Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Researching Decades Too Late

Updated January 10, 2018
For decades I purposely avoided the dozens of scattered and misplaced documents about my Dad's history and captivity that spanned over 50 years. Papers from the old country, documentation that my sister Susanna obtained some 12 years ago, data I randomly obtained in addition to written and oral family memories. Sure I perused them once or twice, and wow, some interesting stuff that has been laying in a pile for many decades.  But I knew once I got into them and focused, I would  get sucked into that personal historical abyss and I did, big time.

After months and now years of research that generated reams of prints, maps, data and facts, I've only taken a many steps forward and now need to come up to reflect. I am going to post what I have discovered to this point in my amateur analysis of the historical record and present a story and a time-line based on his WWII POW documents and the established historical record of  Polish WWII battles. I need to understand and relate the story of my Dad's  capture by the Russian Army then the captivity by the  German army. These events are only one generation removed from today and must be learned, understood and heeded. Those that don't learn, understand and heed history are doomed to repeat it.  And I'm sure no one would want to repeat this journey.

Damn, It would have been so much easier to ask him while he was alive but I was a dumb rebellious kid not realizing or appreciating the sacrifices he made, the history he could tell. Sure we heard some general anecdotal comments from him that we embellished or made fun of or both, not appreciating what horrendous ordeals he really went through and by the grace of God survived with death and carnage all around him.

So why try to understand his ordeal now? This is a personal redemption quest for me and tribute to a ordinary man that it turns out was really extraordinary. In addition,there is love, pride, appreciation, family history, mortality and  hopefully a story that will survive forever online for generations to come. He deserves the story be told as well as all Polish soldiers and civilians as part of the invasion and defense of Poland.

Now years after the initial publication of this blog, I continue to unearth shreds of evidence to complete Dad's story.  This is updated/edited regularly, I am data driven for personal accuracy so it will never be "right "for me. In spite of this I hope the reader can find it can be a good read. I appreciate feedback!

To the reader who is here searching as I did to discover or preserve a memory, PLEASE go to the very last segment XV  (15) "The Journeys End " and play the audio file song  in honor of your lost people.

 If you are bored by endless dates, foreign locations and analysis, I ask you read the 1st two segments and last 3 segments  for the human side of this story.

Note there are 15 additional segments, if viewing via Facebook, Ipad and other e-devices require the reader to select "Older Posts" or the Next arrow to see segments beyond VI (#6) and XIII (#13).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I - Zygmunt Frackiewicz- An intro

Sad to say I also know very little about my dad's family and early life. There was little talk of his family, the war and the old country except for 2 solitary pictures of his father and sister, in the hall, on a table, of my parents house. What I know comes from family stories, POW records, a school assignment interview by my daughter Shannon and a firm "chewing out" by his step-sister, Janina. When he died in 1992, I notified Janina by mail  of his passing and asked some questions about him. By the time I got it accurately translated, I read a well deserved scolding for asking so little, so late and being ignorant of my Polish heritage. Then she passed.

The basics:
  • Born in Warsaw October 17, 1914 
  • Primary school 1920-27
  • Son of Piotr Frackiewicz 
  • Mother Aleksandra (Skowronska) nee Zaremba
  • Piotr's wife,  Lucyna Frackiewicz 
  • Brother Tadeusz (Thaddeus) - Born Feb.23, 1923 Warsaw, arrested at age 21 in 1944 by Germans for being Polish underground, in Buchenwald Concentration Camp from Feb. 10,1945 to April 6, 1945. Prisoner # 130719. Tragically, never heard from again.                    This is a story in itself !!   This story is viewable at:   Death at Bisingen Concentration Camp
  • Sister Irene- died 1945, no other information 
  • Entered Army June 1937 for required service, due out June 1939
  • Had to stay in the service to defend Poland against the invaders
I recall dad talking about after flash flooding in his youth, they would wade in the mud and look for bubbles indicating trapped fish for food.
 He also talked about being a glass blower.
My brother Marion recalls Dad stating winters were so cold, prisoner ears were snapped off!
He told my sister Susanna of eating rats.
I asked about the scar in his arm and he stated he was shot by Germans, after he was liberated because they did not know the war was over.
I also wondered why he had no cool war souvenirs like other dads did.  Not knowing it was due to being a prisoner having nothing but clothes on his back.
 I can't believe that is all I know about my dad.

