The battle between Sidirov’s triumphant Brigade and the remnants of Von Bellow’s command carried on through the night, its lulls punctuated by fierce hand-to hand fighting. By morning, when it was clearer to him that he had the Nazi die-hards completely encircled and was slowly annihilating them, Sidirov assembled a mixed tank/infantry force and sent it flying down the North road.
But those hours of resistance accomplished two things for the overall German position. First, the fighting was confused enough and deadly enough that none of the Russians noticed Jan Hendrik’s tiny group attempting to escape north through the woods. Secondly, Rosselsprung and Gruber anticipated the Russian thrust down the North road from the moment they discerned that Von Bellow’s troops were trapped. As a result, those few hours of darkness and semi-darkness allowed Bad Frostberg’s garrison the time to throw together a few roadblocks and shift enough men into position to close this potentially open door. Again, the German lines were forced to contract, assuming the shape of an oval, an egg, with its ends pointed north and South. That the defense was also eggshell thin was not lost on either officer, since, with these withdrawals, the German occupied portion of Bad Frostberg stretched only a few blocks in any direction from Rosselsprung's Headquarters.
The Soviets moved through the remainder of the town at will, hesitating only to disarm or avoid booby traps and collect the few prisoners, both military and civilian, who surrendered rather than endure the final storming of the town. Unlike Von Bellow’s command, quite a few of the S.S. and Heer troops in Bad Frostberg surrendered around this time. The civilians were especially eager to get out of the fight, not that anyone aside from the few fanatics could blame them.
The Russians also occupied the Hospital at this time. At first, it was only an officer and a squad of men, who were primarily concerned only with gathering up any weapons and ensuring that the building wasn’t used by snipers. Then a larger contingent arrived, including a number of hard-faced NKVD officers. Their intentions were less military, yet more deadly, than those few who had come before.
While visibly recoiling from the smells and sights of the hospital, their very first act was to separate the hosptital personnal—there weren’t that many, considering the number of patients—and lock them in an unused store room “for interrogation”. A single major of the NKVD and two armed guards, remained in the room with them. His name was Demidov and he chain-smoked as the guards recorded their list of the staff’s names.
Doktor Krollspell’s Russian was good enough to make himself understood, but not good enough to make them listen to him.
As they sat on the floor of the store room, the other Red Army soldiers spread out around the hospital. Their immediate task was to separate out the heavily wounded S.S. and other soldiers, who were either dragged or carried on stretchers outside the hospital and a little ways into the forest. These men were shot out of hand, being, as they were, too weak for “transport”, which in 1945 Soviet terminology simply meant “marching”. Whether “transport” was indeed the deciding factor however, and not just the often-repeated excuse of the Russians, was another matter. The Soviets clearly hated and despised anyone wearing an S.S. uniform, a simple fact that doomed many a soldier who was not in the S.S. as it was generally recognized that S.S. winter wear was warm and functional and there had been much trading around of uniform pieces during the siege.
Dokotr Krollspell broke down when he heard the first shots outside. “Just Nazi war-criminals”, Major Demidov yelled sneeringly at him. The doctor somehow recovered his poise, although he didn't believe the Russian in the least.
After disposing of the most helpless of the hospital's military patients, the Soviets then separated the remaining groups of soldiers into two classifications; S.S. and the non-S.S. Again, the S.S. were simply hauled away and shot, without any fanfare or formalities. With the other soldiers, whether Heer or Luftwaffe, the main consideration seemed to be the magnitude of their wounds. But since the group hadn’t been accompanied by any Soviet medical personnel, this determination was left for later and those wounded were simply separated from the wounded civilians.
The Soviets seemed to be uncertain of what do with the civilian wounded. Of course, if they had anything of value on their persons, it was immediately confiscated and every bit of their luggage was searched and looted. But otherwise, the wounded civilians were largely left to suffer without undue interference.
A table with two chairs was brought into the store room. Demidov sat in one and smoked his harsh cigarettes while interrogating the hospital staff. Krollspell, as director of the hospital was the first to be interrogated.
As his pleas to be allowed to treat his patients were apparently meaningless to the Russians, Krollspell fell into a sort of withdrawn silence. Only prodded to answer the questions with a gun butt to the shoulder.
“My men have found only sixteen wounded Soviet Army men—what happened to the others?” Demidov demanded.
“We treated everyone who was brought to us.” Doktor Krollspell answered.
“You murdered them!” Major Demidov replied, pointing his finger into Kropllspell’s face.
“That’s a lie!” Krollspell shouted back, receiving a punch in the jaw from one of the guards for his answer.
“You will tell me how many of them you murdered them and where you disposed of their bodies.” Demidov shouted.
This brought a rain of blows down upon Krollspell as he kept stubbornly repeating his original answer.
“Four T-70s and twenty lighter vehicles carrying approximately a hundred infantry”, Ulrich radioed his report in from the hidden armored car. “I'd say you have about an hour before they reach your position.”
Letnant Jaeger listened emotionlessly and signed off. The Russians were simply following their tracks and not doing anything fancy. That would wait for when they either overwhelmed his rear guard or figured out how small it was.
Hanson was on the armored half-track with Arajs, loading clips, while Arajs field-stripped the MG-34. Neither spoke. A harsh wind blew North, bringing snow with it. At first, the snowfall was very light and almost pretty as it sprinkled the trees and paths of the forest.
Death is lighter than a Feather, Duty is heavier than a Mountain....