Zeb and some of the things he likes


Zeb has been a friend for several years. He likes Medieval objects and his walls are holders for a sword, axe, shield, pictures of castles, and a banner his mother made from ideas she got from one of his favorite book series--"The Wheel of Time". I put some of these things with a photo of him together using Photoshop to make the above picture. Following is a story he wrote denoting the thoughts of three German soldiers on the Russian Front during WWII.


Patriots, Rationales

By J. Zeb Oswald


Hans

"Seven of us remain. I have just loaded my last clip."

Snow and ice haung on the walls, little more than skeletons of walls. A fire offered no relief from the bitter cold under the feeble canvas roof.

"The enemy will be here any moment." Searching for the right words. "Tell my father that I know now how to die."

"Long live Germany. Heil Hitler."

The radio went dead.

Do you still doubt me, will this make you proud? Nothing has. Hans hesitantly reached for his rifle. This is what you would have wanted, the only way. Hans stood. I must do this.

"We can still surrender," a nearby soldier demanded.

"Never!" Hans retorted almost without thought. "Such talk is treason."

"No; Hitler betrayed us, sending us here to die, and for nothing!"

The soldier stepped forward. Hans stood firm, facing his new adversary. New? No the same adversary he'd always faced, his father, only now the harsh voice was that of this soldier.

"We will die for Germany, not for Hitler."

"What purpose do our deaths serve?"

"It is our duty." Hans' father would approve.

"I refuse to die for duty," the soldier was unmoved. "The Russian camps are bad, but not worse than death."

"We must hold them here until..."

"Until what? Until we die?"

"Yes!"

"You really want that, don't you?" he turned abruptly. "Well, if you wish to die, do it without me." He walked out.

"Coward!"

Is it a death wish? That coward is trying to fool me and it won't work! I will make my father proud.


Outside the Russians have begun to move, though still quite far off. Clouds have broken, the noon sun just now showing. Distant plumes of smoke announce oncoming tanks, two, Russian; their growl faintly challenging the silence.

Six remaining soldiers take up positions at strategic points throughout the warehouse. Slim shafts of sunlight stream through holes in the canvas coverings, ignored. The fire, nothing more than smoldering embers, spat at the wind tearing through temporary walls. Crouched at their posts, scanning for possible targets, the six waited.


Hans, white knuckled, gripped his rifle. "Any moment now. It will be over, all of it. Everything."

Snow jumped into the air kicked up by the impact of a bullet in the frozen earth near him.

The Russians were in range.

Once silent machine guns now crackled with ferocity. Holes materialized in the nearly perforated warehouse. Careful to stay out of the line of fire, the Russians approached German positions. Five fell, followed quickly by six more as the Germans fought desperately. The remaining Russians dropped behind what cover the ruins of buildings offered.

"Three more rounds." Hans lowered his rifle. "The tanks will finish us."

A tank burst through the remains of a wall behind him. More bullets. Another German gone.

Gun fire ceased. The tank, hungry predator, slowly turned its smoking turret, scanning for prey.

Amid the rubble, dirt and brick, lay a grey uniform and dented helmet. Hans wheezed.

"Father," rasping, "be proud."

The rasping ceased.



Gunther

How did it come to this? Gunther moved slightly away from the radio, its incessant reminder of just where this had come. We're going to die, and for what?

Yes, sir! All this way only to die for nothing. Why doin't we just surrender? No one will know, but us. At least then we'd have a chance of surviving.

"We can still surrender," Gunther demanded.

"Never! Such talk is treason," retorted the radioman.

Gunther approached him, intent, "No; Hitler betrayed us, sending us here to die, and for nothing!"

"We will die for Germany, not for Hitler."

"What purpose do our deaths serve?"

"It is our duty."

"I refuse to die for duty." Gunther stared through the radioman, the anger causing him to shake now.

"The Russian camps are bad, but not worse than death."

"We must hold them here until..."

"Until what? Until we die?"

"Yes!"

"you really want that, don't you?" Gunther turned abruply, "Well, if you wish to die, do it without me." He walked out.

"Coward!"


A sea of white spreads out for miles, a small form retreats from the warehouse through waist deep snow drifts, gait brisk, head forward, shielding his face from the chilling breeze.

Red-faced, shivering, Gunther slowly moved forward. "There is never an enemy patrol around when you need one. At least if one showed up I could get out of this cold" Eyes focussing upon visiblebreath, "Fire would be nice, some food, maybe a bed, some blankets."

Gunther's pace slowed, legs fatigued and numb from the bitter cold, fingers blue with it. "A fire, just a little one, something to kill this wretched cold! What's that?"

Smoke rose as if from forty different points on the horizon.

"Thank God."


A half-track rolled over snow covered fields, smaller vehicles following. Smoke billowed from manic diesel engines.

Inside, among the driver, the radio, and seventeen Russian troops, sat a half-frozen man, fingers and nose black, brostbit.

They're nothing more than boys, as I was four years ago. Gunther looked into the eyes of the troops. At least they fight to keep their homes. I fought for nothing.

How could I be so blind to believe the broadcasts? Brave soldiers fighting for a better world... it is natural and imparative for Germany to expand. Why?

Only now do I think for myself.



Soldier

That's it then; we are going to die in this place. Standing quickly, turning his back to the radio, another loaded his rifle moving toward the door to take his turn watching for the enemy. It was my duty; I am here because I am needed. Am I?

Squatting near the door, he took up the watch. The fire struggled to beat back the cold. Why bother? They are coming. He glanced at the door. They know where we are, that we're about out of ammo. We could surrender, but we can't surrender without orders. Orders? It's been three weeks waiting for orders.

Others argued nearby. "I refuse to die for duty," one said to the radioman. "The Russian camps are bad, but not worse than death."

Head turned, attentive, are they? I heard different. Some officers said they burn prisoners alive. They wouldn't lie. Would they?

"You really want that, don't you?" the one turned abruptly. "Well, if you wish to die, do it without me."

He can't just leave! Maybe he can. I can't. I would't last long in a P.O.W. camp and a bullet is referable to starving and freezing. What I wouldn't give to get out of this cold wasteland; can hardly feel my fingers. Wonder if I could even use this gun.

The report of a rifle slayed the silence.

It's too late to run. Make it quick!

Machine guns roared, a number o Russians fell prey to the last shells of the German defenders. The remaining Russians scrambled for cover.

Silence was reborn.

Out of ammo, he dropped the gun, sitting down on the cold earth. I can't believe we're not dead yet. This waiting, all this waiting. Why don't they just end it? Tears, held inside for too long, rolled down his fatigued face.

Snow crunching under the weight of its treads, a T-32 tank thundered toward the remains of the warehouse. Spraying the building, machine-gun fire took two Germans. The tank, now looming inside, stood silent, menacing.

Sitting near the door, the soldier stood suddenly.

"Finish it! Just finish it," he said.

Bullets tore apart his chest.


The End

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