Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Life on the Border Between War and Not-Quite-War

MG 34 general-purpose machine gun mounted on a Lafette 34 tripod
"Jan, I heard it straight from the Spieß, we're shipping out to the east, next week," Schütze Kazimir Dutka insisted, "we're headed somewhere around Chelm. He wasn't sure of the exact spot, and honestly he knows so little of Poland, but from the orders he's seen, it has to be Chelm."

Schütze Jan Kołodziej shook his head as he looked at his friend. Dutka was a big man, like Jan he was part German, from the village of Stegna in the area which the Poles called "Pomorze" and the Germans called "Pommern¹." He too had been deemed "German-enough" to be conscripted into the Wehrmacht². "Are you sure Kazimir? This isn't just another barracks rumor?"

"Yup, I'm sure. We're marching to the railhead, then heading east. I've seen the supply requisitions. The Spieß is convinced that Hitler means to attack Russia, he's always hated the Communists, his deal with Stalin was just to get us out of the way while he dealt with France and England." Dutka had been a stevedore in Gdansk, while he wasn't well-educated, he paid attention.

"Damn." Jan muttered, setting the ammunition belt he was loading with 7.92 mm rounds aside, he looked at Kazimir. "What am I to do about Elżbieta, how can I get a pass to Warszawa to try and see her? Also, she's seen me in this Nazi uniform, I'm sure she hates me now."

Dutka nodded and said, "Her problems may be worse than yours. Rumor has it that the Niemcy are rounding up everyone who has a college education. Priests, lawyers, doctors, and professors are being killed out of hand. The Niemcy are forcibly removing all Poles from Western Poland to resettle the area with "pure" Germans." Dutka spat as he said that.

"Elżbieta was due to finish school this past spring, of course, after the invasion ... My God, do you think she's been arrested?" Jan had trouble controlling his voice, the more he thought about her, the more he realized he loved her.

He was seriously considering deserting and trying to get to Warszawa, but his common sense told him that that would likely result in his own death and help Elżbieta not at all. Once his unit went to the East, there was no telling what would happen next.

On the other hand, if there was an opportunity to kill Russians, that would be all right in his book. If Hitler wanted to attack the Soviet Union, well then, Jan would help.

Elżbieta Chlebek looked around the hospital. Her shift was nearing its end and the number of sick and wounded Germans was much less than before. Those wounded in the campaign last September were being moved to the Reich if they were incapable of rejoining the army. The less injured and the sick were sent back to their units as soon as they were healed. Even in a army not actively fighting, accidents happened all the time. Men were still dying.

Though Elżbieta still hated the Niemcy, as a general rule, she had discovered that some of them were not so bad. She still shuddered at seeing her Jan in one of those uniforms, but she had since learned that many Poles had been conscripted into the Nazi army, whether they liked it or not. She supposed that they were simply doing whatever they had to do to survive.

She had a moment of shame when she realized that what she had done was no different from what Jan had done. She now had papers indicating that her name was Elisabeth Brodt, a German version of her own name.³ Though she had been very close to completing her medical degree, the Niemcy were suspicious of any educated people in this area of the world.

As her accent was obviously Polish, she did what many had done, claimed to be from what the intelligent learned to refer to as the German areas illegally annexed by Poland after the first war. In her case, she claimed to be from Lauban (Lubań in Polish) in Silesia, an area which had already been reclaimed by the Reich.

Currently she was employed as a nurse in a hospital taken over by the Germans. Though still in the capital city, she dared not visit her old friends or even her parents' flat. Any suspicion that she was Polish would have led to her being shot out of hand or transported to a camp. She had heard the rumors. The Polish intelligentsia were being slaughtered by the Nazis. Any hint of her true nationality or that she had been training as a doctor would be a death sentence for her.

"Elisabeth!" She turned as the German doctor hailed her. She was treated like dirt in this place, what was it with these Nazis?

