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Friday, May 18, 2007

Remembrance in Spacetime: Vanquished

(Image via Wikipedia)
Germans captured at Stalingrad being
marched to prisoner-of-war camps, 1943.
It was a typical winter day in Irbit — safe, but very cold. Temperatures there occasionally reached the point at which Fahrenheit and Celsius become indistinguishable.

On the other side of the Urals, the invincible German horde had been met by an indomitable Russian will. At the end of the monumental battle, a quarter million invincibles surrendered at Stalingrad. That marked the end of the pathogenic Nazi explosion. The implosive eradication of it had begun.

On this wintry Siberian day in 1943, a mother was rushing, with toddler in tow, to the wartime mall — the black market — where the people bartered for necessities. She had dressed her son warmly: long woolly underwear; pants; shirt and sweater; an overcoat with mittens; a hat with ear flaps; and little boots made of felt. The felt was effective because it was too cold for snow to melt and wet it. His father had recently demonstrated the fascinating way in which saliva turned to ice before it reached the ground with a clink.

The little boy stopped walking to complain about some minor discomfort. The mother's hasty effort in dressing him for her important errand had been less than his fastidiousness required. In her agitation, she started spanking him — an unusual response from her.

Suddenly, she stopped. Advancing towards them was a disorganized column of misery, guarded by Russian troops. The prisoners-of-war were shivering in the remnants of their warm-weather uniforms. Their heads down, icicles hung from the nostrils of the vanquished invaders. Mother stared at the despised detritus shuffling past.

"That nation of swine!" she exclaimed, as frozen spit punctuated the ground.

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