Praetorium Honoris

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Out Back of Beyond

Poland, near Leśna, Golice, Masovian Voivodeship
They had bivouacked the night before after a long march from the railhead. As they had moved east, all the men saw was forest and fields, forest and fields. They had marched through the  occasional rundown village along the way, all of them deserted.

"Where are all the people?" Schütze Hans Warstadt had asked. They had seen German-manned checkpoints but hadn't seen hide nor hair of the local population.

"Perhaps they're in hiding," offered Oberschütze Leon Schwarz, "I mean, there is a war on you know."

"But that was over a year ago!" Warstadt protested.

Fahnenjunker-Unterfeldwebel Jürgen von Lüttwitz stood at the side of the dirt track watching his men pass. As it got darker he didn't want the squad behind them to get lost. "It might be smart not to ask those kinds of questions, Hans."

Von Lüttwitz had seen how the Poles were treated by both the SS and the police, even Army units were guilty of atrocities against the Poles. His battalion commander had passed down the word to all of his officers and officer cadets, stay focused on the mission, don't concern yourselves with the Poles. The Party wants them gone, especially in the border regions adjacent to the Soviet-occupied zone.

Jürgen suspected that the people were being moved to places beyond the eyes of the world, and then killed. He had heard rumors and he had actually seen a "special action group" in Siedlce grabbing civilians off the streets and marching them away. One man had protested, he had been beaten to the ground.

Apparently there was no room in Poland for actual Poles.

He had not slept all night, getting the men in place. Oberleutnant Ferdinand Busch, his company commander, and Leutnant Fritz Acker, his platoon commander - recently returned to the unit from hospital - had come by early in the morning and the three men had discussed what they were supposed to be doing and how they were supposed to do it.

Busch assumed that they would be moving further east when the sun came up, they were some sixty kilometers from the border with the Soviet zone. Division wanted them no closer than twenty kilometers from that border. Once there, they were to dig in, and wait. Jürgen had remarked that life in the army required a lot of waiting.

"And digging, don't forget digging." Busch had said with a chuckle.

Unlike many officers, Busch carried an entrenching tool of his own. He dug his own protection out of the earth rather than require the men to do it.

Schütze Bodo Hermann was the first man in the squad to awaken. He sat up and looked around and muttered, "Mein Gott, wir sind am Arsch der Welt¹."

He shoved his buddy, Schütze Michael Offenbach, who was just starting to stir. Offenbach threw off his blanket and looked around himself.

A dirt road stretched to the horizon, there were small stands of woods everywhere the eye could see. There was a lone peasant hut not too far away, but other than the road and the hut, it looked like a place humans had never been.

"Scheiße, wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen!²" he groaned aloud.

Both men saw their squad leader approaching, von Lüttwitz looked like death warmed over.

"Rough night, Herr Unterfeldwebel?" Offenbach quipped.

"Very. Now get up and get your gear together, we're marching as soon as everyone is ready."

The men grumbled, as soldiers always do, but they were up and about in no time. Good thing too, the battalion commander came up and was bellowing at the laggards in the other  platoons and companies.

"Ah, good work von Lüttwitz, at least two of my officers have their heads out of their asses this morning! Let's go lads, lets go!"

In Berlin, the Führer was holding another planning session. He insisted that first thing in the spring, the Wehrmacht must be ready to invade Russia and destroy Soviet Communism.

It was October 1940. The nights were getting cold, winter wasn't far off. It was the last winter many of the men in Busch's company would see.

¹ "My God, we're in the middle of nowhere. (German) Literally, in the asshole of the world.
² Another colorful German expression for the "middle of nowhere" - Where the fox and the hare say good night.


  1. I shall follow this thread with interest. My knowledge of the Eastern War Zone in winter 1940- spring 1941 is most shallow.

    We Badgers, being the seagoing critters that we are, tend to focus on the Battle of the Atlantic, and tend to not pay the attention we should to the War in the East, even though that where the War Against Germany was won and lost.

    Thank you for writing this.

    1. Wasn't much going on in that area in that time period. Yes, the Jews were being rounded up and put in ghettos and planning was proceeding for Barbarossa. Other than that, just soldiers waiting.

    2. The Battle of the Atlantic was made necessary in order to supply the people conducting the air and ground campaigns.
      Boat Guy

    3. The Battle of the Atlantic was a critical theater, if we had lost, where would we have invaded France from? (Speculation is that Britain would have gone under had the U-Boats won that battle.)

    4. A speculation (remember that the war would be delayed a year or two, with new weapons coming on-line). First, invade Ireland (neutral or not) with carrier support out of range of the German V2s (but maybe not improved versions) but not the Luftwaffe (perhaps with jets). Then invade England (in range of V2s), then France. B29s out of Iceland and Greenland could reach both Britian, Europe, and Germany with air support (and just what would they be carrying?). It would have been ugly...

