The Sunday War by Chris Covert - Read Online
The Sunday War
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Summary

The Sunday War chronicles the lives of a German soldier and a Russian family starting in 1933 with the rise of Hitler in Germany and the start of the Great Terror in the Soviet Union, as author Robert Conquest termed it.

Industrial crane operator Herman Heitz is impressed into a military security unit near Munich after he tries to learn the fate of a Jewish supervisor, who was whisked away by the new Nazi regime in 1933. Rising to the rank of sergeant, his unit unwittingly provides security for an SS unit in 1941 as SS soldiers conduct pogroms against Russian Jews in eastern Poland and later White Russia, then provides anti partisan hunting support before transforming into a desperately needed antitank gun battery.

Sergei Zalovskiy is a member of the elite NKVD, who finds himself imprisoned in Siberia in 1937, then released in time to face the German onslaught in June 1941. He is assigned as a rifle division commander to battle the German Army in southern Russia as well as the NKVD, before gaining an assignment which takes him into his hometown, where is wife and daughter may be trapped.

Both families fight not only the ruthless enemies they face, but also the ruthless leaders who lead them to war.

Published: Chris Covert on
ISBN: 9781301062713
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Chapter 1

In 1933, night was the only safe time to cross into Russia. Night cloaked one from being seen, but night travelers came to expect the very worst, for the land was laid waste.

But it was life to travel at night. New habits of survival were the terms of life. Stealing food from party officials and others, going sometimes for tens, perhaps even scores of kilometers and then returning to eat everything before a party volunteer entered the house to search for food.

That had been Vitaly Malindin's existence for ten months. He ran with packs of men in similar straights to catch dogs, cats and rats for food as they swapped stories and information.

Information he received while stealing food in Orel led him to Viaz'ma. But at night, only at night. There, he could find an old Bolshevik, in the traditional sense. This man was not an animal. He was not a mad dog. He would not demand your wife or your daughter. But he needed help from skilled hands. The best part was that the Smolensk oblast[1] Secretariat was looking the other way. Already, close to 20 Ukrainian families settled in the area since the end of famine. Yet, this man still needed more. But you must travel at night.

The GPU and the NKVD were becoming more aware of this activity. But in Viaz'ma, they did not have sufficient informants to help them root out this new threat. Not yet, anyway.

Malindin stalked carefully up to the door of a wood-framed house in south Viaz'ma. It was midnight. The air was cold here, though it was summertime, so the light breeze which swished gently through birch and fir trees was soothing to him. He tried to relax as he knocked on the door. It was opened. Out of a brilliant light inside came a short and stoutly built man. His face was weatherbeaten and ugly, but his eyes were laughing and kind. They peered into the darkness with a curious glint that showed friendship and warmth.

Comrade Zalovskiy? asked Malindin slowly and quietly.

I am Zalovskiy, he said. Who are you?

My family is Malindin and I am Vitaly from Konotop in the Ukraine. I am looking for work here.

Does anyone know you are here? he asked quickly.

No.

There was a slight pause. Come to the plant near the railyards. It is the Viaz'ma Tractor Works. Ask for me by name and I will talk to you then. Clean yourself up. You look like a pig and you smell like shit! Act as though the party sent you. Understand?

Yes, I understand. I will see you tomorrow.

The door closed quietly and then Malindin, alone, turned away to find that stream he crossed a few kilometers back.

The old social bonds were rent asunder. A class war the likes of which had not been seen for hundreds of years took its toll. No one could talk about the number, for as great as the calamity appeared in the eyes of the victims and their tormentors, a greater commitment to the stealthiness of the attackers and the cruelty of the attacks was achieved. It was commonly known the numbers of attacks were prodigious. The victims were people, sometimes a people --- men, women and children --- families --- who organized economic production along lines hateful to the Soviet communist ruling class.

Communists objected to the exploitation. After the Civil War and the war against the peasants, they demonstrated that the methods used to achieve industrial and agricultural production were capitalist methods, as they were. Then came the class war. It came from nowhere, it seemed, yet warnings signs were there for anyone willing to look.

Articles written in the pages of communist journals and newspapers about the necessity of the class known as the kulak, the wealthy peasant communists said were dominant in Ukrainian agricultural life in Lenin's New Economic Program. The discussions at first were general in the dreary and precise language of the economist, then the language became ominous, when thinly veiled hints of how kulaks would be treated appeared in those publications. Such views were indeed scary, but in safe and productive Ukraine, who could have guessed the talk would soon become institution? Who would have predicted? Until then, the only trouble from those idiots in Moscow came when the nomenklatura on positions in party and government organizations in the outlying regions came under scrutiny. The occasional official would attempt to pacify Moscow by taking action of any kind as a show that their performance for the party was at its optimum. Those jobs were prestigious and precious, but not to the kulak. The struggle for existence went on as it had for hundreds of years before.

Then the talk ended and the action began. The anti-kulak pogroms and farm collectivization. The Boss[2] imposed a tax amounting to 50 percent of grain in the Soviet Union. There was no not paying the tax, for party activists entered homes and raided kolkholzi, or collective farms, for grain. They rounded up peasants and farmers. They intimidated. They fought and they murdered kulaks. The communists had the power and they had the army to back them. They dutifully loaded the requisitions on wagons and carts for collection points into the Ukraine and north Caucuses for transport. As bad as the pogrom was, some said, at least there was something to eat. It was a feast compared to what was to come.

What came in 1932 eventually passed. The pogrom passed because it gave way to famine. Of course, there were enough grains and food to feed the hungry. Food came from America and other parts of the world but it was withheld to complete the elimination of kulakism from the land. With the starvation came the inevitable calamities of disease, social disorder, cannibalism, family breakdown and murder. For months no one could travel in the Ukraine or the northern Caucuses to avoid the stench of disease and death. It was everywhere.

The kulak would say: 'The farm is gone, seized by the state and turned into a new institution. Very well, I will get work at a factory. I will sit before the factory manager and a representative of the party and I will proudly say, I employed people, I could handle them on a farm, I can do so for you now. The looks they gave me were humorous, to say the least. But when they enquired a little more about my prior life, then the unfortunate truth came out. I suppose, yes, by definition I was a kulak. But now all that has changed. I am now by circumstance, a worker. The speed at which they would lose interest in me was astonishing. There would be no further comments nor questions for me. I left the factory to try another new plant, then another one, and yet again another one

The story was always the same. As soon as officials found a kulak in search of employment inside or outside of the Ukraine, the kulak was deported, sometimes back to the Ukraine, sometimes to work in Kolyma, the White Sea canal project or the Upper Volga Canal project. Those who returned to the devastated lands of the Ukraine and northern Caucusus, gathered their remaining personal property, everything which could be carried, and took it to the border areas not affected by the Kulak War to sell for food, for survival. When the party and the Political Administration caught wind of this new activity, party members were sent to the border areas to seal them off and to help the GPU[3] Chekists[4] make arrests. Those leaving would be allowed to do so, but they were not allowed to reenter the area with food for their families. All exits were sealed. All fates became sealed as well. There was then nowhere else to go except home to wait to be deported or to die. With the war abated, Ukrainians who had survived the purge of the kulaks removed themselves from further harm in numbers to find work elsewhere. Just something to give them another day of life.

Malindin walked carefully into the noisy plant. He was shocked to see workers working and joking and talking amongst themselves. It was a happy, noisy plant. He walked up to a manager and asked for Zalovskiy. He was led passed row after row of engine lathes to a glassed-enclosed office in the center of the plant. He walked in. A male secretary who was typing feverishly failed to glance up from his work to regard him. Zalovskiy got up from his desk and showed him where he could sit. He admonished the typist to leave the office. When he was gone, Zalovskiy looked him over very carefully before sitting before him.

You're Malindin, Vitaly Malindin? he asked.

Yes, I am. You remembered.

I know everyone's name here. You look much better than you did last night. You don't smell like shit any more, he laughed. Malindin laughed with him but he stopped suddenly. He felt awkward with him.

Take it easy now. You are among friendly people now. Relax. What work have you done before?

I worked a blacksmith shop before the revolution. When the Bolsheviks started to pay me in grain, I quit.

So you can work with your hands, can you?

I saw some of your machines out there. I can do this work.

Can you now? Well, we shall see. You start now. How about your family?

They are gone.

Dead?

No, but they should be. They were deported to Murmansk. I have heard nothing because the party stopped mail coming to me.

Zalovskiy cursed quietly. Shitty war they conducted in the south. It is not communism the way we old Bolsheviks used to think of it. That war was to dominate one race over the other and one class over the other, and that is not communism. He stopped for a moment. Malindin looked very closely at him. He saw a tiny tear coming from his eye.

I am sorry. I know I speak treason and there would be a day when Bolsheviks would take actions against such crimes, but now the mantle of communism has passed from us to this new gang of murderers. But, things are bound to change, at least that is what Marx has always written, has he not?

I don't know. I am not a communist.

I would not worry about your family. I know that that sounds cruel. But the only thing hotter than the weather in oblast Smolenska in the summertime are the women. You will find a wife and start a family. You may now dismiss to the shop to begin. See Ivanov about what to do first.

He went to the shop and before he could ask for him, a short, thin man with broken teeth walked up to him and smiled painfully.

Another goddam hand, eh? he said, his arms akimbo. Well that is just fine. I take it you are another goddam Ukrainian? He then led Malindin to a line of mills. Drill holes into these U-joints, he said, showing him. He left Malindin to his work.

A neatly dressed soldier hailed Political Instructor Sergei Zalovskiy as he came down from the train onto the rail platform in Smolensk. He came smartly forward and saluted him.

Political Leader Zalovskiy, I am here to see you to the 118th Rifle Division headquarters. I will take your luggage, he said grabbing his bags from his hands. I brought a new Ford truck, so you may wish to sit in the back where there is more room or in the front where there is comfort, if you please, comrade Political Leader.

Red Army Soldier, what is your family?

I am Kolznokov, Red Army Soldier Yuri Sergeevitch.

Well, I have to say you serve your superiors very well. I will mention your name to the duty officer. You are to be commended.

Zalovskiy loaded into the back of the truck for the short drive to the west side of the city by the upper Dnepr River. There he was taken to the divisional headquarters in a large tent city. The air was thick with dust from marching boots and from the noises emitted from the throats of scolding sergeants and commissars. It was 1700 hrs, so several elements including his assigned unit were most likely on maneuvers. The duty officer, a friendly captain at first frowned at him as he signed in. Zalosvkiy was troubled from the sudden change in attitude, before he noticed the captain took several glimpses of the brilliant red Political Commissar patch on his shoulder. He had been warned about the problems. This was his first experience in dealing with it. In a brusque and perfunctory manner, the duty officer took his written orders and signed him into the division register. They parted with a salute. A runner escorted him to his tent and a cot. Both were empty. As he finished putting away his uniforms, more troops were arrived in the assembly area, in a loud and orderly march. The soldiers and squad leaders were yelled at for their slovenliness and their slowness. The troops were hastily arranged into formations, then dismissed for a 20 minute lecture by the division Commissar.

One by one, a few platoon political leaders came slowly into the tent. They barely took notice of Zalovskiy as they lit cigarettes and spoke quietly amongst themselves. In came another political leader, who smiled gleefully at him on noticing him and extended an enthusiastic hand to him.

I am Krilev, Eight Company Political Leader.

I am Political Leader Sergei Zalovskiy. I was assigned to the Rifle Division, 354th Regiment, Eight Company.

Yes, it is very good you are here. But you are a political leader. How long have you been a commissar? I understood that Obrenko's replacement was to be fresh from commissar school.

I am fresh from commissar school, Zalovskiy said immediately.

How did you make Political Leader so quickly? asked Krilev.

I am not certain. I had very good scores on all my tactical tests that may have figured into my promotions.

Well, school is out. You will rise according to your performance. Speaking of which, none of us, having just come from maneuvers, are properly attired to take care of this detail I have the dubious honor of completing. And since all Eight Company political leaders are subordinated to me, I give you this field assignment.

Field assignment? This sounds serious.

Oh, it is serious, alright. You see, I and the other commissars are going to Smolensk to celebrate your arrival now that no one here has to lecture your platoon. Unfortunately you can't make it.

A commissar with bright red, wiry hair came up to Zalovskiy. I am Anisimov. There is a Komsomol[5] section in Smolensk and every month a political leader from one of the locally-garrisoned army divisions must put in an appearance and a lecture at one of their meetings.

Junior Political Leader Lebedev, came another commissar. This is in conjunction with the anniversary of the formation of the Red Guards, you see, he said.

Yes, added Krilev, originally that was so. But now it is a regular duty for reliable soldiers such as us.

But, the 118th is not a locally-garrisoned unit. It is not part of the Smolensk Military District. It is here as part of an exercise, said Zalovskiy.

The commissars all laughed and slapped him on the back. That is what they tell everyone, but the other six divisions camped here have all sent their sacrificial sheep. There is no one else, except you, said Krilev.

We will be thinking about you and as an added favor, we will drink your fill of vodka and wine for you, said another political leader.

During all this discussion Krilev wrote something on a piece of paper. He then shoved it into Zalovskiy's belly. Here is the address. The meeting begins promptly at 1930 hrs. and they don't like late comers.

Don't mess up. It's for the honor of the fighting 118th, added Lebedev.

At the Komsomol Center, he was asked by a woman of his age about the nature of his lecture. He realized he actually had no idea. He shuddered at the thought of lecturing students and young activists as though they were soldiers.

'The importance of the Red Army in Soviet Society, he sputtered.

Her shoulders drooped in disappointment. Zalovskiy was amused.

I could talk about us meeting after the meeting, he said.

She smiled and giggled. You win, Political Leader. Give the talk. This will be only the fifth time we Smolensk Komsomols have heard this. Anyway they need the sleep.

With that and a wink, she turned away to open up the meeting. Zalovskiy stood in the back of the hall fending off glares from the male Komsomols, while winking at the young women. But he kept his eyes mostly on the woman conducting the meeting. Then came his time.

He froze in front of all those faces. He could feel his face flush red as he attempted to speak, but nothing came from him. He shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot as he searched to find the words for this lecture. Slowly, they came but he stumbled with his words and ideas. He could not grasp his subject. As much as he wanted to reflect soldierly communist ideas, he came off looking the buffoon. But the embarrassment of being a commissar and then being unable to talk to children was not the part which bothered him. He continued to glance at the woman he met earlier. His discomfort was her doing. He hoped, between the tiny thoughts which comprised his lecture, the others in the room would not notice how he felt for her. He finished among a half-hearted applause from the audience. But he disregarded them and made straight for her.

How do you like me? he asked.

Your talk was very informative, comrade, she said with a tiny grin.

Comrade? Is that all I get from you is comrade? he demanded.

The way things stand now, that is, indeed, all you will get, she replied.

Anyway, I asked nothing about my talk. I asked how you like me? he said now smiling.

She gazed at him thoughtfully then she laughed. When I know you, I will tell you.

Zalovskiy stood before her gazing at her beauty. He wanted to say something to her, to ask her out to dinner, but he was too wrapped up in her beauty.

Political Leader Zalovskiy, I have other business to attend to, she said impatiently.

He came out of his trance. What?

She giggled at him and the lost look on his face. Thank you for your talk, she said. Then she turned away from him, leaving him standing there in front of the other Komsomols.

Later in the week the Smolensk Komsomols were graced with a visit from the State Political Administration, the GPU. The representative told of dangerous new tendencies in theoretical and practical party work and to direct work for the local youth group to clear up these matters. His lecture was long, but it was not dull. The young men and women sat engrossed about his ideas on the enemies of the revolution. The political state was forced to take extreme measures in fighting a new class war against a hostile and implacable foe.

It would seem, he told them, that all loyal communists in the Smolensk oblast are threatened by those who would help to maintain or even advance kulakism. And there are the names of those families who have helped their kulak allies in the south. They are the wretched supporters of feudalism such as the times of the Czar. They are the seedling of Fascism, such as the movements in Europe and America.

Young communists, he said, must be alert to kulakism and must be ruthless in working to exterminate this dreaded social parasite. The children were in rapt attention to this speaker with purposeful words of a new class war to be conducted within the revolution itself.

The youth group was divided into groups of three. For the next month, they would go to the homes of these accursed kulaks to seize all property and food. That would be the kulak's punishment for their hostile acts against state and party.

Nadezhda paired off with an 18-year old student named Petr from the power engineering school in Smolensk. They received the name of their assignment and they were told to come at night. They then rushed down a country lane south of Smolensk to find the hut where this kulak family was living. Petr burst through the door. The family was sitting before their stove eating a supper consisting of soup and tea. They did not look very well to Nadezhda.

You have property which belongs to the state and to the people and we have come to seize it! Nadezhda read from her prepared card. An old man came to his feet. He was stooped, tired, thin and wan. His face seemed to droop when he spoke. Look around, he said shrugging. The state has everything!

Petr rushed to the table where the soup was sitting in a black iron pot. He quickly grabbed it with both hands and without looking at anyone, he carried it outside where he dumped it onto the ground.

Nadezhda then came into the house to search for storage trunks and closets. There she found a few dresses, simply patterned and simply made, all worn to the thread, as well as shoes and hose. She seized it all and carried it outside where she dumped it by the spilled soup. Petr came back into the hut to take the bread and it was also thrown outside onto the ground. Nadezhda seized burlap drapes she found on the unshuttered windows. They, too, came down.

As they went through the home, Nadezhda sensed that something in the family was terribly wrong. An old woman, she thought was the wife of the old man, silently sobbed while huge tears rushed down her face. The two young men, she also thought family, watched, but they did not shed tears. They glared at Petr and Nadezhda, but they did so helplessly yet with hate for the work of the young communists.

Petr met Nadezhda outside. That is everything except for the beds and we must have carts to carry those away. I suggest you wait here while I get something to transport this junk, alright? Nadezhda nodded quickly as Petr disappeared into the night. Nadezhda was alone. Silently she stood by the pile of property taken from this family. As she stood, the old woman came out of the house and began to pick through the property. The woman ignored Nadezhda even though she stood where the candles in the hut illuminated her. In the scant light from the hut, she found a newer dress, picked it up and carefully folded it in her hands. It was pretty one with a flower pattern. She gathered it in her arms and proceeded inside the hut. Then she stopped. She looked at Nadezhda. The light from the hut revealed tears again streaming down her face.

You are such a pretty girl, she said through her crying. Why are you engaged in this terrible work?

You are a kulak, answered Nadezhda calmly.

We are not kulaks! We are peasants!

The party said you help kulaks and enemies of the state and party from Ukraine.

The old woman cried aloud. Her words broke with her sobs.

We did not help kulaks. Our son in the army, who was on maneuvers in the Ukraine last year, gave bread to a starving Ukrainian. He was sentenced to 20 years without right of correspondence. He was only 18 years old. He only had compassion for a starving person. Can your party not see that?

Helping a kulak is a serious offense.

Hundreds. We hear of hundreds in the south who are dying as we speak now from this work of yours. Nadezhda turned away from her. She had been instructed to ignore the enemy's entreaties. But she could not ignore that something was wrong.

You must hear this, said the old woman. This has nothing to do with communism. This is hatred against innocent people. The party hates Ukrainians, and they placed communist zeal on it as a label. Can you not see this has nothing to do with revolution? she said sobbing. Why do you hurt us in this way. You took the only meal we had in three days. We cannot buy food at the Smolensk gastronome, the market or the collective farms. My husband cannot find work here or anywhere else because of a courageous and gentle act by my son. Why?

Nadezhda felt pain for the woman but only for a moment. She reminded herself about the opening remarks of the GPU envoy. She had to be ruthless. She tried to steel herself for a reply, but she could say nothing. The words of the old woman came back to her again and again. She did not look at the old woman's wretched tears. The woman returned to her home.

Petr came back with two companions and a cart loaded with property from another seizure. The Komsomols loaded the property and left. Nadezhda followed them back to Smolensk, but she did not keep up with the same brisk pace or with the same zeal as her comrades. The old woman may as well have come with her for all Nadezhda heard were the woman's sobbing pleas.

Nadezhda came home to her parents. They were already retired for the night. She went to bed as well but she did not sleep.

The next morning Nadezhda said nothing to her mother and father who sat quietly having breakfast. She grabbed a large chunk of black bread and she left home heading for the south of Smolensk to the peasant's home. During the day it was a very different place. It seemed to Nadezhda so much more empty; so emptied of its life. She knocked on the heavy wooden door, but there came no reply. She knocked again and again, still nothing. Then she tried the door. When it swung open she saw the interior was completely barren. Only a few piles of straw and a few embers in the stove was proof anyone had lived here recently. She started to return to Smolensk when she saw a kolkholznik leading a pony hitched to a cart. She stopped him to ask about the family.

They were the Shulovs. They immigrated from Ukraine after the Civil War and settled here, he said.

What happened to them?

He shrugged. They were Ukrainian. They were probably kulaks. They were most likely deported.

Deported? Where?

The peasant man became immediately upset. I am not the son of a bitch who knows or plans these evils. Ask a communist, why don't you.

With that, the kolkholznik turned and left. Nadezhda felt a sob well up deep in her throat. She choked back tears she felt for the family whose property she seized. She ran all the way back to Smolensk and to the railyard. Trains pulling long lines of cattle cars were idled at the sidings. Huge crowds of people with scant belongings were packed in a solitary mass shoulder to shoulder with armed GPU guards menacingly pointing Mosin-Nagant[6] rifles at the unarmed peasants. The huge crowd was silent. The railyard seemed idled. No peasant spoke. The monotonic droning of official voices directed their kulak victims to their appointed fate filled the railyard with final sound of closing doors to the cattle cars. Cars were loaded up with children and packed with adults until all were shoulder to shoulder. Children cried and border guards shouted insults and threats to quiet them.

Breathlessly, Nadezhda ran up to a border guard, who whipped around towards her pointing his rifle. He lunged for her with his teeth clenched and eyes full of hatred.

What are you doing? she yelped frightened.

I am readying myself to shoot you if you do not step back, he shouted.

Where are all these people going? she asked.

They are deportees. They are enemies of the people. They are all going to Kolyma[7], he replied.

Nadezhda turned away, knowing it was too late for her to speak to the family or to help in any way. They were to be punished for their crimes against the state. Kolyma. Siberia. She cried for them.

Munich, March 1933

Judith maintained she hated it when Heitz came by for the night. Their clothing would be dirty from being so recklessly thrown to the floor the moment he arrived. The next morning she woke. She grabbed a nightrobe to cover herself from the chill of the morning.

Are you coming to the cell meeting tonight? she asked cheerfully.

I don't know. Where will it be? he asked still admiring her body as she struggled to get her clothes on.

I think that Rolf is hosting this week. We can't meet at the factory anymore because of the damned Nazis.

What are you going to do, now that all your party bosses have been arrested?

She thought for a moment as she dressed. I am not certain. I have been trying to get a couple of contacts I have always been told would be ready in case of something like this, but so far, no one seems to be around.

Where could they be? he asked.

A lot of them, I think, made it to Paris, but everything is cut off from Germany by the Nazis. It is so hard to tell what is going on with anything right now with all the confusion.

She came to him and kissed him on the cheek. They grabbed for each other and embraced.

Are you going to work today? she asked.

I don't know. I heard a strike is being planned at the factory. But I am in the same situation as you. Everyone I know has either disappeared or have been arrested. I think that I will just stay here for another day before I go back to work, he said kissing her.

I think you should stay here as well. I want you to rest up and get some energy. When I get home I will want to go again. So, I say, rest, she said kissing him. She went for the door but before she left she turned towards him. Remember...rest.

He nodded and smiled for her as she left, then he went back to sleep for the rest of the morning. When he rose from bed he managed to gather some food for breakfast and then he spent the day reading her books and old copies of Roto Fahne.[8] Towards evening she returned. This time she was in a hurry.

She threw a bag at him. Quickly, grab clothing and load them in this! I'm getting out of here!

What? he asked confused. You are going? Where are you going? he asked.

Her face was tight and panicked, and she mumbled to herself in frustration as she tried to stuff everything into a suitcase to close it. I don't know, Paris, Madrid, who knows. Anywhere but Germany!

What is going on with you? he asked watching her nervously load her clothes.

'I went to Rolf's apartment. His wife told me he had been arrested. This time they got the list of the leaders of the factory cell. Don't you see? They have my name! If they come here, they will take me away!

Perhaps Rolf was not arrested because he is a communist, he said.

What are you saying? she asked, only slightly distracted from her packing.

Perhaps she said that to cover for another one of Rolf's drinking arrests. You know how he gets.

She turned to him. He looked into her eyes which were filled with rage. Wake up, Herman! These are fascists. They hate everything except their own power. They hate everything, especially communists. They will kill me if they get a chance. You had better come with me. You are no better off than I am!

No better off than you are...what do you mean? he said. Then they heard the stomping of feet coming up the stairwell to the apartment.

Oh, shit, they are here, she said. The door burst open and in came two plainclothes men and two soldiers. All of them were armed with pistols. The two plainclothes men grabbed Heitz and slammed him hard against a wall. The soldiers grabbed Judith and threw her on the floor.

You're under arrest! the soldiers shouted.

What's the charge? she screamed.

Conspiracy and treason! they replied. They wrapped a rope around her hands and they quickly carried her out of the room with her feet dragging. Judith sobbed all the way downstairs. The plainclothes men tied Heitz's hands and they forced him to run down the stairs. When he got to the street, he could still hear her crying, but she had been shoved into the back of an army truck and driven away.

Heitz went into the car with the plainclothes men, but it left in another direction. It was a short drive. They arrived at the police station. The driver took the car around to the back. Heitz was rushed to the jail area and shoved into a cell. It was dark and cold. He could hear the voices of other men and women groaning in other cells. He called to find Judith but there was no reply from her. He called again. Again nothing. Night and the ferociousness of the journey brought him sleep.

During the night he heard voices talking among themselves and he tried to awaken to speak to them to learn of his fate. But as soon as he crawled over to a wall and pressed his ear against it, he heard silence. Towards the morning, his cell door opened and in came someone. It was so dark he could not see who the person was. Heitz rose from the hard cold cell floor and sat up. He heard a man groan. Heitz crawled over to him.

The man was startled by his presence. Who are you? he asked.

I wanted to know the same thing. I am Heitz, Herman Heitz.

He could hear labored breathing from the man's lungs. He struggled to speak, but the breathing and the pain overtook him. Then suddenly, the breathing stopped. Heitz waited for a moment for him to begin again but he did not. He came to his feet, pounded on the door, and yelled for help. The other prisoners also yelled with him. They then heard the clanking of doors as the policemen came to answer his call.

What is all this noise? You communists will be shot if you don't shut up, do you hear! said an angered voice in the corridor.

I have a dead man here, shouted Heitz.

Who said that? came the answer. Heitz spoke again. Then the cell door opened. A policeman stood there peering into the darkness. The corpse was laying at the end of it. The policeman looked at Heitz.

So you have a dead men here. Why are you here? Are you a communist? he demanded.

Heitz looked at the policeman to try to gauge him politically.

No, but I was sleeping with a woman who was, he said. He could not stop himself, but he thought that he just sealed her fate. He wanted to stall or take back everything he had just told the police man, but he knew he could not.

Sleeping with communists, eh? You must be let go. We don't want these other communists exposed to the clap you probably have from your communist whore. You stay in there and I will get someone to remove the body.

He shoved Heitz back in and slammed the door shut. Heitz was nervous and depressed from the corpse in his room. He shook all over from fear and from his nerves. The policeman left.

Hey, Clapman, whispered a voice. You with the communist girlfriend, can you hear me?

Heitz moved to the wall from where the sound came. I am here. Who are you? he asked in a whisper.

That does not matter. Your friend over there, his name is Heinrich. He is a communist. They beat him to death, probably, said the voice.

How do you know? he asked.

They have been taking me from this cell ever since Herr Hitler became chancellor and beating me until I reveal who all my communist friends are.

And you told.

Yes, I told. You know I told. It is one of the reasons I am still alive. But now, you know there is something else. The man they just killed, did the same, and he is the reason I am here. That is justice if you ask me. Now, I am convinced that I will share his fate. I am going to die at the hands of my tormentors. And everyone who is in jail here will suffer as well. So, I told about people who once trusted me and now I will die. If you ask me now, that is the only justice I deserve.

Heitz then heard the man sob. Heitz shed a tear for him as well.

I am sorry. I heard about your girlfriend. What cell?

Dorfman Steel Mills Limited.

Are you a member of the party?

Are you?

How long have you been here at the jail?

I do not know. A few hours. Why? Do you know what will happen to me and my girlfriend?

You'll probably get out. If no one has named you, you're free.

And Judith? What of her?

She is already dead.

Zalovskiy sat back on his cot thinking about the events of the day. The other commissars had taken a pass into Smolensk for a visit to a local cabaret. He was ordered by Krilev to stay in camp in the remote case of mobilization. Since the German fascists came to power, there had been no fewer than three such exercises with calls originating with the Moscow Military District chief of staff ordering all divisions in the area to arm and have troops in formation within fifteen minutes, ready to leave on trucks for the border. But the exercises were only communications channels tests Once satisfactory evaluations of performances came up from the commissars and other officers, the alerts stopped. But the district still specified all units remain in a ready status. Night had come.

From the night, noisily and with a great deal of dust, came the duty runner from divisional headquarters scurrying into his tent.

Comrade Commissar Zalovskiy. You have a visitor! he reported.

Who is the visitor, soldier?

She won't say. She wanted me and Comrade Captain Koryakov to show her to your tent, but regulations do not permit it.

Zalovskiy slid on his boots and followed the soldier to the division headquarters tent. He saw Nadezhda standing in front of the commander's tent. Her clothes were filthy and her hair was disheveled, but she was beautiful to him. As he closed to her he saw little streaks of dried mud from where her tears had rolled down her face in her trudging through the dusty roads.

You are crying, why? he asked.

She leaned towards him, grabbed him firmly and pressed her body to him. Zalovskiy was surprised, but he was also pleased. A few soldiers watching the spectacle joked at them and her embrace. Nadezhda began to cry.

Why do you cry? he asked.

I learned something today, she said, her voice breaking with her sobbing.

So, you learn something and then you come to me. How very interesting. I hope you learn much more tomorrow.

You don't understand. I have been helping in the Smolensk Komsomol. It is part of my duties for the party. A GPU man came from Moscow and he told the Komsomols that we were to attack enemies of the people who had tried to steal state property.

Yes, they call them kulaks. They are the single most dangerous element in Soviet society.

They are no danger to society.

What are you saying?

I took a 18-year old Komsomol on a raid against a family I was told was kulak. We took everything from them because we were told it was all state property. Then the matron of the household tells me the only thing they did wrong was to be related to a son who gave food to a starving Ukrainian.

Probably a kulak, he said.

Not a kulak. They said they were peasants, not kulaks.

Listen to me. State justice is swift and brutal, but it is to protect this revolution which is still so fragile.

No, you listen to me! This has nothing to do with communism. This is a race war! They deport innocent people because they are Ukrainians!

Where do you get such outrageous opinions? This has everything to do with communism. The war against the Russian kulaks prove it, as you related it to me.

Those peasants I told you about were formerly Ukrainian and they have family in the Ukraine.

So? Why do you come to me?

I just need your help. I was promised entry into the party on my 18th birthday, but now I cannot, not after what I have seen. I have come to ask you what I should do?

Zalovskiy looked at her very closely. He recalled how beautiful her hair and body smelled at the Komsolmol lecture. He looked into her eyes which were so beautiful. He touched her gently.

You come with me into the night and I will provide you with an answer, he said leading her to the headquarters tent.

Captain Yuri Koryakov was sitting at the duty desk with his feet propped comfortably up. He was reading a communist party newspaper. Zalovskiy came to attention and reported.

Permission for emergency leave?

Koryakov asked incredulously. In the middle of night duty? What is this personal business?

I am not required to divulge, except that it is most urgent.

What, I repeat, is the nature of your request?

Regulations only require assurances that my business is pressing enough to require 24 hours.

So, Political Leader, you want to fuck around with Red Army regulations? Very well. I have been in the army since 1920. I have sent worthy soldiers to their deaths for less than the audacity of your request. I have had soldiers executed in summary fashion because I found the right regulation. You, comrade, are a commissar: a political military hack. Were it not for your connections you would probably not be in the army! Army regulations do not apply, so if you are trying to fool me, you have come to the wrong fool. Permission for emergency leave denied! Take it up with the divisional commissar! Dismissed!

Zalovskiy, dejected, turned about to leave the tent when he was bumped crudely by a tall staff lieutenant carrying a map case and a small dispatch case. The officer threw them both onto a map table abruptly., then stepped aside Then, into the tent came Division Commander Batov. Zalovskiy and Koryakov came to immediate attention and saluted. Batov, small and rotund with a closely cropped haircut and steely blue eyes, was perspiring heavily. He spoke in a high pitch and his boots, shined to a high gloss, were always covered with road dust. He looked very closely at Zalovskiy, then his eyes focused on the commissar patch.

I do not think I have had the pleasure, he said gruffly to Zalovskiy. Your family?

Political Leader Zalovskiy, Eight Company, 354th Rifle Regiment, comrade Division Commander Batov, said Zalovskiy.

Batov nodded thoughtfully. So, what the hell are you doing in my orderly tent? You should be on the town drinking it up, making an ass of yourself, as your comrades from Eight Company are doing as we speak!

Comrade Political Leader Zalovskiy was just leaving, comrade commander Batov. I turned down his request for emergency leave. He is not Army, said Koryakov, smiling at the increasingly uncomfortable Zalovskiy. Zalovskiy continued at attention.

Do you know what he is talking about, comrade Zalovskiy? asked Batov.

I am a commissar, answered Zalovskiy.

Oh no, comrade Zalovskiy, you are not a commissar. You are a boil on my ass. I would scratch you, but it would cause me more pain, said Batov, his eyes filled with glee at seeing him squirm.

Senior commanders are required by regulations to give equal respect to commissars regardless of rank, said Zalovskiy, only just remembering the regulation.

So, you think you know Army regulations, do you said Batov. He grabbed Zalovskiy's shoulder and the commissar patch, and he ripped the patch off with a powerful force. He shoved the tattered cloth in his fist directly into Zalovskiy's face.

There, he said. That in my hand is at least ten months in a penal company, digging out latrines! Shall I go on, comrade Political Leader Zalovskiy?

Zalovskiy was shaking with fury. Koryakov, barely controlling the urge to laugh, was enjoying this test Batov was conducting. Zalovskiy said nothing.

SHALL I GO ON!!? shouted Batov, throwing the patch to the floor.

In no way, comrade Division Commander Batov! shouted Zalovskiy.

Very well, then. So, you are on duty and you requested emergency leave. Does this request have anything to do with the woman we just saw outside? asked Batov.

It has everything to do with her, comrade commander Batov, said Zalovskiy hopefully.

Do you plan to marry her or are your plans more primal than that?

The situation with her is more complicated than that, comrade Division Commander.

Is it now? So complex that I am not to know your secret?

Something like that, comrade Division Commander.

Well, well. And you are abandoning your post for some personal need. Is it something like that?

In no way, comrade Division Commander.

Tell me, Zalovskiy, where did you come from?

Viaz'ma.

I will ask my question in another way, then. Why are you only a Political Leader?

I was in the army reserves, comrade Batov. The State Political Administration chose me for commissar training.

Do you know why you were called up?

No, comrade Division Commander.

Fascism. Do you know what that is? We have been slowly watching it choke our Italian comrades, and we saw it kill off some of our German comrades. Now, our glorious leaders in the party have called upon a million reservists such as yourself to help build the Red Army in the coming war against fascism.

Yes, comrade Division Commander.

Now if I let every one of my commissars off on emergency leave each time someone in a skirt gets them on her chain, who would fight the fascists?

Zalovskiy thought for a moment looking straight at the volatile Batov.

Does the Division Commander require an answer?

The tent shook with laughter from Batov, Koryakov and the aide.

Very well, then. You go on and conduct this personal business of yours. I will send a replacement and will properly inform Divisional Commissar Pykov.

Zalovskiy took his commissar patch and walked out of the duty tent. He grabbed Nadezhda and led her towards Smolensk. But the night was pitch black and cool. He was tired and Nadezhda was so upset. He led her by the protecting trees in the cool night. He knew they could sleep there undisturbed.

The next morning he was awakened by the noises of an infantry column marching in from night maneuvers. He quickly dressed. Nadezhda also woke and she dressed. Then she started to cry.

He embraced her for a moment. Why do you cry? he asked gently.

You promised me help with a solution and then you do this to me? she cried. I needed your help and here I am with you in the cool morning.

I have a solution for you.

She began to walk away. He