In the middle of the Second World War a German soldier refuses to shoot and kill partisans; he is consequently shot himself. Was this a one-off occurrence? Michael Martens on the trail of a soldier who refused to obey orders.
July 1941, Smederevska Palanka, a town to the south of Belgrade: sixteen partisans captured by the Wehrmacht stand in front of a haystack awaiting execution by firing squad. The Germans have already raised their rifles when one soldier throws down his weapon and says: "I will not shoot. These men are innocent!" The officer in charge cannot believe his ears. Has one of his men dared to disobey his orders? Does he mean to stir up a mutiny? The officer makes an instant decision: the man is ordered to stand with the partisans and be executed alongside them. But there are eyewitnesses, and after the war Josef Schulz, the German who had the audacity to disobey, becomes a national hero in Yugoslavia. Memorials are erected in his honour; films are dedicated to him; and schoolchildren learn about his courageous act of defiance. But why does no one in outside Former Yugoslavia know about this unique event in the history of the Second World War? Embarking on a hunt for clues, Michael Martens finds himself caught up in a historicaldetective story. His trail leads him halfway across Europe to Vienna, Berlin and Brussels. His research is brought sharply into focus by present day discoveries. It becomes apparent that what happened is by no means unheard of, and that some of those involved are, in fact, still alive....