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A Winter's Night In Germany

April 2006

A good friend told me this story that was told to her by her uncle when she was a teenager. Her whole family swears it happened.

On a very cold winters night in February 1943 the uncle, then a 13-year-old boy, his siblings and their mother were sitting around the stove in the living-room of their small farm in Saxony, Germany. The mother was knitting and the children were quietly reading. Suddenly they heard three loud knocks at their front door. Since they lived in a rural area and their next neighbour's farm was more than two miles away they were scared and hesitated to open the door. Instead they stayed quiet and listened. And what they heard next they never forgot.

They heard men quietly marching past their house. There must have been hundreds of them. They heard them walking past, some were dragging their feet, some stumbling along, no word was spoken, these people walked in solitude, but the children could hear some of these men very subtly sighing and some were breathing with difficulty. After minutes of listening to these silent men marching past, they were startled when somebody knocked three times on their door again. This time the mother, though scared, decided that she couldn't ignore the person outside any longer. She opened the door and there was nobody there. The moonlight fell on the surrounding fields and there was absolutely nobody to be seen. There were no footsteps in the snow outside and no footsteps or any traces on the road. It was very quiet.

Weeks later the mother was informed that her husband was killed that night in Stalingrad, Russia. My friend's father refuses to talk about this incident and leaves the room when it is brought up at family meetings..

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