Interview with ‘The Katyn Order’ Douglas W. Jacobson
Douglas W. Jacobson is an engineer, business owner and World War Two history enthusiast. Doug has traveled extensively in Europe researching stories of the courage of common people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His debut novel, Night of Flames: A Novel of World War Two was published in 2007 by McBooks Press, and was released in paperback in 2008. Night of Flames won the “2007 Outstanding Achievement Award” from the Wisconsin Library association. Doug writes a monthly column on Poland’s contribution during WW2, has published articles on Belgium’s WW2 escape organization, the Comet Line and other European resistance organizations. Doug’s second historical novel, The Katyn Order, which will be released in May, 2011, focuses on one of history’s most notorious war crimes, the Katyn massacre.
You can visit his website at www.douglaswjacobson.com.
Thank you for this interview, Douglas. Let’s start right at the beginning, with the title. What exactly is “The Katyn Order?”
Douglas: The Katyn Order is an actual historical document – an order – signed by Josef Stalin and every member of the Soviet Politburo in 1940 authorizing the execution of more than twenty thousand Polish army officers, doctors, teachers, and civic leaders. The executions were carried out in secret by the Soviet NKVD in four locations in Russia, including the Katyn Forest near Smolensk. The Soviet Union denied this atrocity for more than fifty years until 1992 when the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, made the Katyn Order public.
But your book is a novel. What can you tell us about the story?
Douglas: The Katyn Order, is a story of two young people – Adam, an American secret agent and assassin, and Natalia, a covert operative of the Polish underground – caught up in the vortex of cataclysmic events in Poland toward the end of the war. Amid the Allied power struggle left by Germany’s defeat, Adam and Natalia join in a desperate hunt for the 1940 Soviet order authorizing the murders in the Katyn Forest. It is a story of intrigue and danger, of human courage under extraordinary circumstances, a story of love and a quest for redemption.
You write historical fiction. So, is this a true story?
Douglas: All of the events are true. The story begins with the German war machine in retreat as the Russians advance. Our two protagonists meet in Warsaw as the Resistance fighters of the AK (the Polish Home Army) rise up against the Nazi occupiers. Adam and Natalia, as well as a host of other characters, are fictional, but their experiences throughout the story are real. From the catastrophe of the Warsaw Rising, through persecution of the AK at the hands of the Russian secret police, to the hunt for the Katyn Order, Adam and Natalia struggle to survive as they navigate through a labyrinth of actual historical events.
One of your main characters, Adam, is an American. How did he come to be in Poland at this time?
Douglas: Adam is a naturalized American citizen who was actually born in Poland. Through a tragic chain of events at the outbreak of the war Adam winds up in London where he is trained by the British as a secret agent and assassin, and sent to Poland. I cannot reveal any more details about this without spoiling the story. So, as the saying goes, “You’ll have to read the book.”
How did you do the research for The Katyn Order, and how long did it take?
Douglas: It took about three years to do the research and write The Katyn Order, though I had an advantage because much of the story in my first book, Night of Flames, was also set in Poland. I did, however, travel back to Poland twice doing the research for Katyn, including a very exciting auto trip into the Tatra Mountains with my daughter, Kerri (who is also a great research assistant). A large chunk of the research was also done by studying the literature on the Katyn massacre and the Warsaw Rising. Neither of these two horrific events are well known to Americans, so I think many readers will enjoy learning about them as they get into the story.
Thank you very much for this interview, Douglas. We wish you much success!