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History made by normal folk.

IT is surprising how ordinary people can unwittingly find themselves involved in the making of history.

A recent TV programme about Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, brought to mind a conversation one lunchtime with one of my old headmasters.

It turned out that he was in the British regiment which discovered the Belsen concentration camp in 1945. He was also a member of the Army film crew which filmed the camp and its squalor along with its dead and dying inmates.

In a bid to stir the conscience of the Germans, makeshift cinemas were set up in nearby buildings so that all the local inhabitants could see the film. They were bussed in from miles around. Anyone coming out with a smile on his/her face had to watch it all over again.

His last duties as a soldier consisted of sitting through all the sessions of the Nuremburg trials and flying to London every night with transcripts of the day's proceedings. He saw all the Nazi war criminals, including Himmler, Goering and Hess. In other words, he saw history in the making.

This conversation acted as a catalyst on the deputy head, who revealed that he had worked for the Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines.

Even stranger was the case of a neighbour of mine. A chance remark about my fascination with all things Indian elicited the fact from him that when he was a rookie soldier stationed in Delhi in 1947 he was a member of the party which handed the Indian flag to Pandit Nehru on the day India received its independence.

His story is to be found in my history of Chopwell.

JACK FLETCHER, Chopwell

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 8, 2015
Words:281
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