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".