Friday, May 8, 2015

II - The military situation overview on Sept. 1, 1939


While I will not dwell on the Polish people's plight in WWII,  I do have to comment on is the scale of carnage, murder, mayhem, massacre, deceit and suffering by the Polish people. Reading accounts of atrocities on a case by case basis really drives it home. Personal accounts are much more horrendous than an abstract "millions killed" statistic. The volume of innocent victims is like reading a NYC phone book only  with unique, individual, unimaginable, tragic personal stories that could happen to anyone. No one was spared, peasants, farmers,civilian bystanders, women, children or active military, Given the similar precursor events, it could happen anywhere.

Following years of preparation, on Sept. 1, 1939 the German offensive began in the West of Poland.

  • Neutralizing Poland in the East was key to Hitler's conquest of Europe
  • Hitler gained a secret non-aggression pact with the Soviets (so they wouldn't help the Poles)
  • The bulk of Poland's defense resources were on the West fortifying against a massing German juggernaut, not realizing the Soviet treachery and the German-Soviet plan to divide Poland between the Germans in the West and Soviets in the East
Another key date is September 17, 1939
  • Soviets invaded Poland from the East
  • This was a"sucker punch" to the Poles in violation of numerous pacts and treaties between these 2 countries
  • The 1500 km Eastern border was lightly defended as there was mortal battle for 17 days in the West against the German onslaught with no knowledge of Soviet-German secret pact and impending 2nd invasion from the East.
  • Orders not to engage the Soviet advance were given  but often ignored. Some Soviet fighters were actually waved in by the Poles thinking them reinforcement allies.
  • The battles in the East are the ones I will look at on the key date of Sept. 19, 1939 for Dad's capture location as it clear from the record that Soviets  captured him then did a prisoner swap with the Germans. This is part of the complexity of the records.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

III - POW Documentation Issues

Dad is 3rd from the left

What is the issue with the official records I have to research ? I am learning the "rules of the road" researching a generation too late: Accuracy, transcription errors in the original documents,faded memories and correlation!

The one point that is clear on all documents,  Zygmunt Frackiewicz was captured on SEPTEMBER 19,1939.
  1. But where he was captured and at what battle\skirmish? The records gives 3 alternatives I want to understand.
  2. What was his military  assignment, unit, division?
  3. The history of his lengthy captivity as POW in numerous Stalags, Arbeitcommandos and other (forced/slave labor) camps is mind boggling. I want to chart a accurate time line and understand this part of his life.
These are the sources of the official and personal data I am using;
  • Polska Czerwony Krzyz (Polish Red Cross) from January 27, 2004
  • Central Museum of Prisoners of War Labinowice-Opole from January 27, 2004
  • Centraine Museum Jencow Wojennych w Lambinowicach-Opolu from March 3, 2015
  • Archive, Archiwun- Looking for Witnesses (Internet) May 14, 2008
  • Letter from step-sister Janina Wozniak from December 4, 1993
  • Sacred Heart class project project interview by Shannon Frackiewicz in 1998
  • A scribbled note I took for unknown reasons after many beers stating he was traded to the Germans by the Soviets in Hannover by the North Sea
  • 2016 addition resources came from Facebook sites "Kresy-Siberia group" "WWII Polski 2 Korpus" and ""
  • Many, many dead end letters and emails
One major issue in this document research is translation. The translation of Polish to Russia to German is not seamless and introduces error. Just in the initial document, his first name is spelled 3 ways and that sets the  stage for more inaccuracies. Not only is language the issue but overwhelmed and uninterested German and Russian captors cared little for accuracy in record keeping of the captured masses of"subhumans".
 Usually the Germans shot their prisoner so not to be burdened with them, so in many ways Dad was "lucky".

Sunday, April 26, 2015

IV - Where was he captured? Grodno ?

Dad relaxing

The POW documents with multi- language translation issues and the personal history all differ on the capture location.

