Kurt goes on a long diatribe about the horrors of war (a redundant use of words if ever there was one) in his “Wailing Shall Be in All Streets” that recounts the Dresden, Germany firebombing during World War II. The air attack essentially decapitated a very peaceful, artful, un-warlike city (100,000 innocent civilians killed, the worst loss of life in Germany at one time during the war).
“Brighten Up” is about prisoners of war forced to deal with work details, a recollection perhaps of Vonnegut’s experience as a POW after the Dresden firebombing, about the things done to barter for cigarettes and survival.
“Unknown Soldier.” A couple living in New York City have the first “millennium baby,” signaling hope for the next thousand years. They are feted by the media. When the baby dies of sudden infant death syndrome, there is no report of THAT in the press.
“Spoils.” Paul, an American soldier, remembers a story of loot taken from enemy houses – including one item that haunts him terribly in the present.
“Just You and Me, Sammy.” This story looks at the Bund soldiers, German-Americans who, early on, joined Hitler’s deranged war. The story explores the end of the war, when loyalties are exchanged like crank Halloween treats.
“The Commandant’s Desk.” This tale may prove that conquering armies, occupying armies, are the same. Corrupted by power, the armies force some, including cabinet makers, into slave work. But the resistance remains – in this case, when the U.S. successfully takes over Czechoslovakia and occupies the town of Beda.