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Chapter Two

from And the Shark, He Has Teeth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2018

Benjamin Bloch
Affiliation:
Oberlin College
Marc Silberman
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin
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Summary

Most of my friends, one or two years older than me, had already gone into the army as wartime volunteers. They came home in their uniforms to bask in the city's admiration, and waited impatiently for their assignments to the front. I had enlisted for the light cavalry at the outbreak of the war, and had concealed that I was only fifteen (the minimum age was sixteen), but my father found out and prevented me from going. Twelve months later I said to him: “If the war ends and I wasn't there, I'll shoot myself right in front of you!” This time he gave me permission to volunteer for service. Because infantry had the heaviest losses, men were being turned away from other divisions and referred to this one. I had my heart set on cavalry. A schoolmate of mine who had come home on furlough informed me that the field-artillery regiment Nr. 20 in Posen was still enlisting. I reported, passed my physical exam in Gleiwitz and got my mobilization order.

My mother sobbed when I left. My father accompanied me to Posen. We ate a silent dinner at the hotel where we had stopped. The next morning he invited me in an uncharacteristic way to take a walk with him. I saw that something was weighing heavily on him. After a few halting starts he managed to explain to me that soldiers sometimes come down with a kind of infection, a sexual disease. If it should happen to me, he said, he didn't want me to be ashamed and keep it secret, but to tell him. We walked back to the hotel, called for our bags and took a coach to the recruitment depot at Fort Grolman. Formerly this had been a part of a network of fortified outposts; it was surrounded by a high wall and generally made a hard and bleak impression. The cab stopped in front of a gate with a posted sentry. I got out and took my suitcase, said “Goodbye,” nothing more, and walked toward the gate.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2018

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