  1. Step-sister Janina stated before  she passed, he was in the Polish Grodno army and captured in Grodno (now Belarus). This may be a translation issue.
  2. Documents state he was captured in Lwow, Poland aka Lviv aka Lvov, aka Lemberg (now Ukraine)
  3. Documents also state he was captured in  Brzezany, Poland aka Berezhany (now Ukraine)
  4. After I started this blog, in late 2016 I obtained a faint document in Russian with old world cursive that required translation so it sat.
Distances are important to note as is location as it relates to the Soviet advance that I will discuss later.
  • Grodno is 549 km from Lwow, basically due North
  • Brzezany is 89 km from Lwiw, basically Southeast
I can assume early in his military service, the letters home were more frequent and he probably was in the Grodno army. This initial information stuck with his family. As the German massed on the Western border of Poland in 1939, Zygmunt's service, which was due to be completed by June of 1939, was extended to battle the invaders and he was sent where the greatest defense need was.

I can eliminate the Grodno location due to distance from the most referenced capture sites of Lwow and Brzezany.  As it became evident of the impending invasion, not only was his "draft" extended but he was marshalled where the greatest need was, and after September 1, 1939, it could be anywhere. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

V - Captured in Lwow or Brzezany?

X marks the location of Brzezany

To determine which of these 2 cities was a more plausible capture location, I have to cross reference some major and minor battles from the historical record and correlate the dates with the unanimous agreed upon capture date of September 19, 1939. Understanding the invasion advances and battles from both the East and West give key insights.

I have looked at over 50 documented battles and clashes in the Polish Eastern borderlands with around 30 Polish units involved with the Soviets. A sampling;

  1. Grodno- Fierce defense Sept 20-21
  2. Wilno - Fighting Sept. 18-19 NE Poland
  3. Polesie Region -  State border defense Sept 17/18-19/20
  4. Krasne - East of Lwow armored clash Sept.19-20
  5. Lwow - key to Romanian Bridgehead, defended  Sept 12-22, back and forth battles with Germans then Russian advance from East  joined Germans encircling the city forcing surrender.
  6. Lwow Region - 14 area locales Sept 13-22
  7. Brzezany - scant references, battle Sept. 18-19
For reference and to explain my analysis; In viewing the map of "Troop Movements after September 14, 1939" on this page, I have marked the location of Brzezany with an "X"  on the lower right hand corner. The dashed red line to the immediate left shows Soviet  advance to the West. In the direction of this advance, the first red/blue circled city is Lwow.

Remember the key September 17 Russian invasion date? Looking  at the invasion forces movement map after Sept. 14, 1939. It shows the Russian spearhead advance toward the East and toward Lwow, effectively swallowing Brzezany which is 89 km to SE of Lwow. So Brzezany was overrun and defeated days before the surrender of Lwow on September 22.

This correlates to the Eastern battle dates list including Brzezany. This would also explain why such a minor town and battle was listed in 2 different POW documents. It also makes sense that referring to a major battle/capture site as Lwow was listed, for convenience of the bulk processing of POW's even though not 100% accurate.

Based on these facts, I was initially confident Zygmunt Frackiewicz was captured in Brzezany, Poland likely defending the Romanian Bridgehead (an Eastern contingent escape route through neutral countries for eventual regrouping with French and UK Allies).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

VI The Russian Holy Grail

German Blitzkrieg to the West, Russian Red Army to the East

Over the past year (2016), my mass mailings for information yielded a lots of dead ends, “not my job" type responses, "we don't do that anymore" letters and some referrals that were immediately followed up on.  An interesting letter came from “Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe” in Warsaw with
a copy of a faded, wrinkled, copy of a copy , a Russian record card in old Russian text with cursive entries. It sat for months before I tried posting it on-line, The great folks at Kresy-Siberia group translated most of the document for me.

Within the basic form information was the question - “Place taken into Captivity”
                                                  LIPICIA DOLNA
Wow this was the a game changer for me, the initial, 1st hand record of his capture by the Russians…….Finally

Armed with this information I was able to get a very informed opinion from historian/researcher
 and guide from the Lwow area.

