Codename: Flame: The Untold Saga of a Young, Defiant Freedom Fighter in the Polish Underground

Codename: Flame: The Untold Saga of a Young, Defiant Freedom Fighter in the Polish Underground

by Robert Niklewicz

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Overview

Codename: FLAME is the parallel to Dr. Niklewicz's first riveting historical novel, "Last Train to Dachau". That story was based on his mother's wartime experiences and the plight of the Miller family that lived and survived the terrible challenges and brutality that was forced upon them by the Nazis.

As was his first book, Codename: FLAME is an historical novel based on the true-life struggles of courageous Poles in the time of war. His father Stanislaw
Niklewicz was such a person and his life is featured in this second book. The contrast between the two stories is vast. The Millers, a family of five survived through patience and the strength of a family unit that did everything to stay together. Stanislaw on the other hand, was all alone as he ran away from his pending draft into the Hitler Youth at the age of 15; eventually becoming a Partisan fighter.

Follow the hardships that Stanislaw endured while being alone in the forests of Poland; first as a teenage Boy Scout courier and then as a Partisan fighter. The saga of Stanislaw (Staszek) is a portrait of a defiant boy turned into a man by the necessity and passion to live free or die fighting against the tyranny of the Germans.

His defiance and determination for freedom continued even after being captured behind enemy lines during a secret mission and his subsequent brutal imprisonment at the infamous Mathausen Concentration Camp.

As you read this book, try to think of what it was like to be a boy soldier at 15. Then try to think of the courage and fortitude it took to survive through the torture of an extermination camp. A camp that had no other purpose than to work you to death; something you were equally determined to boldly defy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477220535
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 07/24/2012
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

Dr. Niklewicz is a first generation American of Polish descent who wanted to do what he could to make sure the stories of the average Polish men, women, and children that suffered through the nightmare of World War II were not forgotten in history. Dr. Niklewicz relates the many stories that he had heard about his father's desperate situations during the war in this second of two books. The private spoken memories of his parents and other family members over the years not only intrigued him but drove him to record them for their future generations. His first book, "The Last Train to Dachau" was based on his mother's family and the trials they had to overcome, and was a powerful testament to their courage.

Many years were involved in the researching and collecting of information that his stoic parents were reluctant to share regarding his father's exploits, but now at last they are woven into the fabric of this fast-moving saga.

As was the duty of storytellers over the centuries, Dr. Niklewicz felt that it should be the duty of the fortunate descendants of brave people, such as featured in these books, to be vigilant in continuing their family stories. If these stories were to pass into the unlit side of history because of apathy, the resultant ignorance would lead to a new tyranny and would surely allow history to repeat itself. This is something that Dr. Niklewicz was determined not to let happen.

Read an Excerpt

Codename: FLAME

The untold saga of a young, defiant Freedom Fighter in the Polish Underground.
By Robert Niklewicz

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2012 Dr. Robert Niklewicz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-2053-5


Chapter One

May 14th 1972: Mauthausen K.Z., Austria

The Mercedes Benz sedan navigated the narrow country roads without difficulty at a steady 40 miles per hour. The sleek black car quietly made the last tight turn and crested the knoll that allowed the occupants of the car to see the gray stone fortress sitting patiently in the misty fog. The long high walls with guard towers at each corner still stood, doing their intimidating sentry duty as they had 27 years earlier.

Staszek, the passenger, gazed out the window without moving anything except his eyes as he scanned the walls and buildings that had harbored so much pain for tens of thousand of people, of which he had been one. His right elbow perched on the door's armrest while his fingers supported his chin. Their pressure against his lips added to his contemplation of the vision of which he did not wish to speak.

Kurt, the driver, brought the car to a stop, turned off the ignition, turned to his guest and asked, in German, "Staszek, do you really want to do this?"

There was a moment's hesitation as Staszek absorbed and translated the question, which produced a slow silent nod. Even if he had changed his mind, he still would have gone. He knew that he had to, but wasn't sure why.

