“In the distance, we heard the cows mooing. It was such an intensely sad sound,” my Granddad wrote in one of his letters, dated November 19 1943. He was describing yet another Allied air raid during which his Camp (or Lager) near Malchow – outside Berlin – was hit.
While the bombs – and thus death – were approaching my Grandfather was thinking about the poor cows in the fields near his work camp. It is so much how I remember him: a kind man, thinking a bout others and not just about himself. He did not write how scared he was (he survived a heavy air raid on August 24 1943, which left him traumatized for quite a while), but how sad the cows made him.
Going through the pile of letters he wrote to his parents in The Netherlands, and especially translating them into something that makes sense, is quite a monster job I must say. It requires a lot of research. Where is Malchow? What was the DAF? What was the value of a Reich Mark? Who was responsible for the Berlin air raids of August 24 1943 and November 4 1943? What was the damage? How many people died in these raids? How many work camps for foreign forced laborers were there?
These are just a few of the countless questions that cross my mind every single time I work on this book.
I wish your were here, Granddad, to talk to me, to explain certain things I do not yet understand, to fill in the blanks but most of allto guide me. This is your book, and I want it to be perfect.