This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: s Robert, and what happened to him was this.
A SMALL WAR STORY
His legs were blown off at the
shins and he died with his
brother watching in a cold,
It was Russia, January 5, 1943, and just another icy day. Out among the city and snow, there were dead
Russians and Germans everywhere. Those who remained were firing into the blank pages in front of them.
Three languages interwove. The Russian, the bullets, the German.
As I made my way through the fallen souls, one of the men was saying, “My stomach is itchy.” He said it many
times over. Despite his shock, he crawled up ahead, to a dark, disfigured figure who sat streaming on the
ground. When the soldier with the wounded stomach arrived, he could see that it was Robert Holtzapfel. His
hands were caked in blood and he was heaping snow onto the area just above his shins, where his legs had been
chopped off by the last explosion. There were hot hands and a red scream.
Steam rose from the ground. The sight and smell of rotting snow.
“It’s me,” the soldier said to him. “It’s Pieter.” He dragged himself a few inches closer.
“Pieter?” Robert asked, a vanishing voice. He must have felt me nearby.
A second time. “Pieter?”
For some reason, dying men always ask questions they know the answer to. Perhaps it’s so they can die being
The voices suddenly all sounded the same.
Robert Holtzapfel collapsed to his right, onto the cold and steamy ground. I’m sure he expected to meet me there and then.
Unfortunately for the young German, I did not take him that afternoon. I stepped over him with the other poor
souls in my arms and made my way back to the Russians.
Back and forth, I traveled.
It was no ski trip, I can tell you.
As Michael told his mother, it was three very long days later that I finally came for the soldier who left his feet
behind in Stalingrad. I showed up very much invited at the temporary hospital and flinched at the smell.
A man with a bandaged hand was telling th...
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 01/17/2014 for the course ENG 99 taught by Professor Michal during the Winter '13 term at CSU Sacramento.
- Winter '13