    5. Ugly and perhaps unsustainable, the war in the Pacific would still have happened and the war could have stretched another couple of years. The government and the military had great concerns in 1945 that the American people were sick of the war. An invasion of Japan might have sparked outrage in the public square. Another reason the bombs were dropped, to end it quickly.

  2. Operation Barbarossa with 3.8 million German and their Axis allies invade the Soviet Union........Total War unleashed, Scott, with no quarter.

  3. Sarge, apparently your Muse likes vacations. I feel you should take more of them.

    The fact that von Luttwitz is bothered by what he saw is encouraging (yes, I know he is a fictional character and all, but still). Any sense, even in 1940, if that was a common sense?

    1. I suspect more common than not, which makes it worse. Of course some would approve of the actions they might suspect, especially the younger ones brought up by Baldur von Schirach. Jurgen as an aristocrat might have more moral foundation.Boat
      Boat Guy

    2. TB - I suspect that many in Germany had concerns over what was happening. But there was a real fear of non-conformance should one raise one's voice. It's very human to do that. One of the reasons von Lüttwitz is the way he is, is that I wanted to show that not all Germans were Nazis, many, if not most, were decent people caught up in a terrible situation. There is evil in the world and it taints everything it touches. If you get the chance, watch the excellent German TV mini-series "Generation War." (The German title is far superior, "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter" - "Our Mothers, Our Fathers.")

    3. BG - Jürgen was raised to believe in honor, God, and duty. I plan to delve into his background further in future chapters. While he may be fictional, to me he is a living, breathing entity, as are the other long-term characters. You have to care about them to write a good story, at least I think so.

      Having lived in Germany for over seven years, in a NATO assignment, that is not on an American base, I lived with Germans and worked with Germans every day I was there. They are a fine people and I grew to love them and their culture very much. I often wonder what nation can point to a period in their history where they didn't behave in some bestial fashion. WWII and the Nazis will be written about until our species no longer exists because it was the culmination of many events which led to such an upheaval which caused the death of millions. Obviously it's a period in history that I find fascinating.

    4. Your finding your characters to be living breathing g people in you mind is how I feel about the Dragonimovs, the Zuckermans, and all the denizens of Mallard Lake.

  4. "But there was a real fear of non-conformance should one raise one's voice. It's very human to do that.",

    Really? Hadn't seen much of that around here in the past few years /Sarc>

    Fortunately, that tide seems to be turning. I pray (hard) that continues.

    1. Same here, while I knew that some day the pendulum just had to swing back the other way, I didn't think it would ever happen in my lifetime. Things have been far too insane.

    2. Sadly, I am afraid that we are not done with the insanity. " those who refuse to learn . . . repeat". Learning has been on short rats for half a century, at least. Consequences to follow!

  5. Bravo! More. Not necessarily a daily dose, but whenever your Muse sobers up and feels like contributing, we are here.
    Some good leadership lessons in there too.
    John Blackshoe

  6. Crusty Old TV Tech here. My Muse has been overseeing procedure rewrites all day for weeks. It is refreshing to see a Muse at work that yields fascinating prose on such a topic instead of technospeak. Good historical distraction from the world outside, too.

    I know what you mean about living amongst our European breathren. I was not there for years as permanent party, but the couple weeks spent in intense liason with the Walloon folk at Florennes was enlightening. Excellent folk, especially at quitting time. They never let us drive back to Brussels without a trip up the stairs to the squadron bar...and Chimay, and Jupilier, and those excellent local cheeses.

    1. We lived right on the Dutch border and it was about a fifteen minute drive to get to Belgium. Worked with them in NATO as well.

  7. “Special Action Groups”. I wonder what title the FBI uses to identify its hoodlums who do the dirty work at times such as January 6 and the kidnap planning against the Wisconsin governor?
    I don’t think we will get ti hear much on that, and Ray Epps isn’t talking.

  8. Hey Old AFSarge;

    The average German are good people, i was stationed there for 5 years, plus I was an Army brat and lived there for years as a kid. But the Nazi's called the shots and Germans are a very orderly people and following the edicts of the state is a cultural thing and to have a German buck the system takes a lot. The Einsatz groups did "sanitize" certain areas of Poland in preparation for "Operation Barbarossa", I'm sure they say for security reasons, but also for "Lebensraum" as Hitler had stated in "Mein Kampf". Looking forward of more from "Da Muse"

    1. I knew a number of Germans who loved to break the rules. Mostly in the smaller villages and mostly the little annoying rules that bureaucrats are so fond of!


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