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The Answer – Justice

An Australian Prisoner of War and Witness in the Small Fortress, Terezin Concentration Camp, in 1945

Excerpts from the autobiography of Alexander McClelland
 
 




Jews claim preeminence as special victims of the Second World War, but in this account prisoners of war fared considerably worse than nearby Jews. McClelland recounts torture by a sadistic Jewish prison guard (named elsewhere as Stefan Rojko). These events took place in what was supposed to be a Nazi camp, illustrating the maxim that Jewish claims can be the exact opposite of the truth.

Theresienstadt was effectively an open prison, a ‘model camp’ for favoured Jews. Prominent Jews were sent there, as were the families of Jews who had died fighting for the Reich during the First World War, retired civil servants and so on. The camp, effectively a small town, was managed by Jews themselves. Less well known is that atached to the camp was a Gestapo prison, the Small Fortress where McClelland was finally incarcerated.

The excerpt begins in 1945 when McClelland is a prisoner of war, and he and his solitary guard come under fire from American planes. He makes another of his numerous escapes and is recaptured for the last time.




We were walking along the road and had just come to a village out in the country and there they were, American fighter planes, three of them; the first time I had seen any. The next minute the three of them came in a dive. When planes go on strafing runs, whether they’re German or British or American, they all make the same horrible noise on the way down. Then all hell let loose and I took a flying dive into the gutter. The guard was right behind me and there was an old lady with black lace all round her head lying in the gutter in front of me. There were other civilians up the road just outside the village.

It occurred to me that the guard behind me could shoot me and blame it on the Americans; no one would ever know. The planes came within a hundred feet of the ground. They went over and the guard told me to get up and run, which I did. I don’t know whether the old lady in the black lace was hit or had died from heart failure or what.

I ran into the village with the guard behind me. There we came upon a blacksmith shop with a lot of civilians in it. The planes came down and made another strafing pass. This was a tiny little farming village, with no military target within miles. I was stunned that the Americans could open up such vast fire power from only three planes. Finally it seemed they had had their fun, so they flew off.

There I was in the local blacksmith’s shop with my guard and about fifteen people. The walls of the place were about three or four feet thick, which is why they had provided quite good protection. Thank goodness those guys hadn’t used bombs. The civilians were saying (they automatically lumped Englishmen, Australians, Americans on one side), “Why don’t your men fight the soldiers instead of us defenceless civilians in a little village like this?” The civilians seemed to be getting very nasty, and they had cause to be, I thought. They were only civilians and deep in the middle of Czechoslovakia. The fighters must have known where they were. The Czechs were supposed to be our friends. I felt pretty hostile towards those American pilots myself. If I had had a machine gun I would have blasted back at them. I had begun to hate planes ever since the bombings in Berlin and what I had seen of the terrible destruction.

The civilians were furious, and it looked like developing into a very unpleasant situation. They looked like they wanted to kill me. They were frustrated and bitter and there were a lot of them and I was only one. Then the guard said to them, “What you say is true, but those pilots in the planes are on his side, and they were shooting at him as well as us. He could be lying out there dead now.” This seemed to sink in and it was lucky for me that it did, because they could have killed me quite easily. It didn’t make sense, but it happened: here was the guard sticking up for me. That amazed me, but the people agreed I could have been dead too. They agreed we were all lucky to be alive.

We left the village and took to the road again but I was worried about the planes coming back. We passed through another small village and picked up another Aussie. It was nice to speak to a fellow Australian again. We had something in common, far from home, and being POWs. The next guard we had didn’t seem to give a damn about getting to where we were going or anything. We took advantage. He left us in a building and went away to have a meal or something. We didn’t know where he was taking us so we got out of the building and were out in the open again.

It was the time of the year when there was nothing growing and food was very scarce. When I look back I realise how stupid escape was on both our parts, but when you have been short of food for a long time you don’t think as clearly as you should. We made off along a road even though it was broad daylight. We had given up travelling only at night. We no longer cared a damn. We passed a house which was set back from the road and which looked pretty dilapidated. We went over to it and there didn’t seem to be anyone around. We thought there might be some food stored there and were scrounging around when my mate said, “Look, these look like onions.” I looked at the bulbs he had found, but they could have been any type of bulb. He said, “I’m going to have a go at these.” I said, “Not me. I’ve stayed alive this long, mate, and I am not going to eat something that might poison us.”

