A sharp pain in his hand suddenly made Rudolf yelp like a coyote pup. He dropped the cotton he was picking and turned his hand up and saw a sharp piece of hardened boll stuck in his palm. Furiously, he dug it out with his fingernails, blood running down his arm. Then with his teeth, he tore off a piece of material from the bottom of his shirt, wrapping his hand awkwardly, trying to stop the bleeding, and cursing violently as he did. The thought came to him as he stood tethered to a cotton bag that he should have listened to his grandfather, who urged him to apply to the Kriegsmarine as an officer cadet.
“Mein Gott, Rudolf!” his grandfather had said to him before he graduated from Gymnasium. “You have the chance to become an officer, an officer! Do you not realize what that will bring you? Better pay, privileges, and respect, above all, respect.”
But Rudolf, thoroughly soaked in the propaganda of the Hitler Youth, desired only to give his life for the eternal glory of the Fatherland. “I want to be on the front lines of the war,” Rudolf said, “fighting now for Germany, for our Führer! I don’t want to waste my time studying to become an officer. What if the war ends and I have missed it?”
Opa had mutely shaken his head in disbelief, and Rudolf wondered now at his stupidity. Captured officers were not required to work in the fields, according to the Geneva Convention. He could be sitting in the barrack planning his escape to Mexico instead of doing this grueling, demeaning work.
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