  • Lipica Dolna is 12-15 km from Berezhany
  • Berezhany is SE of Lviv in direction of Romanian border
  • There is a road running North to South and a railway line from East to West, to Rohatyn and then turns to the South
  • Due to double aggression, Soviet and German, Polish Command gave the order to retreat to the Southeast, to advance and defend access to the Romanian border to regroup
  • Soviet troops advancing from the East, intercepted that retreat, close to the fore mentioned road       or railway
New boundaries 9 days after his capture

 My initial amateur analysis was close, very close, But now I know Lipicia Dolna was the place
of his capture, 
I can now walk the road, I can walk the rail line, we 
can  share something that was life changing for him  
albeit 77+ years later.

******PLEASE SELECT  "OLDER POSTS"  at bottom of page to continue the next 6 segments
 of the journey********************************************************************

VII - Following Faint Russian Clues

The joy of finally discovering the place of capture was slowly tempered by the nagging fact that 2 important items were not translated from the Russian Record card:  #1 entry "Camp Name" could not be made out because it was too faint. And the tantalizing entry #14 "When and Where from Came to Camp"
Many months later I tried some software to darken, sharpen and enhance the document and re-posted to the Kresy-Siberia Group. Success!

Wow, Wow, Wow!  Not only does this Russian Record Card show place of capture as Lipica Dolna on September 19, 1939. It shows the current place of confinement “ (Camp Name)  as Lagier Putivlski. It also shows "Where and when came from as " Lagier Starobielsk on Oct 21,1939. 
LAGIER is a word for Russian prisoner camp.
So from capture at Lipica Dolna, he was transported 1,315 km to Starobielsk Lagier to the East then one month later,  543 km to Putivlski Lagier to the Northwest. Then within the next 9 days, to Torun, Poland, Stalag XXA, 1332 km to the Northwest. Back and forth,all by rail car and likely crowded like cattle.

My analysis of the Russian part of his journey:
He was captured by the Soviet Red Army, turned over to the NKVD, managed by the administration of POW affairs (UPWI).
      The  Russian NKVD ( Peoples Commissariate of Internal Affairs) aka Soviet Secret Police, predecessor of the KGB, keepers of the Gulag system and mass exterminators of tens of thousands of Poles.

In addition to redrawing the map and dividing up Poland, published top secret documents show the State set up 8 collection points in Belorussia  and Kiev military districts and 2 transit camps set up for new POW's at Kozel'sk (BSSR) and Putivlski (USSR). One day after his capture, the State approved mobilization of the NKVD Calvary for the transfer of POW's from the Red Army at transfer points. A side note was Red Cross was denied access on basis saying prisoners were not POW's but counter- revolutionaries. So this denied POW's basic military prisoner rights.
Starting on October 24,  1939 to mid 1940, 43,000 (33%) of Polish POW's born in Western Poland, now under Nazi occupation, were transferred to the Germans In a prisoner exchange with Russians. This took place at 2 border points, the area of Brzesc (Brest) and Dorohusk. My dad was part of this exchange.

 Later in 1940 the Soviets refused further prisoner transfers but the mindset of prisoners was still hopeful for "exchange and transfers". The following transfers in April and May of 1940 were to the forests to be massacred !  15,000 Polish prisoners were slaughtered in a genocidal crime. My dad missed being slaughtered by months, maybe days while others in the very same camps perished. 

A giant piece of the puzzle, where was he captured,  is solved by 3 faint and forgotten entries in a Russian record.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

VIII - Name, Rank and Serial Number ?

Look at these primitive monster cannons. Note bullet ridden shield below picture
No wonder his hearing was shot

Again I find the multiple language translations causing a bit of confusion, at least for me, being a non-military person to understand his rank or position during his service. There are many common threads. This is what I have gleaned from the different records:

  • Gunman2 Air Division A.P.L.
  • 2 Air Division
  • 2 Air Platoon
  • 2 Flieger
  • 2e Regt. artillerie
  • Grade - Appointe
  • Gefreiter - loosely translated as acting corporal by the UK but Private First Class in Polish
  • In a post war (1952) document rank described as: Bomb. L/Cpl,
 Initially I found no information on a 2 Air Division, Platoon or A.P.L. in the Polish military.
**Update 10-20-15**  2 Dywizjon Artylerii Przeciwiotniczej (2 Squadron Anti-aircraft Artillery) 2nd Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion), an Army unit mobilized in Grodno, A.P.L is likely Artyleria PrzeciwLotnicza also known as Anti-aircraft "Flak" Artillery

Thanks to information from Polish Forums website and others.

