In Memoriam: Dr Erich Kaestner (1900-2008)
It was a death notice for a man called Dr. Erich Kästner, and he may well have been the last remaining survivor of the German Imperial army of the First World War. Dr. Kästner served on the Western Front in 1918, the last year of the war. He was 107 years of age.
While he just outlived 2007, Dr. Kästner did not outlive Louis de Cazenave, the French Great War veteran who died last Sunday aged 110. De Cazenave's death, marked in news reports, obituaries and a statement from President Sarkozy, leaves just one surviving French veteran.
But the death of his German counterpart was not so marked.There was no comment from Chancellor Angela Merkel on his death, and on the sacrifices of the millions of young men like him who did not survive. No television pictures of him, bent with age, and the weight of a great number of medals.
Indeed it is impossible to know for sure that he was the last remaining survivor of the Great War because Germany has no official records of its veterans from the two World Wars. Germany's losses in the Great War were extraordinary. It is thought to have lost more men in World War One than any other nation and more than twice those of the UK (whose own staggering casualty figures stand at almost 900,000).
Erich Kastner's sacrifice, his courage, and his devotion to his Fatherland have been rewarded with silence and contempt by the nation he served. But if the Germans don't remember, then we do.
Und Ihr habt doch gesiegt, Kamerad.