his, but the avenging angel (of a sort) is the most unexpected sort.
Following the massacre, Taussig had Reanoto turned into the SS' new headquarters in the region, because he's a bastard like that. In return for helping him with his mission to destroy the Della Norte Dam, American officer Captain Turner has agreed to teach the sole survivors of Reanoto, its children, how to use guns and kill, so they can take revenge against Taussig and his men.
In the meantime, the death of Corporal Gunther has really pissed off Taussig's superior, Colonel Jannings, who has been itching to make the hunt for Turner and the kids an SS-led affair. And with Gunther's death he has his excuse: vengeance for killing an SS member. He's also got it into his head that Turner wants to blow up the Grimaldi Tunnel, not the Della Norte Dam.
So it is that stern and uncompromising Wehrmacht officer Captain Friedrich von Hecht and his regular army troops find themselves forced to report to Reanoto, now draped in Nazi flags and SS banners, to receive their marching orders from the town's destroyer himself, Taussig.
As per Jannings' bizarre theories, it is not to the dam, but to the tunnel, that they go. But the children aren't to be denied their vengeance, as the bulk of the SS (all except for Taussig and his lieutenant, really) are still in the town whose entire population they wiped out. Turner barrels through main street in a stolen troop truck as the kids fire from the back with their guns and kill everything they see. By the time the American and the kiddies are through, every single SS member lies dead or dying and the town is a smoldering ruin.
When the other Germans return, Taussig is stunned and goes into a state of shock. Taking advantage of his SS "colleague's" state, von Hecht takes charge and orders the other surviving SS officer to go do some menial task, and steers Taussig into one of the corpse-filled buildings for a heart to heart.
He tries to persuade Taussig that Turner was behind the attack and intends to hit the dam next, demanding that Taussig order reinforcements sent to the dam. But the Major is regaining his old fire, and he refuses to listen. "Don't give me orders, Captain!" he bellows.
Deciding to move out to the dam with or without Taussig's permission, and to hell with the consequences, von Hecht orders his loyal sergeant Schwalberg to get the other Wehrmacht guys they came with and get ready to leave.
"You'll go nowhere, Schwalberg!" yells Taussig.
Schwalberg hesitates. Taussig turns to go, and this is the last straw for von Hecht, who whips out his Luger and levels it at the SS Major's back, yelling after him.
Taussig turns and starts to tell him off when he sees the gun, and then von Hecht shoots him through the stomach without a second thought, much to the surprise of Schwalberg.
Taussig remains standing upright for a few seconds, mouth open in mute shock, before he slowly pitches over backwards and sprawls on the floor, his head coming to rest against a bloodied portrait of Adolf Hitler.
Von Hecht puts his Luger into Taussig's hand. When the SS lieutenant, who heard the shot, comes running, Captain von Hecht passes Taussig's death off as suicide. "The shock of the incident was too much for the Major." Schwalberg neither confirms nor denies this, and the lieutenant swallows it and obeys the Wehrmacht officer's command to remain in command here while he takes his men and goes to the dam.
After he departs, von Hecht muses, "Better find another pistol, Schwalberg. I seem to have misplaced mine," then primly marches off.
Getting the idea, Schwalberg retrieves his superior's sidearm from the dead SS officer's hand.