HILDA ZEMO

Real Name: Hilda Zemo

Identity/Class: Human (German) (20th Century; 1900-1929 and 1930-1945 periods)

Occupation: 12th Baroness of Zemo, housewife and mother

Affiliations: Captain America (Steve Rogers), Bucky (James Barnes)

EnemiesBaron Zemo (Heinrich Zemo), Master Man (Willie Lohmer); Adolf Hitler and all other members of the Nazi Party of Germany, Third Reich soldiers

Known Relatives: Heinrich, 12th Baron of Zemo (husband), Helmut, 13th Baron of Zemo (son)

Aliases: Baroness Zemo, Janice Dare

Base of Operations: Madrid, Spain
   formerly Castle Zemo, Leipzig, Germany

First Appearance: Captain America I#168 (December, 1973)

Powers/Abilities: None

Height: 6' (or slightly less, estimated)
Weight: Unrevealed
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Black or blonde (see comments)

History:
(Captain America I#168 (fb) - BTS) <1916 A.D.> - Somewhere in Germany a baby girl was born whose parents (or guardians) chose to name her "Hilda." Her full birth name has never been revealed.

(Captain America I#168 (fb) - BTS / Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - At some point in the 1930's, Hilda met, fell in love with and married Heinrich, 12th Baron of Zemo. Hilda later gave birth to the couple's first and only child, a son they named Helmut.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - At some point, Hilda posed for a family photograph in which she stood beside her husband while holding their young son in her arms. This photograph would later be used in a 1943 "News On the March" newsreel story about her husband.

(Captain America I#168  (fb) / Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Despite Heinrich's close association with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, the Zemo family had a happy home life. Heinrich was a loving husband and father, and Hilda and Helmut both loved him.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - On one occasion, Hilda visited her husband at his secret laboratory near the Berlin Zoological Gardens.

(Avengers I#6 (fb) - BTS / Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) <early 1942> - Due to an Allied propaganda campaign, Heinrich Zemo became "the most hated man in Europe" and he began wearing a hood to conceal his identity so that his victims would not know who he was.

(Avengers I#6 (fb)/Captain America I#168 (fb)) <1942> - One day, while working in one of his labs on a new and powerful glue he called Adhesive X, Heinrich was confronted by Captain America, During their fight, the American's shield shattered the vat containing the glue and some of the Adhesive X poured over Heinrich's head, seeping through his hood and bonding it forever to his face.

(Captain America I#168  (fb) / Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Having his hood permanently attached to his face drove Heinrich mad, and his madness caused him to rage and fume and even take his hatred out on his family. On (at least) one occasion, Hilda was present when Heinrich struck their son, Helmut.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Hilda overheard enough about her husband's latest project to realize that it involved Nikola Tesla's discoveries.

(Captain America I#168  (fb) - BTS / Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) <late 1942> - Heinrich Zemo disappeared, leaving his wife and son behind. Hilda knew that her husband's latest "hellish device for Hitler" involved Nikola Tesla's discoveries and she felt compelled to try to warn Tesla.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) <November, 1942> - Since the Nazis kept a close eye on both her and Helmut, Hilda resolved to escape by faking her death. She chose to act when Helmut had had a cold for a whole week, and the last thing she ever told her son was that he should always love his father, no matter what he did.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb)) - One night, while it was raining, Hilda managed to elude her Nazi guards long enough to send her automobile crashing into the local river. Hilda hoped that Helmut's sincere grief would convince the Nazis that she had died and that her body had been washed away in the rain-swollen river.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - The news services reported that Baroness Zemo had died in an auto accident. Helmut never fully believed that his mother was dead but (apparently) didn't let anyone know of his suspicions.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - Hilda made her way to Madrid, Spain, possibly dying her hair blonde at some point along the way. Hilda (may have) began using the alias "Miss Janice Dare" and may (or may not) have rented a room at the Ritz Hotel under that name. On December 3rd, 1942, Hilda wrote a letter to Dr. Tesla warning him that his life and his secrets were in grave danger, and asking him to inquire about her at the (front) desk of the Ritz Hotel. Hilda signed the letter as "Janice Dare."

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - After posting the letter, "Janice Dare" began to stop by the hotel's front desk every morning and tell the desk clerk where she would be for that day.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 - BTS) <January 7th, 1943> - Master Man and several Nazi agents broke into Dr. Tesla's apartment in the Hotel New Yorker to steal papers which held some of Tesla's notes about his discoveries. Captain America and Bucky defeated the three Nazi agents, but Master Man started a fire in Tesla's bedroom and escaped with the notes. Before he died, Tesla managed to direct Captain America's attention to the letter from Janice Dare.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 - BTS) - With FBI Agent Winchell, Captain America and Bucky watched a "News On the March" newsreel about Baron Zemo's origins, which showed his wife and revealed that Heinrich Zemo had known Tesla. Captain America announced that he and Bucky were heading to Spain on the first available flight to find "that woman in Madrid."

