This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.
Brussels, May 18
The sweetest euphoria, the bitterest presentiment! The French 3rd Army has come to our liberation. The German garrison has been taken prisoner – nay, they have been arrested, it cannot be described another way. The mere regiment they left behind in Brussels has promptly surrendered in the face of so many more French troops. Now the Belgian and the French tricolores fly next to each other at the Grand-Place, and the air is filled with optimism, cheer, and wild schemes and rumors – nowhere more so than at the school. Things my sixth-graders have told me just today:
- Bernard claims that Italy has taken Munich and will take the German forces in the rear.
- Marie has heard from her brother that a thousand American ships loaded with soldiers are already on the Atlantic, sailing to bring liberty to the beleaguered French and us.
- Léon has it on good authority (or so he claims) that Hitler has been assassinated by German communist spies under direct orders from Stalin.
- And Jeanne, little Jeanne, says that Belgium will field an army once more, she herself will volunteer, and together they will strike for the undefended west of Germany, take control of the factories of the Ruhr, and potentially even march on Berlin.
Nothing seems impossible these days, especially not for those so young. So I have only smiled. I have not told her that there is no reason for her to seek out death.
And death is certainly coming for many of us. The French 3rd Army may have come, but they also have gone again. They focused on their own country and went off to liberate Lille. (Personally, I doubt they would have come at all if Brussels was not an important railroad junction.) And even if they had remained – the Nazi wrath will be terrible. They will set all hell in motion to punish the army for their insolence of freeing us, and us for our insolence of accepting freedom. I think most other people know that, too, deep in their hearts. And so Brussels is a city where a frantic joy of spring rules because we know that there will be no summer. We shall enjoy these days as if they were our last, for they may well be.