They have not felt their hands for a long time, they have been walking in the fog for three days and there is no way to find the allied line and rejoin their unit. Three American artillerymen, one of them dragged among the others, are leaving a trail of blood in the snow. The Panzer They have come out of nowhere, they were the very mouth of hell and they have undone their formation as if it were a castle of sand. It is December 24, 1944 and, faced with the manifest disadvantage of his army, Hitler has concentrated his troops in the west to hit one of his most fragile fronts. The attack of the bulge it has created immediate chaos in the lines and many allies are wandering in the thick forest that runs between German and Belgian soil.
Ralph Blanka beardless young man from Maryland, he rations food and cigarettes, he has imposed himself on others. He doesn’t know how long they can carry their mate, but he doesn’t know how to leave someone at the foot of a log to bleed out like an animal. They have argued hotly but they will continue walking, God must guide them. Pray. cry. He loses his mind from time to time but doesn’t let the others see it. The forest must border a path, it is said, anyone knows that. Some glade, some farm. He’s very sick of putting up his knees to get forward in the snow but he’s found that the best way to do it is not to think. Sometimes he cries and no longer wonders if it’s out of fear, pity or impotence, he just revels in the warm trail that crosses his face and gives him ephemeral warmth before freezing. Suddenly he catches a glimpse of a point of light and stops without opening his mouth. He doesn’t feel anything yet, he doesn’t dare. He rubs his free fist at his eyes, brushing the frost off his lashes. That looks like a cabin and it seems inhabited.
On Christmas Eve 1944, three American soldiers and four Germans called a truce in the heat of a fierce woman who forced them to lay down their arms. She had a rooster on fire, a twelve-year-old boy, and seven men who could have been her husband. My son tells me about it after watching the video on YouTube and it seems even more miraculous than our Christmas Eve. Roast with potatoes was prepared on his stove, on ours: salmon and octopus puff pastry afand go to. That was not an enemy fire, it was the fire of nostalgia, of the root. That mother rubbing her hands on her apron was for one night all the mothers, those who crossed enemy lines and endured shrapnel or frozen fingers, those who went with those soldiers in one way or another. It was the home that those men missed with more ferocity than the one saved for the enemy, would they ever know a clean tablecloth, a mother serving with a ladle, the aroma of burning wood?
That disheveled lady scolding them like schoolchildren to stop the brawl had superpowers. Her name was Elizabeth Vincken. He admitted first to the Americans and then to the Germans, who had followed the trail of blood in the snow. When asked if there was anyone else in the house, he said yes, three men, “and there won’t be any shots here because it’s holy night.” She knew the deadly risk that she and her son were running with that phrase, what instinct would guide her? What was her grace? She may have let them scream and point their rifles long enough, that she would let them enter the middle of her scented room, that she would wait a moment before enchanting them with the relief of the heat and the crackling of the wood. Rooster fattened with potatoes. The rooster had been named Hermann in honor of Hermann Goring. I imagine the smell of melted fat exciting the taste buds of all of them, exerting a mysterious force of gravity on the muzzles of their rifles.
My mother is not that incorruptible and cutting German that I imagine, but she has also been hardened in two years of a pandemic. You have to die of something, she repeats like a spring, and I have to shut up when she points out that nobody knows if we will have another Christmas Eve like this. She spends the week entrenched in her idea of making us all sit at the table. There are gifts. There is good wine. The girl has put up a wonderful tree. I’ll have to fight hard to get him to leave the windows open.
The days before the 24th we suffered several casualties, some report contacts with positives, there are those who accumulate up to three. I ask my brother for a PCR and we have to wait seven days because he has no symptoms, I run for my third dose and the girl, who seems to be incubating something, gets a PCR in the emergency room. Christmas Eve approaches and it seems that we sink our knees in the snow, everyone snorts but no one dares to knock down the plan. If I decide to call it off, I’ll feel like I’m pointing a trembling rifle at everyone and I’ll have to put it down. So let’s go ahead: seven diners, seven antigen tests. When the girl from the pharmacy calls me to pick up the order, she tells me not to say antigen on the counter, that she only asks for the order. Stock sold out. She serves it to me wrapped in a red bag with Christmas motifs.
During the evening in the Hirkenwald there was talk and songs, French and sign language were spoken. While the hostess blessed the table, her son remembers that men’s eyes misted over, how many kilometers away would their thoughts be? The hostess had required all weapons to be left outside the cabin. Some offered rye bread and others instant coffee. A German medical student examined the wounded man and, the next morning, offered advice on finding his line. They took a gift map and compass. Later, each one left the cabin in search of his destiny as we will do these days that follow, who will arrive in January?
The curve that is being prepared is aúpa and each hospital prepares its artillery, but no one takes away that family night from us anymore. There are an estimated 15 million Spaniards infected right now, but only a third develop symptoms, who knows what they are carrying? Is there an infallible formula? How do you get out of this forest? We are asked for a modest social life but each one defines it for himself. We will be responsible, for a change, for the consequences of what happens. We grope, but each one ends up eating the enemy according to his spirit. Tomorrow will be another day, compasses and maps will be distributed, luck will be wished to the neighbor before resuming the road. “I hope that one day you return safely to where you belong,” Elisabeth Vincken told them at her cabin door. Afterward, she would watch them leave no man’s land forever.
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Opinion | Eat Hermann Göring. By Rosana Corral-Marquez
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