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First posted Monday, July 5, 2010

The food comes topped with bacon bits, at which he flinches (he converted some time ago to Judaism) but manfully wolfs it down.

[Previous Radical's Diary]

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Windsor (England) - Amsterdam (Holland) - Warsaw (Poland)

INTO London quickly, in heavy traffic, meeting Jessica at 11:30 to pick up her new Danish passport and give her some money for her Spanish vacation next weekend.

Two-thirty pm to Heathrow; parked the little red Citroen at Quality Parking. The usual delays at Terminal 4 for security. Thousands of ordinary White citizens are subjected to the same indignities as the visibly more obvious candidates for terrorist recruiters. Our shoes, belts and everything else that might contain metal comes off to be fed through X-ray machines. Yes, we have that "sh*tty little country in the Middle East," as the French ambassador once so indelicately called it over dinner with Barbara Amiel, of all people, to thank for all this.

I shuffle through the detector gate clutching my trousers' overlarge waistband, like the traitor Field Marshal von Witzleben facing Roland Freisler's People's Court in August 1944. On the other side, an olive-skinned security guard runs a metal detector over me, declares himself dissatisfied, and orders me brusquely to hoist both arms.

As I let go of the waistband, the inevitable happens. I hoist my trousers up from around my ankles where they have fallen, and shuffle off into the duty-free maze built into the modern airport experience for the benefit of travelers with rather more funds than I.

Taxi to Warsaw's Mercure hotel, which is comfortable, clean and pleasant, if a bit Stalinist/Communist/DDR in style inside. Jae is in good humour, thank goodness.

Alan H. comes round at about eleven pm, and stays chatting until after one a.m. local time.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Warsaw -- Mragowo [Rendsburg, East Prussia] (Poland)

ALAN H. brings the car at one pm. I am rather taken aback; it is a sun-faded, rusting, uninsured Mercedes in the worst condition I have ever seen a car. He apologizes. The trunk is half full of bric-à-brac, and so is the back seat. The gear shift has its top missing -- it is now a bare metal spike; the suspension is broken and the car's rear is riding six inches higher than normal. The passenger's safety handle is hanging on by only one screw. The ignition does not switch off -- to halt the engine, the car has to be stalled in second gear.

Worst of all, and he wanly admits he had not realized it was important, the power socket is dead: it turns out to be totally disconnected, as the ashtray falls out. We need it to run the all-important navigation system, if these three days of tour preparation are to run without a hitch.

I chided Alan the last time we met that his seventeen years in this country have turned him into a Pole - and this is further proof. He kindly drives us off to find a car rental company, first this way, then that. Warsaw's highways are packed, there is no parking space for miles; worse than Mexico City.

A smell of hot paint, and then visible diesel fumes and smoke pour out of his car's ventilation openings into the interior; he says he can't see them, and I still don't know if he was just kidding. When we finally park, back where we started, near the V. Hotel, yellow water is pouring out of the radiator. Jae agrees that we must rent a Hertz car instead, or Avis, and we do so forthwith, an almost new Renault Clio, and we set out in this finally, very late, at 4:30 pm, not having had time yet to visit the Warsaw coach company in consequence of the delay.


THE 210km journey north to the Mercure hotel in Mragowo takes around 3 hours, plus an hour for stops. About fifty miles short of the destination as we are purring on through endless East Prussian forests, Jae has me stop urgently for a potty-break, and I drive far down a rutted lane into the darkening forest.

She comes galloping back unverrichteterdinge seconds later, wide-eyed and staring, followed by a swarm of huge mosquitoes like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie; she jumps back into her seat just ahead of them. The little beasties pile audibly into the car's windscreens all round, gnawing at the glass, beating their tiny fists, one or two to each square inch.

We reach the hotel at 8:30 pm. The scenery of the Masurian Lakes is spectacular. But this hotel is not impressive, and we shall choose another for our tour guests. No view of the lake, despite what its brochure promises, neither from any room we can see, nor from the restaurant.

