Steps towards Reconciliation in Plauen
In September 2018 five of us from Plauen attended the CCN international members’ gathering and met with many other representatives from Cross of Nails partners worldwide. We were deeply moved as we listened and shared experiences of forgiveness and reconciliation. We also told our own story, and why we applied to receive a Cross of Nails for our town (to be presented on Good Friday, 10th April, 2020).
Churches in Plauen, the city council and various organizations have founded a network called “Remembering – Reconciling – Raising Awareness”. One member of this network is a historian at the “Vogtland Museum”, who did some research on Plauen especially during World War II. In the town archives he happened across a letter from an American soldier called Frank Clark, as well as an article about him in the magazine American Heritage. The story, the subject of a forthcoming lecture in Plauen on 19th March, is below.
Letter from Frank Clark – Air Force Pilot in World War II
“He spent his tour of duty bombing German cities and made it home only to discover he could never leave the war behind him. Then, a lifetime later, he found a way to make peace.” (American Heritage)
Frank Clark was born on 17th October in 1925, the youngest of nine children. When his father died he was 13 years old, and at 18 he became a soldier in the Air Force of the US Army.
On 19th and 26th March 1945 he was involved in bombing raids on Plauen. In his personal logbook he wrote: “The town must have been important to rate two missions.” (American Heritage)
After World War II he left the military, married and said nothing of his experiences. Later, in 1981, he suffered from ill health and on the morning on 16th May 1987 he woke up with an idea: he would write letters (one of which is pictured below) to all the towns in Germany he had bombed. His postman had advised him to address the letter “To the Public Officials in …(Town)”.
Seven letters were returned unopened. He didn´t know the difference between East and West Germany. But soon he got answers from towns and citizens all over Germany. His letter was published in lots of newspapers in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Lord Mayor of Plauen wrote an outline answer, although it is not clear if he sent it.
Some of the replies back have so much resonance for other times – including the times we live in now:
“Those responsible for others’ fortunes must remove old prejudices and stereotypes” came back one of the replies. “The citizens in Plauen are convinced that the creation of a system of international peace and safety helps to remove step by step weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons until the end of the century and (develops) a mutual collaboration to solve global problems of the present”; “no one from Plauen feels hatred for the British or American peoples of for any human-beings in the world, and citizens will do everything they can to create a peaceful life for all people in the world”.
In 1995 Frank Clark died; he wasn´t able to read his story in the May/June issue of American Heritage that same year. “He would have liked to thank Kathy A. Johnson for her help in preparing the initial manuscript, which he had called Pilot for Peace.”
Archive credit: Stadtarchiv Plauen, VA 18884/Ü 2/96