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.