QUARTERMASTER

2022-07-16

QUARTERMASTER

Are the children asleep? Now we can talk.
I can stay with you for three days. I made a contract with a shoe factory. I am interested in their production of clogs.
I was in London and visited Lila and her English husband. She remembers Tina from Poland very well, even though it was a lot of years ago.
When did you come to Denmark? A year ago? Did comrade Gierek help you? Come on! It took a long time to get out of this paradise.
I left in the mid-1950s, and Rita, your Tina's aunt, left in 1958. Dan, Tina's uncle, left in the early 1960s. Did you already know that? After all, Rick, your father-in-law, moved to Szczecin because Dan was there, but Dan very soon left for Israel!
Do you know? I never had any illusions about this system there. Rita with her husband and Dan with Roza woke up after 56.
Only Rick remained a Polish patriot until the end of his life. No. Not because of marriage to a Polish woman. Others have done so. Love does not choose.
And what did all this patriotism give to Rick? The military trail from Lenino to Berlin. The Grunwald Cross. Order of Polonia Restituta. Full colonel from 1947. The division commander. In the headquarters of the Pomeranian District until his heart attack. But a place in the alley of merits in the People's Republic of Poland was denied for him!
I knew them all from before the war because their mother was our relative, and she took me when I came to Warsaw.
I've always had a flair for business. If something had to be done, she always said, "Jake will take care of it."
How did we survive the war? I know that Rita and Henry, her husband, survived on Aryan papers.
When the Germans invaded Poland, the government recommended evacuation to the east. Rick, Dan, and Henry did it and ended up in a town near Łuck. Rita joined them, and there she got married to Henry. Rita and Henry had almost completed their dental studies and got a job as dentists in this town.
When the German-Russian war began, Rick and Dan fled with the Russians, and Rita and Henry stayed. Germans immediately locked up all Jews from that town in the ghetto. The head of the clinic where they were employed saved Rita and Henry.
Since Rita was blonde and did not look Jewish, she managed to obtain false papers in the name of Lesznowolski. For safety reasons, she and Henry moved to another town, where she worked as a waiter. Henry was a pianist in a cafe for German officers. He did not feel safe there. He used his accordion skills and joined a traveling group of musicians with whom he traveled as far as Kyiv. There he found a job, and Rita joined him. They survived there until the end of the war. They did not return to Warsaw after the war because there was nothing to come back to.
They ended up in Bytom, where there were plenty of empty apartments left by the Germans. I found them there after the war.
Rick and Dan survived in Russia. Rick remained in the army.
Dan quit right after he returned from a military mission in Vietnam, and had a dentist's office in Szczecin until his departure.
My history? I also escaped to Russia. I found myself in the military too. But first, I did business. Oh yes! Even in this war-torn country, some business could be done! My last feat was the transport of the wagon of butter from Georgia, and they caught me there. Are you surprised I got out alive? It was on the brink. During the interrogations, I managed to bribe this NKVD man! It cost me everything I had, but I got away with my life. And they took me into the army right away.
And I got a quartermaster job. It remained the same in Poland. I was good at organizing everything. I could deliver what you wanted. The quartermaster in the army was not only about the supply of food, shoes, uniforms, boots, weapons, and ammunition. There were also living quarters, houses, flats, post-German porcelain services, furs, paintings, and supplies to shops behind "yellow curtains". Yes. This was for the party and the state apparatchiks.
When Rick was the division commander, he had a Russian adviser, General Cheremuch. I also arranged supplies for this Cheremuch, and he sent everything to his family in Soyuz. Cheremuch was influential, and that is why I was able to stay in the quartermaster job for so long time. Cheremuch, despite his peasant appearance, was well versed in politics. He probably liked me because he could be painfully honest with me. With Rick, he was on a friendly foot, but only as a general to a colonel if you understand what I mean. With me, he could talk about things that were sometimes dangerous. He told me why the wagons with grain delivery from the Soviet Union had the Hungarian consignment notes. According to him, it was the only time the Polish communists convinced the Russians that without preventing a pang of hunger in post-war Poland, it would be impossible to preserve a new system. That is why a part of the Hungarian grain was redirected to Poland. He also explained why communists of Jewish origin are preferred. He told me, ""Jakow Dawidowicz! Polaki eto pany i chamy! Pany, intieligiencziki ludowoj własti nie lubiut, a chamy nie znajut kak ludowoj włast postroit nada. Polskich komunistow mało i oni toże chamy! Tolko jewriejskije komunisty bolsze gramotny, a bolszinstwo s nich idiealisticzeskije duraki!"(Yakov Davidovich! There are two kinds of Poles: educated gentlemen and ignorant churls. Gentlemen are educated and do not like the new regime, while the churls do not know how to build a new country. There are too few Polish communists, and almost all of them are churls. Only the Jewish communists are more educated, and most of them are idealistic fools). He also talked about those old PPS men. They were too nationalistic and therefore not considered to be trustworthy. He laughed that all those Jews who believed in building a just, communist Poland would eventually be swept away. They were about educating a generation of people fitted to maintain the Soviet system of power. Hence the slogan "Not a high school diploma, but a sincere intention will make you a good officer!". Russians were well aware that those Poles, who enrolled in mass in the communistic party, were not idealistic but dudes wanting to make an easy career. This group, together with the old Polish communists, will start to kick their Jewish comrades out of their positions.
These idealistic Jewish communists were the worst. I knew one of them. His whole family was murdered. A large part by the Germans and the rest by the NSZ (right-wing organization) partisans. A recluse. No females. He was a UB (secret police) investigator. They called him "The Dark Death." He was a Polish patriot. But he did not polonize his Jewish surname. He claimed that in that Poland, he was fighting for the surname or one's ethnic origin would not make any difference. No. He did not torture anyone. He had for this job some Polish boys who always wanted to prove what they could.