So I can conclude Dad was in The Polish Army of the 2nd Republic, 29th Infantry Division, 29th Light Artillery Regiment- Grodno, 2nd Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion. In September 1939, this was part of the Prusy Army under General Stefan Dab-Biernak of the Northern group mobilizing under secret plan  "Plan West".

From the school interview papers, with Shannon came an important clue; he told that her that he fired 75 mm cannons at aircraft. So he was a gunman in the 2nd air division artillery manning 75 mm anti-aircraft guns. That is clear.
It appears his rank rose from Gunman to acting Corporal due to Polish manpower and leadership being decimated defending 2 fronts and attrition. 

Wow, googling 75 mm anti-aircraft cannon came up with some scary, primitive looking weapons.
In fact the record shows  the 75mm were old, poorly maintained, ran out of ammuntion frequently causing retreat into the forests.

At  this point, I am going to make a best guess to where dad may have been stationed when captured. There is no doubt it was in the East as explained above "Plan West". Just as his military conscription was extended due to looming invasion crisis, his unit was placed as needed along the 1500 km Eastern border in late 1939. He likely had supported Eastern border defense, the civilian militia, rag-tag volunteers, and quite possibly defending access to the Romanian Bridgehead for the retreating survivors

This explains fully why a military serviceman from Grodno, in the territory of Belorussia, ended up captured in Lipica Dolna in Eastern Galacia September 19,1939

These are the verified circumstances that put him at Lipica Dolna, 12 km from Berezhany. The Russian record card was the "smoking gun" I have been looking for. This closes a hole in my quest for understanding.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

IX - Stalags and Arbeitskommandos Labor Camps

The handbook and patch signifying you were a Polish Arbeitskommando
My Dad, Zygmunt Frackiewicz Age 26
Rare photo early in his imprisonment  at Stalag XXA in Thorn, (Torun) Poland

Zygmunt Frackiewicz Prisoner # 1006

Stalag is from the German "Stammerlager", a German POW camp for non-commissioned officers and enlisted men
Arbeitskommando were labor sub-camps under POW camps for holding prisoners under the rank of sergeant and permitted under the 3rd Geneva Convention.

Though I have dates and general locations spanning 6 years, it is frustrating not having more details especially about his labor camps but I am finding this is common as forced labor was so extensive.There is also the vast number of these camps, or example Buchenwald had over 100 sub-camps, Auschwitz had 44 sub-camps and so on.

Briefly the German Reich had 17 Military Districts. The main camp or Stalag was named for a specific district and the order of camps by a Capitol letter, ie. VI-A

An unexpected bit of information came up in 2015 on a Google search by my sister Susanna. It shows a newspaper article that shows dad spent time in a Chemical plant in Blachownia/Blechhammer from June 1944 to January 1945. While an interesting new found addition to the record, this adds more complexity to the story that is not part of the POW record shown below.

The new evidence (May 2016) from the Russian Record card proved accurate data regarding the Soviet capture timeline.

  • Captured in  Lipica Dolna, Sept.19,1939 by the Soviet Red Army
  • Held by Soviets in  2 Lagiers, Starobielsk, then Putivlski on Oct, 21, 1939
  • Stalag XXA Thorn, Poland , entered sometime in the last 10 days of Oct. 1939
  • Stalag VI-A Hemer, entered March 28, 1940
  • Assigned as Arbeitkommando to Kapellen-Moers 117 entered April 2, 1940, site of synthetic oil plant, a target of Allied bombings
  • Stalag VI-J Krefeld-Fichtenhain, entered July 2, 1940 through August 1, 1944
  • Assigned as Arbeitcommando unit 110P,  entered April 7, 1941              
  • Stalag VI-K Senne entered Sept 23, 1944.                    
  • Assigned as Arbeitcommando unit WC 51,  entered October 10, 1944.       
.So while records show him being at Stalag VI-J through August 1,1944 and entering Stalag VI-K on September 23, 1944, This time frame also encompasses the June 1944 to January 1945 record of being at the Blechhammer North O/S Hydrierwerke AG chemical plant construction and operation in Slawiecice near Blachownia Slaska. This was a sub-camp of Auschwitz.

