Westerners won’t sympathize if you talk to them the way we talk among ourselves

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

The Russian revolutionaries had no more effective advocate abroad than the charismatic Stepniak, Gary Saul Morson explains:

Stepniak made his literary reputation with Underground Russia (1882), written in Italian but soon translated into English, Swedish, German, French, Dutch, and Hungarian. The best commentator on Stepniak, Peter Scotto, stresses the significance of a letter Stepniak wrote to some Russian comrades to explain why the book was less than candid. Underground Russia was designed, Stepniak explained in the letter, to convince polite Europeans that Russian radicals shared their liberal ideals — a bald-faced lie — even if they were compelled to resort, highly reluctantly, to violence. Westerners won’t sympathize if you talk to them the way we talk among ourselves, he cautioned, and so you must omit mentioning our program and illuminate the movement “in a way that makes it clear that the aspirations of Russian socialists are identical — temporarily, to be sure — with those of the radicals of European revolutions.” By “temporarily” Stepniak means that the radicals demand civil liberties only so long as they make terrorism easier. “Propaganda in Russian for Russian youth should, of course, have a completely different character.”

Stalin added very little to this sort of thinking

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

What motivated Russian nihilist terrorists?

Solzhenitsyn got it right: what is most remarkable in the memoirs of terrorists is how rarely they express concern for the unfortunate. “Sympathy for the suffering of the people did not move me to join those who perished,” Vera Zasulich explains. “I had never heard of the horrors of serfdom [when growing up] at Biakolovo — and I don’t think there were any.”

Then what did motivate terrorists? Zasulich describes how as a girl she wished to become a Christian martyr, but when she lost her faith, terrorism offered a substitute martyrdom. Some men and women were, like Veronika, attracted to the excitement of living the prescribed terrorist biography. The fact that life was likely to be short endowed each moment with a vertiginous intensity that became addictive, and many reported that they could not live for long without committing another murder.

Zasulich also saw terrorism as an escape from a lifelong feeling that she “didn’t belong. No one ever held me, kissed me, or sat me on his knee; no one called me pet names. The servants abused me.” Like many others, she loved the camaraderie of the closely knit terrorist circle, in which mortal danger created bonds of intimacy experienced nowhere else. Many found the idea of suicide enchanting. We often think of suicide bombing as a modern invention, but it, too, was pioneered by the Russians.

It never occurs to these memoirists that their motives are entirely selfish. They amount to saying that one practices terrorism for one’s own satisfaction. Other people, whose suffering is a mere excuse, become what Alexander Herzen called “liberation fodder.” Interestingly enough, some heroes of Savinkov’s novels do know that such murder is above all self-affirmation. As aesthetes affirm art for art’s sake, they accept terror for terror’s sake. “Earlier I had an excuse,” one hero reflects, “I was killing for the sake of an ideal, for a cause…. But now I have killed for my own sake. I wanted to kill, and I killed…. Why is it right to kill for the sake of an ideal… and not for one’s own sake?”

Like Kropotkin’s autobiography, Figner’s became a classic, but the two differ in one important respect. Figner is utterly unable even to imagine any point of view but her own. “My mind was not encumbered with notions and doubts,” she explains. She describes her early life as the sudden discovery of one unquestionable truth after another. “Every truth, once recognized, became thereby compulsory for my will. This was the logic of my character.” Although she disdains attachment to any specific socialist program, she is certain that socialism will at once cure all ills. She gives up medicine for revolution when she concludes that medicine can only palliate ailments but socialism will eliminate them.

After the revolution, Bolsheviks insisted that anyone who differed from party dogma in the slightest respect deserved liquidation: There could be no nuance or middle ground. Figner, too, presumes that no decent person could think otherwise. “If all means of convincing him [someone who disagrees] have been tried and alike found fruitless,” she explains matter-of-factly, “there remains for the revolutionist only physical violence: the dagger, the revolver, and dynamite.”

To be a terrorist, Figner explains, one must practice constant deception. One lives under a false identity and regularly abuses trust. One spreads rumors among the peasants and plants spies in the enemy’s camp. So it is mind-boggling to read of her shock upon discovering that she herself has been deceived. It turned out that her comrade Degaev was working for the police. His betrayal led to her capture, but what did that matter “in the face of what Degaev had done, who had shaken the foundation of life itself, that faith in people without which a revolutionist cannot act? He had lied, dissimulated, and deceived…. To experience such a betrayal was a blow beyond all words. It took away the moral beauty of mankind, the beauty of the revolution and of life itself.” The same act is not the same act.

