German Volunteer Digs For Remains of WWII Soldiers

He’s found over 20,000 so far. From the LA Times:

Hammer, Germany — THE shallow hole widens and a man comes together like a puzzle: hips, fingers, ribs, vertebrae, teeth and crushed skull. A boot surfaces along with a rusted bullet clip. But no dog tags, no wedding ring, nothing to give him a name, so the bones go into a box where they are marked with a number written in white chalk: 1,968.

The one who filled the box is sweaty; his after-shave fades amid the dirt and the dust. His name is Erwin Kowalke. The villagers know him by his determined face and trim graying beard and the way he moves from shovel, spade to hoe. He collects the bones of the fallen from a world war that ended six decades ago, but one that, if you listen, still moans through the forests and across the marshes.

“I once dug a whole plane out of a swamp. The pilot was sitting in the cockpit. His leather jacket was pretty well preserved even after all those years, but he was burned,” said Kowalke, a volunteer who has excavated the remains of 20,000 people, most of them German and Russian soldiers killed in fighting as Berlin collapsed toward defeat in the final days of April 1945.

(via Reddit)