The last ten from the group we had brought in were standing on the edge of the antitank ditch. As they got a good look at what was lying below them, a guttural moan of terror arose from them. The auxiliaries carefully set down the bottles they were sharing on the ammo boxes behind them, unslung their rifles, and formed a firing line. A militia NCO gave the order in accented German to shoulder arms, following it with the command to fire. One thing that has stayed with me ever since is the meaty sound you hear when a body is struck by a bullet. It is unmistakable, and after hearing it enough times you can tell by the sound if it was a solid hit or a grazer. The sound changes, with the thwack more pronounced when it hits a meaty part of the body.
Either the alcohol had helped or they were just rusty as this one went a lot better than the first few. All the shots looked to be solid torso hits taking them all backwards over the edge. The next ten from the other squad were quickly hustled in and were just as quickly dispatched. The boys were in a groove and stayed in it until the final two batches when things went a little awry. Two of the shooters began missing completely, probably due to the alcohol taking effect. They were relieved, which made them very unhappy. They started to make a fuss until it penetrated their alcohol sodden brains that the SD Captain was quite willing to add them to the pile of bodies lying below. Our primary concern here was range safety. No one was eager to get shot by a drunken Pole. It probably wouldn’t even qualify you for a wound badge, our equivalent of the Purple Heart.
They were replaced by two members of the militia who had been, until then, standing around watching the show. I was surprised they had not rotated the shooters among the men in their company. Later on that became common practice. By then we had a crowd of spectators as all our men had stayed to watch after bringing their groups in. After each batch had been processed, Sarge, the Lieutenant, and the SD officer would walk the edge of the pit and shoot anyone who looked like they were still alive. Meanwhile I, and at the other end, Dieter just stood there watching.
I believe we had become invisible to everyone else due to being a distance, however small, from the action taking place. I found it fascinating to watch our guy’s faces as they came in with their groups and saw what was happening. A few looked troubled by it. One stepped back about five paces after looking over the edge and threw up, much to the amusement of the Poles. Fortunately he did not barf on anything important like their bottles or the ammunition boxes.