On one page Figner denounces the unjust persecution of radicals’ harmless work in the countryside while on the next she describes their work as revolutionary propaganda. With no irony she says that soon after Perovskaya killed the czar she “was treacherously seized on the street.” She finds imprisonment of terrorists immoral even though she also claims that upon release they immediately resume killing. How dare the government defend itself! She mentions only casually the death of many innocent bystanders, as if no one could seriously object. More horrifying than her actions is her mentality. Someone who reasons this way could justify anything. Stalin added very little to this sort of thinking.

Liberal professionals and industrialists did more than applaud

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Liberal professionals and industrialists did more than applaud Russian terrorists, Gary Saul Morson notes:

They offered their apartments for concealing weapons and contributed substantial sums of money. Lenin supposedly said “when we are ready to hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope,” but he might better have said “buy us the rope.” Liberals proudly defended terrorists in court, in the press, and in the Duma. Paul Miliukov, the leader of the liberal Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) party, affirmed that “all means are legitimate… and all means should be tried.” The Kadets rejected the government offer of amnesty for political prisoners unless it included terrorists, who would, they well knew, promptly resume killing government officials. “Condemn terror?” exclaimed Kadet leader Ivan Petrunkevich. “Never! That would mean moral ruin for the party!”

If the strategy was to demoralize the government, it worked. Wearing a uniform made one a target for a bullet — or sulfuric acid in the face, another favorite form of attack. In Petersburg the head of the security police faced insubordination from agents afraid of revolutionaries. My favorite story concerns the reporter who asked his editor whether to run the biography of the newly appointed governor-general. Don’t bother, came the reply. Save it for the obituary.

It is impossible to draw a line between revolutionary and criminal action

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

It is hard even to fathom the extent of the terror in early 20th-Century Russia:

The Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries (or SRs), founded in 1901, immediately created a combat organization to conduct mass terror. Each of its three leaders—the second was Savinkov—achieved mythic status. In 1879, the People’s Will had some 500 members, but by 1907, the SRs had 45,000. So many bombs—referred to as “oranges”—were manufactured that people joked about fear of fruit. In 1902, SRs killed minister of the interior Dmitri Sipiagin and in 1904 his successor Vyacheslav von Plehve, along with the czar’s uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich in 1905, among others.

As Geifman calculates, between 1905 and 1907, some 4,500 government officials of all ranks were murdered, plus at least 2,180 private individuals killed and 2,530 wounded. Between January 1908 and May 1910, authorities recorded 19,957 terrorist acts that claimed the lives of 700 government officials and thousands of private people. Robberies—called “expropriations”—became commonplace. Terrorists robbed not just banks and the imperial treasury but also landowners, businessmen, and eventually just ordinary people with barely a ruble to steal. According to one liberal journalist, robberies occurred daily “in the capitals, in provincial cities, and in district towns, in villages, on highways, on trains, on steamboats.” Newspapers published special sections chronicling violent acts, while murder became more common than traffic accidents.

The SRs were far from the only terrorist organization. Even more crimes were committed by various anarchist groups. The Bolsheviks, while late to the game, caught up. Though some other Marxist parties rejected terrorism as contrary to the dogma that individuals don’t matter, the Bolsheviks engaged in it anyway. Criminals calling themselves revolutionaries joined in, but since revolutionaries themselves recruited criminals and applauded their violence, it is impossible to draw a line between revolutionary and criminal action. Some terrorists would give half their take to a revolutionary party and use the other half to buy a villa or even their own business. In Riga, terrorists effectively replaced the local government by levying taxes, establishing police patrols, and, of course, creating their own secret police to uncover disloyalty.

How the People’s Will, the world’s first modern terrorist organization, killed the czar

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

The story of how the People’s Will, the world’s first modern terrorist organization, killed the czar makes gripping reading, Gary Saul Morson explains:

Surviving attack after attack, Alexander seemed to enjoy divine protection. He certainly had a run of good luck. The terrorists tunneled under a street on which he was to pass and planted explosives, but his route changed. Then they blew up what was supposed to be his railway carriage but, because of a last-minute rearrangement, turned out to be a baggage car. The most amazing attempt took place when they blew up the dining room in the Winter Palace, intending to kill the czar and everyone else present. Police incompetence staggers the imagination. They had already arrested a terrorist in possession of a map of the Winter Palace with an X marked on the dining room! Guards checked visitors to the Winter Palace but paid no attention to workers going in and out of the basement. A terrorist had no trouble getting a job, smuggling in a little dynamite every day, and eventually causing the explosion. The bomb killed 11 people and injured 56 others, but Alexander was late. The People’s Will blamed their failure on the ruler’s unpunctuality. “What is most depressing,” opined one conservative journalist, “is that so-called political crime has become a veritable national tradition.”

