Ludwigsstadt, Germany, February 13, 2006
A very early start and out into a dark and freezing cold morning. Once clear of Berlin, however, we made good progress down to the Frankenwald, where we are going to see Freidrich Buchner. It’s possible to eat away at the kilometres pretty quickly on the autobahns and we reached Ludwigsstadt by mid-morning. The countryside of the Frankenwald looked like something out of fairy story – rolling hills and pine forests covered in snow. After some confusion over precisely which was Herr Buchner’s house, we found ourselves climbing up a path to a rather grand detached house perched high on a bank overlooking the main street of the town.
Herr Buchner and his wife were gentle, kindly people. In the morning we talked in their living room, but after a typical German lunch, we retreated to Herr Bucner’s den upstairs. This was an office full of books and momentoes, most of which related to the war. He told us he had never talked to anyone about his war experiences before, not even his family. I couldn’t help thinking how hard it must have been to have had to keep these memories locked away like that. At one point he broke down – clearly, these were painful memories and he became obviously more agitated. We told him he didn’t have to go on, but he insisted. On the long drive back to Berlin afterwards, we both agreed that it had probably been quite cathartic – at least, we hoped it had.