For just a few minutes, people became completely different – unfettered, they straightened their backs and stood taller; pride appeared on their faces, and their eyes sparkled. If only for a short while, the terrible memories of the days of retreat and death slipped away, the years we endured together, the tears over those who passed away — all vanished in this moment of common triumph and joy! How splendid that we had lived to see this hour! That we were among the ﬁrst of the ﬁrst to cross this ﬁxed geographical boundary, which was so precious to us all, and toward which we had all been striving so long! It seemed to all of us that the end of the war was now just a stone’s throw away.
That was the outward scene in the prisoners’ cage, and it made no sense at all. A dozen different nationalities. All of them reacting in different ways, pulling in different directions, speaking different languages. And yet an hour or two since they had all been ﬁghting with a suicidal ferocity. Pillboxes were being held long after their eventual destruction was a certainty. The Russians had been ﬁring right up to the last few yards before they threw up their hands.