The police were closing in and on February 27, 1881, arrested terrorist leader Andrey Zhelyabov, but his lover Sofya Perovskaya took over. The terrorists got their man on March 1, when an assassin threw a bomb at Alexander’s carriage, wounding two people but leaving the czar unharmed. Instead of just driving on, he stopped to see to the wounded. The bomb-thrower had just said ironically, “Still thanking God?” when a second terrorist hurled his bomb. The mangled czar died hours later. Under the leadership of Vera Figner, the People’s Will survived for a few more years.

Terror seemed easier than beating one’s head against the wall of peasant indifference

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Russian terrorism’s “heroic period” began in January 1878, Gary Saul Morson explains, when Vera Zasulich shot General Trepov, who had ordered corporal punishment for a member of the intelligentsia — as if the man were some peasant:

These radicals took their class privileges seriously! At her trial in the new law courts, the defense attorney, the Clarence Darrow of his day, in effect put Trepov on trial while portraying Zasulich as a saint. In his account, she was living in a “rural wilderness” — it was actually a revolutionary commune where she rode about carrying a gun — when she heard about Trepov’s outrage and resolved to sacrifice herself for justice. The cream of society vied for tickets to the trial, applauded the defense, and were utterly delighted when the jury preposterously acquitted her.

Soon after, Stepniak stalked General Nikolai Mezentsev, head of Russia’s security police, and, finding him unprotected, stabbed him in the back with a stiletto, turned it in the wound, and made his escape. He became the toast of British society, the friend of William Morris and George Bernard Shaw, among others. Abroad, the radicals would claim that all they wanted were basic civil liberties, but in fact they either rejected Western “freedoms” or favored them only to make revolution easier. They opposed democracy because they knew very well the peasants would never support them. As one historian observes, “Terror seemed easier than beating one’s head against the wall of peasant indifference.” It gave a small group the chance to demoralize the government while creating a mystique of violence to ensure endless recruits. They achieved both these goals.

There was nothing to hope for in legal and pacific means

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Why should Russian nihilists have targeted Alexander II, the most liberal czar Russia ever had?

Alexander had freed the serfs — thus liberating the third of the population owned outright by private landowners, not to mention an equal number owned by the crown. Before the liberation of 1861, serfs were routinely bought, sold, and lost at cards. His “great reforms” included creating organs of self-government, first in the countryside (1864) and then in towns (1870). The entire justice system was reformed along Western models. The modernization of the military in 1874 reduced mandatory active service from 25 to 6 years. Nevertheless, the radicals insisted that terrorism was their only choice. “There was nothing to hope for in legal and pacific means,” Stepniak explained with a straight face. “After 1866 a man must have been either blind or a hypocrite to believe in the possibility of any improvement except by violent means.” The very day the czar was killed he had approved a reform moving in the direction of a constitution.

Russian history has been a godsend for literature

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Russian history has been a godsend for literature, Gary Saul Morson explains:

How many firsts we owe to Russians! Lenin invented the political system we call totalitarianism. The Soviet Union was the first state based on terror and the first “one-party state.” (Previously, a party, as its name implies, represented only a part of society.) The first dystopian novel was not Huxley’s Brave New World or Orwell’s 1984, but Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, well known by Huxley and Orwell. Czarist Russia inspired both the modern prison-camp novel, beginning with Dostoyevsky’s House of the Dead, and the “terrorist novel,” starting with Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed. Prison camps, dystopia, terrorism: Whatever else it has been, Russian history has been a godsend for literature. And for political language as well: We get the word “intelligentsia” from Russia, where it was coined about 1860; and before the American “populists” of the 1890s there were the Russian narodniks (populists) of the 1870s. Political extremism and great fiction — these are Russia’s obsessions.

Russia was also the first country where young men and women, asked to name their intended careers, might well say “terrorist.” Beginning in the 1870s, terrorism became an honored, if dangerous, profession. It was often a family business employing brothers and sisters generation after generation. Historians sometimes trace modern terrorism to the Carbonari of early-19th-century Italy, but it was Russia that gave it unprecedented importance. You cannot relate the history of czarist Russia in its last half-century without the history of terrorism. As we now associate terrorism with radical Islam, Europeans then associated it with “Russian nihilism.” By the early 20th century, no profession, except literature, enjoyed more prestige among well-educated Russians.

