Gestapo-NKVD contacts in occupied Poland, 1939-1941

Anybody with a passing familiarity with WW II knows of the Molotov-Ribbentrop “Non-Aggression Pact” between Nazi Germany and the USSR, as well as of its secret annex in which the two competing totalitarian collectivisms divided up Poland between them, roughly on the Curzon Line that was later to be the basis for the postwar Polish-Soviet border.[*]

Received wisdom among many people has it that neither side was sincere in this pact; that Nazi Germany intended to invade the USSR already then (there is no doubt that Hitler y”sh dreamed of “Lebensraum” in the East since the 1920s — the debate is only about when this turned from pipedream to concrete objective); and that Stalin y”sh was trying to buy time, as he’d killed off roughly 90% of general officers and 50% of regimental officers in the Great Purge.

However, during the nearly two years between the 1939 pact and Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the USSR), a level of Nazi-Soviet cooperation existed that is hard to square with the notion of a “cold peace”. Diplomatic correspondence has been released online as part of the Avalon Project, and makes for some “interesting” reading: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/nazsov.asp

But something that astonished even this writer was the level of coordination and cooperation that appeared to exist between the Gestapo and the NKVD as regards the Polish population in their respective areas of recognizance. Wikipedia has a surprisingly detailed article on the subject, both in English and in German: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestapo–NKVD_conferences

A first meeting took place at Brzesc (Brest-Litovsk) on Sep. 27, 1939 (while fighting was still going on). According to understandings reached, almost 42,500 Polish POWs were handed over to the Nazis by the USSR. Both sides expected Polish resistance to emerge and discussed ways to suppress it.

A second meeting on these reportedly took place in late November 1939 at Przemysl (later the site of Albert Battel’s heroic rescue attempt), a city that straddled the Bug river along which the Curzon Line ran in that area, and hence was split between the occupiers.

The best-known meeting is the third, starting Feb. 20, 1940, in the south Polish mountain resort of Zakopane. The name of the Nazi German representative was none other than Adolf Eichmann (y”sh). According to some sources, notably Armia Krajowa (Home Army) commander Tadeusz “Bor” Komorowski, a followup meeting with NKVD representatives took place at Krakow in March 1940.

What we do know is that, with apparent mutual coordination, twin massacres of the Polish intelligentsia took place: the Intelligenzaktion (intelligentia action) and subsequent AB-Aktion (Ausserordentliche Befriedigungsaktion, Extraordinary Pacification Action) in the Nazi sector, and the Katyn massacres of Polish officer POWs held by the Soviets. (Katyn lies near Smolensk, Russia.)

The USSR also deported between 300K and 1M Polish nationals to Siberia, the Urals, and Kazakhstan. Following Operation Barbarossa and a July 1941 treaty with the Polish Government in exile, this group at least benefited from an amnesty. Polish General Wladyslaw Anders recruited an army from among them and evacuated its soldiers and civilian relatives via Iran. Mortality during this evacuation was high as well, not even counting the Poles who had died in the Gulag.

In one of those ironies of history that would look absurd in fiction, the Katyn execution site was essentially next door to where Army Group Center had its headquarters. Its chief intelligence officer, Col. Rudolf Freiherr [=Baron] von Gersdorff, had been tipped off as early as August 1942 about rumors among Polish forced laborers on the site and at a railway line. On March 21, 1943, Gersdorff, a core member of the anti-Hitler conspirators around operations officer Col. Henning von Tresckow, had attempted a suicide bombing on Hitler and most of the Nazi top at a memorial ceremony in Berlin. Irony of ironies, shortly after Gersdorff’s return to his post, laborers discovered the Katyn burial site, and it was Gersdorff who would oversee autopsies (first by a German coroner, later by Swiss and other neutral pathologists), and host war correspondents, Red Cross representatives, and even Polish clergy at the killing site. I can only imagine the emotional anguish of being whipsawed between two mass-murderous dictatorships in this manner. That the massacre was grist on the mill of Goebbels (y”sh) did not make it any less real. Soviet propaganda tried to blame the massacres on the Nazis — but while there were plenty of real massacres to blame them for, the time frame did not work for this one. Ammunition offered no “smoking gun” – the men had been killed with single neck shots from German-made Walther pistols. Autopsy revealed the corpses had been killed about a year before Barbarossa. While the Walthers did impart a measure of plausible deniability, the main reason appears to have been that they were the “tool of choice” of the NKVD’s chief executioner Vassily Blokhin, who considered Soviet-made pistols too unreliable.[**] About 90% of the Katyn victims were ethnic Poles; most of the remainder were Jews, including the Chief Military Rabbi Baruch Steinberg.

