Thursday 12 April 2012

Hungry Hans Stole a Ham

A 19 year old German soldier serving near Normandy, France after D-Day hadn't eaten for two days and was so hungry that he stole a ham from a French farmer's wife, something quite common during wartime.  The part of the story that isn't common is that 55 years later, the German soldier bought a ham and travelled to the village of Argences, France to return it to its righful owner.

Hans Kupperfahrenberg belonged to the 21st Panzer Division of the Wehrmacht which sought refuge in a farmhouse near Argences, France.  Even though her cupboards were almost bare, the French farmer's wife, named Louise Marie, gave the soldiers milk and eggs.  While the soldiers used the donated eggs to cook an omelette on the fire, something fell out of the chimney into the hearth -- it was a ham that Louise's father had hidden so it would not be stolen.  Hans grabbed it and kept it for himself.  Hans left the farmhouse and went on to fight other battles including one where he was injured in the chest by a grenade and he was sent back to Germany.  Once he healed, he returned to active duty in Italy.  After the war, he worked for the railroad.

Hans never forgot how hungry he had been in Normandy during the German retreat.  He raised more than 1 million dollars to feed Africa's children and the elderly.  He also never forgot the ham that he had stolen from the French farmer's wife.  In 1999, he returned to France, this time with a Black Forest Ham in his arms.  However, in Normandy he couldn't remember where Louise's farmhouse was located and ended up giving the ham to a local nursing home.  In the meantime, he did find out how to get to the French farmhouse and returned with not one but two hams:  a German one and a French one to represent the improved Franco-German relations.  It's never too late to do the right thing.

Drawing of French farmhouse courtesy

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