Another censor stamp on
family photo from VI-J.
Work Camp 27? Note
 Swan icon on lower right.
"Gepruft"  =  Checked /Censored
stamp on back of a family photo sent 
to Camp  VI-J. Does it refer to Work 
Camp 44 ?  Note the icon of 
"Turbaned Headon  lower  right.
I discovered these odd "stamps" on back of  old photos of Dad's family. These are the most legible, from later on in his captivity. The oldest one, a pic of his mom, has a faint XXA on it, worn out from looking at it, handling it.  Do the numbers refer to an Arbeitkommando camp?

There is also a record of being in Stalag VIIA, Moosburg, but this may have been a pass through camp enroute to work details.

The explanation must be that these were his Arbeitskommando assignments under the specific home Stalag listed but in the sub-camps. The slave labor going from more rural type labor to something more demanding for the desperate Nazi war effort, making synthetic fuel from coal.

A minimum of 11 Soviet Lagiers, Stalags and Labor Camps recorded, escaping death sometimes by days, by circumstance and by the grace of God.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

X - Slave Labor at Blechhammer-Slawiece Chemical Plant

The main Auschwitz camp

Wow, finding the new piece of documentation in 2015, while adding some unexpected confusion, gives the first evidence  of what some of Dad's work commando assignments were. He was reported there from almost the onset of the clearing of the land and erecting the buildings on this complex, through the operation. What were his forced tasks: agricultural, construction, breaking oil shale rock into little pieces or industrial related?

The Blechammer North chemical plant was one of the labor sub-camps. less than 100 km from the infamous main camp of Auschwitz. In Slawiecice, less than 5 minutes/3km away, was a  mobile crematorium called the "pocket furnace". The mingling of the concentration camp inmates and arbeitcommandos was a fact. It must have been horrific working in the smell of burning bodies and in the shadow of death with walking corpses.

Blechammer chemical plant became a strategic target for the allies dropping over 7,000 lbs of bombs on it. This is turn resulted in an rapid evacuation of this series of camps. Masses of POW's were moved Westward to escape the now hostile Soviet advance. In other areas of Germany, POW movement was to the North and East to avoid US and British advances. These were the infamous death marches of  January 25, 1945, These were death marchs in the dead of one of the worst winters in 20 years with temperature of -13 F. Estimates of 3,500 people died from the weather extremes, lack of clothes and food, disease (typhus was rampant) and from already being in an  emaciated state. Those that were slow, sick  or could not keep up the inhumane march were shot by side of the road, hundreds lined the many routes.

Was Zygmunt Frackiewicz in the 1945 Death March?

So the record shows he was still there in January 1945, Was he moved earlier in the month? Was he marched or transported in a covered cattle car or was it in a open coal car? How did he get back to Stalag K some 870 km away in the dead of winter from a bombed out, evacuated chemical plant under the direction of Auschwitz concentration camp?

A review of a historical document "Movements of Prisoner of War in Germany 1944-45"  show there is no direct route from Blechammer to the endpoint of the  Fallingbostel Collection Center. Whatever convoluted route he took to the northwest must have incorporated marching and rail transport, there are no other options for the 870 kilometer travel.

However he made it back to Stalag K in Fallingbostel, he never talked about any of it which is hard to believe. But there is a lot about his journey that is hard to believe.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

XI - Liberation after 6 years

A common sight in April and May of 1945

Continuing with his long awaited liberation, Once again history, the record and personal recollection do not align. Especially data populated by dad in the literally endless post war forms for assistance in the war refugee collection centers by the (IRO) International Relief Organization.
  • The POW record shows his last Confinement at Stalag K (326) at Senne/Schloss Holte-Stuckenbrock, Fallingbostel area beginning September 9, 1944. Documents also show him  performing forced labor at Blechhammer Chemical plant June 1944-January 1945. Was this an Arbeitkommando work assignment?
  • All forced labor ended at Blachownia/Blechhammer chemical plant January 1945, he had to return to Stalag K in the Fallingbostel complex.
  • History says Stalag  K was liberated in April 2, 1945
  • Zygmunt says he was liberated on May 8, 1945 by the British but populated IRO forms soon after  liberation with April 1945
  • May 8 is also recognized as VE (Victory in Europe) Day 
  • Documents show he was in Hannover-Buchholz in the Polish Military Centre April 16,1945, at a PWX (ex-POW) camp.
  • April 16 is same date as the 2 Fallingbostel Stalags liberations.
To further complicate matters, from his recollections to Shannon Frackiewicz and family verbal history, he was shot by the Germans after the war ended!

