Escape From Stalag VIIIB

To The Ghetto

2 August 1943

Haim directs Terry to drive them back to the south of the city. They pass over one of the bridges across the Vistula going through a German checkpoint as they do so. Fortunately the guards just offer a stiff-armed salute and a “Sieg Heil” as they pass through rather than checking papers.

A few minutes later and the half-track is parked outside the entrance to the Jewish Ghetto in the run-down Podgórze slum district of the city.

“Stay here while I speak to the guards,” Piotr says, climbing down from the half-track.

While waiting for Piotr to get the guards to open up, everyone notices that the whole area is eerily quiet.

The glum look on Piotr’s face tells everyone that he is about to bring them some bad news. He looks at Haim sadly as he explains:

“They’ve all gone,” he says quietly. "The last ones went in the middle of March. Most of them have been taken to a new labour camp they constructed a few kilometers from here at Płaszów.

Haim says nothing. He is just silent. Whether he had guessed that this was the fate of his few remaining friends or has become immune to grieving as a result of all of the tragedy in his life, it’s hard to say.

The uncomfortable silence hangs in the air until Piotr starts looking nervously at the guards.

“We need to move on from here or else the guards will start getting suspicious,” he says. “Terry, just drive.”

Terry just drives.

“So the only person in this city you know who might be sympathetic to the plight of your people is this Oskar Schindler fellow?” Piotr asks Haim.

Haim just nods.

“Dobzhe. Then show us to his factory.”

It turns out to be just a couple of minutes away in the next district. The half-track passes the Deutsche Emaillewaren-Fabrik which still seems to be as active as it was when Haim last saw it.

“I can speak to them,” Haim says. “But not while dressed as a member of the SS obviously.”

Terry drives around a few corners until he finds a spot that is out of sight of anyone. Haim changes into his civvies and then heads off for the factory.

Thirty minutes later and Haim scuttles back to the rest of the party.

“Better news,” Haim reports. “Schindler was able to retain his original staff. They come from Płaszów under guard each morning and leave again under guard each evening. The forger I know, Leo Rabinowitz, is still working for him. I was not able to get inside to speak with him though. No outsiders get into the factory without Schindler’s agreement whether they are German, Jew or Poles. He has a lot of powerful friends in this city – more powerful than an SS-Hauptsturmführer, so we aren’t going to be able to bully him into anything.”

“What else do you know about Schindler?” Piotr asks.

“As I said before, he may sympathize with the plight of the Jews, but he is still a Nazi Party member. Also he is making a great deal of money from this arrangement. I’m not sure which is most important to him – money or the safety of ‘his’ Jews.”

“I am pretty sure that he will want nothing to do with the Resistance though,” Haim continues. “It would be pure and simple treason for him to do so. Helping Jews might be frowned upon by other Nazis, but it’s not a hanging offence – not for someone as cunning as Schindler. But helping the Resistance or other enemies of the Nazis? That definitely would be.”

Piotr thinks on the matter a while but then sighs:

“Anyone got any ideas as to how we can get to the forger? Or how we can make use of what we know about Schindler to maybe get to the Resistance?”

There is another long pause as everyone looks at one another. Piotr is wracking his brains for an idea.

“How about this?” he says. “Maybe I can meet with Schindler and tell him that I have similar sympathies to him – that I am a Nazi who sympathizes with the plight of the Jews and that Haim has told me that Schindler has the same loyalties? Schindler can’t rat me out as he would be exposing his own loyalties in the process. This probably isn’t going to get a direct link to the resistance, but should hopefully be able to get us the forged documents at least.”

“I think that it is worth a try,” Haim says.

No one has any better ideas and so Haim and Piotr head off together.

They seem to have been gone a long time. The others start worrying that perhaps the plan has gone completely awry and that Piotr and Haim have been captured, But, around the middle of the afternoon, the pair of them return.

“Dobzhe,” Piotr says as he climbs back in the half track. “So Schindler and I are now the best of friends. Haim is going to work there for a day or two – as long as it takes for him to get the document altered. I just need to provide him with a photo and some cash and Haim says that the forger will take care of the rest.”

“Naturally I didn’t get the direct contact information for any members of the resistance, but he did tell me that if we want to find out what is really going on in Krakow, then there is one place to find it, and that’s at the Na Zdrowie bar and night club. Everyone who is anyone in Krakow goes there and the place is a hotbed of gossip and information.”

“Well it looks as if this is the only lead that we have so we should give it a try,” says The Padre.

The others nod in agreement, not having any better suggestions.

“Dobzhe,” Piotr nods. “We have a few hours to kill before the bar comes to life. Let’s take care of the sundry other matters first. I need to visit a photographer’s to get a photo taken for the identity papers and we should also find somewhere discrete to hole up for the next night or two – somewhere where we can enter as SS and leave as civvies or vice versa without anyone seeing us.”

