As they approach the Russian front in late 1942, Aaron and his fellow Jewish slaves experience deadly airstrikes from Russian bombers, as both captors and slaves are decimated. Far to the southeast, Russian forces surround the German army in Stalingrad. With this blow to their strength, the Germans attempt to install a defensive line from Voronezh south to the Black Sea, while trying to rescue their doomed Stalingrad garrison. Aaron and his fellow slaves, having reached the battlefront just south of Voronezh, are forced by their masters to buttress the Axis front lines, as Hitler issues his usual suicide orders, “No retreat! Not one step backward!” This is to be the Axis response to a Russian attack, though rumors at the front lines indicate that Hitler actually intends to launch an offensive with his forces at Voronezh to rescue his Stalingrad garrison.
During the Russian breakthrough at Voronezh on January 13, 1943, Aaron and a few slaves hunker down in a trench as bullets tear at the snow and bombs fall from the sky. It is the Russians attacking with their most destructive firepower. During this brutal assault, the Axis commanders are strangely silent. Aaron, in a moment of spontaneous ingenuity, lifts his head above his trench, turns to face the Axis soldiers, and impersonates their commanding officers by bellowing the order: “Retreat!” both in German and Hungarian. A panicked rout of the Axis forces ensues along the entire Don River front, as Aaron exhorts countless Jewish slaves to follow their fleeing masters to safety in the woods, saving the lives of all; handing the Russians a major victory, and the Axis a humiliating defeat.