EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 2
Otto gathered himself and slowly moved off the square. As he was creeping through the clutter, he heard off to his left a very troubled gasping for breath. Otto walked around the Panther tank the mechanics had been working on and came to a young soldier lying on his back with his head propped upon a dented petrol can. The soldier was shaking profusely with his hands up in a clenched manner in pain. His chest was torn apart. Tears washed away the blood on his face while running down its side. Otto knelt down next to the soldier eyeing him top to bottom. He’s a mess, Otto thought. Mistaking his shivering for cold, Otto began looking around for a blanket and found a window curtain. He folded it in two and covered the soldier from his feet to his neck. Otto reached into his pocket and took out the piece of chocolate the major had given him, the one he was saving. He paused for a time, looking at the distorted shape of the chocolate with intense thought and wonder.
“Hmm, I do not feel like parting with it. It would be wasted on this sorry figure before me. He will be dead in a matter of time. It probably even came from Neumann’s Bakery. A shame really. Such a waste.”
Otto stared back down at the shaking soldier and put the chocolate into the soldier’s mouth. The soldier began chewing slowly, and a slight smile came to his face, changing the falling course of his tears. Otto stood up, suddenly startled, his eyes becoming alert and paranoid. Off in the distance, he could hear the scurrying of boots and the metal
sound of rifle slings swinging back and forth. He could always recognize the distinctive movements of German troops by the sounds of their hobnailed boots clicking on the ground. These were not those sounds. These were Russians. Otto made haste and ran quickly through the dark, bypassing good hiding places for the better choice of distancing himself from the threat. As he ran, he heard a lone pistol shot come from the square and could only imagine the Russians had come across the wounded young German soldier. At least he died with a smile on his face, Otto thought. Chocolate will do that.
EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER 6
Bormann went to the Führer’s desk and quickly and carelessly opened the drawers, reaching in and pulling the Führer’s papers and personal effects out, eyeing their contents, and then throwing them aside if they did not meet his interest.
“Curse you. Where is it? Where is that damn document? Where did he hide it? Where has it...” Bormann paused. Slowly, his mouth opened and his eyes widened as his skin whitened. He stood up straight then turned and sat down in the Führer’s chair. “It, it has left here.”
Bormann sighed heavily, anger and twisted hate coming to his thoughts. “It is with that Jew. Right under my very nose. That despicable Jew. My Führer has left us to a grim end without martyrdom. He has deceived us. We will be made a mockery.”
Bormann quieted his rage, his skin now finding color. He rose from the Führer’s chair and walked with speed from the study. His strides stopped for nothing, either human or concrete. He came into Goebbels’ personal chamber unannounced and found him there, quiet and reflective at his desk. Bormann stood in front of Goebbels, his manner stern and desperate. He was breathing heavily, and his rage reappeared.
“We are in grave danger, Reich Chancellor.”
“Yes, and how so?”
“The document, the one we all signed, has gone from the bunker. I fear it will fall
to enemy hands. If found, we will be held accountable, responsible. Condemned. The lower classes of the world. The West. The Russians. They do not subscribe to our necessary acts. They will not understand the work we have done, work that was given to us by the Almighty. The Prophets of the next coming. Our escape and continuation of the Nazi way, our new government will be compromised. We must act quickly I beg of you!”
Goebbels sat back, still relaxed, his elbows on the edge of the chair arms. His hands held his chin; his index fingers came to a point upon his lips. He listened, but he was more intrigued by Bormann’s performance. His voice was quiet with little worry.
“Ah, that document. Yes, we’ve all signed it. No matter, Herr Bormann, it concerns me not at this late hour. Our great leader has chosen his path into a valiant and mighty ending, one that will live in infamy to be sure. The truth is that he insisted that I follow his orders to live, to carry out the prophecy and further its philosophies. However,
it would be treasonous to abandon the Führer at such a great moment in history. My family and I will join him.”
Bormann stood utterly shocked. His little performance had had no effect upon Goebbels. Having one last arrow in his quiver, he pulled his bow to a draw. “My great and supreme Goebbels,” he appealed, “our signatures, they will condemn us for our deeds.”
Goebbels remained motionless and silently laughed to himself. “My, my dear Bormann, your manipulative plays have no bearing upon my mind. Be done with your conniving chants. Word has been sent to Admiral Dönitz of the Führer’s death. Perhaps you should take your performance to him.”
Bormann relaxed his stance. His mind found a new strategy to play. He turned from Goebbels, beginning to take his leave. Goebbels stayed seated, his eyes following Bormann to the door.
