Kientzheim. Alsace, June 1940
by local resident Theresa Held-Schmitt
“I was 10 years old at the time. Germany’s attack on France lasted only a few weeks. France was ready to surrender. June 18, 1940 was a sunny day. A company of German infantry was approaching the village on bicycles. Although they could see no French soldier far and wide nor hear any shots, the commander, Sergeant Bruno Kegler, let his unit wait at the village outskirts and went alone into the village. He wanted to find out, whether the quiet scene was perhaps a trap. He stopped at our house, which was close to the graveyard wall, and asked, if he could have a look from the attic window. He wanted a better view onto the surrounding area. I was just a little girl and accompanied the German soldier to the attic. There he was attentively looking out of the window. I stood next to him. Suddenly a shot rang out. He touched his head and said, ‘I have been hit’. Then he collapsed onto the floor. When my mother alarmed by my screaming entered the attic, Bruno Kegler was already dead.
He was the only dead German soldier at the invasion of our region and all the inhabitants of Kientzheim were of the same opinion. An overly zealous German soldier mistook him for an enemy and shot one of his own troops (in modern terminology he was killed by ‘friendly fire’).”
Jürgen Kegler continues, “When I returned home from my bicycle tour, I reported what I had experienced. My uncles reproached me for not letting my mother in the belief that my father had died for ‘Führer, country and his people’, as it was written in the letter from the regiment’s commander. But she took the news in stride. She even was thankful for it. she knew that the notifications were all worded the same way, and that the circumstances of death were, however, always different.
I was thinking by myself how his early death had perhaps saved him from greater trouble in the war. There was also the possibility that out of disappointment with the system he may have sought contact with the Resistance Movement against Hitler’s regime and could have ended up in the torture chambers of the Gestapo. Is it not true that disillusioned idealists most often have to face the most radical consequences?”