Picture the same basic product, like a smartphone operating system, but with two different design philosophies and diverging in details of implementation. The more I learn about Bolshevism and National Socialism, the more I think of them not as “opposites” but as the iOS and the Android operating systems of totalitarian collectivism.

“That old saw about, ‘to understand all is to forgive all’, is a load of tripe. Some things, the more you understand the more you loathe them.”

Robert A. Heinlein, “Starship Troopers”

[*] Post-1945, Stalin would “compensate” his own satellite state with German lands to the East of the Oder-Neisse line—Pomerania, Silesia, etc.

[**] Blokhin has the “distinction” of being listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific executioner in history: during Katyn alone, he personally shot a total of 7,000 men over a 4-week period, at a rate of about one per three minutes.

Critical praise for “Operation Flash, Ep. 2”

From Pat Patterson’s long review on GoodReads:

I obtained this book through the Kindle Unlimited program.

When the series was introduced, it immediately was placed into my “Guilty Pleasures” category. A book in that category gets read, IMMEDIATELY, regardless of what else I’ve had in the queue ahead of it, and also regardless of whether or not I’m being at all diligent in in reviewing the books I have actually read. 
I don’t like talking about the fact that I have a Guilty Pleasure category. In fact, I plan to deny having such a category in all future conversations. Here’s the take-away: I absolutely LOVE this series. 

Just in case you missed my review of the first book, here’s the basic idea: one of the very many plots against Hitler actually succeeded.[…] the Allies are thrown into confusion that nearly matches that of the German leadership. Nobody is certain who they can trust, and how far.

This is not a criticism, not a criticism, not a criticism! The books end too soon.
That is SIGNIFICANTLY ameliorated by the fact that these books are so historically sound in their basis, that if you are like me, and love going on rabbit trails when your curiosity is triggered, you can spend a LOT of time reading about the way history worked out in OUR timeline. Almost all of the characters are based on real people; they make for fascinating reading. 
If the author had just used hand puppets, and told the story with them, it would still be a really nice thought-exercise of ‘what-if.’ However, through the eyes of the few fictional characters, we get great insights to the way people think, and what would have been real reactions to these circumstances, because the author has done a wonderful job of making the words on the page into real, flesh-and-blood people.

I’m going to eat each of these installments as they come out, BUT the real feast will be when the series is finished (and I hope that isn’t going to be too soon), and I grab up every installment and binge-read. Maybe multiple times.

Delightful!

The book is available for $0.99 on Kindle, or is included with your subscription for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Guest post at According To Hoyt: “Brahmandarins”

Sarah A. Hoyt asked me to contribute a guest post about “The Brahmandarins”, a term which I coined in the wake of the 2016 elections.
In this guest post, I touch briefly on the Brahmin caste in India, but at greater length on the Mandarins of ancient China, the Imperial Examination system by which they were recruited, the reason the once venerable institution decayed, and its parallels with the transnational New Class, “expert class”, or “credentialed gentry” of today’s West.



Read more at:

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2019/10/08/brahmandarins-guest-post-by-nitay-arbel/

PS: a related post by Eric Raymond on “Escalating complexity and the collapse of elite authority” is perhaps an enlightening companion read.

To my Jewish readers: Shana Tova uGmar Chatima Tova!

