War is hell, and in hell there are no good deeds. For each act upon the battlefield sews a seed of unknown future consequence. Be it saving the life of a comrade, or the slaying of a foe in battle, God alone knows what harvest shall be reaped. When the harvest bears poison fruit, what then is the deed but an immortal sin that only God can forgive.
The sowing of this seed took place in the gloom of a distant gray horizon. It was there that the thunder of far off guns announced a coming storm. Their rumbling flashes echoed in the sky, like lightning in a glow from distant clouds. Soon a hellish rain of great pounding splashes of orange and black death fell hard upon the barren no man's land. This was not God's storm, but man's. It was not Hades, but Belgium. It was 1918 and merely another day at the Front.
Amid the barrage, young master sergeant Robert Levy suddenly turned and peered to the rear from his shell scarred trench. His eyes quickly locked upon the plight of a lone charging soldier. The warrior's approach was like that of a dancer in a ballet of death, leaping and zigzagging among the fiery blossoms of exploding shells. He immediately shouted to his subordinate, "Adolf! Come here!"
Quickly, Sergeant Mueller responded hopping over the dead in his path. Within seconds he came to a crouching halt beside Robert.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Take a look at this one, Adolf. What do you make of him?"
Adolf followed Robert's finger to the advancing soldier and sarcastically answered, "That must be the reinforcements we requested."
"Well, he shall be here or dead in another minute." "I hope he makes it, Robert, and has tobacco with him."
"I would rather he has extra ammunition."
Both men then began shouting to the beleaguered soldier.
"Over here, man! Over here!"
Then quickly they dropped and hugged the trench wall, as the screaming whistles above ended with a crash of earth-rattling thunder.
Suddenly, as the black smoke passed overhead, two jack boots pierced the haze from above. They landed with a thump and a splash in the mud next to them. Inside the boots stood a tattered young corporal. He quickly snapped to attention and shouted.
"Sergeant, I have a dispatch. Where is the officer in charge?"
Brushing himself off, Robert stood and replied with a sarcastic smile. "Can you communicate with the dead, corporal? If you can, he is over there."
Glancing at the body in the mud, the corporal turned back to Robert. "I have orders. Who is in charge?"
"I am, corporal! Hand them here!."
"Your name, Sergeant?"
"Master Sergeant Robert Levy."
"Ah! I have heard them talk of you at headquarters, Sergeant. Sign here please."
Taking the ragged dispatch book in hand, Robert glimpsed the signatures within. He could not make out the corporal's name, so he continued to respond in a neutral address.
"Really, corporal. What is it they say about me?"
"They say that if you were not a Jew, you would be a captain by now. It is too bad, Master Sergeant."
Robert responded with a smile, "Too bad that I am a Jew? I don't think so, corporal. You see, if I were a captain, and not a Jew, that would be me laying there in the mud."
"I meant no disrespect, Master Sergeant."
Robert replied in a forgiving tone, "Yah, hand me the orders corporal."
Reading the orders to himself, Robert turned to Adolf.
"It seems they want the entire company to fall back immediately to trench four G. We are to dig in there and brace for another French assault."
Adolf sarcastically responded with a smirk on his face.
"Do they know that the entire company is eleven men now?"
Robert started to answer, but his reply was interrupted by the panicky shouting of the alarm. Instantly, a shot rang out from above and Adolf fell grasping his thigh in pain. At that very same instant, a small French raiding party rained down from the top of the trench.
Quickly, Robert grabbed a rifle and sank its bayonet into the chest of one attacking Frenchman, and then another. In a cold throbbing sweat, he glanced to his rear and spied the young courier.
The corporal's back was to the trench wall as he desperately tried to clear his jammed pistol. Before him, stood a burly Frenchmen, raising his bayonet high for the strike.