Russian history, one of novelist Vasily Grossman’s characters observes, stands as an object lesson to the rest of the world, a lesson it has failed to learn. People still romanticize revolutionary violence, as we see in all those posters of an angelic-looking Che Guevara. In czarist Russia, the mentality Tom Wolfe was to dub “radical chic” gripped educated society. The privileged cheered on those who would destroy them.

Terrorism has arisen in many cultures, but Russian terrorism, so far as I know, is unique in one respect: its intimate connection with literature. Not only did great writers like Dostoyevsky and the symbolist Andrei Bely (author of Petersburg) write major novels about terrorism, the terrorists themselves composed riveting memoirs and fiction. Prince Peter Kropotkin, once the world’s most influential anarchist, authored a masterpiece of Russian autobiography, Memoirs of a Revolutionist, and many other terrorists, most notably women, have left classic accounts of terrorist movements. When the assassin Sergei Kravchinsky escaped to Europe and assumed the name Stepniak, he became internationally famous for both his history Underground Russia: Revolutionary Profiles and Sketches from Life and his novel Career of a Nihilist. Still more amazing, Boris Savinkov, the longtime leader of Russia’s most important terrorist organization, responsible for spectacular killings of high officials, also published his Memoirs of a Terrorist as well as three novels about terrorists. Sometimes it is hard to tell whether terrorist experience demanded literary treatment or was chosen to provide compelling literary material.

The scale of 19th- and 20th-century Russian terrorism boggles the mind. According to the movement’s best historian, Anna Geifman, terrorism affected just about everyone. Conventionally, accounts describe a brief prehistory in the 1860s and early 1870s, then a “heroic phase” from 1878 to 1881, and, after a pause, a period when terrorism assumed staggering proportions. In 1866, Dmitri Karakozov, a member of a radical organization called “Hell,” tried to kill the czar and was hanged. Sergei Nechaev, who inspired The Possessed, not only committed murder but, more important, wrote the infamous Catechism of a Revolutionary, which provided a model for revolutionaries to come. The true revolutionary, according to Nechaev, “has no interests, no affairs, no feelings, no habits, no property, not even a name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed by a single, exclusive interest, a single thought, a single passion — the revolution.” He must suppress all feelings of compassion, love, gratitude, “even honor.” For him only one criterion of good and evil exists: “Everything that promotes the revolution is moral; everything that hinders it is immoral.” Without hesitation the revolutionary uses other people, including other revolutionaries, as Nechaev did. By comparison, Machiavelli was a softie.

In the mid-1870s, idealistic men and women became “populists” and “went to the people.” They flocked to the countryside to imbibe the peasants’ natural goodness while instructing them in socialism. (I described this movement recently in these pages.) The peasants were unimpressed and often turned them in to the police, in much the way Turgenev describes in his novel Virgin Soil. Far from abandoning their ideals, the populists decided to realize them without the people, even against the will of the people, through terror and a coup d’état. Ironically enough, they called their organization “The People’s Will.” Eventually, in 1881, they succeeded in killing the czar.

(Hat tip to T. Greer, who puts the piece on his short list for best essay of 2018.)

The Class of 1914 died for France

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August includes an apocryphal footnote about “the terrible drain of French manhood” from the Great War:

In the chapel of St. Cyr (before it was destroyed during World War II) the memorial tablet to the dead of the Great War bore only a single entry for “the Class of 1914.”

I cited this passage, and Philippe Lemoine dug up St. Cyr’s own numbers, suggesting that “just” 51 percent of the military academy’s Class of 1914 died for France.

Peace on Earth

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

The 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Great War seems like a good time to revisit 1939′s animated short Peace on Earth:

The Great War ended 100 years ago

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

The Great War ended 100 years ago, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. The Great War comes up here from time to time:

Energy drinks are associated with mental health problems, anger-related behaviors, and fatigue

Monday, November 5th, 2018

Energy drinks are popular with young men, especially young men in the military, and they may be contributing to mental health problems:

What the authors found was that over the course of the month leading up to the survey, more than 75 percent of soldiers consumed energy drinks. More surprising, however, was that 16 percent “of soldiers in this study reported continuing to consume two or more energy drinks per day in the post-deployment period,” the authors wrote.

High energy drink use, which was classified as consuming two or more drinks per day, was significantly associated with those survey respondents who reported mental health problems, anger-related behaviors and fatigue, the authors found.

