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Last Plane From Stalingrad

You Should Be So Lucky

Posted May 14, 2019

On Sunday I saw my mother. The rain was falling in waves from the sky and getting tossed back up from the truck tires on 695. A big blow rolling up the East Coast, some remnant of the disaster storms that flooded the Midwest, I supposed.

The deluge had been going on for days, overflowing the gutters and rotting the soffits. Another chore I’d have to deal with at some point. Mother was today’s duty.

Judith DeHaemer has been fighting and losing against dementia for the past 10 years. There’s not much left of the vivacious, fearless mother who raised four boys while her husband was months at sea.

But every once in awhile, I’ll get a flicker of recognition and a wane smile that lets me believe there is still some part of her that hasn’t been eviscerated by age and disease.

The hospice where she lives put on a Mother’s Day show. A nice lady with enough wrinkles to know she’s seen more than she is willing to tell sang show tunes with an excellent voice. There is something poignant in hearing a blistering rendition of “Life is a Cabaret” to a room full of people who would never see another one.

The Last of the Real Men

I did get to see again one of the most interesting people and best storytellers I’ve ever met. He is in his mid-90s and slumps in a wheelchair, but if you have patience and show interest, he will tell you about the time he took the last plane out of Stalingrad...

My friend was 15 years old in 1942 when the Germans came knocking on his door in Romania. They gave him a choice: volunteer for the Romanian Army or get a bullet in the head. He chose the one where he could tell the tale.

And so it was that he found himself in January of 1943 as a medic at the apex of the German advance on the Eastern Front. He was witness to the largest and costliest battle in the history of the world: the Battle of Stalingrad.

Zhukov, the great Russian general, moved on the Germans and their allies in the winter of 1943 with two encircling movements. The under-motivated and under-equipped Romanians and Italians held the flanks before falling back under the pressure.

The Russians captured about 100,000 Germans. Fewer than 10% made it back to Germany after the war.

Our hero was helping an injured pilot who said he had a plane but no gas. If they could find the gas, they could get out. So they bought or stole enough fuel for a handful of Romanians to make it over the Russian lines and crash-land in Ukraine, where they avoided partisans by traveling at night, and eventually he made it back to his mother’s house.

Then, after the war, he went to Siberia to free his brother, who was captured at Stalingrad, from a labor camp and certain death. Miraculously, bribing the camp commander with gold worked... The tales go on from there to include a medical degree, many more escapes from the communists, emigration to the U.S., and a long, distinguished career at Johns Hopkins.

Things happen, in some lives more than others.  

In 2019, despite the wailings of the press and politicians, we’ve never had it so good.

Market Falls

Yesterday, the stock market in the U.S. fell 700 points on bad news from the Chinese trade war. It seems like both sides are digging in their heels. Trump announced that 10% tariffs would jump to 25% on 200 billion worth of goods.  

China added $60 billion worth of new tariffs.

This is the eighth time the DJIA has dropped more than 700 points in a single day but the 475th time it fell more than 2.7%.

It’s not uncommon.

The line in the sand for the S&P 500 is 2,800, and as I write this, it has bounced higher by 15 points, or 0.51%. Gold is at $1,298.01 an ounce, and oil is trading at $61.50 for WTI.

All the best,

Christian DeHaemer Signature

Christian DeHaemer

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Since 1995, Christian DeHaemer has specialized in frontier market opportunities. He has traveled extensively and invested in places as varied as Cuba, Mongolia, and Kenya. Chris believes the best way to make money is to get there first with the most. Christian is the founder of Bull and Bust Report and an editor at Energy and Capital. For more on Christian, see his editor's page.

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