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1) - Two days (at least) later, "Janice Dare" was at the Plaza de Toros watching a bullfight when she was approached by a blond man and his younger, brown-haired companion. When the blond man asked her if she was Janice Dare, the woman who had written to Nikola Tesla in New York, Hilda feared that the men might have been Gestapo (Nazi secret police) so she lied and claimed that she didn't know what he was talking about. When the blond man revealed that Tesla had been murdered and asked what else she knew, Hilda told them to go away but then accidentally backed into the railing and fell over it into the ring. As her red clothing attracted the bull, Hilda was frozen in fear, and the blond man removed his outer clothing, revealing himself as Captain America, and then jumped onto the bull and guided it away from Hilda. After using a makeshift shield to knock the bull unconscious and refusing to finish it off, Captain America and Bucky quickly escorted Hilda out of the bull-ring. Once outside, the American hero revealed that he recognized her as the supposedly-deceased "Baroness Zemo" from her photo and asked her what she knew about Master Man murdering Tesla. Hilda asked him not to call her by that title and stated that she loathed all Nazis except for her husband, whom she would always love, no matter what he did. Hilda then revealed how her husband had changed since he'd been trapped beneath his hood and how she had faked her death in order to escape and send a warning to Tesla. When Captain America suggested that the baron could still be stopped if she had any idea where he was, Hilda stated that she knew exactly where he was and offered to take them to him if they would swear to not kill her husband and to try to bring her son out of Germany. Captain America agreed to her conditions and tried to persuade her that it was too dangerous for her to return to the Reich, but Hilda insisted on going with them and he relented. The trio then set off for Berlin.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (fb) - BTS) - During their journey from Madrid to Berlin, Hilda told Captain America and Bucky certain things about her son, including the fact that he could speak English, that he had a dog named "Schotzie" (but his father made him call it "Rosenvelt"), that he had had a cold for the whole week before her supposed death, and that the last thing she had told him was that he should always love his father, no matter what he did.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1) - After arriving in Berlin, Hilda guided the two Americans through the city. When Bucky referred to Berlin as "the Nazi capital," Hilda corrected him, stating that most Germans were not Nazis and did not want the war. Captain America then mentioned that there was no organized resistance to Hitler in Germany and Hilda asked, "Then what, pray tell, am I?" As they neared the city's zoo, Hilda revealed that, since Castle Zemo was not yet fully rebuilt, her husband was working in his secret laboratory near the Berlin Zoological Gardens. After Hilda led them to the door that led to the laboratory which she had once visited, Captain America forced the door open, and the trio descended the stairs. Partway down, Cap told Bucky to stop and guard their rear and tried to tell Hilda to stay with Bucky, but she refused to obey and continued to lead Cap to the laboratory. Once inside, the duo saw Baron Zemo sitting at a desk with his back to them, and Hilda reminded Captain America of his promise to not hurt her husband. He replied that his promise had been to not kill Zemo but the point was moot because the seated figure turned out to be only a mannequin wearing a copy of Zemo's hood. 

    At that moment the lights came on, revealing that Baron Zemo and Master Man were looking down at them from an upper level. Baron Zemo stated that he had expected that the "Yankee" might somehow have trailed Master Man to Berlin but expressed his surprise that it was his "dear departed wife" who had led him there. Hilda tried to explain herself but Baron Zemo told her to be silent and that he should shoot her down where she stood. Captain America then claimed that he had forced her to lead him to Zemo, but Hilda refused to hide behind him. She proclaimed her love for Heinrich but denounced the Nazis he served as "evil incarnate" and begged her husband to send their son out of Germany so that he would not grow up to become what Heinrich had become. Unaffected by her words, Baron Zemo told Master Man that he should execute both of the intruders now, and Master Man leaped to obey. Hilda watched as Captain America and Master Man battled each other until Baron Zemo, to make sure that Cap wouldn't escape, ordered his troops to open fire on both of them. Seeing that Cap's shoulder had been wounded, Hilda rushed to his side, and the soldiers captured both of them. As Hilda tried to call out to Heinrich, the soldier who was holding her put a hand over her mouth to keep her quiet, forcing her to watch in silence as two other soldiers beat on Captain America while Master Man savagely killed the soldier who had shot Cap. Baron Zemo then ordered the soldiers to take Captain America and his "dear wife" to the holding chamber so that they, the two whom he "despised most in all the world," would be the very first victims of his new Medusa Effect death ray.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 - BTS) - Meanwhile, Bucky, who had been forced to flee from the zoo by the arrival of the soldiers, sought out Helmut and was able to use the information Hilda had provided to convince Helmut that he might be telling the truth about his mother being still alive. Helmut demanded to be taken to see Hilda, and Bucky took him to the baron's secret lab, using a secret private entrance known to Helmut. However, once inside the lab and close to his father, Helmut betrayed Bucky, causing him to be captured by Zemo's troops. Helmut then asked his father if his mother was still alive but Zemo lied, telling Helmut that his mother was indeed dead but that, in memory of her, he would allow Helmut to be the first person to fire his Medusa Cannon and shoot down any British bombers that might attack Berlin that night.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1) - In the base's holding cell, Hilda bandaged Captain America‚Äôs wounded shoulder as best she could. When Cap asked if the baron really meant to kill her too, Hilda replied that she had betrayed him in three ways: by faking her death, by trying to warn Tesla and by leading Cap to his lab. As Hilda apologized for leading him to his death, Captain America reminded her that they were both very much alive and they suddenly shared a passionate kiss. 