Those consuming less than one energy drink per week reported these symptoms at a significantly lower rate.

Also of note is that energy drink use in this Army infantry sample was five times higher than previous studies that analyzed consuming patterns of airmen and the general population’s youth.

The original study is available online.

There’s something different about being blown up

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

The “routine” treatment for a head injury — whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or an American emergency room — works, but not for all traumas:

As soon as you enter the emergency room (ER) as a “Head Injury,” your blood pressure and breathing will be stabilized. ER doctors know the procedures and will, if there are signs of increased intracranial pressures, put you into a drug-induced coma to slow any ongoing damage to injured brain cells and protect any of the remaining healthy tissues from undergoing any secondary damage.

A calcium channel blocker will be administered to help stabilize the outer membranes of the injured nerve cells to maintain normal intracellular metabolism. If your blood pressure becomes too high, ER personnel will lower the pressures to protect against any re-bleeding or the expansion of any blood clots that have already formed within the brain following the initial injury. If the pressures are too low, which can further decrease the blood flow to what remains of the undamaged brain tissues – itself leading to more neurological damage, medications will be given to raise the pressures to maintain adequate blood flow to the brain and central nervous system despite the injury.

Those parts of the brain not damaged still have to receive their usual amounts of oxygen and nutrients. But even with all this care after a traumatic brain injury, recovery is always one of those medically “iffy” things.

If the brain continues to swell, damaging as yet undamaged parts of the brain, the neurosurgeons will begin IV fluids of 8 to 12% saline to control swelling. If that doesn’t work, they will add an IV diuretic to drain the body of fluids in an effort to keep down the increasing intracranial pressures that may continue to compress arteries, cutting off oxygen to the still healthy brain cells. If the hypertonic fluids and diuretics fail to work, they will take you to the operating room and neurosurgeons will remove the top of the skull to allow the brain to swell without compressing and damaging any of the still undamaged underlying tissues.

Since the brain is in a closed space, the overriding idea behind removing the top of the skull is to relieve any increasing intra-cranial pressures that would surely further damage the tissues of the physically compressed brain. Such a development would be even more damaging to tissues as the decreased delivery of oxygen would impair the still undamaged brain tissues. When the swelling has finally decreased and the brain is back to normal size, the neurosurgeons will simply put back that part of the skull removed and wait for the patient to recover.

All of this works and has worked hundreds of times in military surgical hospitals and in emergency rooms and major trauma centers around the country. It certainly works if the patient has been shot in the head.


But what we have learned from the battlefields of our newest wars is that the brain damage from an IED appears to be a different kind of traumatic brain injury.

Treatments at an earlier time regarded as usual for head injuries do not work. There is clearly something different and so unexpected going on down at the cellular or sub-cellular level of the brain following exposure to a pressure wave that is not the same as hitting your head on the pavement, falling in a bathroom, or being shot in the head. There is simply something fundamentally different about being blown up.

Quickly fire barbed Kevlar cords toward suspects at speeds of 640 feet per second

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

The NYPD is testing a high-powered lasso gun to subdue mentally ill suspects:

Unveiled last year, the BolaWrap™ 100 is a hand-held remote that allows officers to quickly fire barbed Kevlar cords toward suspects at speeds of 640 feet per second. The stated goal of the product is to entangle a person’s limbs “early in an engagement,” thereby allowing police officers to avoid using lethal force. The intended target is described by the company as “the mentally ill population” and, elsewhere, “the bad guys.” Each unit costs $800, and sounds like a gunshot when discharged.


Wired Technologies, which manufactures and distributes the wraps, claims that 24 police departments across the country are testing the product internally, and that six departments are testing it in the field. A version that sounds less like a gunshot is currently in development, for use on college campuses, according to Mike Rothans, the senior vice president of Wrap Technologies.

During Thursday’s demonstration, Adams, flanked by Rothans and Wired Technologies CEO David Norris, assured reporters that the product was neither painful nor dangerous (Adams did wear protective goggles, just in case). The trio brushed off questions about whether it might be more difficult to deploy the wraps in a crowded, high-pressure environment, rather than a tightly controlled courtroom, by pointing to the device’s laser sight. Despite the fact that a website advertises the wraps as having 380 pounds of strength, Rothans promised that they wouldn’t be strong enough to strangle someone if accidentally fired at their neck.

