Christian Short Stories
By Web Ruble
Web writes: "While serving in U.S. forces during the Cold War in Europe I had occasion to talk to both German and a few Soviet veterans about their experiences during the harsh winter-springs of the Soviet counter-offensive in 1943-44. All were glad that the great ordeal was over."
'Twas only 5 p.m., but darkness was already closing down from a murky sky.
The muddy road in front of Yuri was chock full of potholes, which had been frozen over just some 12 hours earlier. Now they were mud traps that gave him an exhausting, jarring ride back beyond headquarters.
Sgt. Yuri Iskar, astride a rare motorcycle the Soviets used at the front, had been dispatched "to the rear" with a message to Soviet officers on how to handle some German prisoners the Bolsheviks had finally routed from Sharmatovo.
His orders were to see to it the 11 Nazi soldiers were stripped bare, marched eastward into the blinding snow, and after a whipping and torture of severe exposure, executed. Yuri's commander said he wanted the prisoners to cry and whimper before they died. Cruelty begets cruelty.
The Soviet commander, Lt. Col. Stanzi Kovalenko, was more than conscious of how the German SS had executed Russian-Ukrainian prisoners a year earlier when the Nazis swept and ravaged the Soviet Ukraine. He was downright vengeful.
Pay back time.
Lt. Col. Kovalenko said that one of the German soldiers was to be left alive so he could be transported back to German lines near Izum along the Donets River so he could tell his fellow soldiers what savage and cruel fate awaited all Germans.
Horror. Sheer terror and cracks of doom.
Kovalenko hoped that depression and terror would demoralize the enemy. Such demoralization would aid counter-attacking Soviet forces greatly. The latter was necessary. After the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, the broad fronted Soviet counter-offensive had stalled in recent weeks. Moreover, the Germans appeared to be stabilizing the front.
Today's action -- March, 20, 1943 --saw the surrender of a meager squad of Germans, the last of the Nazi SS holding onto Sharmatovo, a heretofore by-passed village near Stalingrad that the Soviets until recently had ignored in their original sweeping reversal of the front.
To Sgt. Iskar, the Germans' stubbornness at Sharmatovo, deserved admiration, especially in view of the fact that they had been without hope, surrounded by determined, vengeful, mob of Soviets far from the front.
To angry Kovalenko, however, the German SS resistance at Sharmatovo deserved a brutal response. He would deliver it, and he'd have a Teutonic witness tell German forces about it.
Sgt. Iskar was pondering this as his two-stroke contraption -- a World War I wheeled field cannon converted to an odd-looking motorcycle -- lurched from one giant chuck hole to another. Kovalenko had told him that a field phone call to the rear at Sharmatovo wouldn't do. He wanted to be sure his orders were carried out to the letter. That's why he dispatched Sgt. Iskar, his faithful aide, by motorcycle.
Coughing, sputtering, and barking, the motorcycle skidded around a muddy turn, straightened, and groaned to a halt at Zapad-Sharmatovo, the western approach to Sharmatovo.
Soviet soldiers near the cycle had been showered with mud as had a Soviet officer.
That officer, angry at the brazen arrival of a mere sergeant, approached Yuri, yelling and knocking him down with the butt of his vintofka (rifle).
"Who the @#$%^& do you think you are?" asked the officer.
Feeling his face for broken bones, Yuri stammered, "I have orders on what to do with the German prisoners." He held out the documents for the officer to read.
The officer snatched them from Yuri without saying a word.
Finally he asked in a mocking tone, "Just who is issuing these orders?"
"Lt. Col. Kovalenko," said Yuri.
Obviously a little shaken, the officer asked, "Why didn't he phone? Who are you?"
"I'm Sgt. Yuri Iskar, his aide," said Yuri.
"Tell Tovarishch Podpolkovnik Kovalenko we'll handle it," the officer said.
"No sir," said Yuri. "I am to take charge and do it as Kovalenko has ordered."
"What? Who are you anyway?" the officer asked.
"Like I said, comrade captain, I am Lt. Col. Kovalenko's aide."
The Soviet captain, now silent, just stared at Yuri. After several seconds he summoned some soldiers and had them take Yuri to the field toilet area where the Germans were being held.
Yuri arrived at where the prisoners were and thanked his armed escorts who immediately left.
He took a minute to look at the German prisoners. He was shocked. They were gaunt - almost skeletons -- obviously starved to the brink of death, and their usually crisp SS uniforms had deteriorated to almost rags.
Yuri, who was older than most of his fellow Soviet soldiers, had fought in the First World War for the Czarist army against the Germans. He was Christian and had serious objection to today's murderous orders.
He called over the sergeant of the guard holding the German prisoners. Yuri told Sgt. Alexi Tovar his orders, but added that he would just forget the whipping torture and freezing cold, and quickly execute 10 Germans -- it certainly would be more humane -- and take the 11th back to the front lines as ordered.
Sgt.Tovar said he agreed that the prisoners looked awful, had already suffered almost beyond endurance, and probably would invite their own execution. "But they are SS. The worst kind of German. If any deserved harsh treatment it is them."
"And I wouldn't trust the one you'd take back. He'd try to kill you no matter what. I don't trust any of them -- no matter what kind of shape they're in."
However, Yuri still opted for ignoring the torture in favor of immediate execution. Soviet aftomatchiki -- submachinegunners -- yawned and in a bullet-chattering explosive moment carried out the executions. They then told SS Feldweber Helmut Winkler, cowering on the feces-dotted ground, that he would be spared and transported back to German lines.
Yuri marched the gaunt, bug-eyed, bandaged, ragtag Winkler back to the motorcycle, put him in the makeshift sidecar, and roared away from hostile-looking fellow Soviets toward the front.
After a few minutes Winkler -- red in an otherwise pale and sunken face -- began coughing and sputtering.
Yuri slowed, stopped, and bent down to see if Winkler needed attention in order to get him back to the front. The German immediately grabbed Yuri, whipped out a heretofore hidden serrated knife, and slit Yuri's throat. Then he took Yuri's gun and shot him in the head.
Yuri fell dead and lay on the edge of an icy pond, as the German looked at him and said, "Bolshevik swine."
Seconds later fierce Soviets arrived and riddled the German with submachinegun fire, killing him.
Sgt. Tovar, who had followed behind and was among the arriving aftomatchiki, said, "Sgt. Iskar, I tried to warn you. There are certain people you can't trust. Do something nice for them, and see how they respond - this is the thanks you get."
Then Tovar knelt in prayer: "Dear God, I commit my comrade, Sgt. Yuri Iskar, to you. Pray take care of him. As he is truly not a Bolshevik, but is one of your faithful. He and some of us are your disciples. Lo, we know you are with us always."
(© 2011 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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