    Pulling away, Hilda said she shouldn't have done that because she was still Heinrich's wife and she loved him but Cap was so much like what she had thought Heinrich to be when they were both young. As Hilda admitted that she was so confused, Cap decided to turn his attention to breaking down the reinforced steel door. As Cap repeatedly rammed the door, Hilda called for him to stop because his shoulder had begun to bleed again, but Cap ignored her, and Hilda was soon amazed to see that the door was beginning to buckle. As the door collapsed outward, knocked off its hinges, Hilda warned him to look out for the two soldiers standing guard, and seconds later she was shot when the guards tried to kill Cap. Enraged, Cap quickly dealt with the guards, then checked on Hilda who revealed that her hip had been shattered by the bullet. Cap offered to carry her out of there but Hilda refused, stating that it was the world and even Germany that he must now save from men like Hitler and Heinrich. Hilda then asked that if he couldn't come back for her, perhaps he could save her son, but Cap promised to be back for her.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1 - BTS) - Reaching the Medusa Cannon's control room, Captain America's surprise attack knocked out Master Man. As he turned to concentrate on Baron Zemo, Helmut asked about his mother, and Cap assured him that she was all right but he was forced to stop talking and use his shield to protect himself and Helmut from the baron's gunfire. As he battled Captain America, Baron Zemo fell against his cannon and changed its line of fire so that, when Helmut tried to fire on the bombers overhead, the now-misaimed cannon fired through part of Berlin instead of up into the air. The cannon then blew up, causing the underground base to begin to collapse. Helmut was knocked unconscious by some falling rubble, making it easier for Captain America and Bucky to take him with them as they evacuated.

(Captain America Medusa Effect#1) - On their way out of the crumbling base, Captain America and Bucky reached the location where Hilda was lying amidst some fallen debris, unconscious and bleeding from head wounds. As Cap cleared the debris away, Hilda revived and asked, "Where is...?" Cap showed her that Bucky was carrying Helmut and told her he was just scratched but Hilda replied, "Helmut...yes...I knew you'd help him...wherever he was." Then, with tears in her eyes, Hilda said, "But...I was asking about...Heinricccccc"

   With those last words, Hilda Zemo closed her eyes and died, causing Cap to shed some tears. As even more rubble fell, Captain America and Bucky were forced to leave with Helmut as quickly as they could, leaving Hilda's body behind to lie buried in the rubble. After noticing that Helmut had revived and fled from them, Cap eulogized Hilda, stating that Helmut's mother had loved her son so much more than his father ever would, and he declared that the rubble in which she was buried was "a monument to mass destruction, reared by both sides!" Captain America and Bucky then ended their "holiday in Fortress Europe."

 

(Captain America I#168 (fb)) - When Hilda Zemo's body was (later) buried (or reburied?) in a graveyard, young Helmut was there, weeping.

(Captain America I#168 (fb)) - Helmut Zemo kept a framed photograph of his parents.

(Captain America I#168 - BTS) - Decades later, when Helmut (as the Phoenix) confronted Captain America, he told the American Super-Soldier that his mother had died soon after his father had disappeared because "she had not wanted to continue living without him." Helmut stated that he had lived his life plagued by a burning hatred for the man whom he blamed for the loss of his family: Captain America!

 

 

Comments: Created by Roy Thomas & Tony Isabella, Sal Buscema, and J. Tartag & G. Roussos.

   In Captain America Medusa Effect#1, young Helmut Zemo is a member of the Hitler Youth, and he states that nearly everyone his age belongs to the Hitlerjugend. However, this creates a potential chronology problem since that organisation was for male youths aged 14 to 18. If Helmut was 14 years old in January of 1942, then that would mean that he must have been born no later than January of 1928...when his mother Hilda was no more than 12 years old! There was a sub-group for German boys aged 10 to 14 but it was called the Deutsches Jungvolka and even that would mean that Hilda was only 15 years old when she gave birth to Helmut. Of course, it's also possible that Heinrich's ties to Hitler enabled Helmut to join the Hitler Youth before he had reached the normal minimum age.