He told me about one case. Before the war, the man was a well-known Polish activist in Silesia. Well off, own house, university education. During the occupation, he worked in the German administration, and no one picked on him for his pre-war activities. Very suspicious. After the war, he became the president of a manufacturing cooperative. Then a denunciation came. The denunciations at that time were on the hoofs. Some had a hard time with those on whom they informed. Others reported to please the new government. Others pursued their careers. This was well known in UB, but it made their work easier, and the statistics of the cases were impressive. When he interrogated this president for the first time, the man looked at him with disgust. As if a conversation with a UB investigator was below the guy's dignity. That irritated the investigator very much. Perhaps this president had a higher education, but the investigator managed to graduate before the war! If this pesky president didn't turned-up his nose, they would talk like one intelligent person with another intelligent person, and the case would be closed. But this individual strained his words as if being in the same place with the investigator physically tormented him! After two such interrogations, the investigator became fed up and took on those who had reported the president. He didn't even have to give them to the boys. They charged the president so much that the matter gained importance and was reported higher in the system. There, a decision was made to make a showcase. The order came to add the embezzlement charge and the accusation of hostile activity against the state. The president turned out to be a hard nut to crack. Fortunately, the boys "learned" from the informers that the president personally ordered to delay of state supplies, where the state's losses could be estimated to over 100,000 zlotys, which was a deliberate act against the Polish state.
The president, despite the boys' "treatment," did not want to admit anything. But the files with the testimony were transferred to the prosecutor's office. A paragraph was founded, from which the president was sentenced to death! The investigator had nothing to do with the sentence. He "only" handed over the case files. This is how it was done then.
I also met another one. The camp commandant. This one was a bit special. Germans had murdered his entire family. He survived hidden by a Pole. What was left was his great hatred for the Germans. In his camp, there were prisoners accused of collaboration! Some Germans, Volksdeutsche, and others. Why were they put in there? It was enough to work for the German administration or be accused of having German sympathies. And for the Volksdeutsche, even this was not necessary.
For the commandant, all of them were a German plague, and he treated them as such. He did not avoid the physical punishment of the prisoners, and he gave his subordinates a free hand to do this too. Sometimes, he even encouraged severe punishment for a trifle. He had difficulties with the medical staff in the camp. The fact that he only had one medical assistant and an enormous number of prisoners did not worry him much. When an epidemic of diarrhea broke out in the camp, he even had at the beginning a satisfaction that finally something awful met these bastards. It turned out that it was dysentery and typhus and that people started to die. He received no reply to the letter requesting a doctor and a supply of additional sanitary installations, but he did not care.
It wasn't until the death toll passed 100 people that something started to happen, but the epidemic could no longer be stopped. At first, he was afraid he would get punished, but the prison authorities seemed to know that his first letter had not been responded to. The case was drowned, and he got a promotion!
Did these two do all this as Jews? No! They were doing it for the new Poland's sake. And for the Polish people who did not yet realize that in these conditions no other alternative existed. There is no doubt that they felt Jewish as well. The commandant was an ignorant fool, and he was good for what he was doing. The investigator claimed that all those arrested, even those who did nothing wrong, did not support the new "People's Poland", and were potential enemies of the state. Whoever is not with us is against us. The Bolshevik's motto was: "it is better to punish ten innocent people than risk that one enemy escapes and harm the cause."
What are you saying? The Silesians? After the war, there were a few million Germans in Silesia and a lot of others who felt to be German. The forced displacement of these 3 million indigenous people did not end until 1947. When the possibility of leaving as part of family reunification was opened, it turned out that many Silesians had families in Germany.
I talked with one employed in the Interior Ministry before he left for Israel. He claimed that these customs restrictions for those leaving Poland were not directed against Jews. Neither at the end of the 1950s nor after that famous March 68. About 50,000 Jews left Poland in the years 56-59. At the same time, over 250,000 people left Silesia. Until 1970, over 500,000 applications for departure to Germany were submitted, and these were only those who had families in Germany!
After the death of Stalin and Bierut, what Czeremuch predicted began to prove true. It didn't go that fast at the top of the communistic party, but on lower stages, the Jewish party members were kicked out in flocks. The part of them deserved it a long time ago because many were simply careerists. I even made a suit at the tailor who joined the Polish United Workers' Party after the war and was the manager of a small factory until 56, when the workers drove him out on a wheelbarrow.
The worst was that verbal anti-Semitism got loud. Not officially. Just among ordinary people. The old, pre-war anti-Semitism was given additional nourishment - the Jewish communists in UB and authorities. Yes! These few hundreds of communists of Jewish origin at the top of the party, in the authorities, in the army, in the security police, in the prosecutor's office, and in courts exempted Poles from responsibility for decaying their own nation for years. At last, the Jews were useful for something!
That is why Rita and Henry decided to leave for Israel. Cheremuch was sent to Soyuz in 1954. I already saw the signs and didn't wait for someone to kick me out.
I left myself before they took that Gomułka out from the granary. My wife, who had only surviving relatives in Israel, was drying my head about it all the time anyway. So we went. Dan and his family did the same.
It was tough in Israel at the beginning. But this is our country where no one will tell you that you are a stranger. Rita and Dan with their professions had no problems getting a job, and I, with my flair, started doing business again.
Poland? What does Poland need me for? What do I need Poland for? The Germans made sure that I had nothing to come back to. I have my own country, and that's enough for me.

Alex Wieseltier
April 2020

Alex Wieseltier - Uredte tanker
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