Kurt nodded in supportive understanding, and opened his door. He needed to use his left hand to lift his left leg out of the car. The dampness made his always-stiff knee feel like cement. Once Kurt was out of the car, he walked around to its front with a slight limp. He leaned back against the grill just to the left of the famous emblem, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one as his passenger exited the car and approached him.

"I can't believe you're still smoking those cursed things after all of these years," Staszek grumbled, first in Polish then in German with some indignation. He followed with, "Didn't you learn anything in that movie theater?" This taunt was delivered with a smirk and a slight smile from his eyes.

Kurt half grinned as he puffed, coughed slightly, and answered, "Sure, I learned that American cigarettes taste better than the crap we tried to smoke back then. This isn't a cigar, you know." He showed Staszek the smoldering butt held between his index and middle finger.

For the better part of five minutes the two old friends stared at the camp's back gate, which was closest to the parking lot. Mauthausen had been a class 3-death camp. People were sent there to die. More to the point, they were sent there to die a horrible, usually painful death at heavy labor. Kurt stared at Staszek. Kurt's gray, nearly white hair was cut short and stood up around the edges, giving the look of a flat tabletop, highlighting his dark blue steely eyes. Staszek was gray around his sideburns but otherwise had his dark brown hair intact. He was casually dressed, but stood in obvious discomfort.

Turning to Kurt, Staszek asked, "Do you want to come or not?" The question was delivered in a pointed way as he stepped away from the car and looked back.

"No," Kurt sighed, as he threw his cigarette to the ground, "I've already been here a second time. I do not need a third. I'll wait for you in the car." Blowing his last puff of smoke slowly out through his nose he headed for his door.

Without another word, Staszek headed for the entrance to this one-time prison and current museum. The walk to the gate was only slightly less stressful than the first time he walked this path. Then he was young and cocky, being nudged ahead by the barrel of a gun through deep snow, and wearing thin clothes. Today he was alive and moving forward of his own volition, but, as before, he was in no particular hurry. He scanned the walls as if it were 1945, and his senses became as heightened now as they were then.

When he reached the gate, there was a line with Australian tourists ahead of him. They were chatting and complaining about the cold and damp. Staszek rolled his eyes, and closed them as his memories and senses could see and feel the snow that buried the camp in 1945. In that moment he started to feel as though he really did not want to be there, and thought he should turn and leave.

His indecision was forced by the young male clerk at the counter, who said to Staszek in a fatigued but business-like manner, "3 Marks please."

That snapped Staszek back into the present and shot his blood pressure and heart rate up immediately. "I didn't pay the first time I was here, and I am damned if I will pay now." His look of resolve and intensity was not lost on the clerk. This response, though spontaneous from Staszek, had been the reaction from other former prisoners of the camp, and the policy of the museum was to acknowledge their statement and offer them a pass at "No Charge," which was usually taken by the former prisoner with defiance and a little disdain.

Staszek looked at the ticket, and said calmly, through tight teeth, "Thank you," as he took, then folded it between his fingers and flicked it into a trash can near the door. His remarks to the clerk were overheard by several of the Australian tourists one of whom understood the German and approached Staszek.

"Excuse me, but I could not help but overhear your comments. Were you really here during the war?" the middle aged man asked Staszek in school-learned German.

Staszek calmed quickly with the eager words and the effort being made by the man. He nodded gently and responded to the question in slightly accented English, "Yes. I was here from January 18th, 1945 to Liberation Day, May 5th, 1945."

The Australian, with some excitement and relief in his voice, said in English, "I am the chaperone for this group. Would you like to come with us? I would very much like to hear what your memories are about the camp."

Staszek paused while listening to the friendly accent that calmed him slightly. He weighed the offer and said, "This is a difficult time for me. I'll walk with you for a while but I'll see how it goes." The Aussie smiled appreciatively and the two joined the others in front of them who were getting an introductory tour by a young Austrian woman who would be that group's guide to the camp.

The guide began with a welcome to the museum, and explained that where they were standing was a "processing area." Staszek leaned over to the Australian and said, "This was more like a holding pen. They would jam 2,000-3,000 people in here for up to two days to 'process them.' 10% would be dead before they made it out of the yard."

