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Movie Concept: Codename: FLAME
By the end of the summer of 1939,there was fear of Poland being invaded by the Germans. The country thought they were ready to defend themselves. They had an Army, Navy and Air Force and they also had powerful allies in France and England. They had a treaty that promised to help defend them in case of war. With all of these deterrents, no country would be so foolish to start a war so soon after being beaten just 25 years ago in the Great War. Or would they?
September 1 st 1939 started with explosions across Poland. The Polish military is being torn to shreds by the German war machine from the west. The county is being overrun, the call for help is sent out to the whole free world, but no one answers. Treachery from the Russians comes to pass as they breach a non-aggression pact and invade from the east. The Poles are trapped between two massive armies and their country as well as they themselves becomes the property of the Germans. Among them is Stanislaw (Staszek) Niklewicz.
In 1939 Staszek was a fourteen-year-old boy in a large busy city in Poland call Lodz. He was a scout, soccer player and hustled several jobs that boys are known for. His father has gone away to a distant town to develop another business leaving Staszek, his mother, older brother and sisters to run their small shop.
Staszek is the youngest of four children in a middle class family who operate a small shop. Staszek hustles newspapers and anything else he can sell. His father Felix leaves to start a new business on the Baltic Sea. A fateful event when the war begins in the Bay across from his business and where Felix is killed.
The Germans invade Poland and turn Staszek’s life as well as those of 20 million other Poles, upside down. Their shop is looted and nearly destroyed while his hometown awaits the invaders occupying Lodz. Instead of playing soccer or going to school, Staszek takes a job cutting firewood while he waits to turn 15 which is the age he will be taken into the Hitler Youth in preparation to becoming a German soldier. This is something he is determined not to do and plans to escape.
When the time is right Staszek pedals away from a work detail in the late winter of 1939 hoping to reach Romania or the Partisans that he thinks will provide him with a new life and freedom. Before he can make it to the border he is inadvertently involved an ambush done by Polish Partisans against a German supply column. This, by necessity, has him join that group where he is given the codename “Pants”. A name he did not like but carried for the next several years. His background and skills as a Boy Scout had him serve as a courier between different Partisan groups in the Holy Cross Forest in central Poland.
From the age of 15 to 19, Staszek “Pants” participates as a courier, a forward observer as well as performing acts of sabotage and covert civil disobedience. All the while he still attends underground schools for the youth and future leaders of Poland.
Pants suffers loses of friends and loved ones by the winds of war and the treachery of traitors. By the time the United States enters the war, Pants has been a soldier for over two years, living in the forests and surviving on what nature provides and what he can “liberate” from the Germans.
Stanislaw had his mother, brother and sisters still at home. They were in forced labor factories to make the materials needed by the Germans. His activities, if revealed would have resulted in his imprisonment and a sure subsequent death for him as well as the execution of all of the rest of his family. This prompted him to fight harder and even go behind enemy lines to help bring the war to a close. He had to stop the Germans as only a fearless, albeit naïve, teenager
Pants is promote through the ranks of the Partisans and eventually is recognized for his skills and performance as a soldier. It is at this time he is given the new code name of “Znicz” (or Flame) as his identity as Pants had been compromised.
One of his mentors recruits him to the Polish Underground Justice System whose duty was to judge in abstention traitors of Poland. There he becomes part of a team of men who are ordered to perform the execution of those found guilty of crimes against Poland.
On one of his missions he is captured by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the notorious Radogoszcz Prison in Lodz. It is there where he is tortured and beaten in attempts to have him expose members of the Underground. After several months he is transferred to the Class III death camp in Austria called Mauthausen. In Mauthausen his strength and will to survive is pushed to the limits along with some 70,000 others. He is severally injured and left to die until an unexpected event spares his life. He fights for his life and of others until the Americans liberate the camp on May 5 th 1945.
By showing unbelievable strength and courage, Staszek (Flame) survive his ordeal at Mauthausen. His effort immediately afterwards helps find justice against those who were the worst examples of the master race. Working for the U.S. Constabulary as an interpreter and in country asset gives Staszek the opportunity to finish at 20 what he started at 15 to free his country. Sadly the powers of the USSR in their occupation of his country put an end to his efforts, though they will never be forgotten.
Eventually, after working as an interpreter for the US Constabulary, he goes to a displaced persons camp where he meets his future wife Emilia. Her story was chronicled in the book “Last Train to Dachau”.
Purchase the book: Amazon.com or AuthorHouse.com
The Last Train to Dachau
The vulgar invasion of Poland, started the slaughter of millions men, women and children. For Wladyslawa Miller the worst nightmare a wife and mother could suffer, marched on hobnailed boots towards her and her small hometown. These were not the world’s finest moments but they were the beginning of hers. Without firing a shot, a woman and her family began their effort to triumph over the guns of war.
Wladyslawa Miller was a middle aged Polish Catholic nurse by training and strong willed woman by nature. Though small in stature, she stood tall and faced the invasion of Poland with her husband Victor and their three children 20 Km outside of Warsaw on that terrible day in 1939. The peace of a simple life was thrown into a hell that would strip most people of their dignity, faith, compassion and courage — but not Wladyslawa. She did not use a weapon but fought with her wits and tenacity to beat the piece of the war thrust upon her. Even a mean spirited widowed mother-in-law living with her, did not break her will to protect and survive against terrible odds and inhuman treatment.
