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A review of a historical document "Movements of Prisoner of War in Germany 1944-45"  show there is no direct route from Blechammer to the endpoint of the  Fallingbostel Collection Center.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