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Authors: Sven Hassel

Wheels of Terror

BOOK: Wheels of Terror
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Born in 1917 in Fredensborg, Denmark, Sven Hassel joined the merchant navy at the age of 14. He did his compulsory year's military service in the Danish forces in 1936 and then, facing unemployment, joined the German army. He served throughout World War II on all fronts except North Africa. Wounded eight times, he ended the war in a Russian prison camp. He wrote LEGION OF THE DAMNED while being transferred between American, British and Danish prisons before making a new life for himself in Spain. His world war books have sold over 53 million copies worldwide.

Bauer, the black marketeer - Pluto, the huge docker who had stolen a truckload of flour - Moller, who held unfashionable religious convictions - Porta, who had laughed too loud - Stege, the student who had taken part in demonstrations - I, who had deserted--
These were the men of the 27th Panzer Regiment, convicts stripped of honour, counting their existence in hours and lusting and desecrating like half-crazed animals.
With everything forgotten but the struggle for personal survival, they lived in a maniacal world in which the scream of bullets, the agonised cries of the dying and the frenzied animal couplings with women prisoners were the only realities.
By the same author
Legion of the Damned
Monte Cassino
SS General
Comrades of War
Liquidate Paris
Blitzfreeze
Reign of Hell

Translated by I. O'Hanlon

With hell inside you it can be fine
To live a jester under God's spell,
Yet open heaven's gates divine
With the heavy keys of your private hell
.
This book is dedicated to the three greatest jesters of the 27th (Penal) Panzer Regiment: Obergefreiter Joseph Porta, 'Tiny' and the 'Little Legionnaire'.

Contents

Cover

Title

Dedication

About the Author

By the Same Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Copyright

1

The air-raid screams, whistles, thunders. Fire falls from the sky. Mothers cry to God and throw themselves over their children to protect them from the rain of fire falling on the asphalt.

Soldiers, trained in murder and hate, soldiers carrying their arms, are to be the people's protectors.

When the enemy bombers are silent, the rifles of these protectors speak.

Ordinary decent people, whose last energy has burnt away in panic-stricken terror, are being murdered by the soldiers of their own country.

What is the meaning of it all?

Dictatorship, my friend.

Nox Diaboli

The barracks were silent and dark, wrapped in the dark velvet of autumn. Only the sharp heel-taps of the sentries' hob-nailed boots could be heard as they walked their tedious watch on the cemented path in front of the gates and along the sides of the barrack buildings.

In Room 27 we sat and played cards, Skat, of course.

'Twenty-four,' Stege called.

'You bloody whore,' Porta rhymed, grinning ferociously. 'That's where I came in.'

'Twenty-nine,' Moller bid quietly.

'Sod you, you Schleswig spudpeeler,' Porta said.

'Forty,' came calmly from The Old Un. 'Who can beat that? Laughing on the other side of your face now, eh, Skinny?'

'Don't be too bloody sure. Even playing with sharpers like you, you old ...' Porta leered at The Old Un. 'I'll see you off. Forty-six!'

Bauer started to laugh loudly:

'I'll tell you something, old Porta. Here's forty-eight, and if you can beat that--'

'Not too much talk, my lamb. Quite a few of you died from that. But if you want to play with experienced people, this is how it is done.' Porta looked very smug. 'Forty-nine!'

At that moment loud whistling came from the corridors:

'Alert, alert, air-raid warning!'

And then the sirens cut in with their rising and falling banshee wails. Bursting with malice and cursing fluently, Porta flung down his cards.

'To hell with these bloody Tommies - coming and mucking up the best hand I've had for years!'

To a recruit, who stood looking confused and fumbling with his gear, he roared:

'Alert, my pretty, air-raid warning! Down to the shelters with you, double-quick, off!'

The recruits stood open-mouthed listening to his Berliner guttersnipe bellowings.

'Is it really a raid?' asked one of the recruits nervously.

'Of course it's a bloody raid. You don't imagine the Tommies have come to invite us to a ball at Buckingham Palace, do you? And that's not the worst of it! Now my lovely game of Skat goes to hell! Just to think what a mess a damned war can make of quiet, honest people's lives ...'

Wild confusion had broken out. Everyone was tumbling round each other. Lockers were torn open. Heavy boots thundered through the long corridors of the vast block of barracks and down the stairs to the assembly points. Those who had not yet properly learned how to cope with their new hobnailed boots fell flat on the slippery tiled floors. Those who came behind waded over the novices, who had all more or less gone wild with panic when they heard the sirens. Most of them had enough experience to know that in a moment the bombs would come screaming through the pitch-black night.

'Number four platoon - over here.' The Old Un's quiet voice sounded curiously penetrating through the dark so dense it could nearly be cut. In the sky we could hear the heavy bombers winging towards their target. And now the flak began to bark hollowly from here and there about the city. Suddenly a light flared, a sharp white light which hung in the sky like a beautifully lit Christmas tree. The first target-light. In a minute the bombs would be drumming down to earth.

'Number three to the shelters,' sounded RSM Edel's deep bass voice.

At once the company's two hundred men split up and rushed in all directions to slit-trenches or even just heaps of soil. We soldiers were afraid of what were called air-raid shelters. We preferred the open trenches to the cellars, which we regarded as rat-traps.

And then hell loosed itself. Round us the enormous explosions shrieked and thundered. The bombs fell like a blanket over the city. In a moment everything was lit by the blood-red light from the great sea of flames. Crouching in our trenches, it looked as though the whole world was disintegrating in front of our eyes.

For miles around, the explosive and incendiary bombs illumined the condemned city. No words could ever describe that horror. The phosphorus of the incendiaries spurted like fountains in the air and spread an inferno. Asphalt, stone, people, trees, even glass went up in flames. Then the high explosives followed, spreading the inferno even wider. The fire was not the white fire of a furnace but red, like blood.

New, blinding Christmas trees appeared in the sky, giving the signal to attack. Bombs and air-torpedoes shrieked down on the city. Like an animal marked for slaughter it lay there, and like lice people searched for wrinkles and crannies to hide in. They were finished, torn to shreds, suffocated, burned, broken, minced. Yet many, just for a moment, made desperate attempts to save their lives. The lives to which they clung despite war, hunger, loss and political terror.

The Firling Flak at the barracks stuttered and barked against the invisible bombers. Orders had demanded that it should be fired. Fine! The gunners fired, but one thing we knew: not one of the great bombers would be damaged by the ridiculous Firling Flak.

Somewhere someone cried so loudly that the voice penetrated the din. The hysterical and sobbing voice cried for the ambulance squad. Two bombs had hit a single barracks-block.

'God help us,' murmured Pluto who lay on his back in the slit-trench with his steel helmet pushed over his forehead. 'I only hope they've hit some of the Nazi high brass down there.'

'Funny how a city can burn,' added Moller as he lifted himself up and looked out towards the glowing sea of fire. 'What is it that burns so?'

'Fat women, thin women, beer-blown men, thin men, bad children, nice children, beautiful girls, everything mixed up,' said Stege and wiped the sweat off his brow.

'Well, well, children, you'll soon find out - when we go down and help with the clearing up,' The Old Un said evenly, and lit his old pipe with its period-piece lid. 'I'd rather see something else. I don't like seeing half or whole-charred children.'

'That's too bad,' said Stege. 'There's going to be no difference between us and a mob of slaughterhouse workers when we get going down there.'

'Isn't that what we are?' Porta asked, laughing evilly. 'What is this bloody army we have the honour of belonging to, but just a huge butchery? Still, never mind. At least we'll have a trade to fall back on, eh?'

BOOK: Wheels of Terror
11.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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