The Commissar

The Commissar by Sven Hassel Read Free Book Online

Book: The Commissar by Sven Hassel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sven Hassel
to come into his head.
    ‘Oberfeldwebel Stollmann, sir!’
    ‘Charge him,’ snarls the General. ‘He can be punished for unregimental saluting. I’ve never seen anything like it! Saluting! As if the fool was on parade. I want you to look after that man. Properly, understand!’
    ‘Very good, sir!’ replies the Adjutant, scribbling in his notebook.
    As Barcelona’s Puma swings round at the entrance to the long connecting road, the General catches sight of Albert’s black face in the open driving hatch.
    ‘Why’s that man’s face black?’ he asks the Adjutant.
    ‘
Black
, sir?’ mumbles the Adjutant, in surprise. He putshis glasses to his eyes, to get a closer look at Albert. ‘Looks like a negro, sir!’ he says, doubtfully.
    The entire staff put up their binoculars. For a moment 4th
Panzer
is forgotten, and all interest is concentrated on Albert in the clean-up waggon’s driving-seat.
    ‘A
negro
?’ snarls the General, irritably. ‘What nonsense! Germany’s had no colonies for the last twenty years.’
    ‘Twenty-five, sir,’ the Chief-of-Staff corrects him, ‘and the last of the colonial troops were retired years ago.’
    ‘Charge that man for having blackened his face without orders,’ snaps the General, brusquely. ‘I don’t want my army turned into a lot of circus clowns!’
    The Adjutant writes feverishly: Driver in Puma 524 to be punished for blackening face. He adds, on his own initiative: and for laughing.
    In the course of the day we push on through stretched-out villages lining the sides of the roads. White sheets hang from every window as a sign of capitulation.
    The inhabitants stand pressed up against the walls of their houses, unsmilingly, faces marked by the fear of the future.
    Late in the afternoon we make a halt. We refuel, ammunition is issued, and benzedrine tablets are handed out to each man. There is still no time to waste on sleeping.
    Porta and Tiny are long since inside the houses, ransacking boxes and cupboards. They do not really know what they are looking for, but are just sniffing around like inquisitive dogs.
    ‘Funny things they drink out of in this country,’ says Tiny, gazing in astonishment at a large pink irrigator and holding it up. ‘Couldn’t empty that bleeder very often ’fore your bleedin’ brains blew out through yourear’oles. What’s the tube in it for though?’
    ‘Anybody can see
that
,’ answers Porta. ‘Ivan’s a practical feller. He lies on his back when he drinks, so he doesn’t hurt himself when he falls down. We Germans can learn a lot here in Russia.’
    ‘I gotta try that,’ says Tiny, enthusiastically, hanging the irrigator from his belt like a second gasmask pouch. ‘Think o’ lyin’ flat on your bleedin’ back an’ gettin’ the biggest drunk on the world’s ever ’eard of! Maybe a bloke ought to turn Russki an’ forget all about old Germany?’
    ‘Holy Virgin Mary’s Mother,’ cries Porta, in surprise. ‘Here’s a dead woman, and she’s wearing a hunting cap with a feather in it. Going travellin’ perhaps when she died. Did go too, only a bit longer trip than she’d reckoned on.’
    ‘Smells like murder,’ he murmurs, after taking a closer look at the body. ‘Took one in the guts, she did. Can’t have been an execution, or she’d have got the pill in her neck. That’s how they do it in this country.’
    ‘’Ow dreadful!’ says Tiny, turning up his eyes. ‘Such wicked bleeders ought to be put in jail!’
    ‘Here’s her handbag, ‘Porta goes on. He picks up a lady’s bag made of reindeer skin. He shoves his nose right into it, and rummages round.
    ‘Out of here immediately! That’s an order!’ yells Heide in his best NCO’s voice. He positions himself in the doorway with his hands on his hips and bobs up and down on his toes.
    ‘Up you, Moses,’ says Tiny, unimpressed.
    The blood flashes up into Heide’s arrogant Teutonic face.
    ‘I’m warning you, Obergefreiter Creutzfeldt, call me Moses one

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