Midterm blue ripple, or midterm purple muddle

The 2018 midterm elections are mostly in. As usually happens in midterm elections, there was a loss in the house for the incumbent party.

But a “blue wave”? More like a purple muddle, or a “purple puddle”, as Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds called it in USA Today.

In the house, the D got 220 seats vs. 199, with another 16 races not yet called. One of these leans R, and five more are toss-ups. FiveThirtyEight predicts eventually 34 seats will flip control. (One district, MN-8, bucked the trend by flipping D to R.)

In the Senate, something quite different happened. The GOP actually strengthened its hold there: at present, the balance is 52:45 and three races not yet called. Of those, Mississippi is headed for a runoff election, McSally leads “The Cinema Show” (or the Synema Chow?) by just under a percent with 3/4 of votes called, and Rosendale actually is leading  Jon Tester (with 84% of votes in). Let’s call it 54±1 R, 46±1 D.

A mixed bag also in the gubernatorial races. The saddest defeat, to me, was Scott Walker in WI, tempered by the good news in some other states like GA.

 

There are two basic ways to spin this cat (ahem), depending on where you come from::

Either that Trump threw himself in front of the “blue wave” and blunted it, if not outright turned it into a purple muddle.

Or that the “blue wave” did emerge and the Dems would have taken the Senate as well — if they hadn’t snatched defeat from the jaws of victory there by going for broke on Kavanaugh.

But there is no way the Democrats can spin this as an undivided victory. Will they be sobered by this and at least pay lip service to “working with the other side”? Sure, and I can get you a yuuuuge deal on some beachfront land in Nebraska.

Finally, while my dog would have made a more coherent representative than Occasional Cortex (or, as Ace calls her, “Loopy Ocasio Fiasco”), the scandalous disenfranchisement of Female Canine Americans continues unabated.

Disturbed, “Savior of nothing”

After a three-year hiatus except for a mind-blowing cover of “The Sound of Silence”, the new Disturbed album is out. It’s got the trademark sound: David Draiman’s powerful yet melodic vocals, crunching guitars blended with bits of electronics, … The iron-strong opener “Are you ready” sets the tone.

But lyrically, the message of one track stands out. It hardly needs explaining what this is about.

 

Now you’ve become
Everything you claim to fight
Through your need to feel you’re right
You’re the savior of nothing now

When you were a young one, they tormented you
They could always find a way to make you feel ashamed
Now that you are older, everything they put you through
Left you with an anger that just cannot be contained

So you spend every day of your life
Always searching for something to set you on fire

Now you’ve become
Everything you claim to fight
Through your need to feel you’re right
You’re the savior of nothing now

Everywhere around you, you find reasons to
Turn into a warrior to protect what you believe
But you think their beliefs, make them less than you
And that is a delusion that your sickness has conceived

Now you spend every day of your life
Always hoping that something will spark the desire

Now you’ve become
Everything you claim to fight
Through your need to feel you’re right
You’re the saviour of nothing now

(Repeat chorus)

 

Bavarian Landtag (state parliament) elections 2018: “Wir haben es kaum geschafft” (we barely made it)

Last Sunday, Bavarians went to the polls for their regional/state parliament (the Landtag). These elections were seen by some as a referendum on federal chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policy. The CSU (=Christian-social union), the sister party to the national CDU (=Christian-democratic union) felt the stridently anti-immigration AfD breathing down its neck and distanced itself from her. Did this tactic work?

Summarizing reporting at the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Die Welt, Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel online, and the national newscast “Tagesschau”, here are the results:

CSU: 37.2% (down 10.5) [christian social democrats]
SPD: 9.7% (down 10.9) [social democrats, center-left]
FDP: 5.1 (up 1.8%) [classical liberals, pro-market & business]
Greens: 17.5% (up 8.9%)
Freie Wähler: 11.6% (up 2.6%) “Free Voters”, centrist, non-aligned
AfD: 10.2% (from nowhere) right-wing, stridently anti-immigration

The “former” communists of Die Linke (3.2%, up 1.1%, hard left), and further small parties totaling 5.4%, did not clear the 5% electoral threshold, unlike the FDP which returns to parliament after falling short of the threshold last time around.