Rather, the gizmo should be seen as a low-risk alternative to the more painful, less reliable stun gun, they said. At one point, Adams referred to a video—shown by company reps earlier in the demonstration—of an 86-year-old man with dementia getting tased by police officers during a traffic stop, as precisely the sort of situation in which the resistance tool could be of use. “Some might look at the incident with the 86-year-old and say why would you need any force there, but that’s not the real universe of policing,” said Adams, a former NYPD officer. “I would have used the device with the 86-year-old. Maybe I strike his legs instead of his arms, so he can break his fall.”

In Adams’s estimation, the device could successfully subdue about 70 percent of the 150,000 or so emotionally disturbed individuals encountered annually by the NYPD. The department’s handling of such cases—known as EDPs—has attracted scrutiny in recent years, with advocates demanding better training for officers responding to mental health crises, particularly following the deaths of Saheed Vassell and Deborah Danner.

The article refers to “Wired Technologies,” but I believe the company name is Wrap Technologies:

Lessons from Escape University

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

In The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War, Neal Bascomb explains what Allied POWs learned at Escape University:

In 1917 the most troublesome, breakout-prone Allied POWs were sent to a land-locked prison called Holzminden. By assembling such a group with dozens of attempts under their belts, the Germans unwittingly created an “Escape University”. Its practiced artists taught each other how to detect weaknesses in the camp’s defenses, build secret caches, create makeshift compasses, smuggle in supplies, tailor German uniforms, pick locks, and engineer any number of elaborate constructions to get beyond the walls. Nine months after Holzminden opened, its prisoners orchestrated the war’s greatest escape. Twenty-nine got out, 10 made it to freedom, and their effort inspired the Allies in the darkest time of the war. In WWII, these “escape artists” guided MI-9, the secret British escape and evasion service, that aided tens of thousands of men reach freedom after being caught behind enemy lines.

Here are their hard-fought lessons that I gleaned from reading dozens of their memoirs, letters, and notes on their lectures:

1. Be prepared. In WWI pilots and soldiers had little to no supplies if they found themselves behind enemy lines. A small compass, knife, maps, a knife, portable food, first aid kit — all these will help evade capture in the first hours/days.

2. Once captured, your best chance of escape is the immediate one. Take a breath, assess your surroundings, and go when the opportunity strikes. In transport, there are few guards and you are likely closer to safer ground. The further into enemy territory you go, the harder things become. Once in a camp, your options become more limited.

3. When you find yourselves in a prison — or the like — again, your chances of breaking out are often in the earliest days. Guards have not yet detected weaknesses in security. Take advantage.

4. If it looks like you are in for the long-term, remember that no prison is impregnable, regardless of commandant’s warnings otherwise. Reconnoiter the whole place. Walk the perimeter. Time guard rotations and movements. Watch entrance and exits. Who is allowed in and out? What kind of passes do they need to show? Are interior walls solid? What kind of locks secure doors? Are there dark areas where the lights do not shine? Are there work duties that allow greater movement? What kind of uniforms do staff where? Are their tools that can be stolen? Is communication beyond the walls possible? Can supplies be smuggled inside? Opportunities exist. They only need be found.

5. Find partners. Solo escapes are often the most difficult. Ideas need to be hashed over. Many hands make light work. You need lookouts, diversions, skills that others have. Morale support is also imperative. Further, once outside the walls, traveling in pairs or threes, is often easier. Watches can be set so one can rest. Again, having someone to lean on in tough moments is helpful.

6. The former notwithstanding, secrecy is essential. Spies are often everywhere. A slipped word, an indiscreet remark, can foil the best of plans. Keep the cabal small, and information limited to those who need to know.

7. Allies among the guards. Foster these. Make nice. A bribe might do. They need not know your plans — or even intentions to escape — but they can provide information, and sometimes key supplies.

8. Be patient. There will be roadblocks thrown into your path. That is to be expected. Do not lose hope.

9. It is not enough to get beyond the walls, one has to make it to a place of safety, whether a border or otherwise. Plan accordingly. Secure supplies for your run. Food, good boots, a compass, and maps are key. A head start also helps, so weave that into your plans. The longer you have to get away from the prison before you are discovered missing, the wider the search range, the better shot you have of getting away for good. Have a cover plan too. What if you run into a local or even a policeman? What story do you have to tell? Travel by night. Rest by day. Steer far from populated areas. Never cross a bridge if you can ford the barrier below.

10. Last, but certainly not least, luck favors the bold. Often the most audacious plans are rewarded with the most success. The massive tunnel escape at Holzminden proved this lesson.