“Bormann,” Goebbels softly beckoned. Bormann stopped, raised his head, but did not turn to face Goebbels. “Remember this. We are but the puppets in this production. Nothing but crudely painted wooden dolls with strings attached. When the world has its voice again, it will remember one figure after all this comes to a conclusion. That will be the Führer. You and I? We are fleeting personalities. History will write nothing of us. We are not worthy of remembrance. Historians will relieve us from our part in this vicious life. Go. Find your end in whatever way you must. Write your own tale, Bormann, if you so choose.”
Bormann continued his leave of Goebbels’ chamber and hurried down the corridor back to his office. “Fool of a mystic,” he huffed from his pursed lips. “What is power and the greatness of a deity if you’re not alive to reap the spoils and bathe in its gifts? Does no one understand this? No. I will live to see that my name reigns with great power.”
EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER 9
Otto and Joseph darted through the trees along the river bank, awkwardly at first until their eyes adjusted to the darkness. The deathly sounds of the battle raged behind them, slowly fading as they pushed for distance.
“Ouch!” cried Joseph. “Damn. I hate these mosquitoes. They must be drawn to my damp clothing and the heat of my body.”
“Funny, they’re not pestering me. They must be drawn to that pure, superior Aryan blood I have heard about on and off for the past five years.”
“Ah, good of you to recognize my saintly qualities, Jew. Father would not share in your sarcasm lest it not be the truth.”
“Yes, quite. Oh, by the way, we are one for one in saving each other.”
“How so?” asked Joseph, halting his lead as he turned to confront Otto.
“Well, technically, I saved your life on the bridge. Yes, Joseph, don’t make that
face with me. I woke you when you were knocked out cold. The way that battle is still polluting the air with its grip, I’m sure you would have been killed by now.”
“Ah, yes. Perhaps. Except your math is faulty, as I have saved your life twice. Once in the subway station and again in the bunker from Herr Bormann’s wrath.”
“No, no, no, Joseph. Both of those times you did not know who you were saving, so they don’t really count. Technically, that is. I, on the other hand, more or less knew who you were on the bridge. I chose to save you. I gave you a point because you hesitated in shooting me in the dining room with Herr Bormann. You had the time. You hesitated out of choice. Circumstance intervened and was the decider in saving me, as we were interrupted.”
“I was confused. You were wearing the clothes of the Hitler Youth. Well, sort of. You were in the bunker, and you are a Jew. The excitement of the situation clouded my judgment. Under different circumstances, we would not be having this conversation.” Joseph moved close to Otto’s face. “You would be dead.” He paused, letting his sentence linger, then he turned and moved on.
Otto whispered to himself softly, so that Joseph could not hear, “Well, so much for trying to start getting on his ‘good’ side, Corporal Huber. This is like meeting a brick wall. Perhaps I need to go around the back way.” Otto continued to follow Joseph, speeding his steps to catch up to him.
“We need to find a place of warmth, Jew. The air is crisp, and the wind howls, spreading its chill and slowing our steps.”
“Agreed. We must get off this river and rid ourselves of its dampness. We need to find concealment that allows not only warmth but a good escape route, should we need it.”
Darkness grew upon their path as Otto and Joseph worked their way inland, heading on a more northernly route. They came upon the outskirts of Berlin proper, a more rural part of the city. The story was more of the same. Destruction had had its voice. Homes were in a shambles. Wreckage, both civilian and military, shared the same fate. Animals of all kinds, dogs, cows, and horses, littered the ground rotting, their bellies bloated with internal gases not yet finding their way to less disturbed air. Fires burned sporadically, some larger than others. Some smoldered, their fate almost complete.
“Looks as if everything has been left for dead, Joseph. The Russians have moved through here quickly.”
“Yes, so quickly that their own graves registration unit has already gathered their own.”
“They must have piled the German dead and set them ablaze, which would account for some of the foul stench wafting through our noses.”
“We must be cautious, Jew. Patrols will likely be alert, mopping up any smaller resistance and protecting the ground already won.”
Joseph turned his head away and continued moving down a wooded tree line. “This arguing about how we address each other is petty.”
“Petty? It’s simple. Just call me by my name. Is that so hard? I call you ‘Joseph,’ and you call me ‘Otto.’”
Joseph stopped and turned to face Otto, again getting closer to his face. “Except you are a Jew, an inferior, worthless human being, wasted upon society. So accept it, and we shall move on.”
“I certainly will not. Why? Why am I so less of a human than you?”
Joseph walked away, muttering under his breath. “Because father told me so.” Joseph held his machine gun up to his waist as he walked, firming his grip. “Quickly, Jew, there is no time to waste. We’ve been walking for hours, and I am tired, too tired to have this conversation. On top of that, I am freezing in these damp clothes.”
“Fair enough, Joseph. Let’s seek our shelter, but this conversation is far from being finished.”