   In his first appearance in Captain America I#168, Helmut told Captain America that Heinrich had left his family and disappeared because the Allies were fast approaching Berlin and that his mother had died soon afterwards because she had not wanted to continue living without her husband. This should have meant that Hilda Zemo's death occurred in 1945 but Helmut is shown remembering visiting his mother's grave where the headstone lists "1943" as her year of death. So, apparently the story that Helmut told to Captain America was somewhat inaccurate. Captain America Medusa Effect#1 acts as a retroactive correction to Helmut's earlier story by moving Hilda's death to two years earlier than Helmut had originally implied.

   In her letter to Dr. Tesla, Hilda wrote that he would not remember her, presumably because she signed the letter as "Janice Dare." So, did Hilda Zemo actually know Nikola Tesla? When Heinrich Zemo met Tesla in the U.S.A. in 1933, Hilda would have been only 16/17 years old. Would she have been married to Heinrich already? If not, then it seems unlikely that Hilda would have accompanied Heinrich on his trip. Maybe she just knew OF Tesla and, as a good person, wanted to keep him from harm?

   Although Hilda used the name "Janice Dare" when she signed her letter to Tesla, she may not have used that name when she checked into the Ritz Hotel. The desk clerk did not think that anyone by that name was registered at the hotel and only recognized the person Steve Rogers was looking for when he mentioned that she had told him to inquire at the desk about her. This could mean that Hilda had registered at the hotel under yet another alias, a third name which has never been revealed. Or maybe the clerk just didn't have a good memory for names.

   According to the gravestone depicted in Captain America I#168, Hilda Zemo was born in 1916 and died in 1943 so, unless her birthday was in the first week of January, she was only 26 years old when she died. It would be nice to have some firm data about when she married Heinrich and when she gave birth to Helmut. As it is, we can only presume that she was at least 16 when she married Heinrich (in 1932?) and, depending on how quickly she became pregnant, she could have still been 16 when she gave birth (possibly later in that same year?)

   In Captain America Medusa Effect#1, Captain America, Bucky and Agent Winchell watched a "News On the March" newsreel about Baron Zemo, "The Man Behind the Crimson Mask." The newsreel claims that Zemo's encounter with the Howling Commandos took place in "early 1942" and that it was because of leaflets dropped by the Americans a few days later that Heinrich felt forced to wear that red mask/hood that ended up being permanently glued to his head. However, at least one other story (Wolverine: Origins#20) showed Heinrich wearing that hood even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (on December 7th, 1941) which caused the United States to enter into World War II.

Hair colors of the Zemos
   In their first appearance in Captain America I#168, Hilda Zemo was depicted as having black hair while her son had blond hair (both as a child and as an adult) and her husband had brown hair. However, in Captain America Medusa Effect#1, Hilda has blonde hair, and Helmut's hair is reddish-blond. Since Hilda is only shown with blonde hair after she had faked her death in order to escape from her Nazi guards, it's reasonable to presume that she may have dyed her hair from black to blonde as part of her scheme for hiding her true identity. Then again, in the family photograph taken of her with her young son, Hilda's hair seems to be darker than blonde but definitely not black. Maybe she just liked dying her hair?

Profile by Donald Campbell.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Baroness Hilda Zemo has no known connections to:


images: (without ads)
Captain America I#168, page 14, panel 4 (main image)
Captain America Medusa Effect#1, page 29, panel 3 (head shot)
      page 13, panel 2 (family photo)
Captain America I#168, page 14, panel 5 (Heinrich strikes Helmut)
Captain America Medusa Effect#1, page 47, panel 5 (Hilda and Cap kiss)
      page 59, panel 6 (place of death)
Captain America I#168, page 14, panel 6 (grave)

Note: When counting the pages in the Captain America Medusa Effect one-shot, I considered the credits page as page 1. However, the Marvel Chronology Project does not, which explains why the page numbers of the flashbacks on their list for Baroness Hilda Zemo are one page less than the page numbers I have listed for the images.


Appearances:
Captain America I#168 (December, 1973) - Roy Thomas & Tony Isabella (writers), Sal Buscema (artist), J. Tartag & G. Roussos (inkers), Roy Thomas (plotter/editor)
Captain America Medusa Effect#1 (March, 1994) - Roy Thomas (writer), Rich Buckler and M.C. Wyman (pencilers), Jim Sanders III and Andrew Pepoy (inkers), Mike Rockwitz (editor)


Last updated: 10/23/13

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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