What prompted the small village of Goirle, Netherlands to make a small statue honoring Wehrmacht soldier Private Karl-Heinz Rosch?
The steel helmet Private Karl-Heinz Rosch wore during the height of WWII unmistakably spoke of what side he was on – the side of the enemy. He belonged to Germany’s Wehrmacht.
But to the eyes of the residents in the tiny southern Netherlands village of Goirle, he was a hero worthy of commemoration which they just did – through a small bronze statue they erected of him.
Karl-Heinz Rosch’s Story
October 6, 1944 - Three days after Rosch’s turned 18, the young German soldier, along with his platoon, was stationed in a farm in Goirle when Allied forces took fire on them. He was about to hide in the basement along with his comrades when he noticed that the two children of the farmer who owned the land seemed oblivious of the danger that was on them and continued to play in the courtyard.
He quickly dashed to them, took each in his arms and brought them into the safety of the basement. He again ran outside to position himself on the other side of the courtyard when a grenade hit him right at the spot where the children were earlier.
“His corpse was completely torn apart, there were body parts everywhere,” according to one who witnessed the appalling scene.
Honoring the “Hero with No Glory”
According to Herman van Rouwendaal, a former city councilor of the area, Karl-Heinz Rosch’s story was kept under wraps for 60 years due to the fact that he was an enemy.
“Because he was just a damn Kraut,” were his exact words.
Even his parents and grandparents did not know how Rosch died. It was not until when the rescued children gave their testimonies that the story of the young German soldier’s sacrifice was made known to the public.
But in 2008, change in how the Dutch treated the Germans became palpable that then 76-year-old Rouwendaal, along with his friends, decided to make a push that would make amends to the one-of-a-kind, historical image.
“Some Dutch are caught in a black-and-white way of thinking. The Germans were all Nazis, the Dutch were all good. That there were also unsavory characters among us, who for example betrayed Jews and robbed them, one does not like to hear,” he commented.
But the monument honoring young German soldier Karl-Heinz Rosch was not put up without a fight.