He had a munch at some of them and then we heard the zoom of planes. He went to the window and yelled, “They’re Yanks! There are three of them!” They were fighter bombers, as we were soon to find out. About a hundred yards from the building we were in there was a small narrow-gauged railway line spanning a creek, almost like a child’s toy in comparison to the real thing, like the one we used to push the little tipper trucks along at Bismarkhutte. It had obviously been built for some purpose or other but it was not a military target. Much to out surprise the planes came down one after the other and each dropped a bomb which missed the railway line. The chap with me said, “Let’s go out and let them know we’re here.” I said, like hell we would, and told him how I had been strafed in the village a few days previously.

They came down three more times, dropping small bombs which all missed the railway line. So we lay low and they eventually flew off. It amazed me that they seemed to be unloading bombs on to anything and everything. When I got back to England I heard from many of my friends that the Americans had so much ammunition they had just got rid of it anywhere, onto anyone, and I had seen it myself in that little village with the blacksmith’s shop, and now here out in open farm country.

We headed West and came upon a town. It seemed advisable not to go through it in daylight, so we waited until dark. Walking through the town and non one took any notice of us until we ran into some Germans standing at a kind of guard post right in front of us. Thank God it was dark. I put my arm over my companion who was smaller than me and made out he was a woman. I even slapped his backside as we went past. It worked because the guards looked at me and were conned into believing he was a woman. We got about fifty yards away from them and my mate said, “Christ, Mac, have you gone queer on me?” I said “Shut up, let’s get the hell out of here,” which we did.

We were lucky that time, but when we were leaving the town we got a little to cocky and heard the familiar cry, “Halt.” Click, “Who are you? What are you doing?” We looked at each other and that was that.

Prague

The next thing we knew was that we were on a train going to Prague. We got out at the main station and ended up in a place which I thought was the SS Headquarters in Prague. It was years later that I knew we were not taken to the Gestapo headquarters because if we had we would have been on the official files which the Czechoslovakian communist government gave me in 1979.

It was very dark as the guard, the Victorian and I left Prague railway station for some unknown destination. We seemed to meander through several streets in Prague and there wasn’t a soul to be seen. There was evidently a curfew and we eventually came to a large building. We walked up the steps, the guard pressed a bell and a voice from within said, “Who is that?” I felt like saying, ‘Partisans,’ but thought better of it because I knew the Germans were dead scared of the Partisans. Our guard said, “One guard with two English Prisoners of War.”

The door opened and we went in. They ushered us along a few corridors and up some stairs, and we finally ended up in a cell with just the two of us. Looking around we thought, ‘Where the hell is this place?’ It was an old building and the cells had obviously been used for imprisoning people for many years. We waited there several days. They brought us food and it wasn’t too cold. Finally one of the guard came round and rousted us out, “Aus, aus, aus!” Out we went and stood in a line. The Victorian was on my right while on my left the line extended around a bend in the corridor and I could hear other men shuffling there, around the corner, but I couldn’t see who they were. The guards’ sub-machine gun at alert didn’t encourage you to be inquisitive. We waited there and then one of the guards screamed, “Achtung!” and we knew what that meant so we jumped to attention. Then the senior officer came along with another man at his side. As he came abreast of us I heard the man say, “Herr Kommandant, these two men are Australians.” He swung around. “Australians?” he said in a perfect upper class English accent and with a puzzled tone, “What are you doing here?” I nudged my mate to keep his mouth shut but stupidly he said, “Fighting for Freedom.” “Oh,” said the German, “Haven’t you enough freedom in your own country, or must you come over to this side of the world,” he let every word sink in, “and help other people to deprive us of our freedom?”

He turned away and walked round the corner where I heard the guard say to the Kommandant, “These men are Americans.” I turned round to my mate and said, “You stupid bastard, you really put your foot in it there!” “Christ, Mac, how was I to know?” I said, “You don’t give them the chance to make you look stupid. You should know that by now.”

After the Kommandant had inspected the Americans he stood at the corner of the corridor and said, “You men have caused us a lot of trouble. We’re putting you in a place where you will cause us no further trouble.” None of us liked the sound of that; it sounded rather ominous. Then he turned round and marched off.

The next morning we were rousted out early and “Achtung,” there was the same Kommandant chap again in front of us but this time he was a vastly different man. He still spoke in English but it shook me and shook the other chaps when he said, “I have just heard that Frankfurt on Oder, where my wife and two daughters are, has been captured by the Russians. I pray to God that they were destroyed in the bombardment before the Russians captured the place.” He was finding it hard to get the words out. He had been drinking heavily but his speech was still precise. He said, continuing, “Today it is my country, my family, but can’t you people understand the communist menace that faces you. Tomorrow it will be yours. Don’t think for one moment that the English Channel will stop the communist hordes.” He took one hopeless look at us I thought it was rather strange that he should be telling us this, anyhow we were put back in our cells.

