Dog Robber: Jim Colling Adventure Series, Book I HTML version
“None. These are all Jews, no gentiles. The Poles were moved before I could obtain a requisition and the
proper papers,” replied the Sturmbannführer.
“The Poles were most important to us. I thought that was made perfectly clear.”
“Understood. But I can do only what is possible. You realize the risks that I and my men have taken even to
“My general has made arrangements that you and your men will be recognized for this, as promised,” said
the American, more than a hint of irony in his voice.
“The war cannot last much longer, Herr Major. I wish only that it shall be remembered that I and my men,
SS men all, saved the lives of some Jews. I think that will be most important to us in the future.”
The American major gave the German officer an icy look, then said, “You may return to your lines,
As he watched the Germans climb into their Fiat and chug away, he wondered whether any of the SS men
would survive the war, and if any of them did, whether what had occurred here this day would make any
difference to them. He shouted at Lieutenant Schwartz that it was time to load up their charges so they could
return to their own lines.
Private James T. Colling watched the green fields and orchards of the Belgian countryside roll past the
window of his railway carriage. He found it difficult to reconcile what he was seeing with the newsreels of
battles that had occurred here only a few months ago. If he had left college to enlist a year earlier, as he had
wished, he would have been part of it. As it was, his father had convinced him to finish his second year, and the
Germans had surrendered two weeks before classes ended. During basic training, everyone in his company had
expected to be part of the invasion of Japan. But for the success of the Manhattan Project, his life, like many
others, might have taken an altogether different direction. Now fate, and the unfathomable administrative
processes of the U.S. Army, had decided he would be part of the occupation of Germany.
Hostilities in this part of Europe had concluded nearly eight months before, and the first summer of peace for
the Belgians in five years was coming to an end. The last remnants of scorched, rusting hulks of trucks and
other military vehicles were still sometimes seen, scattered along the sides of the roads that occasionally
chanced to parallel the railway tracks. Civilians in small groups were here and there picking over the
salvageable remnants, apparently continuing to find bits and pieces that would bring some money from the
scrap dealers. Colling calculated that some of them must have been scavenging for almost a year, and winter
would probably see the disappearance into some final junkyard of the last, most obvious evidence that armies
had once faced each other on this plain.
The fields that ran to the hills on the horizon presented a green contrast to the gray shabbiness of the towns
and cities through which the train rolled. For the first time in five years, the farmers would not see their crops
requisitioned by an occupying army. It seemed to Colling that they might have come back to the soil with an
unusual enthusiasm that boded well for a good harvest.
Here in the countryside, the smell of masonry dust that had permeated the air in the urban areas through
which they had passed was absent. The sky itself seemed bluer and clearer. From the way that recent issues of
Life and Newsweek portrayed what lay ahead in Germany, Colling expected that the optimism he seemed to
sense in Belgium, technically one of the winners in the conflict, would not survive once he crossed the border to
the losing side.
He glanced at the five other American soldiers who were his travelling companions. They were slouched in
their seats, their eyes closed, sleeping or trying to. From the insignia on their uniforms, he knew that they were
Signal Corps men, and their service stripes and ribbons, together with the fact that they were all wearing the
new unofficial “Ike” jackets, advertised that they had much more military experience that he. The chevrons on
their sleeves also told him that all of them out-ranked him, so that when they had first filed into the
compartment in Antwerp, the reticence towards non-commissioned officers he had learned in basic training had
prevailed, and he had not initiated any conversation. Other than a nod of acknowledgement in his direction,