Ukraine, 1941

I’m working on my doctorate on the occupation of Ukraine 1941-1944, and I came across this when I was going though some original documents from the occupation of 1941- any use? [I have translated this from the original German]

Application by Kube, Generalkommissar of Byelorussia, to Lohse concerning the condition of German Jews in Minsk:
My Dear Hinrich
I wish to ask you personally for an official directive for the conduct of the civilian administration towards the Jews transported from Germany to Byelorussia. Among these Jews are men who fought at the Front and have the Iron Cross. I am certainly a hard man and willing to help solve the Jewish question, but people who come from our own cultural sphere are just not the same as the brutish hordes in this place. Is the slaughter to be carried out by the Lithuanians and the Letts, who are themselves rejected by the population here? I couldn’t do it. I beg you to give clear directives.
With heartfelt greeting
Heil Hitler!
Yours truly, Wilhelm Kube

Best, KC, Sheffield Uni.

re: 12th Lithuanian Police Auxiliary Batallion

Emzed — I don’t think I can tell you anything you want to hear. The 12th Battalion were among the worst. If your grandfather was involved with them, then he at least watched things happening that no civilised person should see.
If you want more information, check out some articles on the Telegraph site ( Search for Antonas Gecas, aka Gecevicius. He was the commander of Platoon 3 of the 2nd Company of the 12th Battalion. They were all volunteers.
The Kurapaty Forest was nothing to do with them. In a way, your grandfather was right. More people were killed in Kurapaty than by the Nazis, if you want to judge these things by numbers. Sorry.

12th Lithuanian Police Auxiliary Batallion

I saw your query on the web – sorry I didn’t pick it up earlier. I have been doing some research into the events of the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe. My grandfather who was Lithuanian was on active service in the Ukraine and Belarus from 1941-1944 when he escaped the advancing Red Army and joined up with the Allied advance. My grandmother always talked of him as a hero, but I have recently found out some things that make me doubtful about his role. He served in the 12th Lithuanian Police Auxiliary Batallion — the Schutsmannschaft. If any of your research gives you information about this, I would be grateful if you could give me access to it. The reason I am contacting you is that he used to talk about death pits in the forest around Minsk, the Kurapaty Forest. A few days before he died, he said to me “We were never the worst.”

What is Marek Lange’s secret?

This is what I know:
Marek Lange.
Born: 1923.
Place of birth: Litva, Poland. (NB no record ‘Litva’. Search Russian archives?)
Father: Stanislau Lange
Mother: Kristina Lange.
Arrived in UK 1943. Joined Polish Free Forces. (What was Lange doing between 1940-1943? How did he survive the Nazi occupation?)
Marital history: married 1955, divorced, 1961. Ex-wife died, 1963
Children: Katya Lange, born 1959

Any info on KURAPATY FOREST or COLLABORATORS in Eastern Europe during the Nazi Occupation gratefully received…

Trainsmanship, or Fall Down the Gap

Fall down the gap

You’re a rail traveller. You’ve been on the platform for 40 minutes, your train is not only delayed, it appears to be non-existent. The waiting room smells and is draughty. The Public Address System tells you periodically that bing bong your custom is valuable bing bong. You are cold, wet and tired. It’s going to get worse. You have got yourself caught up in the great train game.

In the bad old days pre-privatisation, the only game to play was Monopoly. It was tricky getting hold of a ticket, passing Go was cause for celebration, but everyone knew the rules and you got to where you were going. Eventually.

The new system is different. The games are many and varied and the unwary — or even the wary — commuter is likely to come unstuck. To help you out, here are some of the currently more popular games and the rules to help you survive. Play on:

1. Hunt the Train. This is when the commuter stands at platform 3a. The departures screen says that the 0815 to Retford is here, at this platform. The public address system summons the players: The train now standing at platform 3a is the 0815 to Retford. There is, however, no train. There is a rather ramshackle affair about twenty yards away at platform 3b that no one seems to own. The destination on the front of this train is ‘Sheffield’. As this is Sheffield station, this seems logical. A walk to the back of the train tells the commuter that this end is going to Sheffield too, because this train is playing:

2.Commuters bluff. This is an easy one, and simply involves concealing the destination of the train from would-be travellers for as long as possible. A variation of this is Platform Jump. This involves parking a train that is heading to, say, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, next to a screen that says: 0815 to Retford. 30 seconds before lift off, the on-train team welcome the passengers aboard the 0813 to Ashby-de-la-Zouche. Points are scored for the number of passengers trapped by the closing doors as they scramble to exit.

