For a twist of fate, I ended up going for work to Germany, a little town in the iper-productive nord-east Westfalia region.
What’s special in there? Well, it was 30Km only away from Sennelager and Paderborn, places where my granfather has been held prisoner for 14 months during World War II.
So I decided to go there and pay a tribute to nonno Franco.
That has been for me a special and unique opportunity – nobody from the family has ever been there and I felt very lucky but also emotional reaching Sennelager.
It’s strange looking at old people around and ask inside me “what were they doing 70 years ago?” “didn’t really know anything about it?”. Touchy, but of course no hard feelings.
Sennelager sounds like a terrible name but this place always had this name and has nothing to do with the meaning of the word “lager” we all know since WW II.
Lager means “field” in German.
Sennelager host now a big British NATO military base, and everything in town seems to revolve around that. There’s even a grocery shop called “Little Britain” to help the soldiers not feeling homesick.
I stop on the main road trying to imagine 70 years ago, how could have been… the gray day and the freezing air let think that this can easily be a sad place to be.
I ask some people around, everyone speak English, I tell them my story and they listen carefully: I’m looking for any kind of memorial place.
They point me out to a monument, right in front of the entrance of the military base, that commemorates the German victims of the conflict.
A bit outside from the center, a Russian cemetery bring back what my grandfather wrote in his diary, where he mentioned in fact a Russian camp not far from where he was.
To get there, I had to cross a large railways passage, and that was the more intensemoment because, yes, I knew he passed there… twice at least.First arriving from Italy after days of trip, unknowing what was waiting them, and then going back home at the end of the war ready to continue his life in Albiate.
Photo album here: