A lonely solder and a vulnerable girl.


Gabriela walked home alone in the dark alley, glad that the war was finally over. She heard a sound behind her and wondered if someone was following her. She had heard stories of rapes and thefts by the soldiers that occupied Berlin. She shuddered and walked faster. At least now there were no more blackouts and she could walk in the dimly lit alleyway to her small flat. The gravel crunched underneath her feet as she walked and she could hear her neighbors talking as she passed by their window.

The Battle of Berlin in World War II left tens of thousands dead, injured and homeless. Much of the city had been bombed out, reduced to rubble.

Gabriela’s house had been left standing, much to her relief. She had suffered the death of her husband early in the war, her oldest son had still not come home, he was with his battalion somewhere, and her youngest son was with her parents on their farm outside the city.

The defeat of Germany and the destruction of the city left everyone demoralized, but she was relieved that it was finally over.

She turned to her flat, opened the door and looked up and down the alleyway before entering the house, but it was too dark to see clearly. She hoped no one had followed her. She placed the loaf of bread and potatoes on the counter and looked at it. This small amount of food would have to last for a week. There had not been enough to eat in Berlin for months.

She walked up the wooden steps to her bedroom, still missing her husband. The second stair from the top squeaked as it always did when she put her weight on it. She wondered how her two sons were doing and said a prayer for them. After walking into the bedroom she lit a lamp.

Suddenly she heard the sound of the creaking hinges of the door downstairs, and she froze with fear. Had she forgotten to fully latch the bolt? She stood trying to remember and then, just to be on the safe side she crossed the room as quietly as she could and stood in the closet. She wondered if she was mistaken about the sound of the door. Her bedroom window was closed. If she screamed, would people hear her?

She listened carefully for any noise coming from the first floor. She remembered her neighbor, a young lady who had been “visited” by a small group of Russian soldiers. Some men had come to her aid, but too late. Gabriela still remembered the stoic, expressionless look on her face as she walked away from the ordeal, knowing that her neighbors knew what had happened. Gabriela was amazed that she could walk away with such poise, but had later learned that at about two o’clock that morning she had shot herself in the head.

If it happened to Gabriela, she didn’t want anyone to know about it.

Then she heard the stair creak! She stood motionless, afraid to make a noise, breathing through her mouth as quietly as she could, not knowing what to do. Her heart was pounding.

Her bedroom door opened and one solder walked slowly in, carrying a rifle. “Friedrich!” she gasped. Was it her son?

He walked nearer; into the light of the little oil lamp and she saw that it wasn’t her son. To her surprise, he looked younger than her son. She stood motionless in terror. But as she looked at his face she felt somehow relieved. He looked so young and innocent, more like a choirboy than a hooligan. Still, he was holding a gun, and he looked at her like a hungry wolf looking at a beefsteak. There was a terrible longing in his wild eyes. But it seemed there was also admiration.

“How old you are?” she heard herself say, and surprised that she said it. She could speak a little English.

“Sixteen.” The boy answered. He had a childish face, but broad shoulders and powerful arms, probably a farm boy who often lifted bales of hay.

He was only sixteen. That reply gave her strength. Suddenly she felt in control of the situation. “You must be… eighteen to wear American army uniform.” She was frustrated by her lack of English vocabulary.

“I lied and changed one digit on my birth certificate. Many of the guys in my regiment are seventeen.” he snorted. “They need troops so badly, they don’t really care.”

She had heard of women talking soldiers out of doing it. That was her only chance. He reminded her of her son, who was now eighteen; but when he was little she had put him over her knee and spanked him more times than she could count. When he grew bigger than her, she found other ways to keep him in line. Even when he was taller and much stronger than her, she could use a sharp tone of voice to make him behave.

She looked at the boy, this child, and briefly felt pity for him. He was so far from home, so far away from any girls his age. He was probably lonely and homesick.

“What your mother do if she knew you did such shameful, disgusting thing?” she said.

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One comment

  1. Such a moving account from the holocaust era. I am a world war 2 enthusiast as well..To be honest, it seems even rude to use the word “enthusiast”, given the pain and suffering people endured during that time. None the less I have extensively studied the rise and fall of the German Reich during Hitler’s time and the more I explore the more intriguing it gets…

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