We give up trying to make our wishes known in the hotel restaurant, and drive into the town centre of Mragowo for a meal: tiny leathery-tough Goldbarsch fillets; I scrape a small slice off one of them with difficulty, chew it down, and give up, satisfying myself with eating just the undercooked potatoes instead. Not as bad as meals in Moscow tourist hotels, but a close runner-up.

There are many signs in German around this former East Prussian town and elsewhere. The hotel staff appear to understand only two or three words of English, more in German; it is probably not a good idea to try my Russian on them.


Thursday, July 1, 2010
Mragowo [Rendsburg, East Prussia] -- Pozezdrze -- Ketrzyn -- Mragowo (Poland)

Jae GOES off on her rounds at 11:30 a.m to visit local hotels. She is wearing rather fetching shorts. I hope for her sake that the mosquitoes stand back.

12:12 p.m Jae is already back having checked [another] hotel and found it more than satisfactory in every respect, as the rooms are individual and well done, and at a price including breakfast and supper.

A very unfortunate afternoon then ensues as we set out to view the two Nazi headquarters for the coming September tour. All goes well for a while, until we reach a crossroads on the road to Himmler's HQ "Hochwald" where I stop for a coffee -- a dreadful cup of undrinkable Nescafe. At 12:40 pm my cell phone rings -- it is ...

A very unfortunate afternoon then ensues as we set out to view the two Nazi headquarters for the coming tour. All goes well for a while, until we reach a crossroads on the road to Himmler's HQ "Hochwald" where I stop for a coffee -- a dreadful cup of undrinkable Nescafe.

AT 12:40 pm my cell phone rings -- it is my house's owner, calling from England, asking with a friendly voice saying, "Where are you now" -- I say, "In East Prussia" -- he asks "Where!?", not hearing me right -- and I then interrupt to say that the cheque was paid yesterday and it must have appeared in his bank account yesterday or today. He then says quietly that he is not phoning about the money, but because as of today he is coming under attack at his law firm White & Case, where he is senior partner, because there is a growing story in the legal press accusing him of poor judgment -- and that goes to his reputation as a lawyer -- in letting me lease the big house these last three years, and he has no alternative etc., etc., etc., but to ask me to leave at the end of this lease, i.e., in two months' time, as he will not be renewing the lease, because, as he reiterated, he fears that his very position as senior partner at White & Case is on the line.

He had thought it had blown over shortly after the theft of my emails in November last year, and the minor story in the online media then, but this has now blown up "across the pond" in the U.S.A where he is also a senior partner of the New York branch of White & Case.

I point out that the lease is to the company, but he says that will not help. . . I suggest after a while that I cannot really discuss this on a cell phone, as we should discuss it in person upon my return. It now seems less than five percent likely that I will still be in the big house three months from now. I had originally told him I intended to stay for ten years, and I have been in it for three. It is devastating, and puts paid to my writing from then on. It will end any chance of my writing on Himmler for many months.

One of Himmler'sbunkers

FROM one-thirty to about three pm we pause at Himmler's bunker HQ codenamed "Hochwald." I had expected difficulties in locating it in the forest. There is only one small sign at the roadside saying "Himmler bunker" on a post, pointing into the forest, but no other useful plan. We brave the mosquitoes for an hour, walking round and filming at the site. As Alan says, this site is in many ways even more impressive and sinister than Hitler's; it is like stumbling across ancient Aztec ruins in the jungle.

After 800 yards or so we find the first of the five huge moss-covered concrete structures -- almost invisible from only a few yards away -- and then some more including house-sized fragments scattered upside-down around the forest, left over from the massive demolitions in 1944, but time is pressing now, and we have to drive on to Hitler's headquarters, the Wolf's Lair near Rastenburg [now Ketrzyn], before dusk falls and the mosquitoes reclaim their former dominions.

Arriving in Rastenburg town centre we ask the way of a German couple in their sixties; they are overawed to hear my name, "We can't believe it is actually you!", and delay us with a coffee first to chat about it all.

"Your books are on sale in every bookstore in Germany," they add.