Zygmunt told of being liberated by British forces (while waiting for Americans). Freed POW's were told they were free and they set off walking toward whatever refuge, comrades and assistance they could find in a foreign land. He must have been in a small group taking a less traveled route because he was ambushed and shot by Germans who did not know the war was over and hostilities had ceased.

Imagine that, no GPS, no cells phones, no taxis or Uber, no public transport, just follow a dirt road or path through the forest. This after covering thousands of kilometers as POW, with the clothes on your back, a stranger in a strange, bombed out land, freed to march again to what?
Then shot after being freed.

So sometime between April 2, 1945 and May 1945 he was shot.He must have been field dressed as documents show 3 months later, May 22,1945 - June 1, 1945 he had surgery on his right bicep that did not take well. One year after that he had another surgery by a Polish doctor. 

I can speculate that if he was a documented in an PWX camo in Hannover-Buchholz on April 16, 1945 in the Polish Military Centre, that he was probably freed from Stalag K on or about April 2, 1945 by the British and heading for a refugee or  Polish collection center, was shot en route in an ambush, transported to the Polish Military Centre for first aid. Because he could speak German, he could act as a translator for the Polish folks and remained there helping with the masses of captured Germans, Displace Persons (DP) and former POW's. When the 2nd PWX camp was disbanded in June 1947, he was reassigned to the DP camp in the RPC (Regional Processing Centre) in Fallingbostel. This scenario fits the record

One more thing, family history says this hospital and military centre is where he met Elfriede Emma Dusel, his future wife and my mom. The incredible story continues........

Sunday, March 15, 2015

XII - Love among the Displaced Persons Camp

Married September 15, 1951 in Hamburg-Veddel

One special family story was how Dad and Mom met after the war ended. As we understood it, simply he was shot and wounded after the war ended, she was a nurse, they were both in a German hospital, somehow met, fell in love, married and emigrated to the U.S. But this story also gets a bit more complicated if I am to understand the post war span of 7 years as refugees until they immigrated to the U.S.

Elfriede Dusel was a children's nurse, studied, trained and interned with the Wurzburg Germany Red Cross and Wurzburg Children's Hospital from March 20, 1940 to May 1, 1942. The next 5 years are unclear. Then she reappears on the record at the Bergen-Belsen/Hohne  Glyn Hughes Hospital from April 1947 to May 3, 1949. This hospital camp was  only 39 km from the Fallingbostel  D.P. (Displaced Persons) complex and actually part of it.

This aligns well with family history she related of taking care of the flood of liberated inmates of the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.This mass of humanity necessitated Elfriede help out beyond her child care duties. She told of feeding adult survivors with baby bottle and formula because they could not process real food because of years of starvation and many died anyway. This was a life long vivid image to me and sparked my early and life long interest in the Holocaust.

Then from April 1947 to November 12, 1950 she was serving at the D.P. branch at Lemgo, Germany B.A.O.R. 15  (British Army of the Rhine) then at Glueckstast, Germany I.R.O. (International Rescue Committee) Sickbay from May 1949 to March 1951, simultaneously serving in Fallingbostel  RPC (Refugee Processing Centre) some 154 km apart.

The reason for this detail on Elfriede is to match scenarios when and where dad and her could have met.