Landtag seats (out of 205, 103 needed for a majority):
CSU 85, Greens 38, Free Voters 27, AfD 22, SPD 22, FDP 11

Coalition negotiations have already started with the Free Voters, which would create a somewhat comfortable majority of 112. The FDP announced it will remain in the opposition: the Greens are in Germany traditionally split between a pragmatic “Realo” and hardcore “Fundi” wing, while the AfD, especially in Bavaria, is split between a national-liberal wing akin to Belgium’s N-VA, and a far-rightist faction with some unsavory elements.

The Biggest Losers

The CSU actually put in its worst performance in 60 years. Some (e.g. veteran psephologist Heinrich Oberreuter, himself a CSU member, quoted here) claim that this means the strategy of trying to position itself as AfD-lite on immigration backfired, while others claim it prevented an even bigger drubbing. The actual numbers (screenshots from the Tagesschau) seem to tell a mixed tale:

CSU voter movement

So the party actually drew 270,000 voters who did not vote in the previous election (voter participation, at 72.5%, was nearly 9% higher than in 2013), plus 100,000 SPD voters, while losing almost half a million voters split roughly equally between Greens, Free Voters, and AfD. One common complaint (70%) of those who changed their vote was that the CSU overstressed immigration to the exclusion of all other subjects.

But if the CSU saw a historical nadir, the SPD — the other major national party besides the CDU, and the country’s largest under Willi Brandt and Gerhard Schröder — is even deeper in the doldrums, having fallen to single digits! Where did they lose votes to?

SPD voter migration

Aside from the 100,000 who switched to the CDU, they lost big time to the Greens (200,000) and appreciably to the Free Voters (70,000) — but 30,000 even flipped to AfD!

When defectors were queried about their motives, three answers were gotten most frequently:

• 86%: time to “take the opposition cure”, as the priceless Dutch expression goes

• 85%: party lacks a central theme that can get people fired up

• 67%: nobody knows what the party really stands for

The latter is, of course, the most damning indictment of all.

In two weeks, there is another Landtag election coming up in the state of Hessen (the most important city of which is Frankfurt, though Wiesbaden is the state capital).

Angela Merkel’s words, “Wir schaffen das” (we can do this), have come to haunt her. Here in Bavaria, where the CSU went out of its way to show it wasn’t in Merkel’s pocket, the result was “sie haben es kaum geschafft” (they barely made it).

The von Fritsch Affair: a WW II-era cautionary tale of how character assassination can succeed even despite complete exoneration

The recent spectacle/trainwreck concerning SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh could not help remind the WW II history buff in me of the tragicomic episode known as the Fritsch Affair or Fritsch Scandal. That story bears retelling as a cautionary tale on how a character assassination may be successful even if the accusations are proven false and the accused is exonerated. Below follows my short summary.

Sometime in 1936, Berlin police arrested and interrogated a habitual criminal and extortionist named Otto Schmidt. His particular racket at the time was to spy on men who picked up homosexual prostitutes and to blackmail them.

During interrogation (clearly aimed at arresting the “johns” in question for violating the notorious “Article 175” of the penal code) he named various of his “clients”. Some enjoyed “protection” from above and could not be touched. Then Schmidt dropped the name of one “General von Fritsch”.

“You mean: Generaloberst[*] Freiherr von Fritsch?!”

“Yes! Him! I saw him in the act with Bayern-Seppl!” [Freely: “Bavarian Joe”, street name of a well-known male prostitute.]

