Discussion Guide for Crow Stone

Questions to stimulate conversation or research.

1. When did the Second World War end in Europe? Where was Katya at this time? When did the Second World War end for her?

2. Operation Hannibal was an escape plan for East Prussian civilians.  When did it go into effect and how was it to be implemented?

3. Who was Gauleiter Koch and what happened to him after the war?

4. Where did Hitler have his East Prussian headquarters? When did he leave? What happened to the massive bunkers?

5. Why didn’t the Nazis surrender sooner?

6. Compare how Soviet prisoners of war were treated by the Nazis to how Soviets treated the Nazis. What about POWs from other countries?  How did Canadians treat German POWs?

7. What is the Geneva Convention and when did it come into effect?

8. What role did the Red Cross play during the Second World War? How relevant is the Red Cross today?

9. Was there really a victory weapon under development by the Nazis?

10. The UFA was Nazi’s version of Hollywood. What role did the cinema play in keeping German morale up? What were some of the popular movies, stars and songs from the UFA?

11. Unmarried mothers who could prove Aryan lineage went to Lebensborn homes for their pregnancies. What was the purpose of these homes and what happened to the babies?

12. War time board games were popular and some have withstood time. Discuss their value.

How are games still relevant in today’s world?

13. What was the Volksturm? Was it effective? 

14. With the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, millions of civilians, mostly women and children, have fled. Compare this to the January, 1945 East Prussian refugee flight. 

15. How were horses used in the European/Soviet theatre of the Second World War?

16. Which Allies bombed Königsberg in August, 1944? How badly was Königsberg damaged by the end of the war? How was Königsberg rebuilt after the war? 

17. If you had to pack up in a hurry, what would go in your backpack?  

18. Would you prefer to stay in your home or escape if there was an enemy attacking your city?

19. Königsberg was a sieged city during the end of the war. What is a siege? What other cities have been sieged during war? 

20. Who lives in the former East Prussia now? 

21. Find the Vistula Lagoon on a map. What ports were on it back during the Nazi times and what ports are on it today? 

22. Where were the ships, loaded with East Prussian refugees, heading? How safe were they? Can you name any of them? How were some of them destroyed?

23. Rape has repeatedly been used as a weapon of war against women and even children. How might this affect women, men and their future relationships after the turmoil of war?

24. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a captain in the Soviet Army’s advance on East Prussia, wrote a narrative poem, “Prussian Nights,” about his experiences on the eastern front in January, 1945. What price did Solzhenitsyn pay for showing empathy towards the German civilians in East Prussia?

25. What might have happened to Aunt Hannelore, Doris and her two daughters, caught inside the city of Königsberg?

26. Can vodka be made from potatoes? Why do you think alcoholism was so rampant throughout the Soviet Union?  Is it still a problem in modern Russia?

27. Besides mining, what else would draw people to the Ural Mountains? Could the area be a tourist destination? What would a travel brochure advertise? 

28. What trees grow in the Urals? 

29. What else, besides coal, is mined in the Urals? 

30. Where was Tankograd and how did it get its name?

31. Where and when did the meteor crash in the Urals? 

32. What was the Telogreika?  How about the vatnik? Can you find images of them online? What did prisoners wear on their feet, hands or heads during the cold months? Are they still used? If not, what replaced them? 

33. Why was Königsberg renamed? What is the significance of its new name?

34. Distances are huge in Russia, like in Canada. How far did Katya travel when she went from Königsberg to the Urals? 

35. Typhus spread throughout the forced labour camps. What is it and how is typhus treated today?


36. Do you think that the German prisoners of war deserved the harsh treatment in the Soviet camps? Why or why not?

37. Prisoners of war from both Ukraine and Russia are being tried and sentenced. How do you think modern prisoner of war camps compare to those that existed in the 1940s? 

38. How does diet affect teeth? Why were there so many dental problems during and after the war?

39. How does a starvation diet affect a person’s physical and mental health?

40. What lessons do you think Katya learned during her time in the Urals that she might have carried with her for the rest of her life?

41. What might the crow symbolize in Crow Stone? 

42. What might the stone symbolize in Crow Stone?

43. Katya’s language skills helped her survive. Why is it valuable to know more than one language? Would you want the title of Starosta?

44. Is Crow Stone a hopeful book? Why or why not?

45. Do you think that Katya’s story is still relevant? Why or why not?

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