Without a second thought, Robert turned and hurled his bayoneted rifle like a spear. It struck home through the Frenchman's back putting an end to the corporal's peril. In return, Robert paid for the noble act with a glancing bayonet strike to his own side. Instantly, like an invincible warrior, he grabbed hold of the muzzle guard with an iron fist. Then he struck with a knee to the man's groin and yanked the weapon from his grasp. Within seconds he put an end to the Frenchman with the man's own blade. At that very instant, the blood soaked trench suddenly stilled in the silent haze of an eerie calm.
The skirmish had ended as quickly as it had began, only now there were but five remaining alive to recall the day's events.
The nervous trembling of the men's bodies soon stilled, and Robert took charge once more.
"Shultz, Steiner, out of here. Fall back to trench four G. If it is unoccupied, keep going until you find a unit you can attach yourselves to. Corporal, it is best that you be on your way, too."
The corporal locked his heels with a click, and replied, "You saved my life, Sergeant Levy. I will not forget that!" Grasping his wounded side, Robert placed his other hand upon the corporal's shoulder. Then offering a busy smile, he nodded, "Yah, Yah! Go now while you can, corporal."
The three quickly departed over the back wall of the trench, as Robert turned back to Adolf.
"Get up, Adolf, we must go, too." Wincing in pain, he tried, but groaned, "I cannot get up, Robert. The bone is broken. Save yourself, I will be alright." Robert responded with a stern look upon his face. "The French will not be taking prisoners today, Adolf. Especially wounded prisoners they will have to carry back to their rear. If you cannot walk, I will have to carry you then."
"Don't be stupid, Robert. Your are wounded yourself."
"And what shall I tell your wife and child? That I left you to die in the mud? Come, Adolf, I will help you to get up."
Robert leaned over and grasped Adolf under the arms and both men groaned aloud in pain. Then hoisting him over his shoulder, Robert climbed the rickety ladder to the top.
They traveled ten yards from the trench, when suddenly, another barrage began. Quickly, Robert glanced over his shoulder and saw distant muzzle flashes from the advancing French infantry. Gritting his teeth he muttered aloud.
Adolf responded with a moan. "Leave me Robert, you have a better chance by yourself."
"Shut up, Adolf! We will make it."
Dodging the shell bursts, Robert wove yet another twenty yards. Then suddenly, in a clap of thunder, both men were hurled into the air. Their macabre flight quickly ended with a thud in the bowels of a smoking shell crater. Immediately, Robert raised his prone body upon his elbows and turned to Adolf.
"Are you alright?"
"None the worst, Robert. How about you?"
Staring down at his split open calf, Robert replied. "I think we will have to go a little bit slower, my friend."
After examining the wound, Adolf drew his bayonet and cut off Robert's pants leg above the knee. Then fashioning a tourniquet from the rag, he tied it off.
"Well, now what, Robert?"
"It will be dark soon. We will hide here for now."
"We crawl, my friend."
At nightfall, the two broken warriors began their journey upon their bellies. Inch by painful inch, they slowly dragged themselves through the terrifying blackness. It was only the sky light from an occasional flare, that allowed them to mark their progress. By dawn though, they were but fifty yards from the new German lines.
Suddenly, Adolf tugged on Robert's sleeve and whispered, "Robert, I am freezing and I cannot stop shaking. I feel like I am going to pass out."
"It is battle wound fever, Adolf. I have it myself. Fight it. You must!"
"I cannot, Robert. I am afraid I am dying, my friend."
"You must fight it, Adolf, or you will die. Damn you! Fight it man!"
But Adolf's eyes slowly closed as he softly whispered. "Thank you, Robert, for trying to save me. You are honorable man, and a true friend."
The following day, Adolf's eyes opened once more. They fixed upon the heavenly white glare of a hospital ceiling. Immediately, the sweet angelic sound of a female voice echoed the walls.
"Doctor, he is conscious!"
Instantly, a mustached head leaned over him.
"Welcome back, Sergeant Mueller."
"Where am I?"
"You are in the 15th Medical Group Hospital. Take it easy you have been in shock."