Holy shmoly! Colonel-General Baron von Fritsch?! The Commander in Chief of the Army?!? [**]

The report made its way up the chain all the way to Reichsführer-SS Himmler (y”sh), who was also the supreme head of all police forces in the Third Reich. Himmler’s agenda at the time included fostering  his own parallel army (the Waffen-SS) at the expense of the regular army with its officer caste dominated by Prussian nobles — and therefore, pleased as punch, he immediately ran off to his master with the report. To his surprise and disappointment, however,  Hitler (y”sh) immediately told Himmler to “burn this filth”. (Evidently, von Fritsch still could not be spared.)

But instead of destroying the report as ordered, Himmler tucked it away in his safe, figuring it might yet come in handy.

Then the fateful Hossbach conference happened. At this closed gathering of the Führer with then-foreign minister Konstantin von Neurath, Defense Minister Werner von Blomberg, and the heads of the three Wehrmacht branches (army commander von Fritsch, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, and Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring) Hitler for the first time unveiled concrete military objectives, specifically Austria and Czechoslovakia. (Minutes of the meeting were taken down by his military adjutant, Col. Hossbach, by whose name the conference is hence known.) To the great surprise and disappointment of the grandiose dictator, Blomberg and especially Fritsch pushed back hard against the invasion plans, while von Neurath was not enthusiastic either.

Blomberg was shortly later forced into retirement when it turned out his much younger second wife had a past as a prostitute and X-rated photo model. The post of Defense Minister was then supplanted by a new Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) with the toadyish Wilhelm Keitel at the helm. Foreign Minister Neurath ended up being replaced in a cabinet reshuffle by the repulsive Joachim von Ribbentrop. But how to get rid of von Fritsch?

Aha! The “burned” report suddenly reappeared. Since Fritsch had never married and had no known girlfriend (he was, basically, married to his job) it all made sense…

When confronted with the accusation, Fritsch at first was stunned. He did not help matters by muttering something about how he had lunched with some Hitler Youth to satisfy his Winter Aid quota, and maybe people got the wrong idea…

An official announcement followed that both Blomberg and Fritsch were retiring “for health reasons”. However, with the help of pressure from senior army officers, Reichskriegsgerichtsrat [roughly: Judge Advocate General] Karl Sack, a secret member of the anti-Nazi underground, won the concession that Fritsch would appear before a court-martial rather than before one of Freisler’s kangaroo courts.

Sack started his own investigation, and quickly discovered that “Bavarian Joe”s actual “client” was a retired Rittmeister [cavalry captain] named Achim von Frisch (without the extra “t”). The Rittmeister had even kept receipts for the hush money he had paid to his blackmailer.

Confronted with the evidence, Otto Schmidt broke down and confessed he had deliberately confounded the identity of his victim in order to make himself more important (and valuable to his jailers).

Schmidt was packed off to a concentration camp (where he was later shot on the direct orders of Himmler) and von Fritsch was “acquitted due to proven innocence” and exonerated.

But… he was not reinstated as Army CinC. Instead, that position fell to the more pliant Werner von Brauchitsch[***].  Von Fritsch was instead appointed Kommandant (honorary commander, ceremonial commander) of the 12th Artillery Regiment (his onetime unit).

On September 22, 1939, after the invasion of Poland, von Fritsch went to the front and deliberately exposed himself to Polish fire, thus seeking and finding a soldier’s death. Call it “suicide by enemy fire” if you wish.

Am I comparing the Deep/Derp State to the Third Reich? Of course not, and I am not suggesting parallels between Kavanaugh and von Fritsch either?

I just can’t help thinking of how a character assassination can be successful even when the accused is fully exonerated.

 

[*] In the Wehrmacht’s table of ranks, Generaloberst [literally: General-Colonel or Colonel-General] is a rank between General and Field Marshal. Freiherr [literally: free lord] is the equivalent of Baron in the German nobility.

[**] The Heer (army) was only one of three branches of the Wehrmacht (armed forces) — the other two branches being the Kriegsmarine (war navy) and the Luftwaffe (Air Force).

[***] von Brauchitsch would in turn be dismissed in late 1941 as a scapegoat for the first failures of the invasion of Russia, at which point Hitler put himself in direct command of the army.