|Volume LVI||October 2009||Number 3|
Reunited through Freemasonry!
By Dr. Glenys Waldman, Librarian
It all started with an e-mail. Bro. Richard Brighthaupt, a 35-year member of Royersford Lodge No. 585 and an active member in Lodge No. 263 in Lee's Summit, Mo., wrote to me in October 2007, then sent me photographs of a World War II "Soldbuch" - a German soldier's combination passport and record of payment and supplies issued. It had belonged to one Willi Seemann from Obrigheim (east of Heidelberg). Bro. Brighthaupt wanted to return it to Seemann, or his family, if possible.
A veteran of the war in Vietnam, 1966-1967, and having also served in Baumholder and Augsburg in 1968 and 1969, Bro. Brighthaupt knows how important such records can be. He said that the Soldbuch must have been brought back from Germany as a souvenir after the War. It was for sale in a flea market a few years ago as "an unusual item." Bro. Brighthaupt's father-in-law bought it because he also is a veteran and appreciates the value of such documents. The family agreed it should be returned, and Bro. Brighthaupt promised to try to do so. He tried several different times to no avail, and wondered if Grand Lodge could help him return it to the soldier's family in Germany.
I immediately wrote to a Masonic library colleague in Germany. A little later, at different times, two other Freemasons who live in Germany visited the Library. I asked all three men for their help in solving the mystery of the owner of the Soldbuch, but there were no positive results. Earlier this year, then-Deputy Grand Master of the American-Canadian Grand Lodge Paul Curran came into the Library. I told him the story, showed him the pictures of the Soldbuch, and sent them to him by e-mail. On June 12, I received an e-mail from now Grand Master Curran, which said that Mr. Seemann had been found! Bro. Gerhard Severin, who actually found Mr. Seemann, is a Past Grand Master of the American-Canadian Grand Lodge. He told Grand Master Curran: "I spoke with Mr. Willi Seemann today [June 8], and he is the person listed in the Soldbuch. He is 88 years old and quite alert." Bro. Severin called and had a long conversation with Mr. Seemann, who, at first understandably skeptical, soon became very excited about getting his Soldbuch back.
It was decided that Bro. Brighthaupt would send the Soldbuch to Grand Master Curran, and that some of the brethren would take it to Mr. Seemann and hear his story. Bro. Brighthaupt and I wrote a letter to Mr. Seemann, telling the "American" side of the Soldbuch story. Grand Master Curran included it with his own letter to accompany the Soldbuch.
On Aug. 11, 2009, Seemann, who is not a Mason, was invited to the lodge hall of Mutterloge Ruprecht zu den Fünf Rosen (Mother Lodge Ruprecht of the Five Roses) in Kirchheim, part of Heidelberg, where the Lodge Alt Heidelberg, with Worshipful Master Jason L. Mancill and Past Grand Master Gerhard Severin, would host the presentation. After lodge was closed, Mr. Seemann and others were invited in, and Grand Master Curran presented the Soldbuch to him.
Mr. Seemann told his story of fighting in Yalta and Sebastopol on the Russian southern front, where he was wounded on his 21st birthday - his officer's training, fighting in Normandy and being captured by the Americans in the Ruhrgebiet along with another 300,000 German soldiers. At this time, Seemann's Soldbuch was confiscated by an American soldier. Finally released from a French prison camp in July 1948, he returned to Obrigheim, where he still lives in the house in which he grew up. Seemann said, "Without his Soldbuch, one was a nobody - it was as though he didn't exist. I never thought I would hold it in my hands again. I am incredibly happy to be able to page through this old, dog-eared thing again," - 64 years, three months, and 27¼ days later!
As Grand Master Curran handed the Soldbuch to Mr. Seemann he said, "This is a wonderful story of reconciliation, a gesture of democracy and peace."
Also available online at www.masonicmuseumgifts.com
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