They set off back over the bridge to the heart of Krakow once more. The first task – getting a photograph taken is easily taken care of – although the finished photo won’t be ready to pick up until the following morning. Finding somewhere to hole up is a more difficult task, however – or rather finding somewhere to park the Sf. Kfz. 251/1 is. They end up returning to the industrial district south of the river not far from Schindler’s factory where they find a half-demolished warehouse that looks like it took a direct hit from a Stuka or an artillery barrage and so are able to hide the half-track in there.

“It’s a relief to finally get out of the vehicle and to be able to speak in English again without fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention.”

“So any ideas as for our strategy for going to the club tonight?” Piotr asks. “Should we go as SS or as civilians?”

“My uniform not fit so good,” says Lodd. “All these Nazis like skinny dwarves. New clothes fit much better. Maybe I can take SkullCrusher – my favorite entrenching tool with me?”

“I can just hear the conversation now,” Piotr says. “‘Is that an entrenching tool in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?’”

“Maybe better to play it safe and just take your bayonet instead?”

Lodd nods:

“У реду, онда,” he agrees.

“Perhaps we should split into two groups,” the Serb continues. “Half of us as SS and the other half as civilians. If we meet the resistance, the civvies could explain the situation and if we run into Nazi flak then the SS part of the team could jump in and smooth things out.”

Piotr nods, considering the idea:

“Who agrees with Lodd? And, if so, who are going to be the SS and who are going to be the civilians?”

The group discussed Lodd’s suggestion and decide that it is probably the safest option. They then spend a while discussing who are going in as SS and who are going in as civilians. Eventually they settle on Piotr, Taffy, and Terry as SS officers, while Lodd, Haim, The Padre and Bob as civilians.

The party members have a couple of hours to kill before it is time to go to the club and so they dine on some roast chicken that Lodd liberated from the forester’s cottage in the morning. They then change into the right clothing. Taffy takes the SS-Untersturmführer uniform knowing that there will be few enlisted men at such a high-class establishment. Terry takes the SS-Rottenführer uniform – good enough that he would be sufficiently important to act as Piotr’s chauffeur and butler, but hopefully not of sufficiently high rank that any officers he encounters at the club would lower themselves to speak with him.

The others change into their civvies and try and smarten themselves up as best they can so as to appear affluent enough that they would not look out of place at the club. Piotr gives everyone RM 10 so that they can buy drinks so as not to look inconspicuous by sitting nursing the same pint of beer all night. He tells them not to go crazy with the money though as it’s pretty much all of the money that they have and they will probably need as much as they can get on their way to Yugoslavia if they are not able to make any contact with the resistance.

“Dobzhe,” Piotr says. “It is time to go. Just remember to keep your mouths shut unless absolutely necessary. And remember that we are not going there to have a good time – we are going there purely to try and get some leads on how to make contact with the resistance.”

The others nods in agreement and then they start to head off.

Comments

Great story-telling Nick. I’m on the edge of my seat.

To The Ghetto
 

Agreed!!

To The Ghetto
 

Doubtful that any S.S. uniforms fit Lodd well. It was OK for riding in the half track while he bled all over the place, but not for a fancy hot bed of intrigue like the Na Zdrowie bar . I’m sure that the civilian cloths would fit him better, maybe with a secret fold that would be able to hide his favorite entrenching tool (AKA Skull-Smasher). We could probably dress two parts. Half of us as Nazi S.S. and half as civvies. If we meet the resistance the civvies could explain the situation and if we run into Nazi flak then the S.S. part of the team could jump in and smooth things out.

To The Ghetto
 

“My uniform not fit so good,” says Lodd. “All these Nazis like skinny dwarves. New clothes fit much better. Maybe I can take SkullCrusher – my favorite entrenching tool with me?”

“I can just hear the conversation now,” Piotr says. “‘Is that an entrenching tool in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?’”

“Maybe better to play it safe and just take your bayonet instead?”

Lodd nods:

“У реду, онда,” he agrees.

“Perhaps we should split into two groups,” the Serb continues. “Half of us as SS and the other half as civilians. If we meet the resistance, the civvies could explain the situation and if we run into Nazi flak then the SS part of the team could jump in and smooth things out.”

Piotr nods, considering the idea:

“Who agrees with Lodd? And, if so, who are going to be the SS and who are going to be the civilians?”

To The Ghetto
 

Pete speaks everything.

I speak German

What other local languages do we have?

To The Ghetto
 

Haim speaks everything.

I don’t think anyone else has any useful languages to offer.

To The Ghetto
 

Nope. Terry speaks American, French, and Yiddish. The Yiddish he learned from a girlfriend he was serious about (see bio) and she was of Litvak (Jewish Lithuanian) extraction. He can therefore speak to Polish Jews, though haltingly, and with a bit of an accent.

To The Ghetto
NickPendrell

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