December 16, 2018

Positivity: POW’s wedding ring was lost in German prison camp 75 years ago. Now his son will get it back.

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 10:15 am

From Kerrville, Tennessee (HT Weasel Zippers):

December 13, 2018

Wayne Gotke already owns several pieces of memorabilia from the time his father, also named Wayne, spent in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.

There’s the POW identification tag each prisoner was issued upon entering a camp. A copy of the silk map of France and Germany many escapees used to help guide them to freedom, reports The San Antonio Express-News. And a leaflet distributed by the Germans tempting POWs to join them in fighting the Russians for one year in exchange for the promise that they’d be allowed safe passage home at war’s end.

But on Friday, the San Antonio native, who now lives in Kerrville, will receive perhaps the most valuable piece of memorabilia: His father’s inscribed gold wedding ring, recently rediscovered more than 75 years after it was lost in Stalag Luft III, the German POW camp later made famous by the movie “The Great Escape.”

Gotke will receive the ring during a presentation at the Kerr County War Memorial on the grounds of the county courthouse in Kerrville.

“My parents divorced when I was a baby, and I never had an adult conversation with my father,” said Gotke, 72, and a retired federal law enforcement agent. “But I’m truly excited to receive my father’s ring.”

The story of the ring’s return is one of post-war reconciliation and efforts to pay respects due to former POWs. It began in September, during a routine excavation by a team from the POW Camps Museum of what was one of the many prisoner huts at the camp which, during the war, was located near the German of Sagan.

“We do two kinds of work here,” said Marek Lazarz, director of the museum. The museum is located in an area that, at the end of the war, was given to Poland as part of war reparations and is now near the renamed town of Zagan. “We do archaeological searching, but we also clear away the brush that grows over some of the abandoned areas that used to be foundations of the prison barracks.”

On this day, one of the volunteers was excavating a dirt-filled sink and drain in what had been the bathroom of barracks No. 139. As he knocked the accumulated dirt out of the drain, a metal ring fell out.

“We were not very excited at first, because we find stuff all the time,” Lazarz said. “Pieces of metal, pilots wings, even rings.”

But upon closer inspection, they realized that the inside of the ring was inscribed with the words “Ann to Wayne 1942” and “MIZPAH” in all caps. That’s the Hebrew word for “watchtower” but has also come to mean an emotional bond between two people who are separated but hope to reunite.

“That’s when we became excited,” he added. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

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