- "Explore new mysteries of the Dark Aether and join forces with otherworldly allies to stop Oberführer Wolfram Von List and the demon-lord Kortifex from raising an undead Nazi army."
- — Mission briefing
Der Anfang (German: The Beginning) is a Zombies experience featured in Call of Duty: Vanguard. It takes place in the Dark Aether Story introduced in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, serving as the beginning of a new story-arc that acts as a prequel to Die Maschine.
Der Anfang takes place throughout multiple different locations, including the Soviet Union (the "hub" of Der Anfang being Stalingrad), France, and the Empire of Japan. Allied operatives are trapped within a containment spell crafted by a Dark Aether God known as Kortifex the Deathless, where they are forced to fight against an army of the undead commanded by Wolfram Von List, completing various objectives to open up more of Stalingrad. As each objective is completed, similarly to Black Ops Cold War's Outbreak, the difficulty will increase as the "world grows harder". The Allied operatives are assisted by 4 Elder Gods who stand opposed to Kortifex' plans, each of them associated with a Field Upgrade; Norticus the Conqueror, who is associated with Frost Blast, Saraxis the Shadow, who is associated with Energy Mine, Bellekar the Warlock, who is associated with Aether Shroud, and Inviktor the Destroyer, who is associated with Ring of Fire.
There are a total of three objectives in Der Anfang.
Inviktor tasks the player with holding out in a sectioned-off area for a certain amount of time with the goal of surviving as long as possible until extraction, while killing as many enemies as possible to weaken Kortifex' power.
Saraxis tasks the player with fighting zombies in a sectioned-off area, with the goal of killing enemies to drop Runestones. The Runes must be deposited into a Sin Eater obelisk, allowing the Elder God to feast on the "sins" in the Runes and restore her powers. Each player can carry up to 5 Runes and need to deposit between 5 and 9 Runes in the Sin Eater depending on the number of players in a match. Once the Sin Eater is full, it will move to another location in the area. The Runes need to be deposited a total of three times.
Bellekar, with the aid of Gabriel Krafft, uses a device consisting of a floating zombie head and a rune-sealed transmitter, with the goal of contacting allies within the Dark Aether to assist against Kortifex. Players are tasked with escorting the zombie head across the map, all the while fighting off enemies and staying in an area of effect.
The bomb hits the ground, exploding, as the shot cuts to Wolfram Von List watching the fight outside. The lights in the surrounding buildings all go out, including in Von List's office. Von List tightens his grip on a knife in anger as he grits his teeth.
Von List looks at two Jägermörder, signaling for them to leave the room. They obey.
Von List stabs his knife onto a map while shouting.
Krafft: They were led by the most dangerous man I ever met. Oberführer Wolfram Von List. It was he who destroyed my life, unt cost me my soul.
Krafft: Von List gathered experts from across the Reich, archaeologists, explorers, historians, and authorities on the occult -- like myself. We were forced to help them loot sacred antiquities, but none of the relics we found gave Von List the power he craved. Then, something happened in Poland that changed everything.
The map shows Poland and a miniature replica of the Projekt Endstation cyclotron. The shot then zooms back out of the map onto the first-person perspective of Von List, who looks through photos taken at Projekt Endstation, including one of Ulrich Vogel and Oskar Strauss, as well as one of the cyclotron activating.
A faint groan of a Zombie can be heard as Von List puts down the photo.
Krafft: Many miles away, five of our artifacts suddenly... awakened.
An artifact begins to glow red, as Von List looks at it with intrigue. He reaches for the artifact, as it flies into his hand, energy shooting up into his arm.
Krafft: Ancient spirits, demons, if you will, beckoned from these otherworldly relics, whispering a promise of power.
Krafft: And, of course, Von List accepted.
Kortifex manifests in front of Von List as the Oberführer's face relaxes, placing his arms behind his back. Cut to an eclipsed moon as Jägermörder toss dead corpses onto a pile at Stalingrad. Von List reaches his hand out towards the pile as a glowing rune of Kortifex appears in the air. A Zombie's hand raises up, climbing it's way out of the pile as others of its kind begin to awaken. Von List reaches his other arm out, devilishly-grinning as he commands his new undead army to rise.
Krafft: He now has the power to raise the dead, and they plan to take back everything the Nazis lost. All the troops he will ever require lay frozen in the mass graves of the Eastern Front.
Kortifex manifests again, this time behind Von List as the two journey forward to begin their conquest of Europe.
Krafft: To stop this unholy army, I must find allies... or the thousand-year Reich will consume us all.
- Main article: Der Anfang/Radios
There are a total of 19 radios in Der Anfang.