The group proceeded up some stone steps to the main entrance and reached a point where a sign indicated "courtyard." Staszek looked at the sign and felt as if the walls on either side of the steps, as well as the walls of the towers, were closing in on him. The steps narrowed here, causing a compacting of the tour group on the steps that increased his sense of confinement. Staszek started to imagine guards with sticks and snarling barking dogs lining the stairs. Seeing the "courtyard" again took his breath away for a moment. It was clean, painted, and detailed, as a museum should be.

Thirty years ago, the reality of the camp was dirty, frightening, and oppressive. To Staszek the sign should have said, "The Foyer of Hell." What was missing was the sensation of death that always lingered in the air over this spot, which would be covered by the dust from the Krematorium chimneys above him and to the right. The stench of rotting flesh on those who were actually the walking dead but did not know it yet was also missing. A moment later when a strong breeze pushed against his face, Staszek closed his eyes and his brows furrowed as he could smell them again and his shoulders drooped. Too often the walking dead were resigned to their fate and waited for their turn in "The Oven" and to drift home. In a strange way they, of all the prisoners, were the most at ease.

Across the assembly area was an empty field that was the location of the infamous "Barracks K". The "K" comes from the German word "Kugel," meaning bullet. In this barracks, selected prisoners, mostly Russians, upon arrival to the camp were herded to this walled-off compound, and then marched through a maze of desks where they were identified, classified, and stripped of their uniforms and clothing. Once naked, they were marched to the outside wall and shot in the back of the head by the SS guards. The Kapos would direct other prisoners to pick up the bodies and load them onto a cart to be wheeled out to pits outside the fence and buried in mass graves. The prisoners, at the end of any given day on this duty, were also shot and placed in the graves that they had dug. Staszek stared at the field and the fence beyond, and could see death walking out the gate in the form of hundreds of men who never returned. To the far side was the "Hill of Ashes," where the ashen remains of hundreds of thousands were placed.

Staszek stared, focused on the open space, and said to the man next to him, "This was the assembly area. This wasn't a hotel. There wasn't a courtyard." After a pause, "Here is where they had us stand in the cold for hours starting at 5:00 AM, before we were allowed to go to work." He pointed with a waving finger as several of the Aussies turned to where Staszek pointed. "During the coldest days they would take a fire hose and soak us. Some more than others, but the plan was to hasten death from exposure."

A few of the members in the group mumbled and one giggled at something that struck her funny as she mimicked the shivering of a naked person who was trying to keep whatever dignity they had left by covering their genitals.

The guide took the group into the first barracks building and pointed to neat rows of bunk beds and stated in a glib manner, "Here were the sleeping quarters for the detainees." The two-high bunk beds were nicely stained in a walnut finish.

Staszek again started to feel his heart race and his blood pressure turn his face red. "Bunk beds?! We did not have bunk beds! We slept on the floor or on wooden shelves three high; four or five people in a space meant for one. We were packed so tightly that you could not turn unless everyone turned at the same time." His anger grew and he became overwhelmed with the sights and feelings that were pouring back into him. He turned and walked quickly back outside to get away and calm down, as well as to slow his breathing. He found himself facing a stone wall that towered seven meters above him, with rusted but still dangerous barbed wire strung across the top. He flashed back to this place of executions and could almost hear the bullets hit this wall, as they passed through another victim.

He started to walk slowly at first, then more quickly along the wall and turned his head side to side as if to see if anyone was following him, or worse, was chasing him. His instinct for survival began to return in waves as he headed to a corner of the camp. He reached a recessed doorway halfway down the wall, and slid automatically around its shallow corner and pressed his back against the door.

"This was the place where he died." Staszek could see the boy's face looking up to him, his sunken eyes looking into infinity, never closing, as death claimed him.