3.Slow Attrition. For quiet days. This is usually played in combination with Hunt the train. When the Hunt the Train players are lined up on the platform and on their marks, the announcement is made ‘We are sorry that the 0815 to Retford is delayed by approximately 10 minutes.’ This is announced at 8.28. The announcement is repeated, adding increments of five minutes to the delay, at seven minute intervals. After about 40 minutes, the game switches to:

4.Musical Platforms. This game is played after several rounds of Slow Attrition. When the commuters who have been playing are reduced to full zombie mode on platform 3, the game can start. The public address system announces: The train about to depart from platform 22 is the delayed 0815 to Retford. This is best played in stations with a lot of stairs and bridges, and long distances between platforms. It works best if not all the stairs and bridges lead to all platforms, or if repairs are underway and the crucial staircase is blocked off at the last possible exit point: We are sorry for the inconvenience. Passengers for platform 22 are advised to cross the bridge and use the stairway from the far end of platform 1.

5.Two Trains for the Price of One. One train — two destinations! Half way through the journey, the train splits. One half goes to — for example — Hastings and the other half goes to — again for example — Littlehampton. Passengers are told, at the start of the game, that the front of the train will go to Hastings. All train operatives then hide. The passengers have to guess whether the front of the train is the end that came into the station first or the end that will leave the station first. As the train is also playing Commuters Bluff, consulting either end of the train will not help. NB to players: it is not advisable to stand in the middle with one foot in one end of the train, the other foot in the other and your possession clutched in your arms. You may find yourself involved in a game of Snap.

6.Now you see me, now you don’t. Usually played after a round of Slow Attrition and a few rounds of Musical Platforms. The public address system announces: We are sorry that the 0815 to Retford has been cancelled. This is repeated until three train loads of passengers who have had a good morning honing their games skills are queuing in the station. The game then switches to a popular variation on Two Trains for the Price of One, aka:

7.One Train for the Price of Three. It’s usually six carriages long. Now it’s two. There are three train-loads of people waiting to catch it. Which leaves everyone ideally placed for a game of

The important rule to remember is this: you’re the passenger. You can’t win.

Writers on the Road

Stephen Booth, Donald Hale and Danuta Reah hit the mid-west

Danuta Reah, Stephen Booth and Donald Hale

It was Kathryn Kennison’s idea. It was one of those late evenings in the bar at Magna cum Murder, and she started talking about a mid-west tour for British writers, sometime in the spring.

Ten-thirty and three Coronas into the evening, it all sounded like a good idea, which was how Don Hale and I came to be landing in Columbus, Ohio on a windy May evening, nervously watching the wings of the plane yawing recklessly as it skimmed a few feet above the ground.

“It’ll come in on one wheel, flip over and land upside down,” was Don’s prediction. “Wingtip landing, cartwheel, die horribly,” was mine. With five pounds sterling running on the outcome, it was probably not too surprising that the plane landed with little more than a bounce and deposited us at the terminal. Ooo! Skyscrapers! We were in the US, and the tour was about to begin.

Don and I stayed for two nights in Columbus. Our hotel seemed to cover a vast acreage, but had a certain magical quality, to wit: it didn’t matter which direction you walked, if you kept going for long enough, you ended up back in the lobby. There was a pool, a bar, a dining room, staff, but — apart from a wedding party on Saturday night mdash; no visible guests.

Small digression here: Every hotel room has a shower, and every shower works differently. The guest is faced with a row of buttons, taps and levers which can be pushed, pulled, turned, yanked, twisted or pressed. If the correct manoeuvres are carried out — in the correct order — a shower can be obtained. NB: Jumping up and down and shouting ‘shit’ doesn’t — usually — work. My strategy is to push, pull, turn, yank, twist and press everything in sight until something happens. To date, I have managed to get a shower in every hotel I have ever visited (apart from the Jubilienya in Minsk, but that’s another story.)

