They surrounded the two SS soldiers, forced them to kneel down, and tied their hands behind them.
The Germans were shivering in fear. Were these the same people who—only a few days ago—had strutted around their victims on the way to the execution site? Were these the same people who had charged ahead, wielding their batons, to capture the boy and me? Their sense of authority had collapsed.
And the little French they used to know must have flown right out of their heads, to the point that not a word was left. One of them cleared his throat a few times, started to say something, then took a breath, somewhat haltingly, only to end up swallowing his spit. And the other made a failed attempt to deny who he was. In a weak, shaky voice, he mumbled, “Ich bin kein Deutsch.”
“Really?” said the leader. “You are not a German? Could have fooled me!”
He made a slight gesture to his men and at once, they raised the Germans to their feet. Then they took them away, not before stripping them of their boots. After all, good footwear was nothing to sneeze at.
Meanwhile, the traitor wiped the beads of sweat off his upper lip. “Will they be shot?” he asked, anxiously.
“No,” said the boy. “They will join the others, down at our camp.”
“Those who escaped from the burning vehicles. We have rounded them up.”
“Too bad,” said the traitor, who must have been hoping, up to this moment, to be rescued by the Germans. “I mean, too bad for them.”
With that, he swung around and was just about to dart out into the woods when two of the partisans laid their hands him. They relieved him of his Pistolet Automatique and shoved him to the ground.