"Drang von Osten"  
Author Harry Turtledove
First Appearance First to Fight
Publisher Jove
Editor Martin H. Greenberg
Collected We Install and Other Stories
Genre(s) Military science fiction
Publication date 1999

"Drang von Osten" is a short story by Harry Turtledove, originally published in First to Fight, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jove, 1999. It was reprinted in We Install and Other Stories, OpenRoadMedia, 2015. In the accompanying commentary in the latter volume, Turtledove states that the story was actually written in the summer of 1991.

The story follows German soldier Jürgen Sack as the Germans are retreating toward Kiev under what appears to be a Soviet counterattack, although Sack and his comrades refer to "Asiatics". Through the course of the story Sack runs into Scandinavian volunteers who are equally concerned about the retreat in the face of the "Red Asiatic flood." This is another early hint that things are not what the appear: while the story refers to an initial eastern drive in '41, suggesting that this is set during World War II, the relationship between the Scandinavians and Germans is far too friendly, and there are no mentions of Hitler or Nazis. Ukraine has a blue-and-yellow flag (rather than the red one they had in WWII), the Germans use MG-3 machine guns and guided surface-to-air-missile launchers (which didn't exist in WWII) and their currency is the Deutschemark (the post-1948 [West] German currency), rather than the Reichsmarks which would be correct for a WWII setting (the Euro was just being introduced at the time this story was published). The Germans and their allies manage to cross the Trubezh River, eventually making it over the Dnieper to Kiev, taking many casualties.

Sack and his unit are soon attacked by weaponry far too advanced for World War II, such as helicopters and jet fighters. His unit is ordered to hold off an assault but is eventually overwhelmed. Surrounded by enemy soldiers, Sack pulls out a Communist propaganda leaflet and utters the words for surrender, which are "Tow shong." The last paragraph lets the reader know that Sack is taken prisoner by soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

Literary comment[]

The story takes its name from Drang nach Osten (Wikipedia article), a German motto meaning "drive to the east". The original motto is a reference to the German nationalist wish to settle and eventually expand into eastern Europe. The term pre-dates the Nazis but is widely associated with them. The story's name means "drive from the east", implying that the Germans are fleeing back west, towards Germany.

The exact nature of the conflict isn't explicitly stated. It is presumably sometime in the 2040s (based on the reference to "'41"), Germany and some European allies (including Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) are at war with China, and are fighting in Ukraine. Russia's role is unclear. Since China seems to be doing most of the heavy fighting, it may be that China has invaded Russia, which in turn prompted Germany to lead an intervention in an attempt to push the Chinese back, or China is allied with Russia and defending it from the Germans.