I wince, and explain that the publisher Arndt Verlag is not paying me a nickel for them, and has failed to provide any accounts, and I have now had to engaged a third firm of lawyers, having just had to report the second, Rechtsanwalt Ingmar Knop of Dessau, to his professional body in Magdeburg for not evening answering letters for five months. ("Too busy doing politics," is his lame explanation: I suspect other reasons.)

This couple was at the Hitler site yesterday, they say, and they warn us that the city has removed a lot of the signs guiding tourists that way. They nonetheless found large crowds there, tourists from all over the world, but mostly from Germany.

"Der hatte ja einen grossen Anhang," I remark, and they smile appreciatively. Yes, he had quite a following at one time.

J. at WolfsschanzeLarge crowds of tourists are thronging round Hitler's forest headquarters as we arrive. Jae has changed into jeans, because of the mosquitoes. Hitler scoffed to Rudolf Schmundt, who was responsible for selecting this location in August 1940, "I suppose some civil servant found that this swampy terrain was the cheapest they could get."

Now mosquitoes are not the only danger; there were 54,000 mines laid in the forest around the buildings in case of a Russian paratroop assault, and the Polish sappers have probably not cleared them all.

As I revisit the Count Stauffenberg memorial, I remember Frau Berger in East Berlin crying when she showed me the telegram reporting that her husband, one of the pair of stenographers on duty, had been killed by Stauffenberg's cowardly bomb in July 1944. Frau Schmundt told me that Hitler clutched her hand and sombrely told her that he had lost his finest man when the general, his chief adjutant, died of his terrible injuries three months later.


Indestructible. David Irving at Bunker Thirteen, the Hitler Bunker at the Wolf's Lair: it defied most of the demolition blasts


Friday, July 2, 2010
Mragowo -- Treblinka -- Warsaw (Poland)

WE ARRIVE at the Warsaw coach firm's head office around three pm.

Treblinka railway lineJae's talk with management here goes so smoothly, after an initial misunderstanding -- their evidently greenhorn receptionist thinks that their company just sells pots and pans -- that we decide we have enough time to head out to the Treblinka extermination-camp site this same evening, although we had not originally scheduled it.

We get there around six pm, and find the museum ("open until 7 pm") closed for repairs, without warning. We drive down the forest site's cobble-stoned and very bumpy road to its very end --at the execution site two miles further on -- and tour the remains of the Labour Camp, which I had not walked down to see with Alan H. last time (because of snow).

The gravel quarry is a vast pit, and I now suspect that the railroad track (left) was originally laid down for that; I have taken the map grid reference and will see if I can find wartime Allied aerial photographs. The foundations of the Labour Camp buildings -- and signs marking the latrines, the Jewish women's barracks, the Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish men's barracks, store houses, etc., are still there, but no trace of guard towers or the like. Mildly puzzling.

The execution site has been tarted up with massive post-war monuments, etc., but the memorial crosses are all Christian, commemorating by name Warsaw Poles sent here by the Gestapo, to "T1," for execution.

On into Warsaw around 8:30 pm, and we check into the V. at 9:30 pm. or so. This hotel certainly has the "wow" factor that we need, and the room and service is excellent -- even by American standards. Alan H. knows the original manager, and tells us that when V. acquired the hotel they hired a completely new staff, one criterion being that none of them should have been in the Polish hotel trade. 'Figures.


Saturday, July 3, 2010
Warsaw (Poland) -- Windsor (England)

A QUIET morning. Alan comes for breakfast at the V. with us and stays chatting until we leave, quite shamelessly pilfering food etc., as is his manner (although not a hotel guest). Later in the morning at a café he orders more food; it comes topped with bacon bits, at which he flinches (he converted some time ago to Judaism) but manfully wolfs it down.

He very honestly reveals that minutes after he left us a few days ago his rustbucket Mercedes' fuel line broke, and the whole tankful of diesel flooded out. That would have been really dandy, if it had happened to us somewhere on the highway north.

[Previous Radical's Diary]  
Download our brochure on the historic September 2010 tour of the Wolf's Lair, Hochwald, and Treblinka 
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