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Thread: Last German WWI Vet has Died

  1. #1
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    Default Last German WWI Vet has Died

    I thought this might interest everyone. It is slightly off-board, but has a WWII Luftwaffe link. This article appears in today's (26JAN08) edition of BBC news, online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7210346.stm

    Steve


    Germany's 'Last' WWI Veteran Dies

    The man believed to have been Germany's last World War I veteran has died peacefully at the age of 107.

    Erich Kaestner, who at 18 was sent to the Western Front but served only four months in the army, died in a Cologne nursing home, his son said.

    The death on Sunday of Louis de Cazenave, France's second-last World War I veteran, made global headlines.

    But in a country that keeps no record of its veterans, Kaestner's death on 1 January went largely unnoticed.

    "That is the way history has developed," said Peter Kaestner, the soldier's son. "In Germany, in this respect, things are kept quiet - they're not a big deal."

    Erich Kaestner was unrelated to the writer and poet of the same name.

    End of an era

    Reports in Die Welt daily and Der Spiegel magazine identified Kaestner as Germany's last World War I veteran, but verification of the claim was difficult as the country keeps no record of its war veterans.

    In a country where the shame of the Nazi genocide and memories of two world war defeats still cast long shadows, both publications focused more on the German national psyche than the death itself.

    "The German public was within a hair's breadth of never learning of the end of an era," wrote Der Spiegel, until someone updated his death notice on the internet encyclopaedia site, Wikipedia.

    In its obituary for Kaestner, Die Welt noted: "The losers hide themselves in a state of self-pity and self denial that they happily try to mitigate by forgetting."

    Officer, judge, husband

    Born in 1900, Kaestner had joined the army when he left school in 1918.

    He rejoined the military as a Luftwaffe first lieutenant in 1939, where he served mainly as a ground support officer in France.

    After the war, he became a judge in Hanover, where his work earned him Lower Saxony's Merit Cross.

    His 75-year marriage was recognised by Germany's president in 2003 shortly before his wife, Maria, died aged 102.
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

  2. #2
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    Two veterans from Poland passed away recently as well. One was the last veteran of Haller's army formed in France during WWI and the other was the last living veteran of war with Russia in 1920. They were 105 and 106 respectively, I believe. Gosh, to get through all of this!

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