Zygmunt Frackiewicz  D.P. 3238597, I.R.O. #274221 or simply 8/1  on the "whom" field on official forms
 Records from the 504 IRC (International Refugee Committe) Resettlement Center, Gluckstadt, Camp Leader Office detail his post liberation service:
  • April 16, 1945 to September 25, 1947 recovered from war injury and acted as a German translator at Polish Military Centre "PWX camp" (Ex-Prisoner of War camp) at Hannover- Buchholz
  • Transferred September 26, 1947 to December 31,1947 to second PWX camp until liquidation, also in Hannover-Buchholz, also know as "Static Camp".
  • January 1, 1948 to October 23, 1950 transferred and worked as blockleader in R.P.C. (Refugee Processing Center) Fallingbostel
  • October 23, 1950 to February 26, 1951 transferred and worked as blockleader in  R.P.C. Gluckstadt  Schloss-Holte Stuckenbrock
  • February 26, 1951 in 504 Resettlement Centre
In the interest of other researchers I add the following documented DP camps he was in :
  • The Hannover DP in the British Zone was located Land Niedersach
  • "ACCU" camp name for  #2715 in Garbsener Hannover-Stocken from 1945-1948 in the PWX
  • Osnabruck Assembly Center 269, dad was reported there April-August 1951
  • Wentorf  DP camp, #2131 BAOR 3 medical center- Dad was in 1951 for blood, lung and health evaluations 

So there was overlap where they could have met either in 1947 at Fallingbostel D.P. camp while she was at Bergen-Belsen.  The other option is at Glueckstadt  where they both worked in the 1950-51  in the R.P.C (Refugee Processing Center).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

XIII - Proud and Legal U.S. Citizens

They married September 15, 1951 and I was born in Bielefield, Germany June 21, 1952, we were still displaced persons.
Dad secured a $76 loan for the journey to the U.S. from the International Catholic Migrant Loan Fund on August 14. We all got our small pox shots on August 22, 1953 then left Bremen, Germany airport 2 days on August 24 classified as "Stateless" refugees being sponsored by a Dairyman Magnus Cryberg in Cedar Falls, Iowa and landing at the old Idlewild, New York airport. Our Visa numbers were 7592-7594. I always thought we came by ship, in fact Ellis Island names a ship we supposedly were on, but airline passenger manifests don't lie.

Dad was picky about where we immigrated to. He turned down Canada and Australia because he had to establish a year of residency before his wife and child could join him, the U.S. had no such restriction. So here we are.

I recall them talking about arriving with little money and knowing no English in New York and kind hearted German speaking passengers on  the public bus they were on took up a collection for them.. In fact I did not know any English before I entered nursery school and learned it by assimilation, as did my parents. No wonder my early memories are so chaotic and crazy. The contractor named Hanson put us up at a RR #4 address then we moved to apartments in the College Hill area of Cedar Falls, then Bluff and State Streets. Dad worked as a construction laborer until retirement with a documented 50% disability in his  right arm from the war injury. Just imagine that scenario today! Damn he was a tough, hard working man living the American dream.

And yes, we waited our turn in line, learned English and studied for the honor of being U.S. citizens. On October 9, 1959 we all became U.S. citizens,  They were so proud! We got letters from Iowa Senators and Representatives congratulating us. The small flags we received were special and in constant display.

******PLEASE SELECT  "OLDER POSTS"   or Next at bottom of page to continue to the last page !  This page honors all lost civilians and service men with  a special tribute song**********

Sunday, March 1, 2015

XIV - The Journey's End

Enjoying Retirement

Proud Americans without forgetting their roots. German and Polish farewells
Note the abbreviation S.P. over dad's name,  it stands for "Swietej Pamieci" with accent mark over the "S" which literally means "In holy memory."  It was important to me to combine this traditional part of Polish heritage as well as his love of the U.S.

The journey ended December 10, 1992. He had a hardships beyond imagination but rebounded and  he had a good life  living the American dream. The Frackiewicz family grew and has become as mom used to say, "an international family" including German, Polish, American, Hispanic, Guatemalan, and Taiwanese branchs.

An old picture,missing 7 new spouses, 4 more grandchildren,  6 great grand kids.
  John Zygmunt joined the family November 22, 2017. 
Dad would be so proud. 

At the combining of their ashes into one urn at the death of my mom, I played his favorite song for the small family group over their grave, a haunting military tribute to all servicemen lost called "The Silence". The only record he ever asked me find for him.

I encourage the reader to listen to the beautiful song on the link below, it completes the story, and in a way, says it all for Dad and all servicemen around the world

The journey is over, Rest in Peace Dad