Theresienstadt

The next morning we were taken out before dawn to the main railway station in Prague and from there we travelled by train about fifty kilometres north. Alighting from the train we walked a couple of kilometres through farm land until we came to a mass of barbed wire and the usual German guard house where we were searched. We could see through the barbed wire which seemed to be heavier than the normal Prisoner of War camp wire, and there was an ominous air about the place.

I think we all swallowed our Adam’s apples when it dawned on us exactly where we were... a bloody concentration camp. These were the places they kept the Jews in mostly, though they contained other people as well, like ourselves. Once through the barbed wire gate we were searched again and then the guard came up to the chap at the front of our small column of about twenty men and said in German, “You are a cursed Jew.” The chap he addressed was wearing an English uniform. He replied in German, “I’m an Englishman,” “Ich bin Englander,” at which the German guard smashed across the face with his fist and said, “You are a cursed Jew.”

The English chap stood his ground and said, “I am an Englishman,” to which the guard said “You are a cursed Jew.” This happened several times and the lump in my throat got bigger because round my stomach I had a compass and a map. Where my stomach used to be there was now a hollow and I found that by binding a bit of rag around my middle, I could hide a compass and map there. When the guards searched me they ran their hands over my chest and just flipped over where the map and compass were. I was really worried, watching this chap get bashed up. It wasn’t very funny. If they did that to him what would they do to me if they found a map and compass on me?

To my horror I realised the compass was slipping down my stomach. I was very frightened that it would fall down my trouser leg when we marched away and then all the chaps might get beaten up. This was a terrible moment. So I put my hand down inside my shirt making out I was lousy, which was not an unknown thing amongst POWs, and started scratching myself. I pulled the map and compass back into their proper position and was just about to pull my hand out of my shirt top when I looked up and saw a guard in the watch tower. He had been watching me closely.

He came down, pushed through the other men, came straight up to me and thrust his hand down the front of my shirt, right down to his elbow. I’m sure he felt the compass and the map but maybe he didn’t know what they were. He was so close, his eyes were about ten inches from mine and he had blue eyes, the same colour as mine. If we had changed uniforms neither of us would who was who. But, would he report me? If he did it would mean that his own mates outside the gates would get into trouble because they had searched us already and found nothing. Then he looked at me in a strange way, perhaps because he knew where we were going and we didn’t at that time. So he took his hand out and looked at me for a second, then went and climbed back on his perch in the machine-gun tower.

Finally we were given the order to march, and we marched off towards an old fortification. Little did we know then that we were entering the Small Fortress. The Germans called it the Klein Festnung, the special place of detention for the Gestapo. But this Fortress had held prisoners for many hundreds of years and the men responsible for the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand, the excuse for starting World War, had died within these walls as had thousands of other people, political prisoners of all types. They opened the gate and we went in. We went through a tunnel and turned right into an open courtyard. This was Compound 4, the top security place. As we went through I looked up and I could see the nozzle of a Spandau machine-gun sticking out of a glass-enclosed look-out tower right above the entrance, and from this position one man could overlook all the roofs. If a fly moved day or night in that compound he could see it. Two men had tried to make an escape before we arrived but it had proved fatal. One had been killed and the other wounded, brought back and executed in front of the rest of the inmates in Yard 4.

I was looking around constantly for a possible way of escape, but I could see at a glance that escaping was out of the question here. No way could any human being get out of this place, other than feet-first or flying, and none of us had wings. They opened the second door on the left and we were pushed in. The rear of the cell was full of Russians in dirty rags, all that was left of their Russian uniforms. This wasn’t a good place to be because the Russians always had lice and with lice came typhus. The door slammed behind us. Clank, clank, and the two bolts shot home, no chance of getting out that way.

To the left inside the door were two toilets with excreta all over the floor and which obviously hadn’t been cleaned for quite some time. On either side of the door was a large window beneath which was a trough with about four or five taps where you could get drinking water. I don’t remember ever being short of drinking water in that place but the food was another question. The whole time I was there we received a very small piece of bread about six cm square, and that was our daily ration. No soup, no mint tea, just that bread and the water to drink.