The showers at the Columbus hotel offered something called a ‘massage’ facility. My shower strategy failed to find this, but it did find the police riot-control facility. This hit me amidships with a jet of water, pinned me to the back of the stall and efficiently removed about six layers of skin before I could fight my way back to the controls and switch it off. I didn’t consult Don about his experience with the showers (a lady does not ask a fellow traveller about his bathroom habits) but I did notice that he, like me, looked exceptionally clean and a little subdued.

Monday, 5th May, and Kathryn Kennison arrived to take us to our first venue, Foul Play Books in Westerville, Ohio. We went to the airport to pick up Stephen on the way. (Ooo! A parking lot!) We swept into the arrivals hall a good fifteen minutes early, and waited by the baggage check for half an hour, while Stephen, whose plane had got in early, waited by the passenger pick-up point about five yards away. Crime writers don’t like to concern themselves with minor details like the exact location of a meeting — we like to use our instincts. That was the verdict of Don, Steve and me anyway. Kathryn’s verdict was possibly a tad more pungent.

Foul Play Books was in a street of those houses that look indisputably American to the English eye — wood, painted, with gables and a porch. It was just the way an old bookshop should be — tiny rooms lined with shelves and the numbers and kinds of books that give you an ache in your credit card. The evening was warm, and we sat outside the shop in the yard for the event, with a group of keen mystery enthusiasts who listened to what we had to say, laughed in all the right places and asked a lot of good questions. It was a good start to the tour. Dick and Kathryn then drove us to Muncie, our base for the next three nights.

At this point I would like to propose a vote of thanks and a minute’s respectful silence for Dick who drove from Muncie to Dublin, Dublin to Columbus airport, Columbus airport to Westerville, and Westerville to Muncie, with no complaint.

Tuesday 6th May was Jim Huang’s shop at Carmel — Mystery and Company. Another book-fest and more damage to the credit card. The shop is very new — it has only been open a few months, but Jim’s enthusiasm for and knowledge about crime fiction is already attracting good audiences to his events. Dick and Kathryn sat through the talk they’d heard the night before (the minor details might change, but we tended to tell the same stories) maintaining an appearance of being interested and alert. While we are into votes of thanks, I will just say here that they sat through two more events with that same look of enjoyment. In my book, we’re into medal territory here.

Stephen and I had started, inadvertently, competing for the best Yorkshire Ripper story, as we both had tenuous connections with that particularly unpleasant serial killer. Don, as a journalist, was soon able to join in with this, so there was a Yorkshire Ripper element to the rest of the tour

Wednesday afternoon, Kathryn took us shopping. (Ooo! Wal-Mart!). I didn’t think I had bought much, but by the time we came to leave Muncie, we all seemed to have added a few house-bricks to our cases.

Brief digression: if you ever want to breed house-bricks, pack a suitcase and go on a long trip. A pair of house-bricks will be nesting before day three. They will be raising quintuplet grandchildren by the end of the first week.

Wednesday 7th, we did an event at the Ball Centre in Muncie — a beautiful old house that was once a family home, with Tiffany glass and chandeliers and inlaid floors — a lesson in gracious living.

Thursday 8th, it was time to leave Muncie and move on to Kokomo. We were appearing at the South Branch library, a light and airy building with huge windows. Once again the indefatigable Kennisons drove us, and Dick and Kathryn listened for a fourth time to our Yorkshire Ripper stories, Stephen’s tales of how he got his non-reading parents enrolled in the library and reading fiction, my tales of scary people in deserted railway stations and Don’s tales of burned out cars and Mafia heists.

We said our farewells to Kathryn and Dick at this point. The following morning we picked up our rental car. (Ooo! Automatic transmission!). British cars mostly have manual transmission, and it takes a little getting used to a car that does most of that work for you. Also, in my view, Americans don’t bring their machines up to have a proper respect. The car we rented was extremely demanding and refused to go unless we complied with all its requirements. It was prone to beep complainingly if it had a minor disagreement about driving methods (though in fairness I suppose Stephen shouldn’t have attempted to drive it with the hand-brake on).

