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)

1 Comment

  1. I recently became the director of a small rural county historical museum. In our military exhibit I have discovered a Nazi uniform, complete with identification papers belonging to the German soldier who once wore the uniform. I feel strongly that the uniform and identification should be returned to the man’s descendants as this soldier would have been classified KIA, his family, if there was one, unaware of his fate. Where can I begin to trace his family with the identification papers I have?

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