|difficult run. None of us dared take the risk. Suddenly
we were aware that the Germans were now occupying the farmer's kitchen
above our heads. Loud moans indicated that they had brought their
After about an hour, the shooting slackened. The barking of the
machine guns had ceased and even the bursts of small arms fire became more
and more distant. Soon the battle ended.
Suddenly two soldiers of the Waffen SS, a sergeant and a corporal, burst
into the stable, guns at the ready, and waved us toward the stairs.
Our little group obeyed instantly. Passing near the door to the farmer's
kitchen I heard the sergeant note to his fellow soldier, that the bullet
had gone straight through the Captain's head. I thus assumed that
their commander had been killed and that revenge was perhaps on the soldier's
mind. My guess did not seem to be far off the mark, as the soldiers
took us past the door of the house into the meadow below the road, on which
a line of German soldiers were waiting. I turned to the sergeant
behind me and asked, "Where are you taking us? Why are we being lined
"Because somebody from the house has been shooting at us."
I recoiled. "That is not possible. You can search us and
the house, there are no arms there."
I had spoken too much. For the sergeant hissed at me with hatred,
"You are a German deserter, don't try to deny this!"
I realized that, in my excitement, I had spoken to him without a proper
French accent. I shot back at him with the necessary French intonation,
"That is not true, I lived only briefly in Austria before the war."
The explanation seemed to satisfy him, but he lined us up single file
parallel to the road, with the German guns trained at us.
THE GERMAN FIRING SQUAD
Only then did I notice what was happening on the road above us.
A red-haired Lieutenant in a Waffen SS uniform was standing to my left
at the end of the German line. He had pulled his Luger and was bellowing
excitedly his order in German, "Alles umlegen, alles umlegen!"
Waving his gun he yelled again and again, "Alles umlegen, alles umlegen!"
Though the word "umlegen" means, according to the German dictionary
merely to change position, I immediately grasped what he was saying here,
in his military jargon. He was giving his soldiers the order to shoot
us, to kill us one and all. Within seconds the soldiers above us
could open fire, and not possibly miss us at this distance of less than
twenty feet. I knew that in the heat of battle soldiers do things
which they would not contemplate under normal circumstances. I was
sure we would all be dead in a few seconds.
There is an idea abroad that people, confronted with imminent death,
see their whole life pass before their eyes. There was, at that moment,
no such vision. What I saw was the inevitable future. I saw
all of us, lying lifeless and stiff in the