With my lung trouble I had difficulty breathing in the cell because of the indescribable stench of the unwashed bodies, especially the Russians. I could never get enough fresh air, and spend much of my time over by the windows. I didn’t know at the time that this was Cell 44, designated XYZ Death. The people in this cell were being held to be sent on to Auschwitz in Poland to be liquidated.

The next morning we were woken by a commotion outside. I went over to one of the windows above the drinking troughs. Two Kapos in the compound were dragging two scarecrows of human beings, dressed in striped-like pyjamas until they were standing right in front of our window. At the time I thought they were Jews, but later learned that other people as well as Jews were made to wear those uniforms. Much to my horror in 1978 I found out that the Australian, Wal Steilberg, and his six mates had also been stripped of their uniforms and made to wear those striped outfits. It could have been one of them in the compound that morning.

The Kapos made the two men stand to attention like a mock parade. The smaller of the two Kapos had a stick which he called “Herr Doktor,” and he stood back. He had different methods. Sometimes he would aim the end of the stick at one of the man’s eyes and there would be just a hole left where the eye used to be. Sometimes he would hit them in the mouth and all their teeth would be smashed down their throat and their mouths would be just a mass of oozing blood. I don’t know why the Good Lord gave him air to breathe.

The taller of the Kapos, blonde-haired and lanky, seemed to think every act of beastliness this little animal did to those two helpless men was a great joke. In the end the prisoners were both lying on the ground. Some other people from the compound then dragged them back into their cells opposite.

This was to be the morning routine. It went on, morning after morning, and we watched horrified. We were kind of mesmerised. We watched and thanked God it wasn’t happening to us. It just stunned your brain and you couldn’t believe that what you saw was really happening, that one human being could do such terrible things to other human beings. But they laughed and thought it was funny.




I did not know at that time that there were two parts to the Theresienstadt concentration camp: the larger Ghetto, which had held mainly Jews, and the Small Fortress where I had been. Mr Anthman and Mr Gold, as it turned out later, had both been in the Ghetto and not in the Small Fortress, a big, big difference because the people in the Small Fortress had been sent there strictly by the Gestapo and were under Gestapo control with no possible chance of escape, whereas with the Ghetto, as far as I could make out, people could walk out if they wanted to, but they would be punished if they did. (p. 262)


A couple of days later I woke up and my left leg was swollen like a fat sausage. It was poisoned and in much worse condition than it had been when it was poisoned a year earlier at Bismarkhutte. It still puzzles me how it happened. The chaps pulled the leg of my trousers up. It was tight around my calf and they had difficulty getting it over my knee, but they got it up as far as possible to see what could best be done. Someone scrounged a bit of broken glass. We knew there was no medical treatment in this place.

One of the fellows said, “Just hang on, mate,” and made a couple of gashes in my leg. Poisonous matter squirted out all over the place soaking into my trousers and running over the floor. The place was in such a mess. The Russians, who were at the back of the cell, and seemed to be the largest number in the cell, were extremely filthy. Most of them were the Mongolian variety from far East of Russia. They didn’t use the toilets, so they made a heap on the floor and urinated up against the wall. As most of them, like us, had some form of stomach trouble, an awful mess seeped its way down from the rear of the cell to where we were down near the door. It made life almost unbearable. It was just bare existence in that place.

After they had gashed a few holes in my leg it didn’t seem to hurt so much. I was so ill at the time and anyone with the smallest amount of sense knew that anyone with a poisoned leg in a place like that with no medical attention did not have much hope of surviving.

A couple of days later at the end of March, or early April, 1945 the doors were unbolted and the guards were screaming, “Alle aus!,” everyone out. So my mates helped me to my feet as I couldn’t get up by myself and got me through the door and out into the compound. Abdul the Cypriot and another bloke literally carried me to the Anti-Tank ditch, and back to the Small Fortress. The guards went through some rigmarole of counting us and we were marched out through the tunnel which was the entrance to Compound 4. We were taken out to a place where they were digging an anti-tank ditch. They were digging it with spades and shovels but there no carts to carry the dirt away in, so it had to be carried away in hunks by hand and thrown up the bank where other fellows would pick it up and throw it further back.

My mates put me down in the middle of the trench and made out they were working. Eventually a German guard came up, screaming, “What is wrong here?” They parted to let him through and he saw me on the ground. He said “Why aren’t you working?” My mates said, “Could you work with a leg like that?” When he saw the mess my leg was in he said, “Good God! Don’t they give you any medical treatment in that place?” I vaguely heard my mates laughing. I was pretty groggy with the leg infection and in a very poor physical state. The guard had a rifle and could have shot me but he turned away, shocked by what he saw. I saw him bend over and the next thing I knew he had thrown his first aid kit along the ground in such a way that it wouldn’t be noticed; he didn’t want to be seen by an officer giving his first aid kit to a Prisoner of War. There was that bond between the Germans and the Englanders, as they called us, which didn’t exist between the Germans and the Russians. I found out later from International Red Cross records that the guard was from the SS Signal School near the Small Fortress.

