This is Willy Lippek.
In about 1985 I bought a soldbuch from a garage sale picker from Belleville, Michigan. I think I paid something like twenty dollars for it.
Back in those days, soldbuchs were actually quite rare. It was before the time when trade between German and American collectors brought a number of them to the states. I was fascinated by this soldbuch. It was made out to an Obergreiter named Willy Lippek; Born Decemeber 29, 1908. He was listed as married and his wife lived in Friedeberg Germany.
For some reason I felt that I could identify with this face; this person. I found myself wondering what ever became of him. I remember when I first obtained a Wehrmacht combat tunic, I had put Lippek's soldbuch in the pocket. Lippek's last unit designation was the 958th grenadier regiment which I learned was with the 363rd division; organized in late 1943. It saw action on the Normandy front, was decimated with only elements escaping the Falaise pocket. After reconstitution, it served later in Holland fighting the advance of Operation Market-Garden. I thought it very interesting that the man whose soldbuch I now possessed has seen action in some of the most interesting campaigns that I was aware of.
I remember thinking at the time that Lippek would be over 70 years old by 1985. I never thought of seeing if any contact could be made. This was before the internet and ease of communication. But it was always in the back of my mind, this wondering where was Lippek today?.
A couple of years ago, I was able to use the internet to do a search for Willy Lippek. I found him still in Normandy. Laying in a German military cemetery west of St Lo. He was killed on August 6th, 1944 near a place called Saint Martin.
After over twenty years of wondering what ever happened to Willy, it struck me that he'd been dead all that time. He never lived to see the war end. Never saw his wife again (or children as well?). He never had to find his way through life in post-war Germany. He never had the chance to recover from the war and grow old in Freideburg.
Willy Lippek resides today in Grave number 509, row 14, block 3 of the cemetery at Marigny, France
On my most recent trip to Normandy, I looked Willy up. I took with me his soldbuch which he carried that summer of 1944; the soldbuch which was taken from his dead body and brought to the US. I photographed it at his grave; a grave that he shares with one Obergefreiter Himmelreich who seems to have fallen around the same time
Of course I have never met this man who lived in another time and country. I will never meet or talk with anybody who ever knew him. I'll never know a thing about him except the scant information which is recorded in his wartime document.
Willy Lippek fought and fell within a very few miles of the place where my own father was fighting the war at the same time. If the two had met, Willy would most likely have tried to do his duty to his own country and if successful, I wouldn't be here today.
But strangely, I felt some kind of sadness when I finally heard what had become of him. Standing at his grave after I had "known" him over twenty years; I felt a sort of loss. Where-ever Willy is now, if he is looking at me, I am sure he thinks the whole thing to be a little silly.
Or maybe he understands better than any of us.
Rest in Peace Willy.