The Netherlands / Biography
We now know him as X-2212. For after his death he became a number. An X-number. An unknown soldier, victim of a war that turned so many people into numbers.
As a soldier in the Red Army he was taken prisoner. That is when he first became a number, a different one: 91926. This is how he was registered in Stalag 308 (VIII E) in Neuhanner, nowadays the Polish Swietoszowie Sprotowski. 91926, that is how many prisoners were already locked up in this one camp. And there were many, many dozens of these POW-camps with millions of Soviet soldiers altogether.
Most of the soldiers died in the camps of the hardship: starvation, illness. But not him. He survived the wretchedness. And his liberation was near.
But then – and we will never know why – the Germans ended his life. ‘G.S.W. PEN. HEAD’ the Americans listed on his Report of burial. Gun Shot Wound Penetrating Head. A bullet through the head. On about 10 April 1945 in Pansfelde.
Pansfelde, a village in the Harz, between Hannover and Leipzig. Pansfelde, barely 500 residents. There were hardly any men around. Eighty had fallen in battle. They received a beautiful monument after the war.
The Americans found him in a shallow grave in the woods near Pansfelde. They noted: Personal affairs: one ring, one lighter.’
He was given a grave in Eisenach, on the American military cemetery. But the Americans did not want to bury Allied dead on enemy soil. So he was disinterred and reburied in Margraten, June 1945, at the American Cemetery.
The Americans gave him his number X-2212. So designated he was transferred in a new casket to Leusden, to the soviet War Cemetery, December 1947. There he received a new number: 772. Which can be seen behind his tombstone. The 772nd soldier to be buried at the Soviet War Cemetery.
A gravestone and a document. All that remains of the human being who became X-2212 and later 772. At least with us. Not of course with his family who does not know he has become number 772 and who will never learn that their father, grandfather, brother lies buried here.
No one in Pansfelde who erected a monument for him. No one who gave him his name back. No one who adopted his grave.