The day dragged on and I wasn’t bothered by any of the guards. When it came to the time to go back to the fortress my mates helped me up to my feet again and half carried me back into that place. The cell door slammed shut and we were there for another night.

The nest morning we all expected to be going to dig the trenches again but that was not to be. The smaller of the two guards came in and said to me, “Ah, you have a poisoned leg.” Then he turned round to the other guard, the tall lanky blonde-haired one, laughed and said, “The doctor thinks you need medicine.” The doctor was the name he gave his stick, the stick he had used to gouge out eyes, smash teeth, and all but kill people I thought at the time were Jews from the single cells opposite.

Before I knew what was happening he came towards me. The other men shrank back, forming a circle, and he walked around me seeming to get joy out of it. “Yes, the doctor thinks you need medicine,” he said. The nest think I knew I got a whack across my back. I thought he had made a smack at my head like he had with the others so I tried to protect my head with my hands. He whacked me several more times and the tall blonde fellow thought that was funny too. The next thing I knew I heard the slam of the door and clank, clank, the two bolts shot home and that was that.

In a letter I had in 1985 from Charles Croal, the New Zealander Airforce bloke I had swapped identities with in 1942 (so he could escape) he mentioned the Jewish Kapo in Compound 4 of the Small Fortress who split his ear in two. He must have been the same Kapo as he was the same Kapo that bashed me up, as he was the only Kapo that carried a heavy stick, of the two Kapos in Compound 4.

There was another incident apart from the SS guard giving me his first aid kit the day I was in the Anti-Tank ditch with a poisoned leg. In the same cell 44 as I was in there was a very heavily-built Czech civilian. It puzzled us why some of the other Czech civilians gave him their ration of bread every day. As they explained he was a very rich and well-known man, and for a small piece of bread he gave them an IOU with his signature for the equivalent of three months’ pay, for a worker outside the hell-hole we were in. I saw this with my own eyes as I was only about two metres from where he sat on the concrete floor. Even in the XYZ Death Cell the power of money still existed. Next morning the door opened and I thought we would be going to work again but the Kapo came in and said, “How are you today, big man?” in German. “Herr Doktor thinks you need more medicine,” so I immediately covered my head and the same treatment followed. I don’t know exactly how many, maybe five smacks on the back. He left me just about insensible. I was so weak from the lack of food and my poisoned leg, which was still gushing foul smelling waste matter, and the stench of the unwashed bodies and heaps of excreta and urine which the Russians piled up inside the cell. It was indescribable, that stench, and it still lives with me today.

I was so ill by that time I only knew it was day time when I heard the two crashes when the bolts were drawn on the door and this evil little creature, you couldn’t call him a human being, would come in saying, “How are you today, big man?” I never did answer him. I knew when I heard the door being opened exactly what to expect and I used to crack a joke, “Does anyone else want to have breakfast with me?” None of us was going to get breakfast and on one wanted the sort of breakfast I was going to get.

It was so packed in that cell at night that everyone bumped against everyone else. If you turned over at all you woke up about three people. Lying on the concrete floor amongst the mess from the Russians was just unbelievable hell. I have often wondered whether, when that sadistic little bastard started beating me up in the morning, he satisfied his sadistic little appetite or he went on to beat up others as well, as I had seen him do through the window the morning after we arrived.

Each day it was the same routine. Bang, bang, the bolts on the door, “Do any of you blokes want to have breakfast with me?” I could hardly recognise my own voice which had by now become a croak. It wasn’t me really and I couldn’t help but think, “How many more days could I stick this? Maybe today is the finish of it all for me. There’s no way out of this bloody place for me, only feet first.” One day I dragged myself to the window to look out. Standing on the right side of the embankment, next to the watch tower holding the guard with the Spandau machine-gun, were a group of high-ranking German officers with two men in civilian clothing. According to International Red Cross records it was 6th April, when Adolf Eichmann personally escorted two International Red Cross representatives, Paul Dunard and Otto Lehner, around the Ghetto and the Small Fortress of Terezin Concentration Camp.

One morning the door crashed open on 5th May 1945 but this morning the guards screamed, “All Englishmen out! Out! All Englishmen out! Out!” This was not our usual routine. We stumbled out of the cell, British and Americans, leaving behind a large number of Russians and some Czechoslovakian civilians and others. Outside the cell the guards prodded us into a column and counted us. At the order, “March!,” we straggled through the gates out of Compound 4 with the soldier in the steel and glass machine-gun post directly over the entrance. The only other time I could remember being out of that hell-hole was the one day in the anti-tank ditch. We trudged along. As for myself, with fibrosis of the lung, I was only glad to be out in the clean open air after that ghastly stench of unwashed bodies, urine and excrement, after being packed into that cell almost like sardines in a can. “Halt!” yelled one of the guards. I remember we stood there for a while. On the left was a bunch of German officers with two well-dressed men in civilian clothes who could have been Gestapo, but were in fact Red Cross representatives. An International Red Cross flag had flown over Theresienstadt Concentration Camp from 2nd May, according to International Red Cross records.

Finally, we heard, “March!” so off we straggled again along a country road. I’d never been on such a lightly guarded group of POWs before. There were only four guards at the most, and they weren’t like the Kapos in Compound 4. But then most of us were sick or too weak to think of escaping. Some time later we heard, “Halt!” so we sat in the ditch by the side of the road. Much to our surprise we were given some hot food to eat. We looked at each other and I’m sure the same thought entered all our heads: ‘If they are feeding us then they don’t intend to kill us.’ After the food we were ordered to march, so we staggered off again.

We spent that night in what must have been an old kiln used for manufacturing earthenware pipes because there were a lot of broken clay pipes lying around. Next morning we set off again at a snail’s pace. We plodded along country roads till we came to a village where the guards placed us in a brick building facing onto a cobbled village square. We were all in one big room with a wooden floor and one extra-large window looking out onto the square.

Early next morning I woke up and heard someone say, “The guards all seem to have gone. Let’s go out and see what is happening.” Several of us agreed it would be better to stay put as they just might want us to go outside so that they could shoot us as escaping POWs. The discussion was cut short by the sound of a tank grinding its way along the cobbled street quite near. What was it, German, Russian, American? As anyone in the Infantry knows, tanks are nasty brutes.

I stood up and propped myself up against the wall to the left of the window. I was the first to see the tank. From my position I could see the right side of the square. The bloke on the other side of the window could only see the left side without exposing himself. The others were all flat on the floor because the window sill was low, no more than eighty centimetres above floor level.

The first part of the tank I saw was its large gun barrel, much larger than I’d every seen on a tank before. I whispered this to the others. The tank slowly edged its way forward till I could see the front of the turret, but I could see no sign of the country it belonged to. The gun swung around, pointing directly at our window. I whispered to everyone, “For God’s sake don’t move, that bloody great gun is trained on this window...”

There was no sign of infantry to give us an idea who the tank belonged to. It just stood there, and I sweated because of my own experiences in Bardia and Tobruk. All I knew was that I was certain a man in that tank had a finger on a trigger and that one false move and we in that room would have had it.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the brute lurched forward, and thank God, I saw a white star! I yelled, “It’s the Yanks,” and turned away from the window. Being the only one standing, apart from the blokes on the right of the window, I reached the front door first. In my joyful delirium I didn’t notice the small step down and I fell flat on my face. I got up and tried to run towards the tank, again, not noticing the gutter and I fell down again. I finally got to the tank which by this time was standing in the middle of the cobbled square. The tank Commander had his head and shoulders out of the turret. I can’t remember what I said but it must have been something about food. The Commander said, “Are there any Tigers around here?” and I must have looked very blank because I knew nothing at that time of the Tiger tanks used by the Germans. He threw a small cardboard box of food at me which I tried to catch. It hit my chest and I fell flat on my back. I got up clutching this small food parcel. Food! FOOD! By this time other vehicles had arrived in the square and all the POWs were loaded with food, a POWs idea of Paradise.

Now, when I look back, it seems as if we all trooped back to the big room where the Nazi guards had left us and just sat down and opened packet after packet, tin after tin and ate and ate and ate. Only when we had full bellies did it finally begin to dawn on that bedraggled, starved, pitiful handful of ex-POWs that for us the war was over. We were free! We could go anywhere! We ambled out in twos and threes. We were going home! (pp. 119-129)




The Answer – Justice was originally published by HRP in 1998 with an incorrect ISBN. In 2013 it was renotified with a valid ISBN, 978-1-901240-23-8.




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