Staszek looked out into the assembly area of what was a moment before just a handful of people milling around looking at history and taking photographs of an open field area. Now, he saw 26 barracks and heard the sounds made by thousands of gaunt men shuffling aimlessly between the gray wooden buildings. Nearly 64,000 men in structures meant for 1/10th that number. Even in this day's cold damp weather, he started to sweat as he saw the walking dead from so long ago. He could smell the stench of death and felt the emptiness that surrounded it. His breath was becoming shallow and fast. This was a horrible place that he could still feel to this day.

He looked towards the expanse of trees just beyond the barbed wire parameter and he could almost feel the rubber tube hitting him when he had walked there with his wheelbarrow. His mind could see through the trees of 1972 that acted as a curtain to the ash hill 100 meters beyond the electrified barbed wire fence, that held the remains of hundreds of thousands of souls. He recalled the gray mist with the fine powder that floated continually above the area in 1945. The painful memories intensified as he felt in his increasing panic the need to run—but his feet wouldn't respond.

In this living nightmare, he thought of places to hide, but knew there wasn't anywhere safe. For support he pressed his back against the cold granite wall. There the sights and sounds that had been locked up in his soul for years pounded their way to the present. Until now, they had been suppressed by sheer will to not allow them to surface; to not remind him of what happened here, nor of the war that consumed his youth for six years before that and continued to consume him to this day.

Staszek sank deeper into the past as he had the sense of being chased. He could almost hear the dogs as he struggled with the urge to get away and not be caught. I need to hide. His visions became more intense and tunneled. He had the need to fight back, but couldn't see from where the blows were coming. The flashback of rifle butts, sticks, clubs, boots, and short hoses raining blows down on him came in a cyclone of images and pain as he covered his head with his arms. He had to run, but instead pressed hard against the damp stonewall where he was frozen in time trying to be invisible. The Flame was captured again in a hideous place that humans could have neither dreamt of nor could have been built if they had had souls. "NO!" his mind screamed, but its voice was stifled by the weight of 30 years as he slid down to the ground.

Chapter Two

March 5th, 1938: The Pilica River area, Poland

The wheezing was becoming audible, and a dry burning sensation in his chest made breathing painful. The low moisture in the air was drying his mouth and nose to the point that his chapped lips were beginning to crack and bleed. Staszek pulled a small tin of greasy salve from his pocket and smeared a small dab onto his lips, moving his jaw forwards and back to rub in the soothing goo in between his rapid breaths. Running in snowshoes was difficult enough, but the hounds were catching up to him and he must not stop.

The sky was high, with a thick cloud layer that made this midday sunlight gray and hard to distinguish from a similar mid-morning fog. For the past two days the dark clouds had threatened more snow but never produced a single flake. Just a fast dusting of snow would be great, he wished, in order to help hide his trail, but it was not likely now, when he needed it. His body heat had melted the snow on his gloves, leaving his hands cold, wet, and crusted. He carried his fur cap to try to cool off his head despite the cold temperature that was more than compensated for by the heat his body was generating. His sweat had started to become damp under the several layers of clothes he wore. Though his jacket was unbuttoned, he was starting to feel uncomfortable between his hot body and the cold penetrating his clothes, but he had to keep going because he was the last one of his patrol on the trail and he wasn't going to be caught again. He was getting tired and he had to do something to get shelter and recover his strength.

His instinct was to run along the ridge between the open meadow and the tree-lined creek. His eyes darted side-to-side, up into the bare branches of the trees, and just as quickly down again looking for a place to hide before he was tracked down. As he came around a bend in the creek he spotted a place. "There," he thought as he deliberately ran past the snow-free patch at the base of a fallen tree that was surrounded by ample piles of dry brush. The spot could easily hide a careful person. He stopped momentarily at the edge of the creek, and then walked backwards into his own footprints for several meters to disguise his tracks and to check out the spot where he could hunker. A tree with some of its roots exposed due to flooding a year or more before would work fine as a hiding place, but how to use it without being discovered? His snowshoes were leaving deep dents in the crusty snow and the prints would surely lead anyone right to him. There were other tracks in the snow, but his snowshoes were big, and were a beacon pointing to any direction he would take.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Codename: FLAME by Robert Niklewicz Copyright © 2012 by Dr. Robert Niklewicz. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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