THE GOOD GERMAN – NO FAIRY TALE
The village reverberated on Friday 6 October 1944. The Allies and the Germans had gone into battle. Toos  and Jantje Kilsdonk  were playing near the well in the farmyard. A source of good luck? Karl-Heinz Rosch and his comrades ran out of the farmhouse on the way to their guns. They saw the children in the farmyard. Everyone ran on except the German boy from the pottery town. He picked up Toos and Jantje in his arms and ran to the cellar where he reunited the children with their mother. Soon afterwards Karl-Heinz ran back outside. But life and death sometimes go hand in hand: a mortar shell hit him and Karl-Heinz was fatally injured. He was just eighteen years and three days old. He was buried in a temporary grave in the farmyard. Shreds from his clothing would hang high in the branches of a tree for many years.
Reburial took place in 1948. Rosch’s final resting place was in the German military cemetery in Ysselsteyn. But members of his family were not able to visit where he was killed and where he was laid to rest as they lived in East Germany. It was only after the fall of the Berlin Wall that Karl-Heinz’s father could see the farmhouse through his own eyes. But the Kilsdonk family remained silent about his son’s courageous deed. They feared reprisals. ‘A Jerry is always a Jerry’, that’s what they said in the village.
For a long time many people thought the term ‘a good German’ was as unlikely as black snow, a square circle or an unhospitable person from Brabant. Even after the two rescued children made their story public in 2005 and thanked Karl-Heinz posthumously, it still caused a lot of discussion. A former councillor attempted to erect a statue of Rosch – “a hero without glory”- in the local history museum, but that was met with resistance from former hostages whose comrades had been executed at a country estate in Goirle.
The statue was ready by 2008 but there was no place for it. A breakthrough came when Leo Vermeer from Riel found a location in the municipality of Goirle. He had been a local lad from the Dorpstraat who had maintained Karl-Heinz’s temporary grave until his reburial. The bronze statue was unveiled in his garden. Jan and Toos Kilsdonk and two of van Karl-Heinz Rosch’s step-brothers were present. The plaque contains the words: ‘This statue is in honour of all who do good in evil times.’ It is a delicate sentence, in which you can almost hear the tinkle of porcelain.
Photo Karl-Heinz Rosch (Image: www.tracesofwar.nl, no date)