Chapter 5: InfernoApril 30th, 1940
Breslau, The Reich
Hitler paced back and forth, stopping now and then to stare at the map. Russian forces had pushed deep into Poland, almost without resistance from the Germans, and a great salient bulged into the interior of the Reich like a dull blade:
And there had been nothing they could do about it. Not without the troops from Ireland and England. Yes, the conquest of England had taken far too long. But at least the convoys were able to run without interference. Not that that mattered now, of course, since that schwein Roosevelt had embargoed the Reich.
Hitler stopped, then chuckled. When he'd informed Viktor of that, the man had just shrugged. "I doubt Mr. Roosevelt will be around all that long" was all he had said. Probably, Hitler thought, the man was right. Popular opinion in the United States had turned against the man and the increasingly rebellious congress. In any case, the mines and factories of now-occupied England were serving the Reich.
Hitler didn't understand why the English simply hadn't made peace. It had been obvious that they couldn't win, that once France had fallen, defeat was inevitable. All they had to show for a year of conflict was...what was it that Churchill had said? "Blood, toil, tears and sweat"? Well, they had plenty of that. When the war was over, perhaps Germany would install a more pleasant government and return to her own shores. Hitler had always admired the British for their empire, and he'd probably let them have that, too. He could afford to be generous, then. He'd have won.
Provided Viktor could pull off his plan for this encirclement, and then defeat the Soviets. He was pretty sure of himself in that regard. He'd even set up vast, pre-build prison-camps with gardens - more like farms, the Fuhrer had noted - for the prisoners to tend, and small factories. The man was, perhaps, a bit soft. But he'd pointed out that he'd rather the prisoners fed themselves and work for the Reich, than be fed by the Reich or starve and spread disease.
Well, the troops were almost back and the attack would be going in soon. Relatively. The Fuhrer clasped his hands in front of the map and worried.
- - -November 1th, 1940
Konigsberg, The Reich
"You must move faster!" Viktor shouted into the phone, then slammed it down. He stared at the map, and scowled. The cutting off of Soviet forces was going well...
...but this was an encirclement on a truly strategic level. The Soviets were rushing to try to break the encircling forces, while the Germans tried to widen the corridor. Worse, their commanders had seen the danger, late, but they had seen it, and were starting to try to rush their forces out. This could not be allowed. He would have the forces in the south start pushing north, and all of the forces surrounding the pocket make a general advance, immediately.
- - -
Chapter 5: InfernoNovember 1th, 1940
Breslau, The Reich
Hans dodged left and right, dropped into a depression in the ground, and waited for the Panzer 4 to catch up with him. It did, snorting and growling, and he rose, fired a few shots from his rifle at a retreating Russian, then ran ahead to the next piece of cover - a Soviet tank, still smoking. The smell of burned meat filled his nostrils, and he gagged, spat, then stopped to catch his breath. Ever since the encirclement...
...the Germans had been contracting around the Soviet forces like a noose around a hanged man's neck. The Russians - and they were nearly all Russians - were fighting desperately, but badly. Hans heard the freight-train roar of artillery and started to duck, then realized that he didn't need to. The Russians were out of artillery. They were almost out of fuel. They were out of time.
The Panzer 4 growled by, its commander tossing him a jaunty wave as he passed, then the commander ducked down inside and the tank stopped and swiveled its turret as it spotted a Soviet tank coming over a rise about one hundred meters away. The cannon fired, nearly deafening Hans, and a gout of dirt blasted into the air ahead of the Soviet machine. That machine fired back, and managed a hit on the first shot, the projectile ricocheting off of the frontal armor with a loud "PANG". A curse came from the open turret, loud enough for Hans to hear even over the ringing in his ears, and then the Panzer fired again. There was a bright flash, a sudden, brilliant gout of flame, and the turret of the enemy vehicle flew into the air as the body of the tank burned with savage intensity.
There was a moment of near silence, and then the Panzer started moving forwards again, and Hans followed it.
- - -December 4th, 1940
Stavka HQ, USSR
Zhukov fingered the pistol, sitting alone in his office, then placed it back in his holster. He stared at the map on his wall for a few minutes.
The Germans had been clever. Concealing their forces until it was too late for the Soviets - wasn't maskirovka
supposed to be a Russian trick? - and then striking with their light and medium armor, driving in, down, and annihilating his forces.
The last transmission had gone out today, the last unit, out of gas, out of food, out of bullets, and out of hope. All of the relief efforts had been in vain. Stalin had been informed. They would be coming for him, and soon.
He pulled out his service pistol again and examined it. It would do. He wasn't sure what he might have done better, and that was what was most damning. Perhaps a more even front line - but then you never had breakthroughs. And it had looked like a breakthrough, looked like the Germans were just stretched thing. Perhaps they even had been, until those damned transports of theirs simply moved troops around many times faster than the Soviets could.
There was noise, at the door. Time then. He would not go with the NKVD. He placed the pistol against his temple, and pulled the trigger.