It was a blazing hot day as we set out for Ann Arbor. I’ll correct that. It was a blazing hot day by Brit standards. (Ooo! Sun!) It was probably a temperate day by US standards. The drive was easy enough, though it is sobering to drive for four and a half hours and realise how little of the map you have covered. In the UK, four and a half hours covers a substantial amount of it. Don and Stephen shared the driving, and I, as non-driver, put my feet up in the back.

We swept up to the Campus Inn at Ann Arbor in style, and stopped at the entrance to get our bags out. The bellhop asked Don to move the car to one side, and it was at that point that the vehicle got the bit between its teeth. It shut Don in the car and refused to move. In desperation, Don tried the shower technique (push, pull, twist, yank, press, jump up and down and shout shit) to get it moving or to persuade it to let him out, while Steve and the bellhop offered conflicting advice from the outside and a yellow cab helpfully sounded its horn. Steve and I cravenly scarpered, and Don retreated to park the car (and, incidentally, beat the living daylights out of it).

We had planned a half hour’s rest before we meandered along to the shop, but we’d forgotten that we’d crossed a time-line. We had just under half an hour to dump our bags and get to the shop. I have never put my make-up on so fast. If you hear about Krusty the Clown having made a recent appearance at Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor, that was probably me.

At Aunt Agatha’s (more aargh! from the credit card), we were joined by Alan Gordon, writer of medieval mysteries. We adapted our routine accordingly — a good thing, as we were all getting a bit familiar with each other’s stories. The audience was lively, chatty and interested, and we had a really good evening, but as it ended, we realised that the tour was almost over.

The drive from Ann Arbor to Milwaukee was the longest. The internet said it would take us about five and a half hours. People in Ann Arbor gave us estimates that varied from six to eight hours. We set off at eight the next morning, so our experience of Ann Arbor was a brief view as we drove in, a race to the bookshop, a stroll around a café and bar area, and a bleary-eyed morning departure. It looks like a pretty town, and I would like to see it again in a slightly more leisurely way.

In the event, five and a half hours would have been about right, if our exit to Milwaukee hadn’t been closed. The detour took us into an area that got more and more boarded up, more and more littered with abandoned vehicles, and then dumped us in front of a large ‘We mug dumb Brits and steal their cars’ sign.

We beat a hasty retreat, and then drove round aimlessly for a while. Steve swore he wasn’t lost, and somehow or another, we ended up outside Mystery One. Luck or an unerring sense of direction? You can be the judges. The store was full of familiar faces from RAM, and the tour ended with a party at the Jordans’ — good company, good food, good beer, good margaritas. We staggered back to the hotel after midnight.

Brief digression: I am a notoriously unlucky traveller. Delayed flights, stolen credit cards, road rage chases — they all happen to me. This time, as I proudly told Annie and Sandi at the party, nothing bad had happened. The jinx was broken. Oh, yeah?

Don and I were to fly back together. We had a short hop from Milwaukee to Chicago, with a brief wait before we boarded out flight to Manchester. The timing was maybe a bit tight, but what can go wrong between Milwaukee and Chicago? We took the hotel bus to Milwaukee airport in time for a two-hour check-in, put our bags through X-Ray, had the bags opened, and then checked them in. Then we took ourselves through security. We took our laptops out of their cases, put everything into plastic trays, sent it all through X-Ray, went through the metal detectors, got patted down, retrieved our baggage, put the laptops back in their cases and were in the departure lounge in time for coffee and bagels. No problem.

Ten minutes before take-off, the Chicago flight was cancelled. Aaargh! Back through security, bags out of check-in, bus to Chicago, into the airport, bags through X-Ray, bags opened, bags checked in. Security, laptops out, bags through X-Ray, us through metal detector, laptops in, marathon sprint to gate. We chased the plane down the runway and grabbed its undercarriage as it took off. (Actually, I’m lying, but that’s what it felt like)

Tour summary: High points: too many to mention. To pick out a few — so many friendly people, seeing Lake Michigan, visiting the Ball Centre, the party at the Jordans’, Ruth’s apple pie. Low points: the tea. What’s so hard about pouring boiling water on tea-leaves, you guys?

So, home, jet-lagged but happy. It was a good tour, and we will be back.