Caporal Guillaume Micheaux, late of the 142e régiment d'infanterie of the 8e division d'infanterie, stood in the parlor of his cousin's small house on the outskirts of Reims. She had provided him with civilian clothing, the rough attire of a farm laborer but it blended in nicely with the other civilians. The clothes had been her husband's, Pierre had been killed in the initial fighting in the Ardennes around Sedan. Guillaume had liked the man, a lot.

"How are you doing Michelle, now that, well now that ..." Guillaume had trouble saying the words.

Michelle Cordonnier (née Micheaux) shook her head, "Now that I'm a widow? Is that what you mean Guillaume? I thought the army might make you less, I don't know, polite?"

Guillaume chuckled, "Well, I'm a little less polite than I used to be, but around my family? Never!"

"I am doing well enough, I visit your mother every day, and why don't you go see her?"

"Les Boches paroled me, they didn't let me go. If I visit maman, they will know. I haven't reported in yet, I'm thinking of going into the forest and joining the resistance. Or perhaps trying to get to England and join De Gaulle ..."

"De Gaulle!?" Michelle barked at her cousin, "he is simply another politician, if he wanted to fight, why didn't he stop the Boches from taking Paris?!"

Guillaume shook his head, "If only it were so simple. I must go, thank you for the clothing, and the food. Let maman know that I'm alive and well, tell her someone told you that, don't admit to anyone that you've seen me. I don't want you getting in trouble."

"There are no Boches here, no occupiers, they are all in the major towns and the cities." Michelle protested.

"Don't underestimate those bastards, soon they will be everywhere. There are also those who will collaborate, to live a better life helping them. Be wary. Now, I must go my dear."

He kissed his cousin on the cheek, then left quickly, without looking back. He didn't know what he would do, but he refused to do the bidding of the Nazis and their minions. Somehow, he must continue the fight. Somehow get back into the war which had ended without him firing a single round.

His honor demanded it!

¹ Pomerania in English
² The German Armed Forces - the Army (Heer), the Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the Navy (Kriegsmarine). This didn't include the Waffen SS, who were an arm of the Nazi Party for all intents and purposes.
³ Chlebek can be translated into English as "bread." There is also a German surname "Brot" (literally bread) of which Brodt is a variant spelling.


  1. I remember reading of Hitler's frustration of fighting a war with, A reactionary Army, A Christian Navy, and a National Socialist Air Force ".

    1. Hitler is alleged to have said that, might be apocryphal. Hitler's frustration was always with his generals. Also, mind you, Hitler was barking mad.

  2. "If only it were so simple".... so true....

    1. It always seems to be the case, what looks simple and straightforward, often isn't.

  3. Sarge, I wonder (I say I wonder - there is probably a study somewhere) how such people as Jan and Elzbieta evaluated the war years in later life: Guilty? Accepting? Should have made a different choice? It is always easy for the armchair analysts and researchers in years after to say "one should have done differently"; much more difficult in the actual events (and likely more often than not, most people would make the same sorts of choices).

    One of the historical quirks is how the Soviet Union "seemed" better once they became our allies. The airbrushing of the horrors of the 1920's and 1930's is one of the more regrettable outcomes of that.

  4. Excellent as always. Every installment stands alone as an interesting and readable story, but all the better with benefit of the earlier segments. Keep up the good work.

    I got kicked of Eff Book by their censors, so I will miss seeing you there, but thankfully you are also posting on the MeWe divert site where I can still keep up.
    John Blackshoe

    1. I post at both places for just that reason. I stay on Failbook for grandkid pictures and for tradition's sake.

  5. Interesting fork in the story road, Sarge. Looking forward to see what's coming ahead.

    1. Dang it!

    2. Juvat the 1st - I'm still not sure where the Muse plans to take this. Hopefully it's interesting!

    3. Juvat the 2nd - Battling the browsers again?

    4. Si'. Small Request. Pray for the folks in Uvalde. I can't imagine being told not to pick up my kids until regular pick up time.
      "The district initially asked parents not to pick up their children and that students needed to be accounted for before being released. Parents were notified to pick up their children around 2 p.m." Fox News I'd have been insane by then.

    5. Horrific. So sad for the families. Prayers in progress.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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