Victor Miller, Wladyslawa’s husband, was a cobbler, who survived the Great War by working hard and learning fast as a young conscript of the German Army. There he learned to repair trains as well as shoes that eventually got him through one war; but he never dreamed it would have to save him again in another. The coming of the Germans a second time turned his life into a nightmare worse than it did 25 years earlier when he had a much younger body and did not have a
family to protect.
Victor again goes to war now at the age of 40 and is not heard from after the surrender of Warsaw. For four months he was lost to the world as he survived in an outdoor prison with hundreds of other suffering men. Standing, walking or sitting in mud or frozen dirt, while wearing the same clothes he had on when captured, was all he had to protect him from the snow and disease that was found in a barb wired cage. He was given up for dead but managed to return to his home where his family nursed him back to health. Only to be placed on a train recovery and repair crew where he put his life in jeopardy by his sabotage undertakings.
Wladyslawa left without a husband first by imprisonment then by conscription was alone with three young children to face hungry, brutality and death while she kept her children together and safe. She walked at night into the countryside for food, which at times was in the grips of a Polish winter and German patrolled roads and forests alike. The German presence was a danger to her and her children who would surely perish without her. She was captured and severely beaten but she survived but with a price. The beating lead to a miscarriage and the loss of blood she suffers was life threatening. She was battered and weak but cunningly gets released to walk home on the strength of her spirit and prayers of her children. Again and again she fought back to beat her oppressors without firing a single bullet.
The children each have their own traumas to face. Alicia, a teenager barely old enough to understand the dangers of war but found ways to fight back through information gathering anywhere she could. Emilia, several years younger than Alicia, stood defiant against her captors in word and deed. Leszek only five years old learned to cope with death and terror brought on by strange evil people for reasons he struggled to grasp.
The Millers had an additional problem and that was their name that could be considered German. And the Germans wanted them to sign a loyalty declaration – the “Deutchliste” – that would have gave them special privileges if they declare themselves Germans. They refused to do so though some of the neighbors thought they had. That dilemma caused the Germans to apply pressure on them to sign their Polish citizenship away while the locals mistrusted them. The results being that they were snubbed and effective mistreated by both sides. Despite the danger to their own family, the Millers still found the courage to risk death to protect a Jewish family by hiding them in their attic for 5 weeks. In the heart of a German sweep of the neighborhood that costs the lives of 20 other people the Millers continue to fight the tyranny and barbarity of the invaders while maintaining their humanity.
However, even the best-prepared and most determined people have their luck run out. The time came when the whole Miller family was forced to work as slave labor on a train recovery and repair unit. There they face destruction and life threatening ordeals across Poland. As the war turned against the Germans, the Millers were sent to concentration camps in Germany for nearly two years. Through luck and resilience the Miller family makes it through labor camps as a family. Progressively the physical and mental torment escalated when the Germans themselves became disparate to escape with their looted treasures. They take the Millers and hundreds like them once more onto the train – but for the final time.
The evil and self-serving elitist of the Third Reich steal and move art objects and valuables for themselves into hiding places in the mountains of Bavaria. These actions are in vain attempts to take the riches and spoils of war for their own pleasures, no matter how it was done and how many people were murdered in the process.
Many of these stolen treasures were being secretly moved on the very train that housed the Miller family and the 200 hundred other prisoners. On a bright April day the train began its’ last run for freedom to Switzerland and to the death of the prisoners in Dachau. The Germans now had on board a double bounty: millions of dollars in valuables being readied to arrive in German hands…plus the Polish workers (including the Miller family) that they detested.
In the end, a perilous and frantic attempt to avoid capture, the train was driven through the treacherous mountains passes at death defying speeds. With hope for escape almost gone and nearly in sight of the death camp, hope was all but gone. Then suddenly came the rain of bullets from Allied planes that unknowingly wreaked destruction on the German treasure train, which also produced death and carnage to the train’s prisoners. Wladyslawa risked her life to protect her children by throwing her body on top of them at the height of battle that killed many of their companions. The life and death battle between train’s heavily armed guards and planes culminated with the explosion of the train engine in a snow-blanketed valley 90 Km from Dachau.
At last, the happiest ending to the unhappiest of times: after the dramatic battle the Millers escape from the wreck and hid in an abandoned bunker with the other survivors from the train. There they wait to be recaptured or freed by the first army that comes and finds them. A week later the American Army found then as the war ends and they are transferred to a Displaced person’s camp in Bavaria where they would wait three years to come to the United States.
In the Hohenfels Camp, the youngest Daughter Emilia, now 15 met her future husband Stanislaw Niklewicz. Stanislaw was a survivor of the Polish Underground and the Mauthausen Extermination Prison Camp in Austria. His story is told in Codename: FLAME – and a possible second feature film – based on his experiences.
The power of the human spirit shined as it was found in some of the darkest years of human history through the Miller family story. The emotional context of The Last Train to Dachau would be a fast moving experience of a true-based story seen through the eyes of an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things to help her family survive the horrors and suffering of war. The author feels this story must be shown and remembered in a motion picture.