"What happened? Where is Master Sergeant Levy?"
"Sergeant Levy? Ah yes, the man who saved your life. Quite a man that one. They tell me he dragged you over fifty yards on his stomach. Quite a feat for a man in his condition."
"Is he here, doctor?" "No, he has been moved to another unit for surgery."
"Will he be alright?"
"Yah, I understand he is doing quite well already. Now you should try to get some rest, my friend."
A week later, the Great War came to an end. It had been the War to end all wars. A long hard struggle fought by men of honor. Honor learned and earned where nightmares were born, yet honor non the less. Honor of course comes with a price. That price can sometimes be death or at other times, merely the repayment of a debt. Eighteen years would pass before these debts were settled.
Strangely, the settlement of this debt began in another hell. It was a hell called Dachau, on a balmy spring day in 1936. In a rare moment of peace, an older and wiser Robert leaned upon his rake to rest. Bitterly, he pondered the events that have lead him to this fate.
"If only someone had killed that madman Hitler. Surely, in his twisted life, there must been have a time, a place, a good man to do the deed. Damn it! If only that man had been me. I swear, I would not have let the opportunity pass. If only..."
Suddenly, a shiver raced up his spine, as a voice called out to him.
"Levy, come with me! Commandant Schmidt wants to see you in his office."
Leaning his rake against the billet wall, Robert nervously replied.
"Yes Sergeant, right away."
The two men quickly started their trek across the barren earth of the camp yard grounds. Seconds into the journey, Robert summoned his courage and asked. "Sergeant Wolf, have you seen my wife and daughter?" Wolfe replied with a smile. "As a matter of fact, I have, Levy." "Are they alright?" "You can ask them yourself. You will be joining them in the commandant's office."
For a second, Robert's eyes glowed brightly, but quickly dimmed, as he wondered to himself in fear. "What do they have in store for us now?"
Five minutes later, Robert was relieved of his fears as he entered the commandant's office. Instantly, SS Colonel Schmidt rose from his desk and offered a friendly smile. Then with a nod of his head, Robert was permitted to hug with his wife and daughter. In the joy of the moment, Robert failed to notice a Wehrmacht Colonel standing in the shadows. However, it was not long before the man announced his presence.
"Hello Robert. It has been a long time, hasn't it?"
Astounded, Robert blurted. "My God! Adolph! Is that you?"
"Yes Robert, it is Colonel Mueller, now."
Both men embraced in a manly hug of long lost friends. This unusual action caused Schmidt to address Adolf in a suspicious tone.
"These release papers seem to be in order, Colonel. However, in light of your obvious friendship, perhaps a more thorough examination may be required."
Immediately, Adolf responded by handing the commandant a small white business card.
"If you have any doubt as to authenticity of the release, by all means call him, Commandant."
Staring at the card in his hand, Schmidt's face grew pale. He quickly handed ii back to Adolf.
"Take them away Colonel. They are all yours."
Five minutes later, Robert and his family were resting comfortably in the back seat of Adolf's staff car. When they passed through the camp's front gate, Robert broke the eerie silence and asked.
"Where are you taking us to, Adolf?"
"I am taking you to my house, old friend. There you and your family will spend a few days recuperating."
"Then what, Adolf?"
"Then you will be on your way to America, my friend."
"America? How are you able to do such a thing, Adolf?"
"I will explain everything to you later, Robert. After you have had a few days to relax, my friend."
Five days later, Robert and his family were well rested. They had even purchased new clothes with money Adolf had given to them. Of course, on such outings, they were always under the escort of Captain Loch, Adolf's trusted aide. Though Robert and his family were guests, they were warmly treated as though the members of Adolf's own family. Indeed, Adolf's hospitality had been more then generous. But now the time had come for Robert and his family to begin their journey.
After an early final breakfast, Captain Loch ordered the driver to warm up the staff car. He then withdrew with Robert's wife and daughter to assist them with their luggage. At the same time, Adolf invited Robert to join him in his study.
When they entered, Adolf took a seat at his oaken desk and removed several envelopes from its top drawer. Raising his eyes to Robert's, he smiled. "You and your family will need a good start in your new country, Robert. So we have acquired everything that you will need. Your wife and daughter will be traveling to England first. From there, they have first class passage on a fine ocean liner. Captain Loch, of course, will escort them all the way to the French border. There, one of our, shall we say, special English friends will escort them on the rest of their journey to the ship. Captain Loch will also give your wife one thousand American dollars for any miscellaneous expenses they may encounter on board the ship." Then handing Robert one of the envelopes, he announced. "You too will be leaving Germany in style, Robert. Inside this envelope you will find your papers and a first class airship ticket. This way you will arrive in America within three days. That will give you time to prepare everything for your family's arrival." He then handed Robert another envelope. "In this envelope you will find a list of Jewish organizations that will help you with your relocation there. One of their people will meet you at the airfield when you arrive in New Jersey. Inside you will also find two thousand five hundred American dollars for your expenses." Handing Robert one last envelope, Adolf smiled. "In this one, there is an American bank book in your, and your wife's name, with $100,000.00 on deposit."
Robert was dumbfounded. "How does a Wehrmacht colonel come by such things, Adolf?"
Adolf laughed in response,"A Wehrmacht colonel does not come by such things, Robert."
"Then how is all this possible, Adolf?"
"Sit down my friend and I will explain everything to you. But you must never speak a word of this to anyone, not even your wife and daughter. Your benefactor demands it, Robert. Do I have your word of honor?"
"Yes, Adolf. Please go on."
"I had learned that you were in the camp from Steiner."
"Steiner?" Private Steiner?"
"Yes, he is a simple truck driver now, Robert. You see, two weeks ago he made a delivery to the camp and recognized you from a distance. But he dare not say anything. So he came to see me several days later. Quite honestly, Robert, at first, I told him there was nothing I could do to help you. But then he mentioned that day in the trench, and the young corporal who had retreated with him and Schultz. He said he sure that it was the same man. But he knew that as a simple truck driver, he would not be permitted to approach him. However, as a Colonel, he thought, perhaps, I could. It was a very dangerous gamble, Robert. But I felt I owed you my life. So I took it, and found out that Steiner had been right."
Puzzled, Robert replied. "I don't understand what you are talking about, Adolf. The same man? The corporal? Do you mean that young messenger?"
"Yes, the messenger, Robert. Now come, I will drive you to the airfield in my car. But we must leave now, for you can not afford be late for your flight. I'm afraid with all the fanfare about, they will not delay The Hindenburg's departure for anyone."
Robert questioned again in a soft reserved tone. "Adolf, are you telling me that corporal arranged all of this?"
"Yes, Robert, the other man whose life you saved that day. "
"Who is he, Adolf?"
"I don't think you would want to know, Robert."
"Please, Adolf, I must know."
"Are you sure you really want to know?"
Robert nodded affirmatively and Adolf reached into his tunic pocket and produced a business card. It was the very same card he had shown to the commandant. Then with an apologetic look upon his face, he handed it to Robert and whispered. "There is a message for you on the back. It is from your real benefactor."
Robert read the hand scrawled message aloud.
"Your noble heroic act has changed the course of human history. I have not forgotten, Sergeant Levy!"
Turning the card over, Robert stared at it for a moment. There was only a signature printed on the front. Oddly, there was something vaguely familiar about it. At first glance, he could not make out the name. So with his finger, letter, by letter, he deciphered it out loud. "A". Period. That looks like an "R" or an "H". Yah, it is an "H". Let me see? Yah, that is an "I". That letter is "T". "L". "E". "R".
Robert quickly paled, and with his mouth gapping stood paralyzed in horror. Then Adolf confirmed his horror.
"Yes, Robert. I'm afraid you saved the life of a messenger from hell."